Let’s face it: there are two Israel lobbies. The first is represented by those who support Israel, the second by those who oppose it. They are mirror images of each other. Every time one side publishes a book, there is another waiting in the wings to discredit it. Every time one takes the side of Israel, the other arrives swiftly to denounce it. They may be paired off like boxers swinging at each other for the title: Dershowitz-Finkelstein, Bush-Carter, Foxman–Mearshimer & Walt. There are other players, to be sure, who spar with each other in a continual intellectual war. The world is split neatly between two warring factions: for and against. Sound familiar? There are even pages of Wikipedia devoted entirely to these often venomous disputes, and one doesn’t doubt that there will soon be volumes published to this effect. There is another war in progress. We might call it, “The Israel Lobby War.”
Of course, there are many lobbies in the United States. They are a legal way of vying for one’s interests. But the accusation that those who “lobby” for Israel have compromised the well-being not only of the United States but of much of the rest of the world, is giving too few people far too much credit. Meanwhile the ideological war is well underway in coffeehouses and universities, where friends and colleagues find themselves in conflicting allegiance. So, what of the old phrase, “let’s just agree to disagree?” Noam Chomsky, the Che Guevara of Israel’s critics, has this to say about Mearshimer & Walt’s thesis: “…recognizing that M-W took a courageous stand, which merits praise, we still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion.”
Marc Alan Coen may be found in the NEWYORKERS column of this blog.