NEW YORK, Aug 19: Two prominent American scholars who have written a book about the profound and foreboding influence of the Israeli lobby over the American foreign policy and in the corridors of legislative and executive power in Washington are finding that exposing the lobby is a taboo.
Even before their book “Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” was launched, many colleges, universities and other respected institutions under pressure from the lobby, have reneged on any commitment to allow discussions on the book.
The authors John J. Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, and Stephen M. Walt, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at the Harvard University, were not entirely surprised by the reactions since they had a preview of the power of the lobby.
When former president Jimmy Carter’s book ‘‘Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” was launched last year it provoked so much hostility from the Jewish groups that Barnes and Noble book stores did not display it prominently fearing demonstrations.
In fact, at major locations in New York, Jewish groups held demonstrations and some walked in the store threatening managers with daily unrest if they continued to display the book. (At one store in Manhattan where one tried to buy a copy, I was told that the book is sold out. But I could see stacks hidden in the corner).
Professor Mearsheimer and Prof Walt, who wrote an article in the London Review of Books on the power of the lobby last year as a pre-cursor to their book that a powerful pro-Israel lobby has a foreboding influence on American policy, set off a firestorm as charges of anti-Semitism, shoddy scholarship.
“Now that the Cold War is over, Israel has become a strategic liability for the United States,” they write, according to a review, in The New York Times. “Yet no aspiring politician is going to say so in public or even raise the possibility” because the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful. They charge the lobby with shutting down talks with Syria and with moderates in Iran, preventing the United States from condemning Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon and with not pushing the Israelis hard enough to come to an agreement with the Palestinians. They also discuss Christian Zionists and the issue of dual loyalty.
The authors, the Times said, were particularly disturbed by the Chicago
Council’s decision, since plans for that event were complete and both authors have frequently spoken there before. The two sent a four-page letter to 94 members of the council’s board detailing what happened. “On July 24, Council President Marshall Bouton phoned one of us (Mearsheimer) and informed him that he was cancelling the event,” and that his decision “was based on the need ‘to protect the institution’. He said that he had a serious ‘political problem,’ because there were individuals who would be angry if he gave us a venue to speak, and that this would have serious negative consequences for the council. ‘This one is so hot,’ Marshall maintained.”
Mr Mearsheimer later said of Mr Bouton: “I had the sense that this phone call pained him deeply.”
Most observers in the political and literary circles here say as they literally killed former President Carter’s book with bad publicity and street agitation, the Jewish lobby is most likely to prevail over the two scholars’ point of view by undermining the book before its launch.