April 19, 2006

M & W: A straw in the wind?

Here's an article on the M & W piece, its reception and its significance, by Tony Judt in the New York Times.
IN its March 23rd issue the London Review of Books, a respected British journal, published an essay titled "The Israel Lobby." The authors are two distinguished American academics (Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago) who posted a longer (83-page) version of their text on the Web site of Harvard's Kennedy School.

The Israel Lobby by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. London Review of Books, March 23, 2006. As they must have anticipated, the essay has run into a firestorm of vituperation and refutation. Critics have charged that their scholarship is shoddy and that their claims are, in the words of the columnist Christopher Hitchens, "slightly but unmistakably smelly." The smell in question, of course, is that of anti-Semitism.

This somewhat hysterical response is regrettable. In spite of its provocative title, the essay draws on a wide variety of standard sources and is mostly uncontentious. But it makes two distinct and important claims. The first is that uncritical support for Israel across the decades has not served America's best interests. This is an assertion that can be debated on its merits. The authors' second claim is more controversial: American foreign policy choices, they write, have for years been distorted by one domestic pressure group, the "Israel Lobby."
Tony Judt makes a point that I don't see many make and that is that the M & W article seems to represent a possible change of tack within the American establishment.
I think this essay, by two "realist" political scientists with no interest whatsoever in the Palestinians, is a straw in the wind.
Hmm.

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