The intellectual challenge of the Walt-Mearsheimer paper on the power of the Israel lobby is whether Americans are capable of debating the ideas in it without freaking out. So far the answer is: No.
The paper was rejected by the Atlantic, as too hot for this country to hear. And while it has been favorably received in Israel and England, it continues to be smeared in this country in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. The latest attack is from Eliot A. Cohen, a Hopkins professor, in the Post.
Cohen says the professors are guilty of antisemitism, bigotry and of trading in ideas from the “sewer” in broaching their belief: that the Israel lobby is too powerful.
This is, once again, a fearful response from the rightwing Jewish community, fearful that if the issue is even discussed, Jews in this country will be persecuted. It reminds me of my own relative’s comment after 9/11, They’re going to blame the Jews. This anxiety has controlled the response to the powerful Harvard paper: If we even discuss it, Jews will be blamed. As for the ideas? Cohen’s claim that the lobby is not powerful is based on such weak arguments as, the Cuba lobby is powerful, too, or, People who don’t like Israel also supported the war in Iraq. Of course these things are true. They in no way invalidate Walt-Mearsheimer’s assertions, that the Israel lobby has had a stranglehold on our policy in the Middle East (which is not to be confused with Cuba) and that it played a central role in the (disastrous) Iraq war planning.
These assertions are important and deserve to be discussed on their merits, without fearful slurring and name-calling.