The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

How the lobby works, then and now

Grant Smith writes in the excellent Israel/Palestine blog Pulse:

A huge trove of newly declassified documents subpoenaed during a 1962-1964 Senate investigation reveals how Israel’s lobby pitched, promoted, and paid to have content placed in America’s top news magazines with overseas funding. The Atlantic (and many others)received hefty rewards for trumpeting Israel’s most vital – but damaging – PR initiatives across America.

It's worth highlighting The Atlantic considering the recent article on Israel and Iran by Jeffrey Goldberg and the widespread concern it raised that Goldberg is trying to manipulate US public opinion, as well as the debate it has stirred within the magazine. It is, after all, a quality publication — Boston's New Yorker. So consider the tidbit from these recently declassified documents, a report from the PR department of the American Zionist Council:

"The Atlantic Monthly in its October issue carried the outstanding Martha Gellhorn piece on the Arab refugees, which made quite an impact around the country.  We arranged for the distribution of 10,000 reprints to public opinion molders in all categories.  Acting on information that anti-Israel groups were bombarding the Atlantic with critical letters, we stimulated a letter campaign designed to counteract their impact...Interested friends are making arrangements with the Atlantic for another reprint of the Gellhorn article to be sent to all 53,000 persons whose names appear in Who's Who in America...The November issue of the Atlantic carried a special 64-page Supplement on Israel, with articles by some of Israel's top names. Our Boston office edited the Yadin article..." "Jack Anderson, following his return from Israel, is now doing a piece for Parade Publications...We wrote the piece on Zionism for the Spencer Press Encyclopedia...Our Committee is now planning articles for the women's magazines for the trade and business publications...Meyer Levin's piece on Buber will appear in the New York Times Magazine any day now..."

So a month after it runs an article on refugees favorable to Israel and 53,000 reprints are ordered from the magazine (presumably paid for with a nice profit for the magazine), a 64-page supplement on Israel runs. Payola indeed.

Do read up on The Atlantic's ownership — traditionally it was a New England waspish magazine, in 1980 it was bought up by lobby grandee Mort Zuckerman and since then has been passed on to several owners, the latest of which is a self-described neoconservative. The question these revelations raise is whether, even before its owners tilted the balance towards Israel, it was essentially for sale on the issue. It's not an easy question to answer, because in the 1960s there was plenty of philo-semitism (as well as remedial WASP anti-semitism that would soon be erased, at least in terms of entry to law schools and country clubs) and very little sympathy for Arabs. There is no excuse for this to be the case today, not to this extent.