'The lobby': Post and ripostes...

''THE ISRAEL LOBBY and US Foreign Policy," a working paper by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt, the academic dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, was first posted on the Kennedy School website and then published in shorter form in The London Review of Books. Reactions in the past two weeks, from faculty and commentators in the press, have ranged from puzzlement to outrage to mockery. Mearsheimer and Walt have found few supporters-and the unwanted praise of white supremacist David Duke hasn't helped their cause.

In an article in The Guardian on Friday, Mearsheimer said: ''We argued in the piece that the lobby goes to great lengths to silence criticism of Israeli policy as well as the US-Israeli relationship, and that its most effective weapon is the charge of anti-Semitism. Thus, we expected to be called anti-Semites, even though both of us are philo-Semites and strongly support the existence of Israel."

The paper and the essay are still available online at the websites of The London Review of Books (http://www.lrb.co.uk) and the Kennedy School (http://www.ksg.harvard.edu). The London Review has also posted letters in response to the essay. And a detailed critique of the paper is available online from the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (www.camera.org).

A sampling of reactions to the paper follows.

Jeffrey Herf & Andrei Markovits, in a letter to The London Review of Books:

''Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism....

''American Jewish citizens have a right to express their views without being charged with placing the interests of Israel ahead of those of the US."

Christopher Hitchens, in Slate:

''The essay. . .mostly a very average 'realist' and centrist critique of the influence of Israel, contains much that is true and a little that is original. But what is original is not true and what is true is not original."

Ruth R. Wisse, in The Wall Street Journal:

''In Boston in the early 1980s, I was asked by an Irish cab driver what language I had been speaking with a fellow passenger we had just dropped off. When I told him, Hebrew, the language of Israel, the man exclaimed: 'Israel! That's America's fighting front line! Israel fights our battles better than we could fight them ourselves.'

''Now Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago would have us believe that the Boston cabbie was a dupe of the 'unmatched power of the Israel Lobby."'

Max Boot, in The Los Angeles Times:

''The US has sent subsidies but never soldiers to protect Israel-unless you believe, with Mearsheimer-Walt, Pat Buchanan, and David Duke, that the invasion of Iraq was a Zionist plot. We have sent troops to save, among others, Britain, France, South Korea, South Vietnam, Kuwait, and Kosovo. Today we risk war in defense of nations from Latvia to Taiwan, even though there is no good reason why their fate should matter to us any more than that of Israel. Perhaps Mearsheimer and Walt will write another paper exposing the tentacles of the Latvian lobby."

Jeff Jacoby, in The Boston Globe:

''US policy tends to align closely with Israel's because Americans like Israel. They instinctively sympathize with Israel's fight for survival in one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods. If public opinion weren't robustly pro-Israel in the first place, the White House and Congress would be far less inclined to give Israel's advocates the time of day. There's a name for that phenomenon. It's called democracy."

David Gergen, in U.S. News & World Report:

''Over the course of four tours in the White House, I never once saw a decision in the Oval Office to tilt US foreign policy in favor of Israel at the expense of America's interest. Other than Richard Nixon-who occasionally said terrible things about Jews, despite the number on his team-I can't remember any president even talking about an Israeli lobby. Perhaps I have forgotten, but I can remember plenty of conversations about the power of the American gun lobby, environmentalists, evangelicals, small-business owners, and teachers unions."

Mortimer Zuckerman, as quoted in The New York Sun:

''I would just say this: The allegations of this disproportionate influence of the Jewish community reminds me of the 92-year-old man sued in a paternity suit. He said he was so proud, he pleaded guilty."

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