A foreign policy expert consulted by presidential hopeful Barack Obama has accused members of the American Jewish establishment of "McCarthyism" in its attitude towards critics of Israel.
Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski says that the pro-Israel lobby in the US is too powerful, while the slur of anti-Semitism is too readily used whenever its power is called into question.
Presenting a solution for the Middle East, he listed historical compromises that had to be made by Israelis and Palestinians but accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) -- the largest and most influential lobby group -- of obstructing peace efforts.
He said: "AIPAC has consistently opposed a two-state solution and a lot of members of Congress have been intimidated and I don't think that's healthy."
He added that other country-specific lobbies, such as the Cuban-Americans, the Armenians and the Irish, had also exerted undue influence in Washington.
Mr Brzezinski, who served under former US president Jimmy Carter, was a key player in the 1978 Camp David Accords and remains an important voice in the US foreign policy establishment. An active author and analyst at 80, he is close enough to Mr Obama that his remarks may feed fears in the American-Jewish community that he will soften America's traditional pro-Israeli stance.
This perception has been created in part by his professed willingness to talk to Iran and partly by other foreign policy associates.
He has been accused before of being "anti-Israel" by some Jewish academics, writers and bloggers after criticising Israel for excessive use of force and unwillingness to compromise.
Last year, censure of him reached new heights when he defended academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. They had criticised the pro-Israel lobby and were accused of questioning the state of Israel's existence.
"It's not unique to the Jewish community -- but there is a McCarthy-ite tendency among some people in the Jewish community," he said, referring to the Republican senator who led the anti-Communist witch hunt in the 1950s.
"They operate not by arguing but by slandering, vilifying, demonising.
They very promptly wheel out anti-Semitism. There is an element of paranoia in this inclination to view any serious attempt at a compromised peace as somehow directed against Israel."
Although Mr Brzezinski is not a formal day-to-day adviser to Obama campaign, he said that he talks to Mr Obama.
He wholeheartedly endorses the Illinois senator, lauding him as "head and shoulders" above his opponents. And he says he is the only candidate who understands "what is new and distinctive about our age".
In turn, Mr Obama has praised Mr Brzezinski as "someone I have learned an immense amount from", and "one of our most outstanding scholars and thinkers". They share very similar views on the folly of the Iraq war.
Middle East expert Robert Malley recently quit as an Obama adviser after it emerged he was talking to the militant Palestinian group Hamas as part of his work for the International Crisis Group.
Republican Senator John McCain -- Mr Obama's opponent for the White House once he wraps up the Democratic nomination -- is set to focus on the 46-year-old senator's lack of foreign policy experience and supposed weakness towards enemies.
In recent weeks, Mr Obama has courted the Jewish vote and, on Israel's 60th anniversary, underlined the need for the US to show "unshakeable" support. ( ©Daily Telegraph, London)