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Reply to Mearsheimer &
Walt's "The Israel Lobby"
Historical and Investigative Research -
31 March 2006
Just a few days ago, The Jerusalem Post carried the headline: “Harvard study: AIPAC leads US to act against own interests.” This was followed by a headline that read “The Israel conspiracy” in The Wall Street Journal, and then “Who’s afraid of the ‘Israel Lobby’?” in The Los Angeles Times. You get the picture.
What is all this noise about?
John Mearsheimer, from the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, from Harvard University, both political scientists, published a paper with the title, The Israel Lobby. In this paper they claim that “For the past several decades...the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel,” and they characterize the nature of this relationship as one of “unwavering [US] support for Israel.” According to them, “the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from [US] domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.’” This so-called ‘Israel Lobby’ has such tremendous power over the US government, say Mearsheimer and Walt, that US foreign policy becomes pro-Israel to the point of hurting US interests. They write:
“Other special-interest groups have managed to skew [US] foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the [US] national interest would suggest...”
The most important offender in this ‘Israel Lobby,’ the professors explain, is AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
But Mearsheimer and Walt are wrong.
I’ll give you one example. Mearsheimer and Walt complain about the US money that yearly goes to Israel, and represent this as evidence of an exaggeratedly and absurdly pro-Israeli US foreign policy.
“Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain.”
The professors forget to mention, however, that this money comes at a very high price for the Israelis. Some years ago, the US threatened Israel repeatedly, for a period of 8 months, that it would lose all US economic assistance unless Israel accepted the PLO inside the Jewish state. The money was badly needed because at the time, Israel was trying to resettle hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Soviet Union. But the PLO needed this US diplomacy more than Israel needed the money, because the PLO was then a thoroughly defeated organization, in exile, in Tunis, where it would have remained were it not for the singular interest the United States ruling elite takes in this antisemitic, terrorist organization. The crucial bit of US bullying happened in 1991, and you can read about this by clicking on the hyperlink for 1991 in the Table of Contents for the following piece:
1991 is just one example. The piece above covers US foreign policy towards the Jewish people and state for the period beginning in the 1930s and ending with the year 2005. My claim is that perceiving a pattern of net US foreign policy favors to Israel is not difficult but impossible. Utterly.
The money that Israel gets from the United States is precisely the opposite of what professors Mearsheimer and Walt claim. It is not a symptom of a US government that hurts US interests in order to help Israel; it is, rather, the payment with which the US ruling elite has purchased control of Israeli foreign policy in order to hurt Israeli interests. Such control over Israeli foreign policy requires that Israeli citizens deeply trust the US government, and that kind of trust is expensive, so the US ruling elite buys it by sending an enormous amount of money to Israel (though it is really a small amount if you subtract from it the money that the US sends to Israel’s genocidal and antisemitic enemies). With the money to Israel, the US ruling elite softens Israeli skepticism towards US-sponsored policies such as the Oslo ‘Peace’ Process, which involved forcing the Israelis, with threats of no more money, to accept as the government over the West Bank and Gaza Arabs an antisemitic and terrorist organization pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state,[3a] which organization at the time had already been defeated, and which languished in Tunisian exile, far away from its Israeli targets.
What is the logical consequence?
Well, if the net effect of US foreign policy is not pro-Israel, then the alleged ‘fact’ that professors Mearsheimer and Walt supposedly mean to ‘explain’ is (in fact) a non-fact. But they must know this, because Professor John Mearsheimer occupies an endowed chair at the University of Chicago (the most prestigious university in the world), and Professor Stephen Walt occupies an endowed chair at Harvard University (the second most prestigious university in the world), so they undoubtedly have the skills to document something that is trivial to document: that US foreign policy has been markedly anti-Israel.
But guess what else is trivial to document? This: that what professors Mearsheimer and Walt call the ‘Israel lobby’ (most people call it the ‘Jewish lobby’) does not even try to produce pro-Israeli US foreign policy. On the contrary, it tries hard, amazingly but obviously, to produce pro-PLO US foreign policy, and then it loudly applauds it. This would include Mearsheimer and Walt’s special bogeyman: AIPAC.
To see that this is true, it will suffice to examine the documentation in just two HIR pieces:
What is the logical consequence?
Well, that the thing which professors Mearsheimer and Walt invoke in order to ‘explain’ their non-fact -- an ‘Israel lobby’ pushing for pro-Israeli US foreign policy -- does not exist.
I think losing either the thing one was going to explain, or the proposed cause, ought to be considered fatal for any theory. Mearsheimer and Walt are missing both. So unless somebody can find problems with the documentation or the logic in the above pieces (and professors Mearsheimer and Walt are invited to try), then professors Mearsheimer and Walt stand refuted.
But I would like to add something.
If Mearsheimer and Walt’s ‘Israel lobby’ controlling the US government to hurt US interests reminds you of how the Nazis accused ‘the Jews’ of controlling in secret the US government (and other Western governments) to hurt non-Jews, there is a good reason for this: Mearsheimer & Walt’s accusation should remind you.
It was a slander then, and it is a slander now. It was dangerous then, and it is dangerous now. If you would like to understand the forces behind such accusations better, the following HIR piece provides the broad historical context, documenting also the manner in which these sorts of accusations are mobilized these days.
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