Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hot air and hot collars over 'Israel Lobby'

Accusations of anti-Semitism surface every time an academic questions Israeli policy. Ardently pro-Israel Americans often are astonished to learn that half of Israelis disapprove of the hawkish policies of its governments and tend to welcome critiques of American lobbyists for the Likudnik hardliners.

Now two American professors look set on provoking a rethink about America's crucial Middle East commitment, the long-standing one with Israel.
John Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard are in the eye of the hurricane of their making.Their new book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is drawing controversy, weeks ahead of its Sept. 4 release by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Mearsheimer and Walt raised eyebrows when they published a brief of their thesis in the London Review of Books last year. They assert that pro-Israel groups have disproportionate influence on U.S. foreign policy, and that this trend has not always served U.S. interests, or, for that matter, Israel's. While some praised their writing as courageous,pro-Israel groups cry anti-semitism.

Check out the London Review piece; Michael Massing's deconstructs the controversy in the New York Review of Books.

The fear of public outrage and demonstrations has prompted the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to rescind an invitation for the dynamic duo to speak on campus about the subject. As Walt told the New York Times this week, one of his principal points in his book is that to challenge the Israel lobby remains taboo inside the United States.

Middle East maven Scott McLeod, of Time magazine, observes:

Citizens are still free to purchase a copy. In fact, would-be readers have already made it a best-seller. With advance orders pouring in, The Israel Lobby is already No. 135 on Amazon's list of top sellers. (It went up four places just as I was writing this blog tonight Cairo time.) Scrolling through Amazon's list, I reckon that The Israel Lobby has become the best-selling book on the Middle East right now, even though nobody actually owns their copy yet. Mearsheimer and Walt may disagree with their critics, but they have to thank them for fueling the controversy, helping them sell more copies and widen the debate over the Israel lobby.

By no coincidence, one of Mearsheimer and Walt's vocal critics, Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, is publishing his own book with Palgrave Macmillan, also on Sept. 4, entitled, The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control. At last count, it's Amazon.com sales rank was No. 14,808.


Anonymous said...

You are incredibly naive if you think this book just criticizes Israel's policies. It argues for the complete abandonment of Israel by the US. That any alliance with Israel harms the US and that Israel controls America. It is classic "the Jews control the world" antisemetism.

heyjude said...

Geoff Kemp of the Nixon Centertalks about this book:

The real question is whether the lobby has skewed American foreign policy in the Middle East in favor of Israel to the detriment of broader U.S. interests in the region.

The authors are not anti-Semitic. They make no inferences that the American Jewish community is working against American interests. To the contrary, they believe diversity in the community is growing and is positive. Certainly, they are often one-sided and unfair in their criticism of Israel, but they are not anti-Israel in the virulent sense one finds throughout the Muslim world and among European left-wing intellectuals.