Any discussion of the relationship between Zionism and the “power elite” in Western countries must inevitably begin with a qualification of meanings, as these terms have been used in ways as to imply multiple definitions. For purposes of this discussion, the term “Zionism” is meant to describe an outlook that prioritizes the defence and promotion of the state of Israel as a bastion of Jewish nationalism, and which more broadly and implicitly favours a Jewish ethno-nationalism that spans the spectrum of the Jewish diaspora. The term “power elite” is being utilized in the manner suggested by the sociologist C. Wright Mills, who coined the term in order to describe those holding the dominant positions in the dominant institutions in society, such as government, business, industry, finance, military, education, religion, and the mass media. The central question involved in the analysis of this relationship is the matter of to what degree political decisions are shaped by the influence of Zionist sympathies. The evidence indicates that Zionists exercise considerable influence over the process of political decision-making in many Western countries, and particularly in the United States.
The Growth of Zionist Power in the United States
Zionist power in the United States has grown considerably, indeed almost exponentially, in recent decades. While the U.S. along with England was instrumental in the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, Zionist interests did not dominate U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East during subsequent years. For example, during the crisis over the Suez Canal in 1956, the U.S. sided with the Arab nations against not only Israel, but also France and England. However, the turning point began with the Six Day War in 1967 which had the effect of galvanizing the pro-Zionist elements of the American Jewish community, and the Israel lobby began exercising considerable influence over U.S. policy in the region. Remarkably, the U.S. failed to retaliate when Israel sank the American naval vessel the USS Liberty during the same year. Zionist power was demonstrated once again when America sided with Israel during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and which resulted in a costly petroleum embargo being imposed on the U.S. by the OPEC nations.
Meanwhile, the cultural openings and civil rights revolution of the 1960s opened the door for greater participation of traditionally excluded minorities in American institutions. These cultural changes were especially beneficial to Jews, who were already a prosperous, affluent, and educated minority group. While American Jewish intellectuals typically leaned very strongly to the Left politically, this began to change during the 1970s as many Zionists began to defect from the New Left over questions involving both Israel and the Cold War. The New Left tended towards pro-Palestinian views, and regarded the Cold War merely as a clash between rival imperialisms. However, many American Zionists regarded American power as a safeguard for Israel, and vociferously opposed the Soviet Union in large part because of Russian anti-Semitism. Jewish intellectuals and defectors from the Left such as Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz were instrument in developing the neoconservative movement. The neoconservatives began developing a relationship with the American conservative movement that had begun during the postwar period under leadership of such figures as William F. Buckley, and moving away from the Democratic Party towards the Republican Party.
Scott McConnell: The Republican Party is the Party of Zionism
During the 1980s and 1990s, tensions occasionally existed between the Zionist partisans and other factions within the American conservative coalition. While the leadership of right-wing Zionism in the U.S. had shifted towards the Republicans, the majority of rank and file Jews still tended to vote for the Democratic Party, which is the case with minority groups in the U.S. generally. During the Republican presidency of George H. W. Bush in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then Secretary of State James Baker III threatened to withhold American loans to Israel in response to Israel’s settlement efforts in the occupied territories. During a private meeting, Baker earned the permanent ire of the Israel lobby when he remarked, “Fuck the Jews. They don’t vote for us anyway.” However, the Republican Party has since become devoid of any voices that dare to defy the wishes of the Israel lobby.
Scott McConnell of The American Conservative identifies the process by which the Republicans became the “party of Israel,” and how the party aligned itself with the most right-wing faction of domestic Israeli politics, the Likud Party. He cites the work of various researchers who trace the dominance of the Republican Party by Israeli interests to the increased dependence of the Republican Party on wealthy Jewish billionaire donors, the ongoing importance of Christian Zionist evangelicals as a Republican voting bloc, the view of Israel as an important ally against Islamic terrorism during the post-September 11 era, and the ardently pro-Israel and quasi-evangelical views of former President George W. Bush. McConnell adds to this the strengthening of Zionist control over the U.S. broadcast media through the establishment of FOX News, the emergence of neoconservative publications such as The Weekly Standard, the neoconservative takeover of the conservative movement’s flagship magazine The National Review, the effective ostracism of anti-Israel voices such as Patrick Buchanan from the conservative milieu, and the proliferation and growing influence of Zionist organized or funded think tanks.
The Fate of Critics of Israel
On May 27, 2010, eighty-nine year old journalist Helen Thomas, a veteran White House Reporter remarked when asked for comments on Israel during an impromptu interview, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine…Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, it’s not Poland” and that the Israelis should “go home to Poland or Germany or America and everywhere else. Why push people out of there who have lived there for centuries?” Thomas’ remarks were met with a round of termination of employment contracts and revocation of previously bestowed awards. She subsequently resigned from her position with Hearst Newspapers. However, Thomas refused to retract her remarks saying, “”I paid a price, but it’s worth it to speak the truth…Congress, the White House, Hollywood, and Wall Street, are owned by Zionists. No question, in my opinion…I just think that people should be enlightened as to who is in charge of the opinion in this country.” Coming to Thomas’ defense, Ralph Nader observed the irony that Thomas would be attacked for such comments, noting that “ultra-right wing radio and cable ranters” promoted “bigotry, stereotypes and falsehoods directed wholesale against Muslims, including a blatant anti-Semitism against Arabs” hold a substantial presence in American media.
Not only journalists but also politicians and academics that have dared to expose or challenge the power of the Zionists over U.S. politics have been subjected to professional ruin. Among the American elected officials whose careers were destroyed or undermined by the Israel lobby have been Paul Findley, Jim Trafficant, Cynthia McKinney, Pete McCloskey, JamesMoran, Charles Pearcy, Earl Hilliard, William Fulbright, Mike Gravel, Roger Jepson, and James Abourezk. DePaul University denied tenure to the distinguished Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors and a leading critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, after a campaign against Finkelstein was organized by the Zionist attorney Alan Dershowitz.
A Turning of the Tides?
Traditionally, authentic anti-Zionist, anti-imperialist, or pro-Palestinian voices have been completely absent from both the U.S. media and the political class. Such voices have existed only on the left-wing or right-wing fringes of American politics. However, a rather remarkable event occurred in March of 2015. The Congressional leadership of the Republican Party invited former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, then seeking re-election which he would successfully achieve, to address the U.S. Congress for the purpose of denouncing President Obama’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, and in defiance of ordinary protocols. Nearly sixty members of Obama’s Democratic Party retaliated by boycotting Netanyahu’s address. The key question regarding this occurrence involves what this unprecedented defiance of the Israel lobby means for the future of U.S. politics.
The division between the two major political parties in the United States is now wider than at any point in the past century, and the same is true of both cultural and socioeconomic divisions. It may be that these divisions are now so great that the Zionist currents among the power elite are increasingly unable to control the political process. The willingness of President Obama to negotiate with Iran and avoid war may represent a growing division between the Zionist elites and important sectors of the wider American ruling class. Indeed, a sharpening of divisions between among the Zionist elite may be developing, as illustrated by the emergence of J Street. Evidence indicates that Americans, both Jewish and Gentile and especially younger people, are becoming increasingly unsympathetic to Israel, as evidenced by the rise of the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement concerning Israel, and the emergence of such groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace.
A War with Iran?
The power of Israel in the United States and in other nations has rendered these nations into accomplices to the carnage that occurs in the occupied territories. There can be no denying that Likud’s primary allies in the United States, the neoconservatives, were the driving force behind the war in Iraq with its hundreds of thousands of deaths, and millions more maimed, displaced, or subjected to the dystopian tyranny of the Islamic State that has emerged in more recent times. In a similar vein, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a one-time aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, recently observed that the Republican Party, “the party of Israel” as Scott McConnell describes the GOP, is apparently zealous for an eventual war with Iran, a war that will have an even more devastating outcome that the war with Iraq. Further, Zionist partisans in the United States appear to be constructing a false rationale for a war with Iran that is comparable to the false rationale that led to the war with Iraq. Just as it was wrongfully claimed that Iraq was in possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” against the insistence of an actual experts on international disarmament, so it is being claimed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons in defiance of the consensus of actual scholarly opinion on the question. If the present push for war on the part of the Likud Party and its arguably even more extreme partisans in the United States is successful, a voluminous amount of entirely needless death, destruction, and human suffering will result.