Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with racist and extremist groups who engage in conspiracy theories about Jews. Accusing Jews of controlling America is stock-in-trade for groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations and the National Alliance.
We don’t underestimate the dangers from such groups. But as long as these theories remain in the domain of the extremists, we can contend with them because the haters have no credibility with the American people and our exposure of their views and intentions brings widespread condemnation of them.
It is quite another issue when conspiracy views about Jews come from the mainstream. There is a tendency by the public to give them much more of a hearing and, if the presenters are smart in how they go about their work, the whole enterprise can gain legitimacy.
That is why I was seriously concerned about the views of Prof. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Prof. Stephen Walt of Harvard University, when they first published their paper, “The Israel Lobby” in April 2006. Despite their respectability, their bias toward Israel and American Jews was transparent and their assessment of the Arab-Israeli conflict over the years was completely flawed. For them, Israel is to blame for every event in the conflict. Far worse, they see control by the Israel lobby as the reason why America supports what they consider a wayward country to the detriment of American interests.
Unfortunately, there was little condemnation. Instead, we continually heard that Mearsheimer and Walt have made an important contribution to the discussion on U.S. Middle East policy, that they had spoken “truths” that others had not said, and that this would be a welcome addition to curricula on campuses around the country.
I ultimately concluded that there was a need to provide students, journalists and the general public a more comprehensive and integrated perspective as to the dangers of their thesis.
I knew their thesis had to be debunked, so I set out to write a book that would do just that. My book, “The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control,” was published in September 2007, the same time that Mearsheimer and Walt’s book, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” an expanded version of their article, appeared. I believe “The Deadliest Lies” is a reasoned, temperate critique of dangerous works that masquerade themselves as legitimate criticism of Israel and American Jews.
While Mearsheimer and Walt toned down some of the more extreme statements from their original article about Jewish lobbying activities and intention – now insisting they never were questioning the right of Jews to lobby for Israel – their efforts to appear more innocuous are for naught. Their conclusion remains the same – Jewish people are responsible for all the “bad” decisions of American Middle East policy.
Their claims include: The war in Iraq? It was American Jews who got us into it for the sake of Israel. Islamic extremism? It is the Jewish insistence on U.S. support for Israel that has brought us to this point. American public support for Israel? It is Jewish control and stifling of debate on campus, in the media and in Congress that misleads the public into support for Israel.
Rather than acknowledging that most Americans support Israel in its struggle against hostile Arab states and terrorist groups, and writing a book in an effort to change that public sentiment to their way of thinking, Mearsheimer and Walt insist that the playing field isn’t fair because of what they claim are the insidious efforts of the Jewish/Israel lobby to undermine the very democratic levers of power that could be used to effect such a change.
“The Deadliest Lies” provides the reader with the understanding and the arguments to make sure these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories will not take root in America.
Abraham H. Foxman is the national director of The Anti-Defamation League.