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US-Israel Strategic Alliance – Genesis and Precursors.

06 Nov

 

Arthur Balfour, Joseph Stalin, Richard Nixon – partners of Zionism

As a post-script to the discussion on the Jewish question earlier, I said that I would comment on the link Israel Shamir posted to his article ‘Prince Charming’, on the three major alliances that Zionists made with more powerful forces in the 20th Century, with British imperialism (which gave birth to the Balfour Declaration), with Stalinist Russia (which armed the Zionist forces in Israel’s 1948-9 War of Independence), and with US imperialism, the latter of course continuing to this day.

Israel Shamir’s understanding of the reason for all three of these alliances is fundamentally the same: that clever Jewish ideologues exploited the anti-semitic beliefs and paranoia about Jewish power that were widespread among ruling circles in all three states. Because of this fear of the Jews and their legendary power, they were compelled to comply with the wishes of the Zionists. Shamir therefore extends the reasoning of Israeli revisionist historian Tom Segev, in his very fine book One Palestine Complete, that the fundamental reason the British colonial power granted the Balfour declaration was a superstitious belief in the power of the Jews, and a desire to ingratiate. Apparently Stalin had similar motives in his own short-lived alliance with the Zionists during the later stages of WWII, and it also apparently explains the preponderant influence of the Israeli-Jewish lobby in the US today.

“This belief is the most common one in the US, as well. American politicians support Israel because they share the opinion of Lloyd George and Herzl. They also respect the condition demanded by heirs of Jacob Schiff and never, but never mention the dreadful words, “Jewish power”. In the world free of taboos, a new Henry Miller can’t shock his readers referring to sex, but to the Jews and their unseen might. Is it only a perception? Perhaps. But the American traditional elites pay for it a real double price: they send their folks to fight a third war within the last hundred years for somebody’s else perceived interests, and their positions at the top table disappear daily. This perception bleeds Iraq and Palestine, sends money to Israel, distorts the public discourse. Not in vain, Mark Twain used to say, a perception is almost as good as a real thing.”

There is a real problem with this ‘perception as reality’ thesis, though. It assumes astounding ignorance and a superstitious inability to count the true relation of forces by groups of people who had the ruthlessness to conquer and maintain great empires. They did so by ruthlessly evaluting the strengths, weaknesses, relative power and potential resistance of numerous peoples around the world, in order to subdue them. It always was a fact that the Jews were a tiny minority of the world’s population, and also a tiny minority of the populations of the advanced countries in Europe and the US.

It is simply a fact that the Jewish population world-wide is less than 20 million, in a world of approximately 7 billion people. That is, one Jew exists for every 350 non-Jews. Even before the Nazi genocide wiped out several million Jews in the second world war, the comparable populations were not that different. One assumes that the British colonial bourgeoisie, the Soviet bureaucracy of Stalin’s day, and the US bourgeoisie today, were acquainted with these figures and can do elementary maths. Then it is simply incredibly naive to believe that they can be conned by a mere perception of power of a very thin layer of the population into doing its bidding.

It is equally impossible to believe that such ruthless ruling classes or layers, all of which have records of the most barbaric treatment of entire civilian populations, from the British Empire’s crimes in Ireland and India, to Stalin’s deportation to labour camps of millions and exiling of the entire Chechen and Tatar peoples, to the US’ atrocities against populations ranging from Native Americans to blacks to Vietnamese, could be guilt-tripped into acting against their own interests by stories of past Jewish suffering. They really don’t give a damn about anyone’s suffering and never have. So why should they suddenly make an exception when Jews are involved? It does not make any sense; this too is a naive illusion (not particularly Shamir’s, but a variant on the same idea that others hold to).

No, the only explanation for the tolerance of the Israel-Jewish lobby in the US is that a majority of the ruling capitalist establishment considers them to be playing a useful role in American interests. A strategy that aims to change the mind of the US bourgeoisie in this regard could eventually succeed, for the simple reason that no configuration of forces lasts forever and nothing is more sacred to the bourgeoisie than the ‘national interest’. But only a major shift in world politics and world relations of forces would be likely to produce such a change of mind.

The British considered a Zionist outpost to be a useful possibility in the days of Balfour; as Ronald Storrs, the British Governor of Palestine, stated in the 1920s, they were looking for a ‘loyal little Jewish Ulster’ in the Middle East, modelled on the original one in the North of Ireland. On this they were naive, their naivety undoubtedly a product of their greed however, not realising that as the Zionist movement grew in influence and numbers in Palestine it would rapidly outgrow the ‘Ulster’ role the British ruling class had marked out for it and come into conflict with the British themselves.

Stalin’s alliance with the Zionists was a classic Stalinist zig-zag, of the type his regime became renowned for in the 1930s as it went from the Stalin-Laval pact (France) of 1934 to the Stalin-Hitler pact of 1939-41 to the ‘Big Three’ (Roosevelt-Churchill-Stalin) alliance of 1941-45. With the hostile turn of the British and Americans to the USSR signalled with Churchill’s Fulton, Missouri speech in 1946 (“an Iron Curtain has descended over Europe”), Stalin desperately cast around for possible allies to put pressure on the allies to be more reasonable. The Zionists, with their sometime ‘socialist’ rhetoric seemed a reasonable bet to the Stalinists at that point, as did many other nationalists before and since. No one ever accused Stalin of being strategically far-sighted!

And as to the US, they were originally quite suspicious of Israel precisely because of its Soviet connections. That began to change in 1956, with the Suez war when Israel allied itself with Britain and France in an act of armed aggression against Egypt that the US regarded as an outrageous act of the old colonial British and French against US hegemony. Israel got itself noticed in 1956 and showed both its military power and that it had broken from its initial Soviet support, as the US and USSR united to denounce the three-power attack in the UN. This gave birth to a period of friendly, but cautious relations between the US and Israel, as the two prospective strategic partners sounded each other out for reliability and the sustainability of an allliance.

The strategic alliance between the US and Israel was not fully sealed until after Israel ‘proved itself’ in 1967, humiliating Arab states that were by then sufficiently acting as Soviet-armed ‘client states’ for the war to be seen by the US ruling class as a kind of proxy war with the USSR, which Israel won hands down. In 1967 Israel’s weaponry was mainly French, acquired during the previous period, but after 1967 it got everything it wanted and more from the United States. The Nixon administration from 1968 onwards was the prime architect of this new alliance.

It is that seminal event that sealed an alliance between Israel and the US that is just as important to the US bourgeoisie as its alliance with its NATO partners in Europe. Israel is seen as dependable, militarily reliable, and ultimately in a world war scenario among its most reliable allies. It is an advanced capitalist country, the only one in its region, albeit one that because of its geographical position needs a large subsidy.

It also by its very existence on stolen land acts as a lightning rod for Arab discontent and helps keep the Arabs divided and therefore helps in an indirect way in maintaining US domination over the oil-rich Arab regions. True, in some intra-regional conflicts its peculiarities make it less than useful because of  Arab antipathy to its military forces when some finesse is needed, but that is seen by the US as a necessary price to pay for its other advantages.

Ultimately if US interests came to involve the need to blow up the Middle East to stop other forces getting their hands on it to the detriment of US interests, Israel would be willing to do it for Uncle Sam. Israel alone could be trusted to do it even if it mean sacrificing itself in a thermonuclear Masada. Fundamentally this is an alliance at the level of world war, which is why Israel has hundreds of nukes and the blessing of Uncle Sam for that.

That strategic imperative is what is behind the US/Israel relationship, which gives Israel a degree of power and its supporters in the US a great deal of latitude in dealing with Israel’s opponents and critics. Israel Shamir’s idea that it is in some way a result of bourgeois belief in myths or ‘perceptions’ about the power of Jews in the world is child-like and naive. The capitalists are not stupid enough to believe nonsense like that, that is only for the masses to believe along with the bogeyman and the tooth-fairy!

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8 responses to “US-Israel Strategic Alliance – Genesis and Precursors.

  1. Brad

    November 7, 2011 at 4:01 am

    Not anywhere near your level but enjoying. I’m reading Atzmon’s book and reading reviews upon reviews including yours and your follow-ups including the one about Greenstein. I read that one twice and will likely return to it yet again. Now this one. And I admit to appreciating the way you discourage thinking about “Jewish power” as a monolith and how you are placing any such thing as existing within a properly diminutive context.

    Given that, however, it would be illuminating to understand how and why the US is acting the way it is with respect to Iran and the Palestinians not to mention its wars against Iraq. I wish these greater American interests and the Real Establishment that may be using American Jews for other purposes could be more clearly spelled out. I’d like to read an analysis of AIPAC that subordinates it to the greater American Establishment interests. I just read AIPAC is attempting to discourage the US from selling arms to Turkey due to recent relations with Israel. How am I to understand that action? Or the US actions with respect to Palestine and the UN state bid and UNESCO?

    American leaders appear to be so weak with respect to what actions they can take and what things they can say when it comes to Israel. You have read Mitt Romney’s foreign policy genuflection to Israeli wishes? And what of the recent US Republicans collective junta to Israel to pay homage? What is that then? (I’m really just asking.) What is the reality underlying this appearance? Israel is being played somehow, being the weaker partner with a relatively insubstantial network of political power and influence in comparison to the real American Establishment?

    I’m all for having illusions dispelled so reading you has come at a perfect time for me. I just may be getting too credulous. Your articles offer a decidedly different take on matters other treat as obvious. I hope to learn much more about such topics. Hopefully from you as well as others.

     
  2. redscribe

    November 7, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Brad

    There are lot of points condensed into a short contribution here. Replying in full to all of them would take me a long time. Will try to come back to them later, particularly Iran and Iraq which are old arguments. Not necessarily directly though as I have other things to write about as well!

    Just on Turkey though. I don’t know if Israel lobbyists will succeed in persuading Washington to break with Turkey. That may be a tall order, as the US would be making trouble for themselves outside of Israel’s sphere of influence, in Turkic Central Asia for a start, or even with some in the EU and NATO. Though there are developing tensions between Washington and Turkey in their own right, to the extent that some foriegn policy ideologues see Turkey as a potentially troublesome regional competitor in the future.

    It is also true that Israel has repeatedly, over decades, objected to US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and been ignored, though Saudi has admittedly remained largely subservient to US interests apart from one brief period in the early 1970s with its involvement in an massive oil-price rise after the Yom Kippur war.

    Who knows if Israel will get its way over this? It is possible, but it will depend as much on the dynamics of relations between the US and Turkey as on anything Israel may want or say. They may coincide, but not necessarily.

    I think you have more of a point about the UNESCO thing. It certainly is grotesque, from the point of view of someone looking for a rational expression of American interests it does seem like shooting oneself in the foot. The genuflection before Israel by many US politicians is also more than a little weird. Mind you, there are plenty of irrational things in US politics that have nothing to do with Israel.

    The Clinton impeachment was weird. The ‘birther’ attacks on Obama were weird. Newt Gingrich’s flirtation with ‘militia’ terrorism against the Clinton administration in the early 1990s was weird. At times there seems to be a flailing about in US politics as to who can be the most grotesque and ostentatiously reactionary in order to court the support of a variety of lobbies, not just the Israel-Jewish one but lunatics on the Christian right, sexual prudes/puritans, homophobes, you name it.

    Grotesque behaviour that would seem to damage America’s standing in the world is not confined to issues that impinge on Israeli interests. Looking at US politics, there is a state of decay of the political class that is beginning to look almost like it is suffering from senile dementia, or something.

    My own view is that this is a sign of a historic crisis of decline in American bourgeois politics that is facing the likelihood of a major upheaval that could well destroy the existing political parties and lead to a major reconfiguration, perhaps through the long overdue birth of some kind of working class political expression.

     
  3. harry smith

    November 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I think Nixon was the last US president to put up a fight against Jewish control. According to Henry Kissinger, Nixon told him he had made irreversible changes, unchangeable by a future president, which would ensure that the US supported the Arab powers and opposed Israel in the Middle East.

    I am not joking. Nixon resigned as president 2 days later, if I recall. The ‘changes’ didn’t happen.

    This is described in a book by Henry Kissinger himself. I am afraid I cannot remember the title, but if you’re interested, you will track it down.

     
  4. redscribe

    November 8, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Hm, I would take anything Nixon is alleged to have said two days before his resignation with a very large grain of salt.

    He was not exactly mentally stable at the end as I understand it.

     
  5. Israel Shamir

    November 11, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Actually, this (Nixon was the last US president to put up a fight against Jewish control) was a point of view of Noam Chomsky as well. So he told me, in person.

     
  6. Israel Shamir

    November 11, 2011 at 7:39 am

    As for your article, it is rather dogmatic. So there are few Jews. So what? There were few Englishmen in India, but they ruled fine. All the ruling class of Tsarist Russia was tiny, and ruled ok. In the US, people who can be considered “Jews” have enormous assets. I argued this point extensively in http://www.israelshamir.net/English/Medina.htm

     
  7. redscribe

    November 11, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    But Nixon’s administration was the one that forged the fully-fledged alliance with Israel. I don’t see how you can get away from that. Take the question of aircraft. A succinct summary of the history is found here:

    “By 1950 the Israeli Air Force was already a professional air unit comparable to any other in the world. At this point of time France was the major supplier of air craft and equipment for the Israeli Air Force but this relation was short-lived and it began deteriorating rapidly just before the historic Six Day War and the French declared an arms embargo on Israel, this forced them to switch to American’s as their primary supplier of military equipment and also IAI (Israeli Aircraft Industries) was forced to make breakthroughs in indigenous efforts as well to localize and self sustain themselves during wars.” (http://www.defenceaviation.com/2011/07/israeli-air-force-maintaining-air-dominance.html)

    By the time of the Yom Kippur war, Israel’s airpower had been extensively expanded with American-built warplanes. And of course, airpower played a crucial role in both wars. Whatever Nixon may or may not have thought of it, this was the real birth and flowering of a strategic alliance and it was mainly on his watch.

    Regarding Shamir’s other point, there is no comparison between the British in India and Jews in America. Britain’s domination in India was not initially about pure military force, but rather because they were the bearers of a more advanced mode of production that meant they could buy themselves an Indian Army and officer it with a mainly English elite. But it was the superior mode of production that allowed them to do that.

    Israel Shamir’s article is wide-ranging, fascinating and difficult to categorise politically. It certainly is not the work of a ‘fascist’ or any of the other nonsense that has been flung at him, but it reads a bit like like an expanded version of Marx’s ‘On the Jewish Question’ but mixed with a good dose of Christian mysticism. It is incidentally not uncommon for those who regard themselves as Marxists to feel uneasy about ‘On the Jewish Question’ given its equation of the ‘Jewish spirit’ with the spirit of capitalism.

    But the apparent Christian mystical element in Shamir’s essay is sentimental, not in tune with the materialist outlook that is behind Marx’s essay. For in the end, Marx was referring to capitalism as a mode of production and implicitly pointing to the fact that the Jew’s overspecialisation in despised commercial occupations and the like during the previous mode of production (a disability and a product of religious persecution) actually put them in an advantageous position under the new capitalist mode. However that advantage would only last until the bourgeoisies of the nations that the Jews lived alongside fully assimilated the capitalist ethos.

    Whereas Shamir does not really address this central point, and seems to place great store by the various contents of different holy books and their interpretation as the genesis or seed of current differentiations and conflicts. There are different possible analyses for the relations between Jewish and gentile capital in the US, but I think one that sees elements of religion as playing a significant role in this makes no sense at all. Common class interest I think is the core explanation, which does not mean that other factors cannot modify the way that such interests are concretely expressed.

    Vindictiveness and vengenance are not exclusively or even mainly Jewish traits, they are found everywhere where there is a class struggle. There are lots of aspects of this question that have not been fully analysed but as far as I can see materialism is the tool for the job. Which is not to say that contrasting systems of ethics, etc. do not have any role in such an analysis, but that would be distinctly secondary. In Shamir’s very essay they appear primary, which does mean that there is not material in it that can shed light on all kinds of things. Though it needs a better framework than mysticism and sentimentality I think.

     
  8. John Hall

    September 4, 2013 at 6:53 am

    The people in this blog discussion group should look up this following web site which exposes the uncomfortable fact that American support for Israel in the Cold War and post-Cold War years are based on hard headed, geopolitical strategic calculations concerning the Middle East which have only marginally to do with sympathy for the Jews because of the past persecutions they have suffered. See “The U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership by Ardent Seeker” in Google Search.

     

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