Mearsheimer and Walt are not anti-Semites or racists. They are serious scholars, and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity. They are right to describe the moral violation in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. (In this, most Israelis and most American Jews agree with them.) They were also right about Iraq.I don’t believe that Mr. Remnick means here, given his essay’s conclusion, that he agrees with their thesis that the invasion of Iraq was largely a product of the Israel Lobby’s influence and power. He continues:
The strategic questions they raise now, particularly about Israel’s privileged relationship with the United States, are worth debating— just as it is worth debating whether it is a good idea to be selling arms to Saudi Arabia. But their announced objectives have been badly undermined by the contours of their argument— a prosecutor’s brief that depicts Israel as a singularly pernicious force in world affairs.He concludes:
“The Israel Lobby” is a phenomenon of its moment. The duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush Administration, the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran—all of this has left Americans furious and demanding explanations. Mearsheimer and Walt provide one: the Israel lobby. In this respect, their account is not so much a diagnosis of our polarized era as a symptom of it.