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AIPAC vs. The World
The Israel Lobby Debate, or As They Say in the U.S., Controversy

The March 23 rd issue of the London Review of Books’ cover was devoted to a long piece by John Mearsheimer, political science professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Not surprisingly, the piece has provoked an angry reaction in the United States but a much more interesting, because more open-minded, reaction in Israel . It’s not quite a Muhammad cartoon-like controversy. Flags aren’t being burned and heads aren’t rolling. But the story isn’t without its shameless tempers: Harvard went to far as removing its seal from the study, and the row over the study in academia and the media, at least in the United States, borrows more from the methods of dogmatists than scholars, or journalists. Below will be your one-stop shopping mart for the controversy as it is likely to keep evolving: the original piece in the London Review, a couple of notable reactions, plus ongoing news items and additional reactions.

 

The Israel Lobby

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Read the rest...

So Pro-Israel It Hurts

The new John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt study of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" should serve as a wake-up call, on both sides of the ocean. The most obvious and eye-catching reflection is the fact that it is authored by two respected academics and carries the imprimatur of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The tone of the report is harsh. It is jarring for a self-critical Israeli, too. It lacks finesse and nuance when it looks at the alphabet soup of the American-Jewish organizational world and how the Lobby interacts with both the Israeli establishment and the wider right-wing echo chamber. It sometimes takes AIPAC omnipotence too much at face value and disregards key moments - such as the Bush senior/Baker loan guarantees episode and Clinton's showdown with Netanyahu over the Wye River Agreement. The study largely ignores AIPAC run-ins with more dovish Israeli administrations, most notably when it undermined Yitzhak Rabin, and how excessive hawkishness is often out of step with mainstream American Jewish opinion, turning many, especially young American Jews, away from taking any interest in Israel. Read the rest...

Most Favored Nation

BEFORE LONG, A NEW coalition government will be formed in Israel, after the wrangling that always follows an election there. In Tel Aviv a few years ago, Shimon Peres said to me with great vehemence that the elaborately proportional electoral system ''is the worst thing that ever happened to our country," and that he would much prefer the Westminster or Capitol Hill model. But that's another story. In America over the past week, a different story again has very nearly overshadowed that election, though it is related, as it concerns the question of Israeli political influence in Washington. ''The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy," a working paper by professors John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, first posted on the Kennedy School's website and then published in abbreviated form in The London Review of Books, has detonated an explosion all its own. Read the rest...

 

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