Posts Tagged ‘James Petras’

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

April 8, 2018

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

April 8, 2018

I found this review of by Lobster’s Tom Easton of Michael Neumann’s The Case Against Israel (Oakland: Counterpunch & Edinburgh: AK press) and James Petras’ The Power of Israel in the United States (Atlanta and Black Point: Clarity Press adn Fernwood Books) in Lobster 52. That issue of the magazine is on line, but it’s one of those you have to pay for. I’ve decided to reproduce it here, because it shows the issues that are really at stake over the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party. This is about preserving the Israeli state from criticism for its barbarous and murderous campaign of persecution and ehtnic cleansing against the Palestinians, and the way it has built up a powerful lobby to hide its activities through a very aggressive advocacy campaign in the US.

Here’s the article.

In a year in which Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza were accompanied by more stories of New Labour loans and the arrest (twice) of Tony Blair’s fundraiser and Middle East ‘envoy’ Lord Levy, it would have been good to have seen British publications examining how Israel is bound up with the politics of its allies. But apart from the decision in March by the London Review of Books (LRB) to publish US academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on the Israel lobby in their country, Britain has no serious recent initiatives on that front.

The New Statesman (NS) made a stab at the job in the 2002, but suffered very heavy criticism for its’anti-Semitism’ from, among others, the then Labour general secretary and now Foreign Office minister and colleague of Lord Levy, David Triesman. In the week that I write this, the award-winning NS political editor Martin Bright describes ‘Blair’s twin shame of Iraq and cash for honours’ as ‘on the one hand, a foreign policy catastrophe; on the other, a classic domestic sleaze scandal’. Several American writers, including one of the two authors under review, try to investigate links between ‘foreign policy catastrophe’ and ‘domestic sleaze’. One wonders how many years will pass before the NS will feel aboe to return to the subject of Zionism and New Labour, and when the LRB will feel able to run a piece on the Israel lobby in the UK.

When journalists and academics tiptoe around this elephant in the front room of British politics they leave a gap in our political understanding that is important for at least two reasons.

The one is that links between Israel and its supporters in Britain are a legitimate subject for inquiry given the extent to which those advocating terrorist tactics here often identify themselves as critics of Israel. If, as Home Secretary John Reid said in October, the ‘war on terror’ now demands the ingenuity shown by Barnes Walls and Alan Turing in opposing Nazi Germany, we are surely under a democratic obligation to ask how matters have come to such a pass that our traditional liberties are being so readily and uncritically jeopardised.

A second reason is that thre ‘war on terror’ agenda has now become indelibly linked in the minds of many with hostility to Muslims, a recipe for serious difficulties in a society as diverse as Britain. This is paralleled in some circles with talk about the ‘clash of civilisations’ stimulated by Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntingdon soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The work of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jonathan Institute (Lobster 47 et seq) in promoting the ‘war on terror’ agenda to serve the interests of Israel goes back well before that time. But once the Berlin Wall fell, the blame for terrorism switched from the Kremlin and KGB to Israel’s neighbours and Islamic radicalism. Yet virtually all of the British electorate remains in ignorance of the origins and pruposes of this strategy.

These two books by small US publishers are not in themselves likely to change the direction of global politics. But in the extent that they chime with shifting American perceptions of Israel and policy in the Middle East (this is written ahead of the November mid-term elections), they may inform some in that movement for change. As we in New Labour Britain follow the US on so many things, the work of Michael Neumann and James Petras may just tempt the odd British writer and publisher into trying something similar here.

Neumann is a philosopher who, in the first sentence of The Case Against Israel, spells out his biases: ‘Mine are pro-Israel and pro-Jewish’. He says he uses ‘no material from Palestinian sources’ and adds that his book ‘presents the case against Israel, not Israelis’. Having further cleared the decks by telling us of his family’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis and his early predisposition towards Israel, he sketches his main agrument as follows:

‘The Zionist project, as con-
ceived in the 19th and early
20th century, was entirely
unjustified and could reasonably
be regarded by the inhabitants
of Palestine as a very serious
threat, the total domination by
one ethnic group of all others
in the region. Some form of
resistance was, therefore,
justified. That Zionist Jews,
and Jews generally, may later
have acquired pressing reasons
for wanting a Jewish state does
not change this. The legitimacy
of the Zionist project was the
major cause of all the terror
and warfare that it aroused.’

Neumann says what followed did not result from a long-standing territorial dispute between long-established populations. Rather, he says, the Zionists sought

‘to implant an ethnic sovereignty
in what was to them a foreign
land, on the basis of a population
expressly imported to secure that
end. Unlike other occasions for
territorial compromise, this one
did not involve two existing people
pursuing competing claims. Instead,
there was a claim at whose service
a people was to be created by
immigration from outside the area.
That claim was to be pursued against
the existing inhabitants, who had
never thought to advance some claim
of their own against the Jewish
people.’

The writer concludes his section on the birth of Israel thus:

‘The illegitimacy of Zionism
has important implications
for the legitimacy of israel
itself and for the early history
of that state. It was wrong to
pursue the Zionist project and
wrong to achieve it. For that
reason, how it was pursued and
achieved has little bearing on
the fundamental rights and wrongs
of the Israel/Palestinian conflict
…Zionism initiated a process
whose evolution was foreseeable
and understandable. Zionists are,
therefore, to an unusual degree
responsible for the consequences
of that fateful step. Their
project was not like raising a
child who, unexpectedly, turns
psychotic, but like releasing a
homicidal maniac – a child of
ethnic nationalism – into the
world. This is why the blame for
the conflict falls so heavily on
Zionist and so lightly on Palestinian
shoulders.’

But all that, says Neumann, does not argue the case for Israel’s destruction, any more than that fate should befall the United States because it was founded on genocide, massacre and exploitation. He says: ‘Israel’s existence is tainted, not sacred, but it is protected in the same useful international conventions tyhat allow others in the name of peace, to retain their ill-gotten gains.’

Continued in Part Two.

Lobster Reviews of Four Books on the Politics and Crimes of Zionism

September 22, 2016

Looking through some of the on-line back issues of the parapolitical magazine, Lobster, I found a brief review of four books attacking Israel, its ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, and its extensive lobbying network in America and the EU by Tom Easton in issue 60, for winter 2010. The books reviewed are

If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew , by Michael Marqusee, (London and Brooklyn: Verso)

‘This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, by Norman Finkelstein (New York: O R Books)

War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America, by James Petras, (Atlanta: Clear Day Books)

Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation, by David Cronin (London: Pluto).

Easton begins his review by pointing out that many of the people now criticising Israel for its imperialism and gross violations of human rights are Jews, people of immense courage who are bitterly attacked for their opposition to Zionism. he writes

One of the more heartening developments in this chilly political climate is the growth of Jewish groups and individuals speaking out and organising against the policies of Israel. Some are prominent figures like Miriam Margolyes, who
recently used her fame as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter series to publicise the living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza. Her self-description as ‘a proud Jew and an ashamed Jew’ is one that disarmingly cuts through the bile and bluster of those who routinely reach for the ‘anti-Semite’ smear.

Two of these authors have suffered that fate. Mike Marqusee recounts a moment is his teens when his father abused him as a ‘self-hating Jew’. The occasion was when the young Marqusee first measured the behaviour of Israeli forces
against the humane, Judaism-derived principles of his liberal family in New York.

Norman Finkelstein has long been targeted by the US lobby for Israel, most famously losing his battle for a tenured teaching post after a campaign of vilification led by Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard professor of law. Dershowitz doesn’t just go for people like Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors. As several of these authors point out, he also led the charge against the United Nations report on the Gaza conflict led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone. (James Petras’s book contains some striking images from
Operation Cast Lead.)

He points out that Israel’s supporters are finding it increasingly difficult to justify the country’s policies, but makes it clear that its efforts to overcome them will be ‘increasingly forceful’. Easton also praises Cronin’s book as one of the best surveys of the Israel lobby in Europe. He states that Israel now enjoys a status in the EU on slightly short of that of a member state. Cronin’s book also describes the various occasions in which the EU failed to intervene in cases where it had interests and responsibilities. He also lists the various lobbying groups and organisations Israel has in the EU, some of which promotes the country’s interests in other, less obvious fashions. He also informs the reader that there are politicians in London and Brussels, who are firmly in the country’s pocket, and names some of them.

Easton gives the last word to Finkelstein, who notes that Israel can no longer automatically count on the support of Jews around the world, because the public is now better informed. The historic myths that the country used to justify its existence have been dispelled by historians, human rights organisations have revealed its abuse of the Palestinians and there is now legal-diplomatic consensus that the settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians should uphold the latter’s human rights.

The reviews, and much else, can be read online at Lobster’s web address at http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk. This is to magazine’s site as a whole. You can then select the individual number you want to read from the list provided.

I’ve put this up, as one of the significant factors behind the anti-Semitism smears directed at many of the Corbynites is the attempts by the Zionist lobby in the Labour party and Britain as a whole trying to discredit the country’s critics, many of whom are supporters of the Labour leader. This has led them to smear decent women and men, who are committed opponents of anti-Semitism and racism, including many Jews and people of Jewish heritage, such as Jackie Walker. It would be interesting to see the names of some of those politicos Cronin lists as being part of the Israel lobby in London, as I suspect that many of these would be the same people making these accusations.