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In The Lobby

In The Lobby

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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I'm always afraid to type in "Israel Lobby" to my computer for fear of what I'll see. Mania on the left and the right. Anti-Semitism, accusations of anti-Semitism. Charges of stifling the debate, debates that are hardly debates at all. But amongst all that sound and fury, the conversation does, for sure, signify something. The issue reached a fever pitch last year with the publication of a paper by two prominent academics — John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt — called "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." They've turned the paper into a book now, and claim, that whether or not you agree with their thesis, it's important to talk freely about the unique relationship between the United States and Israel. We agree. John Mearsheimer will be on today, as will Aaron David Miller to critique him. We're interested in your perceptions of this troublesome issue, and why it raises our blood pressure to talk about it.



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I am an Iranian-American and thanks to the crazy Iranian president's recent remarks about Israel, any criticism of Israel and its policies I may offer is always categorized by others as anti-Semitic remarks and that pains me greatly. Having grown up in Iran, I cherish my freedom of speech here in America. And it pains me that I cannot exercise my right to criticize Israel's policies without being accused of the most despicable things, such as anti-Semitism.

The American people (myself included) by and large support the existence of Israel. But that right to exists is not a carte blanche to do just about anything. Moreover, I often criticize the Iranian president and president Bush - how come that doesn't make me an anti-Persian or an anti-American, but criticizing Israel on the most general terms is still taboo?! So much for freedom of speech...

Sent by Sammi Malek | 2:29 PM | 9-20-2007

As if to prove Mearsheimer and Walt's thesis, public radio caves by "balancing" the authors' views with comments from a critic. No balance is needed here; the views of M&W's critics suffuses the airwaves. Can't you just a give a full segment to Prof. Mearsheimer without bringing on an "official" critic based in Maine, apparently to placate or pre-empt the Lobby? Seems only days ago I heard Terry Gross was to balance a discussion of this kind with comments from Abraham Foxman of the ADL. That was even worse caving, but what you're doing this afternoon is pretty stinky too.

Sent by Jack Spula | 2:30 PM | 9-20-2007

Thanks for showing courage for airing this interview. I know you will get thousands of calls criticizing this show so Kudos again for showing strength!

Sent by sam madino | 2:35 PM | 9-20-2007

I agree....these gentlemen and Jimmy Carter are not anti-Semites. They are just your "run of the mill" leftists who believe in peace at all costs, even if it involves surrender and anniliation.

Sent by Wayne | 2:36 PM | 9-20-2007

Pundits and politicians often cite Iraq's refusal to abide by UN Security Council resolutions as a justification for attacking it. I wonder if someone would dare to comment on the failure of Israel to refuse to abide by various UN resolutions? Thank you, Patty in Portland

Sent by Patty | 2:37 PM | 9-20-2007

Great show! Mearsheimer is a true patriot!

Sent by Roy Schickedanz | 2:40 PM | 9-20-2007

Regarding the accusation that supporters of Israel were responsible for the war in Iraq, please note that the one document to escape the secrecy of the energy conference during the first Bush Administration was a map of Iraq that displayed all of the oil installations in that country. For my source, I quote Al Gore on Charlie Rose a few months ago. It is clear that greed for oil was the main inspiration for the Iraq war and not the "Israel Lobby."

Sent by Judy Stoll | 5:07 PM | 9-20-2007

Your anti-Mearsheimer "counter balance" person on the show said that the US uses many factors to decide on its Middle East policy, even when it involves Israel. Really?

Show of hands: name one time the US opposed a wish of Israel anywhere - the UN, the Congress.

Isn't that a little strange if the US is following its own best interests that it NEVER opposed an Israeli position?

We go against the positions of all other governments, even allies like the UK, when it's felt US interests are not being served.

Go read Paul Findley's book, "They Dared to Speak Out" about how the Lobby performs career assassination of any journalist, media person, or politician who dares to have a slightly different position than the Israeli lobby.

Ex-Congressman Findley should know. They bumped him off.

Isn't it treason when citizens and Congress put the interests of foreign country over America?

Good for NPR educating the public on this forbidden subject!


Sent by Felix | 5:18 PM | 9-20-2007

An important clarification from a "Christian Scientist". Mearsheimer referred to a strong pro-Israel lobby that call themselves "Christian Scientists". There is a group that has begun using that name on-line, but the thousands of Christian Scientists who are members of the non-political Christian Science church (The First Church of Christ, Scientist), headquartered in Boston would like a distinction to be made. This is important, given the world-reknowned newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, as well. Thank you.

Sent by Kathryn Hosmer Thompson | 6:11 PM | 9-20-2007

Yes, one should be able to criticize Israel, but it is remarkable how critics of Israel show such hostility to it, such as the two writers on your station and the many people who called in afterward. Never mentioned is the small size of Israel, its isolated position as a democracy in the midst of one of the most backward and repressive (especially towards women) areas in the world, and the continual wars it has been forced to fight to exist (after the Jews were almost exterminated completely in Europe by Christians). How about the Barak peace plan in which Israel agreed to give up the West Bank and Gaza, which was refused by Arafat? It may make a liberal station feel better to wail about the poor oppressed Palestinians - until they (as they state they would like to push Jews into the sea), capture the pre-67 Israel(kill Jews willy nilly), and rename Israel, Palestine.

Sent by Susan | 6:13 PM | 9-20-2007

"thanks to the crazy Iranian president's recent remarks about Israel..."--post #1

If only this vitriolic, genocidal hate speech were confined to President Ahmedjinad. Unfortunately, his words are shared by HAMAS, Hezbollah, Al Queda, and other jihadists around the world. I hope someone is able to assure me these groups would never actually "wipe Israel off the map" if handed an errant nuclear device. (Israel is already off all offical maps in the middle east.)

In light of this, I think it is quite callous of TOTN not to let the pro-Israel opinion be heard. In fact, the main issue was skirted entirely, namely WHY Mearsheimer & President Carter's books are being contested. These charges were not stated and instead were shrugged off by guests and callers alike. Can anyone quote a Palestinian leader who has spoken like a true man or woman of peace? Does anyone remember what that sounds like?

Sent by marjorie pivar | 6:43 PM | 9-20-2007

Fair criticism of Israel is a necessary thing.

Unfair criticism is not helpful,

Bearing false witness is all together another thing!

At least Mearsheimer and Carter should admit they represent the Arab point of view exclusively.

Sent by Chantal | 9:22 PM | 9-20-2007

To prove his point, Meersheimer mentioned Congressman Jim Moran's (D-VA) recent interview with the magazine Tikkun where Moran mentioned the influence of the Israel lobby. On CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, reporter Brian Todd framed the story with a "Boy, is Moran going to get it now." slant. Of all the hundreds of lobbies in Washington what other lobby, save Israel's, would garner that kind of respect? (fyi, Moran lost his seat in the Dem inner sanctum the previous time he transgressed.)

Sent by Dick Kaiser | 12:11 AM | 9-21-2007

Sammi Malek: your experience is not unique to Iranian-Americans, or due to the remarks of Ahmadinejad. I'm a 4th-generation European-American, and any attempt on my part to set the facts straight about the history of Israel (for example, referencing the research of Benny Morris) is met with accusations of antisemitism. The fervor is so great that I've been accused of antisemitism for spelling the word with a hyphen. In short, it matters not who you are, criticism of Likudnik Israel will not be tolerated.

Sent by Jimmy Havok | 2:51 AM | 9-21-2007

The defenders of Israel are probably unaware that the Arab League has made a very clear offer of peace to Israel, requiring only that they be satisfied with their pre-'67 borders, since it has gotten very little notice in the media.

Sent by Jimmy Havok | 2:26 PM | 9-22-2007

M&W's fundamental point in their criticisms of the Lobby is that its aims and goals are not PRO-AMERICAN. That is, our blind and stalwart support of Israel sometimes turns out to be to OUR detriment, not the detriment of Jews, Arabs, Hot dog vendors, Joe Blow, etc... It has nothing to do with being Pro or Anti Arab. That would be to take an Israeli or Israeli sympathizing view of their critiques in light of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Get over yourself, and Israel, this is a dialogue about American interests in the Middle East in general, free from the "special" meddling or guidance of one specific set of outside interests (i.e. the Pro Israeli). Why not let America do the best for America, while being fair and balanced about Israeli, Arab, or Lithuanian policies alike. One last point, when people talk of Hamas or Hezbollah, etc...let's remember how they started as well as who started Likud and what his previous job title was. Menachem Begin was a Polish army deserter in WWII who founded the Irgun -- a jewish terrorist organization that committed acts of terrorism in the hopes of achieving Zionist political goals in the early days of Israel. Pot calling the kettle black in a historical sense.

Sent by E | 4:47 AM | 9-28-2007