In the Diaspora: A footnote's footnote

The report slamming the Israel lobby shows how to create properly-cited, bigoted fiction.

aipac 88 (photo credit: )
aipac 88
(photo credit: )
Reading through the chronicle of perfidy that is the working paper by two leading American political scientists on the Israel Lobby, I could barely contain my outrage. I had made it 20 pages deep into the report by Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and I hadn't found myself listed among the conspirators. There were Howard Dean, Dennis Ross, and Martin Indyk; there were Gary Bauer, Elliott Abrams, and George Will. But after years of writing about American Jews and Israel, to say nothing of that time a stranger at a Seder mistook me for Thomas L. Friedman, did I get any of the credit for tricking and pressuring and hypnotizing America into a self-destructive alliance with the Jewish state? No, 20-odd pages into the professors' screed, and my name had yet to be named. I couldn't claim even the tiniest bit of responsibility for motivating al-Qaida and enticing America into Iraq, just two of the Israel Lobby's achievements, according to Walt and Mearsheimer. I'd been left off the most elite Who's Who (or should I say Who's Jew) this side of the Harmonie Club or the Herzliya conference. What was I? Chopped liver? Then, at last, I spotted a reference to me. Leaping into the paragraph, I felt my pride turning into indignation. The authors had cited a statistic from a column that I'd written back in April 2003 for USA Today, showing that American Jews tended to be less supportive of the Iraq invasion than the nation at large. My work was being trotted out to prove that the Israel lobby didn't even represent American Jewish interests. I didn't get to be part of the cabal. I failed the tzitzis check. Bummer. Once I got over my disappointment, the kind of sting I remember from being turned down when I asked an eighth-grade classmate to go steady, I began to think just how revealing my place in the Jewish Lobby working paper was. It offered me an incomparable chance to see the way Walt and Mearsheimer, purportedly from the "realist" camp of foreign-policy intellectuals, misrepresent source materials to present a warped analysis beneath the veneer of scholarly detachment. In my USA Today article, I had indeed cited a statistic from a compilation of opinion polls about the Iraq War, then in its early, popular stages. The professors had accurately repeated the number: 52 percent of American Jews endorsing the war, as compared to 62 percent of Americans as a whole. Walt and Mearsheimer, though, had conveniently ignored the entire point of the op-ed column, which is that American Jews have no more reason to apologize for their lobbying than do any other racial or ethnic groups pushing for key issues - Mexican-Americans for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, African-Americans for sanctions against South Africa during the apartheid era, Cuban-Americans for a continuing embargo against the Castro regime, and so forth. 'FROM THE time of Madison to the present, democratic theorists have always understood that groups should promote their particular ideas," Gerald Pomper, an emeritus professor of political science at Rutgers University, had said in the article. "The task of government is to take the views of these factions and meld them into something that resembles the more general good. Democracy is about free debate, competition of ideas, clashing interests within a peaceful structure for reconciling differences." To try to protect themselves against charges of anti-Semitism, Walt and Mearsheimer preemptively assert that "the Lobby's activities are not a conspiracy of the sort depicted in tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion." You have to wonder why the professors would have thought it necessary to protect themselves against such a comparison. In fact, the Protocols doesn't even offer the right parallel, though for reasons Walt and Mearsheimer cannot or choose not to grasp. The best analog to their paper on the Israel Lobby is a 1991 publication by the Nation of Islam entitled The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. Like the professors' paper, the Black Muslim tract is not a forgery or fabrication akin to the Protocols. It is, rather, an adroit exercise in cherry-picking, a document that takes painstaking care to employ Jewish sources in prosecuting a case of Jewish skullduggery. The Secret Relationship draws on Jewish scholarship on such topics as Jewish prominence in Hollywood, Jewish involvement in slave-trading, and Jewish business stakes in black slums. Taken individually, the citations from such respected figures as Neal Gabler and Jacob Rader Marcus appear to be accurately quoted or paraphrased. The bigoted fiction comes in weaving together these strands into a whole cloth of irremediable, almost primordial Jewish hatred of blacks. Walt and Mearsheimer, as I first realized pondering my own footnote, have done very much the same thing. Ben-Gurion, Barak, Joseph Lieberman, Haaretz, even little ol' me - their evidence of an Israel Lobby committed to damaging American interests takes the form wherever possible of the written and spoken words of Jews. The subtext, of course, is that no reasonable person could possibly doubt the insidious power of the Israel Lobby when the Jews themselves admit it. AS MY own modest contribution to their unified-field theory of Zionist subversion shows, the professors are perfectly capable of leaving aside anything their Jewish sources might possibly have said contrary to the belief that the Israel Lobby pulls the puppet strings of America. And who's to say Walt and Mearsheimer have made the wrong choice? Fifteen years after its publication, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews has a pretty healthy ranking on and lot of laudatory reader reviews. There's a lot of dough to be made in this sort of thing. Being your basic money-grubbing Jew, I'll have to remember to ask Walt and Mearsheimer for my share of the royalties. The writer is a professor of journalism at Columbia University. His most recent book is Letters To A Young Journalist.