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.