Stephen Walt and the Islamist Lobby

When John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published their book “The Israel Lobby” in 2007, the respected American scholar Walter Russell Mead argued in a very critical review that this “may be a book that anti-Semites will love, but it is not necessarily an anti-Semitic book.” Mead also noted that the book was “written in haste” and predicted that it would “be repented at leisure.”

As it turned out, the assumption that Mearsheimer and Walt would have any regrets about writing “a book that anti-Semites will love” was all too optimistic.

Some four years later, Mead commented on reports that John Mearsheimer had endorsed a book written by “a Hitler Apologist and Holocaust Revisionist.” Mead noted politely that “this is not normally the intellectual company a Distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago is expected to keep” and he suggested that “we may even hear some thoughts from Professor Walt about his co-author.”

Unfortunately, this was again an all too optimistic expectation, because Stephen Walt promptly used his blog at Foreign Policy to give his co-author a prominent platform to double down on his endorsement of the book in question and its author Gilad Atzmon.

At this point it was becoming increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that both Walt and Mearsheimer didn’t mind at all if their writings appealed to people with openly antisemitic views. Indeed, whether intentionally or not, there can be little doubt that Walt and Mearsheimer have done much to mainstream antisemitism.

Now Stephen Walt has taken another step to confirm this conclusion. He has been featured as the March 2013 Guest Writer for the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), a website whose self-described mission is promoting “the Palestinian cause” by reaching out “to opinion makers and decision makers in a deliberate, organized and sustained manner.”

However, as far as MEMO is concerned, the “Palestinian cause” is really the cause of Hamas. It is therefore no coincidence that, together with their esteemed guest writer Stephen Walt, MEMO also featured a “New strategic document” by Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal (also spelled Mashal or Meshaal).

Walt & Hamas on MEMO

 Screenshot from MEMO homepage

To be sure, Mishaal offers little that is in any way “new”; instead, he focuses mainly on re-affirming the Hamas principles laid down in the group’s notorious charter that provides religious justifications for eternal enmity towards Jews and claims Palestine “from the river to the sea” as Muslim land. When Mishaal calls for change, he demands a “move towards changing the attitude towards the resistance and resistance movements. What used to be strange, rejected, or taboo in the past by the standards of the official Arab norms, such as not supplying the resistance with arms, must become possible today.”

There can be little doubt that “resistance” in the sense Hamas understands it is something that MEMO fully supports. Consider this truly sickening homage to Ahlam al-Tamimi. You wouldn’t know it from the “fact sheet” posted by MEMO, but Tamimi is the terrorist who chose a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem as the target for a suicide bomber whom she brought there in August 2001. To Tamimi’s great pride and delight, the terror attack she helped plan and execute resulted in the death of 15 people, including 7 children, and some 130 additional victims with injuries – and to the great joy of her many ardent admirers in MEMO and elsewhere, Tamimi was among the convicts released by Israel in exchange for Hamas hostage Gilad Shalit in the fall of 2011.

As Walter Russell Mead observed, this may not be quite the company that a distinguished professor is expected to keep, but Harvard’s Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs Stephen Walt was apparently happy to be a MEMO Guest Writer.

Walt’s supposedly “exclusive” contribution to MEMO is entitled “Obama, American Jewry and the prospects for Middle East peace;” but as it happens, he was not the only writer on this topic featured by MEMO.  There was another piece by one of MEMO’s well-known contributors , Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, who prides himself on his “often controversial opinions” that include admiration for Osama bin Laden, endorsements of terror attacks against Israelis and the declaration that he would “dance with delight in Trafalgar Square” if Iran bombarded Israel.

Unsurprisingly, Atwan’s piece was entitled “Obama, the Israel sycophant;” and Atwan complained bitterly that Obama “has disappointed us and reminded us of Uncle Tom in the famous American novel.”

Since documenting the appalling views propagated by MEMO could easily fill a book, I will for now just highlight that the site’s current offerings include an utterly lunatic “report” claiming that “Israeli police enable rabbis and settlers to mark Passover inside Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Needless to say, MEMO is also among the ardent admirers of Sheik Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch in Israel, who subscribes to the medieval libel that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make Matzo bread.

Of course, Professor Walt may not have known any of this when he agreed to provide MEMO with an “exclusive” – but just a few moments of googling could have enlightened him and led him, for example, to this excellent post by Alan Johnson.

Among the unsavory examples of MEMO’s connections listed by Johnson is Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, who hosted a book launch in the House of Lords for the notorious Israel Shamir in 2005. As Johnson explains:

“Shamir’s speech, reported [by] the Times journalist Stephen Pollard, included these opinions: ‘All the [political] parties are Zionist-infiltrated.’ ‘Your newspapers belong to Zionists . . . Jews indeed own, control and edit a big share of mass media, this mainstay of Imperial thinking.’ ‘In the Middle East we have just one reason for wars, terror and trouble—and that is Jewish supremacy drive.’”

Writing in April 2011, Johnson noted that Lord Ahmed “paid no price” for going through with this disgraceful event. However, recently Lord Ahmed was accused of having expressed sentiments that echo the “Jewish control”-meme of Shamir, and he has been suspended pending an investigation.

But in general, Johnson is obviously right: efforts to mainstream anti-Jewish hatred and the Islamist demonization of the Jewish state have become so commonplace that there is little risk to high-profile professionals and academics who join in.

* * *

First published at The Algemeiner.



7 responses to “Stephen Walt and the Islamist Lobby

  1. Excellent article. Thanks!!!

    I’m not a big believer in guilt by association. However, there are exceptions and you have found one.

    • Re. “guilt by association”: we all know what would happen if a pro-Israel academic with a prestigious chair wrote a special guest contribution for a far-right site relentlessly inciting against Muslims….

      MEMO is really a fairly well-known Hamas mouthpiece, and as far as I could ascertain, Walt wrote this piece for them — thus helping them to pretend that they are somehow mainstream and respectable.

      • Nathan West

        Guilt by association usually refers to being unwittingly associated. What you describe is akin to partnering with them to advance his cause.

        Perhaps he is sending them a message although it is hard to imagine what. Or maybe he gets a frisson of doing the forbidden. Or maybe he’s not so brilliant a guy.

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