Mearsheimer And The Jewish Anti-Semite

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 26 2011 @ 1:29pm

There's been a fair bit of outrage over John Mearsheimer's endorsement of avowed anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon's new book. Jeffrey Goldberg feels vindicated:

In this new book, Atzmon suggests, among other things, that scholars should reopen the question of medieval blood libels leveled against Jews– accusations that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make matzo, and which provoked countless massacres of Jews in many different countries. If you recall from the fight over "The Israel Lobby," which Mearsheimer wrote with Stephen Walt, of Harvard, the authors claimed that they were simply writing a critique of American foreign policy, and of certain American citizens who, they said, "distorted" foreign policy. Many of us disagreed.

Both David Bernstein and Pejman Yousefzadeh feel compelled to walk back their defenses of Mearsheimer. The realist, meanwhile, defends himself:

Goldberg's indictment of Atzmon does not rely on anything that he wrote in The Wandering Who? Indeed, Goldberg's blog post is silent on whether he has actually read the book. If he did read it, he apparently could not find any evidence to support his indictment of Atzmon. Instead, he relied exclusively on evidence culled from Atzmon's own blog postings. That is why Goldberg's assault on me steers clear of criticizing Atzmon's book, which is what I blurbed. In short, he falsely accuses me of lending support to a Holocaust denier and defender of Hitler on the basis of writings that I did not read and did not comment upon…Goldberg's charge that Atzman is a Holocaust denier or an apologist for Hitler is baseless. Nor is Atzmon an anti-Semite.

I have a hard time commenting on this since I have not read the book in question, although Atzmon strikes me as a disturbed figure wont to write obviously explosive things. Here is Mearsheimer's view of the dude:

Atzmon is a universalist who does not like the particularism that characterizes Zionism and which has a rich tradition among Jews and any number of other groups. He is the kind of person who intensely dislikes nationalism of any sort. Princeton professor Richard Falk captures this point nicely in his own blurb for the book, where he writes: "Atzmon has written an absorbing and moving account of his journey from hard-core Israeli nationalist to a de-Zionized patriot of humanity."

Atzmon's basic point is that Jews often talk in universalistic terms, but many of them think and act in particularistic terms. One might say they talk like liberals but act like nationalists. Atzmon will have none of this, which is why he labels himself a self-hating Jew. He fervently believes that Jews are not the "Chosen People" and that they should not privilege their "Jewish-ness" over their other human traits. Moreover, he believes that one must choose between Athens and Jerusalem, as they "can never be blended together into a lucid and coherent worldview." (p. 86) One can argue that his perspective is dead wrong, or maintain that it is a lovely idea in principle but just not the way the real world works. But it is hardly an illegitimate or ignoble way of thinking about humanity.