They dare to talk back

Yesterday I wrote here about the outrageous essay/research paper published by Professor John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on “the Israel lobby.” I find the paper notable because of its provenance and shocking because of its scholarly pretense combined with its dishonesty. Virtually every paragraph in its 40 pages of text plays fast and loose with facts, treats evidence with unscholarly partiality, engages in axe grinding, or casts defamatory charges of a particularly unsavory kind. It has been celebrated by David Duke, the PLO, and a member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (the Islamist organization that founded Hamas).

It would take a book to do justice to the paper. Among the excellent commentary it has generated on the Internet is a column by Richard Baehr and Ed Lasky at the American Thinker, a statement by Alex Safian at CAMERA, a post by Martin Kramer at Sandstorm, and a personal correction (scroll to bottom) by Daniel Pipes.

Among the legion of individuals assigned to the “Israel lobby” by Mearsheimer and Walt are Bernard Lewis, Bill Bennett, George Will, Alan Dershowitz, and Clinton Mideast advisors Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, and Aaron Miller. In today’s New York Sun, Meghan Clyne quotes Dennis Ross:

Also critical of the paper’s academic quality was one of the figures mentioned in it as part of the “lobby,” President Clinton’s special Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross, who said the authors displayed “a woeful lack of knowledge on the subject.”

“The part I’ve read I find remarkable for its lack of seriousness,” Mr. Ross told the Sun yesterday. “It is basically a series of assertions. They quote only those people who basically have this point of view and don’t take a serious look at anything in a more profound way. It is masquerading as scholarship.”

Today’s Harvard Crimson quotes Professor Dershowitz:

Included in “the Lobby” was Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz, whom the authors isolate as an “apologist” for Israel.

The authors accused Dershowitz of advancing a narrative in which Israel “has sought peace at every turn,” while the Arab countries have “acted with great wickedness.”

In interviews with The Crimson yesterday, Dershowitz took issue with this characterization, stating that he does not consider himself a member of a monolithic lobby and that he has criticized Israel on several occasions in the past.

Dershowitz, who is one of Israel’s most prominent defenders, vehemently disputed the article’s assertions, repeatedly calling it “one-sided” and its authors “liars” and “bigots.”

In particular, Dershowitz criticized three aspects of the piece, alleging parallels with neo-Nazi literature, taking issue with the representation of the lobby as all-encompassing, and saying that Walt and Mearsheimer’s characterization that Israeli citizenship is based on “blood kinship” is a “categorical lie.”

According to Dershowitz, the article used “quotes from [Israel’s first prime minister] David Ben-Gurion and [former president of the World Jewish Congress] Nahum Goldmann that are found repeatedly on hate sites.”

Dershowitz also said that in asserting that the Jewish state was founded on “blood kinship,” the authors conflate the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel with citizenship.

Walt and Mearsheimer countered in an interview that “the principle of ‘blood kinship’ refers to the fact that Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and that whether or not you are Jewish is normally a function of ancestry, especially maternal ancestry.”

Dershowitz went on to dispute the existence of a unified “Lobby,” which the authors defined in their piece as a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations.” Dershowitz contends that while the authors define the lobby as a “loose coalition” at the start, they expand the definition in the body of the piece, and that in the end, any Jew who supports Israel could be considered a member.

In her New York Sun article, Meghan Clyne sought comment from Dean Walt regarding the response to the essay: “I have discussed your inquiry with my co-author, Professor Mearsheimer,” he told the Sun. “We appreciate the invitation to respond to the comments, but prefer not to.”

UPDATE: I should also have noted James Taranto’s observations on the Mearsheimer and Walt essay in yesterday’s Best of the Web Today. Daniel Drezner finds Mearsheimer and Walt guilty of nothing more than “piss-poor, monocausal social science.” In this case, “monocausal” translates into something like “becasue of the Jews.” I think the Mearsheimer and Walt essay is worse than poor social science, even if the something worse isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism. Baroness Alexandra von Maltzan comments on Professor Drezner’s post here.

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