A March 30 article by James Petras, a professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton, tries to provide an analysis of why this is the case, by claiming that Jews are disproportionately represented among finance capitalists resulting in an equally disproportionate Jewish influence over U.S. foreign policy. The article is posted on the antiwar website AxisofLogic.com. Petras is looked to by many on the left in the United States and Latin America as a socialist.
Others on the left have endorsed these views. In a column in the April 24 Nation, Perry Anderson, editor of the New Left Review and history professor at University of California, Los Angeles, praised the Walt/Mearsheimer paper. He called it a genuinely critical reflection on American foreign policy, from thinkers who have earned the title realist.
The conspiracy theories peddled in Petrass article and the Harvard paper, and backed by others on the left, leave the U.S. capitalist class and the profit system off the hook as the root cause of the devastating conditions imposed on working people worldwide. At the same time these theories fan the flames of Jew-hatred and American nationalism. So far the U.S. leftfrom the Communist Party USA to the Workers World Partyhas been silent on this issue.
The 83-page paper by Walt and Mearsheimer argues that the unmatched power of the Israel Lobby leads the U.S. government to subordinate American national interests to those of Israel. According to the document, this lobby has the backing of pro-Israel neoconservative politicians like former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle. Walt and Mearsheimer claim that the Israel Lobby also controls the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and holds the leading position in several foreign policy research institutes, among them the Brookings Institution. The Militant already analyzed the implications of this tract in the article, The myth of the neoconservative and Israel Lobby conspiracy: How U.S. foreign policy shifted after Cold War, in its May 1 issue.
London Review of Books
An edited version of the Harvard paper appeared in the March 23 London Review of Books. Despite receiving what they describe as a great many letters criticizing its publication, some of which they reproduced, the editors of the literary journal said in the April 20 issue they stand by their decision to publish it. They also announced they will run a reply by Walt and Mearsheimer to the letters in the magazines next issue.
The magazines editors also noted that some of the letters congratulating the authors of the paper are of an anti-Semitic nature. One of them applauded Walt and Mearsheimer for having exposed a secret Jewish conspiracy, and its author felt the need to spell it JEWISH conspiracy. Nonetheless they asserted that what the letters supporting and opposing the article have in common is that they come from people who appear not to have read the piece, and who seem incapable of distinguishing between criticism of Israeli or U.S. government policy and anti-Semitism.
One of the letters was from Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz. Among other points, he took exception to two of the papers central argumentsthe United States has become a target of terrorism because of its support for Israel and that Washington and Tel Aviv have different, if not conflicting, interests in the Middle East.
In fact bin Laden was primarily motivated by the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, Dershowitz writes. He is referring to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who along with the leader of other Islamic jihadist movements say their goal is to overthrow apostate regimes and establish Islamic states in majority Arab countries. For bin Laden and these groups, the rulers of Saudi Arabia are infidels controlling and profaning the holy sites of Islam.
Another letter came from Robert Pfaltzgraff of the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis. The institution was one of many think tanks at which Walt and Mearsheimer claim the Israel Lobby has a commanding presence. Pfaltzgraff wrote that to the extent that such studies support Israel or any other states in the region, this is the result of an independent analysis of US needs and interests.
In his article Petras comes to the defense of Walt and Mearsheimer. He denounces the virulent campaign against the professors well documented paper as another example of the growing tyranny of the pro-Israel minority over our civil liberties.
He then goes on to assert that a a significant affluent minority of prominent Jewish banking and real estate millionaires are active in financing and promoting Israeli policy either directly or through pro-Israel lobbies.
Petras even infers a connection between alleged Jewish prominence in the garment industryas owners and union bossesand the decline in wages and union membership for garment workers. No doubt the ethnic-class differences between the six-figure salaried Jewish labor bosses and the low paid Asian and Latino workers and the common class-ethnic positions of the labor bosses and the manufacturers facilitated these failed policies, he says.
No blood for Jews?
The Jewish and Gentile critics of the war deliberately exclude the role of the minority of wealthy Jews and their political lobbies in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East by focusing on the U.S. and overseas oil companies (No blood for oil!), Petras writes. Jewish lobbies, he adds, were far more pro-war than the oil industry.
The dangerous logic of such arguments peddling Jew hatred (to say anti-Semitism would be putting it mildly) should not be lost on working people. Such conspiracy theories have been the stock-in-trade of ultrarightists and fascistsmortal enemies of the working class and its allies. Petrass arguments also point to the political evolution of many middle-class socialists like him. The banner of opponents of the imperialist war against Iraq in 1990-91 was No blood for oil! Now, Petras says, it should be changed to No blood for Israel! or, by implication, to No blood for Jews.
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