Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mearsheimer and Walt; censored by the Jewish Lobby again

Jay Solomon reports on controversy over a planned speech.The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has canceled a September speech on U.S.-Israel relations and Washington's pro-Israel lobby by two prominent U.S. political scientists.

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were scheduled to use the Sept. 27 address to outline their upcoming book, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," which is expected to be released by Farrar, Straus & Giroux early next month. But the president of the Chicago Council, Marshall Bouton, canceled the event under pressure from critics who were uncomfortable with the academics' arguments, according to a letter drafted by Mearsheimer and Walt to the Council's board.

These opponents of the event argued that the two political scientists could only address the Chicago Council if someone from the opposing side, "such as Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, concurrently appeared on stage with the authors. "One might argue that our views are too controversial to be presented on their own," Mearsheimer and Walt wrote. "However, they are seen as controversial only because some of the groups and individuals that we criticized in our original article have misrepresented what we said."

Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, and Walt, on the faculty at Harvard, set off a political firestorm last year when they penned an article for the London Review of Books, called the "Israel Lobby," that argued pro-Israel interest groups had distorted U.S. policies in the Middle East. They also argued that these groups played a central role in promoting the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq.

Since the original article appeared in March 2006, the two academics have appeared at a number of ventures to explain their views, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Press Club and Georgetown University. But a number of leading Jewish-American organizations, such as the ADF and the American Jewish Congress, have consistently charged that Mearsheimer's and Walt's views are anti-Semitic and overemphasize the power of the pro-Israel lobby. Mearsheimer and Walt deny being anti-Semites and said the charges are designed "to discourage respected organizations like the Council from giving us an audience."

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