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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No Yes, It's Not Anti-Semitic

In today's Washington Post, Richard Cohen responds to my cousin Eliot A. Cohen's critique of the Walt-Mearsheimer tarring of the 'Israel lobby,' "Yes, It's Anti-Semitic." Richard accuses Eliot of tarring Walt and Mearsheimer using "guilt by association" or "McCarthyism."

But there was much more to Eliot's critique than mere guilt by association. Eliot was quite clear about what he was defining as anti-Semitism:
...obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews; [accusing] them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery, of having occult powers and of participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments; ... systematically [selecting] everything unfair, ugly or wrong about Jews as individuals or a group and equally systematically [suppressing] any exculpatory information....
That's a lot more than 'guilt by association.'

But Richard ignores that defintion and instead harps on Eliot's noting that David Duke approved of the Walt-Mearsheimer paper. This is what Richard calls 'guilt by association': Richard says that he is 'offended' by what he characterizes as Eliot's argument that Walt and Mearsheimer's paper is anti-Semitic because David Duke approves of it.

Richard goes on to lump Alan Dershowitz (whose longer article that I linked, Richard may not have read) and Josef Joffe in with Eliot - at least you're in good company dear cousin.

Although Richard never admits that you were right Eliot, he does admit in the end that Walt and Mearsheimer are wrong and that their scholarship is shoddy:

My own reading of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper found it unremarkable, a bit sloppy and one-sided (nothing here about the Arab oil lobby), but nothing that even a casual newspaper reader does not know. Its basic point -- that Israel's American supporters have immense influence over U.S. foreign policy -- is inarguable. After all, President Bush has just recently given Israel NATO-like status without so much as a murmur from Congress. "I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel," Bush said. This was the second or third time he's made this pledge, crossing a line that previous administrations would not -- in effect, promulgating a treaty seemingly on the spot. No other country gets this sort of treatment.

Israel's special place in U.S. foreign policy is deserved, in my view, and not entirely the product of lobbying. Israel has earned it, and isn't there something bracing about a special relationship that is not based on oil or markets or strategic location but on shared values? (A bit now like Britain.) But I can understand how foreign policy "realists" such as Mearsheimer and Walt might question its utility and not only think that a bit too much power is located in a specific lobby but that it is rarely even discussed. This may be wrong, but it is not (necessarily) anti-Semitic. In fact, after reading the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, the respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz not only failed to discern anti-Semitism but commended the paper to its readers. "The professors' article does not deserve condemnation," Haaretz stated in an editorial.

Richard doesn't live in Israel and may not realize that many of us on the right here refer to HaAretz as Israel's "Hebrew Palestinian daily." And his implication that Walt's and Mearsheimer's paper could be refuted by a 'casual newspaper reader' gives far too much credit to the average newspaper reader. After all, in the Arab world, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a best-seller, and as much as one third of the population of Europe may still believe that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. But let's try to resolve this: was Walt's and Mearsheimer's paper really anti-Semitic?

To answer that question, I believe that we need to look no further than Martin Luther King Jr. During an appearance at Harvard University shortly before his death, a student stood up and asked King to address himself to the issue of Zionism. The question was clearly hostile. King responded, "When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism." I'm sure that I don't need to tell you that there a whole slew of leftist and Arab websites out there that have literally tried to take those words out of Dr. King's mouth. But when in doubt, King's words are the fairest guidance.

You got it right Eliot. Walt's and Mearsheimer's paper is definitely anti-Semitic. More power to you. Dr. Rudnick (our high school history teacher) would be proud of you.


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