Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 10 April 14 - 21, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
and the U.S.: A Unique Relationship
James F. Petras
relations have been described in a variety of ways. Politicians refer to Israel
as the U.S.'s most reliable ally in the Middle East, if not the world. Others
speak of Israel as a strategic ally. Some speak of Israel and the U.S. sharing
common democratic values in the war against terrorism. On the Left, critics
speak of Israel as a tool of U.S. imperialism for undermining Arab nationalism,
and a bulwark against fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. A few writers point to
the "excess influence" which the Israeli governments exercise on U.S.
government policy via powerful Jewish lobbies and individuals in media,
financial and governmental circles.
there is a grain of truth in much of the above there is a unique aspect in this
relationship between an imperial power like the U.S. and regional power such as
Israel. Unlike Washington's relation with the EU, Japan and Oceana, it is Israel
which pressures and secures vast transfer of financial resources ($2.8 billion
per year, $84 billion over 30 years). Israel secures the latest arms and
technology transfers, unrestrictive entry into U.S. markets, free entry of
immigrants, unconditional commitment of U.S. support in case of war and
repression of colonized people and guaranteed U.S. vetoes against any UN
Israeli "colons" in the U.S. have invested and donated billions of
dollars to Israel, in some cases diverting funds from union dues of low paid
workers to purchase Israel bonds used to finance new colonial settlements in the
occupied territories. In other cases Jewish fugitives from the U.S. justice
system have been protected by the Israeli state, especially super rich financial
swindlers like Mark Rich and even gangsters and murderers. Occasional official
demands of extradition from the U.S. Justice Department have been pointedly
colonized Empire has gone out of its way to cover up its subservience to its
supposed ally, but in fact hegemonic power.
U.S.-Israeli relationship is the first in modern history in which the imperial
country covers up a deliberate major military assault by a supposed ally. In
1967, the U.S. Liberty a communications and reconnaissance ship was bombed and
strafed by Israeli fighter planes in international waters for nearly an hour,
killing and wounding hundreds of seamen and officers . Intercepted Israeli
messages as well as the clearly displayed U.S. flag demonstrates that this was a
deliberate act of aggression. Washington acted as any Third World leader would
faced with an embarrassing attack by its hegemon: it silenced its naval officers
who witnessed the attack and quietly received a compensation and pro-forma
apology. Apart from the fact this was an unprecedented action in U.S. military
and diplomatic relations with an ally, there is no case in record of an imperial
country covering up for an assault by a regional ally. On the contrary, similar
circumstances have been followed by diplomatic and bellicose responses.
apparent anomaly cannot in any way be explained by military weakness or
diplomatic failures: Washington has far superior armaments and its diplomats are
capable of forceful representation to allies or adversaries, when the political
will is present. The Jewish-American lobby, Congress people, media and Wall
Street moguls strategically located in the U.S. political economic system
ensured that President Johnson would act as a docile subject . No direct
pressures were necessary, for a hegemonized political leadership, acts,
seemingly on its own beliefs, having learned the rules of the political game.
Israel-U.S. is a unique relationship, that not even an unprovoked military
attack should call into question. Like all hegemonized powers, Washington
threatened the U.S. Naval witnesses with a court marital if they spoke out,
while they coddled their attackers in Tel Aviv.
illustration of the asymmetrical relation is found in one of the most important
espionage cases during the Cold War involving an Israeli agent, Jonathan Pollard
and the Pentagon. Over several years Pollard stole and duplicated bagfuls of top
secret documents about U.S. Intelligence, counter-intelligence, strategic plans,
military weaponry and turned them over to his Israeli handlers. This was the
biggest case of espionage carried out against the U.S. by any ally in recent
history. Pollard and his wife were convicted. The U.S. Government privately
protested to the Israeli government. The Israeli's on the other hand, through
their Jewish-American allies organized a lobby to propagandize in his favor.
Eventually all top Israeli leaders and Jewish-American lobbyists campaigned for
his pardon, and almost succeeded with President Clinton.
unequal relation is clearly evident in the case of a major fugitive from
justice, Marc Rich. A financier and trader, he was indicted in the U.S. federal
court on several counts of swindling and defrauding clients. He fled to
Switzerland and subsequently obtained an Israeli passport and citizenship,
investing hefty sums of his ill begotten wealth into Israeli industries and
charities. Despite the seriousness of his offense, Rich hobnobbed with top
political leaders in Israel and its economic elite. In the year 2000, the Prime
Minister of Israel and numerous pro-Israeli Jewish personalities, including
Rich's ex-wife convinced Clinton to pardon him. While an outcry was raised about
a linkup between the Rich pardon, and his wife's $100,000 plus contribution to
the Democratic Party, the underlying relationship of subordination to Israeli
influence and the power of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. was clearly more
important. It is worth noting that it is extraordinarily unusual for a U.S.
President to consult with a foreign ruler (as Clinton consulted with Barak) in
dealing with an accused swindler. It is unprecedented to pardon an indicted
fugitive who fled his trial and never served any sentence.
power of Israel is manifested in the numerous annual pilgrimages which
influential U.S. politicians make to Israel to declare their loyalty to the
Israeli state, even during periods of intensive repression of rebellious subject
people. On the contrary, U.S. satraps of the Israeli's mini-empire applauded the
Jewish state's invasion of Lebanon, its bloody repression of the Intifada I and
II and opposed any international mediation to prevent further Israeli massacres,
sacrificing any credibility in the United Nations.
votes in the United Nations, even in the Security Council, despite overwhelming
evidence of human rights violations presented by EU allies, Washington has
toiled in the service of its hegemon. Sacrificing international credibility and
deliberately alienating 150 other nations Washington labeled criticisms of
Israeli racism as "anti-Semitism". This does not mark the high point
of Washington's servility to Israel.
most recent and perhaps the most important instance of U.S. servility occurred
in the months preceding and following the September 11 attack on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon. On December 12, 2001 Fox news learned from U.S.
Intelligence sources and federal investigators that 60 Israelis engaged in a
long-running effort to spy on U.S. government officials were detained since
9/11. Many of those arrested are active Israeli military or intelligence
operatives. They were arrested under the Patriot Anti-Terrorism Law. Many failed
polygraph questions dealing with surveillance activities against and in the
United States. More seriously federal investigators have reason to believe that
the Israeli operatives gathered intelligence about the September 11 attacks in
advance and did not share it with its Washington ally. The degree of Israeli
involvement in September 11 is a tightly guarded secret. A highly placed federal
investigator told Fox news there are "tie-ins". When asked to provide
details, the federal investigator refused "Evidence linking these Israelis
to 9/11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered.
It is classified information."
exemplifies the power of Israel over Washington as this case of Israeli
espionage. Even in the case of the worse bombing in U.S. history, Washington
suppresses federally collected evidence linking known Israeli spies to possible
evidence about prior knowledge. Clearly this evidence might raise questions
about the links and ties between political and economic elites as well as
undermining strategic relations in the Middle East. More important it would pit
the Bush Administration against the Jewish American lobby and its powerful
informal and formal networks in the media, finance, and in government. Fox News
obtained numerous classified documents from federal investigators probably
frustrated by the coverups of Israeli espionage by political leaders in
Washington. These documents reveal that even before September 11, as many as 140
other Israelis had been detained or arrested in a secret investigation of large
scale, long term Israeli espionage in the United States. Not one of the major
print or electronic media reported on these arrests. Neither the President nor
any Congressional leaders spoke out on Israeli's pervasive and sustained effort
to obtain key U.S. military and intelligence.
classified documents detail "hundreds of incidents in cities and towns
across the country," that investigators claim could be an Israeli organized
intelligence gathering activity. Israeli agents targeted and penetrated military
bases, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and dozens of government facilities and even secret office and unlisted private
homes of law enforcement and intelligence personnel according to the Federal
documents, cited by Fox News. The General Accounting Office (an investigatory
arm of the U.S. Congress) document referred to Israel as "Country A";
it said "the government of Country A conducts the most aggressive espionage
operation against the U.S. of any U.S. ally." A Defense Intelligence report
said Israel has "voracious appetite for information...It aggressively
collects military and industrial technology and the U.S. is a high
Fox News Report written by Carl Cameron appeared on the inter-net one day (Dec.
12, 2001) and then disappeared - there was no follow up. None of the other mass
media picked up on this major espionage report. No doubt the powerful
pro-Israeli influentials in the mass media played a role. More significantly
than direct "pressure" Israeli hegemony "persuades",
"intimidates", the media establishment and political leaders to
operate with maximum discretion in limiting Israel's appropriation of strategic
the web of Israeli agents are sometimes subject to arrest, interrogation and
expulsion, the Israeli state and the ministers in charge are never publicly
condemned, nor are there any official diplomatic riposte such as the symbolic
temporary withdrawal of the U.S. Ambassador.
closest parallel to U.S. behavior toward Israeli spies is the response of poor,
dependent Third World countries to U.S. espionage. In that context docile rulers
quietly ask the Ambassador to rein in some of the more aggressive agents.
Question: September 11 and the Israelis
September rumors circulated throughout the Arab East that the bombing was an
Israeli plot to incite Washington to attack Muslim-Arab adversaries. These
stories and their authors provided nothing more than circumstantial evidence,
namely that Bush's anti-terrorism campaign legitimated Sharon's
"anti-terrorist" repression of Palestinians. The stories implicating
Israel were completely dismissed by all the media and political leaders across
the spectrum. Now U.S. federal investigators reveals that the Israeli's may have
known about the attack before it occurred and not shared it.
raises the question of the relationships between the Arab terrorists and the
Israeli secret police. Did the Israelis penetrate the group or pick up
information about them? Federal investigators' confidential information could
probably clarify these vital questions. But will the confidential information
ever become public? Most likely not. For the very reason that it would expose
Israeli influence in the U.S. via its secret agents and more importantly via its
powerful overseas lobby and allies in government and finance. The lack of any
public statement concerning Israel's possible knowledge of 9/11 is indicative of
the vast, ubiquitous and aggressive nature of its powerful diaspora supporters.
the enormous political and economic importance which the mass media have given
to 9/11, and the sweeping powers, funding and institutions created around the
issue of national security, it is astonishing that no mention has been made
about Israel's spy networks operating in the U.S.'s most delicate spheres of
course it is not astonishing if we understand properly the "unique
relationship" between the U.S. empire and Israel, a regional power.
relationship between the U.S. - a global imperial power - and Israel, a regional
power provides us with a unique model of inter-state relations. In this case the
regional power exacts tribute ($2.8 billion annually in direct contributions
from the U.S. Congress), free access to U.S. markets, protection overseas
felonious Jews from prosecution or extradition to the U.S., while engaging in
pervasive espionage and money laundering. Moreover Israel establishes limits on
U.S.-Middle Eastern policy, in the international forums. Israel's hegemonic
position has endured under both Democratic and Republican presidencies for
almost half a century. In other words it is a structural historical relation,
not one based on personalities, or particular transitory policymaking
hypothesis emerge from an examination of this unique relationship.
first stems from the fact that the territorial Israeli state has little power of
persuasion, economic reach or military clout in comparison to the major powers
(Europe and the U.S.). The power of Israel is based on the diaspora, the highly
structured and politically and economically powerful Jewish networks which have
direct and indirect access to the centers of power and propaganda in the most
powerful imperial country in the world. Tribute is exacted via the influence of
these "internal colonialists" who operate at the level of mass media
opinion makers and via Congress and the Presidency. Close to 50% of the funding
of the Democratic Party comes from pro-Israeli Jews. For every dollar spent by
the Jewish networks in influencing voting outcomes, the Israeli state receives
$50 in aid to finance the building and arming of colonial settlement in the
Occupied Territories complete with swimming pools, Rumanian gardeners and
the overseas networks the Israeli state can directly intervene and set the
parameters to U.S. foreign aid in the Middle East.
overseas networks play a major role in shaping the internal debate on U.S.
policy toward Israel. Propaganda associating Israeli repression of Palestinians
as the righteous response of the victims of the Holocaust has been repeated and
circulated throughout the mass media. From the heights of the network to the
lawyers boardroom, and the doctor's lounge the supporters of the network
aggressively attack as "anti-Semites" any critical voices. Through
local intimidation and malicious intervention in the professions, the zealots
defend Israeli policy and leaders and contribute money, organize voters and run
for office. Once in office they tune in to Israeli policy needs.
phenomena of overseas expatriates attempting to influence an imperial power is
not an exclusively Jewish phenomena. But in no other case has linkage led to the
establishment of an enduring hegemonic relationship: empire colonized by a
regional power, the U.S. paying tribute to Israel and subject to the ideological
blinders of its overseas colons.
questions remain to be answered as the Empire aggressively pursues its military
expansion and the internal voices of repression narrow the terms of public
the colons extend their influence throughout the political and intellectual
spheres, they feel more confident in asserting Israel's superiority to the U.S.
particularly in the areas of political coercion and war. They brazenly boast of
Israel's superior security system, its methods of interrogation including its
techniques of torture and demand the U.S. follow Israel's war agenda in the
Hersch urges the U.S. FBI and Intelligence Agencies to follow the Israeli secret
police's use or threat of torture of relatives including parents of terror
suspects. Richard Perle, highly influential in Rumsfeld's Defense Department,
advocates the Israeli tactics of offensive bombing of adversaries. "In 1981
the Israelis faced an urgent choice: should they allow Saddam Hussein to fuel a
French built nuclear reactor near Baghdad or destroy it?. The Israelis decided
to strike pre-emptively. Everything we know (sic) about Saddam Hussein forces
(sic) President Bush to make a similar choice: to take a pre-emptive action or
wait, possibly until it is too late." .
prominent colon, Senator Joseph Lieberman called on the U.S. to bomb Syria, Iraq
and Iran after 9/11, echoing Primes Minister Sharon's policy advice to President
Bush. Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law professor, publically endorsed repressive
legislation in the U.S. - modeled on the Israeli system of unlimited detention
colon's subordinate U.S. policy to Israel's foreign policy needs, independent of
circumstances and the extremities to which Israel's colonial policies push it.
Moreover as representatives of the hegemonic power in the U.S., they even try to
micro manage security measures - torture in interrogation - as well as becoming
vociferous advocates of a generalized Middle East war. The colons have
successfully influenced the U.S. government to block any EU initiatives toward
international mediation, as well as the U.S. sponsored Mitchell Plan, advocating
peace observers. In a word, the U.S., despite its occasional inconsequential
criticism of Israel's excesses, has not only been an unconditional supporter of
Israel, but it has done so, in the context of a prolonged bloody, repression and
occupation of Palestinian territories, to which Washington is a party to
securing. Israeli hegemony over the U.S. via its colons is a formidable weapon
for neutralizing the U.S.'s NATO allies. Arab petroleum clients, the vast
majority of the general Assembly in the United Nations and even its own public
on certain Middle Eastern issues.
more dangerous is the irrational paranoia which the colons transfer from Israeli
politics to the U.S. All Arabs are suspect. Middle Eastern adversaries should be
threatened if not bombed. Secret military tribunals and summary justice should
be meted out to suspected terrorists. The mass media is especially tuned to pick
up the Israeli paranoid syndrome: magnifying every threat, featuring Israeli
resolution and efficiency against Arab terrorists. The paranoid style of
politics had led to Israel's attacks on Arab countries in the Middle East,
espionage on the U.S., illegal purchase of nuclear devices in the U.S. and
unremitting violence against Palestinians and Lebanese. The danger is that the
assimilation of the paranoid style by the U.S. has vast consequences not only
for the Mid-East but for the rest of the world and to democratic freedom in the
the intellectual colons and other Israeli publicists forget to mention is that
Israeli security policy is a total disaster: bus stations, public malls, five
star hotels, pizzerias and all of its frontiers have been attacked and hundreds
of Israeli citizens have been killed and injured. Tens of thousands of educated
Israelis flee the country precisely because of insecurity and the proximity of
violence, which neither the Shin Ben, the Army or the settlers are capable of
to Israel's security failure, the colons insist on creating conditions for
internal repression and external war. Given their influential role in the mass
media, their prominence in the editorial and opinion pages of the most
prestigious newspapers, the colons message reaches far beyond their limited
numbers and the mediocrity of their intellect. Location and money can make up
for their psychological and political pathologies as well as override any qualms
about dual loyalties.
James Bamford, Body of Secrets. Doubleday: New York 2001, pp. 187-239.
Many Jews disagree with particular Israeli policies and do not support the
Jewish-American lobby's unconditional support for Israel. Yet their voices are
not heard and in most cases they have little or no political clout in politics,
the media and in the economy.
3. NY Times, December 28, 2001, p. 19.
F. Petras is a professor at the State University of New York at Binghampton. He
has authored 30 books on Latin America and U.S. policy.