Saturday, December 22, 2007

James Petras: Dual Loyalty Cripples Anti-War Jews

I was especially interested in this subject since I had come to essentially the same conclusion in my article on "The Israel Lobby, the Grassroots and the Radical Bush-Cheney Regime" (available on line). I argued that the progressive grassroots reflexively supports whatever policy choices come down from Tel Aviv or from AIPAC no matter the implications for US interests, the US Constitution, much less Palestinian or Arab interests.

American Jews on War and Peace:
What Do the Polls Tell Us and Not Tell Us?

by James Petras

December 15, 2007


Once again, a poll recently released by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) (1) has confirmed that on some questions of major significance there are vast differences between the opinion of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations and the mass of American Jews. On questions of the Iraq war, the escalation of US military forces in Iraq (the 'Surge') and military action against Iran, most Jewish Americans differ from the leaders of the major American Jewish organizations.

Most liberal, progressive or radical Jewish commentators have emphasized these differences to argue, "most American Jews resoundingly reject the Middle East militarism and GOP foreign policy championed by right-wing Jewish factions." (2) This progressive interpretation however avoids an even more fundamental question: How
is it that a majority of US Jews who, according to the AJC poll (and several others going back over two decades) differ with the principal American Jewish organizations, have not or do not challenge the position of the dominant Jewish organization, have virtually no impact on the US Congress, the Executive and the mass media in comparison to the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations?

The issue of the 'silent majority' is questionable since all Jewish and non-Jewish commentators point to the highly vocal and disproportionate rates of participation of American Jews in the political process, from electoral campaigns to civil society movements. Not is it clear that the progressive majority lacks the high incomes of the reactionary 'minority'. There are some Jewish millionaires and even a few billionaires who hold views opposing the leadership of the major Jewish organizations. There are several probable explanations that account for the power of Jewish leaders in shaping US Middle East policy and the relative impotence of the
majority of American Jews.

The Poll: A Re-Analysis

The poll results highlighted by progressive Jewish analysts point to the 59% to 31% majority of Jews disapproving the way the US is handling the 'campaign against terror." The problem with using the answers to this question to indicate progressive opinion is that a number of Zionist ideologues and their followers also
oppose the 'handling of the campaign' because it is not sufficiently brutal, authoritarian and arbitrary. Other findings cited include a 67% to 27% majority currently believing that the US should have stayed out of Iraq, a 76%
to 23% majority who believe the war is going 'somewhat' or 'very badly' in Iraq, a 68% to 30% majority believing that the 'surge' has either made things worse or has no impact.

Even more important, a large majority (57% to 35%) of American Jews oppose the United States launching a pre-emptive military attack against Iran, even if it were taken 'to prevent (Iran) from developing nuclear weapons." The progressive analysts then cite the polls finding that most American Jews are 'some shade of liberal' rather than 'conservative' (42% to 25%) and overwhelmingly identified as Democrats rather than Republicans by 58% to 15%. Most Jews believe that Democrats will make the 'right decisions on the war in Iraq (61% to 21%). Finally, the progressives have very favorable views of the top three Democratic presidential candidates.

On the surface these polling results would suggest that American Jews would be at the cutting edge of the congressional anti-war movements, arousing their fellow Jews to join and resurrect the moribund peace movement. Nothing of the sort has occurred.

One reason for the gap between the 'progressive' polling results and the actual pro-war behavior of the major American Jewish Organizations is found in several of the opinions not cited by progressive analysts but emphasized by the 52 leaders of the major communal organizations (Daily Alert, December 13, 2007). Over eighty percent (82%) of American Jews agree that 'the goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel'. Only 12% of Jews disagree. And 55% to 37% do not believe Israel and its Arab
neighbors will settle their differences and live in peace. On the key issue of a compromise on the key issue of Jerusalem, by 58% to 36% American Jews reject an Israeli compromise to insure a framework for permanent peace.

Given the high salience of being pro-Israel for the majority of American Jews and the fact that the source of their identity stems more from their loyalty to Israel than to the Talmud or religious myths and rituals, then it is clear that both the 'progressive, majority of Jews and the reactionary minority who head up
all the major American Jewish organizations have a fundamental point of agreement and convergence: Support and identity with Israel and its anti-Arab prejudices, its expansion and the dispossession of Palestine. This overriding convergence allows the reactionary Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations in America to speak for
the Jewish community with virtually no opposition from the progressive majority either within or without their organizations. By raising the Israeli flag, repeating clich├ęs about the 'existential threat' to Israel at each and every convenient moment, the majority of Jews have bowed their heads and acquiesced or, worst, subordinated
their other 'progressive' opinions to actively backing the leaders 'identity' with Israel. Their franchise on being the recognized Jewish spokespeople intimidates and/or forces progressive Jews to publicly abide to the line that 'Israel (sic) knows what is best for Israel' and by extension for all American Jews who identify with Israel.

A second important factor in undermining progressive American Jewish activity against US-Israeli war policy in the Middle East (Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Palestine) is the influence of Israeli public opinion. A Haaretz report (December 9, 2007) documents a civil rights poll showing that 'Israel has reached new heights of
racism…', citing a 26% rise in anti-Arab incidents (Association for Civil Rights in Israel Annual Report for 2007). The report cites the doubling of the number of Jews expressing feelings of hatred to Arabs. Fifty percent of Israeli Jews oppose equal rights for their Arab compatriots. According to a Haifa University study,
74% of Jewish youth in Israel think that Arabs are 'unclean'.

Progressive American Jews, identifying with a racist colonial state, face a dilemma: Whether to act against their primary identity in favor of their progressive opinions or whether to back Israel and submit to its American franchise holders and recognized leaders.

Given these issues, a serious analyst clearly must distinguish between 'opinions' and 'commitment'. While a majority of American Jews may voice private progressive opinions, their commitments based on their identity as Jews rests with the State of Israel and its principal mouthpieces in the US.

This probably explains the unwillingness of progressive Jews to criticize the principal reactionary Jewish leaders and their mass organizations, even worse to attack and slander any critics of the pro-Israel power
configuration. Progressive Jews have subordinated their progressive opinions to their loyalty and identity with Israel. Organizationally this has meant that the majority of major American Jewish organizations are still led
and controlled by pro-war, pro-Israel leaders. Progressive Jewish organizations are on the fringe of the organizational map, with virtually no influence in the Congress or Presidency and backers of a pro-war Democratic Party and Congress.

Progressive analysts who cite overwhelming Jewish support for the Democratic Party, its top three Presidential candidates and their preference for the liberal label as differentiating them from the leaders of
the major organizations, commit an elementary logical and substantive fallacy. Liberals, like the Clintons, supported the wars against Iraq and are among the driving forces promoting a military attack on Iran. The Democratic majority in Congress has backed every military appropriation demanded by the Republicans and the White House. Being Democrat and 'liberal' is no indicator of being 'progressive' using any foreign policy indicator, from the Middle East wars to destabilizations efforts in Venezuela.

The apparent paradox of progressive anti-war Jews contributing big bucks to pro-war Democrats is based on the latter's unconditional support for Israel which trumps any 'dissonance' that might exist in the head of progressive Jewish political activists.

With the American Pro-Israel Power Configuration leading the way to savaging the National Intelligence Estimate study, released in December 2007, on the absence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, progressive Jewish opinion is silent or complicit. Worse still, progressive liberal and radical Jewish peace
activists have acted as gate-keepers in the anti-war movement – prohibiting any criticism of Israel and labeling individuals or citizen activists critical of the pro-war Zionist lobby as 'anti-Semites'.

The AJC opinion poll on the high proportion of American Jewish with more progressive opinions than the leadership of all the major mainstream organizations would be officially welcomed if it led to something else besides private opinions compromised by Israeli identities.



2. Glen Greenwald, "New Poll Reveals How Unrepresentative Neo-Con Jewish Groups Are", on

James Petras is the author of The Power of Israel in the United States (Clarity Press 2006); The Rulers and the Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists and Militants (Clarity Press 2007)

He is a specialist on US Zionist politics and a close reader of the Israeli and American Jewish Press.


Henry Herskovitz said...

Petras’ article highlights what my observations have concluded: that jewish ‘progressives’ operate as the fifth column to undermine any traction that the peace movement might otherwise achieve. The “impotence of the majority of American Jews” stems not from fear of challenging jewish leadership; rather it’s a carefully crafted and executed self-silencing, obligated, as James points out, to a trumping, tribal loyalty to a state.

And this self-silencing easily morphs into silencing the voice of others: our group in Ann Arbor appears alone in our attempt to hold the local jewish community accountable for their financial, spiritual and political support of apartheid Israel; we hold weekly vigils at the conservative synagogue. For our efforts we receive constant criticism, attack and ridicule from the ‘progressive’ jewish community, including Brit Tzedek and JVP, which interestingly is identified as a member of the Israel Lobby by Mearsheimer and Walt.

Progressive? We need a new word!

Ronald said...

Seth wrote

Although I agree with Petras' position on the Lobby, I find him often offensive. There is always something in his wording that strikes me as indicative of prejudice.He promulgates this stereotypical anti-Semitic canard that Jews are a "clan" who always stick together. It seems obvious to me that Petras has animus against Jews per se(as I mentioned in my response to Abraham)--just like Blankfort. But it's less obvious with Jeff because he is Jewish, although he is a friend of Nazi sympathizer--I forgrt his name. Not Atzmon--worse than Atzmon.. Do you know Abraham? He's sort of a neo-Bundist anti-Zionist--in Canada. Here is another conclusion that requires qualification "Over eighty
percent (82%) of American Jews agree that 'the goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel'" I would guess that this reflects distrust of ARAB STATES. I would bet that the percentage would be a minority if they were asked about the goal of "Palestinians" instead of "Arabs." This is not to deny the massive prejudice against Arab people in the US in general.The fact is however that contrary to Petras most Jews under 40 or 50 feel no identification with Israel. But most of them are NOT activists and BTW feel little or no identification with Judaism. Why Petras overllooks this or is unaware of these facts is beyond me. But it is suspicious. Best, Seth

David responded:
Petras' lobby book was sloppy & dissappointing, and he's an apologist for the FARC.
Seth, the Nazi apologist you're thinking of is Paul eisen. eisen's colleague at deir yassin remebered, Daniel mcgowan, even went to visit Zundel (author of the Hitler we loved, and why) in prison, and wrote about it for dissident voice. why these idiots waste thier time and energy on a Nazi judeocidedenier who once hawked pamphlets about how UFO's were created by Jewish scientists who the Nazis squirreled away in Antarctica is beyond me, but who am I to talk, I've corresponded with people who beleive we're controlled by a race of alien-lizard human hybrids; and with an even bigger time and energy waste-- meretzniks.

Ronald responds to Seth:

Thanks Seth:
I couldn't disagree more --how I wish you were right.
It's precisely the Petras paragraph you cite which I think is the heart of
the matter
(I say pretty much the same thing in anecdotal terms in my article.)
As someone who has just reached 65, I have much more experience with
people roughly my
age and the older generation. However, I have had anecdotal experience
with younger
people and I see no evidence of any difference, nor do I see any evidence
in the same
line of thought and the power they weild.
My experience makes me question the relevance of the statistics you cite
when it comes to anti Arab racism which is necessarily the other side of
the pro Zionist coin.
(I find that they feel the same way when
it comes to giving anything to the Palestinians --when it comes to these
political matters it makes NO difference -they're all Arabs from a Zionist
They are hated with the same prejudice for tribal reasons.
The numbers you cite are similar to the ones I hear from people like
Lenni Brenner who has have been predicting the end of the Jewish American
community. We should be so lucky.
No, I think Petras is right. The bottom line is a JEWISH state. From that
elemental racism everything flows -- and Blankfort has shown how it infects
the anti-war movement.

Seth responds to Ronald
I don't have much anedotal evidence because every one I know my age or younger is anti-Zionist and on the far left.What younger population is your own anecdotal evidence based upon?I have seen this statistic repeatedly-- mostly from articles reprinted from mainstream sources by the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism (I get their newsletter.)Young Jews do not identify with Israel--or with Judaism.Do you think these surveys are made up? What motive would there be to falsify this? The Zonists would want to do the very oppositeYes Lenni Brenner says the same thing. ( But Brenner's data does not mean the Lobby is not going to die out soon. Clearly the richest and most politically aggressive Jews (young and old) are reactionary pro-Israel zealots. You can see them at Columbia University. But these are two different issues..Perhaps you reached an erronious conclusion based on the fact that the most ACTIVIST Jews, the most vocal Jews are despicable Zionists. Whereas the anti-Zionist Jewish activists are a small group on the "farleft." Also as I stated within the anti-war movement the Tikkun Zionists predominate and they deem any mention of the Lobby anti-Semitic. --Seth

Seth responds to David
David,Eisen. Yes Eisen and Atzmon got all upset 2 yrs ago because I referred to Eisen in an article as a racist or racialist. As you recall Eisen seemed very passive and rather unhinged from reality---he was thrilled that Zundel and Mrs Zundel accepted him even though he is a dirty Jew himself. He spoke of Hitler in ludicrous terms as a great German patriot who Eisen admitted did some things to the Jews that were not very nice (although maybe not the holocaust, he seemed to vacillate--depending on who is listening I suppose). And just because of that poor Hitler has been denied his place in history as a great German patriot. Eisen as I recall considers himself Jewish--and hates himself for it. Atzmon is more aggressive--Israeli.Is McGowan in their group? (I know he co-founded DYR) Did McGowan write a piece bemoaning the fate of poor Zundel? I'm surprised DV published it. (Not that I favor the laws--just I have no sympathy for Nazis.)There seemed to be several motives: 1)Anti-Semitism and/or 2) German nationalism. I have been out of touch with Ickeites. But they are not racists.Ralph you mean. Or do you know others? Seth

David responds to Seth:
you read tikkun lately -- Lerner has had a big turn around on the lobby, defends moran, even attacks zunes.

Larry responds to Seth:
I don't find anything anti-Jewish in Jim Petras's piece. The answers to the questions asked in his 2nd paragraph are obvious. It would have been better if Petras had cited the Pew Charitable Trust and Zogby polls rather than the ones chosen. The majority of US Jews do not support the establishment Jewish/Zionist groups. But those non-Zionist or unconcerned Jews: 1. Are not as committed to their position as are the putative "leaders."2. Therefore, they are not nearly as well organized.3. They are less rich by far than the machers of ADL, Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, AIPAC, Commentary, AJC, all the synagogues and temples.4. They are not donors to candidates.5. They have little access to the media. I find it noteworthy that a clear majority of North American Jews, in polls, show no great enthusiasm for Israel. More impressive, an even greater Jewish majority opposes the Iraq invasion and the possibly pending Iran invasion -- and this despite the large role played by individual Jews, Israel and US Zionists in advocating US aggression in the Middle East and being the most vocal cheerleaders. Thus I conclude that Zionism does not motivate the majority of US Jews and this is promising. I have no idea how to reach and organize this group of people. But the effort is worth making. Larry

Seth responds to Larry:
Larry,Yes you are exactly right about this below --I tried to indicate it but you spelled it out. I find it odd that Petras does not know this. And suspicious that he repeatedly refers to Jews loyalty to their ethnic group and Israel as the primary motive for their actions. In all his writings on the topic. As stated I think one proposition was true "Worse still, progressive liberal and radical Jewish peace activists have acted as gate-keepers in the anti-war movement –prohibiting any criticism of Israel and labeling individuals or citizenactivists critical of the pro-war Zionist lobby as ‘anti-Semites’. " Michael Lerner DID do that. But as David (Blooom) points out, his recent editorial in Tikkun represents a shift in Lerner's views. Seth

David F. responds to Seth
Regarding Seth's point on Michael Lerner: It's worth noting WHY Lerner shifted away from his previous "Love of
Israel and Israel's security as the uber-alles priority and anti-semitism as the biggest issue facing the antiwar
movement" psychobabbling. He discovered that his Jewish audience is repelled by that kind of thing and wants a
stronger, more critical stance. Lerner is worth reading as a straw in the wind -- it's what he's good at.
-- David F,

Julie responds to Ronald
Ronald, haven't you read, "Rebuilding America's Defenses?" The (conscious) goal of the neo-cons is not to
destroy the U.S. empire but to take advantage of the U.S.'s current pre-eminent military position to re-
consolidate the Empire on a new footing. (I'm not saying that they're not unconsciously nihilist like Hitler and
Pol Pot. Sadism and nihilism usually do co-exist, probably; Hitler's generals gossiped early on in his
aggressive exploits that he must have some sexual fetish that led him to take the country to war without adequate
preparion.) With the USSR gone, the neocons theorize that, because of the size and strength of the U.S. military,
it no longer needs allies; the U.S. instead needs and intends to be able to intimidate everyone, to deny
military parity even to closest allies by, for example, unilaterally militarizing space. Their view: the U.S.
is the only pole, for now, in an essentially unipolar world, and had better take advantage of that fact fast, to
conquer and extract resources and establish a permanent regime of exploitation with no rivals (before any rival
emerges). 9/11 took place in order to gain support for funding massive rearmament in order to carry out these
conquests. The main potential rival, China, is the ultimate target of the series of attacks planned on
Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, N. Korea. Please note the plans (as in the discussion of the need for a "new Pearl
Harbor," framed as though it's going to happen the way the weather does, by forces that can be predicted but for
which no responsibility is acknowledged) for the development of biological weapons that can target specific
ethnic groups.

I agree with you that Cheney et al represent a danger to human civilization and viability perhaps even more
serious than Hitler. Even Hitler, however, did not consciously intend to wipe out Germany or civilization, in
fact the Nazis confiscated, catalogued and repatriated many important cultural artifacts. He wanted world
domination, and thought the way to get it was to consolidate power in his own hands by intimidating his opponents
through brutality (the way any gangster maintains control of his organization and territory). Hitler
overestimated his strategic prowess, that's all, as did many of his generals, whom he also succeeded in
intimidating with a string of military "successes" for the first third or so of the war largely consisting in his
enemies' failing to defend themselves (e.g. Czechoslovakia, which was likely well enough fortified to have
defeated Hitler's unprepared invading force, had it engaged them; and Austria, where Hitler was popular.) (Remind
you of the current celebrations of the "success" of the "surge," intimidating the Dems out of opposition to
further expansion of the war?) (By the way, don't think I'm any authority on WWII; I've just been browsing in a
couple of onine Hitler bios and extracts of bios the last couple of days.)

As for the U.S. funding the Sunnis and Shia, that is nothing exceptional. The U.S. funded both sides of the Iraq/
Iran war throughout the conflagration, deliberately alternating sides to keep the conflict going. Empires always
aim to divide and conquer, and false flag operations to get people fighting eachother are an old game: if
they're not afraid of each other, why would the Sunnia and Shia allow the U.S. to remain? They would unite to
drive the U.S. out, and then the U.S. would lose those permanent bases and long-term military control of the
resource that will enable the intended domination of Europe (again, I'm just citing "Rebuilding America's
Defenses." Besides, only through war can the U.S. economy survive, dependent as it is on arms exports. So our
"national interest" as the neocons view (and profit from) it depends on fanning global flames of hatred. And has
for a long time. "Stability" and "peace" are not in the interests of our oil or military-industrial complex,
only of smaller manufacturing factions. The price of oil, and oil profits, are highest during middle east wars.
And, obviously, armaments are best sold to nations embarking on or enmeshed in war.


Henry Herskovitz said...

Seth is whistling past the graveyard if he is attempting to convince anyone that young people have no attachment to Israel. Beth Israel Congregation (our weekly vigil site in Ann Arbor) takes children on tours of Israel with special visits to military bases, and good ol’ boy meetings with IDF soldiers. Peacemonger has documented this phenomenon of inculcating love of racism in the young. See “Building Monsters at Beth Israel”, (link below) for some revealing photos. And if any youngsters elude their grasp during pre-teen years, there’s always the Hillel foundations with their Hasbara (propaganda) Handbook to secure them. Not to mention the Birthright Israel junkets,and the requisite kool-aid all Jews, myself included, are required to drink from birth.

And Seth, why do you find it perfectly acceptable to trash my friends Paul, Dan and Atzmon, when the slightest phrase from Petras - which has not been identified - sends you crying "anti-Semitism". Blankfort, you might remember, calls such labelling the first refuge of scoundrels. I seriously hope and expect you can rise above such name calling.


Ronald said...

Thanks for this Henry. I agree with you about the powerful grassroots attachment to
Israel even by secular non affiliated Jews. There should be a way of measuring this, but maybe
there's a good reason they don't make a point of it.

VFPDissident said...

Petras writes: "... for the majority of American Jews ... the source of their identity stems more from their loyalty to Israel than to the Talmud or religious myths and rituals, ..."

I think Petras is mistaken here. Jewish identity at its very core is inextricably linked to "religious myths and rituals" even among so-called secular Jews. For example, according to the National Jewish Population Survey, 2000-01, 67% of American Jews "Hold/attend a Passover seder" The only "indicator of Jewish connection" to achieve a higher result was "Light Chanukah candles" (72%). I know at least four self-styled atheist Jews who hold or attend seders. Both of these holidays, not to mention Purim, have violent nationalism at the core and I think this has a profound effect on how Jews perceive themselves and others. I've written a lot about this on one of my blogs: .

I am in general agreement, though, with Petras and Henry Herskovitz with whom I am well acquainted. So-called secular Jews and Jewish anti/non-Zionists in my community have played a significant role in protecting the Jewish state and shutting out anti-Zionists of local liberal-left political groups and discourse.

I've also met Paul Eisen and had time to get to know him. He is a fine person and a great defender of the freedom of intellectual inquiry and expression. I think Paul's *Holocaust Wars* should be studied by every anti-Zionist and evaluated on its merits. Contra Seth's cheap ad hominem shots, IMO, Paul is no "racist or racialist." Nor is he "unhinged from reality" or a self-hating Jew. IMO, Seth is also wrong about the American Council for Judaism. They lost the right to claim the mantle of anti-Zionist when they ousted Elmer Berger in 1967/68. You can read about it The Decadence of Judaism in Our Time by Moshe Menuhin. That is, if you can find a copy. At best, the ACJ is non-Zionist.

I would be interested in exchanging blog links with you. I also blog at

Ronald said...

Thanks, VFP (feel free to email me.) It's a pleasure to see someone so knowlegeable.
And I'm in general agreement with you. At the risk of repeating myself, I see no evidence that the secular grassroots, not to mention the affiliated and the orthodox, are effectively strong supportes of Israeli policy and strong supporters of US aid to Israel.
Interestingly while they don't support Bush or the Iraq war, they're not unhappy with the result nor do they make the connection with the war against the constitution and civil liberties at home.
Yes, I've already linked to you.