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Peck on the "Israel Lobby":

Via the Independent Institute, which is unfortunately promoting this dreck, I've come across a thoroughly dishonest article by Edward Peck on the controversy over the Mearsheimer and Walt "Israel Lobby" paper. How dishonest?

Peck: "The expected tsunami of rabid responses condemned the report, vilified its authors, and denied there is such a lobby"

"Shrill insistence that no groups promote Israel is ludicrous."

There are many other flaws in this article, which I'd Fisk more throughly if I didn't have to prepare for two classes tomorrow. But for now, I think it's sufficient to address this challenge to "Ambassador" [I hate using former titles as current titles] Peck: Identify any source that denied that there is an Israel lobby (as opposed to those, like me, who argued that Mearsheimer and Walt's definition of the "Israel lobby" is absurdly broad, and contrary to the normal meaning of the word), or that any groups promote Israel.

Okay, I promised no full Fisking, but I can't resist raising one more point. Peck suggests that the "Israel Lobby" (which he never defines) "prevents" "public knowledge, discussion and debate" on the U.S.-Israel relationship. Really? Has Noam Chomsky been arrested? Has Juan Cole been exiled? Have The Nation and the Village Voice been shut down? Is Jimmy Carter an Israeli mole? Have Mearsheimer and Walt been assassinated? Has any U.S. critic of Israel met with any sort of violence at all? For that matter, aren't Middle East Studies departments in the U.S. thoroughly dominated by academics who favor the Arab position in the Arab-Israeli conflict? It's more than a bit odd for a libertarian outfit like the Independent Institute to promote articles claiming that just because a certain perspective has found only a small popular audience, that the holders of that perspective, who have been subject to no state or private force, have been prevented from promoting their views. And it's especially odd when those views are expressed all the time.

UPDATE: Reader "Brian" points out that antiwar.com has also featured a piece (by Michael Scheuer) claiming that critics of Mearsheimer and Walt have denied there is an Israel lobby (along with a bunch of other wacky nonsense). Brian also points out that the geniuses at the Daily News gave David Gergen's op-ed the title "There is no Israel Lobby", but the piece says the opposite: "To be sure, pro-Israeli groups in this country, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, push hard to gain the support of U.S. political leaders. AIPAC is officially registered as a lobbying group, but that does not mean that its members are engaging in something sinister." So, Messrs. Peck and Scheuer--who has denied that there are organizations in the U.S. that lobby for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship?

Glenn Bridgman (mail):
"Peck suggests that the "Israel Lobby" (which he never defines) "prevents" "public knowledge, discussion and debate" on the U.S.-Israel relationship. Really? Has Noam Chomsky been arrested? Has Juan Cole been exiled? Have The Nation and the Village Voice been shut down? Is Jimmy Carter an Israeli mole? Have Mearsheimer and Walt been assassinated? Has any U.S. critic of Israel met with any sort of violence at all? For that matter, aren't Middle East Studies departments in the U.S. thoroughly dominated by academics who favor the Arab position in the Arab-Israeli conflict? It's more than a bit odd for a libertarian outfit like the Independent Institute to promote articles claiming that just because a certain perspective has found only a small popular audience, that the holders of that perspective, who have been subject to no state or private force, have been prevented from promoting their views. And it's especially odd when those views are expressed all the time."

Are you serious? I've been vigerously supporting the criticism of the M+W paper since it was published. However, there is no question that the outrage was driven by realpolitik from supporters of israel alongside opposition deriving from the paper's actual mendacity. Only the utterly blind would deny this--c.f. the Dershowitz response.
4.10.2006 10:23pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Whatever generated the outrage, how is that "preventing" anyone from debating anything?
4.10.2006 10:26pm
Erick:
Well I guess if your argument is so completely without merit that any criticism of it makes it completely undefendable you could argue that criticism prevents you from debating it.
4.10.2006 10:37pm
Anonymous Koward:
Via the Independent Institute

Not to be confused with the Independence Institute, where VC blogger Dave Kopel works.
4.10.2006 10:44pm
SLS 1L:
I agree that the Peck piece is pretty awful, but not as bad as the original "study". I thought Mearsheimer and Walt's piece should have been excluded from serious consideration simply because the way they characterize "the Lobby" is so blatantly anti-Semitic.

The "core" of "the Lobby," we're told, is "comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel's interests." It's hard to miss the anti-Semitic implication that American Jews, or some significant proportion of them, are traitors who are loyal to Israel, not America. Seriously, how many American Jews could possibly be incorporating activities that would tend to "bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel's interests" as a "significant" element of their "daily lives"?
4.10.2006 10:44pm
Tom952 (mail):
Dreck - good one.
4.10.2006 10:48pm
Enoch:
The expected tsunami of rabid responses condemned the report, vilified its authors, and denied there is such a lobby—validating both the lobby's existence and aggressive, pervasive presence and obliging Harvard to remove its name.

Where does he get that last part from? Harvard's name is still on it as far as I can tell.
4.10.2006 11:15pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Peck suggests that the "Israel Lobby" (which he never defines) "prevents" "public knowledge, discussion and debate" on the U.S.-Israel relationship. Really? Has Noam Chomsky been arrested? Has Juan Cole been exiled?

If there were an Israeli lobby supporting these efforts, could you tell me where to send the contribution?
4.11.2006 12:12am
SlimAndSlam:
Okay. I'm a bit sleepy, but let me see if I have this straight:

There was an article about an allegedly successful, organized effort to drive policy and stifle criticism. Then there was criticism (some on this page) of that article's mischaracterization of criticism-stifling. Then there was criticism of the criticism, also arguably misguided. Then there was criticism of the criticism of the criticism, which (if I haven't lost track) is the above post. And then there are the commenters, including me, commenting on the criticism of the criticism of the criticism of the article complaining of the stifling of criticism.

Okay.
4.11.2006 12:44am
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
"Whatever generated the outrage, how is that "preventing" anyone from debating anything?"

Uh, because it generates a discourse dynamic that makes debating the actual content of the paper irrelevent and/or hazardous. There have been some pretty significant accusations of antisemetism thrown around. These might be warrented--I myself have some serious concerns about double standards being applied. But it is irresponsible in the extreme to pretend that these comments are purely intellectual. Calling someone an anti-semite or a racist is the ultimate rhetorical bludgeon. In our culture, these types of accusations are damaging on a personal and career level. So of course any commenterary that invoke comparisons to the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is going to prevent debate, even if some elements of the discussion don't deserve the comparison and others do.

On a more general note, this "What, little old me?" response to stuff which is fairly trivially obvious is a terrifically annoying--albeit effective--method of obfuscation. Eugene used it to great effect a while back on that series of posts about "people who love the insurgency."
4.11.2006 1:31am
Ross Levatter (mail):
David characterized the Peck article as "thoroughly dishonest". Here's a passage:

"The lobby's effectiveness at control was illustrated two years ago. Both government and media condemned China when it arrested, and accused of espionage, a Chinese citizen--Green Card holder visiting from the U.S. Neither the U.S. government nor media has ever protested—has never even mentioned—Israel's years-long multiple arrests and protracted detentions of American citizens, without charge or trial. In September 2000, CNN interviewed four Americans who had been tortured, the only report on this compelling story, and the network has since been forced to refuse selling recordings of that news segment, "Americans Mistreated in Israeli Jails." America would have been fully informed had any other country committed these acts."

Is David saying this never happened? Or that actually most Americans are well aware of the incident? Or is he suggesting that CNN still readily sells that news segment? Or that this is one of the few news segments CNN no longer has available but it has absolutely nothing to do with pressure from a pro-Israeli lobby? Or does he think it a commonplace, occurring in all Western countries, that arrested Americans are tortured and detained without trial? What aspect of this passage is "blatantly dishonest" in David's view. (I will admit to being perhaps one of the few Americans not aware that American citizens had been held without trial for years in Israel and tortured.)

I note that "Ambassador Edward Peck was Deputy Director of the Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism in the Reagan White House and former Chief of Mission in Iraq, and was in Jerusalem and the West bank as an international observer of the presidential elections in 2005, and in Gaza for the Legislative Council elections in 2006." So perhaps he has more direct information than Dave, who probably doesn't spend quite as much time there.

I would also briefly note that just as lawyers pushing for US government action that benefits lawyers don't likely see themselves as anti-American--rather, they are confident that lawyers are good for America--so, too, it is facile to suggest that claiming many American Jews (of which I am one) lobby fiercely (and, it would seem, successfully) for Israel is equivalent to claiming they are disloyal. It merely means they are convinced that helping Israel is good for America. Just like Lee Iacocca was no doubt convinced that bailing out Chrysler was good for America.
4.11.2006 4:17am
davod (mail):
Ross:

I would suggest to you that there is a school of thought in Middle East affairs that supports the Arab point of view. Ambassador Peck is of this school. There is nothing wrong with this. His writing should be read with this in mind.

He is of the Arab lobby. Whether he is paid to put forth this view or not is irrelevent.

It is disengenous to be critical of pro Israeli lobbying, just because it appears to be having more success than his groups efforts.
4.11.2006 7:23am
Johhny:
Of course there is an Israel Lobby. Every government in the world has a lobby in Washington D.C. However, the Israel Lobby may just be made up of religious radical Christians. No need to point to any party.

Religion has reared its ugly head blatantly into the spotlight of American politics. Just maybe, some lawmakers support Israel on religious grounds.

If you are a Jewish congressman, it is a no-brainer that you support Israel's right to exist. I do to. If you are a hardcore, militant Christian who believes the end-times are but a fortnight away, you need Israel to exist. How else will Revelations be fulfilled if there are no Jews to convert to Christianity? Of course, they just kill the ones who don't in that last book. Bloodthirsty lot, heh? End-of-the-world types! Yikes!
4.11.2006 8:31am
davidbernstein (mail):
Ross, I'm not familiar with the allegations regarding torture of American citizens, but you can find a synopsis of the CNN/Time story http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,54379,00.html

Exactly how would someone "force" CNN to stop selling the story? And if they "forced" CNN to stop selling the story, why couldn't/didn't they "force" CNN to take the story off its website?

Like I said, thoroughly dishonest.
4.11.2006 9:46am
davidbernstein (mail):
Oh, and the allegations come from an anti-Israel group called "Partners for Peace," which is run by the wife of the man who runs the anti-Israel "Center for the National Interest," with which Peck is affiliated. So Peck is actually complaining, "my group has been trying to get publicity for certain allegations, and we're not happy with the results of our campaign. Must be a conspiracy."
4.11.2006 9:52am
davidbernstein (mail):
And a little more from Honestreporting.com com

The torture

charges are based on the 24-year-old cables of a junior foreign service officer, Alexandra U. Johnson, who interviewed Palestinian visa applicants and "detailed the treatment of Arab prisoners."

Bird hides the fact that Johnson was later fired from the State Department; according to a 1979 Washington Post report, Johnson was "engaged to one of the Palestinians" cited in her cables. Only by claiming he was tortured could the Palestinian obtain a U.S. visa. According to one 1979 report, Israeli intelligence informed U.S. authorities that Alexandra Johnson may have aided terrorist cells.

Among the "human rights" organizations Bird cites in her article is Miftah, an Arab organization headed by Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi (who in April falsely accused Israel of committing "massacres").
4.11.2006 9:54am
Some Catholic (mail):
Ahh, antiwar.com, my old friends. Well, this practising Roman Catholic used to run an anonymous blog, and the good folks at antiwar.com got it into their minds that I was a JOOOOOOOOOO! and that they should expose my JOOOOOOOOO! blood...to refute my arguments as to foreign policy, of course. A reader actually forwarded an email one of them sent out asking for information on "the JOOOOOOOOOO!" who ran my blog and help in getting me fired for daring to post some (admittedly banal) analysis. I have to admit, it felt thrilling, like the Grand Dragon Bugle-Master Extraordinaire of the KKK had declared race war on you. Really helps you to understand you are on the right side, after all.

Antiwar.com is profoundly anti-semitic, and everyone associated with that website is an unrepentant racist. Those disgusting little brownshirts are probably emailing each other right now about your last name.
4.11.2006 10:32am
keatssycamore (mail) (www):

Oh, and the allegations come from an anti-Israel group called "Partners for Peace," which is run by the wife of the man who runs the anti-Israel "Center for the National Interest," with which Peck is affiliated.


That's how David Bernstein proves something he doesn't like is "thoroughly dishonest". By showing it comes from some entity he doesn't like.

I'm glad he saved us the fisking he was thinking about writing.
4.11.2006 11:01am
davidbernstein (mail):
Way to take two sentences out of context out of three related posts, Keat.
4.11.2006 11:25am
Huh:
I think it's a bit disingenuous to suggest violence is the only credible restraint on free speech. I'm not saying that criticism of Isreal within America is being stifled or limited, but I'm definitely saying this: attempting to show there isn't a "chilling effect" on such speech by pointing out the fact that people aren't being arrested or assassinated is, at best, fallacious.

A chilling effect can result if legitimate cricism is opposed with less drastic measures. One need not face prison time in order to be officially discouraged from voicing honest and credible dissent.

Again, I'm not saying the "thoroughly dishonest" viewpoints David's attacking are either honest or credible. But I know that the first thing I'd do if I was trying to systematically discredit such viewpoints is attack them as "thoroughly dishonest." At least, I'd try that before I tried to have someone assassinated.
4.11.2006 12:59pm
Isaac (www):
Are you honestly saying that calling someone's piece "throughly dishonest" amounts to restraining that person's free speech?

Can you name a controversial point of view that doesn't have the honesty of some of its writings called into question by the opposition, even using strong language? Let's see. Dershowitz has been called a plagiarizer. Presidents Bush, Clinton, et al. (probably going back to Washington) have been called liars. By your standards, have I proven that Palestinian, Democratic, Republican, etc. lobbies credibly restrain the free speech of their oppositions?
4.11.2006 1:51pm
Huh:
No. Of course, it's valid to call dishonest speech dishonest.

I'm honestly saying that assassinating people or imprisoning them isn't the only way to curtail speech. But there is a spectrum of activities a government or group might take in order to quell speech it doesn't like. Calling truth-tellers liars is certainly on that spectrum.

Other examples include making it difficult for dissenters to practice their professions. Or systematically aiming to discrediting opposition speakers though a sustained, coordinated campaign of disinformation. David didn't mention these more subtle methods of intimidation, but they are certainly weapons in the arsenal.

I am not saying that David's criticism amounts to such behavior. And from what I've read, his targets probably deserve such criticism. Sorry if I appeared to muddle things, but I'm just saying that violence is not the only possible source of a chilling effect. But that's what David appeared to suggest.
4.11.2006 2:39pm
Glenn Bridgman (mail):
"Can you name a controversial point of view that doesn't have the honesty of some of its writings called into question by the opposition, even using strong language? Let's see. Dershowitz has been called a plagiarizer. Presidents Bush, Clinton, et al. (probably going back to Washington) have been called liars. By your standards, have I proven that Palestinian, Democratic, Republican, etc. lobbies credibly restrain the free speech of their oppositions?"

Accusations of anti-semitism, racism, et. al. are qualitativaly different than normal rhetorical assaults. C.f. the Summers debacle.
4.11.2006 2:41pm
keatssycamore (mail) (www):
Mr. Bernstein:

Except for the first of the three posts in which you say you don't have a clue about how CNN sells or stops selling their news items (man you hit that out the ballpark) the other two comment postings challenge the speaker only. Not the assertions.

You chose to respond to this from Ross


Is David saying this never happened? Or that actually most Americans are well aware of the incident? Or is he suggesting that CNN still readily sells that news segment? Or that this is one of the few news segments CNN no longer has available but it has absolutely nothing to do with pressure from a pro-Israeli lobby? Or does he think it a commonplace, occurring in all Western countries, that arrested Americans are tortured and detained without trial? What aspect of this passage is "blatantly dishonest" in David's view. (I will admit to being perhaps one of the few Americans not aware that American citizens had been held without trial for years in Israel and tortured.)


without answering or addressing a single one of the sentences that end in question marks. So in your three post response to Ross you produce first "I don't know about CNN" (appeal to ignorance) and second and third "The people behind these assertion are bad in my eyes." (ad hominem)

So taking all three of the posts as a whole, I'm going to have to ask you how anything is out of context?

Here's your third post (which I thought about quoting in my original comment, but did not for the sake of brevity since it is essentially the same as the first):


The torture

charges are based on the 24-year-old cables of a junior foreign service officer, Alexandra U. Johnson, who interviewed Palestinian visa applicants and "detailed the treatment of Arab prisoners."

Bird hides the fact that Johnson was later fired from the State Department; according to a 1979 Washington Post report, Johnson was "engaged to one of the Palestinians" cited in her cables. Only by claiming he was tortured could the Palestinian obtain a U.S. visa. According to one 1979 report, Israeli intelligence informed U.S. authorities that Alexandra Johnson may have aided terrorist cells.

Among the "human rights" organizations Bird cites in her article is Miftah, an Arab organization headed by Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi (who in April falsely accused Israel of committing "massacres").


Thank you for taking the time to address my last comment.
4.11.2006 2:59pm
Observer (mail):
I've been reading the Dershowitz response and there is nothing ad hominem about it. To use the vernacular, it's a point-by-point Fisking of W&M's working paper, on the merits.
4.11.2006 3:17pm
RandomUCLASudent:
When I was a student at UCLA, an organization I was associated with was threatened by "Campus Watch" because of a position it took regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don't know how common such threats are, but it was not a pleasant experience.
4.11.2006 4:08pm
RandomUCLASudent:
To be slightly more specific, the threat was that "all necessary actions would be taken" if the position was maintained. That isn't a direct quote, but a paraphrase that is very close.
4.11.2006 4:12pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Random, may I ask what the position of your group was with respect to the conflict?
4.11.2006 5:10pm
Orinocle (mail):
Interesting dialouge. As a Black Activist I have also felt the stings of censorship, chilled speech and bucket full of obstacles and filters. Sometimes I would call what has happening white &jewish racism and also quite often I would call it legitimate retort to my volleys....
4.11.2006 8:09pm
therut:
I really wish those who speak of Christianty had at least a working knowledge of which they speak at least more than the NYT idea of what Christians think of the End Times. There is no Jews are gonna be killed and lets work to bring about Armaggadon except maybe in a very small minute number of Christians. Those that think this are probably smaller than the number of members of the KKK and are looked upon almost the same way. These are not the large number of Christians that believe in an end time with a rapture. They do not believe they can make the end times happen. They do not believe that all others left behind will go to hell. They just do not believe this stuff that the left wing ideologues are huffing and puffing about. Those who mark Christians in this way are ignorant of the theology and ignorant of Christianty in general. Even Jesus said he does not know the time of his return. Do Christians wonder when? Of coarse alot do. But they themselves know the exact time is unknown and they can not cause God to act.
4.11.2006 11:08pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
I wonder why there has been no interest in the Egypt Lobby.
4.11.2006 11:57pm
APS:
Mearsheimer &Walt have a debate. Its just not the one they wanted.

They were hoping to ignite Congress with their "scholarly work" but with polls showing consistent 60-70 percent public support for Israel (and extremely negative opinions of the Arabs) no one needs any silly conspiracy theory to explain away our tilt.

They were also hoping to spur debate in mainstream academia, but no mainstream academics are jumping on board. In fact, even anti-Israel professors like Joe Massad of Columbia and Noam Chomsky aren't buying into this "wag the dog" nonsense.

The basic problem is, they haven't presented anything more worthy of serious debate than the long debunked canards of folks like David Duke of the KKK.

Which is why the debate is where it is today - in the blogosphere netherworld of hard-core anti-semites and those who oppose anti-semitism.
4.12.2006 12:24am
APS:
Its pretty obvious that its Mearsheimer &Walt who are actually trying to stifle debate and criticism of their thesis.

After all, the truth is there is no more vile a slander than accusing someone of disloyalty, or having allegience to a foreign nation over America. This was precisely how tailgunner Joe McCarthy went about destroying careers - by accusing those he disliked of fealty to the Soviet Union, rather than the USA.

And yet, this is precisely what Mearsheimer &Walt do in their paper.

In reality, those who advocate support of Israel today are every bit as patriotic as those who advocated supporting our Nato allies during the Cold War; whether you agreed with that position or not.

But of course that's not good enough for Mearsheimer &Walt. Far be it for them to simply disagree with a position without slandering the patriotism and motives of those who hold that position.

No, despite crying about being labeled "anti-semites", smearing others with the taint of pro-Israel/anti-American disloyalty is precisely what those two "scholars" are all about.
4.12.2006 12:53am
Charles Iragui:
"Chilling speech" makes all inhibitions on expression seem inherently bad. Isn't it a pleasant thing that racist speech in the US has largely been "chilled?" It is highly unlikely that in the 1970's, when racist comments/viewpoints became socially unexceptable, that this also meant that nobody any longer had these inclinations. George Wallace got 13% of the vote in 1968 and 5-10% of the vote in most states.

Today, CSPAN allows just about any comments in call-ins, except racist (eg anti-semitic) ones. I'd say they are the gold standard of fairness/objectivity in media.

Tocqueville noticed long ago that "free speech" in America was free legally, not socially. Thank goodness. Should people fear being taken for racists? Certainly! Does this threaten some kind of overshoot (PC)? Too.

Perhaps the question is a factual one: was the M&W paper anti-semitic? If it was, the organization that sponsored it should be condemned. The fact that they made many comments that could so easily be taken for racist is itself grounds for disapprobation - couldn't they have bent over backwards to assure people of their bona fides?
4.13.2006 8:33am
Thom:
No the M/W paper was not anti semitic. does that answer the question.
4.13.2006 12:34pm