4/06/2006 MEASURE Survey Release:
The Israel Lobby and
US Foreign Policy
The Middle East
Academic Survey Research Exposition project polled 71 Middle East academics about the Walt
and Mearsheimer report titled "The Israel Lobby
and US Foreign Policy". The survey
was fielded between March 31 and April 5, 2006. IRmep
compiled and presents survey responses drawn from a pool of 2,300 academics with advanced
degrees in Middle East area studies. This poll
should not be interpreted as a statistically significant reflection on the views of all US
Middle East academic specialists.
- 49% of Middle
East academics polled believe that the academic community is "hostile" to
studies that are critical of the Israel Lobby and US policies toward Israel. 26% believe academia is "open" to such
- 85% of Middle
East academics polled believe that an Israel Lobby as described by Mearsheimer and Walt is
"negative" to "extremely negative" to US interests.
- 65% of Middle
East academics polled believe that the most powerful intimidation tactic of the Israel
Lobby is charging detractors as "anti-Semites" followed by attacks from the
mainstream media by Israel Lobby sympathizers (59%).
- 91% of Middle
East academics polled believe it is "extremely accurate" to "accurate"
that the Israel Lobby's tactics expose the United States to avoidable hostility in the
- 86% of Middle
East academics polled believe that the lobby places what it considers to be Israel's
interests above the national interests of the United States.
See the following
charts and comments for elaboration on each survey question.
Question #1 How open and supportive is the
academic community to studies that are
critical of the "Israel lobby" and US policies toward Israel?
That is, hostile in open, even though many I am sure would
support the results of the study in private.
Many academics will support this report, and many will critique
it. Academics who criticize the US's policy on
Israel generally make their views known, and those who support Israel also do. The two sides rarely seem to talk to each other,
and the establishment of Israel studies programs SEPARATE from Middle East studies
programs is rather indicative. Most scholars, like many members of the political public,
seem to spend most of their time interacting with those whose points of view support their
own, and deal with challenges only to try to dispose of them.
The question is phrased in such a way that it implies that there
is bias in academe, even though science should be objective and not depending on emotions
The academy is virtually the only place in the US where one
finds criticism of Israel, but that criticism doesn't have much effect (and there are
plenty of staunch supporters of Israel in the academy as well)
The two authors were very courageous to have written and
published this article.
They are generally afraid to go on record.
With self proclaimed watch dog organizations (Campus Watch) and
pressure it is increasingly hard to find courageous voices to tell the truth. But they are
out there. I think the Mearsheimer-Walt piece is credible.
Academic community would like to be supportive but instead is
nervous of charges of antisemitism
Depends which academic community; but overall, among all
Of course those who carry the torch in behalf of the Israeli
lobby within academia perceive critical assessments of US/Israeli policies in the Middle
East as tantamount to anti-Semitism
It is gradually more responsive to anti-Israeli studies
There are factions in the academic community, some of which are
open to whatever findings are produced by carefully designed research and some of which
are deeply ideological and open only to findings that confirm their opinions.
Among the public, academicians tend to be the most receptive to
new research findings
Obviously, it varies in different fields within academia, but in
general, any such criticism raises a hue and cry of disproportionate intensity to the
criticism. The use of the
"anti-Semitism" card is the key ploy used to discredit all such criticism,
however balanced or fair it attempts to be.
The academic community is open to any study findings on any
topic so long as the findings are well reasoned and backed up with evidence.
Uncritically pro-Israeli academics and others systematically
attack any info published that is critical of the Israel government's behavior.
In general, the academic community is open to any studies that
show careful research.
While individual faculty members are open to such findings, the
larger academy and elite within it are not.
Question is phrased in a silly fashion. Some quarters of the
academic community are very hostile, others not.
European academics are generally more "open" than
their US counterparts
Those who agree with the study's findings are afraid to say so,
and the media is afraid to even discuss it. I'd say that's pretty good evidence.
The fact that any study critical of Israel is attacked
ferociously is so obvious that none except the fanatics would deny it.
The academic community is neither here nor there on the
question. The broader political community is
The majority of scholars in the academic community are either
supportive of Israel, or excercise self censorship which stems largely out of fear.
Any mention of an Israeli lobby is immediately regarded as
Critics of the Israeli lobby are immediately branded as
"anti-semitic", holocaust deniers, pro-nazi or even pro-terrorist.
I believe the academic community is too diverse to characterize
as one or the other.
Question #2 Mearsheimer and Walt's research finds that:
"The core of the Lobby is comprised of
American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign
policy so that it advances Israel's interests. Their
activities go beyond merely voting for candidates who are pro-Israel to include letter
writing, financial contributions, and supporting pro-Israel organizations. But not all Jewish-Americans are part of the
Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them. In a 2004 survey, for example, roughly 36 percent
of Jewish Americans said they were either not very or not at all
emotionally attached to Israel."
How accurate is this finding?
b. If accurate, how
beneficial is a lobby of this nature to US interests?
Mearsheimer and Walt find that the US has "been willing to set
aside its own security
in order to advance the interests of Israel."
How accurate is their
Although all of the statements M & W make about "the
Lobby" are accurate enough to give serious insight to the US policy process on
Israel, M & W are not very good at asking what would happen if the US changed policy. They assume that if the US suddenly became
evenhanded toward the Palestinians, for example, then the global threat of terrorism would
be reduced. I think that is a huge leap in
logic, and probably not true. Islamist terrorist organizations, like other groups that
bolster their believers' devotion through propaganda, would find other issues to dwell on
instead; I doubt that even a real two-state resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict
would significantly reduce international terrorism sponsored by radical Islamist
organizations. Let's suppose the US changes
course in the Middle East--that in and of itself is inherently destabilizing (witness
Iraq). To some extent, US actions are
predictable, and Israel's actions are predictable by Israel's neighbors. When the US changes course, that too, opens the
door to all sorts of possibilities, many of which would not really result in any
improvement in security to the US. While I
would agree with M & W that US assumptions about the Middle East are quite thoroughly
guided by what Israel thinks is good for itself, I'm not sure that the US's security
dilemmas are an either-or proposition, where if we don't do this, but do its opposite,
we'll suddenly have much better security.
We are seen as hypocrites by third parties.
Besides the Iraq invasion, the main thorn in the US-ME
relationship is the Palestinian issue, which goes unresolved, and misreported to hide
Israeli abuses and make it look like it is the victim.
It is to some extent in the interest of the U.S. ruling class to
have a dependent ally in the Middle East that can use its military might to help the U.S.
out. For example, when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear facilities in 1986 (not sure of date)
and in occupying southern Lebanon so that progressive forces in that country that might
have been able to overcome the sectarian divisions would not be able to come to power.
Issue of Israel/Palestine also keeps the Arab world divided and busy, and helps ruling
regimes avoid domestic reform.
Astonishing how effective the lobby has been given how divergent
Israeli and US interests often are.
Is the tail wagging the dog or does the US dictate Israeli
policy? Likely a strong mix of both. But the
statement certainly is true.
The study makes fair points; however, to back up its findings it
makes many mistakes due to ignorance and failing to pay attention to detail and nuance.
This is clear in the current war in Iraq but also earlier, when
Ronald Reagan allowed AIPAC representatives to sit in policy councils and contribute their
views. This is like letting oil companies sit
in on energy policy formulation (and is interesting in that context since, theoretically,
the views of these two privileged groups are antithetical.
Israeli interests are promoted even though they are injurious to
considerations of security.
This is probably somewhat of an exaggeration as a general
conclusion, but it is accurate with regard for at least some events and on some occasions,
such as , for example, in the case of the infamous but little publicized deliberate
Israeli air attack on the USS liberty in the 6-day War, and the lack of any appropriate US
diplomatic or public response.
This differs from administration to administration. It is not a conscious setting aside of US interests
but rather an assumed coincidence of interests.
It is very clear that the anti-Americanism in the Arab and
Muslim worlds is very much linked to the U.S support of Israel and its policies. The US
position has proved time and time again that it is not flexible enough when it comes to
matters related to Israel.
The conflict is detrimental to the security of us all, including
to Israeli citizens.
Israel is a consistent case where America has gone against
accepted international law in support of Israel, even though it may be against its own
interest in the long term. I agree that
America, and the world at large, has become the victim of terrorism because of this
However, the US has used Israel for it's own interests to divide
the Middle East countries.
As someone who worked in the government, these authors have no
idea how policy is made much less ME policy.
Their conclusions are so obvious as to be banal.
Perhaps they overstate their case a little bit, but most
observers underestimate the lobby's role - and often not out of scholarly considerations.
Not just the interests of Israel, but of a particular right-wing
Israeli mindset. Most Israelis want peace, but the US, despite its rhetoric, refuses to
push for it. Now we're no longer a credible mediator.
The US fought the Iraq War for lots of reasons; the Israel part
is just a piece. But on policy on
Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab issues, it is an accurate finding.
Supporters of Israel have tried to define US interests in terms
identical to the needs of the Israeli state. Makers of US policy have often, wittingly and
unwittingly put Israel's interest ahead of the US
The blind support of Israeli policies, and disregard for the
Palestinians is, to a large extent, responsible for the terrorist problems we are facing
This is quite a broad statement that is arguable at best.
Question #4 Mearsheimer and Walt find the following
intimidation tactics are utilized by elements of the "Israel Lobby" to stifle
debate or criticism about lobby driven regional policy.
How influential are each of the following
tactics on individuals considering criticizing the lobby or its policies?
A. Charges that critics are
B. Organizing defeat of "unsupportive" members of Congress.
Targeting potentially unsupportive foreign policy appointees or career foreign service
d. Organized attacks
on critics from "Israel lobby" sympathizers in the mainstream print and
Blacklisting and intimidating professors critical of Israel.
#5 Mearsheimer and Walt charge that the power of the Israel Lobby negatively affects US
policy in the following ways. How accurate is each charge?
The lobby's power allows it to thwart positive pressures toward a peaceful settlement to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The lobby's policies expose the US to avoidable hostility in the Middle East.
The lobby places what it considers to be Israel's interests above the national interests
of the United States.
The Israel lobby has convinced Americans that Israeli and US interests are identical,
which is untrue.
Interested members of the Israel lobby have reshaped and nullified broader policy debate
in influential mainstream "think tanks" and other centers of thought.
#6 What is the likely long-term impact of the Mearsheimer-Walt report?
a. This report will fade away and be forgotten.
b. This report will be widely read by voters
and shape their behavior.
c. The report authors will be effectively
branded as pariahs and serve as examples that stifle future critics in academia.
d. The paper will ignite a movement to reform
policy-making in the United States.
While M & W
do address the point that I will make in their report, I do not think they give it enough
play. The strength of the pro-Israel lobby in
the US (meaning here, the lobby that seeks to support Israel's more outrageous and
anti-peace-seeking actions) comes MAINLY from pro-Israel American Christians. I used to be one, easily adopting the widespread
American Christian attitudes, until I actually began to study both sides of the conflict,
and to meet sane and intelligent people whose assumptions were NOT that of course Israel
is right. The attitudes of support for Israel
among American (especially) evangelicals, who comprise a very active sector of the voting
public, are not based on considered knowledge of Israel's current politics, or on big
picture analyses of US actions in the world and their implications, but on religious
assumptions that are bolstered by the preaching that happens in their churches and on
their televisions. And of course the Israel
lobby is perfectly aware of this, and is partially made up from among these people, and
works closely with evangelical political entrepreneurs to activate the faith-based support
of these voters, both in electing candidates to national office and in lobbying
politicians. And I would not say that the tail
is wagging the dog here: the American Christians who support Israel are hardly doing so
out of altruism, and I don't think that Dick Armey and his like are manipulated more than
they manipulate. But I think this leads us to
a discussion not of a "core lobby made up of American Jews"--a comment in this
paper that does tend toward anti-semitism--but of a broader phenomenon in American
politics, having to do with religion (specifically Christianity) and its political uses.
However, that takes us away from the point of the discussion, which seems to me to be a
reconsideration of US policy on Israel, and US-Israel links in actions in the Middle East. An open, contentious political discussion of this
would be a good thing, but I would agree with M & W that it is unlikely to happen,
precisely because of the political forces that they point out, and the fact that while
academics can get away with criticizing Israel, hardly any US politicians would be willing
to open their mouths on that topic.
None of the
Iraq is the
dominant foreign policy issue at the moment, and Israel's connection to this is very
indirect. Also Bush II has generally disengaged from the issue (compared to Clinton and
Bush I), so it isn't really salient. If Mearsheimer and Walt had written this fifteen
years ago, it would have been more important.
A way must be
found to publicize this article and get it read generally. Now less than 5% (?) of the
public knows about it.
As a tenured
professor with an extremely outstanding publication record, a unanimous favorable vote in
my academic department, a unanimous favorable vote in the university-wide human resources
committee, a glowing letter from the dean; the provost vetoed my application for promotion
simply based on politics--I, a Jew, was too "pro-Palestinian" and
The last is more
of a hope. As American casualties pile up in Iraq, someone should, get over their fear lo
losing their job and do some serious questioning. The people who led us here (whether
ideological supporters, or policy executors) are all ardent supporters of Israel.
While there are
a number of structural and academic flaws in this report, it is nonetheless a valiant
effort to address the "third rail" of American foreign policy. I salute the authors for their courage; they will
need every bit of it in the coming months.
report is not going to change the trend of almost 50 years...the report was very well
done. the language of this survey was not very
good and often too vague.
care about research results in any field and most are satisfied with whatever is reported
in the media or by their pastors, friends or other influentials in their lives. I don't think there is much interest in this report
outside the academy and, even there, most of the interested are social scientists. Given the hobbling of the AAUP, which was forced to
withdraw support for a conference that would have aired many sides in the academic boycott
movement, it's hard to envision an organization, academic or otherwise, that would
spearhead an open examination of these contentious issues.
Well, just take
a look at what happened to the latest report written by two professors at Harvard and
Chicago and was initially published by Kennedy Shool at Harvard last month!
academic paper does not by itself "ignite a movement to reform policy." However, that does not mean it is insignificant. Furthermore, Mearsheimer and Walt are not the first
people to say these things. As Mearsheimer and
Walt's footnotes attest, these conclusions (and the evidence supporting them) are voiced
every day in a variety of contexts -- not only academic, but also in the global media,
human rights organizations, and public debate. Nor
are all these voices "anti-Israel." As
Mearsheimer and Walt demonstrate, Israeli media and human rights organizations have played
a leading role in exposing some of the problems highlighted in the report. The report adds its voice to this chorus, and its
lone impact is thus difficult to quantify. It
may spur a few people to think differently, look for independent confirmation of its
conclusions, or question what they have always believed.
These individuals may then pass along their altered perspectives on the
issues in new forms, both academic and popular.
Entrenched power relations and popular opinions nurtured by
generations of propaganda do not change overnight -- either in the Middle East or the U.S. Even if the report itself fades away and is
forgotten, the issues it raises will certainly not be.
Between A &
B: It's making a splash among readers, both academic and lay, who are interests in I/P
issues, but unfortunately it probably won't be widely read by voters. Both C & D are underway to some extent, though
the movement to stop funding Israel is still small.
I would like to
hope that it will affect members of Congress in thinking more seriously about the
repercussions on America for its unquestioning support of Israel, particularly where it
involves going against accepted international law.
I find the study
to be offensive; it does not put the pro Israeli lobby in perspective with other ethnic
based lobbies such as Greek, Armenians, Poles and Indian-Americans. To say that the lobby is a danger to the US and the
world reveals how unacademic the work is. That
lobbies have influence in the US is true. It
is also true that other countries do not have the same system we do. This said does one criticize them for having
foreign policies completely divorced from their publics?
I would go a step further and suggest that the questions formulated by this
survey are also designed to elicit the kind of
response that would support the so called findings of this report.
I support Prof.
Mearsheimer and Prof. Walt who have impeccable academic credentials and have courageously
taken on a critical issue in US foreign policy. They should be applauded.
The fact that
the report has not received the national public airing it deserves illustrates the truth
of its claims.
Policy making is
not going to change given the power of the Israeli lobby, and the support of the Christian
fundamentalist movement in the USA.
interests of one country never coincide continuously with those of another country. In
international politics there are no eternal friends or eternal enemies, there are national
interests, which change with time.
The paper merely
reiterates arguments others have made for many years.
It is not going to make a difference.
v House of
v Foreign Diplomatic
v State Department
v Department of
v Congress Watch
for Research: Middle Eastern Policy is a non-partisan; independent research organization
dedicated to informing and educating the American people about US policy formulation
process toward the Middle East. The heart of the IRmep's work is academically driven
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Measure is the acronym of Middle East
Academic Survey Research and Exposition. MEASURE
is a grant funded research tool that advises policy makers and the American public on
highly relevant topics. MEASURE surveys
are fielded by the Washington DC based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy,
(IRmep) a non-profit, non-partisan, non- ideological public policy institute.
academics via a series of multiple choice and open questions to compile and aggregate of
informed opinion on timely policy issues.
71 MEASURE survey
candidates were drawn from a pool of 2,300 academics with advanced degrees in Middle East
area studies. Not all MEASURE candidates teach
or write about contemporary Middle East issues, but are
generally more informed and involved in regional issues than their counterparts in
academia, and reside within Middle East university
departments. The terminal degree profile of
this pool reveals a majority at the PhD and Master level.
results are presented in aggregate form only. Individual
responses are anonymous. MEASURE survey
results are presented to the public in a timely fashion and also made available to policy
makers and the press. MEASURE
avoids uninvited or multiple survey responses by soliciting response by invitees only and
discarding repeat responses.
v House of
v Foreign Diplomatic
v State Department
v Department of
v Congress Watch