The missing piece

There is much more to be said about the execrable “Israel Lobby” paper by University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Kennedy School of Government Dean Stephen Walt. Professor Daniel Drezner to the contrary notwithstanding, assuming Mearsheimer and Walt are familiar with the basic literature on the range of subjects they address in their paper, the paper is something worse than “piss-poor, monocausal social science.” Virtually every paragraph of the paper reeks of partiality, distortion and dishonesty. The paper puts me in mind of what Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘a’ and ‘the.'”

According to Mearsheimer and Walt, for example, in Israel “citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship” and “Israel’s 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class citizens” (page 9, footnotes omitted). They do not acknowledge that the 1.3 million Arabs are indeed citizens of Israel or that, as such, they enjoy more rights than do the Arab citizens of the twenty-one Arab countries in the Middle East and Africa.

In addressing the creation of Israel, Mearsheimer and Walt somehow omit (among many other things) the attacks on Jews by Palestinian Arabs and the Arab Liberation Army upon the adoption of the partition plan by the United Nations in 1947, and the war waged on Israel by the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt upon its creation in 1948. Rather, Mearsheimer and Walt refer to the Arab war only as the “opportunity” seized on by the Jews to “expel large numbers of Arabs from the territory that would become Israel.” Mearsheimer and Walt write: “This opportunity came in 1947-48 when Jewish forces drove up to 700,000 Palestinians into exile…” (page 10). Anyone familiar with the relevant history might be pardoned for finding this something worse than “piss-poor, monocausal social science.”

At Jewish Current Issues, Rick Richman takes a look at another Hellman-like statement in the Mearsheimer and Walt paper:

[N]o Israeli government has been willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state of their own. Even Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s purportedly generous offer at Camp David in July 2000 would only have given the Palestinians a disarmed and dismembered set of “Bantustans” under de facto Israeli control.

Richman examines the statement in light of its supporting sources as well as its missing sources. Notable among the omitted sources is Dennis Ross’s The Missing Peace. Richman supplies the missing piece(s). As I said the first time around on the Mearsheimer and Walt essay, if it were a student term paper it would rate a failing grade.

Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse takes note of the Mearsheimer and Walt paper in a subscribers only column in today’s Wall Street Journal: “Israel lobby.” Professor Wisse writes:

[According to Mearsheimer and Walt,] [w]ere it not for the Lobby, the U.S. would have nothing to fear in the world, not even a nuclear threat from Iran: “If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China or even a nuclear North Korea, it can live with a nuclear Iran. And that is why the Lobby must keep up constant pressure on politicians to confront Tehran.” Not Iran but the Lobby is the true threat to America’s security by trying to compel the U.S. to oppose Iran against its interests. Most dangerously, Jews control the man at the top: In the spring of 2002 “[Ariel] Sharon and the Lobby took on the president of the United States and triumphed.” Given the creative scope of these charges, one is surprised to find no hint of Israel’s role in the spread of avian flu.

Organized as a prosecutorial indictment rather than an inquiry, the essay does not tell us why the “Israel Lobby” should have formed in the first place. The 21 countries of the Arab League with ties to 1.2 billion Muslims world-wide are nowhere present as active political agents. There is no mention of the Arab rejection of the United Nations’s partition of Palestine in 1948; no 58-year Arab League boycott of Israel and companies trading with Israel; no Arab attacks of 1948, 1967 and 1973; no Arab-Soviet resolution at the U.N. defining Zionism as racism; no monetary and strategic support for Arab terrorism against Jews and Israel; and no Hamas dedication to destroying the Jewish state. The authors do not ask why Arab aggression and Muslim “rage against Israel” should have morphed into a war against the U.S. and the West. Israel’s existence elicits Arab and Muslim hostility, hence in their view Israel is to blame for Arab and Muslim carnage.

Judging from the initial reaction to their article (one of my students called it “wacko quacko”), the two professors may be subjected to more ridicule than rejoinder. Several Web sites are in the process of listing all their bloopers, distortions and omissions. Their tone resembles nothing so much as Wilhelm Marr’s 1879 pamphlet, “The Victory of Judaism over Germandom,” which declared of the Jews that “There is no stopping them . . . German culture has proved itself ineffective and powerless against this foreign power. This is a fact; a brute inexorable fact.” A parallel edition of these two texts might highlight some American refinements on the European model, such as the anti-Semitic lie that “Israeli citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship.” In fact, unlike neighboring Arab countries, Israeli citizenship is not conditional on religion or race.

Yet it would be a mistake to treat this article on the “Israel Lobby” as an attack on Israel alone, or on its Jewish defenders, or on the organizations and individuals it singles out for condemnation. Its true target is the American public, which now supports Israel with higher levels of confidence than ever before.

At Normblog, Professor Norman Geras publishes the text of a letter to the London Review of Books from Professors Jeffrey Herf and Andrei S. Markovits, in which they respond to the LRB version of the Mearshimer and Walt paper. At FrontPage, Lowell Ponte whacks at the paper: “David Duke and Harvard’s New Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” And Meghan Clyne stays on the case in this morning’s New York Sun: “Harvard’s paper on Israel called ‘trash’ by solon.”

UPDATE: At The American Thinker, Ed Lasky notes:

The Harvard Kennedy School of Government logo has mysteriously disappeared from the disgracefully shoddy paper recently co-authored by its academic dean Stephen Walt. (The “logo” remains in the Harvard Abstract to the paper. And the report is still listed as one of the JFK “Faculty Research Working Paper Series.”) Additionally, there is a semi-disclaimer at the start of the paper which was not there originally: “The two authors of this Working Paper are solely responsible for the views expressed in it. As academic institutions, Harvard University and the University of Chicago do not take positions on the scholarship of individual faculty, and this article should not be interpreted or portrayed as reflecting the official position of either institution.”


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