by Gilad Atzmon / July 23rd, 2011
Though the number of critical voices concerning Israel, Zionism and Jewish power is growing steadily, a clear distinction can be made on the one hand between contributors who operate within the discourse and are politically oriented, and others who transcend themselves above and beyond any given political paradigm.
The former category refers to writers and scholars who operate ‘within the box,’ accepting the restrictive measures of a given political and intellectual discourse. A thinker who operates within such a framework would initially identify the boundaries of the discourse, and then shape his or her ideas to fit in accordingly. The latter category refers to a far more challenging intellectual attempt: it includes those very few who operate within a post-political realm, those who defy the dictatorship of ‘political-correctness’, or any given ‘party-line’. It relates to those minds that think ‘out of the box’. And it is actually those who, like artists, plant the seeds of a possible conceptual and consciousness shift.
Sadly enough, the Western Palestinian solidarity discourse is far from being saturated by great intellectually and spiritually enlightening texts. For very many years the discourse has failed to address the most crucial questions regarding the local and global success of Zionism and Israel. For far too many years now, very few have dared to question the role of Jewish lobbying and the obvious continuum between the Jewish State, Jewish culture, Jewish religion, and ideology. Many years of Left hegemony at the heart of the Palestinian solidarity discourse is part of the problem, but this fact can be easily explained and even justified.
Zionism was born in the late 19th century, and like other emerging political movements at the time, it clearly conveyed some clear modernist1 ideological symptoms. It was fuelled by the spirit of enlightenment. It presented a ‘rational’, secular, coherent and structural argument for Jewish self- determination and re-location.2 It was driven by Eurocentric modernist pseudo-scientific, biological-determinist poeticism.3 Political Zionism found itself negotiating extensively with the leading empires at the time, most of whom were modernist by definition. It is only reasonable to assume that Zionism, manifesting itself as a modernist ideology, would be opposed by other 19th century anti-colonial modernist ideologies such as Marxism, ‘working class politics’, dialectical materialism, cosmopolitanism or Left thinking in general.
Yet, unlike the Left thinking that is in constant danger of structural and intellectual stagnation, Zionism has proved to be an inherently dynamic political movement: it has never stopped evolving and reinventing itself. The history of Zionism reveals a clear success story. Within just six decades, Zionism fulfilled its initial promise and founded the ‘Jews only’ State, at the expense of the Palestinians. It achieved its initial goal with the vast support of the world’s richest nations and leading superpowers. By 1967 it had managed to mobilise the entirety of world Jewry, and had transformed Jewish elites into a fierce fist of Jewish power. By then, Zionism had also changed its course — instead of schlepping Jews to Palestine, it gathered that Israel would actually benefit if Diaspora Jews stayed exactly where they were, and mounted pressure on their respective governments. By the end of the 20th century, Israel has managed to transform the English-speaking empire into an Israeli mission force. In 2003 Britain and the USA sent their sons and daughters to destroy Iraq, the last fierce enemy of Israel in the region. And yet, at the time there was hardly any critical theory that could shed light onto the immense power of Israel and its lobbies within the Anglo-American political world. There was no political theory that would explain the Anglo-American’s suicidal decision to fight illegal wars for Israel. There was also a noticeable and substantial lack of scholarly work that could throw some light on the sudden twist within Western elites against Islam and Muslims. Being modernist, Eurocentric and secularist, the Left found it hard, or even impossible to deal with the complexity of both Islam and Jewish ideology.
Yet, unlike Marxism, or any other form of progressive thinking, Zionism has never been truly committed to any structural modernist way of thought. Zionism is primarily loyal to Jews and what it perceives as their needs. The simple truth is that Zionism was very quick to drift away from modernism. The deeper truth is that Zionism has never been a genuinely modernist precept. Zionism is basically a Zelig populist-pragmatic outlook, which goes through rapid metamorphic shapes, incarnations and affiliations, just to fit into any given discourse that suits its purposes. Indeed, Zionism masked itself as a modernist political ideology when it was needed, and it was secularist and rational when these ideas were broadly appealing. But it also easily developed a religious-evangelist flavour — when the prospects of such transitions could be translated into power.
Zionism was also very quick to grasp postmodern conditions; it may even be argued that it has been the first to define these conditions. Zionism allows itself to be contradictory,4 irrational at times, tribal and emotional on other occasions. These facts alone may explain why the Left has failed to offer an adequate criticism of Zionism and Israel, for if Zionism and Israel belong to the realm of post modernity, then we could hardly expect any modernist scholarship to provide a comprehensive reading into the complexity of the situation.
In recent years we have seen a few successful attempts to break away from the traditional Left, materialist and modernist political analysis of Zionism and Israeli politics. James Petras, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were among the first to publish academic work on the immense and disastrous impact of the ‘Israeli Lobby’ (a politically correct wording for Jewish power). Two years ago Shahid Alam published Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilising Logic of Zionism, an incredibly courageous scholarly attempt to grasp the destructive role of Jewish power in America and beyond. Petras, Mearsheimer, Walt, and Alam operated out of the box: their criticism of Israel, Zionism and Jewish power was not restricted by a party-line or by any given political consensus or paradigm. Quite the opposite, their work broke away from their contemporaneous paradigms and brought into life a new discourse that now shapes itself into an extensive body of thought, as well as providing politically pragmatic applications.5 As one may expect, Petras, Mearsheimer and Walt were criticised by elements within the Left, and especially by prominent Jewish voices within the Left. But they prevailed. Wisdom and true intellectual insights cannot be contained. At the most, these voices can be silenced or suppressed for a short while but they always hit back with much greater rigour.
This week we saw the publication of Eric Walberg’s Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games (Clarity Press), a substantial addition to the aforementioned and precious ‘out of the box’ category.
The book sketches a fascinating historical journey that provides Walberg with the necessary means to unveil the unique particularity of the postmodern conditions we are subject to. Walberg provides us with an extensive expose of the depth of the Zionist penetration into Western thought and the destructive power of Israeli imperial wars.
In order to achieve his goal, Walberg sets an historical template. He identifies three crucial phases in the past and recent imperial affairs: Great Game I (GGI) refers to ‘classical imperialism’ with competing empires vying for territories and resources.
Great Game II (GGII) refers largely to the cold war and the alliance of formerly competing Western empires under US hegemony in an attempt to restrain communism and contain its influence.
Great Game III (GGIII) is where we are now–the postmodern phase. It starts roughly with the collapse of the Soviet block. It can be described broadly in Neo-conservative terms as American unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority. But such a definition would be misleading. In reality we encounter the total Israeli-fication of America and its elites. In practice what we see is America willingly lending its might to a miniature Jewish state.
GGIII is the victorious march of Israeli, Zionist, and Jewish power. Walberg’s analysis is there to explain the shameless reaction of American senators and congressmen to Netanyahu’s speech recently. It explains why America, once regarded as a leader of the free world, is now lending its destructive might to the miniature Jewish state. The frightening truth is that Israel is now an ‘Empire and-a-Half’ as Walberg calls it. It has, at its disposal, the world’s only superpower that fights its wars by proxy and provides for its needs. Devastatingly enough, America doesn’t find within itself the power to liberate itself. The world’s single super power’s elite is practically held hostage by a miniature state and its supportive lobbies.
Like other significantly illuminating texts, Walberg provides the reader with the fundamental means to intercept the Zion-ised reality in which we live. Those who read the book may be able to grasp the current Murdoch affair and the role of his media empire within the context of global Zionism. Just less than a year ago, the media magnate accepted the ADL Award. In 2003 Murdoch’s media network rallied in support of the ‘War Against Terror’. Murdoch should have been stopped by the British Government or the Parliament, but as it seems, all recent British Governments and parties have been supported heavily by the Israeli Lobby in Britain. When this country was taken into an illegal war in Iraq, Lord cashpoint Levy was Tony Blair’s ‘number one’ fundraiser.
Walberg produces a thorough reading of the various elements that made Israel into an ‘Empire and-a-Half’. Fearlessly he looks into Judaism: he examines scholarly works dealing with the complex relationship between ‘Jews and the state’, he elaborates on Jewish and Zionist ideologies, he unveils the role of Jewish oligarchs. Walberg also examines the tactics and strategies that are put into action by Israel and its supporters: global wars, nuclear armament, soft power, sayanim, spies and gatekeepers. He elaborates on the Israeli Lobby and their media manipulation. He also discloses the role of some Jewish elements within the Left in stifling free discourse and diverting attention from the real issues.
Towards the end of the book Walberg reveals the bitter truth: Israel is actually far more independent than America, its supportive backing empire: “Despite the continuation of its special relationship with the US, Israel is playing an increasingly independent role in GGIII around the world, with its government, corporations and kosher nostra working with whatever states and non-state actors are willing to condone its deadly games, selling arms, smuggling drugs, buying blood diamonds from Africa, conducting covert operations to subvert governments, assassinating opponents, forging passports… Its Diaspora community and Chabad network, found in virtually every corner of the globe, facilitate its game plan, keeping ahead of US plans and technology through its American Sayanim, operatives, spies and powerful lobby.” (p. 235.)
It seems as if Israel is well ahead of America in every possible field. If Israel has ever been a ‘Golem’ created by the ‘colonial powers’ as some Left thinkers insist to suggest, than it is pretty obvious that the ‘Golem’ has turned on its creator. “In keeping with Jewish survival strategy throughout history,” Walberg continues, “Israel’s plans are more subtle than those of the current ruling US empire, as it cannot hope to subdue the world directly, but rather primarily by shaping or subverting its host empire’s aims and strategies, to achieve its geopolitical “place in the sun” both through its Diaspora and through its own use of statecraft and subversion, untroubled by world reaction.”(p. 235)
Walberg’s Postmodern Imperialism is a landmark text, written at a crucial moment in time. For the West, America and Americans, this may be a final wake-up call. For Israel, Israelis and their supporters around the world, this text is a red alert. Israel urgently needs to find the way to restrain its ‘global expansionist enthusiasm’ before it is too late. In fact, it may be too late already.
- The notion of modernity in this text refers to intellectual culture intertwined with ‘grand narratives’, rationality, enlightenment, coherence, science, secularisation, binary opposition and related factors. [↩]
- Jews like all other people should have a land of their own. [↩]
- Let us examine Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s “The Song Of Betar”:
“A Jew even in poverty is a prince
Though a slave or a tramp.
You were created the son of a king,
Crowned with David’s crown,
The crown of pride and strife.” [↩]
- Victim and oppressor. [↩]
- Move Over AIPAC is certainly a good example of the above. [↩]
Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He lives in London and is the author of two novels: A Guide to the Perplexedand the recently released My One and Only Love. Atzmon is also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read other articles by Gilad.