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Another Establishment Figure Misrepresents Walt and Mearsheimer’s Findings

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Having moved to a house within earshot of the New York city NPR station WNYC, I just heard William Dobson, the managing editor of Foreign Policy, describing the magazine’s story on the top 10 stories you missed in 2007  (to a guy filling in on the Brian Lehrer show). Number 6 on the list was a story that I did not miss, the study by Stephen Cohen and Ari Kelman showing that American Jews under 35 care less and less about Israel.

I love this study. It is truly important, and underscores almost everything I write about Jewish identity on this blog; that as more and more Jews intermarry, and feel safe in the U.S., they do not see a need for the Jewish state. Logical. Israel’s "destruction" would be a personal tragedy to about half of young Jews, but to 81 percent of Jews over 65. (I wonder how they’d answer the question in less-dramatic terms: what if the Jewish state gave way to a binational state?)

I bring this up because Dobson used the study on Jewish identity to attack Walt and Mearsheimer’s book on the radio. He began by saying that the book’s findings were "controversial." Orwellian for "wrong." Then he trashed them. He said that in fact American foreign policy is created by a good democratic stew of interests contending (my words; his piety). "The Taiwanese lobby, the Armenian lobby," he said. The Israel lobby is just one of these forces. How insulting to the listener! As if the Taiwanese or Armenians, whatever their power, have had any strong feeling about Palestinian suffering or the invasion of Iraq. As if there are Armenians and Taiwanese all over the establishment and in the Bush Administration braintrust. How dishonest!

Then going back to the paper on young Jews’ alienation from Israel, Dobson said chirpily that it demonstrates that Walt and Mearsheimer are off. For W&M’s premise was that a solid group of people are pushing for the interests of Israel in this country. Well, if you look ahead several decades from now, it is clear that "the people who [will] supposedly be part of the lobby" are turning away from Israel. Which makes Walt and Mearsheimer’s point "moot."

This is slithering intellectual evasion. Walt and Mearsheimer were not writing a science fiction book about how Jews will behave several decades from now. They were describing a powerful bloc in American politics right now, and though they did not characterize this bloc as inherently Jewish–no, I look at the bloc that way here, as a Jew trying to reform American Jewry–it is beyond obvious that the leaders and supporters of this bloc are not Jews under 35. No, they are Jews over 50, or over 65, to use the identity-paper’s sample. And these Jews, for their own reasons, historical, psychic, whatever–I believe because they feel guilt about the Holocaust and maybe not having done enough that time round–are determined to support Israel no matter what.

It is a great thing that WNYC is mentioning Walt and Mearsheimer on air. It would be a lot fairer to let them come on air too when some establishment figure chooses to distort their work.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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