Classics Revisited: The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt July 26, 2014 13:14

Recently, with the ongoing conflict in Gaza, many people have come in to the store asking for book recommendations that can help them to understand the dynamics of the conflict. As a result, I have decided to start a weekly blog feature here on our Book Store website featuring must-read books relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as a general understanding of the Middle East in general. To seasoned readers on the Middle East, most of these featured books will be no-brainers. Regardless, I hope to introduce a new audience of readers to these seminal works as an introduction to both the plight of Palestinians and to the greater Middle East. 

Many Westerners have been appalled by the recent invasion of Gaza and the incredible loss of life that has resulted. With each Israeli onslaught, it becomes more and more difficult for the average citizen to sit by and watch. Since most of us here are not Palestinians, it is quite difficult to effect change from within the Occupied Territories, nor should one aim to speak on behalf of any other group. Similarly, most of us have no ties to the state of Israel, and have a limited capacity to effect change in the Israeli government. But this does not mean that we have to sit idly by. 

In my view, the most important thing Americans can do if to educate themselves on their own complicity in the conflict. The fact is that without U.S. support to the government of Israel, blatantly illegal military operations such as the current one in Gaza would be very difficult, if not impossible. Our tax money makes it possible for Israel to continue expanding their architecture of domination which our government works tirelessly to defend on the international stage. At the same time, more and more Americans do not support the occupation. How is this possible?

First published in 2007, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt was the first major scholarly publication to expose the relation between the largest Israeli lobby organization in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and the U.S. Government. This hugely important work illustrates the dynamic which makes it possible for such an unpopular regime to receive such unquestioned support from America. At the time, the book was met with huge criticism from Zionist and neo-conservative groups. Passionate columns were written by commentators such as Alan Dershowitz, Eliot Cohen, and Benny Morris, accusing Mearsheimer and Walt of anti-semitism, anti-Americanism, and a host of other inflammatory terms.  

For many, the audible outrage from certain individuals and groups was evidence of the book's compelling argument, as well as evidence of the difficulty of even engaging in debate about this issue, resulting from the power and ability of organizations like AIPAC to define the parameters of public discussion. Yet today, largely as a result of this powerful piece and the debate it sparked, the operations of groups like AIPAC are closely monitored by Human Rights organizations, and while fervent criticism of the book remains, it is unquestionably one of the most important books for Americans to understanding their own roles in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.