A midterm correction, or capitulation?

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Insofar as ethnic group politics are concerned, it may very well be the case that American Jewry has more riding on the results of today's Congressional elections than any other American ethnic group.


The current issue of Commentary magazine includes an article entitled, "Dual Loyalty and the 'Israel Lobby'" by Gabriel Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld describes succinctly the corrosive impact that the work of two political science professors, John Mearshimer from the University of Chicago, and Steven Walt from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, has had on the position of American Jewry. He then explains what the warm reception their work has enjoyed says about the political and cultural climate in the US.


This past March, Mearshimer and Walt published an anti-Semitic broadside entitled "The Israel Lobby" in the London Review of Books and on the Kennedy School's Web site. The paper asserts that a consortium of American Jewish groups and individuals has conspired to undermine US national security by forcing the US to support Israel in contravention of America's national interest.


To defend their central thesis, Mearshimer and Walt relied on the work of such crackpots as the anti-Semitic Jew Norman Finklestein, the anti-Semtic former congressman Paul Findley and the anti-American and anti-Semitic linguistic professor Noam Chomsky.


As Schoenfeld notes, both Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Alex Safian, the Associate Director of CAMERA, have proven painstakingly that Walt and Mearshimer's work is distinguished by the "factual errors, the pervasive use of double standards in argumentation, the rich array of logical fallacies, and above all the distortions, malignant insinuations, and outright falsehoods, both about the historical conduct of American Jews and about the historical conduct of American foreign policy, at its heart."


Were all well in American letters these days, Walt and Mearshimer would have been shunned by intellectual and academic circles following their foray into the land of academic chicanery and bigotry. But far from being shunned, Mearshimer and Walt have become academic superstars. Just recently they signed a $750,000 book deal with Farrar, Straus and Giroux to author a book-length version of their paper. DVDs featuring their celebrity appearances at an event sponsored by the terror-linked Council for American Islamic Relations at the National Press Club in September, and their "debate" with dovish and anti-Zionist Jews at Cooper Union are being advertised in The New York Times.



RATHER THAN ostracize the pair, the Council on Foreign Relations – which recently hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for crumpets and tea – referred to their paper as "hardheaded analysis."


Schoenfeld's most disturbing insight arises from his comparison of Walt and Mearshimer's diatribe against Israel and American Jewry to similar anti-Semitic arguments made by Nazi sympathizers Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin in the US in the 1930s. Both then and now the genocidal anti-Semitism of America's enemies provided an excuse for scapegoating Jews as a way to prevent Americans from seeing the dangers to their own security.


Shoenfeld notes the glaring distinction between the popularity of Lindbergh, Coughlin and Ford 70 years ago, and that enjoyed today by Mearshimer and Walt. Lindbergh, Coughlin and Ford's moment in the sun preceded the outbreak of World War II. In the 1930s a public debate raged between those who called for confronting Nazi Germany and those who called for ignoring, appeasing or collaborating with Nazi Germany.


Coughlin, Lindbergh and Ford were the most prominent voices denying the threat that Germany posed to the US and to the world as a whole. While extolling the virtues of Adolf Hitler, the three men scapegoated the Jews, accusing them of undermining US national security by stirring up public concern and animosity towards the Nazis.


After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Hitler declared war against the US, the three were marginalized, and decried as bigoted rogues. The issue of Germany's threat was settled and the national debate moved to the constructive issue of how best to go about defeating the Germans and Imperial Japan.


IN THE case of Walt and Mearshimer today just the opposite has occurred. In the prewar 1990s, ideas like Walt's and Mearshimer's were recognized as intellectually indefensible and bigoted, and consequently were marginalized. The notion that radical Islam is an imaginary threat concocted by Israel and American Jews gained currency only after the US was attacked on September 11, 2001.



That is, the notion that global jihad is the Jews' fault only became politically acceptable after Arab jihadists blew up the World Trade Center and bombed the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington.


Sadly, the popularity of Walt and Mearshimer's thesis is a consequence of a larger cultural phenomenon. Today large swathes of people throughout the Western world wish to avoid the harsh reality of global war at almost any price. This desire induces them to blame any person or group they feel is forcing them to recognize this reality. And so over the past five years we have been witness to malignant vituperations of hatred directed against President George W. Bush, the neoconservatives, and the Jews for their insistence on recognizing the reality of war.


Indeed, it is Bush's insistence on recognizing the reality of war far more than the Democrats' refusal to accept the results of the 2000 presidential elections that has fuelled the widespread, obsessive and venomous hatred that Democrats heap on the president.


THE ALL-encompassing nature of this hatred has shunted aside much constructive criticism of Bush's policies in leading the war against the global jihad. And this is a terrible shame because while Bush understands the reality of war, there is no doubt that over the past five years he has made serious mistakes of judgment in its prosecution.


Over the weekend, Vanity Fair published an article outlining devastating, yet constructive critiques of Bush's management of the war by leading American neo-conservatives. The major strand that joins the criticisms proffered by many of those questioned is that Bush has been tasking the wrong people with prosecuting the war.



Since September 11 large sections of the US government have been openly advancing policies that undermine the president's stated war aims. Yet, rather than acknowledge the unsuitability of his senior aides, Bush has deepened his reliance and widened the authority of people such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former secretary of state James Baker, who are openly working to undermine his stated aim of winning the war against radical Islam.


The neoconservative critique bears attention and debate if the American people wish to win the war. Unfortunately, the kind of criticisms that they set out in the article, and indeed have set out for the past three years and more, receive scant attention in the public debate in the US. This is the case because the Democratic Party has essentially embraced Mearshimer's and Walt's view that the war is not real and that the US can simply turn its back on it.


RATHER THAN debate how best to win the war, the Democrats have purged their ranks of leaders like Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, who wish to engage in such a debate. At the same time they have worked to limit public discourse to a witch hunt against those they argue have conspired to delude the American people into believing they are at war, and to attacking Bush for insisting on continuing the fight.


Instead of debating how best to contend with the Ira
nian nuclear threat; Iranian and Syrian support for terrorists and subversion of US efforts in Iraq; and a host of other salient strategic and tactical issues, Democratic leaders like Senator John Kerry mindlessly claim simultaneously that more soldiers are needed in Iraq, and that all soldiers should be removed from Iraq. Similarly, Democratic leaders argue that resources directed toward the war effort in Iraq are being diverted from the war against terror – the war they insist is a hoax.


This of course all brings us back to Israel and the Jews.


The central contention of people like Walt and Mearshimer and Democratic leaders like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Kerry and Senator Ted Kennedy is that there is no global war that needs fighting. If they understood that the US is fighting a global war, then the question of whether Israel is part of the problem or part of the solution would have been settled definitively in Israel's favor five years ago. It is only by ignoring the reality of the war that it is possible for people to pretend that Israel is the cause of Islamic fascism, or that American Jews and Jewish neoconservatives are the source of the world's misfortunes.


TODAY US voters are going to the polls. The outcome of the Congressional elections will be critical for determining whether the war can be won, and what the future holds in store for American Jewry. Today the American people will decide whether they want to have a political discourse that will expose mistakes in order to correct them and so enable the war to be prosecuted to victory, or if they prefer to deny that the war exists, and so ensure defeat and cataclysmic bloodshed.


A Republican victory will provide an opportunity for a debate over how the war is being run to take place. A Democratic victory will guarantee that such a debate is squelched in favor of finger-pointing against Jews and Israel, and the US itself, for having the nerve to note the dangers and insist upon defending against them.



Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 

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