April 5, 2006


Yes, It's Anti-Semitic (Eliot A. Cohen, April 5, 2006, Washington Post)

Academic papers posted on a Harvard Web site don't normally attract enthusiastic praise from prominent white supremacists. But John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" has won David Duke's endorsement as "a modern Declaration of American Independence" and a vindication of the ex-Klansman's earlier work, presumably including his pathbreaking book, "Jewish Supremacism."

Walt and Mearsheimer contend that American national security dictates distancing ourselves from the state of Israel; that U.S. support for Israel has led to such disasters as America's status as the No. 1 target for Islamic terrorists; and that such an otherwise inexplicable departure from good sense can be accounted for only by the power of "The Lobby" (their capitalization), an overwhelmingly Jewish force abetted by some Christian evangelicals and a gentile neocon collaborator or two, who have hijacked American foreign policy and controlled it for decades.

One of Mearsheimer's University of Chicago colleagues has characterized this as "piss-poor, monocausal social science." It is indeed a wretched piece of scholarship. Israeli citizenship rests "on the principle of blood kinship," it says, and yet the country has a million non-Jewish citizens who vote. Osama bin Laden's grievance with the United States begins with Israel, it says -- but in fact his 1998 fatwa declaring war against this country began by denouncing the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia and the suffering of the people of Iraq. "Other ethnic lobbies can only dream of having the political muscle" The Lobby has -- news to anyone advocating lifting the embargo on Fidel Castro's Cuba. [...]

Inept, even kooky academic work, then, but is it anti-Semitic? If by anti-Semitism one means obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews; if one accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery, of having occult powers and of participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments; if one systematically selects everything unfair, ugly or wrong about Jews as individuals or a group and equally systematically suppresses any exculpatory information -- why, yes, this paper is anti-Semitic.

The problem is that Realists believe that foreign policy is, and/or ought to be, baed on nothing more than amoral self-interest. So, in a country where policy is often, though sadly not always, fiercely moralistic, it's easy for them to imagine that a conspiracy must be at work to thwart what they think should/would otherwise occur. They're right to some degree, it just isn't a conspiracy of the Jewish minority but of the Christian majority, which is why it predates Israel and is even officially established in the Founding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 5, 2006 4:02 PM

Mearsheimer and Walt aren't "realists," they're just good old fashioned David Duke-class anti-Semites pretending to be edumacated perfessers.

Posted by: Mike Morley at April 5, 2006 4:39 PM

There's not that much difference.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 4:44 PM

One quibble: self-interest, properly understood, includes morality. That's why you added "amoral", one suspects, but just to clarify.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 5, 2006 4:56 PM

I concur that the so-caled "realists" are anything but.

Realpolitik is Machtpolitik. Israel is out geopolitical anchor in the region, our military outpost and our hostage to preemptive policy in domestic politics. Israel is realism.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 5, 2006 8:18 PM

In November 2004, U.S. occupation forces launched their second major attack on the city of Falluja. The press reported major war crimes instantly, with approval. The attack began with a bombing campaign intended to drive out all but the adult male population; men ages fifteen to forty-five who attempted to flee Falluja were turned back. The plans resembled the preliminary stage of the Srebrenica massacre, though the Serb attackers trucked women and children out of the city instead of bombing them out. While the preliminary bombing was under way, Iraqi journalist Nermeen al-Mufti reported from "the city of minarets [which] once echoed the Euphrates in its beauty and calm [with its] plentiful water and lush greenery... a summer resort for Iraqis [where people went] for leisure, for a swim at the nearby Habbaniya lake, for a kebab meal." She described the fate of victims of these bombing attacks in which sometimes whole families, including pregnant women and babies, unable to flee, along with many others, were killed because the attackers who ordered their flight had cordoned off the city, closing the exit roads.

Al-Mufti asked residents whether there were foreign fighters in Falluja. One man said that "he had heard that there were Arab fighters in the city, but he never saw any of them." Then he heard that they had left. "Regardless of the motives of those fighters, they have provided a pretext for the city to be slaughtered," he continued, and "it is our right to resist." Another said that "some Arab brothers were among us, but when the shelling intensified, we asked them to leave and they did," and then asked a question of his own: "Why has America given itself the right to call on UK and Australian and other armies for help and we don't have the same right?"

It would be interesting to ask how often that question has been raised in Western commentary and reporting. Or how often the analogous question was raised in the Soviet press in the 1980s, about Afghanistan or the American press of the 1940s, about Nazi Germany. How often was a term like "foreign fighters" used to refer to the invading armies? How often did reporting and commentary stray from the assumption that the only conceivable question is how well "our side" is doing, and what the prospects are for "our success"? It is hardly necessary to investigate. The assumptions are cast in iron. Even to entertain a question about them would be unthinkable, proof of "support for terror" or "blaming all the problems of the world on America/Russia," or some other familiar refrain.

Posted by: Chomsky at April 5, 2006 11:57 PM

Chomsky, thanks for the comic relief. I hadn't remembered all the inaccurate "news" reports about the second attack on Falluja. Sadly, those who read these howlers with approval never bothered to read the descriptions of what was found in the city after the attack concerning the action of "our Arab brothers."

Posted by: Arnold Williams at April 6, 2006 7:59 AM

Mearsheimer and Walt had to know that people like Alan Dershowitz, Eliot Cohen, and even Charles Krauthammer were out there.

Did they expect to be greeted as liberators for writing such trash?

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 6, 2006 8:04 AM

Chomsky: Pulling in the "Arabs" wasn't a bug, it was a feature.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 6, 2006 8:06 AM