Monday, April 03, 2006

Paper: The Israel Lobby

Via Steve Clemons at TPMCafe; a great paper on the Israel lobby in America by John Mearsheimer of Chicago and Stephen Walt of the Kennedy School at Harvard:
For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.
Predictably, Alan Dershowitz responded to the paper with the kind of counter-attacks and language often used by members of the Israel lobby to suppress dissent:
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.”

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

Dershowitz said that 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,” and that in asserting that the Jewish state was founded on “blood kinship,” the authors were mistakenly conflating 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 also disputed the existence of a unified “Lobby,” which the authors defined in their piece as a “loose coalition of individuals and organizations.” He contended 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.

The authors responded that their use of the word “Lobby” is not meant to imply that it is “a unified movement with a central leadership or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues.”
Good stuff. The mere existence of this paper means this country might some day realize why 9/11 happened. Make sure you read the whole thing!

UPDATE: What I read, and quoted, was a shortened essay. Here's the full paper. Also Daniel Drezner has a good comment here and here. He raises some good points (I also thought the bit about living with a nuclear Iran was over the top). But he keeps saying he's surprised and disappointed that the paper hasn't received more mainstream meadia coverage. For an explanation, if I may be so bold, I would suggest he re-reads the paper, especially the bit that explains why "It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one".

UPDATE II: That's it, Dan Drezner is an idiot, I'm taking him off my blogger list:
A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability;
They strongly suggest that the Israeli influence on US politics is responsible for 9/11 and the Iraq war. You'd have to have a hell of a lot of net strategic "assets" to counter those two miserable failures!
B) They ascribe U.S. foreign policy behavior almost exclusively to the activities of the "Israel Lobby"; and
That's the topic of the paper, dude. They're not excluding the influence of oil or countering Soviet influence.
C) They omit consderation of contradictory policies and countervailing foreign policy lobbies.
Oh, like the all-powerful Arab lobby? Name three Arab-American counterparts to Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle? Man, for a smart guy Drezner is really dumb.

UPDATE III: I take back what I wrote about Dan Drezner above, he's definitely not an idiot and I will continue reading his blog daily with great interest. Drezner is at least open to debate on this issue, even though I think he was too quick to dismiss the M/W paper.


Anonymous said...

Um, Mads, I think Osama's problem with the US has far more to do with US support for the Saudi Royal Family than it has to do with Israel.

I can't say I find the report much more than a declaration of the obvious -- the American Jewish community has a powerful influence on policy. This has a lot to do with a group that has put a high priority on education, and therefore has a lot of powerful and influential people in a lot of places. This is bad, why?

Europe does not have this. The folks who would have served as such emigrated to Israel.

Mads said...

See my update about Drezner. As to what's in Osama's mind, I agree that's mere speculation. Perhaps Walt & Co should have left that out.

But the more important question is what allowed Osama to recruit thousands of angry like-minded supporters. Sit down with an Arab family and watch pictures of bloody Palestinian children on Al-Jazeera for a week, then come and talk to me about how Israel had nothing to do with 9/11.