Who is Stephen Walt?

I'll get around to answering Stephen Walt's latest fantastical assertion -- that the Arab states have no effective lobby in Washington -- in a little while, but any number of Goldblog readers have asked me in recent days to explain Walt's obsession with what he sees as the negative influence many Jews, most Jewish organizations, and the Jewish state, have on Washington. I thought that instead of recapping my New Republic review of Walt's book The Israel Lobby, co-authored with John "I've Got a List of 57 Jews in My Pocket" Mearsheimer, I would just print the whole damn thing on this blog. The review originally ran in the October 8, 2007 number of The New Republic, under the headline "The Usual Suspect." You can read the review on The New Republic website as well. The review extends on this blog into the jump.

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

By John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 484 pp., $26)

In October 2002, Osama bin Laden issued a statement in which he analyzed America's inexhaustible number of sins and prescribed ways of repenting for many of them. The statement was, by the standards of bin Laden's cave encyclicals, unusually coherent. (Unlike, say, his most recent video, released in early September, which ranged across the sub-prime mortgage crisis, America's high rate of taxation, and the work of Noam Chomsky--the latter treated sympathetically, of course.) The 2002 letter laid out in a somewhat deliberate fashion bin Laden's main complaints, and it helped to answer a question that Americans often ask: Do they hate us for who we are, or for what we do?

Bin Laden's answer was, why choose? In his epistle to America, bin Laden asked Americans to submit to Islam, which he called "the religion of showing kindness to others." He excoriated us for our immorality: "We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honor and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants [and] gambling." He condemned us for manufacturing AIDS, which is a "Satanic American Invention." He also declared himself in opposition to the pervasive practice of incest in America, "in the face of which neither your sense of honor nor your laws object." He plangently concluded that "it is saddening to tell you that you are the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind." We are the worst because we "invent" our own laws to govern ourselves, rather than embrace God's law, or more precisely, his God's law, sharia; and because we mandate the separation of religion from politics; and because we allow usury.

The American addiction to usury is most upsetting to bin Laden. As is well known, the charging of interest--at usurious rates or otherwise--is banned by Islam. The institutions of "Islamic banking" were developed to find a way to conform to Islamic law and still prosper. Bin Laden's view of usury, and of Western banking practices, is characteristically unsophisticated. And he has a theory about its historical origins: Western banking is Jewish banking. "As a result of [usury], in all their different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life, making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense."

The Jews, of course, are a preoccupation of bin Laden's. They are an important source of immorality, and, in their union with Christianity--the "Zionist-Crusader alliance" of which he often speaks-- they have for centuries propagated falsehood and heresy. In conjunction with the Christians, the Jews also advocate policies that undermine the interests of Islam. It is not merely American financial and political support for Israel that frustrates bin Laden, but, crucially, America's role in perpetuating the idea that Palestine was once a Jewish homeland, and that the Jews of today are, in fact, proper Jews at all: "It brings us both laughter and tears to see that you have not yet tired of repeating your fabricated lies that the Jews have a historical right to Palestine, as it was promised to them in the Torah."

Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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