The article in which two American professors argue that the pro-Israel lobby shapes US Middle East policy in contravention of American interests is reverberating from Harvard University to Israel. 'The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy', released in March, is being lambasted by Israeli right-wingers as inaccurate, poorly reasoned and anti-Semitic, while some dovish Israelis are using it as a launching pad for their own criticisms about the lobby and its hawkish stances. There have been attacks on the pro-Israel lobby before, but this article has raised eyebrows because of the formidable academic credentials of its authors, political scientists Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer. The article also contains 29 pages of footnotes where the claims are substantiated through events, books and articles. Much of their criticism is focused on the lobbying activities of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac). Professor Mearsheimer is co-director of the Programme on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Before the Iraq war, he argued that military action was unnecessary because Saddam Hussein could be effectively contained. According to Wikipedia, Professor Mearsheimer has been 'a vocal critic of American policy towards China. Though China does not have openly militaristic ambitions today, he thinks that by trading with China and helping its economy, the US is providing a base from which the Chinese could seriously threaten American national security in the years to come.' Professor Walt is academic dean at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and also a professor in international affairs there. He has been a consultant for the Institute of Defence Analysis and the National Defence University and serves on the editorial board of the journal Foreign Policy. He will step down from his position as academic dean in the summer, but says this was planned a while ago and has nothing to do with the controversy over his article. 'We wrote the article in part to encourage a broader discussion of the forces shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East at a time when US policy is of great importance,' Professor Walt said. In Israel, Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the UN who heads the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, rebutted the article, arguing Israel has for decades been a strategic asset to the US and that support for Israel reflects American interests. He cited Israel's superiority over Soviet clients in the cold war, its role in saving Jordan's King Hussein from being toppled in 1970, its destruction of Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 and the Israeli army's sharing of combat techniques as examples. He termed the article 'a way of attacking many of the neoconservative decision-makers involved in planning the Iraq war, with Israel thrown into the mix as part of a grand conspiracy'. 'I believe anti-Semitism may be partly defined as asserting a Jewish conspiracy for doing the same thing non-Jews engage in,' Mr Gold said. 'Lobbying in Washington is part of the way business gets done. Many US allies, among them Turkey and Saudi Arabia, hire lobbying firms on their behalf. 'There is always a danger many people will read this article without the rebuttals it has prompted,' he said. 'Recent events have shown articles appearing in blogs can have a huge impact on the public debate in the US.' Daniel Levy, a dovish Israeli who helped formulate the Geneva Initiative, an unofficial peace plan drafted in 2003, termed the article a 'wake-up call'. He wrote in the Hebrew-language Haaretz daily newspaper that it was unsophisticated and grating even to Israelis who are critical of their government's policies. But, he added, 'the research makes a strong claim, namely that the influence of Aipac in Washington is the primary reason for the identification of American interests with Israeli interests'. Mr Levy questioned whether the America Israel lobby, which has traditionally endorsed Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories and other hawkish policies, 'is broadcasting on the same frequency' as Israel, given public support for removing settlements and scaling down occupation. He also took issue with Aipac's co-operation with US Christian fundamentalists. 'If Israel is truly entering an era of national sanity and disengagement from the occupation, it will be necessary to rethink the role of the lobby in US-Israel relations,' he wrote. 'The lobby will have to undergo reforms from within, or it will be necessary to challenge it from outside.' Dovish Haaretz columnist Akiva Eldar, a former Washington correspondent who has been critical of Aipac, said the article 'overkills Aipac and it will boomerang'. 'The weakness of this article is that they cast everything as a conspiracy and they overplay the power of Aipac,' he said. 'What Aipac does is bad enough, but they are not the exclusive factor and they did not cause the war in Iraq.'