University News

Mearsheimer warns of apartheid in Israel

By
Contributing Writer

John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, predicted Monday night that “Israel faces a bleak future as a Jewish state.”  

His talk — “Greater Israel and the American Jewish Community” — focused on the future of Israel and the fate of the people who live there.

He proposed several possible outcomes for the current situation, saying the most advantageous for both Israel and the Palestinians would be the creation of two separate states. However, he said, this is an unlikely result.

“Most Israelis are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to create a Palestinian state,” Mearsheimer said. “The prime minister and his allies are opposed to creating an independent Palestine.”  

Mearsheimer touched on what he called the “American impotence” in this debate. He claimed that the Israeli lobby — an interest group that has profound influence on American policy towards Israel —”makes it impossible for any American president to play hardball with Israel.”

He referenced President Barack Obama’s call for “two states for two people” and his request to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cease the settlements in Gaza and the West bank, saying Netanyahu’s dismissal of this plea demonstrated that “Obama is no match for Netanyahu.”  

He also said it was possible, though unlikely, that Israel would attempt an ethnic cleansing by exiling the 5.5 million Palestinians. “We should not underestimate Israel’s willingness to employ such a horrific tactic given the right circumstances,” he said.

He hypothesized that the most likely result of the current conflict will be an apartheid state in Israel in which the Arab population will be denied full political rights. He said he believes this will be “similar to white-rule in apartheid Africa.”

He said that as this state of apartheid progresses, it will become more visible and harder to defend, forming a situation so contradictory to Western values that American opinions on the debate will shift.

The ultimate American opinion of Israel will be shaped by the attitude of what he calls the “great ambivalent middle” group of Jewish Americans, Mearsheimer said. He said he trusts that once this group witnesses the state of apartheid, they will choose to support equal rights for the Palestinians, leaving the Israel lobby unable to sustain support.

“Israel is doomed” once public opinion in the West turns against it, he said.

He said the current situation in Israel is “unsustainable,” and predicted that the two-state solution will be crushed.

The event took place in a mostly full Salomon 001 — though many people left throughout the speech.

“I definitely thought it was a different perspective,” Dorothy Lutz ’13 said.

Dean Serure ’13 called the speech “very pointed.”  

Mearsheimer has written extensively about security issues and international politics. He has published five books, and is currently working on his sixth entitled, “Why leaders lie: Truth about Lying in International Politics.”

His talk was sponsored by Common Ground: Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel, the Brown Journal of World Affairs, the Office of International Affairs, and the Watson Institute for International Studies.