WW4 Report: The Israel Lobby and Global Hegemony, Revisited

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[This review by Bill Weinberg is from the WW4 Report, a good read for those interested in the “three way fight” perspective i.e. anti-state, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-totalitarian. While I don’t agree with the perspective they certainly are not useful idiots and fellow travelers, unlike most of the radical left these days.]

The Mearshimer Walt Thesis Deconstructed

By Bill Weinberg, WW4 Report

The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy is this month to be released as a book—for which authors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt are said to have received a $750,000 advance from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. On this occasion, we present again the critique we ran last year of the work as it appeared in Middle East Policy Journal, then the latest version. This time the writer, who used the pseudonym “William X,” reveals himself as WW4 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg

The lengthy essay entitled “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” first appeared in the London Review of Books in March 2006, against a backdrop of fast-escalating carnage in Iraq and renewed Israeli aggression in the Occupied Territories. It immediately sparked an outrage. Here a view long consigned to the left and right fringe—that the Israeli “tail wags the dog” of US foreign policy—was being voiced by thoroughly mainstream scholars. The authors were John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago professor and author of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, and Stephen Walt, academic dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy. An expanded version was posted on the Working Paper website of the Kennedy School.

By the end of March, Harvard had announced it was removing its logo from the study. It also appended a harshly worded disclaimer to the study, stating that it “does not necessarily” reflect the views of the university. The semi-retraction came after much protest from both the mainstream and Jewish press. Finally, the Kennedy School announced that Walt would step down as academic dean at the end of June, although he would stay on as a professor.

Yet a third version of “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” appears in the Fall 2006 issue of the journal Middle East Policy, this time with additional material addressing the criticisms. In the introduction, the authors state they are also preparing a detailed “Response to Our Critics,” adding that they have been “struck by how weak and ill-founded” many of the criticisms have been.

What Mearsheimer and Walt (hereafter M&W) refer to as “the lobby” is not only the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), but a wider ideological complex of allied organizations, prominently including the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), and the Israel on Campus Coalition

The controversy around the essay indicates how nearly all ideological struggle is narrowing to a clash of conservatisms. The opposition to M&W has come overwhelmingly from the Zionist right, which holds the upper hand in the Bush administration. M&W themselves subscribe to an American nationalist right position with overtones of xenophobia and (however much the charge has been abused) anti-Semitism. Ominously, even the anti-war “left” is increasingly lining up with the latter conservatism. There has been practically no effort to critique the essay from a position which is anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist, but also sensitive to anti-Semitism. The degree to which such perspectives have been sidelined is especially dangerous given how Israel replicates the historical cycles of Jewish scapegoating by serving as imperialism’s proxy.

[continue reading]

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One response »

  1. I recently had a very frustrating connversation with a Palestinian historian (by her own account) who reiterated the el-Haj theory, even though she claims not to be familiar with her work. Here is what she said:

    “First, there has been no archaeological proof of the Temple NOW, before people start hurling attacks at me, I’m not denying that there wasn’t one, I’m just saying there has been no archaeological evidence, however there are some documents from that time that offer evidence of a Jewish Kingdom.

    Israel has been digging and digging under Al-Aqsa Mosque for years now and they haven’t found a thing, in fact last I was in Jerusalem I was told by the Jerusalemites that while the Israeli government was digging near the wailing wall, they found some mosques, which they immediately covered up. ”

    http://gnblog.com/?p=258#comment-43382

    I find fact that this discussant did not know el-Haj but still articulated the exact same convictions as more evidence that el-Haj’s “research” was politically motivated to manufacture history as it never was.

    After the failure of Camp David II, I watched an interview with Amr Mussa and Shlomo Ben-Ami. Amr Mussa is one of the most pompous windbags in Arab polity and totally unsconscious of his own insignificance. Now Ben-Ami is a person of great integrity, a secular Leftist Jew par-excellence who is concerned with the here and now, for both peoples. However, when Amr Mussa thrust his hand in his face, demanding: How do you know there was a temple in Jerusalem, the very mild Ben Ami nearly popped a vein in disbelief. It took a great deal of self- discipline to respond to this with some equanimity, but he did. Without much effect, needless to say.

    What never ceases to amaze me is how most Arabs take their myths to be unshakable truths, while they dismiss Jewish history with such ease and contempt .

    Here is another example for this symptom of avid consumption of a-historical narratives which Palestinians find so much comfort in (from one of “Engage” comments):

    “I’ve been reading Oslo architect Yossi Beilin’s memoir The Road to Geneva. He describes a conversation with Palestinian peace negotiator Nabil Sha’ath, who ‘quoted with great erudition from the writings of the Israeli “new historians”‘. Yossi (who is in favour of a Palestinian state including East Jerusalem and compensation for the mental and material effects of occupation and displacement) replies:

    ‘… the perpetual question of history is: When do you begin? The Palestinians begin history from a war in which they indeed paid a heavy price, while I begin history from November 29, 1947’ – the UN Partition Plan. ”

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/comment.php?id=1379

    I find it all extremely depressing, the kind of coddling and infantilizing of Palestinian bizarre beliefs, especially by the Rococo Left. All these mega-conspiracies that are so easy to embrace, in spite of being counter-factual. Facts don’t matter. What matters is what I feel about a certain event and how I wish to view it.

    Norman Geras said sometime ago that if there is no truth, there is no history.

    As Bertrand Russell said, it is the fallacy of the suprior virtue of the oppressed, which dictates that if someone is oppressed then they automatically are believed, no maater how often they are caught in lying, or in misrepresentaion of their own oppression.

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