TCS Daily


The "Lobby" Fetishists

By Michael Rosen - April 27, 2006 12:00 AM

If the Pulitzer Committee ever offers a prize for ill-informed commentary, I hereby nominate Tony Judt.

Indeed, the very week that the guardians of America's most prestigious journalistic and literary awards made their announcements, Judt -- a British-born NYU professor -- sallied forth into the controversy over two other professors and American support for Israel; just when it seemed op-ed-ers had beaten the Walt-Mearsheimer horse to death, the Remarque Institute director administered some much-unneeded resuscitation.

To set the scene, last month Harvard Professor Stephen Walt and the University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer published an 83-page-long screed excerpted in the London Review of Books and entitled "The Israel Lobby."

Enough ink has been spilled on the professors' misconceived work to fill the Sea of Galilee (or is it Lake Erie? As one of Walt's and Mearsheimer's American Jews, I have trouble distinguishing the two). The papers and the blogosphere prattled for weeks on end about the essay's surprising absence of scholarship, its implied accusations of dual loyalty on the part of American Jews, and its spurious claim that merely discussing the topic of organized support for Israel has become anathema.

But in a New York Times article last week, Judt exhumed the authors from underneath the pile of criticism heaped upon them in an effort to distill what Judt himself believes to be a "pressing" issue for our time: America's decision "to lose touch with the rest of the international community" on the issue of Israel-Palestine.

The United States's purported incongruity with the "international community" (read: Europe and Russia) is one of Judt's favorite themes. His latest book, a history of postwar Europe, lavishes attention on the turbulent trans-Atlantic relationship. The professor's European background and orientation is consistently evinced in his writings.

Judt's views on Israel are fundamentally informed by this predilection. He is perhaps most widely known for his 2003 endorsement of a "one-state solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In a 2003 piece in the New York Review of Books entitled "Israel: the Alternative", Judt described the Jewish state as "an anachronism" and its government as fascist. He mused that there was "no place in the world today for a 'Jewish state'" and that instead Israelis and Palestinians should coexist in a binational entity, a sort of Switzerland on the River Jordan.

Such reverie is born of the European experience where once-warring nation-states have slowly drawn together; yet that a single Arab-Jewish state would turn out any more happily than Yugoslavia scarcely seems to have crossed the author's mind. To his credit, Judt allowed that "the very idea is an unpromising mix of realism and utopia, hardly an auspicious place to begin" but concluded that there was no alternative.

Even in the 2003 article, Judt averred that uncritical support for Israel has "corroded American domestic debate" as "American politicians and pundits slander our European allies when they dissent [and] speak glibly and irresponsibly of resurgent anti-Semitism when Israel is criticized."

How fortuitous, then, that the Walt-Mearsheimer article came around when it did.

In Judt's latest piece, his endorsement of "The Lobby" is as flawed as his messianic vision of Jews and Arabs dwelling harmoniously side-by-side. He asserts that the Walt-Mearsheimer paper has encountered "virtual silence in the mainstream media." This claim alone is risible: in addition to Judt's own article, related reportage, op-eds, and letters have filled newspapers across the country for the past month.

But more laughable is Judt's explanation for this "continued silence": the fear of being viewed as anti-Israel and, by extension, anti-Semitic. The influence of pro-Israel organizations has been known, debated, and inflated for years; AIPAC itself has been under the microscope by the media -- and federal prosecutors -- for several years now. If merely discussing the Israel lobby is a taboo, it's a flimsy one at best.

Judt, with Walt and Mearsheimer, also ignore the pull exerted by leftist Jewish organizations like the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now, and even Women in Black, as well as publications like The Nation, The NYROB, and Tikkun, which regularly vie for readership on the strength of their heartfelt opposition to Israeli policies.

And as Judt himself admits, Israeli papers (including the "impeccably conservative Jerusalem Post") regularly debate American support for Israel. In short, if censorship has been generally advised, most of the media apparently haven't received the memo. And in this particular case, the Walt-Measheimer thesis has been studiously, factually debated and debunked, not merely blasted as anti-Semitic.

Equally hilarious is Judt's subscription to the myth of Israel's infallibility in the eyes of American elites. Just ask former Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir, Benjamin Netanyahu, or even Ehud Barak about the arm-twisting applied by American officials of both parties, ranging from the late Caspar Weinberger to James A. Baker III to President Clinton.

But worst of all is the professor's endorsement of the Walt-Mearsheimer view of Israel as a liability, not an asset, in the global war on terror. Defending himself against Judt's criticism, Christopher Hitchens -- himself no close companion of the Jewish state -- penned a devastating response in the Times in which he took Judt to task for suggesting that Israel's supporters pushed the Iraqi invasion and/or inflamed Al Qaeda into further attacks on the U.S. The patent falsehood of these allegations -- an overwhelming majority of American Jews oppose the Iraq War, at least today -- reflects the allegers' predispositions to wild conspiratorial fantasies.

Beyond this, Judt suggests that American support for Israel can only rest on the crumbling foundations of Western guilt over the Holocaust (which he -- bizarrely -- claims emerged only after 1967). First, even as the last generation of survivors slowly passes away, new Holocausts are being urged upon the Jewish people; for this reason alone, the importance and integrity of a state for the Jews cannot be denied.

Second, Israel has become the canary in the mine for the war on terror; suicide bombers incubated among Islamic extremists there serve as role models for those destroying skyscrapers in New York, trains in Spain, and subways in London. Likewise, innovative Israeli counter-terror techniques are now being implemented around the globe. Why we would even think of "fair and balanced" treatment for the killers rather than their victims is a question Judt, Walt, and Mearsheimer leave conveniently unanswered. In sum, Judt is perfectly correct that the imbalance between American and global attitudes toward Israel is surprising and disturbing. But he wants to add weight to the wrong side of the scales.

Of course, singling out Judt is a bit unfair. Many other commentators have offered equally spirited but wrong-headed defenses of "The Lobby." Sadly, the academy has only confirmed its inveterate hostility to the Jewish state. Thank goodness the American people have proven insusceptible to this infection, which has spread from the Ivory Tower to Turtle Bay and out to the "international community."

Michael M. Rosen, TCS Daily's IP columnist, is an attorney in San Diego.

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1 Comment

Bashing the Christian Right....A-OK....mentioning the Jewish Lobby: anti-Semetic

Why is it ok for a Jewish-dominated American media to bash every aspect of Christian identity, ethos, and political activity on a DAILY basis.....YET, the moment one mentions the OBVIOUS power of the Jewish Lobby, one is labeled an "anti-Semite"? The Jewish Media constantly rant and harangue about the so-called "Christian Right"...well, now its time to talk about the "Jewish Lobby". What is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander.

How is it that a Christian nation, can be lectured and ordered about by Jewish-run organizations like the ACLU, People for the American Way, and just about EVERY other counter-cultural, leftist, and/or anti-Christian initiative and organization....lectured for instance, that we should embrace "multi-culturalism", meanwhile these same Jews push for the most xenophobic racial/ethnic nationalism in the form of the "Jewish State" of Israel?

What about the "Christian State" of America? "Oh no, not for you", we are told by these Jewish apparatchiks. Alan Dershowitz publishes a book entitled "The Vanishing American Jew"....what? Don't you guys believe your own misceganistic propaganda? Can someone imagine a white gentile writing a book entitled "The Vanishing American White Christian"? Oh how the Jewish media would whine "intolerance", "racism", etc...

What of terrorism? Isn't it the Jews who have fanned the flames of hatred in the Arab/Muslim world against America? We are lied to on a daily basis that "well, its just our way of life"....I don't see the ragheads attacking Sweden, or other Western democracies. NO, the ONLY reason the Muslim world hates us is because of "that shitty little country" the Frenchman spoke of...Israel. Is is the Jewish Lobby in American that uses America as a tool of Israeli foreign and domestic policy.

The cat is being let out of the bag. The boy cries wolf (i.e. "anti-Semite"), and the townspeople now have deaf ears. The internet has facilitated the exposure of this Jewish Lobby. All that remains is for it to take root as a mainstream subject on talk radio, and then to seep into the mainstram media.

I for one celebrate SOMEONE finally saying "The Emperor Has No Clothes"...it is about time! This Jewish Lobby needs to be exposed and dealt with by the "Christian State" of America.

Gene Mangrum
Nashville, TN

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