Commentary Magazine


Topic: “The Israel Lobby”

Anticipating More Obama-Bibi — Part Three

As I noted in parts one and two of this post, there are good reasons to believe that tension between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will continue to simmer during their respective terms. The disconnect between the president’s view of the region and the consensus of the overwhelming majority of Israelis about the future of the peace process has created a gap between the two countries that continues to cause trouble. The fact that the two men don’t like each other also doesn’t help. But as I wrote, the Palestinians’ refusal to make peace on the one hand and the determination of the Iranians to push toward their goal of a nuclear weapon may render the disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem moot.

But even if we don’t assume, as I think we should, that Israel’s enemies will continue to force the United States and Israel into the same corner whether the president likes it or not, there is another important factor that will also put a limit on how far any quarrel can go: the overwhelming support for Israel among the American people. As much as some in the administration and its cheerleaders on the left may believe that the “Jewish lobby,” as President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense put it, has too much influence, the fact remains that the U.S.-Israel alliance remains a consensus issue in this country. As we have seen over the past two years, no president, not even one as personally popular as Barack Obama, can afford to ignore it or blow it up.

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As I noted in parts one and two of this post, there are good reasons to believe that tension between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will continue to simmer during their respective terms. The disconnect between the president’s view of the region and the consensus of the overwhelming majority of Israelis about the future of the peace process has created a gap between the two countries that continues to cause trouble. The fact that the two men don’t like each other also doesn’t help. But as I wrote, the Palestinians’ refusal to make peace on the one hand and the determination of the Iranians to push toward their goal of a nuclear weapon may render the disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem moot.

But even if we don’t assume, as I think we should, that Israel’s enemies will continue to force the United States and Israel into the same corner whether the president likes it or not, there is another important factor that will also put a limit on how far any quarrel can go: the overwhelming support for Israel among the American people. As much as some in the administration and its cheerleaders on the left may believe that the “Jewish lobby,” as President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense put it, has too much influence, the fact remains that the U.S.-Israel alliance remains a consensus issue in this country. As we have seen over the past two years, no president, not even one as personally popular as Barack Obama, can afford to ignore it or blow it up.

It may be that a re-elected President Obama is still spoiling to get even with Netanyahu after his humiliation in May 2011 when the Israeli demonstrated the consequences of a picking a fight with a popular ally. At that time, Obama ambushed a visiting Netanyahu with a speech demanding the Israeli accept the 1967 lines as a starting point in future peace negotiations. Netanyahu didn’t just reject the U.S. diktat, but the ovation that he received when he addressed Congress a few days later showed that both Democrats and Republicans were united in backing Israel’s position.

That was the last major fight picked with Israel by Obama over the peace process since in the following months he launched a Jewish charm offensive with an eye on the 2012 presidential election. As I noted earlier, a major factor behind a decision not to try again may be the refusal of the Palestinians to take advantage of the president’s opening. But the president also understood that a posture of hostility toward Israel was political poison and not just with American Jews whose votes he assumed would remain in the Democratic column.

The problem with the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel Lobby thesis is not just that it is rooted in an anti-Semitic mindset that sees the Jews as manipulating the United States to do things that are against its interests. Rather, the real problem with it is that it fails to take into account the fact that the pro-Israel consensus cuts across virtually all demographic and political lines in this country.

As I wrote in the July 2011 issue of COMMENTARY in the aftermath of the worst Obama-Netanyahu confrontation, the alliance between the two countries is not only politically popular but is now so integrated into the infrastructure of U.S. defense and foreign policy as to be virtually indestructible. If a president who is as ambivalent about Israel and as determined to create daylight between the two countries as Obama has proved to be understood that he could not afford to downgrade that alliance, that point has been proven.

It is true that as a result of his re-election, the president does not have to fear the voters’ wrath on this or any issue. But the idea that he has carte blanche to do as he likes to Israel is a myth. The bipartisan pro-Israel consensus in Congress will always act as a check on any impulse to take revenge on Netanyahu. The process by which defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel has been forced to reverse all of his previous stands on Iran and Israel and to disavow his “Jewish lobby” comments is reminder that a second Obama administration cannot undo the laws of political gravity. Most Americans will regard Netanyahu’s re-election next week as an argument against any U.S. pressure to force Israel to do what its voters have rejected.

To say all that is not to discount the very real possibility that tension between the two governments is probably a given to some degree as long as these two men are in power. But a president with a limited amount of political capital and only two years in which he can use it would be a fool to expend his scarce resources on another losing fight with Netanyahu.

Four more years of this oddly mismatched tandem will make for a rocky ride for friends of Israel. But the alliance is stronger than even Barack Obama’s dislike for Netanyahu. As nasty as this relationship may be, the fallout in Washington from the Israeli’s easy re-election may not be as bad as you might think.

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Why Israel-Bashers Love Hagel

With President Obama still letting Chuck Hagel’s putative nomination as secretary of defense hang in the wind, it’s not clear whether the former Nebraska senator’s stock is up or down. But so long as he remains in the running, critics of Israel are going to keep doing everything they can to keep his name in play. Today’s column on Hagel by the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman cuts to the heart of their motivation.

As far as Friedman is concerned, Hagel has two qualifications for high office: his distaste for Israel and a willingness to make nice with Iran and Hamas. That makes sense to those who share his distaste for the bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel alliance that prevents the Obama administration (egged on by kibitzers like Friedman) from pressuring the Jewish state to make pointless concessions that undermine its security. It also fits in with the desire of those who want a nuclear Iran to be contained or accommodated rather than forestalled, and for the U.S. to embrace Hamas the way it has the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. But these are good reasons why Hagel’s views—which Friedman rightly characterizes as out of the mainstream—ought to disqualify him from leading the Pentagon.

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With President Obama still letting Chuck Hagel’s putative nomination as secretary of defense hang in the wind, it’s not clear whether the former Nebraska senator’s stock is up or down. But so long as he remains in the running, critics of Israel are going to keep doing everything they can to keep his name in play. Today’s column on Hagel by the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman cuts to the heart of their motivation.

As far as Friedman is concerned, Hagel has two qualifications for high office: his distaste for Israel and a willingness to make nice with Iran and Hamas. That makes sense to those who share his distaste for the bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel alliance that prevents the Obama administration (egged on by kibitzers like Friedman) from pressuring the Jewish state to make pointless concessions that undermine its security. It also fits in with the desire of those who want a nuclear Iran to be contained or accommodated rather than forestalled, and for the U.S. to embrace Hamas the way it has the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. But these are good reasons why Hagel’s views—which Friedman rightly characterizes as out of the mainstream—ought to disqualify him from leading the Pentagon.

Friedman thinks it’s “disgusting” that many friends of Israel hold it against Hagel that he attacked what he called the “Jewish lobby” in language that resonated with specious charges of dual loyalty that rightly bring to mind anti-Semitism. It’s hardly surprising that Friedman would think calling Hagel to account for this is a “smear” since he has been guilty of the same tactic in his quest to delegitimize those Americans who oppose his stands on Israel.

Just a little more than a year ago, Friedman disgraced himself in a column where he used the same meme made popular by Israel Lobby authors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer when he said the only reason that Congress cheered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defiance of President Obama was because they were “bought and paid for by the Israel Lobby.” As I wrote at the time:

The notion that the only reason politicians support Israel is because of Jewish money is a central myth of a new form of anti-Semitism which masquerades as a defense of American foreign policy against the depredations of a venal Israel lobby. This canard not only feeds off of the traditional themes of Jew-hatred, it also requires Friedman to ignore the deep roots of American backing for Zionism in our history and culture.

Though Friedman tried to backtrack a bit from this scandalous canard, his explicit support for Hagel’s use of the same charge shows that he is an unrepentant supporter of the pernicious Walt-Mearsheimer thesis.

But there is more to Friedman’s support of Hagel than his desire to see a secretary of defense with an attitude about Israel and its backers. He is also hopeful that Hagel will act as a brake on any U.S. effort to stop Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons and that he will persuade the president to recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Friedman makes the false argument that the U.S. needs Iran’s good will to achieve its foreign policy objectives in the Middle East. But he fails to understand that stopping the Islamist regime in Iran is the prerequisite for stability in the region.

President Obama pledged in both 2008 and 2012 that he would never allow Iran to go nuclear, but there has never been much secret about his desire to avoid a confrontation over the issue. He wasted most of his first term on a feckless effort to engage Tehran and was slow to adopt serious sanctions. Another round of dead-end diplomacy that only gives the Iranians more time to achieve their nuclear ambition won’t solve the problem. The appointment of Hagel would be a signal to both Iran and the world that the president wasn’t going to go to the mat on the issue.

That is a dangerous development that could only make Iran more intransigent and set the stage for violent upheaval in the region that will damage American interests. Such non-mainstream views about Iran and Hamas are exactly why Hagel ought not to be nominated. Friedman’s open advocacy for appeasement as well as his rationalization for the dual loyalty slur should make it even more obvious than before how disastrous this appointment would be.

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Where Does the ADL Stand on Hagel?

In the Times of Israel article Jonathan wrote about earlier today, the ADL’s Abe Foxman suggested he wouldn’t object to Obama’s potential secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel. But strangely enough, Foxman seemed to give a very different comment to Jen Rubin:

“Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community’s friends of Israel.  His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling.   The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter.”

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In the Times of Israel article Jonathan wrote about earlier today, the ADL’s Abe Foxman suggested he wouldn’t object to Obama’s potential secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel. But strangely enough, Foxman seemed to give a very different comment to Jen Rubin:

“Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community’s friends of Israel.  His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling.   The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter.”

As Jonathan pointed out, Foxman told the Times of Israel that Hagel is “now in sync with the president’s approach to Iran” and seemed largely unconcerned with the idea of him serving as defense secretary. The quotes in the two stories seem to completely contradict each other. It’s surprising Foxman would sound nonchalant about a Hagel nomination in the Times of Israel article, considering the ADL has documented the anti-Semitism behind the “Jewish lobby” conspiracy theory that Hagel appears to endorse. Will the ADL clarify where it stands on this?

Other Jewish leaders have been clear in their positions. Obama-supporter Ed Koch said it would be “a terrible appointment” in a recent interview with the Algemeiner. And the Republican Jewish Coalition called the possibility “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.”

Meanwhile, anti-Israel lobbying group J Street and Peter Beinart have come out in support of Hagel. So has Stephen Walt–who literally helped write the book on the Israel Lobby conspiracy theory–and anti-Israel writers Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan

The National Jewish Democratic Council is still silent on the issue. The group is caught in an awkward spot since it blasted Hagel as anti-Israel back in 2007 when he was seen as a possible Republican presidential candidate.

The American Jewish Committee hasn’t weighed in yet, either. A spokesperson for the organization said they were still in the process of discussing it when I contacted them earlier today. I’ll post an update when I get a comment.

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Liberal Smear: Romney’s War for the Jews

After all these years of endlessly repeating the same tired tropes on the New York Times op-ed page, taking Maureen Dowd’s columns seriously requires a suspension of disbelief that is normally only needed to watch science fiction. But though the Queen of Snark lacks the credibility to discuss virtually any issue in an intelligent manner, she does have a knack for picking up on whatever hateful viruses are circulating through the circulatory system of our body politic. Worried about prejudice against Mormons? Dowd was the first to provide mainstream media space to that brand of hate during the current presidential campaign. Concerned about the way some on the left are hoping to utilize the debate about Iran to delegitimize support for Israel? Dowd again is the one to ensure this nasty piece of business gets another airing by arguing that Romney wants to fight wars for the sake of the Jews.

In her column in today’s Times Sunday Review, Dowd picks up on the same theme explored on the paper’s website on Thursday that I discussed earlier today. While it can be argued that she can always be relied upon to seize upon any point, no matter how trivial, to heap scorn on any Republican (her brief stint as a bipartisan basher of Bill Clinton during l’affaire Lewinsky may have earned her a Pulitzer but since then she has stuck to snarking conservatives), her attack on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance is particularly creepy. Unlike the rest of the Obama cheerleading squad that occupies the Times opinion pages, she is not content to just bash him for attacking Obama’s apologies, weak leadership and disdain for Israel. Dowd sees him and running mate Paul Ryan as the cat’s-paws of a shadowy group of “powerful” Jewish “neocons” who are out to seize the country in his name and enforce, “a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbors,” on Americans. In a perfect illustration of how hate for Israel shows where the left and right meet, Dowd channeled Pat Buchanan in arguing that Romney/Ryan are the “puppets” of neoconservative conspirators who want Americans to die for Israel.

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After all these years of endlessly repeating the same tired tropes on the New York Times op-ed page, taking Maureen Dowd’s columns seriously requires a suspension of disbelief that is normally only needed to watch science fiction. But though the Queen of Snark lacks the credibility to discuss virtually any issue in an intelligent manner, she does have a knack for picking up on whatever hateful viruses are circulating through the circulatory system of our body politic. Worried about prejudice against Mormons? Dowd was the first to provide mainstream media space to that brand of hate during the current presidential campaign. Concerned about the way some on the left are hoping to utilize the debate about Iran to delegitimize support for Israel? Dowd again is the one to ensure this nasty piece of business gets another airing by arguing that Romney wants to fight wars for the sake of the Jews.

In her column in today’s Times Sunday Review, Dowd picks up on the same theme explored on the paper’s website on Thursday that I discussed earlier today. While it can be argued that she can always be relied upon to seize upon any point, no matter how trivial, to heap scorn on any Republican (her brief stint as a bipartisan basher of Bill Clinton during l’affaire Lewinsky may have earned her a Pulitzer but since then she has stuck to snarking conservatives), her attack on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance is particularly creepy. Unlike the rest of the Obama cheerleading squad that occupies the Times opinion pages, she is not content to just bash him for attacking Obama’s apologies, weak leadership and disdain for Israel. Dowd sees him and running mate Paul Ryan as the cat’s-paws of a shadowy group of “powerful” Jewish “neocons” who are out to seize the country in his name and enforce, “a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbors,” on Americans. In a perfect illustration of how hate for Israel shows where the left and right meet, Dowd channeled Pat Buchanan in arguing that Romney/Ryan are the “puppets” of neoconservative conspirators who want Americans to die for Israel.

Dowd doubled down on Eric Lewis’ point that it is “outrageous” for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to demand that the president state some red lines about Iran. But all Netanyahu is doing is asking the president to show us that he has some intention of doing something about Iran other than talking about the threat. The pushback from the pro-Obama camp against the suggestion that the administration stop pretending that failed diplomacy and unenforced sanctions will persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear ambition reinforces the suspicion that once he is re-elected, the president will have the “flexibility” to choose to “contain” rather than stop Iran. That is a position that would endanger both the U.S. and Israel.

Dowd’s biggest target is Dan Senor, an author and former Bush administration staffer who is one of Romney and Ryan’s top advisors. But neither Senor nor Romney nor any American supporter of Israel needs to apologize to the likes of Dowd for their belief that the U.S. should keep its word to stop Iran. Though those who write about “neocons slithering” are clearly intending to stoke prejudice, even Obama has paid lip service to the fact that a nuclear Iran is a deadly threat to the entire Middle East as well as to the interests of the United States. Though Romney is not always the most consistent or coherent of thinkers about foreign policy, he does seem to understand this dilemma a lot better than Obama and his hateful press hit squad.

President Obama came into office determined to try to distance the United States from Israel and to appease the Muslim world. He accomplished the former but failed miserably with the latter as the spectacle of besieged U.S. embassies in the Middle East this week has shown. Throughout the last year, Obama’s critics have noted that he seemed more interested in stopping Israel from defending itself than in halting Iran’s nuclear program. Now his supporters seek to suppress any pressure for action on Iran by branding it the work of neocon conspirators.

The bottom line here is the same despicable “Israel Lobby” smear that seeks to silence friends of Israel through the use of traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes. Dowd’s column marks yet another step down into the pit of hate-mongering that has become all too common at the Times. This is a tipping point that should alarm even the most stalwart liberal Jewish supporters of the president.

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Defense of Declining “Forward” Not Doing Newspaper Any Favors

The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo went public yesterday about an increasingly pitched family feud in the Jewish world. In 1,100 words, Kredo cataloged the decline of the once-proud and now largely irrelevant Forward newspaper, which has gone from being one of America’s top Jewish outlets to publishing left-wing wishful thinking and agitprop. The responses from the Forward’s defenders have begun pouring in, including this frankly shrill outburst from Tablet’s Dan Klein.

Before getting to the substance of the debate: no one expects the anti-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community to make good arguments. They’re cooking with bad ingredients. But is it too much to ask that they limit themselves to mumbling through pro-forma talking points rather than launching sneering attacks? The choice should be between terrible arguments or smug self-satisfaction. Not both.

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The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo went public yesterday about an increasingly pitched family feud in the Jewish world. In 1,100 words, Kredo cataloged the decline of the once-proud and now largely irrelevant Forward newspaper, which has gone from being one of America’s top Jewish outlets to publishing left-wing wishful thinking and agitprop. The responses from the Forward’s defenders have begun pouring in, including this frankly shrill outburst from Tablet’s Dan Klein.

Before getting to the substance of the debate: no one expects the anti-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community to make good arguments. They’re cooking with bad ingredients. But is it too much to ask that they limit themselves to mumbling through pro-forma talking points rather than launching sneering attacks? The choice should be between terrible arguments or smug self-satisfaction. Not both.

Kredo traced the Forward’s free fall to the tenure of editor Jane Eisner. Eisner has not been bashful about turning her paper into an oleaginous politicized echo chamber. To take a small example, last year she sneered at Contentions for once calling a Forward cartoon by Eli Valley–whom she was at the time installing as the paper’s artist in residence –”ferociously repugnant.” She didn’t link to our 2008 post, which she said Valley could consider a “compliment,” so that her readers could judge the controversy for themselves. It’s here.

You almost get the sense that at some point Kredo just had to stop listing scandals out of exhaustion. He talked about the Forward’s distressingly uncritical showcasing of “Israel apartheid” accusations, but not about its work on behalf of Peter Beinart’s colossal flop of a BDS campaign. He outlined many of the paper’s attacks on conservative funders and activists, but didn’t get to its pro-Obama water-carrying during the ADL/AJC’s “don’t criticize Obama” dustup, which Contentions by turns criticized and mocked. He noted the Forward’s glowing profile of Hamas supporter and one-stater Ali Abunimah, but not the paper’s equally execrable defense of M.J. Rosenberg’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ravings (Rosenberg and his Media Matters then-employers eventually parted ways, marking the left-wing think tank as more sensitive to anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement than the ostensibly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel Forward).

Klein’s Tablet defense of the Forward began with a bombastic headline announcing that yesterday was the “wrong day to attack the ‘Forward.’” Apparently just that morning a Forward writer had taken a victory lap after tracking down George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport and arranging to have it publicly displayed. To be clear and explicit: Klein dismissed how the Forward has transformed itself into a platform for “Israel apartheid” propaganda, anti-Semitic rhetoric, and terrorist apologism — because the paper helped find a late 18th-century letter by George Washington. Mordant analysis, that.

Klein even wrote that he was “not going to defend” the damning Forward articles exposed by the WFB. He might at least have tried. If the Jewish far left is going to circle its wagons on the basis of transparent bluster, they ought to do so with a little less smugness. George Washington’s letter. Come on.

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GOP is Right to Oppose Bipartisanship

Richard Lugar’s defeat in the Indiana Republican Senate primary has engendered new interest in a popular theme in the mainstream liberal press about how the current crop of conservative Republicans are the cause of political gridlock. Lugar’s graceless concession speech in which he blasted winner Richard Mourdock’s unwillingness to pay homage at the altar of bipartisanship was straight out of the liberal playbook in which only one side of the ideological divide is to be blamed for the mess in Washington. Lugar’s speech was catnip to liberal pundits like the New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal, who had been looking for a news hook to echo an op-ed published last month in the Washington Post by two prominent D.C. think tank establishment figures sounding the same theme. In their April 27 essay, Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein gave a non-partisan gloss to a the highly partisan theme that “Republicans are the problem.”

Though Mann and Ornstein claim this is in part because the new generation of conservative Republicans is less civil than most Democrats, even they don’t really believe that. For every Allen West on the right there is an Alan Grayson or Steve Cohen on the left. And even liberal editors and columnists may have noticed the incivility of some Tea Partiers doesn’t hold a candle to the violence and the attempts to stifle the free speech of others that is the hallmark of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Rather, it is Mann and Ornstein’s thesis that by seeking fundamental reforms of taxes, spending and entitlements, conservatives are breaking the unwritten contract between members of the governing class. By refusing to play ball like the docile Republicans of the past whose guiding philosophy was to offer the public the Democratic platform minus ten percent, today’s conservatives threaten a spirit of bipartisanship that existed largely to support a governing philosophy they disagree with. And that is something for which they cannot be forgiven.

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Richard Lugar’s defeat in the Indiana Republican Senate primary has engendered new interest in a popular theme in the mainstream liberal press about how the current crop of conservative Republicans are the cause of political gridlock. Lugar’s graceless concession speech in which he blasted winner Richard Mourdock’s unwillingness to pay homage at the altar of bipartisanship was straight out of the liberal playbook in which only one side of the ideological divide is to be blamed for the mess in Washington. Lugar’s speech was catnip to liberal pundits like the New York Times’ Andrew Rosenthal, who had been looking for a news hook to echo an op-ed published last month in the Washington Post by two prominent D.C. think tank establishment figures sounding the same theme. In their April 27 essay, Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein gave a non-partisan gloss to a the highly partisan theme that “Republicans are the problem.”

Though Mann and Ornstein claim this is in part because the new generation of conservative Republicans is less civil than most Democrats, even they don’t really believe that. For every Allen West on the right there is an Alan Grayson or Steve Cohen on the left. And even liberal editors and columnists may have noticed the incivility of some Tea Partiers doesn’t hold a candle to the violence and the attempts to stifle the free speech of others that is the hallmark of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Rather, it is Mann and Ornstein’s thesis that by seeking fundamental reforms of taxes, spending and entitlements, conservatives are breaking the unwritten contract between members of the governing class. By refusing to play ball like the docile Republicans of the past whose guiding philosophy was to offer the public the Democratic platform minus ten percent, today’s conservatives threaten a spirit of bipartisanship that existed largely to support a governing philosophy they disagree with. And that is something for which they cannot be forgiven.

The impasse between the two parties in Washington stems from the fact that the president and the Democratic majority in the Senate were elected in the liberal waves of 2006 and 2008 while the Republican majority in the House came in as a result of the GOP landslide in 2010. These were two different sets of elections driven by completely different ideological trends. If President Obama is re-elected along with a Democratic Congress this year, there will be no need for them to accommodate conservatives. Nor should they if they get the confidence of the electorate. Conversely, if Mitt Romney wins the White House along with fresh Republican majorities in Congress, then the GOP will have the opportunity to govern as it sees fit.

But the Washington establishment seems to determined to cast this conflict as one that is not between two ideological camps vying for the public’s approval but one in which conservatives are inherently wrong because what they desire is genuine change in the system. To liberals, that is radicalism that must be opposed not just because it is wrong but because it is different from the way things are done. And to those who live off that system and support it, that is an unforgivable sin.

The establishment is also uncomfortable with a political alignment in which the two parties are not both amorphous coalitions without any guiding philosophy. Some may regret the way Republicans have become more conservative and Democrats more liberal, but again, there seems to be a double standard at work. It is only when Republicans express disgust with members of their congressional caucuses who seem more interested in making nice with their opponents than in defending conservative principles that words like “purge” are thrown around. As it happens, the GOP is no more radical than the Democrats. They are about to nominate the most moderate of their presidential contenders.

As for working with the other party, the Democrats are in no position to cry foul. They spent the eight years of the George W. Bush administration doing their best to demonize him with respected members of Congress using invective about him and members of the Cabinet that were just as bad as anything the Tea Party says about President Obama.

Let’s also understand there is nothing inherently noble about compromises which merely allow the federal leviathan to go lumbering along sucking the life out of the economy and bringing the nation closer to insolvency. Though sometimes deals must be struck to keep the government open in the case of a hopeless deadlock as was the case last summer with the debt ceiling, it is dishonest of liberals to pretend their insistence on defending the system doesn’t make them as much a part of the problem as their opponents. The only difference between the two sides is that the left assumes it is the right’s job to give in. That is why they are shedding crocodile tears about the exit of weak Republicans like Dick Lugar.

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Not a “Buddy Movie” for Obama and Biden

Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.

Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?

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Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.

Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?

We are told the often testy relationship between the two in their early days in office together has now changed to a genuine friendship But the idea of the vice president as a “utility player” whose value is as “the guy who does a bunch of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” as Obama has been quoted as saying, is just a nice way of saying the president hasn’t trusted Biden in the way Bush trusted Cheney or Bill Clinton trusted Gore. Though he can always be counted on to “help stir the pot,” that’s a contrast to the greater responsibility that was placed on his immediate predecessors. If as Ronald Klain, who worked for both Gore and Biden, puts it, the president and vice president “haven’t tried to turn this into some sort of buddy movie,” neither is it the ideal working relationship.

Which is to say that though Biden isn’t the lost soul who many vice presidents resembled while presiding over the Senate and doing little else, he has also become a punch line. If he was added to the ticket in 2008 in the hope that his foreign policy experience — an odd notion as there is hardly an international issue on which Biden has not been consistently wrong — he remains there more out of inertia than anything else.

That’s why the incessant talk of Biden actively thinking about 2016 — talk that most suspect originates in the office of the vice president and nowhere else — makes it likely that the president’s patience for the veep’s gaffes will decrease during the course of the campaign and a potential second term. Though Biden’s grasp of political reality has never been that firm, one wonders whether he fancies being the first sitting vice president to be rejected by his own party for the top spot since John Nance Garner failed to oust his erstwhile boss Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.

In the meantime, Obama can continue to count on Biden to swing away on his weak spots, including his record on Israel. Biden again vouched for the president’s bona fides on Israel today in a speech to the Rabbinical Assembly. But, as with many of his utterances on a wide range of topics, the vice president’s grasp of facts remains sketchy. Two weeks ago, I commented that in a previous speech, Biden had mistakenly compared Obama to Harry Truman’s efforts on behalf of Israel’s security. Today he doubled down on that by saying again, “No president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama.”

In fact, no president other than the quite hostile Dwight Eisenhower did less for Israel’s security than Truman. Every president subsequent to Ike made a serious contribution to enhancing the security of the Jewish state that surpassed Truman’s, and that includes Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and the elder George Bush, as well as genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the younger Bush. But as President Obama has learned, when Joe Biden talks, it’s customary to take whatever he says with a shovelful of salt.

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Failed Middle East Theories? Look in the Mirror, Tom Friedman

Thomas Friedman’s rants about foreign policy on the op-ed page of the New York Times are generally predictable if not particularly insightful. But today’s installment is original in one respect. In it he references an article in the National Review by respected conservative scholar Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson gives a laundry list of American foreign policy failures in the Middle East and concludes that maybe America should just realize that all of the existing theories about the Arab and Muslim world are fatally flawed. Hanson is generally right, but what rings false about Friedman’s praise for the piece is that in doing so he fails to acknowledge his own support for some of those failed approaches. He also slyly tries to include one other aspect of American policy in the list of failures that was conspicuous by its absence from Hanson’s article: support for Israel.

It’s true that, as Hanson points out:

Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan.

But in endorsing this sobering judgment, Friedman fails to note that he has served for the last 20 years as a faithful advocate for the foreign policy “realism” that he criticizes. Nor does he have the guts to point out that his best-selling “flat earth” theories about how economic concerns will trump those of religion and nationalism in the 21st century have been shown to be as laughably out of touch with the reality of the Middle East as any other.

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Thomas Friedman’s rants about foreign policy on the op-ed page of the New York Times are generally predictable if not particularly insightful. But today’s installment is original in one respect. In it he references an article in the National Review by respected conservative scholar Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson gives a laundry list of American foreign policy failures in the Middle East and concludes that maybe America should just realize that all of the existing theories about the Arab and Muslim world are fatally flawed. Hanson is generally right, but what rings false about Friedman’s praise for the piece is that in doing so he fails to acknowledge his own support for some of those failed approaches. He also slyly tries to include one other aspect of American policy in the list of failures that was conspicuous by its absence from Hanson’s article: support for Israel.

It’s true that, as Hanson points out:

Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan.

But in endorsing this sobering judgment, Friedman fails to note that he has served for the last 20 years as a faithful advocate for the foreign policy “realism” that he criticizes. Nor does he have the guts to point out that his best-selling “flat earth” theories about how economic concerns will trump those of religion and nationalism in the 21st century have been shown to be as laughably out of touch with the reality of the Middle East as any other.

But even more dishonest is his decision to try and throw in the one element of American foreign policy that Hanson does not denounce: the alliance with Israel. According to Friedman, America’s unwillingness to strong arm Israel into making concessions on territory to Palestinians who have already demonstrated their complete disinterest in making peace on any terms is also undermining our foreign policy. But no other theory about how America should approach the Middle East has been proven to be false as conclusively as Friedman’s blind faith in “land for peace.”

Even worse, in summarizing our refusal to “tell the truth” to countries in the Middle East, he makes the following generalizations:

But we don’t tell Pakistan the truth because it has nukes. We don’t tell the Saudis the truth because we’re addicted to their oil. We don’t tell Bahrain the truth because we need its naval base. We don’t tell Egypt the truth because we’re afraid it will walk from Camp David. We don’t tell Israel the truth because it has votes. And we don’t tell Karzai the truth because Obama is afraid John McCain will call him a wimp.

The United States may be guilty of a great many faults in the Middle East but let’s not pretend that America’s views have been kept a secret. Pakistan is well aware of American public opinion of its double game on terrorism. The Saudis know Washington is dubious about their ability to maintain an oil-fueled oligarchy. The same can be said of Bahrain and the Afghan government is under no misapprehension about American doubts about its future. And certainly after three plus years of Barack Obama in the White House, Israel is aware (not withstanding Obama’s election year charm offensive aimed at Jewish voters) that he takes a dim view of the Jewish state’s position on the territories.

In adding Israel to that list, Friedman once again slips in offensive language that is redolent of the Walt-Mearsheimer conspiracy theories about The Israel Lobby. In December, Friedman earned the scorn of the Jewish world for falsely claiming that the Congressional ovations for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Here, he seems to be repeating that anti-Semitic slur by alleging that the votes of the pro-Israel community — a vast bi-partisan force that encompasses the overwhelming majority of all Americans — has prevented the U.S. from placing enough pressure on the Jewish state.

But a different twist on that phrase shows why Hanson rightly did not include Israel in his formulation. It is the “votes” of Israelis — which makes it the one true democracy in the Middle East — that makes it the exception to his rule in which the lack of shared values prevents the United States from establishing a coherent relationship with the other countries in the region.

We can debate just how effective a U.S. policy of democracy promotion can be but the one thing that the alliance with Israel proves is that its absence makes a long-term commitment to a nation a shaky proposition. While American Middle East policy has been a mess, Thomas Friedman’s contributions to that legacy as well as his smears of Israel’s supporters deserve prominent mention in any list of such failures.

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Santorum’s Remarkable Journey

I agree completely with Alana and Jonathan that the end game is at hand regarding the Republican nomination. Barring a major development, Romney is now unstoppable. He has a commanding lead in delegates and his two main opponents, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are facing increasingly difficult situations and rapidly diminishing possibilities. Santorum has yet to win in a state not dominated by hard-line conservatives and evangelicals, states that are safely in the Republican column come November anyway. Gingrich finished in Illinois behind fringe candidate Ron Paul.

But while Rick Santorum is now very unlikely to win the nomination, it’s been a remarkable journey for him. Just consider, he was a two-term senator, having won in Republican years (1994 and 2000) and then was clobbered in the Democratic year of 2006, losing as an incumbent by 18 percentage points. That’s a pretty thin résumé to run on. He was seriously underfunded throughout most of the campaign, unable even to get on the ballot in some districts and in Virginia.

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I agree completely with Alana and Jonathan that the end game is at hand regarding the Republican nomination. Barring a major development, Romney is now unstoppable. He has a commanding lead in delegates and his two main opponents, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are facing increasingly difficult situations and rapidly diminishing possibilities. Santorum has yet to win in a state not dominated by hard-line conservatives and evangelicals, states that are safely in the Republican column come November anyway. Gingrich finished in Illinois behind fringe candidate Ron Paul.

But while Rick Santorum is now very unlikely to win the nomination, it’s been a remarkable journey for him. Just consider, he was a two-term senator, having won in Republican years (1994 and 2000) and then was clobbered in the Democratic year of 2006, losing as an incumbent by 18 percentage points. That’s a pretty thin résumé to run on. He was seriously underfunded throughout most of the campaign, unable even to get on the ballot in some districts and in Virginia.

And yet, here he is, clearly the runner-up. And, as he pointed out in his concession speech last night, he has obviously influenced the frontrunner. Romney’s victory speech—he is by no means a natural orator, but it was best I’ve heard him give—came right out of the Santorum playbook: framing the upcoming general election as a battle between personal freedom and ever greater state control of the American economy and, thus, American lives.

In other words, Santorum’s run, while it failed in its ultimate goal of the Republican nomination, brought him back from the land of the politically dead and forced the apparent winner towards his positions. He has earned a place at the table and, probably, a major job in a Romney administration.  That’s not a bad result when you think about it. It’s a whole lot more than Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann, or Rick Perry got out of their months on the rubber-chicken circuit.

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Mearsheimer’s Conspiracies Get Wackier

On Sunday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a feature examining the special relationship between Israel and the United States. The special included three academics and John Mearsheimer, of The Israel Lobby fame. Mearsheimer outdid himself.

Mearsheimer’s misreads why successive U.S. administrations embraced Israel from the Kennedy administration onwards. President Eisenhower, of course, sought to cast his lot with the Arabs—handing Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdul Nasser his greatest victory—but learned quickly that Arab states made poor allies. Israel may have been only one state among many in the Middle East, but each White House quickly learned that against the context of the Cold War, Israel had America’s back.

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On Sunday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a feature examining the special relationship between Israel and the United States. The special included three academics and John Mearsheimer, of The Israel Lobby fame. Mearsheimer outdid himself.

Mearsheimer’s misreads why successive U.S. administrations embraced Israel from the Kennedy administration onwards. President Eisenhower, of course, sought to cast his lot with the Arabs—handing Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdul Nasser his greatest victory—but learned quickly that Arab states made poor allies. Israel may have been only one state among many in the Middle East, but each White House quickly learned that against the context of the Cold War, Israel had America’s back.

As Mearsheimer heads to the present day, he rehashes his usual talking “It’s also important to recognize that supporters of Israel have great influence in the American media,” he claims although, fortunately, he leaves out the lobby’s penchant for making Hamantaschen from the blood of Christian children.

That Mearsheimer claims, “there’s no meaningful Arab lobby” is risible, however. If one accepts Mearsheimer’s definition that “the lobby is a loose coalition of individuals and groups that work actively to push US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction,” then Mearsheimer might be called part of the “Hamas lobby” in America, as he and his friends seek to push the United States in the opposite direction.

It is when the radio host turns to the end of the Cold War that Mearsheimer takes his conspiracies to a new level:

There is no question that as a result of the 1979 revolution in Iran and the subsequent hostage crisis, that the United States had bad relations with Iran. However, the Iranians were very interested at different points in the 1990s and even in the 2000s in trying to improve relations with the United States, and the United States itself was interested in improving its relations with Iran. But this never happened and the main reason is that Israel was deeply committed, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to making Iran the bogeyman for the United States and for Israel in the Middle East

Now, there certainly was optimism in certain circles once Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989 that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Rafsanjani would change Iran’s direction. That was reflected in George H.W. Bush’s inaugural address. But the elder Bush—even with Brent Scowcroft at his side—quickly learned that Iran was not serious. Israel had nothing to do with it.  The same lesson was learned by Austria and Germany, both sites of Iranian assassinations in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Of course, there was also the Khobar Towers attack. Mohammad Khatami, but Khatami’s attempts at may have charmed Mearsheimer even superficial reform foundered against the opposition of hardliners and regime-sponsored vigilante groups. Mearsheimer is ignorant if he does not realize that it was during the 1980s and 1990s that Iran revived its nuclear and ballistic missile program, and built a formidable base almost from scratch.  It was during the period that it solicited the assistance of rogue Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, as well.

Mearsheimer’s animus blinds him to reality, however, and so he continues:

The Israelis understood that in the absence of the Soviet Union there was no strategic room for a special relationship. So what was needed was to create a threat, a common threat. I think the Israelis concluded in the early ‘90s that Iran was that threat. And since the early 1990s, the Israelis have worked overtime to portray Iran as the second coming of the Third Reich and to make the argument that the United States cannot engage in diplomacy with Iran. And of course there are all sorts of evidence that that’s what’s happening today with regard to the Iranian nuclear program.

That’s right: According to Mearsheimer, the Israelis and the “Israel lobby” manufactured the Iranian nuclear threat so that Israel could entrap the United States. Never mind Iran’s repeated threats to eradicate the Jewish state. Here, Mearsheimer displays an obsession not only with American Jews, but also an almost racist condescension toward Iranians whom he does not credit as independent actors. Nor does Mearsheimer accept—perhaps his ideological blinders prevent him from seeing—Iranian aggression toward American troops or its aid and assistance to Al Qaeda including free passage for the 9/11 hijackers, or its increasing bellicosity in the Persian Gulf.

In every generation brings a new class of useful idiots who allow ideology to blind them to reality. In Mr. Mearsheimer, they have found their chairman.

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Hamas Won’t Stay Out of an Iran-Israel War

Yesterday, there was a flurry of attention when the Guardian reported that a member of Hamas’s Gaza political bureau said the terrorist group would stay out of any conflict between Israel and Iran. Such a stand fit in with the idea that Hamas had completely broken with its former patron and was now more interested in aligning itself with Egypt and bolstering its influence on the West Bank. If true, it would have been good news for Israel, but optimism on this score may have been, at best, premature. A more senior Hamas official is quoted today by an Iranian wire service as saying Hamas would indeed attack Israel in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran.

Ties between Hamas and Iran have become strained, especially after Hamas dropped its support for Tehran ally Bashar Assad in Syria. But it is difficult to imagine the group maintaining a cease-fire in a situation where Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are both launching missiles at Israel. Though Iran’s financial clout in Gaza has reportedly lessened in recent years, the ayatollahs probably understand the dynamic of Palestinian politics will always force Hamas to resort to violence if given the opportunity.

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Yesterday, there was a flurry of attention when the Guardian reported that a member of Hamas’s Gaza political bureau said the terrorist group would stay out of any conflict between Israel and Iran. Such a stand fit in with the idea that Hamas had completely broken with its former patron and was now more interested in aligning itself with Egypt and bolstering its influence on the West Bank. If true, it would have been good news for Israel, but optimism on this score may have been, at best, premature. A more senior Hamas official is quoted today by an Iranian wire service as saying Hamas would indeed attack Israel in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran.

Ties between Hamas and Iran have become strained, especially after Hamas dropped its support for Tehran ally Bashar Assad in Syria. But it is difficult to imagine the group maintaining a cease-fire in a situation where Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are both launching missiles at Israel. Though Iran’s financial clout in Gaza has reportedly lessened in recent years, the ayatollahs probably understand the dynamic of Palestinian politics will always force Hamas to resort to violence if given the opportunity.

The Iran-Hamas alliance has always been an awkward fit because of the Shia-Sunni religious differences between them. Unlike Hezbollah, which has always subordinated itself to its religious elders in Iran, Hamas has taken Tehran’s money and arms without pledging allegiance to the ayatollahs. But their Islamist worldview allowed for them to find common ground with Iran in their hatred for the West and Israel. And so long as Egypt was cooperating with Israel in quarantining Gaza, Hamas couldn’t be choosy about its friends. Now that Hamas’s Muslim Brotherhood allies are ascendant in Egypt, they are free to pick their own fights and need not take orders from Tehran.

But the idea that the terror group would stand down while the region was aflame runs contrary to everything we know about Hamas. It has built its reputation in Palestinian politics on violence, and for all the talk about transitioning to politics via its alliance with Fatah in the Palestinian Authority, its source of legitimacy remains its willingness to shed Israeli blood. So while Hamas may not be eager to start a fight with Israel it is sure to lose and is not of its own choosing, the humiliation of standing aside while Hezbollah and Iran attack the Jewish state might be more than its leaders can bear.

The question for Israel is not whether Hamas will fire missiles at southern Israel in the event of a strike on Iran but whether the group will hope to get by with just a token gesture rather than putting itself on a full war footing. Either way, Israel’s Defense Ministry is probably not assuming  its southern front will be quiet should war break out.

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Who Marginalized the Palestinians?

For decades, the chattering classes have been working hard to teach us that the central issue of the region was not the Shia-Sunni conflict or the struggle for freedom by Arabs longing to rid themselves of autocratic monarchs or dictators. The belief in the centrality of the Palestinian issue was so strong that every other consideration had to be subordinated to the cause of trying to assuage the anger of the Muslim world at their plight. But in the past year, the main subjects of discussion have been the Arab Spring revolts and the debate over how best to stop the Iranian nuclear threat. The result is that the world is getting on with its business these days without obsessing about the Palestinians. Even President Obama, who had picked an annual fight with Israel, chose this year to abandon his usual attempt to pressure Israel into concessions to the Palestinians.

All of which has left the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders mighty upset. As one Palestinian told the New York Times today, “The Arab world is busy. The Palestinians are becoming secondary.” The question is who’s responsible for this state of affairs? Predictably, the Palestinians blame everyone but themselves. Yet if they want the answer, they need only look in the mirror.

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For decades, the chattering classes have been working hard to teach us that the central issue of the region was not the Shia-Sunni conflict or the struggle for freedom by Arabs longing to rid themselves of autocratic monarchs or dictators. The belief in the centrality of the Palestinian issue was so strong that every other consideration had to be subordinated to the cause of trying to assuage the anger of the Muslim world at their plight. But in the past year, the main subjects of discussion have been the Arab Spring revolts and the debate over how best to stop the Iranian nuclear threat. The result is that the world is getting on with its business these days without obsessing about the Palestinians. Even President Obama, who had picked an annual fight with Israel, chose this year to abandon his usual attempt to pressure Israel into concessions to the Palestinians.

All of which has left the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders mighty upset. As one Palestinian told the New York Times today, “The Arab world is busy. The Palestinians are becoming secondary.” The question is who’s responsible for this state of affairs? Predictably, the Palestinians blame everyone but themselves. Yet if they want the answer, they need only look in the mirror.

Having refused Israeli peace offers of a state including a share of Jerusalem three times from 2000 to 2008 and with the Palestinian Authority now allying itself with the Islamists of Hamas, the Palestinians have effectively painted themselves into a diplomatic corner. Though many, including some Israelis, expected their attempt to get the United Nations to grant them independence without first making peace with Israel to be a diplomatic “tsunami,” it turned out to be a dud. Even their erstwhile supporters in Europe and the Third World largely abandoned them. Though many continue to pay lip service to their cause, there is a widespread realization that whatever sympathy one may feel for their plight, there is no helping people who won’t or can’t help themselves.

While a campaign for more pressure on Israel continues on the left, even the Obama administration, which did more to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians’ favor than any of its predecessors, has discovered their efforts in that direction went for naught. All of Obama’s initiatives to push the Israelis to give in on Jerusalem, settlements and the 1967 borders have been rendered moot by the Palestinian refusal to negotiate. At this point, and with his campaign staff worried about shoring up his popularity in an election year, any further attention paid to the Palestinians is not only bad policy but also a waste of time. Though the Palestinians’ erstwhile European friends have no such worries, even they have figured out there are other more pressing issues.

Complaining about the attention given to the possibility that the Arab Spring is turning into a despotic winter or the worries about Iranian nukes (which are largely shared by both Israelis and most neighboring Arab states) does the Palestinians little good. But it is worthwhile pointing out that the notion of Palestinian centrality was always absurd. The Arab world did its best to keep the conflict alive and refused to resettle Palestinian refugees the way Israel did a nearly equal number of Jewish refugees from the Middle East after its birth. They promoted the false idea that theirs was the one post-World War II refugee problem that could not be dealt with without redrawing borders and creating a new state. The Arabs cared little for the Palestinians, but their rulers did find the notion of a permanent war to destroy the one Jewish state in the world useful in distracting their people from focusing on their own problems. That cause, which builds on a ready audience for the themes of Jew-hatred among Muslims, lives on, and will, no doubt, be revived by newly empowered Islamists. But the notion that Israel’s existence is a unique injustice around which all the world’s foreign policy problems must revolve is not one that can be credibly sustained when other more obvious problems present themselves.

The Palestinian answer to their dilemma is much like that of a child who threatens to hold his breath until he turns blue. That’s the substance of the Times article in which PA leaders hint darkly at renewed terrorism or a simple refusal to go on governing themselves under the autonomy agreements negotiated with Israel at Oslo. But even if the Palestinians decide to sacrifice their economic well being as well as their children on the altar of never-ending conflict with Israel (something that fits in nicely with the Islamist ideology of the PA’s Hamas partner), there is little the world can do for them unless they decide to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Until they do so — and that seems unlikely for the foreseeable future — they are going to have to reconcile themselves to being marginal players on the world stage rather than the focus of the world’s sympathy.

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Is There Really a Consensus Against Iran Containment?

If President Obama means what he says about stopping Iran from going nuclear, he has bi-partisan support for that stand. That’s the upshot of a Senate resolution introduced today with 32 co-sponsors that rejects the notion a nuclear Iran can be contained. Proponents of the resolution such as Senator Joseph Lieberman say Iran has only two choices: disarm or face the consequences.

The introduction of the measure prompted some of its Republican sponsors to point out that their position is identical with that of President Obama’s statements on the issue. As South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham noted, “All I can say is, we’ve found something we’re united about.”

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If President Obama means what he says about stopping Iran from going nuclear, he has bi-partisan support for that stand. That’s the upshot of a Senate resolution introduced today with 32 co-sponsors that rejects the notion a nuclear Iran can be contained. Proponents of the resolution such as Senator Joseph Lieberman say Iran has only two choices: disarm or face the consequences.

The introduction of the measure prompted some of its Republican sponsors to point out that their position is identical with that of President Obama’s statements on the issue. As South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham noted, “All I can say is, we’ve found something we’re united about.”

The question for the senators, as well as the nation, is whether the president is as serious about not considering a policy that would view “containment” of a nuclear Iran as a viable option. Though Obama has insisted he will not let Iran go nuclear, speculation continues that the administration’s reliance on sanctions to stop Tehran is, at best, overly optimistic. With Washington acting as if it is more worried about Israel acting on its own to eliminate an existential threat, the Senate resolution is a timely reminder to the president that he should not think he can get away with a policy that seeks to avoid confrontation until after the November election. With influential figures such as Obama sycophant Fareed Zakaria advocating containment in the Washington Post yesterday, Graham’s assumption is that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are in agreement on Iran.

Zakaria, who has been a White House favorite in the last three years, has been a consistent opponent of confronting Iran. His latest piece attempted once again to make the case a nuclear Iran could be contained as easily as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. He claims the “lessons of history” show the attempt to stop Iran is a rerun of the rush to war in Europe in 1914. According to Zakaria, Israel’s concerns about a nuclear Iran are similar to those of the fools who launched the slaughter of World War One. That’s an unfair and distorted slap at a Jewish state that faces the possibility a tyrannical regime led by Islamist fanatics already pledged to their destruction might get hold of a genocidal weapon. Just as absurd are his comparisons between a nuclear Soviet Union and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

The administration’s Iran strategy is dependent on cooperation from nations such as China that show little sign of being serious about helping. That means sooner or later, the president may be faced with actually having to resort to force if he wants to keep his promises. The worry here is that Zakaria’s sophistry about a potential catastrophe is a better reflection of Barack Obama’s thinking than his public statements. If push comes to shove, Israel as well as the Senate will have to hope Obama’s actual beliefs on the subject are closer to those of Lieberman and Graham than Zakaria.

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The Power of Ideas–”Israel Lobby” Edition

There is no use denying any longer the cognitive defeat the anti-anti-Semites have suffered in the past decade. In an article published yesterday by Tablet on the successes of the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis, Adam Kirsch has the chops and the will to tell it like it is.

He writes:

In this sense, Walt and Mearsheimer offer a case study in the old truth that ideas have consequences. Language is the most intangible of things, yet the language we use determines the boundaries of the thinkable and, ultimately, the shape of the world we live in. Now we live in a world where it is possible to say in leading publications, without fear of censure, that Jews buy and pay for the U.S. Congress and American troops are sent to die in Israel’s wars. For that, Walt and Mearsheimer deserve their fair share of credit.

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There is no use denying any longer the cognitive defeat the anti-anti-Semites have suffered in the past decade. In an article published yesterday by Tablet on the successes of the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis, Adam Kirsch has the chops and the will to tell it like it is.

He writes:

In this sense, Walt and Mearsheimer offer a case study in the old truth that ideas have consequences. Language is the most intangible of things, yet the language we use determines the boundaries of the thinkable and, ultimately, the shape of the world we live in. Now we live in a world where it is possible to say in leading publications, without fear of censure, that Jews buy and pay for the U.S. Congress and American troops are sent to die in Israel’s wars. For that, Walt and Mearsheimer deserve their fair share of credit.

Kirsch summarizes well both the roundly negative – and often mocking – treatment the duo received from nearly any publication of note (including even the far-left Nation) and how little any of it did to prevent their central thesis about Jewish manipulation of American politics from standing. We must now accept this reality and ask ourselves the perhaps more difficult question of why.

A seemingly unrelated article on the spate of anti-Jewish vandalism in New Jersey’s Bergen County in the JTA, also published this week, may point to an answer. Etzion Neuer, a former colleague of mine and the ADL’s regional director for New Jersey, is quoted saying, “There was a profound sense of unease this past Shabbat in Bergen County.” Living in Bergen County myself and serving on my shul’s security committee, I have seen much the same thing.

Now, it’s true that recent events in Bergen County took an unsettling turn with the firebombing of a shul. Outside of that we have seen aggressive and Jew-hating vandalism, but vandalism alone all the same. Yet this story receives not only roundly condemnatory coverage in publications wherever one might hope it to but also sudden and serious concern from every Jewish organization and institution one can think of along with widespread agreement on the seriousness of the issue and a willingness to pitch in for robust efforts against it.

Jew-hating vandalism is indeed unpleasant, and so too are the consistently high incidents of hate-crimes against Jews compiled each year by the FBI. They are things easy to get one’s head around and to condemn.

But all of this concern serves ultimately to obscure the real problem of Jew-hatred in the West, which is being led by the invidious growing acceptability of anti-Jewish ideas described so well by Kirsch. The “remarkable unanimity of rejection” The Israel Lobby received from all the best publications was a false comfort because it ultimately did so little to check the popularity of the book’s thesis. And rather than serving as a rallying cry for the Jews at least and (one might hope) the larger population beyond that, the book’s ideas were kashered – often by Jews themselves – as an acceptable, if perhaps fringey, point of debate. Far from a round chorus of on the ground condemnation, many were the voices who said and say the book and its thesis do not matter.

It all adds up to a profound failure of imagination and respect for the power of ideas – bad ones, especially – by Jews themselves, who should but strangely do not know better. Theodor Herzl wrote long ago in his own slight earth-shattering work that “only an idea” had the power to move a people. So too was it the idea of Judaism that kept the Jewish people living through its great period of exile.

And now only recognition of the truly dangerous anti-Jewish ideas we face and a respect for their power by enough people willing to do something about it has a chance of changing things.

 

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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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But Some of His Best Friends Are Jews (Who Hate Israel)

Season’s greetings from Stephen Walt, who is thankful for ten things this year. Number six:

Supporters. The controversy over The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy also brought me a legion of new friends, some of whom I would never have met otherwise. My thanks to inspired writers and activists like Phil Weiss, Tony Judt, M.J. Rosenberg, Jerome Slater, Avi Shlaim, Uri Avnery, Sydney Levy, and many, many more.

All of the above, to varying degrees, believe that Israel is a sinister presence in the world. Some, such as Phil Weiss and Tony Judt, are anti-Zionists who wish for Israel to be destroyed. Others have devoted their lives and careers to relentlessly and tendentiously criticizing the Jewish state. There are, of course, great numbers of gentiles who also share these views, have pursued similar careers, and think that The Israel Lobby is first-rate scholarship. But the list of Walt’s new friends consists only of Jews. He seems a little touchy on the matter, wouldn’t you say?

Season’s greetings from Stephen Walt, who is thankful for ten things this year. Number six:

Supporters. The controversy over The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy also brought me a legion of new friends, some of whom I would never have met otherwise. My thanks to inspired writers and activists like Phil Weiss, Tony Judt, M.J. Rosenberg, Jerome Slater, Avi Shlaim, Uri Avnery, Sydney Levy, and many, many more.

All of the above, to varying degrees, believe that Israel is a sinister presence in the world. Some, such as Phil Weiss and Tony Judt, are anti-Zionists who wish for Israel to be destroyed. Others have devoted their lives and careers to relentlessly and tendentiously criticizing the Jewish state. There are, of course, great numbers of gentiles who also share these views, have pursued similar careers, and think that The Israel Lobby is first-rate scholarship. But the list of Walt’s new friends consists only of Jews. He seems a little touchy on the matter, wouldn’t you say?

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Michael Scheuer Watch #13: Guilt by Association

Why has the National Alliance endorsed the work of former CIA officer Michael Scheuer? NatAllNews.com, the best “single source for worldwide pro-White news,” presents some choice quotations from our hero here.

Why has David Duke endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer? The former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard explains why in “More Americans Becoming Immune to Zionist Propaganda.”

Why has the National Alliance endorsed John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s paper on The Israel Lobby? The Alliance explains why in “Jews Run American Foreign Policy, says University Researchers.” 

Why has David Duke endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt’s work? Duke explains why in “Stop Cowering to the Jewish Supremacists!

There are many dots here.

1. The National Alliance has endorsed Scheuer.

2. Duke has endorsed Scheuer.

3. The National Alliance has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

4. Duke has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

To these four dots, we can connect two more:

1. Scheuer has endorsed the work of Mearsheimer and Walt.

2. Mearsheimer and Walt have endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer.

Connecting the Dots has two questions for readers:

What do these figures all have in common? How many separate lines are required to connect each of these dots with one another?

The author of the first correct answer will win a free copy of Michael Scheuer’s forthcoming book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. To enter the contest, simply send the correct answer along with a stamped self-addressed envelope to Connecting the Dots at this address.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

Why has the National Alliance endorsed the work of former CIA officer Michael Scheuer? NatAllNews.com, the best “single source for worldwide pro-White news,” presents some choice quotations from our hero here.

Why has David Duke endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer? The former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard explains why in “More Americans Becoming Immune to Zionist Propaganda.”

Why has the National Alliance endorsed John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s paper on The Israel Lobby? The Alliance explains why in “Jews Run American Foreign Policy, says University Researchers.” 

Why has David Duke endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt’s work? Duke explains why in “Stop Cowering to the Jewish Supremacists!

There are many dots here.

1. The National Alliance has endorsed Scheuer.

2. Duke has endorsed Scheuer.

3. The National Alliance has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

4. Duke has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

To these four dots, we can connect two more:

1. Scheuer has endorsed the work of Mearsheimer and Walt.

2. Mearsheimer and Walt have endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer.

Connecting the Dots has two questions for readers:

What do these figures all have in common? How many separate lines are required to connect each of these dots with one another?

The author of the first correct answer will win a free copy of Michael Scheuer’s forthcoming book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. To enter the contest, simply send the correct answer along with a stamped self-addressed envelope to Connecting the Dots at this address.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

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Commentary’s “Sister Publication”?

Should we mix it up among ourselves here at COMMENTARY’s various blogs? Sometimes we have to.

Jamie Kirchick blew a little valentine over the weekend to the British publication, the Spectator. It read in full:

There are some great doings at the website of what I like to think of as a sister publication to COMMENTARY across the pond: the Spectator. The oldest magazine in the English-speaking world, the Spectator—or “Speccie” as it is lovingly called—represents the best opinion journalism regarding all things British, particularly politics and culture.

In addition to the Coffee House, the magazine’s staff blog, London Times contributors Stephen Pollard and Clive Davis contribute must-read daily musings. Plus, there’s the excellent Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan (reviewed in the pages of COMMENTARY by Daniel Johnson), whose blog has just joined the Spectator website.

Is Kirchick’s praise for the “Speccie” justified?

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Should we mix it up among ourselves here at COMMENTARY’s various blogs? Sometimes we have to.

Jamie Kirchick blew a little valentine over the weekend to the British publication, the Spectator. It read in full:

There are some great doings at the website of what I like to think of as a sister publication to COMMENTARY across the pond: the Spectator. The oldest magazine in the English-speaking world, the Spectator—or “Speccie” as it is lovingly called—represents the best opinion journalism regarding all things British, particularly politics and culture.

In addition to the Coffee House, the magazine’s staff blog, London Times contributors Stephen Pollard and Clive Davis contribute must-read daily musings. Plus, there’s the excellent Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan (reviewed in the pages of COMMENTARY by Daniel Johnson), whose blog has just joined the Spectator website.

Is Kirchick’s praise for the “Speccie” justified?

Yes, the Spectator has the courageous Melanie Phillips writing for it, and that is mightily to its credit. But Phillips apart, the magazine has a pronounced anti-Zionist slant, not exactly a courageous position these days in the British isles or in Europe.

Consider the magazine’s treatment of The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. The Spectator found a reviewer, Jonathan Mirsky, who wrote that “this densely footnoted and courageous book deserves praise rather than abuse.” COMMENTARY has a rather different view of this disreputable book.

Thumbing through back issues of the Spectator one can find material that is far worse than Mirsky’s apologia for anti-Semitism. Read, for example, its regular columnist Taki endorsing Ilan Pappé’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

Money quote:

Pappé’s figures don’t lie. Over 90 per cent of the land was Palestinian in the early 20th century, and by 1948 the Jewish minority owned only 5.8 per cent of the land. The ethnic cleansing came under the name of Plan Dalet, and it included files on every Arab village and its inhabitants that would allow Jewish militias to attack them and drive them off their lands. . . .

The result was that 800,000 Palestinians became refugees. We in the West pride ourselves on fairness and compassion. As do the Jewish people everywhere. Where’s the fairness there after all these years?

In publishing Taki, a columnist who has long dabbled in anti-Semitic provocations, does the Spectator represent the “best opinion journalism” in Britain, especially about politics and culture? Perhaps Kirchick is right, but only if one considers what else is on offer in British publications these days.

And is the Spectator is some sense a “sister publication to COMMENTARY”?  Perhaps Kirchick is right once again. To find out why, see this movie.

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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.”

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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.

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The “Peculiar Fantasies” of Mearsheimer and Walt

A decade or two from now, how will the scholarship of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt be remembered? Their new book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy–an expanded version of their original notorious essay in the London Review of Books–is circulating and beginning to garner reviews. It is always perilous to speculate about the future of reputations, but some handwriting is becoming visible on the wall.

“Slowly, deliberately and dispassionately,” writes William Grimes in the New York Times today, the two authors “lay out the case for a ruthlessly realistic Middle East policy that would make Israel nothing more than one of many countries in the region.” Many of the arguments in support of this proposition, notes Grimes, “are familiar ones.” And it is therefore “a little odd” that Mearsheimer and Walt “generate such heat.”

But Grimes need not be puzzled–or perhaps he is only affecting to be puzzled. For in the conclusion of his own review one can find a compelling explanation for the “heat.” It is worth quoting in full:

[Their] general tone of hostility to Israel grates on the nerves . . . along with an unignorable impression that hardheaded political realism can be subject to its own peculiar fantasies. Israel is not simply one country among many, for example, just as Britain is not. Americans feel strong ties of history, religion, culture and, yes, sentiment, that the authors recognize, but only in an airy, abstract way.

They also seem to feel that, with Israel and its lobby pushed to the side, the desert will bloom with flowers. A peace deal with Syria would surely follow, with a resultant end to hostile activity by Hizballah and Hamas. Next would come a Palestinian state, depriving al Qaeda of its principal recruiting tool. (The authors wave away the idea that Islamic terrorism thrives for other reasons.) Well, yes, Iran does seem to be a problem, but the authors argue that no one should be particularly bothered by an Iran with nuclear weapons. And on and on.

Grimes lands a number of blows, then. Harder ones, that will explore the nature and origins of the “peculiar fantasies” that propel the Mearsheimer-Walt brand of realism, are no doubt in the works. In the end, my guess is that the duo will be remembered not as scholars at all but, I argued last fall in the pages of COMMENTARY, as the continuators of a tradition started by Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and Father Coughlin, which they have wrapped in scholarly garb.

A decade or two from now, how will the scholarship of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt be remembered? Their new book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy–an expanded version of their original notorious essay in the London Review of Books–is circulating and beginning to garner reviews. It is always perilous to speculate about the future of reputations, but some handwriting is becoming visible on the wall.

“Slowly, deliberately and dispassionately,” writes William Grimes in the New York Times today, the two authors “lay out the case for a ruthlessly realistic Middle East policy that would make Israel nothing more than one of many countries in the region.” Many of the arguments in support of this proposition, notes Grimes, “are familiar ones.” And it is therefore “a little odd” that Mearsheimer and Walt “generate such heat.”

But Grimes need not be puzzled–or perhaps he is only affecting to be puzzled. For in the conclusion of his own review one can find a compelling explanation for the “heat.” It is worth quoting in full:

[Their] general tone of hostility to Israel grates on the nerves . . . along with an unignorable impression that hardheaded political realism can be subject to its own peculiar fantasies. Israel is not simply one country among many, for example, just as Britain is not. Americans feel strong ties of history, religion, culture and, yes, sentiment, that the authors recognize, but only in an airy, abstract way.

They also seem to feel that, with Israel and its lobby pushed to the side, the desert will bloom with flowers. A peace deal with Syria would surely follow, with a resultant end to hostile activity by Hizballah and Hamas. Next would come a Palestinian state, depriving al Qaeda of its principal recruiting tool. (The authors wave away the idea that Islamic terrorism thrives for other reasons.) Well, yes, Iran does seem to be a problem, but the authors argue that no one should be particularly bothered by an Iran with nuclear weapons. And on and on.

Grimes lands a number of blows, then. Harder ones, that will explore the nature and origins of the “peculiar fantasies” that propel the Mearsheimer-Walt brand of realism, are no doubt in the works. In the end, my guess is that the duo will be remembered not as scholars at all but, I argued last fall in the pages of COMMENTARY, as the continuators of a tradition started by Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and Father Coughlin, which they have wrapped in scholarly garb.

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