‘The Israel Lobby’ Goes International

By Marc Perelman

Published October 03, 2007, issue of October 05, 2007.
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After hitting Europe earlier this month, “The Israel Lobby” is preparing for a frontal assault on the Muslim world.

The controversial book by American academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who accuse the pro-Israel lobby of hijacking American policy, hit bookstores in Europe in September and soon will be published across the Arab world and in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world.

Hebrew-only readers, however, will have to wait. To date, no Israeli publishing house has agreed to translate the book.

“We are hoping that the most liberal publishers in Israel might consider publishing it, however, it has proven very difficult,” said Christine Hsu, assistant to Walt and Mearsheimer’s agent at the William Morris Agency, Raffaella De Angelis. The agency declined to be more specific.

The book will be translated into Arabic by All-Prints, a Beirut-based publisher that also translates books from the likes of the late anti-Zionist Israel Shahak, soccer star David Beckham and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Readers in Indonesia, where some 220 million Muslims live, will be able to buy it from Pustaka Utama a mainstream publisher. And in an indication of the strong interest the book is attracting in Europe, it is being translated into German, Dutch, Danish, French, Italian, Spanish and even Catalan.

“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” is an extended version of an article that appeared last year in The London Review of Books and on the Web site of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The two scholars contend that a wide array of Jewish and pro-Israel groups has tilted American foreign policy in favor of Israel to the point of endangering America’s national security.

In recent weeks, the authors have been crisscrossing the United States, where they have been criticized for having an anti-Israel agenda and for shoddy research, but also hailed for provoking a long overdue debate about Israel’s influence on American policymaking.

The controversy has been covered heavily by the foreign media, particularly in the Arab world on television channels such as Al Jazeera, on which both authors have appeared.

“Books don’t sell all that well in the Arab world, where the tradition is more oral and visual,” said Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “But people are aware of it because of satellite TV.”

While no information was available as of press time about a Walt-Mearsheimer book tour in Muslim countries, the authors are embarking on a European visit next month, with speaking engagements scheduled at prestigious universities and think-tanks in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Vienna and London. In London, they will also have an event at the House of Lords.

In Germany, where the book was released September 4 and received mixed reviews in the media, the publisher opted not to hold a promotional debate after the organization that was asked to host the event proposed inviting critics of the book. The publisher, Campus, did not return calls seeking comment.

A similar issue arose in the United States when the Forward rejected a proposal by publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux to host a debate on the book. The Forward instead proposed to be a participant in a conversation with the authors.

“I am concerned about the indirect impact this book could have,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s office in Berlin. “It reinforces stereotypes in Germany that are probably even stronger than in the U.S. about the alleged influence of Jewish organizations on American foreign policy.”


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