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Walt’s Confusions

When Stephen M. Walt co-authored The Israel Lobby three years ago, he claimed that his main interest was patriotic: he simply believed that pro-Israel groups were advocating positions that were harmful to U.S. interests, and wanted to expose them.  He further insisted that he held no personal malice towards Israel, and even believed that the U.S. should “come to Israel’s aid if its survival is at risk.”

Well, throughout his week-long stint as a blogger for Foreign Policy, Walt has given readers every reason to doubt his sincerity.  Indeed, rather than using his realist perspective (the raison d’etre of his blog) to analyze the current fighting in Gaza and its impact on U.S. interests, Walt has become just another run-of-the-mill anti-Israel web-activist.  And, as with most other anti-Israel web-activists, it seems that no argument against Israel is too obtuse for Walt to regurgitate.  In this vein, Walt hails the following “thought experiment”:

NEARLY SEVENTY YEARS ago, in the course of World War II … The Churchill gang hid among the population of London, misusing the millions of citizens as a human shield. The Germans were compelled to send their Luftwaffe and reluctantly reduce the city to ruins. They called it the Blitz.

This is the description that would now appear in the history books if the Germans had won the war.

Absurd? No more than the daily descriptions in our media, which are being repeated ad nauseam: the Hamas terrorists use the inhabitants of Gaza as ‘hostages’ and exploit the women and children as ‘human shields,’ they leave us no alternative but to carry out massive bombardments, in which, to our deep sorrow, thousands of women, children and unarmed men are killed and injured.

Consistent with his odd habit of prizing virtually any criticism of Israel written by Jews, Walt actually borrows this latest “thought experiment” from leftist Israeli activist Uri Avnery.  And naturally, Walt doesn’t waste any time dealing with the inconveniences that make this Gaza-as-London/Israelis-as-Nazis/Hamas-as-the-British analogy ridiculous.  In turn, he doesn’t care to mention that the British weren’t firing missiles into Germany from London; or that Britain didn’t hide its munitions under schools and churches; or that Churchill didn’t have a “gang,” whatever that means.

Of course, Walt’s point is that – facts aside – the Nazis would have claimed self-defense in their blitz on London had they won World War II.  But this line of argument only reinforces the extent to which Walt has retreated from analysis in favor of ideology.  Indeed, rather than distinguishing between fact and fiction as per his scholarly charge, Walt condemns Israeli claims outright on the sole basis of what Nazis might have claimed in some alternate dimension.  In turn, video footage of Hamas fighters firing mortars from a Gazan schoolhouse, for example, would have no impact on Walt’s assessment.  Walt’s thought process goes something like this: since the Nazis would have lied about the “Churchill gang” operating from within civilian centers in my imagined universe, the Israelis are lying about Hamas in the unimagined universe.

For supporters of Israel, Walt’s intellectual gymnastics are actually reassuring.  After all, if a distinguished professor has to rewrite history in order to find cause for criticizing the war in Gaza, then Israel is probably on solid moral footing.



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