Richard Dawkins is someone whom I generally admire in the field of science. He is on the right side of the argument, in my view, in excoriating attempts to portray ‘intelligent design’ (creationism) as science; much of what he says about religion is true and he is a sharp, lucid commenter about scientific issues. But alas, that does not mean his grip on reality is particularly strong when it comes to other matters. Take his recent comments about the supposedly enormous influence of Jews on US foreign policy, which have already provoked a lot of comment.
My own take on all this is as follows: Dawkins is not anti-semitic and it would be pretty outrageous to suggest as such; I don’t think he is trying to say that Jews totally control the foreign policy of the world’s most powerful nation, only that they have a lot of influence in proportion to their numbers. But what Dawkins plainly does not consider – assuming his remarks have been reported accurately – is how the ‘Jewish lobby’ is not some sort of undifferentiated mass. Also, consider some of the main policymakers in Washington: Dick Cheney and Condi Rice. They are not Jews; neither, as far as I know, is Don Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, etc. Nor do I think that the policy of the US/other major nations has necessarily favoured Israel vs other Middle East countries. Arguably, if the Jewish lobby was as powerful as some say, then the US would have sanctioned the ability of Israel – which certainly has the means – to reduce its foes to radioactive dust. Anyway, a desire to protect the state of Israel from annihilation – a threat that is all too real if one takes the ravings of Iran’s leadership seriously – is a noble one. Israel is, with all its faults, one of the few functioning liberal democracies in the Middle East (that is partly what drives its Islamic foes nuts, of course). Even if one subtracts the beneficent impact of foreign aid, Israel’s domestic economic success is a standing rebuke to the theocracies that surround it.
If Dawkins wants to press the claims of atheists, fine (as an atheist myself, I count myself an admirer of what Dawkins has done to challenge religious superstition). But he does himself no favours by repeating the tired mantras about the vast influence of the Jewish lobby.