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Israel Lobby's Psychology of Influence

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    The Israel Lobby and the Psychology of Influence Kevin MacDonald Elaine McArdle was lobbied by the Israel Lobby. Of course, this is not exactly unusual, nor is
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2008
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      The Israel Lobby and the Psychology of Influence
      Kevin MacDonald

      Elaine McArdle was lobbied by the Israel Lobby. Of course, this is not
      exactly unusual, nor is it illegal. Indeed, it is standard practice
      among lobbyists of all kinds. As she notes, AIPAC provided
      first-class, all-expenses-paid trips to Israel for 40 US congressmen
      just last summer. Journalists are eager to participate as well,
      although it appears that this is viewed as less than ethical by at
      least some mainstream news organizations.

      Still, there are probably very few congressmen of any longevity who
      haven't participated, and, as she notes, most journalists have only
      one question about whether to participate: "Where do I sign up?" Free
      trips to Israel for US military personnel and politicians are also a
      standard policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
      And Birthright Israel annually organizes trips to Israel for 20,000
      young Jews in an effort to deepen their Jewish commitment.

      What stands out about McArdle is that she is very self-conscious about
      the psychological processes involved. She is quite aware that
      persuasion often works at an unconscious level. Giving someone a gift
      taps into a reciprocity norm that is doubtless a remnant of our
      evolved psychology. People who don't reciprocate did not make good
      allies or friends, and this happened over a sufficiently long period
      to result in specialized brain mechanisms designed to detect
      reciprocators and cheaters. As McArdle notes, this is true the world
      over. For the non-sociopaths among us, when we receive something from
      someone else, we feel a need to reciprocate or at least have positive
      feelings toward that person.

      Since I am engaged in trying to understand Jewish influence in
      general, McArdle's article gets one thinking of what other
      psychological processes are involved in various sorts of Jewish
      influence. Of course, none of these processes are unique to Jewish
      influence. It's just that Jews are a very good at the influence game.
      The Israel Lobby and its influence on US foreign policy are Exhibit A
      for this perspective. So it's reasonable to suppose that one aspect of
      their success is being better than most at tuning in to people's
      psychological tendencies and to use them to further their perceived

      At a basic level, going on a trip in a group makes the person a member
      of an ingroup. Psychologists have found that being a member of an
      ingroup results in positive attitudes toward other members of the
      ingroup. Even though there is no explicit quid pro quo going on, the
      norms of the ingroup are molded by the tour guides and even by the
      itinerary itself.

      In effect, the people on the tour are being inculcated into a Jewish
      world view - one in which Jews are the quintessential victims.
      McArdle's group was shepherded to an Israeli family that had been in
      the area hit by Hezbollah rockets last summer. There is a palpable
      sense of fear "Children today, we were told, still wet their beds in
      fear. - I wondered how long I could tolerate the omnipresence of danger."

      They are also taken to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial
      Museum. Similarly, the Birthright Israel trips for Jewish youth start
      with Holocaust seminars in New York, then proceed to Poland to visit
      Auschwitz, and then to Israel where participants visit historical
      sites intended to instill strong Zionist feelings. Especially
      important are border outposts "where the ongoing threat to Israel's
      security is palpable" (Woocher, 1986; p. 150). Among these Jewish
      visitors, the result is a sense of dread: A participant in Birthright
      Israel says, "I never felt unsafe [in Poland], but I couldn't wait to
      get to Israel where I knew that we would be wanted and accepted."

      Indeed, as I noted in A People That Shall Dwell Alone (see Chapter 7),
      "a permanent sense of imminent threat appears to be common among
      Jews." [F]or Jewish families a "sense of persecution (or its
      imminence) is part of a cultural heritage and is usually assumed with
      pride. Suffering is even a form of sharing with one's fellow-Jews. It
      binds Jews with their heritage - with the suffering of Jews throughout

      There is also a sense of psychological bonding with Israelis at a
      person-to-person level. McArdle refers to her experience as "an
      unforgettable and emotionally charged week with warm, likable people -
      generous hosts and tour guides whom I worried about after returning to
      the safety of life in Massachusetts."

      She experiences empathy for these Israelis as fellow ingroup members
      who are living in danger, and she worries about their safety. But she
      never gets to experience empathy with the Palestinians on the other
      side of the wall - the ones living in Bantustan-like concentration
      camps in the apartheid West Bank.

      McArdle also mentions that the experience was "emotionally charged."
      A great deal of psychological research shows that experiences that
      have intense emotional overtones are much more likely to be remembered
      and to have a long term influence. As McArdle is well aware, people
      need not be consciously aware of these memories to be influenced by them.

      Another psychological aspect of Jewish influence is that Jewish
      intellectual and political movements are promulgated from highly
      prestigious sources. An important feature of our evolved psychology is
      a greater proneness to adopt cultural messages deriving from people
      with high social status. This was certainly true of all the movements
      discussed in The Culture of Critique, and there is no doubt that the
      Israel Lobby is intimately entwined with elite media, elite
      universities, and well-funded think tanks.

      And finally, it's not only journalists like McArdle who have to worry
      about the possibility of unconscious bias. We all do. Movements such
      as the Israel Lobby have typically presented themselves not as
      furthering Jewish interests but as furthering the interests of the
      society as a whole. Neocons such as Richard Perle typically phrase
      their policy recommendations as aimed at benefiting the US. He does
      this despite evidence that he has a strong Jewish identity and despite
      the fact that he has typical Jewish concerns, such as anti-Semitism,
      the Holocaust, and the welfare of Israel. Perle poses as an American
      patriot despite credible charges of spying for Israel, writing reports
      for Israeli think tanks and op-eds for the Jerusalem Post, and all the
      while having close personal relationships with Israeli leaders.

      This was also true of all the movements I described in The Culture of
      Critique: The Jewish commitments and motivations of the main players
      were never a subject of discussion, and the movements themselves were
      presented as scientifically sound and morally superior to the
      traditional culture of the West. As a result, non-Jews are invited to
      see these Jewish activists as disinterested social scientists, or, in
      the case of the neocons, as patriotic fellow Americans - as "just like
      themselves." We are invited to view these Jewish activists as part of
      our ingroup, with all that that entails psychologically.

      In my ideal world, Jonah Goldberg's op-eds and Paul Wolfowitz's advice
      to presidents and defense secretaries should be accompanied by a
      disclaimer: "You should be cautious in following my advice or even
      believing what I say about Israel. Deception and manipulation are very
      common tactics in ethnic conflict, so that my pose as an American
      patriot should be taken with a grain of salt. And even if I am
      entirely sincere in what I say, the fact is that I have a deep
      psychological and ethnic commitment to Israel and Judaism.
      Psychologists have shown that this sort of deep commitment is likely
      to bias my perceptions of any policy that could possibly affect Israel
      even though I am not aware of it."

      As I noted in The Culture of Critique, "many of the Jews involved in
      the movements reviewed here may sincerely believe that these movements
      are really divorced from specifically Jewish interests or are in the
      best interests of other groups as well as Jews. - But, as
      [evolutionary theorist Robert] Trivers (1985) notes, the best
      deceivers are those who are self-deceived."



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