Followup on Peck and the Israel Lobby:

Edward Peck has submitted a response to criticism by me and James Taranto of OpinionJournal has published the piece on its website, and I encourage VC readers to take a look. You can read Taranto's response here.

Most extraordinary is that Peck continues to assert that critics of Mearsheimer and Walt's "Israel Lobby" paper deny (indeed, "shrilly" deny) that an Israel lobby exists. In an email David Theroux of the Independent Institute, which has been publicizing Peck's original piece, sent me, Peck identifies David Gergen and Eliot Cohen as having denied that such a lobby exists. What Cohen actually wrote was

Mearsheimer and Walt conceive of The Lobby as a conspiracy between the Washington Times and the New York Times, the Democratic-leaning Brookings Institution and Republican-leaning American Enterprise Institute, architects of the Oslo accords and their most vigorous opponents. In this world Douglas Feith manipulates Don Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney takes orders from Richard Perle.

This is not a denial that there is a lobby for Israel, nor that it is an effective lobby. This is a denial that the "Israel Lobby" as conceived by M & W is anything more than a figment of a conspiratorial imagination; their idea that every American who supports Israel is part of a "lobby," and that this lobby controls U.S. foreign policy vis a vis, e.g., Iraq, is absurd (Cohen thinks it anti-Semitic; I'm willing to give M & W the benefit of the doubt on that point).

And, as I pointed out previously, Gergen explicitly states that there is an Israel lobby, if not the "Israel Lobby" of M & W's imagination.

The idea that anyonoe would deny that there is a pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. is absurd on its face, given that AIPAC's website trumpets the organization as "America's pro-Israel lobby."

And I'll reiterate that Peck's original piece is dishonest, beyond the allegation that people are denying there is an Israel lobby. For example, Peck writes: "The expected tsunami of rabid responses condemned the [M & W] report, vilified its authors, and denied there is such a lobby—validating both the lobby's existence and aggressive, pervasive presence and obliging Harvard to remove its name." So "The Lobby" was allegedly powerful enough to force Harvard to take its name off a study by one of its professors. But in fact, while the authors did voluntarily add a disclaimer that the views in the paper don't reflect those of their institutions, Harvard's name is still there, right on the cover page, identifying Professor Walt as a Harvard-Kennedy School professor. And the paper's abstract can still be found on the Kennedy School's website, identifying the paper as a Harvard University/Kennedy School of Government working paper.

As for the Independent Institute, I take it that the Institute's interest in Peck's work primarily results from a desire to encourage a more non-interventionist U.S. foreign policy, in line with a strain of libertarian thinking that advocates non-interventionism. However, Peck is affiliated with the Council for the National Interest, which advocates not non-interventionism, but a more "balanced" U.S. foreign poicy in the Middle East. From CNI's website:

Our Mission

CNI seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values, protects our national interests, and contributes to a just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as to restore a political environment in America in which voters and their elected officials are free from the undue influence and pressure of a foreign country, namely Israel.

Our Goals

*Total withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territory (the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights). * A shared Jerusalem, the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine. * An end to all acts of aggression, provocation, and retaliation by Israel and the end of all violence and attempts to solve the problem by military means. This includes terrorism committed against Israelis as well as the state terrorism committed by Israel against Palestinians. * American recognition of a totally independent state of Palestine. * The elimination of all unaudited U.S. aid to Israel. * Normalized relations with Israel, her neighbors, and regional organizations such as the Arab League.

Peck himself recently went on a CNI Mission to the Mideast, during which he interviewed Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar. Given the opportunity to question one of the great terrorist leaders of our time, whose organization has consistently attempted to scuttle any rapproachment between Israel and the Palestinians, he asked such hardball questions as "How would you be able to -- or what would you do to control those elements in Hamas and elsewhere that tend toward violence?" and "So a coalition would be something you would work towards?"

Frankly, when libertarians start promoting the Middle East policy views of individuals who don't even pretend to be libertarians, and who are friendly with the likes of Hamas, I begin to wonder whether it is really libertarian foreign policy perspective, rather than simply anti-Israel animus, that is motivating them.