A Challenge to John Mearsheimer

John Mearsheimer has written a lengthy and somewhat rambling response on Stephen Walt’s blog to criticism of him, especially by Jeffrey Goldberg for endorsing an anti-Semitic book by a kooky fringe anti-Semite, Gilad Atzmon. One could go blow by blow through all the overwrought distortions in Mearsheimer’s post, but I’m going to focus on one. Mearsheimer is not content to argue, as he does, that he didn’t know Atzmon from a hole-in-the-head, and endorsed the book because he found it provocative and interesting. If he had limited himself to this, he could have then added that he wasn’t aware of Atzmon’s anti-Semitic background and didn’t read the book in that light. Now that he knows, he regrets his association with Atzmon and the book.

Nope. Mearsheimer actually defends Atzmon from the charge of anti-Semitism. So here’s my challenge to Prof. Mearsheimer: I will give you space on the Volokh Conspiracy to explain how you can absolve Atzmon from anti-Semitism after reading this excerpt from an interview with Atzmon, not coincidentally hosted on the website of notorious anti-Semite “Israel Shamir”.

“There is a lot of pressure on me to denounce Obama. He has done quite a few things that have made me suspicious of him – but I want to give him a chance.

“I could see that the Israelis were really concerned and were quick to evacuate their forces before he took office.

“They have a lot of people around him already and reading the Israeli press they know something about this man being ethically concerned, and this is something that didn’t happen in America for many years.

He wants to amend the damage caused by those Jewish political strategies such as Neoconservatism, such as the sub-prime mortgage crisis that was led by Alan Greenspan, who is not exactly a Rasta.”

[Interview author:] The financial meltdown is all just part of the programme, he says.

I don’t think it was a credit crunch, I think it was a Zionist punch.

“This war in Iraq may have something to do with energy but largely it was America acting as an Israeli mission for fighting the last pockets of resistance, led tactically by Neoconservatives and the Federal Reserve.

“Alan Greenspan’s job was to create a financial boom so America’s people were not concerned with the tactics used in the Middle East.

“It should have worked but it didn’t work because the all-American boom was done at the expense of the most deprived Americans, and they just couldn’t pay the mortgages so it all collapsed.

“It’s not only Jews that have adopted this world view either. Bush behaved Jewishly (ideologically) – he is a supremacist, he was a tribalist, but he is not a Jew as far as I’m aware.

“Even in Christianity, this tendency to go Old Testament – into tribalism, into supremacy, into violence, into shock and awe . . . . This is something we have to fight against.”

I will sent this post to Prof. Mearsheimer, and await his response, but meanwhile I have one further comment.

Mearsheimer accuses his critics of suggesting that he must be an anti-Semite, given that he is intellectually in bed, so to speak, with the likes of Gilad Atzmon. Certainly, it’s reasonable to suspect Mearsheimer of anti-Semitism as this point, given that the main alternative explanation, that he is simply a fool who endorses highly polemical books attacking Jews and Israel without reading them closely or knowing anything about the author, has now been rebutted by Mearsheimer himself. But one could also posit Mearsheimer has decided to adopt a “Popular Front Strategy”, willing to accept any anti-Israel allies even from the blatantly anti-Semitic fringe. Regardless, it’s a pathetic fall from grace for Mearsheimer, and it’s disappointing to see that his co-author Walt is enabling him rather than pulling him back from the brink.

UPDATE: Or perhaps Mearsheimer simply agrees with this charming quote from Atzmon: “Because Anti-Semite is an empty signifier, no one actually can be an Anti-Semite and this includes me of course.”

And while we’re at it, Mearsheimer also defends Atzmon from the charge of being a Holocaust denier. Here’s a quote from Atzmon that I found on his own website: “I must admit that I have many doubts concerning the Zionist Holocaust narrative. Being familiar with many of the discrepancies within the forcefully imposed narrative, being fully familiar with the devastating tale of the extensive collaboration between the Nazis and the Zionists before and throughout the Second World War, I know pretty well that the official Holocaust narrative is there to conceal rather than to reveal any truth.” Res ipsa loquitur.

FURTHER UPDATE: A lot more at Harry’s Place.