AIPACman

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The New Republic hands over a big slice of its 10/8 issue to Jeffrey Goldberg for a review of Meirsheimer and Walt's The Israel Lobby. No surprise: He doesn't like it. A minor surprise: He thinks the authors might be anti-Semites. Just try to choke down the bile when you read stuff like this:

[The American Israel Public Affairs Committee] is a leviathan among lobbies, as influential in its sphere as the National Rifle Association and the American Association of Retired Persons are in theirs, although it is, by comparison, much smaller.

A leviathan? Like, with slimy scales? And "AIPAC's leaders can be immoderately frank about the group's influence":

[O]n Iran AIPAC's views resemble those of the neoconservatives. In 1996, [former director of foreign-policy issues Steven] Rosen and other AIPAC staff members helped write, and engineer the passage of, the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act, which imposed sanctions on foreign oil companies doing business with those two countries; AIPAC is determined, above all, to deny Iran the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. Iran was a main focus of this year's AIPAC policy conference, which was held in May at the Washington Convention Center. Ariel Sharon and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, addressed five thousand AIPAC members. One hall of the convention center was taken up by a Disney-style walk-through display of an Iranian nuclear facility. It was kitsch, but not ineffective…

This is Auric Goldfinger-sounding stuff, but it doesn't come out of Meirsheimer and Walt. It's from Goldberg's 2005 New Yorker story "Real Insider: A pro-Israel lobby and an F.B.I. sting." It's an odd-reading story, in retrospect, because Goldberg's Israel Lobby pan treats M+W's claims about outsized AIPAC influence as foul-smelling conspiracy guff:

[H]ow do we know that AIPAC has a hold on Congress? This is a very good question. For Mearsheimer and Walt are so thoroughly under the spell of their own assertions that they do not seem to notice the circular (or more precisely, agit-prop) quality of what they have written. Consider a typical sentence: "The real reason why American politicians are so deferential [to Israel] is the political power of the Israel lobby." That is not a proof. That is what requires a proof.

But lots of people have provided the proof, and some of them work for AIPAC: In his review Goldberg actually re-uses one story from his 2005 piece, Rosen passing him a napkin and bragging that "in twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin." But "there are a hundred or more lobbyists in Washington who could pull off the napkin trick," so M+W: Still wrong! To recap:

1) There is an influential Israel lobby.
2) It has a loud and strong voice in Washington's debate about Iran.
3) Why are you talking about this, you anti-Semite?

I'm a First Amendment absolutist, of course: I'm all for strong lobbies and all for debate about the work said lobbies are doing.

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  1. Heard an NPR piece with Meirsheimer and Walt talking about the book, as well as the anit-semitism accusations. It was followed by someone from the Anti-Defamation League as counterpoint. All the ADL spokesperson could say, no matter what the question, was “Those two are anti-semites.” When asked why they were anti-semites, the answer was “Well, obviously it’s because they are anti-semites.” No actual discussion or follow-up, just “We say they are anti-semites, therefore they are.” It was bizarre, and I can’t imagine how someone acting as the ADL spokesperson could possibly bring so little to the table in the discussion.

  2. Wait a minute, I’m confused. Who’s exposing the secret Jewish plan for world domination? Because we need to stop it before it’s too late (if is isn’t already!), but I don’t want to have anything to do with anti-Semites.

  3. “1) There is an influential Israel lobby.
    2) It has a loud and strong voice in Washington’s debate about Iran.”

    Not at issue.

    “3) Why are you talking about this, you anti-Semite?”

    The claim that it’s impossible to criticize AIPAC without being anti-Semitic is as idiotic as the claim that critics of AIPAC can’t point out anti-Semitic criticism of AIPAC. Goldberg describes rhetorical moves from M/W that he argues are 0) wrong on the data 1) wrong on logic 2) parallel to anti-Semitic arguments. That’s what you ought to address.

  4. Where does AIPAC stand on the idea of a two-state solution?

    How about on settlements in the West Bank?

    So they’re an influencial lobbying political action committe, fair enough. Is there anything they lobby for that is contrary to US interests, or international justice? (I know, I know, allegedly the Iraq war. And allegedly one with Iran. Aside from that.)

  5. David,

    Very crafty article! [clapping]

  6. It makes me glad that my wife is Jewish that I can be so impolite as to point out that Israel is an apartheid state founded on ethnic cleansing that continually violates international law. Then again, the Isreali lobby would probably describe her a a self-loathing Jew. It happens all the time to Jews who are in any way critical of Israel or Zionism.

  7. Goldberg describes rhetorical moves from M/W that he argues are 0) wrong on the data 1) wrong on logic 2) parallel to anti-Semitic arguments. That’s what you ought to address.

    Can you give us an example of any of them?

    2) might be a case where Judeophobes are right about a few things, in the same way a broken clock is right from time to time. I’ve been annoyed by the way that people have run to David Duke on this issue, for instance, without seeing if Mearsheimer or Walt agree with Duke on anything else.

    Mearsheimer, for instance, is a registered Democrat, and he has fairly liberal views on a lot of issues, views that I doubt David Duke shares. Some enterprising journalist should interview Mearsheimer to ask him his views on inter-racial marriage, say, and then see if David Duke agrees with that….

    I think that “constructions parallel to anti-Semitic arguments” is a nice ad hominem attack, btw.

    I know both Mearsheimer and Walt, and took classes from both of them at the University of Chicago. I consider claims that either of them are anti-Semites to be ludicrous.

    The way the charge of anti-Semitism has been flung at them, often by people who do not appear to have actually read anything either of them have written, repeated in numerous places with almost the same wording, has made me come to believe that they are right about the Israel Lobby’s existence, its power, and its use of charges of anti-Semitism to silence critics.

  8. I’ve always found it amusing that AIPAC basically says:

    “We have no influence over Washington, and damn it, we’ll politically destroy anyone who says that we do!”

  9. From the article

    But otherwise the book remains true to the malignant and dishonest spirit of the article. It represents the most sustained attack, the most mainstream attack, against the political enfranchisement of American Jews since the era of Father Coughlin.

    Can anyone who can find anything written by Mearsheimer or Walt which says that it was a mistake to enfranchise American Jews?

    If not, I submit to you that this article is an exercise in character assasination and ad hominemem attacks.

  10. Goldfinger wasn’t Jewish.

  11. Bill Pope

    Where do you stand on the idea of a 2-state solution?

    And Israel as an aparteid state? Give me a break. Sure, there are certain aspects of Israeli policy that merit criticism. But the treatment of blacks under aparteid in South Africa involved far worse injustices than anything arab citizens of Israel are subject to.

  12. Your need to qualify the word “arab” with “citizens of Israel” is why it’s an apartheid state, BG.

    You know, free blacks in the South weren’t slaves. AND YET, America was a slave nation.

  13. Pro Libertate | October 1, 2007, 3:34pm | #
    Goldfinger wasn’t Jewish.

    But he did have an awesome laser.

  14. Matt L.,

    Which he uses when he doesn’t expect you to talk.

  15. “there are a hundred or more lobbyists in Washington who could pull off the napkin trick”

    How many of those “hundred or more” lobbyists could pull off the ol’ napkin trick if the napkin had a declaration of war scribbled on it?

    [What was in range of the supposed Iraqi nerve agent missiles? Not New York.]

  16. I don’t mind AIPAC being so aggressive in promoting Israeli interests. I do mind them being somewhere to the right of Ariel Sharon. I think it gives the Israelis a false sense of security; they wouldn’t be so hard-line if they didn’t think the USA was going to back their play, and I’m not sure the USA is going to. If it comes to Jews vs. Oil, the Oil will win every time.

  17. “If it comes to Jews vs. Oil, the Oil will win every time.”

    The author of “The Host and the Parasite” would disagree with that. He believed Desert Storm was about oil but that the present Iraq war is all about defending Israel. The present war can’t be about making oil cheaper for us. This war has doubled the price of oil.

  18. The way the charge of anti-Semitism has been flung at them, often by people who do not appear to have actually read anything either of them have written, repeated in numerous places with almost the same wording, has made me come to believe that they are right about the Israel Lobby’s existence, its power, and its use of charges of anti-Semitism to silence critics.

    it definitely makes me wonder.

  19. ProL,

    He uses it when expects me to die.

  20. Nemo Ignotus, read the damn article. As many experts in the field argue, Goldberg says that M/W rely on secondary sources which they use indiscriminately and unblushingly admit that they refused to talk to any relevant primary sources; he says they make simple factual errors about e.g Camp David and that their historical review is ludicrously one-sided; he says that they make a fundamental category error with “Lobby”; he says that he doesn’t like AIPAC or the Israeli settlement policy, but that the book is not a well-reasoned, well-researched, fair work.

    Here’s a question – do you think the authors of _The Bell Curve_ are racists?

    I’m not much into mind-reading so (assuming the above is correct) I’d prefer to guess that M/W aren’t anti-Semites but got a little out of their subject field and became enamoured of controversy – but then I also think that idiot Bill O’Reilly probably isn’t a racist.

  21. joe

    It sounds like what your getting at is the idea that residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are akin to victims of aparteid in this analogy. If thats not what you mean, then you can clarify in your next post.

    The problem with that comparision is that most residents of those areas were never Israeli citizens and don’t want to be. We’re not talking about revoking the existing citizenship of someone born in Israel; and assigning them to a nominally independent “country” created out of whole cloth (the type of thing that happened under aparteid). Also the South African government excersized considerable influence in the governance of the ostensibly independent areas it created. The Israeli government doesn’t excersize such control over the Palestinian Authority (I presume if they did, they wouldn’t have orchastrated Hamas’s rise to power in 2006).

    Of course, one might argue that given that Palestine is to be a full-fledged independent state, Israel should remove settlements and military bases from the West Bank (or tell the settelers that they’re under Palestinian jusitdiction if they stay). It should also eventually end its military presence in the airspace and territorial waters of the Gaza Strip. I agree with such an argument, but its still a different kind of situation than aparteid.

  22. Buttercup: What about AIPAC?

    Wesley: An Israeli lobby of unusual size? I don’t believe it exists… auuuuuggggghhhh!

  23. The original paper, is here:

    http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011

    Judge for yourself, don’t be told what you should think my fellow lovers of liberty.

  24. “I’m a First Amendment absolutist, of course: I’m all for strong lobbies and all for debate about the work said lobbies are doing.”

    No, you are a rabid shill for gay Democrats. And I just love you for it!

  25. Isn’t the definition of an anti-semite anyone that critizes Isreal or its foreign policy? These two fit that definition.

  26. Some enterprising journalist should interview Mearsheimer to ask him his views on inter-racial marriage, say, and then see if David Duke agrees with that….

    Even better

  27. To anyone familiar with Martin Peretz and The New Republic, this is less than surprising. See for example:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2134011/

  28. BG,

    Everyone’s got a history. The question is, what do you do about it?

    Max,

    Martin Peretz once wrote a story about the ouster of Larry Summers as President of Harvard.

    I’ll give you three guesses what he attributed the faculy’s desire to remove him to.

  29. The information age is having a drastic impact on the awareness of the Israel/Palestine issue.

    With the emergence of YouTube, foreign media services, and blogs, we are exposed to sides and facts that were priorly obscured by the efforts of such groups like AIPAC and ADL.

    Unwavering support for Israel by the general American public is diminishing.

  30. actually, I was more middle of the road until the mid 90’s, then going online and reading led me to lean much more toward the Israeli side. To each his own I guess.

  31. This is the same TNR that wanted the Army to shut down an investigation on one of their fabricating contributers, PV1 Scott Thomas Beauchamp, and order the Private to call them?

    The same TNR that made up an accusation that the Private was being kept from contacting Franklin Foer?

    The same TNR that fires interns for revealing that they have contributors married to staffers, the same day that they reveal it themselves?

    Maybe they started a new “no fairbanksing” policy and Mr. Goldberg was forced to state nothing but opinions without any fabrication to back it up?

    So many unanswered questions . . .

  32. Regarding Marty, there is also this article on The American Prospect by Eric Alterman.

  33. Guy,

    You seem to hate The New Republic an awful lot, considering that they’re filthy pro-war fuckers every bit as much as the Washington Post, New York Times, and National Review are.

  34. “Then again, the Isreali lobby would probably describe her a a self-loathing Jew.” Not quite. Amazingly, even Jews are termed anti-Semites by the Israel Lobby folks if they criticize Israel too much. Just ask Norm Finkelstein. That’s right. Jews. Who are anti-Semites. Because they criticize Israel. That’s something there!

    BG-I appreciate you offering a criticism of Israel. Most posters on H&R that defend Israel start by saying “of course Israel deserves criticism but they are not guilty of __” and then they argue against every single criticism of Israel put forward.

    “one might argue that given that Palestine is to be a full-fledged independent state, Israel should remove settlements and military bases from the West Bank (or tell the settelers that they’re under Palestinian jusitdiction if they stay). It should also eventually end its military presence in the airspace and territorial waters of the Gaza Strip.” It boggles my mind how anyone could argue otherwise. How could any “full-fledged independent state” have settlements and military bases of another nation on it against it’s will or have a military presence in it’s soveriegn airspace and waters?

  35. Concerning Arab citizens of Israel proper, it’s true that they are allowed to vote, a right that is indeed an important one denied to black S. Africans. But of course Israel intentionally follows a policy of keeping them in a numerical minority so they are no threat, so that’s not much better.

    And as far as I know S. Africa never actually had the idea of making a spiffy wall around their oppressed colonists…

  36. Rilkefan,

    I did read the article. I saw some criticisms that might be legitimate (about errors of fact), a few differing interpetations from M/W that I don’t find terribly objectionable…and arguments that Mearsheimer and Walt are comparable to Father Coughlin, the forgers who put together the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the bit I quoted before, which made the bizarre claim that the two men were making a case against Jewish enfranchisement.

    I’d have much less problems with an article arguing strictly that they were wrong about facts or interpetation (Mearsheimer has been criticized about that in relation to Israel at least once before that I know of: he and Trevor N. Dupuy had a boisterous exchange of letters in International Security about the number of Israeli casualties in the 6 Day War and Yom Kippur War, sometime in 1980s), but I have yet to see one that restricts itself to that. Critcisms inevitably drag in ad hominemem attacks, accusations of Judeophobia, attribute things to Mearsheimer and Walt that, as far as I am aware, neither of the two have ever advocated, or they go to David Duke or some Jew-hating Muslim extremist for comments.

    I have not read Mearsheimer and Walt’s book yet, but I did read their initial article, and I thought the reaction to that was in no way warranted by what they actually wrote.

  37. Why is everyone criticizing David Duke? He’s not an anti-semite, just an anti-zionist. As my good friend Jake might say, he just wants to fight against the parasites….

  38. Fluffy,

    You seem to hate The New Republic an awful lot, considering that they’re filthy pro-war fuckers every bit as much as the Washington Post, New York Times, and National Review are.

    Huh?

    Oh, I get it, you are making up a value set for me, aren’t you? No thanks. I will use my own. Just read what I write, stop reading your own biases into it and it should make more sense to you.

  39. The idea that Israel is an apartheid state makes a lot more sense if you consider that Israel pretty much acts as if it owns the entire area including Gaza and the West Bank, and the Arab inhabitants of those areas have only the degree of independence that Israel suffers them to have. Even if Israel doesn’t occupy a given area, they reserve the right to move in and do as they please. Also, Israel has a high degree of control over economic activity in West Bank and Gaza (especially the latter).

  40. This is the same TNR that wanted the Army to shut down an investigation on one of their fabricating contributers, PV1 Scott Thomas Beauchamp, and order the Private to call them?

    Source, please? And “fabricating” is an awfully strong word to throw over a single anecdote that happened in Kuwait rather than Iraq. As far as I know, nothing else Beauchamp wrote has been proven false. (But I don’t read Michelle Malkin, so I might have missed something.)

    The same TNR that made up an accusation that the Private was being kept from contacting Franklin Foer?

    Source, please?

    The same TNR that fires interns for revealing that they have contributors married to staffers, the same day that they reveal it themselves?

    Firing an employee who leaks information intended to damage a company is pretty standard practice, especially when the leak is to an ideological opponent who’s desperately trying to discredit you. TNR fucked up by not revealing this information sooner – ideally, when they first published the articles – but they would have to be idiots not to fire that intern.

  41. Mr. Nice Guy

    I’m not familiar(sp?) with Israeli policies to ensure that arabs remain a numerical minority, unless you’re referring to the Law of Return. Whatever may be said about such a policy, I think its a stretch to argue that it violates the human rights of Israeli-born non-jewish citizens.

    And of course, voting isn’t the only right that is enjoyed by all Israeli citizens, but was denied to South African blacks under aparteid.

    Regarding the wall, I think that in principle they have a right to build one to address their legitimate security concerns. But they don’t have the right to build it half way into the West Bank or anything like that, in which they’d be annexing territory that should be part of a future Palestinian state. I’ve heard some claims (I’m a little fuzzy on the details) that some of the wall is in Palestinian territory or that some Palestinian homes have been siezed to build part of the wall over that property. I’d say they should avoid that type of thing to the greatest extent possible. And when it can’t be avoided, they should give full financial compensation to the displaced person.

    Jon H

    I’d say its an exaggeration to say that Israel “acts as if it owns the entire area including Gaza and the West Bank”. They aren’t exerting much control over the internal affairs of the Gaza Strip. Although, I agree that your agument has some force when applied to certain parts of the West Bank where Israel maintains settlements and military bases.

  42. “The present war can’t be about making oil cheaper for us. This war has doubled the price of oil.”

    A very mistaken way of looking at this matter. You’re assuming if the war was for oil, it must have been to make it “cheap” for “us,” as though the US is being run for “us.”

    How about the war was fought to make oil expensive for those controlling the taps, like Halliburton?

  43. “How about the war was fought to make oil expensive for those controlling the taps, like Halliburton?”

    That might benefit the oil industry, but not industry in general. When companies have to pay higher energy prices, it cuts down on their profitability and risks recession. Let me restate this and say that this war can’t be for the overall economic benefit of the US. This war is all about protecting Israel, Wilsonian nation building, American arrogance, keeping jobs for the military industrial complex.


  44. That might benefit the oil industry, but not industry in general. When companies have to pay higher energy prices, it cuts down on their profitability and risks recession. Let me restate this and say that this war can’t be for the overall economic benefit of the US. This war is all about protecting Israel, Wilsonian nation building, American arrogance, keeping jobs for the military industrial complex.

    But the government isn’t run by people from “industry in general”, Jake. The top people are pretty much all oilmen and -women.

    None of that invalidates your other points; policies are made when you can get many interest groups all pulling together for a particular action. Lots of powerful groups were interested in the Iraq invasion, not just the Israelis. Or what do think all the fuss about the “new oil law” is about?

  45. It’s certainly not in the Republicans’ interest to bring this country into a recession, no matter how much the oil companies are making in higher oil profits. A recession will cost the Republicans too many votes.

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