Saturday, September 08, 2007

Is "The Israeli Lobby" an antisemitic book?

Anthony Julius tries to answer:

Is the book antisemitic? It will certainly be used by antisemites; it will give them aid and comfort. Validations of Jew-hatred are quite difficult to come by. In the main, antisemites have had to have recourse to making up their own — the great documents of antisemitism are almost without exception fabrications, the Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, principal among them. Occasionally, however, a book comes along which appears — to some extent at least — to support their fantasies. Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby is such a book. The authors appear to acknowledge this in their anxiety to distinguish their own thesis from conventional antisemitic theses. The interesting question is, do they succeed?

Only in part, I think. The Israel Lobby meets several of the criteria for an antisemitic book. It is, first of all, a bad book for all the reasons set out above. Further, it is written about Jews, but with a cold-heartedness that cannot altogether be attributed to scholarly objectivity. Jewish pain, Jewish suffering, does not resonate with Mearsheimer and Walt. And in the book’s preface, the authors describe their experiences in writing the paper that preceded the book in language that comes too close to the antisemitic trope of Jewish power over the media.

The book is best read as a compendium of everything bad that could be said about Israel and its organised American support. It is a prosecutor’s case, and in this respect it has its uses. Support for Israel cannot be taken for granted any more. This means that friends of Israel must train themselves in history, in politics — in argument. This book will help them to do so.

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