“The Israel Lobby” In Perspective

When Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer released first an article and then a book called “The Israel Lobby,” the reactions on both sides were hysterical. Supporters, including some with far more pernicious and conspiratorial views than the authors, treated it almost like the Bible, reading it uncritically and applying Walt’s and Mearsheimer’s views to whatever their own were.

Professors Stephen Walt (l) and John Mearsheimer

Critics, of course, were far more vitriolic, refusing to deal with the substance of the authors’ work and preferring instead to simply attack them as anti-Semites.

The editor of Middle East Report, Christopher Toensing, and I saw a need for a reasoned response to the paper, one which highlighted the many areas we agreed with Walt and Mearsheimer, but also taking a reasoned and critical look at the places where we disagreed.

The role of “The Lobby” is a constant topic of debate, both within the respective “pro-peace” and “pro-occupation” camps and between them.

Since I have referred to or touched on the contents of this article fairly often in this space, I thought it would be helpful to reprint the article now. The thoughts in it, as a paper which i was not the only writer, are not entirely my own. I therefore wrote a solo article in addition, which can be found on this site. But I think it provides a good basis for a rational, alternative view of “The Lobby,” one which differs sharply both from those who contend that “The Lobby” essentially determines US policy in the Middle East (it doesn’t) and those who see “The Lobby” as just a useful ally in selling American policies which would be virtually identical even if “The Lobby” didn’t exist (not so either).

The piece is longer than the usual fare here, it includes footnotes and I put it here largely for your reference. But I think it’s a very useful addition to the discussion, and is presented with all due respect to Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer who, as I said, got plenty right, stated some things that should be self-evident, and deserve applause in any case for opening up a public discussion that should always have been taking place and should continue to be widened.

It should also be noted that this piece was written in response to Walt’s and Mearsheimer’s initial article, and they refined some of their arguments considerably in their book. They also put out a paper in between addressing some the hysteria their article caused. I should also say that, after four years, my own views of the issue have been refined as well.

I’ll be writing more later about AIPAC, Obama’s appearance there, and all that for a more contemporary view of things. For excellent in-depth coverage of events in the region, i encourage you to subscribe to The Middle East Report, where this was originally published. And without further preamble, here is “‘The Israel Lobby’ In Perspective.”  Continue reading