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Fisk Reports on Walt & Mearsheimer

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    Robert Fisk: The United States of Israel: Breaking the Last Taboo The United States of Israel? By ROBERT FISK http://counterpunch.org/fisk04272006.html Stephen
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30 10:23 AM
      Robert Fisk: The United States of Israel:


      Breaking the Last Taboo
      The United States of Israel?
      By ROBERT FISK
      http://counterpunch.org/fisk04272006.html


      Stephen Walt towers over me as we walk in the Harvard sunshine past
      Eliot Street, a big man who needs to be big right now (he's one of
      two authors of an academic paper on the influence of America's
      Jewish lobby) but whose fame, or notoriety, depending on your point
      of view, is of no interest to him. "John and I have deliberately
      avoided the television shows because we don't think we can discuss
      these important issues in 10 minutes. It would become 'J' and 'S',
      the personalities who wrote about the lobby - and we want to open
      the way to serious discussion about this, to encourage a broader
      discussion of the forces shaping US foreign policy in the Middle
      East."

      "John" is John Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University
      of Chicago. Walt is a 50-year-old tenured professor at the John F
      Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The two men have caused one
      of the most extraordinary political storms over the Middle East in
      recent American history by stating what to many non-Americans is
      obvious: that the US has been willing to set aside its own security
      and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of
      Israel, that Israel is a liability in the "war on terror", that the
      biggest Israeli lobby group, Aipac (the American Israel Public
      Affairs Committee), is in fact the agent of a foreign government and
      has a stranglehold on Congress - so much so that US policy towards
      Israel is not debated there - and that the lobby monitors and
      condemns academics who are critical of Israel.

      "Anyone who criticises Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel
      groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy," the
      authors have written, "...stands a good chance of being labelled an
      anti-Semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an
      Israeli lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism ...
      Anti-Semitism is something no-one wants to be accused of." This is
      strong stuff in a country where - to quote the late Edward Said -
      the "last taboo" (now that anyone can talk about blacks, gays and
      lesbians) is any serious discussion of America's relationship with
      Israel.

      Walt is already the author of an elegantly written account of the
      resistance to US world political dominance, a work that includes
      more than 50 pages of references. Indeed, those who have read his
      Taming Political Power: The Global Response to US Primacy will note
      that the Israeli lobby gets a thumping in this earlier volume
      because Aipac "has repeatedly targeted members of Congress whom it
      deemed insufficiently friendly to Israel and helped drive them from
      office, often by channelling money to their opponents."

      But how many people in America are putting their own heads above the
      parapet, now that Mearsheimer and Walt have launched a missile that
      would fall to the ground unexploded in any other country but which
      is detonating here at high speed? Not a lot. For a while, the
      mainstream US press and television - as pro-Israeli, biased and
      gutless as the two academics infer them to be - did not know whether
      to report on their conclusions (originally written for The Atlantic
      Monthly, whose editors apparently took fright, and subsequently
      reprinted in the London Review of Books in slightly truncated form)
      or to remain submissively silent. The New York Times, for example,
      only got round to covering the affair in depth well over two weeks
      after the report's publication, and then buried its article in the
      education section on page 19. The academic essay, according to the
      paper's headline, had created a "debate" about the lobby's
      influence.

      They can say that again. Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the UN,
      who now heads an Israeli lobby group, kicked off by unwittingly
      proving that the Mearsheimer-Walt theory of "anti-Semitism" abuse is
      correct. "I believe," he said, "that anti-Semitism may be partly
      defined as asserting a Jewish conspiracy for doing the same thing
      non-Jews engage in." Congressman Eliot Engel of New York said that
      the study itself was "anti-Semitic" and deserved the American
      public's contempt.

      Walt has no time for this argument. "We are not saying there is a
      conspiracy, or a cabal. The Israeli lobby has every right to carry
      on its work - all Americans like to lobby. What we are saying is
      that this lobby has a negative influence on US national interests
      and that this should be discussed. There are vexing problems out in
      the Middle East and we need to be able to discuss them openly. The
      Hamas government, for example - how do we deal with this? There may
      not be complete solutions, but we have to try and have all the
      information available."

      Walt doesn't exactly admit to being shocked by some of the responses
      to his work - it's all part of his desire to keep "discourse" in the
      academic arena, I suspect, though it probably won't work. But no-one
      could be anything but angered by his Harvard colleague, Alan
      Dershowitz, who announced that the two scholars recycled accusations
      that "would be seized on by bigots to promote their anti-Semitic
      agendas". The two are preparing a reply to Dershowitz's 45-page
      attack, but could probably have done without praise from the white
      supremacist and ex-Ku Klux Klan head David Duke - adulation which
      allowed newspapers to lump the name of Duke with the names of
      Mearsheimer and Walt. "Of Israel, Harvard and David Duke," ran the
      Washington Post's reprehensible headline.

      The Wall Street Journal, ever Israel's friend in the American press,
      took an even weirder line on the case. "As Ex-Lobbyists of Pro-
      Israel Group Face Court, Article Queries Sway on Mideast Policy" its
      headline proclaimed to astonished readers. Neither Mearsheimer nor
      Walt had mentioned the trial of two Aipac lobbyists - due to begin
      next month - who are charged under the Espionage Act with receiving
      and disseminating classified information provided by a former
      Pentagon Middle East analyst. The defence team for Steven Rosen and
      Keith Weissman has indicated that it may call Secretary of State
      Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to the
      stand.

      Almost a third of the Journal's report is taken up with the Rosen-
      Weissman trial, adding that the indictment details how the two
      men "allegedly sought to promote a hawkish US policy toward Iran by
      trading favours with a number of senior US officials. Lawrence
      Franklin, the former Pentagon official, has pleaded guilty to
      misusing classified information. Mr Franklin was charged with orally
      passing on information about a draft National Security Council paper
      on Iran to the two lobbyists... as well as other classified
      information. Mr Franklin was sentenced in December to nearly 13
      years in prison..."

      The Wall Street Journal report goes on to say that lawyers and "many
      Jewish leaders" - who are not identified - "say the actions of the
      former Aipac employees were no different from how thousands of
      Washington lobbyists work. They say the indictment marks the first
      time in US history that American citizens... have been charged with
      receiving and disseminating state secrets in conversations." The
      paper goes on to say that "several members of Congress have
      expressed concern about the case since it broke in 2004, fearing
      that the Justice Department may be targeting pro-Israel lobbying
      groups, such as Aipac. These officials (sic) say they're eager to
      see the legal process run its course, but are concerned about the
      lack of transparency in the case."

      As far as Dershowitz is concerned, it isn't hard for me to
      sympathise with the terrible pair. He it was who shouted abuse at me
      during an Irish radio interview when I said that we had to ask the
      question "Why?" after the 11 September 2001 international crimes
      against humanity. I was a "dangerous man", Dershowitz shouted over
      the air, adding that to be "anti-American" - my thought-crime for
      asking the "Why?" question - was the same as being anti-Semitic. I
      must, however, also acknowledge another interest. Twelve years ago,
      one of the Israeli lobby groups that Mearsheimer and Walt fingers
      prevented any second showing of a film series on Muslims in which I
      participated for Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel - by stating
      that my "claim" that Israel was building large Jewish settlements on
      Arab land was "an egregious falsehood". I was, according to another
      Israeli support group, "a Henry Higgins with fangs", who
      was "drooling venom into the living rooms of America."

      Such nonsense continues to this day. In Australia to launch my new
      book on the Middle East, for instance, I repeatedly stated that
      Israel - contrary to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists - was not
      responsible for the crimes of 11 September 2001. Yet the Australian
      Jewish News claimed that I "stopped just millimetres short of
      suggesting that Israel was the cause of the 9/11 attacks. The
      audience reportedly (and predictably) showered him in accolades."

      This was untrue. There was no applause and no accolades and I never
      stopped "millimetres" short of accusing Israel of these crimes
      against humanity. The story in the Australian Jewish News is a lie.

      So I have to say that - from my own humble experience - Mearsheimer
      and Walt have a point. And for a man who says he has not been to
      Israel for 20 years - or Egypt, though he says he had a "great time"
      in both countries - Walt rightly doesn't claim any on-the-ground
      expertise. "I've never flown into Afghanistan on a rickety plane, or
      stood at a checkpoint and seen a bus coming and not known if there
      is a suicide bomber aboard," he says.

      Noam Chomsky, America's foremost moral philosopher and linguistics
      academic - so critical of Israel that he does not even have a
      regular newspaper column - does travel widely in the region and
      acknowledges the ruthlessness of the Israeli lobby. But he suggests
      that American corporate business has more to do with US policy in
      the Middle East than Israel's supporters - proving, I suppose, that
      the Left in the United States has an infinite capacity for
      fratricide. Walt doesn't say he's on the left, but he and
      Mearsheimer objected to the invasion of Iraq, a once lonely stand
      that now appears to be as politically acceptable as they hope -
      rather forlornly - that discussion of the Israeli lobby will become.

      Walt sits in a Malaysian restaurant with me, patiently (though I can
      hear the irritation in his voice) explaining that the conspiracy
      theories about him are nonsense. His stepping down as dean of the
      Kennedy School was a decision taken before the publication of his
      report, he says. No one is throwing him out. The much-publicised
      Harvard disclaimer of ownership to the essay - far from being a
      gesture of fear and criticism by the university as his would-be
      supporters have claimed - was mainly drafted by Walt himself, since
      Mearsheimer, a friend as well as colleague, was a Chicago scholar,
      not a Harvard don.

      But something surely has to give.

      Across the United States, there is growing evidence that the Israeli
      and neo-conservative lobbies are acquiring ever greater power. The
      cancellation by a New York theatre company of My Name is Rachel
      Corrie - a play based on the writings of the young American girl
      crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 - has
      deeply shocked liberal Jewish Americans, not least because it was
      Jewish American complaints that got the performance pulled.

      "How can the West condemn the Islamic world for not accepting
      Mohamed cartoons," Philip Weiss asked in The Nation, "when a Western
      writer who speaks out on behalf of Palestinians is silenced? And why
      is it that Europe and Israel itself have a healthier debate over
      Palestinian human rights than we can have here?" Corrie died trying
      to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home. Enemies of the
      play falsely claim that she was trying to stop the Israelis from
      collapsing a tunnel used to smuggle weapons. Hateful e-mails were
      written about Corrie. Weiss quotes one that reads: "Rachel Corrie
      won't get 72 virgins but she got what she wanted."

      Saree Makdisi - a close relative of the late Edward Said - has
      revealed how a right-wing website is offering cash for University of
      California at Los Angeles (UCLA) students who report on the
      political leanings of their professors, especially their views on
      the Middle East. Those in need of dirty money at UCLA should be
      aware that class notes, handouts and illicit recordings of lectures
      will now receive a bounty of $100. "I earned my own inaccurate and
      defamatory 'profile'," Makdisi says, "...not for what I have said in
      my classes on English poets such as Wordsworth and Blake - my
      academic speciality, which the website avoids mentioning - but
      rather for what I have written in newspapers about Middle Eastern
      politics."

      Mearsheimer and Walt include a study of such tactics in their
      report. "In September 2002," they write, "Martin Kramer and Daniel
      Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a
      website (www.campus-watch.org) that posted dossiers on suspect
      academics and encouraged students to report behaviour that might be
      considered hostile to Israel... the website still invites students
      to report 'anti-Israel' activity."

      Perhaps the most incendiary paragraph in the essay - albeit one
      whose contents have been confirmed in the Israeli press - discusses
      Israel's pressure on the United States to invade Iraq. "Israeli
      intelligence officials had given Washington a variety of alarming
      reports about Iraq's WMD programmes," the two academics write,
      quoting a retired Israeli general as saying: "Israeli intelligence
      was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British
      intelligence regarding Iraq's non-conventional capabilities."

      Walt says he might take a year's sabbatical - though he doesn't want
      to get typecast as a "lobby" critic - because he needs a rest after
      his recent administrative post. There will be Israeli lobbyists, no
      doubt, who would he happy if he made that sabbatical a permanent
      one. I somehow doubt he will.


      Robert Fisk writes for the Independent.


      "Hawkish Israeli Lobby Wants War with Iran!"[/b]:
      http://baltimore.indymedia.org/newswire/display/12448/index.php

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