The Full Wiki

More info on The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is the title of a book by John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicagomarker, and Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relations at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard Universitymarker, published in late August 2007 by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. It was a New York Times Best Seller.

The book describes the lobby as a "loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israelmarker direction,". The book "focuses primarily on the lobby's influence on U.S. foreign policy and its negative effect on American interests". The authors also argue that "the lobby's impact has been unintentionally harmful to Israel as well".

The authors argue that although "the boundaries of the Israel lobby cannot be identified precisely", it "has a core consisting of organizations whose declared purpose is to encourage the U.S. government and the American public to provide material aid to Israel and to support its government's policies, as well as influential individuals for whom these goals are also a top priority". They note that "not..every American with a favorable attitude to Israel is part of the lobby", and that although "the bulk of the lobby is comprised of Jewish Americans", there are many American Jews who are not part of the lobby, and the lobby also includes Christian Zionists. They also claim a drift of important groups in "the lobby" to the right, and overlap with the neoconservatives.

History of the book

The book has its origins in a paper commissioned in 2002 by The Atlantic Monthly, which then rejected it. It became available as a working paper at the Kennedy School's website in 2006. A condensed version of the working paper was published in March 2006 by the London Review of Books under the title The Israel Lobby. A third, revised version addressing some of the criticism was published in the Fall 2006 issue of Middle East Policy. The authors state that "In terms of its core claims, however, this revised version does not depart from the original Working Paper."

The book was published in late August 2007.. The book differs from the earlier papers in several ways: it includes an expanded definition of the lobby, it responds to the criticisms that the papers attracted, it updates the authors' analysis and it offers suggestions on how the U. S. should advance its interests in the Middle East.

A paperback edition was published in September 2008.


In April 2006 Philip Weiss discussed some of the background to the creation of the paper in an article in The Nation.

Mearsheimer and Walt argue that "No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical". They argue that "in its basic operations, it is no different from interest groups like the Farm Lobby, steel and textile workers, and other ethnic lobbies. What sets the Israel Lobby apart is its extraordinary effectiveness." According to Mearsheimer and Walt, the "loose coalition" that makes up the Lobby has "significant leverage over the Executive branch," as well as the ability to make sure that the "Lobby's perspective on Israel is widely reflected in the mainstream media." They claim that AIPAC in particular has a "stranglehold on the U.S. Congress," due to its "ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it."

Mearsheimer and Walt decry what they call misuse of "the charge of anti-Semitism," and argue that pro-Israel groups place great importance on "controlling debate" in American academia; they maintain, however, that the Lobby has yet to succeed in its "campaign to eliminate criticism of Israel from college campuses" (see Campus Watch and U.S. Congress Bill H.R. 509). The authors conclude by arguing that when the Lobby succeeds in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East, then "Israel's enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding, and paying."


The March 2006 publication of Mearsheimer and Walt's essay, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," was highly controversial. The essay's central controversial claim was that the Israel lobby's influence has distorted U.S. Middle East foreign policy away from what the authors referred to as "American national interest." Alan Dershowitz opined that criticizing the Israel lobby promoted a charged debate about what constitutes antisemitic conspiracy theorizing; others differ, however.

As a result of the controversy created by Mearsheimer and Walt's article, the Dutch Backlight ('Tegenlicht') program produced a documentary entitled The Israel Lobby. Backlight is VPRO's regular international 50 minute documentary program,.


Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck, now of the Independent Institute and the Council for the National Interest, wrote that "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." Peck is generally in agreement with the paper's core thesis: "Opinions differ on the long-term costs and benefits for both nations, but the lobby's views of Israel's interests have become the basis of U.S. Middle East policies."

Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda and self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks, recommended the book in one of his audiotapes, saying that "after you read the suggested book[s], you will know the truth, and you will be greatly shocked by the scale of concealment that has been exercised on you."

Tony Judt, a historian at New York Universitymarker, wrote in the New York Times, that "[in] spite of [the paper's] provocative title, the essay draws on a wide variety of standard sources and is mostly uncontentious." He goes on to ask "[does] the Israel Lobby affect our foreign policy choices? Of course — that is one of its goals. [...] But does pressure to support Israel distort American decisions? That's a matter of judgment." He concludes the essay by taking the perspective that "this essay, by two 'realist' political scientists with no interest whatsoever in the Palestinians, is a straw in the wind." And that "it will not be self-evident to future generations of Americans why the imperial might and international reputation of the United States are so closely aligned with one small, controversial Mediterranean client state."

Michael Scheuer, a former senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency and now a terrorism analyst for CBS News, said to NPR that Mearsheimer and Walt are basically right. Israel, according to Scheuer, has engaged in one of the most successful campaigns to influence public opinion in the United States ever conducted by a foreign government. Scheuer said to NPR that "They [Mearsheimer and Walt] should be credited for the courage they have had to actually present a paper on the subject. I hope they move on and do the Saudi lobby, which is probably more dangerous to the United States than the Israeli lobby."

Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, wrote: "Mearsheimer and Walt adduce a great deal of factual evidence that over the years Israel has been the beneficiary of privileged — indeed, highly preferential — financial assistance, out of all proportion to what the United States extends to any other country. The massive aid to Israel is in effect a huge entitlement that enriches the relatively prosperous Israelis at the cost of the American taxpayer. Money being fungible, that aid also pays for the very settlements that America opposes and that impede the peace process."

In his review in The Times, journalist Max Hastings wrote "otherwise intelligent Americans diminish themselves by hurling charges of antisemitism with such recklessness. There will be no peace in the Middle East until the United States faces its responsibilities there in a much more convincing fashion than it does today, partly for reasons given in this depressing book."

Mixed reviews

The paper was described as a "wake-up call" by Daniel Levy, former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and said it is “jarring for a self-critical Israeli” and lacks “finesse and nuance.” In a March 25 article for Haaretz, Levy wrote, "Their case is a potent one: that identification of American with Israeli interests can be principally explained via the impact of the Lobby in Washington, and in limiting the parameters of public debate, rather than by virtue of Israel being a vital strategic asset or having a uniquely compelling moral case for support". Levy also criticized Mearsheimer and Walt for confusing cause and effect; he added that the Iraq war was already decided on by the Bush administration for its own reasons.

Columnist Christopher Hitchens agreed that "AIPAC and other Jewish organizations exert a vast influence over Middle East policy", and stated that the paper "contains much that is true and a little that is original" and that he "would have gone further than Mearsheimer and Walt". However, he also says, paraphrasing Samuel Johnson, that "what is original is not true and what is true is not original", and that the notion that the "Jewish tail wags the American dog... the United Statesmarker has gone to war in Iraq to gratify Ariel Sharon, and... the alliance between the two countries has brought down on us the wrath of Osama Bin Laden" is "partly misleading and partly creepy". He also stated that the authors "seriously mischaracterize the origins of the problem" and produced "an article that is redeemed from complete dullness and mediocrity only by being slightly but unmistakably smelly."

Mitchell Plitnick, Director of Education and Policy for Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote an extensive critique of the book, while also stating firmly that "The ideas Walt and Mearsheimer present are not comfortable and, in my view, sometimes not accurate. But they are not personally anti-Semitic, nor are they motivated by animosity toward Israel." Plitnick details his view that Walt and Mearsheimer seriously overstate "The Lobby's" role in policymaking, although their influence in Congress is considerable. He also challenges the view that Israel was a prime motivator in the invasion of Iraq, saying " was clear that Iraq was no threat to Israel. There was simply no reason for Israel to risk alienating a large segment of the American people in order to push for this war and, in fact, they did not. It was an American misadventure, and the Israeli involvement was by American request, not on their own impetus." Plitnick sees US Mideast policy as consistent with US policy in other places and based on an analysis with which both he and Walt and Mearsheimer would disagree, but saying "The Lobby" is responsible is overstating the matter.

Joseph Massad, professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, writes, "Is the pro-Israel lobby extremely powerful in the United States? As someone who has been facing the full brunt of their power for the last three years through their formidable influence on my own university and their attempts to get me fired, I answer with a resounding yes. Are they primarily responsible for U.S. policies towards the Palestinians and the Arab world? Absolutely not." Massad then argued U.S. policy is imperialistic, and has only supported those struggling for freedom when it is politically convenient, especially in the Middle East.

In describing the last of three "surprising weaknesses" of the paper, Eric Alterman writes in The Nation, "Third, while it's fair to call AIPAC obnoxious and even anti-democratic, the same can often be said about, say, the NRAmarker, Big Pharma and other powerful lobbies. The authors note this but often seem to forget it. This has the effect of making the Jews who read the paper feel unfairly singled out, and inspires much emotionally driven mishigas in reaction. Do these problems justify the inference that the authors are anti-Semitic? Of course not."

Michelle Goldberg gives a detailed analysis of the paper. She writes about some "baffling omissions", e.g. : "Amazingly, Walt and Mearsheimer don't even mention Fatah or Black September, Munichmarker or Entebbe. One might argue that Israel has killed more Palestinians than visa versa, but it doesn't change the role of spectacular Palestinian terrorism in shaping American attitudes toward Israel." She also finds valuable points: "Walt and Mearsheimer are correct, after all, in arguing that discussion about Israel is hugely circumscribed in mainstream American media and politics.... Indeed, one can find far more critical coverage of the Israeli occupation in liberal Israeli newspapers like Haaretz than in any American daily."

Michael Massing, contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, writes:"The lack of a clearer and fuller account of Palestinian violence is a serious failing of the essay. Its tendency to emphasize Israel's offenses while largely overlooking those of its adversaries has troubled even many doves." On the other hand, he writes:"The nasty campaign waged against John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has itself provided an excellent example of the bullying tactics used by the lobby and its supporters. The wide attention their argument has received shows that, in this case, those efforts have not entirely succeeded. Despite its many flaws, their essay has performed a very useful service in forcing into the open a subject that has for too long remained taboo."

Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, gives a detailed point by point critique of the paper, and concludes:"The consequences of U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be tragic, not just for Palestinians and other Arabs, who are the immediate victims of the diplomatic support and largess of American aid to Israel, but ultimately for Israel as well. The fates of American client states have often not been positive. Though differing in many respects, Israel could end up like El Salvador or South Vietnam, whose leadership made common cause with U.S. global designs in ways that ultimately led to untold misery and massive destruction. Israeli leaders and their counterparts in many American Zionist organizations have been repeating the historic error of accepting short-term benefits for their people at the risk of compromising long-term security.... To blame the current morass in the Middle East on the Israel lobby only exacerbates animosities and plays into the hands of the divide-and-rule tactics of those in Congress and the administration whose primary objective is ultimately not to help Israel but to advance the American Empire."

Zunes also writes that "The authors have also been unfairly criticized for supposedly distorting the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though their overview is generally quite accurate." and takes issue with Joseph Massad's interpretation of Mearsheimer's and Walt's argument
"there is something quite convenient and discomfortingly familiar about the tendency to blame an allegedly powerful and wealthy group of Jews for the overall direction of an increasingly controversial U.S. policy.
Indeed, like exaggerated claims of Jewish power at other times in history, such an explanation absolves the real powerbrokers and assigns blame to convenient scapegoats.
This is not to say that Mearsheimer, Walt, or anyone else who expresses concern about the power of the Israel lobby is an anti-Semite, but the way in which this exaggerated view of Jewish power parallels historic anti-Semitism should give us all pause."

In a review in The New Yorker, David Remnick writes, "Mearsheimer and Walt give you the sense that, if the Israelis and the Palestinians come to terms, bin Laden will return to the family construction business. It’s a narrative that recounts every lurid report of Israeli cruelty as indisputable fact but leaves out the rise of Fatah and Palestinian terrorism before 1967; the Munich Olympics; Black September; myriad cases of suicide bombings; and other spectaculars. ... The duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush Administration, the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran—all of this has left Americans furious and demanding explanations. Mearsheimer and Walt provide one: the Israel lobby. In this respect, their account is not so much a diagnosis of our polarized era as a symptom of it."

Writing in Foreign Affairs, Walter Russell Mead applauds the authors for "admirably and courageously" initiating a conversation on a difficult subject, but criticizes many of their findings. He observes that their definition of the "Israel lobby" is amorphous to the point of being useless: anyone who supports the existence of Israel (including Mearsheimer and Walt themselves) could be considered a part of the lobby, according to Mead. He is especially critical of their analysis of domestic politics in the United States, suggesting that the authors overstate the magnitude of lobbying in favor Israel when considered relative to overall sums spent on lobbying—only 1% in a typical election cycle. Mead considers their wider geopolitical analysis "more professional" but still "simplistic and sunny" on alternatives to a U.S.-Israeli alliance; he notes, for instance, that simply threatening to cut off aid to Israel in order to influence its behavior is misguided policy, given that other powers such as Chinamarker, Russiamarker, and Indiamarker might well view an Israeli alliance as advantageous, should the United States withdraw. Mead rejects any antisemitic intent in the work, but feels that the authors left themselves open to the charge through "easily avoidable lapses in judgment and expression."


There are numbers of criticism drawn from the release of the paper, in which ironically quite a few came from pro-Israel individuals including Jews living in the U.S ranging from scholars to journalist and political figures.


A number of Harvard professors have criticized the paper. Marvin Kalb, a lecturer in public policy, Edward R. Murrow Professor of Press and Public Policy from 1987 to 1999, and former Director and now Senior Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, said that the paper failed to meet basic quality standards for academic research. Ruth Wisse, a professor of Yiddish Literature and Comparative Literature, wrote, "When the authors imply that the bipartisan support of Israel in Congress is a result of Jewish influence, they function as classic conspiracy theorists who attribute decisions to nefarious alliances rather than to the choices of a democratic electorate". David Gergen, a professor of public service at the Kennedy School at Harvard, wrote that the charges in the paper are "wildly at variance with what I have personally witnessed in the Oval Office over the years" Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard Universitymarker, wrote a report challenging the factual basis of the paper, the motivations of the authors and their scholarship. Dershowitz contends that, "The paper contains three types of major errors: quotations are wrenched out of context, important facts are misstated or omitted, and embarrassingly weak logic is employed."

Daniel W. Drezner, Mearsheimer’s fellow University of Chicago political scientist, contends that Walt and Mearsheimer "vastly overestimate both pro-Israel lobby's causal role -- and their uniformity of opinion and motivation." He called the paper a "piss-poor, monocausal social science. To repeat, the main empirical problems with the article are that: A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability; B) They ascribe U.S. foreign policy behavior almost exclusively to the activities of the "Israel Lobby"; and C) They omit consderation of contradictory policies and countervailing foreign policy lobbies.

Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MITmarker, asserts that he did not find the thesis of the paper very convincing. He said that Stephen Zunes has rightly pointed out that "there are far more powerful interests that have a stake in what happens in the Persian Gulf region than does AIPAC [or the Lobby generally], such as the oil companies, the arms industry and other special interests whose lobbying influence and campaign contributions far surpass that of the much-vaunted Zionist lobby and its allied donors to congressional races." He finds that the authors "have a highly selective use of evidence (and much of the evidence is assertion)", ignore historical "world affairs", and blame the Lobby for issues that are not relevant.

Benny Morris, a widely quoted Israeli scholar on the Israeli-Arab conflict and a professor of Middle East history at Ben-Gurion Universitymarker, prefaced a very detailed analysis with the remark: "Like many pro-Arab propagandists at work today, Mearsheimer and Walt often cite my own books, sometimes quoting directly from them, in apparent corroboration of their arguments. Yet their work is a travesty of the history that I have studied and written for the past two decades. Their work is riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity."

John Judis, a senior editor at The New Republic and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote: "I think Walt and Mearsheimer do exaggerate the influence of the Israel lobby and define the lobby in such an inclusive way as to beg the question of its influence."

In a review in The New Republic, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg writes:
Mearsheimer and Walt write about the lobbying activities of AIPAC and other Jewish lobbying and advocacy groups as if they had never set foot in the capital.
Here is their description of the way in which AIPAC and other pro- Israel groups do their work: "In addition to direct lobbying on Capitol Hill, the lobby rewards or punishes politicians largely through an ability to guide the flow of campaign contributions.
Organizations in the lobby also put pressure on the executive branch through a number of mechanisms, including working through government officials who are sympathetic to their views."
Imagine that!
Goldberg finds that the authors "cherry-picked" their sources, deliberately leave out important information, and come to irrational conclusions and inferences based on their chosen evidence.

Leslie Gelb, the former President of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in the New York Times Book Review that the scholarship was shoddy and that the authors were biased. "More troublingly, [Walt and Mearsheimer] don’t seriously review the facts of the two most critical issues to Israel and the lobby — arms sales to Arab states and the question of a Palestinian state — matters on which the American position has consistently run counter to the so-called all-powerful Jewish lobby. For several decades, administration after administration has sold Saudi Arabia and other Arab states first-rate modern weapons, against the all-out opposition of Israel and the lobby. And make no mistake, these arms have represented genuine security risks to Israel. . . And on the policy issue that has counted most to Israel and the lobby — preventing the United States from accepting a Palestinian state prior to a negotiated deal between Israel and the Palestinians — it’s fair to say Washington has quietly sided with the Palestinians for a long time."

Other critics include Johns Hopkins University professor Eliot A. Cohen; University of Maryland history professor Jeffrey Herf; Columbia University journalism professor Samuel G. Freedman; Princeton Universitymarker professor of politics and international affairs Aaron Friedberg; and Stanford Universitymarker political science adjunct professor Josef Joffe.

Former government officials

Madeleine Albright acknowledged in May 2006 that the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, was "very controversial", and thought some of the things that it said were "highly overstated and a genuine problem". She also noted America's special relationship with Israel and said "clearly the U.S. has linked itself to Israel in many ways". She equally acknowledged that "[t]here is no doubt that there is a very strong Israeli lobby, and she spoke of the resistance she encountered from the lobby over airplane sales to Saudi Arabia in 1978, during her tenure on the National Security Council in the Carter administration. Albright noted "the difficulties in dealing with the Middle East process is the fact not so much of any lobby, but that it is a very difficult issue that involves the division of land, religion." She concluded:
"I think it’s very easy to get on this tack all of a sudden that it’s some kind of an overly powerful Jewish lobby.
There are other lobbies that are very strong, and Washington is full of lobbyists.
So I would not, in fact, stress that as much as I would stress the fact that the U.S. does have an indissoluble relationship with Israel that is based on history and culture."

George P. Shultz, who served as the United States Secretary of Labor from 1969 to 1970, as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1972 to 1974, and as the U.S. Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989, wrote in the U.S. News and World Report: "Anyone who thinks that Jewish groups constitute a homogeneous 'lobby' ought to spend some time dealing with them. For example, my decision to open a dialogue with Yasser Arafat after he met certain conditions evoked a wide spectrum of responses from the government of Israel, its political parties, and American Jewish groups who weighed in on one side or the other. ... The United States supports Israel not because of favoritism based on political pressure or influence but because the American people, and their leaders, say that supporting Israel is politically sound and morally just. ... So, on every level, those who blame Israel and its Jewish supporters for U.S. policies they do not support are wrong. They are wrong because, to begin with, support for Israel is in our best interests. They are also wrong because Israel and its supporters have the right to try to influence U.S. policy. And they are wrong because the U.S. government is responsible for the policies it adopts, not any other state or any of the myriad lobbies and groups that battle daily—sometimes with lies—to win America's support."

Former Director of the CIA James Woolsey also wrote a strongly negative review, remarking that "... Reading [Walt and Mearsheimer's] version of events is like entering a completely different world." Woolsey contends the authors "are stunningly deceptive," and feature a "commitment to distorting the historical record is the one consistent feature of this book," proceeding with a few examples.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that the paper has not had "any great impact on the general public. The American public continues to support the relations [between the two countries], and resistance to any threat to the survival of Israel."

Edward Walker, president of the Middle East Institute and former U.S. ambassador in Egypt and Israel, told NPR: "I lived through all the history that these gentlemen write about, and I didn't recognize it, not from the way they described it — and I was in government all this time."

Members of organizations

The American Jewish Committee (AJC): executive director David A. Harris has written several responses to the paper and more recently to the book. His article in the The Jerusalem Post discusses the difficulty Europeans have in understanding America's "special relationship" with Israel and the resulting eagerness of European publishers to fast track the book. "Although the book was panned by most American reviewers, it will serve as red meat for those eager to believe the worst about American decision-making regarding Israel and the Middle East." AJC also published several critiques of the paper, many of which were reproduced in newspapers around the world. AJC's Anti-Semitism expert, Kenneth Stern, made the following argument against the paper: "Such a dogmatic approach blinds them from seeing what most Americans do. They seek to destroy the “moral” case for Israel by pointing at alleged Israeli misdeeds, rarely noting the terror and anti-Semitism that predicates Israeli reactions."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL): National Director Abraham H. Foxman wrote a book in response to Mearsheimer and Walt's paper, entitled 'The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control' where he allegedly "demolishes a number of shibboleths . . . a rebuttal of a pernicious theory about a mythically powerful Jewish lobby." Former Secretary of State George Shultz wrote in the Foreword to the book, "... the notion. U.S. policy on Israel and Middle East is the result of their influence is simply wrong." The ADL also published an analysis of the paper, describing it as "amateurish and biased critique of Israelmarker, American Jews, and American policy" and a "sloppy diatribe".

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a media watchdog group monitoring perceived anti-Israel coverage, published a detailed critique of the paper, claiming that it was "riddled with errors of fact, logic and omission, has inaccurate citations, displays extremely poor judgement regarding sources, and, contrary to basic scholarly standards, ignores previous serious work on the subject".

A list of critiques of the paper, with links, is posted on the Engage website.

In response to a letter by Stephen Walt asking for his opinion on his paper and book, Leonard Fein of Americans for Peace Now wrote to Walt: "Methodologically, the book is a mess, adding unconnected little truths to one another as if together they constitute one big truth; relying far too heavily on secondary sources such as newspaper clippings and OpEd columns; riddled with internal contradiction." He added: "I know how much time and effort you invested in this work; I am saddened to find the result so flabby. But I do not for a moment think either of you is antisemitic. Yet I can now appreciate how some readers will conclude you must be, for how else can we understand how two serious scholars can permit themselves such a departure from the rigors of serious scholarship?" Fein says the authors are no better than the lobby when it comes to telling the whole side of the story: "your chastisement also leaves out large chunks of the whole story – in particular, ignoring Israel’s very real sense of vulnerability and the depth of the ill wishes so many of its neighbors harbor towards it." Fein critiques the authors' "scholarship" in detail in his letter.

Other critical organizations and affiliated individuals include the Dore Gold from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and Neal Sher of AIPAC.


Those critical of the paper include Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post; columnist Bret Stephens; and editor of Jewish Current Issues Rick Richman.

Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal wrote "Five years ago, before the start of the Iraq War, I wrote an editorial titled ' The Jewish War.' If the Iraq War is a disaster, I wrote, mainstream voices will start blaming the Jews... Guess what? It's time to get off the couch. ... (It is not an exaggeration to say that in the view of the authors, the whole thing is Israel's fault, aided and abetted by the American Jewish Israel lobby and their puppets in the Congress and the White House. Five decades of Arab rejectionism and Palestinian terror, Yasser Arafat's torpedoing of the Oslo accords, a majority American and Israeli Jewish support for land-for-peace deals—none of this matters.) ... The authors take pains—well, four pages—to note that Jews are loyal Americans and that their lobbying is legal, like that of other special interest groups... But these pages, which may as well have been titled, "Hey, Some of Our Best Friends Are Jewish," are contradicted time and again in the authors' selective re-telling of the events leading up the Iraq War.

In a review in the Los Angeles Times: "Anyone familiar with the tortured history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have a hard time recognizing the history Mearsheimer and Walt rehearse. Every hoary old Israeli atrocity tale is trotted out, and the long story of Palestinian terrorism is rendered entirely as a reaction to Israeli oppression. The failure of every peace negotiation is attributed to Israeli deviousness under the shield of the American Israel lobby. There is nothing here of Palestinian corruption, division and duplicity or even of this unhappy people's inability to provide a reliable secular partner with whom peace can be negotiated... At times, the authors simply contradict themselves, asserting—rather remarkably—at one point that the United States has nothing to fear from a nuclear-armed Iran and, at another, that the dangerous prospect of a nuke-equipped Tehran is the Israel lobby's fault. Similarly, they write, Al Qaeda would hammer its swords into ploughshares and Osama bin Laden would lay down with the lamb if only the United States would come out from under Israel's thrall and create by coercion a Palestinian state... (You'd never guess from the Mearsheimer-Walt analysis that many people in this country support Israel precisely because they admire it as a brave, dynamic and democratic society.) ... In fact, if you accept the analysis put forward in this book, it's impossible not to conclude that the United States was, in fact, tricked into a disastrous war in Iraq by a domestic Fifth Column and that the ranks of that subversive formation are filled with Jews, their friends and willing dupes."

In a review in the Denver Post, Richard Cohen writes, "Where Israel is wrong, they say so. But where Israel is right, they are somehow silent. By the time you finish the book, you almost have to wonder why anyone in their right mind could find any reason to admire or like Israel. ... They had an observation worth making and a position worth debating. But their argument is so dry, so one-sided — an Israel lobby that leads America around by the nose — they suggest that not only do they not know Israel, they don't know America, either."

James Taranto of the The Wall Street Journal wrote that "We find [Walt and Mearsheimer's strategic arguments] wrongheaded, but we will stipulate that one can in good faith take the position that the costs to the U.S. of supporting Israel outweigh the benefits." After rebuking the authors' stance that there are neither strategic nor moral arguments in defending Israel, Taranto states that "Walt and Mearsheimer's method of analysis presumes Israel's guilt. Every past or present Israeli transgression is evidence of its wickedness, whereas Arab ones, if they are acknowledged at all, are 'understandable.' This approach paints a highly misleading picture. It is anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent."

In an address to Stanford Universitymarker, author and journalist Christopher Hitchens said that Mearsheimer and Walt "think that they are smarter than the American imperialists. If they were running the empire, [Mearsheimer and Walt] wouldn't be fooled by the Jews. They'd be making big business with the Saudis instead and not letting Arabs get upset about Zionism. Well, its an extraordinary piece of cynicism, I would say, combined with an extraordinary naiveté. It doesn't deserve to be called realistic at all."

Salim Muwakkil, a senior editor of In These Times writes: "While the controversial study offers nothing dramatically new to the critique of the Israel lobby’s warp factor, the pedigree of the authors make it a noteworthy piece. But my problem with the study is that it attributes too much power to the Israeli lobby. Sure, the lobby is extremely influential in U.S. political circles. But it would not be if its interests weren’t already in agreement with U.S. foreign policy. If the lobby disappeared tomorrow, there’s little chance the administration would alter its policy toward Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, or even Palestinians."[270846]

Shmuel Rosner, a blogger at Haaretz, a left-wing Israeli newspaper whose articles were cited by Walt and Mearsheimer, writes: "Haaretz is a very good source of news. It is also a good source for commentary, but when it comes to views you have to bear two weaknesses in mind. One, you need to use it in an honest manner, otherwise there's enough fringe material in it as to distort reality. Two, you have to realize that this fine paper does not—repeat, does not—represent the majority view in Israel. That's why it was so easy for Walt-Mearsheimer to use material from Haaretz in their study. That's where the Judt piece is also somewhat flawed."[270847]

In a review in Haaretz, Reuven Pedhatzur writes: "That is an argument that ignores the danger inherent in a nuclear Iran, not only to Israel but also to the entire world, starting with U.S. interests.

The authors completely distort the view of the Bush administration, which like its European colleagues, has reached the conclusion that the Iranian nuclear threat is not only Israel's problem. ...The two authors totally ignore the fact that Palestinians rejected the Partition Plan and that they started the warring, and they lend a hand to the legitimization of the murderous terror perpetrated by Hamas, which they praise as a legitimate political force, persecuted by Israel." He says the authors purport the view that "there is no [other] reason for American support for Israel."[270848]

In a front-page editorial, The Forward published the longest editorial in the newspaper's history, stating what was more "startling" than the distinguished resumés of the professor was "the flimsiness of their work. Countless facts are simply wrong. Long stretches of argument are implausible, at times almost comically so. Much of their research is oddly amateurish, drawn not from credible documents or primary source interviews but from newspaper clippings, including dozens from this newspaper, seemingly dug up in quick Internet word searches aimed at proving a point, not exploring the truth. Some are wildly misquoted. An undergraduate submitting work like this would be laughed out of class." The Forward proceeds to write a substantive rebuttal to Walt and Mearsheimer.

In a review of the book, The Forward adds that "Most of the paper’s flaws survive in the book...and it does no service to those who truly crave a more robust debate in this country. Still, if the Forward had been asked to participate in a debate with the professors, we would have done so happily." It says: "They invented historical facts. They twisted quotes. David Ben-Gurion was cited as having stated in 1937 that he opposed the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states — drawn from a famous speech in which he went on to say that, nonetheless, partition was the best that Zionism could hope for and should be seized with open arms. Paul Wolfowitz was said to have been described by the Forward as 'the most hawkishly pro-Israel neocon in the administration' — this from a 2002 article citing the 'hawkishly pro-Israel' image as conventional Washington wisdom that was proved wrong that week, when Wolfowitz was booed by a pro-Israel crowd for defending Palestinian rights."

Endorsement by Osama Bin Laden

Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda and self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks, recommended the book in one of his audiotapes, saying that "after you read the suggested book[s], you will know the truth, and you will be greatly shocked by the scale of concealment that has been exercised on you."

In response to queries from friends as to how he felt having bin Laden endorse his book, Stephen Walt responded that he did not feel the same gratification he felt when others recommended the book "given what bin Laden has done in the past and given what he stands for." Walt then conjectured that Bin Laden's endorsed the book "because he understands -- along with plenty of other people -- that the combination of unconditional U.S. support for Israel and Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians is a source of great resentment in the Arab and Islamic world. This is hardly an original insight on his part either." Walt added, "Ironically, bin Laden's 'endorsement' of our book could even be a self-defeating gesture. If enough people were to read our book and U.S. policy were to evolve in the manner we recommend, bin Laden's call to arms would fall on deaf ears and he'd become even more irrelevant than he is today"

David Rothkopf, Walt's colleague at Foreign Policy, attacked Walt's response to the bin Laden endorsement saying:
"Walt's response gets really good when he then goes so far as to suggest that Osama's embrace of his book only proves his point that the Israel lobby ... is used as a justification by terrorists.
Blind to the irony all his book did was weave precisely the kind of fabric of partial truths and old biases that are used to dress up the hatreds of demagogues everywhere, Walt actually has the chutzpah to try use the news that the most evil man in the world is reading his work as a soap box from which to once again sell his argument (and books)."

Reaction to the reception

Harvard's Kennedy School of Government removed its logo, more strongly wording its disclaimer and making it more prominent, and insisting the paper reflected only the views of its authors. The Kennedy School said in a statement: "The only purpose of that removal was to end public confusion; it was not intended, contrary to some interpretations, to send any signal that the school was also 'distancing' itself from one of its senior professors" and stated that they are committed to academic freedom, and do not take a position on faculty conclusions and research. However, in their 79-page rebuttal to the original papers criticisms, former Harvard dean Walt ensures that it was his decision - not Harvard's - to remove the Harvard logo from the on-line Kennedy school version of the original.".

Mark Mazower, a professor of history at Columbia University, wrote that it is not possible to openly debate the topic of the article: "What is striking is less the substance of their argument than the outraged reaction: to all intents and purposes, discussing the US-Israel special relationship still remains taboo in the U.S. media mainstream. [...] Whatever one thinks of the merits of the piece itself, it would seem all but impossible to have a sensible public discussion in the U.S. today about the country’s relationship with Israel."

Criticism of the paper was itself called "moral blackmail" and "bullying" by an opinion piece in The Financial Times: "Moral blackmail — the fear that any criticism of Israeli policy and U.S. support for it will lead to charges of anti-Semitism — is a powerful disincentive to publish dissenting views...Bullying Americans into a consensus on Israeli policy is bad for Israel and makes it impossible for America to articulate its own national interest." The editorial praised the paper, remarking that "They argue powerfully that extraordinarily effective lobbying in Washington has led to a political consensus that American and Israeli interests are inseparable and identical."

Mearsheimer and Walt's response

Mearsheimer stated, "[w]e fully recognised that the lobby would retaliate against us" and "[w]e expected the story we told in the piece would apply to us after it was published. We are not surprised that we've come under attack by the lobby." He also stated "we expected to be called anti-semites, even though both of us are philo-semites and strongly support the existence of Israel."

Mearsheimer and Walt responded to their critics in a letter to the London Review of Books in May 2006.

  • To the accusation that they "see the lobby as a well-organised Jewish conspiracy" they refer to their description of the lobby "a loose coalition of individuals and organisations without a central headquarters".

  • To the accusation of mono-causality, they remark "we also pointed out that support for Israel is hardly the only reason America’s standing in the Middle East is so low".

  • To the complaint that they "'catalogue Israel's moral flaws', while paying little attention to the shortcomings of other states", they refer to the "high levels of material and diplomatic support" given by the United States especially to Israel as a reason to focus on it.

  • To the claim that U.S. support for Israel reflects "genuine support among the American public" they agree, but argue that "this popularity is substantially due to the lobby's success at portraying Israel in a favourable light and effectively limiting public awareness and discussion of Israel’s less savoury actions".

  • To the claim that there are countervailing forces "such as 'paleo-conservatives, Arab and Islamic advocacy groups... and the diplomatic establishment'", they argue that these are no match for the lobby.

  • To the argument that oil rather than Israel drives Middle East policy, they claim that the United States would favour the Palestinians instead of Israel, and would not have gone to war in Iraq or be threatening Iran if that were so.

  • They accuse various critics of smearing them by linking them to racists, and dispute various claims by Alan Dershowitz and others that their facts, references or quotations are mistaken.

Also in May 2006 the authors posted a response on the news and opinion website AlterNet.

In December 2006 the authors privately circulated a 79-page rebuttal, "Setting the Record Straight: A Response to Critics of 'The Israel Lobby'".

In the book published in August 2007 the authors responded to criticisms leveled against them. They claimed that the vast majority of charges leveled against the original article were unfounded, but some critiques raised issues of interpretation and emphasis, which they addressed in the book.


The London Review of Books organised a follow-up debate on the paper, moderated by Anne-Marie Slaughter. The panelists were John Mearsheimer, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Martin Indyk, Tony Judt, Rashid Khalidi, and Dennis Ross.

See also


  1. The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy was ranked 12th place on the non-fiction list for a total of one week.
  2. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) p.5
  3. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007)p.8
  4. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) p.9
  5. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) p.113
  6. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007)p.113
  7. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) p.115
  8. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) p.132
  9. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) pp.126-128
  10. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) pp.128-132
  11. Michelle Goldberg, Is the "Israel lobby" distorting America's Mideast policies?,, April 18, 2006
  12. Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Kennedy School of Government Working Paper Number:RWP06-011, March 13, 2006.
  13. The Israel Lobby, London Review of Books, Volume 28 Number 6, March 23, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.
  14. The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy official web site
  15. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) p. x-xi
  16. ISBN 978 0 374 53150 8
  17. Weiss, Philip. "Ferment Over 'The Israel Lobby'", The Nation, April 27, 2006
  18. Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen. The Israel Lobby, London Review of Books, Volume 28 Number 6, March 22, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.
  19. Dershowitz, Alan. "Debunking the Newest—and Oldest—Jewish Conspiracy: A Reply to the Mearsheimer-Walt "Working Paper" Apr. 2006. Harvard Law School." 17 Jan. 2007.
  20. Backlight: the Israel Lobby on Netherlands Public Broadcasting.
  21. The Israel Lobby: The Influence of AIPAC on US Foreign Policy on Google Video.
  22. Of Course There Is an Israel Lobby, Edward Peck, April 6 2006
  23. Otterman, Sharon and Mackey, Robert. Bin Laden’s Reading List for Americans, The New York Times, September 14, 2009.
  24. A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy, Tony Judt, New York Times Op-ed, April 19, 2006
  25. Paper on Israel Lobby Sparks Heated Debate, Deborah Amos, National Public Radio, April 21, 2006
  26. Zbigniew Brzezinski, A Dangerous Exemption, Foreign Policy, Jul/Aug 2006. Reprinted [1] [2]
  27. Hastings, Max. The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, The Times, Sept. 2, 2007.
  28. Levy, Daniel So pro-Israel that it hurts, Haaretz, March 25, 2006. Accessed March 26, 2006. Mirrored here
  29. Goldberg, Nicholas. Who's afraid of the 'Israel Lobby'?, The Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2006. Accessed March 26, 2006.
  30. Hitchens, Christopher. Overstating Jewish Power: Mearsheimer and Walt give too much credit to the Israeli lobby, Slate, March 27, 2006. Accessed March 29, 2006.
  31. Quoted in Dean's World.
  32. Mitchell Plitnick, [3] Posted September 26, 2007
  33. Joseph Massad, Blaming the lobby Al-Ahram Weekly, March 23–29, 2006
  34. Eric Alterman, AIPAC's Complaint The Nation, May 1, 2006 (posted April 13, 2006)
  35. Michael Massing, The Storm over the Israel Lobby, New York Review of Books, June 8, 2006
  36. Stephen Zunes, The Israel Lobby: How powerful is it really?, Mother Jones, May 18, 2006
  38. Clyne, Meghan. Harvard's Paper on Israel Called 'Trash' By Solon, New York Sun, March 22, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.
  39. Harvard attack on ‘Israel lobby’ is actually a targeting of American public, Accessed July 28, 2006
  40. David Gergen, An Unfair Attack, U.S. News & World Report, April 3, 2006
  41. Dershowitz, Alan. " A reply to the Mearsheimer Walt "Working Paper"", April 6, 2006. Accessed April 6, 2006.
  42. [4]
  43. Noam Chomsky, The Israel Lobby? ZNET, March 28, 2006
  44. Benny Morris, And Now For Some Facts, The New Republic, May 8, 2006; posted April 28, 2006
  45. John Judis. Split Personality The New Republic Online via the Carnegie Endowment for International Peacewebsite, February 8, 2007
  46. THE NEW REPUBLIC The Usual Suspect by Jeffrey Goldberg, Post Date Monday, October 08, 2007
  47. [5]Leslie Gelb. "Dual Loyalties", New York Times Book Review, 2007-09-23.
  48. Letters, London Review of Books, vol. 28, no. 7, April 6, 2006
  49. Samuel Freedman, A footnote's footnote, Jerusalem Post, April 25, 2006
  50. Aaron Friedberg, An Uncivilized Argument, Foreign Policy, Jul/Aug 2006
  51. Josef Joffe, WALT AND MEARSHEIMER: ANTI-AMERICAN., Common Denominator The New Republic, 04.06.06
  52. Council on Foreign Relations, [6], May 1, 2006
  53. [7]
  54. Jpost
  55. When All Else Fails: The Israel Lobby at ajc wire - blog of the american jewish committee
  56. The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and The Myth of Jewish Control
  57. Mearsheimer and Walt's Anti-Jewish Screed: A Relentless Assault in Scholarly Guise
  58. Publishers Weekly
  59. Forward by George Shultz in The Deadliest Lies by Abraham H. Foxman
  60. Video - Breaking News Videos from
  61. Mearsheimer and Walt's Anti-Israel Screed: A Relentless Assault in Scholarly Guise, Anti-Defamation League Analysis, March 24, 2006. Accessed March 28, 2006.
  62. Safian, Alex. Study Decrying “Israel Lobby” Marred by Numerous Errors, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, March 20, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.
  64. “Sheer Recklessness” - Leonard Fein on Mearsheimer & Walt’s “The Israel Lobby” September 27, 2007, posted by Leonard Fein
  65. Dore Gold [8], Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF, March 24, 2006.
  66. Neal M. Sher [9], The Jewish press, December 20, 200
  67. Caroline B. Glick, [10], Jewish World Review March 26, 2006
  68. Bret Stephens [11], The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2006 (username and password needed)
  69. Israpundit » Blog Archive » The Israel Conspiracy
  70. [12], The Jewish Press, March 29, 2006
  71. Bret Stephens: “Meet the Israel Lobby”, Speech at the University of Chicago May 3, 2006, Delivered to Chicago Friends of Israel, Israel Week 2006 Keynote
  72. [13], The Wall Street Journal, Editorial Page, March 20, 2006
  73. "The War on Terror Revisited." May 9, 2006. Podcast. "Freeman Spogli Insitute for International Studies." Forum on Contemporary Europe. 30 June 2009.
  74. [14]
  75. [15]
  76. Walt, Stephen M. "What Osama Bin Laden didn't understand about The Israel Lobby." Foreign Policy. 15 September 2009. 17 September 2009.
  77. Rothkopf, David. "Walt, Mearsheimer, and why Osama Bin Laden is reading The Israel Lobby." Foreign Policy. 16 September 2009. 17 September 2009.
  78. Clyne, Meghan. " A Harvard School Distances Itself from Dean's Paper", New York Sun, March 22, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.
  79. Rosner, Shmuel. " Harvard to remove official seal from anti-AIPAC 'working paper'", Haaretz, March 23, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.
  80. Safian, Alex. " Harvard Backs Away from "Israel Lobby" Professors; Removes Logo from Controversial Paper", Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, March 22, 2006. Accessed March 24, 2006.
  81. Borger, Julian. " US professors accused of being liars and bigots over essay on pro-Israeli lobby", The Guardian, March 31, 2006. Accessed March 31, 2006.
  82. Bhayani, Paras and Friedman, Rebecca. " Dean Attacks 'Israel Lobby'", The Harvard Crimson, March 21, 2006. Accessed March 28, 2006.
  83. Philip Weiss, "Walt and Mearsheimer Rebut (and Humble) Their Critics", January 9, 2007
  84. Mazower, Mark. " When vigilance undermines freedom of speech" , Financial Times, April 3 2006
  85. America and Israel, The Financial Times, April 1, 2006. Copied here.
  86. Mekay, Emad. " Israel Lobby Dictates U.S. Policy, Study Charges", Inter Press Service News Agency, March 22, 2006. Accessed March 26, 2006.
  87. Mearsheimer, John J. and Walt, Stephen. letter to the London Review of Books, May 11, 2006.
  88. A Response to Critics of "The Israel Lobby", AlterNet, May 10, 2006
  89. Mearsheimer and Walt (2007) p.x
  90. "The Israel Lobby: Does it Have Too Much Influence on US Foreign Policy?",, October 11, 2006

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address