James Petras. The Power of Israel in the United States. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2006.
This book is something of a mixed bag. There are many interesting, provocative observations and analyses, but there are also some occasions where Petras fails to make the case. Let’s start with some of the more generally positive features, even if they require some caveats.
He reports that Jewish-funded PACs provide 45% of the funding for the Democrats and 15% for the Republicans. He ties this fact to politicians following a strong pro-Israel line. On the face of it, this fact, if correct, would lead one to accept his conclusion. However, I would have liked to see more evidence that all those PACs were acting in that way. No doubt AIPAC and the Zionist organizations are.
Another interesting tidbit is that the United States is a major target of Israeli espionage. He says that there was “a mass expulsion of Israeli spies” after 9/11, precipitated by Israeli intelligence failing to share intelligence that they had about the event before it occurred. That specific charge would call for some hard evidence. The charges of spying laid against AIPAC employees and a Pentagon analyst, the earlier conviction of Jonathan Pollard, and the more recent charges against Ben-Ami Kadish give credence to the more general allegation of Israeli spying.
Israel’s receipt of U.S. aid is well known. Petras puts some numbers to it, $3 billion a year for some 35 years for military aid, with additional money for other matters.
Petras has the best of it in an argument with Noam Chomsky about the role of big oil in getting the United States into Iraq. He points out, rightly, that big oil wants stability, something that has been less than constant in Iraq, just as big oil feared. However, the decision to go into Iraq may still have been influenced by oil, even if the decision was not influenced by the corporations. Petras argues that only Israel had anything to gain by the war and lays American involvement at the feet of major Jewish organizations. That would be a hard one to prove, as the neo-cons in government, whom he names, would not need any prodding to attack Iraq. In fact, they were thirsting for the opportunity for years.
An interesting note about two of these neo-cons: Richard Perle and Douglas Feith were also active as consultants to Benjamin Netanyahu around policy toward Iran. That fact only strengthens my point about there being no need to pressure these guys.
I for one was not aware of some details about the Danish cartoon imbroglio. It turns out that Fleming Rose, the culture editor of the paper who commissioned and first printed the cartoons, is a right-winger and an admirer of Daniel Pipes, the prominent activist who is prepared to make life miserable for any academic who has a negative word to say about Israel. Petras charges that Rose is a Ukrainian Jew who worked with Israeli intelligence to create an international incident that would cast Muslims in a bad light. He offers no evidence to support the contention about Rose’s origins or his connection to Mossad, and search engines did not supply any. Rose studied Russian at the University of Copenhagen and served as a Moscow correspondent for a Danish newspaper for a number of years. He also translated a book by Boris Yeltsin into Danish, but I found no information that he was Jewish or Ukrainian.
Then there are the yet more contentious matters. He refers at one point to “democratic Hamas.” True, Hamas was democratically elected, but it is perhaps a stretch to claim that it is democratic. He also says that the U.S. wants to dismember Iraq. However, while their ways of dealing in the politics of the country may lead to that outcome, the evidence suggests that the U.S. is trying to get the various factions to govern jointly.
While Petras makes a strong case about the impact of Zionist organizations on American politics, it is not simply a matter of money. A basic problem in politics is the lack of a constituency for foreign policy. The Zionists have been able to fill that gap as it pertains to the Middle East. Arabs and Muslims have not been able to challenge them in any meaningful way.
On a final note, there is a disagreement between Petras and Chomsky as to who is using whom. According to Chomsky, Israel is merely a tool of American imperialism, while Petras argues that the U.S. dances to Israel’s tune, the tail that wags the dog. If we drop the “merely,” there is a lot of truth in both positions. Israel can squeeze a lot of what it wants from Uncle Sam, but in a more basic sense Israel is an imperialist outpost serving American interests. This is a provocative book, but not all the “i”s are dotted and not all the “t”s crossed.