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Molly Ivins on Israel Lobby Study

Israel Lobby Nutjobs on the Loose


By Molly Ivins, AlterNet
Posted on April 26, 2006, Printed on April 26, 2006
http://www.alternet.org/story/35439/

One of the consistent deformities in American policy debate has been
challenged by a couple of *professors, and the reaction proves their
point so neatly it's almost funny.*

*A working paper by John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at
the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, professor of international
affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, called "The
Israel Lobby" was printed in the London Review of Books earlier this
month. And all hell broke loose in the more excitable reaches of
journalism and academe. *

*For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious --
that there is an Israel lobby in the United States -- Mearsheimer and
Walt have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky
academic work." Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be easily upset, went
totally ballistic over the mild, academic, not to suggest pretty boring
article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling them "liars" and "bigots." *

*Of course there is an Israeli lobby in America -- its leading working
group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It calls
itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S.
legislation and policy.*

*Several national Jewish organizations lobby from time to time. Big deal
-- why is anyone pretending this non-news requires falling on the floor
and howling? Because of this weird deformity of debate.*

*In the United States, we do not have full-throated, full-throttle
debate about Israel. In Israel, they have it as a matter of course, but
the truth is that the accusation of anti-Semitism is far too often
raised in this country against anyone who criticizes the government of
Israel. *

*Being pro-Israel is no defense, as I long ago learned to my cost. Now
I've gotten used to it. Jews who criticize Israel are charmingly labeled
"self-hating Jews." As I have often pointed out, that must mean there
are a lot of self-hating Israelis, because those folks raise hell over
their own government's policies all the time. *

*I don't know that I've ever felt intimidated by the knee-jerk "you're
anti-Semitic" charge leveled at anyone who criticizes Israel, but I do
know I have certainly heard it often enough to become tired of it. *

*And I wonder if that doesn't produce the same result: giving up on the
discussion.*

*It's the sheer disproportion and the vehemence of the denunciations of
those perceived as criticizing Israel that make the attacks so odious.
Mearsheimer and Walt are both widely respected political scientists --
comparing their writing to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is just
silly. *

*Several critics have pointed out some flaws in the Mearsheimer-Walt
paper, including a too-broad use of the term "Israel lobby" -- those of
us who are pro-Israel differ widely -- and having perhaps overemphasized
the clout of the Israel lobby by ignoring the energy lobby. *

*It seems to me the root of the difficulty has been Israel's inability
first to admit the Palestinians have been treated unfairly and, second,
to figure out what to do about it. Now here goes a big fat
generalization, but I think many Jews are so accustomed (by reality) to
thinking of themselves as victims, it is especially difficult for them
to admit they have victimized others. *

*But the Mearsheimer-Walt paper is not about the basic conflict, but
rather its effect on American foreign policy, and it appears to me the
authors' arguments are unexceptional. Israel is the No. 1 recipient of
American foreign aid, and it seems an easy case can be made that the
United States has subjugated its own interests to those of Israel in the
past. *

*Whether you agree or not, it is a discussion well worth having and one
that should not be shut down before it can start by unfair accusations
of "anti-Semitism." In a very equal sense, none of this is academic. The
Israel lobby was overwhelmingly in favor of starting the war with Iraq
and is now among the leading hawks on Iran. *

*To the extent that our interests do differ from those of Israel, the
matter needs to be discussed calmly and fairly. This is not about
conspiracies or plots or fantasies or anti-Semitism -- it's about
rational discussion of American interests. And, in my case, being
pro-Israel. I'm looking forward to hearing from all you nutjobs again. *

/*Molly Ivins writes about politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings. */


© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/35439/
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