John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt: Taken to task by David Remnick in the New YorkerHistorians in the News
In Mearsheimer and Walt’s cartography, the Israel lobby is not limited to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It is a loose yet well-oiled coalition of Jewish-American organizations, “watchdog” groups, think tanks, Christian evangelicals, sympathetic journalists, and neocon academics. This is not a cabal but a world in which Abraham Foxman gives the signal, Pat Robertson describes his apocalyptic rapture, Charles Krauthammer pumps out a column, Bernard Lewis delivers a lecture—and the President of the United States invades another country. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Exxon-Mobil barely exist. Where many accounts identify Osama bin Laden’s primary grievances with American support of “infidel” authoritarian regimes in Islamic lands, Mearsheimer and Walt align his primary concerns with theirs: America’s unwillingness to push Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. (It doesn’t matter that Israel and the Palestinians were in peace negotiations in 1993, the year of the first attack on the World Trade Center, or that during the Camp David negotiations in 2000 bin Laden’s pilots were training in Florida.) Mearsheimer and Walt give you the sense that, if the Israelis and the Palestinians come to terms, bin Laden will return to the family construction business. It’s a narrative that recounts every lurid report of Israeli cruelty as indisputable fact but leaves out the rise of Fatah and Palestinian terrorism before 1967; the Munich Olympics; Black September; myriad cases of suicide bombings; and other spectaculars. The narrative rightly points out the destructiveness of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and America’s reluctance to do much to curtail them, but there is scant mention of Palestinian violence or diplomatic bungling, only a recitation of the claim that, in 2000, Israel offered “a disarmed set of Bantustans under de-facto Israeli control.” (Strange that, at the time, the Saudi Prince Bandar told Yasir Arafat, “If we lose this opportunity, it is not going to be a tragedy. This is going to be a crime.”) Nor do they dwell for long on instances when the all- powerful Israel lobby failed to sway the White House, as when George H. W. Bush dragged Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid peace conference....
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Nicholas Clifford - 9/10/2007
An understandably cautious piece from the editor. He apparently has read the new book, and I haven't (is it out yet?). But if it's like the original Walt-Mearsheimer piece, then it's hard to see how it paints Israel as a singularly pernicious force in world affairs. Their concern is with what they see as an Israel lobby in the US. Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it's the Big Bad Wolf of foreign policy, and maybe it isn't. Maybe it's responsible for Bush's curiously stand-offish approach to the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006 (which Remnick doesn't mention), and maybe it isn't. But shouldn't the authors -- and others, like Tony Judt -- be allowed to address the question publicly, rather than seeing their appearances cancelled for unexplained reasons?
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