This is how my colleague, Jeffrey Goldberg, describes John Mearsheimer's recent speech on the Israel/Palestine question:
"a forgettable death-to-Israel speech."
If Mearsheimer's speech, which coolly explained why the two-state solution he favors is highly unlikely to occur and that Israel faces a demographic or moral suicide as a Jewish state as a result, then Jeffrey Goldberg's own gesammelte Schriften, making many of the same points over the years, should also be considered "death-to-Israel" doggerel.
The obvious and serious flaw in Mearsheimer's argument, as I noted, is the absence of a deep analysis of Palestinian rejection of a two-state solution and the Palestinian support of those forces that seek to end Israel altogether. He does mention it, but, to my mind, in far too cursory a fashion:
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 problem is fixable with time and help from Israel and the United States. But time has run out and neither Jerusalem nor Washington is likely to provide a helping hand.
His best point here is surely that almost all of the power belongs to Israel and the US at this point, and that Israel's intransigence (and America's long enabling of it) is a more pressing reason behind the impending long-term collapse of the Zionist experiment than Palestinian rejectionism. Agree with this or not, but it seems perfectly plausible to me. Noah Pollak also loses his shit. Take this sentence:
John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future.
In fact, Mearsheimer is clear (read the speech) that the apartheid state he fears is in the future, not now (many Israelis believe the same); and Mearsheimer specifically writes that, contra Pollak, he believes Israel is unlikely to engage in mass deportation any time soon:
That murderous strategy seems unlikely, because it would do enormous damage to Israel's moral fabric, its relationship with Jews in the Diaspora, and its international standing. Israel and its supporters would be treated harshly by history, and it would poison relations with Israel's neighbors for years to come. No genuine friend of Israel could support this policy, which would clearly be a crime against humanity. It also seems unlikely, because most of the 5.5 million Palestinians living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean would put up fierce resistance if Israel tried to expel them from their homes.
My italics. Yes, he thinks that in a future war, such a thing is not inconceivable. But Pollak is unfair to state this as Mearsheimer's main prediction (when, in fact, it is the opposite).
Then there is the hysteria about Mearsheimer's (deliberately?) provocative categorization of three broad camps in the American Jewish community.
Goldblog and others equate this to Father Coughlin's rants in the 1930s. The only problem with this analogy is that Mearsheimer's point is that the hardline neocons are misguided because they are hastening the moral and demographic collapse of Israel, rather than stopping it. So he is not criticizing American Jews for being Jewish or for supporting Israel over America (the "dual loyalty" red herring) but for being, in his view, mistaken in how they believe Israel should be saved. He is criticizing them for blind support, rather than intelligent support, and believes this blind support is actually consigning Israel to a bloody endless war that it cannot fully ever win. And he notes, for good measure, how many leading American Jews dissent from this AIPAC "Israel Is Always Right" line, and how the bulk of American Jews feel ambivalent and conflicted about all of it.
If this is the analysis of an anti-Semite, then which critic of Israel's current trajectory isn't one? David Bernstein, in the middle of another emotional harrumph, even concedes, to his credit, that "Mearsheimer describes the obvious solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in terms I (more or less) agree with."
I suspect the virulence and extreme rhetoric of those criticizing Mearsheimer's challenging and provocative address is directly related to the brutal truth of the analysis he presents. If Israel does not get out of the West Bank soon, if it does not remove every single settlement, if it does not act decisively to escape the death trap of Greater Israel, no Israel will survive as a morally defensible or democratic or Jewish state.
Far from being, as Goldblog asserts, an abandonment of foreign policy realism, Mearsheimer's speech is a pellucid, if flawed, example of it. I suspect that's why it wounds. The truth usually does.
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