Commentary Magazine


Topic: Lobby author

Israel Lobby Author Compares Pro-Israel Pastor to Hitler

Over at the Foreign Policy magazine website, Harvard professor and Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt weighs in on Germany’s decision to continue to ban the publication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf even after the Nazi leader’s 70-year copyright expired in 2015. Walt is right when he says that banning the publication of this evil book is pointless and does nothing either to suppress racism in Germany or to promote a proper understanding of the history it evokes.

But that said, there is also something ironic, if not downright creepy about the author of a book that promoted its own dangerous conspiracy theory about Jewish power and sought to demonize American Jews and others who support Israel, pontificating about Hitler’s work.

Granted, The Israel Lobby is not to be compared to Mein Kampf in its intent, vitriol, or historical impact. The former, written by Harvard’s Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is far more sophisticated in its language and purpose than Hitler’s screed. But its agenda, while not as avowedly vicious or murderous as the Nazi book, still sought to single out the advocates of a particular political cause and not only to treat them with opprobrium but also to brand them as working against the national interests of the United States. Of course, The Israel Lobby was widely excoriated not just because of its clearly anti-Zionist bent, but because Walt and Mearsheimer’s error-filled book painted a picture of a pro-Israel conspiracy that was so large it included virtually everyone in the mainstream media and just about the entire political system in this country — except, of course, for anti-Semitic elements of the far Right and far Left. The book tars Jews and a vast number of non-Jewish Americans who back the State of Israel as an alien force subverting United States foreign policy. Which is to say that there is a clear path from its pages to those who espouse more overt forms of Jew hatred and Israel-bashing.

Yet just as egregious as Walt posing as the scholarly arbiter of questions about the publication of hate literature is his notion of contemporary analogies to Mein Kampf. Walt writes: “When you actually look at the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler’s infamous tome.”

So which religious figure is Walt referring to here? His link is not to the many Muslim religious leaders whose works have inspired not only hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West but also actual attempts at mass murder. It is rather to an American pastor whose primary claim to fame is his support for the State of Israel: Pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s religious beliefs may seem a bit loopy to non-evangelicals. And he is the sort of fellow who is prone to saying foolish things for which he must apologize. But the main impact of Hagee’s life work has been to try building support for the one democratic state in the Middle East and to fight against those — like Walt — who have aided those who seek to delegitimize both Israel’s existence and its right to self-defense. The idea that this cleric is the best analogy to Hitler in our own day is more than ludicrous. This analogy is quite an insight into the mindset of an academic who, while happily condemning the work of a great anti-Semite and mass murderer of the 20th century, is so full of hate against Israel and the Jews of our own day that he views anyone who supports them as somehow comparable to Hitler.

Walt is right when he writes about Mein Kampf that while the marketplace of ideas in a democracy is not perfect, it is generally competent enough to sort out hate speech from legitimate comment. That is why The Israel Lobby has had little impact on American politics or foreign policy. It is also why his anti-Israel policy prescriptions, though given a bully pulpit by Foreign Policy, will continue to be ignored by the overwhelming bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus in this country.

Over at the Foreign Policy magazine website, Harvard professor and Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt weighs in on Germany’s decision to continue to ban the publication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf even after the Nazi leader’s 70-year copyright expired in 2015. Walt is right when he says that banning the publication of this evil book is pointless and does nothing either to suppress racism in Germany or to promote a proper understanding of the history it evokes.

But that said, there is also something ironic, if not downright creepy about the author of a book that promoted its own dangerous conspiracy theory about Jewish power and sought to demonize American Jews and others who support Israel, pontificating about Hitler’s work.

Granted, The Israel Lobby is not to be compared to Mein Kampf in its intent, vitriol, or historical impact. The former, written by Harvard’s Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer, is far more sophisticated in its language and purpose than Hitler’s screed. But its agenda, while not as avowedly vicious or murderous as the Nazi book, still sought to single out the advocates of a particular political cause and not only to treat them with opprobrium but also to brand them as working against the national interests of the United States. Of course, The Israel Lobby was widely excoriated not just because of its clearly anti-Zionist bent, but because Walt and Mearsheimer’s error-filled book painted a picture of a pro-Israel conspiracy that was so large it included virtually everyone in the mainstream media and just about the entire political system in this country — except, of course, for anti-Semitic elements of the far Right and far Left. The book tars Jews and a vast number of non-Jewish Americans who back the State of Israel as an alien force subverting United States foreign policy. Which is to say that there is a clear path from its pages to those who espouse more overt forms of Jew hatred and Israel-bashing.

Yet just as egregious as Walt posing as the scholarly arbiter of questions about the publication of hate literature is his notion of contemporary analogies to Mein Kampf. Walt writes: “When you actually look at the book, and read about the history of Nazism, it may be hard to believe that serious people in an advanced society could be persuaded by arguments of this sort. But they were. And while Hitler may be the extreme case, we live in an era where plenty of political (and I regret to say, religious) figures offer all sorts of memoirs and tracts of their own, some of them nearly as bizarre and illogical (if not as murderous) as Hitler’s infamous tome.”

So which religious figure is Walt referring to here? His link is not to the many Muslim religious leaders whose works have inspired not only hatred of Jews, Israel, and the West but also actual attempts at mass murder. It is rather to an American pastor whose primary claim to fame is his support for the State of Israel: Pastor John Hagee.

Hagee’s religious beliefs may seem a bit loopy to non-evangelicals. And he is the sort of fellow who is prone to saying foolish things for which he must apologize. But the main impact of Hagee’s life work has been to try building support for the one democratic state in the Middle East and to fight against those — like Walt — who have aided those who seek to delegitimize both Israel’s existence and its right to self-defense. The idea that this cleric is the best analogy to Hitler in our own day is more than ludicrous. This analogy is quite an insight into the mindset of an academic who, while happily condemning the work of a great anti-Semite and mass murderer of the 20th century, is so full of hate against Israel and the Jews of our own day that he views anyone who supports them as somehow comparable to Hitler.

Walt is right when he writes about Mein Kampf that while the marketplace of ideas in a democracy is not perfect, it is generally competent enough to sort out hate speech from legitimate comment. That is why The Israel Lobby has had little impact on American politics or foreign policy. It is also why his anti-Israel policy prescriptions, though given a bully pulpit by Foreign Policy, will continue to be ignored by the overwhelming bi-partisan pro-Israel consensus in this country.

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A Tale of Three Obama Speeches

After listening to President Obama’s last two major speeches—his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance in Oslo and his announcement at West Point of a renewed commitment to fighting the war in Afghanistan—many of his leftist supporters are a bit confused. Perhaps the most understandable was the response from Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt, who suggested that everyone just ignore the Oslo speech and hope that its admirable defense of American power will have no influence on the president’s future decisions. While there was much to quibble about in both of these speeches—his foolish announcement of an exit date before buildup in Afghanistan and his blind faith in the value of diplomacy with North Korea and Iran—there can be no denying that after nearly a year in office, Obama seems to be waking up to the fact that his duties as commander in chief require him to face up to the facts of life in a dangerous world. And that has to be something that people like Walt and the members of the Nobel Peace Prize committee can’t be happy about.

In analyzing Obama’s Oslo oration, it is most useful to contrast it with the speech he gave to the Arab and Islamic world in Cairo in June. That paean to moral equivalence seemed to win him his Nobel in that it appeared to promise that his administration would be unwilling to see a world where “evil” existed and must be fought. In Oslo, he spoke out about the need for a foreign policy in which human rights and democracy—heretofore supposedly only the obsession of dread neoconservatives—was integral to our national goals. In Cairo, such talk was conspicuously absent.

One can also well imagine how disappointed Obama’s Norwegian hosts were when they heard him speak of the necessity of using American military power in just wars like the one the United States is fighting in Afghanistan. Nor could they have been prepared for his frank avowal that American military power not only conquered fascism in World War II but also largely kept the peace since then. This was, as others have noted, exactly the sort of thing George W. Bush often said during his presidency and often earned him the jeers of the European Left, which cheered Obama’s Cairo speech and its promise of a “post-American” foreign policy.

We ought not to ignore the flaws in Obama’s recent pronouncements, nor his propensity to curry favor among those who hate the country that elected him. But it may well be that the story of his time in office will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing battle between those in his administration who see the world from the point of the view of the Cairo speech and those who see it as enunciated in West Point and Oslo. If so, then hope is possible that as events lead us inevitably toward further confrontations with Iran, Obama will come to realize that engagement must be replaced with action. As his dithering on Iran illustrates, there is still plenty of reason to doubt Obama’s ability to come to the right conclusions about the hard choices facing America. But slowly and perhaps against his will, Barack Obama may have come to realize that as president, he must face up to America’s foreign-policy challenges with the same responses that earned his predecessor the hatred of the leftist elites.

After listening to President Obama’s last two major speeches—his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance in Oslo and his announcement at West Point of a renewed commitment to fighting the war in Afghanistan—many of his leftist supporters are a bit confused. Perhaps the most understandable was the response from Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt, who suggested that everyone just ignore the Oslo speech and hope that its admirable defense of American power will have no influence on the president’s future decisions. While there was much to quibble about in both of these speeches—his foolish announcement of an exit date before buildup in Afghanistan and his blind faith in the value of diplomacy with North Korea and Iran—there can be no denying that after nearly a year in office, Obama seems to be waking up to the fact that his duties as commander in chief require him to face up to the facts of life in a dangerous world. And that has to be something that people like Walt and the members of the Nobel Peace Prize committee can’t be happy about.

In analyzing Obama’s Oslo oration, it is most useful to contrast it with the speech he gave to the Arab and Islamic world in Cairo in June. That paean to moral equivalence seemed to win him his Nobel in that it appeared to promise that his administration would be unwilling to see a world where “evil” existed and must be fought. In Oslo, he spoke out about the need for a foreign policy in which human rights and democracy—heretofore supposedly only the obsession of dread neoconservatives—was integral to our national goals. In Cairo, such talk was conspicuously absent.

One can also well imagine how disappointed Obama’s Norwegian hosts were when they heard him speak of the necessity of using American military power in just wars like the one the United States is fighting in Afghanistan. Nor could they have been prepared for his frank avowal that American military power not only conquered fascism in World War II but also largely kept the peace since then. This was, as others have noted, exactly the sort of thing George W. Bush often said during his presidency and often earned him the jeers of the European Left, which cheered Obama’s Cairo speech and its promise of a “post-American” foreign policy.

We ought not to ignore the flaws in Obama’s recent pronouncements, nor his propensity to curry favor among those who hate the country that elected him. But it may well be that the story of his time in office will be determined by the outcome of the ongoing battle between those in his administration who see the world from the point of the view of the Cairo speech and those who see it as enunciated in West Point and Oslo. If so, then hope is possible that as events lead us inevitably toward further confrontations with Iran, Obama will come to realize that engagement must be replaced with action. As his dithering on Iran illustrates, there is still plenty of reason to doubt Obama’s ability to come to the right conclusions about the hard choices facing America. But slowly and perhaps against his will, Barack Obama may have come to realize that as president, he must face up to America’s foreign-policy challenges with the same responses that earned his predecessor the hatred of the leftist elites.

Read Less




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