FT on Walt/Mearsheimer

by Henry on April 1, 2006

The Financial Times editorializes on the aftermath of the Walt/Mearsheimer paper.

On various counts, this is a shame and a self-inflicted wound no society built on freedom should allow. Honest and informed debate is the foundation of freedom and progress and a precondition of sound policy. It is, to say the least, odd when dissent in such a central area of policy is forced offshore or reduced to the status of samizdat. Some of Israel’s loudest cheerleaders, moreover, are often divorced by their extremism from the mainstream of American Jewish opinion and the vigorous debate that takes place inside Israel. As Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, remarked in Haaretz about the Walt-Mearsheimer controversy: “It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here were exported over there [the US].”
Nothing, moreover, is more damaging to US interests than the inability to have a proper debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how Washington should use its influence to resolve it, and how best America can advance freedom and stability in the region as a whole. Bullying Americans into a consensus on Israeli policy is bad for Israel and makes it impossible for America to articulate its own national interest.

This seems to me to draw a good and important analogy. The internal Israeli debate, for all its faults, is vigorous and real. There’s no similar debate happening in the US, nor is there likely to be one anytime soon if the response to the Mearsheimer/Walt piece tells us anything. Some of the critiques of the piece seemed to me to be useful (and indeed sound); but they’ve effectively been drowned out by diatribes like this one from the Anti-Defamation League which accuses Mearsheimer and Walt of engaging in “classical conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis.”

I’m opening this up to comments – but on the condition that these comments remain civil, respectful of opposing viewpoints and on-topic (and I’ll vigorously delete comments which fail to measure up to my doubtless idiosyncratic definitions of these terms).

Update: Matt articulates what should become known as Yglesias’ Law.

any conversation that starts with the question of America’s Israel policy all-but-inevitably turns into a conversation about Israel’s Palestinian policy.

{ 63 comments }

1

P O'Neill 04.01.06 at 5:45 pm

Among the things that this dispute reveals is the degree to which The Right has been reduced to individually-based polemic as their main mode of analysis. The increasingly just plain boring tour from the Corner to Malkin to Powerline to Taranto reveals a “party of ideas” hopping from one supposed outrage to the next — an upside down US flag, this research paper, Cynthia McKinney decking a police officer — while that awful “Left” debates healthcare, options in Iraq, and various election results. The idea seems to be that since being a proponent for the virtues of The Leader is no longer tenable, better to be negative about lots of other stuff.

2

Jacob T. Levy 04.01.06 at 5:59 pm

From the FT:

Their scholarship has been derided and their motives impugned, while Harvard has energetically disassociated itself from their views. Mr Walt’s position as academic dean of the Kennedy School is in doubt.

Their scholarship has been derided
true

and their motives impugned,
not nearly as true as they’re making it out to be; M&W are understandably eager to play the “we discredited all criticism of us in advance because any criticism we receive validates our thesis and we predicted that we’d be shouted down” card, which is a cute trick but a trick nonetheless

Harvard has energetically disassociated itself from their views.
No; with the authors’ endorsement, Harvard made explicit the disclaimer that’s always implicit, that views belong to authors not institutions.

Mr Walt’s position as academic dean of the Kennedy School is in doubt.
False implication; Walt’s term is drawing to its previously-established close.

3

abb1 04.01.06 at 6:01 pm

Isn’t it kinda silly and pathetic, though – to beg for a permission to have a debate? Just say what you want, don’t be afraid of sleazy demagogues, and that’s how you have the debate; there is no other way.

4

Louis Proyect 04.01.06 at 6:20 pm

My comments on Walt-Mearsheimer once again:

http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2006/03/24/the-israel-lobby/

5

Zain 04.01.06 at 6:20 pm

Noam Chomsky has written about the controversy here:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=9999

6

Glenn Bridgman 04.01.06 at 6:26 pm

“Some of the critiques of the piece seemed to me to be useful (and indeed sound); but they’ve effectively been drowned out by diatribes like this one from the Anti-Defamation League which accuses Mearsheimer and Walt of engaging in “classical conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis.””

Couldn’t the same thing be said about, say, the politics of certain investigations into “racial” genetics?

7

Henry 04.01.06 at 6:26 pm

Jacob – you’re right that the _FT_ is apparently flat-out wrong on Walt’s position at the Kennedy school – the man himself has come out “to say”:http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/001323.php that the various reports on this are either “deeply misleading or simply false.” But I’d disagree strongly with two of your other claims. I do think that Walt and Mearsheimer’s motivations have been impugned (often in very nasty ways) in the majority of the negative commentary that I’ve seen, including influential organizations such as the ADL cited above. Accusations (which seem to me to be entirely unwarranted) of anti-Semitism seem to me to be exactly shouting down. As did some of the criticisms emanating from your former co-blogger, David Bernstein. That there are real and justifiable criticisms to be made (and that have been made) of the paper doesn’t change this. And I can’t imagine the circumstances under which, say, the Kennedy School would seek to have its logo removed, say, from a paper which made similar claims about the Cuba lobby (Walt appears to have been involved in this decision making process – but one may reasonably doubt whether he initiated it).

The flaws of the Walt/Mearsheimer piece as I read it are the flaws of an entire genre of academic/semi-academic writing in foreign policy – to take up an intellectual position in support of some foreign policy stance, exaggerate it (and the faults of counter positions) and then set it out in a paper. Read any issue of _International Security_ or _Foreign Policy_ for several examples of this style of writing – many of which are similarly open to criticism. I have many problems with this style of writing and argument. But it’s vastly preferable to the alternative of more or less complete non-debate which characterizes American foreign policy circles at the moment.

8

Jim Harrison 04.01.06 at 6:31 pm

While leftists, rightists, and centrists hardly agree anything else, everybody seems to be mighty interested in controling discourse these days. There seems to be an emerging consensus that shutting people up premptively is a good thing. My question is, if that’s so, why has the frank expression of disagreement become so threatening?

9

Barry 04.01.06 at 6:40 pm

Jim: “There seems to be an emerging consensus that shutting people up premptively is a good thing. “

That’s brave. I’d be afraid to make a statement like that, because some unpleasant person might ask me to back it up, even a bit. With, of course, something beyond anecdotes.

10

rd 04.01.06 at 7:07 pm

Walt and Mearsheimer fundamentally argue two things:
1. The extent of America’s support for Israel is harmful to both America and Israel. 2. The strength of American support for Israel is explained by the activities of an amorphous “Israel lobby,” powered by Jewish money, Jewish organizations and their Christian fundamentalist allies. Their arguments for #1 have serious problems but at least have some sort of credible basis. Their arguments for #2 are extremely poor, largely consisting of bald assertions, scattered anecdotes, and a failure to think even moderately hard about causal mechanisms. What’s more making argument #2 is unnecessary for making argument #1.
If the authors insisted on having #2 be part of their paper, I don’t think a bullying pro-Israeli bias is necessary to explain why it only found a home in the perenially anti-Zionist LRB. As Jacob Levy points out, the failure of the authors to even engage in the debate they were supposedly trying to provoke suggests some problems with the quality of their arguments.

11

rd 04.01.06 at 7:26 pm

Also, is the “breadth” or “range” of a debate necessarily a sign of its health? Is the American debate about evolution more healthy than the European one? The American debate about Israel is narrow, but its also fairly centrist. The bulk of both parties favor a two state solution in which Israel gives up almost all of the 1967 conquests and accepts at most only a small number of Palestinian refugees in its borders. The disagreements are mostly about tactics on getting there. How much should we pressure Israel to help Abu Mazen, should we use our influence to help ensure Palestinian elections,etc. Would American debate be “healthier” if we had more people arguing for Israel’s abolition as a racist state? The European assumption is that if only America was tougher with Israel (perhaps after “healthier” debate), then the problem would be solved. If only we could see that collateral damage from an air-raid was just as evil as the intentional nail bombing of teenagers in pizza parlor! But in fact there has never yet been a Palestinian leader willing to sign up *explictly* for a deal that doesn’t allow most Palestinians a right of return, thus undermining the very basis of a two state solution. Its unclear to me what the American debate over Israel really has to apologize for. I
could understand if some super-Likudnik “from the Jordan to the sea” perspective was dominant here, but it simply isn’t.

12

rd 04.01.06 at 7:51 pm

Finally, its a little hard to take Mearsheimer’s assertion that he has Israel’s best interests at heart as well as American ones, given the fact that in 2001 he argued that Israel could not survive with a viable Palestinian state as a neighbor:

http://mearsheimer.uchicago.edu/pdfs/P0010.pdf

So far as I can see, he’s never reversed his opinion on this, and it remains on his website. I think his argument about the two state solution is wrong (just as he was wrong that the Taliban state could not be overthown militarily), but it makes his rhetoric in the “Israel Lobby” two faced and shameful. His actual opinion, if we want to make his various arguments consistent, is that American interests require us to force Israel into a peace savement that will destroy it, not save it.

13

Raw Data 04.01.06 at 10:37 pm

“The internal Israeli debate, for all its faults, is vigorous and real. There’s no similar debate happening in the US…”

And about what would that debate be? Are you assuming it’s the same debate in both Israel and the USA?

And, btw, who is stopping you from saying anything? You seem to have some sort of chip on your shoulder about being silenced. Go ahead. Speak. Honestly what is it that you are trying to say. Spit it out, man.

14

neil 04.01.06 at 11:37 pm

I’m in general agreement with rd but not with comment #12. Having read the link it seems to me that Mearsheimer was actually being quite sympathetic towards Israel – arguing that Israel would be completely jusitfied, on the basis of history, in seeing a Palestinian state as a grave security threat. I don’t think he was intending to imply a solution to the problem that would endanger Israel’s existance.

I think that where Walt and Mearsheimer get into trouble is in thinking that US support for Isreal is so obviously counter to US interests that the myriad of people who have influenced US policy on Israel must have also seen that this was blidingly obvious. Therefore they must have knowingly and actively decided to go against this rational view and backed Isreal. And the reason for such a lapse of realism is the Israeli Lobby.

But if one assumes that those responsible for US policy believed it to be in the interest of the US, even if they were wrong, then there is no need to posit any undue influence.

15

micah 04.02.06 at 2:15 am

There’s no similar debate happening in the US, nor is there likely to be one anytime soon if the response to the Mearsheimer/Walt piece tells us anything.

I don’t think the response to the M&W article tells us very much about the opportunities for debate about the substance of the United States’ foreign policy concerning Israel. The article has been drowned out because it’s badly argued and–here I probably part ways with Henry above–because it is fairly read, as I argued when Chris posted on this topic, to impugn the motives of those who are broadly sympathetic to support for Israel. The pervasive bias (exaggeration?), along with the assertion that the American Jewish community wields unmatched power, invites the kind of (exaggerated?) response made by the ADL, and by Norm Geras in the earlier post.

16

tertullio 04.02.06 at 3:01 am

“The article has been drowned out because it’s badly argued…” tells us everything we need to know “about the opportunities for debate about the substance of the United States’ foreign policy concerning Israel.”
Bad arguments get drowned out.
Would that it were so.

17

abb1 04.02.06 at 3:41 am

…1. The extent of America’s support for Israel is harmful to both America and Israel. 2. The strength of American support for Israel is explained by the activities of an amorphous “Israel lobby,”…

…to impugn the motives of those who are broadly sympathetic to support for Israel.

Lt’s chck r trmnlg: “Spprt fr srl”=”Sndng hg mnts f mn, wpns, nd gvng pltcl nd dplmtc cvr t n knd f gvrnmnt th hv thr, vn f t’s cntrlld b mst dspcbl xpnsnst, mltrst nd rcst frctn – wth ntrl nd prdctbl cnsqnc f nflmng nd dstblzng th rgn”.

Now run your arguments again.

18

raj 04.02.06 at 7:20 am

raj’s corollaries to Yglesias’s Law:

Corollary No. 1: Any conversation that starts with the question of America’s Israel policy all-but-inevitably turns into a “shouting match” in which those who oppose the Israeli government’s policy–for whatever reason–are labeled anti-semitic.

Corollary No. 2: Any conversation that starts with the question of America’s Israel policy all-but-inevitably turns into a “shouting match” in which those who support the Israeli government’s policy in Gaza and the West Bank and those who support the Palestinian “government” (or whatever they want to call it) in Gaza and the West Bank, dredge up old rivalries in a “my side suffered worse than your side did” exercise. Apparently to try to prove that they are on the “moral high-ground.”

It isn’t really worth the effort. This kind of silliness has been going on ever since I was a sentient being paying attention, which preceded the 1967 war. Apparently, neither side wants peace, and so, as far as I’m concerned, a pox on both their houses.

19

soru 04.02.06 at 7:42 am

Corollary No. 3: Any conversation that starts by someone making lists of Jewish-sounding names engaged in a all-pervasive secretive Conspiracy with a capital ‘C’ will end in that person saying ‘why can I not criticise Israel without being accused of anti-semitism?’

To reach for an analogy, US relations to Israel seem to be like that of a country that is split into teetotalers and alcoholics, with some teenage partiers that noone takes seriously, and rather few mature adults who just enjoy a drink with friends now and then.

20

Raw Data 04.02.06 at 10:32 am

Why d s mny ppl spnd s mch tm cmplnng tht thy cn’t sy wht thy lk bt srl?

Why dn’t thy jst t nd sy t? (Th rt f gn wnrshp mng mrcn Jws s — s fr — wy blw th ntnl vrg.) Wht r thy scrd f?)

s t bcs thy wld b t mbrssd t sy wht thy trly wnt t sy bt srl? S thy s th xcs f cnsrshp t prvnt thr bgrty frm shwng? <>N n stps Pt Bchnn frm spkng bcs h s nt frd t b sn s bgt. S spt t t Hnry.

21

Henry 04.02.06 at 12:56 pm

raw data – you’ve been making increasingly unpleasant comments on our posts for a while, trolling for a reaction. Accusations of anti-Semitism are well beyond the limits of what is acceptable in our comments section. You are now permanently barred from commenting on my posts. Any comments that you make will be deleted as soon as I see them.

22

otto 04.02.06 at 1:49 pm

As Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, remarked in Haaretz about the Walt-Mearsheimer controversy: “It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here were exported over there [the US].”

The reason that the Israel lobby doesn’t want an open and critical debate is that it would not serve Israel’s interests as Israel’s governments permanently define them (i.e. including settler colonies in the West Bank and around Jerusalem, thinking of ways to remove the Arab minority from Israel etc). Of course, if Israel’s governments did not have these policies, then the suppression of debate would not be needed. There’s just no way in which “Let’s have an open debate about the advantages to the US of Jewish settlements in the land conquered in 1967″ is going to turn out well for Israel’s policies. You might as well say that more open debate about protectionist sugar tariffs would be good for the US sugar industry. It wouldn’t.

Of course, the sugar industry (and steel etc) are quite capable of ignoring the public debate, where there are no intellectual defenders of the policies from which they benefit, and relying on their concentrated single-issue mobilisation to get the policies they want regardless of public and intellectual criticism. (Cf the CAP in Europe too) The Israeli lobby would be in the same position as the sugar lobby, that is get many of its policy objectives, even if there was much more – or even universal – public criticism of their policy objectives, since political organisation matters more than public criticism. But suppressing public criticism may seem more important to the Israel lobby, since they may feel more vulnerable than the sugar lobby if their effect on public policy was widely acknowledged to be achieved only by small group mobilisation.

23

Brett Bellmore 04.02.06 at 3:18 pm

“Accusations of anti-Semitism are well beyond the limits of what is acceptable in our comments section.”

Likewise with accusations of philo-semitism, I assume? Anyway, it’s nice to know we occupy a world so awash in good-will that such accusations can be safely dismissed as groundless insults. ;)

24

Henry 04.02.06 at 4:00 pm

Brett – you perhaps misunderstood. raw_data had accused me of anti-Semitism for writing the post that I did (specifically, suggesting that I didn’t have the guts to come out and stand with Pat Buchanan as a forthright bigot, but that I was a bigot nonetheless). I would like to hope that you agree that this accusation is a groundless insult.

otto – I think that you’re over-generalizing about the intentions of the Israeli government here – and not acknowledging the very real internal currents of criticism within Israel.

25

P O'Neill 04.02.06 at 4:05 pm

Even the conservative Niall Ferguson:

The key for a superpower is to have many special relationships, not one. There was a great rumpus at Harvard last week following the publication of a working paper, co-authored by Stephen Walt of the Kennedy School of Government, which criticises the power of the “Israel Lobby” in Washington. You don’t have to agree with everything in the paper to acknowledge that Israel enjoys a special relationship with the US, and has done since the time of Harry S Truman. (If anything, the vehemence with which Walt and his co-author have been denounced in some quarters entitles them to say quod erat demonstrandum.)

26

otto 04.02.06 at 4:49 pm

Henry says: “I think that you’re over-generalizing about the intentions of the Israeli government here – and not acknowledging the very real internal currents of criticism within Israel”

Maybe. But both Labour and Likud governments have again and again expanded settlements and both Labour and Likud leaders discuss removing the Arabs from Israel. Israeli leaders accross the spectrum describe the Camp David offer, with its 100,000s of settlers staying on the land conquered in 1967, as a “generous offer”. Internal currents of criticism that include a zero-settler option just aren’t reflected in government policies. Even ‘Peace Now’ wants to keep settlements around Jerusalem. So, while this is a big subject, I think its possible you are overestimating the significance of dissent within Israel to colonising the West Bank and Jerusalem. There are lots of Israelis who dont want to colonise as much as those other Israelis. Very few who dont want to colonise at all (and, perhaps on shakier ground here, who dont want to remove some or all of the Arabs from Israel).

27

Brett Bellmore 04.02.06 at 5:06 pm

I might have understood the context, but somebody deleted the offending post. Accordingly I could only judge by what you had written, which stated a policy rather broader than just banning people who accuse you of anti-semitism.

28

Peter 04.02.06 at 5:55 pm

“Bullying Americans into a consensus on Israeli policy is bad for Israel and makes it impossible for America to articulate its own national interest.”

This says a lot in itself. How could a tiny country such as Israel be thought capable in any way of bullying the United States?

29

Z 04.02.06 at 8:04 pm

Just out of curiosity, I would like to read once a nice piece of scholarship on why the US supports Israel. I mean, the W/M piece was bad, as was pointed out several times. But I don’t know of many sound references.

30

No Preference 04.02.06 at 9:18 pm

I mean, the W/M piece was bad, as was pointed out several times.

The W/M piece wasn’t bad. It was great, a tremendous breath of fresh air. As far as the reaction is concerned, quod erat demonstrandum indeed. Every article or editorial I have read in major newspapers has made David Duke its centerpiece. They address few of the particular facts in the article, such as the fact that in the US much of the supposedly objective commentary on the Middle East comes from institutions with very close ties to Israel indeed. An example is the AIPAC-founded WINEP.

I think that where Walt and Mearsheimer get into trouble is in thinking that US support for Isreal is so obviously counter to US interests that the myriad of people who have influenced US policy on Israel must have also seen that this was blidingly obvious. Therefore they must have knowingly and actively decided to go against this rational view and backed Isreal. And the reason for such a lapse of realism is the Israeli Lobby.

To the contrary, it’s very easy for us to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is for the best when it aligns with our interests. Where is the upside to opposing Israel in Congress? What it gets you is comparisons to David Duke.

31

otto 04.02.06 at 10:44 pm

“Bullying Americans into a consensus on Israeli policy is bad for Israel and makes it impossible for America to articulate its own national interest.”

This says a lot in itself. How could a tiny country such as Israel be thought capable in any way of bullying the United States?

You misunderstand. It’s the various Israeli lobbies within the United States which are bullying other parts of US civil society.

32

Daniel 04.03.06 at 12:07 am

I think it would be very interesting to see how the Anglophile lobby influences US foreign policy, even pushing it into decisions (like support for the UK in the Falklands War) in which supporting the UK is manifestly against American interests. Since I can confirm that almost all expatriate Brits in the USA have substantially divided loyalties, and I believe that the British Lobby doesn’t even have an official PAC, there is certainly prima facie evidence of a conspiracy there.

33

Chris Bertram 04.03.06 at 1:46 am

IIRC Daniel, the US’s support for the UK during the Falklands war war was lukewarm to nonexistent (at least initially), whereas the French backed the UK 100%.

See John Nott’s memoirs

http://tinyurl.com/gkyxf

for his account of how useless and spineless the Americans were compared to the French.

34

otto 04.03.06 at 5:26 am

I think there’s a discussion on HNN in which Tony Smith, author of Foreign Attachments: The Power of Ethnic Groups in the making of US foreign policy, discusses the British influence in US foreign policy versus that of organised ethnic groups.

35

Donald Johnson 04.03.06 at 10:07 am

Regarding Matt Y’s law–well, of course. I’m in favor of the US and Israel being close allies.
It’s the fact that in practice this has meant we subsidize their oppression of the Palestinians that’s the problem. And you have to be willfully blind not to notice how one-sided the coverage of the I/P conflict is in places like the NYT. I’d like to see some guest columns by Avi Schlaim or Robert Fisk in the NYT. But the NYT narrows the debate by excluding the harshest (but accurate) criticisms of Israel from ever appearing in its pages.

To most of us lefties, the problem with US foreign policy is its extreme hypocrisy on human rights. Our one-sided support of Israel is just one of the more blatant examples. Take away the Palestinian issue and our alliance with Israel wouldn’t bother us any more than, say, our alliance with New Zealand.

36

Louis Proyect 04.03.06 at 3:43 pm

Donald Johnson: “Take away the Palestinian issue and our alliance with Israel wouldn’t bother us any more than, say, our alliance with New Zealand.”

I guess the Maori don’t count.

37

abb1 04.03.06 at 4:15 pm

To be fair, the Maori thing happend over a hundred years ago; their descendants are being compensated now. The current generation of New Zealanders don’t kill or discriminate any racial or ethnic minority – at least not as a matter of the official policy; they, as a group, have nothing to be ashamed of. And that is not a small achievement.

38

Donald Johnson 04.03.06 at 6:01 pm

Yeah, my impression was that the Maori weren’t kept on a small portion of New Zealand and not allowed to return. But nice kneejerk reaction there, Louis–I was expecting it from someone, but thought it would come from someone defending Israel’s record.

39

Donald Johnson 04.03.06 at 6:04 pm

Though that said, Louis, if you have actual information about New Zealand’s current oppression of the Maoris, something which approximates what’s going on in the West Bank, then you’re right.

40

Louis Proyect 04.03.06 at 6:16 pm

Donald Johnson: “If you have actual information about New Zealand’s current oppression of the Maoris, something which approximates what’s going on in the West Bank, then you’re right.”

The oppression of the Palestinians is fairly unique since it involves the expulsion of about half the population. The more conventional colonial model involves retaining the population within the newly conquered territory but reducing them to a Caliban status. (Maoris, Algerians, American Indians, all of Subsaharan Africa, etc.)

41

jsphere 04.03.06 at 9:45 pm

I’m pondering this statement: Accusations (which seem to me to be entirely unwarranted) of anti-Semitism seem to me to be exactly shouting down.

Was it similarly “unwarranted” when Muslims accused Steven Emerson’s “Jihad in America” of promoting Islamophobia? Was it “entirely unwarranted” when critics of the “Bell Curve” accused the authors of legitimizing racist theories?

We’re seeing a very similar dynamic here…a flawed academic study that touches a very raw nerve. W&T’s paper goes well beyond a critique of AIPAC (which is indeed an influential lobby) and a discussion of U.S. relations with Israel (which should always be open to debate). They argue that pro-Israel individuals and organizations have a stranglehold over American politics, academia, and the media. And they contend that this all-encompassing Lobby was a key factor in driving America to invade Iraq (hello? what ever happened to oil?) and, worse, that America’s close relations with Israel has provoked the wrath of Al Qaeda. (Despite the fact that Israel/Palestine has never been central to their ideological grievances.) I think it’s rather telling that Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens–two very harsh critics of Israel–found W&T’s paper to be unconvincing and, at times, “creepy.”

Creepy, indeed. Beneath the academic language and superfluous footnotes, there’s an all-too-familiar narrative that posits Jewish groups as a powerful fifth column, more loyal to their own interests than those of the United States. We’ve been down this road before, such as when Pat Buchanan declared during the first Gulf War: “There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East — the Israeli defense ministry and its ‘amen corner’ in the United States.” Initially, William F. Buckley defended Buchanan against charges of anti-semitism, but changed his mind after Buchanan declared: “If it comes to war, it will not be the ‘civilized world’ humping up that bloody road to Baghdad; it will be American kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales, and Leroy Brown.” Buckley, in turn, said: “There is no way to read that sentence without concluding that Pat Buchanan was suggesting that American Jews manage to avoid personal military exposure even while advancing military policies they (uniquely?) engender.”

I would not be comfortable accusing W&T themselves of being anti-semitic, since I don’t know them, and I’ve not read any of their work besides this paper. But, an honest discussion of this study would acknowledge that its conclusions bear more than a passing similarity to long-held, anti-semitic canards–and that concerns over anti-semitism here are not entirely unwarranted. If David Duke’s endorsement of this scholarship doesn’t drive that point home, I don’t know what would.

42

abb1 04.04.06 at 1:15 am

That’s true, but we are in the post-colonial period.

That’s one of the most important characteristics of the period we live in, if not the most important. Read this, for example, that’s 1970. That’s one idea that’s totaly uncontroversial now. Having this kind of colonialism now is like if the Massachusetts government began burning witches or something.

43

abb1 04.04.06 at 3:18 am

Jsphere,
I think your analogy with Islamophobia is highly misleading. I have not read anyone so far in the mainstream press vilifying Jewish traditions and/or religion. That would clearly be anti-Semitic and that’s done routinely in respect to Islam. I have not seen the word ‘Judeo-fascism’ in the mainstream press, I have not heard it on TV. When it becomes as common as ‘Islamo-fascism’, when you read mainstream pundits advocating for ‘killing fields’ for ‘Judeo-fascists’ and so on – then you will have a point.

44

soru 04.04.06 at 4:11 am

‘I have not seen the word ‘Judeo-fascism’ in the mainstream press’

I don’t think it was ever used in the WWII era either, which I don’t think is a complete proof of the non-existence of anti-semitism in Nazi germany.

Western bigotry agaisnt muslims is usually religious, western bigotry against Jews is either racial or, more commonly in modern times, conspiratorial.

Different things are different from each other, not everything is either a matter of simple right and wrong, or two perfectly balanced equal and opposite sides.

45

abb1 04.04.06 at 5:19 am

There’s no such thing as ‘conspiratorial bigotry’. Either you vilify a large group of people based on what they are or you don’t. I don’t see W&M doing anything like that; it’s about a state and its right-wing supporters. The whole controversy of course stems from this silly notion that ‘Israel’='Jews’.

46

soru 04.04.06 at 7:05 am

There’s no such thing as ‘conspiratorial bigotry’.

Does the phrase ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ mean anything at all to you?

47

abb1 04.04.06 at 7:16 am

Yes, what about it?

48

abb1 04.04.06 at 7:46 am

I don’t think the ‘Protocols’ thing is more significant than countless anti-Arab and anti-Islam newspaper articles we read every day; all that ‘Eurabia’ stuff, all that ‘if we don’t do something we’ll soon live under sharia law’ stuff. In fact, it’s exactly the same.

49

soru 04.04.06 at 8:49 am

In fact, it’s exactly the same.

When you change your position by 180 degrees, it would be helpful to anyone else reading this thread if you added in some statement like ‘ok, thinking about it, fair point, that was wrong’.

To recap: there is nothing wrong with tracking or discussing the activities of either APIAC or Hizb ut Tahir, talking about the policies of the Afghan government towards Christian converts or of the Israeli government towards Palestinians, analysing Israeli or Saudi influence on US policy.

What is wrong is connecting either set of distinct issues into one grand central narrative, based on the actions of a sinister (or savage) group of people.

And what is very wrong is when you work backwards from that grand narrative to make up new facts that only seem plausible to someone who accepts it. For example, claiming muslims can’t live under democracy, or that the Jews tricked the US into attacking Iraq.

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otto 04.04.06 at 9:04 am

They argue that pro-Israel individuals and organizations have a stranglehold over American politics, academia, and the media.

Well, the fact that pro-Israel mobilisation dominates politics is just interest group mobilisation, like the Cubans (who almost forced us into nuclear war in the 1960s). Re. academia, there is evidence of mobilisation by right-wing jIsrael lobby groups to harrass academics who criticise Israel, cf Massad at Columbia. Re. the media, the US media discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict is radically truncated compared to other parts of the world, it ranges almost entirely from full-throated-Israel-is-right (Peretz) to agonised-Israel-is-right (Friedman), with little or no Israel-is-wrong that you would find in e.g. British newspapers of both left and right. Where is the persistent critic of Israel among US news commentators and how does this compare in numbers with the those on the other side? This is quite unlike US media pluralism in general. And there is Israeli lobby mobilisation to put pressure on media for this purpose.

And they contend that this all-encompassing Lobby was a key factor in driving America to invade Iraq (hello? what ever happened to oil?)

That elements of the Israel lobby were a key factor does not rule out other factors, like oil. And the bureaucratic infighting over the invasion of Iraq was in fact driven by AIPAC affilated appointees (Wolfowitz, Feith), not to mention advisors to Netanyahu at an earlier stage. I dont know of any oil lobbyists calling for an invasion of Iraq, but maybe you can point to one.

and, worse, that America’s close relations with Israel has provoked the wrath of Al Qaeda. (Despite the fact that Israel/Palestine has never been central to their ideological grievances.)

Palestine has always been central to their ideological grievances. Bin Laden’s first public statement is about Palestine (see Messages to the World). And, to name just one other example, the first World Trade Center bombing was accompanied by a numbered list of demands which includes in its entirety:
1. Stop all military, economical, and political aid to Israel. 2. All diplomatic relations with Israel must stop. 3. Not to interfere with any of the Middle East countries interior affairs.

[You've got to love the 'economical' aid!]

If David Duke’s endorsement of this scholarship doesn’t drive that point home, I don’t know what would.

That’s no argument at all, as I hope you realise.

The Israeli lobby is just another example of a small organised group imposing negative externalities on the rest of US civil society, and in that sense just like the oil lobby, farmers, the Cuban lobby etc.

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abb1 04.04.06 at 9:15 am

I haven’t read anything here about “the Jews” doing anything. People who think that Israeli right-wingers and their supporters in the US tricked the US into attacking Iraq may be right to a degree, I don’t have any problem with this analysis. Obviously it doesn’t have much to do with “the Jews”.

Where did I change your position by 180 degrees? I said that Islamophobia is very visible in the mainstream and anti-Semitism is not there at all and I’m still saying that. When were the Protocols or anything like the Protocols published in any US or British newspaper last time?

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soru 04.04.06 at 10:31 am

People who think that Israeli right-wingers and their supporters in the US tricked the US into attacking Iraq may be right to a degree, I don’t have any problem with this analysis.
Obviously it doesn’t have much to do with “the Jews”.

If someone thought it had nothing to do with the Jews, why would they connect it to AIPAC, Clinton’s jewish advisors, as part of one undifferentiated Lobby?

What do the Afghan courts, Hizb ut Tahir, rioting french youth, and the Saudi government have in common that would cause a rational non-bigoted person to make them all part of one simple story?

Where did I change your position by 180 degrees? I said that Islamophobia is very visible in the mainstream and anti-Semitism is not there at all and I’m still saying that.

No you didn’t, you said ‘There’s no such thing’.

Now you are arguing about relative quantities, presumably in the hope that if enough additional anti-semitic bigotry is produced, it will somehow neutralise the existing anti-islamic bigotry.

Things dont work that way, bigotry feeds on bigotry, both extremes grow stronger and the sensible middle shrinks.

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abb1 04.04.06 at 12:18 pm

Well, I said there’s no such thing as “conspiratorial bigotry” as opposed to religious/ethinc bigotry and I’m still saying that. Conspiracy theories grow out of bigotry, that’s true, but “conspiratorial bigotries” don’t exist.

There’s nothing wrong with connecting to AIPAC, of course, it’s a political organization. If connecting to AIPAC makes one a bigot, then so does talking about Hamas or the IRA or Christian Coalition. Don’t be an idiot, get the facts and judge these things by the facts, not by the number of Jews involved, nobody cares about that.

I don’t remember them connecting anything to Clinton’s Jewish advisors because they are Jewish; if they did, that’d be wrong and extremely stupid, I highly doubt it’s there.

Yeah, and the stuff about neutralising the existing anti-islamic bigotry by anti-semitism – you’re clearly pulling this stuff out of your ass, man.

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Donald Johnson 04.04.06 at 12:30 pm

I haven’t read the paper straight through, but a big part of the Israel lobby (and the part I’m personally familiar with) are Christian evangelicals. And they (or the majority rightwing faction) support Israel because it’s all part of their interpretation of the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel and a few other stray apocalyptic Biblical passages.

So is criticizing the alliance composed of right-wing American Jews and rightwing American fundamentalist Christians supposed to be antisemitic? Just wondering. I’m oversimplifying, of course. There is also the kneejerk Israel-supporting but otherwise liberal (leaving aside his pro-torture stance, which I think is linked to his views of the Mideast) like Alan Dershowitz. But mostly the lobby seems to be an influential group of rightwingers of both Christian and Jewish extraction with the same sort of political influence the rightwing Miami Cubans have or had.

And by the way, in my personal NYC area circles, whatever the cause may be, the coverage of the I/P conflict is so one-sided that numerous otherwise well-informed people are astonishingly ignorant of the Palestinian case. People don’t know why Jews shouldn’t settle the West Bank, why the Arabs simply couldn’t give up a little land when there are so many Arab countries, they’ve never heard of any Israeli massacre except some vague recollection of Deir Yassin or maybe Sabra and Shatila (which was done by Lebanese anyway) and they often still think the Palestinian refugee problem was entirely the fault of the Arabs. But they know all about Arab antisemitism and suicide bombing. Funny how one-sided that picture is–and these again are well-educated friends, some of them liberal.

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soru 04.04.06 at 1:01 pm

I don’t remember them connecting anything to Clinton’s Jewish advisors because they are Jewish; if they did, that’d be wrong and extremely stupid, I highly doubt it’s there.

One day, abb1 will be right about something.

From the LRB article:
As Morris Amitay, a former head of AIPAC, once admitted, ‘there are a lot of guys at the working level up here’ – on Capitol Hill – ‘who happen to be Jewish, who are willing . . . to look at certain issues in terms of their Jewishness . . . These are all guys who are in a position to make the decision in these areas for those senators . . . You can get an awful lot done just at the staff level.’

Note the classic use of an out-of-context quote by a member of the group you are attacking, in order to get across sentiments you don’t want to say directly. See the similarity to the way LGF uses the Qur’ān?

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abb1 04.04.06 at 1:26 pm

But that’s the AIPAC guy saying, bragging about his influence and describing how he operates – if you don’t like it, take it up with him; why blame those who quote him?

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abb1 04.04.06 at 1:42 pm

Michael Kinsley wrote a column about this, btw.

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james 04.04.06 at 1:45 pm

One fundamental presupposition of the paper is that the United States close relationship with Israel is counter to US interests. If this supposition is wrong, does the rest of the material mater?

The vast majority of Christian faiths in the United States support the Jews because Judaism is viewed as a valid faith while Islam is not. Revelations actually has very little impact on the practicing Christian faiths and the lives of individual believers. The fact that it is brought up as a reason for anything Christians do, Fundamentalist or not, suggests an ignorance about the beliefs and practices of significant portion of the country.

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otto 04.04.06 at 6:11 pm

One fundamental presupposition of the paper is that the United States close relationship with Israel is counter to US interests. If this supposition is wrong, does the rest of the material mater?

The paper is most useful at showing WHY the US has the Middle East policy it has. That’s a separable notion from whether the policy is counter to US interests. You may have thought the Congress should have refused to pass Hillary’s healthcare plan. But whether you did or not, the mobilisation of the National Restaurant Association is WHY the healthcare plan did not pass. Etc Etc.

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Ted 04.04.06 at 8:13 pm

I’m wondering if you guys out east get a different version of the New York Times than those of us in the midwest do.

Being an avid daily reader – ok, I think the NYT’s sports writers are easily the best in the business – I can’t recall a single pro-Israel article in 2006.

A long Magazine article about how well accepted the former Taliban propaganda minister is at Yale.

Lots of wonderful press in Arts & Leisure about the play “My Name is Rachel Corrie”. And another article about just how terrible the architecture of the “Separation Fence” is.

Pompous, and in my mind deeply flawed analysis, about how the Hamas victory will improve the chances for “peace”.

And last Sunday, on page 6 of the first section, a story on how nasty the settlers of a West Bank community are to a newly elected Knesset member from their town, who wants to resettle them to the west.

But nothing that could be considered even mildly neutral with regards to Israel.

Maybe the Times is edited differently in New York because of all those, you know, Jews who live there. So I’m sure one of you guys out east will be able to tell me about some of the numerous pro-Israel articles in the New York edition.

But here in “flyover country” I can’t recall any at all.

—-

I have to say though, that anytime Chomsky, Dershowitz, Hitchens and Massad agree that a paper on Israel is deeply flawed, it must really be a dreadful piece of work.

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rollo 04.04.06 at 8:47 pm

James-“One fundamental presupposition of the paper is that the United States close relationship with Israel is counter to US interests.”
One corollary of that fundamental presupposition is that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would not have happened without the avid and intense pressures applied by whatever it is that’s being discussed here.
Anyone arguing that the invasion and occupation of Iraq have been anything but massively detrimental to US interests has a great deal of work to do to convince the rest of us.

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abb1 04.05.06 at 2:20 am

Michael Neumann says: it’s doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is that it is, indeed, counter to US interests…

Well, I say it does matter because people are afraid to say what they think, afraid of this anti-anti-semitism brigade. Dershowitz and other demagogues need to be confronted and shamed out of the mainstream media into the fringe where they belong.

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Ted 04.05.06 at 6:32 pm

abb1/rollo:

Iraq invades Iran causing hundreds of thousands of casulties. Iraq invades Kuwait causing ten of thousands of casulties.

The US leads a coalition to liberate Kuwait. We lose hundreds of soldiers and spend Billions of dollars to defend Arabs from other Arabs. And during the American War to Defend Arabs, Iraq commits a war crime by firing missles on civilians in Israel, leading to the death of single older woman.

And you say it is the Jews who forced the US to invade Iraq?

Y tw bvsl hv n cl hw ttrl dtc yr ln f “rsnng” hs bcm.

Bt t lst y rmn ttll cnsstnt wth yr htrd f srl.

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