- By David RothkopfDavid Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017.
Stephen Walt is another blogger on this site. So now we share two publishers. The other one we share, Farrar Straus & Giroux, published my last book and is publishing my next one and also published his book The Israel Lobby. As a consequence of this proximity, I followed the launch of that book and the hubbub over its stunning finding that there was an organized effort in the United States to promote America’s support of Israel.
Upon this banal, dog-bites-man foundation, was built a frail intellectual framework arguing that America actually did not really have a strategic interest in maintaining close ties with Israel and supporting her and that we would actually be better off backing away from that relationship which had, in the eyes of Walt and his coauthor John Mearsheimer, become a liability. Walt continues his, how shall I put it, crusade?, jihad?…against this nefarious lobby and U.S. support for Israel on this website. He has sketched out a thought experiment in which he posits what might happen were it a few orthodox Jews fighting for their freedom in Gaza rather than the Palestinians. He has quoted George Orwell to make the point that he feels we are overlooking Israeli abuses against the Palestinians. He has suggested that the media is making Israel’s case for it. (Please let me know where I can tune in to that. Mostly I get the opposite. Sometimes I think, the BBC ought to rename itself Death-to-Israel TV. I am often glad my college French is not good enough to watch the nightly news from Paris.)
In short, he has become as biased a pleader of special interests as he accuses the Israel Lobby of being. And as such he has become a member of the anti-Israel Lobby, a group that is every bit as vocal and at the moment seems to be even more empowered than the its counterpart. Members include Jimmy Carter and his former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, celebrity activists like Richard Gere, and many members of the media. Like the members of the Israel Lobby, they found their case on some very reasonable assertions. The Palestinians should have a state of their own and their plight is dismal. It is also a terrible tragedy that so many are the innocent victims of the conflict between Israel and, at the moment, Hamas.
But just as proponents of a strong U.S. relationship with Israel would do well to realize the damage that has been done to Israel’s case by over-aggressive actions (most egregiously those associated with the brutal and mismanaged invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s), proponents of the Palestinian cause would do well to recognize that is grotesquely counter-productive to explicitly or implicitly support the leadership or the interests of Hamas, Iranian-backed terrorists who have violated their public trust with the Palestinian people by both failing to serve their basic needs and actively choosing to put them at mortal risk.
You want a thought experiment? What if Palestinian "freedom fighters" indiscriminately launched missiles into Israel, failing to kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people only through ineptitude, and then they rushed back into densely populated civilian areas and hid behind women and children for cover? Of course, my thought experiment is even more worth thinking about for reasons that should starkly apparent to everyone, regardless of which lobby they may support.
Or what if the extremist leaders of Iran, avowed enemies of the United States and Israel, spent millions to support a terrorist group that sought to conduct a hostile political takeover of Lebanon and use it as a base to support elements of the ruling party in the Palestinian territories that viewed itself primarily as an agent for the destruction of Israel? Or what if the costs of continued conflict for the Palestinians, the Israelis, the United States, and the region were so high in human and economic terms, that all sides recognized that it was in their interests to combat the polarization of views that has protracted the conflict and work on implementing the end-state that virtually all have agreed is the only sustainable option: two countries, an internationally protected border, and a shift of focus from war to the kind of economic growth that is the ultimate peacekeeper.