DATE September 4, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Stephen Walt, co-author of "The Israel Lobby and US
Foreign Policy," on the influence of the pro-Israel lobby in
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest, Stephen Walt, is the co-author of a controversial new book about the
pro-Israel lobby in the US. Walt and his co-author, John Mearsheimer, argue
that America gives a remarkable and disproportionately high level of material
and diplomatic support to Israel, and often that support is not in America's
best interest. They say the explanation for this relationship with Israel is
the political influence of the pro-Israel lobby in the US. That lobby
includes AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Walt and
Mearsheimer first outlined their views in an article that caused quite a stir
when it was published last year in The London Review of Books. Their new book
is called "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy." The head of the
Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, has countered their argument with his
own new book called "The Deadliest Lies." We'll hear from him later.
My guest, Stephen Walt, is a professor of international affairs at the John F.
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His co-author, John
Mearsheimer, co-directs the program on international security policy at the
University of Chicago.
Stephen Walt, welcome to FRESH AIR. What is the Israel lobby that you're
talking about? What groups are you including in the larger group that you
define as the Israel lobby?
Mr. STEPHEN WALT: The Israel lobby as we define it is a loose coalition of
individuals and organizations that actively work to shape American foreign
policy in a pro-Israel direction. The lobby is defined by its political
agenda, not by ethnicity or religion, that includes both Jewish Americans and
It is certainly not a cabal or conspiracy or anything like that. It's simply
a set of groups that make up a large interest group, and it has a sort of core
of organizations like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations and Christian Zionist groups like Christians United for
Israel. And then it has a sort of broader penumbra of supporters, people who
are generally, you know, pro-Israeli. And the key here is these are both
individuals and organizations that actively work, that devote some amount of
their daily lives, either professional or personal, to trying to move American
foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.
GROSS: And what policies are considered pro-Israel, like, what are the main
policies that you think the lobby favors?
Mr. WALT: I think that one point to emphasize is that groups in the lobby
don't agree on every single issue. This is not a hierarchical organization
with a central leadership that gives orders to all the members, so there are
real disagreements. Some of them, for example, favor a two-state solution.
Other groups in the lobby are opposed to that and think Israel ought to
control all of the occupied territories as well as Israel proper itself. So
there's some disagreement.
But I think the unifying themes within the different organizations is, first,
that the United States should give nearly unconditional support to Israel,
sort of economic and military aid and diplomatic support, really no matter
what Israel does. Second, they want the United States to back Israel vs. the
Palestinians, and not to put much, if any, pressure on Israel to give the
Palestinians a viable state. And then, finally, most of the groups in the
lobby and the most important ones, the most influential ones, want the United
States to take a fairly confrontational stance towards Israel's various
adversaries, whether that be, you know, Syria, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran
today or groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. They want the United States again
to use its power to try and do what we can to deal with those adversaries.
GROSS: Now, you say that as an example of the pro-Israel lobby's power,
Israel gets a disproportionate amount of support from the United States. Give
us some examples of what you mean.
Mr. WALT: Well, Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid and
has been for quite some time, since the mid-'70s. It gets, you know, roughly
three billion in economic and military assistance every year. It turns out
the actual figure's a little higher than that because that's sort of just the
straight aid. There's a lot of other things that add up to a little bit more.
It also gets consistent diplomatic support. The United States tends to back
Israel whenever there are critical resolutions in either the Security Council
or the General Assembly of the United Nations. Certainly comes to Israel's
aid in wartime, as it has done, for example, in the most recent war in
Lebanon, where the United States took Israel's side even though many other
democracies around the world were quite critical of the Israeli response and
its disproportionate character during that war.
GROSS: Where does the lobby's money come from?
Mr. WALT: Private donations from Americans. AIPAC, I think, gets almost all
of its money from individual contributions from Americans. And that
underscores, by the way, a very important point. There's nothing illegitimate
about this. This is the way American politics works. Groups in the lobby act
no differently than the farm lobby, than labor unions, than the National Rifle
Association, the AARP. American politics is built on the interplay and the
competition among interest groups, and there's nothing illegitimate about
people who are highly sympathetic to Israel organizing and advocating policies
they think will benefit Israel and that they, I'm sure, also believe will
benefit the United States. One of the central arguments in our book is that
they're simply wrong about this. The policies they are advocating have been
both harmful to the American national interest, but in many cases
unintentionally harmful to Israel, as well.
GROSS: You argue in your book that Israel was a strategic asset during the
Cold War, but now it's becoming a liability. What do you mean?
Mr. WALT: You can make a pretty good case that Israel was a strategic asset
during the Cold War, largely by helping the United States deal with various
Soviet client states in the Middle East, by sort of humiliating them in
warfare, by forcing the Soviet Union to expend a lot more resources backing
its various clients. You can make a case that Israel was an asset.
The problem is that the Cold War is now over, and unconditional support for
Israel complicates America's relationships in the Middle East and elsewhere in
a whole series of ways. First of all, it's one of the things that fuels
anti-Americanism throughout the Islamic and Muslim world. Again, it's not the
existence of Israel per se or the fact the United States supports Israel, but
the fact that we give Israel such unconditional support that drives this
problem at the same time that Israel is treating the Palestinian people in
such a brutal fashion. That causes a problem for us.
Second, it is clearly part of what has inspired terrorist groups like
al-Qaeda. It's not their only grievance, and if all the problems between
Israel and the Palestinians were solved tomorrow, some of these groups would
still be out there, but it clearly aids their recruiting. It's something they
can use, and it's clearly a motivation for some of them and they've made that
And finally, it complicates our diplomacy in all sorts of ways. First of all,
our allies in Europe and elsewhere often regard our Middle East policy as
somewhat one sided, and other countries in the region that would like to move
closer to the United States, would like to cooperate with us in, say, dealing
with countries like Iran, find it more difficult to do that because we are
seen as so unconditionally and closely allied with Israel. So, for all of
those reasons, Israel is no longer a strategic asset. It's really a strategic
liability. The United States should still support it but not because it makes
us safer to do so, but rather because we support the existence of Israel on
essentially moral grounds.
GROSS: Yeah, well, Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East
that's our ally in the war on terror, and historically it's been surrounded by
enemies, and in that sense the Israeli people are always very vulnerable. So
talk a little bit about how that figures into your view of the
Mr. WALT: Well, my co-author and I both strongly support Israel's right to
exist and, in fact, its right to exist in security and prosperity. We don't
question that at all. Yes, it's true that Israel has faced a difficult
environment--which is not particularly surprising, but it's true now that
Israel's security situation is much better than it's ever been, even allowing
for the problems it still has from Palestinian terrorism. It has a peace
treaty with Egypt, a peace treaty with Jordan. The Arab Peace Plan of 2002,
which was recently reaffirmed shows that the rest of the Arab world would be
willing to make peace with Israel if it could achieve a settlement vis-a-vis
the Palestinians. And, in a sense, it's only the continued Israeli presence
in the occupied territories and unwillingness to grant a Palestinian state, I
think, that's preventing it from having an even more secure relationship with
its neighbors. The problem is we're not doing Israel any favors by continuing
to give it unconditional support while it persists in policies that actually
make Israel less secure.
GROSS: Let's look at some of the instances in which you think that the
pro-Israel lobby in the United States had a major impact on American policy in
the Middle East. Why don't we start with the Iraq war. What impact do you
think the Israel lobby had on the invasion of Iraq?
Mr. WALT: Well, we argue in the book that the Israeli lobby, and in
particular the neoconservative faction, the more sort of hard line groups
within it, were critical to the American decision to invade Iraq. Now, that's
not to say that they were solely responsible, but we argue that, absent their
influence, the United States would have been much less likely to invade Iraq
in 2003. This is not to say that they caused the war all by themselves. For
example, we point out that, although the neoconservatives had begun pushing
for a war with Iraq in the late 1990s, they were unable to persuade Bill
Clinton to do it. And although they were continuing to push, and although a
number of prominent neoconservatives had important positions in the Bush
administration, they were unable to persuade President Bush or Vice President
Cheney to favor a war against Iraq in the first nine months of the Bush
administration. So they couldn't control American foreign policy or cause a
war by themselves.
After 9/11, however, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the political
calculations changed in a number of ways, and the neoconservatives in
particular are right there with a solution: Let's go after Iraq. And
eventually they persuade Vice President Cheney and President Bush to go along
with it. Now, once...
GROSS: Can I just stop you for a second?
Mr. WALT: Yeah.
GROSS: Some of the neoconservatives are Jewish, and I'll use, just to name
two, Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz. But does that mean that they're part of
what you describe as the pro-Israel lobby? Because you're talking about
neoconservatives as if they're intrinsically part of the pro-Israel lobby.
Mr. WALT: I think most of the neoconservatives are. All right? It's clear
if you look at the major writings of neoconservatives they are strongly
devoted to the state of Israel, but this isn't strictly because they're
Jewish. There're also a number of prominent neoconservatives--you know, John
Bolton, James Woolsey, and others--the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, for
example--who were not Jewish, and it gets back to a point I made earlier. You
define the lobby not by ethnicity or by religion but by a political agenda, by
what's the set of policy prescriptions that you're proposing.
The other key point to note here is that, although key organizations in the
lobby like the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish
Organizations, Christians United for Israel, AIPAC and others, all supported
the Iraq war and, in some cases, you know, pushed for it in various ways, the
broader American Jewish community was actually less supportive of going to war
than the American people as a whole. All right? These organizations were
pushing a policy that, in fact, American Jews tended to be less supportive of.
GROSS: We're looking now at some of the policies that you think the
pro-Israel lobby in America has been particularly influential in creating.
What about last year's war in Lebanon? What role do you think the pro-Israel
lobby in the United States played in that?
Mr. WALT: I believe the lobby quite unintentionally did considerable harm,
both to American interests in the region but also to Israeli interests. We
had a situation where Israel had a, you know, ongoing conflict with Hezbollah
in southern Lebanon, and Hezbollah had then staged an incident where they
killed and captured some Israeli soldiers. And there was no question that
Israel had the right to respond to that and indeed had a problem with
Hezbollah sitting in southern Lebanon. The problem was that the response that
Israel adopted to that, which was essentially a massive bombing campaign
against southern Lebanon and other parts of Lebanon, was doomed to fail. Once
the war started and it became clear that Israel's strategy wasn't working, we
should have worked overtime to shut it down. Unfortunately...
GROSS: What do you mean to shut it down?
Mr. WALT: To get a cease-fire, immediately.
Mr. WALT: In fact, what the United States government did during the war was
back Israel to the hilt. Let Israel use American military stores that are
stored in Israel to fight the war. We tried to slow the cease-fire
negotiations down inside the United Nations to give Israel more time for the
military campaign to operate, and we made a lot of supportive things.
Congress passed a resolution overwhelmingly, I think, you know something--410
to eight, declaring that, you know, Israel should be allowed to do whatever
was necessary. Overwhelming measure of support.
GROSS: My guest is Stephen Walt, co-author of the new book "The Israel Lobby
and US Foreign Policy." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is Stephen Walt, co-author of the controversial new book "The
Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy." The book argues that the US gives a
disproportionately high amount of aid to Israel and is uncritical of Israel
because of the power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US.
I think you've been criticized by some people for being critical of
Jewish-Americans for having a dual loyalty, for being loyal to American but
also, you know, feeling a loyalty to Israel even when that loyalty to Israel
may not be in America's best interest.
Mr. WALT: This is a very important subject. The point is that, first of
all, we don't accuse anyone of being disloyal to the United States. We
recognize that in the United States, which is a melting pot society, many
individuals have multiple loyalties and multiple attachments, to their
families, to churches and sometimes that includes an attachment to a foreign
country, for whatever set of reasons. It may be because of ancestry, it may
be because you studied over there when you were in college or in high school.
And in the United States it's perfectly permissible for those multiple
attachments to manifest themselves in politics. Americans can have dual
citizenship. Americans can serve in foreign armies, as long as we're not at
war with the other country. So we think there's nothing wrong with people
having an attachment to a foreign country, whether it's, you know,
Cuban-Americans, Irish-Americans, Indian-Americans, Jewish-Americans. That's
perfectly OK. And the point is we simply ought to acknowledge that openly.
We believe people in the lobby, whether they're Jewish or not, are advocating
policies they think are in America's interests and in Israel's interests, and
what we ought to be talking about is whether the policies they are advocating
are in fact good for us or good for Israel.
GROSS: Now, your new book has just been published, but before the book--what
was it, about two years ago?--you wrote an article that was the basis of this
book that was published in The London Review of Books and, boy, did that
generate controversy. And this new book is, of course, generating
controversy, too, and you have said it is very difficult to talk about the
pro-Israel lobby in the United States. I want you to share with us an example
of what you have experienced in the aftermath of the publication of your
article and the book that you think shows how difficult it is to talk about or
to criticize the pro-Israel lobby.
Mr. WALT: I could give you several, and I want to underscore that to say
that it's difficult to talk about it is not to say that it's impossible. The
fact that we've published a book with a major publisher at this point suggests
that it's possible to have the conversation. But there are a number of
reasons why it's hard.
I mean, first of all, if you are critical of Israeli policy or if you're
critical of the influence of groups like AIPAC and others, you are virtually
certain to be accused of being an anti-Semite and, of course, that happened to
us. We were accused by a wide variety of people of being anti-Semitic. This
is nonsense, but it's the standard sort of smear tactic that is often used
when anyone wants to be critical. And, by the way, that smear tactic is used
because it immediately changes the subject and, instead of people talking
about the actual substance of your claims, whether you're right or wrong, they
start talking about what you were like as a person. It also deters lots of
people from even raising possible questions because they don't want to get
branded with that kind of an epithet. Most people are reluctant to touch this
issue because they realize that you're going to get attacked, and the attacks
are not going to be particularly gentlemanly.
The problem, of course, is if we can't talk about these subjects in a rather
civilized and candid way we're more likely to adopt policies that don't make
much sense either, because we haven't had a chance to argue them out openly.
And if people feel like raising legitimate concerns about American foreign
policy is somehow taboo or will carry a large, personal price, we're not going
to be able to have that kind of discussion.
GROSS: A little later in our show, we're going to be hearing from Abraham
Foxman, who's the head of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the groups that
you include in the larger pro-Israel lobby in the United States, and his new
book is, in large part, an answer to your book, and he says, "I am not calling
Mearsheimer and Walt anti-Semites, but I am saying that their article repeats
and supports myths and beliefs that anti-Semites have peddled for centuries,
thereby giving aid and comfort to some of the most despicable people in our
society. And it does so by using half-truths, distortions and outright
falsehoods to prop up a general analysis that is dishonest and wrong. I know
that bigoted individuals and groups will happily disseminate the Mearsheimer
and Walt article. The anti-Semites are delighted with Mearsheimer and Walt's
thesis and see in it support for much of what they believe." How would you
respond to that?
Mr. WALT: First of all, although Mr. Foxman is not calling us anti-Semites
in this book, he has done so in the past. He said our book is a classic
conspiratorial analysis and clearly stated that we were anti-Semitic.
Second, what he's doing now in the book is essentially misrepresenting our
argument. He's saying that we portray the lobby as all-powerful, that we
think Jewish groups control our foreign policy. The subtitle of his book
is--"The Deadliest Lies" is the title, and the subtitle is "The Myth of Jewish
Control." So the idea is that we're suggesting that Jews control our foreign
policy. Of course, we never say that but the goal is to make us think that
we're sort of an updated version of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion,"
this classic conspiracy theory, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that was
discredited, you know, long ago. So it's a rather subtle way of implying that
we're if not anti-Semitic, awfully darn close. And again, that's sort of the
standard tactic here. You first misrepresent someone's argument, and then you
smear people in that way.
Now, the question is, are we then providing aid and comfort? I think there's
no question that there will be some despicable extremists who will try to
exploit what we've written. We have no control over how others want to misuse
our book, but we've made it abundantly clear in the book how much we condemn
anti-Semitism, how much we regard various extremists as despicable, and so if
someone wants to try and use the book to advocate or to advance that kind of
agenda, they're going to have to ignore some key elements in precisely what we
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you a lot for talking with us.
Mr. WALT: It's been a pleasure.
GROSS: Stephen Walt is co-author of "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy."
He's a professor at Harvard.
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League
and author, talks about his new book "The Deadliest Lies"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
`Explosive, inflammatory and false' is the way my guest Abraham Foxman
describes the argument that Stephen Walt just made on our show and makes in
the new book "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy." Walt's book says the
powerful pro-Israel lobby has successfully pressured the US to give a
disproportionately large amount of support to Israel and to be unconditional
and uncritical in its support of Israel.
Foxman has written a new book in response to this argument called "The
Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and The Myth of Jewish Control." Foxman is
the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Walt accounts the
leadership of this group as part of the pro-Israel lobby.
Abraham Foxman, welcome to FRESH AIR. Walt and Mearsheimer say that Israel
was a strategic asset during the Cold War, but now it's become a strategic
liability for the United States, and America's unconditional support of Israel
has reinforced anti-Americanism around the world and strained relations with
our allies. Do you agree with them that Israel has become a strategic
liability in our unconditional support of it?
Mr. ABRAHAM FOXMAN: Well, number one, it's not unconditional support. The
history of the US bilateral relationship with Israel is full of agreements and
disagreements. So that's an overstatement which fits their thesis.
I think, Terry, it's even worse. They present the relationship between the
United States and Israel in a selective reading of history. And first they
start with the moral issue, and one needs to understand that it builds a
certain paradigm, that they first argue that support for Israel was seen as a
moral position of the United States; and then they argue and say, `well,
Israel is not moral. It hasn't helped the Palestinians get its state. And
therefore there is no moral case anymore for Israel.' So then they turn to, is
it worthy because Israel is in the best interest of the United States. And
then, again--and a biased recitation, totally distorted, totally selective,
not substantiated--they make a case that support for Israel brings us
terrorism, makes us enemies around the world, etc., etc., etc.
But I believe their case that Israel is not in America's interests is biased,
shoddy, unsubstantiated. Interesting, very interesting, only two weeks ago,
on August 17th, the United States signed an agreement with Israel giving it
$30 billion over the next 10 years in military aid. And the under-secretary
of state who was in Israel to sign it said, and I quote, "We look at this
region and we see that a secure and strong Israel is in the interest of the
United States." Very clear, in the same way as the United States, I am sure,
will say if and when it signs the agreement for $20 billion with Saudi Arabia
or the Gulf States.
GROSS: Another argument that Mearsheimer and Walt make is that Israel gets a
disproportionate amount of arms and aid, and that this isn't really justified
Mr. FOXMAN: Well, I don't know what makes them the experts on what number
would strategically be OK. Israel is a country which, for many years, has
been described as an air force carrier in defense of America's interests in
the Middle East It's a place of instability. It's a place where terrorism
still, unfortunately, permeates too many of the countries. Terrorism is
directed not only against Israel, but against America, America's interests.
It is a place where America's lifeline of fuel, of oil continues. It needs to
And Israel has, and continues to be, not only during the Soviet, you know, US
Hot/Cold War days, but now a strategic bulwark for stability. And in an area
where Iran is planning a nuclear weapon, in an area where there are arms in
the hands of terrorists, of rough groups, America has committed itself to
maintain Israel's strategic edge so none of these countries be tempted--be
tempted to try to wipe it out as some of them have declared. And so the arms
package, by the way, this most recent one, which goes to Israel and goes to
Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt, sees Israel and our allies and friends in
the Middle East as part of that strategic asset to protect stability, to fight
against terrorism and to protect the values and the freedoms that we all
GROSS: Mearsheimer and Walt say that the neoconservatives who pushed for the
war in Iraq were, many of them were kind of tied to the pro-Israel lobby, and
if it wasn't for them it's unlikely we would have invaded Iraq. So I guess
what I'm wondering here is, you know, as the head of the Anti-Defamation
League, what were your memories within your group and within the other Jewish
groups that you belong to about the debate over the war?
Mr. FOXMAN: Terry, that's probably their most sinister, dangerous
conclusion. And that is that without the pressure of the Israel lobby, of the
Jewish community, of the neocons, you know, who in their minds are only
Jewish, there would--America would not be in a war in Iraq, which of course
they then say is against America's interest. And that is, again, abject
A, if you study, as I have--and it's in my book--where the Jewish community
was there was a debate. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the American
Jewish community as represented, let's say by the largest membership
organization in a Jewish community, which is the Reform Movement, had been
opposed to the war in Iraq from day one. So has been the conservative
movement. The Jewish community has continued to be critical of the war from
its inception. So to believe and to come to the conclusion that were it not
for the Jewish lobby and Jews who love Israel, America would not today be at
war is not only bias and bigotry, but it's abject nonsense.
GROSS: First of all, let me say just say when Mearsheimer and Walt talk about
the pro-Israel lobby, they say it's a--the way they use the term, it's about
pro-Israel interests and not all of the members of the group are Jewish. But
also, they acknowledge what you're saying, that there was a lot of dissent
within the larger Jewish community about invading Iraq. There was a lot of
opposition to that. But that's why they make their next point, which is that
the pro-Israel lobby in the United States isn't representative of the larger
Jewish community. They described the lobby as being very hard line, very
hawkish. And I...
Mr. FOXMAN: Well, Terry...
GROSS: ...wonder it that fits your perception?
Mr. FOXMAN: Well, Terry, they can't have it both ways, OK? So if that's the
case that we are so diverse and have all kinds--so why write a book about the
Israel lobby? I think, again, the most sinister conclusion of all of this is
if, in fact, there is no moral case to support Israel, if, in fact, there is
no national interest case, so why is America supporting Israel contrary to its
moral view, contrary to its national interest view? And the answer is,
because there is a group out there called the Israel lobby made up of
primarily Jews, who so control the instruments of American foreign policy.
This is a historically, anti-Semitic canard that Jews only act--are not loyal,
are not loyal to the country that they're in. And if it is not in the
interest of the United States to go to Iraq, and the only reason America is in
Iraq because of Jews, that's an act of disloyalty. This is the oldest
anti-Semitic canard that Jews have suffered. Now, the fact that two
professors from--one from Harvard or Chicago articulated rather than the Pat
Buchanans or David Duke, does not change the sinister conclusion. They build
this paradigm and then they come to a conclusion. And you know what? It's OK
for them to say that American Jews are not loyal. That's OK. But it's not OK
to say, you know what? That's an anti-Semitic canard.
GROSS: Do they say American Jews aren't loyal? Or do they say...
Mr. FOXMAN: Well, that's their conclusion, Terry. Their conclusion is that
American Jews--let's take just the Iraq issue--acted not in the best interest
of the United States, but acted in the best interest, what they believe was,
for the state of Israel. I don't know how else to read it. If American Jews
act in concert, as the lobby has acted, in order to push America into a war
because of Israel's interest and not America's interest, what other word do
you have but disloyalty? That's the conclusion.
GROSS: But in fairness, I think they're talking about the pro-Israel lobby,
which is a lobby group that they say is politically very hard line, they're
differentiating between Jewish people in America and this specific lobby.
It's the specific lobby group, its use of its influence and its politics that
they are questioning.
Mr. FOXMAN: Terry, they cannot have it both ways. They wrote a book about
an Israel lobby. It is a sinister depiction of how the American Jewish
community operates in support of Israel's interest. They didn't write--and
again, nobody wrote a book about the Saudi lobby, the oil lobby, the Greek
lobby, OK? Nobody's asking those questions. There is,
unfortunately--unfortunately, Terry--a history that this plugs into. And that
is, and not to be over dramatic, but when Hitler began his anti-Semitic
campaigns, he did not begin with Aryan supremacy. Hitler charged the Jews as
being not loyal Germans, putting their own interests above the interests of
the German people, selling out Germany's interests, bringing Germany to its
knees, and therefore they don't deserve to live, etc., etc. When Stalin began
his anti-Semitic campaign, it was that the Jews were not loyal Soviets. They
didn't have the interests of the Soviet Union, of communism. They had an
interest of Zionism. This is what this plugs into.
This is a skewed analysis of recent day history. And it puts all the ills on
the Middle East, all the ills that America suffers, from 9/11 to the
percentages of people that don't like America, not on our policies, but on the
Jews or the friends of Israel. Now, you know, big or small, the book is
called "The Israel Lobby." They define the Israel lobby as a coming together
of groups who only care about Israel. Terry, that is sinister anti-Semitic
canards. That's what they're saying. And it's very, very serious.
GROSS: My guest is Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation
League and author of the new book "The Deadliest Lies." More after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation
League. His new book "The Deadliest Lies" counters a new book by Stephen Walt
and John Mearsheimer, which argues that the pro-Israel lobby in the US has
pressured the US to give a disproportionately high amount of aid to Israel and
to be unconditional in its support of Israel.
One of their bottom lines is that they think that the Israel lobby should be
more representative of the diversity of Jewish opinion in the United States.
They say the lobby largely represents a hard line, hawkish point of view. And
their bottom line, they say, is that they'd like to see the lobby expanded to
represent different opinions regarding Israel's future, representative of a
larger American Jewish community. Do you disagree with that aspect of their
Mr. FOXMAN: Terry, first of all, first of all, with all due respect, why is
that their business how the American Jewish community works? That's number
one. Who made them the mavens and the scholars on how we should operate? OK.
But having said that, again, it is a skewed, biased evaluation of our
commitment. We are a more diverse community than you can imagine. There's
more disagreement on issues in our community, including Israel. If they only
bothered to look at it!
GROSS: When you say the community, do you mean the lobby?
Mr. FOXMAN: The pro-Israel community.
Mr. FOXMAN: The pro-Israel--I would include in the pro Israel community the
right and the left. And I would say the liberal and the conservative. And
they do not agree on settlements, they don't agree on all kinds of issues on
Israel policy and American policy and support. Some believe America should be
more active in promoting of peace. Some believe we should be less active.
Some believe arms should be given to Saudi Arabia. Some believe that it
shouldn't be given to Saudi Arabia. It is nonsense to say that this community
is controlled by a hard core right wing! They don't happen to like the hard
core right wing? They're entitled. But we have as diverse and as exciting
and as open a community. And, again, there is a lot of debate in the
community. There is.
But you know when there isn't a debate, when Israel is attacked, when there
are terrorist bombs and suicide bombers, the Jewish community stands together.
Mearsheimer and Walt make that--that's not very important. You won't find
very much significant, you know, role being put on the fact of rejectionism,
of the wars by the Arabs, of the suicide bombers. That they discount.
There's a debate here and in Israel, should Israel have, you know, gone into
Lebanon the way they did? Did they have other options? We are an open,
diverse, if you will, argumentative community, certainly on these issues.
There is no unanimity except in moments of danger.
You know what? American foreign policy throughout--yeah, I've been around for
42 years, Terry--I remember too frequently when the United States policy
contrary to the strength of the lobby sold arms to Saudi Arabia, didn't give
Israel loan guarantees, chastised Israel on settlements. So if we are so
united and so powerful and so--how come, how come these things went against,
quote, unqote, not only Israel's interests but what the united Jewish
community thought was in the best interests of Israel?
GROSS: Would you describe--you know, you're the head of the Anti-Defamation
League--would you describe the Mearsheimer and Walt book as defamation, and
would you ever try to prevent them speaking someplace because you saw it as
Mr. FOXMAN: Yeah, I do see it as defamation of the Jewish people in a
classical sense. No, I would not prevent them from speaking. I think they
should have the right to speak wherever they want. And I also believe
institutions have the right to decide whether to invite me, to invite them,
whether this is a legitimate subject or not.
GROSS: What kind of reaction to the Mearsheimer-Walt controversy are you
getting in your office?
Mr. FOXMAN: The response in my office is one of serious concern, because
when these arguments came from the mouth of Pat Buchanan and David Duke and
extremist Arab fundamentalists and bigots, that's one thing. We know how to
deal with that. We expect it to come. What has happened because of
Mearsheimer-Walt, because they are two respected professors, who I think have
hurt themselves with the scholarship of this treatise, but--and a Jimmy
Carter, a former president, it has taken this issue as `Are Jews loyal? How
loyal are they? Do they only care about themselves?' into a mainstream
debate. Not in the fringes of our society where these kind of charges belong,
but into a legitimate debate.
Now, we're debating in a very, very, very, very significant radio network,
NPR, which is serious. Now, we're debating the issue, are Jews
disproportionately powerful? Do they control too much? Do they care about
the interests of the United States? I think that's--my staff and I find that
very, very distressing that they have legitimated an anti-Semitic issue which
used to be in the fringes of society into mainstream and is now OK to ask,
`Are Jews loyal? Do they care about America first? How do they control?' I
find that very, very distressing. And I know, you know, it's an open society,
one should discuss it. But why this is now a significant issue and we are now
giving it legitimacy by debating it as it if has merit.
GROSS: Abraham Foxman, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. FOXMAN: Thank you.
GROSS: Abraham Foxman is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League,
and is the author of the new book "The Deadliest Lies." It was written in
response to the new book "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy." We heard
from that book's co-author earlier in the show.
Coming up, we remember writer Michael Jackson, famous for his books about
beer. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: A 1991 interview with writer Michael Jackson, most
famous for books about beer, who died last week
TERRY GROSS, host:
The common wisdom used to be that wine is the drink for connoisseurs, beer is
a populist beverage. Michael Jackson became famous for writing as seriously
about the subtleties of beer as wine experts did about the grape. He was
considered the world's leading consumer writer on beer and was credited with
helping start the microbrewery craze in the US. He wrote best-selling books
and did a popular British TV series called "The Beer Hunter." Jackson also
loved single malt Scotch, drinking it and writing about it.
Jackson died of a heart attack last week at the age of 65. He'd had
Parkinson's disease for about 10 years. We're going to listen back to an
interview with Jackson recorded in 1991.
I think I'm typical of a lot of Americans in the sense that I drink my share
of beer, but I know very little about how it's made. And it's really easy for
me to visualize the making of wine, even though I know very little about that,
too, because, you know, you make the grapes into a liquid and they ferment.
But I don't understand how beer is made out of malt. I mean, I've really
never understood it.
Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON: The two...
GROSS: I mean, I don't mean malt. I mean barley.
Mr. JACKSON: Well, let's see what we do mean. I mean...
GROSS: Yeah, what do we mean?
Mr. JACKSON: ...the two are very, very--wine and beer are made by very, very
similar processes. They are the...
GROSS: But you don't step on barley.
Mr. JACKSON: Well, you can if you want to. It doesn't do you an awful lot
of good. I mean, really, wine is a less sophisticated product because you can
just step on the grapes...
Mr. JACKSON: ...and get the juice out of them, and the juice will ferment as
a result of the wild yeast that was on the skins. And then you have your
wine. And your wine maker then tells you if you don't like it, well, tough,
it wasn't a very good year, you know, which brewers never tell you. Wine is
made out of fruit, and the fruit is usually the grape.
Mr. JACKSON: It doesn't have to be. Beer is made out of grain. And the
grain is usually barley, but it doesn't have to be. Other grains are used to
some extent, especially wheat. In order to get the natural fermentable sugars
out of the grape, all you have to do is crush it. In order to get the natural
fermentable sugars out of the grain, you have to soak it in water so that it
begins to sprout, and then let it sprout for about a week. And at that point
that the sprouting of it is at an optimum and you want to then stabilize it,
so you stabilize it by heat. And that process, the process of taking grains,
sprouting them and arresting the sprouting by drying is the process of
malting. So when you've done that to barley you've got barley malt. When
you've done it to wheat, you've got wheat malt. We just--you could just call
it malt. A malt is the real--what grapes are to wine, barley malt, whole
wheat malt is to beer.
GROSS: Some people say that you won't get as hung over with Scotch as you
will with beer or wine. What's your experience?
Mr. JACKSON: My experience, I regret to say, is to the contrary. I have a
very definite belief about hangovers, which is essentially that the blander
the product is, the less likely you are to get a hangover from it. And the
fuller in flavor it is--not fuller in body, but fuller in flavor it
is--probably more complex in flavor, probably the greater your chance of
getting a hangover. That's all of my experience. And I believe it to be
true, and I believe it to be based on the fact that the natural chemical
compounds that occur in fine wines, fine beers, single malt Scotches that make
them complex and interesting, unfortunately may also give you a hangover if
you drink too much of them.
Mr. JACKSON: There was some British writer who said he felt sorry for people
who didn't wake up with a hangover, because that was as good as they were
going to feel all day. I'll just throw that little philosophical thought into
GROSS: Do you get hung over much, or are you such the professional at
drinking that you never over drink?
Mr. JACKSON: Well, I very rarely drink too much. That maybe makes me sound
like a bit of a party pooper. But when I'm working I'm drinking to taste
these products, so I'm certainly not chugging them. When I do get a hangover,
I suffer miserably from hangovers. And there's no real cure. I mean, you can
take--drink a lot of water before you go to bed, but you probably don't
remember to do that. The most important thing to do if you have a hangover,
really, is to do something about your blood sugar level in the morning. And
the best thing to do is to--you really have to eat something, however little
you feel like eating something, you really must eat something, you must force
yourself to eat something, something like toast and honey is very good, or I
think my sort of classic Jewish recipe, although it's a Jewish recipe for
everything, of course, is chicken soup. But chicken soup is very good for
getting rid of a hangover.
GROSS: Even for breakfast, huh?
Mr. JACKSON: Well, depends how late you lay in, I suppose.
GROSS: How did you get involved with being a professional beer writer,
especially given that so few people have focused on beer as compared to wine?
Mr. JACKSON: Originally I was a hard news journalist and then a columnist,
and for a time a television journalist, too. And I--all my buddies, they all
drank beer, journalists all drank beer. They all loved it. They all talked
about it incessantly among themselves, how, `Do you think this one's better
than the one we had last night. You know, I was on assignment in such a city
and I had this one and wow, you should taste that.' They were fascinated with
beer, yet when it came to the idea of trying to persuade the newspaper, or the
magazine or the TV station to actually do something about beer there was, `Oh,
well people aren't interested in that.'
GROSS: I mean to cover it.
Mr. JACKSON: Yes. Even though they were all interested in it themselves,
they somehow thought that their readers out there had a quite different
perception. And I always thought that it was very odd that people loved
drinking beer and then went off to write articles about wine. So I was always
trying to--I was a sort of guerilla warrior even in those days trying to get
stories about beer into the paper. Very often the only way around doing that
was to actually ostensibly write about pubs and sort of sneak in the beer
information. The pub was a Trojan horse, and you snuck in the beer
information inside that Trojan horse. And eventually somebody asked me to
write a book on pubs and, really, halfway through writing the book--I mean, I
accepted the assignment, and the book was eventually published, and everybody
was happy with it--but halfway through I realized I really wanted to write a
book about beer.
GROSS: Mm-hmm. Let me ask you one final question. Are you tired of people
making Michael Jackson jokes, you know, about the singer vs. you?
Mr. JACKSON: Well, I guess if I'm not used to it now I never will be.
GROSS: What's your standard comeback on that?
Mr. JACKSON: Well, it depends precisely what the joke is, but, you know, I
like to point out to people that I had the name first. I considered writing
to the other Michael Jackson and saying that for a very small royalty I'll
license my name to him, otherwise I'll sue him for stealing my name. I'm a
terrible dancer, but I can sing. I think when I sing I sing rather more black
people's music than he does because I'm a lover of the blues. So--I even have
a glove which I occasionally use just for a little joke.
GROSS: Oh, really?
Mr. JACKSON: Tasting glove, you know, to put a bit of glitter into my beer.
GROSS: Well, Michael Jackson, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. JACKSON: Thank you.
GROSS: Michael Jackson recorded in 1991. He died last week at the age of 65.
You can download podcasts of our show by going to our Web site,
freshair.npr.org. I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.