VERY long post warning.
More and more of the people that Walt and Mearsheimer quoted in their travesty of a thesis are condemning that thesis, and accusing W-M of misusing their work.
Like Benny Morris, on whom they relied heavily:
Like many pro-Arab propagandists at work today, Mearsheimer and Walt often cite my own books, sometimes quoting directly from them, in apparent corroboration of their arguments. Yet their work is a travesty of the history that I have studied and written for the past two decades. Their work is riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity. Were “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” an actual person, I would have to say that he did not have a single honest bone in his body.
He begins at the beginning, always the best place to start, and takes down W-M on their lie about Israeli military superiority via numbers:
Mearsheimer and Walt write that “Israel is often portrayed as weak and besieged, a Jewish David surrounded by a hostile Arab Goliath … but the opposite image is closer to the truth.” For some reason, weakness is commonly seen as entailing moral superiority, an illogical proposition.
I would recommend that they take a look at any atlas and yearbook for the key years of the conflict–1948, 1956, 1967, 1973. Even a child would notice that the Arab world, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf, does actually “surround” Israel and is infinitely larger than the eight-thousand-square-mile Jewish state (which is the size of New Hampshire). He would notice also that the population of the confrontation states–Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, who were often joined in their wars with Israel by expeditionary forces from Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Yemen–has always been at least twenty times greater than Israel’s; and in 1948 it was about fifty times greater. The material resources of the Arab world similarly have been (as they still are) infinitely larger than Israel’s.
It is true that Israel’s “organizational ability” has enabled it to concentrate and focus its resources where they count in wartime, on the successive battlefields, with far greater efficiency than the Arabs; and it is true that Israel’s troops, and especially its officer corps, have always been of a far higher caliber than the Arabs’ counterparts; and it is true that the motivation of Israel’s troops–often with their backs to the wall–has generally been superior to that of their Arab foes. But this is still a far cry from implying, as Mearsheimer and Walt do, regarding the war in 1947-1949, that Israel won its wars because “the Zionists had larger, better-equipped” forces than the Arabs.
During the October (or Yom Kippur) War in 1973, the Egyptians mustered about one million men under arms, and their Syrian allies some 400,000, when they launched their surprise attacks across the Suez Canal and on the Golan Heights. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fielded 350,000 to 400,000 troops at most. The Israelis won that war because of superior “grit” and better quality of troops and organization, even though the wings of their better air force and tank corps were badly clipped by the Arabs’ massive deployment of state-of-the-art missile shields.
On the two-state solution:
Mearsheimer and Walt imply that down to (and maybe even beyond) 1948, the Zionist leadership rejected the partition of Palestine. This is simply false, no matter what misleading quotations they cull from eminent Israeli historians.
[...] By November 1947, the Zionists’ reconciliation to a partial realization of their dreams was complete (except on the fringes of the movement), and Zionism’s mainstream, led by Ben-Gurion and Weizmann, once and for all internalized the necessity of partition and accepted the U.N. partition resolution. The 1948 war was fought by Israel with a partitionist outlook, and it ended in partition (with the West Bank and East Jerusalem under Jordanian rule and the Gaza Strip controlled by Egypt), despite Israel’s military superiority at its conclusion. During the following two decades, down to June 1967, there was a general acceptance by the Israeli mainstream of the fact, and the permanence, of partition.
[...] The Palestinian story was different. The Palestinian national movement, from its inception up to 2000, from Haj Amin al Husseini to Yasser Arafat, backed by the Arab world, rejected a two-state solution. There was no great debate. The Palestinian leadership rejected the 1937 and 1947 partition plans (and the Begin-Sadat “autonomy plan” of 1978, which would have led to a two-state solution), and insisted that the Jews had no right to even an inch of Palestine. And the Palestinian government of today, led by the popularly elected Hamas, continues to espouse this uncompromising, anti-partitionist one-state position. All of this is completely ignored in Mearsheimer and Walt’s “history.”
On “transfer” and terrorism:
In other words, the surge in thinking about transfer in the late 1930s among mainstream Zionist leaders was in part a response to the expulsionist mentality of the Palestinians, which was reinforced by ongoing Arab violence and terrorism. The violence resulted in Britain’s severely curtailing immigration to Palestine, thus assuring that many Jews who otherwise might have been saved were left stranded in Europe (and consigned to death), while at the same time foreclosing the traditional Zionist option and aim of achieving a Jewish majority in Palestine through immigration. Mearsheimer and Walt rightly take to task the anti-Arab terrorism of the Irgun in those years; but they omit to mention that the Irgun unleashed its bloody operations in response to Arab terrorism, and that in any case it represented only the fringe right wing of the Zionist movement, of which the mainstream–unlike the Palestinian Arab national movement–consistently rejected and condemned terrorism.
On the palestinian refugee problem:
From Mearsheimer and Walt, you would never suspect that the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948 occurred against the backdrop, and as the result, of a war–a war that for the Jews was a matter of survival, and which those same Palestinians and their Arab brothers had launched. To omit this historical background is bad history–and stark dishonesty. It is quite true, and quite understandable, that the Israeli government during the war decided to bar a return of the refugees to their homes–to bar the return of those who, before becoming refugees, had attempted to destroy the Jewish state and whose continued loyalty to the Jewish state, if they were readmitted, would have been more than questionable. There was nothing “innocent,” as Mearsheimer and Walt put it, about the Palestinians and their behavior before their eviction-evacuation in 1947-1948 (as there was nothing innocent about Haj Amin al Husseini’s work for the Nazis in Berlin from 1941 to 1945, broadcasting anti-Allied propaganda and recruiting Muslim troops for the Wehrmacht). And what befell the Palestinians was not “a moral crime,” whatever that might mean; it was something the Palestinians brought down upon themselves, with their own decisions and actions, their own historical agency. But they like to deny their historical agency, and many “sympathetic” outsiders like to abet them in this illusion, which is significantly responsible for their continued statelessness.
On W-M’s numerical errors:
Consider some other examples. On page 6, Mearsheimer and Walt assert that Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American naval intelligence analyst in the 1980s, provided Israel with classified American material, “which Israel reportedly passed onto the Soviet Union to gain more exit visas for Soviet Jewry.” To the best of my knowledge, this is a lie. On page 9, Mearsheimer and Walt write that “citizenship [of Israel] is based on the principle of blood kinship.” This is an outrageous assertion, with the worst possible echoes. The truth is that since the state’s inception, 15 to 20 percent of Israel’s citizens have been Muslim and Christian Arabs. In 1948-1949, citizenship was granted to all persons living in the country, regardless of race or religion, and it is granted by law after five years of residency and the satisfaction of various qualifications (as in all western democracies) to applicants today regardless of race or religion–though it is true that Jewish immigrants can and do receive citizenship upon arrival in Israel, and it is also true that Israel is a Jewish state, as France is (and, I hope, will remain) a French state and Britain is a British state. On page 12, Mearsheimer and Walt write, referring to my book Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956, that Israel’s retaliatory strikes in the early 1950s “were actually part of a broader effort to expand Israel’s borders.” This is incorrect–and had they used my book honestly, they could not have reached such a conclusion. On page 10, they observe that “The Arabs … had been in continuous possession of [Palestine] for 1300 years,” which is incorrect, and that there were “only about 15,000 Jews in Palestine” in 1882, which is also incorrect. (Typically, Mearsheimer and Walt cite as their authority Justin McCarthy’s The Population of Palestine, without noting that he also assumed the existence of additional thousands of Jews in Palestine who were not Ottoman citizens.) And so on.
Read it all.