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Mearsheimer, Walt and the so-called “silent” Jewish doves

I have read the Mearsheimer and Walt book. They have answered some–although not all– of my prayers, which were spelled out in my post on August 12th. The book is much more careful, more nuanced, more detailed and more convincing than their original paper, which was published in the Spring of 2006.

I wanted very much to like their original paper, but it contained too many questionable assertions, half-truths and unsupported or unqualified generalizations. This book still has problemmatic sections, but it must be taken more seriously. No doubt some in the organized Jewish community will lambaste them not just for their mistakes –and there are still many of those in the book—but for the act of writing it and skewering the conventional lobby. The rest of us ought to be absorbing what they have to say, taking it seriously, not blinking at truths that are incontrovertible and thinking very hard about their political and moral implications.

They still exaggerate –sometimes dramatically– “the Israel lobby’s” ability to get its way and influence the actual decisions that are made by actual Administrations in actual historical circumstances. They cling to the notion that Israel and its lobby were “the principle driving force behind the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003,” and I believe that is not accurate. They are especially unfair to Clinton’s Middle East peace team, for reasons that require much more space to explain. They make other important arguments about the inner workings of AIPAC and the rest of the lobby that don’t hold up. In the future, I will have more to say about the extent of the lobby’s power and take exception to other particulars in this book. But I don’t see how anyone can dispute their most important, overarching conclusions, painful though they may be to many American Jews. e.g.:

Washington’s reflexive support for Israel has fueled anti-Americanism throughout the Arab and Islamic world and undermined the U.S. image in many other countries as well. The lobby has made it difficult for U.S. leaders to pressure Israel, thereby prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This situation gives Islamic terrorists a powerful recruiting tool and contributes to the growth of Islamic radicalism.

Unlike the original paper, the book makes an effort to show that self-styled, pro-Israel, American Jewish organizations do not form anything close to a monolithic front. It notes that:

[While] AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents have tilted toward Likud and other hard-line parties in Israel and were skeptical about the Oslo process, a number of other, smaller groups –such as Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v’ Shalom, Israel Policy Forum, Jewish Voices for Peace, Meretz USA and the Tikkun Community—strongly favor a two-state solution and believe Israel needs to make significant concessions in order to bring it about…

…Some of these organizations actively promote U.S. engagement in the peace process and have been able to win some minor legislative victories…[but], such groups lack the financial resources and influence of AIPAC, the ADL, the ZOA or the Conference of Presidents, whose right of center views are unfortunately taken by politicians, policy makers and the media to be the representative voice of American Jewry. For the moment…the major organizations in the lobby will continue to advocate policy positions at odds with many of the people in whose name they speak.

That is, of course, true. It is a truth that has been one of the banes of my existence. It is also true and important to note that, as they put it, “even when the leaders and rank and file of important American Jewish organizations have serious reservations about Israeli policy, they rarely call for the U.S. government to put significant pressure on the Israeli government.” That has been another, personal bane. Obviously, the underfunded Jewish peace camp has not provided a strong political counterweight to more hawkish, richer and noisier organizations. This state of affairs that has helped to constrain American policy makers from taking a more balanced approach to the conflict, an approach that would clearly be in America’s interest as well as Israel’s.

Towards the end of the book, one of their recommendations is:

strengthening more moderate forces that already exist” [in the current Israel lobby] or…creating new, pro-Israel groups that support different policies. U.S. and Israel interests would also be advanced by wresting power away from hardliners who now control AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, the Conference of Presidents…Such efforts might also be strengthened by institutional reforms that would give the rank and file a greater voice in determining these organizations’ policy prescriptions.

Finally, they insist in a number of places that they are “pro-Israel.” They “believe that the history of the Jewish people and the norm of self-determination provides ample justification for a Jewish State.” They are two-staters who reject the bi-national, single-state option and the actual implementation of the Palestinian “right of return.” And they want the U.S. to come Israel’s aid if its survival is threatened. In other words (sorry to disappoint you, hard lefties who want them to be your heros, and righties who want people like me to denounce them), they sometimes come across as…left wing Zionists. Or at least they appreciate left-wing Zionists, which amounts to the same thing.

I will offer one major quibble, for now, because it pertains to the actual tactics necessary to effect change in both the Jewish community and American foreign policy:

Mearsheimer and Walt exaggerate the extent to which people in my camp and other American Jews have been constrained from criticizing Israel in public or attacking the conventional Israel lobby when they disagree with it. They assert that “more sensible voices in the Jewish community will have to discard the taboo against public criticism of Israelis policies that are harmful to Israel and may even be harmful to Jews in the Diaspora.” Elsewhere, they make the very familiar claim that there is a “norm against public criticism” of Israel within the Jewish community.

Now, there are people who still believe there should be a “norm against public criticism,” but that norm has been violated so often, and so vociferously, in the last two decades that it can no longer be taken seriously as a predictor of the community’s behavior. It was shattered by the American Jewish right during Oslo, some of whom actively and openly lobbied against official Israeli policy in Washington. But there have also been many important precedents of vocal dissent against Israeli policies by Jews on the left, who have spoken out and somehow managed to survive as members of the organized community. These precedents offer some hope to those of us who agree that Israel as well as America need a different, more evenhanded U.S. approach to the conflict, and that more American Jews must make it clear that they support this kind of approach.

One example used by Mearsheimer and Walt to show “efforts to marginalize dissenting Jewish voices” is a recent vocal campaign by the Zionist Organization of America against the Union of Progressive Zionists. The UPZ sponsored on-campus appearances of “Breaking the Silence,” a group of Israeli soldiers who told vivid stories of the brutal behavior exhibited by Israelis trying to enforce the occupation. That disturbed the ZOA and its leader Mort Klein, who “demanded that the group be expelled from the Israel on Campus Coalition, a network of pro-Israel groups that includes AIPAC and the ADL.” They also note other voices of opposition.

Mearsheimer and Walt mention that “the ICC steering committee unanimously rejected the ZOA’s demand.” But they might not realize that some of the most vocal supporters of keeping the UPZ on campus reportedly included the reps of the Conference of Presidents and other mainstays of the lobby that supposedly wants to suppress opposition to Israeli policies.

The leaders of these mainstream groups apparently understand –or at least begrudgingly accept– that the communal tent needs to be big enough to include Israelis and American Jews who are mortified by the moral costs of the occupation and willing to say so, publicly. The fact that Mort Klein –and one Orthodox Jewish organization– weighed in against this particular form of criticism hardly means their sentiments are representative of the Jewish community’s.

Klein is also invoked in another example that, the authors assert, shows “how deep the opposition to open discussion runs”: in 1996, he objected to the ADL’s invitation to Tom Friedman to speak at their dinner. But the ADL let him speak. These and a few other examples they cite do not show there is a “norm” or a “taboo” against open discussion or criticism of Israeli policies. They show that one set of Jews is arguing with another set of Jews.

Klein is a ferocious, skillful opponent of any conciliation or compromise with the Palestinians, but he has a relatively small following now and had a much smaller one in 1996. To treat him as a representative of deep currents in the community is like treating Pat Robertson as a representative of mainstream Christians. More importantly, he himself has CONSTANTLY violated the “norm” by attacking Israeli policies that he considers to be too conciliatory. He openly disdains that norm.

Moreover, Mearsheimer and Walt ignore the way divisions over Israeli settlement policies and some military actions caused deep schisms among American Jews beginning in the 1980s. They spend a great deal of space on the [shameful] treatment of Breira, a group of lefty Jews who were ostracized by the community in the 1970s. But times changed. Norms and paradigms of discourse gradually –VERY gradually– began to shift once Begin was elected in ’78.

Yes, when confronted with Begin and then Shamir, it was a minority of American Jews who protested publicly or otherwise went against the grain. But that minority did include some important mainstream leaders and organizations, including the American Jewish Congress and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now called the Union of Reform Judaism). In times of emergency, the protests and disquiet spilled out of organizational board rooms and made it into mainstream media. There was rarely an unbroken wall of support for –or passive acceptance of–Israeli policies or the positions of the conventional Israel lobby. Consider:

o–On May 5, 1990, Time Magazine ran an article entitled; “The agony over Israel: American Jews face a dilemma: how to criticize the Jewish state without seeming disloyal.” It asserted: “It has been an article of faith held by every government of Israel since the Jewish state was founded: no matter how much American Jews might disagree with Israeli policy, they could be counted on not to keep their criticisms public. No more. The American Jewish community has become a house divided –and sometimes loudly so—over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories and its reluctance to pursue a comprehensive settlement that finally might bring peace to the region.”

o–Two years before that (March 21, 1988), a New York Times headline proclaimed “Shamir assails his U.S. Jewish critics.” The lead: “Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir lashed out yesterday against American Jews who have been pressing the United States government to force Israel to accept an international conference to resolve the Arab Israeli dispute.” Reporting on Shamir’s speech to a meeting of the Presidents Conference, the story noted that “Albert Vorspann, senior vice president of [the Union of] American Hebrew Congregations, argued that Israel could not always expect the `reflexive loyalty’ of American Jewry. He said it was “dangerous to imply that honest disagreements represent disloyalty.”

o–In February of that same year, Commentary devoted a whole issue to the mounting, passionate, very public protests of Israeli policies by American Jews. A cranky, unsigned introduction explained,“never perhaps has criticism of the state of Israel by American Jews been so open, so widespread, and so bitter as it is today.”

o–Six years before that, on July 15th, 1982, a New York Times headline read “Discord Among U.S. Jews over Israel Seems to Grow. ” The article, about American Jewish opposition to Israel’s continuing military assault on Lebanon, asserted “As in Israel itself, opponents of the policies of Prime Minister Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon are beginning to engage in skirmishes through articles, statements, letters and newspaper advertisements.”

There are many other examples. Of course there were not enough of us and these efforts were not politically consequential. Of course there are not enough of us now. And of course a good many attitudinal shifts will be necessary for American Jews in my camp to be an effective political opposition. But, while the taboo against taking on Israeli policies or pressing for active American diplomatic engagement is still out there, it is not nearly as strong as Mearsheimer and Walt seem to think.

The question remains, will enough silent, passive American Jewish liberals ever feel like there is a sufficiently grave emergency to start making noise?

47 thoughts on “Mearsheimer, Walt and the so-called “silent” Jewish doves

  1. Thanks for yr review. We pretty much agree in our evaluation of it (though I only read the paper & haven’t read the book yet). I did speak by phone w. Mearsheimer a few days ago & he’s eminently reasonable & speaks almost like a…”left-wing Zionist,” just as you said.

    I’ll read yr review a little more carefully when I have the time. Just skimmed it since it’s late.

  2. My sense is that the taboo against criticism of Israel has much less power, but the taboo against pressing the U.S. to press Israel is still controlling much of the public and private discourse in the Jewish community. How many Jewish organizations joined the international chorus that wanted the U.S. to insist that Israel show more restraint during the 2nd Lebanon War? Wish I could share your relentless optimism about our community, Dan.

  3. Dan:

    I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for your comprehensive overview of the Israel Lobby, and for taking the time to actually read the book, which most of us I’m sure have not had the opportunity to do at this point. I have recommended your blog on another website this morning and I linked directly to your post because I believe that it is critical for all Americans, Jew and non-Jew to read your review.

    I cannot tell you how conflicted I am about all of the underlying issues surrounding this debate. On the one hand, I am and will remain unconvinced that the notion that a Jewish lobby led the USA into a shooting war in Iraq is a notion that can be so easily separated from prior assertions over the millenia that the Jewish people exercise extraordinary control. I think that failure to recognize such a link is generally and not even usually anti-semitic, but I do find it incredibly insensitive. On the other hand, I am aware that AIPAC et al do exercise extraordinary control in Washington, and it is silly and ultimately not productive for the American Jewish community to fail to recognize that fact.

    Thank you Dan for presenting the most candid and balanced and informative assessment of the W and M book that I have seen in the print media and on the internet. You have done a mitzvah!

    Sincerely,

    Bruce

  4. Even from the few sentences quoted here, it’s clear that they don’t quite understand the Jewish organizational world. Jewish Voices for Peace can’t be lumped into the same category as the other groups that do favor a two-state solution. Putting the ZOA in the same category as AIPAC and Pres. Conference in terms of influence is a mistake. These might seem like minor quibbles, but the problem with their paper was precisely that they often didn’t quite know what they were talking about when they described “the lobby,” because they relied on newspaper clips and a few outside sources instead of actually talking to primary sources. Haven’t read the book but, based on this, suspect the problem wasn’t solved

  5. I think Dan is a bit too apologetic in his comments.

    The term “Israel lobby” is a generalization, a poorly constructed term, appropriate to sell magazine columns and invite suspicion (fear itself if you remember the Kennedy speech).

    If as Walt and Mearscheimer are honest about regarding the activities of the “lobby” as NOT monolithic, not coordinated, fully legal (I’m sure there are individual exceptions), and representatively diverse in conclusions, then a more appropriate topic of discussion is in the specific policies, practises, decisions.

  6. Not sure what you mean, Richard, or what you’re trying to point out.

    As M&W show, groups concerned about Israel are not monolithic, but what matters in Congress and the White House is the perception of what the “pro-Israel” forces want and need, and the perception is still that more traditional groups are the most consequential. This part of M&W’s analysis concerns the process by which policies are set, or not set –or the reasons they are set or not set. The only way to understand that process and those reasons is to understand the different factions with strong opinions about Israel, and weigh both their relative power and their stances on the big questions facing Israelis and Arabs.

  7. I keep pressing this merry band of Dan Fleshler-followers to explain to me if they think reflexive support for Israel by the U.S is in America’s interests. Still no response. Mearsheimer and Walt make a very thorough, if unoriginal case that this support is not in America’s strategic interests and that the moral case for it does not hold up, either. Why don’t you admit that, or try to argue with it?

  8. Marco:

    “I keep pressing this merry band of Dan Fleshler-followers to explain to me if they think reflexive support for Israel by the U.S is in America’s interests. Still no response.”

    First, you’re being rude and that is inherently counterproductive on a subject that all good people, inlcuding you I assume, would rather discuss in good faith. Indeed, if you have not previously received a response to your query, it could be that people have ignored you because of the type of rudeness that you have dispalayed above.

    Second, I don’t think that Dan Fleshler believes that “reflexive support for Israel by the U.S. is in America’s interest”, and I don’t believe that either. Maybe you can point out why you might believe that Dan or anyone else who has posted here does believe that–with facts instead of snark.

    As to Dan’s “merry band . . . of followers”, I just met the guy a few weeks ago and I do think that Dan, more than anyone I’ve seen post about the Middle East, offers a balanced and comfortable and inviting forum to discuss the things you claim you wish to discuss as well.

    Stick around Marco, and let’s help Dan make this place an oasis of good faith discussion about the I-P dispute and the role of the U.S. Heavens knows, there are plenty of other places on the web to play king of the turd mountain.

    FWIW.

    Bruce

  9. Dan,
    In the LRB article, Walt and Mearscheimer also “clarified” that they did not regard the “Israel lobby” as monolithic, but then proceeded to speak as if it was.

    And, most importantly, those on the left and right that seek to use the term “Israel lobby” opportunistically, continue to regard it as monolithic.

    If its monolithic, its important to comment on, and oppose. If its not monolithic, then to use a term that implies it, is an exageration, and not particularly substantive.

    By the far right and far left, you are described as part of the Israel lobby. Consider Marco’s comments above. Also consider the tenor of comments on Mondoweiss.

    By apologetic, I sense that you are similarly being influenced by pressure and not merely convinced of positions.

    For example, during the Lebanon war last year, in numerous dialogs with many left leaning participants, I was castigated for “not knowing” whether Israel’s efforts were just in seeking to remove Hezbollah militia from Southern Lebanon, and how to.

    I was part of the “Israel lobby”, the unquestioning.

    Or, in describing Zionism as a good, I am declared to be part of the “Israel lobby”.

    I sympathize with the motivations and some elements of the analysis of some groups that have been described as right-wing, particularly the observation that the left is often cavalier in ignoring the right of Israeli residents to live free from fear of terror and mortar attacks.

    Our conclusions as to how to deal with it differ, and that is the proper subject for discussion.

    And, I agree with much analysis that describes a form of anti-semitism in many anti-Zionist pronouncement.

    And, that should also be named. The right of people to self-associate and self-govern should be loudly affirmed.

  10. After thinking this over carefully, I don’t think these professors are really anti-Semitic. What they actually are is far worse. Read on.

    Walt and Mearsheimer are utilizing the same anti-Semitic tactics as despots who wish to distract their subjects from the malignant social ills that they themselves foster, but unlike despots who fabricate Jewish conspiracy theories out of a combination of opportunism and actual hate, these professors have written their essay and book based on the former motivation alone, opportunism.

    Like bank robbers, their motivation for this outrage is primarily because “the Jews are there”, are the target du jour of the Islamofascists (for now!), and have proven useful as punching bags to countless others in history.

    The professors’ writings show no respect for the Jewish people and for their past persecutions, but the professors are not anti-Semitic, just amoral and opportunistic. Accusations of anti-Semitism are a distraction from the real issues.

    Walt and Mearscheimer know full well there is no super-powerful “Jewish Lobby”, that the pro-Israel lobbyists have competing counterparts representing many other causes and countries, and that the pro-Israel lobby is not particularly remarkable in this environment. They know full well that the misrepresentations of fact, omissions, things taken out of context, logical errors, etc. in their prior paper and this book are indeed risible, the trash produced by dilettantes, not by serious researchers.

    But they don’t care.

    What would make them produce such garbage?

    Fear of Islamofascism, and the standards of (mis)conduct that come right from the halls of academia with which they’ve lived their lives, notably amorality and betrayal of friends when some self-interest is served. (For professors, it’s usually money and status.) They are clearly enthralled with university culture and attempting to export that pathologic “culture” to the rest of the world.

    What is the “gain” here? In the main, I do think the reason d’atre of their book is one of appeasement and surrender to Islamofascism.

    A few hundred million insane bloodthirsty Arabs and other followers of the death cult of Islam calling for Death to Israel and Death to America: what better way to appease them than writing a book that the authors hope will cause the U.S. to hang Israel out to dry in the face of genocidal maniacs, groups and countries like Hezbollah, Hamas, Ahmadinejad, Syria and Iran?

    In fact, they are not anti-Semites. Rather, they are equal opportunity amoralists. If the Islamofascists were chanting “Death to Mexico! Death to America!”, Walt and Mearsheimer would undoubtedly craft conspiracy theories that might justify allowing Osama and his minions to relocate from Waziristan to Acapulco.

    University professors are renowned for turning on their friends, students and colleagues at the drop of a hat, if they see a personal gain in doing so. They could care less about ruining careers and lives. See for example, “Academic Tyranny: The Tale and the Lessons”, Robert Weissberg, Review of Policy Research, Vol. 15 no. 4 P. 99-110, Dec. 1998, and especially “Authorship: The Coin of the Realm, The Source of Complaints” by Wilcox, Journal of the AMA, Vol. 280 No. 3, July 15, 1998 that describes how stealing of others’ work and career-ending professorial retaliation against those who complain is common at Walt’s university, Harvard. Of course see http://www.thefire.org as well.

    So, Walt and Mearsheimer wrote this book in all its faux-academic glory in the cowardly and academic-culture-inspired hope of spearheading a U.S. betrayal of its friend, Israel, in their hope that this will satiate the Islamofascists’ appetite for blood and “honor.”

    They are incredibly reckless in this regard. Their book is quite socially irresponsible (not a new thing for academia). Their whole theme, abandonment of friends for supposed secondary gain, i.e., the appeasement of a brutal terrorist killer culture, is explicitly amoral (and likely immoral as well for those of us not prone to moral relativism) as well as anti-American.

    They are using this book and likely their educational pulpits with students as a weapon, with the desired collateral damage of weakening the U.S. (Does anyone even need to ask anymore why Ivy professors might be against a strong United States?)

    Walt and Mearsheimer, through their arrogance, stupidity, and exportation of academia’s amoral tyranny, are tacitly working for our enemies.

    These professors are out of control, like a runaway locomotive, thanks to the cheerful support of opportunistic anti-Semites and the MSM (I’m not sure those two are entirely separable). They need to be stopped – however, accusations of anti-Semitism are a distraction and they know it.

    Walt and Mearsheimer have more in common with Arthur Neville Chamberlain than David Ernest Duke or Alfred Charles Sharpton.

    That said, as Abraham Foxman, Alan Dershowitz, and many others as well have observed (documented at the CAMERA – Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America story “Updated Roundup of Coverage of the Walt/Mearsheimer Israel Lobby Controversy” at http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=8&x_nameinnews=189&x_article=1105), Walt & Mearsheimer’s faux-scholarship is “riddled with errors” that tend to slant it “in the exact same direction, thus we are dealing not with a little unfortunate carelessness but with a culpable degree of bias.”

    I submit again that their “carelessness and bias” is most likely knowing and deliberate, but not due to anti-Semitism. Its purpose is promoting appeasement and the weakening of America, at a cost to Israelis and Jews the professors are indifferent to and simply don’t care about, typical of Ivy professors who want their way, period.

    There is a term for deliberate and knowing falsification in academia for any secondary purpose:

    Academic Fraud.

    Walt and Mearshiemer have placed themselves in the same league as Finkelstein, Chomsky, and other academic fabricators.

    Charges of anti-Semitism are a distraction from their motivations. Charges of academic incompetence are not highly credible considering the experience, resources and positions of these professors.

    Charges of deliberate academic fraud are, I believe, closer to reality, and perhaps hold the key to successful challenging of this dangerous charade.

    In summary, Walt and Mearsheimer’s distortions are knowing and deliberate, in the interest of appeasement of Islamofascism and the weakening of the “imperialist AmeriKKKa.” The Israelis and Jews make good cannon fodder because “they’re there” and have a historical track record of serving this purpose for despots. W&M malign the Jews not out of anti-Semitism but out of amoral academic convenience.

    This is worse than run-of-the-mill professorial anti-Semitism due to its generalized, nihilistic stupidity.

    My only hope is that these professors are doing this of their own volition, and that there are no “handlers” involved.

    – ERIS

  11. Marco, I hope that you listen to Bruce about the need for a certain level of civility. But Bruce, compared to a lot of the anti-Israel left, Marco is actually relatively tame. I don’t mind his hostility because it obviously has an intellectual basis; he’s obviously done some thinking about all of this.

    I consider myself a Meretz-leaning, left wing supporter of Israel. I don’t think blind and automatic support for Israel is in America’s interest. I don’t see why the massive amounts of aid doled out to Israel are sacrosanct. I don’t see why the U.S. should not be able to use sticks as well as carrots against Israel.

    But I also don’t buy the idea that Israel and its citizens are so well-protected by its security establishment that they don’t need America’s help. If you are enough of an expert on the nuclear capabilities and politics of Iran to say Israel would not be imperiled if Iran developed nuclear weapons, then you know more than most of the people who mock the idea that Israel is in danger. I suspect that you are not an expert. Neither am I. also certainly don’t know if recent reports from Israeli security analysts about the buildup of chemical arms in Syria, or new munitions smuggled to Hamas from Egypt, should be taken seriously. But I understand that Israelis are better off safe than sorry and that maintaining the so-called “qualitative miliary edge” in a sea of hostile nations is a prudent course. My understanding is that the U.S. plays an important role in maintaining that edge.

    I believe Dan once wrote about countries having “security interests” but also “moral interests.” I think the U.S. has a moral interest in protecting both Israelis and Palestinians from dying. So there. You got an answer. You won’t like it, I’m sure, but you got one.

  12. ERIS,

    That was quite fascinating. May I suggest your argument would be strengthened if you decided what you are arguing about? You offer 3 or perhaps 2 and1/2 “motivations” for their so-called “fraud”:

    o–“these professors have written their essay and book based on the former motivation alone, opportunism.”

    o–“the reason d’atre [sic] of their book is one of appeasement and surrender to Islamofascism.”

    o–“their `carelessness and bias’ is most likely knowing and deliberate, but not due to anti-Semitism. Its purpose is promoting appeasement and the weakening of…“’imperialist AmeriKKKa.’”

    So, which is it? Do they want to make money and get lecture gigs and sell books or screw the rest of us?

    The one about “weakening” America is especially interesting. They are, apparently, quiet deliberate conspirators against America, is that it? These profs who have spent their whole careers touting “realism” in order to protect American interests? Never heard that logic used against them before. But, oh yeah, it does sound familiar. It is the mirror-image rhetoric of those who think American Jews are quiet, deliberate conspirators against America. You might want to study David Duke a bit more because his rhetoric is more logically consistent than yours. I’m sure you would learn some valuable lessons.

  13. This “realism” in defense of American “interests”, is a slippery slope.

    While Walt and Mearsheimer might suspect that people like Wolfowitz, Perle and others have dual loyalties, most conservatives would not suggest that at all, that if anything they are confidently advocating for what they perceive of as America’s interest.

    That conflicts in my mind with what is ethical.

    BOTH references, one addressing what conflicts with the American state’s interests or even the exclusive American people’s interests, and what conflicts with Israel’s state or people’s interests, are inevitably biased, potentially rejecting what is humane for what is national.

    I consider the moniker “realist” to be a form of PR branding. “I am realistic, while you speak of potential or worse, fantasy.”

    Somehow that is preferable to working for what is possible?

  14. Dan,
    One of my biggest problems with the original article was their discussion of the Iraq war. Most of those in the Bush II admin who wanted to go to war against Iraq were retreads from the Bush I admin and included some Jews but more non-Jews. Among these were Cheney, Powell, Rice, Elliot Abrams, Paul From, and Wolfowitz. One could as easily argue that it was a “black conspiracy” as a Jewish one. There were several motivations for their animus towards Iraq:
    1) The belief that the 1991 Gulf War was unfinished business.
    2) Saddam’s defiance of America was bad for America’s diplomacy in the region.
    3) Saddam was believed by nearly everyone to be acquiring WMD–most took it for granted that he had chemical weapons and believed that he was attempting to develop biological weapons and purchase the fissile material for nuclear weapons. I saw an interview with Richard Holbrooke, an assistant secretary of State for European Affairs under Clinton, in which he stated this to be the case. This was based not only on the statements of Iraqi defectors but on an analysis of the actions of Saddam. Saddam wanted his neighbors to believe that he still had WMD. He downplayed the dangers of provoking a second war with the U.S. Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s second secretary of State, wrote in her memoirs that she did not blame Bush for invading Iraq.
    4)For George W. Bush the fact that Saddam tried to assassinate George H.W. Bush was probably more than enough reason to go to war against him.

    But if one reads the Israeli press during the period from 2001-03 I believe that one will find that Iran is perceived as a much greater threat to Israel than Iraq. The Sharon government was not about to oppose America’s invasion of Iraq and its free ridding of one of Israel’s enemies, and risk a fight with Israel’s main ally. But if Bush had consulted Sharon early on in his administration about which Middle Eastern country America should go to war against, I’m certain Sharon would have advised Iran or Syria.

    In the paper Mearsheimer and Walt behaved in some ways like a pair of bright high school students doing research for a paper on the internet. I believe that with a major bonus they now have had the werewithal to properly research the subject. Hopefully, they have now done so.

  15. R.Dove said…”In other words (sorry to disappoint you, hard lefties who want them to be your heros, and righties who want people like me to denounce them), they sometimes come across as…left wing Zionists. Or at least they appreciate left-wing Zionists, which amounts to the same thing”…

    Well actual it doesn’t matter what either “side” wants.The demographics,pretty much assure that Arabs/Palestinians will be the majority,(and a lot sooner than some would suspect),should the two state solution ever be implemented.Even within Israel(of course only if Israel truly begins to respects the democratic rights of it Palestinian pop,i.e,by allowing Israeli Palestinians to marry other Palestinians/Arabs outside of Israel proper and still remaining Israeli citizens,the granting of the right of return) the Palestinians will eventually become the majority,which has been historically the case.
    The tragic interlude of European powers into the affairs of this region,and the enforcing of their desires/policies on the Arab/Palestinian population through the use of force of arms and political/economic pressure,is the only thing,and has been the only thing,preventing a natural balance to evolve.
    In short only by respecting democracy,and the democratic rights of all peoples in the area will a solution be found.
    Whether it be a two state or one state solution.Israel will have to give up on the laws and dreams aimed at building an Israel reserved for and made up of,only Jews.In the mean time she must respect the 67 borders,stop building settlement,and pull out unconditional from all the occupied territories.

  16. Dan,
    I think Eris erred in imagining Walt and Mearsheimer’s motives.

    That is something that noone can confidently surmise.

    I think he is accurate in some characteristics of their results (some of which you yourself characterized).

    For example, the similarity of the description of the monolith. (“Jews have an disproportionate influence in the world”. “Jews make us do things that we don’t want to do.” “Jews will do anything legal or illegal even to get what they want”.)

    While some of the content in the article, interviews, and book disavows these exagerations, the title and whole message of the book, resembles those descriptions.

    That it took them three published materials to get even close to what an academic standard would consider convincing, speaks BADLY for their integrity as scholars.

    They were willing to put out generalization and innuendo, but demand that their status as reliable “scholars” be accepted.

    We should set the professional bar high.

  17. Richard,

    There HAS to be some way to analyze and discuss the conventional pro-Israel lobby and its impact on American politics and U.S. foreign policy. You appear to be taking on two different problems. One of them is the quality of their scholarship, which has been much improved but still misses the mark in parts of the book. The other thing that appears to bother you is the fact that they brought up the subject of Jewish political power at all and sought to address it in the public arena. It is very difficult to talk about the second and avoid the kinds of anti-Semitic canards that routinely appear in the left-wing blogs. But it is vital to try. That is one of the purposes of this blog, actually. Again, I think it is vital to learn what we can learn from their analysis and calmly discard the rest.

    Tom, I agree with you about their take on Iraq and actually wrote about it in Reform Judaism magazine last winter (it’s in the “Publications” page of this blog). In the book, they fixed some of their false assumptions and errors but still missed the mark.

  18. First of all I want to congratulate Dan on an outstanding review. One of the few sane things I’ve read so far on the subject of the new version of W&M’s argument.

    I often feel as if I’m wandering in an alien desert or some uncanny “region of unlikeness,” so it’s delightful to come across an oasis from time to time and to find people there to talk to.

    I also want to say that I like Dan’s response to Richard Witty, but that there is an important matter at play in Richard’s remarks that Dan is missing or side-stepping. The weakest aspect of W&M’s analysis, far more problematic I think than the scattered imprecision of their scholarship, is their insistence that the positions taken by powerful elements of the lobby (both Jewish and non-Jewish, lest we forget the influence of parts of Evangelical Christian community) are counter to American interests. It may be that they are, but I think this is an argument that can only be properly made in the wake of their argument. It should not be made part of the argument itself (this is one of their constant slipping points—another is their tendency to follow statements that the lobby is not monolithic with treatments of it that suggest it is exactly that). The fact is that no one really knows what’s actually in the best interests of the nation. That “actuality” is a surprisingly slippery thing itself. One’s position on what’s “best” will depend on one’s definition of the nation itself (what it is you think it is when it’s at what you recognize as it’s “best”).

    Since people will legitimately argue over that root definition, they are going to legitimately argue over policy. I am absolutely certain that most people on the right in the lobby and in the loose set of intellectual affiliations we often call “neo-conservatism” actually believe that present US foreign policy in the Middle East is in fact in the national interest. Better to support, their thinking goes, Israelis who think they way they themselves do. Better to use Israel as an important arm of policy US policy than to allow to become neutralized or weak to the point at which it stops being a US asset economically or militarily. Many of these people also factor in a number of other considerations when imagining what’s best for America (cultural affiliations of various kinds, religious beliefs, conceptions of common cause against common enemies, Judeophilia in its various forms, plus, among the Jews in this group, Jewish anxieties, reflexive sentiments, and family ties—not to mention the complicated relations between US and Israeli businesses, both Jewish and not). All of that makes for a pretty complex mix of motives for or against any given policy. The argument that there are other, competing definitions of the national good, as well as different and often competing centers of interest and affiliation at work in America that could drive policy in different directions than the dominant one now does is not an argument that those agendas should be driving policy instead.

    W&M—I think inadvertently and intermittently, but often enough to matter—fudge the distinction between a critique of a situation in which one set of definitions and agendas seems to have an inordinate amount of control of the democratic process, and an argument that the those agendas are in fact bad for the nation. The first is their proper subject. The second has to come next and come separately.

    Now, I happen to agree that the moderate “leftish” approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that they support would be better for all concerned (better for Israel, better for America, and better for the Palestinians—although it’s not perhaps what many among the Palestinians themselves might define as “best”). However, that argument has to be made in terms of concrete policy and in less concrete terms of national self-definition. Technically, such a debate is separate from the question of whether of not the power of the “Israel Lobby” has made it difficult for other definitions of the nation and it’s interests to get a hearing in the halls of power—definitions and agendas that deserve democratic representation like any other.

    You can argue for curbs on the power of a given lobby or you can argue for the support of the creation of and the strengthening of counter-poised lobbying groups without claiming that the whole problem stems from the fact that over-powerful lobby in question is serving the good of another nation at the expense of the US. All it’s doing is pushing a political agenda based in a particular definition of the nation and its interests with which you may not agree. To argue—or even seem to argue—that particular people or particular organizations are consciously working against US interests because of either dual or decidedly foreign loyalties leaves you too open to attack from people ready to say the same thing in reverse. And I do think that—at times—W&M either do or seem to do just that, and it weakens the possibilities their book has for a wider impact. These moments give people like our friend Eris something to latch onto.

    Let me say again, however, that aside from this issue, I think Dan’s review of the book says everything else that needs to be said about it (at least at this point). Now it’s time for everyone to read it and think and then come back to the oasis and talk.

  19. Dan,
    I don’t believe that Walt and Mearsheimer exhibited the care necessary to avoid the anti-Semitic canards, and they SHOULD have known better, on the ethical merits of careful scholarship (careful including impacts on others).

    There is no way to separate their carelessness from the message. It is part of it.

    A $700,000 advance.

    Why is the Israel lobby of any substance here, when there is clear and frequent dissent expressed publicly and to the relevant decision-makers?

    What happened to the scrutiny of the oil lobby? Or, the defense industry? Or, the mercenary (“security contractors”) lobby?

    Or, the intelligence community?

    The intelligence community has historically been anti-semitic, as in excluding Jews from positions of power, on the basis of being Jewish.

    The state department has historically been anti-semitic in similar regard, but also in favoring oil interests over the moral support of Zionism on humanistic terms.

    Its why I criticize the “realism” stated in terms of what are US interests. To my mind, national interests conflict with humane.

    And, appeals to national interests nearly always morph into some jingoism.

    I’ve NEVER encountered anyone that was non-biased, “realist”. The most genuine that I’ve encountered have been those that identify their perspective candidly, and negotiate mutually beneficial relations with others that similarly candidly identify their perspective.

    I like my perspective of supporting Israel, and urging that Israel negotiate for mutual benefit, not particularly for advantage.

    But, the message of the “Israel lobby” to liberal Zionists, is to ask for our walking apology in every breath.

  20. Richard, there are lobbyists and groups that have constrained American administrations from criticizing Israel on settlements and have otherwise done more harm than good to Israeli and American interests. I want to be able to discuss them, to open up their hoods and poke around and reveal how they work and what impact they’ve had. Mearsheimer and Walt have tried to do so and I don’t think they have done a very good job, but some of their most important points are valid. It’s really not much more complicated than that. I only used the “Realist” tag because that is how Mearsheimer and Walt fancy themselves or are perceived in the political science community.

  21. I’ve experienced more suppression by the left than by the right, even though I’ve publicly spoken in defense of Palestinian rights, and in defense of Israeli’s rights.

    So criticize individuals’ actions and policies.

    That is a different beast than the generalization, “The Israel Lobby”.

    The focus should be on policy, content. If specific pro-Israel lobbyists acted to suppress debate in some way, then that is at best an irritation, a secondary concern.

    The book, and hoopla, and the debate about the hoopla, similarly distract from discussion of content.

    It gives cover to those that blame, rather than giving support to those that reconcile by listening to each other’s needs.

    Its a side show.

  22. Trying to make sense,

    I want to apologize on behalf of WordPress because your comment was blocked by the spam filter for awhile. It is one of the more interesting comments I’ve read on this whole subject. I’m too tired to react to it but wanted to thank you for chiming in.

  23. Dan,

    Thanks, I was wondering why it hadn’t posted! Let me know if you need me to send it again. I look forward to hearing from you when you get a chance.

  24. Sense,
    Thanks for articulating well.

    Also, thanks to Dan for thoughtful criticism of a facade of a mountain.

    I watched an interview of Mearsheimer on youtube. If forgot the reference, so forgive me for mediocre scholarship.

    But, Mearsheimer was speaking about Iran, and the prospect of US military action in Iran. In it he sited the “mistranslation” of the Ahmenidijad’s quote of “Israel will be wiped off the map”, as some evidence of negligently compliant media.

    While it is true that the media has fueled and exagerated the importance of that one comment and speech, the translation was originally publicly reported in English by Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera editors reported at the time, that they received a verbatim translation from the Iranian foreign press service.

    At other times, Ahmenidijad has spoken about the eventual dissolution of Zionism in the spirit of “dust to dust”, that ALL forms eventually dissolve. (Whether you call that entropy, or “God’s will”, is another confusion.)

    But, in this case, the language reported by the apparently approved Iranian sourced translation, was not so metaphysical, but referred to a duty of Iran to assist “God’s will”.

    That Mearsheimer enthusiastically repeated the official “dissenting” line, made me suspicious of the degree that he asks himself “what do I really know?, as distinct from what do I postulate”.

    A scholar’s profession is to undertake that, a political “scientist”. That is the professional humility required of someone that is serious about their work and word.

  25. Tom Mitchell: “3) Saddam was believed by nearly everyone to be acquiring WMD–most took it for granted that he had chemical weapons and believed that he was attempting to develop biological weapons and purchase the fissile material for nuclear weapons.”

    That’s probably why not long after Powell’s famous presentation in the UN an academic in England found out that it was based on an old student paper and a rather dubious witness called “curveball”.

    Remember Blix?

    Remember the Yellow cake from Niger fake and its strange history?

    -jo

  26. Hi Dan, et al.,

    For the record, I got my copy of the M&W book about two weeks ago, prior to its formal release, but haven’t got around to reading it yet. Right now I’m actually reading Meron Benvenisti’s “Son of the Cypresses” (http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/9969.html) which I suspect will prove to be more interesting. I have, however, been following the rather predictable discussion/debate/argument about the M&W book and made one minor contribution to the discussion over at Information Clearinghouse, “Singling out the ‘Israel Lobby’ for discussion” – http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18269.htm and then after the ADL launched its pro-war on Iran campaign I made a few more comments in context of the M&W book: “ADL launches Campaign to promote US war on Iran” http://iablog.blogspot.com/2007/09/adl-launches-campaign-to-promote-us-war.html

    Without having read the book yet there is only so much I comment on, but I can say, after hearing Walt on NPR discussing the defining characteristics of the “Israel Lobby” as they see it, they are correct in pointing out that despite other differences, there are particular positions that are common to ALL the groups classified within the Lobby. These include, but are not limited to, the supposition that US and Israeli interests are usually, if not always, identical; that the US has some vested interest in continuing to support Israel regardless of Israeli behavior; and that any questioning of the fundamental pillars of the Zionist ideology are completely and utterly out of bounds. So, of course, those of us coming from a non- / post- / or anti-Zionist position see their argument in a somewhat different light than members of the Zionist Left do.

    If you want to see “the Lobby” in action, just look at the unity exhibited by it when confronted with people that question the basic premise of Zionism and the Zionist enterprise, as is often the case with people like me who advocate for one state. Generally you can count on all elements of the “Lobby” uniting to oppose such a position which I would argue rather substantively validates the concept of “the Lobby” as such. Of course there are differences within the pro-Israel camp, just as there are arguments in most political camps of varying degrees of importance; but when it comes to the fundamentals – such as opposition to the maintenance of a strictly “Jewish State” in a land with two populations, only one of which benefits from its ostensible “Jewishness” (like the Russian Neo-Nazis recently busted who were “not Jewish” per se, but as olim were certainly considered “Jewish” enough for demographic purposes) – all bets are off and the “Lobby” does indeed put up a unified front.

    From the position of the Zionist Left I can certainly understand why the M&W proposition seems questionable because the very real differences between the Zionist Left and the Zionist Right are somewhat glossed over. Nevertheless, when looking at the proposition from a non- / post- / or anti-Zionist position (I would argue that M&W are non-Zionist, not hostile to it but not die-hard advocates either) then their case makes much more sense. If you want to see Americans for Peace Now and the ZOA show their united front, present them with an argument against the underlying principles of Zionist ideology, such as the one state case.

    Shalom/Salaam,
    John S.

  27. The one in which minority rights are confidently respected, or the one in which minorities are oppressed.

    There is a one-state Zionist solution (a moral travesty). There is a one-state pan-Islamic solution (another moral travesty). There is a democratic one-state solution in which majority rules, but minorities are entirely excluded from participation (another moral travesty).

    The only one-state solution that is not a moral travesty, is the one in which the civilists form a central coalition in which the far right Zionist and Islamicists and the far left are marginalized (but still accepted to live there, so long as they aren’t violent). Is that a prospect?

    There is a two-state solution in which Israel dominates over Palestine and suppresses. There is also a prospective two-state solution in which Israel rises to be a good neighbor to a good neighbor Palestine.

    That is a prospect, though requiring a sea change from both Palestinian and Israeli sentiment.

  28. Hi Richard,

    “’The’ one-state case. Which ‘the’ case are you referring to?”

    “The” one state proposition previously alluded to is any one state proposition that rejects the notion of the ethnocentric state and brings all the resident population of Israel/Palestine into one polity.

    “There is a one-state Zionist solution (a moral travesty).”

    Assuming you mean something along the lines of the YESHA Council proposals for annexation while rejecting full equality for the Palestinian population, for all intents and purposes this reflects the current reality on the ground. Yes, it is a moral travesty and – perhaps more importantly – it isn’t sustainable.

    “There is a one-state pan-Islamic solution (another moral travesty).”

    Realistically, this is more of a Zionist bogey than a real issue. As far as I know, the only Palestinian faction with any standing at all that advocates this is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and they have very marginal support among Palestinians and obviously no support from any Israeli faction.

    Just to save you the trouble, despite the Israeli propaganda to the contrary, Hamas has accepted the two state compromise from at least 1998. Some writers say that Hamas accepted the two state idea even before this, but I can’t document this contention. However, from 1998 on Hamas has accepted the two state idea, BUT based on the condition that Israel pulls out of every square inch of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). In fact they even created an entire theological construct to reconcile this acceptance of sharing Palestine with the Israeli state with the Hamas Charter that declares all of Israel/Palestine an Islamic waqf. For more about this – Hamas acceptance of a two state solution and the Hamas theological construct that allowed them to accept this without changing their Charter, see: “Interview: Ismail Abu Shanab,” Middle East Policy, Vol. IV, No. 1, June 1998. [Shanab was a founding member of Hamas, the Head of the Hamas political wing, and Shaykh Yassin’s “chief diplomat” prior to being assassinated by Israel]

    Anyway, as has been shown in those areas currently under Hamas control, they have no intention of imposing any sort of “Islamist” regime because they know – perhaps better than anyone – that there is virtually no support for such a move among the vast majority of Palestinians.

    “There is a democratic one-state solution in which majority rules, but minorities are entirely excluded from participation (another moral travesty).”

    “Majoritarian” democracies, though technically fitting the definition of a “democracy,” have little standing in the modern world. Virtually without exception, one of the defining characteristics of modern democracies is minority protection, usually through a judiciary.

    For the record, my proposition for one democratic secular state is based upon the premise of equality within the sole existing state in Israel/Palestine, that is, Israel. Israel inside the Green Line, like most modern democracies, has an assertive judiciary that works to secure minority rights among citizens – especially minorities – and this is as it should be. Of course it lacks any substantive enforcement mechanisms – due to the lack of a constitution that requires the executive to enforce judicial decisions and prevents the majoritarian Knesset from overriding its rulings – but these are issues that would presumably be addressed in a constitution.

    “The only one-state solution that is not a moral travesty, is the one in which the civilists form a central coalition in which the far right Zionist and Islamicists and the far left are marginalized (but still accepted to live there, so long as they aren’t violent). Is that a prospect?”

    That is pretty much the idea. There are plenty of existing devices that encourage centrist positioning and I would certainly argue that this is desirable.

    “There is a two-state solution in which Israel dominates over Palestine and suppresses.”

    This isn’t really a “two state” solution at all, at least not any more so than the South African “Bantustan” scheme could be considered a “multi-state” solution to the “Bantu problem” in Apartheid South Africa. The only real difference is whether the Palestinian entities are called “an Authority” (or “Authorities”) as opposed to a “state.” This is just playing legal games with the existing de facto one state and as such is also completely unsustainable.

    “There is also a prospective two-state solution in which Israel rises to be a good neighbor to a good neighbor Palestine.”

    Of course this is the theory, but realistically this isn’t even on the table. On the side with the power and standing to allow for such an option – the Israeli side – this idea is confined to the marginalized Zionist Far Left. None of the significant parties or factions are even talking about this as an option.

    This is, of course, the only sustainable two state suggestion but it is predicated on a total and complete Israeli withdrawal from the OPTs and this just isn’t on the agenda at all. Israel wouldn’t even withdraw from Gaza – and still hasn’t – which is why the “disengagement” didn’t result in any end to Palestinian resistance as from their perspective “disengagement” was just a slight restructuring of occupation, not liberation.

    Frankly, most – if not all – of the tit-for-tat fighting between Gaza and Israel since disengagement could be ended today if Israel legitimately withdrew. If the Gazans had the freedom to come and go, to import and export, to fish, to rebuild and reopen their airport and seaport; to drill for their natural gas off the coast (and use it as they see fit); the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza would have a lot more to do than mess with Israel. As it is, they have no options and nothing better to do than to strike at their prison warden – Israel.

    John S.

  29. “Of course this is the theory, but realistically this isn’t even on the table.”

    Its FAR more on the table than the one-state solution, as the majority of Jews in both Israel and the US, favor this two-state solution.

    As they say, the devil is in the details.

    The one-state solution, absent the goodwill and REAL centrist majority confident affirmation, is a fantasy.

    According to Israeli and civilist analysis, which seems more plausible than your fantasy assertions about Hamas renouncing a single-state Islamic state (assertively in their LEGAL charter), the various Islamicist parties (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah in Lebanon, others) intentionally disrupt the prospects for the coalitions of the centrist civil majorities.

    From what I’ve read, I don’t surmise that you like centrist perspective, non-militant perspective, and although that is the prerequisite for what you claim is your goal (centrist civilist majority coalition – now Kadima/Labor/Fatah), you seem to reject the fundamental perspectives of each of those parties.

    Guessing at it is not confident enough.

  30. “Its FAR more on the table than the one-state solution, as the majority of Jews in both Israel and the US, favor this two-state solution. The one-state solution, absent the goodwill and REAL centrist majority confident affirmation, is a fantasy.”

    Well, Richard, you raised the topic as though you wanted to discuss it, so I opted to play along and in so many words you’ve said “I disagree.” Fair enough, you’re more than welcome to your opinion, but there isn’t very much to discuss here so I suppose we can lay this topic aside. The one state is the de facto reality on the ground and all the current pressures and circumstances – on both the Israeli and Palestinian side – are moving towards turning this de facto reality into a de jure one, so there is no need to try to change people’s opinions, circumstances are doing this without the help of anyone like me.

    “According to Israeli and civilist analysis, which seems more plausible than your fantasy assertions about Hamas renouncing a single-state Islamic state (assertively in their LEGAL charter), the various Islamicist parties (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah in Lebanon, others) intentionally disrupt the prospects for the coalitions of the centrist civil majorities.”

    The myth of the “grand Islamist conspiracy” – which clearly parallels the “grand Jewish conspiracies” of prior ages – is just that, a myth. The united “Islamist front” is clearly illustrated in Occupied Iraq where Muslim is killing Muslim all over the place in a show of “unity” presumably for the conspiracy nuts, just many others used to argue (and a few continue to argue) that “all Jews” are part of a united front against Christians and Muslims. Blah, blah, blah….

    As far as I know (and if you have information to the contrary, please post your sources and I’ll look into it), the PIJ is the only Palestinian Islamist group that subscribes to the radical Islamist idea of Pan-Islamism and Islamic unity under a revived Caliphate. They are the only ones demanding the imposition of strict Islamic law (one of the main reasons they have very little popular support among Palestinians) and the only ones that actively oppose Palestinian secularists and Christians in the name of Islamic domination.

    Hamas is – and always has been – a pragmatic group which, though it is Islamist in that it derives its ideology from political interpretation of Islam, it has never been oppressive to non-Muslim Palestinians, it has no agenda to impose any sort of strict Islamic law on the Palestinians (or anyone else), and has gone to a great deal of trouble to reconcile the existence of Israel with their core principles so as to accept the two state solution (on condition of a full Israeli withdraw, e.g. akin to the Arab peace proposal led by the Saudis; if the occupation ends in full, then they’ll except Israel within its legal borders). How much do you actually know about Hamas? How many of them were educated in the West? How many women were elected on the Hamas slate to the Legislative Council? How many women or Christians were named to the Hamas cabinet? Would Hamas members ever dress up as Santa Claus to give Christian orphans toys on Christmas? Take my “Hamas Quiz” – http://www.internetactivist.org/CPSC/flyers/HamasQuiz.pdf – created after they won the elections in 2006. By no stretch of the imagination does Hamas reflect the stereotype of the “Islamist conspiracy.”

    As for Hizbollah, beyond the fact that they’re not Palestinian or in Palestine (despite the unsubstantiated claims of the conspiracy theorists like the “Debka Files”), they also happen to be a Shia group, meaning for the strict Sunna Islamists like al-Qa’eda, they’re not even Muslim. Iraq is a good study of how well Sunni and Shia Islamists get along. Otherwise though, Hizbollah is – like Hamas – reasonably tolerant. They too elected women and Christians on their list in Lebanese elections, they too have openly professed alliances with secularists (like their patrons in Ba’athist Syria) and with Christians (in the current political crisis in Lebanon), they have never tried to impose any sort of Islamic law outside of their own internal Shia communities, and so on and so forth.

    Just because they all don’t like Israel – and you don’t like all of them – doesn’t mean they’re all part and parcel of the same movement, hold all the same opinions, or reflect the same ideology. Nazis and the like lump all kinds of opposing camps together – like big capitalists (“the Rothschilds are Jooos”) and communists (“Marx was a Jooo”) – based on the premise that these camps happen to have Jewish participants and thus they create the “grand Jewish conspiracy” that they use to justify all manner of nonsense. Modern Islamaphobes lump together all kinds of opposing factions and groups – as you just did – based on the fact that they all derive inspiration from the Islamic faith and thus create the “grand Islamist conspiracy” which is also used to justify all sorts of silliness. The premise is false.

    “From what I’ve read, I don’t surmise that you like centrist perspective, non-militant perspective, and although that is the prerequisite for what you claim is your goal (centrist civilist majority coalition – now Kadima/Labor/Fatah), you seem to reject the fundamental perspectives of each of those parties.”

    The “center” – and thus “centrists” – change all the time and change in view of circumstances. Your objection is based on the existing center whereas my support for the idea centrist moderation is based upon radically changed circumstances. You’re right, I don’t think much of most of the existing political formations – Israeli or Palestinian (and no, despite the fact that I’m unwilling to play ball with your “conspiracy theory” representations of Hamas, I do not think much of Hamas as a political formation either and certainly am not a supporter. However, I do believe that if you’re going to object to them you should do so for legitimate reasons as opposed to just making stuff up to vilify them.).

    I do believe that in the wake of a major change – like the de jure acceptance of the current de facto one state – a moderate integrationist center would be vital.

  31. Making sense (#19,)

    Your money quote is “To argue—or even seem to argue—that particular people or particular organizations are consciously working against US interests because of either dual or decidedly foreign loyalties leaves you too open to attack from people ready to say the same thing in reverse.”

    I share your concerns. In the book, as far as I can tell, they never say anyone is “consciously” working against American interests and usually bend over backwards to say people in “the lobby” think they ARE protecting those interests. But they do come close to that smarmy implication a few times. They question whether Ross/Indyk’s “sympathy” for Israel influenced their approach to Camp David. And, as in their original paper, their full-bore attacks on Feith, Wurmser et. al. as Likud sympathizers driving us into Iraq come close to asserting that these guys exhibited “dual loyalty,” rather than just inexcuseable hubris and stupidity (which is closer to the truth).

    Still, a case could be made that America’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does more harm than good to the U.S. As long as that case is made carefully, and states explicitly that the pro-Israel neo-cons, for all their flaws, do think they are working in America’s interests, I don’t find that objectionable. On the contrary, I find it a useful intervention.

    John S, welcome back! I know there are new readers who may be unfamiliar with your arguments for a one-state solution. While I disagree with them, they should be given respecful attention, and I hope we’ll hear from you again.

    Happy New Year to one and all.

  32. “The myth of the “grand Islamist conspiracy” ”

    I certainly did not describe a “grand Islamic conspiracy” in the terms that you dismiss – why use straw dogs?

    Hamas is a mixed bag. It is BOTH a nationalist movement and an Islamicist movement. Its balance currently is more nationalist in orientation, however its philosophical roots stem from non-Palestinian ideological and political Islamicist movements, and cannot then be misrepresented as somehow secular and civilist in orientation.

    The one-state solution is currently NOT on anyone’s negotiation table. Hamas is not proposing it in the democratic form that does not impose on minorities. Fatah is not proposing it. No Zionist parties are proposing it.

    The prospect of a one-state solution in Palestine/Israel is really parallel to the imposition of a one-state solution in Kurd/multiple Shia/Sunni Iraq. The prospect of similar raging aggressions would be likely, and similarly fail to settle out (probably to two or more states).

    The method of agitation does not accomplish the confidence that such a radical transition would entail.

    To base support of the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis as a means to get to a single-state solution, strikes me as a losing moral gamble, not a strategy.

    As I’ve said many times, I regard the state of Israel as a means, not as an end in itself. The means to a safe and thriving Jewish self-governing community.

    Historically, in order to construct self-governance, peoples define themselves as within defined borders. It might not be needed if the conditions of acceptance of the other are confidently present.

    That prospect of acceptance is NOT evident in the documents, literature, verbal expression, and actions of Hamas. Do you honestly think that Hamas engenders confidence that it would treat minorities well?

    Please consider that in Hebron recently, an Arab sold land through a middle-man that ended up in the hands of a Jewish organization. Hamas reportedly executed both the middle-man and the original landowner for “violating the law”.

    Maybe I bought propaganda that it was “against the law” in Palestine to sell land to a Jew. Maybe it is true.

  33. Dan,

    Thanks for your response, and I’m glad to hear that the book does much less of this than the original article.

    I also agree with you that a case can be made that American police vis a vis the Palestinians is not only harmful to the Palestinians themselves, but also to America (I’d add that I believe present policy is harmful to Israel as well). I’d even argue that this case has to be made and that I hope it can prevail some time soon. It’s just that the case has to be made rigorously as one against another, weaker or mistaken, case for the national good, not in a way that can be characterized back as “against those with a pernicious foreign agenda.” But it’s pretty clear we’re in agreement about that.

    My hope is that a book like *The Israel Lobby* can help lay the groundwork for making that case by not antagonizing into intransigence people who need to be convinced to change their minds about what’s good for America and Israel.

    The more rigor (about distinctions), care (about the details), and generosity (about the human motives of everyone in the game) that we can all exercise the better.

    Keep up the good work! And Happy New Year to everyone who is celebrating it tonight!

  34. “Hamas is a mixed bag. It is BOTH a nationalist movement and an Islamicist movement. Its balance currently is more nationalist in orientation, however its philosophical roots stem from non-Palestinian ideological and political Islamicist movements, and cannot then be misrepresented as somehow secular and civilist in orientation.”

    I didn’t suggest that Hamas was “somehow secular and civilest in orientation,” but that it isn’t the uncompromising Islamist movement that it is frequently portrayed as, a portrayal you were certainly promoting. Hamas is certainly not secular and I don’t know what you mean by “civilest.” Al-Qa’eda is an absolute uncompromising extremist formation that will accept nothing but total victory, PIJ might be such a group (it is very difficult to get unbiased information and they aren’t generally concerned with presenting their position to the larger world), Hamas is not such a group.

    “The one-state solution is currently NOT on anyone’s negotiation table.”

    It doesn’t have to be on the “negotiation table” because it reflects the current reality, a current reality that is not evolving towards any sort of sustainable separatist scheme. In all honesty there really isn’t any need for one state advocacy at all as it is the developing of its own momentum and there is no reason to believe this will change. Those of us who do advocate these positions are merely hoping for a better thought-out – and less violent – reconciliation based on the current reality as opposed to letting it continue to develop “accidentally.” It is a realist position based on reality as it exists right here, right now, in the real world. Sustainable separation – unsustainable ghettoization schemes (e.g. Qalqilyia) and Bantustan schemes (e.g. Gaza) notwithstanding – simply isn’t going to happen.

    “The prospect of a one-state solution in Palestine/Israel is really parallel to the imposition of a one-state solution in Kurd/multiple Shia/Sunni Iraq.”

    No, there are major differences here, most especially the simple fact that Iraq had no democratic basis upon which to base a state, whereas Israel/Palestine has a very strong democratic basis, namely the existing Israeli state sans the Occupation (“Civil Authority”) and the 1945 Emergency Regulations. The future one state, most of its laws and structure are already there, it just has to be expanded and the ethnocentric elements removed.

    “To base support of the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis as a means to get to a single-state solution, strikes me as a losing moral gamble, not a strategy.”

    ??? What are you talking about? I made my comments about the M&W book in my first post and they have nothing to do with being “a means” to anything.

    “That prospect of acceptance is NOT evident in the documents, literature, verbal expression, and actions of Hamas. Do you honestly think that Hamas engenders confidence that it would treat minorities well?”

    There are a lot of problems with Hamas and its disregard for human life (via the attacks on civilians that have been justly condemned as “Crimes Against Humanity” by all major human rights groups) certainly doesn’t bode well for a future state; then again, neither does ANY leading Israeli political formation that has stood behind Israel’s well documented attacks on civilians and Crimes Against Humanity either, i.e. virtually all factions participating in Israeli coalition governments for decades.

    Nevertheless, as the contest continues to evolve away from separatism as more and more people on both sides recognize its impossibility today, the political dynamics are changing and so too will the various political formations. Quite simply, you cannot judge potential future political formations and positions based solely upon those that exist today. Undoubtedly the current ideological threads will remain, but the changing circumstances will inevitably lead to new strategies for advancing these ideological notions and the tactics to be employed to implement the strategies. The Hamas or Likud of today are not likely to be identical in twenty years time.

    “Maybe I bought propaganda that it was “against the law” in Palestine to sell land to a Jew. Maybe it is true.”

    No, actually this is true, it is illegal for a Palestinian to sell land to any Israeli (Jewish or otherwise) because all such land tends to be added to the “state land” of the “Jewish state” which obviously doesn’t serve Palestinian national interests (assuming you support a separatist scheme). I believe this has been de facto illegal since the collapse of the Israel-created “Village Leagues” quisling forces before the First Intifada and was later made de jure after the establishment of the Palestine Authority. The PA had a vested interest in this assuming the goal was separatism as any land sold to Israelis would become a new point of contention if a “Palestinian State” was ever to come about. In that you’re a two state supporter you should be a radical advocate of this PA position.

    However, as the dreams of separation fall beneath the treads of Israeli bulldozers and checkpoints (as well as Palestinian Authority ineptitude), this whole argument becomes immaterial. In fact, in my model, the more land that becomes “state land” as opposed to private the better as this land can be used for future development without dispossessing anyone.

  35. “a portrayal you were certainly promoting.”

    That is your imagination.

    I’m a supporter of civility. Civility makes both a two-state possible and if it is so committed to to become universal and confident, a single-state.

    It takes MUCH more commitment to mutual respect to make a single-state, requiring a reconciliation of currently warring groups.

    Political commentary is not enough to make that happen. It needs to get more personal, in building comraderie, not ideology.

  36. “Political commentary is not enough to make that happen. It needs to get more personal, in building comraderie, not ideology.”

    Other differences notwithstanding, I completely and utterly agree. This is why though I do not think the separatist schemes of the Zionist Left are realistic, I do continue to support the Zionist Left that encourages interaction and joint projects: dialogue groups, encounter groups, joint Israeli/Palestinian professional and student groups, exchange programs, bi-lingual educational initiatives and anything else that brings Israelis and Palestinians into closer and more personal contact with one another. Virtually without exception when individuals of the two camps come together as individual human beings as opposed to members of a collective (e.g. soldiers & subjects, Jews & Arabs, Israelis & Palestinians) the myth of utter and complete incompatibility and eternal enmity fall by the wayside.

    Shalom/Salaam,
    John S.

  37. “Political commentary is not enough to make that happen. It needs to get more personal, in building comraderie, not ideology.”

    Other differences notwithstanding, I completely and utterly agree. This is why though I do not think the separatist schemes of the Zionist Left are realistic, I do continue to support the Zionist Left that encourages interaction and joint projects: dialogue groups, encounter groups, joint Israeli/Palestinian professional and student groups, exchange programs, bi-lingual educational initiatives and anything else that brings Israelis and Palestinians into closer and more personal contact with one another. Virtually without exception when individuals of the two camps come together as individual human beings as opposed to members of a collective (e.g. soldiers & subjects, Jews & Arabs, Israelis & Palestinians) the myth of utter and complete incompatibility and eternal enmity fall by the wayside.

    Shalom/Salaam,
    John S.

  38. The other component of making peace is in assisting EACH community to be confident of the other.

    It is my contention that a healthy neighbor, especially one with MANY exchanges and mutual interdependancies, is a better neighbor than a conquered and subordinated one.

    It is a great failure of the overly defensive approaches, that they could not make bridges that were sustaining, between the civil from both communities.

    Those are often strange bedfellows. The conventional orthodox for example, were often good neighbors to their Palestinian neighbors, based on the notion that even religiously, the conditions that invited the messianic age were “keeping the commandments” and most importantly the ethical ones like “don’t covet thy neighbor’s possession” or “thou shalt not steal” or “thou shalt not bear false witness” (misrepresent or rumor).

    The neo-orthodox that somehow select the commandments or the application of the commandments as they choose, willingly rationalize for advantage.

    And, even they are ironies, as some of the most innovative desert ecological communities are among those neo-orthodox.

    They have much to share and should be good neighbors in action, and good neighbors in being accepted.

    But those are folk. The political and military agitation comes from those with some power objective, not a mutual acceptance objective.

  39. There is one grave incongruity foisted upon liberal diaspora Jews.

    That is that when the significance of Israel is presented to Jews internationally, it is as the center of Jewish life, identity of Jewish existence. As such, we are asked to support (more than support, to invest in personally) in money, effort, word. We are then part of the Jewish community, loving and loved.

    On the other hand, when we criticize some aspect of that which we are invested in, we are told “you are not close enough to the concerns to judge” (a realistic statement). Or, if we persist, it escalates to “its none of your damn business”.

    We liberal ethical oriented can overstep, can urge on the basis of principles what is not perfectly practical.

    On the other hand, it is either our business, nor it is not.

    We don’t have a vote, but we are judged, at least partially, as a result of the actions of the community that we are claimed to be part of.

    The Jewish part of the Israel lobby, is motivated similarly, some by guilt, some by genuine engagement. The Christian part of the Israel lobby, I believe is much more significant in the current administration, and has a much more frivolous (but violent) influence.

    Of course, the fascist impulses will identify the neo-conservative Jewish influences as fulfilling their conspiratorial view of Jewish presence in the “white” world.

  40. “We don’t have a vote, but we are judged, at least partially, as a result of the actions of the community that we are claimed to be part of.”

    Worse still is the presumption asserted by Israel that it is the representative of “the Jewish people” collectively despite the fact that a majority of Jews do not – and never have – live in Israel or have any direct say so in the Israeli government. Who can possibly blame people for accusing “the Jews” as a collective, when the state of Israel and the Zionist movement fully supports and supplements this perspective by claiming – falsely – to represent “the Jewish people” as a collective. Israeli propaganda itself suggests and implies that “all Jews” are represented by it and its actions so it can’t really be taken as total nonsense when some person opposed to Israel for whatever reason starts talking about “all Jews” or the “Jewish people” collectively.

    Of course realistically Zionism and anti-Semitism have always been peas in a pod from the very outset as anyone who has read Herzl knows. Anti-Semitism elsewhere encourages aliyah – the life blood of the Zionist project – so it isn’t any surprise to see Israel and Zionists actively promoting Jew hatred.

    Another aspect of this is “the flip-side” of the equation; that is, if Israel can claim to represent the interests of non-Israeli Jews, then non-Israeli Jews have every right (I personally might even argue ‘obligation’) to speak their piece about Israel. And this isn’t limited merely to “acceptable” criticism of particular policies and practices, but can and should include underlying ideology (Zionism) and the legitimacy of the entire enterprise (the “Jewish State”).

    “The Christian part of the Israel lobby, I believe is much more significant in the current administration,”

    I agree with this part of the statement. It is the Christian Zionists who provide the “rank & file” of Israel advocacy today. It is they – not the Jewish community – that floods Congress with thousands upon thousands of letters demanding this or that, it is they who participate in the “call-ins” that flood Congressional offices with phone calls on the day of important Israel-related votes and so on.

    Despite maybe some charitable giving now and then and cursory support via the local community, for most part – at least in my experience – most American Jews don’t spend much time or energy “supporting Israel” in any meaningful way. We all have better things to do, like living normal healthy lives. However, the evangelicals can be counted on to dedicate whole days to active Israel advocacy, because they’re nuts and have nothing better to do than try to speed up the return of Jesus.

  41. Most American Jews support Israel in the ways that I do.

    We give a small amount of money to projects that we feel good about, and some that we don’t know about. Most importantly, our sympathies are assaulted often. We feel attacked when Israel is attacked in generalized terms, and by people (most often Islamicists, leftists, and fascists) that don’t bother to distinguish an active and direct abuse, from passive abuse, or from non-abuse; and then have the audacity to demean Zionism as racism when in fact it is the principle of self-governance of a people.

    The principle of self-determination is a live and let live principle, and certainly apologies or advocacy for active gross expansionism and violation of minority rights are a violation of that principle.

    And, then us humanists get to ask sincerely and relentlessly, “are you MORE committed to privilege, or are you MORE committed to the high bar of ethical responsibility of our tradition and learning.”

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