I want to put into one place my thoughts on what is the root cause of what, between capitalism, imperialism and Zionism. There is an argument that the Middle East is so strategically important, or has so much oil, that there is an imperialistic or capitalist impulse to station an outpost there, and Zionism is an expression of that impulse. In other words, either imperialism created Zionism, or capitalism created Zionism.
Maybe instead of “created” the argument can be that imperialism or capitalism sustains Zionism. And maybe instead of “Zionism”, the argument can be that imperialism or capitalism sustains what we know of as the enforced Jewish political majority state of Israel.
Underneath that argument, I think, is the idea that international strategy, as practiced by powerful states, empires and power-blocs, is a cold and rational endeavor that should not be explained by sentimentality, emotions or individual biases.
The point of this post is to invite discussion on this topic. So I’ll put my position here first.
What I believe the arguments that Zionism is an artifact of a broader phenomenon miss is that Zionism makes other things harder. Capitalist goals are more difficult for Israel’s backers to achieve than they would be if there was no Israel. Imperialist goals are more difficult for Israel’s backers to achieve than they would be if there was no Israel.
Capitalism first, the US capitalist class would have no problem trading with and profiting from Iran’s energy reserves today. The US is foregoing substantial profits for its position with respect to Iran that no US capitalist or strategist believes will ever be recovered.
Iran is also notable in that there has been a clear contest between capitalist interests and Zionist interests in the US political system and Zionism won. An AIPAC lobbyist recounts the story here:
So we get ILSA. It passes overwhelmingly. That same year I brought some Conoco guys to AIPAC’s policy conference, where half the House and half the Senate usually attend, and they knew that night that they would never win anything against us. So they began to cooperate. A lot of the oil companies realized, ‘We’re not gonna beat these guys in Congress, so we might as well try to tailor their activities, where we at least have some room to work.’ And I was the go-between. I was the guy.
Not only or even primarily for moral reasons or to be consistent with its professed values, the United States should abandon Zionism for commercial or capitalist reasons. The Middle East would be much different if there had never been an Israel and it would be much different if the US had abandoned Zionism and advocated a one-state egalitarian resolution to the Zionist conflict at any point in its history.
But in those alternative Middle Easts, the United States, it is pretty clear to me, would be collecting more profits in the region rather than less. The huge commercial advantages that US firms enjoyed relative to the rest of the world immediately after World War II would be dissipating more slowly and would today remain larger rather than smaller if the US had not associated itself with Zionism.
Strategically again, the US’ goals are more difficult to reach because of its commitment to Zionism than it would be without. The United States does have a strategic interest in ensuring that no one state gains monopoly control over all of the oil in the region. For that reason, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia have to remain in some modicum of balance, with none completely dominant over the other.
But there are other places where the US has an interest in some modicum of balance. For example between France, Great Britain and Germany, between Brazil and Argentina or between South Korea, China and Japan. Those other places are instructive in that the balance does not have to be of artificially weak states.
Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have to, by US strategic goals, be not substantially out of balance with each other, but also – and this is the unique result of the US commitment to Zionism – each weaker than Israel, a country with fewer than six million Jews and no significant natural resources.
Other than the oil states, the United States maintains a string of pro-US colonial dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan and others that provide the US no strategic service at all other than protecting Israel as an enforced majority Jewish political state from those countries’ populations.
The US can strategically tolerate popularly accountable governments in Japan, Brazil and France but cannot in Israel’s region because its commitment to Zionism poses a more difficult constraint on US strategic policy in the Middle East.
It seems that from a US strategic point of view, the Middle East has worked out for the best. Again, the US was in an unparalleled position of world dominance after World War II and it had enough resources to conduct its strategic policy while bearing the constraints imposed by Zionism. That does not mean Zionism did not make it more difficult.
The United States is actively fighting against the people of the Middle East in a way that it is not fighting against the people of Europe or the people of South America. For the first time that I remember, the administration of the president of the United States, while in office, has begun to admit that it does not believe it can win that fight forever.
First, we cannot ignore the long-term population trends that result from the Israeli occupation. …
Second, we cannot be blind to the political implications of continued conflict. …
And then finally, we must recognize that the ever-evolving technology of war is making it harder to guarantee Israel’s security. …
Looking again at Iran, a plausible-sounding argument can be made that the Shah was trading oil on what for technical reasons, were the best prices he could get. But there was no explaining his relations with Israel. Just as there is no explaining Mubarak’s or Tantawi’s maintenance of the blockade of Gaza or Jordan’s or Saudi Arabia’s coordination of their policy regarding the Palestinians with the US and Israel.
Looking at the Cold War, again remembering that the US entered the Cold War with tremendous material and strategic advantages, there should have been no contest for the allegiance of the most religious region in the world for the side that believes that the public sphere should coexist with the separate religious sphere against the side of militant athiests.
Religion should have been one of the US’ most powerful weapons for use against the USSR in the Middle East. Zionism instead turned it into a weapon the USSR could use against the US. Nasser, speaking before an audience of trade unionists, justified his relationship with the Soviet Union not in terms of the advancement of workers (and this was a trade union audience) but in terms of the Soviet Union’s offers of assistance in overcoming Zionism.
We must know and learn a big lesson today. We must actually see that, in its hypocrisy and in its talks with the Arabs, the United States sides with Israel 100 per cent and is partial in favour of Israel. Why is Britain biased towards Israel? The West is on Israel’s side. General de Gaulle’s personality caused him to remain impartial on this question and not to toe the US or the British line; France therefore did not take sides with Israel.
The Soviet Union’s attitude was great and splendid. It supported the Arabs and the Arab nation. It went to the extent of stating that, together with the Arabs and the Arab nation, it would resist any interference or aggression.
Today every Arab knows foes and friends. If we do not learn who our enemies and our friends are, Israel will always be able to benefit from this behaviour. It is clear that the United States is an enemy of the Arabs because it is completely biased in favour of Israel. It is also clear that Britain is an enemy of the Arabs because she, too, is completely biased in favour of Israel. On this basis we must treat our enemies and those who side with our enemies as actual enemies. We can accord them such treatment. In fact we are not States without status. We are States of status occupying an important place in the world. Our States have thousands of years of civilization behind them -7,000 years of civilization. Indeed, we can do much; we can expose the hypocrisy – the hypocrisy of our enemies if they try to persuade us that they wish to serve our interest. The United States seeks to serve only Israel’s interests. Britain also seeks to serve only Israel’s interests.
West ended up militarily overpowering Nasser’s Egypt by using resources from its member countries but we should not lose sight of the fact that but for Zionism, the West need have no more reason to defeat Egypt than it ever had to defeat Brazil in war.
Zionism makes dictatorships like Iran’s Shah or those of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and others necessary from a US strategic point of view while at the same time provides a clear, easy to understand and nearly universally agreed-upon popular criticism of the stooge dictatorships the US needs. This is an intrinsically unstable arrangement and US strategists have the luxury of tolerating more stable arrangements everywhere else in the world.
The place where US strategic policy is most likely to go wrong, the place where the most strategic, diplomatic and military efforts must be exerted to prevent US strategic objectives from failing is the Middle East. Because of Zionism.
So I still believe the best explanation for US support of Israel is that US Jews form the heart of an effective lobbying group on Israel’s behalf. Because of this lobbying, the United States pays a far higher price to achieve its capitalist and imperialist objectives than it does elsewhere in the world and that it would if it advocated a South Africa-style one state resolution to the conflict over Zionism.