Israelism, Antisemitism, and U.S. Military Spending

“Israelism” is a new word coined to describe “one-sided propaganda about Palestinians that American Jews and others have been indoctrinated with regarding the Israeli occupation, apartheid, and other dehumanizing policies.”[1]Representatives Elisa Stefanik and Virginia Foxx, as well as other MAGA Republicans, recently utilized Israelism to accuse the presidents of Harvard, M.I.T., and the University of Pennsylvania of antisemitism. They had ostensibly permitted pro-Palestinian groups to call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war and allowed them to utilize the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free.” This supposedly demonstrated that the students were advocating “genocidal antisemitism.”

The liberal presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard resigned under the pressure of this Israelism. Bizarrely, just weeks before the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel (as reported by The Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel) Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu presented slides to the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, 2023, using a “Greater Land of Israel” map embracing all the territory―one might say from the river to the sea― with Gaza and the West Bank fully absorbed into Israel. No MAGA Republicans have criticized Netanyahu for the land acquisitions implicit in this re-envisioned geography negating Palestinian self-governance―and which might have been taken to foreshadow the now all-too-real Israeli genocide there―with 30 thousand Palestinians dead (and this number still mounting). Such is the caprice of Israelism.

As I write this, Virginia Foxx and her Congressional committee are summoning Harvard back again.[2] The deceptive magic of Israelism is its hypothetical “critique,” permitting MAGA supporters to charge antisemitism at any juncture that suits them when defending Israel against accusations of war crimes, while simultaneously allowing right-wingers to cover their own neofascist views―against Jews, liberals, and radicals, whom they tend to demean as cultural Marxists. We have yet to see MAGA Republicans criticize the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, chanting “Jews Shall Not Replace Us.”  When the right-wing charges antisemitism, the accusation rings hollow.

The Historical Role of U.S. and British Antisemitism

In reality, tens of thousands of Palestinians today have paid with their lives for the history of U.S. and British antisemitism, which both turned away from U.S. shores Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and refused to resettle Europe’s relatively small Jewish population as a group within U.S. borders. A review of the history of the creation of Israel[3] makes clear that the legally segregated, white supremacist U.S.A. fused its post-war political interests and pressure with the de facto and de jure remnants of British military power (and Soviet acquiescence) to see an Israeli state imposed upon the Palestinian population of the so-called Holy Land. U.S. and British policies created a colonial settler state to occupy what had been Palestinian land―catastrophically displacing Palestinians from their homes and property by force of arms.

At the same time, U.S. intelligence agencies were relocating to U.S. shores ex-Nazis who could enhance the military’s efforts at rocket building―like former S.S. officer Wernher von Braun, lionized to the nation’s youth as the father of the U.S. space program, with buildings and symposia named after him to this day at Huntsville, Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center. For practical advice on anti-communist suppression, the C.I.A. protected and paid a notorious Nazi war criminal rather than bringing him to justice. This was Klaus Barbi, the butcher of Lyon, who personally participated in the death and deportation of thousands of Jews and resistance fighters in France.[4] The heir to the Imperial German arms-making dynasty, Alfred Krupp, though convicted of war crimes for having used approximately 100,000 forced laborers at Auschwitz as part of his industrial empire, would see his sentence commuted by U.S. authorities only a few years later in 1951.[5]  Krupp’s property was restored to him. In 1974 the Alfred Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation established research foundations at Harvard and Stanford.[6]

Bonanza for Arms Makers As U.S. Military Budget Surges[7]

Bi-partisan support for a new defense buildup by the U.S. in 2021 meant that the Pentagon received $25 billion above what President Biden requested; in 2022 this rose to $45 billion more than the White House’s request―$858 billion in all―after Russia invaded Ukraine.[8] This ensured that the military budget had the capacity to extend massive military expenditures beyond the Ukraine War even if it could not have been foreseen that this would come to mean underwriting Israel’s colossal act of collective retribution against the people of Gaza in response to the deadly Hamas offensive of Oct 7, 2023. In our grotesque world, which has now seen the sacrifice of civilians murdered by the tens of thousands and ceasefires vetoed by the U.S. in the UN, the fuller cost of war―in terms of lives lost, government lies and illegalities―is regularly suppressed. The U.S. warmakers’ budget continues as a bi-partisan mechanism to subsidize owners of the U.S. military-industrial complex.[9]  Antisemitism is real. So also is a militarist Israelism―supporting the Israeli genocide while falsely charging left-leaning antiwar forces with anti-Jewish bias.

It is well known that MAGA Republicans are delaying U.S. military expenditures earmarked for both Ukraine and Israel.  This is a policy debate about where and when to utilize U.S. military resources and power, not about levels of military might at the disposal of government. In lieu of a conclusion, let it be noted here that suicide by active-duty U.S. soldiers and veterans has of late been even deadlier than combat—twenty a day in the six years from 2013-2019.[10] The U.S. military denies that its suicide rates are higher than a non-military population of the same age and gender demographics, and it may be so. Let us not forget the extraordinary self-immolation of active duty Airman Aaron Bushnell this week (February 25, 2024) in front of the White House in an extreme act of protest “to make the point against the indifference of the world in the face of the Israeli genocide in Gaza.”[11]  It was a protest against Israelism.


[1] See, Ed Rampell, “Israelism Bucks Blind Faith in Israeli Occupation, Apartheid, and ‘the Jewish Disneyland’ The Counter-Narrative,” CounterPunch February 11, 2024.

See also Amy Goodman, “New Film [Israelism] Examines US Jews’ Growing Rejection of Israel’s Occupation” Democracy Now! Reprinted in Truthout, January 22, 2024.

[2] Anemona Hartocollis, “House Committee Subpoenas Harvard for Documents Relating to Antisemitism” The New York Times, February 16, 2024.

[3] See the Emily Bazelon, ed., “The Road to 1948: How the decisions that led to the founding of Israel left the region in a state of eternal conflict,” The New York Times Magazine, February 18, 2024.

[4] Brendan Murphy, The Butcher of Lyon: The Story of Infamous Nazi Klaus Barbie (New York: Empire Books, 1983).

Bill Moyers, The Secret Government: Constitution in Crisis, (Santa Ana, CA: Seven Locks Press, 1990).

[5] Lev Golinken, “Stanford, Harvard and NASA Still Honor a Nazi Past,” The New York Times, December 16, 2022.  A22

[6] Golinken, op, cit. NB: MAGA Republican Elisa Stefanik accused Harvard and UPenn of permitting Palestinian protesters to engage in “genocidal antisemitism.”

[7] Eric Lipton, Michael Crowley and John Ismay, “Bonanza for Arms Makers As Military Budget Surges,” The New York Times, December 18, 2022. A1

[8]  Ibid.

[9] Seymour Melman, Pentagon Capitalism: The Political-Economy of War. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.

Seymour Melman, The Permanent War Economy. (New York: Simon & Schuster 1985).

Sen. Bernie Sanders, “Defense Contractors are Bilking the American People,” op-ed in The Atlantic, February 27, 2024.

[10] Carol Giacomo, “Suicide Has Been Deadlier than Combat for the Military” The New York Times, November 1, 2019.

[11] Alfred de Zayas, “U.S. Airman Aaron Bushnell’s Self Immolation Outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.,” CounterPunch, February 27, 2024.

Charles Reitz is a radical social and political philosopher who regularly contributes to the ongoing discussion and development of critical social theory and critical pedagogy. In 2019 his book “Ecology and Revolution: Herbert Marcuse and the Challenge of a New World System Today” was published by Routledge.