Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Israel lobby

Mearsheimer and Walt's, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, downplays the role of oil and sees a Jewish conspiracy driving US Middle East policy. The offending article itself is a monster document (here) - an abridged version is in the London Review of Books here.

The furious reaction in the US to the paper, and the moves of Harvard and the University of Chicago to distance themselves from the paper (see above), suggest that, indeed, the lobby does have a fair bit of influence. Walt has been demoted from his position as a Dean at Harvard and the paper itself linked to pro-Nazi and pro-KKK groups in a nasty attempt to smear reputations.

The paper itself has been more favourably received in the international media than in the US. Mearsheimer is quoted in the Washington Post:

"I think the Israel lobby is mainly responsible for the difference in the reactions to our piece at home and abroad," he replied. "I think that most Americans, like most foreigners, understand that the main points in our article are correct. Christopher Hitchens put the point well in Slate when he said, "Everybody knows that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other Jewish organizations exert a vast influence over Middle East policy, especially on Capitol Hill. The influence is ot as total, perhaps, as that exerted by Cuban exiles over Cuba policy, but it is an impressive demonstration of strength by an ethnic minority. Almost everybody also concedes that the Israeli occupation has been a moral and political catastrophe and has implicated the United States in a sordid and costly morass.

The difference between the United States and the rest of the world is that you cannot say that in the United States without being accused of anti-Semitism and bringing a storm down on yourself"

I am an Israel supporter but don't support the pressure group politics being directed towards these academics.

1 comment:

rabee said...

I think that the elections in Israel are so much more important than a storm in a teacup in the US.

In the end it will be Israeli democracy that decides what is good for Israel and not its American “supporters” who have little more than an imaginary conception of what Israel’s multicultural society is.

Look at the withdrawal from Gaza, many of Israel’s American allies were vehemently against the withdrawal, but they couldn’t do anything about it or about Bush’s determination to back the policy of the Israeli government.

The study overestimates the importance of what Israel’s supporters in the US want and their influence on the ground in Israel and in DC. It also underestimates the resolve of the US to help Israel’s "withdrawal" camp.

In summary, there is a large wedge between what Israel’s supporters in the US want and what Israel has shown through the most recent elections that it wants. That is, the pro Israel lobby in the US is irrelevant.