Friday, April 13, 2007

Exchange on Palestine and the Lobby: Blankfort, Dunbar-Ortiz and Kaminer

I am forwarding the following exchange with historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz regarding Matan Kaminer's article in Political Affairs, not because she asked me to do so, but because I think that an open debate on the issue of "The Lobby" is important and the failure to have this debate or even talk about the subject has been a major contributing factor to the sad state of American politics today and to building a movement that would seriously challenge the status quo. My message follows her for easier reading.-JB

-----Original Message-----
>From: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
>Sent: Apr 11, 2007 10:16 AM
>To: Jeffrey Blankfort
>Subject: Re: On the Lobby: Matan Kaminer responds and my response to him
>Jeffrey, thanks for sending out Matan's piece and the
>correspondence. I very much agree with Matan's analysis, and, as
>usual, have questions of yours.
>you write:
>"Moreover, I have yet to see any argument of substance that
>demonstrates what strategic benefits the US gains from Israel's
>occupation and continuing theft of Palestinian land . .. This is not
>to say that in the absence of Israel that the US would be any less
>imperialistic, but it's activities in the Middle East would have been
>markedly different. It would, I am sure, not have launched or have
>been able to launch the current war against Iraq without the public
>and hidden orchestration of a score of mostly Jewish neocons and the
>support of the lobby (of which the neocons are a key part !) that
>even as Madeline Albright recently admitted, is the greatest foreign
>policy disaster in US history and which was opposed from the start by
>the old line US establishment represented by the senior George Bush,
>by his former Sec of State, James Baker and their National Security
>Advisor Brent Scowcroft, none of whom were considered friendly to
>either Israel or American Jewry, and all of whom have far greater
>connections to the oil industry than anyone in the current
>administration, including Dick Cheney. And those divisions in the US
>ruling class over America's unconditional support for Israel run
>quite deep, a reality of which the ideologically encapsulated
>American left is totally ignorant and apparently wishes to remain so."
>Actually, Jeffrey, I don't think you have an understanding of how US
>imperialism works in the post-colonial era. You might read Samir
>Amin's, Empire of Chaos to gain a better understanding. Israel is
>useful as a Western enclave (or at least its ruling class's
>maintenance of that stance) precisely to keep the region unsettled
>and chaotic. Iraq has been "mismanaged" as all the US imperialists
>are now saying, but none of them opposed it initially. Sometimes it
>seems that you want to see the empire managed more rationally, rather
>than dismantled.
>You write: "...long before the Christian Zionists appeared on the
>Jeffrey, I'm sorry, but you also don't know anything about Protestant
>fundamentalism, within which I grew up. US Protestant
>fundamentalists are inherently Christian Zionists. They are
>biblical literalists, and the Book of Revelation (which I had to
>memorize when I was 12 years old) says that the Jews must return to
>Israel, and when they do, Christ will return and take all believers
>to heaven (the Rapture), of course, leaving the Jews to burn in
>hell. I recall very well the celebration in my rural Southern
>Baptist church when the state of Israel was founded in 1948. I was
>10 years old. Believe, our nearly illiterate preacher was not in
>touch with the Israeli lobby.
>I hope you will send my comments to your list.

Dear Roxanne,

I have not read "Empire of Chaos", but I am familiar with the position that you say it takes. I see it as yet another one that attempts to employ Marxist analysis to deny or address the historical facts that refute it. A reason must be found, it seems from this perspective, to explain the unconditional US support for Israel and if one doesn't work, let's try another. What must be avoided at all costs is to "blame the Jews," in this case, the organized Jewish community establishment in the US that makes up the heart of the pro-Israel lobby. If the "chaos" theory is what is in play in the Middle East, why not in other parts of the globe? In Latin America, the US failure in Iraq has rendered it incapable of dealing with the increasing march towards the left led by Venezuela. What is it capable of doing regarding North Korea?

You also write, in response to my statements that Bush Sr. Baker, and Scowcroft opposed the war, that "none of them opposed it initially." This is simply not true and their opposition was not secret nor were their reasons. (When Dubya was asked by NBC's Tim Russert why he was disagreeing with Bush Sr. about the war, Junior replied, "I answer to a higher father.") They preferred a weakened, but stable regime under Saddam to the "quagmire" they predicted that would be produced by a US occupation, and although it was not spelled out, the predictable coming to power of the Shia which would then link up with Iran. Yes, they were much more capable managers of US imperialism while having been openly critical of Israel, but this does not mean that I support them or am content with a more efficient form of US world hegemony.

If we are looking for the origins of the current Iraq war, we have to take their opposition into account and explain why, while at the same time examining what forces in US society were orchestrating the false intelligence and fomenting the war propaganda and the finger, whether it fits into Marxist theory being beside the point, points to the right wing of the Jewish establishment, the neocons and its influential think tanks, i.e., the Washington Inst. for Near East Policy (created by AIPAC), the American Enterprise Inst., and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, none of whose roles ever seem to be discussed, let alone mentioned, in what passes for "left" critiques of the war in Iraq which we are told is simply about "oil" and the US desire to control Iraq's vast oil reserves. Anyone knowledgeable about how the oil system works knows how oversimplified that explanation is. Of course, oil, is the key factor in the region, but, if there is one thing that oil producers require, its huge profits from the war notwithstanding, is stability in the region where the oil is being produced because pipelines and drilling platforms are very vulnerable to attack. Needless to say, there is no evidence that the oil companies supported the war and had they been allowed to, they would have happily made a deal with Saddam and we would have had no war at this point in time. To point that out does not put me in bed with the oil companies or Saddam. It's just the way it would have been had not Israel and it's US lobby been around to exert its power on the scene.

As for the power of the Christian Zionists and when it emerged as a political force, it has been eagerly seized upon by, if not welcomed, by those who dismiss or downplay the power of the Jewish Zionists. They succeed in distorting its power as well as its history as a political force. While there is a long record of Christian support for Zionism I have yet to find any evidence that it played a significant role in building US support for Israel on Capitol Hill until Begin was elected Prime Minister and invited Jerry Falwell to visit Israel, which then led to a visit by Pat Robertson and the rest is history. Even today, they are nowhere near as powerful in Washington as those in the "Left" like to think they are and their presence and growth has not demonstrably changed the already dominant position of the Jewish lobby in Washington. That the Christian Zionists before WW2 were not significant politically nor until relatively recently was that they were not embraced or welcomed by the leading elements of American Jewry. As Israel's behavior has come under increasing attack by mainstream US churches, the lobby, becoming desperate, began to embrace the evangelicals, and particularly so, when, a few years ago. Falwell and Robertson were invited to hold prayer breakfasts at the Israeli embassy. What is rarely mentioned by those recalling the early days of Christian support for Zionism is that the dominant religious message prior to World War 2 was largely "anti-Jewish" led by Father Coughlin who railed against Jews on his national radio program and by the likes of Gerald L K Smith with his publication, "The Cross and the Flag."

As a friend who had worked as a staff member of a former Congressman wrote me this morning, one of the insidious aspects of the lobby's power is that pro-Israel Jewish members of Congress have been routinely assigned committee chairmanships that give them the power to oversee legislation in areas that have been politically critical for Israel, not just foreign aid, but South Africa, which under Howard Wolpe, was able to neutralize efforts to penalize Israel for selling arms to the South African apartheid regime, and Latin America, where the US was criticized for aiding the Contras in Nicaragua, and the death squad regimes of El Salvador and Guatemala, while ignoring the major role played by Israel in all three of those countries. (This myopia was also to be found among the various solidarity committees that were, at the time, Jewish dominated.)

What troubles me is that those who reject the position that the Israel Lobby, Jewish Lobby, Zionist Lobby, however one names it, is the dominant factor in shaping US Middle East policy, have never taken the time to actually do the research, to read the books that have been written on the subject. (In an email to a friend several years ago, rejecting a suggestion that he debate me on the issue of the lobby, Noam Chomsky wrote that it was my "obsession." As for him, he wrote, "I don't write about it, I don't talk about it") I suspect that underlying their position is the unexpressed feeling that to accept the truth about the negative role played by the organized Jewish establishment in America would be to somehow betray those Jews with whom you and others were so active over the years in struggling for civil rights, in the unions for the 8-hour day, and for progressive causes in general while ignoring the one glaring exception, the expulsion of the of Palestinians from their land and the right to return to it, which most of those very same Jews either vigorously defended, quietly accepted or ignored. This happens to be a sad piece of history of the Old Left and much of what was called the New Left in the 60s that I know all too well from direct experience with both. It is time to get past that and accept reality as it is, not how you would like it to be.



>On Apr 11, 2007, at 12:34 AM, Jeffrey Blankfort wrote:
>Dear Matan,
>Thanks for the prompt reply and the family update.
>One of the most critical failings in your analysis and of those who
>downplay the influence of the lobby, most notably Noam Chomsky, was
>expressed when you wrote:
>"The one undeniable empirical fact is that for three decades and more
>American government policy and the Israel lobby's demands have been
>very close. Not always identical - there have been crises - but
>certainly very close, in an almost unprecedented way. "
>Chomsky and others have postulated this as proof that the lobby only
>appears to be powerful because its interests are in line with
>Washington's imperial interests whereas the lobby's critics, among
>them myself, question whether support for Israel has, in fact, been
>in keeping with the US global interests and take the position
>advanced by Stephen Green in "Taking Sides," that Israel and its
>supporters in the US define the limits of action that a US president
>may take in issues relating to Israel and it is left to the president
>to set policy within those limits. Any honest examination of the
>history of US-Israel relations shows this to have been the case.
>What is not generally known since Chomsky and those who agree with
>him tend to ignore it, is that as Uri Avnery pointed out more than 20
>years ago, every US president beginning with Nixon have attempted to
>get Israel to withdraw from lands it occupied in 1967 and with the
>exception of Carter forcing a withdrawal from the Sinai, they have
>been forced to pull back when Israel called on its US lobby to rally
>Congress on its behalf. Neither Israel nor its US lobby have ever
>forgiven Carter for Camp David despite it having removed Egypt as a
>military threat since, as I am sure you aware, as Ben-Gurion pointed
>out (in Sharett's diary), Israel requires external enemies in order
>to maintain a sufficiently high state of vigilance, not to mention
>diaspora support. These presidents were not seeking an end to
>Israeli occupation to benefit the Palestinians or the Syrians, but to
>eliminate an ongoing source of friction with the Arab and Muslim
>world which brings no strategic benefits to the United States.
>Moreover, I have yet to see any argument of substance that
>demonstrates what strategic benefits the US gains from Israel's
>occupation and continuing theft of Palestinian land while it should
>be obvious that a truncated Palestinian state in the West Bank and
>Gaza would not only be of no threat to the US, it would most likely
>and quickly, out of economic necessity, fall right into the US orbit
>along with Jordan or face economic strangulation as it is
>experiencing today. Arafat certainly made it clear that he was ready
>to jump into the lap of any US president and Abbas and his pathetic
>spokesperson Erekat are even more eager to do so. It was the late
>general Matti Peled who pointed out that the explanation that Israel
>receives support from the US because it is a "strategic asset" was
>invented to justify the continuing support of Israel by the US after
>Begin's election thirty years ago and the recirculation in the US
>press of the accusations made by Einstein, Arendt, and other
>prominent Jews in 1948 that Begin was a fascist in the Nazi mold.
>This is not to say that in the absence of Israel that the US would be
>any less imperialistic, but it's activities in the Middle East would
>have been markedly different. It would, I am sure, not have launched
>or have been able to launch the current war against Iraq without the
>public and hidden orchestration of a score of mostly Jewish neocons
>and the support of the lobby (of which the neocons are a key part !)
>that even as Madeline Albright recently admitted, is the greatest
>foreign policy disaster in US history and which was opposed from the
>start by the old line US establishment represented by the senior
>George Bush, by his former Sec of State, James Baker and their
>National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, none of whom were
>considered friendly to either Israel or American Jewry, and all of
>whom have far greater connections to the oil industry than anyone in
>the current administration, including Dick Cheney. And those
>divisions in the US ruling class over America's unconditional support
>for Israel run quite deep, a reality of which the ideologically
>encapsulated American left is totally ignorant and apparently wishes
>to remain so. I am not one to quote Lenin, but he is alleged to have
>said, or written, "Be as real as reality." I have yet to meet a self-
>styled Leninist today who meets that standard nor a Trotskyist, for
>that matter.
>Now, I can well understand that given the censorship that is exists
>within the international left on the subject, that you would know
>very little about the lobby's history and its role in making Israel a
>country to which American politicians of both political parties
>routinely pledge their allegiance (more often than they do to the US)
>and why many of these same politicians who have no problem
>criticizing the president of the United States, or the head of state
>of any other country (but one), on the floor of Congress are
>literally afraid to criticize a prime minister of Israel, any prime
>minister, knowing that to do so would be a career threatening, if not
>career ending decision.
>Whether or not the lobby represents the majority of American Jews is
>irrelevant when one considers that that it is made up of the entire
>organized Jewish establishment which includes more than 60
>organizations, 150 community relations councils and federations,
>thousands of synagogues, and Washington's major think tanks. If there
>is a single thread that holds them all together it is their support
>of continued US political, military and economic assistance to Israel
>and their universal opposition to the Palestinian right of return. I
>am not aware of a single organization of any significance among
>American Jews that does not subscribe to these positions and I have
>studied the subject quite thoroughly for a number of years. As a
>group, moreover, Jews have long dominated the major donor list of the
>Democratic Party and by giving sums to key players in the Republican
>Party, assured their compliance with the lobby's wishes long before
>the Christian Zionists appeared on the scene. To pretend that their
>being Jewish is less significant than than the fact that they are
>also wealthy capitalists may be comforting but will fool no one,
>least of all the politicians who are on the receiving end of their
>To get an understanding of how the lobby works and how it shapes US
>Middle East policy, I recommend that you purchase over the internet
>the following books: Edward Tivnan's "The Lobby," Stephen Green's
>"Talking Sides: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel,"
>former Congressman Paul Findley's "They Dare to Speak Out," JJ
>Goldberg's (the editor of the Jewish weekly Forward) "Jewish Power"
>and most recently, Jim Petras's "The Power of Israel in the US."
>Also, you may be interested in three articles of mine:
>Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict:
>The Israel Lobby and the Left: Uneasy Questions: http://
>A War for Israel:
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Matan Kaminer
>Sent: Apr 10, 2007 5:58 AM
>To: Jeffrey Blankfort
>Cc: Reuven Kaminer , Eilat Maoz , gokce gunel
>Subject: Re: Politcal Affairs: Kaminer: The Colonial Drama of Israel
>& Palestine (and JB's response)
>Hi Jeff,
>Thanks for your reply. I am Reuven's grandson and Noam's son, by the
>way. I don't know how well I can respond to your criticism, as I am
>really not versed in the facts and figures of the "Israel lobby"
>debate. This is why the points I make briefly below will not be
>empirically based, but rather points of principle. Let me start by
>saying that if I came across as insinuating that any attempt to
>understand the question of the Israel lobby's power is anti-Semitic,
>then I apologize. Such smearing would indeed place me in the same
>ranks as Dershowitz and the others you mention, but it was certainly
>not my intention.
>That said, there are several ways of approaching the question. The
>one undeniable empirical fact is that for three decades and more
>American government policy and the Israel lobby's demands have been
>very close. Not always identical - there have been crises - but
>certainly very close, in an almost unprecedented way. So the question
>must be addressed.
>But there are a few pitfalls along the way. One is the conflation of
>the terms "Jewish", "Israeli" and "Zionist", which I think you are
>not being careful enough to avoid. The fact that many wealthy
>political donors are Jewish and may or may not belong to AIPAC does
>not mean that they represent the American Jewish community in any way
>(most American Jews are not wealthy); similarly, it does not mean
>that they represent the interest either of the state of Israel or of
>its citizens; neither does their Jewishness make their support of
>Zionism a question not worth trying to answer (not all wealthy Jews
>throughout history have been right-wing Zionists). In reality, the
>only generalization one can make about wealthy donors is that they
>are wealthy; this is where we should look for the connection, not in
>their Jewishness.
>It is true that the Zionists conflate Jew, Israeli and Zionist. They
>are hypocritical in the extreme when they then turn around and label
>others who fall into that trap as "anti-Semitic" . However, this does
>not mean that "it is okay" to do as they do. In fact, this is one of
>the main points where leftists need to fight against Zionist
>propaganda, and this is what I tried to contribute to in my article.
>The footnote in the article, where I mention that most of the
>American funding for Israel goes right back to America, was not meant
>to suggest that the profit the US arms industry makes from this
>funding is necessarily the main explanation for the aid. The point
>was that this money should not be seen as just an irrational gift,
>and I stand by that.
>I think that any real understanding of the support the US extends to
>Israel must take into consideration the US empire's own reasons for
>this support. I am not clear on whether you disagree with me on this.
>Do you think supporting Israel is bad for US imperialism? Do you feel
>that it doesn't make any difference, and that these are separate
>issues? Or do you disagree with the assumption I have made, up to now
>implicitly, that US foreign policy is, and always has been,
>imperialistic, and that progressive people all over the world should
>join the fight against it?
>Thanks again for your reply. Please feel free to send copies of our
>correspondence to anyone you like.
>In solidarity,
>On 4/10/07, Jeffrey Blankfort wrote:
>The following article I came across today in my email box and is
>quite interesting in that it represents a view of Israel's
>traditional Marxist Jewish "left." The author, I assume is the son of
>a Jewish American, Reuven Kaminer, a Marxist who emigrated to Israel
>decades ago and whom I met and interviewed there in 1983 when a son,
>Noam, was a member of Yesh G'vul, the refusenik Israeli reservists
>who refused to serve in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon,. The journal,
>Political Affairs, is a venerable publication which used to be close
>to the US Communist Party. I think the article is worth reading but
>did not want to send it without some critical comments.-JB
>Dear Matan,
>I have just read your interesting article in Political Affairs in
>which you asked for responses. There are a number of problems I have
>with it, but one in particular, is of immediate concern.. In dealing
>with one of the most serious issues that has enabled the current
>situation in Israel/Palestine to continue and worsen by the day,
>i.e., the role and influence of what in Israel is described as the
>American "Jewish Lobby," you end up with the same mistaken conclusion
>and make the spurious accusation or implication of "anti-semitism"
>that have blocked the arteries of the Palestine solidarity movement
>and contributed to its utter failure in the US and elsewhere.
>Frankly, they are only dissimilar in tone and length from the ravings
>of Alan Dershowitz and the ADL's Abe Foxman but carry the same message..
>You write:
>"On both sides of the Atlantic, demands to stop preferential
>treatment for Israel have treated this treatment as a kind of
>irrational gift, instead of as the self-interested maneuver it
>obviously is [5]. This stance comes within spitting distance of the
>various conspiracy theories surrounding the "Jewish lobby", and the
>road leading from these to blatant anti-Semitism is quite short."
>To say that Israel is supported because two-thirds of its military
>aid is used to subsidize the US arms industry, a pittance when
>compared, for example, with the outright sales of the industry to
>Saudi Arabia, does not begin to account for the total hold that the
>lobby has held over both houses for Congress and both political
>parties for at least the past four decades, over the White House with
>the exceptions of Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr., or the well documented
>Zionist and philo-zionist domination of the mainstream media.
>Only those who are ideologically blinded can fail to see that the
>lobby, that is the organized American Jewish establishment, has
>hijacked the America political system and has done so for Israel's
>benefit. (It is not the only culprit in the field, but the only one
>with total "bi-partisan" support) It is not a secret that all the
>presidential candidates are whoring after Jewish money and pledging
>their allegiance to Israel, something that they have, in fact, been
>doing for years, as have members of Congress, and that virtually ever
>big donor mentioned in the media is Jewish. Is this of no consequence
>or is even raising the issue and asking the question, "anti-semitic"
>in your eyes?
>Similarly, you do not explain why "in Europe the economic and
>political profit accrued by the European bourgeoisie through its
>support of Israel is not usually an issue." While I am aware that the
>EU is Israel's largest trading partner, it hardly a significant one
>from the EU's standpoint and it is not clear what you mean by
>"political profit" unless you are referring to the monetary and
>political support that Judeophallic European leaders receive from
>Jewish organizational lobbies in their respective countries, such as
>the neo-fascist Zarkosy in France, Merkel in Germany or Blair in the UK.
>What I have found disturbing, but after some years amusing and
>predictable, is that the only two sectors of US and Western society
>that view Israel as a "strategic asset" of the US and use this
>argument to explain the massive economic and critical support that
>the US has given Israel over the years is the organized world-wide
>Jewish establishment and what passes for "the left." It is not
>surprising that the former continues to show signs of ever
>increasing power, as we have most recently seen in the West's
>groveling response to Israel's most recent war on Lebanon while the
>latter, in the US, Europe, or for that matter, Israel, is barely able
>to draw a breath.
>It is something to think about.
>I have copied this message to my entire mailing list along with your
>original article. You are quite likely to get responses from some of
>them. In any case, I will be happy to pass whatever comments you wish
>to make on to them.
>Jeff Blankfort
>The Colonial Drama of Israel and Palestine
>By Matan Kaminer
>Political Affairs
>4-09-07, 8:24 am
>Seen from this side of the Mediterranean, the Western (and especially
>European) view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exhibits a strange
>trait. One often feels that one is playing a part in a play scripted
>by others, and that deviations from the allotted role may be frowned
>upon by the audience. Of course, the most obnoxious version of this
>theatrical piece is the one in which the Israeli is cast as a brave
>liberal David, up against the brutish Muslim Goliath. Seeing as I am
>writing for a left audience and not for The New York Times, this play
>does not concern me here. Often, though, one feels that the
>international left is also sitting down to watch a drama; this one
>might be titled Colonialism.
>Before I go on, let me clarify that I see the situation in Israel/
>Palestine as colonial, and that as a left activist in Israel I see
>anti-colonialism as a central theoretical and practical aspect of my
>activity. But a facile and a-historical importation of anti-
>imperialist stances from other times and places will be useless or
>worse in the struggle for a free Palestine and a socialist and
>democratic Middle East. Our colonialism is different; and although it
>is a family relation of the earlier European colonialisms and a close
>ally of the current, American-led neo-colonialism, it is distinct
>from these and must be fought in different ways.
>Outside the left, and perhaps even to some within it, it might
>nowadays be seen as objectionable to call Zionism a colonial movement
>or Israel a colonialist power. This would strike the father of
>political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, as strange. He was an avid
>colonialist who explicitly envisioned the Jewish homeland as a
>European colony under imperial protection. The revival of the Hebrew
>language, never championed by Herzl (the Jews in his utopia spoke
>German), has obscured this link by using ancient roots in new ways.
>However, the Hebrew name used for the first Zionist settlements,
>moshava, can only be translated as "colony"[1] .
>A colony in search of a metropole
>Colonialism is not only resident latently at the root of Israel's
>existence; it is in full bloom today. One workable definition of the
>term is "the control or governing influence of a nation over a
>dependent country, territory, or people"[2], and this definition
>obviously fits the situation. Of course, ours is in many ways an
>anomalous colonialism. Perhaps the most obvious anomaly is the lack
>of distance between colony and metropole. Israel (the "governing
>nation" or metropole) and Palestine (the "dependent country" or
>colony) are hard to distinguish, not only in terms of geography but
>also of demography: a fifth of Israeli citizens are in fact
>Palestinians, and a substantial portion of the remainder is descended
>from Jewish families that lived in the Arab Middle East for
>generations and spoke Arabic.
>In earlier drafts of this article, I hesitated between the headings
>"a colony without a metropole" and "a colony which is its own
>metropole". I finally settled on the rather vague phrasing which
>heads this section. But it is apt, because the Zionist leadership,
>from Herzl to Olmert, has always looked across the seas for a
>metropole. Since 1967 the military responsibilities of the metropole
>have been borne by the United States, with Europe sharing in economic
>responsibility (and benefits). But politically Israel remains
>independent, and not just in a nominal way. Labeling Israel as "the
>fifty-first state" or as "nothing but" an American colony is
>intellectually lazy and politically dangerous.
>Why politically dangerous? Because there is another important aspect
>in which Israeli colonialism remains bereft of a metropole: Israelis
>have nowhere to go. Many Israelis are descended from refugees
>(whether from Europe or the Middle East), and most are acutely aware
>of the fact that while the US and Europe may aid us in various ways,
>the majority of Israelis will never be accepted in these countries as
>full citizens the way the repatriated European settlers were. This is
>why no current in the Israeli left, however radical, has ever called
>for "repatriation" or any other kind of transfer of the Israeli
>Jewish population away from Israel.
>Colonialism within colonialism
>Of course, the ten thousand Israeli settlers evacuated from the Gaza
>Strip in 2005 did have somewhere to go: they were well taken care of
>by the Israeli government. Abroad as well as in Israel there is much
>confusion over the distinction between opposition to the occupation
>of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and opposition to the Zionist
>colonial project in general. I will not attempt any conclusive
>clearing-up of the confusion here, but I believe a careful double
>application of the category of colonialism can be conceptually and
>politically helpful.
>In 1967 Israel conquered the portions of British Mandatory Palestine
>previously occupied by Jordan and Egypt [3] and, for the first time,
>took on colonialist aspects in a form familiar to European eyes.
>Colonists, military rule, paternalism, resistance, and repression:
>all of these had existed in Israel/Palestine before, but in forms
>much less obviously resembling those of European colonialism. After
>the occupation, though, even the relations between the "general
>public", the settler right and the state began to bear comparison to
>those in colonialist France, oscillating from harmonious national
>unity to moments of crisis (as in the Algiers putsch and the Rabin
>However, as the settlers themselves like to remind Israelis, it is
>hard to pinpoint the essential difference between Tel Aviv and Ariel
>(the largest settlement in the West Bank). It seems that the
>eagerness of the Israeli left (and not only its Zionist sections) to
>denounce the colonialism in the Occupied Territories sometimes serves
>as a mechanism of denial: the Green Line (the 1948 border) is
>essentialized, and the creation of a Palestinian state in the West
>Bank and Gaza is seen as a panacea for all our troubles. The racist
>discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and the
>theocratic dictatorship over personal life – both aspects of Israeli
>colonialism that were clearly born long before '67 – are put on a
>back burner, or expected to resolve themselves "after we make peace",
>and this is of course without mentioning the return of the
>Palestinian refugees.
>Of course, setting priorities is an ugly but necessary part of doing
>politics. I am not denying that stopping the ongoing siege of Gaza is
>a more urgent matter than legalizing marriage between two Israeli
>citizens of different religions [4]. But just as one does not have to
>accept that there is no alternative to capitalism in order to demand
>an increase in the minimum wage, there is no logical contradiction
>between calling for immediate and total withdrawal from the Occupied
>Territories and a critique of Israeli colonialism that does not
>ignore its powerful operations on both sides of the Green Line.
>However, talk of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
>conflict – as opposed to support for talks with the Palestinian
>leadership and a negotiated settlement – does not go hand in hand
>with such an analysis.
>The International Angle
>The above brings me to the tenuous conclusion that Israeli society
>lives on both sides of the colonial coin. We are colonizers and
>colonized at the same time. This is not surprising or particularly
>anomalous. Colonial society is often stratified, and there can be a
>near-continuum between the top and the bottom of the colonial
>hierarchy. Those near the top, like the Aztec princes under the
>Spanish viceroy, are still colonized; their position is comparable to
>that of the Israeli elite.
>Near the top, then, but not quite there. Who is, then? To answer this
>question we need to go beyond nations to classes. The apex of the
>colonial pyramid is most certainly outside of the Middle East, in the
>Olympic heights where the G8, the IMF and NATO live; the reins are
>held in the clutch of the globalized bourgeoisie. This power resides
>not simply in Europe or the United States (or in Japan for that
>matter), but in the hands of those who rule these countries.
>We come again to the drama in which we Israelis must play our part
>opposite Palestinians, Iranians, Lebanese and many others. Who are we
>performing for, and why are they enjoying it? Why do the Western mind
>and the Western left dedicate so much time and energy to watching
>this play, analyzing it and attempting to influence it?
>Could we find an analogy between the way Israelis watch the wrestling
>match of the settlers against the Palestinians and the way Westerners
>watch Israelis and Arabs go at it? Does viewing this anachronistic
>microcosm provide catharsis? Is European society projecting its
>feelings of guilt for its failure to stand up to imperialism in its
>sinister homegrown variety onto the only blatant colonialists still
>around after the death of South African apartheid?
>Developing an anti-colonialist politics
>How could a subtler anti-colonialism inform the politics of radical
>Israeli and international activists? I purposely exclude Palestinian
>activists from the question, as this article is written as a
>communication between Israeli and European. Colonialism may have
>taken on a bizarre, atavistic shape in Israel, but it is no less a
>part of the world system than the current French involvement in
>Africa. This means first of all that Europeans must take
>responsibility for the intimate collaboration of their own
>governments with neo-colonialism in the Middle East and with its
>faithful ally, the Israeli state. North American activists, perhaps
>out of a greater alienation from their own elite, have become more
>demanding in the Bush era. But in Europe the economic and political
>profit accrued by the European bourgeoisie through its support of
>Israel is not usually an issue. There is no reason why this should
>not change.
>On both sides of the Atlantic, demands to stop preferential treatment
>for Israel have treated this treatment as a kind of irrational gift,
>instead of as the self-interested maneuver it obviously is [5]. This
>stance comes within spitting distance of the various conspiracy
>theories surrounding the "Jewish lobby", and the road leading from
>these to blatant anti-Semitism is quite short.
>For Israelis, anti-colonialist politics means taking the long view.
>It means looking beyond various state "solutions" within the
>framework of neo-liberal capitalism towards the articulation of joint
>struggles with Palestinians and other Arabs against reaction, whether
>neo-liberal or fundamentalist. It means turning away from seeing the
>"international community" as a fair arbitrator and towards a vision
>of alliance with the social movements of the third world – including
>the third world of immigrants and dissidents in the belly of the
>imperialist beast, and also including workers, women, ethnic
>minorities and other oppressed groups in the Middle East.
>All of us – and this applies to Palestinians as well – must remind
>ourselves that without a globalized politics that demands
>redistribution on a world scale, attempts to remedy the situation in
>Israel/Palestine will only intensify the exploitative power of the
>Arab, Israeli and global bourgeoisies over the rest of us. We must
>resist the facile imitation of the experience of European
>decolonization, which can lead us to reformist national "solutions".
>We must link the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to the
>struggles of immigrants and refugees around the world for human
>rights. We must think long-term about the possible lives of Jewish
>Israelis in a post-Zionist Middle East, and we must turn this
>eventuality from an apocalyptic threat into a viable alternative.
>The proportion of migrant workers in the Israeli population is
>already one of the highest in the developed world. These Africans,
>Latin Americans and Asians have been brought here to replace the
>troublesome Palestinian workers whom we have locked behind walls;
>they are periodically shipped off to make sure they don't get any
>ideas. Thus, today the Levant is once again seeing populations moved
>around by force of hunger and violence, an imperialist tactic this
>part of the world has known at least since the days of the Assyrian
>Empire. The struggles of the Palestinians and of oppressed people in
>Israel can, and should, become part of the wider struggle for a world
>without borders and without masters.
>--Matan Kaminer is an Israeli left activist. He would be happy to
>receive comments at The author wishes to
>thank Eilat Maoz for her vital comments and criticism.
>[1] The "colonialism within colonialism" (see below) of the 1967
>occupation has a linguistic aspect. While the word moshava ("colony")
>and the linguistically related yishuv ("settlement") and mityashvim
>("colonists", "settlers") are currently seen as politically neutral
>and retain a positive, if somewhat naïve, connotation in Israeli
>culture, the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are called hitnah)
>aluyot, a word with a different root which echoes the Hebrew
>colonization of Canaan in the Old Testament. This epithet, originally
>borne with pride by the settlers (mitnah)alim), has understandably
>acquired a negative connotation over the years, and the settlers
>themselves now prefer the words yishuv and mityashvim.
>[2] Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://
> (accessed: February 24,
>[3] It also conquered the Sinai Peninsula (from Egypt) and the Golan
>Heights (from Syria). I will not discuss these here.
>[4] Jews are not allowed to marry non-Jews in Israel. Such marriages
>are recognized by the State only when performed abroad.
>[5] For instance, most of the money sent to Israel as military aid
>returns to the West as arms purchases.
> >From

Jeff Blankfort writes:
The following contribution to the discussion of the Israel Lobby between Matan Kaminer and myself is unique because it comes from someone who has actually worked inside the legislative system on both the national and state levels and therefore speaks from an experience that only the handful of persons on my list who have actually served in Congress (and experienced the workings of The Lobby directly ) can claim. As Peggy McCormack points out, this lobby has penetrated and infiltrated our political system, literally hijacked it, in a way that is totally without precedent. The results may be invisible on the surface in the US but they are visible on a daily basis in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq, and if the lobby has its way, Iran. This message should open the eyes of those who defend the lobby's actions as being completely within the spirit of American democracy, when clearly one sees that it is consuming what is left of it from the roots.-JB

Peggy McCormack wrote:

Dear Jeff and anyone else:

The Lobby and American Campaigns

I am so glad that this discussion about the lobby is open, now, to outsiders. My name is Peggy McCormack, and I have worked inside Congress and the California Legislature off and on for 30 years. I am currently teaching at a small college.

Almost everyone who talks about "the lobby", including Jeff Blankfort, who is absolutely the best on this subject (especially of the role the lobby plays with state and local governments and labor unions), are woefully ignorant of the inner workings of Congress. Congress may be the last place that any form of representation of "the people" takes place. As it gets more and more controlled by monied interests, Congress becomes more and more homogeneous. However, with regard to foreign policy, there are always the few brave members who routinely challenge American Imperialist policy. This was certainly true with regard to Latin America, Vietnam and other US imperialist debacles.

It is not true of Israel. Have you questioned how this came about? When it came about? I worked in many Congressional Campaigns and with many Political Campaign firms. Most of the really good campaign firms are controlled by Zionists (read Tom Hayden's article in Counterpunch). They function as money laundries, provide expensive services for practically nothing, demand loyalty to Israel, walk out in the middle of campaigns if candidates do not swear loyalty to Israel, and as private consultants have great impact on reapportionment processes in major states. I am familiar with California because the Campaign Firm that routinely tried to take my former boss out of Congress either by running primary candidates against him, or reapportioning him out, has run the reapportionment in California for the Democrats since 1970. There are other Zionist entities, such as the Congressional Committee for and Effective Congress that "helped" Democrats throughout the US with their reapportionment and made sure that some anti-Israel candidates had districts drawn in order to make picking them off in a primary easy.

Congressional candidates are frightened of the lobby. They certainly don’t want putting up with the hassles of having the "lobby" come after them, but worse, they fear being targeted. Ask Jim Moran, Congressman from Virginia’s 8th District who refused to vote for every anti-Palestinian resolution that came before Congress, and spoke out against the nasty occupation of Palestinians. He endured day to day torment , outrageous surveillance, electronic eavesdropping bugs, photos by Zionist paparazzi’s who followed him, and on and on.

Part of the problem of uncovering the details of how the Lobby works in effectively controlling the campaign technology and expertise is the need for research. My ex-Communist party friends here in California are as ignorant of how the behind the scenes political campaign work is done, as the average citizen. A quick example I often use: I was once hired by a campaign to literally keep volunteers busy and away from the major activity of the campaign. Donations, of course, and endorsements (In the Democratic Party labor), are the milk of American politics. Since the bulk of donations to the Democrats come from Israeli support groups, and Labor, (Blankfort has documented how the Zionists control Labor PAC committees) the power of the Israeli “lobby” becomes clearer and clearer. Tie that to the overpowering control by campaign firms themselves, and yes, Ariel Sharon is right "We own the Congress".

If I could interview Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucus members "off the record" I would uncover recent and current campaign practices that my former boss endured, and sadly, that I watched intimately when I worked in campaigns myself -- loans (that quickly come due if the member steps out of line, as my boss did), "loyalty oaths" prepared speeches, imbedded campaign workers, imbedded Congressional staff, partially paid by various lobbies (this could not happen if AIPAC and their dozens of clones had to register as foreign lobbyists).

Oh, and all those campaign firms that do the extremely expensive work of polling, paid voter registration, and precinct analysis (remember campaign firms do not have to report any of this work) – who pays for that? Blessed candidates get the benefits, but at what cost? It is interesting to note that the power of the lobby grew as campaigning became more and more computerized, and the need for more and more “experts” entered the game.

If I had the time and money, I would investigate this phenomenon, I don’t, but someone needs to look at the “way it works”. Peg McCormack

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