A paper recently co-authored by the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government about the allegedly far-reaching influence of an "Israel lobby" is winning praise from white supremacist David Duke.
The Palestine Liberation Organization mission to Washington is distributing the paper, which also is being hailed by a senior member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization.
But the paper, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," by the Kennedy School's Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, is meeting with a more critical reception from many of those it names as part of the lobby. The 83-page "working paper" claims a network of journalists, think tanks, lobbyists, and largely Jewish officials have seized the foreign policy debate and manipulated America to invade Iraq. Included in this network, the authors say, are the editors of the New York Times, the scholars at the Brookings Institution, students at Columbia, "pro-Israel" senior officials in the executive branch, and "neoconservative gentiles" including columnist George Will.
Duke, a former Louisiana state legislator and one-time Ku Klux Klan leader, called the paper "a great step forward," but he said he was "surprised" that the Kennedy School would publish the report.
"I have read about the report and read one summary already, and I am surprised how excellent it is," he said in an e-mail. "It is quite satisfying to see a body in the premier American University essentially come out and validate every major point I have been making since even before the war even started." Duke added that "the task before us is to wrest control of America's foreign policy and critical junctures of media from the Jewish extremist Neocons that seek to lead us into what they expectantly call World War IV."
Mr. Walt said last night, "I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world."
"I think that the people who wrote that report were working for the interest of the American people," a senior member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's guidance council, Abdulmo'em Abulfotah, said yesterday. "I ask a question here: Is it in the interest of the American people to clash with 1.3 billion people in favor of 5 million people who represent the Zionist project? Not even the Jews, but the Zionists."
The Kennedy School published the essay nearly a month before a trial is scheduled to begin of two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Keith Weissman and Steve Rosen, on charges that they conspired to leak classified material to an American journalist and an Israeli diplomat. But it also comes as public support for the Iraq war has ebbed to new lows. Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt argue that "neoconservatives" in particular launched a "campaign to manipulate intelligence" that led to that war.
While the arguments in Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt's paper are hardly new - allegations of dual loyalty have flitted about the Internet since before the war, and the left-wing press in particular has focused on the role of the Pentagon in making the case for the war - the fact that these points are now being made by such establishment thinkers has raised concern among Israel's friends in America and cheers from their adversaries.
"The content is not significant. Those seeking to damage the U.S.-Israel relationship have been saying this for a while. The fact that it carries the imprimatur of the Harvard Kennedy School is. Those that don't know better would assume it has validity, when it doesn't," the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said.
A professor at Harvard Law School, Alan Dershowitz, whom the authors call an "apologist" for Israel, said he found much of the paper to be "trash." He said, "It could have been written by Pat Buchanan, by David Duke, Noam Chomsky, and some of the less intelligent members of Hamas. An intelligent member of Hamas would not have made these mistakes."
Those mistakes for Mr. Dershowitz include, for example, the assertion that "There is no question, for example, that many Al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians," which Mr. Dershowitz says "is just absurd."
Mr. Dershowitz was particularly troubled by the claim in the paper that Israeli "citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship." He pointed out that the authors had conflated Israel's law of return with its criteria for citizenship. "That's right from the neo Nazi Web sites. Anybody can be a citizen of Israel. He confuses the law of return for the criteria for citizenship. He never mentions that a Jew cannot be a citizen in Jordan and Saudi Arabia," Mr. Dershowitz said.
Mr. Walt said on this citizenship point last night that he wanted to check into it. "We were not writing on Saudi Arabia and Jordan," he said.
Mr. Dershowitz also objected to the paper's claim that the 2000 Oslo offer to Yasser Arafat would have created "Bantustans." Mr. Dershowitz said, "They should talk to President Clinton about that. The West Bank territory would have been completely contiguous."
"What he is saying is, 'some of my best lobbyists are Jews. Don't confuse what we are saying with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,'" Mr. Dershowitz said. "Sorry, but it sounds very similar to me. The only difference is the Protocols are a forgery, but this is actually written by two bigots."
The authors attempt to distinguish their argument from that of classical anti-Semites, writing at one point, "there is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway U.S policy towards Israel. The Lobby's activities are not the sort of conspiracy depicted in anti-Semitic tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion." At another point, the authors distance themselves from the president of Iran by writing, "Israel's survival is not in doubt - even if some Islamic extremists make outrageous and unrealistic references to 'wiping it off the map.'"
Yet the paper also refers to "the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby." It says, "Were it not for the Lobby's ability to manipulate the American political system, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be far less intimate than it is today."
"AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress," says the paper, which also accuses "the Lobby" of "manipulating the media" and being "a critical element" in the American decision to attack Iraq in March 2003.
A retired lecturer at Harvard, Martin Peretz, who is editor of The New Republic, a magazine named in the report as one of those that "zealously defend Israel at every turn," said, "It is easier to attribute disloyalty to Jews than to question the loyalty of Islamists. This is really questioning the loyalty of Jews, that is what this is about. Everyone is looped in, even people who are a little dicey about Israel like Aaron David Miller and Howard Dean. This goes from the lobby in capital letters, from Jerry Falwell to every left wing Jewish Democrat in the House. It is the imagining of a wall to wall conspiracy and therefore it's nutsy."
The executive director of the Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting in America, Andrea Levin, said yesterday that she would be asking the Kennedy School to withdraw the paper because it failed to meet academic standards. She said the paper relied too much on "new historians," a group of Israeli academics who have been critical of the founding of Israel. She called them "a thoroughly discredited lot." She also said the authors wrongly say that her group organized a rally in front of the Boston affiliate of national public radio.
One of the claims in the paper is that "The Lobby's goals are also served when pro-Israel individuals occupy important positions in the executive branch." To prove this point they point to a former Aipac official, Martin Indyk's high positions in the Clinton administration and the fact that Dennis Ross left government service in 2001 to join the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This list of these pro-Israel officials also included Mr. Ross's former deputy Aaron Miller, who they point out "has lived in Israel and often visits there."
Mr. Miller, who wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post in 2005 complaining that during the 2000 failed peace negotiations he helped broker, American diplomats often served as "Israel's lawyer," differed with Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer. "The lobby has an important influence but not control. On issues related to assistance for Israel there is no question the organized Jewish community has a profound impact," Mr. Miller said. "The argument breaks down when he says the Jewish lobby is somehow responsible for Iraq." Mr. Miller added that the pro-Israel lobby is not powerful enough to influence the executive branch in the manner in which Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt say.
Another way the authors say the Israel lobby exercises influence is through think tanks. Under the subchapter heading "Think Tanks that Think One Way," the authors say, "Pro Israel forces have established a commanding presence at the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Security Policy, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)."
The president of the Hudson Institute, Herbert London, said the notion that his institution had a standard line on American policy to Israel "was patently absurd." He pointed out that a senior fellow at his institute was the former director of the National Security Agency, William Odom, who has not only been a vociferous critic of Israel but also the Iraq war.
"The Saudis want to express an opinion, I don't object. People have the right to express their opinions," Mr. London said. "They don't have anything to say about how the Saudis try to influence opinion in think tanks, universities, and corporations."
In December of 2005 Harvard announced it had received a $20 million gift from a Saudi prince, Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud.
A former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Morris Amitay, who is quoted in the Kennedy School paper, minimized the document's significance. "I would be worried if Henry Kissinger was saying this. But who are these guys?" Mr. Amitay said. "As far as I'm concerned this is a tribute to the Jewish community. We couldn't do anything about Auschwitz, but look, we now control foreign policy for a region of the world so vital to American interests."
Meghan Clyne and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.