Veteran activist Noam Chomsky has accused Israel of “brazenly” interfering in US electoral politics in a way that vastly outweighs any efforts that may have been carried out by Russia.
In comments in which he accused much of the media of concentrating on stories he considered marginal and ignoring issues such as the “existential threat” of climate change, the 89-year-old linguist said in much of the world, the US media’s focus with Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 was “a joke”.
“First of all, if you’re interested in foreign interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely counts or weighs in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly and with enormous support,” he said.
Speaking to Democracy Now, Mr Chomsky added: “Israeli intervention in US elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done, I mean, even to the point where the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress, without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president’s policies - what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015.”
In March 2015, at the invitation of then Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and assisted by Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the joint houses of Congress about the yet to be signed Iran nuclear deal. He did so without formally informing the White House, something said to have infuriated Barack Obama, whose administration would the following month join a seven-party agreement to limit Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions.
In a speech to Congress that was boycotted by more than 50 Democrats, Mr Netanyahu made clear his opposition to the deal.
“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms,” said Mr Netanyahu, to loud applause. “It would be a farewell to arms control. And the Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires. A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.”
Attacking Mr Obama proposal of dealing with Iran, he added: “We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”
Mr Chomsky said Mr Putin had never made such a speech to Congress, which political observers said was unique in the way a foreign leader so acidly attacked the policy of the US government.
“Did Putin come to give an address to the joint sessions of Congress trying to…calling on them to reverse US policy, without even informing the president,” he said.
“And that’s just a tiny bit of this overwhelming influence. So if you happen to be interested in influence of- foreign influence on elections, there are places to look. But even that is a joke.”
The power of the pro-Israel lobby has long been one of the contentious, and disputed, issues in Washington. In 2007, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, published The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, which described the lobby as “loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction”.
The coalition includes groups such as the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) a US-based pro-Israel lobbying group this year has spent $1.75m to promote pro-Israel policies.
The group’s annual convention is a frequent stopping off point for politicians seeking election or reelection, and Mr Netanyahu has addressed it several times. In 2016, top speakers included Vice President Joe Biden, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Governor John Kasich, Senator Ted Cruz, and Speaker Paul Ryan.
The group’s website says: “The mission of AIPAC is to strengthen, protect and promote the US-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.”
Neither the Israeli Embassy in Washington or AIPAC immediately responded to enquiries about Mr Chomsky’s claim.
In his comments to Democracy Now, Mr Chomsky said the media was “focusing on issues which are pretty marginal. There are much more serious issues that are being put to the side”.
“Of all Trump’s policies, the one that is the most dangerous and destructive, in fact poses an existential threat, is his policies on climate change, on global warming,” he said.
“That’s really destructive. And we’re facing an imminent threat, not far removed, of enormous damage. The effects are already visible but nothing like what’s going to come.”
He added: “These are the kinds of issues that should be under discussion. Instead…here is a focus on what I believe are marginalia.”
This article originally appeared in The Independent.