Posts Tagged ‘American mass media’

The Israel Lobby’s Power Comes from The American Ruling Class

March 4, 2009
by John Spritzler | newdemocracyworld.org, March 4, 2009

Among those who, like myself, oppose Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, there is an important debate about a fundamental question. The debate is about how to explain the fact that the American government supports Israel virtually unconditionally with more economic, military and diplomatic aid than it gives to any other country.

One commonly believed explanation is that the “Israel Lobby”–consisting of organizations like AIPAC and a host of other pro-Israel Jewish organizations in the United States–has hijacked U.S. foreign policy by using its wealth and control of the mass media to buy or intimidate Congressmen. According to this view, the American government’s pro-Israel foreign policy is harmful to the interests of the non-Jewish American corporate upper class, and were it not for the power of the Israel Lobby American foreign policy, reflecting as it does the interests of the American upper class, would not be as pro-Israel as it is today.

I call this the “The Lobby Makes Them Do It” view. I think it is just plain factually wrong. The alternative view that I hold is that the Israel Lobby’s power comes from the (mostly non-Jewish) American ruling class.

The leading advocate of the “The Lobby Makes Them Do It” view is James Petras. Petras asserts that the Israel Lobby prevailed over America’s Big Oil elite to get the U.S. to invade Iraq for the benefit of Israel:

“The principal governmental architects of the war, the intellectual promoters of the war, their publicly enunciated published strategies for the war were all deeply attached to the Israel lobby and worked for the Israeli state. Wolfowitz, number 2 in the Pentagon, Douglas Feith, number 3 in the Pentagon, Richard Perle, head of the Defense Board, Elliot Abrams in charge of Middle East affairs for the National Security Council, and dozens of other key operatives in the government and ideologues in the mass media were life-long fanatical activists in favor of Israel, some of whom had lost security clearances in previous administrations for handing over documents to the Israeli government…

“In fact the US-Middle East wars prejudice the oil interests in several strategic senses. The wars generate generalized hostility to oil companies with long-term relations with Arab countries. The wars result in undermining new contracts opening in Arab countries for US oil investments. US oil companies have been much friendlier to peacefully resolving conflicts than Israel and especially its Lobbyists as any reading of the specialized oil industry journals and spokespeople emphasize. “

Just on the facts, Petras is wrong. Far from opposing the Israel Lobby, Big Oil uses that lobby. As Juan Cole writes:

“Neoconservative Jews in the US like Richard Perle, Frederick Kagan and Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute who vocally support the Iraq War (and have gotten rich off it) are a minority of a minority, and even are at odds with the Israeli security establishment! Moreover, the American Enterprise Institute, which crafted the Iraq War, gets funding from Exxon Mobil, and last I checked it was run by white Protestants. The vice chair of AEI is Lee Raymond, former CEO of Exxon Mobil and surely Dick Cheney’s old golf partner in the Dallas years. That is, the Kagans and the Rubins, who identify with the Revisionist Zionist movement on the Israeli Right, are useful idiots for Big Oil, not movers and shakers in their own right.”

The American corporate upper class, the American ruling class, is pro-Israel because they (or at least their sophisticated advisors, like Henry Kissinger, Condoleeza Rice, General James Jones, etc.) know that Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians performs a strategically crucial service for the American ruling class. The ethnic cleansing polarizes the Middle East along non-class lines, fomenting an ethnic war pitting Jews against non-Jews. The American ruling class uses this ethnic war to strengthen its domestic control over ordinary Americans, and to strengthen the control of Middle Eastern ruling elites (kings, mullahs, dictators) over ordinary people in their respective nations. These are the most important strategic objectives of the American ruling class: social control to prevent the spread of pro-democratic, pro-working class, pro-solidarity movements from overthrowing elite rule anywhere in the world.

Regarding domestic control of the American population, the key strategy of elite social control has for many decades been to rely on Orwellian wars of social control. The particular “foreign enemy” has changed over time, from Teddy Roosevelt’s Spain to Woodrow Wilson’s “Huns” to FDR’s Fascists to Truman’s Communists to Bush’s and Obama’s Terrorists. By ensuring that the American mass media refrain from telling Americans the true reason (Israel’s ethnic cleansing) why Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims take up arms against Israel, the American ruling class ensures that Americans will believe the lie that Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims are hateful, irrational, anti-semitic terrorists who kill decent Israelis “just like us” and would likewise kill Americans if we fail to obey our upper class rulers who protect us from terrorism.

Similarly, the oil-rich Middle East ruling classes, in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, use their people’s anger at Israel to strengthen their power over them, as I discuss in some detail in
How Israel Helps Saudi Arabia’s Rulers Control their Working Class and How Israel Helps the Islamic Republic of Iran Control the Iranian Working Class. James Petras is naive to think that Big Oil’s interests are prejudiced by the pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy. If the Saudi royal family, for example, were really opposed to U.S. support for Israel, then it would use its vast wealth to support pro-Palestinian forces inside the United States, to counter the Israel Lobby; but it doesn’t.

By the same token, if any members of the American mostly non-Jewish ruling class, with billions of dollars to throw around (Buffet gave away $40 billion alone!), wanted to tell Americans the truth about Zionism (the movement to create and protect a Jewish state), they could do so. They could tell Americans how Zionism is all about ethnic cleansing, how Albert Einstein (whom the Israeli government asked to be the President of Israel, and declined) always opposed the Jewish state idea because it was morally wrong, and how the Zionists betrayed European Jews during World War II by opposing rescue efforts (so there would be more dead Jews to give them greater standing at the post-war negotiations over who would “get” Palestine)–they could do so; but they don’t. If they did, they could turn the American public against Zionism and against the Israel Lobby as quickly as they turn it against a politician soliciting sex in a toilet stall.

So why don’t they do it? It is not because Zionists control the mass media. Sure, pro-Zionists do control the mass media, but billionaires could create their own anti-Zionist media if they wanted to. After all, Rupert Murdoch owns a large enough media network to do the job and at the time of his divorce in 1998 his personal fortune was only 3.3 billion pounds (less than $5 billion I imagine.) The American ruling class chooses not to oppose the Israel Lobby because they have no reason to. The Israel Lobby is an instrument (“useful idiots” as Juan Cole puts it) of the American ruling class. The Lobby spreads the lies that the pro-Israel foreign policy requires, and it keeps politicians in line who might otherwise stray from the path. The Lobby is powerful because it does the bidding of the powerful.

Very different organizing strategies against Zionism are appropriate, depending on whether one agrees with “The Lobby Makes Them Do It” view of James Petras or the view I advocate. If Petras is correct, then the natural strategy to turn U.S. foreign policy around would be to side with the likes of Big Oil against the Israel Lobby. But since Big Oil and the Israel Lobby are in fact on the same team, this is a ridiculous strategy. Instead, the strategy that makes sense is to mobilize the general public against the American ruling class around not only opposition to Israeli ethnic cleansing but also opposition to the entire anti-democratic, anti-equality agenda of the ruling class. This is a revolutionary pro-working class strategy, and only it can win.

Other articles about Palestine/Israel by John Spritzler

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.

Israelis Get Truth About Gaza Attack

December 30, 2008

by Ira Chernus

If you get your news from the American mass media, you know that there’s a nice simple explanation for the massive Israeli attack on Gaza. That explanation comes straight from the Israeli government, via the White House: Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, is responsible for all the violence. “These people are nothing but thugs,” a White House spokesman said. “Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas.” End of story. As usual, Israel is depicted as the innocent victim of an evil it did nothing to provoke.But if you read Israel’s most respected newspaper, Ha’aretz, you find out that things are rather more complicated. (All the quotes below come from Jewish journalists writing in recent editions of Ha’aretz.)

You know the reality of Gaza today: “The tremendous population density in the Gaza Strip does not allow a ‘surgical operation’ over an extended period that would minimize damage to civilian populations.” “There are many corpses and wounded, every moment another casualty is added to the list of the dead, and there is no more room in the morgue. . A mother whose three school-age children were killed, and are piled one on top of top of the other in the morgue, screams and then cries, screams again and then is silent.”

And you know that some Israelis are outraged: “Israel’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom.”

The justification Israel offers is the increased firing of rockets from Gaza. But Israelis can read that Hamas is responding to Israeli provocation. “Six months ago Israel asked and received a cease-fire from Hamas. It unilaterally violated it.” “On November 4, an Israeli operation sparked a new round of dangerous, if controlled, violence,” “when it unnecessarily bombed a tunnel.”

About the same time, Israel cut off transport of food, medical supplies, and electricity to Gaza. “Food insecurity in Gaza currently runs at 56 percent and is deteriorating rapidly, 42 percent of the Strip’s population is unemployed and 76 percent is receiving humanitarian assistance (all UN figures).” “A million and a half human beings . live in the conditions of a giant jail.” “Why should Gazan citizens tolerate such a long and severe siege for so long?”

General Shmuel Zakai, former commander of Israel’s troops in Gaza, says: “We could have eased the siege over the Gaza Strip, in such a way that the Palestinians, Hamas, would understand that holding their fire served their interests. But when you create a tahadiyeh [cease-fire], and the economic pressure on the Strip continues, it’s obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahadiyeh, and that their way to achieve this, is resumed Qassam [rocket] fire. . You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.”

Nevertheless, just a few days before the attack, “Palestinian sources said they do not believe Hamas plans to launch a massive rocket strike on Israel unless the IDF begins offensive operations in the Strip.” Israel claims it wants peace, yet it “did not exhaust the diplomatic processes before embarking on another dreadful campaign of killing and ruin.” And “no military operation has ever advanced dialogue with the Palestinians.”

In fact military force is self-defeating, because “no Palestinian will consent to having his people and his homeland destroyed in this way.” “Hamas will not be weakened due to the Gaza war; to the contrary.” If predictions of a strengthened Hamas prove wrong, the other possibility is obvious: “A siege designed to depose Hamas rule . risks triggering a social collapse that would have devastating consequences for all concerned. . An Israeli military escalation would likely accelerate the splintering of Hamas’ leadership and the emergence of more radical alternatives.”

One way or another, more rockets are sure to fall on Israel. Of course that might be one goal of the attack. Israeli leaders may be trying to avoid dialogue. More intense fighting would let them claim they have no one to negotiate with, especially if Gaza breaks down in chaos. Israeli leaders may also have an eye on Palestinian elections coming up soon. They want to persuade the Palestinians to support the more conciliatory Fatah party by destroying Hamas, or at least showing what happens to its supporters.

But “working toward long-term goals that would completely change the landscape in the region, like toppling Hamas from power in Gaza, is liable to turn out to be a wild fantasy.” “Israel must understand that Hamas rule in Gaza is a fact, and it is with that government that we must reach a situation of calm. . We can’t impose regimes on the Palestinians.” The idea “that a military operation would suffice in toppling an entrenched regime and thus replace it with another one friendlier to us is no more than lunacy.”

Why would Israeli leaders pursue such a dangerous fantasy? When Ha’aretz journalists want to explain it, they (like all other Israeli journalists) focus most on politics — not Palestinian, but Israeli. Israel, too, will hold elections in just a few weeks. “Israelis are being treated to a predictable dose of political posturing and chest-thumping.”

The polls show the hawkish Likud party ahead, partly because “Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to topple the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip if elected prime minister. . Under his leadership, Israel would move from a policy of absorbing blows to a policy of being on the offensive.”

Perhaps that’s why the current (soon to retire) prime minister, Ehud Olmert, launched this week’s offensive, cheered on by his party’s candidate to replace him, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. She’s now talking tough, too. “‘The state of Israel, and a government under me, will make it a strategic objective to topple the Hamas regime in Gaza,’ Livni told members of her centrist Kadima party.” “We cannot allow Gaza to remain under Hamas control.” “Vice Premier Haim Ramon also said . that Hamas must be removed from power.”

“Ramon, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and others harshly criticized Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s handling of the situation” — because Barak, a former prime minister, is also running to regain that post, trying to resurrect his once-powerful Labor party. “The beginning of the raid in Gaza bears the wily and deceptive fingerprint of Barak. . It may deliver him and his party from the humiliating defeat the polls are predicting.” “If Hamas is beaten and Israel receives some peace under favorable terms, Labor and Barak may gain force.”

Politicians of every party want to prove that they are “not a bunch of wimps.” So they’ve staked their future on the same goal: one way or another, topple the democratically-elected government of Gaza.

But Israel is also a democracy. The politicians are catering to public opinion: “This war was preceded by a frighteningly uniform public dialogue in which only one voice was heard — that which called for striking, destroying, starving and killing.” “The hysterical reaction by the public as a whole and politicians in particular stems mainly from the fact that the country is in an election period. And when elections are in the offing people speak from the gut rather than the brain. . They’re suddenly strutting their macho stuff.”

“Politicians and the public at large have been enthralled by a new prospect: that of a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. Such a prospect answers all their heart’s secret wishes. . The public’s imaginations are let loose as they chant a battle-cry.” “Speeches have a tendency to identify goals that are by nature unreachable: phrases like ‘destroying the Hamas government’ (which is actually likely to be strengthened).”

With so many Israelis pointing out how self-defeating this attack on Gaza is, why would a majority of Israeli voters still push their leaders to more military action?

One theory looks to an inflated self-image: “Israel is striking at the Palestinians to ‘teach them a lesson.’ That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom — via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.”

But there’s an opposite theory: The failed war in Lebanon two years ago deflated Israelis’ self-image, and now they are out to inflate it again. “The pictures of blood and fire are designed to show Israelis, Arabs and the entire world that the neighborhood bully’s strength has yet to wane. When the bully is on a rampage, nobody can stop him.” “Israel goaded its enemies to provoke it because [the enemies] ceased believing that Israel would agree to pay the price of using force.”

Eventually, though, “after the politicians flex their muscles, the analysts blow smoke and the citizens of Israel have their ‘honor restored,’ a new exit from Gaza must be sought.” “Most dangerous of all is the cliche that there is no one to talk to. That has never been true. There are even ways to talk with Hamas.”

“Hamas would have — and still would — accept a bargain . [to] halt the fire in exchange for easing of the many ways in which Israeli policies have kept a choke hold on the economy of the Strip.” “Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, has said that his Palestinian militant group is willing to renew the recently ended truce in Gaza with Israel.”

“Hamas has clear conditions for its extension: The opening of the border crossings for goods and cessation of IDF attacks in Gaza, as outlined in the original agreement. Later, Hamas wants the cease-fire to be extended to the West Bank. Israel, for its part, is justifiably demanding a real calm in Gaza; that no Qassam or mortar shell be fired by either Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other group. Essentially, Israel is telling Hamas it is willing to recognize its control of Gaza on the condition that it assumes responsibility for the security of the territory, like Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon. It is likely that this will be the outcome of a wide-scale operation in the Gaza Strip.”

“In a short time, after the parade of corpses and wounded ends, we will arrive at a fresh cease-fire, as occurred after Lebanon, exactly like the one that could have been forged without this superfluous war.” “Why, then, not forgo the war and agree to these conditions now?”

Ira Chernus, a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the author of American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea. Having written extensively on Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush, he is now writing a book tentatively titled “Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Origins of the National Insecurity State.” He can be contacted at chernus@colorado.edu.


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