‘THE ISRAEL LOBBY’ IN LIGHT OF DAY
Garibaldi Highlands, British Columbia
I have admired and periodically read your publication for many years. Over the past five years it has distinguished itself as one of the few publications that have boldly grasped the gravity of the current crisis in which the United States finds itself and had the guts to speak out on a whole range of issues. Indeed, it has helped me retroactively to revise some of my understandings of US history.
I felt formally compelled to officially subscribe today as a gesture of support and especially out of admiration and respect for Philip Weiss’s article on Mearsheimer and Walt’s study of AIPAC and its influence on American policy and politics [“Ferment Over ‘The Israel Lobby,'” May 15]. It was an honest and brave assessment, rarely found in the US press these days.
GRAHAM E. FULLER
Former vice chair, National Intelligence Council, CIA
New York City
When he interviewed me for his article on the infamous Mearsheimer-Walt paper, I told my friend Philip Weiss that America would benefit from candid conversations about the pro-Israel lobby in the public sphere. But I also said that if academics are going to venture into this explosive territory, they should be “very careful” to get their facts straight and avoid using simplistic generalizations to sum up very complex events and trends. Mearsheimer and Walt did neither.
As an activist for Israel’s peace camp who has been skirmishing with the conventional Israel lobby for decades, I would have welcomed an informed, scrupulously documented and honest critique of that lobby by two distinguished scholars. What I read was an elaborate attack ad that was riddled with so many inaccuracies, omissions and unsubstantiated assertions that, as Michelle Goldberg put it in Salon, “it seemed expressly designed to elicit exactly the [hostile] reaction it has received. The power of the Israel lobby is something that deserves a full and fearless airing, but this paper could make such an airing less, not more, likely.” Readers should check out Goldberg’s piece at www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/04/18/lobby/print.html and an editorial in the Forward (forward.com/main/article.php?
ref=200603231251) for a sample of the paper’s bad scholarship and slipshod reasoning.
Right-wing American Jews were infuriated by this paper. I was deeply disappointed. These scholars had an opportunity to give people who are inhibited about criticizing Israel some lucid arguments and facts to help them overcome those inhibitions. They blew it. Weiss notes that “Mearsheimer and Walt at times were simplistic and shrill. But it may have required such rhetoric to break through the cinder block and get attention for their ideas. Democracy depends on free exchange, and free exchange means not always having to be careful.” Does he believe it doesn’t matter if two important academics slip and slide around the truth–and alienate the very people they should be trying to educate–as long as they are able to raise a controversial issue? I think it matters very much.