The Myth about “The Israel Lobby”

Categories: Letters From Leadership
By Elihu Davison

A study recently released under the imprimatur of Harvard University, just published in edited form by the London Review of Books is entitled “The Israel Lobby.” It alleges that the sole reason for U.S. support for Israel has been the nefarious workings of AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Jewish Organizations, most politicians from both parties, a number of Christian groups, several influential media outlets, and sundry think-tanks. It would be an interesting thesis if there were any truth to the matter.

The paper, by political scientists John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard, has already begun to be scrutinized for its accuracy. The first cursory responses indicate blatant bias and great lack of facticity.

What hasn’t been mentioned, and to me is more disturbing, is Mearsheimer & Walt’s subtext that citizens in a democracy don’t have the right to petition government, to lobby about foreign policy as one might about education, taxes or pot hole repair. This is pernicious.

In his seminal 1921 book Public Opinion, Walter Lippman argued for governance by “the experts.” What Lippman didn’t mention, however, is that there are experts and then there are experts: liberals versus conservatives, internationalists versus isolationists, Keynesians versus monetarists, etc.

Israel’s American enemies have the right to organize and petition the U.S. government no less than Israel’s American friends. Whose fault is it if they haven’t, or haven’t been successful, or—most importantly—have a bad product to sell? It begs credulity to believe that American Jewry, an interest group comprising less than three percent of the total U.S. population, could be the sectarian tail so aggressively wagging the public dog.

Mearsheimer & Walt may be anti-Semites, though I have no basis for making that allegation. It is very clear, however, that they are anti-democratic.

After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, John F. Kennedy ruminated that all his life he’d been skeptical of experts like the ones whose advice he’d relied upon then. In light of Mearsheimer & Walt’s scribblings, there may be something to Kennedy’s doubt about expert advice.

About Elihu Davison

Elihu Davison is an alumnus of the 17th Habonim Workshop in Kibbutz Urim. He lives in Morristown, NJ.
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