Two prominent scholars have written a far-reaching indictment of Israel and its American supporters as largely responsible for the Iraq war and an albatross on US security and foreign policy interests. References to almost every conceivable documented critic of the State of Israel honeycombs “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” a 43-page paper, supplemented with 39 pages of endnotes, by political science professors John J. Mersheimer and Stephen M. Walt — of the University of Chicago and Harvard, respectively. This paper is a potential bombshell in possibly stimulating anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment. Yet the two academics are neither inherently anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic; they make the point that although the pro-Israel lobby worked for the Iraq invasion, poll data indicate that US Jews are more heavily against the war than are most other Americans, but they still are providing ammunition to people who will be less fastidious in drawing conclusions.
The two professors stack their argument with negative writings on Israel going back to before its creation. One wades through comments by Jabotinsky, Shamir, Ben-Gurion, Meir and other Zionist leaders, invariably reported without context, and references to such worthies as Norman Finkelstein. They don’t even give credence to the fact that the Yishuv faced a genuine threat to its survival in the 1947-48 war.
And complex works by such New Historians as Tom Segev and Benny Morris appear to be cherry picked for critical content. A small example is an endnote citing Segev’s One Palestine, Complete as showing that “the British favored the Zionists over the Palestinians during the British Mandate,” whereas Segev’s book actually depicted how the British were divided and fluctuated in their sympathies during this period.
Another instance was reported by J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Forward, on March 23: “…they attempt to prove how deeply Paul Wolfowitz is ‘committed to Israel’ by quoting the Forward, [describing him as] ‘the most hawkishly pro-Israel voice in the Administration.’ A check of the endnotes shows that the words did appear in the Forward, but they were describing the conventional wisdom, not the Forward’s view. The article was about a pro-Israel rally where Wolfowitz was booed for defending Palestinian rights. The point was that the conventional wisdom was wrong.”
Questioning Israel’s status as the only true democracy in the Middle East, the professors argue that “some aspects of Israeli democracy are at odds with core American values. Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship. Given this, it is not surprising that its 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class citizens.” But as true as this “blood kinship” criterion is for most Israelis (and in many, if not most, other countries in the world), this observation ignores some relevant facts: the mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews, the citizenship rights of non-Jewish first-degree relatives of Jewish immigrants (about one third of olim from the former Soviet Union), the rights of Orthodox converts to Judaism, the fact that there is a naturalization process for non-Jews, and that most Arab citizens would not want to trade their second-class status with “first-class” citizenship in Arab countries.
Their basic argument would be stronger if not relying upon an overblown drumbeat of Israel’s alleged misdeeds.
To be continued…