By: Mike Ely

Gary, thanks for digging into this.

I too have always been dissatisfied with the RCP’s analysis of why the U.S. backs Israel so strongly. (And I say this as someone who, for quite a few years, was required, as part of my task as a writer and editor of the RCP’s press, to put this view forward in articles.)

The analysis made by the RCP is that Israel is the only reliable ally in the region and has a great deal of military strength — and so while it does not have any of the decisive resource (oil) itself, and while it does not have influence among Arab countries (who do have oil) and while U.S. support for Israel antagonizes most of the Arab world (which the U.S. wants to win over) — the U.S. has made Israel the cornerstone of its strategic policy.

There is no doubt that the U.S. HAS (in fact) made Israel the cornerstone of its strategic policy. There is not doubt that (what is a different matter) support for Israel is a “third rail” in U.S. politics — i.e. any politician or political force that does not (rather wholeheartedly and aggressively) support Israel and its demands on Palestinian land — is simply considered “not mainstream” and “not responsible,” and is excluded from the circle of approved debate (and from the circles of power).

The issue is not whether the U.S. supports Israel in a rather singleminded way, but why. And the RCP’s explanation has been rather thin, and does not seem to explain things.

Next; i would like to point out that there is another explanation that also does not explain things.

there are many people who think that the tail wags the dog. I.e. that Israel (and its political networks) have hijacked U.S. foreign policy.

There are some parts to that analysis:
1) that support for Israel is not really in U.S. “national interest” and that various forces (especially the Neo-cons) are acting in Israeli intersts (and in opposition to “real” U.S. imperialist intersts.)
2) There is a notion that this is mainly done through “lobbying” — i.e. that a combination of vote herding in key areas (i.e. NYC) and fundraising (i.e. bribes to politicians) and “control of the media” — have given pro-Israeli forces a disproportionate hold on politics.
3) there is an accusation that pro-israeli jews (which is most politically active Jews) have a “divided loyalty” — i.e. they claim to be loyal to the U.s. but they are really loyal to Israel (and their jewishness).

Now in a basic away, we (as communists, revolutionaries, as oppressed people within the U.S.) don’t really care about U.S. “national interests” — our criticism of Israel support is not that “it doesn’t serve the U.S. empire well, it gets in the way of dominating Arab countries in a stable way, etc.” This is not our viewpoint, this is not our concern. That is not our class stand.

But i also don’t think it is true that supporting Israel is not in the U.S. interests. I don’t believe there is this hyjacking (overall — though some politicians are clearly “in the pocket of Israel,” just like some have been bribed “into the pocket of China” or whatever. Never underestimate corruption in the U.S.!)

The idea that Israeli influence works against U.S. “national intersts” is both untrue and plays into a great number of classic antisemitic myths (about Jews being inherently anti-national, disloyal, cosmopolitan, etc.) It is not enough (obviously) to just assert this, it may need to be proven. But for now I will just assert this.

These views (that U.S. foreign policy has been hijacked, and the tail wags the dog) are very common both among some kinds of anti-Israeli rightwingers (most prominently Pat Buchanan) and also (ironically) among Palestinians (across the political spectrum).

One outcome of this view is that Palestinians and Arabs have tried to form their own “lobbying” group — to outdo the Zionists at this game. And (need i say) it has never worked (and won’t work) because it is based on a set of wrong, and naive assumptions.

A personal story as analogy: U.S. coal miners were extremely frustrated in the 1970s that the federal courts unanimously and constantly ruled for the coal-operators — condemning all strikes as illegal, issuing injunctions, jailing strike leaders, and so on. Some miners thought that this was done through bribery… i.e. they assumed that the judges were ruling that way because they were paid off. And so they called a meeting to form a counter-strategy: they suggested that miners start to pool their own money to secretly buy off judges. There was a naive sense of class in this theory… clearly the companies were in control of the legal outcome. But the question is how and why.

And, it was also true (and probably more than we know) that judges were on the payroll of the capitalists in some corrupt, under-the-table way. But it is not true that miners could go into federal court with a bag of money and get a favorable ruling that way. These guys would have ended up in prison if they had tried. And the reason is that there is something more profound and structural in the relationship of the judiciary and the capitalists — including that the rights of the capitalists are embedded in the law itself, and in legal precedence, and so on. Similarly, it does not work when Arab communities try to imitate the “Jewish lobby” and “outdo them at their own game” (even if they lasso lots of “Arab money” into the project — which is certainly a huge potential pool).

And here is why: One reason the Israeli lobby is influential is (in large part) because Israel is a strategic ally. That is closer to the truth than the inverse: “Israel is a strategic ally because the israeli lobby is influential.” the Israeli/Zionist “lobby” is real, it wields influence and money, and so on. But it is not the reason the U.S. backs Israel. The Israeli tail does not wag the U.S. dog. (Or more precisly, it may on some matters, but lobbying is not overall the reasons why the U.S. ruling class supports, finances, whitewashes Israeli atrocities over and over and over. The U.S. media doesn’t whitewash Israel because “Jews control the media” — but because the media supports U.S. strategic policy.

The emergence of Israel was one of several factors that changed the status of Jewish people in the U.S. (who went from being highly exploited proletarians in the 1930s, to becoming “honorary white people” in a way once reserved for WASPS, to being feted by the anti-semetic Christian Right in the 1980s.

The status of Jewish people changed (sociologically), and the dominant political view of jews (and Zionism) changed — over the 1950s as Israel emerged as a key ally in an increasingly strategic region.

Put another way: I believe that the special strategic relationship Israel has with U.S. IS (fundamentally) in the interests of U.S. imperialism. And that it would not be so uniformly embraced by the ruling class (its parties and political representatives) if this were not true. There is a great deal more nuance and shades of difference within official U.S. policy towards israel than you would guess by listening to the campaign rhetoric (differences on settlements, on engagement with palestinaians and so on.)

The U.S. strategic policy is basically “the three legged stool” — i.e. to encourage and finance a defacto alliance between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. (Previously the Shah of Iran served as one of the U.S. key actors in the region). And while Egypt plays that assigned role with slavish devotion (and zillions of dollars propping up their very government), ambivilence within the Saudi family and ruling circles (toward the U.S. and Israel) has been a key strategic problem (and a major source of the current rise of Islamic Jihadism, including the emergence of Osama Bin Laden himself as a symbol and organizer).

Just a quick note on method:

The problem with the RCP’s analysis around Israel is not isolated. It is tied to a general reductionism. In words, the RCP acknowledges the “relative autonomy” of the superstructure — of politics, of ideas, of the quirks of influential individuals, and the possibility of accident, of irrational decisions taken on major matters etc.

But in reality there is often a real gap in their analysis where the particularity of real politics belongs. Often around the Revolutoinary Worker or Revolution there were struggles over this — clearly there were different lines.

It comes out clearly in the analysis Avakian makes around the Christian fascists — where there is a general discussion of strategic interest (a need to harden the society, increase intolerance and discipline etc.) and then a real and unjustified leap to saying that (therefore) the ruling class will consider a fascist change to a christian theocracy (and an abandonment of central tenets of previous bourgeois democracy). this is done without a real analysis of how the U.S. political system works, its history — the reasons for its religious diversity, the problems of regionalism, the independent role of institutions and ideas, etc.

And there has been a similar reductionism generally: where general statements are made about the geo-strategic and class interests of U.S. imperialism, and then gaps appear in the analysis — so that verdict appear ungrounded in a specific and particular analysis of the political sphere, insitutions, mechanisms, movements, ideological convictions, etc.