We have no persuasive basis for suggesting that Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, and most of their cheering fans, are anti-Semitic. These guys wrote a paper (and a shorter article) that was shoddy and unscholarly (see my two postings on “Blaming Israel”), but we undermine our criticisms by calling them anti-Semites without real evidence.
(NPR has posted its transcript, including Web links, on its report regarding this controversy.)
There is a better case with regard to the Council for the National Interest Foundation ad in last Sunday’s NY Times, but the evidence is still slender. It consists of this organization’s traditional anti-Israel stance, its obvious Arabist leanings, and its out-of-the-blue insertion of a reference to Jack Abramoff. (See my earlier entry, “Whose National Interest?) But it’s still hard to hit them as anti-Semites when they endorse a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. And this would fall into their trap of identifying ourselves with the so-called Israel lobby that brooks no opposition.
We have to admit that — while we dislike or distrust these guys — their complaint about an Israel lobby that engages in policies inimical to the best interests of both Israel and the United States (such as resisting efforts to facilitate a two-state solution) happens to be true. But this is neither the only nor the most powerful influence on US Middle East policies.
And the notion that there has been a “silence” or “taboo” against criticizing this Israel lobby seems patently false. I recall such tropes as Pat Buchanan’s crude charge, back in 1991, that the first Gulf War was the doing of “Israel’s amen corner.” Someone should do a thorough content analysis of major US newspapers and journals of opinion to explicitly test this contention.
Stay tuned for Part II on Professors Tony Judt and Juan Cole.
In the work I do on college campuses in terms of social justice education, I differentiate between intent and impact. Do I think the authors hate Jews or are anti-Semitic? No. But their paper is anti-Semitic and plays into anti-Semitic stereotypes. Similarly, I rarely call people racist or homophibic unless they say “I hate (a particular group).” But I can say “what you said was racist.”