FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is the Israel Lobby Only a Chimp Among Gorillas?

by DIANA JOHNSTONE

Some friendly criticism of our article “The People Against the 800 Pound Gorilla” provides a welcome opportunity to clarify the discussion.  Shamus Cooke, while largely agreeing with the points made by Jean Bricmont and myself, reproaches us for focusing on the pro-Israel lobby as the major factor promoting U.S. war against Syria to the detriment of much bigger factors: the U.S. capitalist class, the big banks, “empire”, oil, the military-industrial complex – in a word, capitalism.

The problem with our article, writes Shamus Cooke, “is that the authors elevate the Israeli gorilla to a weight class it doesn’t belong in; and in so doing the authors are forced to minimize the size of several other giant gorillas, whose combined weight overshadows the Israeli chimp.”

Of course, “capitalism”, however you want to define it, vastly dwarfs the Israel lobby. So do the military-industrial complex, the oil business, or U.S. imperialism, all of which have existed prior to and independently of the Israel lobby.

But is weighing the Israel lobby against “capitalism” a valid comparison?  The Israel lobby is a clearly identifiable pressure group, with names, addresses and policies that are clearly stated.  Capitalism is an economic system that at present, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, prevails in almost the entire world.  Today, every specific policy in most countries is defined within a capitalist context, and some of those policies, notably on highly emotional issues, are opposed to each other, without challenging for a moment the existence of “capitalism”.

So it is with policy toward the Middle East and the war in Syria.  Capitalism is not at stake in those conflicts, and “the system” is resilient and elastic enough to profit from whatever policy is adopted.

The very existence of the gigantic U.S. military machine constitutes a constant danger of being used to meet some “threat” cooked up by think tanks, interest groups and foreign lobbies. At the start of the Cold War, the notorious China Lobby personified by Mme Chiang Kai-Shek exerted a negative influence on U.S. policy in the Far East. More recently the Cuban lobby of anti-Castro exiles has influenced US policy to the detriment of U.S. export sectors such as agribusiness. Today, the politically powerful Israel lobby stimulates and exacerbates the worst tendencies in a divided political establishment. If the American people had the awareness, and American politicians the courage, to say “no” to that lobby and its specious arguments, the less belligerent forces in Washington would have a better chance of prevailing.

A century ago, denouncing capitalism as the source of war found an echo in large, active political parties which theoretically aspired to replacing capitalism with socialism. But even those massive parties failed to prevent the First World War. And today, there is no significant political force in any Western country prepared to carry out a coherent program of replacing capitalism with something else.  So if stopping war depends on first getting rid of capitalism, we are doomed.

One can always argue that capitalism is an underlying factor that promotes war.  Perhaps one can say the same about “human nature”.   But we do not care to wait until capitalism collapses or human nature changes in order to prevent the disaster of greater war in the Middle East.

What interests us now is to expose and oppose the single most significant political influence promoting ongoing war in the Middle East. That is unquestionably the Israel lobby, which overlaps on the right with the so-called neo-conservatives, and on the left with the “humanitarian” interventionists. To argue against war, it is therefore the Israel lobby that needs to be confronted.

Shamus Cooke says that strategists “such as the Project for a New American Century” (the neo-cons who dominated the Bush II administration) are “the ‘vanguard’ of American capitalism, and their geopolitical outlook is firmly rooted in the economic interests of the corporations that most benefit from overseas investing.”

I would say, rather, that PNAC, and its various reincarnations, is a cohort of fanatically pro-Israel strategists aspiring to control U.S. foreign policy by claiming to promote the interests of a capitalist class which has no unified strategic outlook of its own.  There is no reason for American capitalism, which has interests on all continents, to focus so single-mindedly, and so aggressively, on the Middle East.  The United States needs Middle Eastern oil less than those countries need to sell it. Many sectors of Western capitalism actually suffer from the sanctions imposed on a country like Iran. The focus on the alleged Iranian “threat” serves only to maintain Israel’s status as sole nuclear power dominating the Middle East, backed up by the United States.

To oppose war, it is necessary to oppose those who advocate it.  And that is the Israel lobby, not “capitalism”.  Why is there so much more reluctance to criticize the Israel lobby than to criticize capitalism?  These days, criticism of capitalism is accepted even in mainstream media.  But criticism of capitalism has never stopped a war.

Defeating the Israel lobby and changing U.S. policy in the Middle East from a policy of bullying, sanctions and bombing to a policy of diplomacy and compromise would not put an end to capitalism, to the military-industrial complex or to U.S. imperialism.  But such a victory would be a good basis for going on to oppose the huge network of overseas U.S. military bases, the encircling of Russia and China, the exploitation of Africa and any return to the traditional imperialist treatment of Latin America.

The political fight against the Israel lobby is not the only campaign for peace, but it is the one that is most urgently necessary today.

Diana Johnstone can be reached at diana.josto@yahoo.fr

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail