Friday, September 14, 2007

Well, it's back to the usual now, with more reactions on the Mearsheimer&Walt kerffuffle:

SCOTT McLEMEE Special to Newsday

Here, we see the real limits of their analysis. After 1993, by their own account, the major focus of Israel's concern about its own security was Iran, not Iraq. But it was the American neoconservatives - defined by the authors as part of the Israel lobby - who drew up the plans for attacking Iraq. This scheme did win support among the Israeli public in 2002 and '03, but it's hardly a matter of subordinating American policy to another country's interests.

What Mearsheimer and Walt describe as the influence of an "Israel lobby" on U.S. politics sometimes looks like a tail wagging the dog. For decades now, Israel has been part of the American global system. Supporting and defending it - often in hostile circumstances - has been one of the more forthright ways of projecting U.S. power on the world stage. And power creates its own interests, which then have to be looked after.

The virtual unanimity of American leaders in supporting Israel is less the product of a "lobby" than of something Mearsheimer and Walt seem not to understand: Given a choice between the interests of two nations, the final decision will be made in favor of the empire that contains them both.

Los Angeles Times

Anyone familiar with the tortured history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have a hard time recognizing the history Mearsheimer and Walt rehearse. Every hoary old Israeli atrocity tale is trotted out, and the long story of Palestinian terrorism is rendered entirely as a reaction to Israeli oppression. The failure of every peace negotiation is attributed to Israeli deviousness under the shield of the American Israel lobby. There is nothing here of Palestinian corruption, division and duplicity or even of this unhappy people's inability to provide a reliable secular partner with whom peace can be negotiated.

At times, the authors simply contradict themselves, asserting -- rather remarkably -- at one point that the United States has nothing to fear from a nuclear-armed Iran and, at another, that the dangerous prospect of a nuke-equipped Tehran is the Israel lobby's fault. Similarly, they write, Al Qaeda would hammer its swords into ploughshares and Osama bin Laden would lay down with the lamb if only the United States would come out from under Israel's thrall and create by coercion a Palestinian state.

Noah Pollak

At its core, The Israel Lobby relies on a bizarre rendering of realist foreign policy, one that promotes an ahistoric theory of how stability is achieved in the Levant, and an equally ahistoric prediction of American benefits derived from alignment with the Middle East’s catalogue of gangsters, dictators, and Islamists. Walt and Mearsheimer advertise themselves above all as foreign policy scholars—but that, too, remains in serious doubt.

And then there is this, from the Guardian's Ed Pilkington:

Standing tall in the face of attack is one thing; to raise your head above the parapet for a second round is quite another. But that is what the Mearsheimer/Walt double act are doing: they have gone on the offensive with the publication of a book-length version of their original treatise.

As night follows day, the dispute has started anew. The New York Sun has dedicated a section of its website to the controversy; Dershowitz has revved up again, calling the book "a bigoted attack on the American Jewish community"; and Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, has gone to the trouble of writing his own book in riposte - and it's in the bookshops a week before The Israel Lobby appears.

There is one obvious question to put to Walt: why do it to yourself? Wasn't one stoning enough? "We did ask ourselves, did we want to go through this again?" he admits, but only to add: "It didn't take us all that long to figure out we had more to say and it was our job to say it."

Note the language attributed to Measheimer and Walt's "courage" in publishing this book: "standing tall" "rais[ing] your head above the parapet" , "wasn't one stoning enough?"

They are garbed as intrepid freedom fighters, martyrs to their truth, risking not only being stoned but also getting a bullet in the head for the wondrous bravery in taking on Abe Foxman, a Jewish American leader and a host of other Jewish organizations whose ultimate crime is advocating for Israel!

And what is it that terrible punishment Mearshiemer and Walt are standing up to? What is the sum total of the tidal wave of violent intimidation unleashed against their saintly scholarly selves? Why, it's that egregiously wrong accusation of being antisemitic!

But they shall not bend their knee to the all-powerful and nefarious "Lobby", not them! They will go though their ordeal by fire and they shall speak up against the tyranny of Jews, their lies, their threats! They shall speak truth to power!!! They will speak out against Israel though they risk being silenced by being called antisemites!

As Anthony Julius said when speaking of other "brave people" of the same ilk as M&W, " it's a kind of political posturing by people who don't expose themselves to any real danger, but are attracted to the glamour, the reputation at any rate, of being freedom fighters risking their lives in a noble cause. It's trivial, inconsequential stuff, the material really of vanity and self-regard, and nothing more than that."

This is absurd stuff for a Monty Python skit, poking fun at how seriously intellectuals can actually take themselves to be noble resistance fighters ... . It is obvious that so vile is this oppression, expressed in the allegation that the courageous and truth-loving professors are in fact not-so-closeted antisemites, that its mere utterance is lethal to their reputations.... no one could be thus accused and survive with their cushy university jobs and their much feted credentials intact!

Speaking of hypocrisy, hysteria and all the rest of it.


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