One of Marty Peretz’s Friends Believes in the Israel Lobby

Benjamin Ginsberg, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins, was influenced by Hannah Arendt to consider the relationship of Jews to the state, and in 1993 he published a book on the subject, The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State. Marty Peretz blurbed the book, calling it “wise and provocative,” and saying that its treatment of the dangers of anti-Semitism in America is “a subject of which everyone has an opinion but about which almost no one likes to think.”

Ginsberg is far more pro-Israel than, say, Walt and Mearsheimer, but he was intellectually honest enough to talk about the power of the Israel lobby. The lobby enjoys a reputation as “Washington’s most powerful lobby.” During the Reagan era, an “important role” for the pro-Israel forces was played by “‘neoconservative Jewish intellectuals who used their access to the print and broadcast media to promote national defense.” Reagan called on these pro-Israel forces to support his policies in Latin America, and “to portray these policies as part and parcel of the same struggle against communism as Israel’s fight against the P.L.O. Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, obliged.”

(Then it was Communism. Now it’s the fight against Islamic terrorism. Just check the box, and deny the Palestinians basic rights…)

Ginsberg goes even further than Walt and Mearsheimer (as I have in this blog) in the sociologial vein. “Since the 1960s, Jews have come to wield considerable influence in American economic, cultural, intellectual, and political life,” he states. Indeed, they are “extremely influential.” And Jewish “ties to Israel,” he notes, have sometimes played a part in accusations of dual loyalty: “the potential result [of these ties and the suspicions they cause] is to undermine the position of Jews in American government and policy-making capacities—long a major source of Jewish influence.”

Ginsberg establishes these facts to serve a point of view that Walt and Mearsheimer and leftists like myself would disagree with. He’s pro-Israel, and fearful (as I believe David Brooks is, though Ginsberg does not resort to code) about a radical populist reaction against a tiny Jewish elite. Ginsberg is concerned that the gentile American powers-that-be would then sell out the Jews. Fair enough; I have many friends who believe this too: that the U.S. is basically run by the goyim and we Jews are simply convenient, for now, and watch your back. But what if you don’t share this concern? What if you are a universalist, as opposed to Peretz/Wieseltier’s particularism? What if you were horrified by a visit to the occupied territories (and angered that Jewish particularists cannot even describe the lands as occupied, let alone face what religious nationalist Jews have done there)? What if you are concerned about the way that an extremist U.S. foreign policy has emulated that occupation, alienated the Arab world and made the Middle East more dangerous than ever?

Answer: You should be able to use the same points that Ginsberg marshals—influence, Jewish neoconservativism, and a powerful lobby—without being labelled an anti-Semite.