In Our Hands

 by Joseph Sobran

 ONE ISN'T SUPPOSED TO SAY THIS, but many people believe that Israel now  holds the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in its  hands. This is what is known as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

 The odd thing is that it is held by many Israelis. In an essay  reprinted in the May 27th issue of The New York Times, Ari Shavit, an  Israeli columnist, reflected sorrowfully on the wanton Israeli killing  of more than 100 Lebanese civilians in April: "We killed them out of a  certain naive hubris. Believing with absolute certitude that now,  with the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in our  hands,  the lives of others do not count as much as our own..."

 In a single phrase -- "in our hands" -- Shavit has lighted up the  American political landscape like a flash of lightning.

 Notice that Shavit assumes as an obvious fact what we Americans can  say publicly only at our own risk. It's surprising, and refreshing, to  find such candor in an American newspaper (though his essay was  reprinted from the Israeli paper Haaretz).

 The prescribed cant on the subject holds that Israel is a "reliable  ally" of the United States, despite Israel's long record of  double-dealing against this country, ranging from the killing of American sailors to constant espionage and technology theft. The word  "ally" implies that the relationship exists because it's in the  interests of this country, though Israel's lobby is clearly devoted to  the interests of Israel itself, and it's childish to suggest otherwise.

 You expect that from the Israeli lobby; lobbies are lobbies, after  all. But it's unnerving that the White House, the Senate, and much of  the American media should be "in our hands," as Shavit puts it. Bill  Clinton, a lover of peace since his college days, raised no protest when  the Israelis drove 400,000 innocent Lebanese out of their homes in  "retaliation" for rockets launched into Israel (wounding one Israeli) by  a faction over whom those 400,000 had no control.

 Congress, of course, was supine as usual at this latest extravagance  of Israeli "defense." Congress too is "in our hands."

 A recent article in The Washington Post likened the Israel lobby's  power to that of the gun and tobacco lobbies. But there is one enormous  difference. Newspapers like the Post aren't afraid to criticize the gun  and tobacco lobbies. They will say forthrightly that those lobbies seek goals that are dangerous for this country. They don't dare say as much of the Israeli lobby.

 But much of the press and electronic media are "in our hands" in a more active sense: They supply misleading pro-Israel propaganda in the guise of news and commentary, constantly praising Israeli "democracy" and ignoring Israel's mistreatment of its non-Jewish minorities -- mistreatment which, if any government inflicted it on a Jewish minority, would earn it the fierce opprobrium of our media.

 No decent American would think of reducing American Jews to the status of Palestinians in Israel. The idea is almost absurd. Yet Americans are taxed to subsidize the oppression of Palestinians, on the flimsy pretext that they are helping an "ally" in America's own self-interest to be hated and despised by the whole Muslim world.

 All this is interesting less for what it tells us about Israel than for what it tells us about America. Frank discussion of Israel is permitted in Israel, as Shavit's article illustrates. It's rarely permitted here. Charges of anti-Semitism and a quiet but very effective boycott will be the reward of any journalist who calls attention to his own government's -- and his own profession's -- servitude to Israeli interests.

 Very few in America are doing anything to change this sorry state of affairs. Shavit wrote his article in the desperate hope of turning back his countrymen and his government from a morally and politically perilous course. At least he can hope. It's harder for us, when our own government isn't in our hands.

 Joseph Sobran is a nationally syndicated columnist who now maintains a Website at