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My Effort To Prevent John Mearsheimer From Being Honored
Mon, 03/11/2013 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Last year, my senior year at Croton-Harmon High School in Croton on Hudson, New York, I discovered that the school was going to confer its Distinguished Graduate Award to Dr. John Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, which asserts that there is no moral or strategic reason for the United States to maintain its close relationship with Israel. He blames the relationship on the Israel Lobby, which he goes on to define as being made up primarily of American Jews who exert undue influence to the point of control over the media, Congress, and every American President in living memory and beyond. In the end, he talks about how this influence might be curtailed.

As a student in Write On For Israel, The Jewish Week advocacy program for high school students, I had been aware of Dr. Mearsheimer and his book. But I had no idea that he was a graduate of my high school.

Now my school had decided to bestow a high honor upon him (Class of 1965). The award nomination form states: “The Croton-Harmon High School Hall of Distinguished Graduates honors Croton-Harmon High School graduates who have truly distinguished themselves in their chosen career and/or have significantly and positively impacted the lives and welfare of their community.”

After learning about the planned award about a month before it was set to take to take place, in December 2011, I sent a series of emails to the school superintendent, principal, vice principal and school board, explaining why the award should not be granted to Dr. Mearsheimer, informing them of his endorsement of Gilad Atzmon’s The Wandering Who? which was widely criticized as blatantly anti-Semitic, and the anti-Semitic nature of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy that Dr. Mearsheimer co-authored with Stephen Walt. 

I met privately on multiple occasions with the school principal and superintendant regarding this issue.  I was told that they were less interested in Mearsheimer’s endorsement of someone else’s book than what he himself had written, and that the issue was one of free speech. Further, I was told that the decision was “under review” and that all of the information that I provided was being considered.  I also became aware that as a result of my emails there were objections from members of the school board.

On November 11, the superintendant sent an email saying that “the Distinguished Graduate Ceremony originally scheduled for December 5, 2011 has been postponed indefinitely ‘due to concerns expressed by some members of the Croton community’ as well as other factors.”  On December 14, another email from the superintendant stated: “we are going to revisit the ‘Distinguished Graduate’ process next fall with a new district-wide committee that will develop clear rubrics and a solid vetting process to use moving forward.  In essence, we will be starting from the beginning next fall.”  It seemed like I had reached someone who realized and knew what a mistake it would be to honor Dr. Mearsheimer with this award.  I felt like my case had been heard, that the school had come to its senses, and that this issue had been laid to rest.

A year later, visiting home for Thanksgiving, I saw on the front page of the local newspaper a photo of a smiling Dr. Mearsheimer as a distinguished graduate honoree. I was shocked and frustrated to read that the school had chosen him despite everything that had happened during the previous school year.

Why was the award granted despite the concerns expressed by the Croton community that the superintendent, and presumably other school officials, had previously thought to be prohibitive?  Had the new committee that was to be formed actually materialized, and did it decide that Dr. Mearsheimer was worthy of the award?  Why were objections from school board members, which I learned were raised again in 2012, also deemed to be insignificant?

On January 4, I sent an email to the superintendent, principal, vice-principal, and school board asking these questions, as well as expressing my disappointment in this decision. I told them that Croton-Harmon High School officials owe the community an explanation as to why they felt that Dr. Mearsheimer is to be regarded as a role model for the students of the Croton-Harmon School District.  I also offered the school the opportunity to defend its decision and make the reasoning behind it clear.  I explained that there is an opportunity to advance the educational process through an open forum involving parents, faculty, alumni, and students, telling them that I would be delighted to work on such a program if the school is willing.

In a response from the superintendent on January 7, he stated to me that additional research had been done in a newly formed committee that included “a board of education representative and a former board member, and a full representation was achieved including members of the faculty, administration, and student body (which was lacking on the original process).  After extensive research and discussion, the group did not find Mr. Mearsheimer to be anti-Semitic.  While there were some in the community who might not agree, the committee believed it needed to make an informed decision based on their research and is comfortable with that decision.”

I find it hard to believe that this group did not identify the discriminatory nature of Dr. Mearsheimer’s work or his endorsement of Atzmon’s book.  I am disappointed that they would grant this award to someone who has so greatly and vehemently attacked a minority group for exercising its rights. I think it is important that the light of day be shined on this situation and I hope it can serve as a learning experience for others.

Josh Blumberg is a student at the University of Michigan College of Engineering and a Write-On For Israel alumnus.

Croton Harmon High School, Croton on Hudson, Walt and Mearsheimer

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As a fellow holder of a PhD in International Relations and a reader of Mearsheimer, my view is that when we start banning people from getting awards or honours based on their political views we're in Nazi territory.

Let the man accept the honour in peace.

would the people who wrote to disagree with the student mentioned agree with the giving of an honor to an author who said blacks or hispanics control the political process, the presidency and elected officials or would they consider that bias? just wondering.

You try to change the subject to diaspora africans and hispanics in US, but I will follow You: Mearsheimer/Walt don't use the word "control", but "manipulate" and I think this is an important difference. The important question is, if the influence of the Israel lobby is good or bad for US interest. This should openly debated and looking on the Hagel hearing everybody should be serious concerned about the influence. The influence of the diaspora Africans on let us say the stop-and-frisk-programme in New York has no impact and the influence of the Hispanics on the immigration politics is important for the US.

"Why were objections from school board members, which I learned were raised again in 2012, also deemed to be insignificant?"

Perhaps it was because they were unfounded.

Nice job calling Mearsheimer an ant-semite without any actual evidence. "Some people say his book has an anti-semitic nature, hence anti-semite" CLASSIC! "Some people say the person who wrote this post is enagged in defamation of character, hence he cares not a wit about the free speech and is a Constitution hating anti-American." Two can play this stupid game.

Mearsheimer and Walt claim that anyone who criticizes Israel in public is likely to be attacked by the Israel Lobby and smeared as an anti-Semite.
Mearsheimer and Walt criticized Israel's oppression of the Palestinians. And then what happened? The Israel Lobby smeared them as anti-Semites.
Which actually proves that Mearsheimer and Walt were right about the Lobby.

Fortunately the usual smear job did not work on Mearsheimer and Walt. Perhaps, if they write a new edition of The Israel Lobby, Mearsheimer and Walt can include a brief reference to the activities of Josh Blumberg, as a fairly minor member of the Israel Lobby. His effort to smear Mearshcimer failed also.

The school officials at Croton-Harmon NEITHER need to defend their decision nor explain it to anyone. Got it?

Writing a book critical of Israel and with an analysis of the US Establishment's "special relationship" with Israel, a fully footnoted source book too, is well within any bounds of what American's know as "free speech." Also, giving a good review of a book, as Mr Mearsheimer did, is easily free speech, and also to be protected. I am alarmed that Mr Blumberg thinks it's ok to intimidate people by glibly tossing out the career-ruining charge of anti-semitism. We need an informed citizenry, not a brain-washed citizenry.

This fanatical pursuit of those denouncing Zionism is skirting the peripheries of fascism.

Re the questions: “Exactly how has Dr. Mearsheimer attacked a "minority group" or any group at all for "exercising its rights?"”; and you claim Prof Walt to be anti-semitic but provide no supporting evidence,” below are some quotes from Mearsheimer. If you don’t think that defining the “lobby” as Jews and claiming that they manipulate and control the United States President, Congress, media, etc. is anti-Semitic, then nothing will convince you.

However, the real issue here is not Mearsheimer and it's not this student. The issue is the poor judgement exercised by the school leadership in selecting a poor role model.

All of the following are quotes from Mearsheimer:

The core of the Lobby is comprised of American Jews who make a significant effort in their daily lives to bend U.S. foreign policy so that it advances Israel’s interests. Their activities go beyond merely voting for candidates who are pro‐Israel to include letter‐writing, financial contributions, and supporting pro‐Israel organizations.

A key pillar of the Lobby’s effectiveness is its influence in the U.S. Congress.

Jewish senators and congressmen who work to make U.S. foreign policy support Israel’s interests.

The Lobby also has significant leverage over the Executive branch. That power derives in part from the influence Jewish voters have on presidential elections. Despite their small numbers in the population (less than 3 percent), they make large campaign donations to candidates from both parties.

Manipulating the media

And if neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America’s support for Israel, how are we to explain it? The explanation lies in the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby.

Were it not for the Lobby’s ability to manipulate the American political system, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be far less intimate than it is today.

There isn't anything anti-semitic in those quotes. If that is the best you got there really is no case for the position that the book is anti-semitic

I can't find a proof for Your clain that M. is an antisemite. He did not say: "The Jews controll American foreign politics", but "the Israel Lobby" is able "to manipulate the American political system" which is obviously true in some cases.

Josh, you claim Prof Walt to be anti-semitic but provide no supporting evidence. Your extreme actions undertaken to deny Prof Walt, a man with many other great credentials, this award suggest that you have loyalties to Israel far beyond your loyalties to America.

Why not consider making Aliyah and letting Americans live in peace? We don't want your sectarian conflicts brought here from the Middle East. Nor do we want to be paying the bills and being subject to the guilt of paying for Israeli occupation. We definitely don't want YOUR war with Iran. Please go away.

Did the young student Josh Blumberg think about what it means to name someone as antisemite? Did he just hesitate a moment and think about the ernomous damage he will cause on a well known distinguished scholar of the University of Chicacgo? Did he take into account the enormous valuable scholarly work of Mearsheimer in relation to an endorsement of a disputable book which J. Blumberg dislikes? I'm shure that he will get a lot of chest beating by some people, but he should also reconsider his decision to destroy the reputation of an important scholar.

"I am disappointed that they would grant this award to someone who has so greatly and vehemently attacked a minority group for exercising its rights."

Exactly how has Dr. Mearsheimer attacked a "minority group" or any group at all for "exercising its rights?"

Can Mr. Blumberg please qualify this accusation or claim?

It would have been one thing for Mearsheimer and Walt to lay out a case for why they think the US relationship with Israel should be different than it is. But targeting American Jews as they did, and defining the Israel lobby as they did, is discriminatory against one group for exercising its legal rights in a democracy and is, prima facie, anti-Semitic.

That the administrative and academic officials of an American secondary school would ignore this is a sad state of affairs. That they chose to honor a former student for distinguishing himself in this manner, and thereby establishing him as a role model for current students, is even sadder. With the cries for tolerance and sensitivity in our society one wonders why school officials did not care about how offensive this is to Jews.

This case should be investigated by the New York State Education Department and by the office of Governor Cuomo.

Kol hakavod to this student for not standing idly by.

Clearly the cult of religion is alive and well. Me thinks you are just upset because the book is totally and completely accurate. And no one is discriminating either (do you even know what discrimination is), rather the book simply points out how effective a certain group of people (AIPAC and associated forces) are at capturing American foreign policy. See Chuck Hagel Hearings. Religious fanatics are still fanatics, regardless of the specific belief system or diety that the cult of Judiaism believes in.

I would like to congratulate John Mearsheimer for being awarded the Distinguished Graduate award from Croton Harmon high school; the school for responding to Mr. Blumberg's objections by convening the committee; the committee for making the right choice over Mr. Blumberg's (and other's) objections; and, finally, Mr. Blumberg himself, for doing what he felt was right and acting responsibly according to his convictions. All parties behaved admirably, and the school should be proud of alums like Mr. Mearsheimer and Mr. Blumberg.

Around forty years ago, I was in a similar situation. My high school had invited a former alumnus, a retired State Department diplomat, to speak to the students, mostly non-Jewish, on the Middle East. At the time, I had been indoctrinated with the classic Zionist narrative that nowadays very few thinking Israelis would accept. I protested to the school, which as a result decided to invite a pro-Israeli speaker for balance.

It took me around thirty years of reading and thinking to be weaned away from the hasbara (It wasn't called that at the time) that I had been fed at my afternoon Hebrew school. I also had to make aliyah, serve in the army, and see my children serve in the army before I came to the conclusion that the pro-Israel speaker was much less correct than the retired diplomat. No doubt I, too, may have thought someone like him to be "anti-Semitic," simply because I had been predisposed to think that way by the indoctrination that I had undergone. I know now, having read Prof. Mearsheimer's work and after some personal contact, that this is a false and defamatory charge, and that the Israel Lobby book, agree with it or not, has nothing to do with anti-Semitism; to think otherwise is to trivialize and politicize the term, as much of the study of anti-Semitism in recent years has indeed been trivialized and politicized.

Josh, you should be commended for one thing, and that is ,you acted on what you believed in. The rest of your cause, I think you are very miss guided and you are following in a bad example of black mailing,intimidation and suppressing free speech, that is unfortunately been used too often in your minority group as you describe them. Mr. Mearshiemer is not and Anti Semitic, nor he ever has been. Just because he co authored a book with another professor of your minority group as you call them (Jewish) that is critical of who he and others see things are conducted — they supported every claim they made— does not make them and Anti Semite and a self hating Jew. This style of intimidation and name calling slander against any one, Jewish or not, that does not agree with every thing Israel and the Jewish lobby does has to stop. There is a limit to things before they start back firing when they are exaggerated,or falsely used. I am proud of you as a young man standing for what you believe in, but be careful, don't be blinded, and educate yourself first about the truth and the facts. You don't just want to be a miss guided good Jew,(read Norman finkelstien;Knowing too much). I advice you rather be a good informed human being part of a universal world that we live in. Don't limit your self , like others to your Jewishness. Good luck, keep it up.

Bill Kristol has a job waiting for you when you graduate, young man. You can join his minions at the Weekly Standard, and he will get you a gig at Tablet Magazine. Or maybe he can introduce you to someone who can you a gig working as an aide to Sen. Ted Cruz, and you can spend your days sending out defamatory tweets, as did another aide to a prominent "pro-Israel" senator during the Hagel nomination.

Not everyone who criticizes Israel is anti-Semitic. Your school showed integrity in not allowing your one man campaign to keep them from honoring a distinguished academic. Now get a life.

Thanks Polly. Completely agree.