By Joel B. Pollak
Joel B. Pollak ’99 is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Cape Town. He was a political speechwriter for the Leader of the Opposi-tion in South Africa from 2002 to 2006 and is a second-year student at Harvard Law School
JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER AND STEPHEN M. WALT, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007)
ABRAHAM H. FOXMAN, The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007)
The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a memoir, A Dangerous Place,  about his brief stint as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in the mid-1970s. He recalled that in the debates leading up to the infamous “Zionism is racism” resolution in 1975,  Arab diplomats often found it convenient to attack the “Israel lobby.”
In one debate, during which Arab ambassadors attempted to de-fend the anti-Israel fulminations of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, Moynihan recalled: “The Libyan representative…read excerpts from a New York Times article of August 8 on the Israeli lobby and its influ-ence on Congress.”  Arab diplomats, confident of the backing of the Soviet Union, were certain that Americans would reject the “Israel lobby” once alerted to its nefarious presence. But U.S. support for Israel, based on shared values and interests, remained solid, even in the face of a crippling OPEC oil embargo.
Three decades have passed, and the old scapegoat has been resur-rected, not by hostile foreign emissaries but by two esteemed Ameri-can professors. This time the crisis is not an oil embargo, but the debacle in Iraq. Americans, the majority of whom favored the Iraq war at its inception,  now oppose it by similar margins and wonder how it happened in the first place. 
Enter Professors John J. Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Stephen M. Walt (Harvard University), who provide a fantastical, familiar, and handy explanation: blame the “Israel lobby.” Denounced by some, their argument has been judged “persuasive” by others. 
In The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Mearsheimer and Walt have updated their infamous 2006 paper somewhat.  They even nod, prophylactically, in the direction of some of their critics (which is not the same as answering them). Fundamentally, their claim—that the “Israel lobby” is bad for America—remains unchanged and unproven.
Their argument has three parts. First, they argue that the U.S. of-fers Israel “extraordinary material aid and diplomatic support.”  (This is true.) Next, they argue two separate but related claims: that “the lobby is the principal reason for that support,” and that the relation-ship—which they describe as “uncritical and unconditional”—is “not in the American national interest.” 
And what is “the lobby”? It turns out to be “a loose coalition of in-dividuals and organizations that actively works to move U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.”  This broad, amorphous definition allows the authors to blame “the lobby” for anything done by any pro-Israel individual or group.
True, Walt and Mearsheimer do admit that not everyone in “the lobby” agrees with everything “the lobby” does. But this is merely a superficial admission, made for the purposes of deflecting criticism, and is contradicted by the rest of the argument, which relies on this calculated imprecision. Such vagueness is typically the hallmark of conspiracy theories. To put it charitably: this is a polemic, not a schol-arly work.
Setting aside the absurd claim that U.S. support for Israel is “un-critical and unconditional,”  the authors argue that the alliance is against American interests because Israel’s policies are a motivating force for anti-American terror and that Israel has goaded the United States into invading Iraq, isolating Syria, and confronting Iran.
How do the authors prove that “[t]he United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it has long been so supportive of Israel”?  They don’t. They simply state that Palestinian terror groups “do not attack the United States”  (a claim that is demonstrably untrue),  but assert that Al Qaeda does because of Israel. 
The latter claim is denied even by the University of Chicago’s Pro-fessor Robert Pape, whom the authors rely on for many of their conclusions. In his book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Pape argues that groups that use suicide bombing have the common goal of pushing a foreign military to withdraw its forces from territory that the terrorists consider theirs.  Whatever the merits of this argument, Pape clearly believes that what motivates Al Qaeda is the presence of U.S. troops in the region, not the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.  But Mearsheimer and Walt distort Pape’s views, adding that those who disagree with their arguments want to protect “unconditional” U.S. support for Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. 
Walt and Mearsheimer include such people as Dennis Ross and Alan Dershowitz in this group, both of whom are critical of several Israeli policies, particularly the settlements in the West Bank.  Here, and elsewhere, Walt and Mearsheimer indulge in the labeling and slander that they claim Israel’s defenders mobilize against critics of the Jewish state.
How do the authors prove that “the lobby” has brought the U.S. to war with half of the Middle East? They don’t. They cite newspaper reports, op-ed articles, after-dinner speeches and the like, elevating these bits of hearsay to geopolitical importance rather than presenting any concrete evidence of causation. As in their 2006 paper, they hardly cite any U.S. government documents, aside from the Iraq Liberation Act and a handful of letters and speeches.  They also ignore almost anything said or done by Arab states, Iran, and international terror groups.
Consider their theory that Israel and “the lobby” influenced the decision to invade Iraq. Exhibit A is a visit to Washington by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Exhibit B is an interview in a Cleveland newspaper by Ariel Sharon’s press spokesperson.  Exhibit C is an appearance on CNN by former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.  Exhibit D is an op-ed by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. 
The utterances of these former Israel prime ministers and press secretaries—none of whom was in any position of real responsibility at the time—are credited with decisive influence. And “the lobby”? The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—Mearsheimer and Walt’s primary target throughout the book—never came out in support of the Iraq war, so they have a hard case there.  Instead, they point to the Jewish “neo-cons” in the administration, shifting the definition of “the lobby” to fill their empty argument.
Walt and Mearsheimer are on even shakier ground when it comes to Iran, downplaying the imperial ambitions of the regime and the apocalyptic fanaticism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both of which are a threat to U.S. interests whether or not Israel’s security is at stake.
On Syria, they describe Israel as the villain; they ignore Syria’s ex-plicit threats towards Israel and its destructive policies in Lebanon. Not even the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in which Syria was directly implicated by the UN Security Council in 2005, merits mention. 
In the end, the authors resort to the foregone conclusion that lurks at the heart of any conspiracy theory: they announce that opposing “the lobby” is foolish because it is too powerful. Instead, they argue that Americans should focus on “[r]edirecting the lobby’s agenda,” backing leftist elements of “the lobby” that support a two-state solu-tion (as if the rest do not).  It’s a wimpy end to a very, very weak book.
Perhaps the “taboo” the authors break is not, as they claim, criticiz-ing the role of the “Israel lobby” in U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps, as the cover of the book suggests—with the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag replaced with the Israeli azure and white—what they are really suggesting is that the “lobby” controls much more.
Either way, as Moynihan might have said, we have heard it all be-fore.
Abe Foxman, who heads the Anti-Defamation League, attempts a response to Mearsheimer and Walt in The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control.  His targets include Jimmy Carter and Tony Judt along with Mearsheimer and Walt. The book is written in a simple, sing-song style, which may strike some readers as some-what pedantic.
Foxman’s attack is perhaps predictable, beginning with a descrip-tion of anti-Semitism in the U.S. He hits the mark, however, when he challenges Mearsheimer and Walt to “[w]in the policy debate” rather than attack the “lobby,” noting that instead they resort to “complain-ing about the process and suggesting that their opponents . . . are somehow using unfair tactics to withhold the victory that Mearsheimer and Walt believe they deserve.” 
Foxman presents several recent examples of cases in which the ADL and other Jewish groups actively opposed and criticized Israeli policy: the annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981; the (unsuccessful) attempt by Ariel Sharon to establish a Jewish settlement in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem; and a law preventing Palestini-ans who marry Israelis from living in Israel. 
Next, he turns to historian (and former IDF soldier, now turned anti-Zionist) Tony Judt.  He tells his side of the infamous cancellation of Judt’s speech at the Polish consulate in New York last year,  saying it should not have been stopped and denying that he was responsible for the decision to call it off: “I never actually called the Polish consu-late to complain about the Tony Judt speech.”  He did not “censor” Judt, he says, nor does he equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, though he believes some criticism of Israel is illegitimate.
Finally, Foxman turns to Jimmy Carter and Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. He points out the fallacy of the Israel-apartheid analogy, and says Carter deliberately provoked controversy by using the word “apartheid” in his title.
Unfortunately, Foxman uses rather sloppy language himself: “The Jews of Israel don’t want to rule the Palestinians—they want to live apart from them.”  The Israeli desire to separate from the Palestinian polity (as opposed to Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, who form twenty percent of the population and enjoy equal political and civil rights) has no resemblance to apartheid. Apartheid South Africa created a system of racial domination in which the existence of sepa-rate nations was a self-serving illusion reinforced by segregation laws throughout society. Nevertheless, anti-Israel partisans will make a facile feast of Foxman’s use of the word “apart.”
Foxman attacks Carter’s historical revisionism and one-sided recol-lections, drawing on criticisms provided by former Carter associate Kenneth Stein, and documents some of Carter’s apparently relig-iously-based hostility to Israel. He acknowledges that Carter is “a good man,” but argues that he, like Mearsheimer and Walt, will “give comfort and support to bigots and opportunists” who hate Jews and Israel. 
The “comfort and support” line of argument is somewhat disturb-ing. It can be used all too easily to shut down debate. Critics of Zim-babwe’s tyrannical government, for example, are routinely lumped with racists. But that does not mean the motives of Mearsheimer, Walt, Judt, and Carter should be entirely beyond question. Why only Israel? Why Israel more than others?
Foxman closes with an appeal to Jews—particularly “‘liberals’ or ‘progressives’” to join communal debates on Israel. Ironically, this is the same audience targeted by Mearsheimer and Walt. One is tempted to wonder why “progressives” have been elevated to such high political importance by both sides; if any group is exerting dispropor-tionate influence on the debate, it is apparently this self-regarding left-wing minority, whoever they are.
The most powerful part of Foxman’s book is actually the foreword, written by former Secretary of State George P. Schultz. In clear prose, Schultz debunks the idea that the “Israel lobby” controls American foreign policy, and defends the U.S.-Israel relationship:
We are a great nation, and our government officials invariably include brilliant, experienced, tough-minded people. Mostly, we make good decisions. But when we make a wrong decision—even one that is recommended by Israel and supported by American Jewish groups—it is our decision, and one for which we alone are responsible. We are not babes in the woods, easily convinced to support Israel’s or any other state’s agenda. We act in our own interests. 
Mearsheimer and Walt deserve no more than this simple, elegant and truthful response.
 Daniel Patrick Moynihan with Suzanne Weaver. A Dangerous Place (Boston: Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1975).
 G.A. Res. 3379, U.N GAOR, 30th Sess. (Nov. 10, 1975), rescinded by G.A. Res. 46/86, U.N. Doc. A/RES/46/86 (Dec. 16, 1991).
 Ibid. 161.
 Richard Benedetto, “Poll: Most back war, but want U.N. support.” USA Today, Sunday, 16 Mar. 2003, available at http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-03-16-poll-iraq_x.htm. 58 percent of Americans were said to support the war
 Dalia Sussman, “Poll Shows View of Iraq War is Most Negative Since Start,” New York Times, Friday, 25 May 2007, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/25/washington/25view.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1192979227-EoHrzxr5um1tUAnXylkxLA. 61 percent of Americans said that the U.S. should not have invaded Iraq.
 See, e.g. Sasha F. Klein, “’Lobby Authors Confront and Transcend Controversy,” Harvard Crimson, Friday, 12 October 2007, available at http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=519981.
 John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Kennedy School of Government Working Paper Number: RWP06-011, 13 March 2006, available at http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011.
 Mearsheimer and Walt, 14.
 Ibid., 5.
 There is ample evidence to the contrary, including, most recently, the U.S. State Depart-ment’s public conclusion that Israel may have violated the conditions of an arms sales agreement with the U.S. when it used cluster bombs in the closing stages of the Second Lebanon War. See Sean McCormack, “Daily Press Briefing,” United States Department of State, 29 January 2007, available at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2007/79467.htm. Other examples include numerous American protests against Israeli settlements in the occupied territories in the early 1990s, angry American reactions to Israeli arms sales to China, American objections to Israeli bombing raids against the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut in 1982, American condemnation of Israel’s attack against Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, and so on.
 Mearsheimer and Walt, 64.
 Ibid., 63.
 Palestinian and Lebanese terror groups have often targeted Americans, when such targets have been available. On October 15, 2003, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip used a roadside bomb to kill Americans traveling in a diplomatic convoy. See “Three killed in Gaza convoy blast,” Guardian, 15 October 2003, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1063311,00.html. Hezbollah, which the authors claim is a local phenomenon that only attacked the U.S. when American troops were in Lebanon, has hit targets overseas on occasion. Most notoriously, It has been accused of carrying out the July 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Interpol recently issued warrants for five Iranians associated with the bombings. See Philip Sherwell, “Iranians named over Buenos Aires bombing,” Telegraph.co.uk, 12 November 2007, available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/11/wiran211.xml. In November 2006, Hamas called on Muslims worldwide to attack the United States. See Associated Press, “Hamas calls on Muslims to attack American targets,” International Herald Tribune, 8 November 2006, available at http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/08/africa/ME_GEN_Palestinians_Hamas.php.
 Ibid., 64-70.
 Robert Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2005).
 Robert Pape, “Why the War on Terrorism Goes South?”, lecture at the 2007 Middle East & Central Asia Politics, Economics & Society Conference, University of Utah, Friday, 7 September 2007.
 Ibid., 64
 Ross said of Israeli settlements in 1999: “We [the U.S.] see settlement activity as very destructive to the pursuit of peace precisely because it predetermines and prejudges what ought to be negotiated.” See Dennis Ross, quoted in Foundation for Middle East Peace, “Settlement Timeline,” May-June 1999, available at http://www.fmep.org/reports/vol09/no3/05-settlement_timeline.html. Dershowitz has also criticized Israeli policies in the occupied territories, including the Israeli security barrier: What I don’t like is the idea of creating a security wall with political implications and implications for the ultimate resolution . . . I surely would not build a wall around the Ariel settlements or any of the other external settlements. I think that would be a terrible mistake.” See Alan Dershowitz, Speech at Royce Hall, University of California at Los Angeles International Institute, 21 October 2003, available at http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=5071.
 Ibid., 426-38.
 Ibid., 234.
 Ron Kampeas, “Groups tackle all issues but Iraq war,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 23 March 2007, available at http://www.jewishsf.com/content/2-0-/module/displaystory/story_id/31956/edition_id/596/format/html/displaystory.html.
 United Nations Security Council, Report of the International Independent Investigation Commission established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1595 (2005), U.N. Doc S/2005/662, 20 October 2005 (prepared by Detlev Mehlis).
 Mearsheimer and Walt, 354.
 Foxman’s attack is directed against Mearsheimer and Walt’s original article, not their book, although the release of his book was timed to coincide with the release of theirs. Much of his critique remains relevant, since Mearsheimer and Walt did not fundamentally change the premises of their argument.
 Foxman, 89-90.
 Ibid., 113-15.
 In 2003, Judt declared his support for a binational state as an alternative to present-day Israel. See Tony Judt, “Israel: The Alternative,” New York Review of Books, 23 October 2003, available at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/16671. Despite vociferous criticism, he has continued to defend his position and to speak out on behalf of other critics of Israel, including Mearsheimer and Walt.
 For a thorough critique of Judt’s response to this incident, see Christopher Hitchens, “How Uninviting,” Slate.com, 23 October 2006, available at http://www.slate.com/id/2152032.
 Foxman, 160.
 Ibid., 185.
 Ibid., 214.
 George P. Shultz, in Foxman, 17.