[Marxism] Marxist analysis of US/Israel offensives

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Thu Jul 27 14:03:51 MDT 2006

Is there a direct, economic determination that we can single out for 
the Israeli aggression? Among other causes, there are such "material" 
factors as Israeli demographics/lebensraum, which underlies its 
expansionist dynamic. In fact that is its reason for being, its 
justification. The whole peace agreement with the Palestinians, 
creating a Gaza bantustan as a cover for enlarging, creating and 
annexing settlements in the West Bank, is based on this logic.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my impression is that while Israel 
itself may have industries, it does not have an organic economic 
basis. European Jewish settlers came in, seized Arab land, and used 
it for other purposes than its vocation. They built a massive 
military industry in line with the logic of a settler state and their 
assigned role. Israel is based on a lopsided economy. Is Israel even 
capable of producing its own domestic food consumption? I'd be 
willing to wager that if it weren't for the infusion of massive 
amounts of capital from outside, whether from the U.S. government or 
"private" sources, the Israeli state would collapse and/or be forced 
to democratize and secularize, especially since, first, much of its 
productive labor is, in fact, Palestinian and second, it would be 
forced to integrate with its neighbors.

But, in any case the logic of the Israeli state is lebensraum, and to 
achieve this, it must have docile neighbors.

The second point, which I want to reiterate is that Israel has a 
particular role in the international division of labor. The Zionist 
movement traded with the British: an escape from oppression for 
Jewish settlers in return for the role of gendarme.

Given the logic and the role of the Zionist state, it would be hard 
to locate a single material (i.e., vulgar economic) cause for the 
apparently irrational act of committing genocide against their 
neighbors. But, there are levels and levels of determinations and 
mediations. (I still maintain that E.P. Thompson was good on this 
sort of thing). As I mentioned, Israel's role as praetorian guard 
squares quite well with the Bush administration's plans for the 
region, which DO have clear material bases, centering around the 
control of petroleum resources.

However, a Marxist approach isn't distinguished by its insistence on 
direct economic causality. That would be, as Lenin called it, "vulgar 
economism." Wars have been waged by imperialism simply to open 
potential markets. The imperialist ruling classes often wage war to 
contain and reverse the class struggle and particularly its 
nationalist expressions. Make no mistake about it, Hezbollah's 
struggle against Israel, Iran's struggle against imperialism, Syria's 
struggle against imperialism, the Iraqui resistance, all these 
represent "pluses" on the balance sheet for the working class and 
plebeian forces, more generally, not only in their own countries, but 
around the world. And intransigent regimes and movements, such as 
these, represent obstacles to the unabridged right of imperial 
capital to do whatever it wants, a right explicitly affirmed by 
Washington, and especially the current administration, on various 

If we look at the U.S. war against Sandinista Nicaragua, that 
certainly didn't have a direct "economic basis." Sandinista Nicaragua 
simply represented a roadblock to the neoliberal vision Washington 
was imposing on the world and a tilt in the balance of class forces, 
a bad example, as many have said. It certainly doesn't have any 
strategic resources. And it may have seemed "irrational" for the 
Reagan and Bush administrations to destabilize the region, spend 
billions on a mercenary army, provide arms to an enemy state and 
traffic in drugs all to destabilize a tiny Central American country, 
particularly if one is looking for a direct material, economic 
explanation. I could say ditto for the Vietnam war, although, of 
course, later, Vietnam was found to have some petrol reserves. But, 
from the point of view of the global system of capital, these wars 
were/are hardly irrational. They were and are life-or-death, and as 
such as eminently "materialist."

>Is there a material explanation?

Michael Friedman
Doctoral Candidate in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior
City University of New York

Molecular Systematics Laboratory
Department of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
79th Street at Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

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