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'Politically Incorrect'?

K.P. Fabian

By John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
Allen Lane/Penguin Books, 2007, pp. 484, £8.99


This book has caused much controversy in the US because it deals with a theme that is sensitive. It is considered ‘politically incorrect’ to talk about the Israel Lobby and its influence on US foreign policy. But in a living democracy it should be possible, and often, it is unavoidable, to talk about what is considered ‘politically incorrect’.   Mearsheimer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt is Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The genesis of the book is an interesting story. In 2002, the editors of the Atlantic Monthly invited the two authors to write an article on the Israel lobby and its effects on US foreign policy. It took almost three years to write and by 2005 it was sent to the editors who declined to publish it though the authors had taken the trouble to comply with the suggestions made by the editors. The authors tried other journals, but they too rejected it. Finally, the London Review of Books published it in March 2006. The text of the article was put on the website of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and it was downloaded 275,000 times. Much encouraged, the authors decided to write a book in order to deal with the matter in a comprehensive manner. The authors have been accused of anti-Semitism.   Let us try to summarize the argument of the authors:   All the U.S. presidential candidates will agree on one point: deep personal commitment to Israel and strong determination to provide unyielding support for that state. Why is it there is such unanimity on this point? ‘In all affairs’, Bertrand Russell said, ‘it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.’ Two arguments have been advanced to explain the US support for Israel. One, it is an ‘indispensable partner’ in the ‘war on terror’. Two, it is the only country in the region that ‘shares our values’. Neither argument stands fair-minded scrutiny. Washington’s close relationship with Israel makes it harder, not easier, to fight terrorism and it undermines US’s standing with key allies in the region. As to the second argument, it is wrong to assert that Israel with its brutal treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and its refusal to vacate the territories does share ...

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