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Last update - 15:04 24/03/2006

"Israel Lobby" study: Harvard to remove official seal from anti-AIPAC 'working paper

By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - Harvard University has decided to remove its logo from a study that denounces the pro-Israel lobby's impact on American foreign policy, in order to distance itself from the study's conclusions.

The university also appended a more strongly worded disclaimer to the study, stating that it reflects the views of its authors only. The former disclaimer said merely that the study "does not necessarily" reflect the university's views.

The controversial study, published this week, was authored by Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. It charged that American foreign policy has been subordinated to Israeli interests and accused the pro-Israel lobby of responsibility for America's invasion of Iraq.

The study's many critics claim that its academic quality is poor, and that it is essentially a political polemic rather than genuine academic research. Well-known researchers such as Marvin Kalb, also of Harvard's Kennedy School, said this week that the study fails to meet minimal academic standards.

However, it has aroused great interest among the Arab media and been widely quoted there. The Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington distributed it by email to thousands of subscribers, and lobbyists for Arab states have been passing it around. The study also earned praise from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

One of the study's claims is that American opponents of Israel are consistently silenced by charges of anti-Semitism from the pro-Israel lobby. Congressman Eliot Engel of New York, in an interview with Haaretz this week, termed the study itself a form of anti-Semitism and said that it deserved the American public's contempt.

According to the study, the pro-Israel lobby is an octopus whose tentacles affect congressional legislation, administration policies, the press and other agencies. The paper focuses on the main pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, but also discusses other organizations, such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and devotes considerable attention to pro-Israel government officials - many of them Jewish - such as former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz in the Bush administration and former assistant secretary of state Martin Indyk in the Clinton administration.

The study also accused the pro-Israel lobby of monitoring academics to ensure that they do not diverge from the pro-Israel line. They will undoubtedly see proof of this contention in Harvard's decision to distance itself from the study due to pressure applied by pro-Israel donors. According to the New York Sun, Robert Belfer - who gave the Kennedy School $7.5 million in 1997 in order, among other things, to endow the chair that Walt now occupies - called the university and asked that Walt be forbidden to use his title in publicity for the study.

Israeli officials have been concerned over the study, saying it is liable to be used to delegitimize Israel among the American intelligentsia. As of yesterday, however, it did not seem to have won much support among academics specializing in American foreign policy. According to one such academic, who asked to remain anonymous, "the study obviously contains many correct facts, but their presentation is skewed and the conclusions [the authors] derive from them are unfit for publication. For instance, it completely ignores the enormous influence of the Arab oil lobby on American policy, and presents a one-sided and utterly politically biased picture of the world."

Other academics - some of them not known as fans of AIPAC - also cited many professional flaws in the study, such as omitting relevant facts, relying on unofficial sources (including Haaretz), and leaping to conclusions that are not necessarily supported by the facts.

In addition to reiterating the well-worn charge that Jewish neoconservatives in the Bush administration were responsible for America's invasion of Iraq, the study accuses the pro-Israel lobby of inciting the American government and people against the Palestinian Authority, tilting American policy against Syria and other Arab states, and trying to push the United States into aggressive action against Iran's nuclear program.
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