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(DV) Glunts: Harvard Study Critical of Israel Lobby Unjustly Lambasted







Harvard Study Critical of Israel Lobby Unjustly Lambasted  
by Ira Glunts
March 27, 2006

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The furious barrage of  unjustified and vituperative criticism leveled at John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt over the recent publication of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,”* is the latest and arguably the most troubling in a series of recent events which indicate that it has become extremely difficult for any critical views of Israeli government policy to receive a fair and calm hearing in the United States. There has been an almost complete disappearance of the Palestinian point of view from the mainstream media reporting of the Middle East within the past two years. The intense public display of disapproval for Stephen Spielberg’s film, Munich, the organized protests against the nomination of the Palestinian film, Paradise Now at the Academy Awards, and the indefinite postponement of the New York City staging of the critically acclaimed play, Rachel’s Words, are all  recent instances where expression of unfavorable opinion in regard to Israeli policy have met with inordinate and orchestrated criticism. 

Stephen Walt is the Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and John Mearsheimer is a political science professor at the University of Chicago. Both are highly respected scholars of international relations who have written extensively on American foreign policy. Their article presents a highly critical view, firstly of Israeli settlement expansion and failure to reach a peaceful accommodation with its Arab neighbors, along with the American policy that financially and politically supports that endeavor, and secondly, of the powerful Israel Lobby which influences United States policy in the Middle East. The authors’ main argument is that a small group of influential organizations, opinion makers and public officials, view the interests of Israel and America to be identical, and exert a deleterious and dangerous influence upon American policy. They argue that the Israel Lobby has had a significant impact on US foreign policy, in particular encouraging the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq. The essay also describes the activities of the Lobby in suppressing open debate, especially on university campuses. 
Many of the individuals and organizations in the Lobby are Jewish (AIPAC, Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, William Kristol), but not all of them are (The American Enterprise Institute, Tom Delay).  Also, many American Jews are not in agreement with the opinions of the Israel Lobby.  There are a significant number of Israeli Jews who would agree with many of the positions taken in “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Ironically, many of the sources used in the study are taken from the research of Israeli scholars and journalists, as well as the work of Israeli political and human rights organizations. An editorial in the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, proclaimed: “it would be irresponsible to ignore the article's serious and disturbing message.” Tom Segev, an Israeli journalist and historian, writes in an article that is not totally sympathetic to some of the views expressed by Walt and Mearsheimer, that “the authors are correct in the most important argument in their essay…. The Israel lobby in the United States harms Israel’s true interests. It made the continuation of the occupation and the settlements possible. Its influence led, among other things, to missing out on a peace treaty with Syria and to a loss of the opportunities created in Oslo.” 
The critics of the article have called the essay “ignorant,” “anti-semitic,” “poor scholarship,” and “dangerous.” Many have called on Harvard to remove the piece from its web site. In an apparent attempt to distance themselves from the controversy, Harvard has removed its logo from the title page and strengthened its standard disclaimer of responsibility for the contents of the piece. Despite the hysterical ill-considered outcries against the essay, initially very few American voices of support have been heard. I know of none at Harvard who are publicly defending their colleagues. Could this be due to the present climate of intimidation toward dissenting opinion of which this event is clearly illustrative? 
The article is neither ignorant nor anti-semitic. It is a review of previously published information and opinion that is familiar to all who have followed events in the Middle East. It presents a view of the US and Israel that people such as Alan Dershowitz and Ruth Wisse oppose, and for which they will go to great lengths to delegitimize, in the name of defending Israel and Jews, against unjust attacks. Yet, according to the Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar, the essay “dared to put in writing things that are often heard in closed rooms now that the U.S. has sunk into the Iraqi swamp …. it was only a question of time before it became Israel's turn to pay the price of the battle waged by Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and their colleagues in the pro-Israel lobby….” 
The Dean of the Kennedy School of Government is not ignorant, nor a fool.  His co-author, who has a more than two decade long career as a distinguished scholar, has not written an essay with scholarship so inferior that it must, in all good conscience, be removed from circulation, as Dr. Wisse suggests. The essay is an important review of positions that are widely held by a significant number of scholars, journalists and officials who are knowledgeable about the Middle East. Unfortunately, Walt and Mearsheimer are the victims of a campaign of the very intimidation and suppression of debate about which they have written. I applaud their courage in the face of what I am sure they knew would be slanderous protest.    
If there is going to be an open and honest discussion of American foreign policy in the Middle East, especially concerning the relationship between the US and Israel, it is important that all concerned individuals, especially scholars at Harvard and the University of Chicago express support of Walt’s and Mearsheimer’s right to publish a dissenting view. The price of closing this debate is a continuation of America’s failed interventionism in the Arab world and the foreclosing of a possibility of achieving a negotiated peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.  
* The complete working paper  
* An edited version called “The Israel Lobby” was published in The London Review of Books
Ira Glunts first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1992.  Mr. Glunts lives in Madison, New York where he operates a used and rare book business. He can be reached at: iglunts@usadatanet.net.

Other Articles by Ira Gluntz

* Mr. Television Documents the Occupation
* Sharon: Israel Will Expel Tens of Thousands of “Illegal” Palestinians
* Kerry Indicates He Would Continue Bush’s Pro-Sharon Policy