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Ivins on the Israel Lobby:

Molly Ivins:

One of the consistent deformities in American policy debate has been challenged by a couple of professors, and the reaction proves their point so neatly it's almost funny.

A working paper by John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, called "The Israel Lobby" was printed in the London Review of Books earlier this month. And all hell broke loose in the more excitable reaches of journalism and academe. For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious — that there is an Israel lobby in the United States — Mearsheimer and Walt have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work."

As I've noted before, no one denies there is an Israel lobby, and no one criticizes M&W merely for pointing out there is an Israel lobby.

Watch Professor Bernstein write about it, and about the influence of pro-Israel individuals more generally: "There is an Israel lobby. AIPAC is a registered pro-Israel lobby. AIPAC is one of the most influential organizations in the United States. Most American Jews support Israel. Some of the those Jews are very influential people. A smaller, but still substantial, percentage of American non-Jews support Israel. Some of those non-Jews are very influential people. Pro-Israel Americans hold high positions in academia, government, the media, and even write for blogs."

Wait a few days.

Check technorati, and see if anyone is criticizing me for "pointing out the painfully obvious." No? Well maybe it's because unlike M&W, I haven't extrapolated from these facts to a [as Ivins puts it] nutty and kooky "academic" thesis, including the idea that anyone who supports Israel is part of a "lobby". Just how nutty? M&W first footnote: "Indeed, the mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about." Two obvious nutty things: first that the U.S. has ever given Israel "unconditional support" [M&W explicitly reference allegedly "unconditional" U.S. support for Israel on page 6 of their paper]; and second, that the existence of a lobby for a cause has anything to do with whether the cause is in the national interest or not. Do these Harvard and Chicago professors think that policies that ARE in the national interest just get pristinely through Congress without any lobbying? Pick any policy you think IS in the national interest (including the U.S. being anti-Israel!) and I can almost guarantee there is a lobby for it.

I acknowledge that some critics of M&W have gone over-the-top in their attacks on the paper. But let's not pretend that critics of the paper are attacking them for insubstantial reasons. Some pro-Israel activists try to undermine their opposition by calling them anti-Semites, even when it's not justified. Some who are unsympathetic to Israel try to undermine their opposition by claiming that perfectly legitimate criticism of their views is the work of pro-Israel hysterics who, for example, call you an anti-Semite if you mention that AIPAC is influential. Ivins, though avowedly pro-Israel herself, has fallen for those pushing the latter line on the M&W paper.

So, from Ms. Ivins, either a retraction, or evidence that anyone criticized M&W for pointing out there is an Israel lobby is due.

[Also, contrary to what Ivins implies, folks didn't pick on Mearsheimer and Walt's paper because they go around looking for obscure academic papers to attack. Rather, the paper was quickly sent around by the Palestinian Authority to contacts all over the U.S., and appeared rather quickly on anti-Semitic websites worldwide. It's not M&W's fault that, e.g., David Duke praised their paper, but it would be horribly irresponsible to let the flaws in the paper go unanswered when it's being publicized by the likes of him.]

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish has more detailed criticism of Ivins' piece.

JohnAnnArbor:
She's too full of herself to retract anything.
4.26.2006 4:11pm
gramm:
RE: THIS MORNING'S POST (for which the comments have now - - in an act of retreat which will surely be characterized as an one of self-defense and wise discretion - - been closed):

EDITOR'S Note: I closed comments because I wanted to do other work, and go on to other posts. The debate on that post was fully played out, all sides represented, time to go on with your life.
4.26.2006 4:56pm
Art O'Persuasion (mail):
Why do you so often label points of view you disagree with as "nutty and kooky," "idiotic," "outrageous," "precious," etc.? And why did you delete my post criticizing you (quite civilly) for doing so?

"After all, if you're one of the few who sees the world clearly, then surely it's especially important that you frame your arguments in a way that is persuasive and as unalienating as possible, even to fools."
4.26.2006 5:14pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Nutty and kooky is Ivin's words, describing how the paper has been described. Those might not have been my choices (and indeed I didn't use them before), but she claims that these words indicate hysteria around the paper, whereas I think they are apt, if not the ideal way to criticize it. "Precious" is a rather tame adjective to describe censorious behavior by someone on the record condemning censorship. And some things are just idiotic.
4.26.2006 5:20pm
U.Va. 1L (mail):
Why do you so often label points of view you disagree with as "nutty and kooky," "idiotic," "outrageous," "precious," etc.?

He's been studying the Brian Leiter manual on how to win friends and influence people, apparently.
4.26.2006 5:22pm
gramm:
on 4.26.2006, at 4:20pm, DavidBernstein wrote:

And some things are just idiotic.

-------------------------------

Which things, of course, Professor Bernstein will decide.
4.26.2006 5:28pm
Quarterican (mail):
Which things, of course, Professor Bernstein will decide.

Well, it is his post, so he's the decider.
4.26.2006 5:34pm
David Matthews (mail):
"he's the decider."

I've decided, after some initial ambivalence, that I like the word "decider." And, since, when it comes to matters of personal taste, I'm the decider of what I like, I've decided to incoporate that word into my everyday vocabulary. Away with clumsy construction, "decision maker!"

As to the post:

"So, from Ms. Ivins, either a retraction, or evidence that anyone criticized M&W for pointing out there is an Israel lobby is due."

When it comes to Ms. Ivins view of reality, it's fairly clear that she's the decider, so don't hold your breath waiting for either.
4.26.2006 5:42pm
Steve:
... That's what Prof. Bernstein suggested as a remedy for the John Fund controversy,...

EDITOR: Again, that thread is over.
4.26.2006 5:47pm
Retief (mail):
Actually, here are just a couple of places where the criticism is, in fact, for suggesting that there is a lobby that has an influence on us policies. Israpundit says " The book's central "thesis" is "The Lobby" that it claims is running America's foreign policy. Informed readers will not have to go any further than reading those scare quotes to know what this piece of trash of a book is about." And Jewish Current Issues excerpts a Wall Street Journal editorial saying "The authors are at pains to note that the Israel Lobby is by no means exclusively Jewish, and that not every American Jew is part of it. Fair enough. But has there ever been an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that does not share its basic features? Dual loyalty, disloyalty, manipulation of the media, financial manipulation of the political system, duping the goyim (gentiles) and getting them to fight their wars, sponsoring and covering up acts of gratuitous cruelty against an innocent people — every canard ever alleged of the Jews is here . . ."

Of course Israel has a lobby, we call it their embassy. Of course there is also a large group of people who do try to influence US policiy for what the percieve as Israel's benefit, as there is for every other matter on which US policy impinges. Most people don't have a problem with that. The fact that the second group consistently pushes a dangerous far right line on Israel question that is more likely to destroy Israel than help it may be a concern. But this gets us back to your inability to seperate criticism of a country from criticism of a leader of that country.
4.26.2006 5:57pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Rejecting the idea that "The Lobby" "is running America's foreign policy" is hardly the same as rejecting the idea that, e.g., AIPAC exists and has some influence.
4.26.2006 6:01pm
David in DC:
Did anyone catch this news item the other day?


U.S. teen awakens from coma after Tel Aviv attack

By Daphna Berman

Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old American tourist who was critically wounded in last week's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, awoke yesterday for the first time since the explosion....

http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/709374.html


I didn't hear that any Americans were critically injured in the recent Palestinian suicide bombing. A couple of things come to mind about this:

a) if "the Lobby" operated as W&M assert it does, one would think this would be splashed all over the media; and

b) if this happened in reverse, if IDF actions put an American in a coma and it wasn't flogged by the media, it would have been put forth as more evidence of "the Lobby".

Noting b) above, does anyone believe W&M would say there is a powerful Arab lobby manipulating the news?
4.26.2006 6:08pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Prof. Bernstein,

1. They weren't trying to smear ordinary people for being part of the Israel lobby. They were simply pointing out the obvious, that the Lobby is a large and essentially boundary-less group, which cannot be said to consist simply of groups like AIPAC who openly assert that they are an Israel Lobby. It consists of big groups and small, and yes, ordinary people like you and me. Your attack against them on this basis is substanceless, and essentially amounts to you denying the lobby at the same time as you admit that it "obviously" exists.

2. The existence of the lobby does "suggest," as they said, that its interests are not the same as America more broadly. You may argue that in fact the lobby's interests are actually the same as ours but that it is simply more knowledgable on the issue, but the fact is that when somebody is trying to persuade you of something, it "suggests" that they have a different position than you do. Their second statement that "If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about," is not strictly and necessarily true, but is one sentence in a long paper which is offered as an off-hand statement. Moreover, it could be true; we simply can't say for sure.
4.26.2006 6:34pm
Retief (mail):
Sure. But running the US's foreign policy is hyperbole. The paper says that "There is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway US policy; the Lobby's activities are not a conspiracy... For the most part the individuals and groups in it are only doing what other special interest groups do, but doing it very much better." The idea that AIPAC et al. have influence is what is being mocked by that hyperbole.
4.26.2006 6:40pm
David in DC:
DB,

You closed the Fund thread pretty quickly, but Cole is pretty much [choose one or more of the following or supply your own]..."nutty and kooky," "idiotic," "outrageous,"...

People who take exception to those descriptions should try to wrap their minds around this conspirazoid nonsense:


We now know that the Niger story involved the forgery of documents by a man with ties to Italian military intelligence, and that moreover Italian military intelligence has ties to Michael Ledeen, Harold Rhode and Lawrence Franklin, pro-Likud Neoconservatives, two of whom had high-level positions in the Pentagon and all three of whom were tightly networked with the American Enterprise Institute. Franklin (a Neoconservative Catholic) is being investigated for spying on the US for Israel. The nexus of Italian military intelligence, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the Neoconservatives in the Pentagon suggests a network of conspiracy aimed at dragging the US into wars against Iraq and Iran. The Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the war was in some significant part staffed by young people who had initially applied to work at the American Enterprise Institute as interns.


And the guys who (rightly, IMO) take exception to unwarranted accusations of anti-Semitism and who post frequently on these comments should get a load of these specious generalizations. Any charge of racism is certainly loaded, but charges of crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide, etc., kick it up yet another rhetorical notch:


Neoconservatives tend to be far-right Zionists in the Jabotinsky tradition, whether they are Jews or Christian Zionists, and they are associated with a desire to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the West Bank or at least to so circumscribe their existence there as to render them nonentities.


http://www.juancole.com/2004_09_01_juancole_archive.html
4.26.2006 6:45pm
Steve:
Your attack against them on this basis is substanceless, and essentially amounts to you denying the lobby at the same time as you admit that it "obviously" exists.

I think your criticism was very well stated, Marcus. It reminds me somewhat of how many of these same people deny that a "Constitution-in-Exile movement" exists, at the same time they basically admit it.
4.26.2006 6:49pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
Molly Ivins claims to be pro-Israel, though I cannot recall reading much that was pro-Israel in her columns. She also says that she has been called an anti-Semite when she has criticized Israel. That is, alas, probably true -- entirely too many people throw around the epithet, which only dilutes it in cases where it is really deserved. Everyone ought to be more careful about that sort of stuff.

But her defense of M&W is overheated. She completely undermines her case by minimizing the W&M argument, which is not simply that an Israel lobby exists, but rather that it has a "stanglehold" on U.S. foreign policy. Since secret Jewish control of the government is an ancient anti-Semitic trope, the W&M imagery (there is more) is uncomfortable, to say the least (Christopher Hitchens -- no apologist for Israel -- called it "smelly").

Ivins can just barely bring herself to criticize the W&M paper for its "too-broad use of the term 'Israel lobby'." But look at her sleight of hand: W&M capitalize Lobby throughout, which is obviously intended to make it seem unitary and sinister -- but Ivins puts it in a less offending lower case.
4.26.2006 7:03pm
David in DC:
Steve,

"The Lobby" as W&M define it and the lobby as Bernstein use it are two very different things.

"The Lobby" exists, inasmuch that W&M or any of us can glom together disparate and heterogenous objects into a group and title them "the Group". But at that point, you try to specify characterisics "the Group" and you all of a sudden are talking about something that doesn't exist. You'll find that some member of "the Group" have those characteristics, some don't, and some have the opposite characteristics.

There is no such "Lobby" that contains all of those elements and as a group does the things that W&M ascribe to it.

More to the point, W&M define their capital-L lobby so broadly as to make it meaningless.
4.26.2006 7:10pm
Steve:
Right, and what you are arguing is that "The Lobby" as W&M define it doesn't really exist in any meaningful sense. I think that's a fine argument on the merits, but as Marcus points out, I don't think you get to simultaneously make that argument and say "but of course I acknowledge that some sort of Israel lobby exists, so how dare you suggest that I'm criticizing W&M for saying The Lobby exists!"

I guess if Ivins were to be more precise, she would say people like Prof. Bernstein criticize W&M merely for pointing out that there is an Israel lobby that goes beyond the roster of registered pro-Israel lobbyists. I hardly think that distinction merits a formal correction, though.
4.26.2006 7:16pm
Steven Lubet (mail):
None of the mainstream critics of W&M (including Alan Dershowitz) have criticized them for discussing the existence of an Israel lobby. That's just a red herring.

The criticism is based on their extreme exaggeration of the lobby's power and their nearly grotesque insistence on treating it as a single-minded, unified force, capital L force.

I have to wonder whether Ivins even read Dershowitz's paper, which made that quite clear.

(btw, I am not the "Steve" whose posts surround mine.)
4.26.2006 7:47pm
Ross Levatter (mail):
Dr. Bernstein seems uncharitable in the interpretation of statements he finds uncongenial to his positions. For example, he characterizes W&M as "nutty" because:

"unlike M&W, I haven't extrapolated from these facts to a [as Ivins puts it] nutty and kooky "academic" thesis, including the idea that anyone who supports Israel is part of a "lobby". Just how nutty? M&W first footnote: "Indeed, the mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about."

Now one might disagree with above on public choice grounds, and one might expect professors in political science and government to be familiar with public choice arguments. If that were the point, one could say the argument is "shoddy", though not "nutty". But ignoring this subtlety, it seems W&M are simply making a basic point: If everyone agrees X is beneficial, you don't need a lobby toaccomplish X. Here "X" is "unconditional support of Israel" and "beneficial" is equivalent to "in the American national interest." Now David may disagree with that argument, but to call it evidence of nuttiness and kookiness? As I say, uncharitable, to say the least.

As another example (and I know the thread has rapidly closed), David keeps mentioning Dr. Cole's position that "the number 3 man at the Pentagon is a 'card-carrying member of the Likud'" as evidence of weirdness. Yet, when I go to the link, I find Cole is actually not making that comment about Douglas Feith, but instead referencing a Salon.com article that QUOTES COLIN POWELL making that comment. I suspect General Powell knows Mr. Feith better than Dr. Bernstein. In any case, the comment is not Cole's.
4.26.2006 8:15pm
Just Sayin:
A quick question. One I asked before, but in a less civil way. Hopefully won't be deleted:

Some of these strongly pro-Israel Americans in leadership positions hold dual citizenship, as do descendants of other immigrants in some countries.

Should America's fortunes fall in this century, with China and Pacific Rim countries picking up the mantle of world leadership and the US left to deal with her own troubles, will a great number of these dual citizens choose to retire to Israel?

This perhaps sounds like an anti-Semitic question -- I know some criticize others for sapping an area economically, thinking short term, then moving on so to speak. Getting themselves out, but leaving others behind to deal with messes that have been building up over years and were ignored, back when there was a chance something positive could be done to change direction.

This is a serious concern though: how committed are America's Israel-supporting families and friends to long-term American interests vs. Israel's interests? Some wonder this of Cuban immigrants and others; I think it is fair to ask of our loudly pro-Israel commenters and leaders.
4.26.2006 8:18pm
frankcross (mail):
In addition to the points made, there is another to consider. It's a lobby. It's not making decisions. I don't believe W&M argue that they are using guns or other forms of duress. To whatever extent the lobby is effective, it is because of its power to persuade elected officials and those they have appointed.

This is why attacking the lobby is absurd. If you don't like the policy, criticize those they have persuaded. Or try to figure out how and why the lobby is persuasive with them. The decisions are being made by people with names like Bush and Cheney, not those with names like Feith and Wolfowitz.
4.26.2006 8:20pm
David in DC:
I think you are making an error, and that is capitalizing the second lobby in what you put in quotes.

AIPAC (lowercase lobby) certainly exists.

"The Lobby" (capitalized) with the substance and attributions that W&M give it does not exist.

Now, there has been a strawman argument put forth by some in their defense of W&M. They charge that critics of the paper are taking exception (usually "shrilly" or "hysterically") to the fact that W&M say there is an Israel lobby (lowercase). Molly Ivins does it above. She happens to eschew the use of shrilly or hysterically in favor of: "...all hell broke loose in the more excitable reaches of journalism and academe." You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to :-).

I have not seen a single credible (or non-credible for that matter) person make the argument that Ivins is trying to ascribe to people. The problem people have with W&M's paper is that they are trying to say something that doesn't exist, this capital-L Lobby, does.

I guess if Ivins were to be more precise, she would say people like Prof. Bernstein criticize W&M merely for pointing out that there is an Israel lobby that goes beyond the roster of registered pro-Israel lobbyists.

No, this is giving short shrift to the criticism. What you describe is pointing out that there are many groups and individuals that are pro-Israel and even advocate for them...and stopping there.

W&M go further, by alleging all sorts of conduct (and a lot of it unseemly conduct at that) that they, as a group, engage in. They don't. Lack of precision isn't Molly Ivins' problem here. To be blunt, it's lack of understanding (I suspect) or lack of honesty.
4.26.2006 8:42pm
r4d20 (mail):

They weren't trying to smear ordinary people for being part of the Israel lobby. They were simply pointing out the obvious, that the Lobby is a large and essentially boundary-less group, which cannot be said to consist simply of groups like AIPAC who openly assert that they are an Israel Lobby. It consists of big groups and small, and yes, ordinary people like you and me. Your attack against them on this basis is substanceless, and essentially amounts to you denying the lobby at the same time as you admit that it "obviously" exists.


Exactly. It's like the "Gay Agenda" - an overly broad term designed to imply a sinister conspiracy while maintaining techincal deniability. You should ask David Horowitz for the software he used to make "Discover the Network" and create "Discover the Lobby".
4.26.2006 8:44pm
Steve:
W&M go further, by alleging all sorts of conduct (and a lot of it unseemly conduct at that) that they, as a group, engage in. They don't.

M&W p.14: "We use 'the Lobby' as a convenient short-hand term for the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. Our use of this term is not meant to suggest that 'the Lobby' is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues."

I realize that using such terms evokes images of shadowy Zionist conspiracies and the like, but they specifically disclaimed any such meaning, and I'm not sure how else you'd have them write the paper.
4.26.2006 9:05pm
epaminondas (mail) (www):
The thrust of the Walt/Mearsheimer smear was:
Jews have a stranglehold on congress (Page 19)
Jews manipulate the media (page 21)
Jews hold the executive office close because of $$(page 19)

Jews are rich, powerful and manipulative, and control events out of proportion to their number to the detriment of the nation they live in, for their own purposes.

Molly Ivins agrees. Fine.
4.26.2006 9:33pm
Smithy (mail) (www):
Mollie Ivins is an anti-Semite, plain and simple. What's surprising to me is that most Jewish Americans continue to vote Democrat even as most voices on the left become increasingly shrill in their anti-Semitism. Whether it's smearing Jewish conservatives as neocons or threatening to pull support for Israel, the loony left is shockingly open in its anti-Jewish agenda these days.
4.26.2006 10:44pm
Vovan:
Mollie Ivins is an anti-Semite, plain and simple. What's surprising to me is that most Jewish Americans continue to vote Democrat even as most voices on the left become increasingly shrill in their anti-Semitism. Whether it's smearing Jewish conservatives as neocons or threatening to pull support for Israel, the loony left is shockingly open in its anti-Jewish agenda these days.

Using the same brand of unabashful logic, I suppose that Jewish Americans vote Democrat, because David Duke voted Republican
4.26.2006 11:10pm
r4d20 (mail):

I realize that using such terms evokes images of shadowy Zionist conspiracies and the like, but they specifically disclaimed any such meaning, and I'm not sure how else you'd have them write the paper.


What some of us are saying is that this 1 paragraph disclaimer seems somewhat disingenuous (at best) when placed next to 84 pages of consistently sloppy and loaded language.

Words, especially widely used ones, have deep meanings formed over years of use - these subconscious meanings do not just change due to a 1 paragraph disclaimer. They could just as easily used a neutral term like "Network of Influence (NoI)" which has absolutely NO emotional impact and would not have spawned the reaction, but they did not. Further, they chose to cloud the issue more by using consistently anthropomorphic language to descriibe something they ADMIT is not anything like a human being (no body and no brain = not really appropriate for anthropomorphization).

Considering their position and experience I have a hard time believing it was accidental or due to inexperience - if anything I think there position makes it more likely it was a choice to use language
4.26.2006 11:11pm
r4d20 (mail):
Would you take this at face value

"We use 'The Gay Agenda' as a convenient short-hand term for the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. domestic policy towards acceptance of homosexuals and homosexuality. Our use of this term is not meant to suggest that 'The Gay Agenda' are part of a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues."

if it was followed by 84 pages of

"The Gay Agenda monitors what professors are teaching"
"The Gay Agenda moves to silence opponents and crush dissent"
"The very fact that the Gay Agenda exists is proof that it is not in the best interests of our country - if their interests aligned with the country they would not need organizations to press their rights"
"The Gay Agenda uses the charge of "homophobia" to intimidate dissenters"

...sigh.

Its the SAME bullshit doublespeak.
4.26.2006 11:29pm
r4d20 (mail):
.... and if it just happened to be written by an outspoken critic of "the self-destructive gay lifestyle"
4.26.2006 11:32pm
hapenstance (mail):
isn't this just a tempest in a teacup. It defies me why this issue continues to draw attention to the V Consp. readers. It just seems like you are trying to perpetuate a story here where there really isn't one. OK, so they claim that there is an Israel lobby in Washington, and others have said there was criticism of this statement. At the end of the day, I don't really understand what the fuss is about.
4.26.2006 11:46pm
Paolo Sepi (mail) (www):
Molly Ivins combines the credibility of Dan Rather with the even-handedness of Helen Thomas. She is one of those people who can be counted on to define reality by taking the opposite position. This essay of hers does not disappoint.
4.27.2006 12:05am
davidbernstein (mail):
Paolo, I don't know anything about Ivins except that she's famous, but the first sentence is a pretty vivid description!
4.27.2006 12:12am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
r4d20,

>What some of us are saying is that this 1 paragraph disclaimer seems somewhat disingenuous (at best) when placed next to 84 pages of consistently sloppy and loaded language.<

So you want them to continually praise the lobby throughout the paper just to make sure nobody gets the wrong idea? I think you're simply being cynical. When you read something cynically, you can find fault in anything.

The fact is that there is a broad pro-Israel lobby, that it has a great deal of influence, and that it is much broader and more loosely organized than people like Prof. Bernstein want to admit. In fact, it is no different from the "homosexual agenda," which few would say was limited to official organizations, except that the pro-Israel lobby has a great deal more influence, and operates quite differently. Does the homosexual agenda operate? Sure, it operates through people like me arguing on sites like this that people should be more accepting of homosexuals and homosexual rights. It also operates through official organizations. If someone talked about the "homosexual agenda," I wouldn't respond, "That's ridiculous; I'm not part of any agenda." The main response, I think, is "All we want is equal rights; why wouldn't you sign on?"

Different lobbies operate in different ways, however, and have different degrees of influence. One of the traits of the Israel lobby appears to be understating its own extent and influence. I don't think that's really something the homosexual agenda does. I think we're glad to announce any influence we can get. This creates a situation where W&M want to write a paper saying, "Look people, this lobby is bigger and more powerful than you realize. It's important to recognize this, because we believe it has actually driven American policy away from actual American interests."

Is that really an improper use of the word lobby? Are we simply not allowed to talk about an Israel lobby because it's too loaded? I think that's pretty ridiculous. Network of influence? I can only imagine the criticism that would have broughten about. "These guys are trying to dance around the idea of some kind of Jewish lobby without saying it!"

Again, if you're going to be cynical, you can find fault in anything.
4.27.2006 12:47am
SLS 1L:
Prof. Bernstein: I've said this before, but I still think you are giving M&W too much credit. Their characterization of the "core" of "the Lobby" as "American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend American foreign policy so that it advances Israel's interests" is transparently anti-Semitic. There's a strong suggestion here that American Jews are traitors whose real allegiance is to Israel, not America, in particular because of the claims that they're doing so in their "daily lives." The claim that they're trying to get America to "advance Israel's interests" rather than "support Israel" or somesuch has a similar air to it. It suggests that American Jews (or at least the subset of them who think American should support Israel) are acting as agents of a foreign power, rather than simply thinking that support of Israel is Good for America or The Right Thing To Do.

There's similar language throughout the power. That could be excusable in another context, but "a Jewish conspiracy is controlling everything" is a longstanding anti-Semitic trope. Given that context and the fact that the paper's thesis can be viewed to fit that paradigm, word choices that suggest a monolith of Jews whose real loyalty is to Israel rather than America indicate anti-Semitism.
4.27.2006 12:48am
epaminondas (mail) (www):
Sorry folks, but given the unshriven assertions they made on the pages I indicated in their (full) paper, it's just an academic elitist Protocols Chapter II. Don't you think the Okhrana had some 'facts' and semi believable myths to work with?

It's interesting to watch who rises to the defense of such claims. Juan Cole, etc.

Don't you think it's reveals something about the inside of some who yearn for that paper to be true (even after it's been factually reduced several times) by publishing?

AIPAC = NRA = Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association

Influence is open. It's the SYSTEM. We organize to achieve.

The racially motivated assertions these gavones have introduced via academic means will in 25 years be repeated by those who 'suspect' asian americans, and wish for 'gooks' suffering from an excess of professional excellence to be punished by claiming these people belong a to cabal to reward, China? Southeast asia?

It's all ignorance yearning to be made justified by facts. That why David Duke, and the arab antisemites are rejoicing. Ms Ivins has done herself, liberals and democrats no favor. Tony Judt, and the rest have truly taken hold of white sheets, and one day will be wonder what those two holes are for, wondering what the sheet is doing in their hands.

Let's have more come out, and I hope the sun shines on every single one.

Next up... a paper in the American Journal of Physiology explaining why african americans can't swim as fast?
4.27.2006 8:27am
David in DC:
Steve,

M&W p.14: "We use 'the Lobby' as a convenient short-hand term for the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. Our use of this term is not meant to suggest that 'the Lobby' is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues."

I saw the disclaimer. I can only refer you back to my previous post (with numbers added):


1. "The Lobby" exists, inasmuch that W&M or any of us can glom together disparate and heterogenous objects into a group and title them "the Group". 2. But at that point, you try to specify characterisics "the Group" and you all of a sudden are talking about something that doesn't exist. You'll find that some member of "the Group" have those characteristics, some don't, and some have the opposite characteristics.


Their disclaimer is consistent with part 1.

Their disclaimer is not consistent with their use of "the Lobby" throughout the rest of the paper.

For example:


The Lobby pursues two broad strategies. First, it wields its significant influence in Washington, pressuring both Congress and the executive branch.


No, one part of "the Lobby" does this. Namely AIPAC and other true lobbying groups.


Second, it strives to ensure that public discourse portrays Israel in a positive light, by repeating myths about its founding...



I'm not exactly sure which part of "the Lobby" is repeating myths, if any, but certainly not all are. This also should not be made as a blanket statement.


The goal is to prevent critical comments from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing US support, because a candid discussion of US-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favour a different policy.


Huh? So while W&M's disclaimer - "Our use of this term is not meant to suggest that 'the Lobby' is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues." - holds true for some things, preventing fair public debate is something they all agree on? Preposterous.


The Lobby doesn't want an open debate, of course...


Again...huh?


The Lobby's perspective prevails in the mainstream media...


What perspective?? That Israel deserves billions of dollars a year? That Israel can do no wrong? That Israel has a right to exist? What actually is the perspective of this non-unified group without central leadership which disagrees on certain issues?

I'm hoping you may be starting to get the point.


...The Lobby moved immediately to 'take back the campuses'...



...The Lobby also monitors what professors write and teach. In September 2002, Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes...


This one is particularly good. "The Lobby" (read: two guys) does this. Problem being...Martin Kramer didn't do it! It's one guy and one guy falsely accused. Oh, that far-reaching Lobby...


The Lobby and its friends often portray France as the most anti-semitic country in Europe...


I'm not sure who is actually doing this protraying, whether it is "the Lobby" or a part of it or what, but if you look at the stats France does have the most anti-Semitic incidents in western Europe (all of Europe?). If you read the entire paragraph, you see that they don't actually say it isn't. They selectively quote people's opinions and provide red herrings in an attempt to imply that it isn't without actually saying so. Dishonest scholarship all around.

Finally, I'll drop one more analogy on you...

There is a loose group of individuals and organizations, some of them governmental, who all are supportive of America. We will use the term 'Amerikkkans' (hyperbole to press the point, and 'American' itself is already capitalized) to describe them. There is a very small minority of Americans who don't support America or who don't care what happens to it, but the rest, while disagreeing on some topics, all agree in their support of America. Amerikkkans' goals are to dominate the world. To do so they use two main strategies - lies and military might...etc, etc, etc.

BTW, Steve, do you support America? Then you are an Amerikkkan. Wait, do you mean you support America but don't agree with the whole world domination thing? Or you agree with the world domination thing but wouldn't lie in your pursuit of it? Perhaps we should narrow that definition of Amerikkkan down a bit...
4.27.2006 10:08am
Some Guy (mail):
Nothing says, "I'm not a nut or a kook" like a ten-page comment post in a blog that uses the word "Amerikkka"!

Actually, that's not really fair to say. I'm sure the JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO lobby is really at fault for this asinine "debate."
4.27.2006 10:16am
Some Guy (mail):
That came across wrong, I actually agree that this is a stupid debate. Just saying that some people get a little too caught up in refuting the Coleniks of the world. Some people, you shouldn't engage. Just point out what they are saying to reasonable people and let them make up their own minds. Thanks for the heads-up, Bernstein.
4.27.2006 10:18am
David in DC:
Nothing says, "I'm not a nut or a kook" like a ten-page comment post in a blog that uses the word "Amerikkka"!

You addressed my post without addressing a shred of its substance, but rather picking out one term out of context in order to portray me as "nut" or "kook".

Some people, you shouldn't engage.

If it's OK with you, I'll keep engaging who I like.

Wait, that came across wrong...I was too polite. Address the substance of what I say, if you feel the urge to gratuitously call me names just keep your big yapper shut. There, that's better :-).
4.27.2006 11:47am
Steve:
David in DC, thanks for a well-stated post. I understand your points and I do find them persuasive. Ultimately, while it seems to me M&W overplay their hand in some regards, I find it to be typical of the sort of argument one finds in the political arena, where you hear allegations that the Democratic Party is beholden to "the homosexual agenda" or "Big Abortion" or any of a number of mythical entities. I would hold a scholarly paper to a higher standard, of course.

But I don't think the paper comes anywhere close to the sort of anti-semitic screed some commentors see it as. The folks who allege the existence of a "Homosexual Agenda" are considered acceptable voices in our political discourse, at least by many. The fact that M&W's thesis evokes uncomfortable images of Zionist conspiracy theories doesn't mean they actually allege one. A fact-based argument that President Clinton refrained from doing such-and-such due to pressure from pro-Israel groups is qualitatively different from an allegation that a mysterious Jewish conspiracy controls the world's banks.

I just see the claims that the M&W paper is "Protocols Part II" as ridiculously overblown, possessing approximately the same level of credibility as the notion that "neocon" is code for an anti-semitic slur. I find it ironic that many of the same conservatives who believe racism against blacks is an artifact of the past and "not a big deal anymore" can still manage to find antisemitism around every corner.
4.27.2006 11:49am
JoshL (mail):
The problem is that ultimately M&W, who have proven themselves true scholars on the international scene, just don't get domestic politics. Their take in the international realm is that states act according to their own interests, and that therefore we should too. The problem that they have is the idea that the US may want to take actions that hurt its overall standing (i.e. it doesn't get cheap oil, makes less money, makes people angry, etc). Therefore, there must be something pushing the US towards making these decisions, because if left to its own devices, the US would've done what's good for the US: make good deals with Middle Eastern countries for cheap oil in exchange for other favors. Therefore: The Israel Lobby. Because in their minds, if such international lobbies didn't exist, the US would do what it could to maximize profit and power.
4.27.2006 11:49am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
SLS 1L,

Their characterization of the "core" of "the Lobby" as "American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend American foreign policy so that it advances Israel's interests" is transparently anti-Semitic. There's a strong suggestion here that American Jews are traitors whose real allegiance is to Israel, not America, in particular because of the claims that they're doing so in their "daily lives."
I'm sorry, but the kind of cynicism that you're applying to their writing would prevent anyone from writing about any ethnic issue in an acceptable way. This is the exact same cynicism that says that Bernstein's commentary on blacks and the LSAT is transparently racist, creating a strong suggestion that minorities are inferior human beings.

You selectively quote to give the impression that W&M are talking about American Jews generally. Yet, they specifically say they are not. The fact remains, however, that the core of the Israel Lobby is going to be Jews and their Christian allies. Is that not something one can say? By your selective quoting and outrage, I think it's quite clear that it would be impossible for them to state this in any way without their comments being mischaracterized as something completely different.
The claim that they're trying to get America to "advance Israel's interests" rather than "support Israel" or somesuch has a similar air to it. It suggests that American Jews (or at least the subset of them who think American should support Israel) are acting as agents of a foreign power, rather than simply thinking that support of Israel is Good for America or The Right Thing To Do.
Well here's the thing: I'm half Swedish, and I'll openly admit that even if supporting Sweden weren't really in America's interests, I would probably do anything in my power to get America to support Sweden. It doesn't mean I'm anti-American, or that I put Sweden ahead of America. If it really came down to us or them, well, I'd have to decide at the time, but in any situation where it wasn't absolutely clear that it was us or them, I would push 100% for America to support Sweden.

So guess what? My guess is that a lot of American Jews are the same way with Israel. There are some important differences, however: 1. Sweden is a completely insignificant country. 2. I'm not supported by a bunch of religious nuts who think keeping control of Sweden is necessary for God to come down and take me to heaven, 3. Various other factors.

All of this, I think, is pretty obvious. Unfortunately, when you start talking about anything with ethnic implications, people get extremely touchy about anything. There are some good reasons for that, but seriously, it just doesn't justify the assumption that W&M must be anti-semitic.
4.27.2006 12:12pm
David in DC:
Thanks, Steve.

It's easy to slide back and forth, and I caught myself doing it in some of my posts, but we were talking about the lower-case lobby vs. W&M's "the Lobby" and not anti-Semitism.

Regarding that, I think there are just a few parts in the paper where W&M slip and say things which are, indeed, anti-Semitic. But I don't think that is the intent (I think it is sloppiness/lack of precision) and I wouldn't call the paper an anti-Semitic screed.

BUT...

Anyone, and these guys in particular (because presumably, based on their positions, they should be among the best of the best), if they are going to write a paper that as you say "evokes uncomfortable images of Zionist conspiracy theories" they should a) be exceedingly careful with their language, b) write a well researched and balanced paper. The fact is, they were sloppy with language and even sloppier with their facts, with quotes taken out of context, and wrote an incredibly biased and intellectually dishonest paper. They obviously know better.

It is juxtaposition of all of these things that raises red flags I think.
4.27.2006 12:39pm
r4d20 (mail):
"So you want them to continually praise the lobby throughout the paper just to make sure nobody gets the wrong idea? "


Actually I made it clear that THEY SHOULD NOT USE THE TERM "LOBBY".
4.27.2006 12:55pm
r4d20 (mail):
David in DC,

Thats why I've been trying to say, only better.

Their use of the term is at odds with their formal definition and the argument that we should take the formal definition at face value is simply not compelling.
4.27.2006 1:05pm
r4d20 (mail):
David in DC,

Thats what I've been trying to say, only you said it better.

Their use of the term is at odds with their formal definition and the argument that we should take the formal definition at face value is simply not compelling - especially in the light of history.
4.27.2006 1:07pm
TomCS:
Shame on you, Professor Bernstein, for not having done your research better on Molly Ivins before choosing her as an aunt sally in this "Lobby" debate. She is among the most literate and balanced columnists out there, if her general approach may be to one side of much of this blog. I recommend that you read her regularly in penance: you may in passing learn some useful things about Texas.

She has a very good point, and one which I challenge you to answer. How can we carry out a rational political debate about the policies and actions of successive Israeli governments, in particular but not only towards the ethnic minorities within Israeli's legal or occupation boundaries, and of successive US administrations towards Israel, without the charge of anti-semitism (and the latent charge of holocaust-reviver?) being deployed to stop debate.

How can we analyse the interaction of the overt formal pro-Israeli/pro-Zionist political lobby with the more general financial support of many individual Jewish Americans for politicians whose views they share or want to influence?

The hair-splitting in these posts over is it a lobby or not is irrelevant: of course the formal and the informal work together and reinforce each other, and all of this is legitimate, and has no need of a conspiracy theory. That is not to say that the original Mearsheimer-Walt article was accurate and perfectly balanced: political scientists can write to provoke, and do expect their work to be criticised. But I agree with Molly Ivins that the response is so disproportionate - even hysterical - to suggest that "the lady doth protest too much".
4.27.2006 1:44pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
r4d20,

>Actually I made it clear that THEY SHOULD NOT USE THE TERM "LOBBY".<

See, this is just weird, because "lobby" is simply not a loaded term. "Lobby" is in fact a term commonly used with many groups, having essentially no connotations whatsoever.

"Lobby" does not mean "conspiracy." It does not mean "cabal." It really has no connection to those ideas whatsoever. Lobby is really about the least dirty word I could possibly think of. Moreover, they even cement this by specifically noting that their Lobby should not be seen as different from any other lobby.

Your suggestion, on the other hand, "Network of Influence," seems to me to have a great deal MORE in common with the idea of a conspiracy or a cabal. In context, I am certain that many more people would say it sounds VERY shadowy, underhanded and falling in line with the claims of the likes of David Duke. "Lobby" is in fact the opposite: a clear, clinical and non-loaded description of a group of people making an effort to push public opinion in a particular direction.

With all due respect, your problem is clearly not with the word "lobby," but with the underlying idea of the paper. The attack on their rhetoric, I think, is entirely misplaced. If you consider the actual difficulty in addressing these issues, which I think is revealed by your attempt to come up with a less loaded phrase, I think it's quite clear that they went through great pains to use the most non-loaded and responsible rhetoric possible, without simply writing a paper in praise of Israel.

As a sidenote, the idea that it is irresponsible to talk about a Lobby, because all members do not necessarilly reflect generalizations about the group, is just silly. Everybody knows this, and W&M specifically stated that the Lobby is not of one mind. Nevertheless, in common parlance, we talk about what a lobby pushes for, and don't specify every single time that they are speaking generally when they refer to a group of people. Their enunciation at the outset that the lobby clearly does not operate with one mind is not "contradictory" with their later use of the term; it is a clarification, which should hardly be necessary, that speaking singularly about a lobby does not suggest that every member holds any particular view. Nevertheless, there are certain efforts of the lobby, generally speaking, which are worth discussing.

Again, the criticisms on this basis strike me as very transparent. They may be sincere, at least on a surface level, but any thought should reveal that they are baseless.
4.27.2006 2:59pm
springdaysareuponus:
"How can we carry out a rational political debate about the policies and actions of successive Israeli governments, in particular but not only towards the ethnic minorities within Israeli's legal or occupation boundaries"...

Grin. But moving along:

"...without the charge of anti-semitism (and the latent charge of holocaust-reviver?) being deployed to stop debate."

You mean, deployed, like tanks?

Here's a suggestion: keep right on debating. Even when someone says something you don't like. Or someone heckles from the cheap seats, or your precious ears are exposed to a poor argument, or someone somewhere disagrees with you, yet makes no sense.

It's easy! I'm doing it right now.
4.27.2006 3:00pm
David in DC:
The hair-splitting in these posts over is it a lobby or not is irrelevant

This isn't the point.

Just use the non-controversial word "group" instead of lobby. The point is, they define their Group one way, and then go on to allege all sorts of motives, goals and actions that are inconsistent with their definition of the Group.

The solution is simple: either they should redefine "Group" so the allegations they make fit the Group (rather than fitting individuals within or parts of the Group, which are then generalized to "the Group" as a whole), or limit themselves to allegations that apply to the Group as a whole.

That is not to say that the original Mearsheimer-Walt article was accurate and perfectly balanced: political scientists can write to provoke

Writing inaccurate and unbalanced papers about an extremely sensitive subject is certainly provocative, to say the very least. If they wrote this to provoke, well, I think you'd agree - mission accomplished :-).

You asked above how to engage in rational debate about a number of topics related to this paper. Try this on for size: writing an accurate and balanced paper for starters.

even hysterical

There's that word again. Regardless of your esteem for Molly Ivins, she used a strawman in her paper:


For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious — that there is an Israel lobby in the United States — Mearsheimer and Walt have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work."


I don't doubt they were accused, but I have not seen one critique that did it for the reason Ivins says there.

I wouldn't apply any of those terms to W&M. I would say, with regard to this paper - sloppy, quite biased, and intellectually dishonest (even if, or maybe because, they were trying to provoke as you suggest).
4.27.2006 3:02pm
SLS 1L:
Marchs1 - Like all words, I think "lobby" does have connotations. Compare "the abortion-rights lobby" with "abortion-rights advocates," "the abortion-rights coalition," or "Americans who support abortion rights." Lobby" has connotations of organization, operating behind the scenes, and lack of popular support.
4.27.2006 3:15pm
SLS 1L:
Marcus1 - as for your earlier points, my complaint isn't with the substance of the stuff I quoted so much as with the word choices. They could easily have rephrased it in a way that would avoid the connotations I'm talking about.

My one problem with the substance of the stuff I quoted is that they characterize core of "the Lobby" as people who do stuff to turn American foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction in their "daily lives." What could these people possibly be doing in their daily lives to change American foreign policy? They later backtrack, claiming that they're talking about stuff like writing letters to the editor, but nobody does that on a daily basis other than professional activists and lobbyists.

The idea that American Jews are altering American foreign policy in their "daily lives" is completely untenable unless you're willing to make some classic anti-Semitic assumptions.
4.27.2006 3:38pm
Steve:
I tend to agree that there is absolutely no way to talk about these particular subjects without someone finding objectionable word choices and the like. You can say all you want "If only they called it X instead of Y, I'd be fine with it!" but I don't really believe it.
4.27.2006 3:44pm
David in DC:
Marcus,

Nevertheless, in common parlance, we talk about what a lobby pushes for, and don't specify every single time that they are speaking generally when they refer to a group of people.

The reason for this is simple. In common parlance, when we are talking about a lobby we are talking about a group like AIPAC which does indeed have specifically stated positions.

But we aren't talking about a lobby. We are talking about W&M's "the Lobby". This is not common parlance, it is the animal they created specifically for their paper.

But, as you point out, W&M are generalizing the actions of some of the Lobby to the group as a whole and this is not exceptional. If true, then there should be no problem explicitly stating it and it should not impact the meaning or even the connotations of the paper, right? Let's check it out:


Some of the Lobby try to stifle debate...but most are vehemently against it and for open discussion.

A single member of our broadly defined Lobby formed a group to monitor what professors write and teach...but a lot more of the Lobby feels this is heavy handed.

The most effective weapon, used by a some of the Lobby as we define it, is the charge of anti-Semitism...but many others of the Lobby cringe when this is trotted out when it doesn't apply because it is akin to 'crying wolf'.

Etc, etc, etc.


It's not the same.

It goes back to what has been repeated a lot - their Lobby is so broadly defined as to make it meaningless. It is too heterogenous. The only thing tying it together is that it is pro-Israel, which basically means it is for Israel's right to exist. Other than that the Lobby is split on the stifling debate thing, anti-Semitism, money to Israel, the treatment of the Palestinians, Isreal's human rights record, the war in Iraq, party affiliation...the list goes on.

In a nutshell their argument is:

There a group that is defined by its support for Israel's right to exist (if I am being to broad here, I am open to suggestions as to the unifying factor for W&M's Lobby). Other than that they disagree on every other issue related to Israel. Some of them do [insert list of allegations here], some of them don't. Discuss.
4.27.2006 3:55pm
Christopher Cooke:
The Professor is right, Ivins is largely attacking a "straw man" by saying that W&M are only criticized for pointing out the obvious, i.., that a lobby for Israel exists. Most critics are not attacking them for that. While some critics tend to charge anti-semitism, others are raising issues with their "facts" and the inferences they draw from them (see, e.g., much of Dershowitz's comments). And, many critics of W&M are taking them to task for so broadly defining the "Israel Lobby" as to be either so all-encompassing as to be meaningless, or evoking Elders of Zion type conspiracy theories. In other words, for these critics, they don't like the tone that pervades W&M's paper, which smacks of antisemitic conspiracy stuff. I must say, on reflection, I think there is some substance to this concern about the tone of the paper. While W&M deny they believe a conspiracy exists, they write throughout the paper as though there is one immutable force called the "Israel Lobby" and that this group has a stranglehold on American's Middle East policy, and pushed the USA to war against Iraq. One big problem with their thesis is that the US policy in the Middle East is obviously influenced by other considerations, what I will call (to use a W&M trick), the "Big Oil Lobby." The "Big Oil Lobby" (in lefty views) consists of Saudi Arabia's current government, Exxon-Mobil, anyone who drives a Hummer, the elder George Bush people, and anyone who supported the first Persian Gulf War (I hope my irony is not lost here, lest I provoke troll comments and death threats from the Big Oil Lobby members, who may not realize they are members). Of course, use of this "Lobby" shorthand and rhetorical device detracts from what W&M are probably trying to do, which is to argue for a change in US Middle East policies, because it makes their paper easy to criticize, without looking to the substance of whether US foreign policy is too tilted in favor of Israel, and whether US foreign policy of a strong alliance with Israel does best serve the USA's interests. From W&M's perspective, however, I am certain that the harsh reaction they have received to the paper only convinces them that there is an Israel Lobby that crushes dissent.
4.27.2006 6:28pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
SLS 1L,

>"Lobby" has connotations of organization, operating behind the scenes, and lack of popular support.<

Ha... well, I would actually dispute that; I don't think it's the word "lobby" that has those connotations, but merely that most lobbies seem to operate in that manner. I would still say that "lobby" is comparatively an extremely clean word, though, which is equally at home in a positive context (perhaps the "free speech lobby" or the "[pick your home state] lobby") as it is a negative context ("the pedophile lobby").

It raises a few points though: 1. Ok, so you're saying that even the very word "lobby" is suggestive of a lack of popular support. That's funny, because it suggests W&M were right that the existence of a lobby suggests that its interests are adverse to the rest of us. But more importantly,

2. That's their whole paper -- that the Israel Lobby is well-organized, operates behind the scenes, and lacks popular support! If what you're saying is true, then it seems they've picked the perfect word. a. As far as lobbies go, the Israel lobby is quite organized, with lots of official organizations like AIPAC. Compare that to the Palestinian lobby, or the Democratic Party, which appear to be less organized. b. Of course the Israel Lobby acts behind the scenes. That's what lobbies do. The Israel Lobby, as a collective (despite the generality of speaking of a group as a collective -- see how responsible I'm being), however, is known for this. c. Their whole paper is about how the Lobby's interests differ from those of America, and thus that at least if it doesn't lack popular support, it should, and it would in the absence of the lobby. If you want to take issue with that, feel free, but unless you do, it seems odd to criticize them for saying it.

I'd say that you can only really criticize them for using the word "lobby" if you can tell me that it means something more and worse than what their paper is about -- something, I would think, about cabals and conspiracies. If the word is simply the perfect embodiment of the argument they're making, then it seems a bit unfair not to allow them to use it. In that case, I'd say you should criticize their arguments, not accuse them of making underhanded accusations, which aren't actually underhanded at all.
4.27.2006 6:52pm
David in DC:
Marcus,

Two out of three ain't bad :-).


a) As far as lobbies go, the Israel lobby is quite organized...


Yes.


b) Of course the Israel Lobby acts behind the scenes. That's what lobbies do. The Israel Lobby, as a collective (despite the generality of speaking of a group as a collective -- see how responsible I'm being), however, is known for this.


Lobbies (lowercase) do this. W&M's "The Lobby" is actually quite overt. Did you read the paper? According to W&M they engage in letter writing campaigns, shout people down with accusations of anti-Semitism, formed a group to monitor what professors write and teach, etc. A big part of the Lobby's strategy, according to W&M, is getting their story out (I think they referred to this story, in part, as "myths"). Whether you think they are lying or telling the truth, getting the story out behind the scenes defeats the purpose.

The "Israel Lobby as a collective ... ,however, is known for this"? It's not clear whether you are stating this canard or if you are trying to reiterate W&M's position. In any event, I'm not sure exactly who "knows" this (read: holds this opinion), but I would be curious about how they arrived at this "knowledge".


c. Their whole paper is about how the Lobby's interests differ from those of America, and thus that at least if it doesn't lack popular support, it should, and it would in the absence of the lobby.


When you consider that, as defined, the country would lose a sizable chunk of its population if we got rid of W&M's "Lobby", I don't see how anyone could argue this. :-)

Now, who would want to stay is the real question - lol. You'd have the W&M's, the Pat Buchanans, the Cynthia McKinneys, Lew Rockwells, Lyndon Larouches, various Arab/anti-Israel lobbying groups and their associated capital-L Lobby, and the David Dukes. Basically you'd have the way far left, the way far right, and Arab interests. This is a function of just how broadly W&M defined "the Lobby", not any statement whatsoever about the "anti-Lobby", as it were.
4.27.2006 9:00pm
Meryl Yourish (www):
Benny Morris has an article in the most recent New Republic calling Walt and Mearsheimer out on their facts, particulary the ones concerning his books.


Consider some other examples. On page 6, Mearsheimer and Walt assert that Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American naval intelligence analyst in the 1980s, provided Israel with classified American material, "which Israel reportedly passed onto the Soviet Union to gain more exit visas for Soviet Jewry." To the best of my knowledge, this is a lie. On page 9, Mearsheimer and Walt write that "citizenship [of Israel] is based on the principle of blood kinship." This is an outrageous assertion, with the worst possible echoes. The truth is that since the state's inception, 15 to 20 percent of Israel's citizens have been Muslim and Christian Arabs. In 1948-1949, citizenship was granted to all persons living in the country, regardless of race or religion, and it is granted by law after five years of residency and the satisfaction of various qualifications (as in all western democracies) to applicants today regardless of race or religion--though it is true that Jewish immigrants can and do receive citizenship upon arrival in Israel, and it is also true that Israel is a Jewish state, as France is (and, I hope, will remain) a French state and Britain is a British state. On page 12, Mearsheimer and Walt write, referring to my book Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956, that Israel's retaliatory strikes in the early 1950s "were actually part of a broader effort to expand Israel's borders." This is incorrect--and had they used my book honestly, they could not have reached such a conclusion. On page 10, they observe that "The Arabs ... had been in continuous possession of [Palestine] for 1300 years," which is incorrect, and that there were "only about 15,000 Jews in Palestine" in 1882, which is also incorrect. (Typically, Mearsheimer and Walt cite as their authority Justin McCarthy's The Population of Palestine, without noting that he also assumed the existence of additional thousands of Jews in Palestine who were not Ottoman citizens.) And so on.


There's a lot more.

The problem with the W-M paper isn't just that it takes all supporters of Israel, lumps them into a mysterious group called "the Lobby," and then gives them a single purpose. The problem is that Walt and Mearsheimer cherry-picked information, slanted their facts, and out-and-out lied.

Add this to the history of accusations against Jews controlling the governments of the countries in which they live, as well as the old slander that Jews secretly rule the world, and perhaps you can see why some of us doubt the "pure" intentions of Mssrs. W. and M.

As to Molly Ivins: Her premise is that people are criticizing the paper because it says there's an Israel lobby. I have seen no one responding to it in that manner. That is a dishonest statement that is being made, over and over again, by those who think that W-M actually had something new to say.

If people want to have an open, honest discussion of the Israel lobby, feel free. But don't mistake the W-M for one.
4.28.2006 12:18pm
Meryl Yourish (www):
Sorry, link to the Morris article.
4.28.2006 12:19pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David,

I'll avoid a long response, and note simply that you're refusing to accept the "Lobby" as a rough and abstract term which was never claimed or implied to be a specific group of individuals all with the same views and approaches to debate. It's entirely a straw man argument which you're assigning them despite their specific disclaimer to the contrary. They don't make, imply, need, rely on, or in any way base their argument on such a claim.

Put another way, the motives and ideas you're trying to assign them are completely unnecessary to their paper. They had no reason to make such arguments, and they didn't. Talking about a roughly defined Lobby simply does not imply the things you say it implies, particularly after the specifically disclaim such ideas.

It seems in a way you just realy don't want to let W&M decide for themselves what argument they're making.
4.28.2006 12:41pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Meryl,

I'm sorry, but those just don't sound like outrageous distortions. Of course, I can't verify the history, but when he says things like that the blood-kinship comment is outrageous, and that it has the worst possible echoes, I have to say it doesn't help his credibility. Five years of residency and various qualifications for non-Jews vs. automatic citizenship for Jews is not a trivial difference. This seems to me entirely supportive of the idea that "citizenship [of Israel] is based on the principle of blood kinship." If not blood kinship, what is this very significant difference based in?

The idea, moreover, that Israel being a Jewish state is the same as France being a French state is absurd. French does not specify a race or religion. Israel being an Israeli state would be no different, but that's not all that it is.

Now, honestly, I don't oppose this policy in Israel, because 1. I don't know enough about it, and 2. Under the circumstances, I can very much understand why Israel would basically need a majority Jewish rather than Arab population in order to be what it is. Nevertheless, saying that their citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship just doesn't sound like a distortion. If there are negative echoes here, which I really don't even know what they are, I'm fail to see how W&M are supposed to avoid it, again, without simply writing a paper in praise of Israel.

Personally, I find the criticisms here much more suspect than the claims in the paper.
4.28.2006 1:08pm
r4d20 (mail):
Anti-Gun people talk of the "Gun Lobby" - Pro-Gun people talk of the "right ot bear arms". Anti-abortion people talk of the "abortion lobby" - Pro-Choice people talk of the "right to choose". The list goes on.

Across the board lay-people almost universally reserve the word "lobby" to refer to groups with agendas that they oppose and rarely to refer to groups they support.

Denotation is NOT the same as Connotation and the word Lobby is used, by people, in a negative connotation the VAST majority of the time.
4.28.2006 1:37pm
David in DC:
Marcus,

I'll avoid a long reply and just say you are talking past what I said rather than address my arguments.

Put another way, the motives and ideas you're trying to assign them are completely unnecessary to their paper.

I'm not talking about their motives, I am talking about what they said in their paper. (Which is to say, I am addressing their arguments rather than making ad hominem attacks towards the authors.)

It seems in a way you just realy don't want to let W&M decide for themselves what argument they're making.

I fully understand the argument they are trying to make. Just as I understand the similar (but not the same) argument you are trying to make for them. Perhaps you are right, and all of the errors and inconsistencies are made about aspects of the paper that are not crucial to their main point. Then I say, write that paper without all of the bias, errors, omissions and inconsistencies and let's have a look.

You have to realize, my critique is of their paper as they wrote it, not as you think they should have written it.
4.28.2006 3:16pm
David in DC:
Personally, I find the criticisms here much more suspect than the claims in the paper.

So the guy doesn't know what he wrote in his own book?


On page 12, Mearsheimer and Walt write, referring to my book Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956, that Israel's retaliatory strikes in the early 1950s "were actually part of a broader effort to expand Israel's borders." This is incorrect--and had they used my book honestly, they could not have reached such a conclusion.


Regarding the blood kinship remark, I understand why you cherry picked that single critique out of the Morris excerpt in an attempt to discredit Morris, but even there you need a stretch. Perhaps W&M were trying to say that Israel is based on an ethnic form of nationalism, similar to the Finns or the Japanese, but then they should have actually said that.

I'm not sure why Morris picked France and Britain. Israel is a Jewish state like Finland is a Finnish state, Ireland is an Irish state, Germany is a German state (although maybe they changed in the past few years?), Japan is a Japanese state, Palestine will be an Arab state, Kurdistan would be a Kurdish state, etc. The Jewish people deserve a state of their own, based on the principle of the self determination of peoples which is embodied in the UN Charter.

It's funny how you can pick out intellectual dishonesty no matter where you look. I was checking out specifically what W&M said regarding this and this is the paragraph:


Some aspects of Israeli democracy are at odds with core American values. Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship. Given this, it is not surprising that its 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class citizens, or that a recent Israeli government commission found that Israel behaves in a 'neglectful and discriminatory' manner towards them. Its democratic status is also undermined by its refusal to grant the Palestinians a viable state of their own or full political rights.


Believe it or not, this is given as evidence in an attempt counter the argument that Israel deserves our support because it is a democracy. Not to counter the premise of the argument (W&M actually make a good argument for this in the preceding paragraph), but as an attempt to undermine the idea of Israel's democracy itself.

To really understand how mendacious this is, you only need to look at Israel's Declaration of Independence:


THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/israel.htm


Some may want to read the whole thing.

Also food for thought - have you ever heard anyone try to make this argument about Japan or Finland or any of the other countries listed above? Ever?
4.28.2006 4:44pm
TomCS:
Some of this debate has been depressingly linguistic, some of it blindingly blinkered, while some reflects perceptions of the realities of political influence and power, which, not surprisingly, differ from continent to continent and country to country.

I take Mearsheimer and Walt, and Ivins (and Robert Fisk, in the London Independent, if you have on-line access) to be attempting honestly and seriously to look at a real political issue. What are the influences on (successive) US administration policies towards Israel which make it, to many observers, an almost unquestioning supporter of a series of Israeli governments whose policies deserve challenge, whether in the interests of those living in Israel and the occupied territories, or of the wider stability of the Middle East.

In an earlier post I asked just how you suggest that these discussions should be conducted in an environment of free speech? Objective analysis of the Israeli-American political pressure nexus is surely a legitimate exercise for political scientists: the more academics (and journalists) who attempt it, the closer to a consensus description we are likely to get.

In this era of political lobbying as one of the core mechanisms of the US polity, I can see no objective difference between the propriety of attempting to understand the overt and hidden efforts of the native American gambling interests to operate profitably, of US hydro-carbon producers and their attempts to influence the global warming debate, or of the Israeli-American activists and supporters to secure continuing military, economic and political support for the state of Israel. I see no reason to believe that any of these three (among many) will deny themselves any of the tools of spin, political arm-twisting and financial encouragement, at the organised or the individual level.

So are they or are they not a legitimate object of research, criticism and journalism? Grant that and then we can debate the accuracy of any attempt to do so. And then let us, in the spirit of this site, have a non-abusive debate, without the knee-jerk, broad-brush deployment of the "you can't say that, it's anti-semitic" taunt. In my earlier post I used the term deployed, and you responded "like tanks". Yes, rhetorically that is precisely what the use of the charge of anti-semitism is in this debate, it is an attempt to drive over the argument and ignore the evidence.
4.28.2006 7:10pm
David in DC:
In an earlier post I asked just how you suggest that these discussions should be conducted in an environment of free speech?

Tom,

I, for one, answered. Do you need an engraved invitation? :-)

Objective analysis of the Israeli-American political pressure nexus is surely a legitimate exercise for political scientists

I totally agree with you. Objective analysis is certainly legitimate.

Are you trying to imply that non-objective analysis is not a legitimate exercise for political scientists?

I'm guessing Harvard thinks so when it comes to Harvard political scientists, given their actions.

Now, you'll note that critics of the W&M critics are also making very general accusations. Perhaps they can stop also.

There are two issues here:

1) The paper specifically. It's crap, to be overly blunt, and it's getting dumped on as it should be.

2) The subject of US-Israel relations.

I'll continue to be blunt and just say that people are criticizing a crap paper and those who take exception to that are whining that they can't talk about the subject at all. To borrow a phrase - it's hysterical.

Do a lexus-nexus or other media search for AIPAC, neo-con, Israel lobby, etc. and you'll see that we aren't talking about something the media is shying away from. Far from it. People have been writing about this for years now in the run-up to and aftermath of the Iraq war.
--------------
I've been saying all along, the bottom line is there are advocates for differing points of view competing for our mind share. Each has a powerful lobby behind it. One side's ideas have won the day so far. The simplest explanation is that...people agree with them (gasp!).

"The Lobby" becomes somewhat of a moot point if the US-Israel relationship is in our interests. This is what should be explored. Is it or isn't it? In their paper, W&M stack the deck regarding this question and don't give it honest treatment. I'd suggest to them - put more effort into making their case fully, honestly and objectively regarding this point, and (again to be blunt) less effort making excuses as to why their ideas aren't winning the day.
4.28.2006 9:11pm
Ron (mail):
I support Israel's right to exist within secure borders, and free from aggresssion.

Does that make me "pro-Israel" ?

Is that position contrary to "American interests" ?
4.28.2006 9:25pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David,

>Regarding the blood kinship remark, I understand why you cherry picked that single critique out of the Morris excerpt in an attempt to discredit Morris<

I picked it because it was the one I could verify. As far as a guy saying anybody who read his book would have concluded differently, that sounds pretty subjective to me. For what it's worth: although I do agree with certain of W&M's arguments, I'm not biased in favor of their paper. I have nothing against the idea that there are errors. I just haven't seen any allegations yet that impressed me, whereas many of the allegations seem facially unfair. I tend to go by facial validity, incidentally, simply because I can't really verify many of the underlying facts.

Now, you're saying Finland and Ireland and Germany specifically favor ethnic Finns, Irish and Germans? How Finnish do you have to be? This isn't something I'm aware of; in any case, like I said, I don't really criticize Israel for the policy, though it does strike me as a bit awkward. Should I blame others who do criticize it, though? I'm actually not sure what you found dishonest about W&M's characterization. Because Israel's Constitution professes equality? I'm not sure what that proves. As I said, the difference between automatic citizenship and 5 years plus other tests seems to me pretty stark. How do they square that with total equality of all inhabitants?

I think you are drawing conclusions about their motives, though, because you're calling them dishonest, rather than incorrect. By your examples, though, you seem to me to be just extremely biased against the view expressed in the paper. Incidentally, I think this is what Ivins and others meant in saying that W&M were lambasted for the sheer effrontery of alleging an Israel lobby in the U.S. Of course, that's not your explicit attack, and you say that's not your problem, but there are many reasons to think that this was essentially the moral crime that they committed. Which is to say, I don't think it was their foonote saying that the existence of a lobby suggests a position differing from the societal default.

Or put another way, it's irrelevant to Ivins that you admit under some definition W&M aren't using that there is an Israel Lobby. Defined as W&M define it, which is what we're talking about, you think the idea of an Israel Lobby in the U.S. is outrageous, and that's the point.
4.28.2006 9:38pm
David in DC:
Marcus,

I picked it because it was the one I could verify.

If you are not Jewish already, you can convert to Judaism (a Conservative or Orthodox conversion) and get the same benefit without a trace of "blood kinship". Strictly speaking, they are using an incorrect definition of "Jew", which is a religion and an ethnicity.

So they were wrong on the facts. But more importantly, you saw that they were making what is pretty clearly an intellectually dishonest argument about Israel's democracy. Why don't you acknowledge that? Factual errors may be only that, but their argument itself that I highlighted there is patently dishonest. Read it again:


Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship.


As you saw in Israel's Declaration of Independence, all inhabitants of Israel enjoy these exact same rights. Now, do you really think W&M don't know this? I'm going to go out on a limb - of course they know it. Because if Jewish citizens of Israel had more rights than non-Jewish citizens of Israel W&M would have highlighted it right here in their paper.

But since it is not true, they only make the implication that it is so and let their readers draw their own conclusions.

And as if this isn't enough, this is offered as evidence that we shouldn't view Israel's democracy as favorably as we might. So even if we accept the argument that we should favor democracies, well, that shouldn't be such a compelling argument in Israel's case.

Again, why? Leaving behind the W&M speak - it's because, while Israel offers equal rights to all of its inhabitants and anyone can become a citizen of Israel, as the national homeland of the Jewish people Jews (whether by ethnicity or religion) in the diaspora are granted automatic citizenship via the Law of Return.

I didn't even address the fallacy of their argument against Israel's democracy with regard to the territories. That is aimed at people who don't really understand the details of the conflict, and as such is just another intellectually dishonest ploy.

Now, you're saying Finland and Ireland and Germany specifically favor ethnic Finns, Irish and Germans?

I was referring to ethnic nationalism (vs. civic like ours), not citizenship laws specifically. But I found this. I would double check those if you are really interested in the details, but the point is that Israel is not exceptional and specifically that this rule is not "undemocratic" as W&M are trying to imply.


• Section 116 of the Federal Republic of Germany's constitution allows people of "ethnic German origin" from Eastern Europe residency and citizenship rights.
• Section 375 of the Greek citizenship law confers automatic citizenship to people "of Greek nationality" if they enlist in military service.
• Section 25(1) of the Bulgarian constitution give people of "Bulgarian origin" to obtain special access to Bulgarian citizenship.
• Section 13(3) of the Armenian constitution confers automatic citizenship on a "native Armenian" living in the Armenian republic.
• Section 18a of the Finnish foreigners' law states that a person from the Soviet Union who "is of Finnish origin" may, along with their spouse and children, receive permission for permanent residence and citizenship.
• Section 14a of the Irish citizenship law of 1986 grants the interior minister authority to confer automatic citizenship on any applicant of "Irish origin or affiliation."


I think there are quite a few others, too.

Furthermore, the UN's International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination explicitly states that this is not racism:


4. Special measures taken for the sole purpose of securing adequate advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups or individuals requiring such protection as may be necessary in order to ensure such groups or individuals equal enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms shall not be deemed racial discrimination, provided, however, that such measures do not, as a consequence, lead to the maintenance of separate rights for different racial groups and that they shall not be continued after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved.


But, again, W&M assert that the fact of Israel's Law of Return is a credible argument against supporting them as a fellow democracy. Not that they say it in quite that way, because then the weakness of the argument jumps off the page at you.

Note that all of this is to show W&M's intellectual dishonesty for one throwaway paragraph. If you said this paragraph isn't necessary for their case I would agree 100%, it isn't. But it's typical for the whole paper, not exceptional at all. And a person who was not knowledgable about Israel wouldn't have a clue what was wrong with it...this being the point, as these are the people W&M are trying to influence. You note: "I tend to go by facial validity, incidentally, simply because I can't really verify many of the underlying facts." You are the target audience.

I think you are drawing conclusions about their motives, though, because you're calling them dishonest, rather than incorrect.

Intellectually dishonest. The only motive I see is they want to convince you of their point of view (duh, right? :-)). But, big 'but here, their paper shows that they put that ahead of giving you the full story. They are trying to sway you with selective presentation of facts, not educate you. That has its place, of course, but not in an academic paper with the imprimateur of Harvard.

...you seem to me to be just extremely biased against the view expressed in the paper.

I have always had a bias against dishonesty, so sue me ;o). Kidding aside, I happen to disagree with them - I do not believe that our relationship with Israel is harmful to our interests. I believe there is a net positive. That's the really important issue. "The Lobby" is a smokescreen they concocted because they couldn't honestly make their real point. And when their paper get ripped to shreds as it rightly should be, well, that's just more evidence of "the Lobby" because it couldn't be that they wrote a transparently crappy paper.

...but there are many reasons to think that this was essentially the moral crime that they committed.

Puh-leeeze. If there was any crime committed here it was academic, if you can call writing an egregiously slanted, intellectually dishonest paper with multiple factual errors a crime.

Defined as W&M define it, which is what we're talking about, you think the idea of an Israel Lobby in the U.S. is outrageous, and that's the point.

You don't seem to be listening to what I say or are getting me mixed up with someone else. W&M can define whatever they want and call it whatever they want. I have no problems with the words they chose and I don't have any problems with the definitions they set up.

You see why they set up the definition as broadly as possible, right? It's so they could drag in the maximum number of anecdotes and allegations as possible to then ascribe to their "Lobby". But by making it as broad as they did, they set up a situation that for almost every situation where there is a 'pro' (their argument) within the Lobby, there is also a 'con'. They just listed the 'pros', left out all of the 'cons' and called it a day. You think what they did is fine, and maybe it is if you are trying to score points in a debate or if you are trying to sway people. But not in any kind of academic paper. And it is not a convincing argument even if they published it in Counterpunch.
4.29.2006 1:29am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David,

I think you're trying very hard to turn their very conventional statements into something outrageous. It just doesn't work. The idea that Palestinians are not given the same rights in Israel as Jews is not an outrageous claim. The simple fact that Jews are given automatic citizenship, vs. 5 years plus other qualifications for non-Jews, proves this.
As you saw in Israel's Declaration of Independence, all inhabitants of Israel enjoy these exact same rights. Now, do you really think W&M don't know this? I'm going to go out on a limb - of course they know it.
See, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you're being deliberately dishonest here. The issue they raised, as you know, is not about those who have been granted citizenship, but about the discriminatory policy in granting that status, and impliedly the discriminatory effect this policy has on various groups.

We could not have a law in the U.S. that gave citizenship to ethnic Germans more easily than ethnic Mexicans. It would be completely absurd, and would be considered ridiculously un-American. Now, you can say that Israel is different, and thus requires a different policy, and I agree. You can say that other countries do the same thing, and I'll agree to an extent, though there seem to be some important differences. You can even argue that getting citizenship for being born here is no less discriminatory than getting citizenship for being Jewish in Israel. What you can't say, though, is that W&M are dishonest because they disagree.

Or, rather, you can, of course, but it makes you kind of a partisan hack. Really, it strikes me that your position seems based on the premise that the only intellectually honest position regarding Israel is one that is fully supportive. You're going through great lengths not just to disagree with W&M, but to infer every which thing so that you can make insinuations about their character rather than simply to argue against them. If you struck me as angry or irrational, I'd give you a pass on this, but I've noticed that your arguments are pretty well-controlled. This leads me to believe that if you only gave the slightest effort, you'd be able to understand much better where W&M are coming from, and would not find their paper nearly so outrageous.

I've read outrageous statements, on both sides of the debate. On my scale of outrageous, I'd put Prof. Bernstein probably somewhere around a 7, you somewhere around a 4 or 5, and W&M, at least in this paper, somewhere around a 2 or a 3. I'd put the things I've read in Counterpunch at somewhere around an 8 or 9. Derschowitz probably gets something like an 8.

A couple other of your points: 1. An academic paper is allowed to make an argument. It never claimed to represent the other side. I don't think it effectively could have.

2. I think you did criticize the definition of the lobby, for saying that it includes a private individual like you who may write a letter now and again, or something like that.

3. "'The Lobby' is a smokescreen they concocted because they couldn't honestly make their real point." No, I'm certain you're wrong about that. The lobby is a huge issue in and of itself to those who oppose our position on Israel. This is why, as many believe, our position toward Israel is skewed from what it should be. If anything, it seems you'd say the issue of our "national interests" was concocted in order to address the lobby...

Well, I don't think that. I think the idea is that the lobby, roughly speaking, is stunting open debate on our relationship with Israel, and thus the lobby is a big part of the issue which has to be addressed.

4. "If you are not Jewish already, you can convert to Judaism (a Conservative or Orthodox conversion) and get the same benefit without a trace of 'blood kinship'." Is that true? Wikipedia tells me the law of return is based on whether you have the requisite number of Jewish relatives. Not that you could have a religious test in the U.S. either...
4.30.2006 1:46am
David in DC:
Marcus,

I'll ignore your unseemly ad hominem attacks. The following will prove your charges about me wrong in any event.

The issue they raised, as you know, is not about those who have been granted citizenship...

You are reiterating part of Morris' criticism, not specifically addressing mine.

You are talking about the underlying issue they were addressing, which they inaccurately described in their paper. That's his point - they misrepresented it.

Tortured parsing notwithstanding, when you say the basis of membership in a club is based on some characteristic, you expect the members of the club to have that characteristic. This is "common parlance".

Now on to my argument. I assure you, I am not being dishonest here as you charge.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you're being deliberately dishonest here. The issue they raised, as you know, is not about those who have been granted citizenship, but about the discriminatory policy in granting that status...

To review my argument:


But, again, W&M assert that the fact of Israel's Law of Return is a credible argument against supporting them as a fellow democracy. Not that they say it in quite that way, because then the weakness of the argument jumps off the page at you.


I am addressing their argument itself. It's incredibly weak. Everything I posted above is germane when trying to assess this question. Do W&M give us enough information to really judge Israel's democracy, or are they once again presenting only half of the story. Indeed, they only present three facts:

1) the misleading blood-kinship fallacy
2) some comment about discrimination, which is a red herring (discrimination exists in all democracies); and which is unintentionally hurtful to their case given that the report comes from the Israeli government itself.
3) the comment about the territories, which is also a red herring

What they leave off says as much as what they said:

1) Isreal's Declaration of Independence
2) The UN's International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
3) The principle of self determination of peoples
4) The simple fact that we ourselves have laws that treat races differently to assist minorities we perceive as disadvantaged because of racism.

Don't lose sight of the fact that W&M here are making the case that Israel's democratic values are different from ours and that they don't deserve our support as a fellow democracy becuase of it. That is why all of the above are pertinent. It is devastating to W&M's assertion, which was pretty weak to start anyway. This in micro is really typical of the entire paper.

Really, it strikes me that your position seems based on the premise that the only intellectually honest position regarding Israel is one that is fully supportive.

Try to pick up the level of discourse, would you? Some might get the picture you are stooping to this because you can't address the facts.

Others would say you are trying to stifle debate. :-(

My position is based on facts and logic.
------------------------
The rest:

1. An academic paper is allowed to make an argument.

Of course it is. Usually academicians gather and present the data and let that guide their conclusion. W&M started with a conclusion and selectively presented/omitted facts in order to support it. Borrowing a phrase from you, they are "partisan hacks".

2. I think you did criticize the definition of the lobby, for saying that it includes a private individual like you who may write a letter now and again, or something like that.

That went hand and hand with ascribing characteristics and actions to me that are the opposite of the truth. If David=the Lobby, then I say generalize to the lobby from me, not Daniel Pipes :-).

Define what you want, but get it right.

3. "'The Lobby' is a smokescreen they concocted because they couldn't honestly make their real point." No, I'm certain you're wrong about that. The lobby is a huge issue in and of itself to those who oppose our position on Israel.

Of course it is a huge issue. Without the Lobby to point fingers at they might actually have to face up to the fact that their arguments are unconvincing and most people don't agree with them.

The paper is an excellent case in point. The two guys who should have been able to best argue the case present a weak, one-sided and distorted case in their favor.

If anything, it seems you'd say the issue of our "national interests" was concocted in order to address the lobby...

Not concocted, because at root this is what the W&M's of the world want to change. We kind of get back to their first footnote now: there is a Lobby so it suggests that the relationship is against our interests.

My answer - how about addressing the topic based on the facts. The presence or absence of the Lobby will not change the facts and logically it does not strengthen their case.

As far as I can tell, they made their case in the paper. And the lobby had nothing to do whatsoever with the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of their presentation. It was weak. And if their argument loses out because it is a poor argument, meaning it would have lost out regardless of whther there was any Lobby or not, then it is impossible to tell what effect the Lobby would have if they actually made a good argument.

They have an a priori conclusion about the relationship ('it's harmful'), use that in an attempt bolster their case about the Lobby ('it is so strong that it can even force us into this harmful relationship'), the existence of which is then used to in an attempt to strengthen the starting assumption ('more people would agree if it weren't for the Lobby, just because there is a Lobby suggests that the relationship isn't in our interests').

4. "If you are not Jewish already, you can convert to Judaism (a Conservative or Orthodox conversion) and get the same benefit without a trace of 'blood kinship'." Is that true?

Yes. It's possible that even Reform conversions are being accepted now. There is pressure to get rid of the Law of Return in Israel, which is just one small battle between the very religious and the secular that is going on in Israeli society.

FWIW, if you don't know Benny Morris is, I'd suggest you look him up. He has earned his credibility on this subject. I'd also suggest you read his entire article, which is scathing of W&M's paper.
4.30.2006 2:32pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David,

They weren't ad hominems. I simply can't help but point out that you are repeatedly over-stating your points. My point is this: you present some perfectly fine arguments against W&M's paper, to the effect that Israel does deserve the U.S. support that it receives. Your case against their intellectual integrity, however, is just baseless. From the beginning, I've seen nothing but unsubsantiated accusations to suggest there is anything dishonest in their paper. In my mind, that's what's "unseemly."

Now you're saying that if I just read this Benny Morris paper, I'll see how outrageous W&M really are. Sorry, but that doesn't fly. I have to think that Bernstein and you and the rest are presenting the strongest case against W&M, not that you're presenting the weakest case, and that I'll find the strongest case if I just read one more paper. Like I said, I find the case from Bernstein and you and the rest to be completely unconvincing. If there's some other conclusive point that you haven't mentioned yet, feel free to bring it up.

Or if I've missed something, feel free to repeat that, but I don't think I have. You suggest they shouldn't have generalized so much about the lobby. You attacked their footnote that lobbying suggests a non-majority position. You attacked their suggestion that there is a dichotomy between the principles of equality in the U.S. and Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

Your arguments, though, just don't prove anything. Oh, so Finland does something vaguely similar, and that proves something? Affirmative action proves something? The fact that due to recent changes I can probably convert to Judaism and get equal treatment proves something? Quite obviously, it doesn't prove anything. They're arguments, and they're fine, and you're not dishonest for using them to defend Israel, but I think you're being extraordinarily too sure of yourself to say they're so conclusive that W&M must be dishonest. I think you're perfectly aware of the holes in these arguments; if you don't know better, you should. Incidentally, you say yourself that there is a debate on the issue in Israel, which presumably hinges on the question of whether it is consistent with principles of equality.

Ultimately, the thing is that W&M's paper is an extremely moderate expression of the liberal position (if that's the right moniker) toward Israel. They're saying -- guess what? -- America is too pro-Israel. They're further saying that this is largely because of a powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. I don't know how you say this is unncessary; I don't think it's unnecessary, and clearly they don't either. The idea that the Israel lobby is irrelevant to our position on Israel, I think, is absurd. In any case, there's just no basis for calling this a dishonest position. There's no basis for saying they made the argument in a dishonest way. As I see it, the only way you can make this argument is on the premise that the entire liberal position is completely dishonest. I think this is a serious problem with your argument, and is why I suggested that you're adopting the position of a partisan hack (no offense; just an observation).

Do you disagree? Do you simply think W&M presented the liberal argument in a particularly outrageous and dishonest way? Or aren't you essentially arguing that the entire liberal position is completely dishonest? The latter is what I'm surmising. Feel free to tell me if I'm wrong.

As you're sure to point out, I'm not addressing every point you made. I promise, I'd like nothing more than to hash out every little point, but I don't think it works here. Incidentally, I also don't mean to be impolite; I'm just trying to be straight forward. Hopefully that's cool with you...
4.30.2006 5:48pm
David in DC:
From the beginning, I've seen nothing but unsubsantiated accusations to suggest there is anything dishonest in their paper.

Marcus, just because you don't accept the arguments doesn't mean they are unsubstantiated.

The fact is, I call a paper that is exceptionally biased, and contains numerous factual errors and key omissions intellectually dishonest. You don't. Let's just agree to disagree about the definition.

Now you're saying that if I just read this Benny Morris paper, I'll see how outrageous W&M really are. Sorry, but that doesn't fly.

Actually, I didn't say that. At this point I have decided that your mind is made up. I'm pretty confident saying that you won't see it.

Benny Morris is one of the preeminent Israeli historians and has dedicated a lot of his career to documenting Israeli crimes during their War of Independence. He is also footnoted numerous times in W&M's paper. His credibility is quite high because his body of work indicates he has always been interested in the truth, even it if was quite unpleasant.

But, hey, nobody's twisting your arm to read the four page article. I'm curious where this eminent historian would fall on your "outrageous scale". :-)

Your arguments, though, just don't prove anything.

I won't repeat them, I laid it out above and will point people there. You don't seem to understand my point.

The fact that due to recent changes I can probably convert to Judaism and get equal treatment proves something?

Not in particular for my argument, since the "blood-kinship" assertion was shown to be false without relying on this fact. The fact that it is false on multiple levels doesn't change anything for my argument.

It's just additional proof that the "blood-kinship" (again, a poor choice of words, probably chosen for its connotations over its accuracy) assertion is wrong. In researching this, you may have noted that an ethnic Jew who converts out of Judaism and renounces his religion is not eligible to make aliyah. I.e., the blood-kinship isn't even the primary consideration there.

For the record, what you refer to as "recent" was actually 22 years after the founding of the state and 36 years ago.

Ultimately, the thing is that W&M's paper is an extremely moderate expression of the liberal position...

One can only suppose you are looking at a different paper of theirs.

"Extremely moderate"...I'm looking around for the hidden Candid Camera now. This is a put on, right? ;o)

Nice chatting with you. Whatever you answer, just go back and cut and paste from my previous posts if you are really looking for answers to your questions. I'm sure I've answered everything multiple times. We can start repeating ourselves all over again when Bernstein starts the next thread about this...haha...

Take care,

David
5.1.2006 11:08am