SCHOLARS LAND 'ISRAEL LOBBY' BOOK DEAL
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux to Publish Work by Walt and Mearsheimer
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the authors of a controversial
paper criticizing the role of the "Israel Lobby" in American foreign
policy, are at work on a book-length version of their findings to be
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The two, who have argued that it "is hard to imagine any mainstream
media outlet in the United States" printing their work, first
published their paper in the March 23 edition of the London Review of
Books. A longer version was posted on the Web site of Harvard
University's Kennedy School of Government, where Walt is a professor
of international affairs. Mearsheimer is a professor of political
science at the University of Chicago.
The paper which argues that America's "unwavering support for
Israel has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only
US security but that of much of the rest of the world" has sparked a
wide range of responses among scholars, pundits and former diplomats.
Some have called it the stuff of conspiracy theory and antisemitism,
while others have praised it as a welcome foray into a subject often
thought to be taboo. The debate played out again on September 28, when
the London Review of Books staged a lively debate in Manhattan
featuring Mearsheimer, Tony Judt of New York Univeristy, Columbia
University's Rashid Khalidi, onetime Israeli foreign minister Shlomo
Ben-Ami and Clinton administration Middle East specialists Dennis Ross
and Martin Indyk (READ RELATED STORY).
Many of the Jewish leaders troubled by the first incarnation of the
Mearsheimer-Walt thesis were dismayed anew by word that it is to be
republished as a book.
"They are saying what David Duke would be saying, what Pat Buchanan
would be saying," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the
Anti-Defamation League. "The difference is that they have the patina
of respectability, and now they will have another coat of it."
Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, was an enthusiastic
supporter of the paper and claimed that his views had been
"vindicated" by it.
With figures like Duke in mind, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice
president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish
Organizations, worried that Mearsheimer and Walt's scholarly
credentials could serve to further embolden fringe groups. "We
shouldn't underestimate the damage and the potential damage of
this paper and the legitimacy it gives to the haters," he said.
Some were especially troubled by the fact that it was Farrar, Straus
and Giroux that had decided to acquire the book. The publishers of
Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bernard Malamud and a host of contemporary
Jewish writers FSG is commonly regarded as one of the country's most
distinguished publishing houses.
"The imprimatur of being published by FSG is hard to match," said
Samuel Freedman, a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School
of Journalism. "When a publishing house with its credibility and its
reputation acquires a conspiracy theory, it can't help but make that
conspiracy theory look more valid than it deserves to look."
Many commented on the irony of how a scholarly paper that wore as a
badge of pride its purported exclusion from mainstream American media
outlets has now been embraced by the most elite of American book
That the two scholars were shut out from the American mainstream was,
according to David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish
Committee, "a disingenuous claim from the start. It was a way to try
and market themselves as victims of the `all-powerful group' they were
writing about. It fed into their own conspiratorial notions."
But not all were dismayed by news of the book. Philip Weiss, a
journalist who has written about the Mearsheimer-Walt paper for both
The New York Observer and The Nation, said that an expanded version of
the thesis would be a welcome addition to an overdue debate. "I think
there's a lot of interest in these ideas," Weiss said. "The
conversation's just begun."
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