How Did Two Men Reduce Global Politics to a Single Issue?
Columnist Steve Huntley writes in the Chicago Sun-Times (www.suntimes.com ) on Sept. 7 that attacks on supporters of Israel reveal the authors' own bias:
"It's no secret that the Israeli lobby has a record of success. A number of strongly motivated organizations advocate for Israel -- a cause that enjoys the favorable sentiment, as well as financial support, of American Jews and others. The Israel lobby functions no differently from NARAL, AARP or countless other groups that exercise the First Amendment guarantee of the right to petition government.
"Yet no other interest group is so frequently singled out for harsh scrutiny, as if somehow laboring on Israel's behalf turns out to be working against America's best interests. The latest manifestation of this attitude comes in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard, that is an elaboration on an essay published in the London Review of Books last year.
"Mearsheimer and Walt argue that our continued support [of Israel] is detrimental to U.S. standing in the Middle East and helps 'inspire a generation of anti-American extremists.' That's their worldview. Forget the dynamics of radical Islamism, Arab resentment of the West and other complexities of international affairs. Just change U.S. policy toward Israel and the world will be a happier place for America. Two intellectuals at two of our best universities have reduced international relations to that.
"The two go to lengths to try to rebut any suggestion of anti-Semitism in their criticism of the American Israeli Political Action Committee and other pro-Israel groups. But you can't read The Israel Lobby without realizing that whenever two interpretations exist for some action by Israel or its supporters, Mearsheimer and Walt automatically default to the darker view.
"Reading this book reminded me of something that happened in the months leading up to the Iraq war. In 2003, Mearsheimer was one of nearly 1,000 American academics signing a letter suggesting Israel would exploit the U.S. invasion to expel millions of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- and maybe, also Arab Israelis from Israel itself!
"It was a preposterous notion then and looks even more ridiculous today. To believe that requires a bias against Israel so deep-seated that it defies reality. Whether it spills over into anti-Semitism, I'll leave for you to judge."
Want to Talk About a 'Lobby'? Then How About the Arab Oil Lobby?
Former U.S. delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission Jeff Robbins writes in The Wall Street Journal (www.opinionjournal.com ) on Sept. 9 to ask why it's so nefarious for Jews to use their right to free speech:
"For those who accept the Arab line on the Israel-Arab conflict -- namely, that it is the product of Israeli intransigence in some form or another -- the increasing proliferation of Middle East-funded enterprises all across the country aimed at advancing the Arab view of the conflict constitute 'nothing wrong.'
"Nor are those hewing to the anti-Israel line troubled by the way in which the massive Islamic bloc of nations, by dint of their number and their economic leverage over the rest of the world, are able to guarantee an incessantly anti-Israel agenda at the United Nations and other international fora.
"Although the aggressive deployment of petrodollars and oil-based influence from foreign sources aimed at advancing a pro-Arab line constitutes 'nothing wrong' as far as Israel's critics are concerned, a new political fashion holds that there is something very wrong indeed about American Jews and other American backers of Israel.
"Our major newspapers and networks -- with correspondents in Israel able to take advantage of an Israeli political system that is a free-for-all, and an astonishingly vibrant and self-critical Israeli press -- report daily on every twist and turn of the conflict, and are very frequently critical of Israel. As for American campuses, most objective observers would have little difficulty concluding that far from being criticism-free, they are, in fact, dominated by critics of Israel.
"If the charge that American Jews are able to stifle criticism of Israel is simply silly, the leveling of the charge that there is something nefarious about Jews urging support for the Jewish state raises questions about whether Walt and Mearsheimer have descended into a certain ugliness. And the tactic of trying to neutralize those questions by loudly predicting that they will be asked, however clever a tactic it may be, does not neutralize them.
"It is apparently the authors' position that, even in the face of the overwhelming leverage of an Arab world swimming in petrodollars, with a lock on the United Nations and an unlimited ability to pay for pro-Arab public relations, American Jews are obliged to stay silent. In essence, Walt and Mearsheimer have repackaged the 'the-Jews-run-the-country' stuff, which has long been the bread-and-butter of anti-Semites."
Is It a Conspiracy Theory? Try Again!
Former Secretary of State George P. Schultz writes in U.S. News &World Report (www.usnews.com ) on Sept. 12 about the "Israel Lobby" myth:
"Some critics seem overly impressed with the way of thinking that says to itself, 'Since there is a huge Arab Islamic world out there with all the oil, and it is opposed to this tiny little Israel with no natural resources, then realistically the United States has to be on the Arab side and against Israel on every issue, and since this isn't the case, there must be some underhanded Jewish plot at work.' This is a conspiracy theory, pure and simple.
"Another tried-and-true method for damaging the well-being and security of the Jewish people and the State of Israel is a dangerously false analogy. Witness former President Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Here the association on the one hand is between Israel's existentially threatened position and the measures it has taken to protect its population from terrorist attacks, driven by an ideology bent on the complete eradication of the State of Israel and, on the other, the racist oppression of South Africa.
"The tendency of mind that lies behind such repulsive analogies remains and is reinforced by the former president's views, spread across his book, which come down on the anti-Israel side of every case. These false analogies stir up and lend legitimacy to more widely based movements that take the same dangerous direction.
"The United States supports Israel not because of favoritism based on political pressure or influence, but because the American people and their leaders say that supporting Israel is politically sound and morally just.
"So, on every level, those who blame Israel and its Jewish supporters for U.S. policies they do not support are wrong. They are wrong because -- to begin with -- support for Israel is in our best interests. They are also wrong because Israel and its supporters have the right to try to influence U.S. policy."