Al-Ahram reports on the Fourth Cairo Conference against imperialism, Zionism, globalism, and…oh, you know the rest.
All the usual suspects were there (George Galloway, John Rose, etc.), although it was Osama Hemdan, Hamas’s senior political representative in Lebanon, who “emerged as the conference’s star.”
We are still in the stage of national liberation in Palestine and we are employing various tools for that purpose,” he said. “Despite our electoral gains, let me assure everyone that the philosophy of resistance is still there and we will not allow the government to abort the resistance project.”
Hemdan was among several speakers to address the “new realities” on the ground. Terrorism, resistance, aggression, the will of the international community and globalization were all terms, he said, that needed to be redefined.
And the reporter covering the conference offered this observation:
In the halls of the Egyptian Press Syndicate posters of Gamal Abdel-Nasser decorated walls and pillars. There was a brisk trade in anti-globalization T-shirts, Arabic “resistance” songs on CDs featuring Fayrouz, Marcel Khalifa and Sheikh Imam, and images of Che Guevara. A few meters away, socialist activists displayed posters and publications. The attendance of dozens of representatives from Western anti-war and anti-globalization groups completed the international gathering.
The presence of many members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including crowds of male and female university students, was striking not for its conspicuousness, but because it appeared to fit in harmoniously in what was an intensely Arab-Western leftist environment.
They fit in “harmoniously.” Sort of sums up what ails the pretend Left these days, doesn’t it?
Noam Chomsky has just penned a leftist critique of Walt and Mearsheimer’s paper on “The Israel Lobby.”
[We] have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion….What were “the Lobbies” that led to pursuing very similar policies throughout the world?….Suharto’s coup aroused virtual euphoria, and he remained “our kind of guy” (as the Clinton administration called him) until he could no longer keep control in 1998, through a hideous record that compares well with Saddam Hussein — who was also “our kind of guy” until he disobeyed orders in 1990. What was the Indonesia Lobby? The Saddam Lobby?
M-W focus on AIPAC and the evangelicals, but they recognize that the Lobby includes most of the political-intellectual class — at which point the thesis loses much of its content. They also have a highly selective use of evidence (and much of the evidence is assertion). Take, as one example, arms sales to China, which they bring up as undercutting US interests. But they fail to mention that when the US objected, Israel was compelled to back down: under Clinton in 2000, and again in 2005, in this case with the Washington neocon regime going out of its way to humiliate Israel. Without a peep from The Lobby, in either case, though it was a serious blow to Israel. There’s a lot more like that.
Another problem that M-W do not address is the role of the energy corporations. They are hardly marginal in US political life — transparently in the Bush administration, but in fact always. How can they be so impotent in the face of the Lobby?
Of course, having critiqued their “highly selective use of evidence,” Chomsky nevertheless heaps praise on the authors for their “courageous stand” and denounces the “hysterical reaction from the usual supporters of state violence.” (It’s somewhat reminiscent of Chomsky’s defense of a certain “apolitical liberal” some years back.)
It’ll be interesting to observe the reaction to this article, given that certain far left circles have pegged Chomsky as a closet Zionist. I suspect that, in their minds, this article will only certify Chomsky’s status as a card-carrying member of “The Lobby.”
Just when I thought the news from the Middle East couldn’t get any more batshit crazy, I read this item: In 2001, the Iraq General Security Directorate told Saddam that the Pokemon cartoon character in Hebrew meant “I am Jewish” and “represented a subterfuge by international Zionism to undermine Iraq’s security.”
Remember how the vote on last year’s AUT motion to boycott Israeli universities was held the day before Passover? (How convenient.)
Well, never underestimate the power of karma. The UK-based Jewish Telegraph reports on an anti-Israel motion that came up for a vote at Manchester University:
Miraculousy, said [Rabbi Rubinstein], the motion had been scheduled at the same time as the Islamic Society’s annual meeting….”It was a Shushan Purim miracle.”
Rabbi Rubinstein said that the Socialist Workers, who proposed the motion, tried to delay proceedings to give Islamic students time to arrive. “But they never managed it,” he added. “The lack of communication between the Socialist Workers and their main supporters from the Islamic Society was almost miraculous….Statistically, the numbers of Jewish students are much, much weaker,” he said.
J-Soc [Jewish society] president Robin Schrer paid tribute to campaign chairmen Josh Seshold and Daniel Rosenstein….”It was all down to them. They did excellently. I am proud of the work they put in.” In his speech, proposing an amendment to tone down the motion’s anti-Israel language and to twin Manchester University with the Hebrew University instead of Nablus’ Al-Najah University, Mr Seshold pointed out that the Palestinian university’s freshers’ packs praised suicide bombers.
The J-Soc amendment was passed and the Socialist Workers’ motion was narrowly defeated.
Tom Gogola, writing for the progressive altweekly, the New Haven Advocate, provides the backstory for a split in the Connecticut anti-war movement that led to two separate protests:
Seems that the group called CT United For Peace was planning an antiwar rally in New Haven on March 18, on the third anniversary of Bush’s Iraq war, and a couple of champions of Palestinian rights wanted to include in the platform a demand that Israel get out of Palestine. A colleague relates that “pro-Israel peaceniks went to a planning meeting to argue against that, but lost.”
The result was predictable. Now instead of one unified antiwar march, there are going to be two marches. One on the 19th in Hartford, under the umbrella of “Connecticut Opposes the War,” which will be an Iraq War-only march that winds up in front of Joe Lieberman’s office. CT United For Peace, meanwhile, is sticking to its plan to march in New Haven on Saturday the 18th, and, the hope is, the Zionist enemy will see the folly of its ways under the crushing weight of these protesters, and will depart Palestine, en masse, by sunset.
Gogola reflects on another anti-war meeting he attended, back in 1991, during the first Gulf War:
I recall being informed that we must fight for gay and lesbian rights, too. Free Mumia, Save the Whales, and Stop this Racist War. It was all of a piece. I was the only person in the room who objected. I objected because this was about stopping a war not about indoctrinating people…I was informed I didn’t understand that all the issues were related; my racism kept me from seeing how police brutality was connected to Big Oil.
As we approach this miserable anniversary, the situation now unfolding in Connecticut is a little different from the scenario I described above, but the issue remains the same: A Left that insists on hauling every cause into its antiwar march won’t be changing anybody’s mind….Which issues are the proper ones to link back to the war? The March 19 activists are making the point that the money being blown in Iraq should instead be used to “fund health care, education and housing,” and that’s a pitch-perfect way to lay bare the very real connections between the war and Bush’s disaster of a domestic policy.
Progressives around the country are looking to these activists to show some unified defiance against [Senator Joseph Lieberman], and instead what they’re getting is pigheaded grandstanding over Israel.
And on the day of the protest:
Local Jewish antiwar activist Hannah Schwartz was cruising the lit area …. Hannah was apoplectic over the imbalance at this rally between critiques of Palestinian terrorism and Israeli police-state tactics. She sees those Rachel Corrie postcards and wants to know where the equivalent postcards are that tell of how young Israelis face death every day on the beach, on the bus, in the clubs. She is critical of Israel, she said, “but it’s all just so one-sided here.”
Walter Zielinski was looking for the march when I stopped him at the corner of Church and Elm streets. I asked him what Zionism is Fascism, which was written on his sign, had to do with stopping the war in Iraq. He laid it out in a self-assured gush: Douglas Feith, the neocon agenda, Israel First, Saddam must go, the war is bad. Along those lines. “Israel has long wanted to invade Iraq,” he said, adding that he believes “the state of Israel should be de-Zionized, and there should be full equality between the Palestinians and Israelis.”
Unfortunately, to many people, the word “Zionist” is simply another way of saying “Jewish,” even if Zionism refers to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, and isn’t just a stand-in word for “Jew.” As these marchers (and, come to think of it, Chaim Potok’s novels) have demonstrated, you can be a Jew and not be a Zionist. The distinction, let’s face it, is totally lost on many people. But it’s also true that the belief that supporting an Israeli state is per se “fascism” skirts dangerously close to outright anti-Semitism.
Doug Lieb, a senior editor at the Harvard International Review, weighs in on the controversy surrounding Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s paper on the Israel Lobby:
Academics will usually accept all the press they can get. But it’s never good to make headlines because David Duke has declared his support for your position.
The popular debate is sure to be vitriolic, and it may be marked by charges of anti-Semitism even though Mearsheimer and Walt differentiate the pro-Israel lobby from the sort of sinister “Jewish conspiracy” that is the favorite bogeyman of anti-Semites.
What’s already being overlooked in the nascent controversy over the paper is its importance for decades-old debates in the international relations literature. John Mearsheimer is an arch-realist, the dean of the theoretical movement that conceives of states as unitary actors pursuing survival in an anarchic international system. Walt is also a realist, although perhaps a less traditional one. Their argument in “The Israel Lobby” explicitly contravenes one of realism’s central assumptions: that states are unitary, rational actors whose domestic politics are largely irrelevant since basic security concerns dominate international interactions. This paper makes a fundamentally anti-realist argument. In fact, Mearsheimer and Walt seem to object to US policy toward Israel precisely because the policy contradicts realist expectations by, in their view, elevating domestic political considerations above more basic strategic goals.
Mearsheimer and Walt aren’t making a new point about Israel. But they are making a break from a very important set of ideas with which they’ve long been closely identified. Let’s not allow David Duke to distract us from that.
Hey, thanks for that, Doug. By all means, let’s not allow the controversy surrounding an error-laden research paper claiming that a powerful Jewish cabal controls U.S. foreign policy to distract us from appreciating this significant leap forward in realist thought.
From where I’m sitting, the Walt and Mearsheimer paper is the primal scream of two political thinkers striving to rationalize events that don’t properly synch with their worldview. From their perspective, states are rational actors that act in their best self-interest. But, in their view, the invasion of Iraq was not a rational decision. U.S. support for Israel is not a rational decision. So, how best to rationalize this irrational behavior? Clearly, there must be some other actor that is distorting the decision-making process. Enter, the Lobby.
Over at Engage, Robert Fine at Warwick University nails it:
It would seem that this article has no merit beyond that of translating into one academically authenticated product all the conspiratorial clichés of a demonic power exercising its evil behind the scenes. Originality – zero; evidential base – very weak (despite 211 footnotes in the original article); theoretical framework – immediately disposable.
Professor Mearsheimer is a leading representative of neo-realism within the field of International Relations and a public critic of the war in Iraq. The basis of his criticism lies in the theory of ‘offensive realism’ he has postulated. It is that great powers do recognize or should recognize that the best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony by behaving aggressively and eliminating any possibility of a challenge by another great power. He believes that great powers do seek or should seek regional rather than global hegemony, that is, hegemony within their own back yard, since global hegemony is not feasible despite current illusions about the US, and that they should act in other regions only as ‘offshore balancers’ to prevent other states (say China today) from becoming regional hegemons. He sees great powers as rational actors within an anarchic system in which all great powers have military capability and states can never be certain about the intentions of other states. If then the US does not act rationally, according to the tenets of this theory, there must be something else that explains its foolish state behavior. In this case it is the Lobby. It’s a bit like the planet that you cannot see with any telescope but you know it must be there because of a wobble in another planet.
He has described Iraq as an ‘unnecessary war’ since Saddam was already ‘in a box’ and posed no threat to US interests. He refers back to the founder of realism, Hans Morgenthau, as his inspiration and cites Morgenthau’s opposition on realist grounds to the war in Vietnam in the 1960s as a precedent for his opposition to the Iraq war. His prescription: pull troops out of Europe even though he believes peace in Western Europe was possible only thanks to American military presence; keep troops in Asia to contain the rise of China; give up the pretension of the US to play the peace-keeper around the globe, including the Middle East; act as ‘offshore balancer’, not world policeman. He paints the picture of a battle between the realists and neo-conservatism in which the realists are the real representatives of American power and interest while the neo-cons are in the thrall of self-delusion and the Lobby. Realism constitutes for him the prudent, patriotic, liberal alternative to the failing Bush doctrine of military power over diplomacy and its blind faith in the domino effect that democracy imposed in Iraq will lead to democracy everywhere in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, true to script, Mearsheimer and Walt are reacting to the controversy by playing the role of academic martyrs pilloried for joining the ranks of those who dare to speak out:
“We fully recognised that the lobby would retaliate against us,” Prof. Mearsheimer told IPS. “We expected the story we told in the piece would apply to us after it was published. We are not surprised that we’ve come under attack by the lobby…It was clear to us that many people understood the problem that we describe in the piece but were afraid to talk about it… because the lobby would retaliate.”
Share the love, and be sure to check out Zombietime’s amusing on-the-scene photographic report of the March 18th Global Day of Action rally in San Francisco.
Karl Pfeifer reports that the Italian Communist Party (PCI)–which recently burned Israeli flags at a campaign rally–has now published this cartoon (depicting a ballot sheet) in their newspaper, Liberazione: “We see the Tiara of the Pope, the USA flag, the Magen David and finally the Rifondazione logo. What has the Magen David to do with the Italian elections? There are 57 million Italians and 30,000 of them are Jews. What does PCI suggest? That only the communists are an Italian party? That there is an Italian party which is Jewish or is serving Jewish or Israeli interests? “