The Spirit of Our Age

A rehash of traditional anti-Jewish mythology.

Rachel Neuwirth,

Rachel Neuwirth
Rachel Neuwirth
On September 18 of this year, I attended a joint lecture at the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (a Jewish-funded institution that is owned and managed by UCLA) by Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer (W & M). The duo summarized their much-heralded indictment of Israel and her American, especially Jewish American,
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once memorably remarked, "Oh, fuddle-duddle!"
Despite their polite academic tone, and frequent denials that they are attacking all Jews, Jews as such, or even Israel, or that they support anti-Jewish "conspiracy theories," in essence, their claims are just a rehash of traditional anti-Israel and, indeed, anti-Jewish mythology and rhetoric. There is nothing either new or true about them.
Let us take a moment to examine each count in Walt and Mearsheimer's indictment of Israel and the so-called "Lobby," and compare each with the actual state of affairs.
As a result of the power of The Lobby, American foreign policy gives unqualified, unlimited support to Israel. This has been especially true during the Bush administration.
As Canada's late Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, once memorably remarked, "Oh, fuddle-duddle!" During the recent "Al-Aksa Intifada," the Palestinian Arab terrorist campaign (2000-2004), the United States repeatedly restrained Israel from taking military action against the terrorists, even as Israeli casualties from the terror attacks steadily mounted. Even when it finally "permitted" Israel to attack the primary terrorist base in Jenin, it compelled the Israelis to withdraw quickly.

The US administration has pressured Israel to undertake unilateral "confidence-building" actions, such as the closure of security checkpoints in the disputed ("occupied") territories, and the release of convicted terrorists from prison, which have been followed by increased Arab terrorist attacks, not peace; to accept the so-called "road map" peace plan that would compel her to withdraw to its pre-1967 frontiers (more or less) and place the homes and futures of 400-500,000 Israelis living outside these frontiers in jeopardy; and to acquiesce in the creation of a Palestinian state, which would leave Israel exposed to continuous terrorist attacks, rockets and mortar fire directed at its principal population centers.

The US has sold billions of dollars worth of state-of-the-art, high-tech weapons to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, countries unfriendly to Israel - including some weapons systems that it has withheld from Israel. It has even provided weapons and military training to Fatah - assistance that the Fatah Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades made very effective use of during their intifada to kill Israelis.

If all this is unqualified support of Israel, one wonders what opposition would look like.
Congressmen and Senators are afraid to do anything that is opposed by The Lobby, since The Lobby targets and brings about the electoral defeat of any legislator who opposes a perceived interest of Israel.
Once again, "fuddle-duddle." If Congress is really controlled by The Lobby, then why has it approved the arms sales and military aid to Israel's enemies?
The Lobby prevents a free, rational discussion about Israel and American aid to Israel by "smearing" anyone who opposes them as "anti-Semites."
In reality, very few pro-Israel activists have ever suggested that most or all of those who disagree with them are anti-Semites. Indeed, most pro-Israel advocates are extremely careful to avoid any such aspersion against Israel's critics. Even more to the point, it is
If all this is unqualified support of Israel, one wonders what opposition would look like.
very dubious whether anyone in the United States has ever been dissuaded from criticizing Israel by fear that someone might call him an anti-Semite.
Our American debate about the Middle East and Israel is lively, free, and open to all shades of opinion. The great deference with which W & M have been treated throughout the country, the vast amount of press attention they have received, and the numerous speaking invitations to them, even from Jewish groups, are proof that there is no suppression of criticism of Israel in the United States, and no penalty to be paid by those who criticize her. So is the best-seller status achieved by Jimmy Carter's recent Israel-bashing book.
The American press is extremely biased in favor of Israel, and rarely or never publishes columns or op-ed pieces that criticize her.
Oh, wow! Apparently W & M have never read the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, or the Chicago Tribune. No honest and fair-minded individual could possibly read any of these major American newspapers on a regular basis without becoming aware of their fierce anti-Israel bias.
Israel and its Lobby dragged the United States into the Iraq War, for Israel's benefit rather than that of the United States.
If so, then why did Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, advise President George Bush to attack Iran, rather than Iraq, when Sharon visited Washington in April 2002?
Israel caused the Palestine conflict by expelling the Palestinians and stealing their land.
To support this accusation, which is the stock-in-trade of all Israeli propaganda, our scholars admit that they "rely heavily" on the Israeli "New Historians," such as Benny Morris , Avi Schlaim, Illan Pappe and Shlomo Ben-Ami. They do not refer to the work of Efraim Karsh, a professor of Mediterranean Studies at the University of London whose penetrating study of the New Historians (Fabricating Israeli History: The New Historians) has exposed their anti-Israel bias and gross distortions of the historical record.
Israel is responsible for the hatred of the United States in the Islamic world.
Islam's jihad against Christendom goes back at least to the conquest of previously Christian Palestine, Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Spain in the 7th century CE. It continued through the conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, the conquest of the Balkan Peninsula and even Hungary in the 15th century, and the sieges of Vienna in 1523 and 1695. Did Israel cause any of this?
Once the Islamic world began to regain some of its lost wealth and power in the late 20th century, after three hundred years of decline, a renewal of the old conflict was inevitable.
Hatred for Israel makes a convenient rallying cry for the jihadists.
And the United States, whether it likes it or not, finds itself the leader of the Western world and, therefore, the primary obstacle that the jihadists see to their dream of a world ruled by the Muslim Shar'ia (law) and Ummah (people).

Because contempt for the Jews is one element in Islamic tradition, hatred for Israel makes a convenient rallying cry for the jihadists. But the jihad against the United States and Europe would certainly have been revived even if there had never been an Israel, and it will certainly continue and intensify if Israel falls to the jihadists' siege and their appeasement by the West.

If Walt and Mearsheimer's claims are neither new nor true, and if they are little more than a restatement of traditional anti-Jewish conspiracy theories (however vehemently they deny this), then why have they received so much attention and been treated with so much respect by educated and influential people? That is one question that we cannot answer. Perhaps it is what Germans call the zeitgeist, the "spirit of the age."

John Landau contributed to this article.