Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Scholars Land Book Deal for Attack on ‘Israel Lobby’

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the authors of a controversial paper criticizing the role of the “Israel Lobby” in American foreign policy, are at work on a book-length version of their findings to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The two, who have argued that it “is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States” printing their work, first published their paper in the March 23 edition of the London Review of Books. A longer version was posted on the Web site of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where Walt is a professor of international affairs. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

The paper — which argues that America’s “unwavering support for Israel… has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world” — has sparked a wide range of responses among scholars, pundits and former diplomats. Some have called it the stuff of conspiracy theory and antisemitism, while others have praised it as a welcome foray into a subject often thought to be taboo. The debate played out again on September 28, when the London Review of Books staged a lively debate in Manhattan featuring Mearsheimer, Tony Judt of New York Univeristy, Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi, onetime Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and Clinton administration Middle East specialists Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk (READ RELATED STORY).

Many of the Jewish leaders troubled by the first incarnation of the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis were dismayed anew by word that it is to be republished as a book.

“They are saying what David Duke would be saying, what Pat Buchanan would be saying,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “The difference is that they have the patina of respectability, and now they will have another coat of it.”

Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, was an enthusiastic supporter of the paper and claimed that his views had been “vindicated” by it.

With figures like Duke in mind, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, worried that Mearsheimer and Walt’s scholarly credentials could serve to further embolden fringe groups. “We shouldn’t underestimate the damage — and the potential damage — of this paper and the legitimacy it gives to the haters,” he said.

Some were especially troubled by the fact that it was Farrar, Straus and Giroux that had decided to acquire the book. The publishers of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Bernard Malamud — and a host of contemporary Jewish writers — FSG is commonly regarded as one of the country’s most distinguished publishing houses.

“The imprimatur of being published by FSG is hard to match,” said Samuel Freedman, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. “When a publishing house with its credibility and its reputation acquires a conspiracy theory, it can’t help but make that conspiracy theory look more valid than it deserves to look.”

Many commented on the irony of how a scholarly paper that wore as a badge of pride its purported exclusion from mainstream American media outlets has now been embraced by the most elite of American book publishers.

That the two scholars were shut out from the American mainstream was, according to David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, “a disingenuous claim from the start. It was a way to try and market themselves as victims of the ‘all-powerful group’ they were writing about. It fed into their own conspiratorial notions.”

But not all were dismayed by news of the book. Philip Weiss, a journalist who has written about the Mearsheimer-Walt paper for both The New York Observer and The Nation, said that an expanded version of the thesis would be a welcome addition to an overdue debate. “I think there’s a lot of interest in these ideas,” Weiss said. “The conversation’s just begun.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.