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March 07, 2009


Greg Kuperberg

I certainly think that a serious peace process would be good for Israel. If I were Israeli, I would certainly not vote for Likud. And I'm also not up in arms about Charles Freeman --- although I don't know a huge amount about that case. But when I read Stephen Walt's blog past that you linked, it doesn't look good. Walt crosses the line from being part of the solution to being part of the problem.

Number one, Walt did not simply offer dual loyalty as a reason to be a little skeptical. What he said was, "A journalist (Jeffrey Goldberg) whose idea of 'public service' was to enlist in the Israeli army..." That's not the same as you enlisting in the British Army. If you did, reasonable people would call that public service without scare quotes or any other note of sarcasm. As you say, Walt really means "dual loyalty" as an accusation. He interprets this dual loyalty as disloyalty, either to decency, or to America, or both.

Number two, merely serving in the IDF is not by itself a dramatic token of loyalty. I don't know Goldberg's particular legal situation. But I do know other Israelis who served in the IDF, including some who are far to the left, for the simple reason that it's compulsory. I'm not sure why Walt is (at least to appearances) jumping twice to such an accusatory conclusion, when once would already have been dubious.

Number three, why are all seven of the "usual suspects" in Walt's blog, they who "have not a shred of decency", happen to be Jewish? Why are Jonathan Chait and Jeffrey Goldberg more prominent mudslingers in his view than, say, Michelle Malkin? Is it that Malkin has merely been pushed or brainwashed by those darned Likudniks?

Dylan Matthews

You and I disagree a lot on this issue, so I'll just note for the record that Jeffrey Goldberg is not Israeli. He was born in Brooklyn and raised in Nassau County. So he was under no legal compunction to join. He chose to move to Israel and enlist.

Greg Kuperberg

There are different possible degrees of volition in a story like this one. According to his autobiography (which is the source of any of this information), Goldberg emigrated to Israel and obtained Israeli citizenship.

Anyway this morning I am not as irritated about Walt as I was yesterday --- not because I have really changed my impression but just because I'm bored by ad hominem thinking. But I am just as irritated as before by this concept of "dual loyalty".

In my profession I talk to people with "dual loyalty" all the time, in the sense that they have American jobs but foreign citizenship. No, I do not interpret anything that they have to say as driven by a desire to protect their national interest. I talk to them as citizens of the world, and I do not add salt to their opinions just on the basis of their military service or their residence papers, because that's the way to treat people with respect.

I also want to make another point about the concept of "lying". Yes, Chait has taken a wild interpretation of Walt has to say. No, I don't agree with Chait at all on that point. But that's not "lying", and moreover Walt treats Chait the same way. "What unites this narrow band of critics is only one thing: Freeman has dared to utter some rather mild public criticisms of Israeli policy. That's the litmus test that Chait, Goldberg, ..." There Walt is putting words into Chait's mouth, or a motive into his mind, just as much as vice versa. So that's not "lying" either. But it is true that Walt and Chait are treating each other with contempt and wild suspicion rather than with respect.


Why do you believe Walt only accused Walt and Rosen of being dual loyalists? Here's what Walt said:

Nice try, but it is abundantly clear to almost everyone that the assault on Freeman has been conducted by individuals -- Chait included -- who are motivated by their commitment to Israel and who are upset that Freeman has criticized some of its past behavior.


To me saying that people are "motivated by their commitment to Israel" seems like a less explosive way of calling them dual loyalists, and this post is focused on Chait, Michael Goldfarb, and Goldberg, not just Goldberg and Rosen, so I don't see how Chait is "lying" or being particularly unfair here.

Greg Kuperberg

Here we are on Monday morning and the dual loyalty concept still bugs me. It's clear from aaaaaa's quote, and for that matter Wikipedia's synopsis of Mearsheimer's and Walt's book, that loyalty to Israel is the big explanation and the big problem. As I said, that's a theory that leaves Middle Eastern hawks who aren't Jewish --- Rush Limbaugh, or John Bolton, or anyone at NRO who isn't Jewish --- pretty much nowhere. Actually Mearsheimer and Walt thought of that and rattled off names of some Christian conservatives in their essay, but it doesn't mesh well with the main thesis.

But, that aside, where does that leave Jews and Israelis who want peace with the Palestinians? The dual loyalty explanation also leaves all of them nowhere. Yes, some of them have endorsed Mearsheimer's and Walt's book. But I don't think that they have thought through the implications. The ultimate implication is that Jews and Israelis who want peace aren't loyal to Israel; they're traitors to Zionism. The Israeli peace movement would then be an ineffectual distraction. The key to pursuing American interests would be to close ranks against Israel, never mind persuading any Israeli of anything.

Since Walt is so interest in digging for people's motives, I have some impression of his own motive. I don't think that he is congenitally anti-Semitic. Rather, I think that some scholars get too wrapped up in geopolitics as a big chess game. They can then lose patience with pieces that are out of place.

Let me make an analogy with Rhodesia. On the one hand, Rhodesia was the perfect example of despicable, unaccountable Western colonialism and racism. It was an illegitimate state. When it inevitably and deservedly fell, an expert in international affairs like Walt could say, oh good, problem solved, now we can have more geopolitical harmony. Indeed, the fall of Rhodesia was harmonious for regional relations, at least for a while. But what came after has not been better for ordinary people.

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