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Apr 11, 2006 8:20 pm

Quiz time

"The crucial factor in President Bush's decision to attack [Iraq] was to help Israel."

Is the source of this quote the much debated Mearsheimer and Walt article or an essay on the Holocaust revisionist Institute for Historical Review website?

Tough one, eh?

It's the latter, and it appears as part of a pair of neo-Nazi flyers that made the rounds on walls at Harvard this week. The author of that IHR piece notes that he"makes some of the same points as are made in the 81 page paper by [Kennedy School Academic Dean M. Stephen] Walt and [University of Chicago professor John J.] Mearsheimer." He further notes that he was untroubled by the fact that his essay was paired with a second flyer from the neo-Nazi National Vanguard, which describes itself as"an intelligent and responsible organization that stands up for the interests of White people." Throw in David Duke's endorsement of the M & W paper and it's a crackpot jackpot.

Might it be a huge strategic mistake for libertarians to align themselves with authors whose views are"some of the same" as, and endorsed by, a nice variety of neo-Nazis? I certainly think it is.

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Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Your post really does not address any of the issues I raised.

Suppose I was a Palestinian partisan who took arms against the Yishuv and later against Israel. Suppose further that I lost the war, and thereby lost my erstwhile home in the process of fighting a war. My actions in this case are nothing like a tourist who leaves for a foreign country--any more than picking up a gun and shooting people is like getting on a plane and gazing at the Statue of Liberty.

Many of the refugees fit this description. And many gave aid and comfort to people who fit this description. So the question arises: does this class of people have a right of return?

I don't see why, and merely invoking a right of emigration does not explain it. The right of emigration is not a "right to engage in military activity, lose the military conflict, flee the battle scene, then come back and claim compensation from the people you fought." But that is what the so-called right of return is. I'm wondering if you could point me to one source that offers a justification of it. Or offer an argument of your own sensitive to the facts I've just identified.

You claim that collective punishment is wrong. If you read my post carefully, you'll note that I didn't affirm collective punishment. What I pointed out is that the right of return is a case of collective reward. My point was: if you accept collective reward, you must accept collective punishment; but if you reject one, you must reject the other. You are in the inconsistent position of accepting collective reward but rejecting collective punishment. You can't have it both ways.

As for those Palestinians who played no role in attacking the Yishuv and Israel, I would agree that their rights were violated. But by whom? What was the cause of their fleeing their homes?

You say this is irrelevant. On the contrary, it is the only relevant issue. If the Arabs were aggressing against the Israelis, and the Israelis were responding, the Israelis were enacting a right of self-defense. If the Arab population was hostile to the very existence of Jews (and they were), and the Israelis drove them out, that too was an act of self-defense. Since it was physically impossible to determine just which Arabs were hostile and which were not, a forced emigration was justifiable: it was a matter of life and death. So responsibility for the emigration does not devolve on the Israelis--certainly not exclusively on them. It devolves on the aggressors.

(In the cases where the Israelis or Yishuv were aggressors, I would affirm a right to compensation--but only to those Palestinians who were (a) alive then and (b) not themselves aggressing. How one could possibly adjudicate such issues in the year 2006 is beyond me. How the right of return could comply with such strictures is also beyond me.)

Bear in mind that for the most part, the "homes" to which you keep referring no longer exist. So there is no possibility of literally "returning" to them. The right of return is a right to compensation for a would-be return. The question is who is to pay it. Perhaps the Israelis should pay a part. But so should the Arabs.

By the way, you seem blankly to have ignored my observation that the would-be beneficiaries of the right of return are now mostly dead. Who then is to claim this would-be right? Or is the right to be claimed by corpses?

As for my returning to Amritsar, with all due respect, you are confusing the issues. The question is not a right to emigrate to Amritsar and buy a house there--something that was never in dispute. The Palestinian "right of return" is not a right of free emigration but a right of forced dispossession of current Israeli inhabitants of erstwhile Arab land. So the parallel case would be my going to Amritsar and evicting the current tenants of the people now living on the plot of land from which my family was evicted in 1947.

In short, the "right of return" is an alleged right of the offspring of dispossessors-by-aggression to dispossess the offspring of responders-to-aggression. There is no such right. The claim is nonsense. It is also a distraction from the real task of securing Palestinian rights, and a way of encouraging unrealizable fantasies of the sort that has driven Palestinians into the ground.

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

To fix a typo: In the Amritsar case, I meant that a right of return involves "evicting the current tenants of the home now living on the plot of land from which my family was evicted in 1947."

Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

You write as though the "right of return" were somehow obviously justifiable, but as someone who freely calls himself an anti-Zionist, I have never been able to grasp the justification of this so-called right.

The Palestinian exodus of 1947-8 had several causes. One was terror by the Yishuv. Another was the fact that Arab leaders demanded that the population flee. A third was just plain old fear of the unknown. No matter how one catalogues the causes, one cannot lay blame exclusively at the door of Israel.

The fact is, the Arabs rejected the partition of 1947 and chose war as a method of dealing with Israel--first by irregular militias, then by organized regular warfare. Part of the expelled Palestinian population was itself involved in the military effort that produced the expulsions. They were a fifth column, then. Why were the Israelis obliged to tolerate their presence? If one argues that the Israelis were too indiscriminate in expelling them, whose fault is that? Why doesn't some of the responsibility devolve on the Arab irregulars who contributed to the problem?

Even if we assume that Plan Dalet gave Israel partial responsibility for the forced emigration of Arabs from the future Israel (which is scarcely clear to me in the first place), the right of return ignores the causal contribution of the Arab states, of Arab leaders, and of Arab individuals to the refugee problem.

Are we really supposed to believe that the refugee problem is all Israel's fault? That is the only assumption that gets a so-called "right of return" off the ground. If it is not all Israel's fault, the other contributors to the problem have to answer for their part of it.

In any case, who is it that has this supposed right? If we're talking about the actual persons expelled, most of them are dead. If we're talking about their heirs, the obvious question is how a right of return can be inherited across generations.

(Another obvious question is whether the population has by now forfeited the right by its subsequent actions. If they all have the right regardless of whether each person desrves, why can't they all lose the right regardless of whether each person has taken an action to forfeit it? Plenty of crimes have been committed by the Palestinian side since 1948 to raise this question.)

If such rights can be inherited, I guess I would have to qualify as a refugee and potential beneficiary of a right of return. My family was expelled from Amritsar in 1947 during the partition of India and Pakistan. Does this mean that I have a right to return there? Or that I have a right of compensation against contemporary Indians? This would be nice. But is it true? It strikes me as a reductio ad absurdum of the whole idea.

By all means, de-Zionize Israel. But decouple that task from the absurdity of a "right of return". It's one thing to assert it, and another to argue for it. I've spent a lifetime hearing the first thing, and barely a minute hearing the latter.

If only the discussion of the W-M article were characterized by discussion of topics as specific as the relation between the 1947-8 war and the right of return. But alas, that isn't to be.

Bill Woolsey - 4/16/2006

I find the entire matter puzzling.

The "right of return" is simply the right of people to return to their homes.

For example, suppose some person had left their home during the period in question in order to visit New York. She wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. "Israel" wasn't responsible for her decision to take a world tour. But for the state of Israel to prevent her from returning home is a violation of her rights. The notion that one might not be able to return home if one leaves, is a violation of the right of travel. And, refusing to let someone return home is usually a violation of property rights or contract rights.

While terror by some Zionist sects aimed at ethnic cleansing was a very bad thing, it is irrelevant to the right of return. Even if there was no terror, people have a right to return to their homes.

The claim that it is relevant requires the assumption that voluntarily leaving home on a trip means you don't have a right to come home. In particular, voluntarily fleeing a war zone means you cannot return home when things appear to be safe. That is ridiculous.

Whether or not local Palestinian leaders told Arabs to evacuate possible war zones, whatever those leaders' true motivation, has no impact on their right to go back home. Maybe the varous Arab leaders in Palestine deserved some punishment for making this recommendation (though it seems reasonable enough to me and would seem to count as protected free speech) listening to them and taking their advice is simply exercising one's right to travel. It hardly means one no longer has the right to return home. (You listened to the wrong people, so you can't come home. What?)

How various Arab states chose to deal with the new state of Israel is irrelevant to the right of people to return to their homes. The issue isn't whether the the King of Jordan or the President of Egypt has a right to live in Israel. It is whether the inhabitants who lived there before there was a state of Israel have a right to live return to their homes.

To me, to even bring this up shows support for a concept of collective guilt. People of "Arab blood" (or however you want to describe it,) are to be prevented from returning to their homes because rulers of "Arab blood" went to war with Israel. Maybe it isn't blood, it is just the language the speak. But characterize it as you like--it is simply crazy. Or rather, anti-liberal 19th century nationalism, a wrongheaded perspective shared by both Zionists and many Arabs.

Because people have a right to travel, why they left is irrelevant. They can only be kept from coming home if there is some justification for exiling them. Like a punishment for crime. They might be jailed, or even executed. They might be exiled instead. If they already are gone, then the exile would be refusing to let them come home.

And, one fundamental liberal principle is that people can only be punished for the crimes they individually commit. Collective punishment is unacceptable. Some Arabs did this, you are an Arab, so you are to be punished. Wrong!

I don't believe opposition to the existence of the state of Israel is a justification for exile from the territory Israel claims. If I were a resident, I would oppose the "state of Isreal" and favor a secular, ethnically pluralist state covering the entire Palestinian mandate. That would have been my position in 1948 (I guess.) I don't think I should be exiled from the sector the Zionist party got for its religious/ethnic state just because I am a dissenter from their view. And it wouldn't matter what religious or ethnic background I happened to have.

My basic inclination is to support free emigration, so whether or not the right to return is heritable is a matter of second best. Generally, I would think that if a state has been keeping people from returning to their homes, then it should let their decendents come back too.

As I said before, keeping Palestinian Arabs out of Israel might well be a necessary evil. It is a violation of their rights. And, to me, it would have to be justified by the propensity of the returnees to support illiberal policies. We should let them return, but being a bunch of Islamists or Arab Nationalist Socialists, they are sure to violate the rights of the other people here. Of course, for me to find that rationale credible, the first step would be for Israel to acually have liberal policies and not openly say that the reason they are keeping these people from returning is to maintain a Jewish majority. In other words, they can't return because they aren't Jewish.

Why is it absurd to say that you have a right to move to Amritsar? Can't you? (I would note that I don't support the right of India to exist as a Hindu state. But I didn't realize they had an exclusionary immigration policy.)

Bill Woolsey - 4/15/2006

I don't believe that Israel has a right to exist. If fact, the more one claims that it is a "Jewish state" the more doubtful becomes any justification of its right to exist.

The problem with "Israel" is that either it is a state for people with a particular religious faith or else it is a state for people of a particular ethnic backround. Both approaches are inconsistent with liberal principles and, in fact are competing principles advocated by "our" opponents--the theocrats and nationalists.

There can be a liberal regime where most people are of a particular ethnic background or else of a particular religion, but neither can be an appropriate focus of a state in a liberal order. So all that "Israel" must do to fix this problem is to become a state devoted to securing the individual rights of all of its residents--including all of the Arab refugees that fled its territory and have been prohibited from returning. Of course, a fully liberal policy in Israel would be best, though this particular problem of being devoted to either theocracy or nationalism could be corrected while maintaining support for activist government.

Personally, I would only stop opposing Israel's right to exist if I stopped hearing credible claims that there is a near consensus in Israel that public policy there should be aimed at maintaining a Jewish majority to protect Israel's "Jewish character." I find it highly offensive when it is argued that people who lived in what is today Israel years ago, or their children or grandchildren, cannot return to their homes because it would destroy the Jewish character of Israel. (There might be other reasons for preventing such a return, reasons that would need to be justified as a necessary evil, but maintaining a Jewish character for Israel is an unacceptable reason.) The "defense" that "the Arabs" have plenty of countries, proves the charge. It is the Jews and Arabs, not individuals who happen to be Jewish or Muslim, Jews or Arabs that are being considered in this calculus--an approach fully inconsistent with liberal principles.

I am a Christian American of mostly British extraction. I am not sympathetic to the historical efforts of the Ku Klux Klan to maintain for the U.S. a character that happens to reflect my religious and ethnic background. I consider proposals to twist public policy in such a direction to be downright evil, and inconsistent with the best parts of the American heritage--the liberal ones.

I do hold Israel to a high standard--the same standard I apply to the U.S. and other Western countries. If there were native Americans who had fled to Mexico or Canada and wanted to return to the U.S., of course I would support their "right of return." I most certainly support full citizenship rights for all native Americans. And I certainly count the decendents of the native Americans to be part of the "people" the U.S. government is supposed to be serving. The notion that no, the U.S. is a state for Christians or for those of British decent, (or for native Americans,) would all be equally offensive to me.

Perhaps not all the bloggers on this site are libertarian. And I suppose some who post comments aren't libertarian. Yet, certainly, all should be aware that from a libertarian perspective the right of any state to exist is problematic and very much conditional. And further, that theocracy and nationalism are highly suspect. This is particularly true of 19th century nationalism, where the state was somehow the organizing principle of a nation, and that the individuals are supposed to obtain some portion of their purpose in life by participating in this organization. That vision is very much incompatable with the liberal vision of limited government.

Of course, the middle east has a number of real theocracies and a good number of states devoted to Arab nationalism. I don't think any of those regimes have a "right" to exist. Fortunately, the President of my country isn't promising to go to war to guarantee the right of Saudi Arabia to maintain a Muslim theocracy, or to be sure that Syria remains an state devoted to the intersts of the Arab people whatever their religious faith. But my President just promised a month ago to go to war to make sure to protect the right to exist of a state that is devoted to either a particular religion or else a ethnic background. It makes me angry. And I admit that it is this that leads me to single out Israel. If the politicians in the U.S. spoke out as often about defending the right of some other country to exist, I might focus on that country as well.

Aster Francesca - 4/13/2006


Please let me state I utterly and completely agree. My problem with M&W, as I've stated, isn't a matter of particular coinciding conclusions, but the employment of a very specific pattern and narrative central to anti-semitism, and furthermore the use of this narrative with an impossible unawareness that it does so closely resemble such an evil, along with no attempt to dissociate from it. That is for me at least enough reason to regard M&W with suspicion.

Max Schwing - 4/13/2006

I think there is a problem with this guilt by association. I can understand that it is always problematic, when something coincidentially (or wilingly) has a "common ground" with Anti-Semitism or Nazism in general.
I am born in Germany, so I should know.

However, we also should not read and discuss Paganism, Nitzsche and other Sources, because they also tend to have been part of the NAZI-ideology. In fact, Goebbels and Hitler put together their whole facism out of different (but historically successful) sources. Just because they took the "über-Mensch" part from Nietzsche out of context and applied it to their philosophy, makes Nietzsche not a bad man or a bad philosopher.

However, I don't have read the article in question, or the specifics about the endorsment by those Neo-Nazis, but I still want to point out that we have a difficult case here.

I remember a while back, that some people even read Marx and endorsed parts of his analysis, still Marx was a poster-child for Stalin and his wicked regime. Should we now forgo any serious debate on Marx?

Jonathan Dresner - 4/12/2006

The "particularities" of the argument have been dealt with time and time again. The only thing which is interesting about this particular paper is the presentation, both institutional and structural, which is why we seem to be avoiding the discussion.

I don't want to silence them; I want to shame them into explaining themselves more effectively.

Aster Francesca - 4/12/2006

"I just find it very worrisome when such tropes appear in a major scholarly study and then those of us who point it out are put on the defensive."

Thank you; this was precisely my reaction.

As for 'cribbing', I think the point Aeon was trying to make is that stories of Jews wielding vast subterranean webs of financial influence to undermine the interests of the nation is a very specific narrative. It's not like opposing affirmative action or some general policy one could arrive at from a number of places- it's an invocation of an utterly hackneyed tale with a terrible and sordid cultural history.

I agree the charge of anti-semitism is used to unjustly silence people. I have no troubles with criticisms of the Israeli government, as long as these do not themselves have echoes of the antisemitic lexicon (for instance, subliminal implication that a Jewish state's right to exist is doubtful, emphemeral, or conditional in a way any other states' existence isn't). I myself don't like many practices of the Israeli government, from human rights abuses against the Palestinians to conscription to established religion. And tho' I haven't studied the subject, I wouldn't be surprised to find I didn't like much American support for Israel, either (fairly likely, given how I'm an anarchist).

But that's not the point. M&W don't just criticise Israel but employ a narrative that matches point for point the 'international Jewish conspiracy' rhetoric of which the Protocols are the most famous example. Is that antisemitic? No... not quite, not provably. But the narratives one uses are every bit as much a part of one's message as one's technical ideas and policy proposals, and M&W have no excuse for not understanding this.

Steven Horwitz - 4/12/2006

I am NOT, repeat NOT, arguing that criticism of Israel is ipso facto anti-Semitic. Nor am I arguing that M&W should be criticized PER SE because crazy people agree with them. Thus Bill's South Korea analogy is misplaced.

What I AM saying is that the *particulars* of their criticisms echo arguments made by anti-Semitics for decades and centuries (in the Protocols or wherever). There ARE good sound criticisms of Israel and US-Israeli policy to be made, and if crazy people endorsed those, it wouldn't make those arguments anti-Semitic.

What troubles me about the M&W argument is the way they make their case, not that they've criticized Israel or US policy toward it.

Anthony Gregory - 4/12/2006

Who said this?

”Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 -- it's the threat against Israel. . . .And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell."

Was this a neo-Nazi pamphlet? Or was it Peter Zelikow, member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and later the director of the 9/11 Commission?

My point is, merely voicing the opinion that Israel was the main factor in deciding to go to war is not automatically suspect, just because other people who are suspect believe the same thing. From my reading of it, Mearsheimer and Walt do not conflate American Jews as a group with the neoconservatives and Israeli Lobby that saw the war as beneficial to Israel. On the contrary, the authors point out the importance of Evangelical Christians in the movement, as well as the fact "that Jews are less supportive of the Iraq war than the population at large." (It was this kind of comment that I thought did effectively make the piece harder for racists to use, but racist activists will often use anything that they think can help their case, even if they bend the intentions and meanings of others to do it.)

On a personal note, I don't know whether I think that was the main factor. I certainly don't think the war was actually good for the Israeli people. But I don't see why stressing the importance of Israel in current US foreign policy, which the neocons have always admitted, is suspect just because a bunch of nutjobs also take notice.

Bill Woolsey - 4/12/2006

Please provide the appropriate citation to the M&W paper as well as the Protocols of the elders of Zion. I don't have a copy of that document, so it would nice if you could just provide a quotation from the protocols and then the quotation that you believe is "cribbed" in M&W.

Perhaps I'm in error, but I thought the Czarists came up with the Protocols before there was a state of Israel, so I find it hard to understand how any M&W could find any criticsm of Israel there to crib. But maybe I am mistaken.

Bill Woolsey - 4/12/2006

That a propagandist for Israel, who just happened to endorse torture and then more recently, preventive war, would respond to W&M with smears should be no surprise. I expect nothing better from that Harvard lawyer at this point.

But that people I respect would endorse that abuse--what a disgraceful.

I have never read the protocols of the elders of zion and so I wouldn't have any idea if an argument I made regarding the pro-israel lobbying in the U.S. repeated them or not.

Personally, I believe that U.S. should withdraw from South Korea. I am pretty sure that the North Korean state agrees. So, I must be a communist, right?

I'm sure that if Steve Horwitz's views on ending U.S. aid to Israel were better known, some Nazi's would endorse them too. (Even a Jew economist realizes that the U.S. shouldn't send money to Israel.)

I have read the article by W and M. It isn't they who claim that the Israel lobby is made up only of Jews or that all Jews are part of it. They point out that the neocon hawks include gentiles like James Woolsey. And that the wacko Christian fundamentalists make up a very important part of the lobby. Of course, AIPAC is at the center. AIPAC brags about their polical power! W&M point out that the policies promoted by the Israel lobby are more hawkish than that supported by most American Jews. (Remember, the crazed Christian fundamentalists outnumber the Jews and if they are ever motivated by this issue, they could be probably be pursuaded that exterminating all ragheads is the will of God. While that is a loose cannon for sure, Likudnik policies are the epitomy of reason by comparison. The fortunately rare Jewish settler fundamentalist crazies are only worse because they are more focused on stealing more Palestian land, destroying the dome of the rock, and rebuilding the temple so that the messiah will come. Again, mainstream Likudniks and neocons are the perfectly rational by comparison!)

W and M don't claim that the Israel lobby is a secret conspiracy of anyone, much less some or all Jews.

I believe that the farm lobby dominates U.S. farm policy. Does that mean that the farm lobby is a secret conspiracy? Unified on every issue? NO! But I believe that the policies developed by the farm lobby are damaging to U.S. "national interest." You know, the costs are greater than the benefits.

I see much the same thing with Israel.

Aeon J. Skoble - 4/12/2006

Steven is right on this. M&W are rehashing classic anti-semitic moves. Whether Ralph or Sheldon or David has some good argument against US support for Israel is entirely irrelevant as to whether M&W do. The charge of "guilt by association" only goes so far. If I were to criticize vegetarianism by noting that Hitler was a vegetarian, you'd be right to call shenanigans. But to note that a criticism of Israel (or policy regarding it) is cribbed from "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is not the guilt-by-association fallacy.

Steven Horwitz - 4/12/2006

It's not a red herring to ask whether a critique of Israel that draws on tropes that have a history of being used for anti-Semitic purposes is itself coming from the same place. If one believes that the historical tropes are/were factually incorrect, then it also would suggest skepticism about the argument at hand.

To suggest that a small group of "American Jews" (their words) are driving US policy toward Israel and doing so in a way that puts Israel's interests ahead of the US's is to draw on two common claims made by anti-Semites: Jews "control" the US government disproportionately to their size (and in secretive ways, also part of M&W's argument) and that they put their loyalty to Israel/other Jews above their loyalty to anything else, including their country of citizenship.

Those are arguments M&W make. Those are arguments that have a long history of associate with anti-Semitism. Some say that's "guilt by association." I disagree. I just find it very worrisome when such tropes appear in a major scholarly study and then those of us who point it out are put on the defensive.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2006

But if you "don't know" whether they are anti-Semites or not, why ask the question, except as a distraction from the issues that they raise. It is like someone saying "I don't know if Ralph Luker is a fascist or not" in response to my criticism of Castro's regime in Cuba. It's a red herring and one that would be easier to recognize as such if it weren't Israel that we're talking about.

Steven Horwitz - 4/12/2006

Ralph - I have NO objections to fully and completely discussing the problems with Israel's policies and US policy with respect to Israel. As I've said before, as libertarian I would like the US government to completely disentangle itself from the whole region. If individual citizens want to provide financial, moral, or other support for Israel, they should do so on their own.

However, I think there are ways to make those arguments that don't have the echoes of old anti-Semitic arguments in the ways the M&W paper does. And it's not "guilt by association" when the substance of the arguments overlap in significant ways. Are M&W anti-Semites? I don't know. What I do know is that they have made an argument that can be, and has been, heard as anti-Semitic. Their apparent lack of awareness of the way they would be heard is troubling.

If I were to make an argument that I thought could be heard as racist because it drew on negative depictions of blacks that have a long cultural history, I would sure as hell take steps to clarify why my particular argument was immune to that charge. M&W do not. And when M&W *explicitly* identify "American Jews" as the source of the "problem," it's no longer about "supporters of Israel," but about Jews. That is cause for concern as well, also because it essentializes American Jews, who have a wide variety of views on Israel and its relationship to the US.

Sheldon Richman - 4/12/2006

Nor can I BELIEVE them either.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2006

It still seems to me that the charge of anti-Semitism is a way of avoiding the particularities of their argument -- of dismissing it outright, without engaging it. I see no difference between the charge that they are anti-Semites and the charge that they are anti-American. Both charges come from people who simply do not want the issues they raise to be on the table for discussion.

Sheldon Richman - 4/12/2006

Sorry, but I cannot beleive my eyes!

Steven Horwitz - 4/12/2006

Right Jonathan. And I think that was Aster's point. And, once again, let me reiterate that I am NOT arguing that anyone who criticizes Israel or their policies, or US policy with respect to Israel, is an anti-Semite. I know of no high-profile contributor to this debate, including Jewish intellectuals of which I am one, who holds that position.

What concerns me about M&W is just what Aster said: when the particulars of your argument bear a strong similarity to historically anti-Semitic arguments and you appear not to recognize that cultural resonance and take no steps to insulate yourselves from it, or from the support of really nasty people, it should give your reader reason to ask questions about your motives.

Jonathan Dresner - 4/12/2006

It does suggest, though, that they didn't to a terribly good job of presenting a nuanced argument that would lead Duke, et al. to in any way distance themselves....

Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2006

Sorry. This is still a guilt by association argument. My thinking that Cuba would be better off if it were not ruled by Fidel Castro does not make me a fascist; and repeatedly blaming Mearshimer and Walt because David Duke happens to agree with them doesn't make them anti-Semites.

David T. Beito - 4/12/2006

I haven't read the study so can't address your other points. The fact that Duke endorses the study, however, is a complete non-issue.

Duke also came out prominently against racial preferences during the California vote on the issue several years ago. No responsible opponent of preferences should have felt responsible or guilty by association because Duke endorsed their position. Why is this case any different?

Now....if critics of the study could show that the authors were associated in some way with Duke or he helped prepare the report, etc., they might have a point. Otherwise, it has not bearing on the merits of the study or of the authors as such.

Aster Francesca - 4/11/2006

I agree.

I don't trust M&W at all.

This piece presents all the classic elements of anti-semetic conspiracy theory- Jews with vast financial power secretively manipulating 'our' society. Now, there's nothing in the article which is prima facie anti-semitic and M&W scrupulously just lay out a factual case which just *happens* to coincide with the world as viewed according to the hoariest old hatreds and stereotypes.

What makes me very suspicious of the authors is that they must know this, and yet write their piece in the cute, dissembling dispassion of academic postivism as if they are totally oblivious to the cultural resonance of their theory. They give a few 'we are not antisemitic' statements, scrupulously portray their concepts and generalisations as particular, contingent, and historical, and warranted by fact... all the while talking about the 'unique' influence 'the Lobby' (always capitalised) has to override American national interest. I don't have the knowledge to refute their technical case, and as Chomsky and others have said, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand as anti-semetic. But M&W's prim neautrality macks to me of the dog that didn't bark.

M&W may or may not be antisemites, but the fact that their conclusions do converge with those of neo-Nazis and they write as if they don't know it makes me very, very suspicious. At the very least, it takes incredible chutzpah and callousness to publish an article so coincident with historic antisemitism without making a firm, clear, impassioned, and *substantial* stance to disassociate oneself from this history, and making some effort to show some awareness of the potential harm publishing something like this can cause. Yes, one should present uncomfortable truths- but if one finds oneself in a position where what one believes to be true causes discomfort because your ideas closely resemble others *meant* to cause hatred and suffering, then you have some explaining and self-examination to do. The fact that M&W make no such examination suggest to me either on obnoxious sense of entitlement (as Gayle Rubin said, ignorance of what your words mean to others is a characteristic privilege of power) or real malice carefully squeakily cleaned up for public presentation.

Either way, I don't trust anyone who plays a game while pretending they don't have an angle on it. M&W may not be bigots, but this is precisely the way classy, intelligent bigots with a reputation to lose *would* write and *do* write. They could have taken a serious effort to make their piece useless to real bigots- and there are still a great number of those behind closed doors. Why didn't they?