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Mearsheimer and Finkelstein debate and other Al Jazeera coverage on the Israel Lobby

Al Jazeera has produced a few programs recently that engage with the topic of the Israel Lobby; the Inside Iraq program features a short debate between John Mearsheimer and Norman Finkelstein; Frontline America also recently examined the influence of the Israel Lobby on Capitol Hill.

Inside Iraq – Motives for war – 04 April 08

Inside Iraq examines the ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ reasons the US invaded Iraq.

Part 1 (12.09)

Part Two (12.39)

Frontline USA – Lobbying for Israel – 05 April 08

Part 1 (14.16)

Part Two (8.03)

19 comments on “Mearsheimer and Finkelstein debate and other Al Jazeera coverage on the Israel Lobby

  1. Kilroy
    10 April, 2008

    I’ll have to listen again carefully, but on first listen I have to agree with Professor Finkelschtein that Mearscheimer and Walt have not produced the smoking gun that any of the players in the administration were acting directly on Israel’s behalf. Even if their recommendations coincided with Israel’s desires in their heart of hearts, that is not credible proof that the Bush administration was enthralled by Israel – lobby or no lobby. The top of the chain of command were not Israeli agents, even if some of the staff may have been.

    Emanuel Kant proved in several thought experiments that actions and intentions proceed independently of real events. People do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and vice versa. And desiring a thing does not make it so. Even if Israel and the lobby were agitating for the invasion of Iraq, there is no direct evidence of a cause and effect relationship between Israel and the neocons other than anecdotes and opinions by players in the periphery of the administration.

    Like on the X-Files I want to believe. But there’s just no credible evidence Israel had anything to do with Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. There are lots of dots to be connected by inference, but inference is not fact.

    Cheney’s love affair with Chalabi, who was served up to the Pentagon by Mossad; Doug Feith’s willingness to fabricate intelligence from Chalabi’s “contacts” who provided the casus belli of WMD; Richard Perle’s resignation as chairman of the PNAC top-heavy Defense Policy Board because of his investments in Israeli defense companies. We can infer all kinds of things from these relationships, but we cannot prove a direct cause and effect. I don’t think anything we’ve heard about so far is the proverbial smoking gun in the aggregate or in isolation.

    We can certainly fill in the gaps in the public record with our imaginations, but I think you’ve got to pull back at the point when something just sounds plausible and that’s all you have is something that merely sounds plausible.

    Mearsheimer and Walt are aligning the facts with their findings and asserting the appearance of Israeli involvement in the decision to invade Iraq. They’re saying something happened. But they’re not saying exactly what happened or how it happened.

    I agree with Norman – I haven’t seen any evidence that the United States went to war to remove a perceived threat to Israel.

    And, yes, I am picking a fight. I would love it if someone can show me some other way to look at it.

    I don’t care whether Israel is the queue ball or the queue stick. The whole thing is about projecting American imperial power – for oil or for G.P. Israel is there because the United States wants it there, and anyone who doesn’t like it is a terrorist. The U.S. could give a damn who owns Jerusalem. We’re not in the justice business. All we care about is keeping our economy going and the military industrial complex has become our reason to be, and Israel is just as good an excuse to do that as any other.

  2. m.idrees
    10 April, 2008

    Finkelstein has clearly gone off the deep end. So according to him Neocons have no connection to Israel? Sounds fine, so long as you ignore 3 decades of FBI investigations against 4 leading neocons — Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Ledeen — who have played a key role in selling the war.

    Secondly, he repeatedly misrepresents Mearsheimer and Walt. They never said neocons were taking orders from Israel. They say the war was enabled by the Israel Lobby, NOT Israel.

    Thirdly, he makes that lame argument — another misrepresentation — that M&W say Cheney or Rumsfeld were Israeli agents. What they say is that Rumsfeld and Cheney were not predisposed towards attacking Iraq, as the neocons were. They wanted to hit someone — anyone — after the war, and the neocons presented them with the readymade template. Same with Bush. He was wavering until a very late stage. It was neocon pressure that brought it about.

    Lastly, I am so sick of all the ‘blood for oil’ nonsense. Where are the facts? Cheney spent the 90s criticizing the ‘sanctions happy’ policy of the US. He wanted sanctions dropped so he could do business. But forget the absence of facts. More important is what is verifiable, but ignored. Namely, the position of big oil. Baker Institute had a position paper prior to the war, opposing it absent a UN resolution. And one afterwards, opposing privatization. But more importantly, Baker, Bush Sr., Scowcroft, Eagleburger — all are on record opposing the war. And THESE are the oil men.

    Finkelstein appears to have gone tribal, and completely lost credibility. Its a shame.

    Where I do take issue with Mearsheimer is on his uncritical view of neocon motives. Here is from a mail I sent him:

    Firstly, you take too benign a position of the Bush administration when you say that they were genuinely fearful of the threat Iraq posed. While that may be true of Bush, it demonstrably isn’t of the rest of the principals. Cheney’s ‘one percent doctrine’ is very much an affirmation of the fact that the threat was manufactured. Rumsfeld’s military approach — the light, hi-tech invasion force, and the brief occupation — also betrays the seriousness with which he apprehended the Saddam threat. Powell and Rice’s positions are also known. But in the light of the Downing Street memo, this whole point becomes moot. So I am very much surprised you would take this position.

    Similarly, you also take too benign a position of the neocons. You say that neocons only did what they thought was in the best interests of the United States, which they conflate with Israeli interests, and that Wolfowitz is a genuine idealist democrat. Unless you are saying this as a tactical concession to adversaries so that the main thrust of argument would be heard, I would say it is highly counterproductive, since neither of the points is sustained by facts. Not even those you present in your own book, such as the statement by Elliot Abrams on the role of Jews in diaspora. The claim is also undermined by the several espionage investigations against key neocons going all the way back to the late 70s. I think Juan Cole was nearer the mark when he said that the lobby aims to use the US military as its Gurkha army. As for Wolfowitz’s democratic credentials, your case is not helped by his earlier role as the US ambassador to Indonesia under the Suharto dictatorship where his tenure was marked his notable blindness towards human rights, corruption and, yes, democracy. According to the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, ‘he was considered closest to and most influential with Suharto and his family, but he never showed interest in issues regarding democratization or respect of human rights.’ Your case isn’t helped either by the fact that he responded to the Turkish parliament’s democratic decision to oppose the Iraq war by calling on the Turkish military to intervene. And the dichotomy between what he preached as the president of the World Bank, and what he did merely diminishes your credibility if you impute to him something that clearly isn’t there. But of course, the neocons would like to be seen as idealists; that way the worst that they can be accused of is their ideals getting the best of their judgment.

    Finally, as for the neocons ‘democracy promotion’ campaign, in the case of Iraq it coincides with their existing plans for ‘dual rollback’, so it is less a sign of idealism than one of a sophisticated plan based on flawed assumptions that predictably yielded a flawed outcome. For more, please refer to David Wurmser’s Tyranny’s Ally where he lays out a plan for empowering the Shia of Iraq in order to exploit the schism between Iraqi and Iranian Shia over Khomeini’s concept of Wialat al-Faqih. And yes, oil did play a part in the calculations since the neocons hoped to use Iraqi oil to undermine OPEC’s monopoly, and consequently potential Arab leverage over US policy.

  3. Ressentiment
    10 April, 2008

    Whoa thar city slicker. Ya done shot up the whole stage, both sides of the debate, and any audience who couldn’t make it to the exits. Ya shot the point. Ya shot the counterpoint. Then ya shot the weather vane. Poor chicken only had one eye but it always pointed up wind. Now there taint nothin’ left but holes and that poor chicken will be spinning till next Christmas. Now we won’t know which way the wind is blowin’.

    Was there a premise in there anywhere or did you just want to clear the room?

    :D

  4. Ann
    10 April, 2008

    Thanks Ed, this does seem to be more than a blind spot from Finkelstein now. Along with Chomsky on this key issue of the Israel Lobby question in the United States, Finkelstein almost functions as a “controlled opposition” in psy-op terms. In the second clip Mearsheimer is saying that “the neocons by their own admission are deeply committed to Israel …” yet Finkelstein still stubbornly asserts, flying in the face of facts and the neocons own statements: “there’s no evidence for that”.

    Kilroy, thanks for presenting the claims of the other side of the argument and I take it your ‘devil’s advocacy’ has been satisfied with Ed’s resolutely convincing response. I’m also firmly with Mearsheimer on this, with the important qualifications Ed (Idrees) has pointed out. Its a pity the debate was so short; it would have been interesting to have a more extensive one that gives Mearsheimer greater scope to present his case and refute Finkelstein’s blatant misrepresentation of his and Walt’s argument. In any case, its really worth reading in full M and W’s book The Israel Lobby on this, which expands upon their prior working paper and shorter LRB article of the same name.

  5. Pingback: Around the Blogosphere « Forever Under Construction

  6. m.idrees
    13 April, 2008

    I agree with you completely. Philip Weiss also weighs in here, and points to the sociological reality that Finkelstein overlooks.

  7. Crimson East
    17 April, 2008

    Having gone over this whole debate for months now, I find myself in complete agreement with the explanation provided by M. Idrees.

    But here is what I fail to understand so far…

    Can someone please look at my reasoning, and point out where I’m wrong?

    1.) The Right-Zionist Lobby represents a section/current/faction within the US ruling-class. This Lobby is not merely an Israeli fifth-column in Washington: it is a part of the US establishment itself.

    Correct?

    2.) This section/current/faction of the US ruling-class would not pursue a particular foreign policy unless its political and economic interests were served by that policy.

    Correct?

    3.) If the Right-Zionist Lobby manages to hijack US foreign policy, they are still pursuing what they consider a rational foreign policy aimed at establishing and protecting US hegemony.

    Correct?

    4.) US imperialism has a long, proud history of trampling over the people of Third World countries in its effort to secure economic and political hegemony over the world. The Right-Zionist Lobby is merely carrying on with this glorious tradition, based on its own interpretation of US interests.

    Correct?

    5.) After the failure of their bloody adventure in Iraq, the Right-Zionist Lobby finds itself being sidelined by the “realist” faction/current/section of the US establishment.

    Correct?

    6.) It is meaningless to expect a significant decrease in US militarism, even if the Right-Zionist Lobby lost its influence on US foreign policy.

    Correct?

    7.) If opponents of US imperialism focus too much on the Right-Zionist Lobby, they must at the same time denounce the “realists”, because our opposition is not to one faction but to the whole of the US establishment.

    Correct?

    8.) While attacking the Right-Zionist Lobby, opponents of US imperialism must NOT endorse the position of the “realists” or any other faction in Washington.

    Correct?

    Concluding question:
    So why is there such a fuss about the Israel Lobby?

  8. Ressentiment
    17 April, 2008

    I like your analysis Crimson, except I don’t think anyone in the U.S. consciously perceives imperialism as the defining goal. It may be the reality when judged by its actions, but I don’t think it is the intention. If you ask 10 people walking down the street in little town USA, I don’t think they could define imperialism even given multiple choice.

    You make an excellent point which I’ve been struggling to articulate. Zionism aligns nicely with the goals of U.S. foreign policy, but it is not the “primary driver” as Mearsheimer and Walt assert. If Israel were not an issue, the U.S. would still pursue the same foreign policy. So Zionists are more like opportunists riding an elephant that is going where it is going, rather than elephant drivers.

    I also like your clear point that the realist faction are also a strain of the empire school of government wherein no one questions unilateralism and economic hegemony. Mearsheimer and Walt merely disagree about the means used by the empire not the end. They see Zionism as a drag on the expansion of U.S. power around the world, and they argue that assimilation would proceed much more quickly if Zionism were not inspiring so much resistance.

  9. m.idrees
    19 April, 2008

    CE:

    Your conclusions don’t follow from your argument. But, more importantly, they are downright immoral. 1.2 million people have died as a result of the differences you describe, and you are asking what’s the fuss?

    Ressentiment:
    Zionism aligns nicely with the goals of U.S. foreign policy, but it is not the “primary driver” as Mearsheimer and Walt assert. If Israel were not an issue, the U.S. would still pursue the same foreign policy.

    Thats nonsense. Zionism works at cross purposes with goals of US foreign policy. Since the days of Truman, the interests of the US have been subordinated to domestic elecotral concerns. Support for Zionism has meant perpetual conflict with natural allies in the middle east. Even the erstwhile demon Nasser began as a US ally. He ended up in the Soviet camp merely as a result of Lobby machinations.

    I also don’t think you are showing much concern here for accuracy. As you are well aware, the military, intelligence, State — and all realists opposed the war. So where do you come up with the conclusion that the US ‘would still pursue the same foreign policy’?

  10. m.idrees
    19 April, 2008

    I also find that in the debate Finkelstein blames Mearsheimer of looking for ‘cosmic reasons’, when it is his own analysis that remains blissfully fact-free. That is my problem with ideological debates, they feel facts are somehow superfluous.

    There is also the constant reiteration, that somehow a critique of Israel lobby is ipso facto an endorsement of Realists. This is where ideology fails. The fact of the matter is that Realists opposed the war. It is that position that one must endorse without endorsing the ideological baggage that may come with it.

    Most of the Lefts critiques are offered from the safety of permanent failure, hence a proclivity for shunning responsibility. Real life never presents one with black or white choices. If one must be relevant, one has to make difficult choices, and take the responsibility for the consequences. The dogmatic left in its holier-than-thou approach chose to take the moral high ground by refusing to ally itself with the Realists, but how moral is that position really, if it in turn ended up enabling the lobby and its neocon vanguard to commit genocide unimpeded?

  11. Ressentiment
    19 April, 2008

    Zionism works at cross purposes with goals of US foreign policy.

    Where are the facts to go with this assertion? We characterize professor Finkelstein’s arguments as baseless yet no facts accompany our opinions either.

    An allusion to a sixty year old policy by an administration that has been long dead hardly explains how the river meanders now with the policy makers who fish there now.

    I’ll be back to this as soon as I can. But Crimson is right. The U.S. defines itself as an empire transparently to anyone who will listen. Yet the best antithesis we can synthesize is the Jews! The Jews! The Jews are everywhere. Controlling everything. Making words come out of the president’s mouth. Bribing the congress and enthralling the American taxpayer to pay for it. Not a very credible argument if I may complain about characterization and characterize at the same time.

    What arguments are the neocons making and why are they so effective? What is it in the American psyche which responds so well to Jingoism? What arguments could the opposition make that are more credible than “the Jews did it.”

    What you don’t understand is that no one cares if the Jews did it. Americans don’t care who did it as long as it is done. They’d hire Greeks to run the empire if they could do a better job.

  12. m.idrees
    20 April, 2008

    Where are the facts to go with this assertion? We characterize professor Finkelstein’s arguments as baseless yet no facts accompany our opinions either.

    An allusion to a sixty year old policy by an administration that has been long dead hardly explains how the river meanders now with the policy makers who fish there now.

    Thats the problem with ideological positions: facts become invisible. There have been only two known interests of US in the middle east: oil and anti-communism; one real, the other manufactured. US support for Israel has undermined the first, whereas the latter was manufactured by the lobby in order to rationalize the first. Hence, from FDR all the way to Bush Jr., friendly relations and easy access to oil have been sacrificed to the imperatives of Zionism thanks to the fear of a domestic lobby.

    The U.S. defines itself as an empire transparently to anyone who will listen.

    Yep, that may sound plausible if you happened to sleep through the seventies. Maybe you never heard of an entity called Committee on Present Danger, or its raison d’etre. Maybe you never heard of a process called detente, but more importantly, how it got derailed. I am quite certain you wouldn’t know what Jackson-Vanik amendment is, or its significance. You most certainly wouldn’t know then what Team B was. God bless wikipedia: very soon you will.

    Yet the best antithesis we can synthesize is the Jews! The Jews! The Jews are everywhere. Controlling everything. Making words come out of the president’s mouth. Bribing the congress and enthralling the American taxpayer to pay for it. Not a very credible argument if I may complain about characterization and characterize at the same time.

    Yawn.

  13. Crimson East
    20 April, 2008

    M. Idrees,

    My argument ended at point 8. But anyhow, forget that.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would find my question immoral. Sure, 1.2 million people are dead because a particular faction in Washington was able to take control of foreign policy. Anyone with an ounce of morality in them would condemn both the Lobby and the war.

    But the source of US militarism is not one influential Lobby, it is the US drive for hegemony. And this drive for hegemony was NOT created by the Lobby. The Lobby merely hijacked this drive to suit its own purposes, like any other lobby would.

    Look, my question is very simple. What makes the Israel Lobby special? What makes it so different from the people who brought us the Vietnam War, the Korean War, etc. ?

    Are the Israel Lobby people particularly bloodthirsty? Are they particularly militaristic?
    NO, they’re no different from any other trigger-happy corporate mogul in Washington. They’re all despicable, be they the Israel Lobby, the realists, the Candy Floss lobby or whatever. The bottom-line is that they will act to secure what are, in their opinion, US interests.

    You say that the whole US foreign policy in the middle east was directed by the Israel Lobby, from FDR to Bush jr.
    Suppose for a moment that I accept this.
    So, if the Israel Lobby had not been arm-twisting people in Washington, what would US foreign policy in the Middle East have been like?

    Relatively benign, eh? Just keep friendly Arab regimes in power, invade the ones who don’t go along, engineer a coup here, overthrow a Mossadegh there, just the usual?

    And incidentally, even the “realist” opponents of the Israel Lobby recognize the co-incidence of American and Israeli interests in a lot of areas.

    Whenever I read anything by them, I get the impression that they just want to moderate US support for Israel, not eliminate it.

    Find me ONE opponent of the Israel Lobby in Washington, who supports the Palestinian right of return. Find me ONE American opponent of the Israel Lobby who will call for the destruction of the racist apartheid-state of Israel.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski and co. are all lying scum. They’ll oppose the Zionist Lobby on some issues, but surely you’re familiar with their record in Afghanistan, for instance?

    I would be disappointed if you had many expectations from the “realist” snakes, who oppose the Israel Lobby and conceal their own agenda.

    US imperialism is the enemy, be it manifested through the machinations of the Israel Lobby, the Oil Lobby, the Environmentalist Lobby or whatever.

  14. Crimson East
    20 April, 2008

    Idrees,

    According to you,

    Most of the Lefts critiques are offered from the safety of permanent failure, hence a proclivity for shunning responsibility. Real life never presents one with black or white choices. If one must be relevant, one has to make difficult choices, and take the responsibility for the consequences. The dogmatic left in its holier-than-thou approach chose to take the moral high ground by refusing to ally itself with the Realists, but how moral is that position really, if it in turn ended up enabling the lobby and its neocon vanguard to commit genocide unimpeded?

    How would such an “alliance” help anyone?

    Like I keep asking, are the Realists incapable of violent military intervention in the Third World?

    Why would the Iraqi resistance fighter on the streets of Baghdad care about who might be pulling the strings in Washington?

    Why would the Hamas resistance care to ally with Brzezinski (the butcher who destroyed Afghanistan) against the Zionist Lobby butchers?

    US imperialism is the enemy, it can only be destroyed by the people whom it attacks, be iit in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, South America, Pakistan, East Asia, anywhere.

    It cannot be destroyed by these Realists in Washington. They are as much a part of the imperialist establishment as the Zionist Lobby.

    All they’d do is pull US armies out of Iraq and send them into Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places.

    How does that help anyone?

  15. Crimson East
    20 April, 2008

    Frankly, M. Idrees, I have a lot of respect for you, but I’m a little disappointed by your approach here.

    Which American war do you prefer? The one in Afghanistan (supported by the realists) or the one in Iraq (supported by the Zionist Lobby)?

  16. Ressentiment
    20 April, 2008

    US imperialism is the enemy, it can only be destroyed by the people whom it attacks, be it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, South America, Pakistan, East Asia, anywhere.

    Please include U.S. citizens in the list of those who are attacked by imperialism. We’re all in this together.

    Here’s what I would like to see in addition to all the fine doctors with their sophisticated diagnosis of the disease. I’d like to see a prescription or two.

    I’d like to see an argument large numbers of ordinary people can access without the prerequisite social theories.

    What is the root cause of the problem? Why is it a problem? How do we fix it?

    Not who do we blame.

  17. m.idrees
    21 April, 2008

    But the source of US militarism is not one influential Lobby, it is the US drive for hegemony. And this drive for hegemony was NOT created by the Lobby. The Lobby merely hijacked this drive to suit its own purposes, like any other lobby would.

    You can take that argument further, and trace the roots of all evil in the human capacity for violence. That would free us all from blaming any single nation (why blame US? are other nations, even the puniest, proportionately less violent?) If you are asking about the concentration of military power, then you have to ask where it originates. No one, including Chomsky, has any problem blaming Kennedy, and the WASP elite — the so called ‘best and the brightest’ of the time — for the evils of Viet Nam. But the question here is: do facts matter? If they do, then you may want to explain why detente, and the general disillusionment with military options in the wake of Viet Nam ended. And who were the agents of this change?

    What makes the Israel Lobby special? What makes it so different from the people who brought us the Vietnam War, the Korean War, etc. ?

    Don’t know what ‘special’ means. If you are asking why it is significant, then I guess the answer is superfluous. Guatemala was overthrown for United Fruit, no one questions that. Mossadegh for British petroleum. And Iraq occupied for the Israel lobby. Why is that so hard to fathom? There is a difference between striking a pose, and making a difference. If you are merely striking a pose, then yes, it makes sense to blame not just the culprit, but also everyone with the potential for similar crime, even if they opposed that particular crime. If on the other hand you want to make a difference, then you use all options within your means, including unsavoury alliances to prevent something.

    I leave abstract debates to the sectarian left, who excel at it (and nothing else). The question for me is whether the Iraq war, and the murder of 1.2 million innocents could have been prevented. The answer is yes. ‘hegemony’, ‘imperialism’ etc, these are all abstract concepts, they always require agency for their realization. You make a difference by fighting its agents. Fighting ‘imperialism’ is merely the flip side of Bush’s vacuous ‘war on terror’.

    Why would the Iraqi resistance fighter on the streets of Baghdad care about who might be pulling the strings in Washington?

    Neither one of us is an Iraqi resistance fighter on the streets of baghdad. So we instead focus on where we can make a difference, rather than offering empty gestures: address the forces that have imposed the war on them. But using the earlier logic, we could also argue that they themselves are fighting their working class brethern from New Orleans or Kansas, rather than the real enemy, US imperialism, which is presumably nebulous.

    Had only the iraqis been schooled in marx, they would have seen the rape of their sisters, the murder of their mothers or the torture of their brothers for what it is: a gesture of working class solidarity.

    This discussion is now over.

  18. Jane
    27 April, 2008

    I am a little confused here, could someone please tell me how the Iraq war helps the Israelis?
    Thanks, Jane

  19. peoplesgeography.com
    28 April, 2008

    Jane,
    The destabilisation and breaking up of Iraq thwarts one of the most successful Arab societies and threats (as seen by Israeli neocons) to Israeli hegemony in the region. As James Petras has noted: “Destroying Iraq for Greater Israeli-US dominance meant the dismembering of the Iraqi Republic, the imposition of a brutal US colonial regime and the gradual introduction of ethnically-cleansed tribal client regimes which would be subject to Israel interests and open to foreign oil companies. The promise of the latter was a ‘sweetener’ thrown in to secure big oil support or neutrality for the pro-Israeli (Israel-centered) policy.”

    Related posts: Iraq: a war for Israel and other posts, including Paul Findley, still daring to speak out; Richard N. Haass: The New Middle East; Iraq: Who Might Be Shooting at Both Sides?; and many more that may be found exploring all Iraq-tagged posts.

    The following is from a comment I wrote on an earlier thread.

    From the start, and as shown in key military and security doctrines, Israel’s goal has been to weaken what it saw as external enemies among its geographic neighbours, which feeds into the other goal to isolate and weaken the position of the Palestinians. This was deemed a strategic imperative to counter the internal and expressly stated “demographic threat” that is seen as the greatest danger to an ethno-exclusive Jewish state. This would actively involve breaking up its neighbour states, key among them Iraq as we are on the threshold of seeing happen, but also Syria and Lebanon. This is not an aberration, this is at the heart of zionist military doctrine: the destabilisation of the region was posited as a state of affairs that would bolster Israel and cement its regional hegemony.

    Just some of the key documents include the infamous 1996 paper entitled A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, by Israeli think tank the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies for then Israeli PM Netanyahu.

    The paper recommended that Netanyahu “make a clean break” with and reject the Oslo peace process and aggressively reassert Israel’s claims to the West Bank and Gaza, Occupied Palestinian Terroritories. It presented a plan whereby Israel would (re)”shape its strategic environment” throughout the entire region, starting with the overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

    It is not insignificant that these recommendations were made by the major neoconservative figures who later served in the current Bush maladministration, and who set about putting their plan into effect.

    Only a decade prior to that we have Oded Yinon’s A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties. As translated by Israel Shahak (The Zionist Plan for the Middle East, 1982), Yinon called for the break-up of Lebanon and other states in the region:

    Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target.

    And:

    Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization.

    As may have been previously mentioned, the significance of the fact that these are strategic-military doctrines means that they are essentially also political programmes in Israel, often described as a military with a state (rather than a state with a military), and where the military is so revered within Israeli society.

    The ideas of the Israel-firster neocons in the United States who have actively sought to create an ideological convergence between Israeli and US foreign policy in the last two decades may also not be shared by the bulk of the US populace, but the point is that they are influential in directing policy because of the position of the officeholders. Oligarchic elite values are not always or even commonly shared by their populaces. It is also worth noting that these neoconservatives who maneuvered into power were called The Crazies in the first Bush administration, again a point I think may have been mentioned before.

    The question of the political shift within zionism is also pertinent, with the ascendancy of the Likudniks from the 1970s to the present. In drawing upon Yoram Peri, former advisor to Prime Minister Rabin and European representative of the Labor Party, Noam Chomsky describes this left to right shift thus:

    The earlier conception [during the reign of the leftwing Zionists] was based on the search for “coexistence” and maintenance of the status quo. Israel aimed at a peaceful settlement in which its position in the region would be recognized and its security achieved. The new conception is based on the goal of “hegemony,” not “coexistence.” No longer a status quo power, having achieved military dominance as the world’s fourth most powerful military force, and no longer believing in even the possibility of peace or even its desirability except in terms of Israeli hegemony, Israel is now committed to “destabilization” of the region, including Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. In accordance with the new conception, Israel should now use its military dominance to expand its borders and “to create a new reality,” a “new order,” rather than seek recognition within the status quo.
    Source:
    Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians, updated edition (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 1999), p. 462, drawing upon Yoram Peri, ‘From coexistence to hegemony,’ Davar (Labor party journal), October 1, 1982.

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"


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