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. 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.