FIRESTORM

Of Israel, Harvard and David Duke

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

International relations scholars John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University ignited a furious debate last week with their lengthy essay "The Israel Lobby," appearing in the London Review of Books. Their argument -- that the influence of a powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States threatens U.S. national security -- has reverberated through academic and policy circles, the media and the blogosphere. A sampling of their article and the ongoing controversy:

THE ESSAY

"Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War II, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. . . .

Other recipients get their money in quarterly installments, but Israel receives its entire appropriation at the beginning of each fiscal year and can thus earn interest on it. Most recipients of aid given for military purposes are required to spend all of it in the U.S., but Israel is allowed to use roughly 25 percent of its allocation to subsidize its own defense industry. It is the only recipient that does not have to account for how the aid is spent, which makes it virtually impossible to prevent the money from being used for purposes the U.S. opposes, such as building settlements on the West Bank. Moreover, the U.S. has provided Israel with nearly $3 billion to develop weapons systems, and given it access to such top-drawer weaponry as Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets. Finally, the U.S. gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its NATO allies and has turned a blind eye to Israel's acquisition of nuclear weapons. . . .

Since 1982, the U.S. has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. . . .

[S]aying that Israel and the U.S. are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: The U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around. . . .

[T]he Lobby's campaign for regime change in Iran and Syria could lead the U.S. to attack those countries, with potentially disastrous effects. We don't need another Iraq. . . ."

THE CONTROVERSY

Harvard Law professor Alan M. Dershowitz: "These are two serious scholars and you need to expose what they have done as ignorant propaganda." (Jerusalem Post)

Juancole.com: "Political scientists John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Harvard) bravely take on the issue of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington and the way it distorts U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Most American Jews deeply disagree with the policies advocated by the American Enterprise Institute, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, etc., but a sliver of the political spectrum, falsely insisting that it represents all American Jews, manages to skew U.S. politics and reporting on the issue of Palestine."

Dennis Ross, President Clinton's Middle East envoy: "It is basically a series of assertions. They quote only those people who basically have this point of view and don't take a serious look at anything in a more profound way. It is masquerading as scholarship." (New York Sun)

Rosner's Blog: "The new study . . . presents an interesting dilemma to the writer: Do you ignore it -- having concluded it is biased, one-sided, foolish, repetitive, and most of all, has nothing new to offer -- or do you write about it, knowing that the 'Harvard,' 'Chicago,' 'professors,' 'Kennedy School' labels will make it acceptable anyway, even newsworthy, in the eyes of many. In short: Does one need cooperate with the advancement of the cause of academic garbage?" (Haaretz.com)

David Duke: "It is quite satisfying to see a body in the premier American university essentially come out and validate every major point I have been making since even before the war even started." (New York Sun)

Danieldrezner.com : "Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false. They should be criticized for doing piss-poor, monocausal social science."

Ruth R. Wisse: "[I]t would be a mistake to treat this article on the 'Israel Lobby' as an attack on Israel alone, or on its Jewish defenders, or on the organizations and individuals it singles out for condemnation. Its true target is the American public, which now supports Israel with higher levels of confidence than ever before." (Wall Street Journal)

Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America: "Even a cursory examination of 'The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy' reveals that it is riddled with errors of fact, logic and omission, has inaccurate citations, displays extremely poor judgment regarding sources, and, contrary to basic scholarly standards, ignores previous serious work on the subject."

THE FALLOUT

Mearsheimer and Walt's study appeared earlier this month as an 83-page "Faculty Research Working Paper" on the Web site of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where Walt serves as academic dean. Following the uproar, the Kennedy School discreetly removed its logo from the paper, and the document now features a more detailed and prominent disclaimer: "The two authors of this Working Paper are solely responsible for the views expressed in it. As academic institutions, Harvard University and the University of Chicago do not take positions on the scholarship of individual faculty, and this article should not be interpreted or portrayed as reflecting the official position of either institution."


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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