It Takes Two Sides to Achieve Two States, or Why Mearsheimer Is Wrong on Israel

If John Mearsheimer actually cares a whit about Israel, why does he admire so many people who want it to disappear?
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

You have to hand it to John Mearsheimer.

Just when you think he can't outdo himself for shoddy scholarship and sheer chutzpah, he surprises.

His co-authored screed on the "Israel Lobby," replete with dark images of a conspiracy perpetrated on American foreign policy by sinister pro-Israel forces, was bad enough. Reviews were scathing, and rightly so.

Now Mearsheimer has reached new heights of ignorance and ignominy.

His April 29th speech to the Palestine Center in Washington is a must-read for its misinformed, misguided, and mendacious outlook.

Posing as a Middle East maven, he catered to his audience, liberally sprinkling his remarks with defamatory references to Israeli policy. Israel was accused of everything from "massacres" to "brutal assaults," from "massive cleansing" to "racism," from "apartheid" to "colonization."

For Mearsheimer, the historical narrative is straightforward. It's all about Zionist "expansionism" stifling the quest for peace and human dignity. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are nothing more than unfortunate pawns in the Israeli power play, with no control over their own destiny and, heaven forbid, no responsibility for their own predicament.

Mearsheimer refuses to acknowledge that it takes two sides to achieve two states.

Missing, therefore, from his tedious and repetitive text are any references whatsoever to the 1947 Partition Plan, which proposed a two-state solution to the competing claims of Jewish and Arab nationalism - rejected by the Arab side - or the subsequent Arab declaration of war on the fledgling state of Israel the next year.

Is there a war in history which did not produce a stream of refugees? Of course, for Mearsheimer, the responsibility lies solely on Israel's shoulders, even though the Arab side started the war. And don't hold your breath for any mention of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. That would disturb Mearsheimer's idée fixe.

He also entirely ignores how Israel acquired the West Bank and Gaza - the Six-Day War, which threatened Israel's destruction - and subsequent peacemaking efforts along the way.

For instance, he notes that Prime Minister Barak "seriously flirted with the idea of creating a Palestinian state at Camp David in July 2000," but never explains why it did not come to pass. President Clinton has provided the answer: Arafat was to blame.

Referring to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni), Mearsheimer asserts, "It is by no means clear that either of them would be willing or able to make the concessions that would be necessary to create a legitimate Palestinian state. Certainly, Olmert did not do so when he was prime minister."

Really? According to none other than Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat, Olmert offered a remarkable deal in 2008, including a shared Jerusalem and territory equaling 100 percent of the West Bank. Like the Clinton-Barak offer of 2000, it was turned down by the Palestinian side.

In other words, Mearsheimer, so eager to protect his airtight narrative of a bellicose Israel uninterested in a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians, simply glides past all evidence to the contrary, including surveys of Israeli public opinion that regularly reaffirm support for a two-state accord.

Here is his assessment of the current state of affairs: "The Palestinians are badly divided among themselves and not in a good position to make a deal with Israel and then stick to it." That sounds reasonable, even if he never once mentions Hamas by name or the nature of the PA-Hamas conflict. But then there's the very next sentence: "That problem is fixable with time and help from Israel and the United States." Once again, the onus is on Israel, not the Palestinians, to sort out an internecine Palestinian dispute that has endured for years.

And speaking of Hamas, notably absent from Mearsheimer's speech is a single mention of Israel's security environment. In his world, there are no Hamas tunnels, rockets, and mortars; no Hezbollah arsenal; no Iranian nuclear program; no Syrian arms transfers; no al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades; and no Palestinian incitement against Israel, Zionism, or Jews.

No, those things presumably don't exist in Mearsheimer's mind. Perhaps they are just figments of the Israeli imagination, or are inflated by Israel to divert attention from its "refusal" to countenance a peace deal, or have no relevance to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

So how does Israel get away with it? Again, for Mearsheimer, the answer is clear-cut. Diabolical forces at play in the United States protect Israel. Who might they be? Christian Zionists, he claims, coupled with a group he maliciously dubs the "new Afrikaners" - Jews in the U.S. who have "blind loyalty" to Israel, "will back Israel no matter what it does," and who will "convince themselves and others that Israel is not an apartheid state."

Well, I may have missed out on President Nixon's enemies' list, but I made Mearsheimer's, and I consider it a badge of honor, irrespective of what slur he uses. And since he lumps together everyone who dares to stand up for Israel's right to exist and defend itself, including many who actively support a two-state deal, the company is quite illustrious.

It includes, for example, Lester Crown and Mort Zuckerman. In 2005, they helped raise funds to purchase greenhouses in Gaza and, in the wake of Israel's unilateral withdrawal, present them as a goodwill gift to local Gazans. The gesture was meant to protect 3,500 jobs and boost the economy. Instead, the greenhouses quickly became targets of Palestinian violence and looting.

It's even more illuminating to see who made Mearsheimer's list of "righteous Jews" in his outrageous "selection" process.

In 2007, Mearsheimer and co-author Stephen Walt claimed to be "'pro-Israel,' in the sense that we support its right to exist, admire its many achievements, want its citizens to enjoy secure and prosperous lives, and believe that the United States should come to Israel's aid if its survival is in danger."

Perplexing, then, that the Jews who made Mearsheimer's cut - and merit his applause - include:

Noam Chomsky, who said of Israel's creation, "I think that a socialist binationalist position was correct then [in 1947], and remains so today." Chomsky has also said that Hezbollah, a group that calls for Israel's destruction and doesn't much love Jews, either, has a "reasoned" and "persuasive" case for keeping its arsenal of missiles.

Richard Falk, who wrote of the Second Intifada, "Suicide bombers appeared as the only means still available by which to inflict sufficient harm on Israel so that the struggle could go on."

Tony Judt, who asserted, "Israel, in short, is an anachronism."

Sara Roy, whose review of a new book about Hamas was rejected by The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs because, according to the editor-in-chief, "all reviewers found the piece one-sided" in favor of Hamas.

Philip Weiss, who proclaims that "My feelings are not neutral about Zionism; I don't like it."

And the list goes on.

If John Mearsheimer actually cares a whit about Israel, why does he admire so many people who want it to disappear?

Mearsheimer has long ago lost any semblance of academic stature on the Middle East - if he ever had it. Instead, he has turned himself into a maniacally obsessed cheerleader for the most rabid anti-Israel voices.

Fortunately, his impact on the real Middle East is nil.

But tragically, his impact on impressionable students passing through his university classroom is daily.

Before You Go

Popular in the Community