Judging from the shocked reaction among right-wing bloggers to a paper on U.S.-Israel relations written by professors Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and issued this month by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, one would think the paper’s authors were a couple of unknowns with no discernible paper trail.
Both men, however, have been outspoken on the subject for years, and Walt in particular has made no secret of his feelings about what he calls Israel’s “domestic political penetration” – i.e., its manipulation of the U.S. political system for its own ends.
In case you missed what was essentially a non-story in the mainstream media – the New York Sun being a notable exception – Walt, who happens to be the academic dean of the Kennedy School, and Mearshimer authored an 83-page study titled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz (characterized by Walt and Mearsheimer as a pro-Israel “apologist”) dismissed as “trash” that “could have been written by Pat Buchanan, by David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and some of the less intelligent members of Hamas.”
The study is almost a caricature of anti-Israel animus, stocked with selective quotes often removed from their proper context (for a detailed critiqe, see Alex Safian’s article at www.camera.org). But anyone even the slightest bit familiar with the work of Stephen Walt had no right or reason to expect anything different.
Writing in the Boston Globe shortly after 9/11, with lower Manhattan still smoldering and the long procession of funerals just starting, Walt wrote of the need for the U.S. to “rebuild its relationship” with Arab countries. “The most obvious move,” he counseled, “is to take a less one-sided approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict …. mak[ing] it crystal clear that we oppose Israel’s expansionist settlements policy…and that we are equally sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people.”
In his 2005 book Taming American Power (the title alone should tell you where he’s coming from), he devoted an inordinate amount of space to criticizing Israeli policies and the U.S.-Israel relationship. The book’s index lists no fewer than 67 mentions under “Israel” – including 13 citations alone for “Palestinians repressed by” and six for “territorial expansion policies of.”
Taming American Power leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that America’s problems with the Arab world are largely the fault of you know who: “When a close ally like Israel denies the national aspirations of the Palestinians and uses massive force against them, it reinforces Arab and Muslim hostility to the United States.”
Walt also bemoans “Ariel Sharon’s rejection of the peace process and Israel’s own agenda of territorial expansionism” – this in a book published after the Gaza withdrawal and despite numerous statements by Israeli officials that additional concessions were in the offing.
Israeli “expansionism” in Walt’s expansive view includes what he describes, in phraseology better suited to an Arab polemicist than a Harvard academic, as “the land-grabbing ‘security fence’ ” – the genesis of which he of course neglects to mention.
One small redeeming feature of the book is that in his lament that all too many influential non-Jewish Americans have taken up Israel’s cause, Walt inadvertently underscores the point that Israel’s most outspoken defenders are these days invariably to be found on the right side of the political spectrum.
Walt names a number of “sympathetic gentiles” – all conservatives – and quotes former Republican House Majority Leader Richard Armey’s statement that “My number one priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel” and embattled Republican congressman Tom DeLay’s description of himself as “an Israeli at heart.”
Walt and Mearsheimer elaborate on that theme in their Kennedy School paper, adding several names to the list of non-Jewish pro-Israel stalwarts – again with not a liberal among them.
It’s indeed ironic, given their views and biases, that Welt and Mearsheimer underscore a point that some of us on the other side of the argument have been pressing for some time, but which has made barely a dent in the American Jewish consciousness.