Thursday, June 12, 2008

Walt and Mearsheimer Peddle Their Message of Hate in Jerusalem

US 'Israel Lobby' authors face critics

Two prominent American professors who caused an uproar with their best-selling book critical of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington faced a raucous reception Thursday at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

About 200 students and faculty members crammed into a stuffy lecture hall and grilled John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt for more than two hours about their harsh findings in "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy," published last year.

In the book, the pair argue that pro-Israel special interest groups have manipulated the US political system to promote policies that favor Israel, while running counter to American interests. They argue that Israel is often a strategic burden, not an asset, pointing to the 1991 Gulf War as an example, when the Israel-US alliance hindered the US in building a coalition of forces.

[Poor example.

This was far more an example of our shameful appeasement of hatred and our disastrous reliance on energy from the Arab autocracies in the Middle East.

We put together a coalition to save the Arab oil states, yet allowed them to impose shameful conditions on us.

Also, to our shame, we forced Israel to withstand dozens of SCUD missile attacks without doing anything to defend its people.

If anything, it was a situation in which the American-Israel friendship with us was a liability for Israel.]

Since Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago professor, and Walt, of Harvard University, published their working paper of the same title in 2006, they have drawn the wrath of Jewish American groups and US administration officials.

[As well as the wrath of intelligent and fair-minded people around the world, and for good reason.]

During Thursday's lecture, the authors said their goal was to draw a lively academic debate over a topic that was perceived as taboo before.


As a result, they have become sought after speakers the world over, yet unwelcome at some American destinations.

[Because some American institutions are less bigoted and more fair-minded.]

"If you bring up the Israel lobby, you are asking for trouble," Walt said as he opened his lecture. He said he knew he was "playing with fire" when he wrote the book, but said he would not be deterred by personal attacks against him.

[I.e. Criticism of the hatred he is spewing will not deter him from continuing.]

Critics have charged them with shoddy scholarship, faulty logic and even anti-Semitism.

[With good reason.]

The attacks have been compounded because Islamic militants, Holocaust deniers and even former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke are among those who have praised the book, though some mainstream analysts have said their work raised legitimate points.

On Thursday, Mearsheimer and Walt, both recognized political scientists long before their book came out, outlined their findings in a brief introduction. They argued that the only logical explanation for the US government handing Israel $3 billion in annual aid, far more than any other US ally, and supporting it unconditionally was the pro-Israel lobby, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

[Current annual aid to Israel is approximately $2.4 billion, only slightly more than the roughly $2 billion annually given to Egypt and far less than massive funding we indirectly give Israel's enemies through exorbitant prices we pay for oil.

Unlike the case with the aid we waste on Egypt and other countries, we get tremendous dividends from what is effectively an investment in Israel.]

They said AIPAC wields disproportionate power because of deep financial resources and heavy-handed tactics.

[AIPAC is effective only because it encourages policies which are both in our national interest and morally and ethically correct and in keeping with American values.]

Then they took questions, as the classroom erupted in excited conversation. The exchange was mostly cordial, with the American professors eliciting some laughs from the crowd, but at times it got testy.

At one point, 25-year-old international relations student Liad Gilhar accused the professors of distorting facts and providing fodder for anti-Semites. "You need to choose your words carefully," Gilhar said.

[They undoubtedly do choose their words carefully.]

Walt shot back. "With all due respect, I don't think it is my words that harm Israel, but rather Israel's actions."

Mearsheimer said Israel's "brutal" treatment of Palestinians helped fuel terrorism against the United States and that, unlike in Israel, there was no healthy debate on the matter in America.

[It is not Israel, but Arab terrorists, who are targeting civilians.

Rather than treating Palestinian Arabs "brutally," Israel has worked towards improving their lives, only to repeatedly having the very Israelis who work to ransfer food, fuel and other goods to the Palestinian Arabs murdered by the very people they are trying to help.

There is plenty of debate in America, but the type of "debate" fostered by Walt, Mearsheimer and their ilk is far from healthy.]

"The US media coverage is heavily slanted in Israel's direction," he said.

[One would expect intelligent and fair-minded reporters and editors to favor a liberal democracy like Israel over brutal autocratic and theocratic holdovers from the Dark Ages, but if anything the media bends over backwards to present the anti-Israel side.]

Not all in the audience were hostile.

Korina Kagan, a political science lecturer, said she essentially agreed with their thesis and was appalled by the attacks against them, especially from academic circles.

"The smear campaign against them is worse than anything they have ever written," she said, adding that many of their positions are shared by commentators in the Israeli media. "We need to have a free academic exchange."

Mearsheimer and Walt were invited to Israel by Gush Shalom, a small, ultra-dovish political group, to speak about their book. The two said they decided to initiate the audience at Hebrew University in order to address a more diverse audience.

Later Thursday, they were to address Gush Shalom, which invited them.

"It is telling that the guests came to Israel and were hosted by a fringe group and had to solicit themselves to appear here," said Arieh O'Sullivan, director of communications for the Anti-Defamation League in Israel. "It's not academia, it's like a traveling carnival show."

[A fitting commentary.]

From The Jerusalem Post

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