From the book THE ARAB LOBBY: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East by Mitchell Bard.
Though it is largely unknown to the public, the Arab lobby in the United States is at least as old as the Israeli lobby. The first organization established to present an Arab perspective in the United States was the Arab National League of America in the 1930s. Other groups followed. In 1951, King Saud of Saudi Arabia asked U.S. officials to finance a pro-Arab lobby to counter the pro-Israel lobby, and the CIA obliged. Even before that, oil companies and sympathetic officials in the State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies were trying to influence policy. When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General George Brown, launched an attack on the Jewish lobby and Jewish ownership of banks and newspapers in 1974, Democratic senator Thomas McIntyre, a member of the Armed Services Committee, acknowledged the influence of the Israeli lobby, which he said “reflects the will of a strong majority of all Americans.”
But what about the oil lobby? he asked. “The influence of Big Oil is far more insidious, and far more pervasive than the influence of the Jewish lobby, for oil and influence seep across ideological as well as party lines, without public approval or support.” He added that “the Jewish lobby isn’t in the same league with the general’s own lobby — the Pentagon and the defence establishment.”
McIntyre expressed a reality well known to Washington players, but alien to ivory tower denizens.
Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Arab lobby has grown to include defence contractors, former government officials employed by Arab states, corporations with business interests in the Middle East, NGOs, the United Nations, academics, Israel haters, a significant percentage of the media and cultural elite, non-evangelical Christian groups, European elites, hired guns, American Arabs and Muslims, and the leaders and diplomats from no fewer than 21 Arab governments.
One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of the Arab lobby is that it has no popular support. While the Israeli lobby has hundreds of thousands of active grassroots members and public opinion polls consistently reveal a huge gap between support for Israel and the Arab nations/Palestinians, the Arab lobby has almost no public sympathy. Its most powerful elements tend to be bureaucrats who represent only their personal views or what they believe are their institutional interests, and foreign governments that care only about their national interests. What they lack in human capital, in terms of American advocates, they make up for with almost unlimited resources to try to buy what they usually cannot win on the merits of their arguments.
The heart of the Arab lobby has long been Saudi Arabia, its supporters within the U.S. government, and the various PR firms, lobbyists and other hired guns employed on the kingdom’s behalf to make its case to decision makers and the public. In the past, the Arab lobby was focused on keeping Saudi Arabia happy, preventing the spread of Soviet influence in the Middle East and weakening America’s relationship with Israel. Today, the Arab lobby in the United States is focused on feeding the American addiction to petroleum products, expanding economic ties between the United States and the Arab/Muslim Middle East, securing American political support in international forums, obtaining the most sophisticated weaponry and trying to weaken the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Unlike critics of the Israeli lobby who suggest it has no redeeming qualities, I would acknowledge that some elements of the Arab lobby do often take positions that are in the interest of the country and express valid concerns. For example, State Department officials were understandably concerned about Soviet penetration of the region during the Cold War and also have legitimate reasons to promote U.S. trade and the protection of American oil supplies. The problems arise when they abandon core American principles to support policies that are less clearly in the national interest.
The Arab lobby has demonstrated its power by ensuring that the United States pays disproportionate attention to the interests of Arab states and supports countries that share none of our values and few of our interests. These states are all dictatorial regimes with abysmal human rights records that have been fawned over by every president who made human rights the centrepiece of his foreign policy. While this may be partly attributable to Cold War realism, the United States was also constantly seeking better relations with Soviet clients such as Egypt and supporting the Saudis even as they threatened to turn to the Soviets and financed Soviet allies such as Syria. Worse, some of these nations subvert American interests by supporting terrorism and promoting radical Islamic views on a global scale.