Revolution #222, January 16, 2011
From “Bastion of Enlightenment... or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of ISRAEL”
U.S. Imperialism: Sticking by, and Stuck with Israel
In much of the world, and in a very intense way in the Middle East, Israel's displacement and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people and other crimes makes that country the object of tremendous outrage and anger. That is a big problem for the U.S. as it seeks to counter oppositional Islamic forces and impose pro-U.S. regimes in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Widespread outrage against Israel puts reactionary pro-U.S. regimes in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, in an awkward and even precarious position. And the close bonds between the U.S. and Israel provide openings for rival powers to exploit in their contention with the U.S.
When U.S. General David Petraeus (now commander in Afghanistan) told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "Enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility," he was identifying a real contradiction for the U.S. ruling class.
It has not proven easy for the U.S. to broker a settlement that would integrate the Palestinians into some semblance of a stable situation, and, at the same time, satisfy what the Israelis see as their need for unchallenged domination and a thoroughly Zionist state. This has remained a sore point in the region and around the world, and as Israel resorts to more and more extreme measures to lock down the Palestinians, this contradiction becomes sharper.
And yet, in profound ways, the U.S has not only stuck by Israel—it is stuck with Israel. Despite real problems and even significant differences at times, the unique "strategic relationship" between the U.S. and Israel continues because, from the perspective of U.S. imperialism, there is no real alternative on the chessboard in terms of the role Israel plays in the Middle East and throughout the world.
With the U.S. deeply mired in wars throughout the Middle East, the role of Israel is more critical than ever. In an op-ed piece, U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (a "liberal" Democrat and strong supporter of Obama), enumerated how "One strategic ally in particular has always stood out from all others: the state of Israel." He noted that Israel provides "America with vital security assistance in the Middle East and around the world." Rothman argued that "without our partnership with the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces—the Israeli army), the United States might need to have 100,000 or more additional troops stationed permanently in that part of the world to make up for the protection of U.S. interests and vital intelligence provided by Israel to the United States."1
One reason why Israel is so important to the U.S. is that it is the one country in the region where the pro-U.S. government has a big social base. That loyal social base, in turn, rests in large part on the history and present-day place of Israel in the world's "food chain"—that is to say, the ways in which it shares in imperialism's parasitical relation to the oppressed nations of the world. European-immigrant citizens of the country have a high standard of living measured in nice houses, wages, and access to gadgets and luxuries. Israel provides its citizens with the trappings of bourgeois democracy—various rabid Zionists along with some moderate critics of the government who accept the terms of Zionism can run against each other in elections, while any politics that opposes Zionism is violently suppressed.
In short, with its massive nuclear arsenal, its European/U.S. level of technology, and a substantial section of its population enlisted in the "logic" and immorality of Zionism, Israel plays an irreplaceable role enforcing U.S. interests.
It is these factors that make it very difficult for U.S. imperialism to alter the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel—particularly right now. And this is true even though U.S. support for Israel provokes further opposition to the U.S. in the region, and creates fertile ground for Islamic fundamentalist Jihad.
1. "U.S.'s valuable, strategic relationship with Israel" by Rep. Steve Rothman, The Hill, June 3, 2008. [back]
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