A curious thing happened on the way to real debate

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of the Israel Lobby paper, are about to release their book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. But there are forces in the US that would rather such debates stay hidden.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs had invited the pair to speak,…  but after enormous pressure from Zionist groups, the event has been canceled. Free speech in America? Mearsheimer/Walt wrote the following letter to the Council:

On July 19, while discussing the details of our visit with Sharon Houtkamp, who was handling the arrangements at the Council, we learned that the Council had already received a number of communications protesting our appearance. We were not particularly surprised by this news, as we had seen a similar pattern of behavior after our original article on “The Israel Lobby” appeared in the London Review of Books in March 2006. We were still looking forward to the event, however, especially because it gave us an opportunity to engage these issues in an open forum.

Then, on July 24, Council President Marshall Bouton phoned one of us (Mearsheimer) and informed him that he was cancelling the event. He said he felt “extremely uncomfortable making this call” and that his decision did not reflect his personal views on the subject of our book. Instead, he explained that his decision was based on the need “to protect the institution.” He said that he had a serious “political problem,” because there were individuals who would be angry if he gave us a venue to speak, and that this would have serious negative consequences for the Council. “This one is so hot,” Marshall maintained, that he could not present it at a Council session unless someone from “the other side”—such as Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League—was on stage with us. At the very least, he needed to present “contending viewpoints.” But he said it was too late to try to change the format, as the fall schedule was being finalized and there would not be sufficient time to arrange an alternate date. He showed little interest in doing anything with us in 2008 or beyond.

Zionists can try and keep the book’s issues from seeping into the mainstream, but they’re fighting a losing battle. The often insidious role of Israel’s supporters in the West is no longer a taboo subject, no matter how much some Jews would like it to be.

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