In my otherwise not particularly effusive review of the sloppy and tendentious book on the Israel lobby by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt, I was careful to say that while many of the book’s errors and some of its rhetorical patterns mimicked classic anti-Semitic conventions, the book itself offered no proof that the two authors were anti-Semites themselves. You can be honestly mistaken about an important subject without necessarily being a hater.
That judgment still stands re Professor Walt. I think he’s wrong about why American policy is so supportive of Israel, and I think his errors confirm anti-Semites in their prejudices, but I don’t have any reason to go beyond that.
Professor Mearsheimer, however, seems to have danced with the dark side a little more intimately. From Jeff Goldberg over at the Atlantic (and, by the way, if any readers catch themselves thinking that “of course” it would be a Jew who reported this news, you may want to reconsider just how free you are from certain ugly prejudices) comes the news that Professor Mearsheimer has blurbed a genuinely anti-Semitic book by a deeply twisted anti-Semite — who happens also to be Jewish.
The author Mearsheimer endorsed argues among other things that we should re-open the question of whether medieval Jews actually used to kill Christian children and use their blood to make matzo for Passover. He points out that poor Adolf Hitler’s actions against German Jews only came after US Jews called a boycott on German goods following Hitler’s appointment as German Chancellor. Gosh — if it weren’t for those pushy, aggressive Jews and their annoying boycotts, the Holocaust might not have happened!
Or did it happen? Gilad Atzmon thinks we should take another look. Says Atzmon:
I think that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start to ask the necessary questions. We should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws. [emphasis J. Goldberg]
Via Meadia agrees with part of this; Holocaust denial should be fought with argument and evidence rather than laws, and European laws on this topic are misguided. But this is not normally the intellectual company a Distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago is expected to keep.
Writes Professor Mearsheimer about Atzmon’s latest book:
Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it incredibly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their ‘Jewishness.’ Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon’s own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.
Perhaps Professor Mearsheimer hadn’t read the book thoroughly before blurbing it. Perhaps the book itself (which Via Meadia has not read) is less incendiary than some of Mr Atzmon’s other statements, and Professor Mearsheimer did not know the whole story when he agreed to blurb the book. Conceivably, Professor Mearsheimer thought that since he could oppose the Israel lobby without being an anti-Semite, all other critics of Israel were similarly as benign. If there is a good explanation that makes Mr. Mearsheimer look imprudent and unlucky rather than complicit, we will be happy to share it with our readers.
But if the situation is even roughly as Goldberg describes, then Mr. Mearsheimer’s reputation will take another lurch down, and we may even hear some thoughts from Professor Walt about his co-author.
Meanwhile, read Goldberg’s whole post here. He also provides a link to Atzmon’s own website, so you can read his work and decide for yourself what kind of author Professor Mearsheimer has chosen to blurb.