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John Mearsheimer Has Got a Little List

‘Israel Lobby’ co-author names ‘New Afrikaners,’ ‘Righteous Jews’

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Professor John J. Mearsheimer.(University of Chicago)

Last Friday at The Palestine Center in Washington, D.C., Professor John J. Mearsheimer opined that the two-state solution is a “fantasy,” and predicted that the Palestinian territories “will be incorporated into a ‘Greater Israel,’ which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.” This will, in turn, become “a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens. In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.”

But that, actually, wasn’t the controversial part of this speech by the already-controversial co-author of The Israel Lobby (the book which postulates that an overwhelmingly Jewish lobby influences American Israel policy in a way that harms U.S. interests). Even if you don’t agree with this stuff, you should learn to get used to it. The one-state solution has been amply and eloquently advocated for; even Israel’s own defense minister has used the “a” word.

No, what has gotten various folks’ collective goat was Mearsheimer’s decision to divide Jewish Americans into three groups: “New Afrikaners,” “who will support Israel even if it is an apartheid state”; “the great ambivalent middle,” which is what it sounds like; and “Righteous Jews,” who “believe that self-determination applies to Palestinians as well as Jews.” It’s this part of the speech that Jeffrey Goldberg compared to something out of Father Coughlin. And, I mean, ‘Righteous Jews’? Even if that’s not some sort of analogy to ‘Righteous Gentiles,’ Mearsheimer can kind of go to hell.

Sample Righteous Jews, according to Mearsheimer, are Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Norman Finkelstein, Richard Goldstone, Tony Judt, Naomi Klein, and Philip Weiss. Most of those associated with J Street, says Mearsheimer, are Righteous Jews, too (I promise you J Street resents this categorization, and believes Mearsheimer just made its job more difficult). Sample New Afrikaners are also usual suspects: Abraham Foxman, Marty Peretz, Mort Zuckerman, et al. Mearsheimer’s prediction is that the great ambivalent middle, currently vaguely supportive of Israel, will slowly turn against the Jewish state as its fundamentally apartheid character becomes apparent.

Before going further, I’d like to say that the person whom Mearsheimer has most slandered is the intellectual who has probably lent the greatest and most influential firepower to the solution Mearsheimer would like to see reached, that is, the single bi-national state: Tony Judt. Agree with him on Israel or not (I, for one, don’t), Judt is a sensitive, scrupulous, thoughtful, and responsible scholar who, after painstakingly weighing his own affiliations and values, arrived at a policy conclusion. To group him with Norman Finkelstein is obscene.

This list isn’t even accurate, or at least in any way useful. The important distinctions, as Mearsheimer himself says elsewhere in the speech, are whether someone supports a single, bi-national, democratic state; two nationally-based states; or a Jewish-dominated single state. Yet Righteous Jew Roger Cohen believes in a two-state solution; Righteous Jew hotbed J Street vehemently does so as well. Righteous Jew Noam Chomsky, by contrast, eminently does not; and as for Righteous Jew Norman Finkelstein (!!), he is also David Duke’s favorite Jew. If Mearsheimer were striving to be helpful, he would have divided thinkers based on their preferred solutions to the conflict.

Then again, if Mearsheimer were striving to be helpful, he would have divided thinkers. Instead, Mearsheimer divides Jewish thinkers. “Imagine,” The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait writes, “[if] a conservative were to divide the African-American community into the enlightened blacks (Clarence Thomas, Ken Blackwell, Michael Steele, Walter Williams, etc.) who reject paternalistic liberalism, and also happen to represent a tiny fringe within the community, and the bad blacks, who represent the mainstream African-American perspective.” Seriously, just imagine it.

Meanwhile, Mearsheimer’s co-author, Stephen Walt, does distance himself from the speech somewhat—he thinks that it’s too pessimistic. “I hope his speech turns out to be a ‘self-denying prophecy,’” Walt says. “In other words, if enough people are convinced by it, maybe they will act to head off the gloomy future that he foresees.” You mean the key to peace in the Mideast is for people to be convinced by this speech? Boy are we screwed.

“The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners” with Professor John J. Mearsheimer [The Jerusalem Fund]

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David says:

Great analysis Marc (and that’s hard to do when Chait and Goldblog have already weighed in). Your point about how Mearsheimer clearly doesn’t even know the positions advocated by the people he’s talking about is spot on. It’s quite clear that he actually has no interest in who wants peace and who doesn’t, nor who wants two states and who doesn’t, but who uses (to his mind) excoriating rhetoric against Israel and who doesn’t. What those people actually desire as a Middle East endgame is completely besides the point. (Pretty wacky for an alleged policy wonk.)

Basically, he just likes people who hate on Israel sufficiently (and yes, this perception remains a problem for J Street, which it will hopefully sort out).

He doesn’t need to be compared to anyone. He stands on his own. He is a revolting bigot, ascribing negative traits to an entire ethnic group, misrepresenting the truth about its varied disposition toward the Middle East, which mostly inclines toward rapprochement with the Palestinians. He is antisemite, and an evil human being.

On Marc’s point about Judt, it would greatly enhance Judt’s credibility among skeptics like me if he publicly disavowed Mearsheimer’s analysis. He’s no doubt aware of it, and I will be the first one to acknowledge his fair-mindedness if he does.

Shalom Freedman says:

Perhaps we should divide Americans of German origin into two groups; those who resent the Jews for having been victims of Nazism and by association do not like the Jewish state, and those who do not need to revenge themselves on the Jews for having been the victim of the greatest crime in human history-largely done by the nation of Germany. It would not be too difficult to see in which category to classify Mearsheimer.

Raeefa says:

Not to mention that all of the “new Afrikaners” that Mearsheimer lists all support a two-state solution in principle.

Ed Rehfeld says:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if AIPAC, J Street, and Americans for Peace Now put aside their differences and issued a joint statement condemning Mearsheimer’s three-types-of-Jews analysis as deeply offensive, anti-Semitic stereotyping of the worst sort? Something to the effect of, “We may strongly disagree with regards to Israel, but we agree that if you come after one of us, you come after all of us.” Perhaps I’m being too optimistic here, but it would be nice to see a community-wide condemnation of this kind of bigotry disguised as detatched analysis.

When it comes to anti-Semitism from any quarter, we (the Jewish community) should stand squarely as one.

fw says:

Ed, that would be to their credit, and to their benefit, pragmatically speaking. It might broaden their pool of conscripts. Hell, I might sign up, my current reservations about J Street being that it doesn’t do enough to distance itself from cranks who make common cause with bigots. It’s a shame, because I would like to find a vehicle for supporting the peace process that doesn’t subscribe to doctrinaire leftist critiques of Israel.

Incidentally, not to belabor the Tony Judt question too much, but it seems to me that Judt’s opinions, expressed in the recent essay in the NYRB, are of a piece with Mearsheimer’s sentiments, and might even be said to provide fodder for them. Judt posits the existence of a broad swath of American Jewry, lazily acquiescent in the perpetuation of a historic injustice against the Palestinians. I don’t see any point of contention between Judt and Mearsheimer.

Yehezkel says:

Whether Mearsheimer populates his categories accurately is open to
discussion but, I hate to tell folks, there is nothing inherently objectionable in his breaking American Jewry down into 3 categories of people re outlook on Israel. Political analysts, pollsters and sociologists are always breaking groups down into traditionalists/modernists or conservatives/liberals or hawks/doves, etc. Mearsheimer’s use of “Afrikaaner” may hit hard because of the apartheid connection but, again, that doesn’t negate the validity of categorizing different Jewish responses. There are, indeed, differences on Israel between Morton Klein, Jeremy Ben-Ami and my barely interested, little informed Jewish next door neighbor. Grow up folks; the last thing we need is a burst of Jewish communal McCarthyism.

fw says:

Yehezkel, I strongly disagree; there is a continuum of opinion, the differences between any two given individuals adjacent on the ideological spectrum subtle but nonetheless present. And to subdivide Jews into only three categories completely obscures the underlying nuances of opinion on this issue or, frankly, on any issue. These aren’t political parties, in which we subordinate our particular beliefs to the collective interests of a group to advance a practical goal. You can’t count heads or check party affiliation. Peace between Israel; for, against, not sure. How about, in favor of peace, so long as we see reciprocal gestures from Palestinians? How about, in favor of peace until Barak’s offer was rejected, or until Olmert’s offer was rejected? How about, in favor of peace with the governing faction in Ramallah, but not in Gaza? How about, in favor of peace when we see restitution for Jewish refugees from Arab lands, in a manner that mirrors Palestinian demands for compensation for descendants of Arab refugees from what is today Israel proper?

I’m not sure in what conceivable way objecting strongly to Mearsheimer’s speech, coming on the heels of several years of his anti-Israeli rhetoric, constitutes McCarthyism. No one has suggested he should be deprived of his rights, as a citizen, or academic. We’re calling him what he is, which is an antisemite, and Jew-baiter. And he can go on Jew-baiting for as long as he likes, addressing whomever he pleases. And given that freedom of his, it’s becomes our responsibility to subject his claims to scrutiny, and criticism, however lacerating.

jd says:

Yehezkel says: “Grow up folks; the last thing we need is a burst of Jewish communal McCarthyism.”

McCarthyism is what Mearsheimer has introduced by separating Jews into pro and anti-apartheid.

Next step loyalty oaths and pledges that one is not now nor has ever been an Afrikaaner.

Grow up Yehezkel or whatever your name is.

Who cares? Really! Do all you Jews in America really think that those who will determine what will be on the ground (As opposed to Heaven’s agenda) even know who these character’s are or that they exist? The people who will determine Israel’s immediate future are the one’s who live here. Simple as it is. We are to busy living life and trying to help determine the shape of the future to worry about what marginal mouths think. Trust me, the Israel that you guys know from a distance or from limited personal experience and coming from whatever conditioned headspace, is as different as night and day.

Until you’ve sat with a cab driver, truck driver, Israeli Rainbow hippie, Shenkin Street dilletante, Chassidish Charedi, Litvish Charedi, Land of Israel/People of Israel Yid, the ones who live in Afula and Holon and Carmiel and, and, and….you have no knowledge of we are, where we are going and how irrelevant your sterile opinions are. Trust me, we are all more worried and concerned about your survival in Galut than you are about us who are here.

fw says:

Spare us your ignorant–and good Lord, you are ignorant–patter. Israel is intimately bound up with the United States, fool. You’re the one who needs to be paying attention, to what is going on here. And tell your friends.

shira macklin says:

poisoning wells is so easy now. thanks to the internet, mearsheimer and his ilk can pour the poison into thousands of wells, in america, canada, and the ever anxious to participate europe, with one drop of poison from their “poison pen”. mearsheimer can barely contain his glee at the prospect of a world without jews. i can’t for the life of me understand why these anti semites are so anxious to return to the dark ages.

Kronstadt says:

This is fatuous. All “lists” aside, Mearsheimer (and others) are merely pointing out the obvious, which many pundits like Chait, Goldberg and Richard Cohen and you, Mr Tracy, cannot seem to understand: the future is upon us NOW, we (that is, US political class, the people with supposed leverage over Israel) have squandered forty years (wow! that is a long time!) and now the shape of that rough beast approaching has become crystal clear. When is the last time you looked at a map of the West Bank, Tracy? Shoot, when’s the last time you visited there? I suggest you book a flight to Amman, like, NOW. Drive to Allenby, get an Arab cab driver to take you to his home and have dinner. Then go for a walk with him. Can you even wrap your mind around the tangled, irredeemable mess the settlement project has created? Eretz Izreel is what the political system has been planning for all along, and no one among the ambivalent, liberal Jewish middle–the suckers, really–wants to face the logical, predictable consequences: you can’t rule this swiss-cheezy, bantu-pocked landscape practically as a democracy, and you can’t dismantle the settlements and return to ’67–the industrial-political base now runs the show. Wake up, and become a thinking person, ok? Or I will come and take your puny column away from you. Here is a map of the west bank, princesses, I suggest you study it well.

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