Thursday, April 13, 2006

"the israel lobby" and anti-semitism

In March, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago's Department of Political Science and Stephen M.Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government submitted a working paper titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University, was a vocal critic of the paper:
Dean Walt and Professor Mearsheimer wrote that Jews control the media and the government; that we are loyal to Israel rather than to our "host" country; and that we dupe non-Jews, against their best interests, into fighting and dying for our interest. All that was missing from the Walt-Mearsheimer screed was the "blood libel": the medieval accusation that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make Passover matzo. (They came close by asserting another blood libel - namely, that Israeli citizenship is based on "blood kinship," a claim which is demonstrably false.)
In Dershowitz's response paper, he questions the academic validity and the motives of the original working paper. Many academic journals and newspapers condemned the Walt-Mearsheimer paper, including the The Washington Post:
Inept, even kooky academic work, then, but is it anti-Semitic? If by anti-Semitism one means obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews; if one accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery, of having occult powers and of participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments; if one systematically selects everything unfair, ugly or wrong about Jews as individuals or a group and equally systematically suppresses any exculpatory information -- why, yes, this paper is anti-Semitic.
The question, however, remains. Is it correct, let alone anti-Semitic, to accuse "the Israel lobby" of being responsible for Iraq or possible U.S. action in Iran? Yes and no. Anti-Semitism from the Iranian government is at an all-time high and many politicos are worried about the situation in Israel if the U.S. took pre-emptive action in Iran. Others (namely Norman Finkelstein) call Iraq a "Jewish war" and accuse Israel of being the beneficiary in the situation.

It is not inappropriate to foster discussion of the U.S./Israel relationship. It does become an uncomfortable situation when religion becomes a matter of discussion. For example, the Walt-Mearsheimer paper brings back to the table the age-old anti-Semitic rhetoric of a Jewish-controlled media and an "Israel Lobby" of American Jews that decides U.S. foreign policy.

It is inappropriate to liken Israel to Nazi Germany or to liken former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Another problem arises when liberal critics of Israel repeat their old diatribe: "I guess you're going to accuse me of anti-Semitism because I criticized Israel." Only the fringe supporters are making those accusations; the majority of those that support Israel welcome open discourse on the subject and do not jump the gun by labeling all critics as anti-Semites. A prime example of this is available for all to see at The Huffington Post. Alan Dershowitz is a star blogger on Arianna Huffington's dynamic group blog. After every post he contributes can be found a long cluster of comments from users kvetching about Mr. Dershowitz, such as this quote from user Paul Rosen:
Stop whining Alan. Calling anybody that criticizes Israeli policy anti-Semitic is growing tiresome. Jews do not have a lock on the use of the Holocaust. It is not an excuse to bulldoze houses, steal land and shoot children. It is not an excuse for Israel to spy on other countries, as has been shown recently in New Zealand and the AIPAC scandal. Your attacks on Finkelstein serve only to show the bankruptcy of your cheerleading the extreme Zionists.
In fact, Dershowitz's blog (linked above) was about Norman Finkelstein. Dershowitz was replying to Finkelstein's assertions that Dershowitz plagiarized his 2003 book The Case for Israel. He did call Finkelstein the prime example of the self-loathing Jew, though that fact is hardly arguable. In another post that was completely unrelated to Israel, Dershowitz commented as a lawyer on the Dick Cheney shooting incident, and despite an overwhelming majority of constructive comments, was greeted with some accusing him of being an Israeli lobbyist, questioning his record as a reputable attorney, and calling into question his morals as a Jew.

Left-wing critics of Israel are so vocal when it comes to slamming Israel's supporters that they have lost sight of the real situation in the Middle East. Israel is not the enemy. Israel is a working democracy in an unstable region that happens to support U.S. interests and in turn, the U.S. has become the key ally in Israel's struggle. It is not anti-Semitic to criticize that: Americans have a priority of national security and investigating America's allies is not out of the question. But questioning the motives of Israel's supporters is out of line. Outrageous assertions of an "Israel Lobby" that controls U.S. foreign policy and the mainstream media does border on anti-Semitism. Liberals, including a large number of American Jews, should be proud that prominent Jews such as Alan Dershowitz never tire in defending the truth about Israel and anti-Semitism.


texas toad said...

Alright, Bradley, I'm going to be a while plowing through those links. In the meantime, let me just throw out some things off the cuff, some of which are only tangential to your topic. I do agree that Israel is central to our Middle East policy, and I believe that we have a special relationship with Israel. But one could make the same argument of Saudi Arabia. In both cases its a question of self-interest. My criticism of Israel is the same of my criticisms of my own country -- she often fails to live up to her ideals. Do Jewish philanthropists influence and police academic programs and shape public forums? Yes, as does anyone with enough money to qualify as a "philanthropist." It's interesting that since Bush took power the talk of a Jewish cabal has been replaced by the concern over a fundamentalist Christian one. I think the media was way too lenient with Sharon, which one could perceive as a bias, but of course, I would say the same of their treatment of Bush. One of the many blowbacks of the Iraq war has been to lessen the emphasis on a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, and that is both sad and disturbing.

Bradley Bowen said...

Well, the media may have been "easy" on Sharon, but they were just as easy on Arafat, et al. They didn't really make a big scene over his death... they acted like he was some sort of regular world leader dying rather than a terrorist. They also didn't make a huge fuss over the fact that Hamas now legitimately controls the Palestinian Authority. Can you imagine the uproar if al-Qaeda won a democratic election somewhere in the Middle East? It's the same idea.

The media is always going to be "easy" on Middle East figures (other than Osama and Saddam and the leader of the next country we attack) because it's a touchy subject.

The point of the post is that liberals in particular have blinders on when it comes to the Israel-Palestine issue. They act like the Palestinians are the oppressed and that Israel is the enemy, simply because Israel has a better military and their retaliations sting more than the Palestinians'. I'm sick and tired of the whole "rocks and sticks" vs. "army tanks" comparison. Yes, some Palestinians throw rocks at the Israelis, but the reason Israel retaliates is because Israeli civilians are dying at the hands of suicide bombers. If the suicide bombing were to stop, the retaliations from Israel would stop subsequently. Israel has every right to defend herself and retaliate against the terrorists. The problem is a difference of opinion... the vast majority of Israelis are secular Jews that would agree to exist side by side with a peaceful Palestine, but Palestinian leaders have trained their flock to be so against Israel that they won't rest until every Jew is driven into the Red Sea.