Despite pressure to cancel the speaking engagements today by two controversial scholars, their hosts at Case Western Reserve University and the City Club of Cleveland promise that John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt will have their say.

The pair are the authors of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” a new book arguing that the clout and acumen of a pro-Israel lobby has unduly influenced American foreign policy and harmed the nation’s place in the world.

Alice Bach, the Hallinan professor of Catholic studies at Case, said she was surprised to read about a dozen angry e-mails from faculty and staff members objecting to her bringing Mearsheimer and Walt to campus tonight. On Sunday evening, five callers, identifying themselves as students at Cleveland State University and Case, rang her private cell phone to berate her for inviting the speakers, she said.

“I basically was hoping it would start a conversation on campus that we have not had,” said Bach, in her ninth year on the faculty.

“I’m lucky enough to be protected by tenure and to have programming funds. People tend not to get too passionate around here, unless it’s over NIH grants or the Cleveland Clinic, but people have called and asked that I be fired.”

Her department chairman, Peter Haas, is also the Abba Hillel Silver professor of Jewish studies.

“I did tell her that I thought the book was superficial and her timing was really bad,” he said. “Wednesday is Sukkot, and it’s also the middle of Ramadan.”

Bach picked the date to capitalize on Mearsheimer and Walt’s being in Cleveland to speak at the City Club. That organization’s board president, Lee Friedman, said: “I can tell you as a Jewish American I don’t agree with their point of view, but the City Club is exactly the kind of place to address difficult civic issues. We had George Wallace speak, if you want controversial.”

Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago professor of political science, and Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard University, first made their case on “The Israel Lobby” in March 2006 in the London Review of Books, then posted a longer version on a Harvard Web site.

The piece generated a firestorm of controversy and more than 270,000 downloads and attracted both praise and condemnation. (MORE)


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