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James Petras, The Power of Israel in the United States (Atlanta & Halifax: Clarity Press, 2006). Introduction. The suppression of Hamas’s democratic victory on Jan. 25, 2006, and the “Israeli state terror” unleashed after a Palestinian suicide attack on Apr. 17, 2006, were supported by propaganda of “the Jewish Lobby” — “as practically all Israeli commentators fondly refer to it” (11-12) [Comment: This is an exaggeration. Haaretz and Yediot Aharonot do not appear to use the term “the Jewish lobby”; the Jerusalem Post does (e.g., most recently, Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalem Center, in a forum published by Shira Teger as “Coming Together, Falling Apart,” Jerusalem Post, Apr. 23, 2007: “What we know today as the Jewish lobby largely owes its empowerment to the Six Day War.”] “This book is about the power of the Jewish Lobby to influence US Middle Eastern policy” (13). “[T]he majority of fundraisers for the Democratic Party and the minority financiers of the Republican Party” are “Jewish-funded Political Action Committees (PACs),” citing J.J. Goldberg, Jewish Power: Inside the Jewish Establishment (Basic Books, 1997) and “[a] more recent survey by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post” (13). [Comment: The former source is not cited by Mearsheimer & Walt; no reference for the latter is given by Petras, but he may be referring to an article cited by them, entitled “GOP Uses Remarks to Court Jews,” Washington Post (March 13, 2003), Page A01, in which Thomas B. Edsall and Alan Cooperman wrote that “In presidential elections, Democratic candidates depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 percent of the money raised from private sources.”] Petras insinuates that U.S. aid to Israel is recycled into the political fundraising (14). “The basis of the Lobby’s PAC power is rooted in the high proportion of Jewish families among the wealthiest families in the United States” and Canada (14). “The tyranny of Israel over the US” results in grave threats to world peace (14). Intellectuals have a responsibility to confront this (15). “More specifically, activist intellectuals must challenge peace movements that refuse to criticize the Lobby or Israel’s militarist policies” (15). Outline of book (15-16). [Comment: “The tyranny of Israel over the US” and “the Jewish lobby” are terms that are inadequately justified here and are not supported by the available evidence.] PART I: ZIONIST POWER IN AMERICA — Ch. 1: Who Fabricated the Iraq War Threat? “[T]he OSP [the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans] and its directors, Feith and Wolfowitz, were specifically responsible for the fabricated evidence of the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ that justified the war on Iraq (20). The OSP was part of a “network” of “political appointees” who “shared a rightwing pro-militarist ideology and were fanatically pro-Israel” (20). Big Oil did not promote the war on Iraq (21). Iran warmongering demonstrates that “the US-Jewish-Israeli lobby” is actually acting “counter to the interests of all the world’s major oil companies” (22). Attacks “Zionist policymakers” in U.S. government (23-24). Minimizes the number of “progressive Jews” critical of “Zionist zealots in the Pentagon” (25). Ch. 2: The US-Iraq-Israel-Zionist Connection. [At 35 pp., the longest chapter in the book.] “The only major beneficiary of the war has been the State of Israel” by eliminating an important opponent of “Greater Israel” (27-28). Israel was “able to influence the US imperial state” through “key pro-Zionist officials in and around the most
important policy making positions in the Bush administration,” with “the powerful support exercised by Sharon’s acolytes in the major Jewish organizations in the US . . . [t]he Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the AntiDefamation League, AIPAC, and thousands of their activists” (29). Israel hope to have access to oil via a KirkukHaifa pipeline; three U.S. bases in Iraq are being situated along the potential construction line (29-30). That U.S. is a “colonized empire” in “subservience to its supposed ally” is supported by U.S. behavior in incidents like the USS Liberty bombing in 1967, the Jonathan Pollard case in 1968, and the Marc Rich pardon in 2000 (31-33). U.S. politicians make “numerous annual pilgrimages” to Israel (33). The U.S. votes to protect Israel in the U.N. (33). Israel may have failed to share 9/11-related intelligence (33-35). “The power of Israel” is grounded in “the Diaspora, the highly structured and politically and economically powerful Jewish networks which have direct and indirect access to the centers of power and propaganda in” the U.S. (36-37). “Colons” brazenly and irrationally assert the superiority of Israel’s security policies (37-39). Israel’s economy is sustained by outside support (39). U.S. support comes from: 1) Wealthy organizations (40-41); 2) U.S. government support (41-46); 3) influence in media (46-47); 4) civil society organizations like trade unions (47). Wolfowitz and Feith, the architects of Iraq war, are examples of the “ZPC in action” (48-54). Campaign against the paper by Mearsheimer and Walt (55-56). Tirade provoked by insufficient criticism of Zionist policies (55-57). [Comment: Petras glides from “Zionist” to “Jewish” again and again; leaves some assertions undocumented; introduces a key term, “[t]he Zionist power configuration (ZPC)” (46) surreptitiously; uses exaggerated terms like “subordinated” (46), “pervasive . . . influence” (46), “capture of US foreign policy” (49); “the Jewish authoritarians” (55); “ever protective of
everything Jewish” (56). He exaggerates the critical response to the MearsheimerWalt essay (55); there were, in fact, many prominent Jewish Americans who defended the two scholars.] Ch. 3: The Libby Affaire and the Internal War. Discussion of Libby trial has failed to address a key point: I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was “a member of an ideologically cohesive group” (61). Review of the neoconservatives’ rising influence; Petral admits this came about in a “very open and direct way” (62). The FBI has been engaged in “permanent warfare” with Mossad (63-64). Resistance to Israel lobby compared to resistance to McCarthyism (64). [Comment: Petras introduces the term ZionCon (62) without comment. Misspells Gen. William Odom’s name as “Oden” (62). Petras uses exaggerated terms: “overweening drive for total control of government policy, motivated by their fanatical loyalty to Greater Israel” (63); “the ZionCon juggernaut” (64). No sources given for this chapter.] Ch. 4: Exposing the Exposé: Seymour Hersh and the Missing Zionist-Israeli Connection. Denounces Hersh’s account as “selective,” protective of Feith and Wolfowitz, neglecting Israeli sources for torture techniques, being “empirecentric” (68), too focused on Rumsfeld and Cambone (69-70). Charges he is engaged in “attempts to head off the anti-Zionist headhunting coalition by focusing on the two Goyim—Rumsfeld and Cambone” (70). Chapter’s “conclusion” forgets entirely about Hersh and rails against AIPAC (71-72). [Comment: Petras becomes conspiratorial, making unfounded charges about motives (Hersh’s and Rumsfeld’s, for example) though in other contexts he acknowledges how open the process has been. His rhetoric becomes more and more violent (e.g. “It was almost a perverse pleasure to watch
Sharon smear the muck and gore of Rafah on the groveling faces of US politicians” (72).] Ch. 5: The Spy Trial: A Political Bombshell. Makes broad generalizations about Israeli spying in U.S. (73-74). Cites unnamed “sources” saying that the Mossad threw U.S. investigators “off the track” “just prior to the [9/11] attack” (74). Asserts that Mossad fed disinformation many journalists in 1980s and 1990s but names no sources (74). Vague account of FBI efforts against Israeli spying (7576). Account of investigation of Larry Franklin and his arrest, followed by proAIPAC declarations by leading members of Congress (76-77). Public opinion supports (61% of likely voters) having AIPAC register as an agent of a foreign power (78). Resignation of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman of AIPAC; their subsequent indictment (79). Much propaganda related to this “major cause célèbre” (80-81). [Comment: This chapter gives few details about the facts of this case.] PART II: ISRAEL AND MIDDLE EAST WARFARE — Ch. 6: The House of Horrors: Torture, Assassinations, and Genocide. The U.S. empire has been built on “military violence” (82-83). Torture and violence against civilians have been necessary to sustain U.S. power (83-84). The U.S. has adopted Mossad’s policy of targeted assassinations (84-86). The U.S. is using “the Salvador option” to attack Iraqi civil society institutions like universities and cultural institutions in a policy that amounts to collective punishment and is modeled on “Israeli policy toward Palestinians” (89; 86-89). Zionist influence asserted (90-91). [Comment: Thin documentation; exaggerated rhetoric (“Today it is the extremist Zionist militarists in the Pentagon who direct the US Horror Show in Iraq” ). And Petras is inconsistent: though this
has long been U.S. state practice, he asserts the importance of a special Israeli role.] Ch. 7: Israel’s Final Solution: The Assault on Gaza. Israel’s assault on Gaza beginning Jun. 28, 2006, was aimed at the Palestinian leadership (93-96). It destroyed six myths: 1) that Israel supports democracy (97); 2) that Israel seeks peace (97-99); 3) that Israel is interested in a two-state solution (99); 4) that Israel supports human rights (as opposed to state terror) (99-100); 5) that the Israel Lobby advances American interests, as opposed to Israeli state policy (100-02); 6) that Israeli policy on prisoner exchanges has integrity (10204). Analysis of BBC coverage demonstrates success in influencing mass media (104-07). Conclusion reprises charge of ethnocide’ (116) (10709; cf. 94). [Comment: The term ‘Final Solution’ is used in quotes (94, 108) without explanation—an objectionable practice that weakens what is one of the better-argued chapters of the book.] Ch. 8: “Mad Dog” Ravages Lebanon. The 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict illustrates the influence of the Israel Lobby (110-19). [Comment: Petras absurdly charges that “the military attack was directed toward destroying all of Lebanon” (113; emphasis in original). Exaggerated rhetoric: “the Jewish Lobby’s monopoly of the mass media” (118).] Ch. 9: Israel’s War with Iran: The Coming Mideast Conflagration. Lobby promoting war with Iran (122). Unprecedented advance publicity (12223). Use of March 2006 “deadline” to increase pressure (123-24). Disputes within U.S. establishment; lobby cites dangers to U.S., not Israeli, security (12428). Notes that “[o]nly 29 percent of [American?—probably, but not clear from context] Jews are active promoters of Israel. . . . It is important to note that the
Israel First crowd represents less than a third of the Jewish community and hence their claim to speak for ‘all’ US Jews is false and a misrepresentation. In fact, there is more opposition to Israel among Jews than there is in the US Congress” (128). The Iranian threat is vastly exaggerated (129-31). Potentially catastrophic effects of war with Iran (131-32). Israel is the “only possible beneficiary” of such a war (132-34). With little opposition in the U.S., however, “it seems we are doomed to learn from future catastrophic losses that Americans must organize to defeat political lobbies based on overseas allegiances” (134). [Comment: Acknowledgement of the public debate contradicts claims made elsewhere (e.g. p. 118) that the Lobby has a “monopoly” of the media.] Ch. 10: The Caricatures in Middle East Politics. Based on purely circumstantial evidence, Petras insinuates that the Danish cartoon controversy was a “‘Flemming Rose’/Mossad operation”; “a Ukrainian Jew, operating under the name of ‘Flemming Rose’ with close working relations with the Israeli state” along with “sayanim (volunteer Jewish collaborators outside of Israel)” who “are a huge worldwide network of Jews in strategic or useful places (real estate, mass media, finance, car dealerships, etc.) who have agreed to help Israeli Mossad activities within their own countries” with the aim to showing Muslims that “nothing they hold dear is sacred,” i.e. a campaign of “vilification of Islam” (136-45). [Comment: No evidence of any kind is offered to support the charges made in this chapter, nor is any support elsewhere for them mentioned. With the introduction in this chapter of the notion of sayanim, Petras may be said to embrace the notion of a full-blown international Jewish conspiracy, which is a staple of anti-Semitism.]
PART III: EXPERTS ON TERROR OR TERRORIST EXPERTS? — Ch. 11: Experts on Terror: Looking in the Mirror. Charges that terrorism experts (“TEs”) share a common style that masks “deep-seated hostility” and a “chronic psychological blindness to the systematic and comprehensive violence inflicted by the West and Israel on particular groups” (148-49). A 2004 Financial Times article analyzed (149-50). Simplification and misrepresentation of portrayal of Muslims (150-51). Psychological causes invented, distracting from real grievances (151-58). [Comment: Superficial documentation. Petras seems unaware that he is adopting ‘psychobabble’ theories of the same kind as those he denounces.] Ch. 12: Suicide Bombers: The Sacred and the Profane. Suicide bombing is presented as a response to a form of “Anglo-American” “‘total war’” [sic; used in quotes] against Islam, with a special focus on defiling the sacred (15966). [Comment: Petras’s use of “AA” as an abbreviation for “Anglo-American,” then using the term as a plural noun, is bizarre, as are his invocation of the notion of total war (even with quotation marks) and his speculative analysis, presented without any references in support. He ignores Robert A. Pape’s important book on suicide terrorism, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (Random House, 2005), which is more interesting, but which is incompatible with his conclusions.] PART IV: DEBATES — Ch. 13: Noam Chomsky and the Pro-Israel Lobby: Fifteen Erroneous Theses. An aggressive refutation of Chomsky’s critique of the Mearsheimer-Walt article (168-81). Ch. 14: Confronting Zionism and Reclaiming American Middle East Policy. The aftermath of Iraq may lead to full-scale inquiry into “the Pentagon
Zionists” (182-83). The right may criticize how their influence impeded “US empire building” (183-84). The left may criticize their anti-democratic character (184). A true inquiry would have to go further, into “a level of crimes parallel to those of the Nazis in World War II . . . a series of aggressive wars of conquest based on the principle of domination by violence, torture, collective punishment, total war on civilian populations, their homes, hospitals, cultural heritage, churches and mosques, means of livelihood and educational institutions” (184). In response to such an inquiry, there will be 1) accusations of antiSemitism, 2) false conflation of “Zionist power today” with the weak Zionism of
the 1940s & 1950s, 3) the conflation of Holocaust victims with “the state terrorists of the Israeli state” who do not allow Arabs to benefit from the universal principles they proclaim, and 4) claims that Israel’s crimes are no worse than other nations’ (185-86). Index. 4 pp. [Back cover] “JAMES PETRAS is Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 560 articles in professional journals . . . He has published over 2000 articles in nonprofessional journals . . .”
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