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The New Anti-Semitism and the Questions Left Unasked

I never would have thought that two American professors from prestigious American universities would have much in common with Osama bin Laden.

But then I noticed that in the most recent tape attributed to him, Bin Laden identified those in the West seeking to halt the genocide in Darfur as “Zionist-crusaders,” just on the heels of the article by University of Chicago professor John J. Mearsheimer and Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor Stephen Walt, arguing that the United States Middle Eastern policy has been manipulated by the Israel lobby.

In other words, Bin Laden and the professors are all saying that Jews are pulling the strings of world leaders and if not for the Jews we wouldn’t be in this mess. (You can fill in the blank for which mess you mean at the moment, whether Palestinian’s self-destructive intransigence, Iraqi insurgency, Islamist terrorism, etc.). All three conjure up the same specter of “Jewish conspiracy” that rests at the heart of history’s most rabid expressions of anti-Semitism.


According to a compelling report by Alan Dershowitz, Mearsheimer and Walt’s paper is filled with inaccuracies and half-truths that do not support their conclusions. The most important discrepancy is that America, in fact, always makes its own decisions about what is in America’s best interest. When American interests coincide with Israeli interests, we act in concert, but when American interests do not coincide with Israeli interests, America does what it feels it needs to even over Israel’s strident objections (Jonathan Pollard and AWACs are just two examples).


But there is an even bigger issue here. The focus on Israel/Zionists/Jews turns the world away from the real questions, much as such anti-Judaism/anti-Semitism has throughout history. There are a lot of real questions lurking out there:

  • What is the nature of America’s continued support for Saudi Arabia, which continues to finance Muslim extremism?
  • What is the influence of the oil lobby over our incursion into Iraq, which gained control of oil fields but left hospitals, electric and water plants, and museums undefended and then un-repaired (allowing the insurgency to thrive), and our continued failure to make serious advances in oil conservation?
  • Why is so little said about the fact that Muslims are slaughtering other Muslims in Dafur or that radical Muslims are expressing their xenophobia in violence against others?

Muslim extremist rage is not going to go away if Israel ceases to exist (God forbid). Muslim extremism will simply turn to the next victim. I’d recommend Mearsheimer and Walt reread the words of Protestant minister Martin Niemoller, reflecting on his experiences in Nazi Germany: “They came for the Communists, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Communist; They came for the Socialists, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Socialist; They came for the labor leaders, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a labor leader; They came for the Jews, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Jew; Then they came for me – And there was no one left to object.”


Every group has its extremists. Jews do too. Jewish extremism remains a minority within the Jewish community, largely because of our commitment to questioning and debate, as well as our concern for the rights and well being of the stranger (themes reiterated last week at the Passover Seder).

Honest, accurate, and fair debate is always healthy. Such vibrant and vigorous debate takes place within Israel, within the American Jewish community, within the American press and public, and between Israel and its American allies. Such debate does not take place in most of the Muslim world. I wonder why that, and its impact on American policy, isn’t the subject of a Kennedy School research paper.

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sherwood dickerman

posted April 28, 2006 at 5:03 am

rabbi susan grossman’s comment on the now notorious walt-mearsheimer article begins by equating those authors with osama bin laden and really does not go far beyond that atrocious comparison. I find it depressing that any critical survey of Israel and its influence on u.s. foreign policy is so often met with such shrill and irrational accusations.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 7:04 pm

We’ll never get anywhere on trying to discuss this.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 7:26 pm

Oh, I dunno, maybe if the article is “now notorious” it’s for a reason and the comparison is both apt and the point of the blogpost, rather than being “shrill and irrational.” And the questions she raises appear to be anything but shrill or irrational. You may disagree and refute them point by point. But there is nothing irrational about them. That’s just toxic labeling to avoid dealing with the real issues that she raises.

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posted April 28, 2006 at 10:25 pm

I read the Mearsheimer/Walt article and there are two things wrong with it right up front: first, it posits a single cause for American foreign policy in the Middle East, the Israeli lobby (which is not only Jews, nor is it all Jews); and second, it does not compare policy in this region to others — other writers have noted that policy is not too different for other regions. But one of their big points was that even trying to discuss the subject would get them labeled anti-Semites. Way to live down to their expectations. And furthermore, five minutes searching the Kennedy School’s publications shows that a ton of work has been done on Islam’s discourse with the West.

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posted April 29, 2006 at 6:04 pm

Every comment after the first one does the same thing as the rabbi’s article. This ‘don’t look behind the curtain’ sort of misdirection confirms assertions made by the Walt-Mearsheimer paper. They’re right. We have labeled them anti-Semites and not addressed the actual questions raised.

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Judah Ben Maccabee

posted April 30, 2006 at 3:39 am

It is now time for the Jews of the world to stand together and promote their homeland and also ‘GOD’ or “Hashem”. Never mind what the other countries of the world believe is their personal best interest. It is time for us to stand and promote the words of our “Torah”. If other nations disagree with our religious beliefs and having them as the written law of the land of Israel. All throughout history the only person who has come to our aid is “Hashem”. Can the world get prep[ared for Israel to stand on its religious laws and protect its own lands that were gifted to us by “Hashem” and reccognised as such by the United Nations itself back in 1948. If the Arabs don’t like us being in the Mid East then to bad for them. Let them take up the issue of the Jewish homeland with “Hashem” HIMSELF. If the Muslims want to wage a holy war against Israel then so be it. Let “Allah” defend them against “Hashem”.If the USA wants to destroy Israel by chopping it up into little pieces – then let thre USA find another true friend in the region. If Israel believes that by sealing its borders the terrorists will need to go elsewhere to kill “Infadels”. If israel also deems it neccessary to close the West Bank region so be it again. I nation is permitted to protect its citizens from death brought upon it by outside countries or militant groups. MAY “HASHEM” BLESS AND KEEP ISRAEL ALIVE – FREE – AND WELL FOREVER + ONE MORE DAY. SHALOM JUDAH

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