Academics’ Paper on ‘Israel Lobby’ Brings Scholarly Heat
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke calls their work “A Modern American Declaration of Independence”
It is not the kind of praise Harvard University’s Dr. Stephen M. Walt and the University of Chicago’s Dr. John J. Mearsheimer had hoped for. But a paper they wrote — alleging that pro-Israel special interest groups have manipulated the United States to enact policies that favor Israel and work against American interests — has won Duke’s admiration while getting pounded by criticism elsewhere.
Since “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” was published as a “working paper” on the Web site of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government late last month, accusations ranging from shoddy scholarship to outright bigotry have been leveled at the professors. Walt is the Kennedy school’s academic dean.
The Anti-Defamation League described the paper as, “A classical conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis invoking the canards of Jewish power and Jewish control.”
“It’s David Duke with footnotes,” says Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz.
The paper has created public relations problems for the Kennedy school, though it has taken steps — including removing its logo from the paper — to make clear that the co-authors are solely responsible for its content.
Mearsheimer stood behind his work and urged people to read it before judging it.
“We said in our paper that anyone who criticizes Israel or America’s relationship with Israel is almost sure to be called an anti-Semite and have his or her scholarship impugned, and, of course, that is what we see happening to us,” he says. “This is hardly surprising. We would simply urge readers to read our article carefully and make up their own minds.”
Walt did not respond to attempts to contact him by phone and e-mail.
The paper describes what it says is “unwavering” support by the United States for Israel, economically and militarily, and rejects the moral or strategic cases for such backing.
The authors contend that a powerful “Israel Lobby” — a loose coalition of groups, including Christian evangelicals, pro-Israel lobbyists and mainstream media — pressures lawmakers and opinion makers to adopt policies that help Israel, but often hurt U.S. interests.
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance, the paper says, “Thanks to the Lobby, the United States has become the de facto enabler of Israeli expansion in the Occupied Territories, making it complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians.”
The authors also write: “The U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around.”
Also, the paper says U.S. media take a consistently pro-Israel viewpoint. “It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one,” the authors say.
Duke, a one-time Louisiana state representative, hailed the paper.
“The fact that I have previously documented and expounded on the basic issues presented in the Harvard paper does not invalidate its easily documented truth,” he wrote in a statement on his Web site. “It validates me and my work.”
Mearsheimer says he and Walt “deplore what David Duke stands for, and we do not condone his use of our paper to further his agenda.”
Dershowitz says the paper’s claims are “recycled garbage” that have been forwarded by hate groups for years. A paper he wrote to expose what he says are the paper’s numerous factual and logical errors was posted on the Kennedy school’s Web site. Dershowitz adds that the principle of “academic freedom” is not enough to justify posting the “Israel Lobby” paper, which he says is bigoted against Israel.
Dr. David Ellwood, the dean of the Kennedy school, says the paper was published under the principles of academic freedom, and like all scholarly work, should be accepted or rejected in “the marketplace of ideas.”
“Good ideas will rise, weaker ideas will fade away,” he says.
The scholars, not the university, are responsible for the ideas in any paper posted, Ellwood says. If universities start policing papers or ideas, he says, they could start shutting new ideas out.
— Associated Press
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