ZOA: Harvard Pseudo-Academic ‘Working Paper’ Attacking Israel Lobby Is Intellectually Dishonest And Anti-Semitic
March 23, 2006

New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has repudiated as intellectually dishonest and anti-Semitic a pseudo-academic ‘Working Paper’ written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, ‘The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy’, published as part of the Faculty Research Working Paper Series of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University on March 13.

John Mearsheimer, professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, professor of International Relations and Academic Dean at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, claim that US Middle East policy is being perverted and US national interests harmed by a powerful pro-Israel lobby serving Israeli interests that do not coincide with those of the US.

Mearsheimer and Walt ask why the “US has set aside its own security to advance the interests of another state?,” dismiss moral and strategic arguments for US support for Israel and then claim to find the answer for US support for Israel in the power of the pro-Israel lobby.

Some criticisms of the ‘Working Paper’:

  • “I do not regard this as a Kennedy School Research Paper, because it clearly does not meet the academic standards of a Kennedy School research paper” (Marvin Kalb, founding director, Kennedy School’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, New York Sun, March 21, 2006).

  • Displays “a woeful lack of knowledge on the subject. The part I’ve read I find remarkable for its lack of seriousness … It is basically a series of assertions. They quote only those people who basically have this point of view and don’t take a serious look at anything in a more profound way. It is masquerading as scholarship.” (Dennis Ross, former US Middle East envoy, New York Sun, March 21, 2006).

  • “… trash …. It could have been written by Pat Buchanan, by David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and some of the less intelligent members of Hamas. An intelligent member of Hamas would not have made these mistakes” (Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard, New York Sun, March 20, 2006).

  • “… a collection of innuendo, half truths, and outright misrepresentations, fails the test of academic integrity and honest research” ( Richard Baehr and Ed Lasky, American Thinker, March 20, 2006).

Major claims in Mearsheimer and Walt’s ‘Working Paper’ unmasked:

  • US support for Israel is due to the machinations of the pro-Israel lobby. Scholars of the US-Israeli relationship like Professors Nadav Safran of Harvard have demonstrated that US support for Israel is owed to US national interests, not to Jewish support for Israel (as evidenced by the fact that American Jews have been consistently pro-Israel even when US support for Israel was much less). Israeli assistance in furthering US interests, defeating Soviet clients in battle and saving the pro-Western Jordanian regime in the early 1970s were major reasons for the upsurge in US aid for Israel.

  • US “unwavering support” for Israel and efforts to democratize the Middle East has “inflamed Arab and Islamic public opinion and jeopardized US security.” Anti-Americanism in the Middle East and numerous attacks on American assets, personnel and civilians have been occurring since 1979, long before US efforts to introduce democratic change in the Middle East.

    Al Qaeda, leading expert on Al Qaeda and author of the highly acclaimed Inside Al Qaeda Rohan Gunaratna has shown, attacked America for years, not because of US support for Israel, but chiefly because of opposition to American support for the Saudi regime and the presence of US troops (now removed) in the country.

    US support for Israel has also never been unwavering and especially in Israel’s early decades the countries were sometimes at odds. During the 1948-49 war, the US imposed an arms embargo on the Middle East which deprived Israel of much-needed weaponry in this war of survival. President Eisenhower threatened to impose sanctions on Israel unless it withdrew from Sinai after the 1956 war. President Johnson refused to send the US fleet to break the Egyptian naval blockade on Israel in 1967.

    Even since the upsurge in US support for Israel, US support has hardly been unqualified and the two countries are still often in disagreement. In 1973, the US pressured Israel into ending the war when Israeli forces were on the road to Damascus and Cairo, preventing Israel from reaping a full military victory, as in the earlier 1956 and 1967 wars.

    During the Oslo peace process, the US did not insist on Palestinian compliance with signed obligations to end terrorism and the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds it. Despite lack of Palestinian compliance, the US has often pressured Israel to make further concessions, like releasing Palestinian terrorists, many of whom returned to terror.

    The Clinton and Bush administrations have criticized legitimate Israeli counter-terrorism measures, including roadblocks, the security fence and targeting terrorists, and pressured Israel to curtail military incursions against terrorist strongholds. President Bush personally criticized the Israeli killing of Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. The Bush Administration refused to endorse changes sought by Israel in the Roadmap peace plan, despite Israel’s call for 14 substantial revisions. This is hardly a picture of “unwavering support.” Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have refused to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

  • US support for Israel hinders the war on Islamist terror. Bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa against the US lists several reasons for Al Qaeda’s murderous anti-Americanism, yet Israel was not high on the list or discussed in any detail. Bin Laden only raised the Palestinian issue after 9/11. Bin Laden’s pronouncements make it clear that even anti-Israel pro-Western regimes remain a target of jihadi terrorists.

    Also, US efforts to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace in the 1990s and pressure Israel into unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinians did not earn it the gratitude of Al Qaeda or any of the other terrorist groups presently at war with America. Iran, the biggest backer of terrorist groups fighting America, has always regarded America as the ‘Great Satan’ and would be opposed to the Western, secular influence of the West led by America even if Israel had never existed.

  • Israel has systematically made unauthorized transfers of US military technology to China. This claim stems from a State Department Inspector-General’s report that was repudiated by the official overseeing transfers within the Department, Richard Clarke, who said that there was only one, minor such transfer (on aerial refueling technology), not a pattern of them.

  • Syria is a potential American ally who has served US interests in the war on terror well. In fact, Syria has facilitated the infiltration of jihadists killing American troops in Iraq, worked since 1993 to undermine US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, brutalized Lebanon for many years and served as a conduit for weapons transfer to Hezbollah terrorists.

  • Israel enjoyed military superiority in the 1948-49 war. In fact, as scholars of the war have shown, Israel was heavily outnumbered in all branches of manpower and weaponry, especially tanks, aircraft and artillery. Moreover, the US imposed an arms embargo that prevented US arms reaching Israel.

  • In the 1948-49 war, Israeli leaders planned to drive out Arabs and expand Israel’s borders. The authors have recycled discredited claims using distorted or wholly bogus quotations from Israel’s David Ben Gurion and other leaders. Historians like Efraim Karsh has exposed many such quotations and even one of those who made distortions whom Mearsheimer and Walt cite, Benny Morris, has referred to documents that show Ben Gurion’s strong rejection of the idea of forcibly removing Arabs.

  • Israel is a discriminatory state. Unlike many Arab/Islamic countries, Israel does not deny political rights to specific minority groups in its jurisdiction, but extends citizenship and equal rights to all its minorities, even at a time of war. Unlike many neighboring countries, Israeli citizenship is not dependent on religion or race.

  • Palestinians are an innocent party unjustly harmed by Israel’s creation. Israel came into being in 1948 fighting for its survival and winning against an enemy that vowed to destroy it and which destroyed any Jewish settlement that fell into or remained in Arab hands by the end of that war. Virtually all scholarship on this issue has demonstrated that the Palestinian leadership created the refugee problem by encouraging Palestinians to leave so that victorious Arab armies could invade and destroy Israel.

    Between 1948-67, when Judea, Samaria and Gaza were firmly in Arab hands, Palestinians did not call for a Palestinian state. Previously, Palestinians rejected partition plans (Peel Commission, 1937; UN partition plan, 1947) which would have seen Palestinian statehood achieved. Efforts in 2000 to reach a peace settlement at Camp David and Taba failed, with the Palestinians rejecting statehood in nearly all territories they officially claimed without counter-offer. Israel’s destruction has been actively sought by Palestinians in preference to Palestinian statehood.

  • Ariel Sharon was “personally responsible” for the massacre of Palestinian Muslims at Sabra and Chatilla in 1982 by Israel’s Lebanese Christian allies. Lebanese Christian militias acting on their own initiative carried out the slaughter of Palestinian Muslims in Sabra and Chatilla. It was not ordered or approved by Sharon.

  • Palestinian terrorism is the product of “occupation” and while wrong is “not surprising” since “Palestinians believe they have no other way to force Israeli concessions.” This completely ignores continuous terrorism against Israel before 1967, when these territories were in Arab hands. Since 1993, Israel recognized the PLO, handed over territory, assets, arms and funds to the Palestinian Authority and proposed the creation of a Palestinian state in nearly all the territories officially claimed by the PA, yet the PA made no counter-offer and fomented a terrorist war in 2000. Israel has unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza, without this reducing Palestinian terrorism from Gaza or elsewhere; on the contrary, Palestinian attacks have increased.

  • Pro-Arab groups in the US are “weak to non-existent” while the pro-Israel lobby aims to and largely succeeds in stifling debate on the Middle East. Numerous Arab and Muslim organizations, Middle East studies centers and programs filled with anti-Israel academics, retired State Department officials and a host of media pundits are stridently opposed to Israel and garner much attention for their claims. Saudi Arabia especially funds lavishly a wide variety of Muslim pressure groups and academic centers in America that press stridently anti-Israel viewpoints. A large number of major newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times are editorially pro-Palestinian.

  • US has been the “enabler of Israeli expansion in the occupied territories.” US policy has never favored Israeli settlement policies and differences on this issue have frequently resulted in difficult times for the US-Israel relationship. The Bush Administration has pressured Israel to accept the Roadmap and make further withdrawals and criticized the growth of existing settlements and the creation of new outposts. In 1992 the first Bush administration withheld from Israel loan guarantees in opposition to Israeli settlement building.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “As this list of claims show, the so-called ‘Working Paper’ may have been written by two men holding academic positions, but it is riddled with errors, unscholarly and dishonest. A large part of the sources it quotes are predictable extreme leftist pundits, usually writing in left-wing publications. It is also significant that one of the authors, John Mearsheimer, was a signatory to an infamous January 2003 academic letter that claimed that Israel might use the cover of the then-upcoming US-led war in Iraq to indulge in ‘full-fledged ethnic-cleansing’ of Palestinians.

This was simply a vile slur, nothing of the sort ever happened, yet Mearsheimer has never apologized for making this discreditable claim. He has now simply and shamelessly produced a longer, disgraceful set of claims against Israel and those who defend her. Unsurprisingly, Mearsheimer and Walt’s paper has been praised by the usual suspects — former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, the Muslim Brotherhood and the PLO office in Washington, which is eagerly distributing it.

“It is one thing to note that pro-Israel advocates have influence and work hard to influence policy; that’s their job. It’s another to talk of such people as “agents for a foreign government” who hold a “stranglehold” over Washington and other terms that look like they came straight out of the anti-Semitic tract, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Mearsheimer and Walt may disavow the Protocols, but their paper essentially makes the same anti-Semitic point — that Jews and their supporters are manipulating governments for sordid interests at the expense of the interests of their host country. This is a vicious smearing of loyal Americans working to foster American interests and who believe these are best served by strengthening the relationship with Israel and supporting Israel to secure its right to existence.

“Mearsheimer and Walt also make a big issue out of the fact that Jews like Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller and Daniel Kurtzer oversaw US Middle East policy for many years, yet many supporters of Israel were deeply angered by their hostility to and pressure upon Israeli governments. But the authors of this screed do not let facts get in the way of their prejudices.

“It is significant that they quote one or two isolated statistics that suggest Americans want more pressure on Israel but ignore much polling data showing that Americans overwhelmingly support Israel, believe its Arab neighbors do not accept her existence and oppose a Palestinian state and handing Jerusalem over to the Palestinians. American public opinion is very inconvenient to them.

“This hateful, pseudo-intellectual hatchet job is a reminder that anti-Israel forces in this country prefer that American policy support Middle Eastern autocrats over democratic reform on the false ground that this would be good for America. We are already paying for decades of such policies. Mearsheimer and Walt should be recognized for what they are condemned and ignored.”

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