Professor Mearsheimer’s first sip

The English-language weeekly Forward catches up with the execrable “Israel lobby” paper by University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Kennedy School of Government Dean Stephen Walt: “Scholars’ attack on pro-Israel lobby met with silence.” Professor Mearsheimer spoke with the Forward, but he was not particularly forthcoming:

“I don’t have an agenda in the sense of viewing myself as proselytizing or trying to sell this,” Mearsheimer told the Forward. “I am a scholar, not an activist, and I am reticent to take questions from the media because I do believe that this is a subject that has to be approached very carefully. You don’t want to say the wrong thing. The potential for saying the wrong thing is very great here.”

I’d say Professor Mearsheimer revealed the full potential of saying the wrong thing here in the paper. It’s too late to stop now. He continues with the Forward:

Mearsheimer was hosted on National Public Radio Tuesday for a full hour, to talk about Iraq, but did not make any mention of the controversial paper he co-authored. “To have a throwaway line or two on public radio to promote yourself is a bad idea,” he told the Forward, following his NPR appearance. “I prefer to take the high road, although that is not always easy.” Since publication, Mearsheimer added, he and Walt also turned down offers from major newspapers, radio and television networks to lay out their thesis.

In a separate Forward story, we gain a little more insight into the mind of Professor Mearsheimer: “Professor says American publisher turned him down.” See if you can reconcile his many invitations to elaborate on his thesis in major newspapers, radio and television networks with this:

John Mearsheimer says that the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful that he and co-author Stephen Walt would never have been able to place their report in an American-based scientific publication.

“I do not believe that we could have gotten it published in the United States,” Mearsheimer told the Forward. He said that the paper was originally commissioned in the fall of 2002 by one of America’s leading magazines, “but the publishers told us that it was virtually impossible to get the piece published in the United States.”

I don’t understand how the publisher who commissioned the paper — could we have his name please? — found it “virtually impossible” to get the piece published in the United States. Professor Mearsheimer is a notable member of the “realist” school of international relations; he appears to be the kind of realist who can’t see the hand in front of his face. The Forward story continues:

Most scholars, policymakers and journalists know that “the whole subject of the Israel lobby and American foreign policy is a third-rail issue,” he said. “Publishers understand that if they publish a piece like ours it would cause them all sorts of problems.”

In their paper, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” the two professors accuse “the lobby” of “policing academia,” intimidating scholars and stifling dissent on campuses, mainly through accusing critics of being antisemitic.

Mearsheimer said that he and Walt expected to be accused of being anti-Israel and antisemitic, so they made a point of stating in the study that the establishment of Israel was morally justified and that America’s support of Israel, in principle, is justified as well. He said the paper takes issue with the extent of American support for Israel and the role that the pro-Israel lobby plays in pushing for such assistance.

Asked if the study may have been initially rejected by the American publisher because of poor research, Mearsheimer said that the “evidence in the piece is just the tip of the iceberg,” and that the study’s observations are supported by a large body of evidence. He did concede, however, that none of the evidence represents original documentation or is derived from independent interviews. All the additional supporting material — just like the references footnoted in the paper — is of a secondary nature: citations of books and newspaper articles, Mearsheimer said.

In yesterday’s Best of the Web Today, James Taranto provided another glimpse into the mind of Professor Mearsheimer:

Blogger Ed Lasky notes a fascinating piece that appeared in the Jan. 10, 2003, issue of the Chicago Maroon, a student newspaper at the University of Chicago:

An open letter demanding vigilance in ensuring that Israel does not forcibly expel Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza has drawn the endorsement of nearly a thousand American academics, including eight at the University of Chicago.

The letter, adopted from one circulated by Israeli academics, cites Israeli politicians who publicly support removing Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and relocating them into neighboring Arab countries. The “fog of war [with Iraq] could be exploited by the Israeli government to commit further crimes against the Palestinian people, up to full-fledged ethnic cleansing,” the letter reads….

“The precedent is there [to forcibly expel Palestinians], and it behooves us to make sure it does not happen again,” said John Mearsheimer, co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University and one of the letter’s signatories.

Mearsheimer, of course, is a co-author, with Stephen Walt, of the infamous Harvard paper arguing that there is no moral or strategic basis for America’s support of Israel and concluding that such support is explained by “the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby.” As we noted Monday, their paper has drawn praise from David Duke.

The claim that Israel would expel Palestinians from the disputed territories had a familiar ring to it, and after some digging through our archives, we figured out why. On March 14, 2003, less than a week before coalition troops crossed the Iraqi frontier, we quoted a reader e-mail responding to our mystification at the idea–then being propounded by figures as diverse as Edward Said, Pat Buchanan, David Duke and Rep. Jim Moran (D., Va.)–“that the impending liberation of Iraq is the result of a conspiracy by a Zionist ‘cabal,’ as Buchanan calls it, that is ‘colluding with Israel’ to ‘ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests.’ ”

Our reader wrote:

What is obvious is that they [the Israelis] will use the resulting chaos as a pretext to get rid of the Palestinians, driving them out of the country into Jordan or Egypt. Who will say or do anything to stop them when the region is totally destabilized and a mess?

We are not cruel enough to reveal the identity of this silly missive’s author, but we will say that the person is at the University of Chicago and is not Mearsheimer. Apparently this idea was very much in the air among Windy City savants in early 2003. Three years later, Israel not only has not expelled the Palestinian Arabs; it has withdrawn from Gaza. The prediction not only was not “obvious” but was flat wrong. We said so at the time:

Let us spell out the assumptions underlying this theory:

*That the disastrous outcome of war in Iraq–“chaos,” with the region “totally destabilized and a mess”–is foreordained.

*That Israel and its co-conspirators, some of whom hold subcabinet-level positions in the Bush administration, know this, but the rest of the administration and the majority of Congress have no clue and thus have been duped by the Zionist plotters into thinking the war has a significant chance of success.

*That although the whole region will be engulfed in “chaos,” “totally destabilized and a mess,” Israel will have no problem managing the forcible relocation of more than three million people, many of them heavily armed with guns and explosives, all the while defending its borders against the hostile states and terrorist groups that surround it.

There is actually one more assumption implicit in the 2003 prediction of imminent “ethnic cleansing” in the disputed territories: that Israel would not observe any moral constraint against such an action. In other words, those who predicted mass expulsion of Palestinians assumed both (a) that Israel is wicked and (b) that carrying out the imagined plan would be practicable. We’d argue that both (a) and (b) are false, but clearly they cannot both be true. It may be that a conviction that Israel is evil blinded advocates of this theory to its practical shortcomings.

The Jerusalem Post tracked down Alan Dershowitz for additional comments on the paper: “AIPAC study is ignorant propaganda.” Professor Dershowitz states: “There is no scholarship here what so ever.”

In their paper, Professor Mearsheimer and Dean Walt sound a little like alcholics who have taken a sip of a bad brew and can’t stop. The 2003 letter to the Maroon suggests that Professor Mearsheimer took that first sip a few years back.

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