[News] Zionist Dialectics: Past and Future

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 21 11:20:09 EDT 2010

M. Shahid Alam – Zionist Dialectics: Past and Future

Post • Sep 21st, 2010 at 7:20

Excerpted from: Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave: 2009)

“My God! Is this the end? Is this the goal for 
which our fathers have striven and for whose sake 
all generations have suffered? Is this the dream 
of a return to Zion which our people have dreamt 
for centuries: that we now come to Zion to stain 
its soil with innocent blood?”

Ahad Ha’am, 1921

This study has employed a dialectical framework 
for analyzing the destabilizing logic of Zionism. 
We have examined this logic as it has unfolded 
through time, driven by the vision of an 
exclusionary colonialism, drawing into its 
circuit – aligned with it and against it – 
nations, peoples, forces, and civilizations whose 
actions and interactions impinge on the 
trajectory of Zionism, and, in turn, who are changed by this trajectory.

It would be a bit simplistic to examine the field 
of interactions among the different actors in 
this historic drama on the essentialist 
assumption that these actors and their interests 
are unchanging. Instead, we need to explore the 
complex ways in which the Zionists have worked – 
and, often have succeeded – to alter the behavior 
of the other political actors in this drama: and, 
how, in turn, the Zionists respond to these 
changes. Most importantly, we need to explore all 
the ways in which the Zionists have succeeded in 
mobilizing the resources of the United States and 
other Western powers to serve their specific objectives.

Consider a list of the political actors who have 
had more than a passing connection to the Zionist 
project and, who, at one time or another, have 
affected or have been affected by this project. 
First, there are the different Zionist factions, 
the Jewish diaspora and, later, the state of 
Israel. These entities are overlapping, with the 
degrees of overlap between any two of them 
changing over time. The second set of actors 
consists of Western powers – especially, the 
United States, Britain, and France – the 
Christian Zionists especially in the United 
States, the Soviet Union and its allies in 
Eastern Europe. Finally, there are actors who are 
the direct and indirect victims of the Zionist 
project, those who have paid the costs of Zionist 
success. They form four concentric circles around 
Israel, including the Palestinians, the Arabs, 
the Middle East, and the Islamicate. These three 
sets of actors make up the dramatis personae in 
the unfolding tragedy of the Zionist project.

Clearly, the number of actors involved, their 
variety, and, not least, the multilayered power 
commanded by the Zionists and their allies would 
indicate that Zionism is no sideshow. Directly, 
it has involved much of the Western world, on one 
side, and the global Islamicate on the other 
side, who will soon make up one-fourth of the world’s population.

Many white settlers established colonies in 
Africa during the nineteenth century. In 
Palestine, the Jews established the only white 
settler colony to be established in the Middle 
East – or for that matter, anywhere in Asia. Of 
all these colonial settler projects, only the 
Jewish settlers in Palestine have endured. In 
1948, only three decades after they gained 
British backing for their project, the Jewish 
colons created their own state, Israel, which, 
almost overnight, became the dominant power in 
the region, capable of defeating any combination 
of the military forces of the neighboring states. 
Within two decades of its founding, the ‘tiny’ 
Jewish state had also acquired an arsenal of 
nuclear weapons, the only country in the region 
with such weapons of mass extermination. In 
recent decades, militarily, Israel has ranked 
behind only three other countries, the United 
States, Russia, and China. In addition, Israel 
has forged a special relationship with the United 
States, which finances its military, arms it, and 
shields the country from the sanction of 
international laws, leaving it free to expand its 
colonial project, and threaten and attack its 
neighbors at will. After September 11, Israel and 
its allies were a major­if not decisive­factor in 
pushing the United States to invade and occupy 
Iraq. For several years now, they have been 
itching to instigate the United States into a war against Iran.

How did the Zionists manage to do all this?

In part, the answer to this question lies in 
taking a measure of the forces that underpin 
Israel’s capacity to endure. Had the French 
colons survived in Algeria, had they partitioned 
the country to create a white colonial settler 
state along the Mediterranean coast, like Israel, 
this settler state too would be armed to the 
teeth, backed by a special relationship with 
France, and perpetually at war with Algerian 
refugees and with its Arab/African neighbors. In 
1960, David Ben-Gurion had urged Charles De 
Gaulle, the French president, to create a 
colonial settler state in Algeria in the rich 
agricultural areas along the Mediterranean coast. 
In the Algerian civil war, Israel had supported 
the faction within the Organisation Armée Secrete 
(OAS), the underground militant organization of 
the colons in Algeria, which wanted to partition 
Algeria.  Had it gone through, the partition 
would have prolonged the conflict in Algeria, 
created an Israeli twin in North Africa, and 
deepened the bond between France and Israel. 
Unluckily for Israel, de Gaulle firmly rejected 
partition. He was convinced that French rule 
could not be maintained in Algeria and conceded independence to the Algerians.

How did the Jewish colons in Palestine succeed in 
creating an exclusionary colonial settler state 
in the middle of the twentieth century, and 
continue to grow with support from a surrogate 
mother country, while the French colons in 
Algeria, the Italians in Libya or the British 
colons in Kenya had to give up their colonial projects?

The answer to this question is simple. The white 
colons in Algeria, Libya, or Kenya simply did not 
have enough influence over the mother 
country­over France, Italy, and Britain­to 
overrule what the elites in the mother country 
had decided was in their interest: to pull out of 
their colonies. The Jewish colons in Palestine 
had more power than the white colons in Algeria, 
Libya, and Kenya. Where did their power come from?

The success of Jewish colons in Palestine and the 
failure of the colons in Algeria, Libya, or Kenya 
is a paradox. The French, Italian, and British 
settlers had a natural mother country, a country 
of origin, with whose people they shared an 
ethnic bond. The Jewish colons in Palestine did 
not have a natural mother country, a powerful 
Jewish state to support their colonial project. 
Yet, their colonizing project succeeded, and they 
drove out the Palestinians to create a nearly 
pure Jewish state in Palestine. The Jewish colons 
did not pull off this feat on their own; they 
succeeded because of their ability to recruit the 
greatest Western powers, and many others besides, 
to support their colonial project. Somehow, the 
Zionists turned what could well have been a fatal 
deficiency for their colonial project – the 
absence of a natural mother country – into their 
greatest asset. They gained the freedom to pick 
and choose their mother country.

How did the Zionists bring this about? The Jews 
were not a majority in any country, but there 
existed a Jewish minority in nearly every Western 
country. In itself, the presence of Jewish 
minorities could not have been a source of 
strength; a weak Jewish minority in any country 
could do little to help their coreligionists in 
another country. What made the Jewish minorities 
different was that they carried a weight that far 
outweighed their numbers. Over the course of the 
nineteenth century, they had become an important, 
often vital, part of the financial, industrial, 
commercial, and intellectual elites in several of 
the most important Western countries, including 
Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United 
States. Moreover, the most prominent members of 
these elites had cultivated ties with each other across national boundaries.

Once these Jewish elites, spread across the key 
Western countries, had decided to support the 
Zionist project, they would become a force in 
global politics. On the one hand, this would 
tempt the great powers to support Zionism, if 
this could buy them the help of the Jewish 
communities, based in a rival or friendly power, 
to push their host country in a desirable 
direction. Conversely, once the Zionists 
recognized this tendency, they too would seek to 
win support for their cause by offering the 
support of Jewish communities in key Western 
countries. It would be in their interest to 
exaggerate the results that Jewish communities in 
this or that country might be able to deliver. 
During periods of intense conflicts – such as 
World War I – when the fate of nations hung in 
the balance, the competition for Zionist support 
became more intense than ever. This placed the 
Zionists in a strong position to trade their 
favors for the commitment of the great powers to 
their goals. In September 1917, this competition 
persuaded Britain, at a difficult moment in the 
execution of its war, to throw its support behind the Zionist project.

The Zionists continue to market their colonial 
project as a haven for Jews, fleeing anti-Semitic 
persecution. This is misleading. Overwhelmingly, 
Jews fleeing persecution in Europe have stayed 
away from this ‘haven’ when alternatives were 
available. On the contrary, the Zionists were 
counting on support from the anti-Semites to 
propel their nationalist-cum-colonial project. 
They were counting on anti-Semitic persecution to 
send Jewish colons to Palestine; and they were 
counting on the European anti-Semite’s desire to 
be rid of Jews to recruit Western powers to 
support their colonial project in Palestine. 
Zionism was primarily a nationalist movement, 
whose origins predated the resurgence of 
anti-Semitism in the late nineteenth century. 
Even then, most Jews sought to combat 
anti-Semitism through assimilation, Jewish 
autonomism, and socialist revolutions. When 
forced to emigrate, they overwhelmingly preferred 
destinations outside Palestine. The fortunes of 
Zionism improved only when most Western countries 
closed their doors to Jewish immigrants. When 
these doors were closing in the early 1900s, it 
was little opposed by the Jewish diaspora, whose 
leadership now identified increasingly with 
Zionist goals. Little pressure too was applied to 
reopen these doors before the 1960s.

The Zionists have received support, since the 
launching of their movement, from the dominant 
Protestant segment of Christianity, whose 
theology reinstated the Jews to their covenant 
with God. As a result, a few Protestants began 
calling for the ‘restoration’ of Jews to 
Palestine in the seventeenth century; at the 
time, Jews looked upon these proposals with deep 
suspicion. Since the nineteenth century, a new 
group of evangelical Christians began to support 
the ‘restoration’ of Jews, because they believed 
this was a necessary prelude to the Second 
Coming. From its home in Britain, this movement 
spread to the United States, where, in recent 
decades, cheered by Israeli victories, it has 
become an important source of support for Zionism in the United States.

In no small measure, the success of the Zionist 
colonial project was magnified by the weakness of 
the Arabs in the Middle East. Unlike Algerians in 
the nineteenth century or Libyans between the two 
World Wars, the Palestinians were slow in 
resisting Jewish colonization – the first serious 
resistance was mounted in 1936 – and, once 
beaten, in 1939, they could not reorganize for 
more than two decades. More fatefully, the Jewish 
colonization of Palestine did not evoke a 
response in the larger Arab/Islamicate world that 
was commensurate with the scale of the Zionist 
threat to the Islamicate. This period is marked 
by the absence of any concerted efforts in Syria, 
Egypt, Iraq, or the Arabian Peninsula to resist 
Jewish colonization before it would become 
undefeatable. The Arab nationalists began to stir 
when it was too late, after Israel had 
established itself and soon would be in a 
position to smash them before they could build their strength.

Anxious to conceal the power of the Jewish lobby, 
Zionists often argue that the Western powers 
supported Zionism only because the Jewish state 
served their strategic interests in the Middle 
East. We have shown that Zionism was in conflict 
with the long-term interests of Britain and the 
United States. Exigencies of war and the presence 
of a strong contingency of Christian Zionists in 
the cabinet of Lloyd George explain British 
support for the Balfour Declaration in 1917. On 
the other hand, the strong U.S. support in 1948 
for the partition of Palestine – and later – was 
the product of a domestic Jewish lobby.

In the 1940s – and even later – the United States 
commanded considerable goodwill in the Arab 
world. The populist movements in the Arab world 
directed their anticolonial animus against the 
British and the French, not the Americans. In 
addition, the Arab dynasties and petit 
bourgeoisie, who expected to gain power after the 
departure of the colonial rulers, would have been 
quite happy to work with their former rulers and 
the United States. Arab and local 
nationalisms­weakly founded, in any case – had no 
radical thrust. It takes little prescience to see 
that the insertion of Israel in the Middle East – 
far from serving Western strategic interests – 
was certain to create threats to these interests, 
where none existed before. Nor was this 
prescience lacking in Washington. The officials 
at the State and Defense Departments saw this 
clearly, but they were overruled by the exigencies of presidential politics.

Once created, however, Israel had the resources 
to create and entrench the perception that it is 
a strategic asset, that it defends the vital 
interests of Western powers in the Middle East. 
The creation of a Jewish colonial settler state 
in the Arab world – one that would have to engage 
in massive ethnic cleansing – was the perfect 
incitement for starting a rising spiral of anger 
against Israel's Western backers, chiefly, the 
United States. Arab anger over Israel, 
exacerbated by Israel’s truculent policies, would 
continue to fuel Arab nationalism and push it in 
a radical, anti-Western direction. Even so, the 
United States persisted in its doomed efforts, 
during the 1950s, to bring about peace between 
the Arabs and Israel. Israel would ensure that 
these efforts would not succeed, forcing the Arab 
nationalist states to turn to the Soviet Union. 
Inevitably, at this stage, Washington would see 
radicalized Arab nationalism as a threat to its 
interests in the Middle East. The first circle 
was complete. Israel had manufactured the threats 
that would make it look like a strategic asset. 
In a preemptive strike in June 1967, Israel 
confirmed this by defeating Egypt and Syria, the 
two leading Arab nationalist states.

Once this paradigm was in place, Israel and its 
Jewish allies in the United States worked hard to 
ensure that it stayed in place. Jewish Zionists 
in the United States, working both inside and 
outside the Jewish community, worked to whittle 
down the ability of the American political system 
to take any positions contrary to the interests 
of Israel. In the aftermath of the victory in the 
June War, and Israel’s new policy of expanding 
its frontiers to incorporate the West Bank, Gaza 
and the Golan Heights, a new, more aggressively 
pro-Israel cadre of Jews took over the leadership 
of the mainstream Jewish organizations in the 
United States. They worked to suppress dissent 
within the Jewish community, used campaign 
contributions to elect the strongest pro-Israeli 
candidates to the Congress, and maintained 
discipline inside the Congress by punishing 
dissenters at the next election. They cultivated 
the Christian Zionists, who were being energized 
by Israeli successes. At the same time, 
pro-Israeli think tanks produced hundreds of 
position papers, journal articles, magazines, 
reports, and books, resurrecting atavistic fears 
of a dangerous, resurgent, anti-Western Islam 
that was the greatest threat to the power of the United States.

The secret of Zionist success, then, lies in the 
manner in which it overcame the chief flaw in its 
design: it did not have a natural mother country 
to support its colonial project. By winning over 
the Jews in the Western diaspora, and galvanizing 
them to use their wealth, intellect, and activism 
to promote Zionist causes, the Zionists succeeded 
in substituting the West for the missing natural 
mother country. Over time, nearly every major 
Western country (including the Soviet Union) has 
offered critical help in the creation, survival 
and success of Israel. Most importantly, the two 
greatest Western powers, Britain and the United 
States, successively, have placed their military 
might squarely behind the Zionist project despite 
the damage that this inflicted on their vital interests in the Middle East.

The United States has already paid dearly for its 
pro-Zionist policies since 1948. Over time, these 
costs would include the hundreds of billions of 
dollars in subsidies to Israel and its Arab 
allies, the alienation of the Arab world, an oil 
embargo, higher oil prices, the rise of Islamic 
radicalism, and several close confrontations with 
the Soviet Union in the Middle East. After 
September 11, 2001, under strong pressure from 
Israel – working in league with their 
neoconservatives allies – the United States 
launched a costly but unnecessary war against 
Iraq. In turn, this war galvanized the Islamist 
radicals, giving them a new theater where they 
could engage the United States. The United States 
has financed this war – and the war in 
Afghanistan – by borrowing from China and the 
oil-rich Arabs. We must also add two other 
consequences of the Iraq War to the debit in 
America’s Israeli account: the rise of Iran and 
the growing challenge to U.S. hegemony in Latin America.

The costs that the United States – and the rest 
of the Western world – might incur in the future 
are likely to be much greater. We can only 
speculate about these costs, or when they will 
come due. The repressive, pro-American regimes in 
the Arab world are not sustainable. When these 
unpopular regimes begin to fall, and are replaced 
by Islamist governments, it may become difficult 
for the United States to maintain its presence in 
the region. Indeed, it is likely that the United 
States itself or Israel might trigger this 
outcome with an attack on Iran. In the opinion of 
some, this is an accident waiting to happen.

Should Israel wither away, the United States will 
bear much of the collateral damage of this 
collapse. The withering of the Jewish state could 
occur due to international pressures against its 
apartheid regime, a slow loss of nerve as Jewish 
settlers lose their ‘demographic war’ with the 
Palestinians, or loss of deterrence as Israel 
continues to engage in failed attempts to destroy 
the Hizbullah and Hamas. Israel and the United 
States have been joined at the hip for many 
years. In America’s public discourse, the two 
have become more and more like each other: they 
are two exceptional societies, marked by destiny, 
chosen by God, created by brave pioneers, who 
have shaped and continue to shape their common 
destiny through territorial expansion and ethnic 
cleansing. Should the Jewish state wither away, 
its much larger twin may begin to wobble.

Some consequences of the withering away of Israel 
might be easy to predict. Over the past century, 
the successes of the Zionist movement have 
galvanized many American Jews and Zionist 
Christians; they will now be disillusioned, in 
despair, confused, and angry. Probably, most 
Israeli Jews will want to migrate to the United 
States, which most Americans will be loath to 
refuse. Yet, this will give rise to frictions 
between some sections of Gentiles and Jews and 
may give rise to pockets of anti-Semitism. 
Tensions will also rise between Jews and Muslims 
in the United States. The disillusioned Christian 
Zionists too may seek to scapegoat all peoples of 
color, but especially Arab-Americans and Muslims. 
In all likelihood, the United States will 
experience growing conflicts among different 
sections of its population; there will be more 
racism, hate crimes, and, perhaps, worse. None of 
this will be good for America’s image as a great country.

Although the domestic fallout of the withering of 
the Israeli state will be serious, the more 
serious losses for the United States will flow 
from the erosion of its control over the oil-rich 
states in the Persian Gulf. It would be foolhardy 
to predict the contours of the new map that will 
eventually emerge in the Middle East and the 
Islamicate. Whatever new structures emerge, these 
transformations are likely to be violent. On the 
one hand, the fragmentation imposed on the 
Islamicate has created local interests that will 
seek to maintain the status quo. These local 
interests now will confront Islamist movements 
that seek to create more integrated structures 
across the Islamicate. These conflicts will be 
deeply destabilizing, as India, China, Europe and 
Russia may choose sides, each eager to replace 
the United States. Once the U.S.-Israeli 
straitjacket over the region has been loosened, 
it will not be easy to fashion a new one made in 
Moscow, Beijing, Brussels or New Delhi. The 
Islamicate world today is not what it was during 
World War I. It is noticeably less inclined to 
let foreigners draw their maps for them.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at 
Northeastern University. He is author of 
Challenging Orientalism (IPI: 2007). Contact him 
<mailto:alqalam02760 at yahoo.com>alqalam02760 at yahoo.com. 
Visit his website at <http://qreason.com/>http://qreason.com.

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