[Marxism] James Petras: The Tyranny Of Israel Over America

M. Junaid Alam alam at lefthook.org
Wed Mar 29 22:24:46 MST 2006

"Israel does not exercise a "tyranny" over US foreign policy. US foreign 
policy is simply an extension of English foreign policy that goes back 
to the Balfour declaration."

This is really a bit odd. First, because this totally contradicts Louis' 
earlier argument that perhaps support for Israel is totally irrational 
because systems on the brink behave irrationally. But more to the point, 
while the argument here tries to make US support for Israel sound as 
natural as the sun setting in the evening, it ends up doing quite the 
opposite. Yes - the policy is definitely an extension of British foreign 
policy - but then the question is: what motivated Britain's support for 
Jewish settlement in Palestine? The Brits didn't wake up one morning and 
say, "hey you know what would be a kick-ass idea? A Jewish state in the 
middle of the Muslim world!" Rather, it was Zionists in the mold of 
Herzl and Weizmann who actively lobbied the British government to create 
a state.

Look at Herzl's 1896 Der Judenstaat, and the activities of his movement 
from 1880-1920. The most pressing need of the movement was to find a 
sponsor. Zionists tried to appeal to the anti-Semitism of some European 
rulers to get support (hey, we Jews will be out of your way if...); and 
they also tried to appeal to the imperialist interests of the West as 
well ('we will act as an European rampart against Asian barbarism'). 
Early on Zionists tried to literally bribe the Ottomans to give them 
part of the land (the response was, 'Sons of clinking gold, keep your 
billions.') Most of this is documented in Benny Morris' "Righteous 
Victims" among other places, including Jabotinsky's famous Zionist 
thesis, "The Iron Wall."

Naturally, in his usual bizarre style Petras takes things way overboard; 
there is no 'tyranny' involved because supporting Israel is one way to 
try to further US interests. But the Chomsky-type, rather robotic 
proposition that posits US level of support for Israel as inevitable as 
gravity doesn't stand any test of reason whatsoever - Israel is *one 
way* yes, but certainly not the only and even more certainly not the 
most effective of furthering US interests. Zionism needed a sponsor, it 
always has and always will. It is manifestly in the interests of the 
Zionist movement to ensure full support for Israel and domination of the 
Arabs continues without the bat of an eye. What rule etched in what 
granite rock dictates that this coincidentally just happens to be 
precisely the same course the US ruling elite was going to embark upon 
anyway? None whatsoever! As anyone can learn from watching Plankton in 
Spongebob Squarepants, plots for world domination can be conceived in 
many ways. The obvious American path, if we started carte blanche, would 
be to actually get 300 of the 306 million people in an oil-rich region 
on your side as much as possible; to get the side that actually has the 
oil to tolerate you - you know, the dozens of countries versus...just 
the one without any oil. Otherwise,  you end up with some nasty stuff: 
mass riots ostensibly over cartoons, a totally unstable simmering Arab 
world with creaky despots sitting on a pot of boiling Islamists, a 
fanatical Iranian regime which nonetheless understands that another 
country owning 200 nuclear warheads legitimizes its own possession of 
such arms - and so on.

This is really ABC stuff. There is no "objective, material" reason for 
the US to support Israel. There are superstructural reasons, residue 
from what was once buttressed by objective material conditions (Cold 
War), a residue that has hardened, been reinforced, and locked into 
place so as to become policy. That residue is (a) demonization of Arabs 
and Islam, resulting in a sense of 'Judeo-Christian' solidarity against 
the Other, (b) deep exploitation of the history of Jewish suffering - 
and Western guilt in it - to use as a battering ram against criticism of 
Israel.  To deny that these two have been major elements of public 
indoctrination - to deny that the 'organized American Jewish community,' 
plus its newfound far-right friends, has not only bought into Zionism 
but actively promotes it - is to deny the social reality we inhabit. 
Nothing less can explain how it is possible that, in the face of the 
clearest historical evidence unearthed since 1980, it is actually 
borderline criminal to criticize a state founded on ethnic cleansing and 
predicated on mass terror and racism.

This is not the stuff of "client state" relationships or "inevitable" 
policies! How much of a 'lobby' and how many 'think tanks' does 
Musharraf or Karzai have, how many did any of the US-sponsored despots 
in the CW period have, that were based in Washington and punished 
politicians for 'misbehaving'? Consider even the lobbying arms of 
corporations - how much outrage in backlash  is there when the public in 
some poll or temporary outburst of action says they are too powerful or 
acting against majority interests or corrupting democracy? That is 
exactly the standard fare image most people have of a corporate lobbyist 
and they are unharassed for it in private or in public discourse. Why so 
different for an Israeli lobbyist and Israel?

In brief: If US intense support for Israel is so bloody inevitable, 
someone needs to tell the army of pro-Israel lobbyists, slanderers, 
professional smearers and liars in academia, on network TV, in the 
newspapers - because clearly they did not get the memo and simply need 
to retire! This situation reminds me of my old high school history 
teacher's little parable: all the scientists with their elegant theories 
decided only light bodies with large wings could fly, but luckily the 
bumble bee, hearing and knowing nothing of this theory, merrily buzzed 
away. Well, 'The Lobby' continues to buzz away, while some of us pretend 
it doesn't matter, or doesn't exist.

The other thought process I see going on in this list is pretty simple: 
"If the lobby has power to influence US policy, and if the place 
influenced is a Jewish state, then the lobby is mostly Jewish, and so 
that it means that Jews have power, and that's what the KKK says too, so 
therefore, it is racist." Or, "well the authors of this report are 
poly-sci realists, so their political position is that without Israeli 
influence, US imperialism would be a good thing, so therefore it is 
bourgeois." In other words you guys set up litmus tests - you don't take 
the argument on its own merits, but rather you look at it in terms of 
the endless ways it can be employed by others with different motives, 
and on that basis, declare it illegitimate. And there's nothing Marxist 
about that.

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