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Letters re Review of "The Israel Lobby"-- NYTimes Book Review 10/14/07

October 14, 2007

 The Israel Lobby

To the Editor:

Leslie H. Gelb gets a number of things wrong in his review
of our book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” (Sept. 23), but
two points require immediate clarification. Gelb refers repeatedly to a
“Jewish lobby,” despite the fact that we never employ the term in our
book. Indeed, we explicitly rejected this label as inaccurate and
misleading, both because the lobby includes non-Jews like the Christian
Zionists and because many Jewish Americans do not support the hard-line
policies favored by its most powerful elements. The Israel lobby, we
emphasized, is defined by its “specific political agenda ... not the
religious or ethnic identity of those pushing it.” By using the phrase
“Jewish lobby” in the headline of the review, in the text and in a
pull-quote, Gelb and the editors of the Book Review misrepresented a key
part of our argument.

Gelb also suggests that “vitriol about the Iraq war” — a war we strongly
opposed — motivated our decision to write about the lobby. This is
incorrect. We began researching the lobby’s influence in the spring of
2002, well before the Iraq debate heated up, and we were invited to
write the original article by The Atlantic Monthly in October 2002,
nearly six months before the war began. We chose this topic because our
research led us to the conclusion that unconditional support for Israel
— combined with Israel’s actions in the occupied territories — was
undermining America’s standing around the world and exacerbating our
terrorism problem. Influential groups in the lobby had also encouraged
the United States to pursue confrontational policies in the Middle East
that were in neither America’s nor Israel’s interest. As scholars, we
felt it was important to encourage a more open discussion of this
situation, and that is why we wrote our book.

John J. Mearsheimer


Stephen M. Walt

Cambridge, Mass.

To the Editor:

Leslie Gelb’s review of Mearsheimer and Walt’s timely new book on the
Israel lobby rests on three pillars that bear little weight and that
were in fact addressed in the book. First, the Arab lobby, composed of
despotic royal families and American oil and defense corporate
interests, has only been able to buy protection for grossly unpopular
regimes that in turn are expected to recycle their petrodollars to buy
stripped down and overpriced weapon systems that by Congressional
mandate may never be deployed in a manner threatening Israel. This
hardly compares with the American taxpayers’ underwriting of the Israeli
military machine.

Similarly, with the exception of the feeble knuckle-rapping of Jimmy
and the elder George Bush, no American administration has been willing
to apply sustained pressure to get Israel to stop the illegal policy of
settler colonialism in the occupied territories. George W. Bush
has in fact endorsed the Likud bloc’s incorporation of large chunks of
the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem and quickly muted even mild
criticism of the Israeli assault on Jenin in the face of Congressional
pressure. This was followed by support for Israel’s systematic
destruction of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure, which was widely
viewed in the Muslim world as state terrorism.

Gelb’s contention that pro-Likud Jewish and Christian evangelical forces
had little to do with the current Iraq fiasco also flies in the face of
reality. The top advisers and promoters of the Iraq war surrounding
Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld all had longstanding ties to Likudnik circles
in Israel and included Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz
Jerry Falwell
Richard Land, John Bolton, Norman Podhoretz and David Wurmser to name
only a few. What Israeli lobby? indeed.

Mujeeb R. Khan

Berkeley, Calif.

The writer, a former student of Mearsheimer and Walt, is a doctoral
student in political science.

To the Editor:

Whether or not the “Israel lobby” is more influential than other
lobbies, it needs to be said that its views are not necessarily the
views of most American Jews. While the Israel lobby has been a booster
of the war in Iraq from Day 1, opinion polls have consistently shown
that, also from Day 1, a bigger percentage of American Jews than of
other Americans has opposed our military involvement in Iraq.

Richard Joffe

New York
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