The Forward on "The Israel Lobby":

My sentiments exactly:

Even more startling, given who they are, is the flimsiness of their work. Countless facts are simply wrong. Long stretches of argument are implausible, at times almost comically so. Much of their research is oddly amateurish, drawn not from credible documents or primary source interviews but from newspaper clippings, including dozens from this newspaper, seemingly dug up in quick Internet word searches aimed at proving a point, not exploring the truth. Some are wildly misquoted. An undergraduate submitting work like this would be laughed out of class. A dean apparently gets to see it posted on Harvard's Web site.

[See links in previous "related posts" listed below for specific criticisms.]

And here's a charming quote from Mearsheimer, in the Asia Times:"We fully recognized that the lobby would retaliate against us. We expected the story we told in the piece would apply to us after it was published. We are not surprised that we've come under attack by the lobby." What retaliation? Last I noticed, Mearsheimer and Walt still had their respective cushy tenured jobs as Harvard and Chicago. What they have faced in not retaliation, but criticism, criticism that Drezner reports they refuse to respond to. And exactly who is "the lobby"? Just in the blogosphere, Mearsheimer and Walt have been criticized by a huge range of bloggers who have no connection with any organized pro-Israel lobbying group, or each other. Is every individual who finds the Mearsheimer and Walt paper to be shoddy scholarship (Mearsheimer has acknowledged, by the way, that none of the evidence represents original documentation or is derived from independent interviews; in other words, it's a rehashing and compilation of material published elsewhere) to be dismissed as a tool of "the Lobby"?

It's bad enough for these professors to write a (as Drezner put it) piss-poor paper endorsing ridiculous conspiracy theories(e.g., that the "Israel lobby" is responsible for the War in Iraq). It's worse when they attribute legitimate criticism to that same conspiracy "retaliating" against them. Come on, Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, you have all of the resources of Harvard and Chicago at your disposal. Explain why your critics are wrong! (If you can!)

Matthew G:
Whatever the merits of their scholarship, it does make one wonder about the ability of intense minorities to bend the foreign policy of a democratic state. When the vast majority of people in a nation are not particularly interested in a given issue, those that are tend to dominate the policy-making. This seems patently clear in the case of U.S.-Cuba relations, why is it so implausible in the case of U.S.-Israeli relations? It's certainly not a conspiracy, nor is it even necessarily a problem. But isn't worth recognizing that one flaw of democratic social choice might just be the warping of foreign policies based on the organizational and financial capacities of lobbying groups? By god, that's what we theorize for every other policy set by Congress, no?

I understand that this is a sensitive and emotional issue for both American jews and American fundamentalist Christians. But it doesn't seem to me to be much more than basic, traditional political science: those who are well organized and well financed will be better equipped to exert influence in Washington, cetaris parabis. Pro-Israeli lobbies are better organized and better financed than virtually any other foreign lobby. Is it a surpise that U.S. policy favors them? It shouldn't be.

Part of the response, of course, is that policies that have broad-based public support to begin with tend to end up with well organized and well financed lobbies. This is certainly part of the picture: hey, Israel is popular in America! But it's also true that organizing a lobby tends to magnify this support beyond it's true level. Otherwise, why organize? It's a comparative advantage. And it's obviously true of the pro-Israel lobby. To deny this is to reduce your credibility quite far.

I guess what bothers me is that whenever crackpots publish articles like this, the people who rush to Israel's defense tend to exhibit some of the same blinders and emotional values of the crackpots.

Just my $.02

3.25.2006 1:06am
davidbernstein (mail):
Matt, it's a fair point, and one would have to be an idiot to deny that AIPAC and its associated groups have a lot of political power. But (a) that doesn't make them responsible for, e.g., invading Iraq, which we know W. wanted to do from his early days in office; and (b) a particularly telling criticism of M&W's paper is that there is NO mention of any countervailing, pro-Arab political forces, including the oil lobby, anti-Semitism, the fact that the State Department's middle eastern contingent is composed overwhelmingly of individuals who have served in Arab countries and are sympathetic to their concerns, the Saudi lobby, etc., etc. Does the "Israel lobby" simply balance out the other interests? Overwhelm them? Perhaps U.S. policy would be even more pro-Israel in the absence of ANY lobbying and political pressures. Instead of treating these issues seriously, M&W simply start with the conclusion: U.S. policy toward Israel is irrational, and thus must be the product of a nefarious lobby, and then look for evidence to support it.
3.25.2006 1:45am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I am not an Israel scholar, and I don't know if these authors' methodology is valid or not. I do believe, however, that Bernstein is being a little disingenuous in implying that just because these authors are being criticized by a wide variety of blogs and other sources, that means that there is no attempt afoot to suppress these authors' ideas.

Just why, after all, has this paper received such heavy, sustained, immediate criticism? Surely there are papers published all the time with faulty conclusions, faulty analysis, and faulty methodologies. Yet a good chunk of the blogosphere does not come crashing down on them. It's perfectly clear-- and this is clear even if we assume that the critics are completely right and the paper is a piece of junk-- that a lot of people who care a lot about Israel and its special relationship with the US mobilized to intensely scrutinize, and criticize, this paper. I don't know if this was a "top down" phenomenon (i.e., "the lobby"); it could have also been an organic grass-roots effort by many pro-Israel bloggers. But I would assume there were plenty of e-mails that encouraged this activity, including, yes, e-mails from pro-Israel lobbying organizations. I would certainly expect Bernstein and others to deny that this occurred if it actually did not occur.

Bernstein is on much more solid ground when he says this is not "retaliation". Unless and until we see evidence that these professors' livelihoods or scholarly standing, rather than their paper, is targeted, that term is a gross overstatement as to what has happened. And I should make it clear-- I have no objection to widespread condemnation of an academic paper; this activity is fully protected by our First Amendment and well should be; moreover, such protection should not be dependent on whether or not the speech is coordinated and encouraged or rises up from the grass roots.

But I think one more thing needs to be said on the merits of this. There is a certain element of "they doth protest too much" here. That the desire to protect Israel has some influence on American foreign policy is undeniable. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing. Israel is a democracy in a sea of dictatorships in the Middle East, and a country that reflects our values a lot better than many other nations in the region (Israel, to take one example, doesn't execute people for converting to Christianity). Israel is also a steadfast ally.

But when those who care deeply about Israel's existence react so virulently to even the mere suggestion that perhaps Israel has a lot of influence on American foreign policy, or that some prominent foreign policy thinkers are weighing Israel's interests and not only American interests in formulating their policy preferences. If all suggestions that considerations about Israel is playing role in policymaking are shot down so quickly and vocally, it feeds exactly the perception that Bernstein and others should be afraid of, i.e., the old anti-Semitic "dual loyalties" canard that American Jews are looking out for Israel at the expense of America.

Whatever the merits of this particular study, a little honesty that some folks, including some neoconservatives, do care deeply about Israel and may sometimes be influenced by that fact in formulating policy, and that concerns about Israel have some currency in Washington when these issues are being debated, might blunt the force of the conspiracy theorists.
3.25.2006 1:45am
davidbernstein (mail):

I'm sure there is an organized effort by organized pro-Israel forces to refute the study. That would only be appropriate since the motley anti-Israel forces--the Palestinian Authority, Neo-Nazi sites, left-wing bloggers, (Pat) Buchananites, various Arab and Muslim media worldwide, etc. seized on the study and started circulating it like mad. The very fact that Mearsheimer is focusing only on the criticism he's getting, and not on the strong support he's receiving from other circles, goes to the point I made in my previous comment.

More to the point, I would wager that most of those taking exception to the study are not part of any organized lobby. Consider the James Tarantos of the world (he eviscerated the study for OpinionJournal). What makes him part of an "Israel lobby?" That he is an American who is sympathetic to Israel and believes that aiding Israel is in America's best interest? I am sympathetic to tax cuts and believe that tax cuts are in America's best interest. Does that make me part of a "tax cut lobby?" Not in any normal sense of the word.

I wouldn't deny that, e.g., some in the Bush Adminstration, Jews and non-Jews, thought that a BONUS of getting rid of Saddam would be that it would remove an enemy of Israel, but (a) that doesn't mean that they didn't believe that this was in AMERICA's best interest, as Saddam,by supporting Palestinian terrorists, was undermining AMERICAN efforts at peacemaking; and (b) and more important, there is a vast difference between saying that aiding an ally is a consideration that enters into the overall calculation of an important foreign policy, and arguing, as M &W do, without any evidence, that that ally's partisans were wholly or largely responsible for dragging America into a conflict that was against America's interests.
3.25.2006 2:04am
davidbernstein (mail):
P.S. I should have made it clear that I discovered the paper via an article in Ha'aretz, and no one from any lobbying or other organized group emailed me or otherwise suggested that I take on the paper. I presume this is true of the vast majority of the paper's critics.
3.25.2006 2:06am
Ron (mail):
Democracies don't have 'national interests' that somehow contradict, or stand above, the wishes of the the voters and their elected representatives.

That is the cental fallacy of this 'study', and many conspiratiorial works like it.
3.25.2006 4:40am
Federal Dog:
The only thing that astonishes me about this is that the utter incompetence and rot that is accepted in lieu of scholarship at Harvard (and Yale and Columbia) seem to finally being getting out before the public eye. I taught for over twelve years at Harvard, which in reality bears no relation to the reputation the place has built up over the centuries. There is nothing unusual about the utter intellectual incompetence shown in this paper: Stephen Walt, [intemperate criticism deleted--ed.]
3.25.2006 7:57am
The Lobby (mail):
Excellent work, David. We will mail your check soon.

--The Lobby
3.25.2006 8:01am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
I'm tired of hanging out in the Lobby.

When do I get my room?
3.25.2006 8:50am
Walk It:

Perhaps it is in America's best interests, now, not to unconditionally support the actions of Israel's current leaders, but to help provide some semblance of justice "on the ground"?

Surely if you listen to different groups of people, you will find some, like me, who disagree with the unilateral drawing of a country's borders, and policies that leave good food rotting because it can't get across borders, despite the American-purchased technology screening devices that would let Israelis be assured theie security is not threatened by letting Palestinian exports out?

Sometimes you find that the best friends you have are the ones who don't always back your instincts, but are willing to face a little unfriendliness to tell you, no -- you're not always right perhaps because you're too close to the situation, perhaps you're missing out on this part of the equation? I think both Israel and America would be best served by each pursuing their own interests -- consulting with the other, surely, but not always working in tandem.

I've said it here before: the current policies of starving out or limiting the freedoms of the Palestinian refugee populations will only serve to bring more violence. If you want peace in that region: work for equality in treatment of the great numbers of non-violent Palestinians; more jobs, helping instead of harming the few business initiatives there are; feed and medically treat those who are suffering.

It may sound like Christianity: "love your neighbor as yourself" "do unto others as you'd have done to you" etc. but strategically, it is better than needling your enemies and then walling yourself off and hoping nobody in the next 20 or 50 years can breach your security. In order to be an international player, you have to learn to play with others, even those who are not yet your friends and allies.

This is the message that American politicians, brave enough to risk what we'd describe not as retaliation but surely political isolation and criticism, are not yet willing to voice. As the cost of America's current policies, in terms of dollars and lives, increases in the Middle East, I predict some will be more willing to come out and contradict the existing wisdom of our policies. I also expect, once the initial charges of anti-Semitism have less sting, more rational people in many countries will be more willing to listen to these other voices suggesting alternative ways of proceeding and succeeding. It' can't go on like this forever.
3.25.2006 9:20am
JohnEMack (mail):
"Countless facts are simply wrong." Please. If the allegations are facts, they cannot be wrong. If the allegations are false, they cannot be facts.
3.25.2006 9:21am
Nevermind (mail):
David, I just want to thank you for opening one of your Israel posts up for responses, because obviously some people have constructive comments. I hope you continue to do it in the future.
3.25.2006 9:23am
Stephen Walt, like very many faculty members at Harvard, is openly incapable of genuine scholarship.

What are the defects in the scholarship of The Origins of Alliances and Revolution and War? They continue to be highly regarded and used in poli sci / international relations courses.
3.25.2006 10:24am
Matty G:

Matt, it's a fair point, and one would have to be an idiot to deny that AIPAC and its associated groups have a lot of political power. But (a) that doesn't make them responsible for, e.g., invading Iraq, which we know W. wanted to do from his early days in office; and (b) a particularly telling criticism of M&W's paper is that there is NO mention of any countervailing, pro-Arab political forces, including the oil lobby, anti-Semitism, the fact that the State Department's middle eastern contingent is composed overwhelmingly of individuals who have served in Arab countries and are sympathetic to their concerns, the Saudi lobby, etc., etc. Does the "Israel lobby" simply balance out the other interests? Overwhelm them? Perhaps U.S. policy would be even more pro-Israel in the absence of ANY lobbying and political pressures. Instead of treating these issues seriously, M&W simply start with the conclusion: U.S. policy toward Israel is irrational, and thus must be the product of a nefarious lobby, and then look for evidence to support it.

David - thanks for your response. I agree completely that the scholarship of M&W seems ideologically driven and basically worthy of only the trash can. My main concern, howver, is similar to Dilan's in some sense - that those who react so vociferously to this scholarship are playing largely with half truths as well. One example, from your own post. You write that
What they have faced in not retaliation, but criticism, criticism that Drezner reports they refuse to respond to.
But if you go into the link and read the Drezner article (, Drezner himself has a few POSITIVE things to say about the scholarship - including the not unimportant idea that M&S are right that the Iraeli lobby tends to try to cut off debate about itself.

Now look, I am personally a strong supporter of Israel and find that, on balance, America's relationship with them is a positive for both countries. But I'm not so naieve to think that U.S.-Israeli relations are somehow based on purity of heart and strength of moral belief, rather than the same politics that virtually all policies are based on. And I think that sometimes, in the rush to defend the soundness of the poicy, Israel's defenders tend to think the opposite, leading them to lash out at those willing to suggest otherwise.

Wouldn't the best way to destroy the conspiracy theories simply be to admit that the Israeli lobby is no different than the oil lobby in terms of political strategy? Both are strong political influences that sometimes get disproportionate influence in Congress, but neither is a conspiracy and niether should be above reproach.

BTW, I'm enjoying this conversation, and despite my critical assessment, I'm very happy that you've both published on the topic here at the VC and that you've enabled comments. Kudos.

3.25.2006 12:25pm
I don't think either Walt or Mearsheimer start from an anti-Semitic viewpoint. They are both leading hard core realists who believe that ideology, morality and domestic politics do not (or should not - they are not clear on this point) influence a state's foreign policy. Instead they think states should seek to maximize power and minimize foreign opposition. Thus when they see what they view as a US foreign policy that is off course - both promoting democracy and a growing resistance to US power -- they look the source of this deviation from the ideal foreign policy. Thus the focus on the Israeli lobby and neo-conservatives who they view as being successful in deflecting US foreign policy rather than oil interests or the Arab lobby who have not. The effect of 'blaming the Jews for all our troubles" may be anti-Semitic but I am not sure the intent was.

That said their work highlights the dismal state of realism and IR theory in general. Walt's work on Middle Eastern alliances (Origins of Alliances) is a superficial exercise in picking facts to fit theory utterly devoid of any nuance or context. Mearsheimer (Tragedy of Great Power Politics) is an entertaining read but a theory at such a high level of abstraction that any behavior thing can be said to match its predictions and nothing to falsify it -- besides which it elides the while point of whether realism describes the world we live or serves as a guide to a successful foreign policy (or both or neither).

3.25.2006 12:39pm
One of the things Walt and Mearshimer need to answer is HOW they have such influence. The "lobby" doesn't appear to give that much money, and certainly, if I am the typical Republican, I am asking myself, "why support a lobby that consists of an ethnic group that votes mainly Democratic?" In other words, I think there is some actual sympathy for Israel, and it's not just the influence of a pernicious "lobby" that is guiding our policy. With or without the lobby, we'd still be supporting Israel.
3.25.2006 1:29pm
Christopher C (mail):
I guess I haven't read any entirely convincing refutations of the authors' specific factual assertions, just attacks on their scholarship for relying on newspaper quotes, and attacks on the inferences they draw from these factual assertions, and for omitting certain facts. For example,

is it true that Israel receives more aid than any other country, gets it all at once (unique to Israel), and has fewer strings attached to its aid than any other country?

is it true that highlevel architects of the Iraq war (in the Pentagon) such as Feith, and Wolfowitz, openly supported the Likud and indeed worked for the Likud party in the early 1990s?

For those who say that "yes, but Bush was committed to going to war against Hussein before the neocons convinced him?" I say: Read Woodward's book on the Bush. Wolfowitz urged an attack on Iraq within 2 or 3 days of 9/11. Bush essentially told him no, but keep suggesting such ideas.

Of course, my own view is that the truth is more complicated. Yes AIPAC has huge influence on Congress, and yes, some in Israel wanted the US to take out Saddam (many were opposed as they worried about the consequences of such a war). And yes, some in the Christian right and in the neocon movement formed an alliance in urging the war, as a first step in transforming the middle east. I think the war was more of a result of people with the same ideas forming alliances than because of the Israel Lobby. Also, Bush himself I think wanted to "finish the job" that he felt his father had left undone. And, because Bush is an evangelical Christian (whereas Poppy was not) I think he is more influenced by the Christian fundamentalists' views about Israel.
3.25.2006 2:35pm
Raw_Data (mail):
Unless Woodward is all wrong, "the lobby" couldn't have had a part as Bush never ever discussed the Iraq war with anyone -- at all.
3.25.2006 2:39pm
davidbernstein (mail):
The Israel gets more aid than anyone is something of a canard, because this aid, for the most part, originated as a bribe to Israel to withdraw from the very valuable (strategically and in terms of oil assets) Sinai Peninsula, and sign the Camp David agreements. No aid, no Camp David, which was seen as very much in the American interest. And Egypt gets almost as much as Israel, despite being a corrupt dictatorship.
3.25.2006 2:59pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Oh, and the NATO countries, plus Japan, South Korea and others, have gotten far more in implicit aid by having U.S. troops stationed there and being under the U.S. defense umbrella than Israel has ever gotten.
3.25.2006 3:03pm
Christopher C (mail):
First, you make the mistake of equating "discussing" with Bush participating in the discussion by offering his views. As I recall, Woodward's book makes the point that Bush didn't offer his views. But Bush's advisors of course talked to him about Iraq and their view about the need for and consequences of military action (see Powell's often repeated "Pottery Barn" rule--which ironically Pottery Barn denies having).

Of course, the real key person in the decision to go to war was not Wolfie, but Dick Cheney. He changed his mind, broke with Scowcroft and James Baker and Poppy Bush, and decided Saddam had to be removed. I think he drank the Kool Aid offered by Perle and Wolfowitz, believing that the war could be over quickly, we would be welcomed as liberators, etc. (I don't believe Cheney is a true neo-con; he thinks humans are innately evil, brutish and violent, which is contrary to the neo-cons utopian views about "spreading" democracy).
Once Cheney was on board, he worked on Bush, and the die was cast.
3.25.2006 3:08pm
Christopher C (mail):
Wasn't Israel getting aid long before it signed the Camp David accord (in 1978)? Maybe I am wrong on this, but I thought the aid predated Camp David.

As for Egypt, yes we give Egypt "almost" as much aid, but not as much and with many more strings attached. You are right that NATO allies have US troops, which could be viewed as a form of aid (although many lefties in Europe, etc. would gladly refuse this "aid"). I don't know if it adds up to the same amount, in terms of dollars.

I notice no response on the links between Pentagon neo-cons and the Likud. Let me ask you this:

how many high level US officials in the State Department (which you contend is "pro Arab" because some of the diplomats were stationed in Arab countries) have actually worked for foreign Arab governments, taking money from them and offering advice to them? Anyone?

I do think the authors wrongly discount the influence of oil on US foreign policy, and how oil pushes the US to different policy objectives than what Israel wants. George Bush Sr.'s links to the House of Saud undoubtedly influenced his policies, as well as those in the "realist" cabal, in their willingness to support corrupt Arab dictators. But then, this influence is contrary to their thesis, so of course they ignore it.
3.25.2006 3:20pm
hey (mail):
One reason that Israel gets such strong support from outside of the Jewish and Evangelical Christian groups is the perception that Israel is mostly fighting the battles of the US and the West. They face people on a daily basis who say "Death to America, Death to Israel", but who can only easily attack Israel. So from there people who believe in an aggressive foreign policy can come to support Israel very, very strongly.

As to the Likudnik smear: Likud, broadly, represents the right in Israeli politics. For those that believe in the benefits of free markets, limited government, etc, Likud fits into the mold of the type of party to support, within the limitations that domestic politics is very hard to translate across international boundaries. Just as Labour attracts the support of those who want social markets... Throwing out "Likud" tends to be operationally anti-semitic as well as a taunt that only applies to those on the right. People who tend to support the Democrats also tend to help out Labour (see Clinton's team's assistance to Barak's election, and the lack of any serious criticism of the people involved) but don't have people tossing barbs at them, regardless of their preferred security actions for Israel, America and others. I find it highly interesting that it is suspect to support Likud but not to support Labour. It appears to me that this trades on the distaste for Likud amongst those of questionable philo-semitism (especially those on the Left) and their belief in unmentionable conspiracies without appearing to get the speaker involved in that.

Personally I'm a traditional Likudnik 2x over (haven't been able to keep up with Kadima developments thanks to professional life), supporting those in the party that push for more market economics, as well as supporting an aggressive and muscular approach to security issues. Just as in any country, the politics on the ground are highly complex, but in broad application this position is better represented in both instances by major groups within Likud than it is by groups within Labour (especially with its current leader).

As to subsidies: we should end ALL foreign aid. We should also be offering very favourable terms to Israel on CNVs, SSBNs, B2s, etc provided a permanent guarantee not to sell any materiel or technology to China. But then talking to very hardline people on foreign policy and subsidy issues doesn't usually provide you with the rhetorical advantage that you expect, as we're not realists and have no desire to uphold realist projects like subsidies to disgusting governments.
3.25.2006 3:32pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
(I don't believe Cheney is a true neo-con; he thinks humans are innately evil, brutish and violent, which is contrary to the neo-cons utopian views about "spreading" democracy).

Once read a remark that neo-cons see the present world as described by Hobbes, but believe most people would prefer it to become as described by Locke.
3.25.2006 4:06pm
Why not a "Canada Lobby," a "Britain Lobby," and "Germany Lobby?" The very name "Israel lobby" strikes me as a ghastly throwback and makes the user sound like a bigot.

I personally disagree with a lot of American policy toward Israel, especially in the realm of foreign aid. However the charge that Israel has some sort of special hold on our politicians disgusts me. That policies you don't like have become and remained national policies, strikes me as a normal part of living in a democracy. The last I checked we have free elections and if you don't like what elected officials do you can ask them to change or support candidates who have a different view.
3.25.2006 4:27pm
Christopher C (mail):
Well, maybe I am wrong about the neo-cons, but I always thought of them as akin to liberals in their ideological (Wilsonian) belief in favor of spreading democracy, the nobility of higher causes, etc., and not Hobbesian at all. Cheney is a Hobbesian, however, from what I can tell.

As a response to Hey, my point about Wolfie's and Perle's links to Likud is hardly antisemitic. My point is that some in Likud were in favor of the "robust" and "muscular" approach to Saddam Hussein, and Wolfie and Perle worked for that faction (Sharon, before his Gaza pullout days, and Bibi Netanyahu). Your point about Clinton people working for Labor doesn't refute the main point: how many people in the Bush administration in comparable positions of influence worked for Arab governments? I would venture a guess the answer is none (note: this might not be true for George Bush 41's government, as some in that administration were closely tied to Saudi Arabia).

Wouldn't you agree that if someone in a high position---the Deputy Defense Secretary-- worked for a political party in Jordan before an admininstration came to power, and then advocated what were viewed as positions that were consist with this Jordanian party's positions once his president was elected and he assumed high office, that, others might talk about the Jordanian influence on US foreign policy?

Yes, many in the US support Israel (including me) because it is the only democracy in the region, and generally its policies are closer to those of the US. And, while I think one of the authors' overall thesis--that the "lobby" led us to the Iraq war and has exercised a huge influence on US foreign policy for the last 3 decades-- may be wrong or at least overly simplistic, it certainly is true that (a) Israel's lobby in Washington is very influential (b) some in the "lobby" (by this I mean neoconservatives) are closely tied to the right wing in Israel, and sometimes seem to be doing that particular political faction of Israel's bidding by for example advocating for Pollard's release, excusing Israel for not complying with UN Security Council resolutions on its borders, justifying the security "fence" and policies on settlements. Of course, the neocons may well believe that the USA's interests are best served by advocating these positions.

As for "Canada" lobby and "British lobby," if your point is that the US' positions are sometimes similar to those of its close allies, and not necessarily a sign of influence, that is a fair observation. However, does Canada or the UK have a lobbying group like AIPAC?
3.25.2006 4:44pm
For those who don't understand the State/Arabist connection - there is a well known pattern of diplomats enjoying extremely lucrative post-retirement employment with Arab governments and their proxies. The House of Saud is particularly adept at this manuever. Its not a matter of "biting the hand that feeds you" - rather, its "biting the hand the will feed you".

I'm not sure if this pattern (and its not isolated - its widespread) explains State arabism - correlation is not causation - but if we are going to use "likudnik" smears, well, lets not deny the State connection.

As far as Israel's aid - A huge amount of this aid is funneled back to US defense contractors as a backdoor subsidy to our existing defense budget. They tend to purchase military hardware/systems that decrease the per unit cost of the stuff we buy, since a large portion of the total cost of systems is R&D. Some of the money goes into the Israeli R&D industry as (basically) venture capital money, to develop stuff like drone technology.

I'm for ending pretty much all foriegn aid, but lets be fair to Israel about this - reducing aid to them would cause a pretty big blip in our weapons acquisition budget. Same with the Egyptians - they buy lots of Abrams talks, for example.
3.25.2006 5:08pm
Bemused (mail) (www):
"Consider the James Tarantos of the world (he eviscerated the study for OpinionJournal). What makes him part of an "Israel lobby?"

Uh, besides everything Taranto has ever written? Well there's also the fact, that although you wouldn't guess from his name, Taranto is Jewish, as he pointed out himself last January 20:

"In fact, Taranto is of Italian origin and is a common Jewish name in Istanbul, where my father was born and raised."
3.25.2006 6:15pm
Steven Horwitz (mail) (www):
Well, Bemused, I guess that makes every Jew who has ever written consistently in favor of Israel part of the "Israel Lobby." Living out here in the middle of the country in upstate New York, on the mailing lists of no national Jewish or Israeli organizations, and never having been asked to offer my opinion on Israeli anyone in power, this comes as a shock and surprise to me. After all, those are Taranto's two qualifications: he's apparently Jewish and he writes consistently pro-Israel work.

The sure sign of a conspiracy theory is constantly stretching the theory to accommodate apparently contradictory pieces of data. Congrats Bemused.
3.25.2006 7:24pm
davidbernstein (mail):
I don't believe that any of the neocons in the Bush Administration "worked for" Likud. My impression is that a few of them advised Netanyahu, and, in doing so, attempted to influence him to adopt a more neoconservative outlook on the world (including trying to get him to abandon Oslo, which he did not), and were criticized in Israel for interfering in Israeli domestic politics. I can see from Israelis' point of view that they don't like Americans telling their leaders what to do, but what's the American-side objection to Americans giving advice to foreign leaders to try to bring their views more in line with the Americans' view of foreign policy? In other words, the logical way to interpret this is that the neocons influenced Likud and not vice versa, unless you have evidence to the contrary.
3.25.2006 7:28pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):

So Taranto is part of the "Israel Lobby," because he is a pro-Israel columnist, and he is Jewish? The key aspect of defining the word "lobby" is that its members are organized, acting presumably on some marching orders issued from above. Taranto gets his marching orders from the WSJ, not AIPAC. Are you suggesting that AIPAC controls WSJ (and presumably Dow Jones too)? Or that any pro-Israel figure can be summarily lumped into the "Israel Lobby?"

In case this is difficult for you, let me offer an example. I'm Jewish, and I support Israel, by which I mean that when arguments ensue, I speak out in its support. I am not in any way associated with AIPAC. According to your definition, I'm a member of the Israel lobby.

There is a word for people who think that all Jews are inter-connected parts of the same body, the left hand always knowing what the right hand is doing, and vice versa...
3.25.2006 7:29pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Steven H, beat me to the punch.
3.25.2006 7:30pm
A.W. (mail):

Why do you act so shocked they would behave like this. the essential theory behind their paper is this: that the moral and strategic arguments are so clearly against Isreal that there can be no other reason to support Isreal, but the conspiracy of jews. What a completely arrogant theory! To claim that your argument is so utterly ironclad no person can have honest disagreement with them. How utterly arrogant.

Of course there are some questions that are nearly that one-sided. The evil of the Nazis, for instance, or totalitarianism in general. But who would be fool enough to think isreal falls into the same category?

So now you challenge that premise, and other elements to the methodology of the study, and they think their work is so clearly right, that no one can simply have an honest disagreement with them. You really shouldn't be so shocked; its the same fundamental arrogance that infects the whole piece.

This is not to say i am a hopeless moral relativist. I believe that right and wrong is absolute. But I am sensible enough to recognize that people's ability to recognize right and wrong is not absolute.
3.25.2006 9:08pm
Why not a "Canada Lobby," a "Britain Lobby," and "Germany Lobby?" The very name "Israel lobby" strikes me as a ghastly throwback and makes the user sound like a bigot

Right, someone should write an expose of the stunning power of the Canadian, British, and German lobbies.
3.26.2006 12:01am
o' connuh j.:
There are a lot of 'Bemused's in this world, sadly.
3.26.2006 12:33am
As far as Israel's aid - A huge amount of this aid is funneled back to US defense contractors as a backdoor subsidy to our existing defense budget.

But, we should note that roughly 26% of what Israel receives in Foreign Military Financing can be spent in Israel for military procurement. There are also some other aspects of the FMF that are unusually favorable to Israel.

I don't know why you would call this a "subsidy" to the US defense industry, unless the entire defense budget is a "subsidy". Anyway, if we accept the premise that Israel (or any country) needs assistance to buy weapons, it would be pretty stupid to let them buy weapons anywhere else but here.

I'm for ending pretty much all foriegn aid, but lets be fair to Israel about this - reducing aid to them would cause a pretty big blip in our weapons acquisition budget.

Chicken feed. Israel received $39bn in grants and loans for military purchases from 1974-96 (only about $29bn of which had to be spent on US products). During the same period, the military spent on the order of $1800bn on procurement.
3.26.2006 3:12am
Bemused (mail) (www):
Taranto of the WSJ tries to smear and destroy the careers of anybody who puts America's interests ahead of Israel's. Note how he brought up three days in a row that David Duke had praised Mearsheimer and Walt's study. What a sad, sad tactic! But also a very effective one, as Mearsheimer and Walt noted:

"No discussion of the Lobby would be complete without an examination of one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-semitism. Anyone who criticises Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy -- an influence AIPAC celebrates -- stands a good chance of being labelled an anti-semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-semitism, even though the Israeli media refer to America's 'Jewish Lobby'. In other words, the Lobby first boasts of its influence and then attacks anyone who calls attention to it. It's a very effective tactic: anti-semitism is something no one wants to be accused of."
3.26.2006 5:20am
Michael Livingston (mail):
What strikes me most about the article is the lack of any real research in it. It reads like a long newspaper editorial rather than a scholarly article, never even investigating such obvious questions as how is such a small group so disprortionately effective, why haven't other lobbying groups copied their tactics, etc. It is almost as if the entire intention is to say something that will anger people and then proceed to say, "look, the are angry." Probably the most intelligent response is to ignore it.

Michael Livingston
3.26.2006 7:58am
Bill Woolsey (mail):
"What strikes me most about the article is the lack of any real research in it. It reads like a long newspaper editorial rather than a scholarly article, never even investigating such obvious questions as how is such a small group so disprortionately effective, why haven't other lobbying groups copied their tactics,"

The authors are simply saying publicly what many say privately. Most people won't say it publicly for fear of abuse. As senior, tenured, academics, they were in a position to say it out loud.

I suspect that part of the timing relates the AIPAC spying scandal.

Anyway, for this purpose, there is no need for them to do some kind of path breaking research.

In my opinion, there are plenty of lobbies in the U.S. that are very effective.

Most Americans are somewhat sympathetic to farmers, and farmers love government money. The result has generally been that government makes most Americans pay more for agricultural products and pay higher taxes to boot. Most American voters don't really know that it is going on.

Good relations with oil producing nations is plausibly related to America's national interest. In fact, ignorant merchantilist ideology, which plays an important part in many bad policies, suggest that political alliance with producers of important commodities is essential. Personally, I don't think the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia or the gulf states (which date from the thirties) are wise or should be maintained. But they fit in the foreign policy activities of the typical state since the beginning of the modern period and the development of merchantilism. And, of course, business interests, especially oil related ones, influence this policy.

What does Israel provide the U.S.? It isn't oil.

By the way, there is no doubt that the U.S. relationships with Cuba is at least partly explained like the U.S. relationship with Israel. Though there is a clear difference in that Israel is far away and Cuba is near. (So the "satelites on the borders" is an alternative.)

As for Japan and Europe--come on! The U.S. defended them from the Soviet Union. This was in our national interest becaue they were so wealthy and powerful. We could let Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia dominate such important powers. (Or so would be the thought.) Israel? So what if that speck of land is dominated by some anti-U.S. regime?
3.26.2006 9:21am
Steven Horwitz (mail) (www):

I was very careful not to accuse you or anyone else of anti-Semitism. I simply said your original comment was a classic example of conspiracy theory thinking in action. Any attempt to explain a messy real world by reference to the backstage machinations of a mysterious and disproportionately powerful group qualifies. There's a great piece in the 1999 volume of the Journal of Philosophy on the epistemological status of conspiracy theories. Your comment was a textbook case.
3.26.2006 9:35am
JBurgess (mail) (www):
For DG and David:

I'm curious. Would a State Dept. officer with deep experience in, say, Latin America be appropriately assigned to the NEA Bureau?

As one of those "State Dept. Arabists" myself (though now retired), I'd consider it the height of hubris to start suggesting what US policy should be toward Argentina or Colombia. I'd be resentful of someone with expertise in the EU or China directing policy in the Middle East.

What might be a more profitable line of enquiry would be to look at the cross fertilization between State officers assigned to both the Arab and Israeli parts of NEA. How many diplomats assigned at one point to Tel Aviv have gone on to be assigned in, say, Damascus; and vice versa, of course.

As far as "lucrative post-retirment employment" goes... Are you kidding? There are perhaps a half-dozen who have gotten jobs with oil companies or lobbies. Most--including those most maligned by the media--work in think-tanks with salaries hovering around the $100K mark. While that's not shoddy, it sure doesn't meet my definition of "lucrative." On a blog by lawyers, I think this would be seen as not so great, in fact. Even for an academic, $100K isn't astonishing.

The quip also fails to differentiate the few former diplomats who hold salaried positions from the considerably larger number of unpaid "fellows" who share the goals of the organization and believe that there's another side of the issues that doesn't get publicized much.

Okay, you don't care for the fact that Arab governments donate to these organizations. That's certainly defensible. But who, then, should donate? Will Belgium fund an American think tank focused on Arab affairs, or, perhaps Korea, or Peru? Calling a source of funding out of bounds, prima facie, means the fiscal starvation of unpopular viewpoints. Is that what's intended here?

I write a regular blog about Saudi Arabia, Crossroad Arabia. I don't get paid to do it, nor do I get a cent from any outside source. I'd love to get funding from a source that finds my viewpoint worth supporting! But I don't dare because as soon as I did, certain people out there would instantly conclude that I'm just pimping. I'm lucky, I guess, that I can afford to do my blogging out-of-pocket. But with a son in university, I sure wouldn't object to extra income.

Why is this kind of support tainted if it comes from Arabs, but not from other governments? You guys aren't slagging the Alliance Francaise for its funding of exchanges or cultural programs? Why is it okay for the Israeli government to offer support to exchange programs, but improper for the Arab governments to do so?

I do see a considerable double-standard at play here.
3.26.2006 4:00pm
Bleepless (mail):
Retaliation? He has the true totalitarian view of opinion: any disagreement is a weapon in the hands of The Enemy, and must be crushed.
3.26.2006 8:59pm
r4d20 (mail):
These guys are playing a classic rhetorical game.

Step 1: Pick a commonly used term, like "Lobby" that most people have heard/used more of their lives and, therefore, has a deep meaning.

Step 2: Redefine the term to mean something different than it's normal meaning knowing full well that the deeper meaning in the minds of readers/listeners will remain unchanged.

Step 3: Proceed to use language such as to clearly imply the old connotation while maintaining plausible deniability.

So I can redefine "asshole" to mean "great guy", write 50 pages on what an "asshole" someone is, and then act offended when he gets angry at me for calling him that ("Dude, I was CLEARLY saying that you were a Gret Guy").
3.26.2006 10:21pm
r4d20 (mail):
I also find it suspicious that technical words that would be TOTALLY APPROPRIATE (like "emergent behavior" to refer to the combined effects of many individually motivated actors) is NEVER used. Evolutionary Biologists go out of their way to avoid using terms like "birds evolved wings in order to be able to fly" precisely BECAUSE this kind of language would imply a directing intelleigence and result in confusion and misunderstanding. Same with good researchers into other complex behavior.

This paper, on the other hand, uses NOTHING BUT anthromorphic terms that CLEARLY imply the presence of a single controlling intellect. They tell us on page 1 that it does not exist, and then write 83 pages of "the Lobby wants...", "The Lobby desires...", and even "The Lobby monitors what professors write and teach".

I have a hard time believing this is simply "sloppy scholarship" and not more deliberate.
3.26.2006 10:39pm
Ida Notwanttobesmeared (mail):
I'll admit to a bias here: I had Mearsheimer and Walt as professors when I was at U of C, and I consider the idea that either of them is anti-Semitic to be ludicrous. I know Mearsheimer better than Walt, though.

The criticisms of Merasheimer and Walt's paper have been rather over the top, such as this Sun Times editorial which, as near as I can tell, was written by someone who has not read the original article. (Compare a different view expressed in Haaretz.)

The claim that Mearsheimer is an Israel hater (advanced in this blog by David Bernstein) is simply false. He used to cite Israel as an example of his argument that democracies fight better than dictatorships, and he made many comments which indicated his admiration for Israel's military prowess and Israel in general.

Explain why your critics are wrong! (If you can!)

I've seen very few criticisms that aren't simply ad hominem attacks. (One exception came on this blog, by Daniel Bernstein, although I think you could argue the point he makes.)

I'd certainly like it if critics like Daniel Drezner mentioned that they know Mearsheimer. (He fails to mention it here.)

Are Mearsheimer and Walt wrong when they talk about Israeli espionage in the US?

My name? Forget it-I don't want to be subjected to what Mearsheimer and Walt are going through.

I wonder how quickly this comment will be purged.
3.27.2006 1:21pm
Ida Notwanttobesmeared (mail):
David Bernstein said:

The very fact that Mearsheimer is focusing only on the criticism he's getting, and not on the strong support he's receiving from other circles, goes to the point I made in my previous comment.

I can't read minds, and I suspect you can't either.

Maybe Mearsheimer thinks his argument should be judged on its own merits, not based on who forwards it or likes it?
3.27.2006 1:31pm
Observer (mail):
The two professors have defined the pro-Israel "Lobby" so broadly as to include a majority of the American voting public. How that squares with their claim to be "realists" is beyond me. If anything, it demonstrates their willingness to ignore reality in favor of their preconceived beliefs.
3.27.2006 2:36pm
Christopher C (mail):
I am not sure I agree with the criticisms that the article simplisticly posits the existence of a giant conspiracy called the Israel Lobby. The authors specifically disclaim any intention of doing so. I think their point is that there are many pro-Israel "hawks" in the US who have worked together to influence US foreign policy, and who do so very effectively, to the point where others might wonder which national interests are being served, the US' or Israel's, by this group of fundamentalists, neo-conservatives, journalists/newspaper editors, and diplomats with ties to AIPAC (via think tanks funded by AIPAC or its allies).

I am also not sure how one could prove this point with objective evidence. You can point out all of the money links, jobs connections, and quote all of the other influential people (such as Ernest Hollings or Michael Kinsley) all you want, but the putative members of the "Israel Lobby" can always say they are not part of it or are not coordinating their activities with anyone (such as Daniel Pipes and his "Campus Watch"), and that they are acting out of a sincere belief as to what is right for the US. I think the thesis is impossible to prove or disprove, it is just a matter of perceiving biases where others don't perceive them.

I do think that many putative "Israel lobby" members described by the authors are simply American jews who Americans who are also strong supporters of Israel, whether because it is a democracy, it is a strong ally of the US, it is a jewish state and they are jews, or all of the above. To say this makes them a member of a Israel "lobby" is unfair and simplistic.

And, the article unfairly downplays why the US might want to support Israel, even apart from any supposed influence of AIPAC or the "Israel" lobby: Israel is a militarily powerful democracy, in a key region of the world that is important to the US and Europe because of its proximity to oil reserves. Israel also has one of the most effective intelligence agencies in the world, and has extensive ties to the Arab world. The US would support Israel even if no one in the US was jewish, or was a Christian fundamentalist who believed in a millenial second coming in Israel, for these reasons alone. Maybe our support would be more lukewarm (like Britain's support), but maybe not.

The virulent reaction to the article from many quarters both on this board and elsewhere may stem in part from a sensitivity to being labelled as part of some sort of "cabal" even in the loose sense that the authors provocatively use the term "Isreal Lobby." After all, no one likes to be impugned as being a purported member of some Masonic order conspiracy--especially when one hasn't in fact joined one and thinks he or she is acting only in good faith. And, jewish people have long been falsely accused of belonging to such broad-ranging conspiracies (by the nazis, the Russians and currently by some Arab governments) and of wielding inordinate and "secret" influence on western governments (the John Birch society in the US used to make the same claims, citing Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller, and David Duke today apparently still makes them).

So, this article likely rubbed a raw nerve, by positing the existence of an "Israel" lobby, even though the authors really are trying to raise questions about why US foreign policy is so titled (in their view) to Israel in many respects.
3.27.2006 5:33pm
DC Guy:
"Living out here in the middle of the country in upstate New York..."

Yo Horwitz, got an atlas?
3.27.2006 5:35pm
r4d20 (mail):
"I've seen very few criticisms that aren't simply ad hominem attacks."

I can "Whore" to mean "Saint", write 83 pages on what a total "whore" your mother is, and whine when you rightfully insinuate that I actually was calling her a whore.

Not only do I get to call your mother a Whore to your face, I get to act offended when you call me on it and accuse you of engaging in "ad hominem" attacks for pointing out that I was totally LYING MY ASS OFF when I said I meant "Saint".

I can't believe people fall for this crap.
3.27.2006 5:36pm
I think this piece at Al-Ahram is a more insightful response to the article in question.
3.28.2006 9:23pm
Ida Notwanttobesmeared (mail):

You ever heard of an appeal to spite?

I'm not impressed by your arguments. (Or those of Christopher Hitchens: "The essay itself, mostly a very average "realist" and centrist critique of the influence of Israel, contains much that is true and a little that is original. But what is original is not true and what is true is not original." I've read it several times, and I have yet to see anything resembling an argument-unless appeals to ridicule are taken a lot more seriously than they used to be.)

What, in the paper, was wrong? I'd like something specifically wrong. No ad hominemems, no appeals to belief, no analogies to other situations.
3.29.2006 9:29am
Ida Notwanttobesmeared (mail):
I'm not terribly impressed by Bernstein's latest on this, either, since he's citing Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky, neither of whom do much actual refuting.

Bernstein is now nice enough to declare that Walt and Mearsheimer are not anti-Semites. (He earlier called Mearsheimer a long-time Israel hater.)

Something else I find significant in that last link:
And Rosner, like me, doesn't have the time and energy for a full-scale Fisking: "But let us not start arguing about every little detail in this paper. It will take a long time, and it will be a waste of time, as it is clear that the writers are not here to be convinced that they're wrong."

No one seems to have time to refute it point by point. (I've lost a lot of respect for Daniel Drezner in particular.) Instead, they launch ad hominem attacks, makes appeals to authority..heck, the whole range of logical fallacies has been deployed.
3.29.2006 9:57am