WHY DO ALL U.S. POLITICIANS SUPPORT ISRAEL?
by John Spritzler
December 29, 2006
Does it Matter Why Our Politicians Support Israel?
While the Somerville Divestment Project’s success in persuading 45% of the voters in Representative District 27 to vote Yes for the Palestinians’ right of return (Question 5), and 31% to vote Yes for divestment from Israel (Question 6), was a huge defeat for the Zionists, we need to aim for persuading the great majority of Americans that it is wrong to support Israel.
Perhaps the main obstacle to our winning the vote on 5 and 6 with a solid majority was the fact that all of the politicians and newspapers told people to vote No. They all said it was anti-Jewish and wrong to vote Yes. That’s a powerful argument against us. If all the politicians and media, from right to left, say we’re wrong, and that we have ulterior anti-Semitic reasons for being against Israel, then it makes it seem like they must be right. Why else would they all agree on that even though they disagree on all the other right versus left, liberal versus conservative issues?
Many people probably thought our pamphlets were reasonable and persuasive, but voted against us anyway because they were persuaded by the unanimity of the politicians and media.
If we want to win, we need to tell people the true reason why all the politicians and media support Israel.
There are two quite different and plausible answers to this key question, which are often referred to as “dog wags tail” and “tail wags dog” respectively. “Dog wags tail” says that there is a corporate and government elite in America, including both Gentiles and Jews, who use Israel to achieve their own imperial goals. “Tail wags dog” says that a powerful Jewish Lobby uses the United States to serve Israeli interests.
Both theories seem to account for the virtually unanimous support of our politicians for Israel. “Dog wags tail” says that politicians are pro-Israel because they know that the plutocracy (Gentiles as well as Jews) with real power is pro-Israel. “Tail wags dog” says that politicians are pro-Israel because they know that if they don’t toe the line then the Israel lobby and the Jewish-owned media will label them anti-Semitic and will bankroll other politicians to run against them in the next election.
If We Use the Wrong Explanation It Will Undermine Our Organizing
Which of these arguments we use has very real consequences.
If we use the “tail wags dog” explanation
If we say to the public, “The reason all the politicians and newspapers support Israel is because the Israel Lobby makes them do it” how will they respond? It would be perfectly reasonable for those who have read our literature about Israel and Palestine to say, or at least think:
“It seems like you guys have a thing about Jews. There must be something wrong about your anti-Israel position that you’re not being open about. You sound anti-Jewish, like the politicians say.”
People, to their credit, don’t want to get involved with any group they think has a prejudice against a religious or racial group. The “tail wags dog” theory is not an anti-Jewish theory. But if we make the Israel Lobby our explanation for everything, lots of people will feel like we’re an anti-Jewish group and decide to keep their distance from us even if they agree that Israel does bad things. Sure, we could explain that we are not against all Jews, just the Zionist ones; but we would be forever on the defensive, always having to explain why we don’t mean what people think we mean, and what the politicians say we mean.
In addition, presenting the issues in terms of “tail wags dog” wrenches the issue of Palestine out of its real-world context and makes it seem disconnected from the daily concerns and values of ordinary people.
If we use the “dog wags tail” explanation
The opposite approach places the struggle in Palestine in the context of the class attack that working people in Somerville and Palestine and around the world are under. We could tell the public that the reason all the politicians and newspapers support Israel is because Israel’s ethnic cleansing is a key divide and rule strategy that upper classes in the Middle East and the United States use to control their own populations and attack efforts to make things more equal and democratic. We could show, using lots of examples close to home—examples that people would already be very familiar with and very concerned about— that all the politicians from left to right serve the American upper class (Gentiles as well as Jews) in a host of different ways, of which their pro-Israel position is just one example. If we did this, we would be on the offensive. Nobody would view us as “anti-Jewish.” The politicians would be on the defensive.
Furthermore, all of the experience and insights that Americans have about life in a very unequal and undemocratic class society ruled by a corporate elite would be leveraged in our support and against the politicians and newspapers that oppose us. Most people, whether they agree with us about Israel or not, already know very well that an upper class elite runs things in this country and that this is the source of many of our problems. It is that very insight that makes it easy for people to understand that upper class power is also the source of the biggest problem in another part of the world—perpetual race/ethnic conflict. That is the insight that enables people to understand that the pro-Israel Big Lie strengthens the American plutocracy’s control over Americans, by making Arabs look like fanatical Jew-hating terrorists who will one day kill us if we don’t line up behind our American corporate leaders in the “war on terror.” We would only undermine our efforts if we failed to unite with Americans on the basis of their most powerful insight about the world.
Why “Dog Wags Tail” is True, and “Tail Wags Dog” is False
The reason American rulers support Israel is, in a nutshell, to divide and control working class people, in the Middle East and in the United States too.
Let’s start with the United States.
The Pro-Israel Big Lie is About Controlling Americans
We know that the War on Terror is used by our rulers to control the American people by making them so fearful of Arab terrorists that they will allow their sons and daughters to fight and die in wars that only serve our upper class. The War on Terror enables our rulers to get away with repressive measures, like the Patriot Act and bugged telephones, which Americans would not otherwise tolerate. Moreover, the War on Terror has provided the Big Lie that has enabled our rulers to steal from the American public an amount that Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates to be between $1 and $2 trillion—the cost of the war in Iraq.
Our rulers could not get away with this if it were not for Israel. The “Arab terrorist” theme would be a much less potent propaganda ploy without Israel. By persuading Americans that Israel represents all that is good and innocent, and that the only reason Arabs fight Israel is fanatical anti-Jewish hate, America’s rulers have been able to create the persuasive image of the dangerous “Arab terrorist” on which the War on Terror rests. But if Israel were all of a sudden replaced with a democratic state of Palestine where everybody was equal and free to live anywhere, then the War on Terror would fall flat. The American public would start to focus on the inequalities in our own society without the distraction of waging a foreign war and “supporting our troops.” People would pick up where the pre-9/11 anti-capitalist movement left off, with its huge international marches against the WTO and capitalism itself, in city after city. America’s Gentile rulers understand how valuable Israel is to them.
The U.S. Pro-Israel Foreign Policy is About Controlling the Middle East
There is a long history of class conflict in the Middle East, between ordinary people against colonial rulers or their puppet governments, and against home-grown upper class rulers as well. The Saudi royals rely on immigrant labor and use national/ethnic divisions to control the working class, resulting in extreme poverty for much of the Saudi as well as immigrant working class.
Huge strikes in Israel are frequent, like the general strike in 1997 that shut the country down for seven days, and another nationwide strike in November of 2003. Israel has the second greatest economic inequality of any “Western” nation. The strikes are over issues like the government cutting back on pensions. Workers in Egypt confront the very same kinds of attacks from the Egyptian elite, which is why workers in Cairo and Alexandria staged over ten strikes in the single month of April 1999, and four sit-down strikes and nine hunger strikes by government workers between June and December of 1999. (I obtained these examples years ago, I am sure more recent ones could be found today.)
In Iran, 2005, Tehran Public Transit workers fought a battle in the streets against the Islamic authorities. The Campaign in Defense of Bus Company Workers described the conflict this way:
May 13, 2005
Workers and drivers of Tehran Public Transit demonstrated in front of their newly organized Union today to support their Union and the leaders and organizers of the Union who were attacked and beaten by Hezbollah and Islamic Labour Councils’ thugs last week. They demanded organizing of their general assembly to condemn the Hezbollah’s attacks on their representatives. They also demanded permanent establishment of their Union which has been joined by 4000 transit workers so far, in spite of intimidations and restrictions imposed by the Islamic Authorities.
One of the Public Transit Union’s leaders recited article 87 of the International Labour Organization’s Convention (ILO) in which all signing countries, including Iran, recognized labours’ organizations; then, he on behalf of the Union complained and condemned the recent events in which the leaders and organizers were beaten and their Union was attacked and sabotaged by Hezbollah from the Islamic Labour Councils and the Labour House (official state organizations to control the labours’ movement).
What the “Tail Wags Dog” Pundits Fail to See
One of the most prominent advocates of the “tail wags dog” theory is James Petras, author of The Power of Israel in the United States. Petras makes classic “tail wags dog” arguments that fail to take into account that American rulers, especially those focused on the big picture who shape U.S. foreign policy, as opposed to managers of particular corporations, are primarily concerned with ensuring that the upper classes of the world not lose the class war anywhere. Petras makes a big deal about how American Big Oil has a harder time doing business in the Middle East because the U.S. government’s pro-Israel policy angers Muslims.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that it fails to take into account the reality of class conflict. Working class people don’t like to be ruled by wealthy and privileged elites. They don’t like it when elites make society more unequal and undemocratic. This is why strikes and other forms of resistance break out all the time. For every large and visible act of collective resistance there are countless everyday acts towards the same end. If left to themselves, working class people would grow stronger and more unified everyday to the point where general strikes and revolutions break out. Elites who hold the real power in society know this, especially the individuals they entrust to control the government and military forces that preserve elite power and privilege. They know how important it is to wage the class war aggressively and pro-actively by keeping ordinary people pitted against each other (using atrocities committed in the name of one race or ethnic group against the other when necessary.) If ruling elites simply engaged in routine business operations, focused only on maximizing profits, they would risk losing the very basis of their wealth and privilege—control over the working class.
Given the reality of class war, it not hard to see why Big Oil and all the other Gentile rulers of the United States support America’s pro-Israel foreign policy. It is a strategy of social control of the Middle East population. The Zionist project of a Jewish state, right smack dab in the middle of mostly Muslim Palestine, based on outright flagrant ethnic cleansing, is perfect from the point of view of keeping the Middle East population in a perpetual state of racial/ethnic warfare. Israeli ethnic cleansing pits Jews against Muslims and Christians throughout the Middle East. Similarly, the U.S. invasion of Iraq weakened the Iraqi working class by fomenting sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites. British imperialists used divide and rule the same way. They were not a tail being wagged by a dog, and neither is the American corporate and government elite.
Sure, strategic wars of social control play havoc with day to day business concerns. Sure, managers responsible for a particular corporation may get annoyed when the strategic war-making of the government gets in the way of some business deal. Petras points to these facts as evidence that Big Oil is harmed by the U.S. pro-Israel policy. But the pro-Israel policy of the American government serves the fundamental class interests of the American upper class, including Big Oil.
Petras says the war in Iraq hurts Big Oil and other American Gentile corporate elites, and only helps Israel. This is not true.
First, the war has been a boon for the American military industrial complex, from Halliburton to Raytheon. Unlike any other industry, military “defense” funnels money directly from the over-taxed pockets of ordinary Americans into corporate government-guaranteed profits, without ever producing anything of real value for consumers. It’s a huge scam by the haves against the have-nots. But it requires a state of war to get the public to tolerate it.
Second, contrary to the claim that Big Oil suffers from America’s warmongering, they are doing very well indeed. USA TODAY, October 27, 2005 reported:
“While drivers have been painfully paying up at the pump, oil companies have been racking up eye-popping profits.
“Thursday, ExxonMobil (XOM) became the most stark example yet of how much big oil companies benefited from the huge run-up in oil prices during the third quarter even as two major hurricanes ripped through the industry's Gulf Coast infrastructure. Exxon reported:
“• Net income up 75% to $9.92 billion. That is the most a U.S. company has earned from operations in a three-month period and greater than the annual gross domestic product of entire nations including Cameroon and Zimbabwe.
“• Revenue up 32% to $100.7 billion. That is greater than the annual GDP of all but just 38 of the world's economies.
“Exxon illustrates the energy's sector's tremendous profit amid record-high energy prices. The industry is on pace to earn $96 billion this year — more than what the USA's industrial and telecom companies will earn, combined, says Standard & Poor's based on members of the S&P 500 index.” [http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/earnings/2005-10-27-xom_x.htm]
It is not even true that Muslim rulers in the Middle East, who win domestic legitimacy with their anti-Israel rhetoric, really object to America’s pro-Israel foreign policy.
There is a famous labor cartoon about how different things are above and beneath the surface, a cartoon that resonates with the many workers who have ever been sold out by their union. In the cartoon the manager of a corporation and the president of a big union are sitting opposite each other at a table. Above the table, for public view, we see the two men’s left hands raised high, each holding a dagger aimed at the other; beneath the table, unseen by the public, the two men’s right hands are clasped in a hand-shake.
Muslim rulers of oil rich nations may act like they oppose the U.S. pro-Israel foreign policy, but that doesn’t mean they really do. Middle East Muslim rulers who rule over dramatically unequal societies benefit greatly from the existence of Israel. Israel, with its ethnic cleansing, polarizes the Middle East along religious lines, which makes it very easy for anti-democratic rulers to deflect class-based anger at themselves towards Israel. A militarily strong Israel gives the anti-democratic rulers in the region the perfect excuse for diverting their country’s wealth into a large military—a military that may never fight Israel but which can be used to suppress the domestic working class. In fact, the stronger Israel is militarily, the more convincing it is to their own people when anti-democratic Muslim rulers in the Middle East limit their anti-Israel actions to rhetoric with the excuse that it would be madness to actually launch an offensive military attack on Israel.
America’s oil corporations appreciate that their Middle East business partners cannot afford to be seen by their own people as being in bed with pro-Israel corporations. To help their business associates save face, the oil corporations are only too willing to issue “pro-Arab” statements and perhaps go on record as opposing aspects of America’s pro-Israel foreign policy. What the Middle East rulers and Big Oil executives agree on is that they want anti-democratic, pro-capitalist regimes to rule in the Middle East, not revolutionary movements based on working class solidarity that would use the oil wealth for the benefit of ordinary people instead of the world’s corporate elite. What matters to America’s rulers is not whether the Muslim masses hate the United States or whether the Muslim rulers speak against Israel; what matters is keeping those anti-democratic, pro-capitalist rulers in power, so they will continue to keep the oil wealth in the hands of the elite club. Let the knives above the table fool the masses, say the corporate elite, because the handshake beneath the table is all that really counts.
The handshake takes many different forms. The Ayotollah Khomeini claimed to be the mortal enemy of the United States and Israel, but under the table he concluded the secret Iran-Contra arms deal with President Reagan and Israel. Likewise, Hamas received secret direct and indirect financial aid from Israel beginning in the late 1970s.
Israel Is Just One of Many Ways Our Rulers Foment Race/Ethnic Wars for Social Control
The tail-wag-dog’ers would have us believe that America’s pro-Israel foreign policy is a strange aberration, with a unique explanation (the Israel Lobby). But our rulers have been fomenting racial or ethnic or national wars to control people long before they latched onto Zionism for that end, and in areas of the world where Zionism is not a factor. The upper class in America used slavery to turn people against each other along racial lines. Lately they are turning Americans against Muslims. As I show in my book, The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II, America’s and Germany’s and Japan’s elites fomented a world war in order to direct their own working class populations away from class demands that were threatening domestic revolution, towards support for their rulers in waging a bloody war against foreign people. Likewise, as V.P. Gagnon, Jr. shows in his The Myth of Ethnic War, the old ruling Communist Party elites on both sides (daggers above, hand shake below the table) deliberately fomented an ethnic war between Serbs and Croats in an effort to preserve their power against democratic movements in the 1990s. The Zionist crimes in Palestine are horrendous, and U.S. government support for them is infuriating, but the explanation for these facts does not require believing that a tail wags a dog.
What the “Dog Wags Tail” View Does NOT Say
Leftists like Noam Chomsky get it wrong with their version of “dog wags tail.” They say that Israel is America’s “cop on the beat” in the Middle East. But this view is contradicted by the fact that the U.S. has not relied on Israeli military forces in its last two major invasions of Iraq. What Chomsky doesn’t get is that it is Israel’s ethnic cleansing and the anger it provokes that constitutes Israel’s value to upper classes.
Neither does the “Dog wags tail” view entail that the reason Israeli leaders do what they do is because they have been coerced by America’s rulers. Israeli leaders have their own reasons for doing what they do. But if Zionism had not been such a perfect tool for fomenting ethnic war in the Middle East, America’s rulers would never have had any reason for supporting Zionism and the Zionist leaders would be nobodies today, not rulers of a country with the 5th strongest military in the world, and nuclear weapons. As is well documented, Zionist leaders always had the strategy of appealing to the world’s major imperialist powers (from the British, to the Russian Czar, and even Hitler) on the basis that Zionism would help the imperialist rulers strengthen their power, at home and abroad. It was a powerful argument, because it was true.
We should tell the public that the reason virtually all American politicians support Israel is because they are beholden to the elite rulers of the United States who support Israel as a means of controlling us and controlling the people of the Middle East. We should explain how their support for Israel is just one of many ways they support America’s elite, who want an increasingly unequal and undemocratic society where people are pitted against each other. We should say that our opposition to Israel stems from our desire to have what most Americans want—a more equal and democratic world where people help each other. This is a winning strategy, because it is true, and it will resonate with the American public.
John Spritzler is the author of
The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda In World War II, and a
Research Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
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