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‘Forward’ finally publishes Stephen Walt — ten years too late

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This is historic: the Forward has published an article by Stephen Walt, the co-author of the Israel Lobby, laying out the argument in his article/book of 2006/2007 and describing the continued power of the lobby, witness the Israel Anti-Boycott Act in Congress and the opposition to the Iran deal.

There is just one big problem with the article, “That Israel Lobby Controversy? History Has Proved Us Right.” It is ten years too late. The Forward could have commissioned the Harvard professor back in ’06 and ’07. No, the Jewish newspaper deferred to the voices inside the Jewish community that said that Walt and co-author John Mearsheimer were anti-Semites. They were simply off limits. That policy held across Jewish spaces. Yivo hosted a long night of diatribes against the authors as bigots and though Yivo is dedicated to scholarship and learning, Yivo didn’t invite the authors to defend themselves. Too afraid to hear their ideas. The 92d Street Y and the NY power synagogues also ignored the authors at their many forums on Middle east policy; and it was rumored that Leon Wieseltier and Michael Walzer refused to appear on stage with them. Various establishment institutions duly cancelled Walt and Mearsheimer gigs, because of that intolerant mood. The New Yorker’s David Remnick made them out to be tin-foil-hatters. And any hope Walt had of serving in the White House or State Department went out the window.

But now Stephen Walt is publishing a straightforward reprise of many of the book’s arguments today in the Forward. And the Forward promptly gives Dennis Ross the microphone, to refute Walt. Dennis Ross the Israel lobby personified, who has told American Jews, “We need to be advocates for Israel” — not for Palestinians.

It’s really a pathetic reflection on the intellectual abilities of the Jewish establishment. Low. Like the time the 92d Street Y cancelled a Palestinian author’s appearance because his Jewish co-panelist had to drop out of the event, and the 92d Street Y didn’t want a Palestinian appearing by himself. The man had three daughters, all killed by Israel. You’d think he might have a basis for his statements about Israel. American Jews can’t hear it.

Why is Walt even presentable today when he wasn’t 10 years ago? Because the occupation is now 50 years old and its permanence is obvious to American liberal Zionists and so everything he and Mearsheimer warned about (apartheid) is being echoed by “legitimate” voices. Because the lobby’s role in the Iraq war has been recapitulated in Iran policy to the point that Barack Obama warned Israel supporters that he’d be “abrogating” his constitutional duty if he deferred to Benjamin Netanyahu, and everyone saw the Israeli interference. Because the power of the lobby over U.S. policy w/r/t the occupation is bringing “infamy” to Jews and breeding anti-Semitism– they say so now even at J Street. Because even leftwingers use the term “Israel lobby” these days to describe a real force in policy-making. Because the lobby is old hat.

Too bad that the Forward didn’t host Walt ten years ago, when his voice might have actually made a difference in restraining the settlement project. Nope, he had to be redlined.

The Harvard professor makes this interesting observation about Zionism.

The vast majority of American Jews remain deeply committed to liberal values, while Israel has been moving away from them for many years now. There is a certain tension between liberalism and Zionism, because liberalism assumes that all humans possess the same set of basic rights and it emphasizes mutual tolerance, while Zionism is a nationalist movement that in its current iteration privileges one people at the expense of another. Until 1967, however, that tension between liberal and Zionist values was muted because most Israelis were Jewish and the second-class status of Israel’s Arab minority did not receive much attention.

I hope the Forward commissions another piece from Walt, setting out the contradiction between Zionism and liberalism. As I wrote ten years ago, Walt and Mearsheimer are scholars of Jewish history. The Jewish establishment is finally waking up to this idea: that non-Jews can have important observations about the powerful Jewish presence in American public life. Too late to have done any good when it comes to a Palestinian state.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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10 Responses

  1. peterfeld on October 4, 2017, 11:18 am

    That state would have locked in a permanent injustice. So, too late to rescue Zionism but nevertheless timely. This can help shift the focus from partition to equal rights.

  2. Citizen on October 4, 2017, 1:36 pm

    One would never know 98% of America is non-Jewish, and at least a few of them are not ignorant or stupid.

    • CigarGod on October 5, 2017, 8:45 am

      There it is…hiding in plain sight.
      New ground for Walt to break and get everyone talking about elephants.

  3. JosephA on October 4, 2017, 11:02 pm

    Little bits of progress, baby steps. Thanks for this article!

  4. genesto on October 5, 2017, 12:40 pm

    I invite all readers to join in the debate in the Comments section of this article in the Forward. So far, there has been only me and an Israeli anti-Zionist Jew arguing for days now against the typical swarm of Zionists that regularly populate the site. We’re doing OK, but could certainly use some help.

  5. Ossinev on October 5, 2017, 3:42 pm

    “I invite all readers to join in the debate in the Comments section of this article in the Forward. So far, there has been only me and an Israeli anti-Zionist Jew arguing for days now against the typical swarm of Zionists that regularly populate the site”

    Have read PW`s article above and the Forward article referred to byStephen Walt.
    Walt`s views yes ten years would be seen by Israeli Firsters in the US as Anti – Semitic, Holocaust denying ,denying Jewish rights to their “ancient historic homeland” etc etc. Take your pick from the usual Hasbara list. In 2017 however they come across to me I`m afraid as naive , blinkered very much wishful thinking and yes I have to say it “old hat” viz
    “but political pressure from a powerful, pro-Israel and pro-peace lobby in the United States is probably the only development that would convince U.S. leaders to act as fair-minded mediators and persuade the Israeli government to grant the Palestinians a viable state of their own”

    Still a desperate reluctance to grasp the nettle. The 2SS is long gone. Even if somehow US policy changes the sheer size of the settler population in the occupied territories , the firm grip which the extreme “nationalist” right wing in Israel has over policy making and policy decisions wrt the I/P issue underpinned by a positive drift away from any form of truly liberal values within the bulk of Jewish Israeli society mean that any form of Palestinian “state” is simply no longer possible. The future is mapped out for all to see and it is a variation on the South African model of Apartheid/”secure” Bantustans / continued denial of civil and human rights/ continued violent suppression of attempts by the native Palestinians to achieve equal rights. All to be followed as with SA by international boycotts sanctions and divestments led not by America but as with SA by Western European countries.

    The spark to ignite this flame will probably be the demise of the Vichy farce still being orchestrated by Abbas and his cronies. Can`t come too soon.

    • genesto on October 6, 2017, 5:14 pm

      Right on about the 2SS. It’s amazing to me that this point, i.e. the ridiculousness of the notion that something like 400,000 to 500,000 could be moved out of the land set aside for such a state, is not made more often. The 2SS is as farcical as it gets.

      I think the end will come from the implosion towards which Israel’s increasingly right wing Zionist society is heading. Already, Israel seems to be giving up on the liberal, particularly younger Jews while focussing more on recruiting the Orthodox. Israel will continue its movement to the right to its utter demise, at least as anything remotely resembling a functioning democracy. The current majority in the country has even said that it doesn’t want to be a true democracy! At least they are honest!

      As they say, evil eventually undoes itself, and pure evil is what Israel is fast becoming!

  6. punterweger on October 5, 2017, 7:55 pm

    Ossinev is right except for the part about Western Europe playing a leading role in the fight for equal rights for the Palestinians. I live part-time in Europe and work with Palestine-support groups there and the picture I see is hardly favorable. BDS activity is banned in France, and under severe attack in Germany and Austria. Jeremy Corbyn’s travails have just been chronicled on Mondoweiss. The fight in Europe will continue, but at this point the movement in the US is at least as strong, if not stronger, than the one in Western Europe.

  7. James Canning on October 6, 2017, 1:07 pm

    Yes, it is about time. Meanwhile, in today’s Wall Street Journal, Dennis Ross encourages Trump to wreck the Iranian nuclear deal.

  8. CitizenC on October 6, 2017, 5:02 pm

    Meanwhile Columbia publishes Irene Gendzier’s crudely dishonest book, “Dying to Forget”, which attempts to impose the “strategic asset” view on the 1940s, a period generally acknowledged as the maturation of the Israel Lobby, and heretofore ignored by the SA school.

    The nascent IL imposed Zionism on a military and diplomatic establishment which opposed it as a strategic albatross. Gendzier’s claims are taken seriously in academic circles, but this critique can circulate only at the margin, and be ignored.

    It is noteworthy that Gendzier’s book has not been reviewed by a single academic specialist in the subject, at least that I have seen.

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