The death of the "Israel lobby?"

The death of the "Israel lobby?"

Will the news that the US vetoed Israeli plans to strike Iran's nuclear infrastructure put to bed the myth of the "Israel lobby"? I'd like to think so, but I doubt the comfort provided to some by such a view of the world will cease its appeal.

The news that president Bush vetoed Israeli plans to attack Iranian nuclear facilities whilst visiting the country in May should, with some luck, permanently put to bed the belief shared by conservatives, liberals and leftists alike in the “Israel Lobby”, and its grip on US interests.

The myth goes something like this: US interests are manipulated by a powerful cabal of pro-Israeli forces in the United States which can effectively distort the policies of the superpower in the interests of the Jewish State. They will , for instance, point to the fact that the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee can often get 9 out of 10 Senators signing its statements, or that the Sentate regularly passes resolutions recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal Capital, that Jews in the US are the ethnic group most likely to vote and are concentrated in key states, that there are many prominent Jewish financial donors, or in the particularly obnoxious case of “radical” liberal magazine Adbusters, because of the “Jewishness” of neocons. They ask “whose interests were they protecting in pushing for war in Iraq?” The answer is rhetorical: not those of the non – Jewish “American people”.

Things are slightly more complex. Noam Chomsky has argued (whilst trashing the idea of the lobby), that the most influential pro-Israel bloc after liberal intellectuals is the culturally nationalist evangelical Christian movement, whose support for Israel is based on their anti-semitism: they want Jews in Israel in order to fulfil Biblical prophecy on the rapture – they must be there after the apocalypse to become Christians or go to hell. These bigots, however, usually feature lower down the list of those “distorting” US policy.

The belief is based on a fallacy – that the US ruling class is capable of doing anything contrary to the dynamics of Imperialism. Even genuinely radical commentary on Israel often falters when it comes up against its own crude conception of Imperialism. In their book Afflicted Powers, released to much intellectual fanfare in 2005, the US based Retort group argue that the “counterproductive” nature of the US-Israel relationship is down to its “spectacular” nature. Whilst making valid and interesting arguments about the effects of spectacular society and spectacular time on politics and the great performance that is bourgeois politics, its great discovery is that US Imperialism “seeks to impose military presences in crucial regions even without knowing exactly what or how well capital will do in the particular site of intervention”, and the discussion of Israel is couched in similar terms: “Israel has been a play of motifs and appearances that for a period seemed capable of projecting a seductive image of capital onto the screen of the postwar world ... in this two-faced role – as an exemplar of a society in which total militarisation and spectacular modernity were fully compatible – Israel has mirrored and mesmorised the American state for nearly four decades.” In their view, there is a fundamental tension in the spectacular relationship between the US and Israel and Israel’s current status as “an extreme liability” to US interests. They discuss an “unqualified US support for Israel” which is in fact a “geo-political trap” – “even Tony Blair is capable of recognising this”.

But what they, Tony Blair and critics of the Israel lobby share is a lack of solid engagement with what Imperialism has meant in developed capitalism. The need for bourgeois states to encircle and combat each other regularly runs against the immediate interests of capital accumulation. If the Iraq war had been about profit, rather than strategic control of a resource-rich region (the lack of control over dense population centres is secondary), it would have served the interests of capital to cut a deal with Saddam and leave him in power. Israel is the most longstanding strategic beachhead in the Middle East, and the more geopolitical zones integrated into the military empire of the United States the better – they are denied to its rivals. We see this tension in the Caucasus, where the conflict between Imperial blocs has destroyed the regularly touted bourgeois fantasy that capitalist democracies cannot go to war with each other. In this case, there was a strategic asset – an energy route from the Caucasus basin, which provided a particularly prominent hill to play king of. But Russia stood little chance of holding it in any significant sense, and in such escalating conflicts the dangerous logic of imperialism is demonstrated.

What demolishes the Israeli lobby argument more than anything else is the fact that whenever Israel attempts to undertake actions which further its own interests, to the detriment of those of the US, it is reigned in. In the case of the proposed strike, the action would have damaged the US by extending the Iraq war across the Iranian border. Though in a total war situation the US could obliterate Iran, a massive conflict throughout the region involving Iran’s large and sophisticated military and ranging across the highlands of that country is not an option, and would involve massive losses for the US. The project of controlling Iraq’s strategic resources would be at stake. There are other examples, well catalogued by the likes of Chomsky: for instance Israel’s attempts at the sale of high technology, central to its economy, to one of the largest potential customers in the world – China. Cultivating a trade relationship would further the interests of Israel to the detriment of US ‘. For these reasons the US has blocked Israeli attempts to develop this relationship. In 2000 Israel was forced to cancel a sale of its Phalcon early warning system. In 2005 sales of technology for anti-aircraft missiles to China led to the Pentagon boycotting Israeli officials, and demanding that Israel cancel the sales and apologise to the US. Israel capitulated, not the US.

Where liberal commentators will celebrate the US supposedly turning away from its agenda of confrontation, and "hawks" that the US is selling out its partner in the face of Iranian aggression, events are simply following their established pattern. One would hope that such a powerful demonstration of this would have an effect on the worldview of the proponents of the "lobby" argument, but I'm making no bets.

Comments

Khawaga
Sep 29 2008 22:56

Good post Django. Another example that support your argument goes back to the Madrid conference when Bush Sr. forced Israel to attend. Bush Sr. even withheld economic aid until the Rabin (?) govt. agreed to go. Another academic that's been very critical of the Israel lobby is the Angry Arab (Asad Abu Khalil). His blog is well worth checking out.

sphinx
Oct 1 2008 17:05

Great post.

Steven.
Oct 1 2008 20:27

Yeah I'm glad we gave you a blog!

Django
Oct 1 2008 20:50

cool

Khawaga - thanks for the resources.

Tojiah
Oct 3 2008 15:44

An even earlier counter-example to the Israel Lobby fallacy is the pressure brought on by the Eisenhower administration against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula in 1956 (see pertinent wikipedia article). They basically strong-armed the Israeli regime to withdraw against the Zionist interest. Who was wagging whom then?

Khawaga
Oct 3 2008 21:25
Quote:
An even earlier counter-example to the Israel Lobby fallacy is the pressure brought on by the Eisenhower administration against the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula in 1956 (see pertinent wikipedia article). They basically strong-armed the Israeli regime to withdraw against the Zionist interest. Who was wagging whom then?

I don't know if this is a valid example viz the Israel Lobby. Quite a few folks (sorry can't remember now) have argued that strong US support for Israel only started post-67 and that the lobby as a force to be reckoned with started after that. And the 56 stuff and American pressure can be argued was directed more towards UK and France than Israel.

woundedhobo
Feb 18 2009 16:01

Could someone point me to articles by Noam Chomsky or others that explain why US foreign policy so strongly supports the government of Israel? I have read that Israel destroyed secular nationalist currents in the Middle East that were more interested in local welfare than multinational profit. Was this intentional or just a byproduct of seeing Jews killing,... Muslims?

Khawaga
Feb 18 2009 16:10

Chomsky's Fateful Triangle is where he discusses US, Israel and the Middle East. He's got too many articles on the subject to wade through so I reckon the book is the best.

Quote:
I have read that Israel destroyed secular nationalist currents in the Middle East that were more interested in local welfare than multinational profit.

Where did you read this? I would like to check it out so if you have a link or something please post it.

However, I do not think that Israel destroyed secular nationalist currents that had welfare rather than profit in mind. I guess this is a reference to Nasser's Egypt and his pan-Arabism. While Israel did completely shatter pan-Arabism, Nasser's social welfare programs were rolled back mostly due to the global economic crisis that started in the late 60s. Iraq had pretty good social welfare up until their war with Iran (so Israel had nothing to do with that).

APairofDucks
May 10 2012 02:50

Maybe the myth will die when leftists drop their strawmen about it?

What a horrible summary of what the Israel lobby is. You can tell that the reader did not even bother reading Walt & Mearsheimer's Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy and either went straight to StormFront or a variety of Zionist rags to hear the same anti-Semitic trash.

At no point in the actual scholarship about the Israel lobby is it described as some sort of all-powerful organization, nor do the authors suggest that the Israel Lobby wins all of its fights against others in the U.S. administration. The authors -- who are both IR foreign policy realists who have very strict definitions of what is included in American "national interest" -- were arguing that the Israel lobby is a domestic political force which considers its alliance to a foreign state of higher significance than traditionally defined national interest:

"[The Israel Lobby] is not a single, unified movement with a central leadership, and it is certainly not a cabal or conspiracy that "controls" U.S. foreign policy. It is simply a powerful interest group, made up of both Jews and gentiles, whose acknowledged purpose is to press Israel's case within the united States and influence American foreign policy in ways that its members believe will benefit the Jewish state" (WM pg 5).

Ergo the fact that it is so powerful is a threat to this traditional conception of national interests. Never do they foolishly suggest that the Israel Lobby controls U.S. foreign policy. If it was just a matter of finding contradictions between actual U.S. policy and the Israel Lobby's demands you wouldn't have had to wait for the rejection of the Iran war. You could have simply pointed to the refusal to release Jonathan Pollard, the refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of Israeli settlements (although in practice that is what is done), the Clinton Administration's blame of Israel for pulling out of peace talks with Syria, Reagan's freezing of military aid after the Osirak bombing, etc.

The actual argument is that if the U.S. were to ALWAYS follow the American national interest, these events would not be exceptions, but the rule. Instead on too many occasions (though obviously not all) the Israel Lobby HAS gotten its way despite considerable dissent within America's political and military leadership -- i.e. continuing to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization despite resistance amongst the CIA and the intelligence community, greenlighting multiple (failed) Israeli invasions into Lebanon, contradicting the State Department's stated policy of settlement condemnation at the UN, the entire invasion of Iraq which was spearheaded by the neoconservative break from the traditional US policy and included consulting and planning with/alongside/by AIPAC to re-shape the Middle East, multiple rounds of sanctions against Syria despite Syrian intelligence assistance against Al Qaeda, multiple declarations of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, looking the other way when Israeli commandos kill Americans -- in some cases, execution-style with the flotilla, not to mention pushing for an end to the Israeli occupation which in the words of Petraeus was "costing American lives".

On every one of these instances, significant parts of the U.S. government -- especially the most nationalistic parts, i.e. the military and the CIA -- by and large contradicted the Israel lobby and its political benefactors. In the case of the Iraq war, obviously other interests were at play as well, but it was the Israel lobby's political organizing and planning that put the invasion into action.

Which leads to the next point that communists seem to always miss. As usual, with most communist analyses of imperialism, the left lives in an either-or world in which imperialism is either a matter of structural forces OR the work of political agents. Like failing to see the forest for the trees. Obviously political affairs involve BOTH agents (like lobbies) and structural dynamics (like capitalism and imperialism itself).

It's also important to note that Evangelicals provide the base of the Israel lobby, something that is again mentioned quite openly in the book. The Christians, like elite right-wing Jews, are not just a cultural or a social or a superstructural force, they provide agency and direction to the system they're sitting on.

Hence military planners shutting down the Israel Lobby on Iran doesn't prove anything. The fact that the Israel Lobby can get Obama (and virtually every other candidate running except for Ron Paul) to show up at the AIPAC convention on Super Tuesday threatening to bomb Iran over non-existent intelligence over Iran's perpetually imminent nuclear weapons shows immense political power. If the Israel Lobby were insignificant then it would not be a political crisis for Obama or any of the others in the USG to stand up to this political force. But it IS. Hence, the Israel Lobby is still a major factor in US foreign policy. And it doesn't seem to be losing quietly.

And finally, the invasion of Iran is not off the table. US planners simply note that it would be a disastrous invasion (like the invasion of Iraq, which was also driven by AIPAC and its bedfellows). Saying it's a stupid move doesn't mean the U.S. won't do it when powerful political forces push it to do so.

So I'll end on a question:

If the Iraq invasion was down to a desire to control oil resources, why was the U.S.' previous policy one of sanctions, and then support for Saddam before that? Did either of those policies assist in direct control of oil resources? And if they did, why didn't the USG keep using them, and opt for a disastrous direct intervention instead?

Khawaga
May 10 2012 13:56

Pairofducks. Did you even bother reading the blog post by Django. Most likely not considering your response. Cries of the Israel lobby find very little traction on this site. Indeed, even Walt and Mearsheimer's thesis quite a few folks would find borderline anti-semitic (actually I would say it is anti-semitic, too close to the protocols for comfort). Are you a confused zionist or a confused "anti-German" (i.e. from PD)?

baboon
May 11 2012 11:15

I think that the first Gulf War, 1993, was an attempt by US imperialism to demonstrate its power to friend and foe alike in the wake of the collapse of the two-bloc system after the implosion of the Warsaw Pact. That it only made things worse is not surprising given the irrationality of imperialist war overall.

Today there are severe strains on the US-Israel relationship over the question of Iran. Not only does the CIA and the US military caution against any Israeli attack on Iran, but there are powerful voices - its internal and external security forces - within Israel that have expressed the view that such an attack would be madness. That doesn't however preclude such an attack and this remains a very dangerous possibility not only from the immediate devastation it would cause but also from the wider implications of drawing in other powers and generalising further.

jolasmo
May 11 2012 16:55

Obviously there are strongly pro-Israel elements amongst the US political classes, but not in the sense of supporting Israel against US national interests, that would be political suicide. But casting them as the instigators of the Iraq war is really stretching it IMO, and seems like it flies in the face of traditional analyses of the politics behind the conflict which locate it in the context of a broader US geopolitical strategy (in which relations with Israel certainly play a role, but not a controlling one).

The fact that different sections of the US ruling class disagreed about the invasion doesn't change this, as politicians (and generals, and intelligence chiefs) are human like the rest of us and don't automatically know whether x, y or z is in the long term interests of their nation or not. That doesn't mean they don't sincerely want the best for their country (by and large, obviously sectional interests and intragovernmental politics play a role too), it certainly doesn't mean that they are motivated by loyalty to another nation.

IMO, a better analysis of the conflict between the executive and the pentagon/CIA chiefs over the invasion is provided by Aufheben in Oil Wars and World Orders.

~J.

APairofDucks
May 16 2012 23:43

"Pairofducks. Did you even bother reading the blog post by Django. Most likely not considering your response. Cries of the Israel lobby find very little traction on this site. Indeed, even Walt and Mearsheimer's thesis quite a few folks would find borderline anti-semitic (actually I would say it is anti-semitic, too close to the protocols for comfort). Are you a confused zionist or a confused "anti-German" (i.e. from PD)? "

ROFLMAO "on this site" what kind of cultish bullshit is that? OH NO THE PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET FORUM DON'T LIKE IT, I BETTER AGREE WITH THEM! The least you could have done was tried, instead of pulling out the cult bullshit.

Again, if you think it's "anti-Semitic" then you either haven't read the book or you're busy regurgitating racist Zionist propaganda by linking it the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The fact that leftists (and overwhelmingly white, Jewish, and non-Arab leftists at that) keep crying wolf about "anti-Semitism" is just a testament to how deeply-seated (and ignored) anti-Arabism is amongst leftist movements. You have "leftists" telling people not to go to anti-Zionist demonstrations because a handful of cherry-picked demonstrators express anti-Jewish views, while ignoring the fact that the whole point of the demonstration is to counter anti-Arab racism and settler-colonialism by an apartheid regime like Israel.

It's amazing to me how many unsuspecting leftists are willing to re-hash such propaganda. For one, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion accused a group of Jewish leaders of controlling virtually everything, including the Catholic Church, science, the theory of evolution, etc. W&M only attacked a political lobby, and one that is quite transparent about its workings.

@baboon & jolasmo, if you read the book it is quite explicit that the Israel Lobby does not have the kind of complete power to take over the government. Indeed, as I mentioned above, there are many instances when the authorities you mention (people in intelligence, etc) oppose Israel and can get it to back down. The point is that as far as foreign states go, Israel and its political allies in Washington are incredibly powerful (next to, say, Chile) in pushing their way.

As far as Iraq, the neoconservatives who pushed for that invasion were riding on the political organizing work of Zionist groups. The second Iraq war is one instance where, in a climate of crisis and increasing political authority placed in the Executive branch, a political lobby (Israel) DID overcome pressure from people in American intelligence, security, etc, including most of the CIA. And as the Iranians can tell you, in that case, American interest suffered immensely.

jef costello
May 17 2012 05:40

It is not anti-arab to not support pan-arabism or any other expression of arab nationalism. If anything the left is anti-Israel and pro-Arab.

APairofDucks
May 19 2012 01:20

"It is not anti-arab to not support pan-arabism or any other expression of arab nationalism. If anything the left is anti-Israel and pro-Arab."

who said anything about Arab nationalism? Way to change the subject.

The fact you refer to it as "pro-Arab" as if the Arabs are unified cultural or political entity proves that you, like so many other leftists, know little about the Arab world or the people in it.

The fact that leftists are hyping about "anti-Semitism" where it doesn't exist suggests anti-Arabism, as it is a way to change the subject away from blatant anti-Arab racism -- like that promoted by the Israel lobby and its misguided defenders.

Invoking "anti-Semitism" where it doesn't exist -- at anti-Zionist demonstrations, amongst supporters of Palestine, at critics of the Israel Lobby (regardless of whether or not they are mistaken in their analysis) -- is a means of promoting ethnic privileging of Jews. There is no serious reason to be hyping about it as if it is a serious threat. Jews are not being drone-bombed in America or having their religion described as the root of all terrorist threats. The FBI and CIA are not infiltrating synagogues. Right-wing extremists aren't angry about the Ground Zero Synagogue. If anti-Jewish racism is an issue, it is not an issue where the Israel Lobby is concerned, namely the United States. The fact that leftists are constantly crying wolf about it serves no real purpose other than to change the subject away from very real anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry, and anyone who is serious about challenging racism can see right through it.

APairofDucks
May 19 2012 01:49

For those of you who are serious about challenging all forms of racism, consider how Noam Chomsky has addressed this issue of "anti-Semitism":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvVlM5RlSe0

^^^Starting at 1:37:50. Chomsky is asked about anti-Semitism, responds that it is not a serious problem among the left or in general and that the real issue is anti-Muslim threat. "Anti-Semitism isn't even a "toothpick on a mountain" compared to anti-Muslim hysteria".

There is a history of an "industry" of left-liberals and democratic socialists trying to prove that various groups/individuals were "anti-Semites".

Consider that even when Chomsky dismissed the Israel Lobby, he was very explicit to point out that the authors should be commended for their efforts to expose Israel and that they were not anti-Semites. The only people who were stupid enough to claim that the Israel Lobby was on par with anti-Semitic canards were apologists for Israel like Alan Dershowitz. Beware of leftists ranting about "anti-Semitism" when they are simply regurgitating Zionist anti-Arab propaganda

radicalgraffiti
May 19 2012 09:44
APairofDucks wrote:
"It is not anti-arab to not support pan-arabism or any other expression of arab nationalism. If anything the left is anti-Israel and pro-Arab."

who said anything about Arab nationalism? Way to change the subject.

it was you that started talking about the left. have you ever actaul encountered them? or resurched there polertics in the slightist? apart from one or two exeptions like the AWL they are universly anti isrally pro arab (govenments)

APairofDucks wrote:
The fact you refer to it as "pro-Arab" as if the Arabs are unified cultural or political entity proves that you, like so many other leftists, know little about the Arab world or the people in it.

lol you think jef is part of the left grin

Khawaga
May 19 2012 15:24

Yeah, PairofDucks' aim is way way off. And you didn't realize that Jef was referring to the ilks of the SWP who will time and over again, whether it be in writing or in meetings, support all kinds of Arab nationalist movements. And there are still pan-Arab nationalists in the Arab world, though they tend to be Nasserists (though I've met personally several Arab leftists that will advocate some pan-Arabism) with a longing for the glorious past of the Arab Republic.

And just because Chomsky says anti-Semitism on the left is not big doesn't mean he's right. The SWP on this has been pretty shite, and sadly I see time and over again well-meaning leftists (though to be fair, often without realizing it), turning to arguments and using imagery straight out of the 1930s on the role of bankers and international finance.

The problem I have with Walt and Mearshiemer's thesis is that they leave very little agency to the US establishment. It lets Bush et. al. off the hook too much.

APairofDucks
May 21 2012 22:09

"And just because Chomsky says anti-Semitism on the left is not big doesn't mean he's right. The SWP on this has been pretty shite, and sadly I see time and over again well-meaning leftists (though to be fair, often without realizing it), turning to arguments and using imagery straight out of the 1930s on the role of bankers and international finance."

lol imagery from the 1930's? Newsflash, nobody's a big fan of international finance or bankers on the left. Chomsky's comments are exactly on the mark. The fact is that real racism threatening the left is apologism for white and Jewish privilege. Trying to see every attack on Israel that goes beyond what the left is willing to accept as some kind of nefarious anti-Semitic plot is part of this problem.

"The problem I have with Walt and Mearshiemer's thesis is that they leave very little agency to the US establishment. It lets Bush et. al. off the hook too much."

Have you read it? That's an honest question. I didn't get that impression at all, considering a) "Bush et al" are largely depicted as enablers of Israel lobby and b) the authors draw a sharp line between what they consider actual American national interest and political pressure from Israel. They mention time and again how both pressures seem to dictate policy, but because they are IR realists and American nationalists they do not support pressure from foreign regimes.

"it was you that started talking about the left. have you ever actaul encountered them? or resurched there polertics in the slightist? apart from one or two exeptions like the AWL they are universly anti isrally pro arab (govenments)"

I had to read this several times to get past your spelling errors. I assume you mean that the establishment left/Stalinist types in your country support Arab regimes, which is again, a stretch. You probably mean Syria (and Gaddafi in a few cases). That's the only Arab regime any leftists support, they did not support Mubarak, Ben Ali, etc as these were tools of American imperialism.

In either case, when I said "the left" I meant the broader left, including anarchists and other socialists. It's this trend to be hyper-weary about anti-Semitism where it doesn't exist while drowning out issues of anti-Arabism (or, in your case, not knowing very much about the Arab world at all).

Khawaga
May 21 2012 22:35

I did read it when it first came out, perhaps not a close reading but my interpretation of it is far less generous than yours. The way I read it, because they are patriots, is that they are willing to (almost) scapegoat someone in order to avoid some very soul searching questions about the American foreign policy establishment.

Quote:
lol imagery from the 1930's? Newsflash, nobody's a big fan of international finance or bankers on the left. Chomsky's comments are exactly on the mark. The fact is that real racism threatening the left is apologism for white and Jewish privilege. Trying to see every attack on Israel that goes beyond what the left is willing to accept as some kind of nefarious anti-Semitic plot is part of this problem.

Sure, nobody is a fan of bankers, but a large segment of the left choose to focus only on the so-called international bankers. The imagery used by these folks is like it's taken directly out of the 1930s. Although their specific target might not be used, the arguments and symbolism is often identical to 1930s Nazism. This is not a plot, but a rather unfortunate, and in my experience unconscious, regurgitation of crap. I.e. it is structural. The West never really dealt properly with how pervasive anti-Semitism was in the entire Western world, not just Germany and the Axis countries.

However, I think your problem is that you're still seing things in binary terms. My comments are meant to attack the part of the left that at times veers into some very suspect terrain. That Israeli society is racist, and that the policies of the Israeli state is racist is nothing to be discussed really; it's just frankly too obvious.

Quote:
I had to read this several times to get past your spelling errors. I assume you mean that the establishment left/Stalinist types in your country support Arab regimes, which is again, a stretch. You probably mean Syria (and Gaddafi in a few cases). That's the only Arab regime any leftists support, they did not support Mubarak, Ben Ali, etc as these were tools of American imperialism.

I think it's more of a case of leftists supporting national liberation movements, such as Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah and the like. Even silly outfits like the SWP don't go as far as in supporting states, although the odd stalinist and even anarchist (yes I've met some) supported Qadaffy.

APairofDucks
May 22 2012 00:27

"Sure, nobody is a fan of bankers, but a large segment of the left choose to focus only on the so-called international bankers. The imagery used by these folks is like it's taken directly out of the 1930s. Although their specific target might not be used, the arguments and symbolism is often identical to 1930s Nazism."

I don't think there is anything inherently anti-Semitic about this image. It is a matter of fascists and others attempting to conflate the conspiratorial nature of banking with some kind of ethnic cabal.

On there other hand, just as there is white privilege, there is Jewish privilege, and framing Jews as victims excessively has the same function as Glenn Beck/Bill O'Reilly types suggesting that whites are "under attack" because of immigration, affirmative action, etc.

"This is not a plot, but a rather unfortunate, and in my experience unconscious, regurgitation of crap. I.e. it is structural. The West never really dealt properly with how pervasive anti-Semitism was in the entire Western world, not just Germany and the Axis countries."

The anti-Semitism that lives on today from this long legacy is very rarely critical of Israel, it is almost always supportive. That's because virulent anti-Semites, including the Christian Right, has used Zionism to whitewash their own hatred while at the same time basically encouraging Jews to leave the Western world. So you're right that that tradition might still exist, but not in the way it did in the past. Today, you can find those former anti-Semites-turned-Zionists pumping out money for AIPAC.

"However, I think your problem is that you're still seing things in binary terms. My comments are meant to attack the part of the left that at times veers into some very suspect terrain. That Israeli society is racist, and that the policies of the Israeli state is racist is nothing to be discussed really; it's just frankly too obvious."

What is suspect about it? That other less-than-reputable groups sometimes use the same imagery? That it focuses on agency rather than structure? I don't see anything wrong with the territory you're describing, certainly nothing racist.

"I think it's more of a case of leftists supporting national liberation movements, such as Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah and the like. Even silly outfits like the SWP don't go as far as in supporting states, although the odd stalinist and even anarchist (yes I've met some) supported Qadaffy."

I've had the opposite experience. Leftists shying away from these groups because they did not pass some arbitrary political litmus test that had little bearing on the circumstances. It is difficult for me to see the legitimacy of say, attacking Hezbollah, when it was the only Lebanese armed force that was capable of routing the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon.

In any case this shies away from my point, that I think the cry of anti-Semitism is not only being used to whitewash Israel (which everyone seems to agree with) but also that it is being used to promote ethnic privileging of Jews while shutting down serious criticisms of lobbies like AIPAC.

jef costello
May 22 2012 02:33
APairofDucks wrote:
"It is not anti-arab to not support pan-arabism or any other expression of arab nationalism. If anything the left is anti-Israel and pro-Arab."

who said anything about Arab nationalism? Way to change the subject.

The fact you refer to it as "pro-Arab" as if the Arabs are unified cultural or political entity proves that you, like so many other leftists, know little about the Arab world or the people in it.

If you can use the phrase anti-arab without being prejudiced then I can use the phrase pro-arab to describe others' beliefs without being prejudiced. TO be honest you're here in pretty bad faith, picking on spelling errors in another post and ignoring what people say. Assuming that someone has no concept of difference, as you have done, is frankly insulting and something a comrade should not do.
I referred to pan-arabism as it was a movement (largley supported by the left as anti-imperialist, ignoring the nationalist element) that encoompasses the various nationalisms that can be found within that broad area and seems to me to be a part of the origin of the left's support.
The left in the UK, where it ever talks about the middle east and north africa almost invariably champions the palestinians oppressed by Israel, hezbollah etc fighting imperialism (and can go as far as Iran and Gaddafy's Libya).
If some on the left are worried about anti-semitism then that is probably because they are sensible enough not to unquestioningly champion 'anti-imperialists' and recognise that a lot of those movements are anti-semitic, as are a lot of their western cheerleaders.
TO be honest I think this has been refuted by people who've expressed themselves better than me.

jolasmo
May 22 2012 18:18

Hey PairOfDucks, anytime you feel like addressing what I said above, that's be great.

~J.

baboon
May 23 2012 11:38

I've got a bit lost in some of the nuances of this debate but generally agree with Jef, et al, above.
Taking the form of the British SWP is a long history of support for Pan-Arabism which comes from its Cold War support of Russian imperialism in the many inter-imperialist conflicts since WWII to the break up of the blocs in 1989. More than supporting the anti-US, anti-Israel line, the SWP is putting forward its defence - as it sees it - of the interests of British imperialism which flows logically from this nationalist group. There is still quite a strong pro-Arabist faction in the British Foreign Office and the CIA finds British recognition of Hezbollah quite useful in its dealings.

Should Israel launch an attack against Iran - and it would have to be a big one - then I don't think that there's any doubt that the EU, Britain and the US would throw their weight behind the former. This has little to do with the "Israeli lobby" but the imperialist interests of the major powers - but that doesn't make them rational and doesn't mean that they won't make a dangerous situation even worse.

ocelot
May 23 2012 15:18
APairofDucks wrote:
As far as Iraq, the neoconservatives who pushed for that invasion were riding on the political organizing work of Zionist groups. The second Iraq war is one instance where, in a climate of crisis and increasing political authority placed in the Executive branch, a political lobby (Israel) DID overcome pressure from people in American intelligence, security, etc, including most of the CIA. And as the Iranians can tell you, in that case, American interest suffered immensely.

This is wrong. Unless you make the racist argument that US neo-cons who happen to be Jewish (Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Krystol & PNAC, etc) have their primary loyalty to Israel first and the right-wing version of US national interests, second. Which doesn't explain the motives of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bolton, etc. It was Rumsfeld who rid roughshod over the Pentagon's objections to a "military revolution" (i.e. neoliberal "rationalisation" of military forces and an invasion by far fewer numbers than existing military doctrine mandated, based on technological superiority making up the numbers).

The notion that the invasion of Iraq was a scheme cooked up by AIPAC and the Israeli lobby is contradicted by, for e.g., Stephen Walt:

Quote:
Professor Mearsheimer and I made it clear in our article and especially in our book that the idea of invading Iraq originated in the United States with the neoconservatives, and not with the Israeli government.

(disclaimer: I don't support all of the viewpoints Walt puts forward in that article)

Israel's number one foreign policy enemy since the formation of Hizbollah in 1985 and the eventual withdraw of Israeli forces from South Lebanon in 2000, has been Iran. Hopefully no-one disputes that.

In fact there is strong evidence that a good number of voices/factions within the Israeli politico-military establishment were very wary that a US invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam's regime, would end up strengthening Iran (as in fact has happened).

I suggest a bit more wider reading around the topic might broaden your perspective.
http://www.fpif.org/articles/the_us_invasion_of_iraq_not_the_fault_of_israel_and_its_supporters
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3444393,00.html
http://forward.com/articles/9839/sharon-warned-bush/

(again, disclaimer: none of the above are anarchist or leftist media sources, normal scepticism as to agendas in mainstream media pieces should apply)

APairofDucks
May 25 2012 23:44

I will get to ocelot's ACTUAL arguments within the next few days when I have time (perhaps some of the rest of you can look at his post to see what an actual argument looks like), but until then, I couldn't help myself over this:

"If you can use the phrase anti-arab without being prejudiced then I can use the phrase pro-arab to describe others' beliefs without being prejudiced."

ROFLMAO are you kidding me? What if there is anti-Jewish racism? Can you be "pro-Jew"? Is that a thing?

Racists create often arbitrary ethnic lines to target other groups, which is at the heart of what racism is. So yes, one can say "anti-Arab" in referring to racists, if you respond with "pro-Arab" then you are taking the racists at their word that "Arab" (or "black," or "Jew," etc) is a meaningful political category.

As far as Wolfowitz and other Jews in the American political establishment -- I will give this a more serious response when I have time but NO, it is not because they are Jewish or presumed to be loyal to Israel instead of America. The attempt to cast a line between loyalty to Israel or America is part of the problem. We are talking about a pro-Israel lobby within the United States. So discussions of "loyalty" are inherently problematic. But the fact is that PNAC, the policy plans put together to invade Iraq, etc were heavily advocated by pro-Israel activists in the United States and indeed many of the ideas had been proposed previously to the Israeli government directly.

As far as whether the attack was rational or wise for Israel (or America), that is a different story. It was not wise for either country, like many of America and Israel's other military adventures. The FPIF piece makes several loaded arguments in that regard.

Without completely directing you to other people's answers, consider comparing Zunes' arguments in the FPIF piece with the rebuttals put forward by W&M themselves:

http://us.macmillan.com/uploadedFiles/FSGAdult/Setting_the_Record_Straight.pdf

APairofDucks
May 26 2012 07:12

"The notion that the invasion of Iraq was a scheme cooked up by AIPAC and the Israeli lobby is contradicted by, for e.g., Stephen Walt"

Walt denies that the scheme came from Israel (the country, not the lobby) per se. This gets tricky because, as I mentioned, we are talking about the American government, the Israeli government, and an American/Israeli lobby that pressures the United States to pursue what it considers to be pro-Israel policy. The plan originated with the neoconservatives and you can trace it back to before PNAC. Consider the "Clean Break" papers, etc. Some trace it further back to Oded Yinon.

It is not an issue of whether or not neoconservatives in the US government considered themselves "Israeli" instead of "American". It is that all of them were glued to this very specific idea of what America's role should be in the post-Cold War order, in which Middle East strategy was centered around targeting regimes and groups that were critical of Israel.

As far as Iran, particularly, I'll let W&M answer that:

http://us.macmillan.com/uploadedFiles/FSGAdult/Setting_the_Record_Straight.pdf

From pgs 21-22:

Quote:
Although Iran was seen as the greater threat, Israel and the lobby still
pushed the United States to attack Iraq. Israeli officials may have preferred the
United States to have gone after Tehran first instead of Baghdad, but as Kramer
admits, they were not sorry that the United States decided to topple Saddam and
they never tried to halt the march to war. Quite the opposite, in fact. As we
documented in our paper, former Israeli prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu
and Ehud Barak both published op-eds in leading U.S. newspapers (the Wall
Street Journal and the New York Times) openly advocating a war to topple
Saddam, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told reporters in September
2002 that “the campaign against Saddam Hussein is a must.”
53
These events
occurred months before Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous briefing to
the UN Security Council and prior to the congressional vote to authorize the use 22
of force. Also, Bill Clinton has recently recounted that “every Israeli politician I
knew” believed that Saddam Hussein was so great a threat that he should be
removed even if he did not have WMD.
54
Israeli public opinion strongly favored
the war, and the Washington Post, Ha’aretz, and the Wall Street Journal all
published articles describing the strong support that the war enjoyed among
Israel’s political and military elite. Israel’s endorsement was hardly the only
reason why the United States went to war, of course, but to say that Israel did
not encourage it is wrong.

As for the sources you provided me --

The Ynet article simply quotes nameless strategic advisors. The same could have been said for members of the United States government. The point is that those were not the Israeli or American individuals that were listened to; instead, the US government listened to Zionists who aligned with what AIPAC was advocating. Neither government is monolithic, but the experts who were listened to were not the ones urging caution.

As for the Forward article, it's a strange one, considering Sharon voiced these criticisms privately and there is no way to verify them. But at the same time, Israeli public opinion and certainly the opinions of various other Israeli politicians and members of AIPAC said otherwise. I'm tempted to read this as an attempt to distance the Israeli leader from what most people with brains predicted would be a disastrous invasion. If anything, Sharon was smart to keep his mouth shut if he wasn't going to publicly oppose it, but other Israeli politicians told Bill Clinton other things in private, not to mention multiple op-eds and appearances by Israeli statesmen in America (surprisingly, on the Daily Show) showed that they supported the war.

The final piece by Zunes is a slipshod effort to respond to W&M. He repeats the same strawmen about how critics of the Israel Lobby are just "blaming the Jews," and claims that one of the issues at hand is whether or not members of these neoconservative policy-making circles are Jewish.

He also points out that Iraq did not pose a threat to Israel -- as if that has ever mattered in terms of Israeli policy. It is also true that Palestinians themselves pose little threat to Israel, and that Palestinians and Lebanese have only attacked Israel out of desperation and from points of weakness. Israel broke ceasefires with the PLO, Hezbollah, and Hamas before multiple mass bombardments of Lebanon and Gaza, for example. So Zunes is misguided to assume that Israel only attacks regimes that pose serious threats. In reality, a historical overview suggests that Israel only attacks critical regimes that DO NOT pose serious military threats.

Zunes also gives no information about other forces he considers to be more powerful, including oil lobbies. I believe oil and natural resources are part of the larger grand strategy of the United States, but that does not mean that oil companies themselves dictate matters of individual policy; if they do, that is up for Zunes and other leftists to prove, not assume.

Zunes could have written the same piece focusing on America itself. It assumes that governments -- or in this case, political lobbies advocating for hawkish policies FOR governments -- act for completely non-ideological reasons as good defensive realist regimes and cannot make foolish mistakes when pressured to do so by domestic politics. Right now, you have people at AIPAC pushing for intervention in Iran, and Israeli leaders threatening intervention, even though top Israeli and American military leaders and most policymakers are well aware that such a war would be disastrous.

These sorts of criticisms, which Walt and Mearsheimer were amongst the few brave enough to make, haven't really been properly addressed.

radicalgraffiti
Aug 2 2014 12:40

The link to adbusters blaming "jewish neocons" no longer works

Caiman del Barrio
Aug 2 2014 14:24

Since we're discussing anti-semitism on the left, I'd like to draw attention to some particularly egregious examples on the UK left recently. This, for example, posted up by the left-wing Scriptonite Daily blog yesterday, on the 70th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising, is in horrific taste, and IMO, pretty racist:

https://scontent-a-lhr.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xaf1/v/t1.0-9/10553333_816697715029434_8213498574134639969_n.jpg?oh=0927a4c06a6d1d62befffb26caed5e0d&oe=5452E6F1

I think it's fair to say that there is an anti-semitic current to almost all comparisons between the Israeli state and Nazi Germany. I think some of it is done through basic ignorance, with people not realising how inappropriate and counter-productive it is to bring up this stuff, but some of it (Israeli flags with swatiskas, the image of the Star of David being thrown in a bin, etc) is to deliberately goad Jews. That's not to say that there aren't parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany, but then, there are parallels between any two nation states you could think of (the way illegal immigrants and benefit claimants are treated in mainstream political discourse in the UK could surely be positively compared with the Nazi propaganda machine, if someone were willing).

A far better comparison, I've heard of couple of intelligent people say, might be with the treatment of American Indians by the pioneers during the manifest destiny. Ultimately though, why make these historical references? They're never gonna exactly fit and they only serve to further inflame tensions and entrench people in their narrow, ethnically-defined identities.

A further question I'd like to ask of 'pro-Palestine' solidarity types is what exactly they mean with the chant "from the river to the sea / Palestine will be free"? Are they actually endorsing - a la Hamas - the expulsion of all Jews from the Middle East? How is that not anti-semitic (or racist, if you prefer)?

Tyrion
Aug 2 2014 21:00

Maybe the UK Palestinian solidarity scene is different, but I never really picked up on much anti-Semitism when I was pretty involved in Students for Justice in Palestine back in college in the US. I don't think there's anything very useful about the Nazi comparisons, but I've definitely heard people make them and my impression is that this generally has little to do with anti-Semitism and more with the perceived irony in a state supposedly born out of the Holocaust (obviously the reality is more complex) engaging in such viciously racist policies, as well as the constant references to Nazism by Israeli politicians to justify whatever brutality. The "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" was common enough at demos and I chanted it myself plenty of times, but my understanding was always "free" as in basic human rights for all people, not "free" as in free of Jews.