Commentary Magazine


Who is James Abourezk?

James Abourezk is a co-founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and a former United States Senator: he represented South Dakota for one term, from 1973 until 1979. Last month, Abourezk was interviewed on al-Manar, the Hizballah television station. Sitting in a lushly-appointed Damascus plaza, he gushed to his interviewer that he watches al-Manar regularly in the United States, claims that “the Arabs who were involved in 9/11 cooperated with the Zionists,” and says that Hizballah’s war against Israel last year was “a marvel of organization, of courage and bravery.”

But a moment even more telling occurred towards the end of the interview, in a discussion of the “Israeli lobby:”

Interviewer: So who is controlling who?

James Abourezk: The lobby is controlling the Congress.

Interviewer: But you said that the U.S. is not in need of Israel, but rather, Israel needs the U.S.

James Abourezk: Yes, that’s right. But how they . . .

Interviewer: It’s very paradoxical.

Indeed. If the United States “is not in need of Israel,” why is the world’s superpower wasting so much money and political capital on this tiny country? The fashionable answer, these days, is to point to precisely the mysterious lobby Abourezk and his interviewer are discussing. But the idea that a small group of Evangelical Zionists and moneyed, influential Jews could warp a nation’s policy completely against its own interests—as proponents of this theory argue—is absurd on its face.

Abourezk and his ilk frequently decry the power of this lobby. Here is one of the United States’ most prominent Arab lobbyists at work: shilling on a television station operated by an outfit deemed a terrorist organization by the United States government, accusing his own country of being run by a sinister cabal. What do Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer have to say about this?