By John Sigler
I just received my copy of the new Mearsheimer and Walt book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” yesterday, so I have not had a chance to read or review it yet. Nevertheless, I have been following the discussion and preliminary salvos in the press regarding the book for a couple of weeks now. One of the common themes being raised in the anti-Mearsheimer/Walt articles is the suggestion that because the book focuses on the pro-Israel lobby specifically, as opposed lobbying in general, that the book is therefore selective and “one sided” and by extension, anti-Semitic, i.e. anti-Jewish. Of course in a world where Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and John Dugard have all been tarred with the “anti-Semitism” libel, it is difficult to take this too seriously but this hasn’t discouraged many from resorting to this canard. The following are a just a few examples of this general argument:
“Spend ten minutes on Google and you can easily find similar advocacy groups that represent the interests of Irish Americans, Mexican Americans, Indian Americans, Italian Americans and practically every other imaginable ethnic and national group in the United States. Only the American lobby for Israel seems to be subject to such intense critical scrutiny and even demonization by people like Mearsheimer and Walt.”
“Nobody writes academic papers and hardcover books about the ‘black lobby’ or the ‘gay lobby’ and expects to be taken seriously. But W&M consider the Jewish lobby alone worthy of such scrutiny.”
“Lobbying is inscribed in the American system of power and influence. Big Pharma, the A.A.R.P., the N.R.A., the N.A.A.C.P., farming interests, the American Petroleum Institute, and hundreds of others shuttle between K Street and Capitol Hill. … Taming the influence of lobbies, if that is what Mearsheimer and Walt desire, is a matter of reforming the lobbying and campaign-finance laws. But that is clearly not the source of the hysteria surrounding their arguments.”
However, this argument is fundamentally based on the ignorance of the reader, specifically the reader’s ignorance of the wide array of books that have been written – often from a partisan perspective, either for or against – virtually all major lobbies; both formal lobbying organizations and firms as well as informal civic and pressure groups. Books can be found discussing the lobbying and pressure techniques of every single example cited in the quotes above: Irish Americans; Mexican Americans; Indian Americans; Italian Americans; African Americans (or “black lobby”) ; Homosexuals (or “gay lobby”); the AARP; the pharmaceutical industry (or “Big Pharma”); the NRA; “farming interests”; and the petroleum lobby. The same can be said of virtually all lobbies and influence peddlers on Capitol Hill, from Arab lobbies to the Christian Right.
In fact, considering the importance that the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular have in today’s geopolitical situation, what is amazing is that there have not been many more critical looks at the role of the Israel lobby in the United States.
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