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Rosen in Middle East Forum: ma’essalama to the last fig leaf of impartiality 3, December 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
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It can be difficult to say or write anything regarding the surprising power of the Israeli lobby in America (and specifically their affect on American foreign policy) without being lambasted as a pinko lefty or, at worst, an anti Semite. Look at two of America’s most respected academics, John Mearshimer and Stephen Walt, and their attempt to engage with the topic. They wrote the imaginatively titled “The Israeli Lobby” to much opprobrium and outrage. I think that when academics of this calibre write a book as meticulously researched and seemingly as scrupulously honest as this book happens to be, and yet they still receive such heated criticism, there is, as one might say, a cat away with the pigeons (i.e. something is not right).

I can understand it, to some degree, when people come up against the irascible Norman Finklestein. His book, The Holocaust Industry, is interesting, thought provoking and generally a good read, though perhaps a claim or two too far. Either which way, it simply does not convey anything like the academic authority as does the Mearsheimer-Walt effort. This is not to mention, of course, the combative nature of Finklestein. I saw him give a lecture in Edinburgh last year and whilst his typical spiel was utterly convincing (as you might expect) and generally well articulated, after an hour or so of this and with the q and a at the end, his bristly, angry and polemical self came to the fore. His scathing, vicious and obviously deep seated hatred of the American and Israeli elite was all too visible to see. He is, therefore, something of an easier target. 

So, having pinned my colours to the wall somewhat, I come onto the case of Steven Rosen and his new job in an influential Middle East Forum think tank. Some background first. Steven Rosen was the head of policy development in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the top Israeli think tank-cum-lobbying group in the States. Whilst in this position he was accused of stealing highly classified information from sources within the America government and passing it on to the Israeli government. Indeed, he is still technically on trial at this point.

It is alleged that Rosen and Keith Weissman groomed one of the Pentagon’s top Iran experts, Larry Franklin, and got him to pass some 83 classified reports onto them and AIPAC and, therefore, Israel, over some three decades. The FBI eventually caught up with this alleged spy ring and arrested Franklin who was sentenced to a reduced sentence of 12 years in jail for his cooperation. Despite his testimony indicting Rosen and Weissman, the case has still never seen a court of law, owing to – it is suggested – delaying tactics by the defending lawyers.

The defence of the accused was not that they were not involved in the alleged activities, for they admit that they were, but they maintain that they were simply engaging their first amendment rights and doing the job of a good journalist. Need I point out that there was not, however, a newspaper as the end-user of this information, but the Israeli government? This, it seems to me, would make a difference, but then again, I am not immersed in the nuances of this case.

Yet despite ipso facto admitting that he was indeed committing a crime – but for “good” reasons – and indeed being quickly let go by AIPAC, Rosen has now been hired by a think tank whose mission is – like all think tanks – to inform, educate and suggest policy. Rosen, it seems to me, whether you think that he was morally right or wrong, is an unsuitable candidate for such a job. His position on Middle Eastern issues is painfully clear – he has committed a federal crime to support them – so how can he possibly be expected to undertake balanced research or reach balanced policy recommendations? He is in fact going to join Daniel Pipes’ think tank, which is already placed firmly on (the right hand of) the  ideological scale. Yet even for Pipes himself, surely this is an egregious example of flagrant bias so as to not even cast a vague, half-hearted nod to any pretentions of equality or impartiality whatsoever?

I do not claim to be an expert on this situation. I have only been reading about this story specifically for a few days now, but the evidence seems to be just simply incontrovertible. Any dissenting opinions are welcome.