A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
September 20 , 2007 Netanyahu Slips
After having a day to reflect, I decided to tackle a deeply troubling development. Yesterday morning before heading out to the synagogue, I read parts of the "New York Times", including as I usually do on Saturday morning, the Sunday Book Review section. There, I found a review of new book by John J Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt called The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. Mearsheimer and Walt, from Chicago University and Harvard respectively, had created a great deal of controversy when they wrote an article in the "London Review of Books" on the same subject. The article and the book make the argument that the Jewish Lobby, primarily AIPAC, have an unhealthy influence on American policy in the Middle East. According to the article and the book, the lobby has skewered American policy to take actions that are not in AmericaŐs interest. According the authors, Israel is almost totally at fault in the Middle East conflict and the lobby had a major influence on AmericaŐs decision to go to war in Iraq.
The Sunday Book Review section ran a two page review by Leslie Gelb of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. The review was a scathing attack on almost every aspect of the book. It followed a long line of reviews by major newspapers that were scathing attacks. Gelb pondered why they had written such a sloppy and one sided book; after all, he knew the authors and could not believe that they were anti-Semitic. Gelb's conclusion was that they were so frustrated that their advice before the invasion of Iraq was not taken, that they were striking out in frustration.
After reading the review I felt satisfied that once again a fellow scholar had criticized the authors on the facts. I was a little less satisfied with his conclusion, since it is not when things are going well that anti-Semitism has flourished, it is precisely when things are going poorly that it rises. I also wondered whether giving the review two full pages in the "New York Times Sunday Book Review", even if it was critical, was not helping the authors more than hurting the book. As the old saying goes, there is no bad publicity. That concern was confirmed when I turned to back of the review and discovered that the book had made it to the best seller list of hard cover nonfiction books.
My concerns on the subject were strengthened last night when I watched "Late Night with Bill Maher". He interviewed a guest named Michael Schuer, who is the author of a recent book called, Marching toward Hell, America and Islam after Iraq. In the course of the interview Schuer stated that the US should stop all support of Israel. He wished Israel well, but said that it is not worth a single US life or dollar. A relatively large number of the audience clapped in support of the argument. Maher was shocked by the answer, and interrupted by stating that to him IsraelŐs survival is very important and tried unsuccessfully to get Scheur to modify what he had stated.
This morning on the "McLaughlin Group", the recent remarks by Retired General Abizad were discussed. He claimed that the US could live with a nuclear Iran since it is a rational actor, similar to the former U.S.S.R. This idea was embraced by four out of the five panelists. Patrick Buchanan stated that it is Israel that is pushing the US to attack Iran, something that we should not do. Of course, the very basis of all their argument is wrong. Unfortunately, Iran is not a rational international actor. Nations that are directed by the word of god are much more dangerous than the Soviet Union ever was, but that is for a different column.
We are entering what could have become a very dangerous time for Israel and American Jewry. The American attack on Iraq will no doubt go down as one of the greatest mistakes in US foreign policy. There are no good solutions at the moment. Many people will look for a scapegoat. Unfortunately, as we have learned in history, it does not make any difference whether criticism is correct or not. When stated enough, a big lie takes on a life of its own. Look how much publicity the views of Mearsheimer and Walt have received. They have been strengthened by what former President Jimmie Carter wrote in his book on the Middle East. As we have seen by Christiane AmanpourŐs series on violence in the three religions, where all three of these authors were referenced in the piece, a few good lies can be spread far and wide. In times of trouble Jews have always needed to be wary. We are headed for times trouble. LetŐs hope that things are different this time.