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London Bridge

May 4, 2006 By:
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0ne point that's only been touched upon in the massive brouhaha that blew up recently over Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's essay titled "The Israel Lobby" is where it first appeared. Don't get me wrong; many commentators mentioned that it was printed in The London Review of Books of March 23, but they simply left it at that. I imagine the reason's been that few everyday American newspaper readers know anything about The London Review of Books (nor do they care), but I do think this fact has pertinence.

The London Review is much like its American cousin, The New York Review of Books, which predated the British journal by several years, if not a decade. Both attempt the very same thing - to take the temperature of their specific cultures by featuring lengthy review essays about books of the moment they deem deserving of notice. They also print long pieces that look at politics and the political situation throughout the world, the Walt and Mearsheimer being a formidable example of this sort of thing.

As might also be surmised, both publications have been longtime and intrepid bashers of the Jewish state since they are also mouthpieces for and stalwart defenders of the political lefts in their countries.

Just to follow through on the link between the two publications for a moment, it seems appropriate - at least from the worldview of the editors of these journals - for a third publication with left-leaning tendencies - The New York Times - to ask Tony Judt to defend the Walt and Mearsheimer piece in an editorial on April 19. The main reason is that Judt is a contributor to both reviews, and in the New York version made it clear that he wished Israel would simply disappear - he repeatedly brings up the one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis at the drop of a hat - mostly because the actions of Jews these days (and especially Israelis) "embarrass" him.

But there's another point to be made about where Walt and Mearsheimer debuted their ideas. I'm not certain if the two academics - Walt is from Harvard University, and his pal hails from the University of Chicago - tried to find a home for their analysis in the United States. There are doubtless lots of places that would have given it space, but they're mostly on the fringes, and none is as prestigious as the London Review. But the larger point is that the Brit journal has had a long and distinguished career in denigrating Israel, and its editors must have been tickled pink to clear so much space to accommodate this complex argument. Believe me, the American left is deplorable for lots of reasons - its treatment of Israel among them - but its members don't hold a candle to the vituperation that British leftists can work up whenever Israel is the target. The editors of the London Review must also be thrilled right down to their very tippy toes about how much visibility they've picked up via this dust-up, which has lots more gas left in its tank and many miles to go - no matter what the price of oil may be at the present.

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