John Mearsheimer is having a great moment. Adam Kirsch at Tablet has followed up on Robert Kaplan's glowing profile of Mearsheimer in the Atlantic as a trailblazing thinker with a piece on The Israel Lobby as "an intellectual landmark." It includes the statement that to judge from its reviews the book convinced no one of its argument. As if the reviews did not originate largely from the lobby itself, or its penumbra, from people like Leslie Gelb who supported the Iraq war, he confessed, so as not to damage his career. Or from Jeffrey Goldberg who of course served in the Israeli army and then promoted the Iraq war because of evidence he had seen that Saddam was acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
An intellectual landmark-- and the New York Review of Books has never reviewed it. Some ideas are too unsettling even to be poked at. I think Kirsch rightly describes the book as broaching the subject of Jewish influence. This is a great subject, as Jewish influence has produced magnificent things in the west... for instance the emigration of my grandfathers and so many others of their generation from eastern Europe under the pressure of bankers at the turn of the century... for instance the New York Review of Books' opposition to the Vietnam War. And yet it is a subject too unsettling to Jews of NYRB editor Robert Silvers's generation, who see it only through the prism of anti-Semitism, the vocalization of an American society they don't fully trust.
As Kafka wrote to his friend, the Zionist Max Brod in 1922:
"The dubious aspect of [a recently-published piece of Brod's] seems to me to be a distinctly Jewish complex of problems, springing from the confusion that the natives are too alien to one, thus distorting reality, and the Jews too close, distorting reality, and therefore one cannot treat the latter or the former with the proper balance."
At a time of incredible Jewish presence in the establishment, and widespread Jewish intermarriage, it is time to resolve this complex. When Robert Kaplan writes in his piece that the Walt and Mearsheimer piece on the Israel lobby was rejected by the Atlantic in 2005 because editors fiercely questioned its "objectivity," that is an expression of the complex.