April 1, 2006
Keeping It Quiet: The Israel Lobby's Crushing of Dissent

by Charley Reese

The first weapon of choice for the Israeli lobby when someone with prestige publishes a soundly researched paper or book critical of Israel or its powerful lobby is silence. If it's a book, it rarely gets reviewed; its author doesn't get interviewed. If it's a paper, there are no news stories in the big corporate press, no interviews with the authors, no television appearances. For the average American who depends on the press to tell him what's going on, it's as if the criticism never existed. The second weapon is, of course, to launch vicious personal attacks. Both methods are being used against an astounding paper titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." It was written by two renowned academics, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

So far as I've been able to determine with the help of Google, while the paper and talk about it are all over the Internet, they are missing from the big corporate press as of this writing. It was published in the London Review of Books, and you can read it or download an edited version at www.lrb.co.uk. There was one news story about it in the Christian Science Monitor and an attack on it by David Gergen in U.S. News & World Report. Gergen is editor at large of the magazine, which is owned by an ardent Zionist, Mortimer Zuckerman. Gergen is a professional spinmeister who has always served the people who have the butter for his bread. The essence of the paper, which is thoroughly footnoted, is that Israel's lobby has so skewed American foreign policy in the Middle East that the U.S. places the security of Israel ahead of security for the United States. "This situation has no equal in American history," the authors state.

The Anti-Defamation League was quoted in a Jewish publication as saying that if the paper gained the attention of the mainstream media, then a "more vigorous attack" would be launched. So far, it has not, though in the Christian Science Monitor story one of the attack dogs of the Israel lobby branded these two esteemed academics from prestigious universities as "incompetents." This paper isn't the first to criticize the Israeli lobby. There have been lots of papers and books written by distinguished individuals, none of which you've probably ever heard of. They Dare to Speak Out, by former Rep. Paul Findley, and The Passionate Attachment, by George W. Ball, one of America's most distinguished diplomats, are two that come to mind. It was the late Sen. William J. Fulbright who first called Congress "Israeli-occupied territory."

What the authors of the current paper hope to do is start a sensible public debate about the Israeli lobby and America's policy in the Middle East. Of course, avoiding an honest debate is one of the primary objectives of the lobby. That's why it uses silence and, if that doesn't work, vicious personal attacks. It has certainly buffaloed Congress and most of America's news media. Another author given the silent treatment as well as vicious personal attacks is Norman Finkelstein, a professor at DePaul University. He's written three outstanding books you've probably not heard of: The Holocaust Industry, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, and his latest, which got not a line of review, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Finkelstein, by the way, is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors. This is a most serious issue and deserves an honest public debate. Whether you agree with any of the above authors and academics, you should read what they have to say and not be deterred by cheap ad hominem attacks. You've heard the same message from me, of course, but I'm only a country boy turned journalist with no fancy degrees. If you're impressed with credentials, Finkelstein, Findley, Walt, Mearsheimer and Ball have them up to their armpits.  US professors accused of being liars and bigots over essay on pro-Israeli lobby


The Guardian

An article by two prominent American professors arguing that the pro-Israel lobby exerts a dominant and damaging influence on US foreign policy has triggered a furious row, pitting allegations of anti-semitism against claims of intellectual intimidation. Stephen Walt, the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, published two versions of the essay, the Israel Lobby, in the London Review of Books and on a Harvard website. 

<>The pro-Israel lobby and its sway over American policy has always been a controversial issue, but the professors' bluntly worded polemic created a firestorm, drawing condemnation from left and right of the political spectrum.     Professor Walt's fellow Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz - criticised in the article as an "apologist" for Israel - denounced the authors as "liars" and "bigots" in the university newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, and compared their arguments to neo-Nazi literature. "Accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism," wrote two fellow academics, Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits, in a letter to the London Review of Books. Critics also pointed out that the article had been praised by David Duke, a notorious American white supremacist.  Prof Mearsheimer said the storm of protest proved one of its arguments - that the strength of the pro-Israel lobby stifled debate on US foreign policy.

"We argued in the piece that the lobby goes to great lengths to silence criticism of Israeli policy as well as the US-Israeli relationship, and that its most effective weapon is the charge of anti-semitism," Prof Mearsheimer told The Guardian. "Thus, we expected to be called anti-semites, even though both of us are philo-semites and strongly support the existence of Israel."    He added: "Huge numbers of people know this story to be true but are afraid to say it because they would punished by pro-Israeli forces."   

Soon after the publication of the article it was announced that Prof Walt would step down from his job as academic dean at the end of June. However, the Kennedy School and Prof Walt's colleagues said that the move had long been planned. The Kennedy school removed its cover page from the online version of the article but said in a statement: "The only purpose of that removal was to end public confusion; it was not intended, contrary to some interpretations, to send any signal that the school was also 'distancing' itself from one of its senior professors."   "The University of Chicago and Harvard University have behaved admirably in difficult circumstances. We have had the full support of our respective institutions," Prof Mearsheimer said.

The article argues that the US has "been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies" to advance Israeli interests, largely as a result of pressure from Jewish American groups such as the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) allied to pro-Zionist Christian evangelists and influential Jewish neo-conservatives such as former Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle. It argues their combined influence was critical in the decision to go to war in Iraq.    Writing in the online magazine, Slate, the British-born journalist Christopher Hitchens criticised the authors' "over-fondness for Jewish name-dropping" and argued that the first occasion the neo-conservatives had a significant influence on foreign policy was to press the Clinton administration to intervene on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.  No AIPAC officials would comment about the controversy on the record.

Yesterday Prof Mearsheimer said: "We went out of our way to say that the lobby is simply engaging in interest group politics, which is as American as apple pie."