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The Anti-Israel lobby

Foreign Policy’s website editors have decided to have Prof. Stephen Walt – of the notoriously-miserable book The Israel Lobby – come on as a regular blogger. For those expecting Walt to dive immediately into the one topic that makes him tick – his distaste for Israel – the professor didn’t disappoint. In a ridiculous “thought experiment” Walt opened his blog by trying to prove, yet again, that U.S.’s Israel-policy is hypocritical and harmful:

Imagine that Egypt, Jordan, and Syria had won the Six Day War, leading to a massive exodus of Jews from the territory of Israel. Imagine that the victorious Arab states had eventually decided to permit the Palestinians to establish a state of their own on the territory of the former Jewish state. (That’s unlikely, of course, but this is a thought experiment). Imagine that a million or so Jews had ended up as stateless refugees confined to that narrow enclave known as the Gaza Strip. Then imagine that a group of hardline Orthodox Jews took over control of that territory and organized a resistance movement.

We already know from his book, co-authored with John Mearsheimer, that Walt has an active imagination. Luckily, Foreign Policy also has other writers capable of refuting Walt’s obsessive hostility and mocking his resourceful fixation on Israel as the country where most of the world’s problems originate. David Rothkopf does just that, responding to Walt’s “thought experiment” with one of his own:

You want a thought experiment? What if Palestinian “freedom fighters” indiscriminately launched missiles into Israel, failing to kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people only through ineptitude, and then they rushed back into densely populated civilian areas and hid behind women and children for cover? Of course, my thought experiment is even more worth thinking about for reasons that should starkly apparent to everyone, regardless of which lobby they may support.

But even more significantly, Rothkopf attempts to categorize Walt’s rants and put them in the right context. While I do not necessarily agree with everything he says, his portrayal of the “anti-Israel Lobby” is a timely contribution to the public debate over Israel’s influence in the U.S.:

[Walt] has become as biased a pleader of special interests as he accuses the Israel Lobby of being. And as such he has become a member of the anti-Israel Lobby, a group that is every bit as vocal and at the moment seems to be even more empowered than the its counterpart. Members include Jimmy Carter and his former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, celebrity activists like Richard Gere, and many members of the media. Like the members of the Israel Lobby, they found their case on some very reasonable assertions. The Palestinians should have a state of their own and their plight is dismal. It is also a terrible tragedy that so many are the innocent victims of the conflict between Israel and, at the moment, Hamas.

But just as proponents of a strong U.S. relationship with Israel would do well to realize the damage that has been done to Israel’s case by over-aggressive actions (most egregiously those associated with the brutal and mismanaged invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s), proponents of the Palestinian cause would do well to recognize that is grotesquely counter-productive to explicitly or implicitly support the leadership or the interests of Hamas, Iranian-backed terrorists who have violated their public trust with the Palestinian people by both failing to serve their basic needs and actively choosing to put them at mortal risk.

Here’s one “thought experiment” I was trying this morning – I guess it’s easier for a writer under the influence of cold-medicine: Imagine Professor Walt reading Rothkofp’s post and realizing that he was wrong all along, that he became a biased advocate for the wrong cause, that the way he crafts his arguments gives justification to those thinking he is anti-Semitic. Imagine him taking the hundreds of thousands of dollars he made from writing his despicable book and giving it away to, say, the Jewish Agency, imagine Walt going back to being the somewhat boring “realist” scholar he once was, back to relative obscurity. Can you?

This is as likely a scenario as the one he was asking his readers to visualize.



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