Brutality and Reality: The American-Israeli Arrangement

Israel admits it used phosphorus weapons (Guardian)
Israel Adds Far-Right Party to Coalition (NY Times)

The good news just keeps rolling in from Israel, where the "light unto the nations" plows on in its relentless self-exile into outer darkness. That epithet of "light" once had the tang of truth, in the great line of thinkers, artists, activists, theologians, healers, humorists, and diviners of the natural world, largely in the Diaspora, from Maimonides to Mendelssohn, from Judah Ha-Levi to Boris Pasternak and Bob Dylan, from the Baal Shem Tov to Martin Buber, from Spinoza to Einstein, and on and on in every field of worthy endeavor. But the political inheritors of this matchless legacy seem hellbent on squandering what once seemed an inexhaustible storehouse of the human spirit.

Every week seems to bring some new brutality, some new degradation, some further coarsening –
and some new parallel with the Bush Regime and the brutal, coarse and degraded currents in American society that it so amply embodies and represents.

As a side note – or maybe even a main note – I'm not one of those who subscribe to the "Israel made us do it" meme that seems to loom large in the dissident blogosphere. I just can't buy the idea that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the gang are somehow being jerked around by wily Zionists – as if they wouldn't be following their "unitary executive"-global domination-war profiteering agenda even if Israel didn't exist. I think this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the American ruling class – and yes, Virginia, there is an American ruling class and a pretty vicious, voracious, self-serving lot they are, too. The idea that these factions of gargantuan wealth and privilege – much of it, as with the Bushes, going back for generations – could be induced to act against their own narrowly defined but passionately held interests by the arguments of third-rate hacks like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, or Douglas Feith seems fairly risible.

Yes, they are happy to make use of the neo-cons, the Likudniks, AIPAC, etc. etc., especially as the hard-right in Israel dovetails neatly with the American elite's own harsh, bellicose vision of the world. And yes, the Israel lobby has a broad and pernicious influence on the workings of American politics – just as, say,  the Turkish lobby does (ask Denny Hastert about those suitcases stuffed with Turkish cash; Foleygate is nothing compared to the yet-untold story of Treasongate), or the Saudi lobby, which has spread infinitely more baksheesh through the American system than the Israeli lobby could ever hope to match . But when the American elite go to war, they go to war for themselves, for their own benefit, not for anyone else. Despite various contretemps over the years (that little spot of bother about the USS Liberty, for example), Israel has ultimately served the American elite's purposes. If it didn't, then the untold billions of dollars in American cash and arms that have propped up Israel for decades would disappear overnight, and the country would be left to its fate.

The alliance with Israel is an arrangement of mutual benefit, to be sure, but it is an asymmetrical relationship all the same. The whip hand belongs not to the dependency in Tel Aviv but to the ruling class in the most powerful nation in the history of the world.

Granted, there is one aspect of our reality that does give rise to some confusion on this point. The Bush Regime's policies are obviously, howlingly detrimental to the interests of the American people and to the status, standing and security of the United States in the world -- yet these policies appear to have been most beneficial to the hard-right Israeli government. Doesn't that then "prove" that the Israelis are somehow pulling the strings on the duped Americans? No, not really. What it proves is what was noted above: that the American elite finds Israel useful to its purposes, and is in large agreement with the worldview of the Israeli Right. And here's where the confusion comes in: the false assumption that the American elite are trying to act in the interests of the American people, or that they are concerned about the standing and security of the United States in the world. They are not concerned with such things. They are concerned with the maintenance and advancement of their own wealth and privilege. If you want to put the best possible contruction on this, you could say that most of the elite unthinkingly identify their own selfish interests with "American interests;" e.g., "Why of course it's in America's interests to invade Iraq without cause, or support torturers in Kazakhstan, or genocidal dictators in Central America, or  help arm and train an international army of Islamic extremists and set them loose upon the world, or to destroy the labor movement or ship jobs overseas or deregulate public utilities for predatory investors – because such things will make me and my family and our cronies richer and more powerful in the short term." But outside this golden circle of navel-gazing regard, it is obvious that the elite's policies are in almost every case actively detrimental to the well-being of the vast majority of the American people.

So it is not surprising that the Bush Regime's policies are harmful to America while they are h
elpful to Israel. (These policies are also helpful to Islamic extremists, and oil-nation dictators, and drug-dealing warlords, and the Iranian mullahs, etc.) But again, these policies would still be pursued if Israel didn't exist or somehow struck a perfect peace with all its neighbors or engineered a miraculous reconciliation with the Palestinians. Whatever Israel does or doesn't do is not as important as the overarching fact that Israeli policy ultimately serves the selfish interests of the American elite. As long as Israel does that, fine. If it ever stops doing that, then it too will become a prime candidate for "regime change."

But yes, for now the mutually beneficial symbiosis continues. The American ruling elite – as Bush, their avatar, has clearly and openly shown – like torture, so they aid and abet Israeli torture. They like military aggression, so they aid and abet Israeli military aggression. They are deeply racist, so they aid and abet Israeli racism. As Gore Vidal once pointed out, the American elite believe in conquering other people's lands and dispossessing the "natives," who they then break in a series of savage wars and ethnic cleansings; so they naturally regard the Israeli project with great sympathy.

But however much these interests converge, however well utter putzes like Feith and Wolfowitz have served the Bush elite's larger purposes, I think it is a disservice to reality, and a disservice to the dead and suffering victims of American policy, to mitigate in any way the full, conscious, criminal culpability of the Bush Regime and its wholly non-Jewish leadership. They were not tricked into anything; they were not duped, they were not played, they were not bought; they are not the innocent victims or even the willing accomplices of perfidious foreigners. No: they are the perpetrators, they are the culprits, they bear the complete responsibility for the evil they have wrought.