FMEP Interviews Prof. Dov Waxman

Dov Waxman is Professor of Political Science, International Affairs, and Israel Studies, and the Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies at Northeastern University. He is also POLS-Waxman-2-webthe co-director of the university’s Middle East Center. An expert on Israel, his research focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli foreign policy, U.S.-Israel relations, and American Jewry’s relationship with Israel.

Originally from London, England, Professor Waxman received his B.A. degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University. He has also held fellowships and visiting appointments at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, the Middle East Technical University, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, the Avraham Harman Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and St. John’s College at the University of Oxford.

Professor Waxman’s most recent book is Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict over Israel(Princeton University Press, 2016).

I interviewed Professor Waxman for the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Read the entire interview here.

“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

CUNY Said to be Reconsidering Kushner Degree

The New York Times is reporting that the CUNY Board of Trustees is plannign an emergency meeting Monday to reconsider the decision to drop Tony Kushner from their list of honorary degree recipients for this year.

I think we can all pat ourselves on the back for this one, but really, the decision was so outrageous, there was hardly any support for the revolting behavior of Jeffrey Wiesenfeld.

I have no doubt that the CUNY trustees were simply cowed by Wiesenfeld, and thought they were taking a path of least resistance. That’s usually how it is with such bodies. University trustees are notoriously leery of controversy, because any controversy tends to be of concern to the parents of prospective students and to donors.

But in this case, they simply underestimated how widespread the opposition would be. Hell, even Ed Koch, another degree recipient and certainly not one who sees Arabs and Muslims, much less Kushner’s views, in a positive light, objected in very strong terms. He even called for CUNY to kick Wiesenfeld off the Board of Trustees, and I can only hoep that plea also doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Good news here, but until some sense of reason can be brought to debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict and, most particularly, to the US role in it, it’s only a drop in the ocean.

Bigot Who Slammed Kushner Spews More Bile–What You Can Do About It

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the champion of anti-Arab bigotry who blocked an honorary degree from the City University of New York (CUNY) has reached a new low. In an op-ed about his contemptible action, he actually has the audacity to compare Kushner to David Duke (as well as to Sonny Carson and Lynne Stewart, rather bizarre trio).

This is because, according to Wiesenfeld, when you criticize Israel, you are an anti-Semite, by definition.

Anti-Arab bigot Jeffrey Wiesenfeld

Wiesenfeld considers anyone a racist who states simple historical fact: that driving Palestinians from their homes was part and parcel of Israel’s creation. This is a fact not open to debate; it is clearly recorded in no less a source than the Hagana archives. Tochnit Dalet (Plan D) clearly called for emptying and destroying Palestinian towns.

The historical debate is over the intent of this plan, not over its existence or execution. Even if you subscribe to the more sympathetic view of that intent, the event – that Palestinians were driven from their homes and not allowed to return – is not in dispute. Except, of course, in the mind of bigots like Wiesenfeld who purport that Israeli motives and actions are always pure and Arab ones always nefarious.

Wiesenfeld has an ugly history of bigotry. It is nothing short of appalling that he, a noted bigot, tries to paint Kushner, a courageous fighter for LGBT rights who was still willing to brave the fire, in his spare time, of defending the rights of Palestinians, and criticizing Israeli policy in an attempt to not only secure justice for the Palestinians but also a better future for Jews in and outside of Israel.


A call has been put out for personal letters to be written to the trustees.

One easy step is to visit the Facebook page set up for this issue and click “like.” You can also write to the trustees and voice your objections. This has actually proven to be effective in the past, so this isn’t just an exercise. The e-mail addresses of the trustees are:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

It’s also worth noting that The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg, not someone inclined to defend critics of Israel, has severely criticized this move by CUNY.

The Pessimism Process: An Interview With Aaron David Miller

Over at Souciant Magazine, they are previewing our new web site, Babylon Times, which will be unveiled in the next few months. Today, Souciant publishes my interview with Aaron David Miller.

Americans Support Anti-Settlement UN Resolution, Part II

In Part I of this post, we saw the difficulty the State Department spokesman is having explaining how the Obama Administration can even consider vetoing a UN resolution that is so obviously in line with US policy. The letter below was signed by a very impressive list of DC veterans, including former ambassadors to Israel and other places, high-ranking former US officials, and leading voices in the world of Middle East advocacy and education.

The letter argues not only that settlements are illegal, but that the US has repeatedly emphasized its opposition to Israeli settlements. As such, a veto of the proposed UN Security Council resolution is inconsistent with US policy and interests and also in opposition to international law.

Please spread this letter around and, if you can, please also send it to your members of Congress. They need to know their constituents agree with the sentiments here. Continue reading

Barring Chomsky, Another Blow to Democracy

I had been wondering only recently when Israel would bar the entry of Noam Chomsky. That time has come today.

About two years ago, I recall that the controversial scholar Norman Finkelstein had been detained at Ben Gurion Airport and eventually deported. I got some heat for not wanting to raise that as an issue for Americans and American Jews. My reasoning was that a country has the right to restrict who may enter its territory. In a democratic society, we expect that the country in question hold very stringent standards for who it might bar, and that the null assumption is that a visitor with a valid passport may enter.

Noam Chomsky

In Finkelstein’s case, he had, not long before, appeared publicly in strong support of Hezbollah. Did that make him a security threat? No one in their right mind believed that, but, in my view, it gave Israel enough of an excuse to bar him from entry that I felt the issue was one that should be taken up by Israelis and Palestinians, not Americans.

In reality, of course, Finkelstein was not being barred because anyone believed him a security risk, but because of his political views and scholarship. But he also acted in a way that gave Israel an excuse to do what it did.

The same cannot be said about Chomsky. I find it interesting that Chomsky is consistently described as “anti-American and anti-Israel.” I wonder how many of those folks have actually studied the breadth and scope of Chomsky’s work. He is, above all, anti-state. I cannot imagine a single country that would consider him a supporter of their government. Continue reading