An open response to Professors Mearsheimer
and Walt's "The Israel Lobby".
From Maurice Ostroff
May 7, 2006
About the Author
deserve kudos for the time and effort invested in preparing your comprehensive
response to critics. Since the high interest, which your article aroused, is
due mainly to your status as professors at prestigious institutions, I trust
you will not be offended if I, as a simple engineer, take issue with your
your closing comment you claim it will not be possible to develop effective
policies if it is impossible to have a civilized discussion about the role of
Israel in American foreign policy and I hope you will accept this letter in
the constructive spirit intended, as a contribution to a civilized discussion
about the serious dangers facing the USA generally, rather than a narrow
debate confined to the Jewish lobby.
is my belief that scholarly integrity and intellectual honesty require a
readiness to suppress ones biases and to follow the facts wherever they may
lead, taking care not to omit evidence that may contradict preconceived views.
Yet, a suspicion of bias was conveyed when you wrote about relations between
Tel Aviv and Washington, rather than Jerusalem (where Israel’s government is
seated), and Washington.
is also vitally important to place events in their proper context to enable
the reader to evaluate them against the relevant background. Statements
offered as facts should be unambiguously substantiated and a clear distinction
made between facts and opinions with full disclosure of all sources of
information. For example you state
does not deny that his organization, Campus Watch, was created in order to
monitor what academics say, write and teach, so as to discourage them from
engaging in open discourse about the Middle East”.
have no difficulty with your statement that Campus Watch monitors
what academics teach. This is plainly obvious from its name. But in a
scholarly work I would expect you to mention the fact that several Arab
activist organizations perform a similar function and even organize boycotts
to prevent some speakers from appearing on campus. More seriously, I would
expect you to substantiate your serious allegation that the purpose of Campus
Watch is to discourage academics from engaging in open discourse about the
Middle East. If Pipes used those words it would be important to quote them and
the context in which they were said.
would it have been out of place if you had taken a position in the
context of attempts to indoctrinate students, which have become common in
academia and which is the evident raison d’etre of Campus Watch. Certainly
the right of teachers to hold and express political, social, and religious
beliefs is sacrosanct, but there has been a tendency to impose such beliefs on
students to the exclusion of other viewpoints and to introduce them even when
teaching unrelated subjects. There have been reports of students complaining
of intimidation to provide answers in exams, which please the teacher.
Students also complain that they are discouraged from expressing legitimate
views, which conflict with a teacher’s interpretation.
Mission statement of Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) refers for example,
to politically influenced grading, which it says is an abuse common at many
universities, to professors who express unchallengeable partisan or sectarian
passions in the classroom or on campus, and to professors who hold faculty
conferences or “teach-ins” of a one-sided, unchallengeable, partisan or
sectarian nature or who use departmental funds and facilities for politically
partisan or ideologically one-sided events, which SAF says is a routine
occurrence on campuses today.
these circumstances I hope you will agree that Campus Watch is
performing a valuable and much-needed public service.
you, I learned a new word today 'paleo-conservatives. I assume this
means “old conservatives (from the Greek palaeo) as opposed to the neo
conservatives. I regret I do not know much about them but there is much to be
said for the critics who contend that you overlook Arab and Islamic advocacy
groups and the diplomatic establishment.
Your statement that they are no match for the Jewish lobby is not
course there is a Jewish lobby, in fact there are several. Some
even oppose each other. But it is plainly unscholarly to denounce any lobby in
a serious 82 page document, without seriously evaluating its position relative
to the many competing influences, which are integral to the Washington scene.
example, according to Axis Information And Analysis, (Aia), which
specializes in analyzing information about Asia and Eastern Europe, Prince
Bandar Bin Sultan who headed the Saudi embassy in Washington in 1983, was
considered an irreplaceable participant in backstage
intrigues, clandestine negotiations, and billion-dollar deals,
all having to do with US interests in the Middle East,
with broad links among high-ranking officials in the State Department, the
Pentagon, and the CIA. His father, Sultan Bin
Abdul Aziz al Saud, had the
exclusive right to approve or to disapprove any deal with the American
military and aviation industries tied to Riyadh by billion-dollar contracts.
He was a leading figure in the ruling dynasty, which decides
the extent of military cooperation with the United States. In fact Aia rated
Prince Bandar Bin Sultan as almost the most influential foreigner in the USA.
am perplexed by an ambiguity in your letter. You say that you
explicitly stated that the Jewish lobby, by itself, could not convince either
the Clinton or the Bush administration to invade Iraq but that there is
abundant evidence that the neo-conservatives and other groups within the lobby
played a central role in making the case for war. Does the word “within”
imply that the neo-conservatives and unnamed other groups are components of an
all-embracing Jewish lobby?
later in your letter, you claim that were it not for the Jewish lobby,
the US would almost certainly not have gone to war against Iraq in March 2003,
it is highly relevant to mention that according to Aia,
it was Bandar Bin Sultan who in
1990-91, practically pushed President Bush towards the decision to start the
military campaign against Iraq. This crucial information throws an entirely
different light on the influences under which Washington operates unless
perhaps, Bin Sultan was also part of the Jewish lobby.
also refers to U.S.A.-Engage as one of the largest lobbying groups, uniting
640 giants of the American economy (like Boeing, AT&T and Apple), a tenth
of the leading banks, as well as associations of industrialists and farmers.
The most prominent and influential members of U.S.A.-Engage work
almost permanently in the Congress and have great influence over the
mass media (partly because of their advertising
expenditure). Many U.S.A-Engage insiders have their own interests in
the Middle East and an influential section has
close ties to ruling and financial circles in
or not one accepts Michael Moore’s account that 142 Saudis, including 24
members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the USA soon after 9/11
due to special White House treatment, his
claim is as credible and as deserving of mention as your unsubstantiated claim
that the Jewish lobby is all powerful and influences US policy to its
claim that US policy towards Israel contributes to America's terrorism problem
also deserves critical examination. As far back as November 2002, Alex Alexiev
in an article published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon (USCFL)
pointed out that, Riyadh, flush with oil money became the paymaster of most of
the militant Islamic movements which advocate terror. In its aggressive
support for radical Islam, even the most violent of Islamic groups, like
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, receives Saudi largesse.
Saudi sources indicate that between 1975 and 1987, Riyadh's "overseas
development aid" averaged $4 billion per year of which at least $50
billion over two and a half decades financed "Islamic activities”
exclusively. The SAAR Foundation, alone, which has been closed down since 9/11
received $1.7 billion in donations in 1998. Compared to these numbers, the
miniscule Israeli PR budget of about $4million is laughable.
draws attention to the fact that
Islamist and anti-American agendas dominate the majority of Muslim Student
Associations at U.S. colleges. Most of the numerous Islamic centers and
schools are financed by the Saudis who focus on spreading radical Islamic
concepts in the American black community, with a special program to convert
blacks in prison.
addition, there are of course
several Arab American advocacy groups, of which the two most influential are
the Arab American Institute and the recently merged American Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee/National Association of Arab-Americans.
should one ignore the influence of the many other lobbies with which the
Jewish lobby must compete. Though they are not specifically concerned with
Middle East politics they exert varying powerful influences on Washington,
some of which may indirectly affect the Middle East. The American Association
of Retired Persons (AARP) for example, has over 34 million members, whose $10
annual membership fees each, create a mighty financial tool for promoting its
causes in Congress. The ACLU and The National Rifle Association are also
extremely powerful lobbies
original document refers to Ehud Barak’s “purportedly
generous” offer at Camp David, which would have given them only a disarmed
set of Bantustans. Surely you will agree that whether Barak’s offer was
generous or “purportedly generous” is a matter of opinion, which you are
imposing on your readers. As a scholar, I believe you owe it to your readers
to present them with the facts and allow them to form their own opinions.
Your use of the now pejorative term Bantustans would be perfectly
normal in a propaganda leaflet, but I hope that on mature consideration, you
will agree that it is completely unacceptable in a scholarly document.
reject without explanation, Alan Dershowitz’s citation of
statements by Ehud Barak and Dennis Ross and you claim that there are a number
of competing accounts of what happened at Camp David, many of them agreeing
with your claim, but you give no specifics.
need not rely on Israeli sources to try to understand what happened at Camp
David. Here is what an Arab authority, Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, Editor-in-chief
of Asharq Al-Awsat, wrote in 2003 in “Arab View” a credible Arab source,
which publishes leading Middle East journalists and editors.
Arafat refused at the last minute Clinton’s peace project after
going through all the negotiations and receiving most of what he
wanted from Ehud Barak. Arafat thought that it would be better to sign
the peace plan with the next president because Clinton’s second term
was ending. This kind of thinking lost Arafat the deal of a
digging into relevant documentation may have led you to the conclusion that
Arafat had no intention of accepting any offer at Camp David as the subsequent
outbreak of violence had been planned in advance of the talks.
Al-Ayyam, the Palestinian Authority daily newspaper, reported on
December 6, 2000, that Palestinian Minister of Communications Imad el-Falouji
declared that, in accordance with instructions given by Chairman Arafat
himself, the Palestinian Authority had made advance preparations for the
outbreak of the current intifada to begin the moment the Camp David talks
actions appear to be consistent
with Arafat’s barely concealed agenda as revealed by another moderate Arab,
the late Faysal Al-Husseiny, who interpreted the Palestinian actions from
first hand knowledge. He described the Oslo Accords as a Palestinian Trojan
horse and unequivocally declared that the Palestinian Strategic Goal was a
state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. ( Al-Arabi, (Egypt) June
regret that I have difficulty understanding the gist of your
response to Dershowitz about Ben Gurion’s attitude to the use of force. It
is completely unsurprising that while the state-to-be was threatened with
annihilation as soon as born, there was speculation not only by Ben Gurion,
but by countless others all over the world, about the eventual need to use
force if unavoidable. The
statements attributed to Ben Gurion in your following sentence are
unremarkable and it is difficult to understand what you wish the reader to
infer from them.
a number of Israeli historians have shown, Ben-Gurion made numerous statements
about the need to use force (or the threat of overwhelming force) to create a
Jewish state in all of Palestine”
interpretation that Ben-Gurion's subsequent statement, “we should
in no way make it part of our programme” shows that he opposed the
transfer of the Arab population and the 'brutal compulsion' it would entail,
takes the available evidence i.e. Ben Gurion’s words at their face value. On
the other hand, your contention that” Ben-Gurion was not rejecting this
policy: he was simply noting that the Zionists should not openly proclaim
it”, is pure conjecture, in all likelihood influenced by preconceived
cannot help wonder about the source of the claim in your original letter that Contrary
to popular belief, the Zionists had larger, better equipped and better led
forces during the 1947-49 War of Independence. This claim may perhaps be
partially supported in a special 50 year (1948 – 1998)
edition of Al-Ahram Weekly which claimed that
“The combined Arab armies were outnumbered on the battlefield” and
that “On 15 May the total Jewish fighting force comprised 64,000 men armed
with the modern and sophisticated weapons which the Arabs lacked”.
accepting Al Ahram’s exaggerated figure of 64,000 men, intellectual honesty
would require at least a mention of the indisputable fact that the total
Jewish population at the time was only about 600,000 including women,
children, the elderly and invalids who faced the armies of five hostile Arab
countries with a total population of about 50 million. These armies, which
invaded as soon as the state was declared, publicly announced their declared
intention of destroying it. They included the British trained and equipped
Jordanian Legion, the well-equipped Egyptian army, navy and air force and the
armies of Lebanon, Iraq and Syria
“Moshe Dayan a biography”, by N. Lau-Lavie we read
stage when the Jewish population of Palestine numbered about 600,000
its leaders were preparing for the possibility of an armed struggle.
There were now 40,000 men in the Hagana of whom only 1,600 in the
Palmach were well trained. The
arms at their disposal included some 10,000 rifles, less than 500
sub-machine guns, about 125 machine-guns and 4,000 revolvers.
of the Israeli troops were untrained newcomers, who had survived the death
camps, only to be thrown directly into battle.
research shows that the claim that the Israeli army was better equipped is
plainly absurd bearing in mind that until May 15, the British who controlled
Palestine, not only prevented Jews from immigrating, they also prevented Jews
in Palestine from acquiring armaments and confiscated whatever arms they
found. The underground Hagana
self- defense force was severely harassed and light arms including the
unreliable Sten gun, were secretly manufactured underground. The guns, which
Dayan enumerated, were acquired clandestinely.
the content of your article to be understood in context, readers
are entitled to know that on the day Israel declared independence, Arab League
Secretary, Azzam Pasha declared "jihad". He said publicly "This
will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken
of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".
The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini stated, "I declare a holy
war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!"
“The Rabin Memoirs” the late Yitzchak Rabin tells how immediately prior to
the declaration of the state, convoys were organized to try to keep besieged
Jerusalem supplied with food and essentials and how soldiers guarding the
convoys were obliged to conceal their weapons from inquisitive British eyes.
He refers to homemade armored cars quickly improvised at the time. They were
known as “sandwiches” because the amour plating comprised timber between
two sheets of steel, mounted on old trucks.
Some remains of these “sandwiches” which did not make it to
Jerusalem are still to be seen alongside the Tel Aviv Jerusalem highway
preserved as monuments.
, who served in the nascent Israel
Air Force in 1948 and now lives in Netanya, Israel tells that that
on May 10 the "Air Force" comprised two Rapides, a
Fairchild and a Bonanza.
became what was known as a
" on one of the Rapides. The
door of the plane was removed to enable the "chucker
" to lean out and throw the
Israel acquired some critically needed arms and military aircraft
starting with two Spitfires and the three B -17s from Czechoslovakia and
ironically fifteen Messerschmitt
claim that Washington provides Israel with consistent diplomatic support is
also subject to qualification. Contrary
to the thrust of your dissertation, the US like every other country, places
its own interests first. During the cold war, the U.S. under President
Eisenhower sided with Egypt against Israel and pledged military and economic
support to any Middle East nation threatened by communism.
2. Leonard J. Davis and
M. Decter (eds.). Myths and facts 1982; a Concise Record of the Arab-Israeli
Conflict (Washington DC: near east report, 1982), p. 199
1956, Egyptian President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, closed the
Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, cut off Israel's only link to the Red
Sea and encouraged guerrilla raids from the Sinai into Israel.
Britain and France plotted with Israel to regain control of the canal.
Israel successfully invaded Sinai, but the plan for Britain and France to drop
troops into Egypt had to be aborted under US pressure when Eisenhower
threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan to Britain. Moreover, the US
sponsored a U.N. resolution demanding Israel's immediate withdrawal from
Egypt, which was overwhelmingly approved.
refer also to a reply to your paper posted on March 17 by As’ad in The Angry
Arab News Service.
Writing as a minority in the pro-Palestinian camp, he said that you
seem intent on blaming all the ills in US foreign policy on the Israeli lobby
and he points to very serious problems with your assumptions about the Middle
East, adding that those problems should be identified even if one is pleased
with criticisms of Israel and its lobby.
says it was not the "spread of democracy throughout the region" that
inflamed Arab/Muslim opinion, but the very reverse. It was the spread of and
support for tyrannies that inflamed Arab/Muslim opinion. Arab/Muslim opinion
sees what those academics do not see: that the Bush administration, which
enjoys a "permanent friendship" with the likes of the Saudi
government, has not wavered from the long standing US policy of supporting
Arab dictatorship providing they toe the political and economic lines of US
p. 16, there is a disturbing quotation attributed to Morris Amitay.
It speaks of "infiltration", and it underlines the Jewishness of
Hill staffers as if non-Jewish staffers in Congress are any less pro-Israel.
In trying to underline the power of the lobby, As’ad says that you quote
lobby leaders over the years who spoke about the powers of AIPAC. But that is
what lobby leaders, any leaders of any lobby, including the lobby for olive
growers of America, do. They have to brag about and exaggerate their powers.
says those in the pro-Palestinian camp, are so desperate for any
mainstream support for Palestinian rights that they are willing to forgive and
even not notice the problems that some critics of Israel bring with them. He
warns they should be vigilant and not ignore their duty to subject support for
Israel and criticisms of Israel to critical scrutiny “lest the baggage
come back to haunt us.”
referring again to your closing comment that it will not be possible to
develop effective policies if it is impossible to have a civilized discussion
about the role of Israel in American foreign policy, I suggest that by
focusing on Israel only, you are diverting attention from the serious threat
of Muslim extremism and the fear it has generated in the Western world as
evidenced so starkly during the Danish cartoon riots.
Alexiev’s message that the jihad ideology motivating radical-Islamist
terrorism is not only unrepresentative of the Islam practiced by the vast
majority of Muslims, but in many ways runs counter to it should be taken
seriously as should his appeal for support for his group’s campaign to
de-legitimize the extremists. So too should the message conveyed by
pro-Palestinian As’ad be taken seriously.
I ask you again to accept this letter as a constructive
contribution to a civilized discussion about the serious dangers facing the
USA generally, rather than a narrow debate about a Jewish lobby.