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Monday, December 21, 2009

Stephen Walt HEARTS Israel, and other such fantasies

Here's an early post from my original blog, The Anti-Imperialism of Fools, which comments on the often vicious criticisms of ''The Israel Lobby'' by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer - arguments whose current manifestations are related to the founding of the left-wing Israel lobbying group, J Street - based on the notion that the main obstacle to peace in the region isn't Hamas, Hezbollah, or Palestinian violence/radicalism more broadly, but, rather, mainstream pro-Israel groups in the U.S.

Stephen Walt is at it again. Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, his essay, Treason of the Hawks, Walt (as he did in his book co-written with John Mearsheimer, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy), blames Israel, and only Israel, for the failure to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and then bizarrely implies that his vitriolic attacks on the Jewish state is undertaken as an act of concern for its future. He then contrasts this "love" with what he audaciously refers to as the "betrayal" committed by Zionists, such as Prime MinisterNetanyahu and Israel's supporters in the West who, he implies, are so war hungry that they fail to seize the opportunity to achieve a two-state solution - the only solution that would secure Israel's long-term survival.

First, here's a good reply to Walt's piece in Commentary Magazine.


Now, a few of my own thoughts.

1. In order to advance this narrative of Zionists as pro-war and rejectionist, Walt minimizes the threat Israel faces from Iran, implying that fears of Iranian nukes are an intentional over-reaction...simply meant to provide rhetorical cover for Israel's hawkishness. He bizarrely quotes Richard Cohen as evidence that Iran's intentions towards Jews are benign, and is just implies that Ahmadinejad's repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map have been mistranslated. In fact,Ahmadinejad has been quoted dozens of times repeating some version of this threat - statements that are on record. Further, Ahmadinejad addressed the UN last year and advanced a classical anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Zionists (i.e., Jews) control the world's financial markets, and the policies of most Western governments. He is anti-Semitic to the core, and for Walt to simply say that he has made "foolish remarks about the Holocaust" and leave it at that is incredibly naive or dishonest. Ahmadinejad didn't just make foolish remarks, he knows that casting doubt on the Holocaust can serve to legitimize his hostility towards Jews. After all, implicit in any Holocaust denial is the charge that Jews have acted conspiratorially to create this "fiction" in the minds of most people.

2. He also erroneously casts doubt on Israelis confidence in the Zionist Ideal, ignoring surveys year after year that show Israelis to be among the most patriotic citizens in the world (the number of Israelis who express love of country and a willingness to die for their country is even higher than that of Americans.) The fact that Walt quoted Ian Lustick is pretty telling - Lustickis a leftist Penn professor known for his hyper-critical essays about Israel. Here's an article about that survey I mentioned, which shows them to be the most patriotic nation in the West.


3. The greatest weakness, however, is how puts all the onus of making peace on Israel - assuming that if Israel simply wants peace it will happen - and ignores that there has been a consensus within Israel about a 2 state solution since the 90's. In fact, most Israelis are skeptical of the possibility of a peace agreement because of what happened when the left S. Lebanon and Gaza and what the result of such unilateral withdraws portends for any subsequent withdraw from the West Bank. I honestly don't know how Walt can write a long essay about "peace" w/o even once mentioning Hamas - both in terms of what they've created in Gaza, and in terms of the possibility that they could eventually seize control of the W. Bank after an Israeli withdraw. Indeed, I think the biggest problem the anti-Israel crowd makes is to ignore the Palestinians alltogether in their narrative, as if how they behave now, and how they will behave politically if Israel gives them a state, is not a huge factor to be considered.

I've supported the idea of a two-state solution for some time, but, like many Zionists, am increasingly skeptical of the Palestinians capacity for responsible self-government. While the status quo (Israel continuing to occupy the W. Bank) is a horrible situation, the possible alternative (another hostile Islamist regime bordering them on the East) could be much, much worse. And, as politics is often about the lesser of two evils, I think that the status quo is the lesser of the two evils.

(Finally, he's simply wrong to imply that the organized community doesn't support the peace process and the idea of a two-state solution. Poll after poll demonstrates this to be patently untrue.)


Rob said...

Hello again, Adam.

Just saw this post and I think it's interesting to note that even Jeremy Ben-Ami is not pure enough for Glenn Greenwald. This was from last month:

In his rather cringe-inducing attempt to convince The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg of his Seriousness credentials, J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami dutifully affirmed to Goldberg numerous requisite "pro-Israel" claims -- among other things, equating Walt/Mearsheimer with anti-Semites and categorically opposing any use of America's military aid package to induce changes in Israeli behavior.

Not sure what Ben-Ami's reaction to this was, but I can't imagine he was too pleased to be attacked in that manner or called "mealy-mouthed" over J-Street's stance on the Goldstone Resolution.


And as far as I know, Greenwald hasn't commented on J-Street's rejection of the Livni arrest warrant in Britain. But if he did, we can guess it would be more of the same.

I think J-Street is increasingly finding itself in no-man's land. After all, they're under fire from both Abe Foxman and Glenn Greenwald.

Personally, I thought Foxman was being a bit unfair on the whole J-Street/Palin dust-up. As for Greenwald, you know what I think of him.

Anonymous said...

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