American Jews for A Just Peace (AJJP) stands up for ‘Miral’

MIRAL, Writer: Rula Jebreal; Director: Julian Schnabel; Cast: Hiam Abbass, Freida Pinto

We, at American Jews For A Just Peace,, stand in support of filmmaker Julian Schnabel and Harvey Weinstein in their efforts to distribute Miral, a new film based on the autobiographical novel by Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal. Miral tells the story of three generations of Palestinian women, and in particular an orphaned Palestinian girl, as they navigate the personal and political landscapes of their times, starting with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, through the first nonviolent Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1987, to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Miral is not a documentary or a polemic; it is a window into the lives of Palestinians, whose voices have gone unheard in the United States for far too long.

We, at American Jews For Just Peace, stand in opposition to the efforts by the American Jewish Congress and the Israeli government’s efforts to block the film’s showing at the United Nations and other venues.

In Defence of Hamas – Response/Counter-response

The Original Article by Pothik Ghosh

Is there really a Palestinian bourgeois class, which shares socio-political interests with its Israeli counterpart? For the very same reason that explains the absence of a working class movement in Palestine, there is no capitalist solidarity in that region as well. There have been working class leaders who have failed their class without being bourgeois themselves.

There is greater out-migration from Israel than there is immigration into the country. There is no material pressure to expand territory. After all, Israel did vacate Gaza. You are willing to compromise with Hamas’s Islamicism. Why can’t the Hamas accept Israel in the same spirit? – TK Arun

Dear TK,

I will attempt to address only the fundamental theoretical questions you have raised in your response to my piece on Palestine here. I’ll leave out some of the more empirical details that you have brought up.

To begin at the beginning, capitalist solidarity does not necessarily preclude struggle within capitalism among various sections of the bourgeoisie. In fact, the hegemonic social logic of capital, which would be constitutive of such solidarity, is of competitive socialisation. Capitalist solidarity is, therefore, not without stratification, and domination of one or more sections of the bourgeoisie by others. Capitalist solidarity can never, precisely because of this constitutive logic, be truly envisaged as absolutely horizontal. To that extent, there is no equality, even within the bourgeoisie, in capitalism. And to my mind solidarity among various sections of capitalists cannot, unlike socialist solidarity, be conceptualised (repeat conceptualised) as an absolute state. It exists, provisionally if you like, only in relation to their domination of the working class. I have, if you go back to my piece, said that the PLO-PA – and the Palestinian social groups embodied by them – also pose a Palestinian identity of struggle against Israel. But the decline in the radical tenor of resistance as posited through this ‘secular’ identity, seen in conjunction with its rejection by the Gazan underclass and the ascendancy of Hamas and its Islamism as the principal idiom of Palestinian resistance, indicates that there is a Palestinian bourgeoisie. This bourgeoisie, even as it poses a struggle (competitive) against the Israeli state, and the Jewish bourgeoisie it embodies, for a better position within the larger regional capitalist hegemony, also seeks to protect and preserve its own interests against the assault of the Palestinian underclass. The PLO-PA’s collaboration, ever since Oslo, with the Israeli state to marginalise and even crush Hamas on one hand, and continuing to pose a Palestinian identity of struggle against Israel, on the other, is symptomatic of this strange capitalist paradox called competitive solidarity of the bourgeoisie. You will surely agree, and I have adduced examples to that effect in my article, that the Palestinian question posed by PLO-PA, post Oslo, is an apology of resistance in that it has been perfectly amenable to and even a participant in Israel’s insidious undermining of the Oslo Accords. Or, how else does one explain the failure of the Mahmoud Abbas-led group’s failure to forge a solid solidarity between West Bank and Gaza and conduct resistance against Israel with the same doggedness that Al Fatah, the Yasser Arafat-led main faction of the PLO, did in its heyday. That is something that Hamas has been doing. If anything, Abbas has used the PA security forces, and wonder of wonders Fatah fighters, to quell anti-Israeli dissent within Palestinian society not only in Gaza but also sometimes in West Bank.

If you argue that Hamas too is posing the question of self-determination in the idiom of competition I would certainly not disagree. Given that it’s not a self-conscious proletarian subjectivity, it sure is not self-reflexively aware that the question of political autonomy it’s raising cannot really be resolved unless it’s informed by a politics that shifts the horizon of socialisation from competition (capitalist) to non-alienated association and dialogue (trans- or counter-capitalist). Yet, at this moment this competitive posing of the ‘Islamised’ national Palestinian identity of Hamas – given that it is located in that section of Palestinian society (underclass) that is disenfranchised, dispossessed and dominated by a constellation of various institutionalized and alienated configurations of socio-political power formed by the PLO-PA and the Zionist state together as also separately – objectively poses the decimation of the competitive social logic of capitalism and its hegemony in the region. A hegemony that is, at this moment, precisely, the root cause of this dispossession and domination of a section of Palestinians. By the same token, the PLO-PA’s competitive ‘struggle’ against Israel, considering that it simultaneously seeks to collaborate with it, is an attempt to keep certain sections of Palestinian society at bay and, therefore, seeks to preserves and perpetuate the hegemony of capitalism and its competitive social logic and ideology.

I would, of course, join you in ruing the fact that working class forces have grasped this objective conjunctural situation neither in their theoretical analyses nor political practice. For, only that would break and displace the conjuncture towards a more ideologically proletarianised situation. And yet, that will not be any reason for me to simply reject a political subjectivity, which foregrounds this objective autonomy-association question sharply, merely because it’s not self-conscious of what its subjectivity actually amounts to in the objective realm. Of course, Hamas, or any such agency, will have to be critiqued for its deficit on those terms of self-consciousness. But that to my mind is not accomplished by painting it with the same moral-secular brush of Islamism that is used to taint forces like Al Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Coming back to a problem that has often cropped up in most of our discussions and debates, class for me is, in its essence, not a social identity or group. Though it can appear in that form sometimes. (Hegel’s “the essence must appear” or Marx’s “Class qua class”.) Class, for me, is a logic of relation. When competition happens, as is capitalism’s wont, in its moments of circulation (social) and distribution/regulation (political), we have to see in totality, by retroactive location in the moment of production (economic), what is the point from which absolute extraction of value occurs. The social group or identity that occupies that point at that moment is the form that the working class takes at that moment. In other words, politico-cultural identities have to be located within this matrix of social relations to figure out which class position they hold in themselves. And that would be irrespective of whether or not they display a subjective consciousness of their objective class location (or position) in positing their respective identities.

Your analysis seems to be informed by an economistic view of Marxism and class politics, which conflates the working class with workers and the bourgeoisie with a specific section among them: the industrial capitalists. But in my analysis West Asia, particularly Israel-Palestine, does not need to have heavy-duty industrialisation and thus industrial capitalists and industrial workers, for us to find either the working class or the bourgeoisie in that region. Capital, if I may repeat myself, is a certain configuration of social power.

Therefore, your assertion that there is no working class movement in the region is right. But not for the reasons you seem to imply. This absence is because, as I state above, the left forces in the region, which had some significant presence there once, have not been able to grasp, either in theory or in political practice, the conjuncture of Hamas’s emergence and critically engage with that conjuncture and thereby the Palestinian movement that has engendered a force like Hamas. If that sounds a tad voluntaristic and utopian, let me complete the dialectic, which will dissolve this subjective voluntarism into its objectivity, by saying the same thing from a different angle: only if Hamas succeeds in enabling a truly nationally (repeat nationally) self-determined Palestinian state would the Palestinian society have taken yet another step towards founding such a working class movement. The institutionalisation of Hamas, which the founding of such a nation-state would entail, would lead to the emergence of a new elite and bureaucracy from the currently struggling sections of Palestinian society, its concomitant alienation from the masses and the complete instrumentalisation of its Islamism, something that is at times visible now as fascism at the Palestinian community level.

All that would further deepen the objective conditions for the emergence of a significant working class politics in Palestine. Of course, subjective intervention to seize this objective moment would still be required. And we, who do politics in the shadow of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the elimination of the Tudeh Party by Khomeini’s band of Islamists, know all too well the heavy price to be paid for not seizing the objective moment through subjective ideological intervention. After all, only that can rupture the conjuncture. Similarly in Palestine. Hamas’s success and institutionalisation, going by the current configuration of political forces, could well lead to the emergence of more radical outfits such as the Islamic Jihad as the principal agency of Palestinian resistance. But Hamas’s marginalisation through military force, precisely what Israel has been trying to accomplish, would surely compel large sections of the beleaguered Palestinian underclass to vest their despair in the pernicious chimera of a hope that the pan-Islamism of Al Qaeda offers. Such perils in political struggles cannot, clearly, be pre-empted. They have to be faced even at the risk of making grave mistakes. For, if people eschew struggles for fear of the perils such struggles are likely to produce there would be no hope of them emancipating themselves. We would do well to recall Mao, who in his peculiarly Chinese Jacobin style used to say, “A revolution is not a dinner party.”

By the way, an aside: revolutionary forces in Palestine might be down but they are not out. Fighters of George Habbash’s Popular Front have reportedly been fighting the Israeli incursion shoulder to shoulder with the guerrillas of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The opportunity for a socialist revolutionary subjective intervention has not exactly been lost in Palestine.

Pothik Ghosh

In Defence of Hamas

Pothik Ghosh

A spectre is haunting Palestine, it is the spectre of Al Qaeda. How else can we explain the near complete abandonment of the Palestinian cause by the international liberal community for which Palestine and its struggle for national self-determination were, till the other day, a never-ending love affair? The erstwhile drivers of the pro-Palestine global liberal consensus blame – allusively if not explicitly – its erosion on the emergence of the radical Islamist Hamas as the principal political agency of their resistance. That, in their reckoning, is completely indefensible at a time when the terroristic depredations of Al Qaeda’s pan-Islamism have sought to put the very existence of secular modernity in jeopardy all across the world. Clearly, this liberal perception, permeated as it is by the current international climate of anti-Islamist (even anti-Islamic) opinion, finds nothing wrong in projecting Hamas as a local manifestation of Al Qaeda’s reign of internationalist terror and obscurantism.

That has, in the context of the current Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, meant responses ranging from a spirited advocacy of “Israel’s right to defend itself” (the US and the UK governments) and equal condemnation of violence on both sides (various European regimes) to ineffective ritualistic criticism of the Israeli invasion by such die-hard allies of the Palestinian struggle as New Delhi, which has of late found a rather amenable seller of defence hardware in Tel Aviv. And if there can be an abomination greater than the relentlessly brutal assault being unleashed by the Israeli ground, air and naval forces on Gaza Strip, it is constituted by such absurdly heartless, even cynical, reactions. They indicate a wholly unwarranted ideological victory for the Zionist project of occupation and territorial annexation. That the core ideology of Hamas, elected to head the government of Gaza by its inhabitants three years ago, is Islamist has made it easier for the Israeli propaganda machine to render its vile acts of occupation – such as the 30-month-long blockade of Gaza – internationally legitimate. It has helped Tel Aviv suggest to its old and new allies, if such suggestion were necessary, that Hamas’s Islamist anti-Israeli position is merely a variant of the virus of pan-Islamist violence that is periodically purveyed by Al Qaeda within their geo-political boundaries.

The ideological victory of the Zionist enterprise has, however, more to do with the current global conjuncture than the effectiveness of the Israeli propaganda machine. The eagerness of most ‘democratic’ nation-states and sizeable sections of their liberal societies to read in the ascendancy of an Islamist Hamas the degeneration of the Palestinian people and their struggle for self-determination stems from this conjuncture, which is characterised by a complete instrumentalisation and institutionalisation of the ideas of liberal-democracy and secularism into an anti-democratic centre of capitalist class power and social domination. What is forgotten, as a consequence, is the true historical origin of the ideology of secularism in the various popular democratic struggles in the western world against institutionalised religion.

It is this subjugation, or shall we say blinding, of secular reason by power that has compelled the liberals of the world to not only equate Hamas’s Islamist ideology with that of Al Qaeda’s but has also led them to believe that the decision of the majority of Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, to jettison the secular-nationalist Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for Hamas is a case of wilful fundamentalist aberration. Had the rational capacities of the liberals not been so contaminated by status quoist considerations of power and social privilege, they would have realised that no people – certainly not those who are waging a war of resistance like the Palestinians – choose their political agency, and the ideological idiom and identity that come with it, at their own pleasure and free will. The failure of the global liberal community to ask, let alone figure out, why the Palestinians chose to dump their traditional secular leadership of the PLO, particularly its Al Fatah faction, for an Islamist Hamas has clearly been due to their ideological inability, if not reluctance, to see the political in terms of the social and vice-versa. In other words, the question of political autonomy, which is what all identitarian struggles for self-determination essentially are, poses the question of cooperative and dialogic social association either directly or implicitly.

What is, however, even more unfortunate is the failure of the global Left forces, in all their national varieties, to insist that their persistent backing for a national self-determination movement like Palestine is precisely because it has served to continuously foreground the aforementioned impulse of social transformation. Instead, their pretext for supporting the Palestinian struggle merely because it is a struggle for national self-determination has, ironically enough, put them on the same page as the liberals who now find Palestine a troubling and embarrassing issue. Such support has, precisely because it has reified the idea of political autonomy and national self-determination, been rendered ineffective. Worse, it has put paid to all hope of engaging the liberal community on its ideologically blinkered, if not politically motivated, perception of Hamas’s Islamist politics.

Autonomy, after all, is nothing but a means of seeking true representation of the self by struggling against its false representation by a regime of class domination, which is the logical consequence of a capitalist social order based on the ethic of competition, alienation and difference. Clearly then, autonomy cannot be won unless the order of competitive socialisation is transformed into one of cooperative social association.

In that context, the subjectivities of various movements of political (national, sub-national, caste, race, gender, religious) autonomy, insofar as they pose the question of autonomy and real representation of the concerned socio-political identities without dialectically unfolding the social transformative aspect immanent in them, continue to be articulated by the bourgeois logic of competitive socialisation. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that political autonomy and self-determination are, as far as such subjectivities are concerned, mostly articulated in terms of sovereignty – a bourgeois notion of competitive socio-politics which philosopher Georges Bataille explained as the complete invasion of the other by the self. Yet, it would be difficult to deny that such subjectivities at their moment of resistance – against their experience of social domination and false representation – unconsciously posit the objective struggle for decimation of the bourgeois order of competitive socialisation, and its transformation into a domain of free association.

The reason why the PLO’s leadership no longer finds too many takers among Palestinians, especially the preponderantly poor population of Gaza, is not only because it has ceased to posit such free associative and dialogic mode of socialisation but also because it has been actively blocking and undermining it. To see the rise of Hamas as an outcome of the corruption and venality of the PLO – manifest most acutely in the latter’s post-Oslo Palestinian Authority (PA) – is to merely put the problem in a moral frame. In real political terms, this venality of the PLO is no more than a manifestation of the emergence of a privileged class within the larger Palestinian society. Members of traditional propertied classes among Palestinians together with the new intellectual-political elite, chiefly of PLO and Al Fatah vintage, comprise this new class. This social phenomenon has, at the political level, found expression in the institutionalisation of the PLO and its version of the Palestinian movement. It is no coincidence that West Bank, which is home to Palestinians who have much better access to socio-economic entitlements such as education, employment, health, and various civic amenities both in quantitative and qualitative terms, is the base of PLO, PA and their secular Palestinian identity. On the other hand, Gaza, inhabited principally by pauperised and proletarianised Palestinians, has come to be the centre of Hamas’s politics of uncompromising anti-Israeli resistance.

It is in this context that Hamas’s refusal to expressly eschew its stated position of not recognizing Israel’s right to exist must be examined. The Oslo Accords between Tel Aviv and Yasser Arafat’s PLO in 1993 led to the Palestinians, under PLO’s leadership, recognising Israel’s right to exist as an independent nation in exchange for Tel Aviv’s acceptance of Palestinian national self-determination through interim self-government arrangements within the pre-1967 boundaries. The acceptance of those boundaries meant, in practical terms, accepting only the two territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip as Palestinian. It is these accords that culminated in the setting up of the PA. But in real terms, Oslo has meant Palestinian self-determination only on paper as Israel has been engaged in gerrymandering “facts on the ground” by constantly pushing more and more Jewish settlers way beyond the real pre-1967 borders and deep into the Palestinian territories as recognised by the Oslo Accords. That Israel would need to continuously violate the spirit of Oslo in this fashion is fairly clear. Its Zionist raison d’etre of Eretz Yisrael, the “land of Israel” for all Jews of the world, will keep inducing it to acquire more and more land for building new settlements for Jews, who continue to pour in from every corner of the world to seek the fulfilment of this founding promise of Israel.

The PA, especially under Arafat’s successors Ahmed Querie and Mahmoud Abbas, not only acquiesced in this brazen molestation of Oslo by Israel but even facilitated the violation by using both its security forces and armed Al Fatah fighters to keep Palestinian protesters, obviously more in Gaza than West Bank, at bay. That Abbas and his PLO crowd have watched, more or less silently, even as Tel Aviv has mounted its atrocities in Gaza ever since a Hamas government pushed PA out of there, is entirely of a piece with the PLO’s post-Oslo stance.

The PLO’s collaboration in this Israeli project of subverting the spirit of Oslo is both a cause and consequence of preserving the social interests of the privileged Palestinian classes in West Bank. The compliant collaboration of the PA with Israel has not only meant that the much better access of its privileged Palestinians to socio-economic entitlements and concomitant socio-political power, vis-à-vis the Palestinian poor of Gaza, is ensured. It has also helped this elite to fend off the political challenge of the toiling classes, rallied behind Hamas, through the instruments of Israeli occupation. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the Israeli endeavour to change “facts on the ground” have been directed more at Gaza than West Bank.

That, however, does not mean that the PLO and the PA have stopped posing their versions of a self-determined Palestinian identity with regard to Israeli occupation. But their recent ‘struggle’, which has inevitably turned out to be an apology of the concerted resistance movements it had earlier conducted, poses the identity of the privileged Palestinian class in a spirit of competition with regard to the privileged sections among the Jews, whose interests are embodied in the ideological-political project called Israel. As a result, the PLO-PA ‘struggle’ against Israel is merely geared towards enhancing the social position of the Palestinian elite within the stratified global political-economic order as it obtains to in the region. Clearly, the existential impulse of the Palestinian identity currently posed by the PLO-PA is that of reinforcing the capitalist logic of competitive socialisation. That collaboration with Israel takes precedence, for the PLO-PA, over its assertion of Palestinian autonomy indicates the quest of the privileged Palestinian classes for self-determination is essentially a bourgeois competitive enterprise to further their social domination. That, needless to say, has only reinforced the hegemony of global capitalism, and its Yankee-Zionist moment in the region.

Hamas’s refusal to abandon its stated position questioning Israel’s right to exist is, in that context, a repudiation of Oslo, which in reality paved the way for collaboration between Tel Aviv and the PLO-PA. That conferred a fig leaf of legitimacy on continued Israeli occupation, directed at denying the Palestinian underclass its real autonomy, but also enabled the social domination of the underprivileged Palestinians by their own social elite under the PLO-PA’s wing. To that extent, the Hamas-led resistance in Gaza for Palestinian national self-determination has, at this juncture, been both a struggle against socio-political domination and the bourgeois logic of competitive socialization that has engendered it.

All that does not, however, still explain why an agency of the Palestinian underclass, which is ranged against the collaborationist apparatus of Israeli occupiers and a Palestinian elite, would need to abandon its original secular-nationalist ideological idiom for a more puritan variety of Islam. And this question cannot be answered unless the secular-nationalism of the PLO, which was rejected after it became the ideology of a political institution of a privileged Palestinian elite, is located within the ideological-social space of Islam in the West Asian, especially the Palestinian, region. Islam has been the dominant indigenous cultural form in that region and all stirrings of enlightenment among its predominantly Arab peoples have been in its language. Arab-Christians have adopted the modern nationalist discourse, which has been articulated in this specific form of Islamic language, as much as the Arab-Muslims. The secular-nationalist ideology of the Palestinian national struggle under the PLO can be traced to the late 19th century Nahada (Arab Renaissance), when Islam was read against its traditional grain to articulate an absolutely modern idea of Arab nationalism against the Turkish Ottomans, whose imperial caliphate had then embodied the traditional idea of institutionalised pan-Islamism. It should, therefore, be clear that the secular nationalism of the Palestinian resistance under the PLO was not secular in the conventionally understood western sense of the term. It was imbued by Islam, albeit a liberal and inclusive variety of it. The ideological shift of the poor Palestinians – who now constitute the vanguard of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination – towards a relatively more traditionalist and pietistic conception of the religion must, therefore, be seen as a movement within the Islamic ideological space, away from its more liberal end, precisely because this liberalism has lost its earlier inclusiveness. To claim this was the only alternative the proletarianised Palestinians of Gaza had, considering that an effective working class force was absent in Palestine would be like stating the obvious.

And yet, it would be grossly inaccurate to equate the Hamas-led Palestinian struggle with Al Qaeda’s international jehad merely because both articulate their politics in the idiom of religious Islam. Hamas’s so-called radical Islam is, clearly, an organic language of protest, resistance and autonomy against socio-political domination by a foreign state and an institutionalised, secular local elite. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, posits its Islam as an anti-dialogic institution that needs to be imposed on the entire world in the form of an international caliphate. In fact, Al Qaeda’s institutionalised religion is no different from the institutionalised anti-democratic secularisms of modern capitalist powers it seeks to displace. Clearly, Al Qaeda’s struggle against capitalist liberal modernity is a competitive struggle of a section of disgruntled Gulf Arab elite funded by petro-dollars against other sections of that same elite and their socio-political allies within the stratified hegemony of global capitalism. Al Qaeda is a force of fascist reaction, Hamas the harbinger of dogged resistance and hope.

Why Condemning Israel and the Zionist Lobby is so Important

James Petras

“It’s no great secret why the Jewish agencies continue to trumpet support for the discredited policies of this failed administration. They see defense of Israel as their number-one goal, trumping all other items on the agenda. That single-mindedness binds them ever closer to a White House that has made combating Islamic terrorism its signature campaign. The campaign’s effects on the world have been catastrophic. But that is no concern of the Jewish agencies.” – December 8, 2006 statement by JJ Goldberg, editor of Forward (the leading Jewish weekly in the United States)


Many Jewish writers, including those who are somewhat critical of Israel, have raised pointed questions about our critique of the Zionist power configuration (ZPC) in the United States and what they wrongly claim are our singular harsh critique of the state of Israel. Some of these accusers claim to see signs of ‘latent anti-Semitism’, others, of a more ‘leftist’ coloration, deny the influential role of the ZPC arguing that US foreign policy is a product of geo-politics or the interests of big oil. With the recent publication of several widely circulated texts, highly critical of the power of the Zionist ‘lobby’, several liberal pro-Israel publicists generously conceded that it is a topic that should be debated (and not automatically stigmatized and dismissed) and perhaps be ‘taken into account.’

ZPC Deniers: Phony Arguments for Fake Claims

The main claims of ZPC deniers take several tacks: Some claim that the ZPC is just ‘another lobby’ like the Chamber of Commerce, the Sierra Club or the Society for the Protection of Goldfish. Others claim that by focusing mainly on Israel and by inference the ‘Lobby’, the critics of Zionism ignore the equally violent abuses of rulers, regimes and states elsewhere. This ‘exclusive focus’ on Israel, the deniers of ZPC argue, reveals a latent or overt anti-Semitism. They propose that human rights advocates condemn all human rights abusers everywhere (at the same time and with the same emphasis?). Others still argue that Israel is a democracy – at least outside of the Occupied Territories (OT) – and therefore is not as condemnable as other human rights violators and should be ‘credited’ for its civic virtues along with its human rights failings. Finally others still claim that, because of the Holocaust and ‘History-of-Two-Thousand-Years-of-Persecution’, criticism of Jewish-funded and led pro-Israel lobbies should be handled with great prudence, making it clear that one criticizes only specific abuses, investigates all charges – especially those from Arab/Palestinian/United Nations/European/Human Rights sources – and recognizes that Israeli public opinion, the press and even the Courts or sectors of them may also be critical of regime policies.

These objections to treating the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict and the activities of Zionist Lobbies as central to peace and war serve to dilute, dissipate and deflate criticism and organized political activity directed at the ZPC and its directors in Israel.

The response of the critics of Israel and the ZPC to these attacks has been weak at best and cowardly at worst. Some critics have responded that their criticism is only directed toward a specific policy or leader, or to Israeli policies in the OT and that they recognize Israel is a democracy, that it requires secure borders, and that it is in the interests of the Israeli ‘people’ to lower their security barriers. Others argue that their criticism is directed at securing Israeli interests, influencing the Zionist Lobby or to opening a debate. They claim that the views of ‘most’ Jews in the US are not represented by the 52 organizations that make up the Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations of America, or the thousands of PACs, local federations, professional associations and weekly publications which speak with one voice as unconditional supporters of every twist and turn in the policy of the Zionist State.

There are numerous similar lines of criticism, which basically avoid the fundamental issues raised by the Israeli state and the ZPC, and which we are obliged to address. The reason that criticism and action directed against Israel and the ZPC is of central importance today in any discussion of US foreign policy, especially (but not exclusively) of Middle East policy and US domestic policymaking is that they play a decisive role and have a world-historic impact on the present and future of world peace and social justice. We turn now to examine the ‘big questions’ facing Americans as a result of the power of Israel in the United States.

The Big Questions Raised by the ZPC and Israeli Power in the USA
War or Peace

Critical study of the lead up to the US invasion of Iraq, US involvement in providing arms to Israel (cluster bombs, two-ton bunker buster bombs and satellite surveillance intelligence) prior to, during and after Israel’s abortive invasion of Lebanon, Washington’s backing of the starvation blockade of the Palestinian people and the White House and Congress’ demands for sanctions and war against Iran are directly linked to Israeli state policy and its Zionist policy-makers in the Executive branch and US Congress. One needs to look no further than the documents, testimony and reports of AIPAC and the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations to observe their claims of success in authoring legislation, providing (falsified) intelligence, engaging in espionage (AIPAC) and turning documents over to Israeli intelligence (now dubbed ‘free speech’ by liberal Zionists).

If, as the overwhelming evidence indicates, the ZPC played a major role in the major wars of our time, wars capable of igniting new armed conflicts, then it ill behooves us to dilute the role of the Zionist/Jewish Lobby in promoting future US wars. Given Israel’s militarist-theocratic approach to territorial aggrandizement and its announced plans for future wars with Iran and Syria, and given the fact that the ZPC acts as an unquestioning and highly disciplined transmission belt for the Israeli state, then US citizens opposed to present and future US engagement in Middle East wars must confront the ZPC and its Israeli mentors. Moreover, given the extended links among the Islamic nations, the Israel/ZPC proposed ‘new wars’ with Iran will result in Global wars. Hence what is at stake in confronting the ZPC are questions which go beyond the Israeli-Palestine peace process, or even regional Middle East conflicts: it involves the big question of World Peace or War.

Democracy or Authoritarianism

Without the bluster and public hearings of former Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Jewish Lobby has systematically undermined the principal pillars of our fragile democracy. While the US Congress, media, academics, retired military and public figures are free to criticize the President, any criticism of Israel, much less the Jewish Lobby, is met with vicious attacks in all the op-ed pages of major newspapers by an army of pro-Israeli ‘expert’ propagandists, demands for firings, purges and expulsions of the critics from their positions or denial of promotions or new appointments. In the face of any prominent critic calling into question the Lobby’s role in shaping US policy to suit Israel’s interests, the entire apparatus (from local Jewish federations, AIPAC, the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations etc) go into action – smearing, insulting and stigmatizing the critics as ‘anti-Semites’. By denying free speech and public debate through campaigns of calumny and real and threatened repercussions the Jewish Lobby has denied Americans one of their more basic freedoms and constitutional rights.

The massive, sustained and well-financed hate campaigns directed at any congressional candidate critical of Israel effectively eliminates free speech among the political elite. The overwhelming influence of wealthy Jewish contributors to both parties – but especially the Democrats – results in the effective screening out of any candidate who might question any part of the Lobby’s Israel agenda. The takeover of Democratic campaign finance by two ultra-Zionist zealots, Senator Charles Schumer and Israeli-American Congressman Rahm Emanuel ensured that every candidate was totally subordinated to the Lobby’s unconditional support of Israel. The result is that there is no Congressional debate, let alone investigation, over the key role of prominent Zionists in the Pentagon involved in fabricating reports on Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’, and in designing and executing the war and the disastrous occupation policy. The Lobby’s ideologues posing as Middle East ‘experts’ dominate the op-ed and editorial pages of all the major newspapers (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post). In their pose as Middle East experts, they propagandize the Israeli line on the major television networks (CBS, NBC,ABC, Fox, and CNN) and their radio affiliates. The Lobby has played a prominent role in supporting and implementing highly repressive legislation like the Patriot Act and the Military Commission Act as well as modifying anti-corruption legislation to allow the Lobby to finance congressional ‘educational’ junkets to Israel. The head of Homeland Security with its over 150,000 functionaries and multi-billion dollar budget is none other than Zionist fanatic Michael Chertoff, head persecutor of Islamic charity organizations, Palestinian relief organizations and other ethnic Middle Eastern or Moslem constituencies in the US, which potentially might challenge the Lobby’s pro-Israel agenda.

The biggest threat to democracy in its fullest sense of the word – the right to debate, to elect, to legislate free of coercion – is found in the organized efforts of the Zionist lobby, to repress public debate, control candidate selection and campaigning, direct repressive legislation and security agencies against electoral constituencies opposing the Lobby’s agenda for Israel. No other lobby or political action group has as much sustained and direct influence over the political process – including the media, congressional debate and voting, candidate selection and financing of congressional allocation of foreign aid and Middle East agendas as the organized Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) and its indirect spokespeople heading key Congressional positions. A first step toward reversing the erosion of our democratic freedoms is recognizing and publicly exposing the ZPC’s nefarious organizational and financial activities and moving forward toward neutralizing their efforts.

Their Foreign Policy or Ours?

Intimately and directly related to the loss of democratic freedoms and a direct consequence of the Jewish lobby’s influence over the political process is the making of US Middle East policy and who benefits from it. The entire political effort of the Lobby (its spending, ethnic baiting, censorship and travel junkets) is directed toward controlling US foreign policy and, through US power, to influence the policy of US allies, clients and adversaries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The Lobby’s systematic curtailment of our democratic freedoms is intimately related to our own inability to influence our nation’s foreign policy. Our majoritarian position against the Iraq War, the repudiation of the main executioner of the War (the White House) and our horror in the face of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and destruction of Gaza are totally neutralized by Zionist influence over Congressional and White House policymakers. The recently victorious Congressional Democrats repudiate their electorate and follow the advice and dictates of the pro-Zionist leadership (Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Rahm Emmanuel, Stephan Israel and others) by backing an escalation of troops and an increase in military spending for the war in Iraq. Bush follows the war policy against Iran proposed by the zealous Zionist fanatics in the American Enterprise Institute, repudiating the diplomatic proposals of the bi-partisan Baker Commission. Congress quadruples US arms stored in Israel (supposedly for dual use) in the aftermath of Israel’s bombing of Southern Lebanon with one million anti-personnel bomblets from cluster bombs in direct defiance of US electoral opinion. While hundreds of millions of undernourished women and children suffer and die in Africa, Latin America and Asia, the Lobby ensures that over half of US foreign aid goes to Israeli Jews with per capita incomes of over $22,000 USD.

No other organized political action group or public relations firm acting on behalf of the Cuban and Venezuelan exiles or Arab, African, Chinese or European Union states comes remotely near the influence of the Zionist lobby in shaping US policy to serve the interest of Israel.

While the Lobby speaks for less than 2% of the US electorate, its influence on foreign policy far exceeds the great majority who have neither comparable organizational nor financial muscle to impose their views.

Never in the history of the US republic or empire has a powerful but tiny minority been able to wield so much influence in using out nation’s military and economic power and diplomatic arm-twisting in the service of a foreign government. Neither the Francophiles during the American Revolution, the Anglophiles in the Civil War and the German Bund in the run-up to World War Two, nor the (anti-China) Nationalist Taiwan Lobby possessed the organizational power and sustained political influence that the ZPC has on US foreign and domestic policy at the service of the State of Israel.

Confronting the Lobby Matters

The question of the power of the Lobby over US policies of war or peace, authoritarianism or democracy and over who defines the interests served by US foreign policy obviously go far beyond the politics of the Middle East, the Israeli-colonial land grabs in Palestine and even the savage occupation of Iraq. The playing out of Zionist influence over the greatest military power in the world, with the most far-reaching set of client states, military bases, deadly weapons and decisive voice in international bodies (IMF/World Bank/United Nations Security Council) means that the Lobby has a means to leverage its reach in most regions of the world. This leverage power extends over a range of issues, from defending the fortunes of murderous Russian-Jewish gangster oligarchs, to bludgeoning European allies of the US to complicity with Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

The ZPC represents a basic threat to our existence as a sovereign state and our ability to influence whom we elect and what agendas and interests our representatives will pursue. Even worse, by serving Israeli interests, we are becoming complicit with a State whose Supreme Court legalizes political assassinations across national boundaries, torture, systematic violations of international law and a regime which repudiates United Nations resolutions and unilaterally invades and bombs its neighbors and practices military colonist expansionism. In a word Israel resonates and feeds into the most retrograde tendencies and brutal practices of contemporary American politics. In this sense the Lobby through its media, Congressional influence and think tanks is creating an Israeli look-alike. Like Israel, the US has established its own Pentagon assassination teams; like Israel, it invades and colonizes Iraq; like Israel, it violates and rejects any constitutional or international legal restraints and systematically tortures accused but untried prisoners.

Because of these fundamental considerations, we cannot oblige our Jewish ‘progressive’ colleagues and compatriots and refrain from confronting the Zionist Lobby with force and urgency. Too many of our freedoms are at stake; too little time is left before they succeed in securing a greater military escalation; too little of our sovereignty remains in the face of the concerted effort by the Lobby and its Middle Eastern ‘expert-ideologues’ to push and shove us into a new and more devastating war with Iran at the behest of Israel’s pursuit of Middle East dominance.

No other country, abuser or not, of human rights, with or without electoral systems, has the influence over our domestic and foreign policy as does the state of Israel. No other Lobby has the kind of financial power and organizational reach as the Jewish Lobby in eroding our domestic political freedoms or our war-making powers. For those reasons alone, it stands to reason, that we American have a necessity to put our fight against Israel and its Lobby at the very top of our political agenda. It is not because Israel has the worst human rights agenda in the world – other states have even worst democratic credentials – but because of its role in promoting its US supporters to degrade our democratic principles, robbing us of our freedom to debate and our sovereignty to decide our own interests. The Lobby puts the military and budgetary resources of the Empire at the service of Greater Israel – and that results in the worst human rights in the world.

Democratic, just and peaceful responses to the Big Questions that face Americans, Europeans, Muslims, Jews and other peoples of the world passes through the defeat and dismantlement of the Israeli-directed Zionist Power Configuration in America. Nothing less will allow us to engage in an open debate on the alternatives to repression at home and imperialism abroad.

James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, USA. He is one of the most respected Marxists among the radical circles around the globe. His works on imperialism and new rural movements of the landless and poor peasantry have greatly influenced political activists and analysts in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He has worked with the Brazilian landless workers’ movement and the unemployed workers’ movement in Argentina. His latest work is The Power of Israel in the United States (Clarity Press, 2006)