Tuesday, March 21, 2006

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

A follow-up on the Israel Lobby

Well, I see the blogosphere has generated a welter of resposes to the Walt/Mearsheimer hypothesis that "The thrust of the U.S. policy in the [Middle East] is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.'"

Interestingly, mainstream media reaction has been very muted. True, James Taranto discussed it in Opinion Journal's best of the Web, and the New York Sun has reported it to death. So far, however, the Israeli press has covered this more diligently than the American media. [UPDATE: ah, I missed both the UPI coverage and the Christian Science Monitor's Tom Regan -- though neither of these stories include any response from critics.]

So far, the best straight reporting story I've seen comes from the Harvard Crimson's Paras D. Bhayani and Rebecca Friedman -- which includes this priceless paragraph:

In their piece, the authors savaged those on both the political Left and Right, calling groups as diverse as the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal editorial boards, and Sen. Hillary R. Clinton, D-N.Y., and World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz members of the “Israel Lobby.”
On the one hand, it's a shame that this isn't being debated more widely in the mainstream press. On the other hand, it might be good if the mainstream media didn't cover it, if this New York Sun editorial is any indication:
It's going to be illuminating to watch how Harvard handles the controversy over the decision of its John F. Kennedy School of Government to issue a "Faculty Research Working Paper" on "The Israel Lobby" that is co-authored by its academic dean, Stephen Walt. On page one this morning we report that Dean Walt's paper has been met with praise by David Duke, the man the Anti-Defamation League calls "America's best-known racist." The controversy is still young. But it's not too early to suggest that it's going to be hard for Mr. Walt to maintain his credibility as a dean. We don't see it as a matter of academic freedom but simply as a matter of necessary quality control.
This is an absurd editorial -- just about any argument out there is endorsed by one crackpot or another, so that does not mean the argument itself is automatically invalidated. As for Walt's sympathies towards David Duke, in the very story they cite, Walt is quoted as saying, "I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world."

I didn't say this explicitly in my last post, but let me do so here: Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false. They should be criticized for doing piss-poor, monocausal social science.*

To repeat, the main empirical problems with the article are that :

A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability;

B) They ascribe U.S. foreign policy behavior almost exclusively to the activities of the "Israel Lobby"; and

C) They omit consderation of contradictory policies and countervailing foreign policy lobbies.

As an example of the latter, consider this fascinating cover story Liel Leibovitz in the February issue of Moment magazine on the battle to endow Middle Eastern chairs at American universities. The highlights:
[W]hen Columbia announced that an endowed chair would be named in honor of Said—who died of leukemia in 2003—there was outrage in some quarters of the Jewish community. That outrage intensified in March 2004 when, after a long delay, the university revealed that the Edward Said Chair of Modern Arab Studies and Literature had been funded in part by the United Arab Emirates. A few influential Jews demanded that the university return the gift, suspend the establishment of the chair, or both.

Columbia did neither. Instead, at a black-tie dinner a year later, Columbia trustee Mark Kingdon announced that he and his fellow trustees had raised $3 million to endow an Israel studies chair in order to expand the breadth of coverage in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department.

It was hard not to see the endowment of the new Israel chair as tit-for-tat for the creation of the Said chair and perceived pro-Palestinian sensibilities on campus. Professor Michael Stanislawski, head of the search committee entrusted with appointing a professor to the Israel studies chair, insisted that the trustees’ decision predated the controversy, although he added, “It would be naïve to think that there’s a ‘Chinese wall’ between the two.”

At universities across North America, endowed chairs have become another weapon in the campus battle between supporters of the Palestinian cause on one side and Israel on the other. And while the struggle involves a tiny fraction of American academics, the battle of the chairs could well change the face of American scholarship and upset the delicate balance between knowledge and money....

Said himself was a complex figure. He was a Palestinian nationalist who was not above occasional vitriol. Yet he also embarked on joint projects to increase understanding between Jews and Arabs with his friend, the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim. The young, liberal academics who adopted his theories sometimes took a less nuanced approach: By the 1980s, Israel had become the bête noire of the American left and thus a topic of fierce debate on college campuses.

The new passion for the Palestinian cause coincided with an influx of oil money from the Arab world, and beginning in the 1980s, Persian Gulf royalty began to endow chairs and centers across America. The Saudi royal family alone established the King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Adjunct Professorship of Islamic Studies at Harvard University, as well as the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Arkansas and the Sultan Program in Arab Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

Concerned that these new chairs would cause an irreversible shift towards pro-Palestinian sensibilities, large swaths of the Jewish community leapt into action. One obvious solution: Endow academic chairs that would offset the balance.

There’s a key difference between the Israeli chairs and their Arab counterparts, says one board member of a foundation that recently endowed an Israel chair, who asked not to be identified. “Look at who their donors are,” he says. “They’re not wealthy Arab Americans. They don’t match the profile of our donors, who tend to be private people who made their fortunes in business.”

By way of example, the board member mentions that the three currently filled Israel chairs in the United States were endowed respectively by Seagram heir Charles Bronfman, plastic surgeon William Schatten and outsourcing entrepreneur Henry Taub. Of the two Israel chairs in Canada, one, at the University of Toronto, was also endowed by the Bronfman family, while the other, the Kahanoff Chair at the University of Calgary, was funded by the estate of Sydney Kahanoff, a Canadian Jewish oilman. Middle East studies chairs, the board member added, are endowed by “countries, principalities, kingdoms. That makes the whole thing more political, more susceptible to claims of trying to buy influence.”....

In 2004, Helen Diller, the wife of real estate magnate Sanford Diller and a University of California Berkeley alumna, was moved to donate $5 million to Berkeley’s Center for Middle East Studies to fund research grants and sponsor a series of visiting Israeli scholars. “You know what’s going on over there,” she told the San Francisco Jewish newspaper, J. “With the protesting and this and that, we need to get a real strong Jewish studies program in there.... Hopefully, it will be enlightening to have a visiting professor and it’ll calm down over there more.”

An academic committee at Berkeley chose Oren Yiftachel, a professor of geography at Ben-Gurion University, as the first Diller Visiting Professor. Yiftachel is one of the Israeli academics most critical of his country’s policies. In a 2001 article, his words echoed those of Said: “The actual existence of an Israeli state (and hence citizenship) can be viewed as an illusion. Israel has ruptured, by its own actions, the geography of statehood, and maintained a caste-like system of ethnic-religious-class stratification. Without an inclusive geography and universal citizenship, Israel has created a colonial setting, held through violent control.”

Needless to say, these were not the kinds of statements that Diller had envisioned to bring calm to the embattled campus. Still, having given the endowment, there was nothing she could do but wince. For his part, Yiftachel resents the criticism his lectures received in the Jewish press. “How can they come and criticize an Israeli for being critical of Israel,” argues Yiftachel, who has since returned to Ben-Gurion University, “when my life is here, my mother is here, my children are here? I work to improve this country, and they just bark from a distance.” The Diller endowment, he adds, is superb in that allows scholars of vastly different political persuasions to lecture at Berkeley.

Read the whole thing -- but the excerpted passage above suggests a few kinks in the causal chain that Walt and Mearsheimer propose. First, there are lots of groups trying to alter elite American discourse through a variety of means. Second, if Walt and Mearsheimer want to claim that the Israel lobby has bought up public intellectuals, they're going to have to explain why those intellectuals are more powerful than the ones bought for by Arab states -- at present, countervailing pressures simply do not exist in their argument. Third, the Berkeley example demonstrates the process tracing problem that Walt and Mearsheimer need to address. It's one thing for lobbies to throw money around to influence U.S. foreign policy; it's another thing entirely to demonstrate that the money actually influenced foreign policy decisions.

Full disclosure: Moment is "the largest independent Jewish magazine in North America... committed as ever to being an independent forum, in which disparate opinions and ideas are addressed in provocative ways." But I don't think it's part of the Israel lobby.

* This is not to deny that a pro-Israel lobby affects U.S. foreign policy, just as Cuban emigres undoubtedly have an effect on U.S. policy towards Cuba. It's just that Walt and Mearsheimer say that the lobby "almost entirely" explains U.S. policy. My contention is that they vastly overestimate both pro-Israel lobby's causal role -- and their uniformity of opinion and motivation.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Greenwald, I see that Michael Kinsley had the brains to bring up this subject before the Iraq war even started. Go check it out -- I'm far more comfortable with his version of the argument than Mearsheimer or Walt.

posted by Dan on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM


"They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability."

Israel's supporters maintain, without any evidence, that Israel is a strategic asset for the United States. I do not see any evidence at all of this. Israel acts in its own best interests, with little or no consideration of the US. If Israel were a strategic ally of the US, during the first Gulf War, the US should not have to have begged Israel to sit it out. Israel should have recognized the situation and gritted its teeth. Instead, Israel used the situation to get whatever it could, and then some, from the US. For this, it is praised as a good ally.

Why is the US such an ardent supporter of Israel. Assume the Israel lobby is not a factor. Why are we so one sided in our support of Israel? I am not saying we should support the Arabs. Why not sit on our hands, ignore the Middle East and spend all the money we waste there on developing Canada's oil sands? How large would that subsidy have to be in comparison to the military spending for the ME, aid to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, etc.

posted by: Realist on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability;

I think they make some very good arguments on those lines. Yes, Israel was helpful in the Osirak reactor raid, and there are doubtless plenty of cases where the Mossad has aided US intelligence. But consider the major crises in the ME for the US in the last 25 years
-- Iran
-- Lebanon
-- Gulf War I
-- Gulf War II

Israel was actually a liability in Gulf War I where its participation would have shattered the coaliton. In Gulf War II, Mossad provided lots of flawed intelligence to the US on Iraq's WMD capability, so again it was more of a liability than an asset. Israel was essentially useless in the IRan crisis (so was the US, of course).

That leaves Lebanon, which turned out to be a meatgrinder for both Israel and the US. Again, it wasn't a great help either way.

Once the US had befriended Sadat, and Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the value of Israel as a strategic friend should be balanced against the toxic reaction it generates in the ME. The reaction is probably stupid, the Arab street should spend its time critcizing the Saddams and the Nassers, but its a fact of life

econd, if Walt and Mearsheimer want to claim that the Israel lobby has bought up public intellectuals, they're going to have to explain why those intellectuals are more powerful than the ones bought for by Arab states -- at present, countervailing pressures simply do not exist in their argumen

This is a fair counterpoint, although I don't think the claim is that the lobby has "bought up" public intellectuals as much as the fact that it has funded intellectuals and politicians who would support it. There's nothing evil or sinister about that, every lobby does that, but every lobby should be subject to criticism for that.

As to why Arab states haven't been able to do the same, I posit several theories

-- At their heart, most Arab states don't really care that much about their so-called Palestinian brothers. They prefer to save their lobbying might for really important things like business relations, or investments in the US and save rhetoric for politicians.

-- Most Arab states, being dictatorships, or kingdoms, underestimate vastly the importance of influencing public discourse (papers, universities, think tanks) in a democracy

-- The pro Israel lobby has a massive head start to the point that support for Israel is practically a check mark for a national level politician. Its hard for a new lobby to influence that sort of entrenchment.

-- The pro Israel lobby has substantial domestic support on the ground, from voters and donors (this includes not just pro-Israeli American Jews, but neocons, Conservative Christians etc.). This tends to influence politicians. Arab support is much more fragmented, most Arabs in the US are Christians anyway, they have a lot of different nationalities, and the numbers who feel strongly about this issue are probably smaller.

We know that our policy towards England on Ireland has been greatly influenced by the Irish lobby -- is it to much to assume the same for Israel ?

posted by: erg on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

The so-called empirical problems you identify:

"A} They fail to identify that Israel is a net strategic liability" & "C)They omit consideration of contradictory policies", both suggest to me that you didn't bother actually reading the paper.

They clearly touch on both these topics. You probably know that, but as far as Israel is concerned, jewish deception never ends.

posted by: Chuck on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Domestic political concerns have always influenced foreign policy. The US should have been harder on IRA terrorism but was not because of Irish Americans (and Ted Kennedy). However, we never sided with the IRA against the UK. Our Cyprus policy was influenced by Greek Americans. Our idiotic Cuba policy is because of Cuban Americans. We have an embargo that Cuban American “leaders” want but is broken by Cuban Americans, including those “leaders”, who send money back to their families in Cuba. (BTW – Nice to see Japan win the WBC but I really want to see Yulieski Gourriel in a Cub uniform – please defect ASAP). During World War II, FDR got cheers from Polish Americans during the 1944 campaign by pledging to defend Poland’s rights – even though he had already given the country to Stalin.

So politicians respond to voters when making foreign policy decisions. Does that mean the ethnic groups pressing for those decisions cannot be criticized? I am a big advocate of ending the embargo of Cuba. Also, there is no area of foreign policy quite like the Middle East in terms of both danger and importance to the US. A lobby that strongly advocates for one position has to be examined closely and criticized. They cannot claim immunity and scream anti-Semitism. To me the scariest part of the Israel Lobby (note that Walt and Mearsheimer used the term Israel and not Jewish) is the evangelical Christians. They scare me in a lot of ways beyond their strident support for Israel. I think their support for Israel should scare Jews – we need Jews back in Israel to hasten the second coming at which time the Jews will be destroyed if they do not convert.

In Israel, there is a vibrant (and very loud) discussion of everything. In the US, any discussion of our policy towards Israel draws immediate attacks.

posted by: Realist on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

You probably know that, but as far as Israel is concerned, jewish deception never ends.

Now that is anti-Semitic.

posted by: erg on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

In their first footnote the authors claim that the very existence of the "Lobby" (cue ominous music) proves that support for Israel is not in the national interest, since if it were there would be no need for the "Lobby."

According to that logic there is probably no policy of any sort that is in the national interest, since there are lobbies for just about every idea discussed in Washington. Of course the others don't get a capital letter.

posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Just to show how demented Walt is, Scott Johnson points out that Walt, himself, is part of THE LOBBY also:

Kennedy School of Government Dean Stephen Walt -- coauthor of the execrable paper on "the Israel lobby" -- occupies the Robert and Renee Belfer Chair of International Affairs at Harvard. The Robert Belfer who endowed Dean Walt's chair is a 1957 graduate of Harvard Law School who has contributed with extraordinary generosity to Harvard. The endowment of Dean Walt's chair by Mr. Belfer was part of a $7.5 million gift by Mr. and Mrs. Belfer to the Kennedy School in 1997.

Mr. Belfer and his family have also been leading philanthropists and supporters of Jewish causes for decades. Mr. Belfer has been Chairman of the Board of Overseers of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University as well as a board member of both the American Jewish Committee and the Weizmann Institute.

Reader Howard Rosenberg wonders "what Mr. Belfer thinks about a beneficiary of his largesse publishing such an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic tract." Dr. Rosenberg writes: Just last week Mr. Belfer received an honorary doctorate from the Weizmann for "his outstanding professional accomplishments...his lifelong commitment to the values of Jewish philanthropy...and his strong identification with the aspirations of the Weizmann Institute in the service of Israel..." Do you think he has any idea about Walt's professional activities?

Speaking in the terms of Dean Walt's analytical framework, Dean Walt appears to be the financial beneficiary of an influential member of "the Israel lobby." In Dean Walt's universe, this might even be evidence sufficient to deem Dean Walt himself a member of "the Israel lobby."

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

I think you put the issue well, Dan. I agree with the article in the main: the Israeli lobby is quite powerful and the Israeli-U.S. alliance is not always in the U.S. self-interest. The idea that this flows out of anti-semitism is absurd. It's a reasonable position to take and one which, generally speaking,is more true than not.

That said, the arguments that Mearsheimer and Walt muster are both empirically and theoretically shallow. And, in fact, I think those two criticisms are interconnected. You have already pointed out how empircally unnuanced the piece is. I think this flows out of both authors' self-identification as neo-realist theoreticians, so let me make two points about that. One, in regard to theory in general, neither are historians and, while I don't fault Mearsheimer for this, Walt is supposedly a Middle East expert and it's somewhat shocking how flat this historic portrayal is. Yes, there are some mistakes that have been pointed out. But those are minor, imho. Worse is that it's a crude picture without any layering or sense of complexity. This is somewhat typical of IR theorists, in general, who are more likely to project out from their theoretical perspective than actually engage with on the ground complexity.

This leads into the second theoretical problem, not so much with theorists in general but, more specifically, with neo-realists. The piece epitomizes a lot of the problems of contemporary neo-realism: i.e., given that neo-realist premises often have little relevance to explaining global politics, when dealing with contemporary policy issues common sense leads neo-realists to contradict their own theoretical premises. Hence the oddity of two neo-realists talking about domestic lobbies driving foreign policy. But, since they're not really used to talking about such matters, they do so in the crude way you describe, and hence don't take into account various complexities in a way that someone might who is used to taking into account the complexities of lobbies, mobilization of public opinion, and the shaping of norms.

My two bits, anyway.

posted by: anthonyc on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Th Cuba example cited by Realist is the best answer to critics charging Walt and Meahrsheimer with anti-Semitism.

No one worries about being slandered as "anti-Cuban" if our Cuba policy is questioned. Yet that is the concern that people have when it comes to any discussion of our Israeli policy.

Can we expect Matisyahu to stand next to Mike Myers and say, "Mearsheimer and Walt don't care about Jewish people."

posted by: KXB on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Mr Drezner, good post. I've always been sympathetic to the Palestinians (the victims of the victims) but since 9-11 I've had more sympathy and appreciation of Israel. Jews are the most successful minority in America, the world's only Superpower. They have a lot of things going for them (plus Israel has nukes). Israel's settlement policy in the occupied territories has been a disaster though. But after 9-11 it became very apparent to me how corrupt the Arab dictatorships in the region are, which is why I support the administration's drive to democratize the region.

posted by: Peter K. on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false.

Maybe it's false, but perhaps you could supply some evidence. They certainly are not shy about levelling the charge that many American Jews, including some in high government positions, care more about Israel than the US.

The monocausalism of which you rightly accuse them certainly has an odor to it. And even activities like funding university chairs, or criticizing Arab scholars' views, are seen by Walt and Mearsheimer as disreputable when carried out by Jews.

posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

"Maybe it's false, but perhaps you could supply some evidence."

So now anti-Semitism must be dis-proven? Isn't this along the lines of Rumsfeld's, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"?

posted by: KXB on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Second: The rule of thumb is that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it most likely is a duck.

"Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false."

What is patent about it? The learned professors have written a paper that waddles and quacks. Professional anti-Semites have acclaimed it. To me they look like ducks. If they want people who do not otherwise know them to believe that they are not anti-Semites, they had best say or do something that will counteract the powerful impression they have made.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Demand he prove the negative – always so easy. Mearsheimer and Walt – prove to us that you are not anti-Semites!!!

I will try to defend John Mearsheimer. In 1991, he was the chairman of the political science department at Chicago. At the time, they had a visiting professor by the name of Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.

From the Nov 27, 1991, New York Times:
Events of a half century ago have become a center of controversy at the University of Chicago, where a visiting professor has been accused of writing anti-Semitic views as a young woman in Nazi Germany.

In the August 1991 issue of the monthly magazine Commentary, an article by Leo Bogart entitled "The Pollster and the Nazis," accuses the professor, Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, of including anti-Semitic remarks in her dissertation. The article also said she included anti-Semitic remarks in an article about Jewish control of the media in Das Reich, a Nazi newspaper.

Although Professor Noelle-Neumann does not deny making the comments, which were published in 1940, she says her writing should be judged by the circumstances of the time. She declined to comment further. Professor Noelle-Neumann is a leading German opinion researcher who sometimes advises Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

In a letter to the editor of Commentary, which was circulated throughout the University of Chicago political science department and is scheduled to be published in January, Professor Noelle-Neumann wrote, "Anyone who has dealt with texts written under a dictatorship knows that certain phrases serve an alibi function and are a necessity if one is to be able to write what is in fact prohibited. I am terribly sorry if any hurt was caused by what I wrote 50 years ago," she said. "I certainly can say that when I wrote that passage at the time, I had no intention of doing any harm to the Jews."

Faculty members and students throughout the university are debating the criticisms of Professor Noelle-Neumann and her response. Many professors in her department are demanding a more complete apology.

"What upset me is the conditional nature of her response," said Bernard Silberman, a political science professor.

John Mearsheimer, chairman of the department, said: "Knowing what we know now about the Holocaust, there is no reason for her not to apologize. To ask somebody who played a contributing role in the greatest crime of the 20th century to say 'I'm sorry' is not unreasonable."

A letter to the editor of the NYT printed 12/28/91 –
To the Editor:

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann's Dec. 14 letter, responding to your Nov. 28 news article, confuses the issue.

She has admitted she was not hostile to the Nazis before 1940. She says she was anti-Nazi after 1940, but has produced no evidence that she criticized the Nazis then. She wrote anti-Semitic words in 1938-41, and there is no evidence she was compelled to write them. Queried on her anti-Semitic writings, she told me: "I have never written anything in my life that I did not believe to be true."

Professor Noelle-Neumann's critics have merely asked for a straightforward apology for writing hateful words about Jews in Hitler's Germany. Her refusal has caused this controversy.

Prof., Political Science, U. of Chicago
Chicago, Dec. 16, 1991

posted by: Realist on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Israel has almost nothing to with anything. Any silly excuse might suffice. Many of today’s Muslims suffer from low self esteem. Blaming the Jews is simply convenient. If Israel did not exist---the self pitying Arab Muslims would have to create it. Some 400-500 years ago, for whatever reason, the Islamic world turned its back on modernity. This inevitably lead to the West’s domination. But how can this be? Didn’t God promise the universe to the Islamic faithful? The Jews, Christians, and other unbelievers are obviously stealing what is rightfully theirs. Killing these infidels becomes a moral and logically consistent necessity.

posted by: David Thomson on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Robert Schwartz writes,

Reader Howard Rosenberg wonders "what Mr. Belfer thinks about a beneficiary of his largesse publishing such an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic tract." Dr. Rosenberg writes: Just last week Mr. Belfer received an honorary doctorate from the Weizmann for "his outstanding professional accomplishments...his lifelong commitment to the values of Jewish philanthropy...and his strong identification with the aspirations of the Weizmann Institute in the service of Israel..." Do you think he has any idea about Walt's professional activities?

Clearly, we can't expect that a tenured professor at Harvard can question US support for zionism without retribution.

I don't have tenure. If my company is bought out and downsized, I'll almost certainly be looking for work. Will each HR department have somebody to point out, "Look at our customer base, look at this list of companies that form such a large part of our sales. Now look at this blog post. Which of them would do business with a company who would hire such a person?"

I think it's best if I stay out of this conversation. But I do want to point out that israel is the most moral nation that has ever existed. And their long-term occupation of the West Bank has been the most moral long-term occupation there has ever been. They have treated the palestinians better than any other subject people anywhere, any time, far better than US treatment of native americans, or turkish treatment of armenians.

Of all nations that deserve total unquestioning US support, the israelis deserve it the most. Of all the nations whose interests should be placed ahead of american interests, israel should come first.

I apologise for anything I may have said in the past which may have sounded like incomplete support for israel. I did not fully understand the situation and I spoke without thinking. I have a wife and three small children who depend on me -- please be merciful.

posted by: J Thomas on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

So now anti-Semitism must be dis-proven?

No. Statements that something is "patently false" must be supported.

Drezner did not say he doesn't think Walt and Mearsheimer are anti-Semites. He didn't say he has no reason to think that they are. He said it is "patently false." That means it's obviously false, that he knows of strong evidence to the effect that Walt and Mearsheimer are not anti-Semites.

I'm asking what this evidence is.

posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]


Let's go step by step of what you said. You point out that Drezner wrote that it is patently false that Mearsheimer and Walt are anti-Semites. You asked, if it is obvious and easily provable that they are not anti-Semites, then you would like to see such evidence. But evidence has traditionally been treated as necessary to prove the existence of something, not its absence. Since neither Mearsheimer nor Walt have any record of anti-Semitic work in their past, it is reasonable to assume that they are not anti-Semitic. Plus, the little fact that within the text of the paper, they write that the activities of the "Lobby" they describe is not representative of all Jewish opinion in the United States.

The Forward touches upon this issue of proper Jewish representation on its website, www.forward.com, with an editorial entitled "Speak for Yourself" It argues that AIPAC is falsely representing itself as the solespokesperson for Jews, and runs the risk of being taken for granted by the Bush administration From the piece:

"There was a time when the world's movers and shakers didn't much want to be seen around our kind. Now there's nothing they want more than to curry our favor and bask in our reflected glory. That's probably a good thing.

That said, we're on murkier ground when a failed administration decides it would be a good idea to send its least popular figure to appear before this august assembly. It means they've sized up our crowd to be a safe haven, an audience they can count on to give them a warm reception even when nobody else will. That's not an indication of clout. It's a mark of fealty. It means they know they've got us in their pocket.

That's the message that was broadcast to the world last week when Vice President Cheney appeared before Aipac, properly known as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. If nobody else wants Dick Cheney, he can always count on the Jews."

posted by: KXB on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

No one worries about being slandered as "anti-Cuban" if our Cuba policy is questioned. Yet that is the concern that people have when it comes to any discussion of our Israeli policy.

This is disingenuous. The issue is not whether our Israel policy is "questioned." The issue is the particular answer people are giving to those questions. While many people might say that our anti-Cuban policy is foolish, that it doesn't really accomplish anything, that it's due to the influence of Cuban exiles, they don't claim that this policy is against the interests of the United States.

That's where the criticism of our Israel policy diverges from the criticism of other policies.

"Jews are lobbying to put the interests of another country ahead of our own. Politicians know this, but they do so anyway because of Jewish money." That's the short, unnuanced translation. Gee, why might people wonder at how that sounds?

posted by: David Nieporent on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Prof. Drezner pronounces ex cathedra that the authors are not antisemites, but does not subject the Harvard thesis to the two-pronged test for antisemitism that Bernard Lewis laid out in his recent American Thinker article: Are the Jews singled out where the criticism equally applies elsewhere, and are powers attributed to the Jews that are fantastic or supra-normal. Prof. Drezner notes both prongs in summarizing the Harvard thesis. He notes that the argument that the need for a lobby implies an agenda is anti-thetical to American interests would apply to any lobby - oil, China, sugar producers, whatever - yet the authors reserve it for Israel. And the second test, in which the Jews and their dupes are able to lead the world's superpower by the nose notwithstanding the American system of government and the strong and independent personalities at its top (as Prof. Drezner also points out) is met as well. It is no accident that so many reviewers have noted the similarity to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on this point.

posted by: Registered Dhimmicrat on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

I doubt that Walt and Mearsheimer are anti-Semites. However, it is not "Patently false" to say that they are such. It is "Quite probably false". It is much more likely that they are influenced, even indirectly, by money from Saudi or other anti-Semitic countries. The scene is set by Palestinians setting themselves up for pity as they initiate war. Consider the cases of Mohammed Dura and other photogenic "Victims", add many millions of dollars of western money recycled through anti-Semitic oil shieks, and you get the LRB article.

In any case, anti-Semitism these days is not crisply defined. Historic Christian anti-Semitism was about converting the Jews to Christianity, Hitlers anti-Semitism was about bogus science and nutty racial theories, and Islamic anti-Semitism is a legacy of Koranic anti-Judaism mixed in with the flavorings of Nazism and the forgeries of the Czars secret police.

The prejudice of the current age is the natural tendency of seeing people who are in a hard spot (the Palestinians) as innocent. The two ideas go together. But the Palestinians are not innocent, they are aggressors. Aggressors who repeatedly lose, and suffer the consequences. Add in a little Arab money and you have the current stew of "anti-Zionism".

Anyway, it is not "Realistic" to claim, as they do, that "Israel is the centrepiece of US Middle East policy". Oil is. The Soviet Union was. Israel is a tool. Maybe an expensive tool, but a good one to have.

posted by: Fred on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

You point out that Drezner wrote that it is patently false that Mearsheimer and Walt are anti-Semites. You asked, if it is obvious and easily provable that they are not anti-Semites, then you would like to see such evidence. But evidence has traditionally been treated as necessary to prove the existence of something, not its absence.

I didn't ask for evidence out of the blue. Drezner asserted the existence of such evidence. That's what saying something is "patently false" means - that there is substantial evidence that it is false.

And it is entirely possible for there to be evidence that something is false, especially a statement about someone's political views. It is patently false that Ted Kennedy is a Republican.

Of course, accusing someone of things like anti-Semitism is serious, and I agree that there should be substantial evidence before such an accusation is made. But saying the evidence does not justify the accusation is not the same as pre-empting it with statements about things being "patently false."

Look, this paper ascribes a lot of problems the US has to some shadowy "Lobby," mostly consisting of Jews. And it asserts that this "Lobby" places Israeli interests ahead of US interests. The disclaimer is nice, but does not dispose of the issue.

I do not claim they are anti-Semitic, mostly because I in fact doubt that they are. But, as I said above, the paper does give off an unpleasant odor, and if Drezner claims to have evidence to dispel that odor then maybe he could tell us what it is.

posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

..." they don't claim that this policy is against the interests of the United States."

David - there are plenty of folks who believe that our Cuban policy is against the interests of the United States, just as there are people who believe the recent nuclear deal with India is against the interests of the United States. Rather than demonstrating how M&W might be wrong - that in fact, the interests of Israel and the United States line up quite nicely, the critics are not charging that. They are going the route of charging anyone who disagrees with them as an anti-Semite (much like Uncle Leo on Seinfeld).

Plus, there is a reason that M&W use the term "Israel Lobby" throughout the paper - because the activities of this particular lobby do not reflect the divergent opinions of American Jews. The point out in the paper that somewhere between a quarter to a third of American Jews do not even consider Israel a factor when voting. Plus the fact that a greater percentage of Jews opposed the war back in 2003, and even more so now.

The biggest problem I had with the paper is its glaring omission of energy policy. Believing that invading Iraq would secure energy supplies turned out to be spectacularly wrong.

posted by: KXB on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

It is no accident that so many reviewers have noted the similarity to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on this point.

There is simply no rational debate possible on this matter. Mearsheimer and Walt's point in 'the Great Silencer' section has been proven.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

While many people might say that our anti-Cuban policy is foolish, that it doesn't really accomplish anything, that it's due to the influence of Cuban exiles, they don't claim that this policy is against the interests of the United States.

The US has really little to no interest in Cuba, so in general Cuban policy cannot be against the interests of the US because its such a minor matter. On the other hand, Cuban Americans have most definitely come in for plenty of criticism at times -- during the Elian Gonzalez affair, many columnists referered to them as, basically single minded loonies. Similarly, there has been criticism of immigration policy wrt Cuba and so on. But basically, Cuba is not at all important, even if we had full relations with Cuba, our foreign policy would change not at all.

On the other hand, I do recollect the influence of the Greek lobby (and how much it angered the Turks sometimes) being brought up during the cold war.

It is true that we need more honest discussion on the impact of all such lobbies on foreign policy (including the Irish lobby), but it would be hard not to argue that the Israeli lobby probably has the most impact on US foreign relations in a crucial area of the world (the Irish lobby has an impact, but its in a relatively small part of the world).

posted by: erg on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

"There is simply no rational debate possible on this matter. Mearsheimer and Walt's point in 'the Great Silencer' section has been proven."

The psychoanalysts used to explain that people who did not believe in psychoanalysis had a neurotic resistance to it, that could only be dealt with by psychoanalysis. Evidence of their cure would be their belief in psychoanalysis.

I say they are ducks.

posted by: Robert Schwartz on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

One of the best discussions I've encountered on "The Israel Lobby."

Last July, Prof. Alan Dershowitz posted two lists. The first was of acts he considers to be anit-Semitic. The second list is of factors which Dershowitz feels are justifiable criticism of Israel. At the time Dershowitz posted these lists at HuffingtonPost, he stated they would be included in his upcoming book, _The Case for Peace_.

His lists:


1. Employing stereotypes against Israel that have traditionally been directed against "the Jews." For example, portraying Israel as devouring the blood of children or characterizing Israeli leaders with long hook noses or rapacious looks.
2. Comparing Israel to the Nazis or its leaders to Hitler, the German army, or the Gestapo.
3. Characterizing Israel as “the worst,” when it is clear that this is not an accurate comparative assessment.
4. Invoking anti-Jewish religious symbols or caricaturing Jewish religious symbols.
5. Singling out only Israel for sanctions for policies that are widespread among other nations, or demanding that Jews be better or more moral than others because of their history as victims.
6. Discriminating against individuals only because they are Jewish Israelis, without regard to their individual views or actions.
7. Emphasizing and stereotyping certain characteristics among supporters of Israel that have traditionally been used in anti-Semitic attacks, for example, “pushy” American Jews, Jews “who control the media,” and Jews “who control financial markets.”
8. Blaming all Jews or “the Jews” for Israel’s policies or imperfections.
9. Physically or verbally attacking Jewish institutions, such as synagogues or cemeteries, as a means of protesting against Israel.
10. Stereotyping all Jews as fitting into a particular political configuration (such as “neo-conservatives,” Zionists, or supporters of Sharon).
11. Accusing Jews and only Jews of having dual loyalty.
12. Blaming Israel for the problems of the world and exaggerating the influence of the Jewish state on world affairs.
13. Denying, minimizing, or trivializing the Holocaust as part of a campaign against Israel.
14. Discriminating against only Israel in its qualification for certain positions or statuses, such as on the Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and the International Red Cross.
15. Blaming the Jews or Israel, rather than the anti-Semites, for anti-Semitism or for increases in anti-Jewish attitudes.
16. Taking extreme pleasure from Israeli failures, imperfections, or troubles.
17. Falsely claiming that all legitimate criticism of Israeli policies is immediately and widely condemned by Jewish leaders as anti-Semitic, despite any evidence to support this accusation.
18. Denying that even core anti-Semitism—racial stereotypes, Nazi comparisons, desecration of synagogues, Holocaust denial—qualifies as anti-Semitic.
19. Seeking to delegitimate Israel precisely as it moves toward peace.
20. Circulating wild charges against Israel and Jews, such as that they were responsible for the September 11 attacks, the anthrax attacks, and the 2005 tsunami.


1. The criticism is directed at specific policies of Israel, rather than at the very legitimacy of the state.
2. The degree and level of criticism vary with changes in Israel’s policies.
3. The criticism is comparative and contextual.
4. The criticism is political, military, economic, and so forth, rather than ethnic or religious.
5. The criticism is similar to criticism being raised by mainstream Israeli dissidents.
6. The criticism is leveled by people who have a history of leveling comparable criticisms at other nations with comparable or worse records.
7. The criticism is designed to bring about positive changes in Israeli policies.
8. The criticism is part of a more general and comparative criticism of all other nations.
9. The criticism is based on objective facts rather than name calling or polemics.
10. The critic subjects his favorite nation to comparable criticism for comparable faults.

posted by: Philip Munger on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

So, is Dershowitz suggesting that when preparing a commentary on American-Israeli relations, you have twice as likely a chance of running afoul of his "Not OK" than his "OK" list? He's not going to win skeptics with that approach.

posted by: KXB on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]


Dershowitz has never put the convincing of skeptics up very high on any of his lists, unless he's in front of a jury.

posted by: Philip Munger on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

I am only commenting on the Columbia chair finance aspect:
It may be noted that when the University of Munich,Germnany,received an endowment from a major German financial services company they chose to devote the chair to the study of "both", Jewish studies and Palestine studies.... It is working until now, even when some people wonder to what extremes the demands of political correctness will go, but "offending" both sides may be a good start.

posted by: Donald Cramer on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Doesn't the fact that the mainstream media does not report on this paper actually gives more credibility to the thesis of Mearsheimer and Walt?

posted by: ivan on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

How come AIPACs positions are sooo out of line with jewish amerians as whole? Why does AIPAC lobby positions that line up with HARD RIGHT in Isreal itself? Just curious.

posted by: centrist on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Why does AIPAC lobby positions that line up with HARD RIGHT in Isreal itself?

I don't have any hard evidence, but here's my guess. AIPAC is a lobby that depends on emotion. It doesn't actually bring in a lot of money for particular contributors to the lobby. Maybe for a few, but most AIPAC supporters support it from emotion.

So the more they crank up the paranoia, the more support. The Holocaust ended 60 years ago so victims who were 20 then are 80 now, and what's the chance that it didn't reduce their average lifespan? Only a few Holocaust survivors left, but keep that at the top of the attention span. It could happen again, unless israel continually demonstrates they are strong enough. If it happens here, israel is the only place you're guaranteed a home. Etc. And israel must look like it's continually threatened. Never mind that israel is a nuclear power with no nuclear opponent. Never mind that israel is militarily far stronger than any combination of opponents. Never mind that israel kills at least 3 palestinians for each dead israeli. The bigger the crisis, the more support for AIPAC. So AIPAC does better both when they treat every incident as a crisis, and when israeli policies create apparent crises.

Similar to the NRA which tries to convince gun owners that the government is only a few months from legislation to confiscate their property.

The sugar lobby, on the other hand, doesn't maintain much of a public stand at all. They want US laws to generate tremendous amounts of money for their clients. Their clients will pay for that whether there's any publicity at all, provided they can deliver. So there isn't a lot of media attention to the idea that foreigners might destroy the USA by selling us cheap sugar.

posted by: J Thomas on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]


posted by: J Thomas on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Not anti-semitic? Saying that some all-powerful Lobby "tricked" the US into war, that it is trying to "trick" the US into confrontation with Iran, etc. is about as close as you can get. If so many unabashed hatemongers find this article so encouraging, I think it is very safe to say that something is rotten at the core. I wonder how many neo-nazi and islamists websites have linked to their article by now? To say that they didn't mean it that way or that, better still, you know them so therefore they can't be anti-semitic, is foolish. Conspiracy mongering that strikes so close to traditional anti-semitic themes should not be given a pass because it sparks debate or because making a splash is supposedly an academic virtue. Nor is hateful paranoia in the service of such goals less reprehensible.

posted by: ian on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Ian, you are confusing "antisemitic" with "antizionist".

Many jewish americans are antizionist but that in no way makes them antisemitic.

If current israeli actions work against the interests of international judaism, then rationally the argument could be made that israel is performing antisemitic actions. But I doubt that sort of reasoning could be published in the USA.

posted by: J Thomas on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

While many people might say that our anti-Cuban policy is foolish, that it doesn't really accomplish anything, that it's due to the influence of Cuban exiles, they don't claim that this policy is against the interests of the United States.

Unstudied, false and indicative of the double standard Walt and Mearsheimer face no matter whether they are correct or incorrect.

The Cuban American lobby, the Irish American lobby, the Greek American lobby, the Armenian American lobby, the Arab and Moslem American lobbies have ALL received such criticism.

posted by: IMD on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Indeed, back in 1991, John Mearsheimer was highly exercised over Noelle-Neumann's propaganda articles and her manner of responding to attacks.

In 1991, Noelle-Neumann was a committed democrat, and there was no evidence that she still held anti-semitic or Nazi views.

The interesting thing to do would be to compare Noelle-Neumann's Das Reich articles to Mearsheimer/Walt and see which stands up better factually.

Besides, as the case of Noelle-Neumann shows, one's views do change over time.

posted by: An Idealist on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]


Tell us a few good reasons to trust your comments.

posted by: James Allen on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

James, anybody might be biased, and many of the biases might be hidden. Wouldn't it be better to look at the arguments on their merits?

When it's a question of claimed facts then it makes sense to look at who benefits from our believing in particular factoids. "I was there, I saw it." OK, who are you really and should we believe you?

But when it's interpretations, doesn't it make sense to consider all arguments critically? Regardless of bias, the will to be stupid can be very strong. Anyone can make a stupid conclusion. And someone who's biased can think it's in his best interest to present the truth as he knows it -- he might think the truth is on his side this time.

posted by: J Thomas on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Does anyone ever consider the facts and put aside their ideology? The CAMERA report painstakingly rebuts many of the factual assertions and quotations of the M&W article, including at least two cases where they misquoted Ben Gurion by about 180 degrees. I admit to not having checked these citations, but presumably that can be done, and if CAMERA is right, two resignations from academica are in order. And CAMERA could be right, although it is generally a pro-Israel organ.

And how anyone can think it is not anti-Semitic to repeat the principal anti Semitic canards of the last 1500 years, albeit in a slighly qualified manner. The fact that M may have criticized a former Nazi writer 10 years ago may say more about the relative political correctness of the situation, rather than any real sympathy toward Jews.

posted by: j freedman on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Eliot Cohen in the Washington Post referred to you as a colleague of Mearsheimer's. You should write in and say that nothing of the sort is true; after all, you were rightly denied tenure due to your piss-poor scholarship. Actually, that's probably why Cohen didn't name you--doing so would've directly undercut his argument.

And congratulations on the Tufts job. It's a helluva teaching school.

posted by: JM on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Antisemitism is not so much a word as it is a negative symbol. It is used by propagandists to get the gullible public to reject and condemn the accused person without looking at the real evidence. It is a classic propaganda technique known as "NAME-CALLING". And it works, just as ringing the bell worked on Pavlov's conditioned dogs.

posted by: Colonel on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?