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Transforming America's Israel Lobby: The Limits of Its Power and the Potential for Change Hardcover – April 15, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1597972222 ISBN-10: 1597972223 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.; First Edition edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597972223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597972222
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,854,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fleshler, former media strategist for the Israel Policy Forum, offers a clear-eyed and dispassionate assessment of what he terms the conventional Israel lobby and its real and imagined influence on Congress and the president. Observing the irony that both the lobby and its opponents benefit from overstating its power, Fleshler debunks conventional wisdom about the lobby and its methods, using, for example, a study of Federal Election Commission records to demonstrate that pro-Israel political contributions are in fact minor compared to those connected with dozens of other causes. With less specificity, Fleshler outlines how liberal supporters of Israel can simultaneously promote the country's security and push American officials to make greater demands on its government, particularly concerning settlement expansion. The book accurately explains Jewish-American fears about criticism of Israel, acknowledging legitimate historical anxieties even as Fleshler calls on young and unaffiliated members of the community to lead new lobbying efforts on behalf of a less divisive approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"In a fairer world, Fleshler's book would occupy the space in our public discourse taken up by Walt/Mearsheimer. . . . Fleshler's book offers a veritable cornucopia of common sense about how AIPAC and other 'pro-Israel' organizations manage to remain so effective in controlling the debate and securing their aims from Congress."
-- www.Forward.com, May 20, 2009

"Read Dan Fleshler's book for a primer on how [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] is 'not the 800 pound gorilla in the room . . . just the 400 pound gorilla in the room.' Learn from the past mistakes and triumphs of the pro-peace camp and see how AIPAC's relations with government have begun to fray over the years. Kick 'em off their pedestal and consider anew the size of the left and why it's growing. Fleshler--a lifelong advocate of peace since the beginning--is providing a young person like me invaluable perspective on how far we have come."
-- www.jewschool.com, May 22, 2009

"Incisive and thoughtful"
-- historynewsnetwork.org, May 4, 2009

"Well-written and well-researched...Fleshler clearly knows his way around the Jewish organizational world."
-- The Jewish Week, April 29, 2009

"An extraordinarily frank, courageous, and truly illuminating book. It dispels many myths while frankly exploring some perennial dilemmas faced by peace-seeking American Jews, and outlines a pro-peace, pro-Israel, and pro-American road forward for them to take. A genuine tour de force!"
-- Sam Lewis, U.S. Ambassador to Israel under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan

“This is a brilliant study of two intriguing contradictions pertaining to the story of America's Israel lobby. One is the contradiction between the reality and limits of Jewish power, on the one hand, and the popular perception of that power, on the other. Another has to do with the yawning gap between the Israel lobby's hawkish policies and the liberal views of the majority of American Jews. Fleshler's work is a timely reminder of the need for Israel's friends in America to focus their advocacy efforts on promoting one of Israel's most vital, indeed existential, interests: advancing a two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians.”
-- Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister, current Vice-President of the Toledo International Centre for Peace

“In the best tradition of the participant-observer, Dan Fleshler has written from the trenches where American Jews have been waging a struggle over the nature of and prospects for Arab-Israeli peace. Imbedded ideologues of the left and right are disarmed in his bold, original analysis and call to action. Readers who accompany Fleshler in his fascinating journey will discover the pragmatic idealism of an ethical, security-based dovishness that may yet help President Obama broker a secure peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors.”
-- Mark Rosenblum, Professor of History, Director of the Jewish Studies Program & Director of the Michael Harrington Center for Democratic Values and Social Change, Queens College, City University of NY

“This informed analysis points out that the ‘conventional Israel lobby’ does not speak for the American Jewish majority on U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and does not promote the real interests of Israel or the United States. Dan Fleshler offers wise advice on how a dovish - but still too silent - majority of American Jews can strengthen the voice of progressive Jewish groups and encourage stronger U.S. leadership to help rescue Israel and America from a tragic conflict that gravely endangers our respective national interests.”
-- Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., President, Foundation for Middle East Peace and former Chief of Mission and U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Henry Munson on April 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Dan Fleshler wants to weaken hawkish groups like AIPAC and strengthen dovish groups like J Street. He wants more American Jews to understand that a passionate commitment to Israel's survival does not entail indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians. On the contrary, he argues, a viable Palestinian state is not only a worthy goal on moral grounds, it is also in the long-term interest of both Israel and the United States. All of this is of course common knowledge among supporters of groups like J Street and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. But Fleshler understands that if such groups are to succeed, they must wean more American Jews away from the hawkish positions espoused by AIPAC and the neoconservatives. This entails addressing the very real fears that induce otherwise rational people to embrace irrational views. Fleshler understands this in a way that some critics of the mainstream "Israel Lobby" do not. He is a wise man and a good man. And his book is a gem.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Policy Wonk on April 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Unlike most of the current authors writing about the mainstream Jewish community, the Israel Lobby and American foreign policy, Fleshler actually seems to know what he is talking about.

He has done some original research on funding sources for AIPAC and shows that it is not the invincible Leviathan that it is often made out to be. And he has talked to government officials in order to gauge the real impact of the lobby's considerable efforts over the last 30 years.

While he does not have much use for Mearsheimer and Walt, unlike a lot of their critics, he takes no prisoners, dismissing many of the tenets espoused by the "conventional Israel lobby."

This nuanced approach sets this book apart from a forest of predictable rhetoric that one can find in the plethora of tomes on this topic and on the internet.

However, I was disappointed in that in his attempt to build an alternative to the status quo, he seems to identify many more problems than solutions. While intellectually honest, it does leave the reader frustrated by how difficult it is and will be to supplant the Israel Lobby in its current form with a palatable alternative.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne on April 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a very well-written, trenchant and witty blueprint for a change that seems very unlikely to happen. From his own experience and interviews with American Jewish activists, U.S. officials and others, Fleshler makes a yeoman's effort to show how the "conventional Israel lobby" can be transformed or replaced. He certainly helped me understand the mysteries of American Jewish community life and the way pro-Israel organizations interact with the political establishment. He makes a convincing case that AIPAC, in particular, is not the 800 pound political gorilla everyone thinks it is. Then, after cutting AIPAC and other groups down to size a bit, he takes an honest look at the obstacles to building a "lobby for the rest of us," for Americans who are sick and tired of their government accepting Israeli policies that are clearly against U.S. interests.

The obstacles seem very formidable, including a self-censoring, timid pro-Israel left; and a potential coalition of likeminded Jewish and Christian and Arab American groups that are deeply divided over tactics and can't seem to communicate across various divides. This reader closed the book feeling admiration for the author's fighting spirit and ambition and thankful for what he taught me, but unconvinced that much could be done to supplant the pro-Likud, pro-settler American Jewish establishment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Baracas on November 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those that want a rational approach towards open and productive lobby by American Jews towards Middle East policy, this book offers the basis for changing AIPAC or at least countering its predictable failures. For die hard AIPAC members, test your dogma and maybe you can help change your irrational policies.
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