Yes, It's Anti-Semitic
By Eliot A. Cohen
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
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. The Iraq war stemmed from The Lobby's
conception of Israel's interest -- yet, oddly, the war attracted the
support of anti-Israel intellectuals such as Christopher Hitchens and
mainstream publications such as The Economist. America's anti-Iran policy
reflects the dictates of The Lobby -- but how to explain Europe's equally
strong opposition to Iranian nuclear ambitions?
Oddly, these international
relations realists -- who in their more normal academic lives declare
that state interests determine policy, and domestic politics matters
little -- have discovered the one case in which domestic politics has,
for decades, determined the policy of the world's greatest state. Their
theories proclaim the importance of power, not ideals, yet they abhor
the thought of allying with the strongest military and most vibrant
economy in the Middle East. Reporting persecution, they have declared
that they could not publish their work in the United States, but they
have neglected to name the academic journals that turned them down.
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.
Walt conceive of The Lobby as a conspiracy between the Washington Times
and the New York Times, the Democratic-leaning Brookings Institution
and Republican-leaning American Enterprise Institute, architects of
the Oslo accords and their most vigorous opponents. In this world Douglas
Feith manipulates Don Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney takes orders from Richard
Perle. They dwell on public figures with Jewish names and take repeated
shots at conservative Christians (acceptable subjects for prejudice
in intellectual circles), but they never ask why a Sen. John McCain
today or, in earlier years, a rough-hewn labor leader such as George
Meany declared themselves friends of Israel.
The authors dismiss
or ignore past Arab threats to exterminate Israel, as well as the sewer
of anti-Semitic literature that pollutes public discourse in the Arab
world today. The most recent calls by Iran's fanatical -- and nuclear
weapons-hungry -- president for Israel to be "wiped off the map" they
brush aside as insignificant. There is nothing here about the millions
of dollars that Saudi Arabia has poured into lobbying and academic institutions,
or the wealth of Islamic studies programs on American campuses, though
they note with suspicion some 130 Jewish studies programs on those campuses.
West Bank settlements get attention; terrorist butchery of civilians
on buses or in shopping malls does not. To dispute their view of Israel
is not to differ about policy but to act as a foreign agent.
If this sounds personal,
it is, although I am only a footnote target for Mearsheimer and Walt.
I am a public intellectual and a proud Jew; sympathetic to Israel and
extensively engaged in our nation's military affairs; vaguely conservative
and occasionally hawkish. In a week my family will celebrate Passover
with my oldest son -- the third generation to serve as an officer in
the United States Army. He will be home on leave from the bomb-strewn
streets of Baghdad. The patch on his shoulder is the same flag that
flies on my porch.
Other supposed members
of "The Lobby" also have children in military service. Impugning their
patriotism or mine is not scholarship or policy advocacy. It is merely,
and unforgivably, bigotry.
The writer is
a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International
© 2006 The
Washington Post Company
article also appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday,
April 9, 2006.