Monday, September 24, 2007

Putting Lipstick on the Walt-Mearsheimer Pig

The New York Times today has a full-page advertisement touting "The Israel Lobby" by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, which has gotten uniformly horrendous reviews from coast to coast.

A little embellishment is one thing, but Walt and Mearsheimer desperately tried to turn good reviews into bad ones, by absurdly selective and misleading quotations.

Here's the quote the ad uses from New Yorker editor David Remnick: "The strategic questions they raise now, particularly about Israel's privileged relationship with the United States, are worth debating."

Sure. But the ad leaves out that Remnick, no friend of Israel, felt that this book did a bad job of debating those questions and systematically twisted its arguments against Israel:
Where many accounts identify Osama bin Laden's primary grievances with American support of "infidel" authoritarian regimes in Islamic lands, Mearsheimer and Walt align his primary concerns with theirs: America's unwillingness to push Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. (It doesn't matter that Israel and the Palestinians were in peace negotiations in 1993, the year of the first attack on the World Trade Center, or that during the Camp David negotiations in 2000 bin Laden's pilots were training in Florida.) Mearsheimer and Walt give you the sense that, if the Israelis and the Palestinians come to terms, bin Laden will return to the family construction business.

It's a narrative that recounts every lurid report of Israeli cruelty as indisputable fact but leaves out the rise of Fatah and Palestinian terrorism before 1967; the Munich Olympics; Black September; myriad cases of suicide bombings; and other spectaculars.
Even worse was this brief quote from William Grimes of The New York Times: "Ruthlessly realistic."

In fact, Grimes was "ruthlessly realistic" in dumping on this book:

The general tone of hostility to Israel grates on the nerves, however, along with an unignorable impression that hardheaded political realism can be subject to its own peculiar fantasies. Israel is not simply one country among many, for example, just as Britain is not. Americans feel strong ties of history, religion, culture and, yes, sentiment, that the authors recognize, but only in an airy, abstract way.

They also seem to feel that, with Israel and its lobby pushed to the side, the desert will bloom with flowers. A peace deal with Syria would surely follow, with a resultant end to hostile activity by Hezbollah and Hamas. Next would come a Palestinian state, depriving Al Qaeda of its principal recruiting tool. (The authors wave away the idea that Islamic terrorism thrives for other reasons.) Well, yes, Iran does seem to be a problem, but the authors argue that no one should be particularly bothered by an Iran with nuclear weapons. And on and on.

And on and on is right. If these people can't even accurately describe the reaction to their own book, how can you trust the book itself?

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