Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gilad Atzmon

Mearsheimer’s Anti-Semitism Scandal

Here is John Mearsheimer, writing last year on the Foreign Policy blog of his Israel Lobby co-author Stephen Walt, defending the positive blurb he provided for a new book by Hitler apologist and Holocaust revisionist Gilad Atzmon:

There is no question that [The Wandering Who?] is provocative, both in terms of its central argument and the overly hot language that Atzmon sometimes uses. But it is also filled with interesting insights that make the reader think long and hard about an important subject. Of course, I do not agree with everything that he says in the book — what blurber does? — but I found it thought provoking and likely to be of considerable interest to Jews and non-Jews, which is what I said in my brief comment.

Mearsheimer’s blurb read:

Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their “Jewishness.” Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.

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Here is John Mearsheimer, writing last year on the Foreign Policy blog of his Israel Lobby co-author Stephen Walt, defending the positive blurb he provided for a new book by Hitler apologist and Holocaust revisionist Gilad Atzmon:

There is no question that [The Wandering Who?] is provocative, both in terms of its central argument and the overly hot language that Atzmon sometimes uses. But it is also filled with interesting insights that make the reader think long and hard about an important subject. Of course, I do not agree with everything that he says in the book — what blurber does? — but I found it thought provoking and likely to be of considerable interest to Jews and non-Jews, which is what I said in my brief comment.

Mearsheimer’s blurb read:

Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it increasingly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their “Jewishness.” Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.

And now here is an open letter about Atzmon posted yesterday to Electronic Intifada by Hamas supporter and one-stater Ali Abunimah. It concludes with an affirmation of Palestinian “return,” which is to say Israel’s destruction as a Jewish State, and is signed by a who’s who of the anti-Israel fringe. You really need to read the whole thing, but just to give you a sense for the content:

We call for the disavowal of Atzmon by fellow Palestinian organizers, as well as Palestine solidarity activists, and allies of the Palestinian people, and note the dangers of supporting Atzmon’s political work and writings and providing any platforms for their dissemination…Atzmon’s politics rest on one main overriding assertion that serves as springboard for vicious attacks on anyone who disagrees with his obsession with “Jewishness.”

The writers go on for another few paragraphs in that vein. At one point, they feel the need to disavow “denying the Holocaust [and allying with]… conspiracy theories, far-right, orientalist, and racist arguments, associations and entities.” That’s difficult to square with Mearsheimer’s blanket assertion that “Atzmon is neither a Holocaust denier nor an apologist for Hitler.” At another point, they reject the “anti-Semitic or racist language” that they’re repudiating along with Atzmon. That in turn sits uncomfortably with Mearsheimer’s statement that he “[doesn’t] believe that Atzmon is an anti-Semite.”

Historically, Mearsheimer was content to sit back and use the same rhetoric and excuses as anti-Israel bigots. Then he ventured into supporting one of them, and then he doubled down on his support. And now not even people who want to see the Jewish State extinguished will travel with Mearsheimer’s chosen fellow traveler.

Late last year, the University of Chicago’s Conservative Quarterly Counterpoint published an article on the Mearsheimer/Atzmon controversy. The piece contained a non-exhaustive list of anti-Semitic passages from Atzmon’s book, but it was particularly notable for its pointed opening sentence: “When, after a long career built on a theory that domestic political relationships had a minimal impact on any state’s foreign policy, John Mearsheimer co-wrote The Israel Lobby, a popular book alleging the maximal impact of a small cabal on American foreign policy, we were perplexed at the incoherence.”

Quite so. Mearsheimer had to give up a lifetime of almost metaphysical theory of international relations work so he could scapegoat American Jews and pro-Israel Christians for the world’s problems. Apparently, he gave up more than a little bit of his dignity as well.

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