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Eliot Cohen on Israel Lobby Study--WashPost 4-5-06

Here is additional evidence that the Harvard Mearsheimer-Walt essay
has hit its target surely and squarely, proven by this highly
intemperate riposte that confirms just what the study argued: that
criticism of The Lobby is always answered by the charge of
anti-Semitism. The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.


*Yes, It's Anti-Semitic*

By Eliot A. Cohen
Wednesday, April 5, 2006; A23

Academic papers posted on a Harvard Web site don't normally attract
enthusiastic praise from prominent white supremacists. But John
Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign
Policy" has won David Duke's endorsement as "a modern Declaration of
American Independence" and a vindication of the ex-Klansman's earlier
work, presumably including his pathbreaking book, "Jewish Supremacism."

Walt and Mearsheimer contend that American national security dictates
distancing ourselves from the state of Israel; that U.S. support for
Israel has led to such disasters as America's status as the No. 1 target
for Islamic terrorists; and that such an otherwise inexplicable
departure from good sense can be accounted for only by the power of "The
Lobby" (their capitalization), an overwhelmingly Jewish force abetted by
some Christian evangelicals and a gentile neocon collaborator or two,
who have hijacked American foreign policy and controlled it for decades.

One of Mearsheimer's University of Chicago colleagues has characterized
this as "piss-poor, monocausal social science." It is indeed a wretched
piece of scholarship. Israeli citizenship rests "on the principle of
blood kinship," it says, and yet the country has a million non-Jewish
citizens who vote. Osama bin Laden's grievance with the United States
begins with Israel, it says -- but in fact his 1998 fatwa declaring war
against this country began by denouncing the U.S. presence in Saudi
Arabia and the suffering of the people of Iraq. "Other ethnic lobbies
can only dream of having the political muscle" The Lobby has -- news to
anyone advocating lifting the embargo on Fidel Castro's Cuba. The Iraq
war stemmed from The Lobby's conception of Israel's interest -- yet,
oddly, the war attracted the support of anti-Israel intellectuals such
as Christopher Hitchens and mainstream publications such as The
Economist. America's anti-Iran policy reflects the dictates of The Lobby
-- but how to explain Europe's equally strong opposition to Iranian
nuclear ambitions?

Oddly, these international relations realists -- who in their more
normal academic lives declare that state interests determine policy, and
domestic politics matters little -- have discovered the one case in
which domestic politics has, for decades, determined the policy of the
world's greatest state. Their theories proclaim the importance of power,
not ideals, yet they abhor the thought of allying with the strongest
military and most vibrant economy in the Middle East. Reporting
persecution, they have declared that they could not publish their work
in the United States, but they have neglected to name the academic
journals that turned them down.

Inept, even kooky academic work, then, but is it anti-Semitic? If by
anti-Semitism one means obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about
Jews; if one accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery, of
having occult powers and of participating in secret combinations that
manipulate institutions and governments; if one systematically selects
everything unfair, ugly or wrong about Jews as individuals or a group
and equally systematically suppresses any exculpatory information --
why, yes, this paper is anti-Semitic.

Mearsheimer and Walt conceive of The Lobby as a conspiracy between the
Washington Times and the New York Times, the Democratic-leaning
Brookings Institution and Republican-leaning American Enterprise
Institute, architects of the Oslo accords and their most vigorous
opponents. In this world Douglas Feith manipulates Don Rumsfeld, and
Dick Cheney takes orders from Richard Perle. They dwell on public
figures with Jewish names and take repeated shots at conservative
Christians (acceptable subjects for prejudice in intellectual circles),
but they never ask why a Sen. John McCain today or, in earlier years, a
rough-hewn labor leader such as George Meany declared themselves friends
of Israel.

The authors dismiss or ignore past Arab threats to exterminate Israel,
as well as the sewer of anti-Semitic literature that pollutes public
discourse in the Arab world today. The most recent calls by Iran's
fanatical -- and nuclear weapons-hungry -- president for Israel to be
"wiped off the map" they brush aside as insignificant. There is nothing
here about the millions of dollars that Saudi Arabia has poured into
lobbying and academic institutions, or the wealth of Islamic studies
programs on American campuses, though they note with suspicion some 130
Jewish studies programs on those campuses. West Bank settlements get
attention; terrorist butchery of civilians on buses or in shopping malls
does not. To dispute their view of Israel is not to differ about policy
but to act as a foreign agent.

If this sounds personal, it is, although I am only a footnote target for
Mearsheimer and Walt. I am a public intellectual and a proud Jew;
sympathetic to Israel and extensively engaged in our nation's military
affairs; vaguely conservative and occasionally hawkish. In a week my
family will celebrate Passover with my oldest son -- the third
generation to serve as an officer in the United States Army. He will be
home on leave from the bomb-strewn streets of Baghdad. The patch on his
shoulder is the same flag that flies on my porch.

Other supposed members of "The Lobby" also have children in military
service. Impugning their patriotism or mine is not scholarship or policy
advocacy. It is merely, and unforgivably, bigotry.

/The writer is a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of
Advanced International Studies./

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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