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Old 12-02-2011, 05:44 PM
ledocs ledocs is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: France, Earth
Posts: 1,165
Default Re: Values Added: The Whirligig of Time (Glenn Loury & Walter Russell Mead)

I said:

He says that the book is not anti-Semitic but that its rhetorical style leaves it open to such a charge. And he does nothing in the review to back up this characterization.
Stephanie replied:

I disagree. I think Mead is being a realist here…. There are reactions to the topic in question which can genuinely be called anti-semitic, there are accusations flying around, and there are suspicions of anti-semitism that colors the debate. As a result, it behooves people, especially people who are neither anti-semitic nor Jewish, to be aware of how certain claims are more sensitive due to how they have been used by others and due to history. I don't think this is any different than what is expected with regard to other potentially sensitive topics.
But what I meant was, there is no quotation from the book in the entire review. There is no citation by page number of any of the passages that certain readers might reasonably interpret as being anti-Semitic. All Mead had to do was to cite specific places in the book where this alleged insensitivity was evident. Or he could have said, "The burden of proof in a case like this is very high, here is an example of a book about lobbying/PACS where that burden is met, and where most scholars think it was met, the authors should have followed this model," or something like that. Or, he could have advanced the argument you've been making, that there are ways to reconcile America's policy to Israel with realism or rationality that do not involve resorting to an Israel lobby explanation, and then he says what those ways are. There is no attempt in the review to show that America's then current policy to Israel was, in fact, in America's interest, so that the whole premise of the book is wrong, or to show that America's handling of the Palestinian question in particular is in America's interest.

What there is along these lines, in the review, is the following paragraph:

The authors do what anti-Semites have always done: they overstate the power of Jews. Although Mearsheimer and Walt make an effort to distinguish their work from anti-Semitic tracts, the picture they paint calls up some of the ugliest stereotypes in anti-Semitic discourse. The Zionist octopus they conjure -- stirring up the Iraq war, manipulating both U.S. political parties, shaping the media, punishing the courageous minority of professors and politicians who dare to tell the truth -- is depressingly familiar. Some readers will be so overpowered by this familiar bugbear that they will conclude that the authors are deliberately invoking it. In fact, Mearsheimer and Walt have come honestly to a mistaken understanding of the relationship between pro-Israel political activity and U.S. policy and strategic interests. It is no crime to be wrong, and being wrong about Jews does not necessarily make someone an anti-Semite. But rhetorical clumsiness and the occasional unfortunate phrase make their case harder to defend. (bold added)
Earlier in the review, Mead says this:

One must also commend the two authors for their decision to focus on an important topic that has not received the attention it merits. The politics of U.S. policy in the Middle East is a subject that is not well understood. Pro-Israel organizations, political action committees (PACs), and individuals do play significant roles in the U.S. political process, and they do influence politicians and journalists. Given the importance of the Middle East in U.S. foreign policy and world affairs, these actors and their influence should be explored. Even if The Israel Lobby is in the end not as helpful as they hope, Mearsheimer and Walt have admirably and courageously helped to start a much-needed conversation on a controversial and combustible topic. There should be no taboos among students of U.S. foreign policy…
Now, compare that quote from the review with its opening paragraph.

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt claim that they want The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy "to foster a more clear-eyed and candid discussion of this subject." Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. The Israel Lobby will harden and freeze positions rather than open them up. It will delay rather than hasten the development of new U.S. policies in the Middle East. It will confuse the policy debate not just in the United States but throughout the world as well, while giving aid and comfort to anti-Semites wherever they are found. All of this is deeply contrary to the intentions of the authors; written in haste, the book will be repented at leisure.
On the one hand, M&W admirably and courageously helped to start a much-needed conversation about an important topic. On the other hand, the conversation they have started will lead to hardened positions, less debate of the current US policy or of that of the recent past, a continuation of the old policy, and will give aid and comfort to anti-Semites everywhere. I am inclined to think that continuation of the occupation will give more aid and comfort to anti-Semites than will this book by Walt and Mearsheimer, much more. And I am hard put to see that there is any truth in the rest of what Mead says here either, that this book is leading to less debate, to a more sclerotic policy, what have you.

So, as I have said before, the question is, how much influence do America’s “hardline” Jews have on the formation of US policy? In particular, the question is, how much influence does this portion of the wider Israel lobby have on America’s stance with respect to the West Bank settlements, and the occupation more generally, to America’s apparent failure to change Israel’s behavior in this regard? I find it hard to believe that M&W are as incoherent about the nature of the lobby as this review, and other accounts, would lead one to believe. That is, I don’t see how they could not be focusing on the more hardline part of the greater lobby, as opposed to the Tikkun or J-Street portions of the lobby. But I would have to read the book to find out. Similarly, I will have to await Mead’s presentation of the overwhelming evidence that American Jews are not crucial to the formation of the US’s policy towards Israel.
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