T Nation

Study: Dying for Israel


#1


Study: U.S. Middle East policy motivated by pro-Israel lobby

By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Middle East policy is not in America's national interest and is motivated primarily by the country's pro-Israel lobby, according to a study published Thursday by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Chicago.

Observers in Washington said Thursday that the study was liable to stir up a tempest and spur renewed debate about the function of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby. The Fatah office in Washington distributed the article to an extensive mailing list.

"No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical," write the authors of the study.

John J. Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago's political science department and Stephen M. Walt from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government do not present new facts. They rely mainly on an analysis of Israeli and American newspaper reports and studies, along with the findings of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

The study also documents accusations that American supporters of Israel pushed the United States into war with Iraq. It lists senior Bush administration officials who supported the war and are also known to support Israel, such as Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith and David Wurmser. The authors say the influence of the pro-Israel lobby is a source of serious concern and write that it has even caused damage to Israel by preventing it from reaching a compromise with its neighbors.
http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/695495.html

Pro-Israel lobby in U.S. under attack
UPI
3/20/2006
WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- Two of America's top scholars have published a searing attack on the role and power of Washington's pro-Israel lobby in a British journal, warning that its "decisive" role in fomenting the Iraq war is now being repeated with the threat of action against Iran. And they say that the Lobby is so strong that they doubt their article would be accepted in any U.S.-based publication.

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, author of "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" and Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kenney School, and author of "Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy," are leading figures American in academic life.

They claim that the Israel lobby has distorted American policy and operates against American interests, that it has organized the funneling of more than $140 billion dollars to Israel and "has a stranglehold" on the U.S. Congress, and its ability to raise large campaign funds gives its vast influence over Republican and Democratic administrations, while its role in Washington think tanks on the Middle East dominates the policy debate.

And they say that the Lobby works ruthlessly to suppress questioning of its role, to blacken its critics and to crush serious debate about the wisdom of supporting Israel in U.S. public life.

"Silencing skeptics by organizing blacklists and boycotts -- or by suggesting that critics are anti-Semites -- violates the principle of open debate on which democracy depends," Walt and Mearsheimer write.
[...]
"For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel," the article says.

"The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only U.S. security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the U.S. been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?" Professors Walt and Mearsheimer add.
[...]
They argue that far from being a strategic asset to the United States, Israel "is becoming a strategic burden" and "does not behave like a loyal ally." They also suggest that Israel is also now "a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.

"Saying that Israel and the U.S. are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: the US has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around," they add.
[...]
The most powerful force in the Lobby is AIPAC, the American-Israel Public affairs Committee, which Walt and Mearsheimer call "a de facto agent for a foreign government," and which they say has now forged an important alliance with evangelical Christian groups.
http://www.upi.com/InternationalIntelligence/view.php?StoryID=20060320-124726-1902r

Bush says U.S. military will defend Israel from Iran
By DPA and Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
21/03/2006
U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday he would use military force to protect Israel from Iranian threats, but also restated his desire to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program diplomatically.
[...]
[b]I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel," Bush said.[/b]
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/696486.html


#2

Look for a smear campaign to begin immediately againt Mearsheimer and Walt. I bet it will only be a few days before Abraham Foxman of the ADL calls them "anti-semites."

Their article is a good one and something that all Americans should be aware of, but unfortunately aren't due to the Jewish stranglehold on the media. Wake up people!! Its time our boys stopped dying for Israel.


#3

I don't think our boys are "dying for Israel", and I think defending Israel was a very small motive among the many that led to war with Iraq, even though people like Feith, termed "the dumbest fucking guy on the planet" by Tommy Franks, make you wonder for just a second. But anyone not concerned about the undue influence of the Israeli lobby (and the fact that AIPAC fucking SPIES on us) is blind. I hate quoting an anti-Semite and a racist, but Pat Buchanan was right when he called Congress "Israeli occupied territory" in the 80's.


#4

Yeah yeah yeah. I'm sure we're all dupes of the Israel lobby. This must be part of the smear campaign too...


Israel Lobby
By RUTH R. WISSE
March 22, 2006; Page A16

In Boston in the early 1980s, I was asked by an Irish cab driver what language I had been speaking with a fellow passenger we had just dropped off. When I told him, Hebrew, the language of Israel, the man exclaimed: "Israel! That's America's fighting front line! Israel fights our battles better than we could fight them ourselves."

Now Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago would have us believe that the Boston cabbie was a dupe of the "unmatched power of the Israel Lobby." Their essay in the latest London Review of Books -- based on a longer working paper on the Kennedy Center Web site -- contends that the U.S. government and most of its citizens are fatally in thrall to a "coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction." Though not all members of said "coalition" are Jews, and though not all Jews are members, the major schemers are such key organizations as the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, joined by neoconservatives, think tanks, and a large network of accomplices including (they will learn to their surprise) The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

The thesis of Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer is remarkably broad and singleminded: A loose association of special-interest groups has persuaded the country to sacrifice its interests to a foreign power, thereby jeopardizing "not only U.S. security but that of much of the rest of the world." Israel, it is claimed, hurts every facet of American life: U.S. emergency aid to Israel during the War of 1973 triggered a damaging OPEC oil embargo. Israel is a liability in the war on terror: It goaded the U.S. into the war in Iraq, betrays America through espionage, and destroys American democracy by quashing all criticism. Recently the Israel Lobby -- a term the authors render with a sinister capital "L" -- has begun to intimidate the universities by trying to create a field of Israel Studies and monitoring anti-Israel bias.

Were it not for the Lobby, the U.S. would have nothing to fear in the world, not even a nuclear threat from Iran: "If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China or even a nuclear North Korea, it can live with a nuclear Iran. And that is why the Lobby must keep up constant pressure on politicians to confront Tehran." Not Iran but the Lobby is the true threat to America's security by trying to compel the U.S. to oppose Iran against its interests. Most dangerously, Jews control the man at the top: In the spring of 2002 "[Ariel] Sharon and the Lobby took on the president of the United States and triumphed." Given the creative scope of these charges, one is surprised to find no hint of Israel's role in the spread of avian flu.

Organized as a prosecutorial indictment rather than an inquiry, the essay does not tell us why the "Israel Lobby" should have formed in the first place. The 21 countries of the Arab League with ties to 1.2 billion Muslims world-wide are nowhere present as active political agents. There is no mention of the Arab rejection of the United Nations's partition of Palestine in 1948; no 58-year Arab League boycott of Israel and companies trading with Israel; no Arab attacks of 1948, 1967 and 1973; no Arab-Soviet resolution at the U.N. defining Zionism as racism; no monetary and strategic support for Arab terrorism against Jews and Israel; and no Hamas dedication to destroying the Jewish state. The authors do not ask why Arab aggression and Muslim "rage against Israel" should have morphed into a war against the U.S. and the West. Israel's existence elicits Arab and Muslim hostility, hence in their view Israel is to blame for Arab and Muslim carnage.

Judging from the initial reaction to their article (one of my students called it "wacko quacko"), the two professors may be subjected to more ridicule than rejoinder. Several Web sites are in the process of listing all their bloopers, distortions and omissions. Their tone resembles nothing so much as Wilhelm Marr's 1879 pamphlet, "The Victory of Judaism over Germandom," which declared of the Jews that "There is no stopping them . . . German culture has proved itself ineffective and powerless against this foreign power. This is a fact; a brute inexorable fact." A parallel edition of these two texts might highlight some American refinements on the European model, such as the anti-Semitic lie that "Israeli citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship." In fact, unlike neighboring Arab countries, Israeli citizenship is not conditional on religion or race.

Yet it would be a mistake to treat this article on the "Israel Lobby" as an attack on Israel alone, or on its Jewish defenders, or on the organizations and individuals it singles out for condemnation. Its true target is the American public, which now supports Israel with higher levels of confidence than ever before. When the authors imply that the bipartisan support of Israel in Congress is a result of Jewish influence, they function as classic conspiracy theorists who attribute decisions to nefarious alliances rather than to the choices of a democratic electorate. Their contempt for fellow citizens dictates their claims of a gullible and stupid America. Their insistence that American support for Israel is bought and paid for by the Lobby heaps scorn on American judgment and values.

No wonder David Duke, white supremacist and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, claimed that this article "validated every major point I have been making since even before the [Iraq] war started." But he and Walt-Mearsheimer have it backwards: Americans don't support Israel because of the strength of any lobby; Israel earns American support the hard way, for the very reasons the Boston cabbie cited several decades ago.

Ms. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard.


#5

The "Jewish stranglehold on the media"?

You're kidding, right?


#6

This seems to be a pretty decent newspaper article on the study, even if the headline is sensationalistic.

David Duke Claims to Be Vindicated By a Harvard Dean

BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
March 20, 2006

URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/29380

A paper recently co-authored by the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government about the allegedly far-reaching influence of an "Israel lobby" is winning praise from white supremacist David Duke.

The Palestine Liberation Organization mission to Washington is distributing the paper, which also is being hailed by a senior member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization.

But the paper, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," by the Kennedy School's Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, is meeting with a more critical reception from many of those it names as part of the lobby. The 83-page "working paper" claims a network of journalists, think tanks, lobbyists, and largely Jewish officials have seized the foreign policy debate and manipulated America to invade Iraq. Included in this network, the authors say, are 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 "neoconservative gentiles" including columnist George Will.

Duke, a former Louisiana state legislator and one-time Ku Klux Klan leader, called the paper "a great step forward," but he said he was "surprised" that the Kennedy School would publish the report.

"I have read about the report and read one summary already, and I am surprised how excellent it is," he said in an e-mail. "It is quite satisfying to see a body in the premier American University essentially come out and validate every major point I have been making since even before the war even started." Duke added that "the task before us is to wrest control of America's foreign policy and critical junctures of media from the Jewish extremist Neocons that seek to lead us into what they expectantly call World War IV."

Mr. Walt said last night, "I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world."

"I think that the people who wrote that report were working for the interest of the American people," a senior member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's guidance council, Abdulmo'em Abulfotah, said yesterday. "I ask a question here: Is it in the interest of the American people to clash with 1.3 billion people in favor of 5 million people who represent the Zionist project? Not even the Jews, but the Zionists."

The Kennedy School published the essay nearly a month before a trial is scheduled to begin of two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen, on charges that they conspired to leak classified material to an American journalist and an Israeli diplomat. But it also comes as public support for the Iraq war has ebbed to new lows. Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt argue that "neoconservatives" in particular launched a "campaign to manipulate intelligence" that led to that war.

While the arguments in Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt's paper are hardly new - allegations of dual loyalty have flitted about the Internet since before the war, and the left-wing press in particular has focused on the role of the Pentagon in making the case for the war - the fact that these points are now being made by such establishment thinkers has raised concern among Israel's friends in America and cheers from their adversaries.

"The content is not significant. Those seeking to damage the U.S.-Israel relationship have been saying this for a while. The fact that it carries the imprimatur of the Harvard Kennedy School is. Those that don't know better would assume it has validity, when it doesn't," the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said.

A professor at Harvard Law School, Alan Dershowitz, whom the authors call an "apologist" for Israel, said he found much of the paper to be "trash." He said, "It could have been written by Pat Buchanan, by David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and some of the less intelligent members of Hamas. An intelligent member of Hamas would not have made these mistakes."

Those mistakes for Mr. Dershowitz include, for example, the assertion that "There is no question, for example, that many Al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians," which Mr. Dershowitz says "is just absurd."

Mr. Dershowitz was particularly troubled by the claim in the paper that Israeli "citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship." He pointed out that the authors had conflated Israel's law of return with its criteria for citizenship. "That's right from the neo Nazi Web sites. Anybody can be a citizen of Israel. He confuses the law of return for the criteria for citizenship. He never mentions that a Jew cannot be a citizen in Jordan and Saudi Arabia," Mr. Dershowitz said.

Mr. Walt said on this citizenship point last night that he wanted to check into it. "We were not writing on Saudi Arabia and Jordan," he said.

Mr. Dershowitz also objected to the paper's claim that the 2000 Oslo offer to Yasser Arafat would have created "Bantustans." Mr. Dershowitz said, "They should talk to President Clinton about that. The West Bank territory would have been completely contiguous."

"What he is saying is, 'some of my best lobbyists are Jews. Don't confuse what we are saying with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,'" Mr. Dershowitz said. "Sorry, but it sounds very similar to me. The only difference is the Protocols are a forgery, but this is actually written by two bigots."

The authors attempt to distinguish their argument from that of classical anti-Semites, writing at one point, "there is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway U.S policy towards Israel. The Lobby's activities are not the sort of conspiracy depicted in anti-Semitic tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion." At another point, the authors distance themselves from the president of Iran by writing, "Israel's survival is not in doubt - even if some Islamic extremists make outrageous and unrealistic references to 'wiping it off the map.'"

Yet the paper also refers to "the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby." It says, "Were it not for the Lobby's ability to manipulate the American political system, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be far less intimate than it is today."

"AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress," says the paper, which also accuses "the Lobby" of "manipulating the media" and being "a critical element" in the American decision to attack Iraq in March 2003.

A retired lecturer at Harvard, Martin Peretz, who is editor of The New Republic, a magazine named in the report as one of those that "zealously defend Israel at every turn," said, "It is easier to attribute disloyalty to Jews than to question the loyalty of Islamists. This is really questioning the loyalty of Jews, that is what this is about. Everyone is looped in, even people who are a little dicey about Israel like Aaron David Miller and Howard Dean. This goes from the lobby in capital letters, from Jerry Falwell to every left wing Jewish Democrat in the House. It is the imagining of a wall to wall conspiracy and therefore it's nutsy."

The executive director of the Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America, Andrea Levin, said yesterday that she would be asking the Kennedy School to withdraw the paper because it failed to meet academic standards. She said the paper relied too much on "new historians," a group of Israeli academics who have been critical of the founding of Israel. She called them "a thoroughly discredited lot." She also said the authors wrongly say that her group organized a rally in front of the Boston affiliate of national public radio.

One of the claims in the paper is that "The Lobby's goals are also served when pro-Israel individuals occupy important positions in the executive branch." To prove this point they point to a former Aipac official, Martin Indyk's high positions in the Clinton administration and the fact that Dennis Ross left government service in 2001 to join the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This list of these pro-Israel officials also included Mr. Ross's former deputy Aaron Miller, who they point out "has lived in Israel and often visits there."

Mr. Miller, who wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post in 2005 complaining that during the 2000 failed peace negotiations he helped broker, American diplomats often served as "Israel's lawyer," differed with Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer. "The lobby has an important influence but not control. On issues related to assistance for Israel there is no question the organized Jewish community has a profound impact," Mr. Miller said. "The argument breaks down when he says the Jewish lobby is somehow responsible for Iraq." Mr. Miller added that the pro-Israel lobby is not powerful enough to influence the executive branch in the manner in which Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt say.

Another way the authors say the Israel lobby exercises influence is through think tanks. Under the subchapter heading "Think Tanks that Think One Way," the authors say, "Pro Israel forces have established a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Security Policy, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)."

The president of the Hudson Institute, Herbert London, said the notion that his institution had a standard line on American policy to Israel "was patently absurd." He pointed out that a senior fellow at his institute was the former director of the National Security Agency, William Odom, who has not only been a vociferous critic of Israel but also the Iraq war.

"The Saudis want to express an opinion, I don't object. People have the right to express their opinions," Mr. London said. "They don't have anything to say about how the Saudis try to influence opinion in think tanks, universities, and corporations."

In December of 2005 Harvard announced it had received a $20 million gift from a Saudi prince, Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud.

A former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Morris Amitay, who is quoted in the Kennedy School paper, minimized the document's significance. "I would be worried if Henry Kissinger was saying this. But who are these guys?" Mr. Amitay said. "As far as I'm concerned this is a tribute to the Jewish community. We couldn't do anything about Auschwitz, but look, we now control foreign policy for a region of the world so vital to American interests."

Meghan Clyne and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.


#7

One more good reaction here:

http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002642.html#more

A follow-up on the Israel Lobby

Well, I see the blogosphere has generated a welter of resposes ( http://powerlineblog.com/archives/013468.php ; http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_03_12-2006_03_18.shtml#1142623065 ; http://www.juancole.com/2006/03/aipac-impact-on-us-foreign-policy.html ) to the Walt/Mearsheimer hypothesis ( http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002636.html ) that "The thrust of the U.S. policy in the [Middle East] is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the ?Israel Lobby.'" ( http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html )

Interestingly, mainstream media reaction has been very muted. True, James Taranto discussed it in Opinion Journal's best of the Web ( http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110008117 ), and the New York Sun has reported it to death ( http://www.nysun.com/article/29470 ; http://www.nysun.com/article/29380 ). So far, however, the Israeli press ( http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1139395630337&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull ) has covered this more diligently than the American media. [UPDATE: ah, I missed both the UPI coverage ( http://news.monstersandcritics.com/northamerica/article_1148725.php/Pro-Israel_lobby_in_U.S._under_attack. ) and the Christian Science Monitor's Tom Regan ( http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0321/dailyUpdate.html ) -- though neither of these stories include any response from critics.]

So far, the best straight reporting story I've seen comes from the Harvard Crimson's Paras D. Bhayani and Rebecca Friedman ( http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512280 )-- which includes this priceless paragraph:

In their piece, the authors savaged those on both the political Left and Right, calling groups as diverse as the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal editorial boards, and Sen. Hillary R. Clinton, D-N.Y., and World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz members of the "Israel Lobby."

On the one hand, it's a shame that this isn't being debated more widely in the mainstream press. On the other hand, it might be good if the mainstream media didn't cover it, if this New York Sun editorial is any indication ( http://www.nysun.com/article/29430 ):

It's going to be illuminating to watch how Harvard handles the controversy over the decision of its John F. Kennedy School of Government to issue a "Faculty Research Working Paper" on "The Israel Lobby" that is co-authored by its academic dean, Stephen Walt. On page one this morning we report that Dean Walt's paper has been met with praise by David Duke, the man the Anti-Defamation League calls "America's best-known racist." The controversy is still young. But it's not too early to suggest that it's going to be hard for Mr. Walt to maintain his credibility as a dean. We don't see it as a matter of academic freedom but simply as a matter of necessary quality control.

This is an absurd editorial -- just about any argument out there is endorsed by one crackpot or another, so that does not mean the argument itself is automatically invalidated. As for Walt's sympathies towards David Duke, in the very story they cite ( http://www.nysun.com/article/29380 ), Walt is quoted as saying, "I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world."

I didn't say this explicitly in my last post ( http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002636.html ), but let me do so here: Walt and Mearsheimer should [u]not[/u] be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false. They should be criticized for doing piss-poor, monocausal social science.*

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

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

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

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

As an example of the latter, consider this fascinating cover story Liel Leibovitz in the February issue of Moment magazine on the battle to endow Middle Eastern chairs at American universities. ( http://momentmag.com/features/feb06/chairs.html )The highlights:

[i][W]hen Columbia announced that an endowed chair would be named in honor of Said?who died of leukemia in 2003?there was outrage in some quarters of the Jewish community. That outrage intensified in March 2004 when, after a long delay, the university revealed that the Edward Said Chair of Modern Arab Studies and Literature had been funded in part by the United Arab Emirates. A few influential Jews demanded that the university return the gift, suspend the establishment of the chair, or both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Via Glenn Greenwald ( http://www.crooksandliars.com/stories/2006/03/21/usingCharacterSmearsToPreventForeignPolicyDiscussions.html ), I see that Michael Kinsley had the brains to bring up this subject before the Iraq war even started ( http://www.slate.com/id/2073093/ ). Go check it out -- I'm far more comfortable with his version of the argument than Mearsheimer or Walt.
posted by Dan on 03.21.06 at 09:58 AM


#8

One last post -- a critique of the study from a social-science perspective:

http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002636.html

EXCERPT:

Interested readers should be sure to check out the longer, footnoted paper which is archived at the Kennedy School of Government ( http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011 ).

So do Mearsheimer and Walt achieve the full Huntington? No, not really.

"The Israel Lobby" is the academic equivalent of waving a big red cape at one's ideological opponents, hoping they'll foam at the mouth and act stark raving mad because the authors cited Chomsky or CommonDreams, or because, "the Fatah office in Washington distributed the article to an extensive mailing list." ( http://www.palestinechronicle.com/story.php?sid=03170693911 )[Or maybe they're pissed that they didn't crack the 100 Most Dangerous Professors in America!! ( http://www.nationalreview.com/interrogatory/qa200603130909.asp )--ed.]

So let's avoid that bait. Reading the essay, I can conclude the following:

1) Mearsheimer and Walt make a decent case of arguing that interest group lobbying is responsible for some aspects of U.S. policy towards the Greater Middle East.

Now this asssertion alone is enough to make people very uncomfortable at cocktail parties and other venues. Whenever I bring up ethnic lobbying in my American foreign policy class and mention Israel, everyone in the room tenses up. So kudos to Mearsheimer and Walt for speaking the taboo thought.

2) Shot through these papers are an awful lot of casual assertions that don't hold up to close scrutiny [Which makes it eerily similar to some of your blog posts!!--ed. True that.]. The authors assert that, "If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China or even a nuclear North Korea, it can live with a nuclear Iran. And that is why the Lobby must keep up constant pressure on politicians to confront Tehran." I'm pretty sure that there's more to U.S. opposition to Iran possessing nuclear weapons than the protection of Israel.

From the longer Kennedy paper, Mearsheimer and Walt make a fascinating logical assertion: "[T]he mere existence of the 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." What's fascinating about this quote are the implicit assumptions contained within it: i) the only interest group in existence is the Lobby, and; ii) in the absence of the Lobby, a well-defined sense of national interest will always guide American foreign policy. It would be very problematic for good realists like Mearsheimer and Walt to allow for other interest groups -- oil companies, for example -- to exist. This would allow for a much greater role for domestic politics than realists ever care to admit.

Finally, they argue that the U.S. invaded Iraq only primarily because Israel and the Lobby -- in the form of neoconservatives -- wanted it. I wrote my take on this argument three years ago ( http://www.danieldrezner.com/policy/Kristol.htm ):

  [i]  The notion that such a conspiracy exists rests on the belief that the administration's foreign policy principals--Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, and Bush himself--have somehow been duped by the neoconservatives into acting in a manner contrary to their beliefs. But while critics have never lacked for accusations against these officials, being weak-willed is not among them. In the end, it's far more likely that Bush is exploiting the neoconservatives' ideological arsenal to advance his preferred set of policies than vice versa. [/i]

3) There are sins of omission as well as commission. Walt and Mearsheimer assert that Israel has been a "strategic burden." They do a good job of cataloging why that's the case -- but omit important examples of Israel being useful, such as the 1981 Osirik bombing. They also go into depth on the Bush administration's policy towards the Palestinian Authority, but never mention the arms shipment that Arafat lied to Bush about as a causal factor behind Bush's decision to freeze out Arafat.

4) The evidence is pretty thin in some sections. To demonstrate the current political power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee ( http://www.aipac.org/ ), they cite a 1984 election where AIPAC was allegedly curcial. They argue that the Israeli-Palestine problem is at the root of Al Qaeda's beef with the United States -- which is funny, because I was pretty sure it was the presence of U.S. forces near the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina. They claim the Lobby is responsible for U.S. policy towards Syria, but that policy amounts to little more than some empty sabre-rattling.

After finishing the article, I began to wonder whether the paper is simple a massive exercise in explaining away a data point that realism can't cover. Most realists opposed the Iraq War, and Mearsheimer and Walt were no exception ( http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/000435.html ). They can and should take some normative satisfaction in being proven right by what happened after the invasion. However, I suspect as positive social scientists they are bothered by the fact that the U.S. invaded Iraq anyway when realism would have predicted otherwise.

When realists are confronted with contradictory data, they tend to fall back on auxiliary hypotheses -- the cult of the offensive, the myth of empire -- that have very little to do with realism. Explaining away Iraq on The Lobby might have a whiff of the Paranoid Style, but it's certainly consistent with the literature.

In the end, I think Mearsheimer and Walt get to the full Huntington -- but alas, it's the Huntington of Who We Are? rather than The Soldier and the State.


#9

The major media outlets are overwhelmingly controlled by Jewish people. Nothing wrong with that, except it results in a very one-sided view of Middle-Eastern affairs because of that.


#10

BB made the key point somewhere in his posts.

This war is not about Israel, this war is about protecting the middle east oil supply and as a result the House of Saud from extremist Islamic fundamentalists.

Our enemy wants to dominate that area and is trying to use terrorism to force us to withdraw from that part of the world.


#11

That damn pro-war Jewish media!


#12

Please back up your statements with any fact whatsoever.

Perhaps major media outlets tend to favor Israel because he other side keeps walking onto buses with bombs strapped to them.


#13

Major media outlets tend ro favor Israel because 90+% of the media is owned/operated by Jewish people. I'm sure JustTheFacts can provide a link, but all the major networks/newspapers are owned/operated by Jewish media moguls. The BBC is a far more onjective source of info on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.


#14

Harris,

Believe it or not I am in TOTAL AGREEMENT with your post here!

As a Jew, it is extremely offensive to me to read about the "Jewish control" of the media -- which is bogus; as well as this implied "Jewish conspiracy" to pull us into war just because of a powerful lobby.

It sounds very ominous and reminicient of just plain old fashioned anti-semitism.

Would these people be saying the same thing if we went to the defense of France or Germany (our so-called NATO allies -- I think not!). Why Israel then?

Next thing I'll read here is that we Jews control all the banks and money as well!

Israel is a key ally in a extremely sensitive area of the world.

Harris hit the nail right on the head -- Israel is a key in fighting those who strap bombs on themselves and blow up innocent people -- even here in the U.S. Therefore, it makes political and security sense to fully support the Jewish State, which is the only democracy mind you in the Middle East right now.


#15

Do you like Jewish people?

Yes or No...........


#16

I just want to state that this is a very offensive thread that cries of anti-semitism of the worst kind.

That being said, I think we should hear more outrage from some of you that would object if other minority groups would be attacked like this.

Imagine a post with pictures of Clinton (or Bush for that matter) at a Congress for Racial Equaility convention saying how we are being sucked into supporting African American issues by a strong "black" lobby. Imagine a post like that? I think that would bring on a tummult of outrage.

Where's the outrage here?


#17

No one takes JustTheJewHatingFacts seriously.


#18

I understand, but it would be more comforting to know that others feel the same way I do about this type of thing.

Sorry that it is a sensitive point, but few people know what it is like to have family wiped out in the horrific events of 1938 - 1945.


#19

Key ally huh? Do most of our key allies spy on us (Pollard, AIPAC) and bomb our warships (USS Liberty)? Just curious, but I don't think even the craven French steal our secrets or murder our sailors. Maybe I'm wrong.


#20

No, they just stonewall us when we ask to fly over their territory for military operations; they oppose us in the world community when we try to bring freedom to others; they talk about "counterbalancing" us with the EU after we liberated all of them from Hitler's grip.............

.......but you guys worry about the Jews and that tiny little country called Israel..........