Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gerald Steinberg on Mark Perry

I host Professor Gerald Steinberg:

A number of recent BBC reports on Israeli-American reports have featured statements by Mark Perry, alleging that leading US military officials, including General David Petraeus, had referred to Israeli policies as endangering the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I participated in two BBC radio programs on March 23 in which Perry's claims regarding Petraeus were featured. The first included a lengthy interview with Perry, and in the second, Danny Rubenstein, a journalist from Haaretz, quoted Perry spin on Petraeus.

However, in contrast to Perry's highly distorted version, in his testimony, Petraeus actually said: “A credible U.S. effort on Arab-Israeli issues that provides regional governments and populations a way to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the disputes would undercut Iran’s policy of militant ‘resistance,’ which the Iranian regime and insurgent groups have been free to exploit.”

Perry's claims not withstanding, Petraeus carefully chosen words do not support the claim that the US military blames Israel for attacks against American soldiers, nor can this statement be construed to be a counterweight to the "Israel lobby" and AIPAC.

Indeed, Perry himself is a well-known self-promoter, lobbyist and, according to Harper's Magazine, a former advisor to Arafat. Until recently, he was the co-director of an advocacy group known as "Conflicts Forum", which encourages and engages in "encounters with political Islam - with both non-violent and armed resistance groups," including Hamas and Hezbollah. Perry has a long history of vocal opposition to Israel, while promoting the Palestinian narrative. But in contrast to Laura Rozen (Politico), and others reporting on this debate, the BBC neglected to inform its audience of Perry's background, which clearly colors his interpretations and allegations.

Now, Perry, like Walt and Mearsheimer, has targeted AIPAC and this is the source of his spin and tendentious interpretation of Petraeus' testimony. Perry's thesis that top US military officials blame Israeli policies and actions for the conflict in Afghanistan involving the Taliban, and the Sunni-Shia dimension of the violence in Iraq, is clearly absurd.

Caveat emptor,

Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg
Political Science, Bar Ilan University, and
1 Ben Maimon
Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: 972 (0)2 5661020

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