Israel Lobby: M+W controversy

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The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
Introduction to The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have written an ~80 page academic paper,
“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” available at
http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011 or
An edited and reworked version
was published in the 2006-03-23 London Review of Books
under the title “The Israel Lobby”;
Mearsheimer and Walt responded to their critics in the 2006-05-11 LRB.
(See also Wikipedia, google, and news.google.com.)

Here is an excerpt from the article (emphasis and link added):

“The U.S. national interest
should be the primary object of American foreign policy.
For the past several decades, however,
and especially since the Six Day War in 1967,
the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been
its relationship with Israel.

The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and
the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region
has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security.
This situation has no equal in American political history.
Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security
in order to advance the interests of another state?

“As Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC, once admitted,
‘there are a lot of guys at the working level up here’ – on Capitol Hill –
‘who happen to be Jewish, who are willing . . .
to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness.’ ”

[An excerpt from a Raimondo article
(emphasis added, but links are as in the original):]

“Already Alan Dershowitz has smeared the distinguished authors as anti-Semites,
and the Usual Suspects have launched a deafening chorus of caterwauling.
Among the ‘arguments’ raised by the study’s detractors:
David Duke has praised it,
the Washington office of Fatah is handing out copies, and
the Muslim Brotherhood likes it, too.
[This is nothing more than cheap guilt-by-association.]
None of which proves anything –
except for the thesis, advanced by the study’s authors, that
the role of the Lobby
is to prevent any objective analysis and rational discussion
of the very ‘special relationship
Israel enjoys with key U.S. policymakers.”

Additional Articles on The Lobby

(Some of these citations contain excerpts from the cited article.
All emphasis is added,
together with some comments by the author of this blog.)


Intractable Foes, Warring Narratives
By Eric Alterman
MSNBC.com, 2002-04-02

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]
A Tale Of Two Stories
In most of the world,
it is the Palestinian narrative of a dispossessed people that dominates.
In the United States, however,
the narrative that dominates is Israel’s:
a democracy under constant siege.
Europeans and other Palestinian partisans point to the fact that
the Israel lobby in America is one of the strongest anywhere, and
Jewish individuals and organizations
give millions of dollars to political candidates
in order to reward pro-Israel policies
and punish those who support the Palestinians.
Another reason, however, is
the near-complete domination by pro-Israel partisans
of the punditocracy discourse.

Some Jewish groups in America like to harass
news organizations like The Washington Post or National Public Radio
for what they believe to be coverage insufficiently sympathetic to Israel’s plight.
even Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu
would not be able to complain about
the level of support their actions typically receive
from the members of the punditocracy.

[Note that, as Philip Weiss likes to observe, that
hard-right Israeli leaders
enjoy near universal support from the American Jewish community.]

For reasons of religion, politics, history and genuine conviction
the punditocracy debate of the Middle East in America
is dominated by
people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel.

The value of this legion to the Jewish state is, for better or worse,
literally incalculable,
particularly when push—as it inevitably does in the Middle East—comes to shove.

The Israel Lobby
by Michael Massing


The Lobby
Why is American policy in the Middle East skewed in favor of Israel?

by Justin Raimondo

The War Party in Disarray
by Justin Raimondo

In Dark Times, Blame the Jews
Jewish Daily Forward Editorial, 2006-03-24

[Its conclusion:]

Mearsheimer and Walt join a long line of critics
who dislike Israel so deeply that
they cannot fathom the support it enjoys in America,
and so they search for some malign power
capable of perverting America’s good sense.
They find it, as others have before, in the Jews.

The Lobby Strikes Back
Harvard study of Israeli lobby's influence
costs the academic dean of the Kennedy School his job

by Justin Raimondo

Israel and Moral Blackmail
The Israel lobby is bringing out the big guns

by Justin Raimondo

Yes, It's Anti-Semitic
by Eliot A. Cohen
Washington Post, 2006-04-05


Inept, even kooky academic work, then, but is it anti-Semitic?
If by anti-Semitism one means
obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews;
if one accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery,
of having occult powers and
of participating in secret combinations
that manipulate institutions and governments
[compare ...];
if one systematically selects everything unfair, ugly or wrong
about Jews as individuals or a group
and equally systematically suppresses any exculpatory information --
why, yes, this paper is anti-Semitic.


Letters to the LRB concerning “The Israel Lobby”,
London Review of Books, 2006-04-06

Does Israel Conduct Covert Action in America?
You bet it does

by Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer gave a strongly approving review
in this very well-informed article.
Every American should read and think through this article.

Note the similarity of Scheuer’s views to those of Kevin MacDonald.

Of Course There Is an Israel Lobby
by Edward Peck
(Deputy Director of the Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism in the Reagan White House
and former Chief of Mission in Iraq)

Smear and Fear
That's how Israel's lobby operates

by Justin Raimondo

by Michael B. Oren
New Republic, 2006-04-10

What does Jerry Falwell have in common with Paul Wolfowitz and Howard Dean? What links columnist George Will with The New Republic? All, according to a recently issued "working paper," a shortened version of which appeared in the London Review of Books, are agents of an amorphous but incalculably powerful "Israel Lobby." That same inscrutable organization, the paper alleges, has dictated the decisions of politicians from George W. Bush to Jimmy Carter and determined the content of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The goal of the lobby? Quite simply, it wants to impose the will of a racist, colonialist, antidemocratic state on the unsuspecting American people, to provoke conflict between the United States and the world, and to endanger American lives for its own sake.

Exposés of Jewish conspiracies have long been the bailiwick of white supremacists and Islamic radicals. Indeed, the former Klan leader David Duke has lauded this document for "validat[ing] every major point" he had ever made, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has also praised it. But "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," as the paper is titled, was written not by lunatics, but rather by Stephen Walt, the academic dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and by University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer--two of America's most reputable scholars. Well, scholars in most regards--but not in this case. To prove their argument, the professors don't rely on such banal sources as declassified records, presidential memoirs, or State Department documents. These would unimpeachably show that Arab oil (and not Israel) was America's persistent focus in the Middle East--and that presidents have supported Israel for strategic and moral reasons, not political ones. But, instead of citing archival sources, Walt and Mearsheimer pack their footnotes with newspaper articles and references to the polemical writings of Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein, as well as the unreservedly pro-Arab Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. The paper's slipshod quality was so evident that the Kennedy School removed its official seal from the treatise. Criticisms have rained down upon on it from across the political spectrum, with one notable exception--the field most pertinent to their paper: Middle Eastern studies.

The refusal of this faculty to distance itself from a report that fails to meet rudimentary research standards, posits unsubstantiated conspiracies, and, if directed against any other ethnic group, would surely be renounced as racist, raises serious questions about the state of today's academy. It should compel all those outside of academia to ask: Why?

A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy (also available here)
by Tony Judt
New York Times, 2006-04-19

[This is an excellent, generally supportive, critique of Mearsheimer-Walt.
Thanks to the author for writing it.]

[I]t will not be self-evident to future generations of Americans
why the imperial might and international reputation of the United States
are so closely aligned with one small, controversial Mediterranean client state.

It is already not at all self-evident to Europeans,
Latin Americans, Africans or Asians.
Why, they ask,
has America chosen to lose touch with the rest of the international community
on this issue?
Americans may not like the implications of this question.
But it is pressing.
It bears directly on our international standing and influence;
and it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
We cannot ignore it.

Letters to the LRB concerning “The Israel Lobby”,
London Review of Books, 2006-04-20

Unrestricted Access
By John J. Mearsheimer, Stephen M. Walt
Foreign Policy, 2006-05/06

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

America’s relationship with Israel
is difficult to discuss openly in the United States.
In March, we published an article in the London Review of Books
titled “The Israel Lobby” ....
Our goal was to break the taboo and
to generate a candid discussion of U.S. support for Israel,
because it has far-reaching consequences
for Americans and others around the world.
What followed was a barrage of responses—some constructive, some not.


With Saddam Hussein removed from power,
the Israel lobby is now focusing on Iran,
whose government seems determined to acquire nuclear weapons.
Despite its own nuclear arsenal and conventional military might,
Israel does not want a nuclear Iran.
Yet neither diplomacy nor economic sanctions
are likely to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Few world leaders favor using force to deal with the problem,
except in Israel and the United States.
AIPAC and many of the same neoconservatives who advocated attacking Iraq
are now among the chief proponents of using military force against Iran.

There is nothing improper about pro-Israel advocates
trying to influence the Bush administration.
But it is equally legitimate for others to point out that
groups like AIPAC and many neoconservatives have a commitment to Israel
that shapes their thinking about Iran and other Middle East issues.
More important, their perspective is not the last word
on what is good for Israel or the United States.
In fact, their prescriptions might actually be harmful to both countries.

The Lobby: It's Not Either / Or
by Norman G. Finkelstein

[O]nce the U.S. solidified its alliance with Israel after June 1967,
it began to look at Israelis, and Israelis projected themselves,
as experts on the "Arab mind."
the alliance with Israel has abetted the most truculent U.S. policies,
Israelis believing that "Arabs only understand the language of force"
and every few years this or that Arab country needs to be smashed up.


U.S. elite policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict
would almost certainly not be the same without the Lobby.
What does the U.S. gain from the Israeli settlements and occupation?
In terms of alienating the Arab world, it's had something to lose.
Without the Lobby, and in the face of widespread Arab resentment,
the U.S. would perhaps have ordered Israel to end the occupation by now,
sparing Palestinians much suffering.

[Hear, hear!]


[A] crucial dimension of this debate should be
the extent to which the Lobby
stifles free and open public discussion on the subject.

For in terms of trying to broaden public discussion here on the Israel-Palestine conflict
the Lobby makes a huge and baneful difference.

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt,
Response to the LRB letters concerning “The Israel Lobby”,
London Review of Books, 2006-05-11

We wrote ‘The Israel Lobby’ in order to begin a discussion of a subject
that had become difficult to address openly in the United States (LRB, 23 March).
We knew it was likely to generate a strong reaction,
and we are not surprised that some of our critics
have chosen to attack our characters or misrepresent our arguments.
We have also been gratified by the many positive responses we have received,
and by the thoughtful commentary that has begun to emerge
in the media and the blogosphere.
It is clear that many people – including Jews and Israelis –
believe that it is time to have a candid discussion
of the US relationship with Israel.
It is in that spirit that we engage with the letters responding to our article.
We confine ourselves here to the most salient points of dispute.


Another recurring theme in the letters is that
the lobby ultimately matters little because
Israel’s ‘values command genuine support among the American public’.
Thus, Herf and Markovits maintain that
there is substantial support for Israel
in military and diplomatic circles within the United States.
We agree that there is strong public support for Israel in America,
in part because it is seen as compatible with America’s Judaeo-Christian culture.
But we believe this popularity is substantially due to the lobby’s success at
portraying Israel in a favourable light and
effectively limiting public awareness and discussion
of Israel’s less savoury actions.

Diplomats and military officers are also affected by
this distorted public discourse,
but many of them can see through the rhetoric.
They keep silent, however, because
they fear that groups like AIPAC will damage their careers
if they speak out.

[Compare the views of Michael Scheuer and others
on the chilling effect of The Lobby on speech.]

The fact is that if there were no AIPAC,
Americans would have a more critical view of Israel
and US policy in the Middle East would look different.

Probably the most popular argument made about a countervailing force
is Herf and Markovits’s claim that
the centrepiece of US Middle East policy is oil, not Israel.
There is no question that access to that region’s oil
is a vital US strategic interest.
Washington is also deeply committed to supporting Israel.
Thus, the relevant question is, how does each of those interests affect US policy?
We maintain that
US policy in the Middle East is driven primarily by
the commitment to Israel, not oil interests.
If the oil companies or the oil-producing countries were driving policy,
Washington would be tempted to favour the Palestinians instead of Israel.

Moreover, the United States
would almost certainly not have gone to war against Iraq in March 2003,
and the Bush administration
would not be threatening to use military force against Iran.
Although many claim that the Iraq war was all about oil,
there is hardly any evidence to support that supposition,
and much evidence of the lobby’s influence.

Oil is clearly an important concern for US policymakers,
but with the exception of episodes like the 1973 Opec oil embargo,
the US commitment to Israel has yet to threaten access to oil.
It does, however,
contribute to America’s terrorism problem,
complicates its efforts to halt nuclear proliferation, and
helped get the United States involved in wars like Iraq.


We close with a final comment about the controversy surrounding our article.

Although we are not surprised by the hostility directed at us,
we are still disappointed that more attention has not been paid
to the substance of the piece.
The fact remains that the United States is in deep trouble in the Middle East,
and it will not be able to develop effective policies
if it is impossible to have a civilised discussion
about the role of Israel in American foreign policy.

John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt
University of Chicago & Harvard University

Ferment Over ‘The Israel Lobby’
by Philip Weiss
The Nation, 2006-05-15

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The writer Anatol Lieven says
he reluctantly took on the issue after 9/11 as a matter of “duty”--
when the Carnegie Endowment, where he was a senior associate, asked him to.
“I knew bloody well it would bring horrible unpopularity....
All my personal loyalties are the other way.
I’ve literally dozens of Jewish friends; I have no Palestinian friends.”
Lieven says he was a regular at the Aspen Institute till he brought up the issue.
“I got kicked out of Aspen....
In early 2002 they held a conference on relations with the Muslim world.
For two days nobody mentioned Israel.
Finally, I said,
‘Look, this is a Soviet-style debate.
Whatever you think about this issue,
the entire Muslim world is shouting about it.’
I have never been asked back.”
In 2004 Lieven published a book, America Right or Wrong,
in which he argued that the United States had subordinated its interests
to a tiny militarized state, Israel.
Attacked as an anti-Semite,
Lieven says he became a pariah among many colleagues at the Carnegie Endowment,
which he left for the fledgling New America Foundation.


Think tanks, the idea factories that help produce policy,
used to have a firmly WASPish character.
But as Walt and Mearsheimer show,
hawkishly pro-Israel forces
have established a “commanding presence”
at such organizations over much of the spectrum,

from the Brookings Institution in the center
to the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation on the right.


[Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service says]
“[N]eoconservatives put Israel at the absolute center of their worldview.”
One of the tenets of neocon belief was that
the road to peace in Israel/Palestine led through Baghdad:
Give Israel a greater sense of security
and you can solve the Palestinian issue later.
[Yeah, right.]
That has been the government policy. [!!]


[Anatol Lieven says]
“[I]t is crazy to suggest on the one hand
that the neoconservatives had a great influence on the Bush Administration
and to say
that it didn’t play out in terms of a hard interest for Israel.
If you think the neocons were not running the whole show
but had a definite impact,
then you can’t possibly suggest that Israeli interests were not involved.”

The liberal intelligentsia
have failed in their responsibility on specifically this question.
Because they maintain a nostalgic view of the Establishment
as a Christian stronghold in which pro-Israel Jews have limited power, or
because they like to make George Bush and the Christian end-timers and the oilmen the only bad guys in a debacle, or
because they are afraid of pogroms resulting from talking about Jewish power,
they have peeled away from addressing
the neocons’ Israel-centered view of foreign relations.

“It seems that the American left is also claimed by the Israel lobby,”
Mary-Kay Wilmers, the London Review of Books’s (Jewish) editor,
says with dismay.
Certainly the old antiwar base of the Democratic Party has been fractured,
with concerns about Israel’s security driving the wedge.
In the 2004 primaries, Howard Dean was forced to correct himself after--
horrors--calling for a more evenhanded policy in the Middle East.
The New Yorker’s courageous opposition to the Vietnam War
was replaced this time around by muted support for the Iraq War.
Tom Friedman spoke for many liberals when he said on Slate that
bombs in Israeli pizza parlors made him support aggression in Iraq.
Meantime, out of fear of Dershowitz, or respect for him,
the liberal/mainstream media have declined to look into the lobby’s powers,
leaving it to two brave professors.
The extensive quibbling on the left over the Mearsheimer-Walt paper
has often seemed defensive,
mistrustful of Americans’ ability to listen to these ideas
lest they cast Israel aside.

[Anatol Lieven says]
“If somebody like me ... has so much difficulty publishing,
it's a sign of how extremely limited and ethically rotten
the media debate is in this country.”

Enough Is Enough
People have had it up to here with The Lobby
by Justin Raimondo

by Dimitri K. Simes,
The National Interest, 2006-Summer

The Storm over the Israel Lobby
By Michael Massing
New York Review of Books, 2006-06-08
(actual date of publication 2006-05-11)

[S]ays one Hill staffer,
“We can count on well over half the House—250 to 300 members—
to do reflexively whatever AIPAC wants.”


In late 2000, when the intifada began, [a] former Clinton adviser told me,
there were cases in which Israel used what seemed to many to be excessive force,
such as breaking the bones of young Palestinians,
and exacerbated the conflict in doing so.
But if administration officials had said anything
"that smacked of 'moral equivalency,'"
he observed,
"it would have gotten us attacks from Congress, the media, and interest groups."
After a while, he continued,
officials begin to shy away from saying anything
that might become controversial domestically,
leading to "self-censorship in speech and action."


[As to how some in Congress feel about the effects of the lobbying,]
As one congressman put it:
We're so predictable, so supportive, so unquestioning, of Israel's actions
that in the long run we've alienated much of the Arab world.
We've passed any number of resolutions
making it clear that we didn't want Clinton or Bush
to put pressure on Israel with regard to settlements, or negotiations.
If we passed a resolution that fully embraced the road map,
it would make an enormous difference in the Arab world,
and it would help undermine terrorists.
But you would never get a measure like that
through the international relations or appropriations committees.
Congress would never pass a resolution
that was in any way critical of anything Israel has done.
I asked the congressman if he was willing to be identified.
He said no.


The nasty campaign waged against John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
has itself provided an excellent example
of the bullying tactics used by the lobby and its supporters.
The wide attention their argument has received shows that, in this case,
those efforts have not entirely succeeded.
Despite its many flaws,
their essay has performed a very useful service
in forcing into the open
a subject that has for too long remained taboo.

The Power of the Israel Lobby
Counterpunch.org, 2006-06-16

Prophets in Their Own Land
How to go from respected academic to anti-Semite—in one simple step

by Michael C. Desch
The American Conservative, 2006-06-19

The Assassins:
From character assassination to physical assassination,
the Lobby and its agents ruthlessly pursue their agenda

by Justin Raimondo

The War over Israel’s Influence
Political scientists John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
sparked a firestorm when they raised questions about
the power the Israel lobby wields over U.S. foreign policy.
Now, in an exclusive Foreign Policy Roundtable,
they face off with four distinguished experts of the Middle East
over whether the influence of the Israel lobby is ordinary or extraordinary.
Foreign Policy, 2006-07/08

[Here is what one of the foreign policy experts had to say
(emphasis is added):]

A Dangerous Exemption
Why should the Israel lobby be immune from criticism?
By Zbigniew Brzezinski

Given that the Middle East is currently the central challenge facing America,
Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
have rendered a public service by initiating a much-needed public debate
on the role of the “Israel lobby” in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy.

The participation of ethnic or foreign-supported lobbies
in the American policy process is nothing new.
In my public life, I have dealt with a number of them.
I would rank the Israeli-American, Cuban-American, and Armenian-American lobbies
as the most effective in their assertiveness.
The Greek- and Taiwanese-American lobbies also rank highly in my book.
The Polish-American lobby was at one time influential
(Franklin Roosevelt complained about it to Joseph Stalin),
and I daresay that before long we will be hearing a lot
from the Mexican-, Hindu-, and Chinese-American lobbies as well.

Mearsheimer and Walt are critical of the pro-Israel lobby
and of Israel’s conduct in a number of historical instances.
They are outspoken regarding
Israel’s prolonged mistreatment of the Palestinians.
They are, in brief, generally critical of Israel’s policy and, thus,
could be labeled as being in some respects anti-Israel.
But an anti-Israel bias is not the same as anti-Semitism.
To argue as much is to claim an altogether unique immunity for Israel,

untouchable by the kind of criticism
that is normally directed at the conduct of states.

Anyone who recalls World War II knows that
anti-Semitism is the unbridled and irrational hatred of Jews.
The case made by Mearsheimer and Walt did not warrant
the hysterical charges of anti-Semitism leveled at them
by several academics in self-demeaning attacks published by leading U.S. newspapers.
Sadly, some even stooped to McCarthyite accusations of guilt by association,
triumphantly citing the endorsement of Mearsheimer and Walt’s view
by vile, fanatical racists
as somehow constituting proof of the authors’ anti-Semitism.
In contrast,
several of the Israeli reactions to the Mearsheimer and Walt article
were quite measured and free of such mudslinging.

I do not feel qualified to judge the historical parts of their argument.
But several of the current themes that emerge from their thinking
strike me as quite pertinent.
Mearsheimer and Walt adduce a great deal of factual evidence that over the years
Israel has been the beneficiary of privileged—indeed, highly preferential—
financial assistance,
out of all proportion to what the United States extends to any other country.
The massive aid to Israel is in effect a huge entitlement
that enriches the relatively prosperous Israelis
at the cost of the American taxpayer.
Money being fungible,
that aid also pays for the very settlements that America opposes
and that impede the peace process.

The foregoing is related to the shift, over the part quarter of a century,
of U.S. policy in the Middle East
from relative impartiality (which produced the Camp David agreement),
to increasing partiality in favor of Israel,
to essentially the adoption of the Israeli perspective
on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
During the last decade, in fact,
some U.S. officials recruited from AIPAC or from pro-Israel research institutions
were influential in favoring the Israeli preference for vagueness
regarding the final shape of any peace accord,
thereby contributing to the protracted passivity of the United States
regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In contrast, Arab Americans by and large have been excluded
from serious participation in the U.S. policy process.

Finally, Mearsheimer and Walt also provide food for thought
regarding the consequences of
the growing role of lobbies in American foreign policy,
given the increased inclination of the U.S. Congress
to become engaged in legislating foreign policy.
With members of congress involved in continuous electoral fundraising,
the effect has been an increase in the influence of lobbies and, particularly,
those that take part in targeted political fundraising.
It is probably not an accident that the most effective lobbies
are also the ones that have been the most endowed.
Whether that produces the best definition of the American national interest in the Middle East or elsewhere
is open to question, and worthy of serious debate.

Of course, stifling such debate
is in the interest of those who have done well in the absence of it.
Hence the outraged reaction from some to Mearsheimer and Walt.

A Beautiful Friendship?
In search of the truth about the Israel lobby's influence on Washington
By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Magazine, 2006-07-17

This is a typical ADL/WP product:
An ultra-smooth effort to deceive the American public
about the extent and causes of Jewish influence on Washington.
The method used here is a variant of that advanced by Groucho Marx:
“Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

So I don’t get accused of selective quotation,
here is the complete context where the most effective misdirection occurs.
Emphasis has been added, and the key lies
are answered by comments,
mainly links to endnotes in the Mearsheminer-Walt paper.

and he asks if they have any final remarks.
One Jew raises his hand to speak, but the other one says to him,
'Stop it -- aren't we in enough trouble already?'
Well I'm not afraid of raising my hand."

The man raising his hand is Michael Oren, an American-born Israeli historian. He moved from New Jersey to Jerusalem in the late 1970s, served in the Israeli army, got his PhD from [Princeton] University. He has written a bestseller, Six Days of War, is completing a history of U.S. engagement with the Holy Land and is spending the semester teaching at Harvard and Yale. He was also one of the first to condemn the Israel lobby essay in a piece published in the New Republic. Across the table at Bartley's, a Cambridge hamburger haven, is Shai Feldman, a fifth-generation Israeli who was head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Israel's premier strategic think tank, before taking over as director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University. Feldman has known Walt and Mearsheimer for more than two decades -- Walt helped hold up the ceremonial chuppah at Feldman's wedding -- and he has shied away from publicly attacking the essay, even though he finds it misguided and misinformed.

Oren's a bit to the right of center, and Feldman's a bit to the left, but they're both snugly in the Israeli mainstream. Which means they love to argue.

Feldman says he speaks more out of sorrow than anger about where his two friends may have gone wrong in their essay.

Israel didn't mobilize anybody over Iraq,
[compare Endnotes 140, 143, 144, 145, 146]
associating Israel with the neocons on this issue is preposterous,"
[This really is worth a close look.
Who are the most prominent neocons?
Any short list of the hardest-core neocons would surely include
  • William Kristol and his crew at the Weekly Standard,
  • Charles Krauthammer, and
  • Norman Podhoretz and the whole Commentary gang.
All of these are notably distinguished by their
  • Jewishness,
  • support for Israel,
  • and
  • support for war with Iraq
    (not to mention with most of the rest of the Arab world).
So Feldman claims
“associating Israel with the neocons on this issue is preposterous”?
The only thing that is preposterous would be
not associating Israel, the neocons, and support for the war in Iraq.
Talk about the Groucho Marx strategy!

For more background, see Endnotes 150 and 152,
especially 2004-05-07-Forward,
and my post Neoconservatism and the references cited there,
especially those by MacDonald.

he says, helping himself to a french fry.
"Israel didn't see Iraq as a danger,
[compare Endnotes 141, 142, 146, 147, 148]
and, what's more,
it had no interest in pushing the Bush administration's democracy agenda."
The only prominent Israeli to champion that idea, says Feldman,
is former cabinet minister Natan Sharansky, author of The Case for Democracy
[That book was co-authored by Sharansky and Ron Dermer,
who since March has been
Israel's Minister of Economic Affairs in the United States.
Does that not make him a “prominent Israeli,” or at least worthy of mention?
But hey, when it’s the Washington Post and
they’re covering-up activities of Jews,
who expects truth, accuracy, or objectivity?]
a book that President Bush read and honored by inviting Sharansky
to the White House to talk about it.
But Sharansky's a lone wolf, says Feldman.
"Believe me, that book has more readers in Washington than in Jerusalem."
[This is really somewhat of a side point,
but even so perhaps it’s worth noting that the most prominent American
advocating democratization as a panacea for “curing” the Arab world
was none other than the Jewish American Bernard Lewis.
Going back to Feldman’s point, though:
After all the lies he has already told, why should anyone believe him on this?]

So if Israel wasn't pushing directly for an invasion of Iraq,
what about its American lobbyists?

AIPAC took no official position on the merits of going to war in Iraq, and staff members insist they did not lobby in favor of the 2002 war resolution. But, like the Israeli government, once it was clear that the Bush administration was determined to go to war, AIPAC cheered from the sidelines, bestowing sustained ovations on an array of administration officials at its April 2003 annual conference and on Bush himself when he attended the following year.

[Elie Wiesel is one of American Jewry’s most emblematic figures.
American Jewry has clearly designated him
as their “conscience” on matters of importance to them.
As they say, when he speaks, people listen.
So what was he doing in the White House
just three weeks before the war started?
Sure looks like lobbying to me.]

Oren, who has studied the subject for years, believes the animosity toward the Israel lobby goes deeper than policy. He even raises the possibility that Walt and Mearsheimer are anti-Semites.

"You have to differentiate between them and their argument," Feldman replies. "They're not anti-Semites even if they have slid into an anti-Semitic argument. I think it all comes from their failure to prevent the war on Iraq."

Oren: "So they come up with this truly unique notion of blaming the Jews!"

Oren sees the essay as an evil that needs to be condemned.
But Feldman argues that
"the ties between Israel and the United States are so robust
this essay won't damage them.
And to make into martyrs
a couple of academics with a lousy paper
[For a more mainstream, and accurate, view of the paper
than the WP and their Israelis want you to know,
see FA or Brzezinski.
But then, who would ever expect the WP
to do anything but stooge for the ADL?]

would only prove their point."


Echoing Feldman and Oren, [Dennis] Ross insists that
the essay is wrong to claim Israel had pushed for war in Iraq.
If anything,
the Israelis feared such a war
would divert attention and resources
from the Middle East's real danger -- Iran.
Some Israelis even warned that toppling Hussein
would lead to chaos in Iraq that would make the neighboring Iranians stronger.
Which is, more or less, what has happened.

"It might have been better if they had gotten their facts straight,"
says Ross of Walt and Mearsheimer.
"I don't say they're anti-Semitic, just that they're ignorant."

But it's more than that.

[Compare these remarks from Israel’s Lawyer by Aaron David Miller:]

I'm not a lawyer by training, but I know one when I see one.
For far too long,
many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, myself included,
have acted as Israel's attorney,
catering and coordinating with the Israelis
at the expense of successful peace negotiations.

Internet Discussion of Frankel's Article in the WP

Grabbing the Third Rail
Two professors respond to the backlash
over their controversial paper on the Israel Lobby.

Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer
By Paige Austin

Do you think that the paper has been ignored in the mainstream media?

SW: What was most discouraging was not that it was ignored
but rather that much of the mainstream coverage
was simply not very substantive.

One of the reasons we did not do a lot of media interviews or appearances
when the story first appeared was simply that
we did not want attention focusing on the authors—
we wanted attention focusing on what we wrote.

JM: What is interesting here is that a good number of people,
including some who were very critical of the piece,
concede that many of our main points are correct,
especially the claim that the lobby plays a key role
in shaping American foreign policy.
Given that and given the trouble facing the United States in the Middle East,
one would expect that the mainstream media
would be much more interested in grappling with our piece.
But the issue of whether our Israel policy is in our best interest
is rarely discussed in the mainstream media.

Madison's Warning and the Israel Lobby
by Michael Scheuer

As Mideast Churns, U.S. Jews and Arabs Alike Swing Into Action
New York Times, 2006-07-28

With Israel at war again,
American Jewish groups immediately swung into action, sending
lobbyists to Washington,
solidarity delegations to Jerusalem and
millions of dollars for ambulances and trauma counseling,
just as they always have.

Review of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”
by L. Carl Brown
Foreign Affairs, 2006-09/10

[Emphasis is added.]

Seldom have just over 40 pages of text (plus just under 40 pages of notes)
kicked up such a storm.
Attacked for everything from “sloppy scholarship” to anti-Semitism,
this article is clearly neither.
It is an argument advanced by two scholars,
both of the realist school of international relations,
that “unwavering U.S. support for Israel”
is not in the United States’ national interest.
The damaging misfit between
pro-Israel U.S. policies and U.S. interests in the Middle East,
they argue,
is the fault of a number of domestic pressure groups—
which they lump together as “the Israel Lobby”—
spearheaded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Mearsheimer and Walt use realist national-interest analysis
to deftly deconstruct the usual justifications for supporting Israel
(that it is
a fellow democracy,
a strategic asset, or
a tiny state in danger of being overwhelmed by its neighbors).
They set out the role of that “Israel Lobby”
in pushing for war against Iraq,
and perhaps against other Middle Eastern regimes down the road.

May the storm kicked up by this article rage on.
The role of pressure groups and lobbies in determining U.S. foreign policy
is important.
The U.S.-Israeli connection is important.
The hardheaded analysis that Mearsheimer and Walt so cogently present
cries out for careful consideration.
It just might set in motion a useful paradigm shift
in the United States’ Middle East policy.

Council on American-Islamic Relations News Conference on Israeli Influence [PDF]

C-SPAN live video

Council on American-Islamic Relations
holds a news conference on the Israeli influence.
Participants are:
John J. Mearsheimer, Univ. of Chicago;
Stephen M.Walt, Kennedy School of Government.

[This is 90 minute news conference contains a summary of the paper by Stephen Walt
and a really interesting commentary on the Lebanon War by John Mearsheimer.]

Pronouncing Blame on the Israel Lobby
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post, 2006-08-29

[Some excerpts; the emphasis is added.]

This line of argument could be considered a precarious one
for two blue-eyed men with Germanic surnames.
Walt kicked off the session with a warning that
we face a "threat from terrorism
because we have been so closely tied to Israel."

This produced chuckles in the audience.
Mearsheimer ridiculed U.S. leaders for
"falling all over themselves to express support for Israel."
And he drew groans from the crowd when he spoke about a lawmaker who,
after questioning Israel's policy,
"met with various representatives from major Jewish organizations,
who explained to him the basic facts of life in American politics."

When the two professors finished, they were besieged by
autograph- and photo-seekers and Arab television correspondents.
Walt could be heard telling one that
if an American criticizes Israel,
"it might have some economic consequences for your business."

Analysts see ‘disaster’ in U.S. position
Influence of lobbyists faulted
By David R. Sands
Washington Times, 2006-08-29

The article sparked a heated debate.
Some praised the authors
for taking on one of the country's most powerful lobbies,
while others condemned them for everything from
sloppy scholarship to anti-Semitism.
[For a mainstream rebuttal to these accusations,
see 2006-09/10-Foreign-Affairs.]

Two Elephants in the Room
Israel and its amen corner
by Justin Raimondo

The Debate at Cooper Union

Debate Transcript
Debate Video

Cooper Union, New York City, New York, 2006-09-28

Notes on Participants

Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign and security minister and the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy

Martin Indyk is Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution

Tony Judt is Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies and Director of the Remarque Institute at New York University

Rashid Khalidi is Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University

John Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and the co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago

Dennis Ross is Counsellor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace

[Perhaps the best journalism covering this debate
is the series of articles referenced below
by Philip Weiss of the New York Observer,
a newspaper targeting liberal New York Jews.]

Never Mind the Bollocks--Here Is Walt and Mearsheimer!
by Philip Weiss
New York Observer, 2006-09-28

The Great Debate at Cooper Union Last Night
by Philip Weiss
New York Observer, 2006-09-29

The debate belonged to Tony Judt....
When Shlomo Ben-Ami and Martin Indyk said that
John Mearsheimer was antisemitic
for speaking of a collection of Jews who influence policy,
Judt demolished them by quoting Arthur Koestler when he became an anticommunist
and said that
Just because idiots and bigots share some of his views
doesn't discredit the views.

It was a fabulous night.
We all left improved.
The London Review of Books
had extended the boundaries of knowledge, and freedom.

More on Thursday Night’s Israel Lobby Debate in N.Y.
by Philip Weiss
New York Observer, 2006-10-01

We're not talking about a cabal.
We're talking about a thousand acts of devotion
by American Jews who care about Israel

and have most of them not been there.


[M]y takeaway from the debate:
Our journalism is broken.
There are 100 books about Iraq out now, from people who have been there.
There is not 1 book out about the Israel lobby.
Walt and Mearsheimer essentially performed a journalistic function,
and did what journalists would call a clip job—
assembling previously-published reports before making large conclusions.
A basic function of democratic society is completely kaput here.
I did a front page magazine story for the NYT on the gun lobby.
Never has there been one on the Israel lobby.
There aren't TV documentaries on it;
60 Minutes and Ted Koppel are not trying to pin down
Abe Foxman about his mission or
Malcolm Hoenlein about whether he called Clinton during Camp David,
let alone going near AIPAC.
Our society's lens is simply not turned on these institutions
in anything like the way it ought to be.

Off Limits? Talk By Israel Critic Canceled
Latest in string of cases involves NYU’s controversial Tony Judt.
by Larry Cohler-Esses - Editor At Large
Jewish Week (of New York), 2006-10-06

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The outside sponsor of the canceled talk, a group of young business and academic leaders called Network 20/20, has held its meetings at the Polish consulate for the last two years. But at 4:45 on Tuesday, said Judt, Network 20/20 president Patricia Huntington called to inform him his talk was canceled
“because the Polish Consulate had been threatened by the
Anti-Defamation League.”

“She was very angry,” said Judt.

According to Huntington, said Judt,
“Serial phone calls from ADL [leader] Abe Foxman
warned them [the consulate] off hosting anything involving Tony Judt.
If they persisted, he warned,
he would smear the charge of Polish collaboration with anti-Israel anti-Semites
all over the front page of every daily paper in the city.”

Huntington told The New York Sun this week that the ADL
“forced,” “threatened,” and exerted “pressure” on the Polish Consulate
to cancel the talk.
She said she would reschedule the talk elsewhere.

Repeated efforts to reach Huntington by phone and e-mail went unanswered.
But Foxman and Kasprzyk vehemently rejected the account sourced to her by Judt.

“It’s not true they threatened or made any pressure,” said Kasprzyk.
They simply expressed concern.”

Kasprzyk said the calls moved him to spend an hour-and-a-half Tuesday
researching for himself just who Judt was.

“I must say, I didn’t know anything about Judt until yesterday,” he said.
“I’m a little bit familiar with the public debate about the lobby.
But I did not know about
the very extreme stand of Dr. Judt regarding Israel,
about how he related to the very existence of Israel.”

Asked to specify what statements from Judt he regarded as beyond the pale,
Kasprzyk replied,
“I don’t have to answer this question.”
The important point, he said, was that
“this would not help our foreign policy with Israel,
and also with Polish Jewish relations.”

As a diplomat here to advance his country’s interests, Kasprzyk explained,
“I don’t have to subscribe to the First Amendment.
This is not Hyde Park.
And this is not an issue of censorship. ...
I don’t want to overstate the controversial character of Tony Judt.
I’m the sovereign consul general of a foreign state,
and I am taking decisions for my state’s interests. ...
Once Judt has his meeting,
no one would know or learn that this was just a kind of rented space.
Everyone would say, ah ha, what does this mean from the Poles’ point of view?”

[“Everyone”? In a sense, all too true.]

In N.Y., Sparks Fly Over Israel Criticism
Polish Consulate Says Jewish Groups Called To Oppose Historian
By Michael Powell
Washington Post, 2006-10-09

Two major American Jewish organizations
helped block a prominent New York University historian
from speaking at the Polish consulate here last week,
saying the academic
was too critical of Israel and American Jewry.

The historian, Tony Judt, is Jewish and directs New York University's Remarque Institute, which promotes the study of Europe.
Judt was scheduled to talk Oct. 4
to a nonprofit organization that rents space from the consulate.
Judt's subject was the Israel lobby in the United States,
and he planned to argue that
this lobby has often stifled honest debate.

[Point made.]

An hour before Judt was to arrive,
the Polish Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk canceled the talk.
He said
the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee
had called and he quickly concluded Judt was too controversial.

“The phone calls were very elegant
but may be interpreted as exercising a delicate pressure,”
Kasprzyk said.
“That's obvious—we are adults and our IQs are high enough to understand that.”

Judt, who was born and raised in England and lost much of his family in the Holocaust, took strong exception to the cancellation of his speech.
He noted that he was forced to cancel another speech later this month at Manhattan College in the Bronx
after a different Jewish group had complained.
Other prominent academics have described encountering such problems,
in some cases more severe, stretching over the past three decades.

The pattern, Judt says, is unmistakable and chilling.

“This is serious and frightening, and only in America—not in Israel—
is this a problem,” he said.
“These are Jewish organizations that believe
they should keep people who disagree with them on the Middle East
away from anyone who might listen.”


David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Congress,
took a similar view.
“I never asked for a particular action; I was calling as a friend of Poland,”
Harris said.
“The message of that evening was going to be
entirely contrary to the entire spirit of Polish foreign policy.”

The Lobby, Unmasked
The AIPAC spy scandal has many tentacles
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2006-10-23

[An excerpt (emphasis is added):]

Israel was surely a major factor,
if not the determining factor,
pushing us into Iraq.

Israel's exemplary character and its key role as a U.S. ally
are central canons of the neoconservative foreign policy prescription,
and always have been....
Unconditional support for Israel
has always been at the heart of the neocons' Middle Eastern strategy,
and they haven't made any bones about it.

One can't help remembering this when we look at
what has actually occurred in the region since the American invasion
and note the winners and losers....
Geopolitically, there is but one winner in all this: Israel.

By now many are familiar with the "Clean Break" document
authored by key U.S. policymakers for an Israeli prime minister.
It describes a scenario in which Iraq undergoes "regime change"
and triggers a fundamental change in the region
that spreads to Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.
These policymakers – neocons all –
came to work for the Bush II administration
and carried their agenda to Washington with them.
It used to be forbidden to say this,
except for Michael Kinsley or Pat Buchanan
who were ignored and smeared, respectively.


[Changing subject to the AIPAC espionage case...]

As I wrote in a piece for The American Conservative,
the AIPAC case is the dorsal fin
of something much larger lurking just below the surface.
This was indicated by hints of Israeli involvement in the faux "intelligence"
that was funneled to the White House, Congress, and the American people
by the secretive Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon.


Israel's amen corner in the U.S.,
the neoconservatives who have taken over the GOP, and
their allies in the supine Democratic Party—just as beholden to the Lobby—
pushed hard for the invasion.
The Lobby's influence on Congress and the executive
played a key role in taking us down the road to war,
and we aren't just talking about AIPAC's aboveground component.

What the AIPAC spy case shows is that Israel's American sock puppets
also play a key role in gathering information,
including classified information....


The Lobby isn't just in the business of
peddling a glorified, largely fictional portrait
of Israel as America's valiant little "democratic" ally,
which deserves unconditional support
as it tyrannizes its Palestinian helots
and rampages through Lebanon and occupied Palestine.
It is clearly also performing another service for the state of Israel,
namely espionage....

I have to add that this new revelation
[about Jane Harman and the House Intelligence Committee],
like the initial exposure of the AIPAC investigation,
looks to me like a preemptive leak, a "controlled burn,"
undertaken to obstruct the investigation
and give the guilty some opportunity to cover their tracks.
These guys are professionals,
and they're resisting exposure every inch of the way.

Dual Loyalty and the “Israel Lobby”
by Gabriel Schoenfeld,
Commentary, 2006-11

[This is an attack on the M+W paper,
coming from one of the pillars of the Lobby itself.]

Breaking the Silence
The debate ignited by Walt and Mearsheimer gathers momentum.
by Scott McConnell
The American Conservative, 2006-11-06

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Rashid Khalidi [at the Cooper Union debate]
reminded the audience of the general vastness of the subject,
which is hardly touched by examination of more discrete matters
such as the lobby’s role in
spurring high levels of aid to Israel or
sparking the decision to attack Saddam.
America’s entire Mideast conversation is tilted in one direction, shaping
what legislation is written,
how it is interpreted,
how experts are credentialed or marginalized,
how candidates run their campaigns.
On any other political question—abortion, guns, health care—
it is understood that there are two sides,
but in the United States (and only in the United States),
where Israel is concerned
there is only one position.


Of course, the lobby is still trying to suppress discussion.
Several days after the debate,
Tony Judt was scheduled to talk to a group called Network 20/20,
which regularly meets at the Polish consulate in New York.
Abe Foxman of the ADL got on the phone to the consulate,
reminded the Poles how much damage he could do to them
if he and his friends were to brandish the “anti-Semitism” club against Poland,
and “poof” ... the consulate called off Judt’s event.

[T]here will be a more freewheeling debate about
whether America’s Mideast policy should be so completely Israel-centric.
The subject has simply become too important to ignore.
During the Cold War,
hawks like myself usually deferred to the Norman Podhoretzes on the Mideast—
they obviously cared so much about it—
and doves mostly limited their own campaigns
to Central America and nuclear weapons.
It was always easier to suppress doubts, if one had them,
about Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians
since nothing good for one’s career or ability to influence any other cause
could come from being labeled “anti-Israel.”

But with the Mideast now on the front burner,
as even Bush administration officials acknowledge,
America will have no allies whatsoever in the war against terrorists
unless progress is made towards a fair settlement of the Palestine question;

it is shameful to remain silent.

By Mark Lilla, Richard Sennett
with over one hundred signatures
New York Review of Books, 2006-11-16

[The next round of this ADL/critics volley is at

Free Speech, Israel, and Jewish Illiberalism
The Chronicle (of Higher Education) Review, 2006-11-17

Senior Aide [Philip Zelikow] to Rice Resigns From Post
New York Times, 2006-11-28

[An excerpt (emphasis is added):]

A State Department spokesman was quick to distance the department officially
from Mr. Zelikow’s remarks,
which ruffled the feathers
of American Jewish groups and Israeli officials.

What is the difference between American Jews and Israelis?
Some Israelis are willing to speak about, and against,
Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.

This is, of course, a slight exaggeration.
But not much of one:
Compare the visibility and influence of AIPAC and the ADL
(which has made overwhelmingly clear
its devotion to preventing criticism of Israel)
to that of the American branch of Peace Now.]

The ADL and Tony Judt: An Exchange
By Abraham H. Foxman, Myrna Shinbaum, Reply by Mark Lilla, Richard Sennett
New York Review of Books, 2006-11-30

[This is a continuation of 2006-11-16-NYRB-Lilla-Sennett.
Here is the conclusion of Lilla and Sennett’s reply to the ADL
(emphasis is added):]

We can only conclude that,
at some very basic level,
Mr. Foxman does not “get it.”

He does not seem to recognize that
public debate and discussion is a healthy thing in a democracy,
and that
sound public policy in domestic and foreign affairs depends on it.

Setting the Record Straight (PDF)
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

To date ... we have not provided a single, detailed response
to the major criticisms leveled against our piece.
Our aim in this essay is to do just that.
Although we cannot be certain
that we have answered every charge that has been directed at our work,
this response does cover
the most significant criticisms that we have encountered to date.
We also address a host of minor charges.
We believe we can show that almost all of these criticisms are mistaken.
We also reply to those criticisms that we believe are justified
and indicate why they do not, in our opinion,
significantly affect our main arguments.

Before turning to the specific charges,
it may be useful to describe
the basic strategy behind many of our critics’ arguments.
On the whole, our critics employed three main approaches.

a number of prominent critics resorted to
unsupported ad hominem attacks.
We were accused of being “anti-Semites” or “liars,”
and our piece was explicitly described as
an updated version of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Critics also linked us with racists like David Duke
and falsely claimed that
we obtained much of our source material from neo-Nazi websites.
This line of attack sought to portray us as bigots and extremists,
in order to discourage people from taking our arguments seriously.

We were not surprised by this tactic, because
such accusations have been an all too common response
to anyone who
criticizes Israel,
questions U.S. support for Israel, or
challenges the lobby itself.
Indeed, we discussed this tendency at some length in our article,
noting that
the charge of anti-Semitism is routinely employed
to silence or discredit anyone who
questions Israel’s actions or
expresses reservations about the merits of unconditional U.S. support for Israel.
This tactic was also to be expected
whenever someone did not have good substantive arguments to make.
If facts and logic were on their side,
these critics would not have to use character assassination
to discredit our article.
As we show in detail below, however,
the weight of evidence strongly supports our position.
As a result, some of our critics had little choice but to try to smear us.

many critics have misrepresented our views, either by
accusing us of making arguments that we did not make, or by
ignoring important points that we explicitly made.
For example, we have been repeatedly accused of
portraying the lobby as a cabal or conspiracy
when, in fact, we went out of our way to make clear that
we were making no such accusation.
This tactic is also unsurprising:
if you cannot refute what we actually wrote and believe,
then it makes sense to invent an argument you can attack
and accuse us of saying that instead.
[I.e., invent a straw-man.]

a number of critics have charged that
our work is riddled with errors of fact,
and that overall,
it is sloppy scholarship.
This is false.
In common with
all scholarship produced by fallible human beings,
our article contained a few minor errors of fact.
There are also several places where
we might have chosen our words more carefully.
We address these issues below.
We also show how
these minor errors of fact and infelicities of expression,
while regrettable,
do not affect the validity of our conclusions at all.

the broad charge that our scholarship was careless or sloppy
defies common sense.
We have each written three scholarly books
and published numerous articles over the past twenty-plus years.
Our prior work has been extensively reviewed
during the hiring and promotion processes at several prominent universities,
both before and after we each received tenure.
Had we shown any tendency to do sloppy work,
this shortcoming would surely have been noticed by now.
Given that we knew that writing about the Israel lobby
is the metaphorical equivalent of grabbing the third rail,
is it likely that
we would suddenly choose this moment and this issue
to produce our first piece of sloppy scholarship?
In fact, we went over the piece many times
and had research assistants check numerous facts.
We also asked seven scholars with great knowledge about the Middle East,
and with varied political views, to scrutinize the manuscript.
Finally, the editors and fact checkers at the London Review
verified the manuscript with great care,
as they knew full well that they were publishing a controversial piece.
There are obviously areas and issues that remain subject to interpretation
and where reasonable people can disagree,
but to claim that the paper was sloppy is implausible.

Another Jewish Liberal Rationalizes Silence on Things That Disturb Him in the Middle East
by Philip Weiss
PhilipWeiss.org, 2006-12-19

[This is remarkable because it shows
the extent to which Jewish “liberals” will go
to avoid criticizing Israel.
Their excuse?
They might be making the same arguments that “anti-Semites” make.
It might associate them with the wrong sort of people.

Well, I guess any excuse is good enough to rationalize not criticizing Israel.]

I Witness the Israel Lobby in Action
by Philip Weiss
MondoWeiss, 2006-12-26


Walt and Mearsheimer Rebut (and Humble) Their Critics
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-01-09

I’ve just gotten a copy of a 79-page paper called
“Setting the Record Straight: A Response to Critics of ‘The Israel Lobby’ ”
by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt....

Walt and Mearsheimer as Scholars of Jewish History
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-01-10

One thing that Walt and Mearsheimer do in their rebuttal is
to list the large number of policymakers,
including Jews like Feith, Perle, Wurmser and Wolfowitz (I would add Abrams),
who are “deeply committed” to Israel and helped get us into the war in Iraq.
“We emphasize again that we see nothing wrong with this [commitment],
as all Americans are entitled to such attachments
and are free to express them in political life,”
they add.

Identifying the neoconservatives as Jewish is one of those unspoken/spoken things in public life today. Two years ago, Wolfowitz was asked a question about the neoconservatives at the American Enterprise Institute and quipped, “Don’t you mean Jewish?” He was being ironical; his point was that the identification was itself antisemitic.

This is not very straightforward. Before W&M came along, two Jewish conservative scholars wrote books that described the neocons as Jewish.
The Neoconservative Revolution:
Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy
by the late Murray Friedman.
The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State,
by Benjamin Ginsberg.


Ginsberg feared, and presumably still does,
that the remarkable rise of Jews in the U.S. will result in a backlash.

These fears did not stop Ginsberg from talking about “predominantly Jewish neoconservatives” who had moved to the right “inexorably” because of “their attachment to Israel.” During the Reagan administration these neocons had worked alongside the “Israel lobby,” which was thought to be Washington’s “most powerful lobby,” to oppose the Soviet Union. They “used their access to the print and broadcast media...” (Including the New Republic!) They had helped cement American support for Israel by working with “high ranking Jewish officials” in government.
Ginsberg regarded this Jewish presence as a good thing, though he feared the rise of a populist backlash, evidenced by such statements as Pat Buchanan’s description of Israel’s “amen corner” in the U.S.

Since Ginsberg’s book in 1993, it is amazing to consider that we have been attacked on 9/11, in part because of our support for Israel’s humiliation of the Palestinians, and entered into one of the greatest disasters in our country’s history, Iraq, in part because of concerns for Israel’s security, and the pattern he described has not been raised in the mainstream, only murmured by Chris Matthews and others, till Walt and Mearsheimer landed with all four feet last March in the LRB to try and force the issue into the U.S. discourse, and were then smeared by many leading newspaper writers (who have never read Ginsberg) as antisemites.

At a time when The New Republic thinks nothing of raising Mitt Romney’s Mormonism as an issue—and legitimately—it is really amazing that no leading newspaper or broadcast outlet has done the simple, honorable thing of reporting on the Iraqi neocons’ attachment to Israel.

This is a great lapse. The reasons for it are twofold:

1. American journalistic culture has a strong Jewish strand. (Ginsberg on London and Berlin: “Jewish financiers and newspaper publishers were important participants in [the British imperialist power structure]... Of the 21 daily newspapers published in Berlin during the 1870s, 13 were owned by Jews and four had important Jewish contributors. All three newspapers specializing in political satire were controlled by Jews”) A great number of journalists now working in powerful positions exulted, as I did in my elementary school, in June 1967 when Israel pasted the Egyptian and Syrian air forces; devotion to Israel is something we grew up with and were inculcated with, and therefore do not tend to question as being not in America’s best interest.

2. Iraq is a disaster. Jews fear that Americans will blame the Jews. We have racial memory; we know that the Holocaust grew out of resentment over Jewish numbers and influence. It could happen here.

Ginsberg and my father worry about that. They are smart guys. To dismiss their fears would be foolish. The only intellectually honest response is: Of course it could happen here...

Bloggers vs. the Lobby
Israel’s propaganda fortress faces a surprising new challenge.
by Scott McConnell
American Conservative, 2007-03-12

[This is an interesting, but disquieting, article.
Here is an excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis have been added.

[The] noble vision
[of how to reconcile Israel and Muslims expressed by a liberal American Jew]
stands alone against
the tremendously well-funded propaganda edifice of the Israel lobby,
from AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League
to the American Jewish Committee and multiple other groups,

whose dank worldview reaches deep into
the conservative think tanks and the upper echelons of the Bush administration.


But this hopeless view of the world,
however much it is amplified by today’s Jewish establishment,
is not the only perspective of American Jews.
Indeed it is not even the majority view.
[If that were really the case,
then what accounts for the qualms expressed in paragraph 22?]

A poll by the American Jewish Committee revealed that
support among Jews for a military strike against Iran
had dropped from 49 percent last year to 38 percent at present.


The explosion of interest in
the Walt-Mearsheimer essay and Jimmy Carter’s book
evince a Christian awakening of the Mideast’s critical importance.
The perilous present geopolitical context explains this:
a great many people wouldn’t risk the opprobrium of the lobby
for the sake of the Palestinians,
who often wage their struggle far less impressively than one might wish.
But letting the lobby influence American foreign policy toward Iraq
raises the stakes mightily.
Allowing Bibi Netanyahu and his American allies
to call the tune of U.S. policy toward Iran
is far too much to bear.

But it’s true that many Christians
won’t enter this battle without Jewish allies
or at least will join it with less enthusiasm.
It’s not simply that they can’t take the heat.
It’s that those who have spent much time
in journalism or academia or trying to influence public policy
have generally done so alongside Jews
and are accustomed to having
Jews play significant roles in their personal and professional lives.
To fight a battle without Jewish colleagues, or even against Jewish colleagues,
is likely to feel rather lonely....
But it is this sentiment that makes the new effervescence of Jewish dissent
so important for the country at the present moment.
It opens a door for Christians to voice opinions
they might otherwise keep to themselves—
not for fear of what Abe Foxman might say about them,
but out of discomfort of being isolated from the
urban, “cosmopolitan,” Jewish-influenced milieu
of which they have long been part.

It may be beyond the American people’s power
to stop George W. Bush from launching another preventive war.
But even though the president and his top advisers
can isolate themselves from currents of public opinion,
that is less the case for top military officers.
And it is far more likely that
they will find ways to raise meaningful speedbumps and roadblocks
on the route to an expanded war
if there is a large enough public outcry against it.
Right now there is not.

Indeed, key Democrats and Republicans
are maneuvering for applause lines in Herzliya as much as in Iowa.
There remains a policy-expert consensus that
attacking Iran would be very foolish,
but it is hardly loud and far from powerful.
It has no political force behind it.

[So the politicians could care less about the foreign-policy experts
when it comes to the possibility of attacking Iran.
(Nor the opinion of the population.)
Something is radically wrong here.]

Talking About Israel
New York Times, 2007-03-18

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does,
with one prominent exception:
Mr. Bush’s crushing embrace of Israel.

There is no serious political debate
among either Democrats or Republicans
about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians.

And that silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.

Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media
about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories.
Yet no major American candidate
is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies
as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper.

Three years ago, Israel’s minister of justice spoke publicly
of photos of an elderly Palestinian woman beside the ruins of her home,
after it had been destroyed by the Israeli army.
He said that they reminded him of his own grandmother,
who had been dispossessed by the Nazis.
Can you imagine an American cabinet secretary ever saying such a thing?

One reason for the void is that
American politicians have learned to muzzle themselves.
[More accurately: been intimidated into muzzling themselves.]
In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic primaries,
Howard Dean said he favored an “even-handed role” for the U.S. --
and was blasted for being hostile to Israel.
Likewise, Barack Obama has been scolded for daring to say:
“Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”
In contrast,
Hillary Rodham Clinton has safely refused to show
an inch of daylight between herself and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

A second reason may be that American politicians just don’t get it.
King Abdullah of Jordan spoke to Congress this month and observed:
“The wellspring of regional division,
the source of resentment and frustration far beyond,
is the denial of justice and peace in Palestine.”
Though widely criticized, King Abdullah was exactly right:
from Morocco to Yemen to Sudan,
the Palestinian cause arouses ordinary people in coffee shops
more than almost anything else.

You can argue that Arabs pursue a double standard,
focusing on repression by Israelis
while ignoring greater human rights violations by fellow Arabs.
But the suffering in Palestinian territories,
while not remotely at the scale of brutality in Sudan or Iraq,
is still tragically real.

B’Tselem, a respected Israeli human rights organization,
reports that last year
Palestinians killed 17 Israeli civilians (including one minor)
and six Israeli soldiers.
In the same period, B’Tselem said,
Israeli forces killed 660 Palestinians, triple the number killed in 2005.
Of the Palestinians killed in 2006,
half were not taking part in hostilities at the time they were killed,
and 141 were minors.

For more than half a century, the U.S. was an honest broker in the Middle East.
Presidents Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan
were warmer to Israel and
Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush
a bit cooler,
but all sought a balance.
George W. Bush has abandoned that tradition of balance.

Hard-line Israeli policies
have profoundly harmed that country’s long-term security by
adding vulnerable settlements,
radicalizing young Palestinians,
empowering Hamas and Hezbollah,
isolating Israel in the world and
nurturing another generation of terrorists in Lebanon.
The Israeli right’s aggressive approach has only hurt Israeli security,
just as President Bush’s invasion of Iraq ended up harming U.S. interests.

The best hope for Israel in the long run isn’t a better fence or more weaponry;
they can provide a measure of security in the short run
but will be of little help
if terrorists turn, as they eventually will if the present trajectory continues,
to chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
Ultimately, security for Israel will emerge
only from a peace agreement with Palestinians.
We even know what that peace deal will look like:
the Geneva accord,
reached in 2003 by private Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

M. J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum headlined a recent column,
“Pandering Not Required.”
He wisely called on American presidential candidates instead
to prove their support for Israel by pledging:
“If I am elected president,
I will do everything in my power
to bring about negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians
with the goal of achieving peace and security for Israel
and a secure state for the Palestinians.”

Last summer,
after Hezbollah killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two others,
Prime Minister Olmert invaded Lebanon
and thus transformed Hezbollah into a heroic force in much of the Arab world.
President Bush would have been a much better friend to Israel
if he had tried to rein in Mr. Olmert.
So let’s be better friends -- and stop biting our tongues.

Can American Jews unplug the Israel lobby?
By Gary Kamiya
Salon.com, 2007-03-20
(Alternative (advertising-free) web page)

As Bush’s unbalanced Mideast policies careen from disaster to disaster,
people who don’t toe the AIPAC line are beginning to speak out.

[This is an excellent article. Here is an excerpt;
emphasis is added but the links in the original have been lost.]

Last week, a familiar Washington ritual took place:
Leading American politicians from both parties lined up at
the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
to vie with each other over
who could pledge the most undying fealty to Israel.
As usual, much of Congress showed up --
half of the members of the U.S. Senate and more than half of the House,
including figures like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,
along with Vice President Dick Cheney.

It was a typical AIPAC parallel-universe extravaganza,
marred only by partisan rifts that have begun to appear over Iraq.
(Even some of the AIPAC crowd,
who overwhelmingly supported the war at the outset,
have begun to realize that it has been a disaster
for both the United States and Israel.)
Cheney got a standing ovation,
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said via a video link that
winning the war in Iraq was important for Israel,

Nancy Pelosi was booed for criticizing the war,
a fire-breathing Christian dispensationalist who believes that
war on Iran will bring about the Rapture and the Second Coming
was rapturously greeted, and
Barack Obama took heat
for having the audacity to mention the suffering of the Palestinians.

But AIPAC showed its true power -- and
its continuing ability
to steer American Mideast policy in a disastrous direction
when a group of conservative and pro-Israel Democrats
succeeded in removing language from a military appropriations bill
that would have required Bush to get congressional approval
before using military force against Iran.

The pro-Israel lobby’s victory on the Iran bill is almost unbelievable.
Even after the nation repudiated the Iraq war decisively in the 2006 midterms,
even after it has become clear that
the Bush administration’s Middle East policy
is severely unbalanced toward Israel
and has damaged America’s standing in the world,
Congress still cannot bring itself to stand up to the AIPAC line.

The fact that AIPAC,
which is ranked as the second-most powerful lobby in the country
(trailing only AARP, but ahead of the NRA)
virtually dictates U.S. policy in the Mideast
has long been one of those surreal facts of Washington life
that politicians discuss only when they get near retirement -- if then.
In 2004, Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings
had the bad taste to reveal this inconvenient truth when he said,
“You can’t have an Israel policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.” Michael Massing,
who has done exemplary reporting on AIPAC for the New York Review of Books,
quoted a congressional staffer as saying,
“We can count on well over half the House -- 250 to 300 members --
to do reflexively whatever AIPAC wants.”
In unguarded moments, even top AIPAC figures have confirmed such claims.
The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg quoted Steven Rosen,
AIPAC’s former foreign-policy director who is now awaiting trial
on charges of passing top-secret Pentagon information to Israel,
as saying,
“You see this napkin? In twenty-four hours,
we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”

Until 9/11 and the Iraq war, this state of affairs was of little concern to anyone except those passionately interested in the Middle East --
a small group that has never included more than a tiny minority of Americans, Jews or non-Jews.
If the pro-Israel lobby wielded enormous power over America’s Mideast policies, so what?
America’s Mideast policies were always reliably pro-Israel anyway,
for a variety of reasons,
including many that had nothing to do with lobbying by American Jews.
And the stakes didn’t seem that big.

But in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq war, that all changed dramatically.
9/11, and the Bush administration’s response to it,
made it inescapably clear that
America’s Mideast policies affect everyone in the country:
They are literally a matter of life and death.
The Bush administration’s neoconservative Mideast policy
is essentially indistinguishable from AIPAC’s.

And so it is no longer possible to ignore it --
even though it is a notoriously touchy and divisive subject.

The touchiest aspect of all is
the role played by pro-Israel neoconservatives
in laying the groundwork for the Iraq war.

Much of the media has been loath to go near this,
for obvious and in some ways honorable reasons:
It feels a little like “blame the Jews.”
But that taboo has faded as it has become clearer that “the Jews”
are not the ones being blamed for helping pave the way to war,
but a group of powerful neoconservatives, some but not all of them Jewish,
who subscribe to the hard-right views of Israel’s Likud Party.
This group no more represents “the Jews”
than the Shining Path represents “the Peruvians.”


Soros and Media Heavyweights
Attack Pro-Israel Lobby’s Influence on U.S. Policy

by Nathan Guttman
Jewish Daily Forward, 2007-03-23

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The simmering debate over American policy toward Israel
and the role of the Jewish community in shaping it
exploded with near-nuclear force this week.
Several of the nation’s best-known international affairs commentators
fired salvos at pro-Israel lobbyists
and defenders of Israel fired back with unprecedented fury.

In the space of three days,
major critiques of Jewish lobbying were published by
controversial billionaire George Soros,
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof,
the respected British newsmagazine The Economist and
the popular Web site Salon.

The replies were furious.
The New York Sun accused Kristof and Soros of spreading a “new blood libel.”
The American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris,
wrote in a Jerusalem Post opinion article that Kristof had a “blind spot”
and had “sanctimoniously lectured” Israel.

The editor of The New Republic, Martin Peretz,
renewed an attack on Soros that he began a month ago
when he called the Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor
a “cog in the Hitlerite wheel.”


Among the latest group of critics,
Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and currency trader,
was the harshest.
In an article in The New York Review of Books, published Monday,
he argued that the United States is doing Israel a disservice
by allowing it to boycott the Hamas-Fatah Palestinian unity government
and to turn down the Saudi peace initiative.
But, he wrote, there is no meaningful debate of such policies.

“While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed,
criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed,”
Soros wrote. He added that
pro-Israel activists have been
“remarkably successful in suppressing criticism.”

Soros singled out Aipac as a key source of the problem,
accusing the lobby of pushing a hawkish agenda on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
[Why the word “accusing”? Who could deny what Soros said?]
“Aipac under its current leadership has clearly exceeded its mission,
and far from guaranteeing Israel’s existence, has endangered it,”
he wrote.


Less pointed, but far more widely circulated,
was a critique of American policymaking published Sunday
by New York Times opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof.
The much-decorated journalist,
famous for his determined coverage of the Darfur genocide,
argued that American politicians have “muzzled themselves”
when it comes to Israel
and that
“there is no serious political debate
among either Democrats or Republicans
about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians.”

Both Kristof and Soros
compared America’s Middle East policy discussion unfavorably
with the lively debate in Israel over the government’s policy.
Both claimed that
while Israelis feel free to criticize their government and question its policies,
American politicians are afraid to take it on.
[Again, why the qualifier “claimed”?
This is emprically true.
But the Jewish Daily Forward, like all too many spokespeople for Jews,
will not admit that fact.]

The Power of the Israel Lobby: See the Video
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-04-18

Don’t miss this one:
A Dutch documentary (in English) on
Portrait of a Great Taboo: The Power of the Israel Lobby in the United States,”
John J. Mearsheimer, Tony Judt,
Michael Massing, Larry Wilkerson (!), Daniel Levy,
and Richard Perle pretending to be a human being for some sinister counterpoint.
I particularly liked Wilkerson on the reasons for the Iraq war:
no, it wasn’t oil,
it wasn’t those elusive “weapons of mass destruction,”
nor was it spreading “democracy” (eh, no kidding!):
it was all about the neocons.
And Judt has a fascinating analysis of
the simultaneous rise of the Lobby and identity politics.
Plus great production values,
and moody, foreboding music that really sets the right tone.
Very effective: check it out.

[It’s a little on the artsy side, with some long pauses,
but well worth watching.

Running time is about 52 minutes.
To make it play in my standard (external) player,
I had to click on the little box at the bottom of the video window labeled

The only thing I found to disagree with:
Perle and Wilkerson both disparaged
the scholarship of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper.
I feel that is both unfair and wrong.
Unfair because it is a working paper; some flaws are to be expected.
Wrong because the alleged errors cited in, for example,
Dershowitz’s attempt at a rebuttal
tends to be along the line:
M+W don’t follow the Israeli government’s line,
therefore M+W are obviously wrong,
just because it doesn’t follow the Zionist party line doesn’t make it wrong,
further, M+W give plenty of documentation to back up their assertions,
some of which can be found in
“Israel and the Iraq War” and “The Lobby and the Iraq War”.]

Even at YearlyKos Panel Bashing Lobbyists,
Israel Support Is 'Third Rail'

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.com, 2007-08-05

Yesterday’s presidential forum at the YearlyKos convention was all about
bashing lobbyists, but
there was one lobby they didn’t touch.
According to the official chatroom at YearlyKos,
Israel was off the table:

[11:52] Quirinal Raymaker: [Apropos of fighting Al Qaeda] this gets to the question of us support for israel, which NONE of them will touch..
[11:52] Jillan McMillan: / yeah!!
[11:52] MeiLin Miranda: / q, that’s the third rail of politics
[11:52] Kiala Ireton: /exactly meilin

Another chatter states that
support for Israel is simply “ingrained” in American politics.
This is a tautological statement.
It is ingrained because a bunch of people want it to be ingrained.
It doesn’t have to be.
The netroots can’t open the issue up--in a forum bashing lobbyists, no less--
more than half of Democratic presidential giving is Jewish,
and a high percentage of that Jewish money is concerned with Israel
(out of a devotion similar in character to
rightwing Christians’ opposition to gay marriage and abortion).
There’s a word for the failure of a political conference
to discuss an important issue because of money:

The Book and The Censorship

'This One Is So Hot': The Censorship of Walt and Mearsheimer
by Philip Weiss
PhilipWeiss.org, 2007-08-14

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

I now have a copy of the letter John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
sent to the board of the Chicago Global Affairs Council
after it cancelled their September appearance there under political pressure.
The letter follows, below.

A couple of comments. This is a sad business.
Two distinguished profs who have both spoken at the Council before
are disinvited regretfully/squeamishly by a respected professional friend,
and informed that they might only speak
if someone else comes to counter their statements.
The old “context” argument
used against Rachel Corrie and everyone else.
Your views are too toxic to be heard unless we “balance” them.

Walt and Mearsheimer point out that

Michael Oren spoke at the Council earlier this year on Middle East matters
without “context.”

Oren is a neoconservative who made aliyah to Israel in the 70s
and who served as an officer in the Israeli army.
John Mearsheimer served as an officer in the United States Air Force.

Let us be very clear about this:

A former officer in the Israeli Army who lives in Israel
(and has lately served in the Israeli Reserves)
may hold forth about our policy in the Middle East,

but a former officer in our Air Force
has no place to do the same.

You don’t have to be a nativist to find this mindboggling.
Nothing could more clearly indicate the deep hatred
that Jews show towards American patriots.
They hate them so badly
that they won’t even let them speak in venues
where they have previously been welcome,
with the only reason for their new exclusion being that
they dared to say what Jews don’t want to hear,
nor to permit anyone else to hear.

Nothing could more clearly indicate Jewish censorship.]

Mearsheimer and Walt are all for Oren speaking,
they just want to be able to speak too.

And just compare the literary and analytical work of Oren and Mearsheimer;
there is no comparison.
Oren is a polemicist,
Mearsheimer a serious student of American policy.
Deeply dispiriting....

I’m upset.
I tell myself that this just shows how afraid the other side is of the truth,
but face it, they’re winning.
Last night my wife said at dinner that
I am “paying a price” for my views on the Middle East.
I have a long career as a journalist.
I lost a blog-job earlier this year over these issues,
I can’t get paying assignments to write about these matters;
and they are all that I care about,
as my country fumbles through the aftermath of 9/11 and Iraq.
I sense some of that same sorrow in the Walt and Mearsheimer letter that follows.
At the peaks of their careers,
they have devoted themselves to these policy issues out of some sense of duty;
and they’re not being allowed to speak.
It appears from the letter that a friendship has ended:
the authors’ with Marshall Bouton.
How long before the country wakes up from this madness?

Left and Right Make Same Argument Re Israel Lobby
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-08-14


[Ken] Pollack’s crucial book on the Iraq invasion The Threatening Storm
never once mentioned the Israeli occupation,
while presuming to tell Americans
how the “Arab street” feels about us.

My point here is that
leftlib Greenwald,
conservative realists Walt & Mearsheimer, and
lefty me
are all interested in the same issue,
the lobby’s effect on the U.S. discourse.

The "Israel Lobby," Again
Chronicle of Higher Education, 2007-08-15

Backlash Over Book on Policy for Israel
New York Times, 2007-08-16

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
[by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt]
is not even in bookstores,
but already anxieties have surfaced about the backlash it is stirring,
with several institutions backing away from holding events with the authors.


The subject will certainly prompt furious debate, though not at
the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York,
the Chicago Council on Global Affairs,
a Jewish cultural center in Washington and
three organizations in Chicago.
They have all turned down or canceled events with the authors,
mentioning unease with the controversy or the format.

The authors were particularly disturbed by the Chicago council’s decision,
since plans for that event were complete
and both authors have frequently spoken there before.
The two sent a four-page letter to 94 members of the council’s board
detailing what happened.
“On July 24,
Council President Marshall Bouton phoned one of us (Mearsheimer)
and informed him that he was canceling the event,”
and that his decision “was based on
the need ‘to protect the institution.’
He said that he had
a serious ‘political problem,’
there were individuals who would be angry
if he gave us a venue to speak,
and that this
would have serious negative consequences for the council.
‘This one is so hot,’ Marshall maintained.”


Mr. Walt said,
“Part of the game is to portray us as
so extreme that
we have to be balanced by someone from the ‘other side.’ ”


In print and in interviews both authors have stressed that
they hold no animus towards Israel or Jews.
“We think Israeli policy is fundamentally flawed,”
Mr. Mearsheimer said,
“just as we think American policy is fundamentally flawed.”

[Yet again, American Jews exercise their bloated power
to inhibit criticism from Americans
of Israeli policy or American support thereof.]

J.J. Goldberg's Regrettable Decision to
Turn His Back on Walt and Mearsheimer

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-08-16

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[J.J.] Goldberg’s trashing of the book [The Israel Lobby] is unfair.
The authors [Mearsheimer and Walt] are not journalists;
their job was not to interview people
(though surely they have talked to many of the lobbyists and lobbied, in their fancy universities).
They are scholars;
and I can tell you that their book (which I have seen)
is thunderously impressive on scholarly grounds.
Its range and depth of reference are tremendous.
Compare them for a moment to another eminent scholar, Bernard Lewis.
Bernard Lewis anatomizes the Arab psyche.
He says the 9/11 killers bombed the World Trade Center
because they came from failed societies
and missed the glory of the Caliphate.
He offers these psychological stretchers on the basis of extensive research.
I don’t think he has ever interviewed an Arab.
[I (KHarbaugh) would imagine that he did.]
Certainly not for What Went Wrong, which I was reading today.
And Bernard Lewis is invited to the White House;
he wrote for the New Yorker;
he has a birthday party introduced by Dick Cheney.
Notwithstanding his erudition,
Lewis has wretched judgment about current events
(he says in What Went Wrong that the world will not exhaust oil supplies
but will “supersede” them with other resources;
Walt and Mearsheimer have superb judgment about current events;
they would have stopped us going to Iraq.
Lewis was all for it.

I feel that J.J.’s response is reactive.
The author of a great book on Jewish Power,
J.J. has worked honorably to advance the conversation in Jewish circles.
That’s why he will do a panel with me, a wayward Jew, in a synagogue,
organized by progressive Zionists.
That’s a Jewish discussion.
But he is, I think,

afraid of what will happen
if the mainstream press starts to argue whether there was not
a neoconservative/Israel interest in invading Iraq;
afraid that this argument will take hold, and
that our people will be hurt.

A year back, J.J.’s newspaper trashed Walt and Mearsheimer’s article
in an editorial called “In Dark Times, Blame the Jews.”

Enlightened Jews must ask:
are we willing to give up our intellectual freedom
out of a fuzzy fear of pogroms in the United States--
when our country is in crisis over an unmitigated foreign-policy disaster
and the Arab world is in flames?
Are we too afraid to have a discussion?
I wonder whether J.J. does not agree with Ari Ben Canaan, the hero of Exodus, by Leon Uris. Says Ari:
Don’t be fooled by [sympathetic gentiles] all over the world.
They weep crocodile tears
and they pay lip service to our millions of slaughtered,
but when the final battle comes we will stand alone.
Mandria will sell us out like all the others.
We will be betrayed and double-crossed as it has always been.
We have no friends except our own people, remember that.
It’s time to trust the United States.
Give Walt and Mearsheimer a hearing.

Will the Israel Lobby Issue Go Mainstream?
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-08-16

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

This is the most important factor in the campaign against Walt and Mearsheimer:
the fear that the issue might be mainstreamed in American politics.
It’s one thing for the authors to hold forth in the London Review of Books,
or for critics to lambaste AIPAC in the blogosphere;
but getting into the American conversation is anathema.
The third rail must remain the third rail!
This is why neocons fought so hard against Juan Cole going to Yale.
It was one thing for him to teach at the University of Michigan,
but we don’t want to give these ideas imprimatur, prestige.


Who will break the silence in the American mainstream?
Who will be the first political candidate to grasp the nettle,
and say the words “Israel lobby” in a presidential debate?

Group cancels forum on book about Israel lobby
Critics say Chicago group yielded to pressure,
silenced discussion of controversial topic
By Karoun Demirjian and E.A. Torriero
Chicago Tribune, 2007-08-21

[Most of the article, except the introduction.]

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is a non-partisan organization founded in 1922 that holds public forums on international issues such as immigration and world trade. The organization also conducts public opinion polls about foreign affairs.

The council had planned to hold a public discussion of the book in September with the two authors.
But in late July, the council decided to scrap the program.

Council President Marshall Bouton, who made the decision to cancel,
said he was not trying to stifle free speech
nor shy away from public discussion of a controversial issue.
Rather, Bouton said,
he preferred that the authors appear in “an appropriate forum”
balanced by an opposing viewpoint.
Neither council board members who are Jewish nor pro-Israeli groups
influenced his decision or pressured him, Bouton said.

“It was my decision and mine alone,” he told the Tribune.
“It was not our intention to prevent their views
from reaching the ears of our audience.”

But in a letter sent to the council’s 94 board members shortly after the decision,
Mearsheimer and Walt said they felt political pressure was behind the move.

“On July 24, Council President Marshall Bouton phoned one of us [Mearsheimer] and informed him that he was canceling the event,” they wrote.
“He said he felt ‘extremely uncomfortable making this call’ and that his decision did not reflect his personal view on the subject of our book. Instead, he explained that his decision was based on the need ‘to protect the institution.’”

In a telephone interview with the Tribune, Mearsheimer said a council scheduler told him that the council was “feeling heat” over the authors’ anticipated appearance before Bouton called to cancel. Bouton confirmed to him that the council was facing criticism, Mearsheimer said.

“If he wasn’t protecting the council from the lobby, who was he protecting it from?” Mearsheimer asked, in wondering whom the authors’ appearance would harm.

In the end, the authors have been censored, Mearsheimer said.

“The bottom line is that preventing us from speaking before the council is not the way we are supposed to be conducting public debate on important issues in the United States,” he said.

The book is an extension of a controversial essay published by the authors in March 2006 in the London Review of Books and is expected to draw stinging challenges from pro-Israeli groups. The essay sparked intense debate, drawing criticism in academic and political circles that the authors showed poor scholarship, had an undue anti-Israel bias and even displayed anti-Semitic tendencies. Mearsheimer and Walt deny any hostility to Jews or Israel.

Still, the council’s decision has led several scholars in the Chicago area to say it buckled to pressures to muzzle debate. Rumors are flying through academic circles in Chicago of the council wilting under strong-arm tactics -- even though council leaders deny it.

“It’s a huge mistake,” George Bisharat, a professor of at the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, said of the council’s decision to cancel the event (this sentence as published has been corrected in this text).

“It will ultimately cause more harm to the institution than would have been caused by holding the debate,” he said. “These institutions thrive when they are seen as arenas for public discussion of difficult issues. If they begin to appear to bend with the political winds and be susceptible to influence, and ultimately engage in what is essentially a form of censorship, their reputation will be damaged.”

Bouton admits embarrassment over the council first scheduling, then canceling the authors’ appearance. He blamed “an internal miscommunication” that allowed a staff member to book the authors through their publisher without knowing Bouton’s wishes of having a balanced forum.

Before canceling the appearance, the council contacted Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, to possibly provide a counterpoint to Mearsheimer and Walt, but it had been unable to reconcile the potential speakers’ schedules, said Rachel Bronson, the council’s vice president for programs and studies.

Foxman is publishing his own book, “The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control” (published by Palgrave Macmillan) in early September as a response to Mearsheimer and Walt’s arguments. An ADL spokesman confirmed that Foxman was contacted by the council, but he could not speak Sept. 27, the date scheduled for the forum.

Bouton said the council remains committed to rescheduling the authors in a forum with people representing counterpoints. But Mearsheimer and Walt have not announced plans to appear at any substitute forum in Chicago. Mearsheimer declined to comment when asked whether the authors would attend a future council forum.

But Todd Winer, a spokesman for the Chicago chapter of the American Jewish Committee, said his organization would likely not dignify Mearsheimer and Walt’s book -- which he called “shoddy scholarship that doesn’t really present anything new” -- with the attention that would come along with a forum (this sentence as published has been corrected in this text).

“The whole idea that they’re somehow being censored is a bit of a stretch, given that they’re publishing a book by a major American publisher,” Winer said, referring to the New York publishing company of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The Chicago Tribune Calls Silencing of Walt/Mearsheimer a Free-Speech Issue
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-08-21

Today’s Chicago Tribune finally covers the censorship
of Walt and Mearsheimer at the Global Affairs Council
and highlights the shocking fact that
Abe Foxman ... was consulted by the Council
before it decided to pull the plug on the distinguished authors.
What an abasement of judgment.

Kudos to the Tribune for treating this scandal for what it is,
a free-speech issue.
A rightwing Jew attempts to justify silencing Walt and Mearsheimer
in this article
by calling their book “shoddy scholarship.”
This is a libel.
Say they are wrong, say they have bad judgment.
But the book’s sizeable endmatter will show that
they have done their homework
on issues that are central to American statecraft.
When will my community, the Jewish community,
wake up to
its own leadership’s transformation into thought-police?

So, is real debate over Israel possible on the Hill?
By Hilary Leila Krieger
Jerusalem Post, 2007-08-24

After several events were called off where Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer
were due to discuss their upcoming book,
The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,
their backers said this week
the cancellations were proof of their contention that
American policy toward Israel can’t be discussed openly.

They claim that the views expressed in the book -
an expansion of the professors’ 2006 paper
accusing Jewish groups, neoconservatives and Evangelicals of
hijacking American policy for the good of Israel and to the detriment of the US -
are being stifled, as criticism of Israel routinely is in America.

It is an allegation that rings hollow to many in the Jewish community,
who point to newspaper opinion pages and American campuses
filled with viewpoints hostile to Israel.

the words of the knowledgeable (and Jewish) media critic Eric Alterman:
[T]he punditocracy debate of the Middle East in America
is dominated by
people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel.
As, I believe, any objective observer knows,
the quoted words of Alterman are absolutely true,
while the opinions alleged to the Jewish community are, quite literally,

But when it comes to Capitol Hill,
the focus of many of the Jewish and pro-Israel groups named by Walt and Mearsheimer,
even some of those organizations say that
it’s very rare to hear criticism of Israel or of US policy toward it.

While a few of these groups object to a climate they describe as
shutting down debate that would actually be good for Israel,
others argue that the limited criticism merely highlights
the many reasons for the strong US-Israel relationship
and itself rebuts the professors’ scurrilous charges.

“There is no debate,” said M.J. Rosenberg,
director of the Washington office of the Israel Policy Forum,
a left-wing organization that pushes for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Then he corrected himself, saying,
“The debate is like this:
‘I like Israel.’
‘Well, I like Israel more.’
The next one gets up and says,
‘I don’t like the Palestinians.’
And the next one,
‘I don’t like the Palestinians more.’”
Rosenberg said there was no other topic on Capitol Hill,
a place where contentious issues such as Iraq and gun control
are regularly thrashed out, for which words are chosen so carefully.
“Members of Congress are so careful about what they say
so as not to anger various pro-Israel organizations,”
said Rosenberg, who added that he had not read the Walt-Mearsheimer book,
due out September 4.

A long-time congressional staffer,
Rosenberg said Congressmen who didn’t express support for Israel,
mostly in the form of votes against nonbinding resolutions,
would be faced with a deluge of lobbyists.

“It is easier to debate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Knesset
than in the Congress,”

said another longtime observer of Capitol Hill,
who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said that pro-Israel resolutions pass by overwhelming majorities
because “members of Congress by and large don’t like hassle.
On an issue like this it’s better to take the path of least resistance.”

There are a handful of persistent critics of Israel in the 535-member body,
as well as a few dozen more who question
the US strategy for supporting the Jewish state.

One congressional staffer who works for a representative
who has opposed some of the pro-Israel resolutions
said some members of Congress feared the pressure from constituents
and, occasionally, from donors,
but he added that such lobbying “is a reasonable part of the political system.”

“There’s no doubt the advocacy movement has been a success,”
said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman
of pro-Israel advocates.
“So has the oil lobby. So has the Greek lobby.”

Foxman’s own book,
The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control,
will also come out on September 4,
in an effort to counter that of Walt and Mearsheimer.
He defended the Jewish groups
as playing a legitimate role in the American system
like that of other interests.

Foxman also said that Israel itself was popular.
“The fact that we are successful in Congress,
[that Israel] is a bipartisan issue,
is just as much a reflection of the issue
than it is of the success of the advocacy movement,”
he said.

“[Support for] Israel is what the public wants,”
said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi,
who runs one such advocacy organization, the Israel Project,
whose polls have found that
a solid majority of Americans favor Israel over the Palestinians.
“It’s not surprising that when the majority of their voters support Israel,
that the Congress supports their voters’ interests,”
she said.

“Being for Israel is like being for hot dogs, apple pie and baseball in America.
It’s connected to our values and to who we are in the world,”
Mizrahi said.
She pointed to a weak pro-Palestinian bloc
as one of the reasons for Israel’s success in making its case in Congress.

While Israel has grassroots support in the US, she said,
“The anti-Israel forces have astroturf.
They have people who are paid to be grassroots...
because the support for the anti-Israel case right now is not great.”

Doug Bloomfield, a former legislative director for AIPAC,
attributed that lack of support primarily to the identity of Israel’s opponents -
for example, Hamas and Hizbullah -
none of whom are too appealing to members of Congress.

Bloomfield also said there was debate within Congressional committees over the language of legislation and other topics before bills were brought to the floor,
and that there had been times when the US hadn’t supported the Israeli position,
as in the [1991] crisis over loan guarantees under President George H.W. Bush.
[Who was, surely coincidentally, defeated for reelection.]

While the nonbinding pro-Israel resolutions
are meant to inhibit dissenting opinion,
according to Bloomfield members often sign on very willingly
because they can tout their passage as accomplishments
and use them for fund-raising.

But with the executive branch largely forming foreign policy,
he dismissed their significance.
“When it comes to the government deciding on a policy,
these resolutions don’t make the least bit of difference,”
Bloomfield said.

Rosenberg agreed that
the resolutions were in themselves “mindless” and “ritualistic,”
but he argued
they set a tone that made Congress and the administration
less willing to countenance measures such as
boosting Palestinian aid or pressuring Israel to compromise.

In his opinion, that’s not good for Israel, let alone America.

At the same time, he acknowledged that lobbying didn’t account for
Congress’s underlying support for Israel,
which was expressed in terms of the aid it provided Israel.

“The support for aid for Israel is universal
because people support Israel’s need for this aid,”
Rosenberg said.

The congressional staffer said that
even if there wasn’t debate as [there] should be
on the pro-Israel resolutions or even on providing aid,
“I don’t see it as a huge problem because
there’s almost universal agreement
that we should be providing assistance to Israel.”
That agreement comes from
shared democratic values,
a moral imperative to protect the Jewish state and
the connection Americans feel with the Holy Land,
he said.

“The idea of not supporting Israel is kind of like not supporting the military.
Nobody believes that.
Everyone supports the military.
Everybody wants to see the military strong and effective.
And the same for Israel,”
he said.
“It’s just a question of the best way to do that.”

Israel, AIPAC won't parry Walt-Mearsheimer book
by Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post, 2007-08-27

Neither Israel nor the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are putting together a proactive campaign
to combat the new Stephen Walt-John Mearsheimer book
slamming the Israel lobby for allegedly hijacking US foreign policy.


Government officials in Jerusalem,
explaining why the Foreign Ministry has chosen to ignore the book,
said Sunday that Israel had no desire to “help the sales of the book,”
something that would happen, one official said,
if Israel aggressively fired back.
“We don’t want to play into their hands.”


Flawed but Still Important
by Geoffrey Kemp
National Interest Online, 2007-08-27

Stifling the Debate?
by Stefan Halper
National Interest Online, 2007-08-28

Voices in the Wilderness
by Dimitri K. Simes
National Interest Online, 2007-08-29

'New Yorker' Editor: Israel and Lobby Bear Responsibility for Iraq War
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-08-29

In a remarkably-fair piece about Walt and Mearsheimer in the latest New Yorker,
the magazine’s editor, David Remnick,
summarizes part of the scholars’ argument:
Israel and its lobby bear outsized responsibility
for persuading the Bush Administration to invade Iraq
and, perhaps one day soon,
to attack the nuclear facilities of Iran.

And then accepts it.
“They were also right about Iraq.”

I find this statement staggering.
Remnick’s piece is hard on Walt and Mearsheimer, saying they
are hysterical and
have put together a “prosecutor’s brief” against Israel, and
are indifferent to its possible disappearance.
But this statement,
that Israel and its lobby bear outsize responsibility for the invasion plans,
is alive to the common sense of recent history and--as Fritz Hollings put it--
to what ‘we all know.”
Bravo to the New Yorker, for good sense and honesty.

And again, I say:
There must be a soul-searching within the Jewish community
if the country is going to move past Iraq.
Why were the “best and the brightest” of this disastrous war rightwing Jews?
Why did DLC Jews join them in banging the drum?
And why have progressive Jews given these war supporters cover,
rather than exposing them?
What are Israel’s regrettable policies toward the Arab world
doing to our identification and citizenship?

Serious. Cold. Stunning.
Walt and Mearsheimer Arrive in Hard Covers

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-08-30

[Almost all of the column; most of the emphasis is added.]

Some time in the next few days
the website israellobbybook.com will be activated--
right now it’s a blank--and
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt,
will be published by FSG.
This is a historic book.
The authors’ LRB paper last year
created an intellectual sensation I’ve never witnessed, and
notwithstanding the desire of the lobby that the book disappear,
I imagine the splash this time will be mainstream.
Walt and Mearsheimer will be on television.
That likelihood is increased by David Remnick’s flat assertion,
in an advance piece on the book that generally threw water on the scholars,
that they are right to say that the lobby bears responsibility for the Iraq war.

I’ve been reading the book this August and have three preliminary impressions:
Serious, cold and stunning.

The seriousness of the book is conveyed on every page.
The arguments are calm and earnest, stripped of metaphor and coyness.
These are mature men engaged in every sinew with a giant squid of an issue;
and their 106 pages of endnotes are overwhelming,
and give the lie to anyone who accuses these scholars of “shoddy scholarship.”

The authors are conservative realists at heart.
They see states as amoral and a little vicious,
and they don’t overheat their arguments.
There is no joy in the book,
and the fervor is hidden beneath mountains of cold logic.
They are reserved, and tactical.
They refuse to really take on the dual-loyalty problem
(just as Tony Judt refused in his speech at NYU last year)
but you sense that they believe it’s a problem (as I do).
They generally say that the lobby has every right to do what it does,
but their underlying zeal comes out--I think, admirably--
when they state that
the suppression of free speech on this issue
is inappropriate and undemocratic.

David Remnick’s anger at the authors--
he accuses them of wanting Israel to disappear--
seems to me a response to that zeal,
and though he misdescribes it,
the reader can feel the great molten energy underneath the icy words.

As for stunning,
the argument they present
is towering and clear and about time.
The revision of Israeli history is stirring.
The ways that

the lobby has
diminished the suffering of the Palestinians and
enabled the occupation and settlements

are starkly and even emotionally described.
Most stunning is the argument that Remnick accepts:
the authors’ description of
the Iraq disaster as arising from the lobby’s pressure.

I study this issue,
and yet I turned the pages of this chapter with my mouth open,
especially the pages dealing with
the manipulation of intelligence, and
evidence of Israel’s hand in the WMD lies.
It is this section that should and must stir national debate, and now.
[Original emphasis]

“How did we get here? Our first guest is Dr. John J. Mearsheimer.”

My main problem with the book is the one others have raised,
that the word “lobby” is imprecise.
How do you define this collection of forces and devotions?
It is more a culture than a concerted lobby,
an aspect of Jewishness and also
an element of the American meritocracy and leadership
that I am part of as a media Jew,
but which that leadership has been absolutely incapable of examining.
For instance,
when the authors describe the neocon cipher Scooter Libby as part of the lobby,
they don’t really have the evidence as to the workings of his mind.
I am sure they are right about Libby.
But they don’t prove it and I can do so only by speaking poetically,
about the cipher’s emails to his friend Judy Miller
about the shared roots of the aspens in their summer retreats.
Something is going on here, but you don’t know what it is...

This is where true insiders need to come forward and explain what befell us.
When Thomas Friedman shows up in this book,
quoted in Ha’aretz, amazingly, as saying
the Iraq war
originated among 25 neocons within a mile or two of his office;

and when Remnick accepts Walt and Mearsheimer’s argument re the neocons--
well, honey, the pro-Iraq liberal camp is falling apart.
And explaining the Jewish rightwing klatch’s actions to the world
is important journalistic work
that awaits this country in the nightmare of the next few years.
But J.J. Goldberg refuses to talk about Walt and Mearsheimer’s findings.
Put on your spurs, J.J., the country needs you.


The Jewish meritocracy has always been about ambition.
Worldly ambition mainly;
we traded our ghettoized tradition of learning
for position in the information age.
Let us honor the grand intellectual leap of this book with an open discussion.

The Israel Lobby -- and the interview with Cong. Jim Moran
by Michael Lerner (and Congressman James Moran)
Tikkun, 2007-09/10

{At the end of this piece by Rabbi Lerner,
you’ll find Rabbi Lerner’s interview with Congressman Jim Moran,
one part of which was published in our earlier July/August issue.
It is the position articulated in this interview
which is described by Congressman Eric Cantor as
resembling the work of Hitler and Mein Kampf,
and led House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Congressman Waxman
to demand a repudiation and retraction from Cong. Moran.
Please read it in the context of the earlier interview,
and in light of Rabbi Lerner’s description
of his own experience with AIPAC below.}

On Being Called An Anti-Semite in Montana
Is booking a critic of the Israel lobby to speak on your campus anti-Semitic?
By Richard Drake
Academe Online (AAUP), 2007-09/10

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

As the coordinator of a university lecture series,
I am always on the lookout for good speakers.
I thought that I had found one in Stephen Walt....


The excitement over the [London Review of Books] article
stemmed both
from what Mearsheimer and Walt wrote about the Israel lobby and
from what they were perceived to be saying
about an always-touchy issue:
the power and influence of Jews.


Had the article been written by
run-of-the-mill left-wing critics of America’s Middle East policies,
the reaction to it would probably have been
within the usual range of excitability and irritability
for discussions of this kind.
Mearsheimer and Walt, however, were mainstream political scientists
at two of the most distinguished universities in the country.
It was news for scholars of their reputation
to denounce
Washington’s most universally agreed-upon foreign policy position,
unwavering support for Israel,
as a leading cause
of the rising threat of terrorism facing the American people.


[I]n the evening town-gown lecture,
“What Went Wrong with U.S. Foreign Policy?”,
[Walt] described
the utopian cast of mind that in his judgment
had prevented the United States
from dealing with the rest of the world in a realistic way.

He identified
President Woodrow Wilson’s crusade
to make the world safe for American-style democracy
as the foremost symptom of our national arrogance

and said that Wilson’s most extreme ideological heirs today,
the neoconservatives,
have badly tarnished the country’s reputation in the world.


Bad Reaction
In letters to the Montana Kaimin, to me, to the president of the university,
and to the city’s main newspaper—the Missoulian—
individuals who had not attended either of his presentations
to hear what he actually said

called him a liar and
likened him to a Holocaust denier and Ku Klux Klansman.
The vehemence of these attacks had no precedent
in the twenty-year history of the President’s Lecture Series.

The charge that
Walt was the moral equivalent of a Holocaust denier
seemed little less than grotesque,
but there it was in black and white on University of Montana stationery
in one of the many bitter letters that this affair inspired:
“It is much as if the university had brought a Holocaust denier to campus
and accorded him the honors of a respected guest.”


Walt was also accused of having brought to campus
“in a suit and tie
what used to be the province of those who burned crosses
while wearing sheets and hoods.”
To associate this eminent scholar
with the church and school burnings, beatings, castrations, shootings, lynchings, and political assassinations carried out by the Ku Klux Klan
required a willingness to say anything, no matter how irresponsible,
against an adversary marked not for intellectual defeat
but for moral destruction.


The attempt to group Walt and Mearsheimer
with the likes of Faurisson and Duke
reveals the real aims behind the campaign of denigration
that began on my campus last September:
to shut down critical inquiry into the activities of the Israel lobby
to blacken the name of anyone
with the temerity to speak up about them.

In an open society, however,
anti-Semitism cannot be made to include
the public investigation of highly effective lobbies.

It is long past time to part with the idea that
the only foolproof method of defense against the charge of anti-Semitism
is 100 percent support
for whatever the Israeli and American governments want
in the Middle East.


In a democratic society,
all government policies must stand for public inspection.
This is true whether liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans
are in charge.

With both of our political parties and the media
sharing the same basic ideas about foreign policy,
especially in the Middle East,
we need a place where the assumptions of the status quo
encounter a stern testing,
not a happy-faced tribute.

The university should be that place.

Walt & Mearsheimer's Proof That 'Tail Wagged the Dog'
Points American Jews to a Universalist Ethos

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-01

[Emphasis is added.]

Everyone in my community
(opponents of the Iraq war
who seek a more balanced American policy toward the Palestinians)
has only one question about Walt and Mearsheimer’s forthcoming book:
Will it be ignored?
For instance, James Morris,
who I believe I once saw explode in the audience at an American Enterprise Institute program on Israel’s secure borders (led by Richard Perle and Dore Gold),
has been sending out emails
about his efforts to get the book covered by ‘60 Minutes’.
No dice.

I am a cockeyed optimist; I don’t think it will be ignored.
I don’t think it can be.
One fear we have is that
the LRB paper was such a tremendous sensation that the big media,
having only grudgingly covered that, would now say,
Oh well this is just an expansion of the paper; old news.
One mainstream editor said as much to me a few weeks back
in shooting down a proposal I made
for an article about Stephen Walt’s Jewish milieu (more about that later...).
“Oh I think that moment is over,” the editor said. Class dismissed.

I no longer fear as much.
Making my way slowly to the end of the actual book
(it’s a dense read,
esp. for someone who cares deeply about every issue they raise),
I don’t think anyone can argue that the book recapitulates the paper.
The book expands the paper by a factor of 4 in pure numbers of words,
and the book’s tone is more exalted than the paper’s.
The authors are less tentative, and less emotional,
qualities I remember in the original.
The manner of the book is amazingly calm.
The arguments are more solid, and go much further.
As for solidity, I am simply awed by the field of reference.
W&M have read every comment ever made
by an Israeli official about U.S. policy,
they have found every neoconservative crackpot comment
about remaking the Middle East.
They did this in little over a year.
God bless the internet (or the coolie system in academic research!).

But the main reason the book cannot be ignored is that
the arguments go much further, and are devastating.
Simply put, the book proves that
the tail has wagged the dog
on the greatest foreign policy mistake of the last 40 years,
a mistake that has caused incredible suffering in Iraq and the U.S.,
and blasted my country’s image.
The evidence the authors marshal is so compelling
that it leaves me, as a progressive Jew,
weeping with distress
over what the fervid particularist imagination of rightwing Jews
has done to my country.
I applaud the authors for being cold.
They don’t seem to have any of my feeling.
They leave it to the readers,
and they trust educated Americans to be able to discuss these issues
without setting loose the cossacks.

Again I say, it is progressive American Jews who as much as anyone
ought to be morally and spiritually engaged by this book.
I hope that the JJ Goldbergs and Dan Fleshlers and Seymour Hershes and Glenn Greenwalds and Jerrold Nadlers of the world (none of whom supported this war)
will at last turn on the neocons openly and say,
Your wrongheaded policies about Israel are a big reason our country is in Iraq,
how do you answer?
Progressive Jews must do this,
a political/moral cleansing
for the sake of the United States and Jewish tradition.
And they will do it.
The only question is how many of us there will be.

I would point to one sentence in the book that I found heartbreaking.
The authors describe in detail
the neocon vision of transforming the Middle East as democracies
by starting with Iraq.
The dream that peace in Jerusalem would begin with war in Baghdad,
which has ended in such a miserable failure,
grew out of the conviction that
Israel was a great democracy and that
its treatment of the Palestinians would be overlooked
once the U.S. changed Arab societies.
It is a complete delusion;
and yet its power over Jews of even liberal stripe
can be glimpsed this week in The New Republic,
where, in further evidence that the prowar coalition is delaminating,
Jonathan Chait turns on Bill Kristol and at one point cries out,
Oh where is that dreamy neocon philosophy of yesteryear.
“[T]here was something inspiring
in their vision of America as a different kind of superpower--
a liberal hegemon deploying its might on behalf of subjugated peoples,
rather than mere self interest.”
I.e., we will decide who among you Arabs are subjugated,
and then destroy that society...

[How stupid (or unrealistic) can you get?
Inspiration is one thing, reality is another.
Jumping off tall buildings might be viewed as inspiring by some,
but to most of us it is just insane.
Same with the goals and methodology of the neocons.]

But I still haven’t gotten to Walt and Mearsheimer’s sentence.
In describing that neocon vision of
the “wonderful future Israel [could] expect after the war,”
the authors say,
you might think
people would be more sophisticated and experienced than to believe such stuff.
But they add,
“The original Zionist dream of reestablishing a Jewish state
where none had existed for nearly two millennia
was nothing if not ambitious...”

That sentence is devastating because (while it refers to Israel’s leaders)
it describes American neoconservatism, accurately,
as an expression of a great Jewish attribute,
the prophetic ability to cast a vision of the future into the world
and gain adherents for that vision.
(Communism, Freudianism, globalism all have drawn on dreamy Jewish brains).

[Weiss is too much the progressive to admit it,
but the same is true of feminism
(Friedan, Steinem, Abzug, Jong, Dworkin -- all Jewesses.
Just a coincidence?).
Feminism is causing untold disasters for our society,
which the media is ignoring.
Or more accurately, they may cover them,
but they treat them as something that “just happened”,
without drawing the connection to feminism.
Is there anybody out there other than myself
who is curious about just why
so many more children are being diagnosed
as having a mental illness (or “behavioral disorder”)
than in the “bad” old pre-feminism days?
But that’s not the story the media wants to tell.]

As I have argued on this site before,
this is why anti-Zionism is the new Zionism.
[Wow. Sounds like right out of Orwell.]
American Jewish universalists (including assimilationists)
must help to chart a different vision for Israel’s future and the U.S.’s too,
away from the militarized isms
this book anatomizes so calmly and convincingly.
We must accept our new status as principals in the U.S.,
and find a spiritual/political raison-d’etre
that takes greater account of other peoples,
for instance Arab societies and the American communities
that have produced the foot soldiers of this war.

[Weiss argues that Jews must take the lead in restoring our society to sanity.
That, as usual, makes Jews the indispensable people.
But there is another approach (sorry, Jews).
Just restore to power those who knew all along
that the neocons were full of nothing but bullshit.
Like, say, (here’s a name that most people won’t recognize) Joseph Sobran.

At one time the Episcopalians
could be expected to provide moral and political leadership to society.
Too bad now they’re busy
getting their church to accept their Bishop Butt Phucker.]

'The Jungle,' 'Silent Spring,' 'Unsafe at Any Speed'--
And Now, 'The Israel Lobby'

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-04

[Emphasis is added.]

Walt and Mearsheimer’s book on the Israel Lobby is being published today.
I finished it last night.
I said before that it was historic,
but I did not realize quite what it was till I put it down:
a great work of American muckraking
in the tradition of
Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (the meatpacking industry),
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (pesticides), and
Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed (Detroit).
An overkill moral beauty aimed at an outrage,
some day this book will be legendary and dated.
Young people will ask, What was all the fuss about?
Were politicians really blacklisted for criticizing the settlements?
You will tell them yes.
Then they’ll pull down a yellowed copy of this book from your shelf
and find it mechanical and dated.

The reason it will seem dated is, it will have done its job.
Ralph Nader once feared for his life;
today carmakers advertise the safety of their cars,
and Mike Kinsley calls Ralph “Saint Ralph.”
With this book,
two great foreign-policy scholars have thrown their bodies down.
What you see here is their life work.
They are willing to sacrifice reputation and future-career-arc for this study,
and by book’s end, there is a tremendous sense of calm and achievement,
when having made their case they restate their intellectual goal:
to restore American foreign policy in the Middle East to its senses.
Ending the [Palestinian/Israeli] conflict
should be seen as
a national security priority for the United States.

But this will not happen as long as
the lobby makes it impossible for American leaders
to use the leverage at their disposal
to pressure Israel into ending the occupation
and creating a viable Palestinian state...

One cannot fathom contemporary Palestinian nationalism
without being aware of the events surrounding the 1948 war...
al-Nakba, or ‘the Catastrophe.’...
Although we deplore the Palestinians’ reliance on terrorism
and are well aware of their own contribution to prolonging the conflict,
we believe their grievances are genuine
and must be addressed
Any civilian with the least moral sense
will finish this book in agreement.

I’ve wondered here whether the book will be ignored.
Now I am sure, it can’t be.
It may be ignored by the press;
the authors may be be banned from speaking
(though their website reveals a talk at “Politics and Prose” in D.C. tomorrow night (I imagine CSPAN will be there) and then Stephen Colbert next month!),
it will surely be savaged by the Dershowitzes and Foxmans and the Forward too.
None of that matters.
This book is too powerful,
and the ground has been prepared by Jimmy Carter’s book.
So it will be passed around, it will be taught.
Serious people will press it on other serious people.
Political aides will hand it to other political aides.
It may have to wear brown-paper covers in Congress, at the State Department
and at Hillels, but it will be read hungrily.
Young progressive Jews will read it.
Arabs will translate it into Arabic.
It will go like lightning around Europe.
Israelis will snap it up
(the book is actually very respectful of Israel;
it’s America that has the big problem),
and someday it will come out in Hebrew.
It will work on people.
It will show what independent people ought to do when they form ideas,
and others will chime in.
A politician will finally speak out,
with Walt and Mearsheimer as his or her role model.

The most important thing the book will do, it is doing:
legitimizing the discussion.
Till now this discourse has been considered a place for the unhinged.
I never acquired former Congressman Paul Findley’s book,
They Dare to Speak Out,
because it had a whiff of anger and hysteria
[I’ve read Findley’s book.
He isn’t angry, although a reader might become angry after reading it.
I don’t see any of that in the book, nor how it might produce it,
except among those who tend to get hysterical
whenever Jewish power gets discussed among gentiles.]

about it,
and people are afraid of that.
Norman Finkelstein has done truly great scholarship
that paved the way for W&M,
but the incredible viciousness of the campaign against him
[I think the real problem was that
the media served as a megaphone for the attacks against him
(He’s an anti-Semite and a Holocaust-minimizer!
He’s only a propagandist, not a scholar!
He humiliates elderly Holocaust victims!)
without much of an effort to present the other side of the story.
DePaul looked at this and thought,
“Right now, they’re only defaming Finkelstein.
If we give him tenure, then they’ll start coming after us:
DePaul U. = (Holocaust) Denier U.
We don’t need this.”]

has inevitably made him angry and scared others away.
(Maybe this book will give him breathing room--or a frikkin’ job!)
When David Remnick said that Walt and Mearsheimer are not anti-Semites,
their legitimization took a big step forward.
I bet Chris Matthews will have them on.
The conversation could snowball.
(Why, look at this, the Washington Post questioning junkets to Israel!)

I have lots of quibbles with the book.
It is dense and dry.
The authors handle personality like sheetrock.
I think I saw one playful sentence.
The language is often elegant and stirring,
but it is stripped of surface affect, without metaphor.
This book teems with facts like a prosecutor’s brief, as Remnick put it.
Evidently the authors were hurt by their experience of being labeled antisemites,
and they mean to answer in cold endless fact.
I would have liked more flight and synthesis;
W&M insist on keeping their feet on the ground.
The discussion of dual loyalty is politically-correct
and unimaginative to the point of being stupid.
I wanted more U.S. sociology and Zionist history,
more Jewish intellectual history.
The authors dip their toes in
but are afraid to talk too much about Jewish culture.

A great idea in the book is that at the end of the cold war,
Israel lost its strategic value to the United States,
its rationale for the special relationship
in providing an airstrip against the Soviet Union;
but that now the “war on terror” has restored that raison d’etre,
under the false claim, We are in the same war.
I would have liked them to develop that theory.

[Weiss later points out that Leon Hadar had the idea earlier.

None of those quibbles matters.
Because the analysis and moral argument are so magnificent.

I realize I have not mentioned one fact from the book.
Let me do that. I will pick out one story that tells it all.

Halfway through the 2006 Lebanon War,
Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen--
having heroically knocked off a Republican in 2004
over the incumbent’s Iraq War vote--
wrote a sharp letter to Condoleezza Rice
urging the U.S. to pressure Israel to cease fire.
Israel had caused “large loss of civilian life,
and produced over 750,000 refugees.”
It had weakened the Lebanese government and strengthened Hezbollah.
“We have squandered an opportunity to isolate Hezbollah…”

The bravery of Van Hollen’s letter was that
an antiwar congressman was speaking the truth
at a moment it needed to be spoken.

If America could have served any purpose in that war,
it should have been to hold Israel back, or say, This is not good.
Van Hollen was stomped on.
Right after the letter,
Schmuel Rosner clucked in Haaretz that
Van Hollen was to meet with AIPAC and
“he will hear that this was an unacceptable move.”
An unacceptable move
for a U.S. Congressman to open his mouth against an Israeli war,

having gained his seat by opposing the Iraq War.
Then Van Hollen issued an apology.
This wasn’t enough.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Washington
said he had to reach out to the Jewish community to undo the damage.
The ADL said the apology wasn’t convincing
in light of the anti-Israel character of the letter.
After the war,
Van Hollen duly went to Israel on a special AIPAC-affiliated junket,
to learn the error of his ways.
[Straight out of the commissars’ playbook.]

And meanwhile, AIPAC’s president crowed in a letter to supporters:
“Look what you’ve done!...
Only ONE nation in the world came out and flatly declared:
Let Israel finish the job.
That nation is the United States...
and the reason it had such a clear, unambiguous view of the situation is YOU
and the rest of American Jewry.”


Look what they’d done.
The Lebanon war stopped two weeks later,
and we all know now what had taken place: a disaster.
Something like 50 Israelis killed and 1000 Lebanese,
the southern Lebanese infrastructure destroyed,
including hospitals and stores and bridges--
for what, for nothing.
As Van Hollen understood, Hezbollah was empowered.
Nasrallah became a hero.
The IDF hostages weren’t released.
And Israel has since experienced a sense of desperate waste.
The Israeli army chief of staff,
who called in his stock sales just before the war began,
was dismissed.
And southern Lebanon was strewn with illegal cluster bombs,
so that Lebanese children are dismembered to this day.

Now here is a breathtaking fact about this dramatic story of political muscle and dishonesty and tergiversation.
Per W&M,
it was only covered by Eric Fingerhut in the Washington Jewish Week.
[2006-08-10, 2006-08-16]
Such a revealing moment in political life,
it should have been front page of the LA Times or the Journal,
or a big magazine article.
But you did not read it in the New York Times,
and so the mugging wasn’t condemned on Op-Ed pages.
I.e., an outspoken politician was provided absolutely no political cover
for sticking his head up.
At the end of their book,
W&M identify this intimidated silence as the first problem they are trying to fix,
a blot on our democracy.

One last point.
For years I thought of writing a “J’accuse” to my brothers in the American press
to say that
they were not covering
a giant fact of our political landscape they all knew about,
the Israel lobby.

But I couldn’t get the assignment, and to be honest,
maybe I was a little afraid to keep pushing for it.
Walt and Mearsheimer have now done that.
I think some of the rage against them in the press
has to do with the fact that they have scooped the mainstream press
on one of the biggest stories of our time.
I say “J’accuse” because that was the title of Emile Zola’s famous article
exploding the anti-Semitic Dreyfus lie.
The Dreyfus case of the 1890s had tremendous political resonance.
It resulted in the birth of political Zionism,
because the evidence of antisemitism so disillusioned Herzl in western societies;
and it caused the reform of the French ruling class,
which was corrupted by connections to the Catholic church.
With this book, Zola’s J’accuse comes full circle.

Liberal Jews' Inability to Denounce Neocons
Is Like
Blacks' Embrace of Michael Vick

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-05

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Walt said,
the neocons are Israel-centric,
but then denied that
the Jewishness of some of them had anything to do with it. [!]
Walt is wrong;
or anyway,
he feels inhibited about speaking about Jewish political culture.
Jews don’t feel that inhibition.
As Murray Friedman and Benjamin Ginsberg, two neocon scholars,
have said themselves,
Jewishness is a central current of neoconservatism.
Norman Podhoretz also said as much in Breaking Ranks.
Leon Hadar says it.
Jim Lobe (whose reporting was a key source for Walt and Mearsheimer) says it.
[All three are Jewish (for Lobe, click here).]


The analogy here is that neocon-ism is an expression of Jewishness
that most Jews can halfway relate to.
The neocons are our race men.
They abide by Rabbi Hillel’s assertion
(which neocon A.M. Rosenthal always used to quote),
If I am not for myself then who am I for?
They are, like their capo Elliott Abrams,
particularists who think of
what is good for the Jews.
I grew up hearing that invocation:
Is it good for the Jews?
So did many other liberal Jews.
So we relate to the neocons as our hawkish uncles,
and something in us pulls for them, or thinks,
well maybe they know more than we do.
Until liberal Jews identify these ideas openly
and distance themselves from them,
the progressive Jewish tradition will remain compromised,
and, more important,
the press will continue to live in a fog about
Why we are in Iraq.

More Money for Israel?
They're richer than ever, and they don't need it –
so why are we giving it?
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-09-05

Middle East Tensions Flare Again in U.S.
by Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Ed, 2007-09-05

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

On Tuesday, the Middle East Studies Association released two letters
protesting what the group considers to be
serious violations of academic freedom.

One concerns Norman Finkelstein,
the DePaul University political scientist who was denied tenure in June
and who has since been placed on a paid leave,
with his classes called off and his office shut down.
The other concerns the decision by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
to call off a lecture by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt,
two scholars who have written a book that is harshly critical
of the influence of Israel and its supporters on U.S. foreign policy.


The canceled lecture in Chicago
was just the latest of disputes involving the ideas of Mearsheimer and Walt,
who hold endowed chairs, respectively,
at the University of Chicago and Harvard University.
They have a new book out, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,
which argues that the United States alliance with Israel
has not advanced U.S. interests in the Middle East
and criticizes the way supporters of Israel
influence Congress and the executive branch.
The book is an expanded version of an essay they wrote last year, which was
hailed as courageous by some and criticized as irresponsible by others.

As tenured professors at top universities, the authors don’t have to worry about job security.
But they do seek audiences for their ideas and they were scheduled to talk this month at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
They were uninvited.
The council has said that the reason is not fear of their ideas, but the belief that their ideas would be best explored in
a program that would include “other perspectives.”
According to the council, this was always the intent, and when people to oppose them could not be lined up, the event needed to be called off.

The letter from the Middle East Studies Association about the nixed talk calls the decision “a serious violation of the principles of free expression and the free exchange of ideas.” It notes that both authors have spoken at the council previously, without having anyone to oppose their views, and questioned why only when talking about their new book are they “subjected to the litmus test of ‘balance.’”

Laurie A. Brand, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California who heads the association’s academic freedom committee, said the crucial point is the different treatment based on subject matter.

If a group wants to always have opposing views of speakers, that’s its right, she said. But to let some controversial people speak without opposition raises questions about this choice. “These are people who are prominent professors and then the council decided to withdraw the invitation, presumably because what they have to say is controversial. Part of what academic freedom is about is the ability to present new ideas, and they may be controversial. You don’t cancel someone’s presentation because you can’t find someone to counter it.”

The council’s schedule does in fact indicate that highly controversial figures do speak there frequently — without anyone in opposition. This week a lecture is scheduled by Bjorn Lomborg, famous and controversial for his “skeptical” view of the environmental movement. No one will oppose him at his talk.

Rachel Bronson, vice president for programs and studies at the council, said Lomborg’s talk was different because the Chicago group had previously had a panel discussion on the environment. She said that the claims of the Middle Eastern studies scholars were “unfounded” and that the group still planned to have a panel discussion featuring Walt and Mearsheimer. When “emotions run high” on certain topics, as she said was the case with their work, panel discussions are the best approach.

“We have a job to do. We provide interesting, stimulating panels to our members and the format is up to us. That’s how we view our job,” she said. Bronson said that doing so was more difficult when “this kind of barrage comes at us,” and she said that “outside pressure” from the Middle East Studies Association “makes this harder.”

A Prosecutorial Brief Against Israel and Its Supporters
by William Grimes
New York Times, 2007-09-06 (Thursday)

[This is the NYT (daily) review
(absolutely straightforward and uncritical)
of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Its conclusion:]

“It is time,” Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Walt write,
“for the United States to treat Israel not as a special case
but as a normal state,
and to deal with it much as it deals with any other country.”

But it’s not.
And America won’t.
That’s realism.

MESA Letter on Mearsheimer & Walt
by Juan Cole
Informed Comment, 2007-09-06

The Committee on Academic Freedom (North America)
of the Middle East Studies Association
has written a letter protesting
the cancellation of a talk by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
scheduled by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

CCGA maintains that the speakers, authors of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, needed to be balanced by an opposing viewpoint. But both have spoken there before without needing to be immediately contradicted by someone else. (Personally, I object to this idea of ‘balancing’ speakers during their events; lots of controversial views have been expressed at CCGA without a counter. If they want balance, they can invite someone else later in the year or the next year. And note that in the US public sphere and media, “balance” almost never requires that a real living Palestinian be allowed to speak for him or herself, alongside representatives of the Zionist point of view. Otherwise Abraham Foxman would have to carry a Palestinian around with him everywhere he spoke, to provide ‘balance’.)

MESA, with about 2600 members, is just the professional organization of the researchers at North American universities who mainly teach and write about the Middle East. You’ll never see most of them on television and they aren’t often consulted by politicians, but they are the ones who know Middle Eastern languages and spend a lifetime trying to understand the place.

Anyway, here’s MESA’s letter:

[See the original Cole article for the letter.]

Democratic Party Arm Calls Walt & Mearsheimer's Ideas
'Downright Dangerous'

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-09

[An excerpt:]

According to the JTA (my favorite wire service),
the National Jewish Democratic Council has said that
Walt and Mearsheimer’s ideas are “irresponsible” and “downright dangerous.”
The Council, which is affiliated with the Democratic Party,
made the accusations
in response to comments by Virginia Congressman Jim Moran,
who argued (in Tikkun, according to the JTA) that
AIPAC pushed for the Iraq war, and that
AIPAC has a lot of influence because many of its members are “quite wealthy.”
In attacking Moran, the NJDC threw in Walt and Mearsheimer,
saying they had the same ideas.

Wow. The fur’s beginning to fly.

This is blackmail.
The NJDC is saying we can’t discuss these ideas because they are dangerous--
i.e., there will be pogroms in the U.S.
if people start talking about an Israel lobby.
And an effective blackmail so far:
5 years on
and we can’t talk about the causes of the Iraq disaster.

Democratic Party Official Closes Ranks With Neoconservatives
Over Walt/Mearsheimer

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-10

[Emphasis is added.]

Here is the National Jewish Democratic Council attack on Walt and Mearsheimer.
It includes the NJDC’s head, Ira Forman, arguing in the Jewish Week, that
a group of neoconservatives
could never have bullied Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, et al
into going into Iraq.

The idea is “absurd,” he says.

This is the standard line in the Democratic Party, even among liberals.
They ought to study Jerrold Nadler,
who says the neocons came along with their forceful ideas
at just the right moment.
They ought to study Glenn Greenwald,
who blames the Israel-centric neocons for the war.
Or study The Best and the Brightest,
or the history of the Peace Corps,
or the saga of Ollie North--
all cases in which ideologues who had access to the White House
successfully pushed their clearly-articulated policy agendas,
for good or ill.
I’m not blaming the Jews;
I’m blaming some rightwing Jews.

I understand Forman’s defensiveness.
He must distance the Democratic Party from Walt and Mearsheimer
in the same way that
Pelosi distanced the Party from Jimmy Carter
even before his book was published a year ago--
lest fundraising would somehow be compromised.
Now is the time when real democrats
should be analyzing this war
to understand how and why we got into it;
and that means understanding that
the neocon agenda of remaking the Middle East
was forceful and persuasive for a lot of weaker minds,
including Bush and many Democrats...

Well at least the debate is on!

Deal with it
By Daniel Levy
Ha’aretz, 2007-09-10

[This is a long (~3000 word) review,
but the author has high-level experience in the Israeli government,
so I am including it in full in this document.
Section and paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt,
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 496 pages; $26

Two authors from the elite of American academia,
an attempted answer to the
what-went-wrong-for-the-U.S.-in-the-Middle-East question, and
a controversy that has been brewing for over a year -
no wonder this book is on the New York Times Best-Seller list.
Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book is far more expansive in scope,
detailed in argument, and thoroughly sourced (106 pages of footnotes)
than their 2006 article on the same subject,
although their methodology still eschews firsthand interviews.
This is a difficult and challenging book.
It is also an important book that deserves to be keenly debated.

The book has generally elicited three types of response since its release.
The first: Ignore it.
Controversy, after all, breeds attention, debate and even sales,
all of which, for some, are undesirable.
Second: Take it seriously and deal with the substance,
something this review will do in a moment.
But before that, one must note the third type of response:
Vilify, delegitimize and discredit the book and its authors.
“Anti-Jewish bias” (Jeff Robbins, Wall Street Journal);
“inspired by the Nuremburg Laws” (Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times);
“a bigoted attack” (Alan Dershowitz) -
these are just a few of the Pavlovian responses to the book.

Despite the accusations, this a not a hateful screed.
Painful, yes.
Prejudiced, no.
As the authors close off each possible avenue of anti-Semitic intent or effect,
they come across as thorough, not ritualistic or tokenistic.
According to Walt and Mearsheimer, both political scientists,
the former at Harvard, the latter at the University of Chicago,
“the Israel lobby is the anti-thesis of a cabal or conspiracy.”
Interest group politics, including ethnic lobbies,
are for them central to America’s democracy and pluralistic society
“as American as apple pie.”
Multiple loyalties are also very American, and not confined to Jews.
To specifically question the dual loyalty of Israel’s supporters would be “wrong,”
say the authors, as they “have every right to advocate their positions.”

Walt and Mearsheimer argue that, far from controlling the media,
the Israel lobby has to work hard to ensure that its position wins out.
Perhaps unexpectedly, the authors even describe themselves as “pro-Israel,”
and declare,
“we are not challenging Israel’s right to exist,
or questioning the legitimacy of a Jewish state.”
Hardly very radical stuff.
Their gripe is with where the lobby, effective as they claim it is,
has taken U.S. foreign policy.
Yes, they recognize it would be easier and more comfortable
to discuss the pharmaceutical, gun or Free Cuba lobbies.
Alas, their theme is the Middle East.
Their more shrill detractors have either not read the book,
are emotionally incapable of dealing with harsh criticism
of something they hold so close (certainly a human tendency),
or are intentionally avoiding a substantive debate on the issues.

The authors’ challenge is “to convince readers
that the United States provides Israel
extraordinary material aid and diplomatic support,
the lobby is the principal reason for that support, and
this uncritical and unconditional relationship
is not in the American national interest.”
Proving the first point does not make for particularly arduous labor.
Israel became the largest single annual recipient of U.S. foreign assistance
in 1976 and has topped the league ever since.
We receive approximately $500 every year for every Israeli
(it’s $5 per Pakistani).
All this is rather nice.
In fact,
it is a remarkable achievement that few Israelis would prefer to do without.
But is it a consequence of the Israel lobby’s work?
Rather than replying with an “obviously it is,” and moving on,
Walt and Mearsheimer treat us
to an unforgiving debunking of the alternative explanations.
This entails holding a mirror up to Israel and highlighting all the warts.
We all know they exist, but still, it’s not a pretty sight.

1. Punch to the gut
Chapter Three, “A Dwindling Moral Case,” is their punch to the gut
of any Israeli claim to extraordinary U.S. support
on the basis of merit alone.
It is hardly unfair that they give us
the most egregious examples of Israel behaving badly -
that is precisely what clinches their argument.
Just for good measure, the vast majority of their sources are Israeli.
Many will recoil at this chapter,
especially when the criticism comes from outsiders.

[But never call Jews defensive—
that’s an age-old anti-Semitic canard.]

By the time the authors ask “which group [Israelis or Palestinians]
now has a stronger moral claim to U.S. sympathy?,”
the question is clearly rhetorical.
But what about Israel’s value as a strategic ally?
Walt and Mearsheimer are having none of it,
and here the American elite consensus is probably on their side.
If Israel was of “limited strategic value” during the Cold War,
it has become a veritable “liability” in the war on terror.
The alliance with Israel
does not serve American Middle East interests as defined by these authors:
doesn’t help keep Gulf oil flowing to markets;
doesn’t discourage the spread of weapons of mass destruction; and certainly
doesn’t reduce anti-American terrorism originating in the region.

Last year’s bipartisan Iraq Study Group of wise American policy elders
may have put it more politely,
but they essentially reached the same conclusion.
For Walt and Mearsheimer,
support for an Israel that is at war with its neighbors
“has fueled anti-Americanism...
gives Islamic terrorists a powerful recruiting tool, and
contributes to the growth of radical Islam.”
It is not Israel per se that is a liability,
but Israel as an occupier:

“If the conflict were resolved,
Israel might become the sort of strategic asset
that its supporters often claim it is.”
The distinction should be on the radar screen of Israel’s strategic planners.
The authors argue that current Israeli policy is a liability to the U.S.,
and many would argue (the authors actually do)
that it is also a liability to Israel itself.

This is the first half of their argument -
often debatable, sometimes flawed, always compelling.
I would argue for instance that
they understate at least three factors in popular culture
that embellish U.S. support for Israel.
First, there is a significant element of emotion, sentiment and identification
in the way Americans relate to Israel;
manufactured or not, it exists.
Just witness the response to Shahar Peer at this year’s U.S. Tennis Open.
[That example may resonanate most within the Jewish community.]

Second, they refer to but underestimate
the role of the Christian evangelical Zionists
and their impact at the local level, especially in the media.
[Huh? What media impact?]
The main Christian pro-Israel lobby group, Christians United for Israel (CUFI),
has grown exponentially in recent years.
It is fanatical in its devotion and politically way over to the right,
channeling millions annually to support settlements.

A third and not unconnected phenomenon
requires a closer look at America’s warts -
the prevalence of popular Islamophobia.
Pro-Israel sentiment is strengthened not by Israel’s moral case,
but by an immoral negative stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims
by many mainstream media outlets since 9/11.
[Could that possibly have anything to do with
Jewish influence over American media?]

But Walt and Mearsheimer are less good at seeing America’s warts,
and totally overlook this trend.

Having set out their own stall,
that this extraordinary state of affairs
is explained by the influence of the Israel lobby,
the authors then describe what the lobby is and how it operates.
The lobby, they say, is a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations,”
not all of whom are lobbyists, with “fuzzy” boundaries.
Their definition is interesting and probably over-inclusive,
ranging from obvious groupings,
such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),
and Christian Zionists,
to think tanks, certain journalists and scholars,
and the neoconservative movement (neocons), of whom more in a moment.
It is not synonymous with American Jewry.

Their description of how the policy process is “guided”
would have most interest groups green with envy,
and makes for entertaining, if at times disturbing reading.
Former House Speaker Richard Armey’s eminently quotable
“my number one priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel,”
from 2002,
does get you thinking how it would be received
were the Speaker of the Knesset to opine that
“my number one priority in foreign policy is to protect America.”

The tools and tactics used include:
draft legislation, speeches, talking points;
tours of Israel for politicians and radio talk-show hosts;
cultivation of congressional staffers;
campaign contributions.
Their analysis of campaign financing is weak
and leaves one feeling somewhat short-changed.

Finally and not surprisingly, given their own treatment,
the authors turn the spotlight on
the ugliest face of supposedly pro-Israel activism -
smear campaigns and silencing tactics,
often perpetrated by organizations masquerading as watchdog groups.
The attacks, for instance, on Kenneth Roth and Human Rights Watch,
after they criticized Israel’s offensive activity in Lebanon in 2006
[discussed by, e.g., Peratis and Brooks],
were not only unjustified, undemocratic and un-Jewish,
they are also a big turn-off for an increasing number of young American Jews.

2. Bad for U.S., bad for Israel
The second half of the book is devoted to concrete examples,
with which the authors make their case that
the lobby influences foreign policy
in ways that are detrimental to the U.S. national interest,
“and,” the authors add,
“although these policies were intended to benefit Israel,
many of them have damaged Israeli interests.”
All of the examples are taken from the Bush era, post 9/11 -
and this brings us to the book’s core weakness.
Walt and Mearsheimer see too much continuity
and not enough exceptionalism in this period.
At the center of their argument stand the neocons,
and their interplay with the Israel lobby.

The neocons are a tight-knit group of ultra-hawks,
favoring unilateral projection of U.S. power as a benign hegemon.
They are predominantly, though not exclusively, Jewish,
congregate around certain think tanks and publications
(notably the American Enterprise Institute and The Weekly Standard, respectively)
and are most associated with the Project for a New American Century (PNAC),
which set out their goals in the 1990s.
After 2000, neocons took up key positions in the Bush administration.
Walt and Mearsheimer place them four-square inside the Israel lobby.
The reality seems more complicated than that.

Many leading neocons, by their own admission, care greatly about Israel,
but they want to impose their policy, not follow Jerusalem’s.
Unlike, for instance, AIPAC, which takes its lead from the Israeli government,
and then tends to give it an extra twist to the right,
the neocons adhere to a rigid ideological dogma
and are not afraid to confront a government in Jerusalem they view as too “soft.”

[Yes, but still, what is the objective of these neocons?
I would claim that, smokescreens notwithstanding,
it is their vision of what is good for their view of Judaism and Israel,
not what is good for America.
They advocate, notably,
continued Israeli control over the settlements.
How can that possibly be in America’s best interests?
That is an exclusively Zionist (not all, but some) preoccupation.]

The view that sees
neocons as spearheading the Israel lobby position under Bush
has serious flaws.
It is more likely that the neocons co-opted the Israel lobby,
and Israel itself, to their own vision of regional transformation.
Still, most members of the Israel lobby were willing accomplices,
and this represents their historic error.
The gradual and consistent ideological drift to the right
of key Israel lobby elements since the 1970s,
and the hawkish excess of mainstream groups,
made this cooperation not only possible, but natural, almost seamless.

The picture is complete when the role of Ariel Sharon, then Israeli premier,
is added.
Sharon was a hawk, but no neocon.
He viewed dreams of
regional transformation, democratization and regime change
with scorn and disdain,
but he could spot a useful political ally when he saw one.
The neocons would be his bulwark
against being dragged into a negotiating process with the Palestinians or Syrians,

as America re-calibrated its approach to the Middle East post-9/11.

Negotiations were Sharon’s “Room 101.”
The Dov Weissglas-Elliott Abrams channel saved him the trouble.
Walt and Mearsheimer describe a damning end product,
policies that are a disaster for America and Israel alike,
but in over-conflating the neocons with the Israel lobby
they overlook a dynamic and nuance that might have implications for the future.

[The notion that Israel’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians
are the responsibility of anyone but the Israelis is laughable.]

3. Outsourcing regional policy
In recent years the Israel lobby, and even Israel itself,
largely outsourced regional policy to the neocons,
and this is crucial for better understanding
all the issues that The Israel Lobby looks at:
Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Palestinians and the Second Lebanon War.
Walt and Mearsheimer devote a chapter to each of these,
but there is no space here for a detailed discussion of the entire region.
“Removing Saddam Hussein from power” was, to quote Walt and Mearsheimer,
a neocon “obsession,”
and it is more likely
that Israel and the lobby fell into line in promoting the Iraq war
than that they drove the agenda.

Israeli leaders much too publicly
went to bat for the war in American media outlets,
and this is well documented in the book,
even embarrassingly so
(Ehud Barak, in The Washington Post:
“Once he [Saddam] is gone there will be a different Arab world”),
but there are also suggestions of senior Israelis urging caution in private. Democratic support for the war was propelled by the post-9/11 mood
and a political fear of appearing weak on national security issues,
and if the Israel lobby played a role it was not the leading one.

On Iran, the authors draw our attention to two missed opportunities,
both under former-president Mohammad Khatami,
for a comprehensive U.S.-Iranian dialogue,
and suggest a diplomatic way forward out of the current impasse.
They contend that Israel and the lobby
are driving policy in the opposite direction.
If that is true, and evidence is certainly out there,
then it suggests
the neocon world view is still in the driver’s seat,
and that Israel and the lobby have learned nothing from the last years.
Israel, declaratively at least, prefers a diplomatic solution,
and both Israel and her friends should be pushing actively for enhanced diplomacy,
not the ratcheting up of military threats
that so play into the hands of Ahmadinejad.

Syria is the arena in which
the neocon-inspired U.S. position and the Israeli position seem most at odds:
a policy of promoting regime change
versus one that says,
we are ready to negotiate with you
(when we’re not conducting military missions inside your territory).
The book also makes the case that in the Second Lebanon War,
the Israel lobby helped prevent early U.S. intervention to end the war.
If that is true,
it would present a particularly glaring example
of the lobby working against the Israeli interest,
and another reason why Israelis should follow this issue closely.
Analysis of key ministerial testimonies to the Winograd Committee
and the Interim Winograd Report itself suggests that
very senior Israelis based their calculations and decisions
on an expectation that
the U.S. would pursue an early diplomatic solution.
The neocons implacably opposed this,
the lobby fell into line
and Israel “reaped the rewards,”
all the way to the cemeteries.

Walt and Mearsheimer explain Bush Middle East policy as Israel-lobby driven.
Another way to look at it would be:
This is the first Republican administration
since the Christian evangelical Zionists emerged as a potent force in the GOP;
since the mainstream pro-Israel community,
which contained a sizable and senior neocon presence,
planted itself firmly on the Likud right; and
a hawk was ensconced in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence.
Then came 9/11 and the swagger and hubris that followed
an apparently easy military victory in Afghanistan.
This was a potent mix.
These actors can all be described with some accuracy as pro-Israel,
but they are also all different,
and charting a future course is helped by recognizing that difference.

4. What next?
Prescriptions on what to do next
are precisely how Walt and Mearsheimer end their book.
They come from the realist school of American foreign policy,
and their policy advice combines off-shore balancing
(deploy militarily only when under direct threat;
maintain a military presence in, but do not own, the region)
with broad diplomatic engagement
and a push to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This last point is crucial,
given the conflict’s mobilizing and recruiting role for radicals,
and its potency as a symbol for anti-American PR
in the era of the Internet and Al Jazeera.

On addressing the lobby, the authors consider four options.
They reject weakening the lobby via campaign finance reform as impractical,
and countering it via an anti-Israel lobby as unwelcome,
given that it might lead to anti-Semitism.
They prefer countering the lobby with a more open debate on the Middle East
and encouraging the evolution of a more moderate Israel lobby
(building, for instance, on the work of
Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek veShalom and the Israel Policy Forum).

For liberal American Jews who care about Israel,
that means ending the outsourcing contract with neocons and right-wing evangelicals.
It also means disowning the McCarthyite hate-mongering tactics used by groups like Campus Watch,
and accepting dissenting voices.
On his delightfully named and popular blog, “Rootless Cosmopolitan,”
Tony Karon has spoken of the beginnings of a “Jewish glasnost.”
It will take though
a greater commitment of time and resources
from liberal Jews who pursue multi-issue agendas.
This debate would become acutely relevant
were the Democrats to re-take the White House in next year’s election.

And finally, what about our role, in Israel?
Three powerful conclusions emerge.
First, as exposed in the Lebanon war and understood by the Winograd Committee,
there is a dire lack of Israeli strategic planning capacity.
How to respond to a weakened America in the region,
occupation or peace with the Palestinians and Syrians,
whether to outsource our policy to the neocons?
For Israel, the answer seems to be: No comment.
Israel lacks a definition of strategic objectives
and their articulation to our friends across the pond.

Second, alongside the undoubted benefits,
the agenda pursued by the lobby in America has come at a great cost to Israel.
NIS 45 billion could not have been wasted on settlements
without U.S. complicity.
[Oh, so we’re to blame for those settlements?]
As the book’s authors argue,
“Washington has helped insulate it [Israel]
from some of the adverse consequences of its own actions,”
and that is a very dubious luxury indeed.

while the right was busy investing in building allies and alliances in the U.S.,
the left was asleep or intimidated or both.
A small number of center-left Israel politicians
display an active interest in events stateside,
but very few display sufficient courage and conviction to challenge the self-defeating orthodoxy of the current mainstream Israel lobby.
It is an absence sorely felt.
Walt and Mearsheimer suggest that
“it is time to treat Israel like a normal country.”
Presumably unintentionally,
they echo the classical Zionist goal of creating a normal country.
The two are linked.
Absent a different discussion with the U.S. and our friends there,
Israel is unlikely to become normal.
Perhaps this difficult book can help advance that discussion.

By Daniel Levy, a senior fellow at the New America and Century Foundations,
was previously an adviser in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office,
and the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative.

Rationalizing Israel Out of Existence
By Richard Cohen
Washington Post, 2007-09-11

There are, at least,
two major problems with the argument presented in this column.

Cohen complains that Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby is “one-sided.”
That, in fact, is a standard complaint
made against almost all of the few people who dare to criticize Israel.
But the reason for the (arguable) one-sidedness of those who criticize Israel
is that the case for Israel
is so ubiquitous and inescapable in our culture.
(Consider, e.g., Alterman,
or any of the vast number of intensely pro-Israel films Hollywood has made.)
Further, those who make the case for Israel
almost invariably present an equally one-sided argument.
Where are the Jews who will complain about
the one-sidedness of all those arguments for Israel?

Second is the assertion,
made both in the headline and in the body of the column that
Israel’s existence is being in some way challenged by M+W.
But as they state repeatedly,
and as Cohen even acknowledges early in the column,
they do not challenge that.
What they do challenge is America’s support for some of Israel’s policies.
Jaw-boning by American presidents and diplomats was tried from 1967 until 2004 without bringing the expansion of Israel’s settlements to a halt,
let alone rolling them back
(in 2004 GWB weakened that 37-year American policy).
What M+W advocate is
giving Israel a choice:
the settlements or steadfast American support.

That’s a far cry from, to quote Cohen,
“abandon[ing] our friends, blowing empty kisses to them as we cut them loose”,
let alone the Post’s headline,
“Rationalizing Israel Out of Existence”.
But that is the standard deceit shockingly used by “supporters of Israel.”
Any challenge to the policies of the Israeli government
must be interpreted as
a challenge to the existence of Israel.

'Politico' Carries Water for Attackers of Walt and Mearsheimer
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-12

[Emphasis is added.]

What a pity that politico, in covering Obama’s campaign,
tries to shame him for having Zbig Brzezinski as a foreign policy adviser
when Brzezinski has “controversial” “baggage”--
he endorsed Walt and Mearsheimer’s groundbreaking book on the Israel lobby.
Reporter Ben Smith goes on to quote several Jews
who are critical of Walt and Mearsheimer,
including Alan Dershowitz and Steve Rabinowitz,
and left the reader with the impression that
these brave political scientists are guilty of “bigotry.”
Without offering any of their substantive arguments,
say, about the suffering of the Palestinians.
Let alone calling Jews who think W&M’s ideas are important,
say Tony Judt, or Robert Art, or Mary-Kay Wilmers.

This is thought control
[actually, this is real bigotry],
and once again demonstrates the sad fact that

the only experts the big media accredit
are the sort of experts who got us into Iraq in the first place.

Do the people really think those ideas worked?
Why isn’t politico focused on the fact that
Giuliani has Norman Podhoretz as a foreign policy expert--
Podhoretz who thinks we’re in World War IV
and wants to torch the Muslim world
and doesn’t believe there’s an Israeli occupation of Arab lands...

For that matter,
has politico ever addressed
the issue of Jewish money in the political process?
Earlier this year Rabinowitz, a former Clinton adviser,
told me, when I called him for the Nation,
that he didn’t want to say
how much of the Democratic presidential money was Jewish:
There is an enormous amount of Jewish money
in the Democratic party giving.

If it was ever decoded empirically it would be scandalous,
and not good for anyone except for a few antisemites
who think Jews control everything...
For a broad range of Jews, Israel is an issue,
but for most of them Israel is not the most important issue.
You have to be acceptably good [on Israel].
If you’re not acceptably good, you’re disqualified.
Acceptability is not a low bar,
but you don’t have to be the best.

By Dismissing Walt & Mearsheimer,
MSM Fosters Alienated Groundswell

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-18

The Washington Post has an attack on Congressman Jim Moran
that is full of casual and dismissive invective,
the suggestion that he’s an antisemite who is afraid of the bogeyman,
and is a captive of the Arab lobby
(when of course there’s no such thing as a pro-Israel one...).
The writer [Marc Fisher] takes the usual tack that
Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are not Jewish
so what does the Israel lobby have to do with the Iraq war--
once again ignoring
the importance of ideas and braintrusts in American history.
[By the way, Fisher and Weiss are both Jewish.]
(What was the Peace Corps without a braintrust?
What was Vietnam without the best and brightest?)
The piece is remarkably similar
to an attack in the LA Times on Walt and Mearsheimer
that employs the same belittling, sniggering tone,
in arguing that the two professors’ work is “sinister.”

The pieces suggest a pattern:
the mainstream media are not able to take W&M’s critique seriously;
it simply makes them uncomfortable.
The media cannot say:
These are serious men who have spent a few years studying this
and come to this troubling conclusion
about the Israel interest in the Iraq invasion,
based on a huge pile of evidence,
including statements from Colin Powell and other high officials;
let’s have a discussion.

Compare that to the “oil cause” for Iraq.
The other day when Alan Greenspan’s book came out
saying that the oil interests were behind the war,
it had big headlines on Yahoo and elsewhere.
Greenspan’s argument strikes me as slapdash, unsupported
(and on ‘60 Minutes’
Greenspan came off as charming in his lack of sophistication).
But at least it’s getting a mainstream hearing.

The true danger here is that
the conversation will happen outside the mainstream media.
People are buying the book, it’s creating a kind of groundswell.
So we get two conversations,
an official one
in which these guys are delusionists and not to be heard out,
and an alienated, unofficial one
where The Israel Lobby Explains Everything.
Neither reality is correct.
We need to meld the conversations, and have a serious discussion.

The LA Times Gives Bestselling Walt and Mearsheimer a Forum
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-19

God bless the LA Times Editorial board,
it met with Walt and Mearsheimer and published the dialogue!
That’s called journalism.
It was a real give and take.

The LA Times people were critical, at times even conservative:
Nick Goldberg suggested that W&M are wrong to want to “upend”
a 60-year-relationship that has been a good one.
The Times people also questioned the word “lobby;”
they asked, quite perceptively,
whether the lobby hasn’t functioned in Israel’s interest over the years
(W&M like to say that the lobby has not served Israel’s interests;
I tend to side with the LAT).
And the LAT people asked, legitimately it seems to me,
whether Walt and Mearsheimer regard the lobby as “pernicious.”
W&M sidestep this one, saying the lobby is only doing what other lobbies do.
They should be more forthcoming on this point:
they should point to the real damage the lobby has done,
in dehumanizing Palestinians,
and chilling free speech in this country.
Points they make with moral force in their book.
But now these ivory-tower dudes are out on the hustings,
and a little gunshy.
I say they should stick their necks out a little...

Stephen Walt’s best point in this conversation was when he pointed out
how many times the U.S. has vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions re Israel.
42 times or so.
I was thinking this morning of how I as an aspiring freelance writer
used to carry Marty Peretz’s water at the New Republic,
that I did a piece sharply critical of UN Depy Secy Brian Urquhart.
I didn’t understand what I was doing;
but I was serving Peretz’s “party line,” as he puts it in W&M’s book,
of supporting Israel.
Look at what this great relationship has done to Jewish identity!
Smart, young Jews are compelled to practice jury nullification with the U.N.,
to argue that the organization has no legitimacy--
for a simple reason, that in ‘67 the U.N. said that
the occupation and acquisition of lands through war was not alright.
If only Israel had heeded UN Resolution 242!
Or if our country has taken it seriously!
For nearly 60 years,
UN 242 has been an excellent reason for upending our relationship with Israel,
or reforming it anyway.

Back to the subject:
Huge props to Op-Ed Editor Goldberg and the LA Times opinion page
for doing what almost no other mainstream journalists have done so far--
acknowledging the tremendous seriousness of Walt and Mearsheimer’s ideas,
and taking them on fairly!
The world lurches forward.

The Israel lobby wields too much influence
Excerpts from an editorial board meeting
with John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
Dallas Morning News, 2007-09-19

How do you answer the criticism that
you see clearly what Israel does wrong,
but you are blind to what Israel does right?

We talk [in the book], for example,
about how vibrant and open a democracy they have,
particularly for the Jewish citizens.
There’s a problem [for] the Arab population of Israel,
separate from the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
But even the Arab population of Israel
tends to be treated as second-class citizens.
There are many features of Israeli democracy that are quite impressive.
Moreover, this is a society with lots of cultural and scientific achievements
that are deeply admirable.
We bear [them] no ill will.
We point out that
they clearly have faced security problems throughout their history, and
they face a terrorism problem today.
All of those things are true. ...

That said,
what policies should the United States be adopting
vis-à-vis Israel and the other countries in the region,
and in particular,
what should the United States be doing
when Israel’s conduct or actions are contrary not only to American interests,
but to American values?

I think what’s going on here is that
there is a conventional wisdom in the United States about the state of Israel
that we are challenging.
And that conventional wisdom tends to portray Israel in the most positive light.
And that’s due in good part to the fact that
the [pro-Israel] lobby works very hard
to shape public discourse about Israel.
For example, you know,
and everybody who works for a major newspaper in this country knows,
that if you write articles critical of Israel,
or talk about the U.S.-Israeli relationship in a critical way,
you’ll feel a tremendous amount of heat from pro-Israel readers.
As a consequence of this,
we have a discourse in this country that’s out of sync with
No. 1, the history of Israel, and
No. 2, what’s going on in the Middle East today.
We don’t love Israel.
It’s not that we dislike Israel.
Our argument in the book is simply that
Israel should be treated like a normal country.

A lot of people are uncomfortable with the language that you use.

We never use the phrase “Jewish lobby.”
We use the phrase “Israel lobby.”
And that’s important,
because the groups in the lobby are defined
not by ethnicity and not by religion,
but by the political agenda they’re advancing.
There are Christian evangelicals who are very strongly pro-Israel,
and push politicians. ...
To think of this as an ethnic lobby exclusively is simply, factually wrong.

There is nothing conspiratorial about this.
This is not some kind of cabal.
It happens right out in the open, like other interest groups,
whether it’s
oil companies that lobby for environmental policies
that are more friendly to them, or
the Sierra Club going the other way, or
the National Rifle Association, or the farm lobby. ...
This is the way American politics works.

The charge that we’re painting the picture of some sort of cabal or conspiracy
is one of the classic tactics
that our opponents have been using to try and discredit us. ...
A lot of what’s going on in some of the attacks on us
is an attempt to essentially change the subject.

But bad people have appropriated your work for their own malicious ends.
Do you have any moral responsibility for this?

What our critics are saying is
we can’t talk about this lobby because it might fuel anti-Semitism.
That’s a fallacious argument.
It’s very important in the United States
that we be able to talk seriously about the principal actors
that shape American foreign policy,
especially in the Middle East,
because if you look at the Middle East today,
it’s very clear that the United States is in serious trouble.
And we believe that one of the reasons we’re in serious trouble –
I underline “one of the reasons” –
is because of the efforts of the lobby.

I don’t believe in the United States we have a serious danger of anti-Semitism.
I don’t believe that’s true in Europe, either.
I do believe there are anti-Semites in the United States,
and there are anti-Semites in Europe.
Steve and I go to great lengths to condemn them in the book
and to condemn them every time we speak publicly.
We don’t want to lend any support to anti-Semites of any sort.

But I don’t believe this is the 1930s,
and there’s imminent danger of a massive increase in anti-Semitism.
And to be perfectly frank, if I did believe that were the case,
I don’t believe I would have agreed to write the book.

The Israel Lobby and the Second Holocaust Debate
An emblematic error in a controversial book.
By Ron Rosenbaum
Slate.com, 2007-09-19

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

To me, the real problem is not
whether The Israel Lobby pleases this Grand Kleagle or that,
or the one-sidedness of its depiction of Israel and its supporters,
so much as
the profound failure of the moral imagination
that the book reflects.
A failure to connect with the historical experience of Jews
that motivates their support of Israel.
A failure to empathize with the real danger the 6 million Jews of Israel face:
the threat of a second Holocaust.

It is in this light that I’d like to take up
what I regard as an emblematic error in the book
that involves its allusion to me
and my views on the second Holocaust question,
an error that I believe is a window into
that failure of the moral imagination.

There was no doubt, however,
in my essay on the possibility of a second Holocaust,
that I was writing about a second Holocaust in the state of Israel.
But in the initial edition of The Israel Lobby,
Mearsheimer and Walt distort my quote,
truncating it and using a misleading context
to make it seem as though I believe
there is about to be a second Holocaust in America!

They use this gross misrepresentation to make a case that
the insidious Israel lobby
has whipped up an irrational climate of fear—for themselves—
on the part of American Jews.
They quote
several American Jews talking about a rise in anti-Semitism here in America
and then quote me saying,
“There is likely to be a second Holocaust.”
Period. End quote.

[Rosenbaum makes his argument largely based on context.
But who else has written about
Jewish fears of American anti-Semitism and
worries about Israel’s well-being
in the same context (or at least paragraph)?
In paragraph 3 of the essay by Wieseltier that both M+W and Rosenbaum cite,
Wieseltier also combines in the same paragraph, and, to me,
in a similar sequence of examples
intended to demonstrate an exaggerated state of fear
(Wiesenthal explicitly calls it “hysteria” and “ethnic panic”)
on the part of American Jews
both the quote from Rosenbaum,
which he now points out refers to the threat to Israel,
and the well-known Times Square quote from Nat Hentoff,
which explicitly refers to American Jewry.

Perhaps M+W implied a little too much in their use of Rosenbaum’s quote,
but it hardly seems to invalidate their basic points,
here and elsehere in their book,
which remain unsuccessfully challenged by its many critics.]

At a Philadelphia Synagogue, Fear of Walt/Mearsheimer
(and the Myth of Jewish Powerlessness)

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-20

[Emphasis is added.]

If you wanted to sense the power of Walt and Mearsheimer’s ideas,
there was no better place than
the conservative synagogue Beth Hillel outside Philadelphia last night,
a panel discussion sponsored by the rightwing Jewish Policy Center
on radical Islam and the new anti-Semitism on campus,
featuring four neoconservatives, including Giuliani adviser Daniel Pipes.

From the outset of the evening, the talk was of Walt and Mearsheimer.
Richard Fox,
the real estate mogul who supports the new pro-war group Freedom’s Watch,
opened the discussion by referring to the book.
“They have been getting a lot of press.
A real problem:
we Jews who represent a fraction of the population are in control.
These two professors are not the first to teach antisemitism
and they won’t be the last.”

The moderator was mustachioed Michael Medved,
and he also spoke of Walt and Mearsheimer.
He said that
they had gotten $750,000 for their book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
(I also have heard that they got a lot of money, I don’t know how much).
Then David Horowitz, the reformed radical from California,
also bashed the authors,
in almost losing his composure
as he described the pitiable condition of the tiny Jewish state.
“The lies are so monstrous these days...
The Walt Mearsheimer book [says] the media is controlled by the Jews
who are using it to attack Muslims...
Name me the Hollywood film that is defending the state of Israel!”

It did not seem to me that these references were calculated.
There was a wretched, fearful quality to the evening--
as what looked to be 800-1000 people had filled a hall during the High Holidays, their cars parked on the synagogue lawn.
I sensed that the fear of Walt/Mearsheimer was genuine:
reflecting a Holocaust-engendered belief on the part of the panel and audience
that we Jews are extremely vulnerable in western society,
and that anti-Semitism is as bad now as it was in the 1930s.
“I believe that we are in a much worse state in the world today,
that is we as Jews, than the Jews were in the 1930s,”
Horowitz claimed stupendously
(and crazily—I say this as a guy who likes Horowitz,
he’s a kind man one-on-one).

Part of the political complex that Walt and Mearsheimer are taking on today
is the myth of Jewish powerlessness.
It is felt in many parts of the Jewish community,
and god knows it has good and ancient pedigree.
Overcoming feelings of emasculated powerlessness
is the theme of Leon Uris’s Exodus
(which as W&M point out is Israeli history in the U.S.).
It’s one of my themes that this idea of powerlessness is today a false one:
that we are principals in American society.

I will cite one fact that bears this out.
These men who spoke so eloquently last night of the need of defeating terrorism,
not appeasing it, or making deals with it,
but of triumphing over Islamofascism,
as Daniel Pipes put it so militantly—
they did not once call on Jewish kids to join the Army.
As I have reported,
there are more Buddhists in the U.S. armed forces than Jewish kids.
At 1.3 percent of the adult population, statistically we should be about 16,000.
We are less than 4,000--25 percent of expected representation,
compared to 40 percent for that other elite, Episcopalians.
We are underrepresented for a simple reason;
because our children have choices, they are by and large affluent.
The rightwing Jews at this event did not speak of such matters
because they are so identified with an understanding of Jewish vulnerability,
in Europe and in Israel.

At the end of the evening,
an older woman rose and spoke in agony about the situation in Israel today
and referred to the dramatic picture of frightened Palestinian schoolgirls
that appeared at the top of the front page of the Times.
“I have spent my life fighting for Israel
as I’m sure many people in this room have,
in every venue that I can think of.

Today there is a picture that makes us wring our hands…”
She got the largest applause of anyone.
When a student rose to say
the U.S. should be reaching out to Egypt and other Muslim countries,
he was booed.

So the Israel lobby asserts itself.
The last ten minutes of this two-hour event on anti-Semitism
were all about Israel.
Not a word about the Palestinian suffering,
which should move the Jewish heart.
No: Medved, in his last remarks, spoke desperately of how
we must promote Israel’s interests in American politics.
A speech straight out of Walt and Mearsheimer!
Medved said that, shockingly,
82 percent of American Jews have not been to
the country that his own brother emigrated to.
If you can do anything, he said, visit Israel.
Take your friends.
Take your family.
(And will they visit the Hebron I have seen? No).

As to presidential politics, he said that
Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich were all but antisemites,
“both of whom have trafficked with haters of Israel
and are basically pledged to the destruction of Israel as we know it.”
While Hillary was good for the Jewish community,
and Obama was surprisingly good as well.
He had, within hours,
taken down an ad on his site for Walt and Mearsheimer’s book!
As for Christopher Dodd, he was excellent on Israel.
Why, his father had served as a prosecutor at Nuremburg.

Let’s linger on this point.
Later that evening I opened my New York Times
and saw the ad for a book by Christopher Dodd called
Letters From Nuremberg, My Father’s Narrative of a Quest for Justice,
replete with endorsement by Elie Wiesel.
Why is this book coming out now?
Because of Jewish presence in the American political process.
Because Jews make up more than half of the Democratic contributors.
There is only one word for the abilty to compel a leading senator
to write a book about his father’s Nuremberg credentials of 60 years ago
as he runs for President:
Until American Jews come to terms with that power,
until we understand that
powerless Israel lost 50 people in the Lebanon war last year
while killing 900 Lebanese
and strewing the country with American-made cluster bombs,
we are lost in the Middle East.

It's lobbying, but is it really pro-Israel?
By M.J. Rosenberg
Ha'aretz, 2007-09-21

alternative source: Israel Policy Forum

[Emphasis is added;
presidential names have been slightly altered (to suit my taste).]

Critics of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
by John J. Mearsheimer and Steven M. Walt (Farrar, Straus and Giroux),
cannot be surprised that the attacks on the book prior to publication
helped propel it as high as no. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list.
Not only that,
the names “Mearsheimer-Walt” have become almost People-magazine famous,
odd for two mild-mannered political scientists from the University of Chicago and Harvard, respectively.

It just shows you what a little “buzz” will do -
and a lot of buzz surrounds this book.

And why not?
It’s an important, heavily sourced and documented book
(108 pages of footnotes)
by two distinguished professors at two of our best universities.
It deals with Middle East policymaking
at a time when America’s problems in that region
surpass our problems anywhere else.
And it is a serious book about a subject that is decidedly provocative,
a much improved and expanded version of the original London Review of Books article.

The book asks the question:
How much power does the pro-Israel lobby have?
The authors answer:
Too much, and both America and Israel suffer as a result.

It’s an arguable question, and people are definitely arguing about it.
It is also the kind of book you do not have to agree with on every count
(I certainly don’t)
to benefit from reading it.

The authors do not say that there is anything intrinsically wrong
with the existence of a pro-Israel lobby.
As political scientists,
they understand that lobbies are as American as corn in Kansas.
They know that lobbies play a major role
in virtually all areas of American policy-making, domestic and foreign.
Nor do they suggest that the pro-Israel community is out of bounds
when it uses its influence on Israel’s behalf.

Their question is whether or not that influence
is used to promote policies that are in America’s interest, or even Israel’s.

The authors’ answer is “no.”
They believe that the interests of both countries would be better served by
aggressive American involvement
intended to produce an Israeli-Palestinian agreement
along the lines of the so-called Clinton parameters.
Israel would withdraw more or less to the ‘67 lines,
a Palestinian state would be established,
Israel’s security would be guarded by ironclad guarantees, and
the Palestinians would abandon any future claims on Israeli territory.
They believe that it is the influence of the lobby
that has prevented the U.S. from vigorously pursuing this goal,
despite the fact that
both presidents Clinton and George W. Bush have endorsed it.

I spent almost 20 years as a Congressional aide
and can testify from repeated personal experience that
senators and House members are under constant pressure
to support status-quo policies on Israel.

It is no accident that members of Congress compete over
who can place more conditions on aid to the Palestinians,
who will be first to denounce the Saudi peace plan, and
who will win the right to be the primary sponsor
of the next pointless Palestinian-bashing resolution.
Nor is it an accident that

there is never a serious Congressional debate
about policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.

Moreover, every president knows that

any serious effort to push for
an Israeli-Palestinian agreement
based on compromise by both sides
will produce loud (sometimes hysterical) opposition from the Hill.

Walt and Mearsheimer mostly limit themselves to exploring
whether all this is good for the United States
(and to a lesser extent, Israel).
The question I ask today, and not for the first time,
is whether this type of behavior is good for Israel.
Forty years after the Six-Day War,
the occupation continues,
the resistance to it intensifies, and
Israelis in increasing numbers question whether
they have a future in the Jewish state.

Has “pro-Israel” advocacy consistently produced “pro-Israel” ends?
At several critical moments, it most certainly has not.

Was it pro-Israel to lobby the Nixon administration in 1971
to support Israel’s rejection of
Anwar Sadat’s offer of peace
in exchange for
a three-mile pullback from the banks of the Suez Canal?
Nixon capitulated to the pressure and backed off,
leaving Israel free to reject Sadat’s offer.
Two years later,
Sadat attacked and Israel lost 3,000 soldiers
in a war that would have been prevented
had Israel accepted the Sadat initiative.
Israel gained nothing in that war,
and ended up giving Sadat all the territory he sought in 1971,
and much more.

Was it pro-Israel to urge the Reagan administration
to back Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982?
That war, and its bloody aftermath, lasted for 18 years,
with the last Israeli soldier not leaving Lebanon until 2000 -
after a thousand soldiers were killed.
Just days after Israel’s invasion,
Lebanese Christian forces massacred almost a thousand Palestinians
at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps.
And 241 United States Marines, serving as post-war peace keepers,
were killed (the most on any single day since Iwo Jima)
when Hezbollah blew up their barracks.
In the end, the war accomplished nothing
and Israel withdrew unconditionally.

Was it pro-Israel to press Congress
to attach so many onerous conditions to aid
to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority
that Abbas was unable to demonstrate to his people
that a moderate president, who fully accepted Israel,
would produce benefits that they would not achieve by choosing Hamas.
The U.S. (and Israeli) policies of all sticks and no carrots
led predictably to
Abbas’ defeat by Hamas
and a Hamas-controlled Gaza that has resumed its attacks on Israeli towns.

Was it pro-Israel

to prevent
the Reagan-40, Bush-41, Clinton-42 and Bush-43 administrations
from insisting on a permanent freeze on settlements
or, at the very least, the immediate removal of the illegal settlements?

Wouldn’t Israel be infinitely better off
if the United States had used friendly persuasion
to end the settlement enterprise right from the get-go?
After all,
the vast majority of Israelis consider the settlements to be impediments to peace
[Yeah yeah, we keep hearing that.
Then what keeps the Israelis from electing governments
that will end the settlements, or at least stop their growth?]

and so has every president since the first settlement was erected.

Similar questions could be asked about the arguments favoring the Iraq war
as good for both the United States and Israel
(when critics correctly predicted that it would be disastrous for both),
and should be asked about some future attack on Iran.

These questions are especially urgent with a presidential election coming up.

Once again, presidential candidates are being told that
in order to earn the “pro-Israel” label,
they must heartily endorse the status quo.

That means that when asked
what they would do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
they must state unequivocal support for Israeli policies.
They must put the onus for the failed diplomacy of recent years
on the Palestinians.

They must indicate that although they support peace,
they will not adopt the kind of proactive peacemaking engaged in by presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
They must never use the words “even-handed” or “honest broker.”
There is a script and the candidates must not deviate from it.

For the vast majority of us who care deeply about Israel,
the politically correct (and safe) approach to Israel is insulting.
Sure, it keeps candidates out of trouble
with that small minority of the pro-Israel community
which believes that Israel can survive as a Jewish state
while holding on to the territories.
But that isn’t most American Jews, not by a long shot.

[Must be the nefarious bogeymen of
The Oil Lobby, The Corporations and The Christian Right,
on whom you “progressives” always like to blame everything,
that are enforcing political correctness here, eh?]

Candidates who avoid saying what they believe
out of fear of offending lobbyists and activists
who have been proven wrong over and over again
are not doing Israel any favors.
And they should not be rewarded for it
by being granted the label of “pro-Israel.”

There is nothing pro-Israel about supporting policies that only promise that
Israeli mothers will continue to dread their sons’ 18th birthdays
for another generation.
For that we are supposed to be grateful?

[Some Americans aren’t so happy about those policies, either.]

M.J. Rosenberg is director of Israel Policy Forum’s Washington Policy Center.

M.J. Rosenberg on Anti-Semitism
by Philip Weiss and M.J. Rosenberg
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-22

M.J. Rosenberg, of Israel Policy Forum,
tried to post re the Philadelphia event I blogged about and wasn’t able to.
Thank you, M.J.
Here’s his comment:

This is sad, actually.
I read about this event in Philly and then read
Ron Rosenbaum’s incoherent weeping at SLATE.

Then I think about my in-laws who survived the Holocaust
and who always said that
American Jews who scream about anti-semitism in the US
do not have a clue about what anti-antisemitism is.
My father-in-law used the example of being a teenager,
playing soccer with his friends,
and suddenly a gang of “hooligans” come along with sticks
screaming “kill the Jews” and wielding them against the littlest kids.

I asked him how often that happened.
He said, “well, this was before the Germans came and before the war.
So we played football every day.
It happened every day, except Shabbes because we didn’t play then.”

But here idiots are weeping over an imminent holocaust
because one book criticizing a Jewish organization is on the best-seller list.
Oh how my late father-in-law would laugh.

Note: most of the people weeping over Walt-Mearsheimer
are (like myself) aging babyboomers -- or, of course, older.
And the sad fact is that after 55 or so
the incidence of this malady -- Dershowitis -- increases.
That is the illness whereby a sharp, cool 3rd generation American Jew,
at home in America as Kanye West or Justin Timberlake,
wakes up and sees Ed Koch in the mirror, open his mouth and he’s Jackie Mason.

Marty Peretz has suffered from Dershowitis since about 1970.
He actually was afflicted at 35 (Dershowitis praecox) but that is rare.
I don’t have it yet. I’m hopeful.
My dad didn’t come down with the disease til he was 80.

It’s fatal and there is no cure although sufferers are always praying for a cure,
which is why they spend so much time in synagogue.

Where Is C-Span? (Don't Marginalize Walt/Mearsheimer)
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-22

C-Span filmed
Walt and Mearsheimer’s event at Politics and Prose on September 5
and has not yet aired it.
The event was so jammed, reports the WSJ (fairly), with 500 people,
that people were turned away on the sidewalk.
Why hasn’t C-Span aired this important talk so that we the people can see it?

Right now the media are in some consternation about The Israel Lobby.
They are not sure where the matter is going.
The advance word on the book, the piece that set the tone,
was David Remnick’s in the New Yorker,
and it was a split decision:
respectful, but saying W&M are playing into hysteria.
Now the book is bumping up the bestseller list
even as it is proving deeply upsetting to some people.
The Washington Post has run columns by
Michael Gerson (a Christian conservative!) and
Richard Cohen that savaged it.
Gerson says it contains the seeds of anti-semitism.
Cohen says the case was so overwhelming
it seemed to deny Israel’s right to exist
and made him want to break out into Hatikvah.
(For all pre- or post-Zionists,
here are the words from the card the Zionist Organization of America distributes:
“As long as deep in the heart
A Jewish soul yearns
And to the furthest edges of the east
An eye looks, towards Zion...”)

Others, including progressive Zionists Dan Fleshler and MJ Rosenberg,
differ with the book’s conclusions but are actively engaged in the discussion.
They are not trying to marginalize the book.
Nick Goldberg of the LA Times gave the authors a fair hearing.
As did the Dallas Morning News.
And then there are the lovers of the book. Like myself...

When Christopher Hitchens published his diatribe against religion,
God Is Not Great,
Chris Matthews put him on air.
Now W&M are right next to Hitchens on the bestseller list.
There is only one answer to this muddle. Goethe’s last words. More Light!
Put the authors on C-Span please...

Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory in Walt and Mearsheimer's Wake
Begs an Open Discussion of Jewish Influence Re Israel

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-23

A reader responded to my question of yesterday--
Why hasn’t C-Span
aired Walt & Mearsheimer’s appearance at Politics and Prose?--
saying that the answer may be found in the Board of Directors of C-SPAN.

The reader noted that the board’s executive committee includes
Robert Miron, chairman and ceo of Advance/Newhouse Communications,
and then included this tidbit:
Miron’s community activities include
past president of the Syracuse Jewish Community Center,
former vice president of Temple Adath Yeshurun,
former board member of the Syracuse Jewish Federation, and
member of the Metropolitan Development Association.
He was the Temple Adath Citizen of the Year in 2000.
The reader also cited Allen Block, vice chair of the C-Span board,
noting that Block’s grandfather Paul, the founder of Block Communications,
was a poor Jewish immigrant from Poland who had fled persecution there.
(As my grandfather did.)

These comments are anti-semitic.
I strongly doubt that the presence of these two Jews
is why C-Span isn’t airing Walt & Mearsheimer.
And yet I can’t utterly refute the reader.
Last year the New York Theatre Workshop
cancelled its production of the Rachel Corrie play in part
because of resistance from board members, many of whom are Jewish.
Last year Human Rights Watch equivocated somewhat
in its statements about the (horrifying) Lebanon war,
again because it relies on the Jewish community for support.
Last year Columbia University
cancelled an appearance at the school by Iran President Ahmadinejad--
with some professors at the school murmuring (with justice, I believe)
that it was because Columbia is heavily reliant on Jewish alums.

(And this week Columbia has invited Ahmadinejad to speak; hail Columbia!)

My point is that, obviously
the arrival of Jews in the political/cultural establishment
has been very important in terms of
insulating Israel from criticism, and
distorting our foreign policy.
Americans aren’t stupid;
they know this is the case.
There’s lots of information on the internet,
and now Walt and Mearsheimer are bestsellers.

There is only one answer to such conspiracy-theory/antisemitism/entirely-legitimate speculation.
Have an open discussion in our televised media--
Chris Matthews, Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes, the nightly news broadcasts--
about these issues.
Demystify them, and yes, too,
embarrass those who have sought to protect Israel,
working behind the scenes.
America is a great country; let’s prove it again.

Dual Loyalties
New York Times Book Review, 2007-09-23

[This is the review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

A Jewish Writer Says Senate Should Investigate Neocon Abrams
Re Dual Loyalty

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-09-25

The Teflon Alliance with Israel
CounterPunch, 2007-09-28

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Two recent offhand comments, both widely publicized,
have seriously undermined
whatever progress might have been made
in exposing the fact that
the Iraq war was initiated at least in large part
to guarantee Israel's safety and regional dominance in the Middle East.


[T]his is the way myths are born:
[Radio talk show host Thom] Hartmann and [Senator Bernie] Sanders
were able to use perhaps 90 seconds on a nationally broadcast radio program
to tout
an incomplete report reinforcing their own misconceptions
to dismiss
a thoroughly researched book disproving those misconceptions.


[W]hatever economic genius [Alan] Greenspan possesses
does not extend to
military strategizing or political analysis.

The Lobby on Trial
Upcoming legal battle dramatizes rising concern about the Israel lobby
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-10-01

Breaking the Taboo: Why We Took On the Israel Lobby
interview with John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
conducted by their editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
Eric Chinski
Truthdig.com, 2007-10-04

Also available at Alternet.org

The Power of the Israel Lobby
CounterPunch.org, 2007-10-04

[Most of this article appears in print
in the 2007-10-22 American Conservative.

The following is the text of the on-line CounterPunch version;
paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

There are books that change people’s consciousness and change history.
Some tell a story,
like Harriet Beech Stowe’s 1851 Uncle Tom’s Cabin,
which gave a huge impetus to the campaign for the abolition of slavery.
Others take the form of a political treatise,
like Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat,
which gave birth to the Zionist movement.
Or they can be scientific in nature,
like Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species,
which changed the way humanity sees itself.
And perhaps political satire, too, can shake the world,
like 1984 by George Orwell.

The impact of these books was amplified by their timing.
They appeared exactly at the right time,
when a large public was ready to absorb their message.

It may well turn out that
the book by the two professors, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt,
The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,
is just such a book.

It is a dry scientific research report, 355 pages long,
backed by 106 further pages containing some thousand references to sources.

It is not a bellicose book.
On the contrary, its style is restrained and factual.
The authors take great care
not to utter a single negative comment on the legitimacy of the Lobby,
and indeed bend over backwards
to stress their support for the existence and security of Israel.
They let the facts speak for themselves.
With the skill of experienced masons,
they systematically lay brick upon brick, row upon row,
leaving no gap in their argumentation.

This wall cannot be torn down by reasoned argument.
Nobody has tried, and nobody is going to.
Instead, the authors are being smeared and accused of sinister motives.
If the book could be ignored altogether, this would have been done--
as has happened to other books which have been buried alive.

(Some years ago,
there appeared in Russia a large tome by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,
the world-renowned laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature,
about Russia and its Jews.
This book, called 200 Years Together, has been completely ignored.
As far as I know, it has not been translated into any language,
certainly not into Hebrew.
I asked several of Israel’s leading intellectuals,
and none of them had even heard of the book.
Neither does it appear on the list of Amazon.com,
which includes all the author’s other works.)

THE TWO professors take the bull by the horns.
They deal with a subject which is absolutely taboo in the United States,
a subject nobody in his right mind would even mention:
the enormous influence of the pro-Israel lobby on American foreign policy.

In a remorselessly systematical way, the book analyzes the Lobby,
takes it apart, describes its modus operandi, discloses its financial sources
and lays bare its relations with the White House, the two houses of Congress,
the leaders of the two major parties and leading media people.

The authors do not call into question the Lobby’s legitimacy.
On the contrary, they show that hundreds of lobbies of this kind
play an essential role in the American democratic system.
The gun and the medical lobbies, for example,
are also very powerful political forces.
But the pro-Israel lobby has grown out of all proportion.
It has unparalleled political power.
It can
silence all criticism of Israel in Congress and the media,
bring about the political demise of anyone who dares to break the taboo,
prevent any action that does not conform to the will of the Israeli government.

In its second part,
the book shows how the Lobby uses its tremendous power in practice:
how it has prevented the exertion of any pressure on Israel
for peace with the Palestinians,
how it pushed the US into the invasion of Iraq,
how it is now pushing for wars with Iran and Syria,
how it supported the Israeli leadership in the recent war in Lebanon
and blocked calls for a ceasefire when it didn’t want it.

Each of these assertions is backed up by
so much undeniable evidence and quotations from written material
(mainly from Israeli sources)
that they cannot be ignored.

MOST OF these disclosures
are nothing new for those in Israel who deal with these matters.

I myself could add to the book a whole chapter from personal experience.

In the late 50s, I visited the US for the first time.
A major New York radio station invited me for an interview.
Later they cautioned me:
“You can criticize the President (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
and the Secretary of State (John Foster Dulles) to your heart’s content,
but please don’t criticize Israeli leaders!”
At the last moment the interview was cancelled altogether,
and the Iraqi ambassador was invited instead.
Criticism was apparently tolerable when it came from an Arab,
but absolutely not coming from an Israeli.

In 1970, the respected American “Fellowship of Reconciliation
invited me for a lecture tour of 30 universities,
under the auspices of the Hillel rabbis.
When I arrived in New York,
I was informed that 29 of the lectures had been cancelled.
The sole rabbi who did not cancel, Balfour Brickner,
showed me a secret communication of the “Anti-Defamation League”
that proscribed my lectures.
It said:
“While Knesset Member Avnery can in no way be considered a traitor,
his appearance at this time would be deeply divisive”.

In the end,
all the lectures took place under the auspices of Christian chaplains.

I especially remember a depressing experience in Baltimore.
A good Jew, who had volunteered to host me,
was angered by the cancellation of my lecture in this city
and obstinately insisted on putting it on.
We combed the streets of the Jewish quarters--
mile upon mile of signs with Jewish names--
and did not find a single hall whose manager would agree
to let the lecture by a member of the Israeli Knesset take place.
In the end,
we did hold the lecture in the basement of the building of my host’s apartment--
and functionaries of the Jewish community came to protest.

That year, during Black September,
I held a press conference in Washington DC, under the auspices of the Quakers.
It seemed to be a huge success.
The journalists
came straight from a press conference with Prime Minister Golda Meir,
and showered me with questions.
Almost all the important media were represented--
TV networks, radio, the major newspapers.
After the planned hour was up, they would not let me go
and kept me talking for another hour and a half.
But the next day, not a single word appeared in any of the media.
Thirty-one years later, in October 2001
I held a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington,
and exactly the same thing happened:
many of the media were there, they held me for another hour--
and not a word, not a single word, was published.

In 1968, a very respected American publishing house (Macmillan)
brought out a book of mine Israel Without Zionists,
which was later translated into eight other languages.
The book described the Israeli-Arab conflict in a very different way
and proposed the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel--
a revolutionary idea at the time.
Not a single review appeared in the American media.
I checked in one of the most important book stores in New York
and did not find the book.
When I asked a salesman,
he found it buried under a heap of volumes and put it on top.
Half an hour later it was hidden again.

The book dealt with the “Two States for Two peoples” solution
long before it became a world-wide consensus,
and with my proposal for Israel’s integration in “the Semitic Region”.
True, I am an Israeli patriot and was elected to the Knesset by Israeli voters.
But I criticized the Israeli government--and that was enough.

THE BOOK by the two professors,
who criticize the Israeli government from a different angle,
cannot be buried anymore.
This fact, by itself, speaks volumes.

The book is based on an essay by the two
that appeared last year in a British journal,
after no American publication dared to touch it.
Now a respected American publishing house has released it--
an indication that something is moving.
The situation has not changed,
but it seems that it is now possible at least to talk about it.

Everything depends on timing--and apparently
the time is now ripe for such a book,
which will shock many good people in America.
It is now causing an uproar.

The two professors are, of course,
accused of anti-Semitism, racism and hatred of Israel.
What Israel?
It is the Lobby itself that hates a large part of Israel.
In recent years is has shifted even more to the Right.
Some of its constituent groups--
such as the neo-cons who pushed the US into the Iraq war--
are openly connected with the right-wing Likud,
and especially with Binyamin Netanyahu.

The billionaires who finance the Lobby
are the same people who finance the extreme Israeli Right,
and most of all the settlers.
[Click here for confirmation.]

The small, determined Jewish groups in the US
who support the Israeli peace movements
are remorselessly persecuted.

Some of them fold after a few years.
Members of Israeli peace groups who are sent to America
are boycotted and slandered as “self-hating-Jews”.

The political views of the two professors,
which are briefly stated at the end of the book,
are identical with the stand of the Israeli peace forces:
the Two-State Solution,
ending the occupation,
borders based on the Green Line, and
international support for the peace settlement.

If this is anti-Semitism, then we here are all anti-Semites.
And only the Christian Zionists--
those who openly demand the return of the Jews to this country
but secretly prophesy the annihilation of the unconverted Jews
at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ--
are the true Lovers of Zion.

EVEN IF not a single bad word about the pro-Israel lobby
can be uttered in the US,
it is far from being a secret society,
hatching conspiracies like the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.
On the contrary,
AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League
the Zionist Federation and the other organizations
vociferously boast about their actions
and publicly proclaim their incredible successes.

Quite naturally, the diverse components of the Lobby compete with each other--
Who has the biggest influence on the White House,
Who scares the most senators,
Who controls more journalists and commentators.
This competition causes a permanent escalation--
because every success by one group spurs the others to redouble their efforts.

This could be very dangerous.
A balloon that is inflated to monstrous dimensions
can one day burst in the face of American Jews
(who, by the way, according to the polls,
object to many positions adopted by the Lobby
that claims to speak in their name.)

Most of the American public now opposes the Iraq war
and considers it a disaster.
This majority still does not connect the war
with the actions of the pro-Israel lobby.
No newspaper and no politician dares to hint at such a connection--yet.
But if this taboo is broken,
the result may be very dangerous for the Jews and for Israel.

Beneath the surface, a lot of anger directed against the Lobby is accumulating.
The presidential candidates, who are compelled to grovel at the feet of AIPAC,
the senators and congressmen, who have become slaves of the Lobby,
the media people, who are forbidden to write what they really think--
all these secretly detest the Lobby.
If this anger explodes, it may hurt us, too.

This lobby has become a Golem.
And like the Golem in legend,
in the end it will bring disaster on its maker.

IF I may be permitted to voice some criticism of my own:

When the original article by the two professors appeared,
I argued that “the tail is wagging the dog and the dog is wagging the tail”.
The tail, of course, is Israel.

The two professors confirm the first part of the equation,
but emphatically deny the second.
The central thesis of the book is that
the pressure of the Lobby
causes the United States to act against its own interests
(and, in the long run, also against the true interests of Israel.)
They do not accept my contention, quoted in the book, that
Israel acted in Lebanon as “America’s Rottweiler”
(to Hizbullah as “Iran’s Doberman”).

I agree that the US is acting against its true interest
(and the true interests of Israel)--
but the American leadership does not see it that way.
Bush and his people believe--even without the input of the Lobby--
that it would be advantageous
for the US to establish a permanent American military presence
in the middle of this region of huge oil reserves.
In my view,
this counter-productive act at was one of the main objectives of the war,
side by side with the desire to eliminate one of Israel’s most dangerous enemies.
Unfortunately, the book deals only very briefly with this issue.

That does not diminish in any way my profound admiration
for the intellectual qualities, integrity and courage of Mearsheimer and Walt,
two knights who, like St. George,
who have sallied forth to face the fearful dragon.

Conspiracy Theory
Who really drives America's policy toward the Middle East?
Reviewed by Samuel G. Freedman
Washington Post Book World, 2007-10-07

[Here is a paragraph from Freedman’s review
(emphasis is added).]

The logical outgrowth of such dismissiveness appears in
this rather chilling section toward the book’s end:
“Although we believe that America should support Israel’s existence,
Israel’s security is ultimately
not of critical strategic importance to the United States.
In the event that Israel was conquered . . .
neither America’s territorial integrity, its military power,
its economic prestige, nor its core political values
would be jeopardized.
By contrast, if oil exports from the Persian Gulf were significantly reduced,
the effects on America’s well-being would be profound.”

[Now here is the full paragraph of The Israel Lobby
from which Freedman’s excerpt was taken.
What Freedman excerpted is underlined.]

[C.1.5 (page 338)]

Although we believe that America should support Israel’s existence,
Israel’s security is ultimately
not of critical strategic importance to the United States.
In the event that Israel was conquered

which is extremely unlikely
given its considerable military power and its robust nuclear deterrence—
neither America’s territorial integrity, its military power,
its economic prosperity, nor its core political values
would be jeopardized.
By contrast,
if oil exports from the Persian Gulf oil were significantly reduced,
the effects on America’s well-being would be profound.

The United States does not support Israel’s existence
because it makes Americans more secure, but rather
because Americans recognize the long history of Jewish suffering
and believe that it is desirable for the Jewish people to have their own state.
As we have noted repeatedly,
there is a strong moral case for supporting Israel’s existence,
we believe
the United States should remain committed to coming to Israel’s aid
if its survival were in jeopardy.
But Americans should do this because they think it is morally appropriate,
not because it is vital to their own security.

[Taken in full,
I don’t see how even the most paranoid, hypersensitive person
could find that paragraph “chilling.”
If America feels morally obligated to ensure Israel’s existence,
isn’t that enough?

Only by leaving out what Freedman left out does it even potentially
become “chilling.”
Isn’t that dishonest journalism?
It sure is in my book.
But then Freedman is a journalism professor at Columbia.
What does that say?]

Mearsheimer and Walt addressed Freedman’s review
in an Internet discussion two days after the review was published.

Live Discussion with John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
by John Mearheimer, Stephen Walt, and various questioners
Washington Post On-Line Discussion, 2007-10-09

[This is a very worthwhile discussion.
Here is the part dealing with
Samuel Freedman’s WP Book World review;
emphasis is added.]

Could I ask each of you to describe your reaction
to the review of your book in Sunday’s Washington Post?

I barely recognized your book in Samuel Freedman’s review,
which was entitled “Conspiracy Theory.”
Freedman suggested you had provided “required reading for Jew-haters.”
He also accused you of misrepresenting his USA Today op-ed of April 2003,
even though your mention of his op-ed
was limited to a single sentence
that merely cited certain polls referred to by Freedman in his op-ed.
Freedman did not offer any basis for this claim of misrepresentation.

If you haven’t guessed,
I found the review in the Post an outrageous distortion of your book.
Your reaction?

John Mearsheimer:
We were disappointed
that the Washington Post asked Samuel Freedman to review our book,
as he had attacked the original article
in an April 25, 2006 piece in the Jerusalem Post.
[Of course, that’s probably part of the reason the post chose Freedman;
he could be relied upon to malign the book.]

In that piece, he referred to our article as
a “chronicle of perfidy” and a “screed,”
and he compared it with Nation of Islam’s anti-Semitic tract --
“The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews.”
He was almost certain to treat our book the same way he treated our article,
and he did not disappoint.
Of course, we were not surprised that the Post went to Freedman, as
we expected that almost all of the mainstream newspapers in the US
would choose reviewers who would be predisposed not to like our book.

And that has been largely true.
We also expected that the reviews would be much better
in Europe and in Israel itself.
That too has proven to be the case.
Indeed, one of the most positive reviews we have received
was published in Ha’aretz by Daniel Levy.
In fact, that paper has run a few other pieces
that have said nice things about about our book.
We have received about seven reviews in Britain
and almost all of them have had good things to say about the book.
The bottom line is that it is more difficult
to talk critically about Israel and the US-Israeli relationship in the United States
than it is in almost any other country in the world.
The reason, of course, is because of the power of the lobby here in America.

Bethlehem, PA:
What is one crucial point that you think
the majority of your critics have overlooked
or disregarded as significant?

John Mearsheimer:
I cannot think of any point in our book that the critics have overlooked.
What impresses me most about the criticism directed at us is
how often the critics misrepresent what we wrote.
in some cases they accuse of saying things that not only did we not say,
but we said the opposite.

The Usual Suspect
by Jeffrey Goldberg
The New Republic, 2007-10-08 (posted 2007-10-01)

[This a long polemic.
It includes most of the usual crude rhetorical tricks and sophistries
used by those who try to shield Jews and Israel from all criticism,
no matter how scholarly and well-intentioned it may be:

guilt by association
(bin Laden, Patrick Buchanan, David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, Mel Gibson,
and now Mearsheimer and Walt
are all lumped together in a single “odious tradition”;
one wonders why Goldberg left out Adolf and Beelzebub),

selective and misleading quotations,

grossly distorting M+W’s argument,



It’s not worth my time to go through it and point out
all its grotesque, tin-hat sophistries,
but I will point out one very crucial instance where Goldberg explicitly misleads.

In the first section of the “review” Goldberg purports
to give a sketch of the key ideas in bin Laden’s 2002-10 “Letter to America.”
Goldberg writes (emphasis is added):
The 2002 letter laid out in a somewhat deliberate fashion
bin Laden’s main complaints, and
it helped to answer a question that Americans often ask:
Do they hate us for who we are, or for what we do?

Bin Laden’s answer was, why choose?
In his epistle to America,
bin Laden asked Americans to submit to Islam,
which he called “the religion of showing kindness to others.”
He excoriated us for our immorality....

Bin Laden, or whoever actually composed the letter, however
carefully organized it into answers to two separate questions:
  • “Why are we fighting you?”
  • “What are we calling you to do, and what do we want from you?”
Just about everything Goldberg brings up,
the immorality, homosexuality, intoxification, incest, usury, etc.,
comes from the category
“What are we calling you to do, and what do we want from you?”.
Note that this specifically is not part of
bin Laden’s explanation of “Why we are fighting you.”
To find out what bin Laden viewed as “Why we are fighting you”,
see this excerpt from the letter,
which includes a link (click on the title) to the complete version.
Note that what bin Laden puts front and center,
as his item 1.a under “Why are we fighting and opposing you?”,
is “You attacked us in Palestine”.

This is the key point,
this is the great swindle in what passes for American pundity today.
The people who control the media (you know who they are)
will do anything and everything
to distract the American public
from what bin Laden has plainly and clearly said
about why he attacked, and will try to continue attacking, America.

Obviously bin Laden, as a good Muslim,
has a long list of Islamic practices that he wishes America would follow.
But he carefully puts them under the heading of
“What are we calling you to do, and what do we want from you?”,
not under the heading
“Why are we fighting and opposing you?”.

Goldberg also writes:
In the 2002 letter,
bin Laden blames America for providing support to the usurping Zionists,
but a careful reading of his rant will show that
American support for Israel is only one of his many grievances against America.

In the first place, I don’t think it’s a rant,
but rather an attempt to explain why they are fighting us.

Secondly, Goldberg wants to downplay
the significance of Zionism to the Muslim grievance list.
That is not a good idea.
For example, consider this (emphasis is added):

[P]olitics, not theology,
shape anti-Western attitudes among Muslims,

Professor [Muqtedar] Khan
[director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware]
“They have a problem
with the occupation of Iraq,
with the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians;

it’s not about Christianity.”

The Reviews of Walt and Mearsheimer:
Moving Past the “Lobby” and Getting Stuck in the “Middle”

The Magnes Zionist (“Jerry Haber”), 2007-10-10

[Coming from someone who claims to be
“an orthodox Jewish studies professor
who divides his time between Israel and the US”,
this is an excellent antidote to the almost uniform lynching
Mearsheimer and Walt have received in the American mainstream media.
His whole commentary is worth at least scanning,
to see how he both defends M+W and assails their reviews,
especially Samuel Freedman who wrote the review in WP Book World.

Here are some excerpts from the review by “The Magnes Zionist”.
Emphasis is added.]

The reviews of Walt and Mearsheimer’s book-length version of the “Israel Lobby” in the mainstream media
have run from the mixed to the negative.
More accurately, they have been negative,
with some crumbs thrown to the authors
for having raised certain questions and broken certain taboos.
The consensus of the reviews that I have seen is that
the book is a one-sided indictment against Israel’s policies and supporters,
a screed that needs to be “balanced.”
That certainly seems to have been the view of the Washington Post,
which commissioned Samuel Freedman to review the Israel Lobby
together with Abe Foxman’s “refutation,” The Deadliest Lies.
Freedman, who teaches journalism at Columbia University,
and who wrote an interesting book called Jew vs. Jew a few years back,
has a lot to say against both books.
To his credit,
he takes Walt and Mearsheimer much more seriously than Abe Foxman,
whose silly little book I leafed through in Barnes and Nobles.
Freedman is an intelligent man and a first-rate journalist.
But his implied conclusion that the truth lies somewhere in the middle
reveals him in all his glory as a liberal Zionist
hardly the fairest reviewer for a book on the Israel Lobby.
And yet,
virtually all the reviews in the major media outlets
have been by liberal Zionists,
both Jewish and non-Jewish.

By liberal Zionism I mean
the view that supports
the state of Israel as founded in 1948 by political Zionists like Ben-Gurion.
While liberal Zionists are often critical of Israeli policies
(especially those advocated by the Israeli right and their hawkish allies,
e.g., the settlements),
they assume that
a) that there are always “two sides” to the Israel-Palestine story, and
b) a lot of justice is on the Israeli side.
So when they read works by such disparate authors as
Walt and Mearsheimer, Jimmy Carter, Tony Judt and Norman Finkelstein,
they cannot refrain from saying,
“Yeah, but what about the responsibility of the Palestinian side for the mess?”
This is because
  • they fundamentally accept the Zionist narrative of Jewish history
    that culminates in the State of Israel,
  • they reject the Palestinian narrative
    that a foreign settler movement displaced the natives
    who, as the majority population in Palestine,
    had every expectation of a belonging to
    an Arab Palestine with a Jewish minority.


To a man, [the reviewers] appeal to
the comfortable (and banal) adage
that the truth lies between the two extremes.
The difficulty, however, is that
they locate the “center” in the Zionist camp.


I am not saying that reviewers should have been chosen
who reject the Zionist narrative.
But why not ask people who have
no vested interest in either narrative [orig. emphasis]
to review the book?
Or, if liberal Zionists, are being asked,
why not liberal Palestinians, like Rashid Khalidi
(who happens to be critical of the book’s thesis.)

As long as the world does not impose a solution
that levels the playing field between Israeli Jew and Palestinian,
there is no point in talking about “balance”.

The situation there
is incredibly skewed in favor of Israel,
which has virtually all the cards,
and against the Palestinians, who have virtually none.


[He has lots more on liberal Zionism,
and more dissection of Freedman’s review.
His conclusion:]

[T]he truth is that
virtually all Jews in the US,
from the far right to the Peace-Now-Meretz-Tikkun left,
are a part of the Israel Lobby,

or if you don’t like that term (I don’t),
they are strong supporters of Israel,
each in their own way.
Again, this is not a criticism –
believe me, some of my best friends are liberal Zionists
(full-disclosure: I am a card-carrying member of Meretz,
although, in my defence,
I joined the party just to vote for Yossi Beilin in the primaries).
To see how deeply Zionist a Dennis Ross is,
one needs only read a few pages of The Missing Peace.
The fact that
he doesn’t share the “Islamofascist” neuroses of Podhoretz and Pipes
doesn’t make him into a centrist on Israel-Palestine.

So, who is really in the middle and not just in the “middle”?
Walt and Mearsheimer, Carter, Chomsky, Khalidi,
for a start.

They are all willing to allow a strong Zionist state in Palestine --
more than I can say for most Israelis with respect to Palestine.
In fact, most of the one-statists I know of are in the center --
they do not call for a transfer of populations against their will.
If you are for transfer -- either Palestinian or Israeli Jewish --
then you are most definitely not in the middle.
If your [sic] willing for your national self-expression
to come at the expense of the other group’s national self-expression --
then you are definitely not in the middle.

the Zionist narrative
has been accepted by the mainstream liberal press in the US,

(but not by Middle East experts),
one doesn’t need an AIPAC or a Foxman or a Dershowitz
to make the case for Israel.
The latter will always serve as the “bad cops”
to “good cops” like Tom Friedman, Richard Cohen, Dennis Ross, etc.
The real question is – and Walt and Mearsheimer don’t raise it –
why has Israel been so successful in getting the Zionist narrative accepted?
[I think they do raise it,
and in fact give an almost complete answer,
in their Chapters 5 and 6.
If that isn’t enough to convince you,
a thorough examination of how the Israel lobby intimidates its foes,
from an eleven-term congressman who was targeted by the lobby, is
They Dare to Speak Out by Paul Findley.]

It is not just the alleged political clout or money of an Israel Lobby.
There may be many factors --
liberal Christian guilt for Christian antisemitism,
sympathy for the Jews after the Holocaust,
the shared Judaeo-Christian heritage on the Bible
(the secret weapon of the Zionist),
the success story of Jews in the US,
including the high intermarriage rates,
which makes it more difficult for Christians
to act against members of their family.
The Palestinians have failed
to make the same impact on the consciousness of American non-Jews
as have the Jews.
They haven’t been around as much.
And they are “oriental” in the a way that ashkenazi Israelis are not.

And they are Arab, and, mostly, Muslim.

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy [a review]
Readings in the Age of Empire

by Doug Bandow
Antiwar.com, 2007-10-19

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The collective shrieking and caterwauling has been loud and continuous.
How dare these two scholars –
John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago and
Stephen Walt from the Kennedy School of Government –
suggest that U.S. support for the state of Israel
reflects something more than simple American national interest!
The outrage.


The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is particularly important
precisely because it addresses one of the third rails of American politics:
unconditional support for one small, distant country
largely irrespective of American national interests.
Mearsheimer and Walt have articulated what everyone in Washington knows –
touch the third rail and you die, politically or professionally.


This sustained effort to close off debate,
to prevent the slightest criticism,
is almost unique to Israel
(and, ironically, is not so evident in Israel itself).
Nowhere else is one’s head blown off for simply asking:
is a particular foreign policy in America’s interest?


Outraged cries ring out against anyone who suggests that
U.S.-Israeli policy
is shaped by more than abstract geopolitical discussions
in Washington policy salons.
But abstract geopolitical interests cannot explain U.S. policy.


Particularly important in a world of terrorism is
Israel’s role as a Muslim grievance.
Israel advocates bridle at anyone who points to evidence that
the U.S. has made itself a target
by becoming an accessory to
Israel’s lengthy and brutal occupation of lands containing millions of Palestinians
as well as its numerous wars against its Arab neighbors.
Even if one is inclined to dismiss criticism of Israeli behavior,
foreign policy should be made
with a realistic appreciation of the consequences of different policies.


[T]he level of support [for Israel]
in part reflects the truncated political debate
which results in an environment in which
criticism is often shouted down and treated as beyond the pale.

‘It’s Hopeless!’
Cynthia Ozick on the Battle With ‘Jewish Defamers of Israel’

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-10-22

The Israel Lobby Targets Haaretz
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-10-23

CAMERA Director:
'Many, Many Times We Have Urged' Israeli Gov't
to Take Action Against American Publications

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-10-28

The Lobby, Unmasked
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-10-31

The Israel lobby: “We have an ‘unwritten contract’ with the American media”

Jerusalem Syndrome
Decoding “The Israel Lobby”
By Walter Russell Mead (A review of the book)
Foreign Affairs, 2007-11/12

The Lobby Strikes Back
by Scott McConnell (editor of TAC)
The American Conservative, 2007-12-03

[The editor of The American Conservative reviews the reviews of ILUSFP.
Here is an excerpt from his article; emphasis is added.]

One prism through which to gauge the impact of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy
is a September incident involving Barack Obama.
His campaign had placed small ads in various spots around the Internet,
designed to drive readers to its website.
One turned up on Amazon’s page for the Walt and Mearsheimer book.
A vigilant watchdog at the New York Sun spotted it and contacted the campaign:
Did Obama support Walt and Mearsheimer?

The answer came within hours.
The ad was withdrawn. Its placement was “unintentional.”
The senator, his campaign made clear,
understood that key arguments of the book were “wrong,”
but had definitely not read the work himself.
In short, Walt and Mearsheimer had reached a pinnacle of notoriety.

Though The Israel Lobby was on the way to best-sellerdom
and has become perhaps the most discussed policy book of the year,
the presidential candidate
touted as the most fresh-thinking and intellectually curious in the race
hastened to make clear he had not been corrupted by the toxic text.

The episode illustrates one of the book’s central arguments:
the Israel lobby is powerful, and
American politicians fear its wrath.
Any Democrat running for president—
drawing on a donor stream that is
heavily Jewish,
very interested in Israel, and
perceived as hawkish—
would have reacted as Obama did.


By the end of October,
two months after The Israel Lobby appeared in stores,
there had not been a single positive review in the mass-market media.
For a long time it seemed that
no editor dared trust the subject to a gentile,
causing blogger Philip Weiss [who is Jewish] to ask cheekily,
“Do the goyim get to register an Opinion Re Walt/Mearsheimer?”
By then,
the Wall Street Journal editorial page,
the New York Sun, and
The New Republic between them
[note that spans the right and left]
must have printed 25 attacks on Walt and Mearsheimer,
virtually all of them designed to portray the authors
as beyond the pale of rational discourse.


Samuel G. Freedman in the Washington Post opened his discussion of the book
by invoking the New Testament concept of original sin,
whose burden one can escape only through acceptance of Jesus Christ.
A passage from Romans, Freedman claims, framed the book’s argument—
“if unintentionally.”
When was the last time
the Washington Post introduced a serious foreign affairs book
with Bible talk that had no bearing on the work in question?

Excerpts from
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

[C.1.5 (page 338); emphasis is added]

Although we believe that America should support Israel’s existence,
Israel’s security is ultimately
not of critical strategic importance to the United States.
In the event that Israel was conquered—
which is extremely unlikely
given its considerable military power and its robust nuclear deterrence—
neither America’s territorial integrity, its military power,
its economic prosperity, nor its core political values
would be jeopardized.
By contrast,
if oil exports from the Persian Gulf oil were significantly reduced,
the effects on America’s well-being would be profound.
The United States does not support Israel’s existence
because it makes Americans more secure, but rather
because Americans recognize the long history of Jewish suffering
and believe that it is desirable for the Jewish people to have their own state.
As we have noted repeatedly,
there is a strong moral case for supporting Israel’s existence,

we believe
the United States
should remain committed to coming to Israel’s aid
if its survival were in jeopardy.

But Americans should do this because they think it is morally appropriate,
not because it is vital to their own security.

[4.1.7 (page 114) partial; emphasis is added]

[V]arious groups and individuals [in the lobby]
will not agree on every issue that affects Israel.
Some individuals—such as
Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America,
John Hagee of Christians United for Israel, and
Rael Jean Isaac of Americans for a Safe Israel
oppose a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians
and believe instead that
Israel should retain all or most of the Occupied Territories.
Others, such as
Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and
Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution,
favor a negotiated settlement
and have occasionally criticized specific Israeli actions.
Despite these differences, however,
each of these individuals believes that

the United States should give Israel
substantial diplomatic, economic, and military support
even when Israel takes actions the United States opposes,

and each has devoted a significant amount of his or her professional life
to encouraging this sort of support.
Thus, although it would clearly be wrong
to think of the lobby as a single-minded monolith,
much less portray it as a cabal or conspiracy,
it would be equally mistaken to exclude
anyone who works actively
to preserve America’s special relationship with the Jewish state.

Miscellaneous Articles about the lobby

The Israel Lobby and the War Party
Or do I repeat myself?

by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-12-12

[This article appears, naturally enough, in both posts
The Israel Lobby and The War Party.]


Israel's false friends
By John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
Los Angeles Times, 2008-01-06

U.S. presidential candidates
aren't doing the Jewish state any favors
by offering unconditional support.

The Oregonian, 2008-01-13

(Also published at the Los Angeles Times
and at CommonDreams.org as
Candidates’ Unconditional Support Isn’t Right for Jewish State.)

Still Blacklisted After All These Years
(Walt & Mearsheimer in Chicago)

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-03-22

Israel’s Friends and the Path to Peace
by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
New York Times Letter to the Editor, 2008-05-20

To the Editor:

Re “Israel’s ‘American Problem’ ” (Op-Ed, May 18):

Jeffrey Goldberg attacks our book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,”
while openly embracing one of our main arguments.

He writes that
we “argue, unpersuasively, that American support for Israel hurts America.
It doesn’t.
But unthinking American support does hurt Israel.”

Our book contains detailed case studies showing that
unconditional support for Israel is not in America’s national interest.
Readers can judge for themselves whether we are “persuasive.”

But we also emphasized
that “the lobby’s impact has been unintentionally harmful to Israel,”
that its actions
“may even be jeopardizing the long-term prospects of the Jewish state” and
that its “influence has been bad for both countries.”

The lobby’s harmful impact on Israel was also
a central theme of an op-ed article, “Israel’s False Friends,”
we wrote in The Los Angeles Times on Jan. 6.
Mr. Goldberg clearly agrees with this part of our argument.

John J. Mearsheimer
Stephen M. Walt
Chicago, May 18, 2008

Mearsheimer and Walt in Israel
by Uri Avnery
Antiwar.com, 2008-06-19

[Its beginning; emphasis is added.]

Contrary to some expectations,
the visit of the two controversial American professors was a great success.

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt,
whose book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
has caused an uproar in the United States
and was boycotted there by the Jewish establishment,
were cordially received in Israel and aroused a lively debate.

The professors came to Israel as guests of Gush Shalom,
after visiting Jordan and the West Bank.
They continued to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Contrary to the fears of some,
they did not encounter any difficulty in crossing into Israel –
unlike another American professor, Norman Finkelstein,
who was recently detained at the airport and deported.


Yivo Owes Walt and Mearsheimer an Apology. Or a Stage
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-07-31

Last fall at the behest of black-shirted Marty Peretz,
who promised a “frightening” evening,
Yivo, the Yiddish Institute in New York,
held a panel on the book The Israel Lobby,
called Walt and Mearsheimer: A Critical Response.
For nearly two hours three panelists ripped Walt and Mearsheimer
as antisemites.
The two chief bases of the alleged antisemitism were that
  • Walt and Mearsheimer vastly exaggerated the power of the lobby and
  • viciously blamed Jewish neoconservatives for the Iraq war,
    a charge of dual loyalty.

Then in May, the most vociferous of the panelists, Jeffrey Goldberg,
basically recanted the first position in this important Times piece.

He said
the lobby had profoundly damaged the American interest
vis-a-vis a lamentable policy
Israel has practiced now without abatement for 40 years,
building settlements in the West Bank,
and called for
a “blunt” discussion of the lobby’s activities in the Jewish community.
Comes July and Joe Klein writes on his Time blog that
Jewish neoconservatives pushed the Iraq war out of dual loyalty to Israel;
and Jeffrey Goldberg hosts Klein on his blog to discuss the matter
and while disagreeing with Klein
never once accused him of antisemitism,
let alone hurled Father Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh and the Nazis at him,
as he had done at the authors.

The lesson here is pretty simple:

non-Jews will be smeared
for sticking their noses into U.S. policy re Israel.

(Goldberg also attacked Jimmy Carter for his gall.)
And consider the intellectual institution that has been damaged.
Doesn’t Yivo owe Walt and Mearsheimer an apology?
Or at the very least, doesn’t it owe them the stage
to answer those hideous charges of last fall?

Yale Political Union Votes 44-25
to 'End the Special Relationship' Between U.S. and Israel

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-09-10

[This is the initial report on the Yale debate.]

'Shiksa Countries Are for Practice'
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-09-10

[This is the full report on the Yale debate.]


The Goldberg Syndrome
It renders journalists, and lobbyists, blind …
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-04-03

Bin Laden's book club
by Stephen M. Walt
ForeignPolicy.com, 2009-09-15

[Emphasis is added.]

Several friends and associates have asked me
how it feels to have our book on the Israel lobby
plugged by Osama bin Laden.
While it is usually gratifying to get kudos for your work,
that is certainly not the case in this instance,
given what bin Laden has done in the past and given what he stands for.
I just wish we had captured him long ago,
making it impossible for him to issue any statements to the world.

I do have a few additional comments on the matter, however.
To start, Bin Laden's announcement that
there is a powerful "Israel lobby" in the United States
is not exactly a news flash.
If he had not cited us,
he could just have easily quoted the late Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ)
who wrote in his memoirs that
“I was never put under greater pressure than by the Israeli lobby ...
it’s the most influential crowd in Congress by far.”
Or he could have cited former Senator Ernest (“Fritz”) Hollings (D-SC),
who said that
“you can’t have an Israel policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.”
He might have invoked notorious terrorist sympathizer Newt Gingrich (R-GA),
who called AIPAC
“the most effective general interest group ... across the entire planet,”
or even former Senate Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO)
who told AIPAC’s annual conference that
“without your constant support ... the U.S.-Israeli relationship would not be.”
Heck, bin Laden could even have brought up Alan Dershowitz,
who once wrote that

“my generation of Jews ... became part of what is perhaps
the most effective lobbying and fundraising effort
in the history of democracy.”

In short, he didn’t need our book to tell people
there’s an Israel lobby with a powerful influence on U.S. Middle East policy.

It is also important to ask
why bin Laden called attention to U.S. support for Israel,
and to the lobby’s role in generating that support.
He did this because
he understands -- along with plenty of other people -- that
the combination of unconditional U.S. support for Israel
and Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians
is a source of great resentment in the Arab and Islamic world.
This is hardly an original insight on his part either.
The 9/11 Commission reported
“it is simply a fact that
American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ...
is [a] dominant staple of popular commentary
across the Arab and Muslim world.”
Similarly, the State Department’s
Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World found that
“citizens in these countries are genuinely distressed
at the plight of the Palestinians and
at the role they perceive the United States to be playing.”
Not only is Bin Laden personally motivated by this issue --
as his own family and prior statements attest --
he knows it is a good way to attract support.

Third, my co-author and I have
a very different idea of how to deal with this situation
than bin Laden does.
He recruits people to engage in despicable acts of violence against innocents,
in the grandiose (and vain) hope of
toppling all of the states in the region (not just Israel).
He’s perfectly happy to kill Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists,
and just about anyone else if it will advance that goal.
By contrast, Professor Mearsheimer and I
reject his aims and abhor his chosen means.
We believe the United States should defend Israel’s existence,
and we said so repeatedly in our book.

(My guess is that bin Laden missed those parts).
We also think the United States
should oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and control of Gaza
and treat Israel the same way it treats other democracies.
Because ending the occupation and having a normal relationship with Israel
would be better for us, better for Israel, and
better for our other friends in the region.
In short, we want the United States
to pursue a smarter and more ethical policy in the Middle East.
Needless to say, that’s a far cry from bin Laden’s murderous agenda.

Ironically, bin Laden’s “endorsement” of our book
could even be a self-defeating gesture.
If enough people were to read our book and U.S. policy
were to evolve in the manner we recommend,
bin Laden’s call to arms would fall on deaf ears
and he’d become even more irrelevant than he is today.
Furthermore, any would-be imitators who might subsequently emerge
would find an even less receptive audience.

And if Juan Cole is right and bin Laden’s statement was a sign of weakness,
so much the better.


Did 'The Israel Lobby' Change Anything?
Five years after.
foreignpolicy.com, 2011-03-25


I'd like to thank the Senate Armed Services Committee
by Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2013-02-01

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