by John Spritzler
December 6, 2003



At the October meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad declared that, " the Jews rule this world by proxy..." Not unexpectedly, the Prime Minister was charged with "blatant anti-Semitism" by the governments of the United States, Israel, the European Union and Australia. [] More unexpectedly, some Jews came to the defense of the Prime Minister's remarks. The Israeli, Israel Shamir, an outspoken foe of Zionism and a prolific writer about the Israel/Palestine conflict, reported shortly after the Malaysian Prime Minister's speech that his good friend, Elias Davidsson, of Jerusalem, wrote:

As a Jew myself (but opposed to Zionism) I need no encouragement from Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad to observe what should be obvious to the blatant eye: Namely that Jews effectively rule US foreign policy and thus determine to a great extent the conduct of most countries. []

Those of us who oppose Zionism, who want to stop the United States from backing Israel's ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians, and who want to build a movement that can defeat the anti-democratic elites who rule over people virtually everywhere on the planet, need to ask two questions:

1) Is there any truth to the Malaysian Prime Minister's claim that Jews rule the world by proxy? 2) Even if all Jews stood against us, would it help our efforts to categorize "the Jews" as our enemy?

I believe the answer to both of these questions is "No." Since Israel Shamir articulates the contrary position so clearly, I want to examine what he says closely and respond.


Let us start with the first question: Do Jews rule the world by proxy? The actual question, to be precise, is Do Jews determine U.S. foreign policy? Shamir weighs in on this question by criticizing Nat Weinstein's assertion that, "[Former U.S. Senator Patrick J.] Buchanan's insinuations of a Jewish conspiracy in the service of Israel echo a similar claim that lay at the heart of Adolph Hitler's brand of fascism." [] Shamir responds:

However, an open Jewish 'conspiracy' of supporting Israel is a hard fact, and it is expressed by almost every Jewish newspaper by slogan 'Jews stand steadfast behind Israel'. This slogan is not an empty word: recent survey shows 86% of the US Jews support Israel. In a recent discussion on the Web, Jeff Blankfort, a consistent antizionist, made a sober conclusion: "the distinction that we are always careful to make between being Jewish and being Zionist is essentially deceptive and that while all Jews are not Zionists, the organized Jewish communities throughout the world, despite whatever differences they may have, are totally behind the Zionist project. To pretend that these organizations do not speak for the overall Jewish community, one, that without any doubt, supports Israel as a Jewish state, is illusory." [ and]

Shamir acknowledges that "all Jews are not Zionists" but he chooses to emphasize that the Zionists not only have the backing of most Jews, but that they also "rule the world" or at least the part of the world necessary to control the U.S. government's foreign policy. Shamir writes:

[T]he Jewish Lobby is not a 'small group of pro-Zionist Jews' but an extremely powerful group of billionaires, media lords, and their supporters in the left and the right, from the New York Times to the Nation, from Wolfowitz of Pentagon to Rabbi Lerner of Tikkun.

To refute Weinstein's claim that it is absurd to believe that a small group of pro-Zionist Jews could dictate foreign or domestic policy to the hard-nosed, quintessentially-pragmatic American capitalist class, Shamir argues that:

'Hard-nosed American capitalists' are indeed 'quintessentially-pragmatic', and they understand what is good for them personally. That is why even the dedicated antisemite Henry Ford preferred to scrap his book when he had met with the irresistible force of Jewish boycott. That is why the American parliamentarians are united in their support of Israel, as it was recently confirmed by the Senate vote 89 to 4 against Syria. The Iraqi war was a disaster from the point of view of American capitalism: as it was predicted, it brought them no oil, no weaponry orders, no new friends; but the capitalists are not idealists Weinstein presupposes: they know that their stand against Israel would ruin them personally, and they disregard 'the general interest of capitalist class'.

Like many people trying to understand why the U.S. government so consistently backs Israel, Shamir has concluded that the explanation lies in the power of the "Jewish Lobby" in the United States and specifically in its ability to put pressure on powerful individuals in government and business to force them to carry out pro-Israel policies which they would otherwise reject. But the premise of this reasoning is false. The pro-Israeli policies of the U.S. government are in fact highly beneficial to U.S. corporate interests in the Middle East, and American politicians beholden to these corporate interests would carry out these policies even absent any pressure from the "Jewish Lobby."

U.S. rulers, acting on behalf of big corporations, back Israel because it is the key to their strategy for controlling the oil of the Middle East. To control the oil these corporations need to ensure that the rulers of the oil-producing nations in the Middle East are corporate-friendly regimes able to prevent ordinary Arabs from taking control of the oil and other resources and using it to benefit ordinary people instead of enriching foreign and domestic elites. The Middle East is a powder-keg of class struggle. The U.S. and the anti-democratic regimes in nations like Saudi-Arabia fear any popular revolutionary movement directed against Arab elite rule getting started anywhere in the region. To prevent such a movement developing, U.S. and Middle East rulers have all relied on the key strategy of directing the anger of the Arab masses against Israel. The strategy is for Israel to serve as a "lightning rod" of class struggle for the whole region. In order for the strategy to work Israel must provoke Arab hatred by doing exactly what it presently does -- carry out brutal and naked ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. The strategy also requires that the U.S. arm Israel to the teeth so that Arab rulers can pretend to champion "their people's" hostility to Israel while at the same time pointing to Israel's overwhelming military superiority as an excuse for not actually "driving the Jews into the sea."

The "Jewish Lobby" in the U.S. and the Zionists in Israel, of course, have their own reasons for supporting the U.S. rulers' pro-Israel strategy of social control in the Middle East. The Zionists in Israel benefit by receiving enormous military and economic aid from the United States and by setting themselves up as the ruling elite in Israel. The Arab hatred of Israel only helps the Zionist elite stay in power, as every suicide bombing of Israeli Jews at a bus stop only makes Jews more fearful of Arabs and more convinced that, no matter how anti-working class the Zionist rulers are (massive strikes of working class Jews against the Zionist government are frequent), the Zionist rulers are the only ones who can protect Jews from Arabs. Were it not for their strategic value to U.S. corporate interests, the Zionists would no doubt have remained today what they were from their modern beginnings at the turn of the century until World War II--a rather small cult, with followers from only a very small minority of Jews, whose leaders sought an audience with one imperialist power after another begging for a plot of land to call a Jewish state.

Like their Zionist counterparts in Israel, powerful business and religious Jewish leaders in the United States also have their reasons for backing the U.S. rulers' Middle East policy. Chief among them is the fact that Zionism helps these Jewish leaders to maintain their position in society as powerful and privileged elites. Zionism is Jewish nationalism, and nationalism -- be it American, Chinese, Jewish or whatever -- is an ideology that tells ordinary people to defend those of the same nationality or ethnic group (and obey them when they are heads of government) because national identity is more important than "secondary" issues like class inequality and exploitation. Jews who hold positions high up in American society want very much to be seen by working class Jews as "defenders of the Jewish state of Israel" and not as upper class individuals who happen to be Jewish but who benefit from class inequality and hardships that hurt all working class people whether they are Jewish or not. Additionally, American Jewish leaders cannot fail to appreciate that their admission into the top tiers of American society is made far more secure if they advocate rather than oppose the Middle East foreign policy pursued by the most powerful American families who, like the Rockefellers and Mellons and Gettys and Fords, are not Jewish.

There is no evidence that the U.S. government has been "taken over" by Jews. That many of the government officials advocating a "pro-Israel" foreign policy are Jewish merely reflects the fact that the policy has the support of many Jews, not that it exists because of Jews. These facts give the lie to the notion that "the Jews" rule the world by proxy.


But even if Jews do not "rule the world," it is undeniable that many Jews are indeed pro-Zionist to one degree or another and most of the large organizations that speak for Jews are today pro-Zionist. By "pro-Zionist" I mean they support the existence of a Jewish state, of Israel. And they go along, to varying degrees, with the logic of a Jewish state -- in other words they accept the notion that only Jews should be the sovereign authority in the land of Israel even though non-Jews make up a substantial proportion of the population. Thus the great debate in Israel and among diaspora Jews is (after being stripped of euphemisms) whether Israel should continue to occupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which requires ruling over Arabs without any pretense of being democratic; or whether Israel should end the occupation and withdraw to the pre-1967 "green line" inside of which Arabs form a minority of only 20%, thus enabling exclusive Jewish sovereignty to more easily masquerade as a "democracy." The dominant institutions in Israel exclude from the public arena any debate or expressions of doubt among Jews regarding the more fundamental question: Should there be a Jewish state? Should Israel exist, as it is now defined?

I grant that there is much support for Zionism among Jews. I recall my (Jewish) great-aunt, a secretary barely making ends meet who, on the occasion of the 1967 war, sent her entire week's paycheck to the government of Israel. Only the blinders of Zionism can explain why so many Jews perceive themselves as staunch foes of racism and champions of the universal values of equality and democracy and at the same time see nothing racist or anti-democratic about the fact that the Israeli government bulldozes down the homes of Palestinians just because they are Palestinians, that it builds super-highways for Jews only, that it destroyed, depopulated and occupied at least 418 Palestinian villages in 1948 [], or that it provides each Jewish settler four times as much water as a Palestinian so that Palestinians sicken and die of thirst while the settlers enjoy lush lawns and swimming pools, to cite just a few of the crimes that Zionism routinely justifies in the name of defending the Jewish state against its Arab enemies. I do not deny the seriousness of the problem of Zionism's hold over Jews. Nonetheless, ordinary Jews are not unalterably pro-Zionist and their present loyalty to Zionism does not run as deep as one might suppose. From the perspective of Yoram Hazony, a passionately pro-Zionist Israeli historian and author of The Jewish State, it is nothing short of alarming how rapidly Israeli Jews are abandoning their Zionism. Here is how Hazony describes his generation of Israelis in contrast to the founding fathers' generation:

This generation of the sons certainly paid its dues in military service, but its members' failure to ignite like their fathers had for the cause of the Jewish state was gradually to become an open scandal, perhaps the [his emphasis] open scandal of the years after Ben-Gurion had been expunged from public life. [The Jewish State, pg. xvi]

Hazony was most alarmed by his experience when serving in the Israeli Defense Force in the late 1980's:

Perched atop a rooftop in Hebron with a Netanya businessman for a twelve-hour watch; or guarding a communications relay on a mountain peak for days on end with a newly immigrated Russian poet; or on patrol in an Arab village with a kibbutznik officer in command of the jeep -- during one stint or the next, you gradually get to see and hear everything. And the "everything" was something rather shocking, but also unambiguous: The Jews of Israel are an exhausted people, confused and without direction. This is not to say that they are unwilling to fight. Israelis still agree that they will carry on their struggle if they must. But in no end of discussions, it was made clear to me that there was a vast gulf between their willingness [his emphasis] to fight and sacrifice and their ability to understand why [his emphasis] they should do so. Certainly, they all knew that we were at war -- including those who believed we could and should get out of it -- but as soon as the discussion skidded close to the reasons that it might be worth being in this fight, the screen went blank. Of what value is the Jewish people? What can it contribute to mankind? What is to be gained by joining in its struggle? Why should one sacrifice on its behalf? Why should the Jewish state exist at all?...And then there was the pudgy young officer, days before finishing out his four-year tour of duty, who objected when I inadvertently referred to him as a Jew. "Don't say that to me," he said huskily, putting his hand up like a traffic cop. "If you want, you can talk to me as a human being. But don't talk to me as Jew. That doesn't speak to me." From him I understood that one had to be careful whom one implicated in being a Jew in the Jewish state. [The Jewish State, pp xvii=xviii]

Ordinary Jews, an "exhausted people, confused and without direction," far from being "rulers of the world" are like working class people of any other nationality. They are manipulated and controlled by their elite rulers with an avalanche of nationalist propaganda which is made particularly effective by the suicide bombings orchestrated by Hamas (with the tacit if not covert encouragement of Israel's rulers.) They are confused because all of the alternatives they hear in what passes for public discourse are confined within the parameters of nationalism which frames everything as a conflict between national (or racial/ethnic/religious) groups, such as "the Arabs/Palestinians" versus "the Jews." They are demoralized about breaking out of the trap of nationalism because the last great attempt to do this -- the Communist movement with its call for international working class solidarity -- created anti-democratic regimes that offered absolutely no hope for a better world. Every natural inclination they have to look for a solution based on the working class values that ordinary people share and which elites attack -- equality and solidarity and democracy -- is branded as disloyalty to their nation. Working class Jews seeking to make common cause with Arabs like themselves are accused of advocating the destruction of the Jewish state.

Jews drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces are not that different from American soldiers drafted to fight in Vietnam. American G.I.s too became "exhausted, confused and without direction." In boot camp the young soldiers learned that the enemy was "gooks" and Communists. This made it easier for American G.I.s to follow their orders to attack the Viet Cong. Similarly, Israeli soldiers find it easier to shoot at Palestinians and bulldoze down their homes after all the efforts by Zionist leaders -- and their Hamas helpers in this regard -- to convince them that Arabs are bloodthirsty Jew-killers. But American soldiers also saw that they were being ordered to attack the entire Vietnamese peasantry, and they had no idea why. Troops were told it was treason against the United States if they sided with ordinary Vietnamese against U.S. rulers. So there was little overt rebellion by G.I.s against the U.S. government. But G.I.s "fragged" (i.e. killed, typically with a fragmentation bomb) their "gung ho" (i.e. very enthusiastic and dedicated) officers in the field to avoid obeying orders to attack the peasants. This and other forms of passive resistance to the U.S. high command eventually made it clear to President Nixon that he could no longer rely on American soldiers to fight Vietnamese peasants, and it forced the U.S. to pull out of Vietnam in disgrace.

In Israel today IDF soldiers are engaging in more than just passive resistance. They are organizing overt resistance to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with many speaking out publicly against the occupation and flatly refusing to serve in the occupied territories. The refuseniks have not, to my knowledge, challenged the idea of a Jewish state (which is a serious weakness in their efforts to achieve a real peace.) But a movement -- were it to be organized -- based on class solidarity between ordinary Jews and Arabs and calling for a one-state solution in which Jews and Arabs were truly equal would certainly appeal to many Jews looking for a way out of the trap into which they have been thrust by history.

Most of the Israeli population, when not diverted by fear of Arabs, already find themselves in conflict with their Zionist rulers. Huge strikes in Israel are frequent. The latest one occurred November 3, 2003 when "a nationwide strike against plans to overhaul Israel's welfare state shut down government services, banks and train service." [Peter Enav, Canadian Press, November 03, 2003 ] One of the largest occurred from December 3 through 7, 1997, when 700,000 Israeli workers mounted a general strike against the government. The country was paralyzed, with airports, seaports, banks, government offices, state-owned industries and the national stock exchange effectively shut down. After the first day of the strike, the nation's teachers joined in the walk-out and the national journalists' association declared their support for the strike. The strike was a response to indications that the Treasury was attempting to violate wage and pension agreements signed in 1995 and 1996. Israeli workers were also protesting government privatization plans which would entail large-scale lay-offs.

Many Israeli Jews experience Zionism in their daily life the way Yaffa Yosefian does. Yaffa Yosefian, according to the New Israel Fund's Fall, 2003 NIF News, was

one of Israel's 113,000 single mothers [who] doesn't know if she and her family will survive from month to month. On July 1, the Finance Ministry cut deeply into social support payments to Israel's needy, including single mothers, as part of its new economic austerity program...Yosefian is one of dozens of women who camped outside the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem. She was motivated to protest not only by her own plight but also a sense of social responsibility for all the single-parent families hit hard by the cuts.

Some people say the Jewish religion itself is the problem. They claim that it turns Jews against the rest of humanity. They point to passages in the Old Testament and to the classical (i.e. Middle Ages until the end of the18th century) writings of acclaimed rabbis telling Jews that they are the "chosen people," that non-Jews are inferior and unworthy of rights that belong only to Jews, that Jews should not marry non-Jews and should not even encourage non-Jews to convert to Judaism. The holocaust survivor, Israel Shahak (not to be confused with Israel Shamir, cited earlier), provides strong evidence for these claims about traditional orthodox rabbinical teachings in his book, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years. Such rabbinical teachings -- a kind of Jewish nationalism pre-dating modern Zionism -- were no doubt used by Jewish elites in the past to turn ordinary Jews against non-Jews, bind them to their "betters" and make them more controllable. The old rabbinical teachings also dovetail with modern Zionism, and (with the exception of the small Neturei Karta orthodox Jewish group, who, wearing their traditional black garb, go to demonstrations holding signs that read, "Zionist Spokesmen Do Not Represent World Jewry" []) Jewish orthodox religious leaders are pro-Zionist. The relevant point, however, is that however influential the chauvinistic aspect of the Jewish religion may have been in the past, it is rapidly losing its influence over contemporary Jews around the world. Of the approximately 13.5 million Jews in the world, 4.9 million live in Israel and 5.6 million live in the United States. Of all the Jews in Israel, 71% light the Hanukkah candles (which signifies no more religious persuasion than does decorating a Christmas tree for a Christian) but only 23% say they always attend synagogue on Saturday morning, and 56% say they never do. [] Among the majority of Jews, who live outside of Israel (the "diaspora" ), surveys done in 1998 indicate that fifty percent marry outside their faith, and in some American cities the intermarriage rate reaches 80 percent. In the U.S. only about 20 to 25 percent of intermarried couples where one partner is Jewish raise their children as Jews. [] These demographic facts are cause for great anxiety on the part of Zionist leaders who, though largely secular themselves, rely very much on the orthodox religious Jews to provide the "moral" backbone of Zionism. But for those who want Jews to join a movement against Jewish nationalism and chauvinism it is only encouraging news.


Even if all Jews stood against us, would it help our efforts to categorize "the Jews" as our enemy? Like many others, I find it discouraging to hear Jews (especially close friends) make apologies for Israel and defend Jewish nationalism with remarks like, "No matter how bad its leaders may be, still, we Jews need a homeland of our own and must defend Israel from its enemies." I understand the temptation to lump all Jews together with their Zionist leaders and categorize "the Jews" as the enemy. I have sketched above my reasons for believing that ordinary Jews can be won to a class-based movement against Zionism. (For more discussion of how this requires a clean break with Marxism see The Communist Manifesto Is Wrong [].) But let us accept, for the sake of argument, that virtually all Jews will forever stand in support of Israel. Who would mainly benefit if we categorized our enemy as "the Jews?"

The answer is not ordinary Palestinians or working people anywhere. The answer is that the American ruling class and the Zionist leaders of Israel would be the real beneficiaries. The power of these elites is based largely on nationalism, and defining friend and foe with categories like "the Jews" only reinforces nationalistic thinking. It would in fact endorse the claim of elites to speak for all "their people," thereby greatly enhancing their control. In the Middle East the ruling elites need to prevent the Arab masses from coming to power, and they do that by turning Arab anger against "the Jews." President Bush and the entire corporate elite in the U.S. rely primarily on nationalism to stay in power despite the fact that they attack the values and living standards of most Americans. They rely on the idea that Americans must all stick together and obey their rulers because the "real" enemy is external -- Islamic terrorists or North Korean Communists. Defining the enemy with a category like "the Jews" plays right into the nationalism that elites depend upon.

There is only one way to defeat the elites who truly rule the world. We must identify as the enemy all those who consciously aim to benefit at the expense of the many, who enforce inequality, who control people by pitting them against each other and lying to and manipulating them, who attack people's efforts to help each other and to stand in solidarity with each other, and who impose top-down control and use fake democracy to defeat real democracy. And we must reach out to all of the billions of other people, no matter what their race or nationality or religious beliefs, as friends or at least potential friends. In other words we need to build a movement that isolates our real enemy explicitly on the basis of the elite values they stand for, and unites everybody else on the basis of the positive values they share.

There is a strong association between these values and social class, which is why I use the phrase "class-based" sometimes as a shorthand. Most working class people try to shape the part of the world over which they have any control with the values of equality, commitment to each other and democracy. And most people in the wealthiest ruling families hold the opposite elite values of inequality, competition, and top-down control. But there are exceptions in both cases, which is why I disagree with the Marxist practice of formulating friend and foe based on social class membership. This Marxist approach stems from the fundamental flaw in Marxist theory -- the idea that social change is not caused by people consciously fighting for conflicting values, but by impersonal economic "laws" driven by the supposed fact that everybody is motivated by self-interest and class conflict is merely a conflict of self-interests -- the self-interest of workers who trade labor for wages versus the conflicting self-interest of owners who buy labor to make a profit.

It is impossible to accurately identify who are our friends and who are our foes if we resort to using nationalistic categories like "the Jews." Doing so obscures what our struggle is all about. It shifts attention away from the categories that precisely define who we are fighting and who we are asking to join us and what we are fighting for. A movement organized around such misleading and nationalistic kinds of thinking is easily misled by any skilled leader fronting for the elite. This is why mis-leaders have been able to sabotage real resistance to Zionism in the Middle East. Yasser Arafat, for example, denounces Israel and waves the Palestinian flag but his real role is to pacify Palestinians by lying to them that they will get all they want by waiting patiently for negotiations to work, and telling them that in the meantime they already have Palestinian rule (the "Palestine Authority.") The sham "peace process" of Oslo and the "Road Map" could not have succeeded in dampening Palestinian resistance without a nationalist mis-leader like Arafat, whose legitimacy depends on Palestinian confusion about who are their friends and who are their foes. Nationalism makes it hard for Palestinians to organize anything Arafat disapproves of, even though most Palestinians can plainly see that he presides over a corrupt Palestinian Authority that has enabled the number of millionaires under the Palestine Authority to grow from zero to 500 in the last nine years while 50% of the Palestinian population lives on less than 2 US $ per day. (For more on this see What Will The New Palestine Be? [].)

There are moments in history when crucial decisions must be made that will affect the outcome of great struggles, and this is one of them. A very encouraging consensus is developing for a one-state solution in Palestine/Israel. This is a profound and inspiring rejection of George Bush's nationalistic propaganda calling for a "two state" solution based on the idea that Jews and Palestinians have inherently conflicting values and interests and therefore each needs a "state of their own" (ruled, it goes without saying, by "their own" elites.) Our enemies will do everything possible to prevent ordinary Palestinians and Jews from uniting around their shared aspirations. In particular they will encourage our movement to label "the Jews" as our enemy. Let us avoid this terrible trap, and build a movement that unites all of our potential friends against all of our real enemies and wins.



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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