Zionist Lobbies are Important

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While I agreed with much of what Chris Harman said about the Mearsheimer and Walt article (May SR), I was disappointed with the way he presented his argument.

The headline referring to a "conspiracy theory" did not do justice to the Mearsheimer and Walt article since it expressly discounted a conspiracy on the part of Israel lobbyists.

Harman then sets out a standard materialist conception of imperialism as an explanation for the US's support for Israel. Fine, but he then criticises the Mearsheimer and Walt article because it "opens the door to those who want to absolve capitalism from blame for its crimes by talking of conspiracies by religious or ethnic minorities".

Now do we really want to dismiss an argument because it might lead to another nastier worldview?

This isn't a million miles from an American Friends of Peace Now argument that says we should never discuss the US's support for Israel for fear of what might be unleashed. And, look how gleeful the Zionists are every time an anti-Zionist is quoted on a right wing hate site. The fact is that all criticism of Israel will be music to the ears of anti-Semites, but we cannot restrict our arguments because of that.

Harman does set out various facts and hard-headed imperialist reasons as to why the US supports Israel, but he doesn't get into the ideological commitment. For instance, I am sure that there were think-tanks in the US that supported Chile's former dictator Pinochet, but not by reference to the ideological-cum-emotional baggage that Zionism mobilises in the US.

My own view is that, while Mearsheimer and Walt's argument is flawed, there is a case to answer. I think we should be thankful that their case opens a door that might otherwise have remained shut.

Mark Elf
Dagenham, Essex