Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt had a kind of coming out party with the terror front group CAIR this afternoon in Washington at the National Press Club. Fresh off his fundraising appearance for Keith Ellison in Minneapolis on Friday, CAIR’s Nihad Awad introduced Mearsheimer and Walt at the haters’ ball this afternoon. Behind the bloopers, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noticed a certain thematic unity to the event:
Yesterday, at the invitation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), [Mearsheimer and Walt] held a forum at the National Press Club to expand on their allegations about the Israel lobby. Blurring the line between academics and activism, they accepted a button proclaiming “Fight the Israel Lobby” and won cheers from the Muslim group for their denunciation of Israel and its friends in the United States.
Whatever motivated the performance, the result wasn’t exactly scholarly.
Walt singled out two Jews who worked at the Pentagon for their pro-Israel views. “People like Paul Wolfowitz or Doug Feith . . . advocate policies they think are good for Israel and the United States alike,” he said. “We don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but we also don’t think there’s anything wrong for others to point out that these individuals do have attachments that shape how they think about the Middle East.”
“Attachments” sounds much better than “dual loyalties.” But why single out Wolfowitz and Feith and not their non-Jewish boss, Donald Rumsfeld?
“I could have mentioned non-Jewish people like John Bolton,” Walt allowed when the question was put to him.
Picking up on the “attachments” lingo, Mearsheimer did mention Bolton but cited two Jews, Elliott Abrams and David Wurmser, as “the two most influential advisers on Middle East affairs in the White House. Both, he said, are ” fervent supporters of Israel.” Never mind that others in the White House, such as national security adviser Stephen Hadley, Vice President Cheney and President Bush, have been just as fervent despite the lack of “attachments.”
This line of argument could be considered a precarious one for two blue-eyed men with Germanic surnames. And, indeed, Walt seemed defensive about the charges of anti-Semitism. He cautioned that the Israel lobby “is not a cabal,” that it is “not synonymous with American Jews” and that “there is nothing improper or illegitimate about its activities.”
But Mearsheimer made no such distinctions as he used “Jewish activists,” “major Jewish organizations” and the “Israel lobby” interchangeably. Clenching the lectern so tightly his knuckles whitened, Mearsheimer accused Israel of using the kidnapping of its soldiers by Hezbollah as a convenient excuse to attack Lebanon.
“Israel had been planning to strike at Hezbollah for months,” he asserted. “Key Israelis had briefed the administration about their intentions.”
A questioner asked if he had any “hard evidence” for this accusation. Mearsheimer cited the “public record” and “Israeli civilian strategists,” then repeated the allegation that Israel was seeking “a cover for launching this offensive.”
And so, unbelievably, on, all the way to Mearhsheimer’s post-ball interview with al-Jazeera.
Charles Johnson notes that in Awad’s introduction of Mearsheimer and Walt, Awad promoted Paul Findley’s absurd book on the subject of the “Israel Lobby” that I used as my point of reference in “They too dare to speak out!” (With apologies to the late Shel Silverstein and his “Freakin’ at the Freakers’ Ball.”)