Lobster Review of Pro-Jewish, Pro-Zionist Book Against Israel, and Against Israel Lobby In America: Part Two

Neumann then moves on to what Israel should do now in ensure its survival: it must leave the Occupied Territories.

‘with the acquisition of the
Occupied Territories in 1967,
Israel had a chance to make
handsome amends for the crimes
on which it was built. Saint-
lines or selfless optimism
were not required. Israel could
have sponsored and supported,
with true generosity, the
establishment of a sovereign
Palestinian state by backing
those amenable to reconciliation
and attacking those who were not.
This might not have been a just
settlement, but it would have
worked.’

American support for Israel following 1967 has made that possibility harder to achieve, and an exploration of this relationship is the subject of the book by James Petras. He dedicates the Power of Israel in the United States to Rachel Corrie, ‘US citizen and humanitarian internationalist volunteer in Palestine murdered by the Israeli military’. His style is that of the committed activist, in sharp contrast to the cool rigour of Neumann. There re times when his use of capitals, as in Terror Experts or Zionist Power Configuration, irritate. But while his writing is urgent, at times to the point of stridency, it is well sourced and invites the reader to inquire further into the areas he explores. Here is a flavour of the Petras style:

‘Through overseas networks the
Israeli state can directly inter-
vene and set the parameters to US
foreign aid in the Middle East.
The overseas networks play a major
role in shaping the internal debate
on US policy toward Israel.
Propaganda associating Israeli
repression of Palestinians as the
righteous response of the victims of
the Holocaust has been repeated
throughout the mass media. President
Ahmadinejad’s suggestion that
Holocaust victims might more properly
be compensated by land located in
Europe or in the countries that
victimised them was misreported, then
highly circulated to fuel, instead,
the notion of a rabid, anti-Semitic
Iran. From the height of the network
to the lawyers’ board-rooms, and the
doctors’ lounges, the pro-Israel
supporters of the network aggressively
attack as “anti-Semites” any critical
voices. Through local intimidation and
malicious intervention in the
professions, the zealots defend Israeli
policy and leaders, contribute money
organise voters, and run for office.
Once in office they tune in to Israel’s
policy needs.’

But hasn’t the United States always been subject to pressures exerted by those of its citizens with connections in other countries, be they links with Ireland or the countries of the former Eastern bloc? Petras accepts this, but answers:

‘The Cuban exiles in Miami
exercise significant influence
in both major parties. But in
no other case has linkage led
to the establishment of an
enduring hegemonic relationship:
an empire colonised by a
regional power, with the US
paying tribute to Israel, subject
to the ideological blinders of
its overseas colons, and launching
aggressive wars on its behalf.’

Who are these ‘overseas colons’? Petras has a very long line of ‘Israel Firsters’, people both inside Congress and electoral politics, and those unelected, such as Paul Wolfowitz and his friends in the Office of Special Plans driving the Iraq invasion, as well as many in the media. He tells us about the muscle asserted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations
with its Daily Alert (www.dailyalert.org/) prepared by the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs; the American Jewish Committee; the Anti-Defamation League, and the Zionist Organisation of America.

Petras looks critically at the four principal US sources of financial support for Israel he lists as:

‘1. Wealthy, Jewish contributors
and powerful disciplined fund-
raising organisations. 2: The US
government – both Congress and
the Presidency. 3: The mass media,
particularly the
New York Times,
Hollywood and the major television
networks. 4: The trade union bosses
and the heads of pension funds.’

In addition there are well-organised fundamentalist Christian groups with close links to Israel. Petras also sees the emergence under President Yeltsin of the Russian oligarchs (most possessing Israeli passports and having major financial interests in that country) as in part being due to President Clinton’s closeness to the Zionist lobby in the United States.

At times Petras is a little breathless in his description of the activities of those close to Israel, especially the people against whom legal proceedings have been taken after spying for that country while holding important Washington positions. This seems to be a measure of his anger and frustration at his native country being drawn into conflicts that he believes do not serve its interests. While I prefer the cooler logic of Neumann I also recognise the value of an emeritus professor of sociology like Petras alerting his readers in matters they can then look into in their own way and about which they can reach their own conclusions.

If Attorney General Lord Goldsmith advises prosecutions over cash for honours we may learn something of the financial network to which Tony Blair’s Middle East ‘envoy’ seems so central, and then perhaps something of the extent to which the Israel lobby has been influential on the politics of New labour. Whether or not the Crown Prosecution Service gets to dig a little below the surface of our political life, Britain could use both a Neumann and a Petras
to provoke examination of the way our electoral politics is linked to the fortunes of Israel. We should not be distracted by controversy over the veil covering the faces of Muslim women: there are other forms of concealment requiring our more urgent attention.

(Pp. 40-2, Winter 2006/7).

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