John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have spent much of the last few years since the publication of their infamous screed The Israel Lobby posing as victims of vicious smears. They have claimed their careers were hurt by their willingness to denounce Israel and its supporters and cried bloody murder over the fact many commentators saw a clear connection between their absurd arguments that a vast conspiracy of allies of Zionism was manipulating American policy.
But it’s going to be just a little harder for one of this duo to assert his innocence when it comes to charges of Jew-hatred. Mearsheimer is rightly being called to account for his endorsement of a new book by a Holocaust denier. As Jeffrey Goldberg noted in The Atlantic, after years of pretending he is no anti-Semite, Mearsheimer isn’t even “bothering to make believe anymore.”
The author of the book Mearsheimer admires is Gilad Atzmon, an ex-Israeli who not only doubts the truth of the Holocaust but also thinks the Jews persecuted Hitler and Nazi persecution of the Jews was justified. For Atzmon, any expression of Jewish identity is tantamount to racism. He believes Israel is worse than Nazi Germany. His hatred of his own people has even motivated him to claim medieval blood libels might have been true, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion provides historical insights about the Jews.
When blogger Adam Holland contacted Mearsheimer about his praise of Atzmon, the University of Chicago professor didn’t back down from writing his blurb: “I have no reason to amend it or embellish it, as it accurately reflects my view of the book.”
The Israel Lobby was itself a typical example of anti-Semitic invective in the way it sought to delegitimize Israel’s American supporters and to single them out as sinister forces undermining democracy. But because its authors were two distinguished academics, they were able to cloak their prejudice in more respectable garb. One can only hope Mearsheimer’s endorsement of Atzmon helps to strip away that unjustified veneer of respectability that continues to attach to the authors’ work.