He's got a little list

John Mearsheimer of ‘The Israel Lobby’  notoriety is back, this time with a lecture at the Palestine Centre in Washington DC, (an organization headed by Guardian contributor Yousef Munayyer) the transcript of which can be read here. David Bernstein has a good analysis of the political arguments within the speech which can at best be described as flimsy, but the ‘highlight’ of the lecture is Mearsheimer’s little list.

American Jews who care deeply about Israel can be divided into three broad categories. The first two are what I call “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners,” which are clearly definable groups that think about Israel and where it is headed in fundamentally different ways. The third and largest group is comprised of those Jews who care a lot about Israel, but do not have clear-cut views on how to think about Greater Israel and apartheid. Let us call this group the “great ambivalent middle.”

So just who are the ‘righteous Jews’?

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And who are the ‘new Afrikaners’?

I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

Besides being deeply offensive and inherently racist in its stereotypical nature, there is something almost medieval about Mearsheimer’s facile categorization of ‘good Jews’ and ‘bad Jews’ in that apparently the only way for a Jew to be ‘saved’ in his view is by means of reject ion of the belief in Jewish emancipation through Zionism. In addition, his approach contains within it more than a smattering of the old failed Soviet attitudes towards the ‘Jewish question’ – in other words, if only Jews would stop wanting to live as Jews and assimilate into the society around them, the problem of anti-Semitism would be solved.
Mearsheimer’s puerile nomenclature of Jews who disagree with his suicidal vision for the Middle East may seem to be a new low in the campaign to delegitimise the Jewish state and its supporters, but it is not significantly different from the ‘good Jew/bad Jew’ tactic so often employed at the Guardian, both by commentators below the line and through the provision of a platform above the line for those arguing for Jewish assimilation in the Diaspora and those arguing against the Jewish state. As Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi puts it: ”[t]his is not the first time the Guardian has given voice to Jews proud to be ashamed to be Jewish” and as we are all too aware, many of CiF’s contributors such as Antony Lerman, Abe Hayyim , Richard Silverstein or Neve Gordon would surely earn a place on Mearsheimer’s list of ‘righteous Jews’.
Defining Zionists as ‘new Afrikaners’ is a form of delegitimisation and demonisation deliberately designed to encourage listeners to distance themselves from support for Israel. With Mearsheimer’s track record of anti-Semitism and academic sloppiness, it is hardly surprising that he should reach for the lazy, inaccurate, yet increasingly popular apartheid analogy. What is disappointing is that an organization such as the Palestine Centre should prefer to take the easy way out and listen to Mearsheimer’s populist ranting rather than making the effort to engage in the type of dialogue which could actually contribute to advancing a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict. The reinforcement and propagation of racist stereotypes can never be the way forward to anywhere positive.
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