Monday, February 5, 2007

Quote of the Day

Editor's note: I am moving over to the other blog.
---
"War with Iran would be a catastrophe that would make us look back fondly on the minor inconvenience of being bogged down in Iraq."
-- James Fallows, The Atlantic, February 2, 2007

Cheney's Fund Manager Attacks ... Cheney

Mutual Fund Morning
By Brett Arends
Mutual Funds Columnist

2/5/2007 7:57 AM EST


The oil-based energy policies usually associated with Vice President Dick Cheney have just come under scathing attack. There's nothing remarkable about that, of course -- except the person doing the attacking. Step forward, Jeremy Grantham -- Cheney's own investment manager. "What were we thinking?' Grantham demands in a four-page assault on U.S. energy policy mailed last week to all his clients, including the vice president. Titled "While America Slept, 1982-2006: A Rant on Oil Dependency, Global Warming, and a Love of Feel-Good Data," Grantham's philippic adds up to an extraordinary critique of U.S. energy policy over the past two decades. What Cheney makes of it can only be imagined. "Successive U.S. administrations have taken little interest in either oil substitution or climate change," he writes, "and the current one has even seemed to have a vested interest in the idea that the science of climate change is uncertain." Yet "there is now nearly universal scientific agreement that fossil fuel use is causing a rise in global temperatures," he writes. "The U.S. is the only country in which environmental data is steadily attacked in a well-funded campaign of disinformation (funded mainly by one large oil company)." That's Exxon Mobil (XOM) . As for Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Richard Lindzen, who appears everywhere to question global warming, Grantham mocks him as "the solitary plausible academic [the skeptics] can dig up, out of hundreds working in the field." And for those nonscientists who are still undecided about the issue, Grantham reminds them of an old logical principle known as Pascal's Paradox. It may be better known as the "what if we're wrong?" argument. If we act to stop global warming and we're wrong, well, we could waste some money. If we don't act, and we're wrong ... you get the picture. As for the alleged economic costs of going "green," Grantham says that industrialized countries with better fuel efficiency have, on average, enjoyed faster economic growth over the past 50 years than the U.S. Grantham says that other industrialized countries have far better energy productivity than the U.S. The GDP produced per unit of energy in Italy is 50% higher. Fifty percent. Japan: 60%. And China "already has auto fuel efficiency standards well ahead of the U.S.!" he adds. You've probably heard about China's slow economic growth. Grantham adds that past U.S. steps in this area, like sulfur dioxide caps adopted by the late President Gerald Ford, have done far more and cost far less than predicted. "Ingenuity sprung out of the woodwork when it was correctly motivated," he writes. There is also a political and economic cost to our oil dependency, Grantham notes. Yet America could have eliminated its oil dependency on the Middle East years ago with just a "reasonable set of increased efficiencies." All it would take is 10% fewer vehicles, each driving 10% fewer miles and getting 50% more miles per gallon. Under that "sensible but still only moderately aggressive policy," he writes, "not one single barrel would have been needed from the Middle East." Not one. I repeat: This is not some rainbow coalition. This is not even Al Gore. Grantham is the chairman of Boston-based fund management company Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo. He is British-born but has lived here since the early 1960s. Grantham is, like most fund managers, prudent, conservative and inclined to favor the free market and smaller government. He has even said he supported Bush-Cheney in 2000. That doesn't make him particularly political. He also manages a portion of the Heinz-Kerry fortune, as well as those of many other wealthy types. But he's certainly a man Cheney respects highly. According to the vice president's last personal financial disclosure form, filed with the Federal Election Commission, Cheney has somewhere between $1.6 million and $6 million of his family's money invested in four of Grantham's funds. These aren't even index funds. These are discretionary funds, where you trust the manager to look at the landscape, analyze all the data, and make the best investments. Cheney must have a lot of faith in Grantham's judgement and analytical skills. When I met Grantham last autumn he, quite rightly, refused to confirm that the vice president was a client. But you can see the evidence in Cheney's own personal financial disclosure. There is an investment angle to Grantham's argument. He says he is "certain" that "oil substitution, energy conservation, and related environment issues will be the biggest investment issue of at last the next several decades." He adds: "It is clear there is no single solution so investment opportunities will be spread very broadly, especially in energy conservation." He believes we will need more nuclear power. But he calls corn-based ethanol "more or less a hoax" when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "U.S. corn-based ethanol, as opposed to efficient, Brazilian sugar-based ethanol, is merely another U.S. farmer-protection program, made very expensive both directly and indirectly by inflating real agricultural prices." Tell that to the presidential candidates currently stumping the Iowa caucus. (Incidentally, three MIT scientists told me the same thing about corn ethanol more than a year ago when I interviewed them on the subject. After my article appeared in the Boston Herald, I received a snotty letter denying there was any such thing as "an Iowa corn growers' racket." It was from the "chairman of the Iowa Corn Growers' Association.") Grantham's full letter can be seen on his company Web site [www.gmo.com] , though you will need to register. It appears as the second half of the investment missive "Goldilocks Rules." Grantham blames three decades of political cowardice for America's backward energy policy. As he dryly notes, "U.S. drivers -- the world's richest and some of the best behaved -- would, it was said, never accept increased taxes, where Italian drivers would! Even tax-neutral policies, such as taxing high mileage cars at purchase and subsidizing efficient cars, were never seriously considered." The result: the fuel efficiency of U.S. cars has actually gone backward since 1982. The irony is that this isn't, or shouldn't be, a partisan issue. Grantham singles out the Ford administration for his strongest praise on environmental matters. Everyone since, of both parties, has been a failure, he concludes. "The past 26 years have been such a wasted opportunity," Grantham writes. "This country had previously shown leadership in this field. President Ford got us off to a running start in energy efficiency... With a succession of President Fords, we would have ended up as an environmental leader and a great model." I would love to know what President Ford's former chief of staff thinks of that. His name? Richard B. Cheney.

Brett Arends

Blood up over war diamonds

A campaign to boycott Israeli "blood diamonds" has been launched by a group established to raise awareness of the international plight of the Palestinian people.

Click on image to enlarge



Kathryn Hayes
Irish Examiner
February 5, 2007

Insurgents video: Shows downing of US helicopter


Video Said to Show U.S. Copter Shot Down

Feb 04 7:52 PM US/Eastern

By ROBERT H. REID
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The U.S. command has ordered changes in flight operations after four helicopters were shot down in the last two weeks, the chief military spokesman said Sunday, acknowledging for the first time that the aircraft were lost to hostile fire.
The crashes, which began Jan. 20, follow insurgent claims that they have received new stocks of anti-aircraft weapons _ and a recent boast by Sunni militants that "God has granted new ways" to threaten U.S. aircraft. Al-Jazeera aired video late Sunday showing one of the U.S. helicopters being hit in central Iraq and said it came from an insurgent Web site.

All four helicopters were shot down during a recent increase in violence, which an Interior Ministry official said has claimed nearly 1,000 lives in the past week alone. At least 103 people were killed or found dead Sunday, most of them in Baghdad, police reported.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters that the investigations into the crashes of three Army and one private helicopters were incomplete but "it does appear they were all the result of some kind of anti- Iraqi ground fire that did bring those helicopters down."

It was the first time a senior figure in the U.S. Iraq command had said publicly that all four helicopters were shot down.

Despite the losses, Caldwell said it was premature to conclude that the threat to U.S. aircraft posed by Sunni insurgents and Shiite militiamen had increased dramatically.

"There's been an ongoing effort since we've been here to target our helicopters," Caldwell said. "Based on what we have seen, we're already making adjustments in our tactics and techniques and procedures as to how we employ our helicopters."

Caldwell did not elaborate, presumably for security reasons. In the past, defensive measures have included flying lower and faster, varying routes and using zigzag patterns over dangerous areas.

Three crashed in mostly Sunni areas and the fourth was shot down during fighting with Shiite cultists near Najaf. U.S. officials have accused Iran of providing sophisticated weapons to Shiite militants.

In December, a spokesman for Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath party, Khudair al-Murshidi, told The Associated Press in Damascus, Syria, that Sunni insurgents had received shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and "we are going to surprise them," meaning U.S. forces.

Al-Murshidi did not say when or how the missiles were obtained.

Insurgents have used SA-7s, a shoulder-fired missile with an infrared homing device, against U.S. and British aircraft since 2003.

In an Internet statement, the al-Qaida-affilated Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the latest crash _ an Apache Longbow helicopter that went down Friday north of Baghdad, killing two crew members.

"We tell the enemies of God that the airspace of the Islamic State in Iraq is prohibited to your aircraft just like its lands are," the statement said. "God has granted new ways for the soldiers of the State of Iraq to confront your aircraft."

It was unclear whether the "new ways" referred to new and advanced anti-aircraft weapons _ such as SA-18 missiles _ or was simply a boast.

U.S. military helicopters are equipped with long-range sensors and devices to jam radar and infrared technology, but they have proven vulnerable to intense gunfire, as well as rocket-propelled grenades.

Al-Jazeera showed a grainy 15-second video, filmed from the ground, which showed a helicopter plunging with a trail of black smoke emanating from it. It said the video was of the Apache hit Friday near Taji in central Iraq. The authenticity of the video could not be immediately verified.

The crashes have occurred in the run-up to the new U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown, in which an additional 21,500 American troops and about 8,000 Iraqi soldiers are being sent mostly to Baghdad in another bid to quell sectarian violence.

Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abboud Gambar, a Shiite named to lead the crackdown, will take charge Monday and the operation will begin "very soon thereafter," U.S. adviser Col. Douglass Heckman said.

On Sunday, an Interior Ministry official said about 1,000 Iraqis _ including civilians, security forces and gunmen _ had been killed in the last week alone. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the figures.

Figures tallied by The Associated Press from police and government statements put the death toll from Jan. 28 until Saturday at 911.

That included 137 people killed Saturday in a massive truck bombing in the mostly Shiite Sadriyah market in central Baghdad. The explosion was fifth major bombing in less than a month against Shiite targets in Baghdad and Hillah.

It was also the deadliest in the capital since a string of car bombs and mortars killed at least 215 people in the Shiite district of Sadr City on Nov. 23.

Public anger over the attack welled up during a meeting Sunday between a delegation of Sadriyah residents and Iraqi parliament members. The head of the delegation, Talib Nawrouz, demanded that the government implement the new security plan quickly to end the bloodshed.

"We demand the government start the new security plan, implement the counter terrorism law, and support the families specially the injuries" he added.

Deputy parliament speaker Khalid al-Attiyah, a Shiite, expressed condolences and told the delegation that the bombing showed "what the future will be like if those terrorists take power."

But Caldwell, the military spokesman, urged Iraqis to be patient, warning that the upcoming crackdown would not improve security overnight.

"People must be patient. Give the government and coalition forces a chance to fully implement it. It will take some time for additional Iraqi and U.S. forces to be deployed," Caldwell said.


Associated Press correspondents Kim Gamel in Baghdad and Salah Nasrawi in Cairo, Egypt, contributed to this report.

What is Zionism

Chapter 6, from the book, "Sharing the Land of Canaan", by Mazin Qumsiyeh.

Zionism


PROMISED LAND

PROMISED LAND
by Ahlam Shalhout

I was taken to a foreign land.
A land believed to be full of promise.
I was told it bore fruits with the sweetest of nectar.
Its soil so rich with olive branches of peace.
Where the streets were paved with golden orange groves.

The nectar though sweet to my tongue
Brought tears to my bowels.
The peace bearing olives were pressed
To make oil of bullfights. Ole!


Zionism is variously looked at as a salvation or as a catastrophic power. Yet all agree that Zionism was and is at the center of the conflict that now raged for over 100 years in the Land of Canaan. No lasting solution can be approached without an honest examination of origin and consequences of this phenomenon that still shapes events, not only locally in Palestine/Israel, but in the region and the world. The origin of Zionism is often described as initiated in the 19th century by European/Ashkenazi Jews. But this political movement had an earlier and more dramatic history, some of it distinctly un-Jewish origin. In dealing with the problems plaguing the Land of Canaan today, we must have clear handle on Zionist history and the forces that challenged or promoted it.

Christian Zionism and Colonialism

Napoleon first attempted to construct a network of Jews loyal to the French Empire throughout Europe. More concrete planning and action from the British Empire quickly replaced this initial gesture from the French empire (ref 1). It should be noted that during this time very few Jews lived in Britain or France. With the loss of the American Colonies, British colonialism focused on India as “the Jewel of the Crown” and perhaps as importantly on the road to India (ref 2). In the words of a London Times’ correspondent in 1840 “the proposition to plant the Jewish people in the land of their fathers, under the protection of the five Powers, is no longer a mere matter of speculation, but a serious political consideration” (ref 3). This quote from the Quarterly Review of 1838 shows that British, non-Jewish Zionist plans were instituted primarily for the benefit of the British Empire:

The growing interest manifested for these regions, the larger investment of British capital, and the confluence of British travelers and strangers from all parts of the world, have recently induced the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to station there a representative of our Sovereign, in the person of a Vice-Consul. This gentleman set sail for Alexandria at the end of last September—his residence will be fixed at Jerusalem, but his jurisdiction will extend to the whole country within the ancient limits of the Holy Land; he is thus accredited, as it were, to the former kingdom of David and the Twelve Tribes. The soil and climate of Palestine are singularly adapted to the growth of produce required for the exigencies of Great Britain; the finest cotton may be obtained in almost unlimited abundance; silk and madder are the staple of the country, and oil-olive is now, as it ever was, the very fatness of the land. Capital and skill are alone required: the presence of a British officer, and the increased security of property which his presence will confer, may invite them the Jews from these islands to the cultivation of Palestine; and the Jews, who will betake themselves to agriculture in no other land, having found, in the English Consul, a mediator between their people and the Pasha, will probably return in yet greater numbers, and become once more the husbandmen of Jud├Ža and Galilee … Napoleon knew well the value of an Hebrew alliance; and endeavoured to reproduce, in the capital of France, the spectacle of the ancient Sanhedrim, which, basking in the might of imperial favour, might give laws to the whole body of the Jews throughout the habitable world, and aid him, no doubt, in his audacious plans against Poland and the East That which Napoleon designed in his violence and ambition, thinking ‘to destroy nations not a few,’ we may wisely and legitimately undertake for the maintenance of our Empire (ref 4)

British diplomacy with the Ottoman Sultan starting in the 1830s included explicit requests to encourage and facilitate the settlements of Jews in Palestine. Many Jews were rightly wary of these schemes by European gentiles. Zionism failed to convince large segments of European Jews in the 19th century. The few Jews who were interested in living in Palestine arrived for various reasons: religious individuals relocating near Safed and other centers of religious Judaism in Palestine, some enticed by financed relocation, and some idealistic socialist Zionists who felt assimilation failed and enlightenment was best developed alone until the rest of the world catches up. These early converts to Zionism were vastly outnumbered by non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews. Many were even fearful that Zionism was merely another scheme by gentiles to remove them from their countries. Yet, Zionism as a colonial venture could not really succeed without Jews taking it up as a cause in much larger numbers. The first attempt was the formation early in 1809 of a new organization by the name of The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. Its aims included educating Jews on their own history and promote Eastern European immigration to Palestine as a fulfillment of Christian theology. These early attempts were the true antecedents of the Christian Zionists movement, which remains influential both in Britain and the United States to this day. Colonel Charles Henry Churchill, the British Consul in Syria, stated in 1841 that success of Zionism depended on, “Firstly that the Jews themselves will take up the matter, universally and unanimously. Secondly that the European powers will aid them in their views” (ref 5).

To achieve such goals, the British Empire employed the services of one Lieutenant Colonel George Gawler (1796-1869). Gawler was a colonization expert who successfully founded a penal colony in Australia and after whom a major city and state in Australia are named. In 1845, Gawler published his vision for how this might be accomplished. His treaty was titled: "Tranquilization of Syria and the East: Observations and Practical Suggestions, in Furtherance of the Establishment of Jewish Colonies in Palestine, the Most Sober and Sensible Remedy for the Miseries of Asiatic Turkey" (ref 6). In 1852, the Association for Promoting Jewish Settlement in Palestine was founded by Gawler and other British officials and later evolved it into the Palestine Fund (ref 7). Winston Churchill wrote in 1920 immediately following his assertion that Bolshevism is led and initiated mostly by Jews:

But if, as may well happen, there should be created in our life time by the banks of the Jordan a Jewish State under the protection of the British Crown, which might comprise three or four millions of Jews, an event would have occurred in the history of the world which would, from every point of view be beneficial, and would be especially in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire (ref 8)

Zionism Taking Root among European Jewish Communities

There is much to be learned about the transition in the 19th century from a movement sponsored and promoted by non-Jews to a Jewish led movement that then took strong initiative to change the course of history. The number of Jews who looked with favor to Zionism fluctuated depending on circumstances of their residence and the political and economic situation. 19th century nationalism gave Zionism a more race and nationalistic tone. Yet, Jewish advocates of Zionism remained in the minority throughout the 19th century and early in the 20th century. And the movement clearly continued to depend on imperial interests for its very survival and this need for better cooperation with British colonial interests grew. The movement's strength in the Ashkenazi communities was largely related to levels of anti-Ashkenazi feelings. Thus, Moses Hess (1812-1875) argued that there is no cure for the "illness" of this Jewish hatred other than to establish their own state in Palestine. A man with similar views, Judah Leib (Leon) Pinsker (1821-1891), became a co-founder (with Moses Lilienblum) of Hibbat Zion, an early Zionist movement. In 1882, he wrote anonymously a pamphlet titled: "Auto-Emancipation: An appeal to his people by a Russian Jew." In it he argued that anti-Ashkenazim (known in Europe as anti-Semitism) was a pathological phenomenon beyond the reach of any future triumphs of "humanity and enlightenment." Here are relevant quotes of why he believed in Zionism:

This is the kernel of the problem, as we see it: the Jews comprise a distinctive element among the nations under which they dwell, and as such can neither assimilate nor be readily digested by any nation. Hence the solution lies in finding a means of so readjusting this exclusive element to the family of nations, that the basis of the Jewish question will be permanently removed.

Having analyzed Judeophobia as a hereditary form of demonopathy, peculiar to the human race, and having represented Anti-Semitism as proceeding from an inherited aberration of the human mind, we must draw the important conclusion that we must give up contending against these hostile impulses as we must against every other inherited predisposition.

Our future will remain insecure and precarious unless a radical change in our position is made. This change cannot be brought about by the civil emancipation of the Jews in this or that state, but only by the auto-emancipation of the Jewish people as a nation, the foundation of a colonial community belonging to the Jews, which is some day to become our inalienable home, our country.

The international Jewish question must have a national solution. Of course, our national regeneration can only proceed slowly. We must take the first step. Our descendants must follow us at a measured and not over-precipitant speed
(ref 9)

Pinsker became a leader of the movement and with funds from the wealthy British philanthropist, Baron Edmond de Rothschild developed the first Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine at Rishon LeZiyyon south of Tel Aviv, and Zikhron Yaaqov, south of Haifa. By 1891, about 10,000 Jews had relocated to these settlements in Palestine (then part of the Ottoman Empire). Yet, in the period of Jewish emigration from Europe 1882-1903, a tiny fraction left for Palestine, most went to North and South America.

Nathan Birnbaum (alias Mathias Ascher) coined the term "Zionism" based on the ideas of Hess and Pinsker as a political movement for Jewish "self-emancipation" and nationalism. In 1893, he published a brochure entitled "Die Nationale Wiedergeburtder Juedischen Volkes in seinem Lande als Mittel zur Loesung der Judenfrage" ("The National Rebirth of the Jewish People in Its Homeland as a Means of Solving the Jewish Problem"). Later, Theodore Herzl's work formed further ideological underpinnings for the movement. Similar to his intellectual fathers, he also "recognized that anti-Semitism would be harnessed to his own -Zionist- purposes" (ref 10). Thus, proponents of Zionism, non-Jews and Jews alike, built their popularity on Jewish fears of anti-Jewish sentiments and actions. Zionism, they were told is the best solution to the "Jewish problem".

Zionism after 1948

While Zionism as a political program was thus supposed to "emancipate the Jewish people" by having their own state, once the state was established and native people largely removed, new roles and arguments were to be resented to sustain and reinvent Zionism. The "protection" of the "Jewish people " from the "outside" remained essential philosophical and political underpinning to Zionism. But a bit more was needed. The Jerusalem Program for Zionism adopted in 1951 and revised by the World Zionist Congress in 1968 adopted this as a definition of the goals of Zionism:

The aims of Zionism are:
-The Unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life;
- The ingathering of the Jewish people in the historic homeland, Eretz Israel, through aliyah from
all countries;
-The strengthening of the State of Israel, which is based on the prophetic vision of justice and peace;
- The preservation of the identity of the Jewish people through the fostering of Jewish, Hebrew and Zionist education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values;
- The protection of Jewish rights everywhere.


In June 1968, the Zionist Congress, held in Jerusalem, redefined the aims of Zionism in the "Jerusalem Program" rather broadly:

1. Unity of the Jewish People and the Centrality of Israel in Jewish life;

2. The ingathering of the Jewish people in its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael through Aliyah from all countries.

3. The strengthening of the State of Israel, which is based on the prophetic vision of justice and peace;

4. The preservation of the identity of the Jewish people through the fostering of Jewish, Zionist and Hebrew education and of Jewish spiritual and cultural values;

5. The protection of Jewish rights everywhere.

Note the wide mandate dictated by key words of power, strength, and protection against any perceived threat to Jews. One need only substitute Jew/Jewish with Christian or "White" to see the inherent unfairness and racism in both the program of 1951 and 1968. After all, what is this idea of ingathering of Jewish "people" mean? What does it mean when many Jews have converted to Christianity and many to Islam? What does it mean for the majority of Jews who are converts over the ages from Christianity, Paganism etc.? How is he "ingathering" and taking land from natives via the "strengthening" of the State of Israel in the name of the "Unity of the Jewish people" help in the "protection of Jewish rights everywhere"?

The government of Israel still mindlessly talks about Zionism as a solution to "anti-Semitic" (anti-Jewish) hatred instead of working to advance equality for Jews and non-Jews everywhere:

The Zionist movement aimed to solve the 'Jewish problem,' the problem of a perennial minority, a people subjected to repeated pogroms and persecution, a homeless community whose alienism was underscored by discrimination wherever Jews settled. Zionism aspired to deal with this situation by affecting a return to the historical homeland of the Jews - Land of Israel.... The Zionist national solution was the establishment of a Jewish national state with a Jewish majority in the historical homeland, thus realizing the Jewish people's right to self-determination (ref 11).

Note the sweeping generalizations and sense of perpetual victimization that reflects the theology of Hess, Pinsker, and Herzl that discrimination against Jews is pathological and has no cure other than a powerful state with a majority Jewish population. Amnon Rubinstein wrote in Haaretz on March 13, 2002:

… the new secular Jewish nationalism, which was the foundation on which Israel was built, is a nationalism of no choice. It is true that on the basis of the lack of choice were piled on additional traditional national elements: the memory of the biblical past, the impact of the revival of Hebrew, the concept of a return to Zion, and the characteristic accoutrements of other national movements. But the major strength of Zionism stemmed from its sense that there was no other choice, from this inability to be like everyone else. Without the locked gate, the Zionist gate would not have opened very wide and the longing for Zion would have stayed in the prayer book
(ref 12)

So do Jews really have no choice other than Zionism to prosper in this world? Did Zionism help or hinder the case for tolerance in the world (Jews towards non-Jews and vice versa)? Jews grabbled with such questions for decades and arrived at different conclusions with anti-Zionist Jews arriving at completely opposite conclusions to those reached by Herzl, Pinskery, Hess and their followers. As history would prove, the critics were right. Today, after over 150 years of Zionism, there is only one place where Jews are threatened with annihilation and that is this self-declared "Jewish state". In Israel, one finds a government that is preparing public parks as sites for possible mass graves in case of biological or chemical attacks. In Israel, one finds unrealistic attempts at assuring the public that they can survive such attacks. Why are Jews safer in America or France than in Israel? Are anti-Jewish sentiments around the world stoked or diminished by the Zionist program and its effect on the native Palestinians?

The answers to these questions make many Jews now rethink the deceptions of the militaristic Zionist program. Political Zionism was far more catastrophic for the indigenous Palestinians (Christians and Muslims alike). In public articles and books, Herzl was careful in describing what Zionism meant in practice and how it was to be implemented in an already inhabited Palestine. But, as we discussed in Chapter 4 on refugees, Herzl's diaries and diaries of other early Zionists are now available and shed light about the colonial nature of Zionism and its true intentions.

Herzl, understood the need for a concrete program to realize his the goals he articulated. For this a new group of people participated in the practical application of Zionism. This included people like Nachman Syrkin and Ber Borochov who developed the labor Zionism as a dominant force in Zionist quarters. This brand of practical Zionism exists in a form represented by the labor party and some other minor parties in Israel today. Labor Zionists criticized the Rothschild-supported settlements on purely capitalist terms (e.g. hiring Arab labor). They called for Jewish settlement based on socialist modes of organization: the accumulation of capital managed by a central Jewish organization and employment of Jewish laborers only. A key pillar of this was the need for a "Jewish power" (physical, material) which can then translate into state and political power without dilution by non-Jews.

Labor Zionists knew that power is needed, but they also knew that to achieve their goals required skillful political maneuvering around existing powers in the region of their settlement. For many ardent Zionists, this somehow smacked of compromise that they were not willing to accept. This set the stage for the evolution of other methods to achieve the goals of Zionism. Some argued that strong economic and military power is all that mattered to realization of the Zionist dreams. Jabotinsky was the founder of this ideology of "revisionist Zionism" that Begin, Netanyahu, Sharon and other Israeli leaders identify as their ideological underpinning (now represented by the Likud party and other Right Wing parties in Israel). A reading from one of Jabotinsky's 1923 writings clearly demonstrates his mode of thinking:

Every reader has some idea of the early history of other countries which have been settled. I suggest that he recall all known instances. If he should attempt to seek but one instance of a country settled with the consent of those born there he will not succeed. The inhabitants (no matter whether they are civilized or savages) have always put up a stubborn fight. Furthermore, how the settler acted had no effect whatsoever. The Spaniards who conquered Mexico and Peru, or our own ancestors in the days of Joshua ben Nun behaved, one might say, like plunderers.

... Compromisers in our midst attempt to convince us that the Arabs are some kind of fools who can be tricked by a softened formulation of our goals, or a tribe of money grubbers who will abandon their birth right to Palestine for cultural and economic gains. I flatly reject this assessment of the Palestinian Arabs. Culturally they are 500 years behind us, spiritually they do not have our endurance or our strength of will, but this exhausts all of the internal differences. We can talk as much as we want about our good intentions; but they understand as well as we what is not good for them. They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie.

... It is of no importance whether we quote Herzl or Herbert Samuel to justify our activities. Colonization itself has its own explanation, integral and inescapable, and understood by every Arab and every Jew with his wits about him. Colonization can have only one goal. For the Palestinian Arabs this goal is inadmissible. This is in the nature of things. To change that nature is impossible.

... Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would only be hypocrisy. Not only must this be so, it is so whether we admit it or not. What does the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate mean for us? It is the fact that a disinterested power committed itself to create such security conditions that the local population would be deterred from interfering with our efforts.

All of us, without exception, are constantly demanding that this power strictly fulfill its obligations. In this sense, there are no meaningful differences between our “militarists” and our “vegetarians”. One prefers an iron wall of Jewish bayonets, the other proposes an iron wall of British bayonets, the third proposes an agreement with Baghdad, and appears to be satisfied with Baghdad's bayonets – a strange and somewhat risky taste – but we all applaud, day and night, the iron wall. We would destroy our cause if we proclaimed the necessity of an agreement, and fill the minds of the Mandatory with the belief that we do not need an iron wall, but rather endless talks. Such a proclamation can only harm us. Therefore it is our sacred duty to expose such talk and prove that it is a snare and a delusion.
(ref 13)

This is a must reading for those who really want to understand the nature of Zionist designs un-encumbered with nice words or skillful maneuvering. The "wall" refers to the wall of bayonets, British and/or Zionist, necessarily required to establish a colonial Jewish State. The author persuasively argued why Arabs would not accept a Jewish State in Palestine. His vision, as articulated in this 1923 article, is amazingly prophetic in what was to transpire in Palestine over the next 80 years.

Is Zionism the Other Side of the Coin of Anti-Semitism?

Zionism in essence was a project that accommodated slightly varied modes of operations, such as using Arab labor or not, working with existing political systems to achieve its goals, or using only military means. The essence of it was and still is the creation and maintenance of a Jewish state with a clear and unambiguous Jewish majority (as long as this Jewish majority supported Zionism). In a land already occupied by another people, its tactics were viewed as a traumatic, but necessary, loss. The main device towards the realization of this dream was "anti-Semitism". This form of racism was well intertwined, and is also explained by deep psychological phenomena.

The term anti-Semite was coined by anti-Jewish bigot Wilhelm Marr in 1879. According to Yahoo encyclopedia, Marr's 1862 pamphlet titled Der Judenspiegel ("Jews Mirror") was followed by the influential "The Victory of Judaism over Germandom, Considered from a Non-Religious point of View". Marr apparently did not want to use Jew as it connotes a religion and wanted a term that is referring to ethnicity. He was likely never introduced to the word Ashkenazi and he assumed Ashkenazi/European Jews to be "Semitic." Marr thus introduced in 1879 the word "anti-Semite" into the political vocabulary by founding the League of anti-Semites, which organized lectures and published a short-lived monthly. The "league" failed as an organization, but it was historically important for it was the first effort of creating a popular political movement based on hatred Ashkenazim. As pointed out in chapter 2, Semites refer to all people who speak Semitic languages (Arabic Hebrew, Aramaic). Ashkenazi Jews would technically not be Semitic since they spoke Yiddish. The fact that this term developed by a racist was adopted by many Jews and Zionists is astonishing yet fits well within the context of development of Zionist thoughts as discussed above (i.e. a solution to the "Jewish problem" being relocation to a "Jewish state").

That Zionism and Judeophobia are intimately connected is evidenced by writings of early Zionists. Here is Vladimir Jabotinsky, the ideological forefather of the Israeli Likud Party, writing in 1904 about the "Jewish problem."

It is inconceivable from a physical point of view, that a Jew born to a family of pure Jewish blood over several generations can become adapted to the spiritual outlook of a German or a Frenchman. A Jew brought up among Germans may assume German customs, German words. He may be wholly imbued with that German fluid but the nucleus of his spiritual structure will always remain Jewish, because his blood, his body, his physical-racial type are Jewish ... And a man whose body is Jewish can not possibly mold within himself the spirit of a Frenchman ... It is impossible for a man to become assimilated with people whose blood is different than his own 14

Perhaps this parallel quote from Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" needs to be pondered and analyzed:

Yet I could no longer very well doubt that the objects of my study were not Germans of a special religion, but a people in themselves; for once I had begun to concern myself with this question and to take cognizance of the Jews, Vienna appeared to me in a different light than before. Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity. Particularly the Inner City and the districts north of the Danube Canal swarmed with a people, which even outwardly had lost all resemblance to Germans. And whatever doubts I may still have nourished were finally dispelled by the attitude of a portion of the Jews themselves. Among them there was a great movement, quite extensive in Vienna, which came out sharply in confirmation of the national character of the Jews: this was the ZIONISTS (emphasis in original) (ref 15)

Hitler's book is the most horrific denigration of Jews and other people and the most racist book one could even imagine. For him to state that whatever "lingering doubts" about his anti-Semitism were dispelled because Zionists agreed with him about the national character of Jews is amazing and has historically almost completely been ignored. It is an important notion because Zionists not only agreed with Hitler that Jews should go away from Europe but they actually worked towards that goal. Here is what The Zionist Federation of Germany wrote in a letter to the new Nazi regime:

Zionism believes that a rebirth of national life, such as is occurring in German life through adhesion to Christian and national values, must also take place in the Jewish national group (ref 16)

Both Zionists and Nazis believed that Jews couldn’t be Germans. They both believed that Jews could not function normally in other societies as equal citizens. Zionists in fact were clearly putting a primary goal of colonial Jewish presence in a majority in Palestine ahead of any other issues even when this goal contradicted the welfare of Jews. This is why they collaborated with the Nazis and thwarted some efforts to rescue Jews.

The Zionists cooperated with the Nazis in the mid-thirties to facilitate Jewish immigration to Palestine. The details of this agreement were given by Edwin Black's book (ref 17). After commencement of attacks on Jews under German control, the British, in the hope of easing the pressure for increased immigration into Palestine, proposed that thousands of Jewish children be admitted directly into Britain. Ben-Gurion, the recognized leader of labor Zionism at the time was absolutely against the plan, telling a meeting of Labour Zionist leaders on 7 Dec. 1938:

If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the history of the People of Israel (ref 18)

Rabbi Shonfeld quotes the Zionist leader Yitzhak Greenbaum, as stating after the war:

When they asked me, couldn't you give money out of the United Jewish Appeal funds for the rescue of Jews in Europe, I said, 'NO!' and I say again 'NO!' . . . one should resist this wave which pushes the Zionist activities to secondary importance(ref 19)

Most Jews in the 19th and early 20th century criticized Zionist methodologies and even the whole concept of Zionism. They saw this movement as a cynical use of religion to establish state power. Perhaps the most interesting were views of highly intelligent and humanistic Jews like Einstein and Freud who while openly not opposing Zionism, simply refused to take part in it. They reflected the majority Jewish opinion before the establishment of the state of Israel.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychotherapy, was opposed to Zionism. When approached to sign a petition to condemn the Arab riots in Palestine and to support the settlement of Jews in Israel, he wrote politely to decline:

Dear Sir,

I cannot do as you wish. I am unable to overcome my aversion to burdening the public with my name, and even the present critical time does not seem to me to warrant it. Whoever wants to influence the masses must give them something rousing and inflammatory and my sober judgment of Zionism does not permit this. I certainly sympathize with its goals, am proud of our University in Jerusalem and am delighted with our settlement's prosperity. But, on the other hand, I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state, nor that the Christian and Islamic worlds would ever be prepared to have their holy places under Jewish care. It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of the wealthy. I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.

Now judge for yourself whether I, with such a critical point of view, am the right person to come forward as the solace of a people deluded by unjustified hope.
(ref 20)

Freud was referring to the clear methods of Zionists of the day to assert sovereignty on areas of Palestine and to regularly confront and show the natives that their interests were incompatible. Zionism was for a state of the Jews and not for a democratic state for a variety of people. As Freud pointed out it is born of a preference for a tribal affiliation that still haunts us to this day. Hillel Halkin wrote in the Jerusalem Post in 2002:

You would like me to look at it objectively. Objectively, I agree: we are only breeding more hatred and violence. You want me to imagine how I would feel if I were a Palestinian. I suppose that if I were, I might want to kill Israelis myself. But I am not objective and I am not a Palestinian. It's not that the lives of Palestinians don't matter to me. But Israeli lives matter more.

I know this doesn't sound terribly enlightened. And it certainly doesn't lead to any of the political solutions that we both know are necessary if this horror is going to end. But being objective would not make me more human. It would make me less.

I can try to be objective about Russians and Chechnyans, or about Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir, without drying up the milk of human kindness in me, just as you can try to be objective about us here, but that is only because I am not a Russian or a Chechnyan. If I were, and if I didn't put my own people first, I would simply be an emotional monster. Nothing good could come of that
(ref 21)

Thus, Zionism's victims were not only the intended native displacement but it could be argued that humane Jewish values were also its victims. In his book "Ben Gurion's Scandals" Naeim Giladi ,an Iraqi Jew and ex-Zionist, discusses Zionist tactics in trying to import Jews from Iraq to Israel in the 1950s. He immigrated to the US and recently wrote an article in 'The Link', a publication of the Americans for Middle East Understanding about his book. In part he said that "about 125,000 Jews left Iraq for Israel in the late 1940s and into 1952, mostly because they had been lied to and put into a panic by what I came to learn were Zionist bombs [referring to the bombings done at Synagogues and other areas of Jewish public concentration). But my mother and father were among the 6,000 who did not go to Israel” (ref 22). Other books discuss Zionist discourse and its relationship to anti-Ashkenazim and Judeophobia. Some of these are cited in the recommended readings below.

A Post-Zionist Discourse

This Zionist program tried but failed to make its ideology the ideology of "the Jewish people." Many even argued that Zionists tried to replace Judaism with Zionism or at least to make sure that Zionism is a dominant feature of mainstream Jewish thought. Hence, one understands the incessant need to label anti-Zionists or even non-Zionists as "anti-Semitic" or if they are Jewish as "self-hating Jews." In the first 80 years of Apartheid South Africa, the leaders of the White South Africans also labeled apartheid as a national movement for white safety and all opposition within blacks as anti-White racism. Jewish intellectuals and many others opposed Zionism simply because they knew it was not a workable construct for Jewish self-determination or freedom.

When Palestinians return to their lands and form a pluralistic society for all, will the descendants of those expelled Palestinians remember more the words and actions of Heztl, Ben Gurion, Barak, and Sharon or will they remember the words and actions of Martin Buber, Israel Shahak, Uri Avneri, or Norman Finkelstein? Will those memories teach us to be more tolerant of each other or will it instill in us the kind of self-righteous, know it all, "we were the perpetual victim" mentality that was so characteristic of many Zionists. Victims of the Holocaust took different lessons from it. Some, perhaps goaded or misled by simplistic and rather unrealistic notion of separation/apartheid, thought "never again" but meant never again to us Jews and thus we must separate ourselves from humanity. To make sure this does not happen, we will build a very strong state based on Jewish power. A logical place was Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews. Of course the only problem was that Palestine was already heavily inhabited and the native population was not simply going to consent to having sovereignty of their land transferred to an extra national entity. Other Holocaust survivors and their children like Norman Finkelstein, Israel Shahak and tens of thousands like them took the message that never again will we allow hatred or racism against anyone. Others also rejected the notion of a new secular "Jewish state" based on theological arguments (this was true of essentially all Orthodox Jews until 1967 and still now common among the ultra-orthodox like the Naturei Karta).

I am confident that an exclusionary Palestinian movement analogous to Zionism will not gain widespread recognition nor would ever be allowed to get a foothold analogous to that of Zionism in Jewish masses. I know this because I saw it happen with natives in other parts of the world. In South Africa, the Blacks won their freedom but did not push the whites into the sea as was feared. Palestinians will not push Jews into the sea. The reverse of this actually did happen in 1948 where Palestinians were literally pushed into the sea at Jaffa and were loaded into boats to end-up in places like Gaza. It is also something that the world would never tolerate in the 21st century as witnessed in Bosnia.

Jewish voices against Zionism and against Israeli actions are gaining momentum but it is true that the dominant feature in at least the organized Jewish community is Zionist. However, one must realize that a majority of Jews in all surveys state that they are not Zionist and even today a majority of Jews live outside Israel. Further, the growth of the Jewish anti-Zionist and post-Zionist movements has been dramatic. What are some of the good things about these movements?

1) Jewish opponents to Zionism make it rather impossible for both Zionists and other racists to make generalizations about "the Jews." This is important in many ways but the most important is that generalizations can lead to racism and attacks on the whole community. I think it is an ironic twist that these Jews whom Zionists vilify as "self-hating" or as traitors to their religion actually do a lot of good for the religion and enhance protection for their co-religionists while Zionists who perpetuate brutalities and claim they represent all Jews increase anti-Jewish paranoia. The lesson to all, including Palestinians, is to never vilify those who stand up for justice/freedom for all.

2) Jewish opponents of Zionism take a moral stance on issues regardless of the victim or the perpetrator. They provide the highest of human ideals in rejecting tribalism and the philosophies of "us" and "them." They view each event on its own merits and are thus freed from the hypocrisy of ideological adherence. Zionists must continuously play a game of moral relativism and hypocritical support of human rights in some cases while opposing them on others (depending on whether the tribe is affected or not). This is not a healthy way to live and creates many sleepless nights among some Zionists I know. The lesson to all, including Palestinians is to never think or act tribally, think and act as a human being.

Those Jews who oppose Zionism are not doing what they do to provide us an example, nor are they doing it because they think they can change history. They do it for a very simple reason – because it is just. In fact, the more of us think like that, the less likelihood there is for wars, for tribal conflicts, for nationalism, and the more likelihood there is for peace and prosperity to all of us.

The questions asked by those skeptical of Zionist aspirations are still relevant today. Were Jews really able to survive only because of the creation of the Jewish State of Israel and the continuing dispossession of the native Palestinians? What price is a Jewish state to the natives? Does Zionism really solve the lingering feeling of being oppressed or discriminated against? Do Zionism and anti-Jewish feelings ("anti-Semitism") feed on each other to grow? In the US, Jews, Christians, Muslims and others are well adapted as members of a society that protects their rights. During the zenith of Arabic/Islamic civilization, Jews, Christians and Muslims similarly prospered together and built a great economic, architectural, intellectual, and cultural heritage. The best example of this is the pluralistic society developed in Al-Andalus (Spain). My grandfather frequently spoke of the amicable relationships he, as a Palestinian Christian, observed between all communities in Palestine well before the disasters imposed by the British-Zionist project unfolded. Jewish colleagues agree with my grandfather's statement, “It is not true what Zionism preached to us that we could not live together. It is a shame that instead of building a pluralistic country for all, some chose to build a country for one and dispossess the other.”

The record shows that Zionism and anti-Jewish feelings (anti-Semitism) had a symbiotic relationship. Victims of Zionist ideology were not limited to the Palestinians (the native inhabitants) but extended to Jews and many others. Sephardic Jews who were forced to flee their homes and rather comfortable lives in Arab countries as Israel pushed to undermine their presence in those countries and as anti-Jewish feelings increased due to the repression of the Palestinians by self-declared Jewish representatives. Even today, actions of the State of Israel do increase and certainly do not decrease threats or danger to Jews around the world. So even strictly judging from its own stated goals of providing normality and safety to Jews, Zionism has been a failure. But perhaps these stated goals were not truly genuine and that Zionism, like so many other -isms, has been mainly about power and control. Declassified documents are shedding light on these things and raise very troubling questions.

These questions about relationship of Zionism to anti-Judaic feelings and Jewish reactions to it are all worth exploring. But the story with regard to the native Palestinian inhabitants is much simpler and much less controversial. In practice to fulfill the dreams of Zionist leaders, ethnic cleansing was and continues to be practiced. After taking 78% of the land from its native people and expelling over three fourths of them, Zionism still was not satisfied and Israeli leaders are aggressively and violently insisting on partitioning the remaining 22% (apartheid) while insisting on no return of Palestinian refugees and on maintaining racist laws that discriminate against non-Jews. The idea is to keep the Jewish character of the state. These laws and beliefs are the topic of the next chapter.

Notes to Chapter 6

1. Mohameden Ould-Mey, The non-Jewish Origin of Zionism, The Arab World Geographer, 5:34-52, 2002.
2. Barbara W. Tuchman, Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour (New York: Ballantine Books, 1984).
3. The Times, 17 August 1840, Restoration of the Jews, p. 5, col 6(f).
4. Lord Lindsay, Letters on Egypt, Edom, and the Holy Land, , (London: Henry Colburn, 1838), pp. 188-190.
5. L. J Epstein, Zion’s Call: Christian Contributions to the Origins and Development of Israel. (New York: University Press of America, 1984).
6. George Gawler 1845, ‘Tranquilization of Syria and the East: Observations and Practical Suggestions, in Furtherance of the Establishment of Jewish Colonies in Palestine, the Most Sober and Sensible Remedy for the Miseries of Asiatic Turkey" as quoted in Mohameden Ould-Mey, The non-Jewish Origin of Zionism’, The Arab World Geographer, Vol. 5, pp. 34--52,( 2002).
7. Epstein, Zion’s Call.
8. ‘Zionism versus Bolshevism: A struggle for the Soul of the Jewish people’ Illustrated Sunday Herald 8 February 1920, reprinted in Lenni Brenner, 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis (New Jersey: Barricade, 2002), p. 27
9. Translated from German by Dr. D. S. Blondheim, Federation of American Zionists, 1916, Essential Texts of Zionism; Jewish Virtual Library http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Zionism/pinsker.html
10. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 (New York: Knopf, 2001), p. 21.
11. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website http://www.israel.org/mfa/go.asp?MFAH00ng0
12. Amnon Rubinstein, Haaretz, 13 March 2002.
13. Vladimir Jabotinsky, "The Iron Wall: We and the Arabs" First published in Russian under the title "O Zheleznoi Stene" in Rasswyet," November 4, 1923. Translated by Lenni Brenner. It can be downloaded at http://www.marxists.de/middleast/ironwall/ironwall.htm
14. Vladimir Jabotinsky, ‘A Letter on Autonomy, 1904', reprinted in Brenner, 51 Documents, p. 10.
15. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Reissue edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), p. 56.
16. June 21, 1933 memo from The Zionist Federation of Germany, reprinted in Brenner, 51 Documents, p. 43.
17. Edwin Black, The Transfer Agreement: the Untold Story of the Secret Pact Between the Third Reich & Jewish Palestine (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1984).
18. Lenni Brenner, The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism from Jabotinsky to Shamir (Zed Books, 1984). cites as reference no. 23: Yoav Gelber, ' Zionist Policy and the Fate of European Jewry (1939-42)' Yad Vashem Studies, vol. XII, p. 199.
19. Rabbi Moshe Shonfeld, The Holocaust Victims Accuse, Neturei Karta, USA, New York, 1977.
20. Freud's Letter to Dr. Chaim Koffler Keren HaYassod, Vienna: 26 February 1930; posted at the Freud Institute in UK website: http://www.freud.org.uk./arab-israeli.html.
21. Hillel Halkin ,’Objectivity is morally overrated’, Jerusalem Post, 14 November 2002. Also on the web at
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1037248935749
22. Naeim Giladi , Ben Gurion's Scandals (Flushing: Glilit Pub. Co., 1995).

Recommended Readings


Edwin Black, The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine (New York : Carroll & Graf, 2001).
Marc H. Ellis, Israel and Palestine: Out of the Ashes, (London: Pluto Press, 2003).
Naeim Giladi , Ben Gurion's Scandals (Flushing: Glilit Pub. Co., 1995).
Lenni Brenner, The Iron Wall: Zionist Revisionism from Jabotinsky to Shamir (London: Zed Books, 1984).
Tom Segev with Haim Watzman (Translator) The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, (New York: Owl Books, 2000).


Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD served on the faculty of both Duke and Yale Universities (six and five years respectively). He is currently serving on the Steering Committee of the US Camaign to End the Occupation (endtheoccupation.org) the executive commttee of the Palestinian American Congress (http://www.pac-national.org/), and the board of the Association for One Democratic State in Israel/Palestine (one-democratic-state.org).

Israel on the Potomac: power under pressure

Norman Birnbaum

25 - 1 - 2007

The crisis of the neo-conservative foreign-policy agenda in the United States is having complex repercussions on pro-Israeli organisations and voices in Washington. In the context of recent political controversies, Norman Birnbaum assesses the nature and extent of their influence.

The discussion of Jews in United States politics and society, too often attended by polemical and polarising rhetoric on all sides, can only benefit from calm inquiry with a strong, independent factual basis. If this is true in the context of domestic policy, it is equally so where the United States-Israel relationship is concerned. This essay seeks to present the realities of Jewish and pro-Israeli political activity in Washington, and to look at how they are being affected by evolving political and strategic arguments in the second term of the George W Bush presidency.

The arguments begin, as so often, with numbers. How many Jews live in the United States? Not even the demographers agree - perhaps not surprising, given the doubts surrounding questions of identity, intermarriage, and affiliation. A useful working figure is 6 million, or about 2% of the US population (now over 300 million), with especially large concentrations in the urban areas of Los Angeles and New York above all.

Most American Jews are descended from the eastern European Jewish emigrants of the late 19th and early 20th century. About 150,000 came in the 1930s from Austria, Germany and western Europe, followed after the war by another 150,000 holocaust survivors. There is also a post-1989 Russian Jewish population, and a large number of Israelis.

As a whole, Jews in the US are economically and culturally successful: well educated, prominent in business and finance, the arts, education, science and politics. The Jewish electorate is overwhelmingly Democrat: 80% voted for the Democratic Party in the congressional elections of November 2006, eleven out of 100 senators are Jewish, and the party draws at least a third of its funding from Jewish donors.

Notwithstanding their own prosperity, Jews generally favour the American welfare state - and (a vocal minority of the Orthodox excepted) consider that modernity demands a rather liberal reading of the Old Testament in matters of sexuality. In foreign policy, Jews have generally been multilateralist: their great modern hero was Franklin D Roosevelt. Many American Jews, moreover, share with their fellow-citizens the view that a negotiated solution to the conflict with the Palestinians ("land for peace") is desirable.

Norman Birnbaum is university professor emeritus at Georgetown University Law Center. He was one of the founding editors of New Left Review, was on the editorial board of Partisan Review, and is on the board of The Nation. He is active in the US Democratic party and has close ties to western Europe. Among his books is After Progress: American Social Reform And European Socialism In The Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Also by Norman Birnbaum in openDemocracy:

"Remember Solidarity: Poland's journey to democracy"
(26 August 2005)

"Election and empire" (17 October 2006)

"One week after the storm"
(15 November 2006)

A political bond

There is a contrast here with the most audible and influential voice of American Jewry, the network of individuals and organisations often referred to as the "Israel lobby" - the grouping led jointly by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. Their work - coordinated with, inter alia, the Israel government, its embassy in Washington and the political parties of the Israel right - takes a very different approach to that of most American Jews, above all in foreign policy.

The lobby supports American unilateralism, disparages the large parts of world opinion critical of the Israel occupation of Palestine, and endorses Israel's most repressive measures against the Palestinians; and many of the lobbyists, having successfully agitated for war on Iraq, are now mobilising for an equally hard line against Iran.

Its tactics have (until recently) been remarkably successful in neutralising the considerable criticism of Israel, and of the American alignment with Israel, voiced by many in the American churches, among the leadership of some black organisations, and by anti-imperial Democrats in Congress. Its rhetorical weapons include insisting on a direct connection between Arab and Muslim opposition to Israel's occupation and European anti-Semitism. The argument is that those who voice sympathy for that opposition are objectively anti-Semitic, whatever they may believe or say. If the critics are Jewish, the explanation is simple: they suffer from self-abnegation if not self-hatred.

After the six-day war of 1967 war, the Israel lobby was able to count on the support of the media, the marginalisation of Israel's critics, and overwhelming support in Congress. A politician who incurs the anger of the Israel lobby is taking a risk. One example of many is from the 2004 presidential campaign, when Howard Dean called for American "even-handedness" in the middle east - and then retreated, in haste and under fire.

A problem here is that American Jewry has allowed itself to be represented by persons who in manner and personality resemble not the Nobel prizewinners, writers and thinkers of whom it has every reason to be proud, but an earlier generation's formidable gangsters, who are not above descending to vulgar ethnocentrism for the sake of defending Israel.

This can be manifest in the tension between the claim of full rights in the (majority-Christian) United States by virtue of the universal principles of citizenship, and the insistence that nothing be done to alter the Jewish character of Israel. It is also apparent in the acceptance of an alliance with fundamentalist Protestants, whose Biblical literalism translates into uncritical support for Israel. Such contradictions can only be explained by a visceral identification with Israel.

For most American Jews, however, the ties to Israel are symbolic. They are not ready to abandon their promised land (the American suburbs) to settle in Israel. What does generate support for Israel is the combination of ancestral memories both of European anti-Semitism and American variety (once very widespread), along with awareness and imagery of the Nazi genocide of the 1940s.

Moreover, Israel in the American Jewish psyche is not the present corrupt, conflicted and poorly-led country, but a half-heroic, half-victimised and entirely mythic nation. Despite the integration of American Jewry in the larger society, many American Jews live in a hermetic world in which other Jews reinforce their beliefs. It is not only the active minority of committed Zionists whose instinctive reaction to the situation in the middle east is that Israel can do no wrong: otherwise critical and reflective American Jews think the same way.

They could not do so in such serene fashion were their non-Jewish fellow citizens more sceptical of Israel's claims. Such scepticism is made rare by the combination of guilt over the holocaust, a commendable reluctance to appear anti-Semitic, the systematic pro-Israel bias of the media, and (more recently) an identification of the US campaign against Islamist radicalism with Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.

More profoundly, the US's Calvinist traditions, which influence America's political as well as overall culture, nurture sympathy for Israel. If the US is the new Israel, all the more reason to support the old one. The geopolitical advantages of a military alliance (albeit ambiguous), and Israel's capacity to function as a preferred client, help to consolidate this potent mix.

The current president - a fundamentalist Christian attached to Biblical literalism, and a unilateralist in his conception of American power - is in this context a representative figure. His refusal even to pretend that the US feels any moral obligation to the Palestinians, his dismissal of the legitimacy of their elected representatives, his encouragement of the most brutal and reckless of Israel's policies - all are familiar, and any criticism by more rational imperial managers leaves him unperturbed.

In any case, Bush can for the most part count on the Democrats. In the new Democrat-controlled Congress, enough party stalwarts are sceptical of negotiating with Iran and Syria, and opposed to serious pressure on Israel to abandon its unilateralism with respect to the Palestinians, to prevent serious movement in the middle east.

A sign of retreat

That said, the Israel lobby is these days not entirely triumphant. Some influential Republicans are in open dissent from Bush's unilateralism; they include prominent figures like the former national-security advisor Brent Scowcroft, Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and senior senators such as Richard Lugar and John Warner.

In September 2006, Haass defied the Israel lobby by inviting Iran's president to the CFR. Elie Wiesel attempted to organise a resignation of Jewish members of the council and was rebuffed. The moment was significant: one doesn't become president of the CFR, as official an unofficial body as there is, by solitary displays of iconoclasm - Haass, an admirable figure, must surely have coordinated his decision with a number of very senior persons.

A current, intriguing judicial prosecution offers further signals. A former mid-level official of the defence department, Lawrence Franklin, has pleaded guilty to misappropriating classified information on middle-east policy and giving it to two officers of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee; the latter, also under indictment, have been dismissed by Aipac. One of them, Steven Rosen, is known as an aggressive proponent of an American attack on Iran.

The Aipac officials, who have said they were carrying out the policies of their organisation, may be mindful of the fate of the civilian naval-intelligence official Jonathan Pollard. He spied for Israel, was sentenced to life imprisonment, and was left to his fate by most of the American Jewish organisations.

None of this prevented Aipac from persuading an extraordinary number of senior officials, congressmen and senators to appear at its annual meeting in Washington. Indeed, it has used the indictment to mobilise its supporters, arguing that it is proof of "anti-Semitism" in the government itself. Aipac has been unable to explain why its close friend, President Bush, has not intervened to terminate the prosecution. The answer is clear enough: the sheer effrontery of the Israel lobby and its placemen has provoked a reaction in the permanent government.

The indications that the capacity of the Israel lobby to set the limits of US policy appears now to be somewhat reduced may pass unnoticed by the American public. By contrast, Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid has been widely discussed; the Israel lobby's contribution to the discussion has been an extensive campaign of denigration, alleging Carter's bias and incompetence (which has not stopped the book appearing on the best-seller lists).

Rabbi Henry Siegman, writing in The Nation, said: "Carter has been vilified for saying things about the occupation that appear regularly in almost all major Israeli newspapers." The book also provoked resignations from Carter's institutional colleagues, as well as criticism (in the midst of the mid-term election campaign) from Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean; Democratic politicians sought to emphasise that Carter did not speak for the Democrats.

Two episodes

A segment of the educated public (including many liberal and secularised Jews) is clearly not prepared to accept the Israel lobby's rules as to what may or may not be said about the middle east. A great deal of credit is due to the universities for maintaining a free space for discussion despite a great deal of pressure. Columbia University, for example, defended Edward Said, the late Palestinian scholar, from many attacks. The pressure continues; so does the opposition to it.

Two recent episodes are instructive.

The first involves the distinguished historian of Europe, Tony Judt, who (in an article in the New York Review of Books, 23 October 2003) described the idea of a Jewish state as anachronistic, and said that Israel's refusal to give the Palestinians a viable state would in the long run oblige both peoples to live together in a bi-national polity.

Judt, accused of calling for Israel's destruction, was undeterred. When an international group of younger New Yorkers invited him to speak in 2006 at the Polish consulate in New York, the Anti-Defamation League (which had just issued a report very critical of Poland) contacted the consulate, and the event was subsequently cancelled. The head of the ADL, Abraham Foxman, declared that the decision was entirely that of the Poles.

In a grotesque sequel, Judt himself withdrew from a speaking engagement at Manhattan College when a rabbi (also a member of the state legislature) threatened to convene a demonstration of holocaust survivors. Judt's own New York University has, like Columbia, been steadfast in upholding its faculty's rights to speak.

The second episode involves two more academics: the prominent Harvard professor, Stephen Walt, and his University of Chicago colleague, John Mearsheimer. Their London Review of Books article (23 March of 2006) entitled "The Israel Lobby" - written for the editors of the Atlantic Monthly, who decided against publishing it - provoked a firestorm of criticism.

The Israel lobby seemed to sense (correctly) that Mearsheimer and Walt are dangerous adversaries. They are not Jewish (some of the arguments about Judt - once a young Zionist - resembles one of those New York Jewish family quarrels which from time to time bring more heat than light to Manhattan); they are respected academic figures; and they have no sharply etched political profiles.

The scholars argue that the present alignment with Israel is not in the US's national interest, and that its continuation can be explained only by the Israel lobby's success in blocking serious debate about it. The response by Israel's supporters - where serious criticism has been drowned by calumny, distortion and self-righteousness - does not disprove their assertion. A number of Harvard graduates even announced that they will no longer contribute to their alma mater. Yet the overall response has been interesting: the prestigious publishing house, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux has asked Mearsheimer and Walt to write a book on the issue.

The Judt affair and the Mearsheimer-Walt paper have engendered two statements by rather different groups. Mark Lilla and Richard Sennett organised a set of scholars and writers to protest the ADL's intervention in Tony Judt's invitation (New York Review of Books, 16 November 2006). The letter treated the leader of the ADL as a public-spirited citizen devoted in principle to freedom of expression; its authors and signatories took no account of the ADL's having settled out of court a civil action brought against it in 1993 for (amongst other things) having collaborated with Israel and then-apartheid South Africa in spying on people in the US.

Another statement, which appeared on the website of the cultural-political journal Archipelago, had a somewhat broader range of signatories, including some very senior retired officials of the US foreign-policy apparatus. It is rather less solicitous of the ADL's bona fides (see Michael Massing, "The Storm over The Israel Lobby," New York Review of Books, 8 June 2006; and John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's lengthy document, "Setting The Record Straight: A Response To Critics of 'The Israel Lobby'.")

Tony Judt's articles and the pieces by Mearsheimer and Walt, and Michael Massing, are certainly evidence for a widening of the scope of discussion in the academy and at the apex of the US's culturally stratified society. They are part of a counter-offensive of reason which in the end unites critics of the American empire and the more intelligent and honest imperial managers, against the Israel lobby and its unilateralist allies.

A time to rethink

Still, much of the body politic remains immobilised, constrained by the Israel lobby to narrow and ritualised responses to problems that cannot be solved (or even described) by its rhetoric. The catastrophe in Iraq may provide three groups with an incentive to rethink.

The first is the Jewish community itself. The Israel lobby speaks for organisations which amount to no more than half, at the most, of the American Jewish population. Its leaders exploit the community's fears and its solidarity with Israel - but ignore the willingness of many in the community to explore alternatives to policies which (in Gaza, the West Bank and most recently in Lebanon) have produced serial disasters.

The largest single Jewish group in the US is the Union for Reform Judaism, with nearly 1.5 million members. It is open to the arguments of the advocates of changed policies in Israel itself, sceptical of the Israel lobby's alliance with the Christian fundamentalists, and could serve as a bridge between the Jews who make their Jewish identification central to their lives and those more integrated with the secular pluralism of American life.

A Jewish identification by no means entails a blind endorsement of Israel: indeed, it has often led Jewish leaders to severe criticism of Israel's policies. Some of the groups closest to the critics of Likud in Israel itself are now discussing the formation of a bloc that would, in American politics, actively oppose the present alliance of the Israel lobby with those in Israel who are opposed to a critical reappraisal of the occupation.

The second group is the Democratic Party. It cannot hope to develop an alternative American foreign policy while retaining its present financial and intellectual dependence on the Israel lobby. Many factions inside the party are restive at the relationship - from the black and progressive congressional caucuses to human-rights advocates and liberal Christians.

The third group consists of those custodians of American tradition amongst the imperial managers who look back to Franklin D Roosevelt for inspiration, and to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr for ideas on the limits of American power. They see no reason for the US to incur the permanent enmity of the Arab and Muslim peoples by encouraging Israel's illusions of omnipotence. They consider that a policy which would do justice to American ideals and interests would demand far more even-handedness in the middle east.

In an interdependent world, the United States cannot and does not act alone. A European contribution to change in its policy is possible; but for that to happen, the Europeans would have to think of themselves as the equals of the US in their right to participate in shaping the middle east. That would be good for Europe, good for the United States, good for Israelis and Palestinians - and good for American Jews.

Norman Birnbaum

Attacking Iran would be disaster, report says(with full text)

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Monday February 5, 2007
Guardian Unlimited


Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photograph: AP.
Tony Blair was under pressure today to open direct talks with Tehran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme, as a coalition of UK charities, religious bodies and thinktanks warned that an attack on Iran would be a "disaster".

As the prime minister dropped a broad hint that he would work on the Middle East peace process after retiring this year, a report warned that an attack on Iran would expose British troops to attack, civilians to terrorism and release radiation in Iran.



The report by 15 organisations - backed by Britain's former ambassador to Iran - comes as the US appears to be upping the ante in an increasingly hostile war of words with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.

The previous foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has said that military action against Iran would be "inconceivable". Margaret Beckett, his successor, has also insisted that no one is planning action against Tehran.

Today's report, entitled "Time to Talk: The Case for Diplomatic Solutions on Iran", comes from the Foreign Policy Centre, backed by trade unions, Muslim and Christian groups and Oxfam.

It says that the UK could prove the vital catalyst between the EU and US on reopening talks with Iran.

Launching the document, Sir Richard Dalton, the British ambassador to Iran until last year, said that a pre-emptive strike on Iran would be "a disaster for Iran, the region and quite possibly the world".

He said that patience and diplomacy were key to securing a successful outcome.

"But both sides should work for a resumption. It is vital that the US becomes fully involved in creative diplomacy," he told the BBC.

The former Labour minister Stephen Twigg, director of the Foreign Policy Centre, said: "The consequences of military action against Iran are not only unpalatable, they are unthinkable.

"Even according to the worst estimates, Iran is still years away from having a nuclear weapon."

Last May the Iranian president wrote an open letter to US president, George Bush, offering talks, but this was rejected.

In recent weeks Mr Bush has accused Iran, in addition to its nuclear ambitions, of supporting the insurgency in neighbouring Iraq.

But another former Labour MP, who is now chief executive of the British-Israel Communications and Research Centre, warned that time was running out to stop Iran become a nuclear power.

Lorna Fitzsimons told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we are talking about here is Iran reaching the ability on an industrial scale to manufacture highly-enriched uranium.

"IISS [International Institute for Strategic Studies] and many others prophesise that that is going to happen between nine to 11 months from today.

"That is the watershed. There is no return from that point. You can't get the genie back in the bottle technologically once they have sorted out the problem they currently have with their centrifuges."

The Tories urged keeping all options "on the table", while the Liberal Democrats welcomed the report's call for new talks with Tehran.

The FPC report warns that military action could further destabilise the region and provoke retaliatory attacks against British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It could also undermine the war on terror by fuelling anti-western sentiments, while strikes against nuclear facilities risk unleashing radioactive contamination.

"Military action is not likely to be a short, sharp engagement but could have a profound effect on the region, with shock waves felt far beyond," the report says.

"The UK government is well positioned to articulate objections to military action. Military action against Iran would work against the interests of the UK."

The report says that Mr Blair is among several world leaders who are keeping military force on the table.

"Opposition to military action is currently widespread, though key leaders (notably Tony Blair and Angela Merkel [the German chancellor]) have refused to rule it out, believing the threat to be an important negotiating tool," it says.

Separately, in an interview broadcast today with BBC Radio 1, Mr Blair promised to retain an interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "in the years to come".

The prime minister has already pledged, in his conference speech last year, to devote much of his remaining time in office to the problem, but today appeared to go further, suggesting that he would work on the issue after leaving No 10.

In the pre-recorded interview, Mr Blair said that world leaders were agreed that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the single most important issue for world peace.

He added: "Our obligation is to put forward a peace process that can work and try and take that forward.

"And over the next few weeks I think there will be some real movement there."

Asked whether he will continue to work in the Middle East post-Downing Street, Mr Blair said: "I will retain a huge interest in the peace process in Israel and Palestine in the years to come of course because it's so important.

"That's the reason why I've spent so long in my time in office [concentrating on the Middle East] and, incidentally, I am in the end optimistic that this thing can be done.

"But it requires a lot of hard work, a lot of commitment and it requires the international community as a whole to recognise that there is no more important issue for us to resolve than Israel-Palestine."

· Read the full report here

Attacking Iran would be disaster, report says(with full text)

Matthew Tempest and agencies
Monday February 5, 2007
Guardian Unlimited


Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photograph: AP.
Tony Blair was under pressure today to open direct talks with Tehran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme, as a coalition of UK charities, religious bodies and thinktanks warned that an attack on Iran would be a "disaster".

As the prime minister dropped a broad hint that he would work on the Middle East peace process after retiring this year, a report warned that an attack on Iran would expose British troops to attack, civilians to terrorism and release radiation in Iran.



The report by 15 organisations - backed by Britain's former ambassador to Iran - comes as the US appears to be upping the ante in an increasingly hostile war of words with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.

The previous foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has said that military action against Iran would be "inconceivable". Margaret Beckett, his successor, has also insisted that no one is planning action against Tehran.

Today's report, entitled "Time to Talk: The Case for Diplomatic Solutions on Iran", comes from the Foreign Policy Centre, backed by trade unions, Muslim and Christian groups and Oxfam.

It says that the UK could prove the vital catalyst between the EU and US on reopening talks with Iran.

Launching the document, Sir Richard Dalton, the British ambassador to Iran until last year, said that a pre-emptive strike on Iran would be "a disaster for Iran, the region and quite possibly the world".

He said that patience and diplomacy were key to securing a successful outcome.

"But both sides should work for a resumption. It is vital that the US becomes fully involved in creative diplomacy," he told the BBC.

The former Labour minister Stephen Twigg, director of the Foreign Policy Centre, said: "The consequences of military action against Iran are not only unpalatable, they are unthinkable.

"Even according to the worst estimates, Iran is still years away from having a nuclear weapon."

Last May the Iranian president wrote an open letter to US president, George Bush, offering talks, but this was rejected.

In recent weeks Mr Bush has accused Iran, in addition to its nuclear ambitions, of supporting the insurgency in neighbouring Iraq.

But another former Labour MP, who is now chief executive of the British-Israel Communications and Research Centre, warned that time was running out to stop Iran become a nuclear power.

Lorna Fitzsimons told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we are talking about here is Iran reaching the ability on an industrial scale to manufacture highly-enriched uranium.

"IISS [International Institute for Strategic Studies] and many others prophesise that that is going to happen between nine to 11 months from today.

"That is the watershed. There is no return from that point. You can't get the genie back in the bottle technologically once they have sorted out the problem they currently have with their centrifuges."

The Tories urged keeping all options "on the table", while the Liberal Democrats welcomed the report's call for new talks with Tehran.

The FPC report warns that military action could further destabilise the region and provoke retaliatory attacks against British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It could also undermine the war on terror by fuelling anti-western sentiments, while strikes against nuclear facilities risk unleashing radioactive contamination.

"Military action is not likely to be a short, sharp engagement but could have a profound effect on the region, with shock waves felt far beyond," the report says.

"The UK government is well positioned to articulate objections to military action. Military action against Iran would work against the interests of the UK."

The report says that Mr Blair is among several world leaders who are keeping military force on the table.

"Opposition to military action is currently widespread, though key leaders (notably Tony Blair and Angela Merkel [the German chancellor]) have refused to rule it out, believing the threat to be an important negotiating tool," it says.

Separately, in an interview broadcast today with BBC Radio 1, Mr Blair promised to retain an interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "in the years to come".

The prime minister has already pledged, in his conference speech last year, to devote much of his remaining time in office to the problem, but today appeared to go further, suggesting that he would work on the issue after leaving No 10.

In the pre-recorded interview, Mr Blair said that world leaders were agreed that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the single most important issue for world peace.

He added: "Our obligation is to put forward a peace process that can work and try and take that forward.

"And over the next few weeks I think there will be some real movement there."

Asked whether he will continue to work in the Middle East post-Downing Street, Mr Blair said: "I will retain a huge interest in the peace process in Israel and Palestine in the years to come of course because it's so important.

"That's the reason why I've spent so long in my time in office [concentrating on the Middle East] and, incidentally, I am in the end optimistic that this thing can be done.

"But it requires a lot of hard work, a lot of commitment and it requires the international community as a whole to recognise that there is no more important issue for us to resolve than Israel-Palestine."

· Read the full report here