Commentary Magazine


Is David Remnick a Denier?

Does David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, tell us anything more about the “peculiar fantasies” entertained by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their new book, The Israel Lobby?

In a column in his own magazine, Remnick strenuously insists that the two men “are not anti-Semites or racists.” Rather, they are “serious scholars.” What is more, the strategic questions they raise are very much “worth debating.” And the pity is that, for their pains in raising them, they have been hit with “ugly attacks,” such as an op-ed by Johns Hopkins professor Eliot Cohen under the headline “Yes, It’s Anti-Semitic.”

All the same, concludes Remnick, after defending the duo from these charges coming from the likes of Cohen, Mearsheimer and Walt’s argument has been “badly undermined” by their depiction of Israel as a “singularly pernicious force in world affairs.” Although they “have not entirely forgotten their professional duties,” they come close to such dereliction, especially when they assert that “Israel and its lobbyists bear a great deal of blame for the loss of American direction, treasure, and even blood.”

But what has driven Mearsheimer and Walt to abandon scholarly rectitude? Remnick has an explanation: it is George W. Bush. Their book, “The Israel Lobby,” he confides, is a product of the moment:

The duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush administration, the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran—all of this has left Americans furious and demanding explanations. Mearsheimer and Walt provide one: the Israel lobby.

But Remnick’s explanation just raises another question. Why should these two “serious scholars” seize on the “Israel Lobby,” of all things, as the all-purpose source of this lamentable mess?

David Remnick is known as an astute observer and analyst. His striking refusal, in this instance, to call a thing by its proper name is nothing short of anti-Semitism denial.