Monday, March 23, 2009

Debunking Two Myths: The Legitimacy of the Zionist State and the Supremacy of the Israeli Lobby in the United States

Debunking Two Myths: The Legitimacy of the Zionist State and the Supremacy of the Israeli Lobby in the United States

Does Israel dictate US policy or vice-versa?

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
Political Analysis

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the question of its legitimacy as a government and its recognition has been subject to rigorous debate and struggle. A series of conflicts and wars have been fought over the last six decades between Israel and the Palestinians as well as its contiguous neighbors.

One of the main ideological tools utilized in the United States is to advance the notion that Israel is a legitimate nation-state that was brought into existence for two fundamental reasons: the fulfillment of the quest by Jews throughout the world for a national homeland where they can be free from discrimination and persecution; and secondly, as a bulwark against the potential re-emergence of a genocidal plot to either remove of exterminate the Jewish people as was carried out during the period of Nazi rule in Germany and Europe from the 1930s through World War II.

However, as it has been pointed out in previous articles: "African Americans and the Palestine Solidarity Struggle" as well as "Pan-Africanism and Palestine Solidarity", the Zionist project has been firmly allied with world imperialism since its inception during latter decade of the 19th century. In fact Palestine was not an assured territory for the creation of the State of Israel until after the beginning of World War I with the issuing of the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

Who Voted for the Partition Plan of 1947?

Some thirty years after the Balfour Declaration the Zionist movement was still advocating for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The only problem was that Balfour had called for the partitioning of Palestine, which at the time was a British Mandate, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Although the Declaration placed emphasis on the establishment of a homeland for Jewish people, it still mentions the protection of the rights of non-Jewish people living in Palestine.

The actual text of the Balfour Declaration was a letter from the British Foreign Secretary to Lord Rothschild which read:

"Foreign Office
November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you on behalf of His Majesty’s government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved, by the Cabinet:

His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Arthur James Balfour"

In the aftermath of World War II and the establishment of the United Nations, the General Assembly created a Special Committee on Palestine to study the situation inside the territory as it relates to the creation of Israel. A contentious General Assembly vote on November 29, 1947, approved the basis for two separate Arab and Jewish states in Palestine following the withdrawal of British troops. A Commission was also set up to oversee the implementation of the vote.

As a result of the vote, the predominately Arab and Muslim countries walked out of the Assembly and there was a three day general strike among the Palestinians inside the country. By May 14, 1948, the British had withdrawn their troops from Palestine and the State of Israel was declared. The intervention of several Arab armies as well as an uprising throughout Palestine ensued. A ceasefire was signed on June 11 and a United Nations mediator was appointed.

The UN mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, was assassinated in September 1948 by a Zionist underground group which was totally opposed to a partition of the country. Ralph J. Bunche, his assistant, was then appointed to resume the negotiations for an armistice. This was signed by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Arab states and Israel by July 20, 1949.

It has been the United Nations General Assembly vote and the signing of the armistice between 1947-49, that has been repeatedly cited as the basis for the legitimacy of the State of Israel within International Law. Nonetheless, if the composition and character of the United Nations is examined during this period, it becomes quite clear that the European countries along with the United States held dominance within the institution by virtue of the existence of colonialism and semi-colonialism which controlled the majority of people throughout the world.

Between the 15th and 19th centuries European colonialism and imperialism became dominant in the world. By the 20th century there were burgeoning anti-colonial movements growing throughout the world. The eruption of World War I was essentially a struggle among European nations over the future control of the world's peoples and resources.

The same can be said of World War II, with the contradiction between fascism in Europe and imperial Japan on the one hand and the more "liberal colonialism" of Western Europe and the United States. At the conclusion of World War II the United States became the dominant global power through its military superiority and the fortification of its industrial and financial base.

Consequently, the independent states represented in the United Nations were by no means reflective of aspirations of the world peoples, who were struggling to overcome the yoke of imperialist domination and exploitation. Even though the United Nations took a position calling for the right of colonial nations to independence and self-determination, this principal was never advanced when it conflicted with interests of imperialism.

The actual vote to partition Palestine won with 33 member-states voting in favor, 13 voting in opposition, 10 abstaining and one absence. The states that voted in favor included the United States, France, Iceland, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and Belgium. The socialist states, with the exception of Yugoslavia, which abstained, voted along with the imperialist states in favor of partition.

Some of the other states that voted in favor of the partition did so because of their close relationship with the United States and the United Kingdom, which abstained. These states included Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Liberia, Paraguay, Panama, Philippines and Nicaragua.

The states which voted in opposition to the partition of 1947 included the predominately Muslim and Arab states along with some other interesting exceptions. Voting no was Afghanistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Yemen along with Cuba, Greece and India.

Despite the fact that the Arab and Muslim nations were heavily dominated by monarchies that had close alliances with the imperialist countries that often conflicted with the interests of its own people, they still voted against the partition. The socialist states that voted for partition would have to wait until after 1956 to attempt to gain lost political ground in the Middle-East during the Suez Conflict of that year. The vote by these non-capitalist governments for partition in part related to the treatment of European Jews within these states by the Nazis during the War.

Moreover, the still suppressed political will of the majority of peoples throughout the world would bring into question the resolution of any international conflict during this period. Therefore, it was largely the European nations and their allies in the semi-colonial territories that granted international legitimacy to the formation of the State of Israel. As the political situation changed in the Middle-East and the world, so did the perception of the State of Israel and the colonized victims of imperial policy, the Palestinian and Arab masses of the region.

US Policy Between 1956-1967

With the outbreak of the Suez Conflict in 1956, when the Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nassar nationalized the canal in the interests of the country, the United States took a more direct involvement in the Middle East. A United Nations monitoring group was dispatched in 1956 to oversee the ceasefire between Israel and Egypt. In 1958, under the Eisenhower administration, US troops were also dispatched to Lebanon in the aftermath of revolutionary nationalist upheavals in the region.

Therefore, it becomes quite clear that the motivating force behind United States support for Israel is rooted in its own strategic interests in the Middle East. Even liberal analysts such as Stephen Zunes noted in a policy report in May 2002 that: "There is a broad bipartisan consensus among policymakers that Israel has advanced U.S. interest in the Middle East and beyond."

Zunes points out that "Israel has successfully prevented victories by radical nationalist movements in Lebanon and Jordan, as well as in Palestine. Israel has kept Syria, for many years an ally of the Soviet Union, in check. Israel's air force is predominant throughout the region. Israel's frequent wars have provided battlefield testing for American arms, often against Soviet weapons."

Zunes continues by stating also that "It has served as a conduit for U.S. arms to regimes and movements too unpopular in the United States for openly granting direct military assistance, such as apartheid South Africa, the military junta in Guatemala and the Nicaraguan Contras. Israeli military advisers have assisted the Contras, the Salvadoran junta, and foreign occupation forces in Namibia and Western Sahara.

"Israel's intelligence service has assisted the U.S. in intelligence gathering and covert operations. Israel has missiles capable of reaching the former Soviet Union, it possesses a nuclear arsenal of hundreds of weapons, and it has cooperated with the U.S. military-industrial complex with research and development for new jet fighters and anti-missile defense systems." (Foreign Policy in Focus, May 2002)

The Supposed Supremacy of the Israeli Lobby

An alternative view of US foreign policy toward Israel and the Middle East has also been advanced in an attempt to explain the complete biased and pro-Zionist orientation in regard to reporting and analyzing developments in the region. Many believe, for various reasons, that it is the State of Israel and its Jewish supporters in the United States that determine foreign policy toward the region.

For some this view stems from long held anti-Semitic theories of the dominance of world trade and finance capital by Jewish economic interests. The belief is that since Jews control the resources and markets of the world they have deliberately skewed US foreign policy in favor of Israel.

Yet within this outlook almost nothing is said about the imperative of US foreign policy prior to the creation of the State of Israel as well as the escalation of direct military and financial aid to the Zionist state after the so-called Six Day War of June 1967. The United States' designs for imperial control of the world did not begin in the aftermath of World War II, even though it was largely realized during this period.

The conquest of the continental United States took place over a period of nearly three centuries in confrontation with hundreds of Native American nations as well as rival European colonial states in addition to the nation of Mexico during the mid-19th century. The Monroe Doctrine addressed the desire of the United States ruling class to control interests throughout the entire western hemisphere. The so-called Spanish-American War of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries expanded US imperial influence in Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia.

There is also the indispensable use of African labor during slavery that built the agricultural base of the United States. The profits from the slave trade and slave labor laid the ground work for the rise of industrial capitalism years prior to the creation of the State of Israel. Although there were wealthy Jews in both Western Europe and the United States during the period of the Atlantic slave trade, they were not even a small fraction of the interests that controlled capital and consequently determined the domestic and foreign policy of the countries in question.

Influential proponents of the supremacy of the Israeli Lobby in determining US foreign policy have been represented by the academic work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their book on "The Israeli Lobby and United States Foreign Policy." These writers, Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago and Walt a professor at Harvard, make the argument that US support for the State of Israel runs contrary to its own interests.

According to these authors "The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread 'democracy' throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides." (London Review of Books, March 23, 2006)

However, the Israeli Lobby, as represented by the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) and other groups, would not have as much as a tiny portion of its influence if their positions did not coincide in most cases with those of US imperialism. This is not to say that the ruling political elites of various persuasions do not from time to time disagree with US interests, but it is the desire on the part of imperialism to control the resources of the Middle East that has driven policy imperatives since World War I.

Even spokespersons and operatives of the ruling class cannot be allowed to diverge from US imperialist policy toward the Middle East. A recent example was the demise of Chas Freeman who sought a high-ranking position as chair of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman was forced to withdraw for merely advocating a more "balanced" position in regard to the Palestinian-Israeli question.

Another example is the purported disagreement between the incoming Benjamin Netanyahu administration in Israel and the State Department over the public posture toward the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Obama administration appears to want a less confrontational posture toward Iran, at least during this immediate period, where the Israeli Likud party and its allies still want to openly threaten Iran with aerial bombardment.

Despite these disagreements over emphasis, neither the State of Israel nor the United States wants to see the influence of Iran spread throughout the Middle East. Nor do Mearsheimer and Walt question the right of AIPAC and other pro-Israeli groups to engage in advocacy.

Nathan Guttman in a recent article in the Jewish newspaper "Forward" states that "Though Foxman (leader of the Anti-Defamation League) is skeptical of their sincerity, Mearsheimer and Walt themselves say repeatedly that they agree with him, calling pro-Israel advocacy 'entirely legitimate." They argue instead that some also seek to stifle or penalize those who speak out on the other side. And they insist that the success of the pro-Israel lobby in influencing American policy--though pursued legitimately--has harmed American interests." (Forward, March 27, 2009)


Even if the State of Israel did not exist it would be necessary to create a base for United States imperialist interests in the Middle East and extending throughout the Islamic world. The rising tide of protests and dissent within the United States and globally in opposition to the oppression and exploitation of the Palestinian people is occurring despite the total media bias found in the western states.

All through Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, the South Pacific and within North America itself, people are fighting against racism, economic exploitation and the right to economic justice, self-determination and sovereignty. US imperialism is in decline with its economic tentacles loosening around the world providing greater opportunities for oppressed and working people to fight for their freedom.

From both a strategic and tactical standpoint, it is necessary for activists in the movements for national liberation and social justice to properly define who the enemy is and how to bring about fundamental change in the oppressive conditions of the masses of people. Most opinion polls taken around the world indicate that the greatest perceived threat to the realization of peace on the planet is the ruling class interests who now control the United States.

As a result it is essential that people in the United States recognize that their principal task is to challenge the ruling class in this country. Efforts aimed at identifying secondary interests and powers will only lead to a further strengthening of US imperialism and the prolonging of the suffering and oppression of peoples around the world.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

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