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The Israel Lobby and the Anti-Israel Lobby:

With the Mearsheimer and Walt book "The Israel Lobby" due out next month, I thought I'd preemptively discuss "the anti-Israel Lobby," using a similarly broad definition for the "anti-Israel Lobby" as M & W do for the "Israel Lobby". In the United States, the presumptive anti-Israel lobby includes the 20% or so of Americans who are strongly anti-Semitic, the National Council of Churches, the Middle East Studies Association, the oil industry, many former state department officials who served in Arab countries, businesspeople with close ties to Arab countries, Muslim and Arab-American organizations, major elements of the ideological Left (including NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that falsely claim not to be part of the ideological left), and the Buchananite right.

Looking more broadly worldwide, we have the dozens of Arab and Muslim nations, the 15-30% (depending on what study you look at) or so of Europeans who are strongly anti-Semitic, the foreign services of most European nations (there was a great Yes, Prime Minister episode years ago joking that the British Foreign Office still thinks of Israel as Palestine, and that the true enemy of the British is not the Soviet Union but the French), the far left, including the Hugo Chavezes of the world, the far right, many multinational companies with a great deal of business in the Arab and Muslim world, the large and influential Muslim populations in many European nations, and so on. Plus, supporters of Israel have to deal with the fact that two of the most powerful empires of the 20th century, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, fomented both anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism throughout the world as an intrinsic part of their ideology, and that the legacy of both of these nations' propaganda efforts are still manifest. Not to mention the continued salience of traditional Christian and Muslim anti-Semitism.

Overall, the odds are stacked against Israel's allies, even in the U.S.--the anti-Semites alone easily outnumber the pro-Israel Jews and evangelicals (not all evangelicals are pro-Israel--see Jimmy Carter--and some of them are anti-Semitic). In my views, the pro-Israel sentiment nevertheless prevails primarily because Israel has a much better case than does its enemies. The odds are so overwhelming against Israel in much of the rest of the world that it's hardly surprising that the case for Israel to a large extent gets drowned out, especially when the case for Israel as a liberal democracy has relatively little salience in theocracies and autocracies.

The long and the short of it is, first, that if Mearsheimer and Walt fail to explain the scope and nature of the anti-Israel lobby, the book will clearly be a screed, not a serious scholarly work (and it may be regardless, of course). Second, opponents of Israel seem to think that pointing out the purported power of the so-called "Israel Lobby" will somehow shame Israel's friends into shutting up. But if one recognizes the heavy odds facing Israel's friends--what other group trying to influence public policy has to fight such a massive array of determined enemies?--I think it's clear that, as Alan Dershowitz wrote years ago in a broader context, what is really needed is even more chutzpah.

UPDATE: To avoid any inadvertent subtlety, the point is that if no "Israel lobby" existed, American Middle East policy would not be dictated by neutral, nonideological considerations of American national interest, but by the concerns of the "anti-Israel lobby," who have ideological and self-interested reasons to be anti-Israel, just as is in the rest of the world. M & W themselves have made it clear in their "Israel Lobby" paper and elsewhere that they harbor a distaste for Israel quite apart from what they consider to be America's national interest ("Viewed objectively, [Israel's] past and present conduct offers no moral basis for privileging it over the Palestinians.") If Mearsheimer and Walt don't come up with a good reason why friends of Israel should leave the field to the anti-Israel lobby, including M&W themselves, I can't see much of a point to their book.

Bill Poser (mail) (www):
In what I think was the same episode of "Yes, Prime Minister", the anti-Israeli guy from the Foreign Office objects to being posted to the Israeli Embassy to Israeli saying "they know I'm on the Arab side" to which Jim Hacker responds "Oh? I thought you were on our side!".
7.9.2007 11:10pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Oops, that should have been "British Embassy to Israel".
7.9.2007 11:11pm
TerrencePhilip:
Recall just before Stalin's death, when he decided that "Jewish doctors" were traitors out to kill Party members for the US, and decided to put them up on show trials for treason?
7.9.2007 11:27pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
What convinces me that much criticism of Israel is nefarious, whether motivated by anti-Semitism in the strict sense or not, is that the critics are willing to accept, and frequently even demand, horrendous outcomes. Time and time again critics of Israel either overtly take up the Arab cause of the elimination of Israel or some near equivalent, such as complete and immediate withdrawal from Gaza, Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem (usually under the false view that this is required by UN Resolution 240). Where is the proportionality here? Even if for some reason it make sense to criticize loudly relatively minor sins on the part of Israel, it surely does not make sense for the penalty for those sins to be the destruction of Israel. Genuine but non-nefarious critics of Israel would not let their criticism affect their overall support for Israel.

Indeed, since it is both theoretically expected and empirically established that the Palestinians are not at present capable of governing themselves and that left to their own devices will spend much of their time murdering each other, one has to wonder whether those who adopt the Arab position actually give a hoot about the Palestinians.
7.9.2007 11:54pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Of course I meant Resolution 242. Maybe I should go to bed.
7.9.2007 11:55pm
LM (mail):
DB,

Typo in last line of your post: "what" missing between 7th and 8th words from the end.
7.9.2007 11:57pm
Ak:
"But if one recognizes the heavy odds facing Israel's friends--what other group trying to influence public policy has to fight such a massive array of determined enemies?"

You're kidding, right? I would challenge you to point out ANY state that has been even anywhere nearly as successful in convincing America to consider its interests as being equal to ours. Certainly not any of the middle eastern countries, whose leaders were swapped back and forth as needed to provide maximum utility to us. The Israeli lobby has been uniquely successful in getting America to take steps that are not necessarily in its best interests but are necessary for Israel to survive. The fact that they still manage to act persecuted while doing this is mind boggling.

I don't give a crap about Israel as a state any more than I do Jordan, Syria or New Zealand. I want the US to pursue its best interests, regardless of what's best for Israel or for Russia. And apparently that puts me in opposition to the "Israel lobby" (which obviously equates to my being anti-Semitic).
7.10.2007 12:09am
Grackel (mail):
First, I find it hard to credit without some skepticism a study that asserts anti-semitism without giving any evidence whatsoever of how they have determined that it exists so abundantly. The ADL has a vested interest in the existence of anti-semitism. I don't deny anti-semitism, but I would prefer some evidence of the assertion, and the article you cite gives none. Second, I don't see why you need to add 18% to the numbers the ADL gives for "hard-core" anti-semites in the US. Then again, I don't understand how "29% of the "most anti-semitic Americans" could be supporters of Israel over the Arabs and be labeled as among the most anti-semitic. These people are likely not anti-semitic, they just dyspeptically dislike humans. But maybe they don't realize that Israel is a Jewish state. And again, "another 35% were in the "middle" category, holding neither prejudiced nor unprejudiced views, but not completely prejudice-free in their attitudes toward Jews. " is an incomprehensible statement. If they are neither prejudiced nor unprejudiced, how can they not be either prejudiced or prejudice free? I can't parse the sentiment. You may be right that Israel does not have many friends, but more likely, many of these people are merely indifferent to those far from their small neighborhoods. I do not think that this is a problem that consumes many Americans on any side. And as for Mr. Dershowitz, he has spent much of his capital with his chutzpah. Why would you want to be seen as just another cranky voice?
7.10.2007 12:10am
DavidBernstein (mail):
AK, do you know the difference between succeeding over strong opposition, and not having the opposition to begin with? Before there was much of an organized Israel lobby, (and much less of an anti-Israel lobby), Americans supported Israel overwhelmingly, by some extraordinary percentage, for example, in the Six Day War. Americans are buying what the "Israel Lobby" is selling because they like the goods. As for you being anti-Semitic, you may well be for all I know, but there's nothing in what I wrote above that equates being anti-Israel with being anti-Semitic, though of course anti-Semites are far more likely than non-anti-Semites to be anti-Israel.

As for Grackel, the ADL survey gives the precise question that were asked, and the answer that qualify as anti-Semitic. As for how anti-Semites can support Israel over the Arabs, (1) they may think it's in America's national interest; (2) they may be even more anti-Arab that anti-Semitic; and (3) they may prefer democracies inhabited by people they don't like to dictatorship run by people they like better. Anyway, note that this question is only "relative to the Arabs" and not a question as to whether the anti-Semits like Israel, as such.

As for Dershowitz, do you interpret one reference to one Dershowitz idea as somehow endorsing every aspect of the man's career?
7.10.2007 12:25am
DavidBernstein (mail):
BTW, the real "Israel Lobby" (AIPAC), as opposed the conspiratorial Israel lobby of M&W's imagination, has had as its agenda to tie the interests of Israel and the U.S. together, so there is indeed a confluence of interest between the two. (E.g., during the Reagan Administration, AIPAC was very big on promoting Israel as an important Cold War ally). Whether THAT's been a good idea for either the U.S. or Israel is something that is certainly ripe for a good debate, but it's contrary to the thesis of the M&Ws, Yglesias's, etc., of the world that the Israel lobby's goal is to get the U.S. to selflessly act in Israel's interest.
7.10.2007 12:30am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
One question I have.

How does libertarianism coexist with being pro-Israeli?

It seems to me that being pro-Israeli involves commiting to a certain level of communitarianism. From a purely individualistic perspective, it doesn't seem that a purely atomistic individual should be no more interested in what happens in Isreali than what happens in the Sudan.

If you ask me, there is some tension here between being a libertarian and being pro-Isreali. And especially lobbying the government which one believes to be entirely incompetent.

Overall, I think libertarianism goes against human nature. Even the nature of libertarians themselves, who are probably people somewhat alienated from society. Has anyone noticed that a disproportionate number of libertarians were nerds who were picked on in highschool? Perhaps their libertarianism is a symptom of lingering resentment and of course, strong desire to be wholly independent of groups who have done psychological damage to them in the past.

But in the end, the excessive individualism that libertarianism entails goes against human nature. Otherwise, why would a libertarian like Bernstein advocate the "coercive" taxation of Americans to help total strangers in Israel. The fact is, the better part of human nature (though certainly not the totality of human nature) wants to take steps to ensure the survival and success of our fellows. You see this better part of human nature even in libertarians, who overcome strong emotional/ideological commitments to support a better cause.
7.10.2007 12:32am
William Spieler (mail) (www):
And statists are all unpopular people who need the state to bail them out of all their failures hurrrrrrr
7.10.2007 12:46am
whackjobbbb:
Right. And the only really cool people in high school were the objectivists.
7.10.2007 12:49am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Mr. Impressive, (1) you are making unsupported assertions about how I think the U.S. should help Israel and (2) you are confusing libertarianism with atomistic individualism, relying on caricature rather than understanding. There is no, I repeat, no libertarian thinker, including even egoist Ayn Rand (whose heroes in Atlas Shrugged set up a community in Galt's Gulch), who argued for atomistic individualism, which is indeed contrary to human nature. If you want to debate libertiansim, read some actual libertarian books, including "What it Means to Be a Libertarian," by Charles Murray, who is more communitarian in his concerns than many "liberals."
7.10.2007 12:51am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Put another way, any sensible libertarian anywhere in the wrold would have been pro-American in WWII, because the result of an American victory was clearly better for liberty than a Japanese or German victory would have been. You surely don't think that libertarianism couldn't coexist with being pro-American?
7.10.2007 12:53am
The River Temoc (mail):
This post is, and pardon my French, 100% grade-A bull****.

First off, Mr. Bernstein brings up Arab and Muslim nations, European anti-semites, the Hugo Chavezes of the world, and other assorted vermin -- all this an an attempt to prove that the Israel lobby is weak *IN THE UNITED STATES.* Which is like saying that Miami Cubans really aren't that powerful in Florida politics because, hey, there's a lot of Castro sympathizers only 90 miles away.

Second, let's focus on the real issue and look at who Mr. Bernstein deems the "anti-Israel lobby" in the U.S.

First is that oh-so-powerful Middle East Studies Association, which is no doubt knocking down the doors on Capitol Hill each and every day, and its Decepticon-like twin, the National Council of Churches.

And then there are the 20% of Americans who are anti-semites, who in Mr. Bernstein's universe presumably greet Arab-Americans with rose petals and water when they're not hanging out with key government officials.

And then there are nefarious NGOs like Human Rights Watch and the Arab-American Institute, whom Mr. Bernstein knows damn well can't match AIPAC dollar-for-dollar in the lobbying game.

Which leaves us the oil industry and businesspeople with ties to the Arab world. And while granting that these guys may have clout, they also have a long wish list to spend it on -- taxes, trade matters, immigration, and so forth, with Israel-bashing far down the list.

The recipe for lobbying success is to have a small cadre of passionate, well-funded supporters amidst a broader population that is apathetic or agnostic on the issue. The former pressure policymakers hard, and the latter don't care enough to punish policymakers for caving to the former's demands. And this is exactly what we have with AIPAC, which consistently gets ranked in the D.C. trade press as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington. Mr. Bernstein's other groups don't even come close.

What really gets my goat about this post is that I think Mr. Bernstein knows all this quite well, and he seems hell-bent on reinforcing the warped notion that Israel is a vulnerable nation, surrounded by implacable enemies and forever on the brink of extinction -- whereas in fact it's a nuclear-armed, regional superpower. His portrayal of D.C. lobbying power is just this myth writ small.
7.10.2007 12:57am
r78:
Does the United States have any strategic interest in advancing the interests of Israel?
7.10.2007 12:59am
DavidBernstein (mail):
"First off, Mr. Bernstein brings up Arab and Muslim nations, European anti-semites, the Hugo Chavezes of the world, and other assorted vermin -- all this an an attempt to prove that the Israel lobby is weak *IN THE UNITED STATES.*"

No, I don't. I'm explicitly putting the purported power of the Israel lobby in context in both the U.S., and worldwide. Note: "Overall, the odds are stacked against Israel's allies, even in the U.S." ... The odds are so overwhelming against Israel in much of the rest of the world
7.10.2007 1:02am
DavidBernstein (mail):
River, your post actually makes my point. Without AIPAC and the like, the groups you and I mention would indeed control policy toward Israel, because they'd be the ones who cared the most and with the most influence. AIPAC pushes things in the other direction, but in my opinion that's at least the general direction things would go if policy were decided on a nonideological basis. The Israel Lobby just restores the natural balance, more or less, agains the oil lobby, et al. M&W think not, but only because they believe that there is NO moral OR strategic case for helping Israel. So what they really need to write a book about is justifying, rather than simply asserting, that position. Instead, they assert it as a given, and just operate from the premise that an objective policy would be anti-Israel, like Americans would naturally love Iran, Saddam Hussein, and Yasser Arafat.
7.10.2007 1:08am
bje1985:
I join all in condemning antisemitism. But why does this topic occupy such a large portion of this blog? Im growing very tired of the subject.
7.10.2007 1:16am
DavidBernstein (mail):
The blog reflects the personal interests of the bloggers, but I should not that this post is only tangentially, at best, about anti-Semitism, it's primarily about the "Israel Lobby" book, which is coming out next month, which earned the authors a huge advance, which is expected to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, and which will no doubt be one of the more controversial books published this year.
7.10.2007 1:20am
LM (mail):
AK

You're kidding, right? I would challenge you to point out ANY state that has been even anywhere nearly as successful in convincing America to consider its interests as being equal to ours.

That's hard to say since most of our closest allies (e.g., the old Nato countries, Canada, Australia, Japan) haven't needed the kind of help Israel has. On the other hand, if your view is that our vital interests end at our borders, then our 60+ year military presence in Germany and 55+ year presence in Korea can only be seen as a form of direct military assistance to those countries. I haven't seen the data, but I'd be surprised if the cost of those operations hasn't far exceeded what we've given Israel.

But all that is beside the point. Look at the quote you're answering. He's talking about the difficulty of the task, and you're talking about the results. You're arguing against something he's not asserting.

I don't give a crap about Israel as a state any more than I do Jordan, Syria or New Zealand. I want the US to pursue its best interests, regardless of what's best for Israel or for Russia. And apparently that puts me in opposition to the "Israel lobby" (which obviously equates to my being anti-Semitic).

Pretty hostile. Pretty defensive.

I have two brothers who are anti-Israel, one a Buchanan acolyte, the other from the far-left, "Israel is Nazi Germany" camp. I know neither of them is anti-Semitic, so I've never presumed anti-Semitism behind criticism of Israel generally. When Israel critics defended their views as logically distinct from anti-Semitism, I agreed. And just to be clear, I have no idea what's in your heart or mind, so I'm not questioning the sincerity of your seemingly unprovoked complaint.

But I have noticed over recent years that that perfectly legitimate concept of opposition to Israel being distinct from anti-Semitism has morphed progressively from a shield into a sword. That's not to say it doesn't also survive in its original, legitimate form. But without any significant increase that I've seen in the incidence of unfair accusations of anti-Semitism, there's been a palpable increase in the frequency of angry, defensive attacks on Zionists as presumptively just about to scream "Jew-hater!" IMHO the apparent increase in the latter, unattended by a corresponding increase in the former suggests pre-emptive attempts to chill the Zionists' arguments, not responses to actual attacks on the critics.

But I could be wrong. If anyone's done research on this question, I'd love to see it.
7.10.2007 1:26am
Tracy W (mail):
Does the United States have any strategic interest in advancing the interests of Israel?


Yes. Ever since Israel got the atomic bomb (courtesy of France, I might add, and despite the US's efforts to stop it), the US has had a strategic interest in Israel. This is if Israel felt that it's survival was endangered by Arab countries it would almost certainly use its nuclear weapons.
So to the extent the US has an interest in avoiding a nuclear war in the Middle East it has an interest in ensuring that Israel has plenty of non-nuclear ways of ensuring its survival.
7.10.2007 1:29am
DavidBernstein (mail):
LM, you are absolutely right, and, though I don't have links handy, I've written about exactly the phenomenon you identify on the Conspiracy--silencing pro-Israel people by preemptively accusing them of calling all critics of Israel anti-Semitic, even when they explicitly point out that the criticism they address is not anti-Semitic.
7.10.2007 1:35am
PJT:

The blog reflects the personal interests of the bloggers, but I should not that this post is only tangentially, at best, about anti-Semitism, it's primarily about the "Israel Lobby" book, which is coming out next month, which earned the authors a huge advance, which is expected to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, and which will no doubt be one of the more controversial books published this year.


Yes. But you blog more than anyone but Orin or Eugene. And ALL you blog about is Isreal or something related to antisemitism. Isnt there so much more to life?
7.10.2007 1:39am
William Spieler (mail) (www):
You're forgetting guns.
7.10.2007 2:50am
Michael B (mail):
The eleven (11) questions used (see the linked pdf) to implicate respondents, arguably, need to be updated. One might reasonably surmise what changes would result, for example, if some other eleven questions, posed to academic communities, were to begin with "Israeli Jews ..." rather than "Jews ..."

The latter questions (the current set of questions, apparently used since 1964), when posed to a community whose vocational expertise and propensities are devoted to dealing with abstractions, will arguably tend to filter, interpret, deconstruct, etc. By contrast a more subjectively and spontaneously inclined polity/community (e.g., that of Hispanics, at least relative to academic communities) will be far less guarded, will be far less given to abstracted deconstructions and filters of the current set of questions.

To setup eleven questions beginning with "Israeli Jews ..." would arguably have the effect of revealing personal prejudices, political biases, animus, etc. an academic community otherwise would be less susceptible to revealing, due to their affinity with abstractions as such, their more natural inclination to filter, be less spontaneous and subjective, deconstruct, and interpret in abstracted and theoretic socio-political terms, etc. (This seems so obvious - e.g., reflecting the sundry and fundamental changes in academia since 1964 - that failing to question the academic respondents' category seems, in turn, a highly dubious omission.)

(Abe Foxman has evidenced questionable interests and motives at times as well - for example militant secularist motives and campaigns in such a manner that, minimally, they are not synonymous with anti-anti-Semitism interests - but that's a separate issue still and not intended as a categorical statement.)
7.10.2007 2:53am
LM (mail):

Yes. But you blog more than anyone but Orin or Eugene. And ALL you blog about is Israel or something related to antisemitism. Isnt there so much more to life?

Is there a bandwidth limit the bloggers here bump up against or something else that restricts how much they can post? If so I might understand people's frustration that they don't see more of what they'd like because Bernstein is squeezing it out with all his Israel and anti-Semitism stuff. But if as I've assumed the bloggers post as much and as often as they like, why should anyone care?

As for whether these subjects merit so much of his interest, I know people as happy as clams with all-consuming areas of professional concentration so much narrower than what you attribute to DB that sharing their observations with everyone conversant in their field could be more efficiently accomplished in a phone booth than on a popular blog. Being an incorrigible dilettante, I envy these folks.
7.10.2007 3:05am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
First off, Mr. Bernstein can blog about anything he pleases. In fact, there are features in this blog to filter out the posts of particular authors or to receive the posts of only certain authors.

If you are really annoyed by the content of what particular individuals post, I suggest you either learn how to use the filters that already exists, use the features of RSS feed reading programs out there, or just learn to live with scrolling. The world is not your oyster. I have strong communitarian tendencies, but even I don't think that total strangers have an obligation to post precisely what you would like to read all because you are not in the mood to scroll or gain a minimum level of competance in basic technologies.

As far as Mr. Bernstein's suggestion that I read Mr. Murray's book, I probably will not take him up on that particular suggestion. That Mr. Murray is a libertarian makes his writing and advocacy in the Bell Curve all the more sinister. In my view, something like the Bell Curve + Libertarianism is getting a little too close to social darwinism for my taste. I am sure you will agree, Social Darwinism is the most repugnant form of libertarianism possible. I would be open to suggestions concerning other libertarians you would believe to be reputable. For example, I have been thinking of reading Robert Nozicks book, Anarchy, State and Utopia.

Although, like most people (including people who call themselves libertarian!) my understanding of libertarianism and its various manifestions could be improved upon, I am not totally ignorant concerning this topic. While various strands of libertarianism may manifest different levels of communitarianism, I think it is fair to say that the communitarian commitment of many libertarians is extremely low and that some cases the libertarian personality in fact verges on sociopathy. I would be interested, however, in the most robust defense of libertarianism that you could recommend, which surely would be written by someone with genuine and strong communitarian commitments.

I should be more precise, though, regarding what I said earlier. Being pro-Isreali involves, to some degree, an embrace of communitarianism. And it is a fact that many libertarians reject communitarianism in many or most contexts. Thus, for those libertarians who reject communitarianism in most other contexts, there would be a tension between being strongly pro-Israeli (i.e. supporting actions that involve a significant expenditure of resources extracted through the coercive power of government - whether directly in the form of subsidies - or indirectly, as defense contractors and other firms are forced to give up the revenue that could be had from economic dealings with Israel's enemies) and being strongly libertarian in a way that rejects communitarian commitments in most contexts. That is, it is strange to say the least to see people who are just fine with people not receiving, say, preventative healthcare and dying as a result, or people who are fine with allowing people with dysfunctional psychological issues to go around being homeless, even though this will statistically result in a much shorter life for the homeless individual, where ameliorating such problems require the expenditure of societal resources that are "coercively" gathered by the government. What this comes down to is a simple question. Why is "coercion" okay to advance Israel's interests (denying defense contractors the right to sell weapons to certain countries because they are a threat to Israel or collecting taxes which then turn into foreign aid that benefits Israel) but not okay to if it is used to provide healthcare to those who would otherwise go without or to reduce the epidemic of homelessness among those who are mentally deficient, when it is known that homelessness shortens lifespans and also quality of life?

There is certainly some tension here, at least for some libertarians. Maybe not for you specifically. Perhaps you are a "utilitarian libertarian" like Richard Posner, who would only be against "coercive" measures to increase healthcare coverage or reduce homelessness to the extent that you felt the costs of such "coercion" exceeded the benefits, but would be supportive otherwise. I suppose my argument would be more applicable to "deontological libertarians" who are against what they see as coercion, but nonetheless support American aid to Israel.
7.10.2007 5:45am
DavidBernstein (mail):
PJT, you are suffering from recall bias, because the vast majority of my posts are not about Israel or anti-Semitism, though I post about these issues more than the other Conspirators, because I have more interest in them. For example, the week before I went on vacation in June, I posted on tenure and the ABA, improv in DC, prosecutorial sex abuse, repressed memory, the ancient kingdom of Kush, "religious" beliefs about secular matters, and Janet Reno and ritual abuse, with one short post about the BBC and Israel. That, I think, is rather typical.

If you took all my posts on Israel and anti-Semitism, they probably amount to signficantly less than 1/50 of the V.C.'s content. Yet some commenters act as if they dominate the blog. Strange
7.10.2007 7:57am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
DavidBernstein,

I personally do not think you are under any obligation to defend your posting habits to anyone, except, of course, to your fellow bloggers here at the Volokh Conspiracy. In a sense, responding to such criticism legitimizes it. There should be some limits to communitarianism. I think worrying about what anonymous commentators think about your choice of blogging topics should be one of those limits.

Of course, it might be useful to engage in a systematic survey concerning blog topics, if your goal was to maximize traffic and revenue or some such. But, obviously, the self-selecting and anecdotal nature of a single anonymous commentator is no substitute for such a survey. It does not really lend itself to figuring out what is desirable or not desirable in terms of traffic maximization. Furthermore, I suspect that this blog is not merely about traffic maximization, but also a forum to express whatever you damn well please (within whatever limits have been negotiated with your co-bloggers).

For another probably useless anecdote, while I rarely read your posts or posts by others here that concern Israel or anti-semitism, their presence here in no way detracts from the utility of this blog. And in fact, on those occasions when I do bother to read such posts, I usually find them to be of interest. (By the way, my not reading such posts does not mean I do not think they are important and interesting, only that they are competing for my time and attention along with a huge number of other things.)
7.10.2007 8:56am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I don't feel the need to defend myself, but I've been puzzled for some time as why commenters consistently make false assertions about my posts on Israel (both their frequency and their content), and also so often seem driven to distraction by them. My favorite are the "hey, this is a law blog so stop talking about Israel" comments, which don't seem to come up with regard to Sunday Song Lyrics, posts on science fiction, etc.
7.10.2007 9:21am
The River Temoc (mail):
No, I don't. I'm explicitly putting the purported power of the Israel lobby in context in both the U.S., and worldwide.

Putting the power of AIPAC "in context worldwide" is pointless, because the theory we're debating here is whether particular pressure groups unduly influence political outcomes in the United States.

Without AIPAC and the like, the groups you and I mention would indeed control policy toward Israel, because they'd be the ones who cared the most and with the most influence.

...which is a bit like saying that the AIDS virus is beneficial because without it, we'd have a much greater overpopulation problem in Africa.

The proposition that you were originally defending is this: Walt and Meirsheimer are wrong to assert that AIPAC wields disproportionate power in Washington, and that AIPAC is producing policy outcomes that favor Israel more than would a policy formulated by a rational actor who makes calculations based on the national interest.

But now you've shifted your ground to saying merely that AIPAC merely counteracts pressure from a bunch of Lilliputians like the Middle East Studies Association and the National Council of Churches. (Neither of which, I'd add, has the funding to run a well-oiled lobbying operation on its own.)

This new proposition you're defending has nothing to do with the Walt-Meirsheimer's thesis. AIPAC's distortions of the poltiical process outweigh, probably by several orders of magnitude, whatever minor distortions the fearsome Middle East Studies Association cause.

For your point about AIPAC "restoring a natural balance" to be true, we would have to see, in surveys of the most powerful pressure groups in the Hill, groups such as the Middle East Studies Association ranked on a par with AIPAC. They're not even close. Far from restoring a natural balance to anything, AIPAC eclipses these other groups.

The oil and business lobbies are the only ones that even remotely approach the power of AIPAC, and as I observed before, they easily have a dozen concerns more pressing than an anti-Israel agenda -- which makes them far removed from representing a base of passionate supporters, which you've agreed is the key to running an effective lobby.

And in any event, the Israeli market is probably more important to businesses than the far less dynamic Arab economies. (Remember, Israel -- not Canada -- was our first free trade partner. Do you really think that would happen absent the Israel lobby?)

Instead, they...operate from the premise that an objective policy would be anti-Israel, like Americans would naturally love Iran, Saddam Hussein, and Yasser Arafat.

An "objective" policy would immediately tell Israel to stop settlement and wall construction in the Occupied Territories and to come to a real power-sharing arrangement in Jerusalem. (It would probably also make the Palestinians drop the right of return in anything more than symbolic levels.) And it would take advantage of the ample policy levers available to us to make that happen.

The reason that dictators like Saddam Hussein -- and dictators that the U.S. does seem to "naturally love," like Hosni Mubarak, because they've embraced Israel -- flourish is that they're able to divert their people's attention away from their own failures by ranting about Israel.

The fundamental reason why the United States is reviled in the Middle East is because of its strong bias towards one party in what is, ultimately, a communal conflict. We cannot expect to stick our nose in everyone's civil war without getting it bloodied.
7.10.2007 9:33am
paul lukasiak (mail):
Editor: Post deleted for "invective"
7.10.2007 9:44am
DavidBernstein (mail):
River, M&W are emphatically not writing about AIPAC (at least not in their prior article), but about an amorphous Israel lobby that basically includes anyone sympathetic to Israel who acts on that sympathy in any way. Thus it's entirely fair to just as broadly define the anti-Israel lobby.

As for "An 'objective' policy would immediately tell Israel to stop settlement and wall construction in the Occupied Territories and to come to a real power-sharing arrangement in Jerusalem," Israel offered all this and more in 2000-01 in Camp David and Taba (before, of course, the wall was even contemplated), and it was not simply rejected, but responded to with a terrorist campaign.
7.10.2007 9:54am
Voorhies (mail):
Mr.Impressive Makes a point. Somewhat minor one, and, missing the bulls eye. A book that is never mentioned and deserves a wide readership is "Darwinian Politics" by Paul H. Rubin.
7.10.2007 10:48am
DD:
Interesting post, interesting perspective. Thanks.

As for the poster paying "disproportionate" attention to matters Israeli/Palestinian and/or Jewish, the accusation puzzles me. I am not libertarian, a lawyer or Jewish (full disclosure: I am liberal, rarely vote Republican and, while raised Catholic, would now list myself as "atheist"). I log in to VC from time to time because the discussion is informed. I pick and choose which posts to read, ignoring those whose topics don't interest me. These might include Sunday song lyrics, David Bernstein's posts about mortgage prices in Washington or meetings of the Federalist Society. Posts about Israel and Iraq do interest me and I find it useful (sometimes even congenial) to get a slant on these issues that's different than what I normally get in left-wing blogs. I read some of VC's posts on the Supreme Court even though I know that that my politics are far more liberal than most VCers. In short, we often agree to disagree. As long as the arguments are well made, however, I will listen. No one is forcing me -- or the commenters above -- to do otherwise.
7.10.2007 11:10am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
I was struck by the comment that 20% of Americans are strongly anti-semitic. When I looked at the source, I noticed it was from the Antidefimation League.

I'm sorry, I just can't take that number at blind faith that it is accurate. Like any orginization devoted to fighting racism, the ADL has a vested interest in finding Anti-semitism when ever and where ever they look.

I know that there are people in the country who are Anti-Semitic, so I am not surprised they found some. I am just skeptical, without more information, that they found as much as they claim.
7.10.2007 11:25am
Virginia:
Not to mention the continued salience of traditional Christian . . . anti-Semitism.


I'd have to quibble with this point. The most notable thing about traditional Christian anti-Semitism is how non-salient it is these days. Other than maybe Mel Gibson, can you cite any prominent examples?
7.10.2007 11:32am
debator (mail):
I don't know much abou this debate except that its very nasty. I would like to point out that the Anti-Defamation League to which you cite claimed that Norman Finkelstien—whose parents incidentally survived the holocaust—is a holocault denier. That is pure slander.

This speaks volumes about the ADL and more generally about the quality of this debate.
7.10.2007 2:38pm
r78:

So to the extent the US has an interest in avoiding a nuclear war in the Middle East it has an interest in ensuring that Israel has plenty of non-nuclear ways of ensuring its survival.


Actually that is a humanitarian interest.

Other than the fact that some fallout might reach the US, the our strategic interests would not be affected if Israel were to use nuclear weapons.
7.10.2007 2:56pm
Gideon Kanner (mail):
bje 1985 has a point.

Why is it about this topic that inspires so much discussion and disagreement? My observation has been that news from and discussions of Israel probably occupy as much or more front page space in the Los Angeles Times as do all other foreign countries combined -- or close to it. (Although lately much of this news coverage has moved to pages 3 and 5 -- still prominent). Much the same is true of the LA Times op-ed page. Why?
7.10.2007 7:27pm
Grey (mail):
If AIPAC is good, then I'm sure we'll use this branch of logic to better inform our thinking on, say, busing schemes in Seattle and Louisiana. In fact, I'm more than a little surprised that the VC isn't steadfastly asserting that anti-semitism/Jew-hating/anti-Zionism is merely "the product of private choices" and "voluntary intellectual sorting", not segregation. And hey, if anti-semitism comes about about "naturally", what can possibly be wrong with that?

And forgive me for saying the obvious to LM and David, but perhaps the "palpable increase" in defensive/pre-emptive responses is precisely because those who are pro-Israeli use the exact language ("Jew-hater!") that you suggest! Yes, many do say these things in characterizing those who disagree with them (regardless of the mertis). That pro-Israelis haven't increased their use of this rhetoric doesn't really mean that those in their crosshairs can't increase their pre-emptive responses to a tactic they know is inevitable. (I.e., I believe the Zionists are probably saying these things in reasonably normal quantities, even though the pre-emptive response has escalated in frequency and tenor.)

But I agree (and am afraid), as you say, that this is more a technique to "chill the Zionists' arguments" than to deflect patently unfair rhetoric instigated by said Zionists in the first place. Of course this is right as well.

I say all this as someone who honestly doesn't give much of a damn about this debate (which is a deflective way of saying that I am alternately angry and melancholy about the whole situation, and don't feel that either side is even remotely above-board).
7.10.2007 9:52pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Other than the fact that some fallout might reach the US, the our strategic interests would not be affected if Israel were to use nuclear weapons.
Al Gore may think that all it takes is for some federal bureaucrats to wave their magic regulatory wands to convert the world economy away from reliance on petroleum without any negative side effects, but I hope you can spot the flaw in your statement.
7.10.2007 10:32pm
The Consigliere (mail):

what other group trying to influence public policy has to fight such a massive array of determined enemies?


Maybe its because I'm part of one of those 'other groups' but I find that comment kinda belittling to a lot of people who face similar or worse situations.

I don't want to take anything away from the hardships faced by both the Israelis and Palestinians. However as a person born as a Tamil in Sri Lanka, the lack of attention given to the human rights violations in that country is heartbreaking.

I mean most people probably have never heard of Sri Lanka or Tamils, and even if they have they probably think of us as terrorists without looking at the history of persecution that we have faced and decades spent trying to respond to violence in a peaceful law-abiding manner.

And I am sure there are many other problems like that around the world which compare to the one faced by Israel.
7.13.2007 10:47pm