The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down

Israeli West Bank barrier separating Israel and the West Bank – Public Domain

Stephen Gowans has done remarkable work in previous writings on North Korea, and on the Imperialist U.S. in its long war on Syria (not coincidentally the title of his last book). He is often described as Brown in Red, or a Stalinist — both of which are fine with me since most so called Stalinist journalists and historians have emerged over time as the most reliable. Gowans also has made curiously reactionary arguments on topics like immigration (see his defense of Andrea Nagel’s “The Left Case Against Open Borders” in American Affairs Journal). It is useful to keep in mind an author’s political agenda as well as their desire to balance their own biases. That said, Gowans has consistently been a invaluable chronicler of contemporary events and history.

Gowans’ has a new book out, Israel:  A Beachhead in the Middle East. And it is most welcome in a period of growing global anti-semitism, perhaps especially, but certainly most disturbingly, on the left. For Israel has managed its narrative with great skill and acumen, and as Gowans notes (and everyone from Adorno to Carlo Ginzburg also noted) *antisemitism* is a political tool of the right. And in the Israeli management of message and spin, in its sixty some year manufacturing of an origin mythology, the current revelations of Israeli state and settler violence has been used to prop up the most fascistic of antisemitic tropes. And because antisemitism is, again, a right tool, the greatest beneficiary of this new antisemtism is, of course, Israel itself.

Look no further than Bolsanaro today in Brazil, a rabid Zionist, and fascist admirer of Hitler to grasp the degree of contradiction at work. Israel, of course, Gowans’ points out, has always gravitated toward the far right — from helping the apartheid leadership in South Africa to its semi-covert association with Saudi Arabia. Where once the Israeli narrative featured leftish Kitbutzen images of collectivity, today U.S. police departments visit Israel to learn the latest in draconian punishment skills and counter insurgency techniques. Cops wear Mossad t-shirts purchased during their tax payer paid educational visits to Tel Aviv.

Stephen Gowans book is a concise and pertinent de-mythologizing of Zionist propaganda, from early Zionists and founders, to the fascist global right leadership at present.

According to Herzl, half of the members of revolutionary parties in Russia prior to 1917 were Jews. “Between 1930 and the end of the Second World War, Jews made up almost half of the membership of the Communist Party of the United States,” wrote Beit-Hallahmi. He added: “The majority of American whites who took part in the civil rights struggle of the early 1960s were Jewish. They made up two-thirds of the Freedom Riders in the [US] South in 1961, and between one-half and two-thirds of the volunteers in the Mississippi Summer of 1964. Even in communist parties in the Arab countries of Egypt and Iraq, Jews were founders and leaders. Jews are still overrepresented in radical left-wing groups all over the world.” Jews gravitated to the most radical left-wing movements because they were often rejected by those moderate parts of the political Left that were more acceptable to the established order. Anti-Semitism could be found here and there in the socialist movement, but it was virtually absent among communists.

I can remember that most communists I knew as a youth, when I first gravitated toward leftist causes, were Jews. My first exposure to civil rights activism was through Jews. This book reminded me how far away that seems today. And in Gowans’ opening chapters can be found penetrating and clear blue prints for the various shifting sands of political ideology at work in the U.S. right now — and how it relates to Israel, the Iron Fist for US interests in the Middle East. And historical context is provided on aspects of antisemitism as it metastasized prior to WW2 …

The US industrialist Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor company, was an early champion of the Judeo-Bolshevik theory, and an inspiration for Hitler and other Nazi leaders. Ford founded a newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, to propagate his ideas about ‘the international Jew’ and to mobilize opposition to revolutionary movements as instruments of a Jewish conspiracy. Ford assembled his major newspaper articles into a volume titled The International Jew, locating the source of MarxistLeninist internationalism in the absent ethnic-national affiliations of rootless Jewry. SS leader Heinrich Himmler credited his understanding of the ‘the Jewish danger’ to his reading of Ford’s book.

Mark Sykes (of Sykes-Picot), or Robert de Caix, French official colonial administrator in Syria, and Hitler of course, as well as Churchill, and Balfour, the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson — all saw international Jewry as a global threat to Christian capital and progress and decency (meaning the white ruling class). And of course …

Alan Dulles, a fervent anti-communist who, along with his brother, John Foster Dulles, would plot anti-Soviet strategy as leaders respectively of the post World War II CIA and US State Department, was a US diplomat in Europe when The Jewish Peril was published. Dulles found the alleged Jewish conspiracy so compelling that he sent “a coded report about the secret ‘Jewish’ plot back to his superiors in Washington.

And still, all supported Zionism. As do the Evangelical extremists in the Trump administration (Pompeo, Pence, Perry et al) and the secular sympathizers and casual antisemites like John Bolton. The changing face of Israeli Zionist self representation can be clocked from the Nation-State Law, the Embassy move to Jerusalem, to the Golan Heights recognition – the latter clearly mediated by Genie Oil, who has the drilling rights to the Heights, and on whose board sit Dick Cheney, Larry Summers, Bill Richardson, and Mary Landrieu. And that today Israel sees Operation Protective Edge — where two thousand plus Palestinians were slaughtered in Gaza — as an advert rather than a war crime speaks to rightward shift around the planet as much as it does to Zionist thinking.

Antisemitism was, and still is, the common mental property of the western establishment. Only today, under new cosmetic cover. Gowans’ book is also a useful antidote to the anti Arab and muslim bigotry one can trace both to Zionist founder Herzl, and today to Netanyahu and his politically expedient cooperation with the far far right parties of Zionism (there are no left parties, in fact) — to the bigotry and racism which finds expression so disturbingly in Hollywood entertainment products, and news…that which sees Arabs as barbarians and Zionists as the sole outpost of civilization and Enlightenment values in the middle east (never mind most politically right early Zionist leaders and theoreticians were actually anti Enlightenment and more given to royalism, hyper nationalism, a privileging of myth over reason, and a cynical de facto Orientalism).

The wag the dog anti-semitic trope — one increasingly popular on the LaRouche left and the anarchist pseudo left today, and on the libertarian right, is explained pretty succinctly by Gowans here….

Advocates of the view that Israel wields enormous influence over US Middle East policy cite as evidence US policy itself: what Washington does in the Middle East, they say, is injurious to the interests of the United States. At the same time, it is helpful to Israel. Therefore, it must be true that Israel and the ‘Jewish lobby’ have hijacked US Middle East policy to obtain Israeli benefits at US expense. It would hold therefore that we shouldn’t blame Washington for the frightful state of the Middle East; we should blame the self-declared Jewish state. All of this, however, rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of whose interests US foreign policy serves. It is assumed that when decision-makers set policy that they are guided by the common interests of US citizens. The evidence, however, points in a different direction. Rather than taking the common interests of US citizens into account, policy-makers pay special attention to the needs of corporate America. US Middle East policy may be at odds with US interests, where US interests are equated to the common interests of Americans, but it is not at odds with corporate America`s interests. What Washington does in the Middle East benefits US investors to a high degree. US Middle East policy has delivered enormous benefits to US oil companies, for which the Persian Gulf is a leading source of ‘black gold.’ US Middle East policy has also delivered enormous benefits to US arms manufacturers, who act as armorers to the Arab world’s imposed leaders, and to US banks, in whose accounts the proceeds of Middle East oil sales are deposited.

The mandate for Israel has been to keep Arabs down, and so they have, from Nasser to Qadaffi to now, in process, Assad. Antipathy to Pan-Arab leadership of any sort is the first ideological and practical point of convergence for US and Israeli sensibilities. The United States is also acutely aware that it must keep Israel dependent on its support. This is the tension that never leaves the U.S. and Israeli relationship. Gowans’ traces all of these threads from the Suez crises to the Iran/Iraq war to African wars of independence. All helps explain Israeli gravitation away from socialist movements of any kind, preferring instead the fascist opposition in Venezuela for example, or U.S. interests in Syria or with Iran.

The book is a tantalizing historical read, and a huge and valuable resource text, both. It is a trustworthy overview of the role of the Zionist project as it is operative today.

At the end of the book Gowans writes in summation…

But democracy is the last thing either Zionists or Wall Street want. What these allied forces desire is for the people of the Middle East to cede their interests and surrender their rights. Zionists want Arabs to accede to the theft of their land (what’s formally called recognizing Israel’s right to exist) and Wall Street wants them to accede to the theft of their markets, their labor, and above all, their oil (what’s informally called accepting US ‘leadership.’) .


John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. Plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. Taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. A collection of plays, Sea of Cortez & Other Plays was published in 1999, and his book on aesthetics, Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest was published by Mimesis International in 2016.