Taking on the Israel lobby: John J. Mearsheimer discusses his controversial book and the firestorm surrounding it – by PATRICK LEJTENYI
MONTREAL, QUEBEC – Anyone who’s ever studied international relations at university should know the names John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt. The Wendell Harrison Professor of Political Science at Chicago and the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, respectively, authors of three books and countless peer-reviewed articles apiece, the two are giants in their field. But that hasn’t saved them from withering, often ad hominem attacks for their latest and by far most controversial work.
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, the book form of an older article published last fall amid a barrage of condemnation, scorn and wide praise, was sure to provoke. The Israel lobby, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, is a loose coalition of groups composed of American Jews and Christian Zionists, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who have consistently and effectively—though, the authors are at pains to point out, entirely legally and in a manner that has a long tradition in American political life—influenced policy makers in Washington D.C. to throw its unconditional support behind Israel, often to the U.S.’s strategic and long-term detriment.
Thanks to its unwavering support of Israel since its inception in 1948, they say, the United States has built up long simmering, and now explosive, anti-American resentment in the Arab and Muslim world. Israel, according to the two, has become “a strategic burden” and “a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.”
The pair also says the lack of serious criticism of Israel and its policies, especially regarding illegal settlements in the West Bank, and American support in the mainstream press are due largely to a fear of the lobby’s almost legendary power. The work’s genesis lends some credence to this: It began life as a 13,000-word article published in March 2006 in the London Review of Books, but only after The Atlantic, which commissioned the article in 2002, passed as publication drew near. It languished “on a shelf,” says Mearsheimer, until a friend suggested contacting the LRB, which pounced on it. And that’s when the trouble started.
John J. Mearsheimer will speak on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Université de Montréal’s
Jean Lesage Auditorium
(3200 Jean-Brillant rm. B-2285, 7 p.m., $15).
The event is organized by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.
For tickets, visit www.cpjme.ca.
Short URL: http://tinyurl.com/ya4muop