Aletho News


Norman Finkelstein and the Master Race, Chosen People Disease

By Michael Smith | Legalienate | August 24, 2014

Norman Finkelstein’s July 30, 2014 appearance at Red Emmma’s bookstore in Baltimore was recently broadcast on C-SPAN. In front of a large and highly engaged audience Finkelstein proved himself adept at discussing the legal and moral implications of Israel’s ongoing slaughter in the Gaza Strip. As usual, he was highly informative, passionately articulate, and fully committed to achieving peace in Palestine – so long as it doesn’t require the abolition of a Jewish state.

But what if it does?

Finkelstein took several shots at BDS activists (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) and any notion of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which he denounced as supremely unrealistic.

He actually went further, suggesting it was a form of lunacy, lacking backing from even a single member state of the United Nations. A one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, he said, would be like proposing a resolution to U.S. immigration problems by eliminating the border with Mexico.

How appropriate is this analogy? Does the U.S. Constitution reserve citizenship to WASPs, as Israel does to Jews, thus excluding Mexicans by definition? Are Mexicans an actual or potential majority of a combined U.S.-Mexico, as Palestinians would be in Palestine if Palestinian exiles in Lebanon, Jordan, and around the world were allowed to come home? If Mexicans outnumbered the overwhelmingly white American middle class, and American citizenship were based on being a white Christian, would it really be reasonable to dismiss calls for a single-state democratic solution to this as a form of lunacy? This appears to be what Finkelstein is asking us to believe.

Finkelstein was particularly critical of BDS basing its campaign on international law, while at the same time dismissing the legitimacy of Israel, in spite of the fact that Israel is a legal member state of the United Nations. You can’t have it both ways, he said; either you favor international law in its entirety or you don’t really favor it.

Good point. So how does a two-state solution envision the implementation of the Palestinian right of return, as called for under international law? The answer is, it doesn’t. (Finkelstein side-stepped a question about how a two-state solution would be just to Palestinians, on the basis that the question was complicated, as it surely is, but so what? The entire issue is complicated.) No matter how borders are drawn to accommodate a two-state diplomatic settlement, many Palestinians with legal deeds to homes in pre-1948 Palestine will be permanently dispossessed, which outcome dissident professor Noam Chomsky (whose views on this topic parallel Finkelstein’s) says has to be accepted as “realistic,” since Israel will never allow complete implementation of the Palestinian right of return. Finkelstein, too, said that Israel would “never accept” a one-state solution, so it’s best to not even entertain the notion.

In other words, both Finkelstein and Chomsky take the position that what Israel refuses to accept should define the limits of a Middle East “peace.” The only problem with this stance is that Israeli leaders are certifiably insane even by the dismal standards of contemporary international politics, and cannot envision “peace” apart from total Israeli domination of the entire Middle East.

What these learned professors cannot seem to fathom is that a Jewish state, no matter how decent, humane, and democratic to Jews, is a massive obscenity to Palestinians on whose land the state is constructed, and until this fact becomes the basis for peace negotiations, there is no possibility of Middle East peace, now or ever.

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Planning for the Future of the BDS Movement

By Lawrence Davidson | To the Point Analyses | February 24, 2014

Part I – Norman Finkelstein’s Predictions

Much has been made of the rising influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Indeed, there is a growing sense that the boycott power of civil society, particularly as it is manifesting itself in Europe, is on track to repeat history—to do to Israel what it once did to South Africa. Simultaneously, there is the persisting assumption that the latest effort at negotiating a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now being managed by Secretary of State Kerry, will go down the same ignoble path as all its predecessors.

However, not everyone agrees with this. In an interview given to the New Left Project, posted on-line on 11 January 2014, Norman Finkelstein (a well published critic of Israel) presents a different scenario. Finkelstein firmly believes that Kerry’s efforts will bear fruit and thus, before the end of President Obama’s term in office, Israel and the frankly unrepresentative Palestine Authority (PA) will come to terms.

Finkelstein explains that the classic debate over Israel’s illegal settlement blocs is over and, on this issue, Israel has won. It will be allowed to absorb the major settlements and thus render any Palestinian entity geographically dubious. The right of return so dear to Palestinian refugees will also be abandoned by the PA.

As a consequence, what is now being “negotiated” are the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” and the final status of the Jordan Valley. Finkelstein predicts that the first issue will be solved by describing Israel as “the state of the Jewish people and its citizens,” thus affording alleged legal protection to Arab-Israelis, and correspondingly, Palestine will become “the state of Palestinians and its citizens.” As to the Jordan Valley, Israel will slowly withdraw from the area. Finkelstein’s comment on this is that “Israel is adept at ‘conceding’ things to which it has no title in the first place.”

Finkelstein describes the “Palestinian leadership” as “irredeemably corrupt, incompetent and stupid.” He is only slightly kinder in his description of “Palestinian supporters abroad,” who, he says, are “not acting smartly.” He discounts boycott achievements in the U.S. and believes that those in Europe should be thought of as pressure tactics in support of Kerry’s efforts. Palestinian solidarity groups “carry on as if the Kerry process is a meaningless sideshow, something that can safely be ignored.” He thinks that this is a big mistake and that the possibility of real Palestinian self-determination will be gone before these supporters know what has hit them.

Part II – What If He Is Right?

Whatever one might think of Norman Finkelstein and his prognostications, it would be wise for those supporting BDS and Palestinian rights to  consider how they might react if, against all odds, Secretary of State Kerry succeeds. So let’s think about this.

Such a settlement (at least as described by Finkelstein) would transform a good part of the West Bank’s occupied territory into “sovereign” Israeli land and set up a truncated Palestinian entity to which Palestinian refugees could “return.” Some might question whether there would remain a rationale for continuing to boycott Israel. The BDS movement could lose steam, at least temporarily. However, would it and its goals dissipate all together?

Probably not. What would ultimately save the BDS movement is Israel’s leadership itself, driven as they are by the inherently racist nature of the Zionist ideology. In other words, Israel’s policy makers can be safely relied upon to be true to character. Take the “politically moderate” finance minister Ya’ir Lapid ,who recently told an Israeli audience, “the issue [is] we need to get rid of the Palestinians. It threatens us, it chokes us.” As a result of this commonly shared attitude, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (and other non-Jews such as asylum seekers from East Africa) within Israel’s territory will continue apace. To put it another way, the 67-year-old effort to harass most non-Jewish citizens and residents out of the country will greatly intensify. The BDS campaign conducted against South Africa was a reaction against that society’s racist culture and policies. There is no reason why a powerful BDS movement cannot be sustained against Israel on the same basis.

Part III – What If He Is Wrong?

However, Norman Finkelstein may be wrong. It might be that the well-informed journalist Jonathan Cook is correct when he observes that “despite outward signs … [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu [is] far from ready to compromise.” Cook claims that Netanyahu has “the bulk of the Israeli public behind him. … But most importantly he has a large chunk of the Israel’s security and economic establishment on his side too.” As a result, “These negotiations may not lead to an agreement, but they will mark a historic turning-point nonetheless. The delegitimization of Israel is truly under way, and the party doing most of the damage is the Israeli leadership itself.”

Part IV – The Fate of the Movement

I think that the BDS movement, and more generally the movement for Palestinian rights, should be able to survive either way. If Cook is right, not only survival but rapid growth of the movement can be expected. If Finkelstein is correct, the situation will prove more complicated. Cook is certainly right about one thing: we are at a crossroads.  Where exactly the situation might lead us is not as clear as either he or Finkelstein make it out. This means that those who support the Palestinians no matter in what format should think about these possibilities. There is as yet lead time to formulate suitable contingencies. Let’s make the most of it.

February 24, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Gatekeeping for Zion

By Philip Giraldi | America-Hijacked | May 9, 2013

People like myself who are either paleoconservatives or libertarians generally base their opposition to Israel and its Lobby on the costs of the de facto alliance, both financial and in terms of the wars and political chaos it has triggered. We try to demonstrate how damage to rule of law and actual U.S. interests has been a byproduct of the relationship and seek to explain what a sane U.S. foreign policy might actually look like, end of story. But it is a different sensibility coming from the more humanitarian inclined political left of the spectrum, which one would assume to have a natural inclination to oppose purveyors of oppression and human suffering. With that in mind, I would observe it is remarkable how ineffective the left has been in mobilizing any serious opposition to Israel’s policies.

There is a kind of groupthink that might provide an explanation for the lack of results in spite of what sometimes appears to be frenzied activity on the part of the cluster of liberal groups that focus on the Middle East. Gatherings to “Expose AIPAC” often focus on strategy and training, hardly discussing or challenging the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at all. They also frequently fail to confront the full array of predominantly Jewish groups actively promoting Israel to include The Hudson Institute, WINEP, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, MEMRI, the American Enterprise Institute’s foreign policy wing, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The plethora of well-resourced and actively engaged Jewish groups involved in foreign policy and more particularly Israel promotion is a fact of life inside the Beltway and a critical element supporting the interventionist narrative in spite of the country as a whole becoming decidedly war weary.

At the same time, most American Jews are actually either cool or even hostile to the policies of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Peter Beinart has called for a boycott of goods produced in the Israeli settlements while Jeffrey Goldberg has denounced a coalition partner in Netanyahu’s government, writing “The Jewish Home party advances an ideology that will bring about the destruction (the self-destruction) of Israel.” This reaction to the Israeli drift rightwards politically speaking probably explains why most organizations on the political left that are critical of Israel are themselves led by American Jews and, to their credit, they are very outspoken regarding Israel’s human rights violations and its policies towards the Palestinians. But it sometimes seems that they are restrained in their critiques, something that might be attributed to what could be referred to as Jewish identity politics. Instead of biting the bullet and confronting the fact that it is leading Jewish organizations and their in-the-pocket politicians that have quite plausibly been the sine qua non in unleashing a series of actual and impending wars against the Muslim world, they instead sometimes serve as gatekeepers to frame and divert an uncomfortable truth while looking for alternative explanations.

Part of the problem is that even though major Jewish organizations’ support of interventionism represents what is only a minority opinion among Americans in general, they pretend to represent everyone who is Jewish and have successfully sold that canard to both congress and the media. And make no mistake, it is the financial and political muscle of Jewish groups like Anti-Defamation League, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, The American Jewish Committee, and the AIPAC that have given the green light to the hard line Israeli governments that have done so much damage to U.S. interests over the past decade. Christian Zionists are highly visible and are frequently cited to demonstrate the diversity of the Israeli Lobby, but they are largely irrelevant in terms of the actual dynamics of the pro-Israel effort. The reality is that no other national lobby can gather 13,000 of the faithful to its convention and count on the enthusiastic presence of numerous politicians from both parties as AIPAC does every year. But in spite of the quite visible power of the Jewish organizations it is sometimes more convenient and less troubling to look instead for other reasons to explain Tel Aviv’s misbehavior.

Progressives who are nervous about mentioning the shameless politicking of Jewish organizations frequently parrot what I call the Noam Chomsky rationalization, engaging actively in criticizing Israeli behavior while at the same time blaming the Middle East farrago on outside forces like American imperialism, capitalism, or oil. This approach largely exonerates Israel from actual blame for what it does and it also by extension minimizes the role of the Jewish groups that constitute the core of the pro-Israel lobby because it is claimed that Washington drives the Israeli government’s behavior based on its own self-interest not vice versa. As a result, the critics seldom question the legitimacy of the self-defined Jewish state and they are sometimes reluctant to support any measures that would actually do damage to Israel and its perceived interests.

Norman Finkelstein, a reliable progressive critic of Israeli actions, is of the Chomsky persuasion. He believes that the United States would have attacked Iraq anyway based on its own interests whether or not the fervently pro-Israel neocons had occupied key positions in the Pentagon, National Security Council, and White House. Finkelstein, in an article on the Israel Lobby, maintains that “fundamental U.S. policy in the Middle East hasn’t been affected by the Lobby,” rejects the view that Israel is a liability for U.S. national interests and states instead that it is a “unique and irreplaceable American asset.” He describes American Jewish elites as only “’pro’ an Israel that is useful to the U.S.” He insists that the neocons do not “generally have a primary allegiance to Israel [or] in fact, any allegiance to Israel.” The evidence, however, suggests otherwise: even agreeing that the Iraq war had a number of godfathers, the folks in the Pentagon and White House who cooked the books and led the charge had extremely well documented strong personal and even financial ties to Israel, so much so that several of them were accused of passing classified information to the Israeli Embassy.

The shaping of the narrative to minimize the role of organizations that are demonstrably Jewish – albeit unrepresentative of Jewish opinion in America -has also been very effective in some media circles. An April 2007 ninety minute presentation on PBS’s Frontpage with Bill Moyers “Buying the War,” a critical look at the genesis of the Iraq invasion, did not mention Israel’s supporters even once. And one only has to consider the recent Obama trip to Israel as well as the interrogation at the Chuck Hagel nomination, which was driven by organizations like AIPAC from behind the scenes, to realize that the United States government is no free agent when it comes to Middle Eastern policy. Ignoring the dominant role of “Jewish leaders” and the well-funded organizations that they head which falsely pretend to represent their entire community is a convenient obfuscation if one does not want to address causality, a bit like being concerned about global warming without looking at the actual science.

President Obama recognizes the power represented by Jewish groups acting as a cohesive and focused political entity when he meets with them collectively in the White House, so why the reluctance in recognizing and confronting their persistent pro-war, pro-intervention agenda? At a March 7th session, shortly before his trip to Israel, Obama met with Alan Solow, Lee Rosenberg and Michael Kassen of AIPAC; Barry Curtiss-Lusher of the Anti-Defamation League; David Harris of the American Jewish Committee; Jerry Silverman of Jewish Federations of North America; Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz; former Congressman Robert Wexler; Dan Mariaschin of B’nai B’rith; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street; and Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Admittedly the linking of Jewish organizations’ easy access to policymakers with their possible role in launching a string of failed wars in Asia and still more in the offing on behalf of Israel makes many people uncomfortable because it invites the dual loyalty critique and even more extreme commentary that is ultimately racist in nature, but there you have it. The president knows who is pulling his strings and so should the rest of us.

Americans can either confront the ugly realities of what has been going on for the past twelve years or they can pretend that what they are seeing is not really there. The gatekeepers are understandably concerned lest Washington’s next war be blamed on American Jews so it is far better to suggest against all evidence that Israel is a pawn of American imperialism or that recent wars have been about oil or capitalist exploitation. The reality is that if progressives (and the rest of us) really want to stop a proxy war against Syria followed by a catastrophic conflict with Iran we have to take the blinkers off and be willing to confront Jewish groups like AIPAC and the ADL directly and persistently.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Bed With Bibi

By Gilad Atzmon | May 7, 2013

Once again we see a familiar pattern: our united ‘progressives’ — a veritable synagogue, a collective of great humanists — lend their support to the oppressed.  This time it is the ‘Syrian people’ whom they wish to liberate and their enemy is obviously Bashar Al-Assad.

It is a pattern we know only too well by now. Ahead of the ‘War Against Terror’ we witnessed years of intensive progressive Feminist and Gay rights groups campaigning for women’s rights in Afghanistan.  The Progressive type also disapproves of the current state of the Iranian revolution. Too often he or she would insist that we must liberate the Iranians.  This week, once again, we see a united front made by Tariq Ali, Ilan Pappe, Fredric Jameson, Norman Finkelstein and other very good people. They clearly want us to ‘liberate the Syrians’.

They campaign openly to topple Bashar al-Asad’s regime.  They call the ‘people of the world’ to pressure the Syrian regime to end its oppression of and war on the ‘Syrian people.’ “We demand,” they say, that Bashar al-Asad leave immediately without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.”

So here we are. Ali, Jameson, Pappe, Finelstein & Co, in light of recent Israeli attacks on Syria, will you be kind enough, gentlemen, to tell us whom you support? Is it Assad or Netanyahu you side with?

One may wonder how it can happen that our progressives, in spite of their good will and humanist credentials, have managed once again to end up in bed with Bibi?

The answer is actually embarrassingly simple. The progressive philosophy is the latest and most advanced form of ideological choseness. Calling yourself a progressive obviously entails that someone else must be  a ‘reactionary’. It is a self-appointed elitist standpoint that is inherently intolerant and supremacist.

Progressiveness is a precept devoted to the Tikun Olam (fixing the universe) ideology.  It is premised  on the idea that those who uphold progressive ideas ‘know better.’  They know what is right and who is wrong. The Progressive knows how to differentiate between the Kosher and the Taref.  The progressive voices in this case  somehow turn a blind eye to the embarrassing fact that it is actually the Syrian army, largely Sunnis, that is fighting the so-called ‘Syrian rebels’ who are a motley gathering of foreign mercenaries.

Perhaps our progressive interventionists could do with reading Robert Fisk more often — after all, Fisk may as well be the only reliable English-speaking reporter in the region. “The word ‘democracy’ and the name of Assad do not blend very well in much of Syria.” Fisk reports, but he continues,   “I rather think that the soldiers of what is officially called the Syrian Arab Army are fighting for Syria rather than Assad. But fighting they are and maybe, for now, they are winning an unwinnable war.”

Bearing that in mind, I would expect progressive intellectuals, amongst them respected historians and political scientists, to be slightly more sophisticated and ponder a bit more before providing Israel with a moral green light to launch a new global conflict.

I would tend to believe that it is about time our progressive humanists engaged in a preliminary ethical investigation. They should find out, once and for all, what it is that constitutes moral grounds for any form of intervention. I believe that before you preach ‘Tikun Olam’ and  claim to ‘fix the world’ in the name of  the usually cited ‘civil society’ and ‘international law,’  you may want to consider fixing yourselves first.

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on In Bed With Bibi

Chomsky Acknowledges the Neocons as the Dominant Force in Pushing for Iraq War

By Stephen J. Sniegoski | The Passionate Attachment | March 7, 2012

Thanks to the efforts of the indefatigable James Morris, a seeming transformation of the view of the illustrious Noam Chomsky was revealed, which, if not equivalent to the change that Saul of Tarsus underwent while on the road to Damascus, was significant nonetheless. Morris seems to have a knack for ferreting out the unknown views of the famous, as was illustrated in his 2010 email exchange with General David Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command, in which he was able to reveal the latter’s close relationship with neocon Max Boot and his ardent desire to propitiate the pro-Zionist Jewish community at a time when it was generally thought that Petraeus was critical of the negative effects of the intimate U.S.-Israeli relationship on America’s position in the Middle East.

The Chomsky revelation took place while the latter was a guest on Phil Tourney’s “Your Voice Counts” program on Republic Broadcasting Network from 2:00 pm to 3:00pm Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, February 24, 2013. While Chomsky is a strong and very knowledgeable critic of Israel, he also has been (at least, was before this program) a stringent critic of the idea that the neocons have any significant impact on American Middle East policy. Rather, he presents a somewhat nebulous, quasi-monolithic, corporate elite, which includes the oil interests, as determining American policy in that region—as it does everywhere else in the globe—for its own economic interests. In what has been Chomsky’s view, Israel only serves as an instrument for American imperialism; that it too might benefit from American policies is, presumably, only an incidental by-product.

Chomsky was quite impressive on the program as he demonstrated extensive knowledge of the USS Liberty issue, which is a major issue of the program, since Tourney was a seaman on that ill-fated ship that was deliberately attacked by Israeli planes and gunboats during the Six Day War in June 1967, causing the deaths of 34 U.S. seamen and wounding 171 others out of a crew of 297.

Chomsky included an injection of his standard theme that Israel became a valuable strategic asset to the United States with the 1967 war when it wrecked Nasser and secular Arab nationalism in general, thus aiding America’s conservative client states, such as Saudi Arabia.

Listener phone calls were restricted to the last 15 minutes. Consequently, James Morris wasn’t able to get on the program until the last five minutes when he tried to get Chomsky to address the issue of the connection between the neocons and Israel. Morris cited then-Secretary of State Powell’s reference to the “JINSA crowd” (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) as the primary force for the war on Iraq within the Bush Administration. Morris went on to say that the neocons were a leading element of the Israel lobby.

After Morris made these statements, Chomsky amazingly blurted out that he “agreed completely” with him regarding the importance of the neocons—describing the neocons as “tremendously important.” Chomsky acknowledged that the neoconservatives had been the “dominant force” in the Bush administration, and that they had “pushed through” the Iraq war over many objections even from within the government. What Chomsky had said about the importance of the neocons was radically different from his usual portrayal of a monolithic corporatist dominance of U.S. Middle East policy. Chomsky even seemed to agree that the neocons held positions that diverged from those of the traditional foreign policy establishment—Morris had earlier mentioned Scowcroft and Brzezinski as opponents of the neocons.

What Chomsky said pertaining to the neocons being the leading force for the Iraq war is essentially identical to my position in “The Transparent Cabal.” And it is not only the opposite of what it appeared that he used to hold but what his protégé Norman Finkelstein continues to expound, as I discuss in my article, “Norman Finkelstein and Neocon Denial.”

Finkelstein denies that the neocons were a factor in causing the U.S. to go to war—and has nothing to do with my book, describing it as conspiracist—but he does not seem to realize that his position contrasts with that of his mentor. Since the two are quite close, it would seem that Chomsky has not even expressed this new view to Finkelstein in private conversation. When Finkelstein finds out that his mentor holds that the neocons were the “dominant force” for war with Iraq, one wonders if he will then charge him with believing in a conspiracy.

Unfortunately, however, Chomsky still stops far short of the full truth. For in his response to Morris, he went on to maintain that the neocons are different from the Israel lobby—definitely implying, though not explicitly stating, that the neocons are not motivated by the interests of Israel. He quickly put forth two arguments for this contention. First, he claimed that the neocons are simply a mainstream force in American conservatism going back to the Reagan administration. Even if true, this would not necessarily preclude their being biased in favor of Israel. However, it is not true—the neocons did not just fit into existing mainstream conservatism, but altered it to fit their own goals.

As I bring out in “The Transparent Cabal” (with numerous citations from secondary sources, this being a rather conventional view), the neocon movement originated among liberal Democrats, mainly Jewish, who gravitated to the right in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In significant part, this reflected a concern that American liberalism was moving leftward in ways detrimental to Jewish interests. In foreign policy, this involved diminished support by American liberals for Israel—in line with the world left’s support for Third World movements that included the Palestinians—and the liberals’ turn against an anti-Communist foreign policy, as a reaction to the Vietnam imbroglio, at a time when the Soviet Union’s policies were exhibiting discrimination against Soviet Jewry and opposition to Israel in support of its Arab enemies. In opposing what they saw as liberalism’s move to the left, these proto-neoconservatives did not see themselves as becoming conservative, but were dubbed with the moniker “neoconservative” by left-wing social critic Michael Harrington, who intended it as a pejorative term, and the name soon stuck.

Neoconservatives basically wanted to return mainstream American liberalism to the anti-Communist Cold War positions exemplified by President Harry Truman (1945–1953), which had held sway through the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–1969). When this effort failed to achieve success, neocons would turn to Ronald Reagan in the 1980. Despite being newcomers to the conservative camp, neoconservatives were able to find significant places in the Reagan administration, especially in the national security and foreign policy areas, although at less than Cabinet-level status.

Neoconservatives, however, did not become traditional conservatives, but instead altered the content of conservatism to their liking. “The neoconservative impulse,” pro-neocon Murray Friedman maintains in his book “The Neoconservative Revolution,” “was the spontaneous response of a group of liberal intellectuals, mainly Jewish, who sought to shape a perspective of their own while standing apart from more traditional forms of conservatism.”[Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” pp. 39-40]

In domestic policy, neoconservatives supported the modern welfare state, in contrast to the traditional conservatives, who emphasized small government, states’ rights, and relatively unfettered capitalism. Most importantly, they differed significantly from the conservative position on foreign policy. Although the American conservatives of the Cold War era were anti-Communist and pro-military, they harbored a strain of isolationism. Their interventionism was limited largely to fighting Communism, but not to nation-building and the export of democracy, the expressed goals of the neocons. Nor did traditional conservatives view the United States as the policeman of the world. Most significantly, traditional conservatives had never championed Israel.

While traditional conservatives welcomed neoconservatives as allies in their fight against Soviet Communism and domestic liberalism, the neocons in effect acted as a Trojan Horse within conservatism: they managed to secure dominant positions in the conservative political and intellectual movement, and as soon as they gained power, they purged those traditional conservatives who opposed their agenda, particularly as it involved Israel. Support for Israel and its policies had become, and remains, a veritable litmus test for being a member of the multitudinous political action groups and think tanks that comprise the conservative movement.

In his 1996 book, “The Essential Neoconservative Reader,” editor Mark Gerson, a neocon himself who served on the board of directors of the Project for the New American Century, jubilantly observed: “The neoconservatives have so changed conservatism that what we now identify as conservatism is largely what was once neoconservatism. And in so doing, they have defined the way that vast numbers of Americans view their economy, their polity, and their society.” [Quoted in “Transparent Cabal”, p. 42]

While in domestic policy Gerson’s analysis might not be completely accurate, it would seem to be so in US national security policy, as illustrated by the near unanimous Republican opposition in the US Senate to the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense because of his past statements critical of both US all-out support for Israel and its hardline position toward Iran (currently Israel’s foremost enemy) that might lead to war.

Now the fact that Cheney and Rumsfeld may not be motivated by a desire to aid Israel in their support for neocon Middle East policy, the Middle East policies they have supported have been formulated by those who identify with Israel. Since both of them have been closely associated with the neocons, Cheney more so than Rumsfeld, they were undoubtedly influenced by the pro-Israel neocons. Cheney even went so far as to serve on JINSA’s Advisory Board. And JINSA was set up in 1976 to put “the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship first.”

Moreover, as Vice President, Cheney specifically relied on advice from the eminent historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, a right-wing Zionist and one of the neocons’ foremost gurus, who strongly advocated war against Iraq and other Middle Eastern states. (Barton Gellman, “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” p. 231) Chomsky has said that “Bernard Lewis is nothing but a vile propagandist,” and he presumably means a propagandist for Israel.

The influence of ideas per se was not the only factor that likely motivated Cheney. The fact that Cheney and his wife, Lynne, who was with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI—known as “neocon central”), had close personal and professional relations with the neocons also would have predisposed him to give his support to the neoconservatives and their agenda.

The same arguments would apply for Rumsfeld, with one additional one: a war on Iraq would give him the chance to demonstrate the value of his concept of a smaller, mobile, high tech American military. Rumsfeld held that a small, streamlined invasion force would be sufficient to defeat Iraq. As Bob Woodward writes in his book, “State of Denial”: “The Iraq war plan was the chess board on which Rumsfeld would test, develop, expand and modify his ideas about military transformation. And the driving concept was ‘less is more’ – new thinking about a lighter, swifter, smaller force that could do the job better. Rumsfeld’s blitzkrieg would vindicate his leadership of the Pentagon.”[“State of Denial,” p. 82]

For the neocons, Rumsfeld’s approach would not have the drawbacks of the conventional full-scale invasion initially sought by the military brass. The neocons feared that no neighboring country would provide the necessary bases from which to launch such a massive conventional attack, or that during the lengthy time period needed to assemble a large force, diplomacy might avert war or that peace forces in the U.S. might increase their size and political clout and do likewise. In short, it was this convergence on interests between the Rumsfeld and the neocons that made them so supportive of each other in the early years of the George W. Bush administration.

It must be acknowledged that the neocon Middle East war agenda did resonate with both Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s general positions on national security policy, but there is little reason to think that they would have come up with the specifics of the policy, including even the identification of Iraq as the target, if it had not been for their neocon associates, whose policy reflected their close identification with Israel. It should also be pointed out that in Chomsky’s usual presentation of an American foreign policy shaped by the corporate elite, the actual government officials who implemented the policy were not necessarily members of the corporate elite nor motivated by a desire to advance the interests of the corporate elite as opposed to the national interest of the United States. In order for any type of elite to be successful, it is essential that it attract significant numbers of people outside of itself, which Chomsky himself has discussed at length regarding the corporate elite. This is also the very purpose of the neoconservative network and the information that it disseminates.

Acknowledging as much as he did, it is hard to see how Chomsky can fail to discern that the neocons identify with Israel. The evidence is overwhelming. The following are a few examples of this connection.

The effort to prevent Chuck Hagel from becoming the Secretary of Defense has been spearheaded by the Emergency Committee for Israel, the creation of which in 2010 was in large part the work of leading neocon, Bill Kristol, and which claims “to provide citizens with the facts they need to be sure that their public officials are supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.” As Bill Kristol states: “We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community.” Kristol had co-founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which promoted the war on Iraq. Kristol’s father, the late Irving Kristol, a godfather of neoconservatism, is noted for his identification with Israel. In 1973, he said: “Jews don’t like big military budgets. But it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States . . . American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel.” [Congress Bi-Weekly (1973), published by the American Jewish Congress]

Noah Pollak, a contributor to “Commentary” magazine, is the Emergency Committee’s executive director and, while living in Israel for two years, was an assistant editor at the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center.

Eliot Cohen, a veteran neocon, was a founding signatory of the Project for the New American Century and advised the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He coined the term “World War IV” for the war on terror. During the George Bush administration, he served on the Defense Policy Board in Bush’s first term and was closely affiliated with those neocons around Vice President Cheney. He is on the International Academic Advisory Board of the Began Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Israel, which is affiliated with Bar Ilan University, and is involved in contract work for the Israeli government.

Douglas Feith, who as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in George W. Bush’s first term set up and controlled the Office of Special Plans, which spread the most specious war propaganda, was closely associated with the right-wing Zionist group, the Zionist Organization of America. In 1997, he co-founded One Jerusalem, a group whose objective was “saving a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.” Before entering the Bush administration, Feith ran a small Washington-based law firm, which had one international office – in Israel. And the majority of the firm’s work consisted of representing Israeli interests.

Richard Perle has had very close personal connections with Israeli government officials, and has been accused of providing classified information to that country on a number of occasions. Perle not only expounded pro-Zionist views, but was a board member of the pro-Likud “Jerusalem Post” and had worked as a lobbyist for the Israeli weapons manufacturer Soltam.

Norman Podhoretz is considered a godfather, along with Irving Kristol, of the neoconservative movement. When editor of “Commentary” magazine, he wrote that “the formative question for his politics would heretofore be, ‘Is it good for the Jews?’” (“Commentary,” February 1972) In 2007, Podhoretz received the Guardian of Zion Award, which is given to individuals for their support for Israel, from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Neocon Charles Krauthammer was the 2002 winner of the Guardian of Zion Award.

Max Singer, co-founder of the neocon Hudson Institute and its former president, who pushed for the war on Iraq, has moved to Israel, where he is a citizen and has been involved with the Institute for Zionist Strategies, which advocates the need to better infuse Zionist ideology in the Jewish people of Israel.

The neocons’ support for Israel does not necessarily mean that they were deliberately promoting the interest of Israel at the expense of the United States. Instead, as I point out in “The Transparent Cabal,” they maintained that an identity of interests existed between the two countries – Israel’s enemies being ipso facto America’s enemies. However, it is apparent from their backgrounds that the neoconservatives viewed American foreign policy in the Middle East through the lens of Israeli interest, as Israeli interest was perceived by the Likudniks.

Despite this professed view of the identity of American and Israel interests, sometimes the neocons’ actions verged on putting Israel interests above those of the United States government. For example, some leading neocons—David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith—developed the “Clean Break” proposal outlining an aggressive policy for Israel intended to enhance its geostrategic position, which they presented in 1996 to then-incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One part of the plan was to get the United States to disassociate itself from peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine and simply let Israel treat the Palestinians as it saw fit. “Israel,” stated the report, “can manage it’s own affairs. Such self-reliance will grant Israel greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of [US] pressure used against it in the past.” It was highly noteworthy that the neocons would devise a strategy to enable Israel to become free from adhering to the goals of their own country. [“Transparent Cabal,” p. 93]

In conclusion, while Chomsky’s change was far from being complete, his acknowledgement that the neoconservatives were the “dominant force” in driving the U.S. to the war on Iraq in 2003 is, nonetheless, very significant. Chomsky, who was voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in a 2005 poll, certainly influences many people, most particularly on the anti-war left, and his new view should make them rethink their belief that the war was all about oil. It is to be hoped that Chomsky’s words were not a one-time aberration and that he will not revert to his previous publicly-espoused position. Rather, it is to be hoped that he will now look more deeply into the neocons’ activities and thus discern their close connection to Israel.

Stephen J. Sniegoski is the author of The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Chomsky Acknowledges the Neocons as the Dominant Force in Pushing for Iraq War

Norman Finkelstein and Neocon Denial

By Stephen J. Sniegoski | The Passionate Attachment | October 7, 2012

While a number of mainstream media pundits have acknowledged that the neocons played a major role in bringing about the war on Iraq (though usually without mentioning their connection to Israel or their predominantly Jewish ethnicity), there are stringent critics of Israel and US policy in the Middle East who totally reject this interpretation. One of the most notable of these is Norman Finkelstein, who expounds on his view in his latest book, “Knowing Too Much.” Because I must limit the length of this article, my argumentation must be kept to a minimum. My book, “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel,” provides a detailed and extensively-documented account of all the issues covered here. It should be added that Finkelstein has labeled my book as conspiratorial—which is just the opposite of what the word “transparent” in the title conveys and what is explicitly stated in the book—and he denies that there is any evidence for my contentions. It does not appear that Finkelstein has actually read my book; he probably considers it not worth reading.

Despite denying that the neocons had an effect on US Middle East policy, Finkelstein does grant that the “Jewish neocons pushed long and hard for an attack on Iraq.” (p. 75, “Knowing Too Much”) Contrary to Finkelstein, the very fact that for many years the neocons had been the major exponents of an attack on Iraq, which did become US policy, is at least prima facie evidence for their vital role in bringing about the war. Finkelstein, however, firmly holds that the neocon agenda was irrelevant to US policy, and that what was achieved was done by others and would have occurred even if the neocons had not existed.

Finkelstein does accurately point out that “Every reconstruction of the 2003 war places Cheney and Rumsfeld at the helm of the decision-making process.” (p. 76, “Knowing Too Much”) Then he devotes some space to refuting John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s alleged insinuation that the two officials were “duped” by the neoconservatives. (The two academic scholars wrote the bombshell essay, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” later expanded into a book. And I should add that it is not apparent from my reading of their book that Mearsheimer and Walt necessarily imply that Cheney and Rumsfeld were “duped.”) Finkelstein maintains that “Cheney and Rumsfeld did not only partake of the ‘belief’ of Jewish neoconservatives that Saddam posed a mortal danger. Their own ‘American nationalist’ strategic vision also largely coincided with the neoconservative agenda.” In essence, they “shared basic assumptions.” (p. 78, “Knowing Too Much”) From these claims, which I would qualify but not fundamentally differ with, Finkelstein manages to derive the idea that Cheney and Rumsfeld were not influenced by the neocons, but somehow came up with the same war agenda independently. Evidence would indicate that this is highly unlikely to have been the case.

Undoubtedly, Cheney and Rumsfeld, rather than being tricked by the neocons, were in league with them, but it also seems almost certain that they were actually influenced by the neocon agenda. For Rumsfeld and, even more so, Cheney were personally close to the neocons. Prior to the start of the George W. Bush administration, Cheney, for example, was involved in a number of key neoconservative organizations: the board of advisors of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA); the board of trustees of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI); and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). It would seem reasonable to believe that, instead of independently fashioning their own “strategic vision” that harmonized completely with that of the neocons, Cheney and Rumsfeld were influenced by the neocons’ well-developed positions, including specific strategies for action, which meshed with their own more general foreign policy attitudes—e.g., a proclivity for unilateral, aggressive action.

Although Cheney had for years identified with a tough-minded, militaristic foreign policy, he had, as Secretary of Defense, loyally adhered to the George H.W. Bush administration policy in 1991 of eschewing an occupation of Iraq, and continued to identify with that position after the end of the administration. As late as a 1996 interview for a documentary on the 1991 Gulf War for PBS’s “Frontline” program, Cheney declared: “Now you can say well you should have gone to Baghdad and gotten Saddam, I don’t think so [rather] I think if we had done that we would have been bogged down there for a very long period of time with the real possibility we might not have succeeded.”

In short, it seems reasonable to conclude that during the latter 1990s, Cheney was persuaded by neocon claims backed by numerous facts and factoids that Saddam was dangerous—though whether he really believed that Saddam was a “mortal danger” is questionable—and that his removal would be good thing for the United States that would outweigh the costs of a war. Although Cheney undoubtedly must have realized that the neocons had cherry-picked and exaggerated the intelligence claims, his involvement in the highest levels of government and partisan politics for many years had habituated him to having the truth twisted to advance policy goals.

Furthermore, Cheney was known to pick up newer views expressed in conservative circles that entailed marked changes in his actual policy prescriptions, though leaving his overall conservative attitude unaffected. For example, in regard to economic policy, he moved from being a budget-balancer to a supply-sider willing to tolerate large budget deficits. (Barton Gellman, “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” 2008, pp. 257-259) And, as Vice President, Cheney specifically relied on advice from the eminent historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, a right-wing Zionist and one of the neocons’ foremost gurus, who strongly advocated war against Iraq and other Middle Eastern states. (Gellman, “Angler,” p. 231) So while the neocon Middle East war agenda did resonate with Cheney’s general militant stance on foreign policy, there is little reason to think that he would have come up with the specifics of the policy, including even the identification of Iraq as the target, if it had not been for neocon influence.

The influence of ideas per se was not the only factor that likely motivated Cheney. The fact that Cheney and his wife, Lynne, who was with the American Enterprise Institute (known as “neocon central”), had close personal and professional relations with the neocons also would have predisposed him to give his support to the neoconservatives and their agenda.

There is certainly no inherent reason why “American nationalists” (as Finkelstein styles Cheney and Rumsfeld) qua “American nationalists” would identify with Israeli interests and pursue wars in the Middle East against the Islamic states. If global power were the American nationalist goal, one could easily argue that supporting the Islamic world would best serve its advancement. For by pursuing such an alternative policy, the United States would have the support of the major oil-producing region of the world. And if the more than one billion Muslims were friendly to the United States, they could be used, if such a weapon were necessary, to undermine America’s most powerful military adversaries—Russia and China—since both have restive Muslim populations.

It should be noted that representatives of the “realist” camp of foreign policy, which focuses on concrete national interests rather than ideals—and includes such luminaries as Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor for George H. W. Bush; James Baker, Secretary of State for George H. W. Bush; and Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter—did not push for the war on Iraq, and Brzezinski and Scowcroft openly opposed it.

Furthermore, large numbers of nationalist conservatives, such as Pat Buchanan and other traditional conservatives, have opposed globalist American intervention and believed from the outset that wars in the Middle East were not in America’s interest. These conservative nationalists had supported a hard-line Cold War policy long before the neoconservatives came onto the scene—though while opposing Communism they were wary of American global involvement, especially nation-building, perceiving the global policy against Communism as a something of a necessary evil. During most of the Cold War, they had been the dominant face of American conservatism, but the neocons, by the end of the 1980s, would achieve a leading position in the conservative movement. They quickly purged or marginalized those who dissented from their positions, especially in regard to Israel, and mainstream conservatism itself was transformed in a neoconservative direction, a change which has been lauded by the neocons and lamented by those purged and marginalized conservatives and their followers, now called paleoconservatives. The upshot of all of this is that being an “American nationalist” did not ipso facto make one a supporter of the neoconservative Middle East agenda, as Finkelstein would imply.

Being in charge of the incoming Bush administration transition team, Cheney used that position to staff national security positions in the government with his neocon associates. While the neocons could not actually make the ultimate decisions in the Bush administration, they were in sufficiently authoritative positions inside the administration to influence the decisions that would be made. And the anger and fear resulting from the 9/11 terror attacks enabled the neocons, with their already existing war agenda, to markedly increase their influence in the administration. Significantly, the administration’s neocons were not only providing what was regarded by President Bush as expert advice but, as mentioned above, they also cherry-picked the spurious intelligence that depicted Saddam Hussein as a threat to the United States.

The formidable power of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration derived from the fact that they worked in unison to advance their war agenda and override and marginalize all opposition. Not only was there no consensus for war in the foreign policy and national security components of the executive branch, but crucial aspects of the neocon war agenda were opposed by significant elements of the military brass, the State Department, and the CIA.

Bob Woodward in his “Plan of Attack” (p. 292) notes that Secretary of State Colin Powell saw a “separate little government,” consisting of “Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith,” and what Powell privately called Feith’s “Gestapo office.” According to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Powell’s chief of staff, “There were several remarkable things about the vice president’s staff. One was how empowered they were, and one was how in sync they were. In fact, we used to say about both [Rumsfeld’s office] and the vice president’s office that they were going to win nine out of ten battles, because they are ruthless, because they have a strategy, and because they never, ever deviate from that strategy . . . . They make a decision, and they make it in secret, and they make [it] in a different way than the rest of the bureaucracy makes it, and then suddenly foist it on the government – and the rest of the government is all confused.”

Regarding the concomitant loss of power by the State Department, Wilkerson remarked: “I’m not sure the State Department even exists anymore.”

Also of vital importance was a cohesive neocon network outside the Bush administration, which helped to mobilize crucial public support for the war. Social anthropologist Janine R. Wedel in her book, “The Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market,” provides a detailed description of the neoconservatives as an example of an interlocking network of organizations, agencies, and think tanks united behind a shared agenda that was capable of driving government policy.

It seems apparent that without all-out support from the neocon network, Cheney and Rumsfeld could not have brought about the attack on Iraq, even if that had been their goal. For the neocon network had to overcome significant opposition to achieve the implementation of their war agenda, as well as generate public and congressional support for war. For example, the neocons had championed Ahmed Chalabi and enabled much of his spurious intelligence to receive the imprimatur of the US government—though the established intelligence community regarded him as a con man.

Although Cheney and Rumsfeld could not have brought off the war without the neocon network, those two were not indispensable to the neocons, who could have likely achieved war with other individuals at the helm. For example, the hawkish pro-Israel John McCain was the favorite Republican candidate for numerous neocons in 2000 (and, of course, was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008). Given McCain’s penchant for neoconservative foreign policy advisors, his advocacy of forcible regime change in Iraq prior to 2001, and his staunch support for the attack on Iraq during the war build-up (and his later hawkishness on Iran), there is no reason to think that a President McCain, surrounded by neocon advisers, would have avoided a war on Iraq.

Nothing of what I have written is intended to imply that the neoconservatives were the sole cause for the war on Iraq or that they single-handedly drove the country to war. While neoconservatives spearheaded the war on Iraq, and without the neoconservatives the war would have been highly improbable, they obviously needed auxiliary support, in which category I would include Cheney and Rumsfeld. Most significantly, the 9/11 terror attacks created the ideal milieu to generate government and popular support for such a military endeavor, as those attacks certainly enabled the neocons’ Iraq war agenda to move to the forefront in the Bush administration. Without the popular fear and anger generated by the 9/11 attacks, it is unlikely that the neocons would have been able to successfully promote a war on Iraq. Nonetheless, the neoconservatives were the primary actors. It was they who created the war agenda, and it was they who played a key role in its implementation.

October 6, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transforming Finkelstein BDS attack into opportunity

By David Letwin | The Electronic Intifada | 28 February 2012
Man walks by mural of fist holding key reading "We will return" in Arabic and English
Right of return is a central demand of the Palestinian liberation movement. (Abed Rahim Khatib / APA images)

There have been a number of thoughtful and incisive rebuttals to the recent video interview in which Norman Finkelstein absurdly calls the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against apartheid Israel a “cult,” and admonishes Palestinians to limit their struggle to the “two-state solution” (“Video: Arguing the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign with Norman Finkelstein (interviewed by Frank Barat),” 9 February 2012).

However, Finkelstein’s attack on the BDS movement is not, as some of his critics have suggested, merely an indication of personal demoralization, faulty legal analysis, or political shortsightedness. Rather, it reflects a stubborn attempt to rationalize his rejection of Palestinian demands — especially full equality and refugee rights — that challenge the legitimacy of a “Jewish state.”

“What is the result [if the BDS demands are satisfied]?” Finkelstein rhetorically asks in the interview. “You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel!”

This existential defense of Israel is hardly new. Despite his ferocious criticism of the 45-year-long occupation, Finkelstein has long represented those non-Palestinians in the solidarity movement who see the “two-state solution” as necessary to ensure Israel’s survival as a “Jewish state,” a means of reconciling their altruism with their political comfort zone.

Not only is this unjust on its own terms, but it places Finkelstein squarely at odds with a grassroots Palestinian movement demanding an end to all the apartheid structures without which the “Jewish state” could not exist.

Finkelstein denounces those BDS demands as a “clever” attempt to hide their anti-Zionist logic. But the real problem is that he and his allies often become alienated, if not hostile, when called upon to acknowledge — much less confront — more than a century of the Zionist colonialism, particularly the ethnic cleansing of 1948 (the Nakba).

In 2009, for example, Finkelstein condemned the Gaza Freedom March for merely referencing refugees’ right of return, with little critical response from solidarity activists (“Why I resigned from the Gaza Freedom March Coalition,” September 2009).

This time, however, something is different. Instead of passing unnoticed, Finkelstein’s attack on BDS has triggered push-back support for the campaign, another reflection of its growing success in building uncompromising support for Palestinian rights.

An important opportunity

Finkelstein’s interview is an important opportunity — particularly for those of us who are Jewish — to affirm our unequivocal support for those rights. This both undermines false charges that BDS is anti-Semitic, and promotes a broad-based, international movement committed to ending not only the occupation, but the entire apparatus of colonialism and apartheid throughout historic Palestine.

Perhaps it will also convince Finkelstein, who has courageously exposed Zionist hypocrisy in the past, to support the BDS campaign’s comprehensive demands, or at least refrain from undermining those who do. Regardless, response to his attack shows that a growing part of the solidarity movement is willing to stand up — as it did in the struggle against apartheid South Africa — for the entire range of rights to which every oppressed people is entitled.

David Letwin is a Palestine solidarity activist who works with Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition. He participated in a 2007 delegation of lawyers and activists to the West Bank and 1948 territories, and was a member of the 2009/2010 Gaza Freedom March, where he co-authored the Cairo Declaration.

February 29, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

In flinching move, Finkelstein slams boycott movement

American political scientist and author of the “Holocaust Industry,” Norman Finkelstein – known for his outspoken criticism of Israel and advocacy of Palestinian rights – showed his own fear of the paradigm shift  in discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he called the BDS movement a ‘cult’ last week

By Sean O’Neill | +972blog |February 16 2012

The interview with Norman Finkelstein that circulated all over the web on Wednesday, in which he calls the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel a “cult” and compares it to Maoism is, I think, a milestone of sorts.  Or, more accurately, the symptom of a milestone – a sign that the ground is shifting on Israel/Palestine issues.

Click link for video of interview:

Arguing the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign with Norman Finkelstein

Normal Finkelstein has made a career out of being the son of holocaust survivors  who doesn’t shy away from picking a fight with Israel’s backers, and who unabashedly defends the rights of Palestinians.  At times his controversial positions have set his career back, as when he was denied tenure at DePaul University.  However, on balance he has certainly benefited, as a less combative scholar would today likely be simply one of thousands of obscure political science professors.

Everything about the interview is classic Finkelstein: his demeanor, his tendency to raise his voice, his adversarial, passionate approach, everything, that is, except for the things he’s saying.  In a bizarre turn of events, he comes off as a Zionist bully, or for that matter, any other angry right wing pundit.  He accuses activists for Palestinian civil rights of having a secret agenda, that of destroying Israel.  He seems obsessed with some overarching concept of the Law as final arbiter in all matters, as though in this case we weren’t talking about a variety of laws, many of which at times contradict each other, and as though there isn’t a history of the law being written, enforced, and misinterpreted by political actors at the expense of the weak.  His complaint that solidarity movement activists want to cherry pick which laws they respect is reminiscent of the claims made by white religious leaders that Dr. Martin Luther King so famously refuted in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Moreover, Finkelstein conveniently ignores the fact that international law recognizes refugees as having a right to return to their homeland.  When the law is inconvenient, Finkelstein employs another classic conservative tactic, insisting that the public simply won’t accept the demands of the activists, that they need to be more pragmatic.  Again, see “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” for an eloquent refutation of such logic.

Finkelstein even resorts to the desperate tactic of denial.  When the interviewer puts forth his contention that the BDS movement is growing in popularity, Finkelstein rejects the idea out of hand, comparing the movement to some Maoist group he apparently was affiliated with at some point in his more idealistic youth.

I recently witnessed BDS’s growing clout at  a meeting I attended with a woman working with an Israeli artist helping set up a series of salons in New York to explore and question the Birthright Israel programs, and the idea of a “birthright” in general.  The project sounds very interesting, but the woman was visibly frustrated at their inability to find people willing to work with them in the city.  They are partially funded by the Israeli Consulate, and as a result have had the proverbial door shut on them by activists, artists, and professors, Arab and Jew alike.  This would have been incomprehensible five years ago, when I first heard of the BDS movement at the annual Bil’in conference and it was, at that point, divisive even among conference attendees.

Here is where things stand now.  There is a paradigm shift in the works in how the Israel/Palestine conflict is understood and approached.  There is an increasing consensus among Israel’s critics to see the issue as one of civil rights, rather than a conflict between two nations.  Indeed, some BDS activists harbor a desire to see the end of the Jewish state, and others believe this is the inevitable outcome of a civil rights movement, whether they desire it or not.  But many others, I would argue most Palestinians among them, simply don’t care about this abstract One State v. Two State argument.  They just don’t think civil rights –  indeed human rights –  can be trumped by someone’s nationalist claims.

Finkelstein’s sudden hostility to the solidarity movement is a symptom of this paradigm shift.  It is easy to rail against Israel when the existence of a Jewish nation-state seems guaranteed in perpetuity.  But that guarantee seems to have eroded a bit.  For some this will be scary.  But then change always is.  It was scary in South Africa.  It was scary in the Jim Crow American South.  For others it is liberating, and you can count among these an increasing number of Israelis who see coexistence – real coexistence, not the tenuous kind that reigns in Jaffa, among other places – as a more attractive guarantee to their security than the ethnocratic state.  As the ground continues to shift, some of those who are afraid will flinch, and retreat to safer, more moderate arguments.  Finkelstein flinched.

Sean O’Neill worked for Christian Peacemaker Teams from 2006-2009 in the South Hebron Hills supporting Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation and continued settlement expansion.  He is currently an MA candidate at New York University in Near Eastern Studies and Journalism.

February 18, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Comments Off on In flinching move, Finkelstein slams boycott movement

The pro-israel lobby. The debate between James Petras and Norman Finkelstein

Intifada – Hosted and produced by Hagit Borer for the SWANA (South and West Asia and North Africa) Collective of KPFK – February 8, 2007

Hagit Borer: There is little question in anybody’s mind about the special relation between Israel and the United States. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid to the tune of more than $3 billion dollars a year, plus miscellaneous additions like surplus weaponry, debt waivers and other perks. Israel is the only country that receives its entire aid package in the beginning of the fiscal year allowing it to accrue interest on it during the year. It is the only country which is allowed to spend up to 25% of its aid outside of the United States, placing such expenditures outside US control. Apart from financial support, the United States has offered unwavering support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for the ongoing oppression of the Palestinians, and has systematically supported Israel’s refusal to make any effective peace negotiations or peace agreements. It has vetoed countless UN resolutions seeking to bring Israel into compliance with international law. It has allowed Israel to develop nuclear weapons and not to sign the nuclear anti-proliferation treaty and most recently it strongly supported Israel’s attack on Lebanon in July of 2006. Support for Israel cuts across party lines and is extremely strong in Congress where criticism of Israel is rarely if ever heard. It also characterizes almost all American administrations from Johnson onwards, with George W. Bush being possibly the most pro-Israel ever.

What is the reason for this strong support? Opinions on this matter vary greatly. Within strong pro-Israeli circles, one often hears that the reason is primarily moral: the debt that the United States owes Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust; the nature of Israel as the sole democracy in the Middle East; Israel as the moral and possible strategic ally of the United States in its War on Terror. Within circles that are less supportive of Israel and which are less inclined to view Israel and Israel’s conduct as moral, opinions vary as well. One opinion stems from the position of Israel being a strategic ally of the United States – its support is simply payment for services rendered coupled with the stable pro-American stance of the Jewish Israeli population. Noam Chomsky, among others, is a proponent of this view. According to the opposing view, US support for Israel does not advance American aims, it jeopardizes them. The explanation for the support is to be found in the activities of the Israel Lobby, also known as the Jewish Lobby, or as AIPAC (the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee), which uses its formidable influence to shape American foreign policy in accordance with Israeli interests. The opinion has most recently been associated with an article published in the London Book Review, co-authored by Professor Merscheimer of the University of Chicago and Professor Walt of Harvard University.

This debate is the topic of our program today.

Let me introduce our guests: Norman Finkelstein is a professor of political science at De Paul University. Welcome to our program, Norman.

Norman Finkelstein: Thank you.

Hagit Borer: Professor Finkelstein is the author of several books on the history of Zionism and the role of the Holocaust in present day Israeli policies. His latest book, published in 2005 , Beyond Chutzpah, on The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.

Our second guest is James Petras. James is an Emeritus Professor of sociology at SUNY Binghamton. Welcome to our program, James.

James Petras: Glad to be here, Hagit.

Hagit Borer: Professor Petras is the author of numerous books on state power and the nature of globalization in the context of the US and Latin America, and most recently in the Middle East. His latest book, published in 2006, is titled The Power of Israel in the United States. Perhaps starting with you, James, perhaps you could tell us by way of a short opening statement where you would place yourself on this issue of a debate on the source of the United States lasting and enduring support for Israel.

James Petras: Well, I think I would probably argue that the pro-Israel lobby, the Zionist Lobby, is the dominant factor in shaping US policy in the Middle East, particularly in the most recent period. And I think one has to look at this beyond AIPAC. I mean, we have to look a whole string of pro-Zionist think tanks from the American Enterprise Institute on down, and then we have to look at a whole power configuration, which not only involves AIPAC, but also the President of the Major American Jewish Organizations, which number 52. We have to look at individuals occupying crucial positions in the government, as we had recently with Elliott Abrams and Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and others. We have to look at the army of op-ed writers who have access to the major newspapers. We have to look at the super-rich contributors to the Democratic Party, Media moguls etc. And I think this, together with the leverage in Congress and in the Executive, is the decisive factor in shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East. And I want to emphasize that.

Hagit Borer: James, just to stop you and maybe we can also have some kind of an opening statement from Norman.

Norman Finkelstein: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I would say that I situate myself on the spectrum somewhere towards the middle. I don’t think it is just the Lobby which determines the US relationship with Israel. And I don’t think it is just US interests which determine the US relationship with Israel. I think that you have to look at the broad picture and then you have to look at the local picture. On the broad picture, that is to say, US policy in the Middle East generally speaking, the historical connection between the US and Israel has been based on the useful services that Israel has performed for the United States in the region as a whole. And that became most prominent in June 1967, when Israel knocked out the main challenge, or potential challenge, to US dominance in the region, namely Abdul Nasser of Egypt. So, on the broad question of the US-Israel relationship that is the regional relationship, I think it is correct to say that the alliance has been based fundamentally on services rendered. On the other hand, it is very clear from looking at the documentary record, that the US was euphoric when Israel knocked out Egypt – or knocked out Nasser and Nasserism, it is also clear from looking at the documentary record, that the United States has never had any big stake in trying to maintain Israel’s control over the territories it conquered in the June 1967 war, that is to say, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, the Syrian Golan Heights and, at that time, the Jordanian West Bank and Jerusalem. The US clearly had no stake in it and already from July 1967, wanted to apply pressures on Israel to commit itself from fully withdrawing. It was pretty obvious, if you look at the record again, that Israel, at that point, was able to bring to bear the Lobby. In 1967-68 it meant principally the forthcoming Presidential election and the Jewish vote. It was to bring to bear the power of the Jewish vote to resist efforts to withdraw. And since ’67, the Lobby has been very effective, I think, in raising the threshold before the US is willing to act and force an Israeli withdrawal pretty much like the withdrawal it forced on Indonesia in 2000 to leave Timor. The two occupations begin in roughly the same period: in 1974, Indonesia invades Timor with the US green light and in 1967, Israel conquers the West Bank, Gaza and so forth with the US green light. And so the obvious question is: Both occupations endured for a long period. The Indonesian occupation was infinitely more destructive, killing more than one-third of the East Timorese population. But it is true to say come 2000 the US does order Indonesia to withdraw its troops. Why hasn’t it done so in the case of the Israel-Palestine occupation? And there I think its true to say, ‘It’s the Lobby’.

Hagit Borer: I have a feeling that one of the things we really need to start with when we try to address this issue is: What is it that we recognize, if we could recognize, on more or less a global level, as ‘American Interests’? Such that we can say that they have so some degree systematically characterized different US Administrations. This is because it seems to me that it would be very difficult to evaluate to what extent policies that are going on with respect to Israel aren’t compatible with American interests, if we don’t talk a little bit about what we perceive to be ‘American interests’. So James, would you like to talk about that a little bit?

James Petras: Yes, I would. As a matter of fact, on that question, we have to be clear if we are talking about the US government and corporate interests in the Middle East, in particular, or if we are talking about what should be US interests.
Hagit Borer: Let’s talk about what they are… Let’s say, what the aims of various administrations are as opposed to what is in the best interest of either the American or the Israeli people, which may be very different.

James Petras: Very good. On that count, I think it is very clear that US policy is directed toward empire-building, extending its political, economic and military control over the world as a whole and, in particular, in the Middle East. And it pursues that policy, either through military means or through market mechanisms, such as the expansion of corporations, the capture of pliant client regimes, etc. And if we look at the Middle East, in particular, the US has been very successful in securing agreements with most of the oil-producing countries, except Iraq and Iran, and even there it is mainly because of its own rejection of relations with both those countries. US oil companies have done extremely well through non-military means. They have expanded their commercial ties- Goldman Sachs has just signed a big agreement with the biggest Saudi bank. Britain is organizing a secondary market in Islamic bonds. Wall Street is very interested in that. None of the oil companies supported a war in Iraq. And it is part of the rubbish that has been peddled – that the war was about oil. The oil companies were doing fabulously before the war and were very nervous about getting involved in a war. This, I think, leads us to the whole question of ‘why then’ if it was prejudicial to the major US economic interests.

As we can see, there were many US military people who were opposed to going into Iraq because they felt it would prejudice the US overall military capacities to defend the Empire – just like the war in Viet Nam prejudiced the capacity of the US to intervene in Central America against the Sandinistas, against the overthrow of the Shah, etc. So from the point of view of global imperial interests, the war in Iraq was certainly not at the behest of the oil companies. I have looked at all the documents, I’ve done interviews with oil companies, I’ve looked at their publications for the five years in the run-up to the war and there is absolutely no evidence. On the contrary, if you pursue research on the various members of the Zionist power configuration in the United States, which I think is a conceptually more correct way of talking about this, rather than ‘the Lobby’, you will find that people of dubious loyalties, like Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle and Elliott Abrams – the felon, had an agenda of furthering Israel’s interests.

Hagit Borer: James, maybe we should go on with this: Basically if I understand what your are saying, your are suggesting that up to the point of getting involved militarily with Iraq, you would characterize American policies in the Middle East – you know, the Lobby notwithstanding, as extremely successful. So, I am just wondering…

James Petras: It’s what we call ‘market imperialism’.

Hagit Borer: Yes. Norman, do you want to comment on this?

Norman Finkelstein: Well. You have to look at the interests at many different levels. And unfortunately it becomes murky and complicated, where one would prefer a simple picture, I don’t think it is all that simple when you try to figure it out. Number one, you have to look at the interests in terms of who is defining them. And, I agree, I think it is fairly obvious certainly to your listeners that there are different interests that are being defined by corporate power, or are being defined democratically by the desires and choices of ordinary people in any democratic system. So, lets limit ourselves to the first – the question of the corporate interests, since obviously they are playing the dominant role in determining US policy. Or it should be obvious, not that it always is.

Hagit Borer: Let’s assume it is fairly obvious.

Norman Finkelstein: It’s playing the determinant role. Then you have to look at ‘how do they conceive the best way to preserve and expand their interests.’ Now the way they perceive it may seem to a person like you and me to be irrational. It’s that they are pursuing policies which are actually hurting them. But the fact that they may seem irrational to us, does not mean that that is the way they perceive these as the best way to preserve their interests. So you take the concrete case at hand. It may be the case that it was irrational for the US to go into Iraq because there are other ways to control the oil, or as some people have argued, that the market mechanisms are such that, on a world scale, you no longer need to control a natural resource in order to make sure you get the lowest price or make sure it is flowing at the lowest price.

Control isn’t all that important anymore in the modern world. It is not like when Lenin was writing his Imperialism. Now that may be rationally correct and maybe there is a good argument for making it. But that doesn’t mean that those in power aren’t making decisions to further their own interests, which may seem irrational to us. In the case of Iraq, if you look concretely at what happens: Number 1 – There is no evidence, whatsoever, that people like Wolfowitz or the others were trying to further an Israeli agenda.

Hagit Borer: Let me interrupt. What would be the Israeli agenda, if there was one?

Norman Finkelstein: There is an Israeli agenda, and I am not disputing it. The Israeli agenda is basically the following: Israel does not care which country you smash up in the Middle East, just so long as, every few years and, sometimes, every few months you smash up this or that Arab country to send a lesson or to transmit the message to the Middle East that we are in charge and whenever you get out of line we are going to take out the ‘big club’ and break your skull. Now, it happens that in the late 1990’s that Israel would have preferred the skull that was cracked would have been the Iranian one. There was no evidence that Iraq was upper most on the Israeli agenda. In fact, all of this talk about the famous document that was written up by these neo-cons to attack Iraq – that famous document – was handed to Netanyahu when he came to office to try convince him to put Iraq at the top of the agenda. It’s not as if Israel passed that document to the neo-cons, who then plotted to get the US government to attack Iraq. It was the opposite. Israel would have preferred to attack Iran. However, once those in our government, maybe for misguided reasons for all I know, decided to fasten on to Iraq – that is to attack Iraq – Israel was of course ‘gung ho’ because Israel is always ‘gung ho’ about smashing up this or that Arab country. That has always been its policy for the last hundred years – since the beginning of Zionism. The most common place, the cliché of Israeli power is ‘Arabs only understand the language of force’. So, when the US embarked on its campaign against Iraq, the Israelis were gleeful – but they are always gleeful. It doesn’t mean that people like Wolfowitz, let alone people like Cheney, are trying to serve an Israeli agenda. There is no evidence for claims like that. Its pure speculation based on things like ethnicity.

Lets take a simple example, that, I’ll call him James, I don’t usually call people by their first names, but Jim Petras mentioned…Let’s take the case of Elliott Abrams. These are interesting cases. Elliott Abrams is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz. And Norman Podhoretz was the first big neo-conservative supporter of Israel, the editor of Commentary , the magazine. But if you look at people like Podhoretz, you look at their history, I’ll take a book which I am sure Jim is familiar with, in 1967 Podhoretz publishes his famous memoir called Making It. It’s how he succeeded and made it in American life. He was a young man and the editor of Commentary Magazine. You read that book, his celebrated memoir written two months before the June 1967 war, there is exactly one half of one sentence in the whole book on Israel. People like Podhoretz, Midge Decter, all the neo-cons…I have gone through the whole literature on the topic and have read it quite carefully.

Before June 1967, they didn’t give a ‘hoot’ about Israel. Israel never comes up in any of their memoirs, in any of the histories of the period. They become pro-Israel when Israel is useful to them in their pursuit of power and fortune in the United States. Elliott Abrams is as committed to Israel as his father-in-law, Norman Podhoretz, was committed to Israel: When it is convenient and when it is useful. This idea of trying to serve an Israeli agenda, especially coming from somebody as sophisticated as Jim Petras, strikes me as absurd. He knows as well as I do that power…

Hagit Borer: Lets me just interrupt to let James…

James Petras: Its very strange that one says Wolfowitz was not influenced by the Israeli agenda when he was caught passing documents to Israel in the 1980’s. And Douglas Feith lost his security clearance for handing documents to Israel. Elliott Abrams has written a book calling for maintaining the ‘purity’ of the Jewish race…

Norman Finkelstein: I know. They write that crap…and you believe them? Jim, do you think they care…?

James Petras: Its not a question of believing them, it’s a question of looking at the documentary evidence of uncritical, support for Israel in all of its policies – A position that is taken by the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations. They give unconditional support!

Hagit Borer: Let me perhaps interject here a little bit. I think that there a couple of things. One is…I am wondering, for instance, I don’t know whether you would agree, James, with the particular Israeli interest that Norman had identified with respect to the invasion of Iraq. But assuming that you would agree that the Israeli interests are precisely that, namely to smash some Arab country mainly because it is a ‘good idea’…

James Petras: I think that’s very superficial…

Hagit Borer: The question is also…has it been in American interests? So we have seen America go after countries, which are sometimes, in terms of their power, are otherwise really quite negligible – just so as to make a point that anybody who dares to stand up to American power is just a bad example and needs to be smashed…

Norman Finkelstein: I totally agree with that…

James Petras: Israel was running guns to Iran as late as 1987 during the infamous Iran-Contra Scandal…To say that they weren’t interested in destroying Iraq as a challenge to Israel’s hegemony and Iraq’s support for the Palestinians, particularly funding the families of assassinated Palestinian leaders…that’s absurd. And I think …

Norman Finkelstein: Oh look…

Hagit Borer: Could I stop you at this particular point…because we need to take a station break…

James Petras: I want to answer your question…

Hagit Borer: We will come back to it…At this point I think we should try to shift the topic a little bit and…

James Petras: Let me finish my last comment. I think when the Pentagon offices are flooded, like a crowded bordello on Saturday night, with Israeli intelligence officers, crowding out even members of their own Pentagon staff – full of Mossad, full of Israeli generals, in the making of Iraq policy, I don’t think you can say that they are ‘just any old Pentagon officials’. I think you can’t dismiss the fact that Feith, Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams have a lifetime commitment to putting Israel’s interests as their prime consideration in the Middle East. I think it is absurd to think that somehow they just happen to be right-wing policy makers that happen to support a militarist policy. Wolfowitz designed the program. Feith put together the Office of Special Plans, the policy board that fabricated the information for the Iraq war. They were constantly consulting on a day-day, hour-to-hour basis with the Israeli government. This has absolutely been documented a hundred times and I think it is impossible to deny this and say ‘Well, you can’t deduce policy from ethnic affiliations.” Yes, you can! When that ethnic group puts forward a position that puts the primacy of a foreign government at the center of their foreign policy and prejudices the lives of thousands of Americans…its economic interests in the area…then it’s absurd to say, ‘These are a bunch of irrational policy-makers.’

Hagit Borer: James, let me pursue this and actually go into a slightly different point. That is: Wouldn’t it be possible, you know, it’s a question for both of you, for instance to think about whatever the neo-con group is…it’s not a group that represents Israeli interests, it’s a group which represents interests which ‘happen’ to perhaps coincide for both countries and which represent alliances of particular politicians in both countries with one another, and particular power configurations in both countries with one another – but not by any means – all Israeli politicians or the entire Israeli power structure – or all American politicians or all American power structures.

James Petras: Absolutely.

Hagit Borer: So in that case, these are not really American interests. These are just interests of a particular group of people, which is just as interested in bringing to effect in the United States as it is in Israel. Its just basically, if you wish, a wonderful symbiotic relationship. What would you say, Norman to something like that?

Norman Finkelstein: I’ve said in my remarks at the beginning that there is an overlapping of interests in a regional level for reasons for which, in part you suggested earlier. You said that the United States often goes after weak regimes as a kind of demonstration effect of its power and Israel also has a desire for demonstrating its power. Often there is an overlapping, or confluence, of interests. I think, however, its also true to say on the specific question on the occupation – there is a conflict of interests. Were there not a Lobby, its quite likely that the US would have exerted the kinds of pressures needed to force an Israeli withdrawal. On questions like Iraq and Iran, I don’t see any evidence whatsoever, of its being driven by cloak in dagger type of operations in the Pentagon. These operations, which Jim mentions, are so trivial – next to the very high level planning that goes on between the United States and Israel, conscious, legal high-level planning on a daily basis. High level planning and high level coordination. You don’t have to conjure up ‘cloak and dagger’ tales, many of them true, going on inside the Pentagon, in order to demonstrate there is collusion, planning and coordination between the United States and Israel. The question is not whether that goes on, the question is ‘whose interests are being served by it?’ There is this notion that somehow they are managing to distort and deform US policy in a crucial region, on a crucial resource, doesn’t, in my opinion, have any basis in fact. It defies any kind of reason or any kind of common sense reasoning – especially coming from, in my youth, I used to be a student of James Petras at SUNY Binghamton from 1971-74 and he used to be a Marxist and at that time he would tell you how people in power act from interests, which spring from …a basis in which they are the main beneficiaries.

Hagit Borer: Norman, let me ask you …

Norman Finkelstein: Just a second…Mr. Wolfowitz…, Mr Feith and all the others…their power springs from the American state. If Israel gets stronger, their power does not increase. If the United States gets weaker, their power decreases. So now we are having this weird phenomenon of people, due to their ethnic loyalties, are willing to strengthen another state and thereby weaken the sources of power from which their power comes…that doesn’t sound believable.

James Petras: This is a convoluted thinking. I am sure Norman didn’t take that logic from my classes. I’m afraid he has gone off the track somewhere – despite some very good books he has written on the Zionist ‘shakedowns’, on the Holocaust and the refutation of the plagiarism of Dershowitz. I am afraid that when it comes to dealing with the predominantly Jewish lobby, he has a certain blind spot, which is understandable. In many other national and ethnic groups – where they can criticize the world but when it comes to identifying the power and malfeasance of their own group…

Hagit Borer: I think maybe we should all…perhaps we can move away from this topic. OK?

James Petras: Let me finish my sentence. There is nothing ‘cloak and dagger’ about the multiplicity of pro-Israel groups, that have pressured Congress, that are involved in the executive body in shaping American policy in the Middle East. The US does not support any other colonial power, it has opposed colonial occupation/imperialism since World War II. They opposed the British occupation of the Suez in 1956/1955. They have been pushing these countries of Europe and other countries out in order to establish US hegemony through economic and military agreements. The policy with the Israelis is very different from the policies the US follows everywhere else in the world. It’s the only country that gets $3 billion dollars a year for 30 years. This is not just something that happens because of ‘cloak and dagger’. This is the result, as Norman knows – as a very brilliant analyst, from organized power, an organized power that openly admits and states very explicitly that Israel is their major concern…and ‘what’s good for Israel is good for the United States’. They say that, Norman.

Norman Finkelstein: I know that. But regardless of what they say…

Hagit Borer: Let me interrupt you. I need to do a station ID and maybe we could change the topic…

James Petras: OK. Norman was a good student of mine.

Hagit Borer: I think that at this point we can agree that you guys have a lot of mutual respect for each other. But obviously you do not agree on some topics. I wanted to move on to the question of whether there are in fact cases that show that when there are conflicts of interests, say between the US and Israel, that there are instances where the United States does in fact pressure Israel to at least in some cases to act in ways which are against what Israeli wishes would be. Because it seems to me that if we don’t find cases along these lines, then basically the discussion becomes one of ‘the eyes of the beholder’. We see a lot of cooperation, a lot of joint interest, but they could be coming from either side. If there are cases where perhaps there are interests, which part ways and where we can see in fact there is a discord that we can talk about. Norman, since you are the one who believes that this is a possibility, could you talk about that?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, the thing is: I don’t want to make the argument that these kinds of individual cases can prove one side or the other. You pick up a book by Steve Zunes, and he is going to demonstrate that the US government always gets its way. You pick up something by somebody on the other side, and they are going to demonstrate that it’s Israel that always gets its way when there are conflicts of interests. And each side can give a list of examples – to demonstrate his or her case. I don’t think you can prove anything by citing a handful of cases on one side – Professor Chomsky will cite the recent case where Israel was severely reprimanded by Bush for trying to sell technology to China -and then you will find cases on the other side. Even though it’s important to look at the empirical record, I don’t think the empirical record – in and of itself– resolves the question. Let me give you a couple of examples of how I think it works: Let’s take two prime examples. Let’s start with 1948. Why did President Truman recognize Israel? There are all sorts of debate about that question. One claim that is constantly made was/is the role of the Jewish lobby. Namely Truman was heading for elections and wanted in particular, the New York vote…and the Democratic Party wanted Jewish money. It was due to the Jewish lobby of its time that Truman quickly recognized Israel, even though he was bound to alienate Arab interests which were very hostile to Israel’s founding. What does the record show? I have gone through the record very carefully. The record shows: Number 1 – our main interest at that time was in Saudi oil and the US enters into discussions with the Saudis: ‘What will you allow the US government to do regarding the founding of the state of Israel?’ And the Saudis basically said the following: ‘We will let you recognize Israel, but if you supply arms then there is going to be trouble. They are referring to arms after Israel was founded when there was an imminent war. What does the US do? It recognizes Israel, that is to say, it goes the limit. Truman goes the limit, because he wants that Jewish vote and he wants Jewish money. But he immediately slaps an arms embargo on the region. And the Secretary of State, Marshall, at the time says: ‘It looks like Israel is going to lose the war.’ That is what our intelligence tells us. We were wrong, but that is what US intelligence said at the time. So they were willing to let Israel be annihilated, because that’s what our intelligence told us, if the price was losing the support of the Saudis. It is true that Truman went the limit – the limit was ‘recognizing Israel’ to get the Jewish vote, but he never went beyond the limit of alienating a prime US interest in the region, namely the Saudis. Let’s take 1956, which Jim mentioned, but I don’t think he knows what happened. In 1956, it’s true – the United States told Britain, France and Israel – they had to get out of Egypt. And its true, we looked very anti-colonial. But the only reason the United States did that was because the British, the French and the Israelis acted behind the back of the United States. The very moment the tri-partite invasion of Egypt occurred, the US was plotting to overthrow the government of Syria. And the US wanted to knock-out Nasser, but they didn’t like the timing – because the timing was not the US choosing but rather the British, French and Israelis behind our backs. Once again it was the US interests that determined US policy, not any commitment to anti-colonialism or crap like that. It was the US interest.

James Petras: He’s had five minutes already. I demand equal time. He’s been giving us long lectures. If you look at US policy toward Israel, the US alienates practically the whole world in favor of a tiny country, which has practically no economic value to the United States, which is a diplomatic albatross and has its own hegemonic, military and political interests in dominating the Middle East. We go into the United Nations and we alienate the whole of Europe and the Third World when Israel destroys Jenin, when it engages in genocidal policies in the Occupied Territories, when it violates the Geneva Agreements. The US backs it and totally discredits itself before anyone seriously concerned with international law, with the niceties of international relations. I am not just talking about Moslem opinion, Arab opinion… I am talking about world opinion. Secondly, to say that the United States has overlapping interests with Israel is totally ‘off the wall’, I mean – I don’t know where Norman’s head is. The United States gets involved in countries to set up neo-colonial regimes. They are not into occupying and setting up colonial governments. They’d prefer local clients. And they had one in Lebanon – with the President (Fouad) Sinoria – who was receiving US backing when Israel attacks Lebanon, presumably to attack Hezbollah – but totally undermines the US puppet. Is that in US interests?

Norman Finkelstein: Yes.

James Petras: And when you talk about the fact that Israel is taking measures, overlapping with US policy-makers, you are overlooking the fact that most of the US generals were opposed to the war in Iraq and the Israeli agents in the United States, and that’s what they are and they should register themselves as agents of a foreign power, were attacking them (the generals) as wimps, attacking them because they wouldn’t follow the war precepts of the Zionists in the Pentagon. There is a whole string of military officials and conservative politicians who were opposed to going into Iraq. And if you look at the data …if you look at Cheney, Cheney was getting his from Irving (Scooter) Libby – another landsman, another member of the fraternity linked to Wolfowitz. He’s a protégé of Wolfowitz.

Norman Finkelstein: I think Cheney can think for himself.

James Petras: Look, if you are trying to set up a matrix of power, dealing with US policy-making in the Middle East, to simply say that this is ‘shared interests’ without looking at the fact that the Israelis blew up a US surveillance ship, killing scores of US sailors and got away with it and continue to get US economic aid and the US officers that were wounded or murdered by the Israeli warplanes, with US flags flying over the ship, and say…that’s overlapping interests. That’s chutzpah! That is really chutzpah. And it is very revealing that you went into a detailed explanation, or purported to be explanation, about the Suez, that you leave out that in 1967 the Israelis are the only country in US history that bombs a US ship and doesn’t even have to apologize – and receives no retaliation from the United States. Now that is ‘power’ for you. That’s ‘influence’ for you. And I thank to deny these realities…and say: ‘this is just overlapping interests, the Zionists have no power in the US government or if they are Zionists then they are not tied to Israel etc..’ That’s a strange kind of Zionist that doesn’t have allegiance to the state of Israel.

Hagit Borer: We have only five minutes left. I want to ask you about a couple of things that I want to cover. Maybe the most important one has to do with the fact that this debate, about the Israel Lobby in general has broken the surface into the mainstream in the last year or so. Of course, a lot of it had to do with the Mearsheimer and Walt article, and subsequently, let’s say, by the attacks on Carter’s book. There were attacks before and reviews and debates about the role of the Lobby before. But they never made it too the mainstream and they were never reviewed by, lets say, the New York Review of Books, and they were never discussed by major outlets in the United States. In fact the Mersheimer and Walt article originally was turned down for publication by the Atlantic Magazine that had commissioned it. So maybe you can comment a little bit about why this debate is finally breaking surface and why is it that it is now a much more legitimate thing to debate within American mainstream circles.

James Petras: I’ll give your three fast reasons: One, because of the disaster in Iraq, the public is open to discussion, particularly with the prominence of Zionists in bringing about the war – so I think you have public opinion open because of the discontent with the war and their concern about who got us into the war and into this mess. Second reason is that there is an inter-elite fight in the United States, between sectors of the military, sectors of the Congress, conservatives versus the pro-Israel crowd, the pro-war crowd. And the third reason is the arrogance and bullying by the Zionists, in particular, their organizations that go around trying to prevent this discussion has backfired and I think people are fed up with the Zionist banning (the play about Rachel) Corie in New York and elsewhere – so I think these are the reasons.

Hagit Borer: James, we have to move on. We have only a few minutes. We have only a minute and a half. So Norman, could you say some final words?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, I agree with the reasons…maybe I wouldn’t state them the same way as Jim does. Its clear that the debacle in Iraq forms the overall framework for the opening up of discussion. In my opinion, that’s probably not the most positive result because its going to end up with, I think, creating a ‘scapegoat’ for disastrous war by the US. I think the second reason is that the Israeli approach which seemed to have been successful since 1967, the approach of simply applying force to every break in conformity with US policy, of applying overwhelming force, plainly is not working. And so there are questions about the ‘usefulness’ of Israel’s guidance and instruction in how to control the Middle East. It has not worked in Iraq and it proved to be a disaster in Lebanon this summer (July-August 2006). So there is a question about the ‘effectiveness’ of the Israeli approach, in addition to the effectiveness of Israel itself as a ‘strategic asset’, which is very different than it was in 1967. And the third reason, it seems to me is that, Israel is becoming more and more what you might call a ‘bloated banana republic’ with scandals daily and this kind of squandering of resources and that being the case – it has alienated large sectors of American ‘liberal’ Jewish opinion.

Hagit Borer: I thank you very much, James and Norman. I think on this point of accord between you, we need to end. Thank you so very much for being here.


October 22, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments