Jews Discussing Walt & Mearsheimer
- The Israel Lobby Goes International
After hitting Europe earlier this month, The Israel Lobby is preparing for a frontal assault on the Muslim world.
The controversial book by American academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who accuse the pro-Israel lobby of hijacking American policy, hit bookstores in Europe in September and soon will be published across the Arab world and in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world.
Hebrew-only readers, however, will have to wait. To date, no Israeli publishing house has agreed to translate the book.
We are hoping that the most liberal publishers in Israel might consider publishing it, however, it has proven very difficult, said Christine Hsu, assistant to Walt and Mearsheimers agent at the William Morris Agency, Raffaella De Angelis. The agency declined to be more specific.
The book will be translated into Arabic by All-Prints, a Beirut-based publisher that also translates books from the likes of the late anti-Zionist Israel Shahak, soccer star David Beckham and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Readers in Indonesia, where some 220 million Muslims live, will be able to buy it from Pustaka Utama a mainstream publisher. And in an indication of the strong interest the book is attracting in Europe, it is being translated into German, Dutch, Danish, French, Italian, Spanish and even Catalan.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is an extended version of an article that appeared last year in The London Review of Books and on the Web site of Harvard Universitys Kennedy School of Government. The two scholars contend that a wide array of Jewish and pro-Israel groups has tilted American foreign policy in favor of Israel to the point of endangering Americas national security.
In recent weeks, the authors have been crisscrossing the United States, where they have been criticized for having an anti-Israel agenda and for shoddy research, but also hailed for provoking a long overdue debate about Israels influence on American policymaking.
The controversy has been covered heavily by the foreign media, particularly in the Arab world on television channels such as Al Jazeera, on which both authors have appeared.
Books dont sell all that well in the Arab world, where the tradition is more oral and visual, said Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. But people are aware of it because of satellite TV.
While no information was available as of press time about a Walt-Mearsheimer book tour in Muslim countries, the authors are embarking on a European visit next month, with speaking engagements scheduled at prestigious universities and think-tanks in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Vienna and London. In London, they will also have an event at the House of Lords.
In Germany, where the book was released September 4 and received mixed reviews in the media, the publisher opted not to hold a promotional debate after the organization that was asked to host the event proposed inviting critics of the book. The publisher, Campus, did not return calls seeking comment.
A similar issue arose in the United States when the Forward rejected a proposal by publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux to host a debate on the book. The Forward instead proposed to be a participant in a conversation with the authors.
I am concerned about the indirect impact this book could have, said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committees office in Berlin. It reinforces stereotypes in Germany that are probably even stronger than in the U.S. about the alleged influence of Jewish organizations on American foreign policy.
Two Knights and a Dragon
by Uri Avnery
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
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
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 to 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.
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
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
The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy
By John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt
Reviewed by Max Hastings
The Sunday Times
Five years ago, Atlantic Monthly commissioned two academics, John
Mearsheimer of Chicago University and Stephen Walt of Harvard, to
write a significant article about the influence of the Israeli lobby
on American foreign policy. When the piece was at last completed, the
magazine declined to publish, deeming it too hot for delicate American
palates. It eventually appeared in 2005, in the London Review of
Books, provoking one of the most bitter media and academic rows of
recent times. The authors were accused of antisemitism, and attacked
with stunning venom by some prominent US commentators. Mearsheimer and
Walt obviously like a fight, however, for they have now expanded their
thesis into a book.
Its argument is readily summarised. The authors support Israel's right
to exist. But they are dismayed by America's unconditional support for
its governments' policies, including vast sums of cash aid for which
there is no plausible accounting process. They reject the view
articulated as a mantra by all modern American presidents (and 2008
presidential candidates) that Israel and America share common values,
and their national interests march hand in hand.
On the contrary, say the authors, America's backing for Israel does
grave damage to its own foreign-policy interests. And many Israeli
government actions, including the expansion of West Bank settlements
and the invasion of Lebanon, reflect repressive policies that do not
deserve Washington's endorsement: "While there is no question that the
Jews were victims in Europe, they were often the victimisers, not the
victims, in the Middle East, and their main victims were and continue
to be the Palestinians."
The authors argue that American policy towards Israel is decisively and
They quote the experience of a Senate candidate who was invited to
visit AIPAC early in his campaign for "discussions". Harry Lonsdale
described what followed as "an experience I will never forget. It
wasn't enough that I was pro-Israel. I was given a list of vital
topics and quizzed (read grilled) for my specific opinion on each.
Actually, I was told what my opinion must be . . . Shortly after that
. . . I was sent a list of American supporters of Israel . . . that I
was free to call for campaign contributions. I called; they gave from
Florida to Alaska".
When congresswoman Betty McCollum, a liberal with a solid pro-Israel
voting record, opposed the AIPAC-backed Palestinian AntiTerrorism Act,
which was also opposed by the state department, an AIPAC lobbyist told
McCollum's chief-of-staff that her "support for terrorists will not be
tolerated". Former president Jimmy Carter incurred not merely
criticism but vilification when he published a book entitled Palestine
Peace Not Apartheid, likening Israel's policy towards the Palestinians
to that of the old white regime in South Africa towards its black
Whatever view Europeans take of Israel, most find it difficult to
comprehend the sheer ferocity of American sentiment. Ian Buruma wrote
an article for The New York Times entitled How to Talk About Israel.
He said how difficult it is to have an honest debate, and remarked
that "even legitimate criticism of Israel, or of Zionism, is often
quickly denounced as antiSemitism by various watchdogs".
Such remarks brought down a storm on his head. The editor of The
Jerusalem Post, also a columnist for The Wall Street Journal,
published an open letter to Buruma that began: "Are you a Jew?" He
argued that nonJews should discuss these issues only in terms
acceptable to Jews.
The American media, claim the authors, even such mighty organs as The
New York Times and The Washington Post, do less than justice to the
Palestinians, much more than justice to the Israelis. Robert Bartley,
a former editor of The Wall Street Journal, once said: "Shamir,
Sharon, Bibi whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me."
There is no American counterpart to such notably Arabist British
polemicists as Robert Fisk.
Mearsheimer and Walt's book argues its points at such ponderous length
that it makes pretty leaden reading. But it is extraordinary that, in
a free society, the legitimacy of the expression of their opinions
should be called into question. "We show," say the authors, "that
although Israel may have been an asset during the cold war it is
increasingly a strategic liability now that the cold war is over.
Backing Israel so strongly helps fuel America's terrorism problem and
makes it harder for the United States to address the other problems it
faces in the Middle East."
Americans ring-fence Israel from the normal sceptical proc-esses of
democracy, while arguments for the Palestinians are often denounced as
pernicious as well as antisemitic. All the 2008 presidential
candidates, say Mearsheimer and Walt, know that their campaign would
be dead in the water if they hinted that Israel would receive less
than 100% backing if they win. They note that many Israelis are much
bolder in attacking their own governments than any American politician
would dare to be.
Part of the trouble is that AIPAC faces no significant opposition.
Palestinians, and indeed all Arabs, command negligible sympathy in
America, especially since 9/11. The authors think that the most
helpful step towards diminishing the Israel lobby's grip would be for
election campaigns to be publicly financed, ending candidates'
dependence on private contributions: "AIPAC's success is due in large
part to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates
who support its agenda, and to punish those who do not."
But the authors know reform will not happen. The Israel lobby is
vastly strengthened by the support of America's Christian Zionists, an
important element of George W Bush's constituency. Some may think
these people are lunatics, but there are an awful lot of them. They
are even more strident in their opposition to Arab rights in Palestine
than the Israeli Likud party.
Mearsheimer and Walt conclude, weakly but inevitably, with a mere plea
for more open debate in the US about Israel. "Because most Americans
are only dimly aware of the crimes committed against the
Palestinians," they say, "they see their continued resistance as an
irrational desire for vengeance. Or as evidence of unwarranted hatred
of Jews akin to the antisemitism that was endemic in old Europe.
"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. We also
believe that most Americans would support a different approach . . .
if they had a more accurate understanding of past events and present
For Europeans, all this adds up to a bleak picture. Only America might
be capable of inducing the government of Israel to moderate its
behaviour, and it will not try. Washington gives Jerusalem a blank
cheque, and all of us in some degree pay a price for Israel's abuses
After that remark, I shall be pleasantly surprised to escape an
allegation from somebody that I belong in the same stable of
antisemites as Walt and Mearsheimer. Yet otherwise intelligent
Americans diminish themselves by hurling charges of antisemitism with
such recklessness. There will be no peace in the Middle East until the
United States faces its responsibilities there in a much more
convincing fashion than it does today, partly for reasons given in
this depressing book.
Iraq, Israel, Iran
When John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's article on the Israel Lobby
appeared in the London Review of Books, after having been commissioned
and killed by the Atlantic Monthly, neoconservative publicists
launched an all-out campaign to slander the authors as anti-Semites.
Now that their book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy has
appeared--a work of considerable scope, carefully documented, and not
just an expanded version of the article--the imputation of
anti-Semitism will doubtless be repeated more sparingly for readers
lower down the educational ladder. Meanwhile, the literate
establishment press will (a) ignore it, (b) pretend that it says
nothing new or surprising, and (c) rule out the probable inferences
from the data, on the ground that the very meaning of the word "lobby"
The truth is that many new facts are in this book, and many surprising
facts. By reconstructing a trail of meetings and public statements in
2001-2002, for example, the authors show that much of the leadership
of Israel was puzzled at first by the boyish enthusiasm for a war on
Iraq among their neoconservative allies. Why Iraq? they asked. Why
now? They would appear to have obtained assurances, however, that once
the "regime change" in Iraq was accomplished, the next war would be
A notable pilgrimage followed. One by one they lined up, Netanyahu,
Sharon, Peres, and Barak, writing op-eds and issuing flaming warnings
to convince Americans that Saddam Hussein was a menace of
world-historical magnitude. Suddenly the message was that any delay of
the president's plan to bomb, invade, and occupy Iraq would be seized
on by "the terrorists" as a sign of weakness. Regarding the correct
treatment of terrorists, as also regarding the avoidance of weakness,
Americans look to Israelis as mentors in a class by themselves.
So a war projected years before by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz--a
war secured at last by the fixing of the facts around the policy at
the Office of the Vice President--was allowed to borrow some prestige
at an intermediate stage by the consent of a few well-regarded Israeli
politicians. Yet their target of choice had been Iran. They accepted
the change of sequence without outward signs of doubt, possibly owing
to their acquaintance with the Middle East doctrine espoused by the
Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute--a doctrine
which held that to create a viable order after the fall of Iraq,
regime change in Iran and Syria would have to follow expeditiously.
To sum up this part: the evidence of Mearsheimer and Walt suggests
that Israel was never the prime mover of the Iraq war. Rather, once
the Cheney-Wolfowitz design was in place, the Israeli ministers who
trooped through American opinion pages and news-talk shows did what
they could to heat up the war fever. This war was on the cards before
they threw in their lot with Cheney and Bush; by their efforts they
merely helped to confer on the plan an aura of legitimacy and worldly
But now the American war with Iran they originally wanted is coming
closer. Last Tuesday, when the mass media were crammed to distraction
with the behavior of a senator in an airport washroom, few could be
troubled to notice an important speech by President Bush. If Iran is
allowed to persist in its present state, the president told the
American Legion convention in Reno, it threatens "to put a region
already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a
nuclear holocaust." He said he had no intention of allowing that; and
so he has "authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront
Tehran's murderous activities." Those words come close to saying not
that a war is coming but that it is already here. No lawmaker who
reads them can affect the slightest shock at any action the president
takes against Iran.
Admittedly, it was a showdown speech, reckless and belligerent, to a
soldier audience; but then, this has been just the sort of crowd and
message that Cheney and Bush favor when they are about to open a new
round of killings. And in a sense, the Senate had given the president
his cue when it approved, by a vote of 97-0, the July 11 Lieberman
Amendment to Confront Iran. It is hardly an accident that the
president and his favorite tame senator concurred in their choice of
the word "confront." The pretext for the Lieberman amendment, as for
the president's order, was the discovery of caches of weapons alleged
to belong to Iran, the capture of Iranian advisers said to be
operating against American troops, and the assertion that the most
deadly IEDs used against Americans are often traceable to Iranian
sources--claims that have been widely treated in the press as
possible, but suspect and unverified. Still, the vote was 97-0. If few
Americans took notice, the government of Iran surely did.
That unanimous vote was the latest in a series of capitulations that
has included the apparent end of resistance by Nancy Pelosi to the
next war. After the election of 2006, the speaker of the house
declared her intention to enact into law a requirement that this
president seek separate authorization for a war against Iran. On the
point of doing so, she addressed the AIPAC convention, and was booed
for criticizing the escalation of the Iraq war. Pelosi took the hint,
shelved her authorization plan, and went with AIPAC against the
anti-war base of the Democratic party.
This much, one might know without the help of Mearsheimer and Walt.
But without their record, how many would trace the connection between
the removal of Philip Zelikow as policy counselor of the state
department, at the end of 2006, and a speech Zelikow had given in
September 2006 urging serious negotiation and a two-state solution for
Israel and Palestine? The ousting of Zelikow was a blessing to the war
party, since it freed them from a skeptical confidant of Secretary of
State Rice--perhaps the only person of stature anywhere near the
administration whom she treated as an ally and friend. And the meaning
of the change was clear when Zelikow's replacement turned out to be
Eliot Cohen: a neoconservative war scholar and enthusiast, an early
booster of the "surge" on the pundit shows, and incidentally a
shameless slanderer of Mearsheimer-Walt ("Yes, It's Anti-Semitic,"
Washington Post, April 5, 2006).
From Zelikow to Cohen was only a step on the long path of humiliation
that now stretched before Condoleeza Rice. When, in March 2007, amid
suggestions of a renewal of diplomacy, she intimated that talks might
be helpful in dealing with the Hamas-Fatah unity government (whose
formation the Arab world had greeted as offering a promise of peace),
she was demolished by an AIPAC-backed advisory letter bearing the
signatures of 79 senators, which directed her not to speak with a
government that had not yet recognized Israel. From that moment Rice
was effectively neutralized.
The hottest cries for another war have been coming this summer from
Joe Lieberman. He has called for attacks on Iran, and for attacks on
Syria. It is as if Lieberman, with his appetite for multiple theaters
of conflict, spoke from the congealed memory of all the wars he never
fought. But Joe Lieberman is a stalking-horse. He would not say these
things without getting permission from Vice President Cheney, a close
and admired friend. Nor would Cheney permit a high-profile lawmaker
whom he partly controls to set the United States and Israel on so
perilous a course unless he had ascertained its acceptability to Ehud
Yet the chief orchestrater of the second neoconservative war of
aggression is Elliott Abrams. Convicted for deceptions around
Iran-Contra, as Lewis Libby was convicted for deceptions stemming from
Iraq--and pardoned by the elder Bush just as Libby had his sentence
commuted by the younger--Abrams now presides over the Middle East desk
at the National Security Council. All of the wildness of this
astonishing functionary and all his reckless love of subversion will
be required to pump up the "imminent danger" of Iran. For here, as
with Iraq, the danger can only be made to look imminent by
manipulation and forgery. On all sober estimates, Iran is several
months from mastering the nuclear cycle, and several years from
producing a weapon. Whereas Israel for decades has been in possession
of a substantial nuclear arsenal.
How mad is Elliott Abrams? If one passage cited by Mearsheimer-Walt is
quoted accurately, it would seem to be the duty of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee to subject Abrams to as exacting a challenge as
the Senate Judiciary Committee brought to Alberto Gonzales. The man at
the Middle East desk of the National Security Council wrote in 1997 in
his book Faith or Fear: "there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to
the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the
nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be
apart--except in Israel--from the rest of the population." When he
wrote those words, Abrams probably did not expect to serve in another
American administration. He certainly did not expect to occupy a
position that would require him to weigh the national interest of
Israel, the country with which he confessed himself uniquely at one,
alongside the national interest of a country in which he felt himself
to stand "apart...from the rest of the population." Now that he is
calling the shots against Hamas and Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran,
his words of 1997 ought to alarm us into reflection.
Among many possible lines of inquiry, the senators might begin by
recognizing that the United States has other allies in Asia besides
Israel. One of those allies is India; and there is a further point of
resemblance. In a distinct exception to our anti-proliferation policy,
we have allowed India to develop nuclear weapons; just as, in an
earlier such exception, we allowed Israel to do the same. But suppose
we read tomorrow a statement by the director of the South Asia desk of
the National Security Council which declared: "There can be no doubt
that Hindus are to stand apart from any nation in which they live. It
is the very nature of being Hindu to be apart--except in India--from
the rest of the population." Suppose, further, we knew this man still
held these beliefs at a time of maximum tension between India and
Pakistan; and that he had recently channeled 86 million dollars to
regional gangs and militias bent on increasing the tension. Would we
not conclude that something in our counsels of state had gone
seriously out of joint?
The Mearsheimer-Walt study of American policy deserves to be widely
read and discussed. It could not be more timely. If the speeches and
saber-rattling by the president, the ambassador to Iraq, and several
army officers mean anything, they mean that Cheney and Abrams are
preparing to do to Iran what Cheney and Wolfowitz did to Iraq. They
are gunning for an incident. They are working against some resistance
from the armed forces but none from the opposition party at home. The
president has ordered American troops to confront Iran. Sarkozy has
fallen into line, Brown and Merkel are silent, and outside the United
States only Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy
Agency stands between the war party and a prefabricated justification
for a war that would extend across a vast subcontinent. Unless some
opposition can rouse itself, we are poised to descend with
non-partisan compliance into a moral and political disaster that will
dwarf anything America has seen.
Them and U.S.
By Shmuel Rosner
WASHINGTON - Even if the United States had five CIA's, it would not be
able to get the high-quality information it received from Israel.
That's what General George Keegan, a retired U.S. Air Force
intelligence chief, said in 1986, in the midst of the Cold War.
"The ability of the U.S. Air Force in particular, and the army in
general, to defend whatever position it has in NATO owes more to the
Israeli intelligence input than it does to any single source of
intelligence," he said.
This is a winning quote, dropped into the battle that will shortly
break out once more over the nature of the strategic relationship
between Israel and the United States. Those who argue that Israel is
weighing down the superpower will have to contend with the general's
statements. That comment and many similar ones appear in a new
position paper published by Dore Gold, the former Israeli ambassador
to the United Nations and political adviser to then prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, who now heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Gold recently hired the services of American public relations firm
Shirley and Bannister to market his wares in Washington. He will be
visiting the United States next week to talk about his position paper,
a comprehensive defense of Israel's contribution to American security.
Think of it as a preemptive strike ahead of the publication of the
controversial book "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," by two
political science professors, Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer.
Gold will not be alone. September 4th will see the American release of
a book by Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman called
"The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control."
In his book, Foxman warns of the possible consequences of theories of
Jewish influence such as those proposed by Walt and Mearsheimer, which
the ADL director describes as the repetition of an "old anti-Semitic
canard" in respectable disguise. Foxman succeeded in getting former
U.S. secretary of state to write an introduction to the book that
knocks down the basis of the professors' argument.
"The United States supports Israel, not because of favoritism based on
political pressure or influence, but because both political parties
and virtually all our national leaders agree with the American
people's view that supporting Israel is politically sound and morally
just," Shultz wrote. "Scholars at great universities should be ashamed
to promulgate it."
Walt and Mearsheimer - who are said to have received more than
$700,000 as an advance for their book from respected publishing
company Farrar, Straus & Giroux - do indeed work at highly esteemed
universities. Mearsheimer teaches at the University of Chicago and
Walt is at Harvard, proving once again that an academic seal of
approval is no guarantee of wisdom.
The two authors have been here before. Their Israel lobby argument won
exposure last year, when they published what they called a "study"
article in the London Review of Books. They said they had to get the
material published in England because no respectable American magazine
would publish their article, out of fear of the "lobby." It later
turned out that they were rejected by only one magazine, The Atlantic
Monthly, and quickly gave up on the entire U.S. market. This did
nothing to dampen the furor over the article, which was also posted on
the Web site of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where Walt is
a faculty member. The media loved the controversy and spent months on
Walt and Mearsheimer's basic argument is simple: The U.S. lobby that
supports Israel - a Jewish lobby as well as an evangelical Christian
one - is very powerful and is charting a foreign policy for the United
States that is favorable to Israel, but is not in America's interests.
The professors included in their definition of the Israel lobby
organizations, individuals and institutions that have different, and
even contradictory, worldviews, from both the right and the left.
The authors had difficulty finding supporters of their argument - even
among major critics of the policies of the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby - because they lumped
groups and individuals far to the left of AIPAC in the same basket,
thereby destroying any possibility of a detailed analysis of the
policies of a specific lobby group. The most serious charge the
authors made was to blame Israel's supporters for the war in Iraq.
This mendacious argument is based on the Jewish identity of some Bush
administration officials and presidential advisers.
The article notes that since 1967, "the centerpiece of U.S. Middle
East policy has been its relationship with Israel," completely
ignoring the American interest in oil. Former administration
officials, experts and columnists have poked holes in this dubious
argument, but all the same, the identity of the authors - who come
from the heart of the academic establishment - has left readers of the
article in shock. Much has been written about the authors' motives.
U.S. State Department counselor Eliot Cohen didn't hesitate to come
out and say that the article was anti-Semitic, pure and simple. Others
were more forgiving, saying that Walt and Mearsheimer were simply
venting their frustration at having no one heed them.
There were some who hoped that the book would redress some of the
distortions, but the chapters I have read indicate that this didn't
happen. For instance, while performing intellectual somersaults more
suitable for a circus, the authors blame the Israel lobby - and
indirectly, Israel itself - for thwarting American-Syrian dialogue.
This argument is made as though it wasn't the Bush administration
emphasizing that it would be best if Israel did not talk to Syria, as
though it wasn't Syrian President Bashar Assad's activities in Lebanon
and Iraq that were hindering an improvement of relations between the
United States and Syria.
Of course, Walt and Mearsheimer are not the first to come up with this
approach, nor are they the only ones who have benefited from it. Many
others before them have come to the realization that a convincing
theory is not necessary to get attention, as long as it is
controversial. Over the past year, Israel has borne the brunt of other
examples of this method, like former U.S. president Jimmy Carter's
book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," which became a bestseller. Now
the two professors are hoping to repeat that success. (Maybe Foxman
will also profit from it, since his book, including Shultz's
introduction, presents Carter's book and "The Israel Lobby" in a
It's hard to predict how well "The Israel Lobby" will do. Gabriel
Schoenfeld, a senior editor at the conservative Jewish magazine
Commentary, said "there is reason to think that the Walt-Mearsheimer
phenomenon has already peaked," since the book doesn't go much beyond
the original article, which has already made its mark. But others are
less optimistic. The professors have managed to get a new wave of
articles about being silenced, as they put it.
This week the target was the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which
decided at the end of July to cancel a promotional event for Walt and
Mearsheimer's book that had been scheduled for September. The
professors sent an accusatory letter, saying that the council
president "explained that his decision was based on the need 'to
protect the institution.'" Protect it from what and whom? Readers are
meant to understand that "the lobby" is to blame. After all, if it
managed to get the United States to fight in Iraq, surely it would
have little trouble getting a promotional event canceled.
The Forward, a Jewish American liberal newspaper that cannot be
accused of excessive support for the organized Jewish establishment,
will publish an editorial in today's edition that succinctly describes
the tactics of Walt and Mearsheimer on their way to cashing in on the
"The trick follows a typical pattern," writes The Forward. "Step one:
Publish your views in as provocative a manner as possible. Use words
like 'apartheid,' as Jimmy Carter did in his book, or paint Jewish
lobbying efforts in darkly conspiratorial terms, as Walt and
Mearsheimer did in a paper published last year. Step two: Dare the
Jewish community to lash out at you, then whine about being victimized
by bullies. Step three: Implore fair-minded liberals to line up behind
you, forcing them to choose between endorsing your vision - however
skewed - or becoming part of the censorship juggernaut."
The Forward also refused to sponsor a program in which, the paper
stated, "the professors would present their views, unopposed."
The professors, in their anger at the Israel lobby, caused a fair
amount of damage to themselves since the initial publication of their
article. They made basic factual mistakes in public appearances, and
were ridiculed in The Washington Post for mispronouncing the names of
senior officials. They also participated in an event held by the
extremist Council on American-Islamic Relations, confirming the
suspicion that they had gone from being academics to being lobbyists
in their own right. They did not criticize the council, even though it
leverages its influence thanks to financial assistance from countries
like Saudi Arabia, which also have a well-known interest in American
policy in the Middle East.
Capitol Hill. Power.
Last week AIPAC workers celebrated an insignificant event: The men's
magazine GQ included their executive director, Howard Kohr, on its
list of the 50 most influential people in Washington. Kohr, along with
three other key lobbyists, came in sixth. The only people who preceded
him were Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Supreme Court Justice
Anthony Kennedy and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
"Don't expect any big changes to our Israel or prescription-drug
policies in coming years," the magazine wrote.
Walt and Mearsheimer can add this as a footnote to their next book. In
any case, most of their work is based on newspaper clippings and
fragments of rumors (quite a few of them, it must be said, from
Haaretz). There is no denying that the Israel lobby does have a lot of
power, and AIPAC policy is occasionally controversial. That will
presumably be the argument against Dore Gold's new position paper.
In essence, there is a built-in dilemma that disturbs Israel
supporters in Washington: Should they be strong, or well-liked? It's
hard to be both in such a power-oriented city. In order to be strong,
you also have to be aggressive, and those who become aggressive
necessarily lose supporters and leave frustrated and offended people
in their wake.
AIPAC is a regular target of such accusations. The organization hasn't
had many reasons to celebrate in the last few years. The sword of the
court hangs over its head; in January the court will decide the fate
of two former AIPAC lobbyists accused of receiving and handing over
confidential security-related information. Rumors that its status has
eroded have flooded the capital, despite the group's success in
increasing the number of participants in its annual conferences and
getting high-profile figures to speak. Apparently the rumors haven't
reached the editors of GQ.
Some senior officials at the Israeli Embassy in Washington this week
watched CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour profiling Jewish extremism
in the first episode of the monumental but problematic series, "God's
Warriors," which artificially compares Jewish, Muslim and Christian
The episode showed Sandra Oster Baras, an Orthodox Jew going to an
evangelical church to raise money for settlements, and televangelist
John Hagee making a controversial appearance at the last AIPAC
conference. The embassy officials are quite familiar with the
evangelical community; it must be acknowledged that the security of
Israel sometimes depends on their support.
There is some comfort to be found in the gloom that disturbs, among
others, Israeli representatives stationed in Washington. Walt and
Mearsheimer's view has not yet trickled down to public opinion.
Opinion polls show the Israeli position to be as stable as ever, and
the administration and Congress are no less friendly than before. Only
a week has passed since a new, generous, 10-year aid agreement was
signed. In the meantime, the 2008 presidential candidates are
competing over expressions of support for Israel. It's hard to find a
crack, or even the hint of a crack, in the steadfastness of their
interest in preserving the "special relationship" between Israel and
the United States that has continued from the Lyndon Johnson (some say
John F. Kennedy) era to that of George W. Bush.
Former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, as Gold notes in his position
paper, was the first to refer to Israel as a "strategic asset." Reagan
was a popular president whose legacy even Democrats are happy to rely
on occasionally, in recognition of the value of his stock in the
political market. In addition, the introduction to Foxman's book that
was written by Shultz, Reagan's secretary of state, is particularly
important. That's because if there is anything that is worth doing
better than it was done in the previous round of the war over the good
name and position of the Israel lobby, this is it: It is appropriate
that the Jews themselves are not the only ones to fight the battle.
Walt & Mearsheimer's book "The Israel Lobby" hits bookstores
The New York Observer
September 01, 2007
Walt & Mearsheimer's Proof That 'Tail Wagged the Dog' Points American
Jews to a Universalist Ethos
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've 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...
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
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). As I have argued on this site before, this is why
anti-Zionism is the new Zionism. 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.
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