Youâ€™d think that a country that produced fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, that is the epicenter for worldwide global Islamic jihad, that supports, sponsors and funds terrorists around the world, that â€œpurchasesâ€ Chairs in Middle East and Islamic Studies at Americaâ€™s major ivy league colleges (many of which have become Arab-subsidized lobbies against Israel), that has huge multinational corporations at its beck and call, that boasts connections high in the petroleum industry, lobbies Congress against energy independence, spends millions of petrodollars on American PR companies to market a quieter, gentler image, builds mosques and funds Islamic libraries throughout America that promote virulently anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Western positions, constructs American Islamic educational institutes that spin-off Wahhabi-trained chaplains for our military and penitentiary systems, turns former American ambassadors to Saudi Arabia into Saudi lobbyists and has over $600B invested in our investment and equity marketsâ€¦â€¦would merit a major study or research paper from a prestigious American university. But it is only the â€œIsrael Lobby” that merits such attention, at least in the minds of University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard Kennedy School of Government Professor Stephen Walt who recently stated their views on the subject in a London Review of Books essay and in a larger Kennedy School “Faculty Working Paperâ€ titled: “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Apparently, the Saudis donâ€™t rank high enough on the “lobby ladder” to merit scrutiny, but Israel apparently does.
Max Boot, writing in the Los Angeles Times referred to a 1964 essay penned by the late Richard Hofstadter. The Hofstadter essay refers to â€œthe paranoid style of American politicsâ€ which Boot suggests is carried on in fine style by the Mearsheimer-Walt Paper. â€œOne of the impressive things about paranoid literature,” writes Boot, “is the contrast between its fantasized conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality that it invariably shows.” As examples, he cites a 96-page pamphlet produced by the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy that contained “no less than 313 footnote references” and a subsequent book written by John Birch Society founder Robert Welch that employed “one hundred pages of bibliography and notes” to show that President Eisenhower was really a closet communist.
In a similar vein, the Walt-Mearsheimer Paper maintains that there is a “network” working against American interests – a network that includes the editors of the New York Times, the scholars at the Brookings Institution, students at Columbia, “pro-Israel” senior officials in the executive branch, and “neo-conservative gentiles” including John Bolton, the late Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley, former Secretary of Education William Bennett, former UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and columnist George Will.â€
The Paper (which measures out to 83 pages of text and 211 footnotes) plays fast and loose with the facts and treats evidence with unscholarly partiality to such an extent that it has been celebrated by Southern white racist, former American Nazi Party enthusiast and Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, the PLO, and a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (the Islamic organization that founded Hamas). The footnotes (comprising almost half the Paper) reveal the left-wing sources that have shaped the authors’ anti-Israel prejudices – among them Noam Chomsky, Seymour Hersh, The Nation, AntiWar.com, CounterPunch, Salon.com, assorted writers and scholars published by the far-Left publishing house Verso, and the British socialist newspaper The Guardian.
The canard that America went to war with Iraq in 2003 because of Israel and the neo-con Jewish supporters in the Administration is particularly galling in that it fails to take into account that high ranking officials like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle have consistently opposed tyranny by working to destroy Communism, to save Bosnian Muslims and Iraqi Shi’ites from genocide, supported humanitarian efforts in Somalia, and encouraged action against the genocide in the Sudan. As Richard Baehr and Ed Lasky have written in their scathing indictment of the Paper (“Stephen Walt’s War with Israel”), these actions are more anti-dictatorship and pro-human rights than they are pro-Israel. To say “Israel made us do it” is simply untrue. Bush, it should be remembered, came to office as a “realist” and was against any effort directed at nation building. If anything, it was the world after 9/11 that provided the chief impetus for the change in U.S. policy. Bush recognized that “letting sleeping dogs lie” simply was no longer a viable deterrent to Islamic terrorism.
It should also be remembered that the subject of taking down the Iraqi dictator was high on the Clinton agenda as early as 1998 in the aftermath of the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, but it would take a 9/11 to bring the idea to the forefront of American foreign policy. If anything, bin Laden made Bush do it, not Israel.
Moreover, the Paper fails to acknowledge that the true power holders behind the Iraqi War were Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and Colin Powell none of whom are of the Jewish faith. Besides (and even the authors acknowledge this), Jewish Americans, in disproportionately higher numbers than the general American population, vocally opposed the war which stands in stark contradistinction to the underlying theme of the authors’ argument that it was the Jews and Israel who led America into it.
In short, the Iraqi War was important to the authorsâ€™ argument if their intention was to blame an unpopular war on a foreign power and on Americans working on behalf of that power. It would certainly assist in their ultimate goal of undermining American support for Israel whose existence in the Middle East, in their view, is a detriment to America in any event. What better way to destroy the pro-Israel lobby? It is a noxious Paper designed to taint any American who supports the American-Israeli strategic alliance. Although cozying up to Saudi Arabia and abandoning Israel would be a hard sell under any circumstances in the post 9/11 world, it is clearly the authors’ wishes nevertheless.
While the Kennedy School of Government has since distanced itself from the essay by removing its logo from the Working Paper and attaching a disclaimer on the Paperâ€™s cover sheet, the disclaimer does not diminish the fact that the Paper contains half-truths under the guise of scholarship, lacks balance, and is nothing more than an angry polemic the root assumption of which is that America would be more secure if Israel ceased to exist. Since Israel’s existence elicits Arab and Muslim hostility, ipso facto Israel must be to blame for all Arab and Muslim rage. The problem with the thesis, however, is that if Israel disappeared tomorrow, Arab and Muslim hostility to the America would not.
The Paper represents classic â€œRealismâ€ in its foreign policy approach – the school of political thought that subscribes to the belief that America must advance its national interests (in this case, securing an uninterrupted flow of oil) without any qualms as to morality and sentiment (which explains why America has traditionally supported dictators and tyrants whom it saw as providing the necessary “stability” to guarantee that supply). Mearsheimer and Waltâ€™s attitudes towards Israel and its supporters are infused with this line of thought. Neither sees Israel as being in Americaâ€™s strategic interests. As a result, any action by (or any adverse reaction to) American support of Israel is the fault of the “Israel Lobby.”
Contrary to their stated positions, however, there is ample evidence to suggest sound political, moral and economic reasons why Israel has enjoyed the support (albeit to varying degrees) of eleven consecutive U.S. administrations of both parties, and a large majority of the American people for over half a century. Israel is a militarily adept, economically vibrant state that keeps its part of the Middle East in balance. By assisting Israel, the U.S. maintains that balance at relatively low cost, and many of these costs flow back to the U.S. in the form of arms sales, useful Israeli technological innovations, counter-intelligence information, mutual assistance in the war on Islamic terrorism, Israeli training of U.S. security personnel in urban warfare techniques, a deepwater port, sophisticated air facilities, and the like. So to say there is no strategic basis for American support of Israel is ludicrous. If anything, it should signal the Arabs that until they change, Israel will remain the most significant American ally in the Middle East. It is as strong and reliable, as the Arab states are weak and corrupt.
Nevertheless, Mearsheimer and Walt maintain that the â€œIsrael Lobbyâ€ is pernicious. â€œAIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress,â€ they write, and through such political influence, it prompts elected officials to put Israelâ€™s national interest above that of the United States. This has diverted, they say, many billions of American taxpayer dollars, made the U.S. an enemy in the eyes of more than a billion Israel-hating Muslims around the world, and has been a key factor in getting the U.S. into the present conflict in Iraq.
The truth is that the vast majority of Americans support Israel not because of the Israeli Lobby, but because both the U.S. and Israel share common democratic traditions and both countries were founded and settled by immigrants fleeing tyranny from other nations. American history is deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian soil, nourishing a special kinship between America’s Christians and the Jewish people. If Congress is pro-Israel, it is because Americans are pro-Israel. They instinctively sympathize with Israel’s fight for survival in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods. As Jeff Jacoby noted recently in a Boston Globe editorial: “Americans recognize in Israeli society a country like their own, with vigorously contested elections, a free press, an independent judiciary, and a commitment to civil liberties and human rights that hasn’t flagged despite six decades of terrorism and war. With all its flaws, Israel has the freest and fairest political system in the Middle East.” Americans also sympathize strongly with the Israelis because both face a common enemy. So if Americans seem unsympathetic to the Palestinian cause (as is continually reflected in national surveys), it is simply because they see that cause as self-destructive for choosing violence over constructive negotiations, and they are clearly uncomfortable with constant Palestinian celebrations of anti-Americanism and Palestinian support for America’s enemies. If Israeli terrorists were blowing up Palestinian school buses, bombing restaurants, self-detonating at religious gatherings or condemning Arabs as “sons of pigs and monkeys,” American support for Israel would disappear in a heartbeat – lobby or no lobby.
But the major criticism of the Paper is Walt and Mearsheimer’s method of analysis, which presumes Israel’s guilt for all things. Every past or present Israeli transgression is evidence of its wickedness, whereas Arab ones (rarely acknowledged in the Paper) are “understandable.” Although the authors condemn former Prime Minister Sharon’s re-occupation of several West Bank cities in 2002, they say nothing of the suicide attacks that led to the incursion. â€œThanks to the Lobby,â€ wrote Mearsheimer and Walt, â€œthe United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the occupied territories, making (America) complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians.â€ If their fear is “Israeli imperialism”, the Israelis have undertaken a strange way of exercising it by giving up Gaza and offering further withdrawals from the West Bank! More notable about the Paper is the absence of any concern whatsoever about the expansionist ideology of Islamic extremists who are determined to impose a single world government under the dictatorship of an Islamic Caliph. No reference is made to this issue.
The authors lay the plight of the Palestinians entirely at Israel’s door, failing to acknowledge the Arab states’ vast culpability (see below) and the many missed opportunities that have been presented to and rejected by Palestinian leaders over past decades to establish a separate state. This is especially disturbing in light of the fact that it was the Arab nations who passed the infamous Khartoum Resolution calling for no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War that left Israel in control of Gaza and the West Bank. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once quipped that, since that resolution, the Palestinians “have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Nevertheless, Israel is described as a colonialist, criminal state that has conducted a “long campaign to kill or marginalize a generation of Palestinian leaders,” and is a state that was born by “ethnic cleansing” thereby forcing the Palestinians to turn to terror in order to protect themselves.
Setting aside this blatant falsehood, and recognizing that Arabs living in Israel today have greater political, religious, social and educational freedom than they would have in any other Arab country (and, with the unusual exception of some tiny Gulf emirates, a higher standard of living as well), what is not mentioned by the authors is the fact that the Palestinians (since the establishment of the Oslo Accords) have received more humanitarian aid than was provided by the entire Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe in the aftermath World War II! Yet, Palestinians continue to live in squalor because their own leaders have spent decades stashing billions of international aid dollars into private Swiss bank accounts, paying off militias, purchasing illegal weaponry, training Palestinian children to become suicide bombers and finding every excuse imaginable to cast the blame for their own failures on Israel.
If the Arab world cared so much about the plight of the Palestinians, why have they all (except for Jordan) denied them citizenship, and why do they routinely fail to deliver on their promises of aid to the Palestinians? It is because they are using the Palestinians as pawns in a pathetic chess game designed to destroy Israel. These facts, however, are never mentioned in the Paper. That in itself is a violation of the principles of academic scholarship, which demand an objective, non-biased analysis.
Moreover, it is the view of the authors that Iran is entitled to pursue nuclear weapons since Israel has its own nuclear arsenal. Consequently, if America supports Israel on this issue, it is only because the â€œIsrael Lobby has duped American policy makers” into doing so. By supporting Israel, they argue, the U.S. has made itself â€œcomplicit in (Israelâ€™s) crimes.â€ The Paper might have had more credibility had its authors taken the time to study the words and deeds of Iranian leaders who speak of fulfilling their â€œreligious responsibilityâ€ of bringing on a nuclear Armageddon (as a condition for the return of a mystical 12th century “Hidden” Imam) once they have acquired nuclear capability – separate and apart from Tehranâ€™s funding of Islamic terrorists who have been harvesting Americans in Beirut, Iraq and throughout the Middle East for over two decades.
The real problem for Walt and Mearsheimer seems to be Israelâ€™s existence. If it ceased to exist, so the argument goes, the U.S. could focus on what they argue should be the “real” strategic goal of our foreign policy in the Middle East – securing a continuing source of cheap oil from the region.
What is truly offensive about the Paper is that it attributes power to the Israel Lobby as if Israel was the only group lobbying in Washington. To be sure, AIPAC pushes hard to gain the support of U.S. political leaders and public opinion in favor of positions that keep Israel strong and secure. But so do all lobby groups (especially the Saudi lobby). The Paper doesnâ€™t explain why America has turned a blind eye to other nations that support and harbor terrorists like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Why aren’t their lobby groups in this country under scrutiny? Why isnâ€™t anybody seeking to â€œdivestâ€ from their interests in America? Why arenâ€™t their lobbying efforts worthy of critical attention? Why is it that the â€œIsraeli Lobbyâ€ is the only lobby group worthy of scrutiny by the authors?
And there is one thing more, pointed out in an interesting analysis that appeared on Powerlineblog.com on April 3, 2006. Referring to the first footnote in the Kennedy School version, the authors state: â€œIndeed, the mere existence of the [pro-Israel] Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about. But because Israel is a strategic and moral liability, it takes relentless political pressure to keep U.S. support intact.â€
What is interesting in the analysis are the comments of other writers in the field (including Max Boot, Martin Kramer and Caroline Glick) who maintain that, by that criterion the 2nd Amendment and Roe vs. Wade must not be â€œin the American national interestâ€ either, because they are all defended by even more powerful lobbies.” Caroline Glick goes even further noting: â€œEvery semi-sentient person with even an incidental knowledge of American politics knows that there is no area of human endeavor that is not represented by a lobby in the U.S. Walt and Mearsheimer’s asinine assertion means is that every American interest group – from the elderly to the insurance industry, from the Muslims to gun owners to organic food lovers – stands opposed to the American national interest simply by existing. Any professor who made a similar assertion about any other interest group would be imperiling his career.â€
The blog concludes that you can be absolutely sure no professor will make that assertion about one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington â€“ the higher education lobby including, most notably, Harvardâ€™s Office of Federal Relations that works hard to maintain excellent relations with both the Congressional and Executive branches of government for good financial reasons.
Although Walt and Mearsheimer go out of their way to disclaim any anti-Semitic motivation behind their Paper, their entire methodology reeks of bias. Israel and the “Israel Lobby” have been segregated for â€œspecial treatmentâ€ to the exclusion of everything else.
The authors are especially critical of Christian support for Israel despite the fact that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are allowed complete freedom to practice their faith and whose holy sites are protected by law. What is a noticeably absent is any reference to the mass exodus of Christians throughout the region (especially from the Palestinian-controlled territories) or that in Saudi Arabia, religions other than Wahhabi Islam are banned or severely restricted.
The authors also maintain that America’s alliance with Israel brought about 9/11 and that Islamists hate America because of its support of Israel. That would come as a surprise to bin Laden. In his first statements after 9/11, he said not a word about Israel (or the Palestinians for that matter). The focus of his anger rather was on American troops stationed in the â€œLand of the Two Holy Mosques,â€ as he calls Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was horrified that the Saudis were considering a U.S. offer to send troops to protect the Kingdom. Bin Laden urged against what he saw as sacrilege, and offered to protect the Kingdom with his Afghan mujahadeen, but the Saudis turned him down and invited in the Americans. Alex Safian writing in the March 20th issue of CAMERA (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) points out that: â€œFor inviting in the infidels, the Saudi rulers would never be forgiven by bin Laden. There would be no caliphate until the U.S. is humiliated and driven from the Middle East, at which point the corrupt regimes will crumble into the waiting hands of Al Qaeda. (That was the reason for) the earlier Al Qaeda attacks against the United States in Saudi Arabia (1996), in Kenya and Tanzania (1998), in Yemen (2000), and finally on the U.S. homeland on 9/11. These attacks had nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with U.S. support for Arab regimes. It should be noted as well that al Qaeda never even tried to attack an Israeli target (much less Israel itself) until after 9/11.â€ Israel was and remains a side show to the main attraction – the â€œGreat Satan.â€
To conclude, the authors have seriously mischaracterized the origins of Arab problems and the essence of American foreign policy in the Middle East, and they have produced a Paper that represents shoddy scholarship that is an embarrassment to Harvard. Harvard may have removed its imprimatur from the Paper, but Walt and Mearsheimer can still be proud of their pseudo-scholarly work. The Arabs will surely love it. But then again, the Arabs will love anything that smacks of anti-Semitism and conspiracy theory just as they love any work that argues the Holocaust was a hoax or that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion represents historical fact. This Paper will be a fine addition to Arab mythology.