It has to be a matter of regret that "The Deadliest Lies" needed to be written, but with the publication this week of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy", Abraham Foxman's incisive rebuttal of their insidious claims is both timely and urgent.
Mearsheimer and Walt, from the universities of Chigaco and Harvard respectively, wrote an article last year entitled "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy". Published in the London Review of Books, the article argued that because of the power of the "Israel Lobby" in Washington, America has been "willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state", and that no other lobby "has managed to divert US foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest." Not surprisingly, the article ignited a controversy and its authors were commissioned to expand it into a book.
In "The Deadliest Lies", Foxman does an excellent job in demolishing the academic pair's arguments on a point by point basis. But more importantly, he sets the article in its historical context, noting how "as history shows us, when people in the West are sufficiently anxious, fearful, angry and confused, a familiar scapegoat tends to rise to the surface again and again: the Jews."
Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, is careful not to label Mearsheimer and Walt as anti-Semites so as not to descend to name-calling, but he pointedly notes that by using "half-truths, distortions and falsehoods", the academics' article "repeats and supports myths and beliefs that anti-Semites have peddled for centuries."
Foxman also seeks to define the line where criticism of Israel crosses into anti-Semitism and provides a number of handy pointers: Criticism of specific Israeli policies is legitimate, criticism that condemns Israel for simply existing is not; criticism that finds fault with Israel on the basis of principles that are generally accepted by all nations and applied even-handedly is legitimate, criticism that singles out Israel for behavior that many other countries behave in without suffering reproach is not. Criticism that ignores every problem Israel faces and concludes that only bad faith or evil motives can explain any failure on Israel's part is also, Foxman argues, not legitimate.
Which means, unfortunately, that Jimmy Carter, in his recent book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid"; falls down on the wrong side of the line, but again Foxman refrains from shouting "anti-Semite", preferring instead to talk about Carter's "appalling blind spot about the State of Israel."
A stronger editor would have cut down Foxman's references to himself in the book – the pronoun "I" appears on almost every page - and some of his general philosophizing is very run-of-the mill thinking, but for anybody seeking to fight Israel's corner in universities, the media or against boycott activists, "The Deadliest Lies" will be an invaluable resource.