Ken Waltzer responds to John Mearsheimer

In a recent bizarre speech at the Palestine Center in Washington DC, April 29, “The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. New Afrikaners, ” political scientist John Mearsheimer went over the top.[1] He predicted the future in the otherwise unpredictable Middle East, characterizing Israelis as inevitable “Afrikaners” in charge of an apartheid state and Palestinians as inevitable secular democrats. He also characterized American Jews as either righteous Jews (if they agree with him and demonize Israel) or as “new Afrikaners” loyal to the Zionist state (if they don’t).

Regarding American Jews in general, it was somewhat unclear in his mind whether they could achieve the standard of righteousness to which he aspires for them, that is, adopt the views articulated by the likes of Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, or the crackpot Phil Weiss, or would simply when the time came turn out to be damn Jews.

This speech will stimulate new questions about Mearsheimer, co-author of the Israel Lobby, and his attitudes about Jews and his judgment. That book was sloppy and tendentious scholarship but this speech went well beyond. To Mearsheimer, Israelis are stumbling toward full-fledged apartheid in a Greater Israel; American Jewish leaders are “blindly loyal” to a foreign state. The Israel lobby (AIPAC etc) embraces racism and endorses Greater Israel. All righteous people, Mearsheimer implied, ought to be opposed to Israel on anti-racist grounds. Apparently, it is today okay once again to objectify Jews or groups of Jews as out of step with humane values.

A century ago, the social scientist Edward A. Ross stood on Union Square in New York City watching the immigrant Jews going by, commenting on their physiognomy whose features to him betrayed obvious failures of intelligence and promise. Now, another social scientist presumes to comment on all the Jews – there and also here — and on their moral promise. What happened to the cautious Mearsheimer who told the Forward in 2006 one must address these subjects carefully? “I don’t have an agenda…,” he said.

Read the rest on the SPME website here.

21 Responses to “Ken Waltzer responds to John Mearsheimer”

  1. NIMN Says:

    As they say at “Amazon”; readers of this post also found this interesting,

    “Are Israeli Policies Entrenching Anti-Semitism Worldwide?” at http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/may2010klug

  2. Absolute Obsever Says:

    http://www.thecst.org.uk/blog/

    Darn, those “bad Jews” have a lot to answer for! Look what they have made, good, decent people do!

    Just like the antisemitic theme that if it wasn’t for the Jews/Zionists/Israel the world would be a safer place with peace and harmony reigning. So now, for Klug if it wasn’t for those damn Zionists, “we” “good Jews” wouldn’t have to suffer antisemtism (assuming for the moment that blood libels and Jews as devils can still be classified as antisemitism 2010)

    Damn those Jews twice over! once in the name of the world and once in the name of “humane” Jews everywhere!

  3. zkharya Says:

    Well, this looks like the inevitable end of the Mearsheimer thesis: sanctioning all Jews, in Israel and out, who do not adopt the right line on Israel.

    Anti-Zionism is the new Christian confession, how Jews can be good Jews.

  4. LO Says:

    Speaking of sloppy scholarship, I think your argument would be much stronger if you actually addressed the claims made by Mearsheimer. Instead you simply portray him as an anti-Semite and misrepresent his argument…

    You may find it interesting that Mearsheimer is hardly the first observer of Israeli politics to worry that about the dangers of Apartheid-like behavior. Indeed, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said:

    “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/03/barak-apartheid-palestine-peace

    Surely you can’t really believe that anyone who questions Israeli policy is motivated by anti-semitism?

    • James Mendelsohn Says:

      Hi LO,
      Sorry but you’ve lost me there. Can you please point out to me, citing a specific quote, in context, either in the Waltzer piece above or anywhere else on the Engage website, where anyone says that “anyone who questions Israeli policy is motivated by anti-semitism?”
      Thanks.

    • Gil Says:

      But LO, you are the only one raising the straw man argument that anyone ‘who questions Israeli policy is motivated by anti-semitism’. So why should anyone pay any attention to what you have to say?

      Incidentally, if you scroll down, you will see more than one thread addressing Mearsheimer’s views and the most recent one garnered over 100 comments, I believe.

    • Thomas Venner Says:

      Nobody is saying that anyone who criticises Israeli government policy is anti-Semitic. Look through this blog and you’ll find plenty of strongly-worded criticism of the current Israeli government.

      However, Mearsheimer is not, in this case, “criticising Israeli policy”, he is openly demonising Jews who do not agree with his beliefs, including those outside Israel, by lumping them all into the category of “New Afrikaners”. Mearsheimer is not offering a critique of the policies of the current Israeli government but a sweeping condemnation of the majority of Jews. To describe this as “criticism of Israeli policy” is a genuine misrepresentation of his argument.

    • Bill Says:

      “Surely you can’t really believe that anyone who questions Israeli policy is motivated by anti-semitism?”

      No, just the ones who insist that criticism of Israel “as such” isn’t antisemitic (true mind, you in many well-articulated cases), while also insisting that any Jew anywhere (and only Jews*, mind you) must off a script, written by a non-Jew (but of course!), to bash Israel (to said goyboy’s satisfaction), so that they may belong to polite company.

      You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

      Mearsheimer crossed that Rubicon — just as others have clearly done, e.g., Tonge, Silverstein (boy did he EVER with Mumbai) and co.

      *Do you really want me to go through of all the imperfect people’s of the world yet are ignored by Mearsheimer et al?

  5. Gil Says:

    So Tony Klug wants us to go out and demonstrate against Israel. Well, he should have been with me back in 2006 when I was observing the ‘we are all Hizbollah now’ crowd near the former US embassy in Mayfair. The yobs who screamed at me with ‘we will burn you, the lot of you’ when I dared to challenge their slogans. In the end, for my own safety, I had to run from there while the ‘stewards’ stood there laughing and making signs of a hand cutting across a throat.

    He wants us to demonstrate against Israel at a time when economic crisis in the Europe will inevitably bring about the rise of the fascists and radical Left who will both blame the Jews for everything. We will soon see it in Greece when the public start blaming Jews for the austerity measures demanded by the IMF. Not to talk about the UK with the rise of the BNP.

    And he wants us, by demonstrating against Israel, to perpetuate the myth that solving the I/P conflict is the solution to antisemitism??

    So, no thanks, Klug. I’ll rather learn from the lessons of history and will keep out of this one because we have enough enemies out there.

    • Tony Klug Says:

      I have just had this referred to me. You have picked on the wrong guy, Gil (May 5). I have never advocated going out and demonstrating ‘against Israel’, as you allege, and I was no less appalled than you by the slogan ‘we are all Hizbollah now’. But I am also appalled and forever amazed by the ability of people to misrepresent – often wilfully – what is said and, in this case, written. For anyone interested in seeing what I actually wrote, please see my Tikkun article ‘Are Israeli policies entrenching antisemitism worldwide’:
      http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/may2010klug

      • Mira Vogel Says:

        But you did write “And Failing That … Jews Must Protest” and “align themselves with apposite international moves to this end—if not from conviction then at least on the grounds of prudent self-protection”.

        I mean, do you also consider it right to ask British Muslims to go about evincing and performing protest against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Ayatollas as self-protection against Islamophobia? I’d be dismayed if you did. But it’s the same sort of thing you’re asking of Jews.

        I can’t justify demanding that only one group of people be rational, while treating the hatred of others as a force of nature.

        • Tony Klug Says:

          No, I did not write “And Failing That … Jews Must Protest”. It was not part of my essay. It was a sub-heading and, like all sub-headings, it was inserted by the magazine (as Gil at one point seemed to understand). This is normal with long articles. They do it to break up the text.

          To correct the misimpression you have given, it is important to put what I did actually write back in context. There were two other options that I much preferred, as follows:

          “By far the preferable—and simplest—path would be a public declaration of a swift, authentic change of Israeli policy that heralded a genuine commitment to ending the Occupation, pulling out of the West Bank, sharing Jerusalem, ending the siege of Gaza, and living peacefully and in mutual respect alongside a sovereign Palestinian state broadly along the pre-June 1967 borders, albeit with agreed, equitable land exchanges [I have consistently argued this since the early 1970s when I first proposed two states]. Nothing less than this will ever do, no matter which Palestinians are on the other side of the bargaining table or which government is in power in Israel or indeed the United States. These are the immutable terms of any deal … If they had any sense, Jewish diaspora communities would use such influence as they have with the Israeli government to encourage it to adopt such a policy and simultaneously align themselves with apposite international moves to this end—if not from conviction then at least on the grounds of prudent self-protection.”

          Then came the third and least desirable option:

          “In the more likely, if regrettable, event that the current Israeli government will commit itself to no such thing, what should Jewish diaspora communities do? I believe they would be well advised to take a deep breath and reconsider their habitual reflexive responses, which are in part responsible for the mess we are in. No one would expect them to waver from their uncompromising support for the genuine welfare of the Israeli state and people, and I do not propose this. But, with precisely this welfare in mind, it is beyond time for them to distance themselves from the expansionist policies of the Israeli government, its belligerent approach to problem-solving in the region, and its propensity to infringe Palestinian human rights, periodically on a massive scale.”

          Israel, I fear, is on a path to self-destruction. This is the main danger it faces. I have observed and tried to warn against this development for the past forty years. Self-declared friends of Israel would do well to ask themselves whether their uncritical support for even the most outrageous of Israeli policies is a true act of friendship or more like assisted suicide.

          If you don’t like what I write, fair enough. But please try not to misrepresent it or what I advocate. If you need to twist my arguments to make your point, it doesn’t say much for your arguments.

          As for Gil’s assertion that he will not be ‘alligning’ “with a movement which has as a spokeswoman Yvonne Ridley”, again there is the implication that I have suggested this. If the persistent misrepresentation is not wilful, I’m happy to know this but would like to know what is.

        • Bill Says:

          As a “third option,” just how are Jews outside of Israel to do this? They can’t be expected to stand quietly and not cheer for Israel or otherwise not express support for it, as too many people will put words of tacit support for Israel in their shut mouths and any recognition of Israel’s right to exist will be rejected and smeared as being hard-core Likudniks (as they too often are now). You’re still asking Jews to read off a script to please non-Jews, specifically the activist core of the anti-zionist movement because they set (and constantly move) the goal posts. To “distance” themselves, it must be an “opt-in” and an “all-in.” At the end of the day, the acceptance of any explicit act of “distancing” is on the more rabid critics of Israel, especially when dealing with the BDS movement as one example. And they aren’t going to accept moderate, sober and realistic criticism of Israel that accounts for its right to legitimate self-defense and welfare of Israel that you claim to support — because to date, they haven’t.

        • Bill Says:

          (Sorry for the addendum, but regarding Tikkun’s editorial license: It’s six words & an ellipsis, but it carries the reasonable impression that they, in turn, reasonably interpreted that section to imply as much. You can regret, complain and claim injustice about the impact that it had, such as Mira quoting it, but Tikkun isn’t exactly The Forward, The Jerusalem Post or Commentary Magazine. Likewise, a goodly sized chunk of their readership is the sort that would also make and identify with such an interpretation, and doubly likewise, put it into practice.)

        • Tony Klug Says:

          This conversation has become stale and there seems no point in pursuing it further. I understand your position and realize that, no matter what is said, you aren’t going to budge one iota from it. However, it’s noteworthy that you select and hammer away at one element of quite a long article as if that were its entire content. It’s an old tactic. But the larger message is what really matters and you ignore that at our peril.

      • Gil Says:

        Tony, I was referring to the words that Mira cites in her response to you. If I’ve misunderstood the context of your (or an editor’s) use of ‘protest’ then fine. I now understand that you didn’t call for going out on demonstrations against Israel. The word ‘protest’ in the context of the gradualisation of steps expressed in your article could reasonably also be interpreted as demonstrate, or not. It was capable of more than one meaning. Therefore, I believe that the ‘wilfully’ point doesn’t arise.

        And I’m certainly not going to ‘self protect’ myself by ‘alligning’ with a movement which has as a spokeswoman Yvonne Ridley, well known female presenter on Press TV, who was shrieking dementedly at the demo over the weekend in Ken High St. The derangement that I saw over the weekend at that demo reminded me of the 30s in Germany. I actually need protection from these people and probably will not be able to rely on you for this.

  6. Ken Waltzer Says:

    Response to LO:

    What claims? That the-two state solution is dead, that Israel is heading toward a one-state Greater Israel and inevitable apartheid, that all American Jewish leaders are a fifth column blindly loyal to Israel, that righteous Jews are people like Norman Finkelstein? That Israel has been mostly united on behalf of a Greater Israel and against a two-state solution? That nothing was offered at Camp David? That the Palestinians play no role whatsoever in what takes place in the Middle East and are merely victims? That the division in Palestinian leadership is mostly spurious and merely unfortunate to actual peacemaking? And that you can talk this way about Jews and humane values?

    Would the JCall list of luminaries make Mearsheimer’s list of “righteous Jews?”

    Barak is right — should Israel annex the West Bank and rule over Palestinians who are barred the vote, that would be apartheid. Last time I looked, this hasn’t happened, and is unlikely rather than likely to happen.

  7. Maven Says:

    “Speaking of sloppy scholarship….”

    LO, you dug yourself a hole. Your Barak quote is:-

    ““As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

    Oh Dear, georgraphy isn’t your scholarly forte. The “.territory west of the Jordan river…” is Israel + West Bank + Gaza. Barak CLEARLY means that if this remains as a single entity called Israel then the Palestinians should have a vote. ie Single State.

    However, policy is for TWO states not ONE and so Barak’s reference is academic and logically correct IF there was never an Independent Palestinian State. As soon as Abbas stops objecting to the colour of the negotiating table we will have progress

  8. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Surely you can’t really believe that anyone who questions Israeli policy is motivated by anti-semitism?”

    And talking about sloppy………….

    You seem to think the myth that the most powerful nation on the earth’s foreign policy in one of the most complex regions is actually dominated, if not controlled, by a extra-goevermental “Israel Lobby” akin to that that has, in the past, been able to control the directions of many, if not all, nation-states, the world’s media and international capital, is nothing more than “criticism of Israel”.

    If anything exhibits the way “criticism’s of Israel” morphs into antisemitism, the libel of the “Israel Lobby” exhibits such tendencies.

    Please note also that very few, if any, believe Walt and Mearsheimer to be “motivated” by antisemitism. Rather, their so-called “criticism of Israel” replicates well-known and estanblished antisemitic myths.

    The imbrication of anti-Zionism and antisemitism is not uncommon, despite the author’s intent.

    In the past few months, along with the myth of an omnipotent lobby, the blood libel has resurfaced as “criticism of Israel”, that their is a “Jewish Lobby” in the UK has resurfaced as “criticism of Israel”; that the elections is at the mercy of “Zionists” in the UK.

    If you think antisemitism is “criticism of Israel” then you really need to do some work.

  9. Absolute Observer Says:

    As to the “apartheid” claim. As many note, there are elements of aparthied on the OT.
    Yet, the appellation is made to Israel as a whole. It is unsustainable.
    Rather than enter argument with this later sibboleth, go away and read something that doesn’t agree with your views and which does not reduce the state of Israel to a slogan. (Of course, that means more than digging out a quote or two from the Guardian).
    As it stands, this endelss repetition of fables for fact is incredibly dull and boring.


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