Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The "Israel Lobby" canard

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has written several books whose politics I would not dream of defending.

Right now I am reading his 2013 book, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism.  This was motivated by the reading I did around my review of Caleb Maupin’s book Satan at the Fountainhead: The Israel Lobby and the Financial Crisis [my posts on that tome are here and here].

(Two useful articles from The Militant in the "Israel Lobby" can be found here and here.)

Goldhagen has this to say about the Israel Lobby canard:

…. Hezbollah’s very first Facebook posting was in English so the entire world would not mistake Nasrallah and Hezbollah as anything but inveterate, eliminationist antisemites: “O Allah, Please Clean This World From Jewish Contamination.”5 The notion of Jews controlling the United States was a standard Nazi one and has been a staple of antisemites ever since. The view today that if not for Jews’ insidious control of the United States, the United States itself would be a better country, the Middle East would be far better off, and the world would be a better place comes also from those whose antisemitism is principally focused on the United States itself. In their widely discussed book The Israel Lobby, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt peddle such antisemitism dressed up in the garb of academic seriousness and respectability, with their invention of the bogeyman known as the Israel Lobby into which they subsume and thereby delegitimize people who vocally or in various ways materially support Israel. Indeed, their book is the best cloaked major antisemitic tract in English of the last several decades. A small sampling of the antisemitic tropes it draws upon or echoes: Jews working collectively in concrete organizations for nefarious ends. Jewish conspiracy. Jews as fifth columnists. Jews pulling levers behind the scenes. Jews harming the broader societies in which they live. Jews starting or causing wars, in this case the attacks of 9/11, the Iraq War, and the war on terror. It is as if Mearsheimer and Walt scoured the antisemitic manual, updated any number of its most effective techniques, and dressed them up in language and tone and academic trappings—we teach at Chicago and Harvard—for respectability. Their hollow denials that they are antisemites and their empty self-presentation as brave truth-tellers have since been definitively exposed as false by Mearsheimer’s unabashed endorsement (and Walt’s support of Mearsheimer in this matter) of the blatantly antisemitic book of Gilad Atzmon, one of Britain’s most prominent jazz musicians and most notorious antisemites. Atzmon, born in Israel, draws a link between the most famous antisemitic characters of literature and Jews of today: “Fagin is the ultimate plunderer, a child exploiter and usurer. Shylock is the blood-thirsty merchant. With Fagin and Shylock in [a person’s] mind, the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians seems to be just a further event in an endless hellish continuum.” Given the long historical malignant character he attributes to Jews, Atzmon, not surprisingly, blames the Jews for Hitler’s persecution of them and, in an almost unsurpassable flight of hate-filled raving, accuses the Jews of using the Holocaust as “a license to kill, to flatten, no nuke, to wipe, to rape, to loot and to ethnically cleanse. It made vengeance and revenge into a Western value.”6 In short, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, Jews, and the non-Jews they have co-opted or allied themselves with (Mearsheimer and Walt are careful to formally insist some non-Jews are also part of the Israel Lobby), insidiously control American foreign-policy making, betray American interests, duped the United States into launching an unnecessary war against Iraq, thereby impoverish the United States, produce enmity for it across many countries, wreak destruction halfway around the world, and cause the death of a large number of innocent Americans. Indeed, in an earlier article—before they sanitized their presentation for the book—Mearsheimer and Walt wrote even more openly in the vein of antisemites past and present. They warned in ominous tones about the power of “Israel and its American supporters”: “If their efforts to shape US policy succeed, Israel’s enemies will be weakened or overthrown, Israel will get a free hand with the Palestinians, and the US will do most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding and paying.”

…. Jews—conniving, powerful, working behind the scenes in conspiratorial concert—ultimately serve their putative Israeli master, betraying their homeland and their neighbors. But there is actually no such thing as the Israel Lobby (which Mearsheimer and Walt, to cover their backs, concede, buried in their book). There are many supporters of Israel—indeed, by far and away most Americans are, with five times more siding with Israel in March 2013 than with the Palestinians (64 percent to 12 percent)—and Jewish Americans, who comprise less than 2 percent of the American people, generally and strongly support Israel. This should not be surprising as Israel has been for decades the lone genuine democracy in the Middle East and a staunch American ally, including during the Cold War. As has long been known and discussed, Israel’s supporters, given their preponderance in a democracy and their passion for the beleaguered, existentially threatened democracy with which many sympathize and identify, have no doubt been influential in Washington. But most of them do not formally or informally belong to a lobby, which in American politics is an organization or group of organizations that seek to directly influence governmental officials and which has the clear connotation of something not in the public interest, or worse. Yet Mearsheimer and Walt deploy this bogeyman concept of the Israel Lobby as their principal conspiracy trope that is an update on the notorious antisemitic tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (discussed at length in chapter 9). They paint a picture of American foreign-policy making that is fantastical, bearing hardly any relationship to what actually goes on or went on, with Martin Peretz, the former owner of the New Republic, getting more references in a book that concentrates overwhelmingly on the causes of the Iraq War than does the powerful Secretary of Defense and architect of the war, Donald Rumsfeld, who is mentioned on only five pages! Karl Rove, the behind-the-scenes architect of George Bush’s presidency and overwhelmingly considered to have been Bush’s major political strategist, always with an eye on doing what was best for Bush and Republicans, especially with safeguarding their domestic agenda and electoral fortunes, gets one reference—as many as I do! Vice President Dick Cheney was, by political analysts across the political spectrum, widely considered the most powerful person (aside from or even including Bush) in the administration. Add the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg to Peretz and me, and Mearsheimer and Walt’s Israel Lobby has roughly as many index references to us as to Cheney.

Indeed, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Karl Rove, and even Bush himself were all deeply enmeshed in the American and Republican power establishment, all mindful and most intimately connected to America’s financial and economic corporate powers and leaders, especially the mighty defense establishment and critical oil industry, with its fortunes intimately tied to the Middle East. The notion that the hard-bitten practitioners of power, and all the powerful economic and political interests they represented and wanted to safeguard, were all duped by a bunch of Jews into launching a massive war they otherwise would not have wanted—and which they therefore would have known would damage their own political fortunes massively—is on its face ludicrous and can be made, as Mearsheimer and Walt demonstrate in their book, its fake sober tones notwithstanding, only by suspending reality and substituting for it a parallel antisemitic unreality....


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