The United States, Israel
and the Palestinians
EB 0007 ISBN 0 7453 1345 0
London 1999
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Pluto Press Ltd
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© Noam Chomsky 1999
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Fateful Triangle
The United States, Israel, and
the Palestinians
Updated Edition

Noam Chomsky

Pluto Press

First published in the United Kingdom 1999 by
Pluto Press
345 Archway Street
London N6 5AA

Copyright © 1999 by Noam Chomsky
Original edition copyright © 1983 by Noam Chomsky

The right of Noam Chomsky to be identified as the author of the work
has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs
and Patents Act 1988.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Libraxy.

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Fateful Triangle may be the most ambitious book ever attempted
on the conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians viewed as
centrally involving the United States. It is a dogged exposé of
human corruption, greed, and intellectual dishonesty. It is also a
great and important book, which must be read by anyone concerned
with public affairs.
The facts are there to be recognized for Chomsky, although no one
else has ever recognized them so systematically. His mainly Israeli and
U.S. sources are staggeringly complete, and he is capable of registering
contradictions, distinctions, and lapses which occur between them.
There is something profoundly moving about a mind of such noble
ideals repeatedly stirred on behalf of human suffering and injustice. One
thinks here of Voltaire, of Benda, or Russell, although more than any
one of them, Chomsky commands what he calls “reality”—facts—over a
breathtaking range. Fateful Triangle can be read as a protracted war
between fact and a series of myths—Israeli democracy, Israeli purity of
arms, the benign occupation, no racism against Arabs in Israel,
Palestinian terrorism, peace for Galilee. Having rehearsed the “official”
narrative, he then blows it away with vast amounts of counter-evidence.
Chomsky’s major claim is that Israel and the United States—espe-
cially the latter—are rejectionists opposed to peace, whereas the Arabs,
including the PLO, have for years been trying to accommodate
themselves to the reality of Israel. Chomsky supports his case by
comparing the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict—so profoundly
inhuman, cynical, and deliberately cruel to the Palestinian people—with
its systematically rewritten record as kept by those whom Chomsky calls
“the supporters of Israel.” It is Chomsky’s contention that the liberal
intelligentsia (Irving Howe, Arthur Goldberg, Alan Dershowitz, Michael
Walzer, Amos Oz, Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, Shlomo Avineri, Martin
Peretz) and even segments of the organized Left are more culpable,
more given to lying, than conservatives are.
Nor is Chomsky especially gentle to the PLO, whose “self-destruc-
tiveness” and “suicidal character” he criticizes. The Arab regimes, he
says, are not “decent,” and, he might have added, not popular either.
In the new edition, Chomsky includes invaluable material on the Oslo
and Wye accords—an unnecessary line of Arab capitulation by which Is-
rael has achieved all of its tactical and strategic objectives at the
expense of every proclaimed principle of Arab and Palestinian
nationalism and struggle. For the first time in the twentieth century, an
anti-colonial liberation movement has not only discarded its own
considerable achievements but has made an agreement to cooperate
with a military occupation before that occupation has ended.
Witnessing such a sorry state of affairs is by no means a
monotonous, monochromatic activity. It involves what Foucault once
called “a relentless erudition,” scouring alternative sources, exhuming
buried documents, reviving forgotten (or abandoned) histories. It involves
a sense of the dramatic and of the insurgent, making a great deal of
one’s rare opportunities to speak. There is something profoundly
unsettling about an intellectual such as Chomsky who has neither an
office to protect nor territory to consolidate and guard. There is no
dodging the inescapable reality that such representations by intellectuals
will neither make them friends in high places nor win them official
honors. It is a lonely condition, yes, but it is always a better one than a
gregarious tolerance for the way things are.

Edward W. Said
New York, New York
January 1999

Preface to the Updated Edition

FFor some time, I’ve been compelled to arrange speaking
engagements long in advance. Sometimes a title is requested for
a talk scheduled several years ahead. There is, I’ve found, one
title that always works: “The current crisis in the Middle East.”
One can’t predict exactly what the crisis will be far down the road, but
that there will be one is a fairly safe prediction.
That will continue to be the case as long as basic problems of the re-
gion are not addressed.
Furthermore, the crises will be serious in what President Eisenhower
called “the most strategically important area in the world.” In the early
post-War years, the United States in effect extended the Monroe
Doctrine to the Middle East, barring any interference apart from Britain,
assumed to be a loyal dependency and quickly punished when it
occasionally got out of hand (as in 1956). The strategic importance of
the region lies primarily in its immense petroleum reserves and the
global power accorded by control over them; and, crucially, from the
huge profits that flow to the Anglo-American rulers, which have been of
critical importance for their economies. It has been necessary to ensure
that this enormous wealth flows primarily to the West, not to the people
of the region. That is one fundamental problem that will continue to
cause unrest and disorder. Another is the Israel-Arab conflict with its
many ramifications, which have been closely related to the major U.S.
strategic goal of dominating the region’s resources and wealth.
For many years, it was claimed the core problem was Soviet subver-
sion and expansionism, the reflexive justification for virtually all policies
since the Bolshevik takeover in Russia in 1917. That pretext having
vanished, it is now quietly conceded by the White House (March 1990)
that in past years, the “threats to our interests” in the Middle East
“could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door”; the doctrinal system has yet to
adjust fully to the new requirements. “In the future, we expect that non-
Soviet threats to [our interests will command even greater attention,” the
White House continued in its annual plea to Congress for a huge military
budget. In reality, the “threats to our interests,” in the Middle East as
elsewhere, had always been indigenous nationalism, a fact stressed in
internal documents and sometimes publicly.1
A “worst case” prediction for the crisis a few years ahead would be a
war between the U.S. and Iran; unlikely, but not impossible.
Israel is pressing very hard for such a confrontation, recognizing Iran
to be the most serious military threat that it faces. So far, the U.S. is
playing a somewhat different game in its relations to Iran; accordingly, a
potential war, and the necessity for it, is not a major topic in the media
and journals of opinion here.2
The U.S. is, of course, concerned over Iranian power. That is one rea-
son why the U.S. turned to active support for Iraq in the late stages of
the Iraq-Iran war, with a decisive effect on the outcome, and why
Washington continued its active courtship of Saddam Hussein until he
interfered with U.S. plans for the region in August 1990. U.S. concerns
over Iranian power were also reflected in the decision to support
Saddam’s murderous assault against the Shiite population of southern
Iraq in March 1991, immediately after the fighting stopped. A narrow
reason was fear that Iran, a Shiite state, might exert influence over Iraqi
Shiites. A more general reason was the threat to “stability” that a
successful popular revolution might pose: to translate into English, the
threat that it might inspire democratizing tendencies that would
undermine the array of dictatorships that the U.S. relies on to control
the people of the region.
Recall that Washington’s support for its former friend was more than
tacit; the U.S. military command even denied rebelling Iraqi officers
access to captured Iraqi equipment as the slaughter of the Shiite
population proceeded under Stormin’ Norman’s steely gaze.
Similar concerns arose as Saddam turned to crushing the Kurdish re-
bellion in the North. In Israel, commentators from the Chief of Staff to
political analysts and Knesset members, across a very broad political
spectrum, openly advocated support for Saddam’s atrocities, on the
grounds that an independent Kurdistan might create a Syria-Kurd-Iran
territorial link that would be a serious threat to Israel. When U.S.
records are released in the distant future, we might discover that the
White House harbored similar thoughts, which delayed even token
gestures to block the crushing of Kurdish resistance until Washington
was compelled to act by a public that had been aroused by media
coverage of the suffering of the Kurds, recognizably Aryan and portrayed
quite differently from the southern Shiites, who suffered a far worse fate
but were only dirty Arabs.
In passing, we may note that the character of U.S.-U.K. concern for
the Kurds is readily determined not only by the timing of the support,
and the earlier cynical treatment of Iraqi Kurds, but also by the reaction
to Turkey’s massive atrocities against its Kurdish population right
through the Gulf crisis. These were scarcely reported here in the
mainstream, in virtue of the need to support the President, who had
lauded his Turkish colleague as “a protector of peace” joining those who
“stand up for civilized values around the world” against Saddam
Hussein. But Europe was less disciplined. We therefore read, in the
London Financial Times, that “Turkey’s western allies were rarely
comfortable explaining to their public why they condoned Ankara’s
heavy-handed repression of its own Kurdish minority while the west
offered support to the Kurds in Iraq,” not a serious PR problem here.
“Diplomats now say that, more than any other issue, the sight of Kurds
fighting Kurds [in Fall 1992] has served to change the way that western
public opinion views the Kurdish cause.” In short, we can breathe a sigh
of relief: cynicism triumphs, and the Western powers can continue to
condone the harsh repression of Kurds by the “protector of peace,” while
shedding crocodile tears over their treatment by the (current) enemy.3
Israel’s reasons for trying to stir up a U.S. confrontation with Iran,
and “Islamic fundamentalism” generally, are easy to understand. The Is-
raeli military recognizes that, apart from resort to nuclear weapons,
there is little it can do to confront Iranian power, and is concerned that
after the (anticipated) collapse of the U.S.-run “peace process,” a Syria-
Iran axis may be a significant threat. The U.S., in contrast, appears to
be seeking a long-term accommodation with “moderate” (that is, pro-
U.S.) elements in Iran and a return to something like the arrangements
that prevailed under the Shah.
How these tendencies may evolve is unclear.
The propaganda campaign about “Islamic fundamentalism” has its
farcical elements—even putting aside the fact that U.S. culture
compares with Iran in its religious fundamentalism. The most extreme
Islamic fundamentalist state in the world is the loyal U.S. ally Saudi
Arabia—or, to be more precise, the family dictatorship that serves as the
“Arab facade” behind which the U.S. effectively controls the Arabian
peninsula, to borrow the terms of British colonial rule. The West has no
problems with Islamic fundamentalism there. Probably one of the most
fanatic Islamic fundamentalist groups in the world in recent years was
led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the terrorist extremist who had been a CIA
favorite and prime recipient of the $3.3 billion in (official) U.S. aid given
to the Afghan rebels (with roughly the same amount reported from Saudi
Arabia), the man who shelled Kabul with thousands killed, driving
hundreds of thousands of people out of the city (including all Western
embassies), in an effort to shoot his way into power; not quite the same
as Pol Pot emptying Phnom Penh, since the U.S. client was far more
bloody in that particular operation.
Similarly, it is not at all concealed in Israel that its invasion of Leba-
non in 1982 was undertaken in part to destroy the secular nationalism
of the PLO, becoming a real nuisance with its persistent call for a
peaceful diplomatic settlement, which was undermining the U.S.-Israeli
strategy of gradual integration of the occupied territories within Israel.
One result was the creation of Hizbollah, an Iranian-backed
fundamentalist group that drove Israel out of most of Lebanon. For
similar reasons, Israel supported fundamentalist elements as a rival to
the accommodationist PLO in the occupied territories. The results are
similar to Lebanon, as Hamas attacks against the Israeli military become
increasingly difficult to contain. The examples illustrate the typical
brilliance of intelligence operations when they have to deal with
populations, not simply various gangsters.
The basic reasoning goes back to the early days of Zionism: Palestin-
ian moderates pose the most dangerous threat to the goal of avoiding
any political settlement until facts are established to which it will have
to conform.
In brief, Islamic fundamentalism is an enemy only when it is “out of
control.” In that case, it falls into the category of “radical nationalism” or
“ultranationalism,” more generally, of independence whether religious or
secular, right or left, military or civilian; priests who preach the
“preferential option for the poor” in Central America, to mention a recent
The historically unique U.S.-Israel alliance has been based on the
perception that Israel is a “strategic asset,” fulfilling U.S. goals in the
region in tacit alliance with the Arab facade in the Gulf and other
regional protectors of the family dictatorships, and performing services
elsewhere. Those who see Israel’s future as an efficient Sparta, at
permanent war with its enemies and surviving at the whim of the U.S.,
naturally want that relationship to continue—including, it seems, much
of the organized American Jewish community, a fact that has long
outraged Israeli doves. The doctrine is explained by General (ret.)
Shlomo Gazit, former head of Israeli military intelligence and a senior
official of the military administration of the occupied territories. After the
collapse of the USSR, he writes,

Israel’s main task has not changed at all, and it remains of
crucial importance. Its location at the center of the Arab
Muslim Middle East predestines Israel to be a devoted
guardian of stability in all the countries surrounding it. Its
[role] is to protect the existing regimes: to prevent or halt
the processes of radicalization and to block the expansion of
fundamentalist religious zealotry.4

To which we may add: performing dirty work that the U.S. is unable
to undertake itself because of popular opposition or other costs. The
conception has its grim logic. What is remarkable is that advocacy of it
should be identified as “support for Israel.”
With some translation, Gazit’s analysis seems plausible. We have to
understand “stability” to mean maintenance of specific forms of domina-
tion and control, and easy access to resources and profits. And the
phrase “fundamentalist religious zealotry,” as noted, is a code word for a
particular form of “radical nationalism” that threatens “stability.”
Despite shifting alliances in a highly volatile region, Israel’s role as a
U.S. strategic asset seems stable in the foreseeable future. Its advanced
economy, like that of its patron, relies very heavily on the creativity and
funding of the enormous state sector. The two countries are linked in
joint research and development projects, mostly military and spin-offs,
and Israel provides basing and storage facilities for the vast U.S. system
of intervention forces targeting the oil-producing regions. Though
effectively an extension of the U.S. military and economic interests,
Israel is not entirely under control—client states commonly pursue their
own paths, to the chagrin of the masters. Contradictions abound, at
least contrary strains, as they do in U.S. policy as well. The Israeli Air
Force is very visibly carrying out maneuvers in Eastern Turkey aimed at
Iran, using advanced U.S. 15-E jets that can attack Iran and return
without refueling. At the same time. headlines in the Israeli press report,
“Israel and Iran have been conducting direct trade relations—from
1994.” Unlike the U.S., Israel does not officially list Iran as an enemy
state, and there are no official barriers to trade, which is small but
Israel’s development and deployment of weapons of mass destruction
continues under U.S. aegis, as it has since the Kennedy years. The well-
informed military analyst Uzi Mahanaimi reports that “Israeli assault
aircraft have been equipped to carry chemical and biological weapons
manufactured at a top secret institute near Tel Aviv, military sources re-
vealed yesterday”. Crews flying U.S. F-16 jets are trained to “fit an
active chemical or biological weapon within minutes of receiving the
command to attack.” The weapons are manufactured at a biological
research institute in Nes Ziona, near Tel Aviv, which “attracted
unwanted scrutiny” when Dutch authorities confirmed that it was the
intended destination of an El Al airliner that crashed in Amsterdam,
killing many people on the ground, and found to have been carrying
nerve gas components. “There is hardly a single known or unknown
form of chemical or biological weapon…which is not manufactured at
the institute,” according to a biologist who held a senior post in Israeli
intelligence. Nes Ziona does not work on defensive and protective
devices, but only biological weapons for attack, according to the British
Foreign Report. The devices have already been used, the report
continues, in the attempt by Mossad agents to kill Khaled Mishal in Jor-
dan, which backfired.6
Once again, Israel is following in the footsteps of its patron. After
World War II, the U.S. took over the hideous biological warfare
operations of Japanese fascists, including the personnel, and protected
them from war crimes prosecution—ridiculing Russian war crimes trials
of these Class A war criminals as Communist-style show trials. The U.S.
takeover of the programs was denied until it was exposed in the Bulletin
of Concerned Asian Scholars in 1980. The achievements of the
Japanese Mengeles became the core of U.S. biological warfare
capabilities—one reason, along with nuclear bombs, why the U.S.
official stand from 1950 was that it is “fallacious” to divide weapons
“into moral and immoral types,” and that the concept of “weapons of
mass destruction” does “not appear to have any significance.” The Joint
Chiefs of Staff included biological warfare in war plans by 1949. Shortly
after, the plans included a first-use option, along with nuclear weapons,
a position formalized by the National Security Council in 1956 and in
force until the 1972 treaty banning biological warfare. Recently released
Chinese and U.S. archives raise questions about the actual use of these
weapons in North Korea and China, previously assumed (by me as well)
to have been Communist propaganda; China appears to have
downplayed their use, so as not to provide information to the enemy.7
The international framework in which these developments are pro-
ceeding is fraught with danger and uncertainty. The U.S. has been
isolated for years in its policies on Israel and the Palestinians, and only
since its Gulf War victory has it been able to institute the program it had
demanded in opposition to a very broad international consensus. The
U.S. is now quite isolated in its policies towards Iran, which most of the
world wants to reintegrate into the international system. In the case of
Iraq, the U.S. and U.K. have lost much of the limited support they had
in the past, and must now pursue military action in increasingly brazen
violation of the UN Security Council and regional opinion. Secretary of
Defense William Cohen “won no public support” when he “visited Saudi
Arabia and five other friendly Persian Gulf countries” to explain the U.S.
policy of punitive raids against Iraq in March 1999. A senior Saudi
official stated: “We object to any nation taking matters into its own
hands, and using bombing as an instrument of diplomacy.” Saudi Arabia
has consistently refused to allow U.S. combat planes based there to join
in operations against Iraq.8
The U.S. hope is that the region’s governments are sufficiently des-
potic so as to be able to suppress the growing popular opposition to the
savage devastation of the civilian society of a neighboring Arab
country—opposition that is growing elsewhere as well.
Concerns over these developments must surely have become serious
as the U.S. and its British client were seeking to prepare the ground for
bombing of Iraq in late 1997. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was
sent to Saudi Arabia, but treated with noticeable coolness. In sharp con-
trast, former Iranian president Rafsanjani, “still a pivotal figure in
Tehran, was given an audience by the ailing King Fahd in Saudi Arabia,”
and as his 10-day trip ended on March 2, Foreign Minister Prince Saud
described it as “one more step in the right direction towards improving
relations.” He also reiterated that “the greatest destabilising element in
the Middle East and the cause of all other problems in the region” is
Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians and U.S. support for it. These
policies might activate popular forces that Saudi Arabia greatly fears, as
well as undermining its legitimacy as “guardian” of Islamic holy places,
including the Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem, now effectively
annexed by U.S./Israeli “greater Jerusalem” programs. Shortly before,
the Arab states had boycotted a U.S.-sponsored economic summit in
Qatar that was intended to advance the “New Middle East” project of
Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Instead, they attended
an Islamic conference in Teheran in December 1997, joined even by
The increasingly prominent Turkish-Israel alliance is not welcome to
other countries of the region, and there are signs that they may be
considering Iranian initiatives to develop a regional system that would be
more independent of U.S. control, including the Gulf oil producers,
Egypt, and Syria. That is not a prospect that U.S. planners can lightly
tolerate, particularly with the reasonable likelihood that not too far in the
future the current oil glut will decline and the Middle East share in
global oil production will substantially increase. It is against the
background of such possible developments in the region that U.S.
planning with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be assessed.
Israel’s internal economy and social structure are coming to resemble
that of its patron and paymaster, with growing inequality and the
collapse of social support systems, along with a sense of social solidarity
generally One grave internal problem is the cost—economic, social, and
cultural—of sustaining a large and growing ultra-religious (“Haredi”)
population, which draws heavily on educational and welfare programs
but contributes little to the economy. In a 1997 study, economists from
the Hebrew University and Boston University found that Israel’s
workforce participation for men is well below that of Western Europe
and the U.S., and declining as “ultra-Orthodox non-participation…is
permanent and increasing at a geometric rate.” If the tendencies persist,
they will “make Israel’s welfare system insolvent and bankrupt
municipalities with large ultra-Orthodox populations.” Refusal to work
among the Orthodox is a specific Israeli phenomenon, not the case
elsewhere or historically in anything like the manner of contemporary
Israel. With the religious population doubling every 17 years, “economic
bankruptcy is imminent,” the economists conclude, though the ultra-
Orthodox Rabbi who chairs the Knesset finance committee feels that all
is under control because “this country is living with miracles.”10
Conflicts between the secular and religious populations are becoming
more intense, exacerbated by class and ethnic correlations. Population
growth is increasing among Palestinians and ultra-religious Jews,
declining among secular and privileged sectors, as in Europe. Many
Israelis find the looming “civil war” more ominous even than the
dangerous international conflicts that are likely to persist.
As in the U.S., the Israeli political system is converging in a narrow
center-right spectrum with little differentiation, and the traditional
parties (Likud, Labor) are virtually collapsing. Their current leaders,
Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, have “two identical maps,”
political commentator Yosef Harif observes: “from a political point of
view there is no difference today between Netanyahu and Barak”—not
that matters were very different before, apart from the differences of
style that trace to the differing constituencies of the political blocs.
Netanyahu’s plan is “Allon Plus,” an amplification of the traditional
Labor Party Allon Plan that grants Israel effective control over desirable
regions and resources of the occupied territories. Barak’s “alternative” is
what he calls “the expanded Allon Plan,” which amounts to about the
same thing. Barak demands that “we must not uproot settlements” or
“abandon the Jewish settlement in Hebron,” and it is “forbidden for us
to agree to a Palestinian state.” “One listens to the ideas of Barak and
hears the voice of Netanyahu,” the reporter observes, paraphrasing the
Biblical passage. Considering their records, commentator Avi Shavit,
speaking for the left, asks “why do we hate Benjamin Netanyahu so
much,” particularly since he “bears responsibility for less bloodshed and
less harm to human rights than the two patrons of peace who occupied
the prime minister’s chair before him,” Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon
Peres, the former “anointed as Messiah” in delusional fantasies of the
left, Shavit comments.11
With regard to the Palestinians, the U.S. and Israel continue to
implement the extreme rejectionist program they have maintained since
the early 1970s, in international isolation until the Gulf war gave the
U.S. free rein to institute its version of the “peace process”: keeping
unilateral control, rejecting Palestinian rights, and moving to implement
a variant of South Africa’s homeland policies, though without many of
the advantages that South Africa conferred on the Bantustans. The steps
are reviewed in the text that follows and the chapters that update the
story from 1983 to the present.
At the time of writing (March 1999), the most recent stage in the
“peace process” is the Wye Memorandum signed at the White House on
October 23, 1998, and approved by the Israeli Cabinet on November
11. In agreeing, the Cabinet declared that “The Government will
continue to pursue its policy of strengthening and developing the
communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district, on the basis of a
multi-annual plan,” including “security roads” for Jews throughout the
territories and preservation of Israel’s “national interests”: “security
areas, the areas around Jerusalem, the areas of Jewish settlement,
infrastructure interests, water sources, military and security locations,
the areas around north-south and west-east transportation arteries, and
historic sites of the Jewish people.” Immediately following the accord,
settlers established more than 12 new settlements throughout the West
Bank, heeding the call of Israel’s Foreign Minister, Ariel Sharon, to
“grab” as much West Bank land as possible. By January 1999, the
“land grab” was accelerating, including isolated settlements that would
be the first candidates for eventual evacuation under any settlement that
is not a complete caricature. Standard practices are being followed,
among them, razing Palestinian houses in the search for “Jewish
archaeological remains” and establishing “nature reserves,” later to be
converted to Jewish housing.
Of particular significance is new post-Wye development in the Givat
Ze’ev Bloc northwest of Jerusalem, in pursuance of the Bush-Clinton—
Rabin-Peres programs of cutting off what will be left to the Palestinians
from the region around Jerusalem (let alone Jerusalem itself, the center
of their cultural, social, and economic existence) and from the territory
to the south.12
The UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Israel to
observe the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bans settlement in the
occupied territories. The resolution was passed 115 to 2, the usual
The Wye agreement changes territorial arrangements in trivial ways—
which are not easy to determine, since it is the first redeployment
accord without a map indicating areas to be transferred to Palestinian
administration.14 But it is presumably a step towards something like the
50-50 split of the territories that was Rabin’s goal in the Oslo
negotiations, at least if Israel is sensible enough to abandon useless
lands where the population may rot in peace in scattered and isolated
enclaves. The most significant and innovative aspect of the
Memorandum is its barely concealed call for state terror to achieve the
goals of the U.S.-Israel program. That breaks new ground for
international agreements. The Memorandum emphasizes that the
Palestinian security forces, which have a shocking record of torture and
terror, must act to ensure the security of Israelis. The CIA will supervise
them as they carry out arrests, hold mock trials, collect arms, and
“criminalize” incitement against the agreements. They must operate on
the principle of “zero tolerance for terror” (against Israelis), a concept
that is broadly construed, as anyone familiar with the record of the CIA
will understand.
The Memorandum does contain a sentence stating that “without
derogating from the above, the Palestinian Police will…implement this
Memorandum with due regard to internationally accepted norms of hu-
man rights and rule of law.”
There is no reciprocity: the security of Palestinians is not an issue,
and even the meaningless and shameful comment just quoted does not
apply to Israel, despite its brutal record of terror, torture, and violation of
elementary legal and human rights obligations, too well-documented to
review. Included are hundreds of killings of Palestinians since Oslo, most
of them “unlawful” according to Amnesty International (AI), and
exceeding killings of Israelis by a considerable margin (though less than
before, when the ratio was extreme). AI reports further that “there
continues to be almost total impunity for unlawful killings of
Palestinians,” not to speak of house demolitions, expulsion from
Jerusalem and elsewhere, imprisonment without trial, systematic torture
of prisoners, etc.—all well-documented by major human rights
organizations, including Israeli organizations, but of no concern to the
framers of the latest stage of the rejectionist program. No less striking is
the praise of the Clinton-Gore Administration for the harsh and illegal
measures employed by the Palestinian security forces to suppress
opposition to the accords and ensure security for Israelis.15
Amnesty International published an assessment of the human rights
situation since Oslo as the Wye Memorandum was signed.16 AI
estimates 1600 Palestinians routinely arrested by Israeli military forces
every year, half “systematically tortured.” AI notes once again, as other
major human rights organizations regularly have, that Israel is alone in
having “effectively legalized the use of torture” (with Supreme Court
approval), determining that in pursuit of Israel’s perceived security needs
“all international rules of conduct could be broken.” AI reports similar
practices on the part of the Palestinian Authority, including execution of
two Palestinians for “incitement against the peace process.” The State
Security Courts that conduct such abuses have been endorsed by the
U.S. State Department as demonstrating Arafat’s “commitment to the
security concerns of Israel,” with the support of Vice-President Al Gore.
Clinton’s achievement in bringing the two parties together to agree on
the Wye Memorandum was hailed with the usual awe. He proved him-
self to be the “Indispensable Man,” the New York Times headline read,
praising him for the “Crucial Salvage Mission.” Clinton is “staking out
the moral high ground” by insisting on the terms of the Wye
Memorandum. He “preached accommodation to immutable realities”—
“immutable” because they are demanded by U.S. power. He crowned
his moral achievement with “an uplifting, optimistically American
speech,” while “tethering the vaunted U.S. idealism, which some
Israelis and some Palestinians believe to be diplomatic naiveté, is the
promise of a fat new American purse.” Nevertheless, the idealism and
moral high ground cast a radiant glow over the proceedings.17
Particular cases illustrate the reality of U.S. policy. When some atroc-
ity occurs, Palestinians are placed under harsh curfew, no matter who is
responsible. A striking illustration was the massacre of 29 Arabs praying
in a Mosque by the right-wing American religious settler Baruch
Goldstein in February 1994, followed by severe curfew of Palestinians
and killing of many more Palestinians. Visitors to the Kiryat Arba suburb
where Goldstein settled can walk to the shrine established for him,
where they can worship in praise of the “martyr” who died “clean of
hands and pure of heart,” as the words on the gravestone read. In one of
the innumerable other curfews, in September 1998, a day-old infant
died in Hebron and another, three months old, died in her mother’s
arms, both on their way to the hospital, when Israeli soldiers refused to
let them pass through security barriers that had been set up to ensure
that Jewish settlers could observe ritually prescribed seven days of
mourning without disturbance. The soldiers made “a mistake in
judgment” the military spokesperson stated, ending the matter18
A few days later, Osama Barham, who now holds the record for
imprisonment without charge by Israeli military authorities, reached the
end of five years of administrative detention, then extended by the
military without any court decision. A secular journalist, Barham is
suspected of membership in Islamic Jihad, without evidence—or
concern from the overseers. Barham can consider himself lucky by
comparison to those sent to the Israel-run torture chamber Al-Khiam in
Lebanon, administered by the mercenary army Israel established in the
“security zone” it occupies in violation of a unanimous UN Security
Council resolution of March 1978 ordering it to withdraw immediately
and unconditionally; U.S. tolerance renders the decision moot. The first
news in nine months from Al-Khiam was brought by Hassan, released
after 12 years of regular torture, he reports, confirming ample evidence
since 1982. Hassan may have been lucky too, as compared with the 71
Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails as hostages for future
negotiations after having been kidnapped in Lebanon, with the
authorization of Israel’s courts.19
Israeli military operations in Lebanon continue, while its occupying
forces come under more successful attack by the increasingly
sophisticated Hizbollah resistance (called “terror” in the U.S.,
sometimes in Israel). Israeli military operations are not confined to the
“security zone.” In February 1999, three Israeli officers from an elite
command unit operating north of the zone were killed in a Hizbollah
ambush. Israel warned that it would attack Lebanese civilian targets in
retaliation, as, in fact, it has regularly done in the past. Since the end of
Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. some 25,000 Lebanese and
Palestinians have been killed, according to Lebanese officials and
international relief agencies, along with 900 Israeli soldiers.20
The achievement of imposing its rejectionist program in near
international isolation is impressive enough. But U.S. power won an
ideological victory that is in some ways even more dramatic. By now, its
rejectionist “peace process” is adopted as the framework of a just
settlement worldwide, even among those who only a few years ago were
calling for recognition of Palestinian rights and Israeli withdrawal from
the occupied territories (in accord with UN 242 of November 1967, as
interpreted throughout the world, including the U.S. until 1971).
So far, U.S. and Israeli leaders have been unwilling to move as far
towards accommodating Palestinian rights as South African advocates of
Apartheid did towards Blacks 35 years ago. Their solution was “Black
states,” to which the unwanted populations could be confined, to serve
as a cheap labor force when needed. Presumably, the U.S. and Israel
will sooner or later realize that they can gain by adopting a more
progressive stand of the South African variety. If so, they will agree to
call the Palestinian enclaves a “state” and perhaps even allow them a
degree of industrial development (as South Africa did), so that U.S.- and
Israeli-owned manufacturers, joining with rich Palestinians, can exploit
cheap and easily exploitable labor, subdued by repression.
Calls for a Palestinian state are being heard, though it is instructive to
look at them closely At the extreme pro-Palestinian end of mainstream
discourse, Anthony Lewis, joining in the standard denunciations of
Netanyahu, contrasted him with “the unsentimental old soldier” Yitzhak
Rabin, who, with his “sheer intellectual honesty,” was willing to sign the
Oslo agreements. But unlike Rabin, Netanyahu “opposes any solution
that would give the Palestinians a viable state—tiny, disarmed, poor,
dominated by Israel, but their own.” That is “the heart of the matter,”
the crucial distinction between the saintly Rabin and the bad
Netanyahu. And because of Netanyahu’s recalcitrance, “Oslo is dying.”21
In fact, Rabin, and his successor Shimon Peres while in office, force-
fully rejected any idea of a Palestinian state, while the Netanyahu
government has been more ambivalent on the matter (see below). But
no doubt Rabin would sooner or later have come to grant the
Palestinians a state that is “tiny, disarmed, poor, dominated by Israel,
but their own.” There is no more reason to doubt that Netanyahu would
also agree to that, as his Minister of Information has already stated.
Similarly all but the most extreme fanatics in the Arab and Islamic world
would probably be willing to grant the Jews a state that is “tiny
disarmed, poor, dominated by Palestine, but their own.” And they might
even take “the heart of the matter” to be the unwillingness of some
ultra-extremist to adopt this forthcoming stand.
A thought experiment suggests itself. One might ask what the reac-
tion would be to a presentation of “the heart of the matter” in the terms
just stated. The answer tells us a good deal about the ideological victory
of U.S. power.
Recently Hillary Clinton indicated her interest in running for the Sen-
ate in New York. In an article headlined “New York’s Palestinian State,”
James Dao of the New York Times asked whether she had made a
“monumental political gaffe” in advocating a Palestinian state. What she
had said to a group of young Israelis and Arabs a year earlier is that “I
think that the territory that the Palestinians currently inhabit, and
whatever additional territory they will obtain through the peace
negotiations,” should “evolve into a functioning modern state”—a state
that would, surely, be “tiny disarmed, poor, dominated by Israel.”
White House aides had immediately “disowned comments by Hillary
Rodham Clinton about the need for a Palestinian state and insisted that
she was speaking only for herself,” and she came under considerable at-
tack. But when announcing her candidacy, she received some support
as well. A political science professor was quoted as saying that
“supporting a Palestinian state used to be the peacenik position, an
extreme left-wing position.” But perhaps now no more. Perhaps
adopting the stand of South African racists 35 years ago can no longer
be condemned so easily as “the peacenik position, an extreme left-wing
Struggles for freedom and rights are never over, and this one is not
either. All of the contesting parties in the region face very serious and
possibly lethal threats. It cannot be said that the dominant outside
power has helped to smooth the way towards a meaningful solution of
their problems, or even towards reduction of the dangers. But that story
has not come to an end either, and there are many options open to
concerned people who hope to seek and pursue a far more constructive
and honorable course.
Sections of this Preface are based on “No Longer Safe,” Z Magazine,
August 1993. See my Deterring Democracy (Verso, 1991; updated
edition, Hill & Wang, 1992), chapter 1, and sources cited.
See David Hoffman, “Making Iran Public Enemy No. 1,” Washington
Post Weekly, Mar. 22-28, 1993, reporting from Jerusalem on Israel’s
efforts and those of two of its US. propaganda agencies, the Anti-
Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. Also Israel
Shahak, “How Israel’s strategy favours Iraq over Iran,” Middle East
International, Mar. 19, 1993.
John Murray Brown, Financial Times, Mar. 23,1993.
4. Gazit,
Yediot Ahronot, April 1992, cited by Israel Shahak, Middle East
International, Mar. 19, 1993.
Eli Kamir, Ma’ariv, Nov. 12; Dorit Gabai, Ma’ariv, Dec. 21, 1997.
6. Uzi
Oct. 4; Eli Kamir. Ma’ariv, Feb. 5, 1998.
Gordon Cramb, “Air crash shakes faith in Dutch politics,” FT, Feb. 21,
Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, The United States and
Biological Warfare (Bloomington: Indiana, 1998). For misleading articles
on the topic, see Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, Mar. 7, 1999,
Judith Miller and Blumenthal, NYT, Mar. 4; see also my ZNet
Commentary, “On Staying Informed and Intellectual Self-Defense,” ZNet,
Mar. 8, 1999
Douglas Jehl, “Saudis Admit Restricting U.S. Warplanes in Iraq,” NYT,
Mar. 22, 1999.
David Gardner, FT. Feb. 28; Robin Allen, FT. Mar. 3 1998.
10. Avi
Mar. 17,1999.
11. Harif,
Dec. 3; Shavit, Ha’aretz, Dec. 26, 1997.
Report on Israeli Settlements 9.1, January-February 1999, Foundation
for Middle East Peace. For excellent analysis of the agreements, see
Norman Finkelstein, “Security Occupation: The Real Meaning of the Wye
River Memorandum,” New Left Review (November/December 1998),
revised February 1999; Nasser Aruri, “The Wye Memorandum:
Netanyahu’s Oslo and Unreciprocal Reciprocity,” J. of Palestine Studies
28.2 (Winter 1999); documents appear here as well. David Sharrock,
Guardian Weekly, Jan. 17, 1999.
13. Reuters,
Boston Globe, Feb. 10, 1999, 50 words.
Report on Israeli Settlements, November-December 1998.
15. Human
Palestinian Self-Rule Areas: Human Rights Under
the Palestinian Authority (1988), cited by Finkelstein, op cit.
16. AI,
Five Years after the Oslo Agreement (September 1998). See Graham
Usher Middle East International, Oct. 16, 1998; Finkelstein, op cit.
Deborah Sontag, “Indispensable Man,” NYT, Dec. 14, 1998.
18. Gidon Levi, “The Dead Children of Hebron,” Musaf Ha’aretz, Sept. 4,
19. Gidon Levi, “Letters from the Israeli Prison,” Musaf Ha’aretz, Sept. 11,
1998; David Sharrock, Guardian, May 25, 1997.
20. Aliza
Boston Globe, Mar. 1,1999.
Lewis, “Solving the Insoluble,” NYT, Apr. 13, 1998.
22. Dao,
Feb. 28, 1999; Agence France-Presse, NYT, May 7; James
Bennet, “Aides Disavow Mrs. Clinton on Mideast,” NYT, May 8,1998.

1. Fanning the Flames

In the war of words that has been waged since Israel invaded
Lebanon on June 6, 1982, critics of Israeli actions have frequently
been accused of hypocrisy.
1 While the reasons advanced are
spurious,* the charge itself has some merit. It is surely hypocritical
to condemn Israel for establishing settlements in the occupied territories
while we pay for establishing and expanding them. Or to condemn Israel
Fanning the Flames
for attacking civilian targets with cluster and phosphorus bombs “to get
the maximum kill per hit,”2 when we provide them gratis or at bargain
rates, knowing that they will be used for just this purpose.3 Or to
criticize Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombardment of heavily-settled civilian
areas or its other military adventures,4 while we not only provide the
means in abundance but welcome Israel’s assistance in testing the latest
weaponry under live battlefield conditions—to be sure, against a vastly
outmatched enemy, including completely undefended targets, always the
safest way to carry out experiments of this sort. In general, it is pure
hypocrisy to criticize the exercise of Israeli power while welcoming
Israel’s contributions towards realizing the U.S. aim of eliminating
possible threats, largely indigenous, to American domination of the
Middle East region.
Clearly, as long as the United States provides the wherewithal, Israel
will use it for its purposes. These purposes are clear enough today, and
have been clear to those who chose to understand for many years: to
integrate the bulk of the occupied territories within Israel in some
fashion while finding a way to reduce the Arab population; to disperse
the scattered refugees and crush any manifestation of Palestinian
nationalism or Palestinian culture;5 to gain control over southern
Lebanon. Since these goals have long been obvious and have been
shared in fundamental respects by the two major political groupings in
Israel, there is little basis for condemning Israel when it exploits the
position of regional power afforded it by the phenomenal quantities of
U.S. aid in exactly the ways that would be anticipated by any person
whose head is not buried in the sand. Complaints and accusations are
indeed hypocritical as long as material assistance is provided in an
unending and ever-expanding flow, along with diplomatic and
ideological support, the latter, by shaping the facts of history in a
convenient form. Even if the occasional tempered criticisms from
Fanning the Flames
Washington or in editorial commentary are seriously intended, there is
little reason for any Israeli government to pay any attention to them. The
historical practice over many years has trained Israeli leaders to assume
that U.S. “opinion makers” and political elites will stand behind them
whatever they do, and that even if direct reporting is accurate, as it
generally is, its import will gradually be lost as the custodians of history
carry out their tasks.
The basic point seems simple enough, and is well-understood outside
the United States, including Israel. A dissident Israeli journalist observes
that “All this delusion of imperial power would stop if the United States
turned off the tap…in anger at some excessive lunacy.”6 The London
Economist comments:

Holding up the supply of shiny new weapons is America’s
traditional slap on Israel’s wrist. But an embargo is
ineffective unless it is certain to last… Much more effective
would be the belief in Israel that this time an American
president will stick with his policy, including if need be a
lasting embargo on arms and a rethink of the extent of
America’s aid.7

The point, as noted, seems simple enough. Some years ago it was in
fact as simple as it seems. It would then have been possible to influence
Israel to join in the international consensus—which has long included
the major Arab states, the population of the occupied territories, and the
mainstream of the PLO—in support of a two-state political settlement
that would include recognized borders, security guarantees, and reason-
able prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The precondition,
of course, was for the U.S. itself to join this consensus and cease its
support for the adamant rejectionism of the Labor Party and then
Fanning the Flames
Menachem Begin’s Likud coalition. Though this picture of recent history
is remote from the standard version here, it is familiar abroad, and has
the additional merit of accuracy.8
What seemed simple several years ago, however, has become
considerably more complex today. By now it is not at all clear what the
effect would be if U.S. policy were to shift towards the international
consensus, abandoning the commitment to a Greater Israel that will
dominate the region in the interests of American power—a commitment
that is expressed in deeds, whatever the accompanying words may be—
and terminating its immense material, diplomatic and ideological contri-
butions towards ensuring that the quite reasonable international consen-
sus will not be realized. The question is of no small significance. I will
return to the background, the issues, and the current prospects.
What follows is not intended as a comprehensive review or analysis
of the network of relations among the United States, Israel and the
Palestinians. Rather, its more modest aims are to bring out certain
elements of the “special relationship” between the United States and
Israel, and of their relationships to the original inhabitants of the land,
which I think have been insufficiently appreciated or addressed and
often seriously misrepresented, with the consequence that we have
pursued policies that are both disgraceful and extremely dangerous,
increasingly so.
These remarks will be critical of Israel’s policies: its consistent
rejection of any political settlement that accommodates the national
rights of the indigenous population; its repression and state terrorism
over many years; its propaganda efforts, which have been remarkably
successful—much to Israel’s detriment in my view—in the United
States. But this presentation may be misleading, in two respects. In the
first place, this is not an attempt at a general history; the focus is on
what I think is and has been wrong and what should be changed, not on
Fanning the Flames
what I think has been right.* Secondly, the focus on Israeli actions and
initiatives may obscure the fact that my real concern is the policies that
have been pursued by the U.S. government and our responsibility in
shaping or tolerating these policies. To a remarkable extent, articulate
opinion and attitudes in the U.S. have been dominated by people who
describe themselves as “supporters of Israel,” a term that I will also
adopt, though with much reluctance, since I think they should more
properly be called “supporters of the moral degeneration and ultimate
destruction of Israel,” and not Israel alone. Given this ideological climate
and the concrete U.S. actions that it has helped to engender, it is
natural enough that Israeli policies have evolved in their predictable
way. Perpetuation of these tendencies within the U.S. and in U.S.-Israel
relations portends a rather gloomy future, in my view, for reasons that I
hope will become clearer as we proceed. If so, a large measure of
responsibility lies right here, as in the recent past.
The essential features of the U.S. contribution towards the creation of
a Greater Israel were revealed in a stark and brutal form in the
September 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Beirut, which finally did
elicit widespread outrage, temporarily at least. I will return to the events
and their background later. For now, it suffices to observe that the
Fanning the Flames
Israeli invasion of Lebanon was supported by the U.S. and by editorial
comment generally, though qualms were raised when it seemed to be
going too far (perhaps threatening U.S. interests) or to involve too many
civilian casualties. All of this is reminiscent of the U.S. attack on South
Vietnam in 1962, then most of Indochina a few years later, to mention
an event that did not take place according to standard U.S. journalism
and scholarship, just as official Party history recognizes no such event
as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
The Israeli occupation of West Beirut on September 15 also elicited
no official U.S. criticism, though the Sabra and Shatila massacres that
followed aroused angry condemnation. The condemnation was directed
in the first place at the Christian Phalange, which was accused of the
actual massacre, and in the second place at the Government of Israel,
for failing in its responsibility to protect the inhabitants of the camps. A
flood of letters and articles in the press contrasted Begin’s reliance on
force and violence, his deception, his high-handed rejection (at first) of
an official inquiry, and his efforts to evade responsibility, with the stand
of the opposition Labor Party both now and when it had held power.
The “beautiful Israel” of earlier years was disappearing, because of
Begin and Sharon.
Col. Eli Geva, who had been dismissed from the IDF* after refusing
to lead his troops against West Beirut, was quoted as saying:

The feeling is that the house is on fire. I am referring to a
country which is in a type of deterioration, or landslide, and
everyone who believes in this country, has to contribute to
stopping the landslide.9

Fanning the Flames
Many agreed, specifically, many long-time supporters of Israel (in the
special sense of the term mentioned earlier), who dated the deterioration
from the invasion of West Beirut, or of Lebanon, or perhaps somewhat
earlier, though surely after Begin took power.
Within Israel, the Beirut massacre evoked much anguish and an
unprecedented wave of protest against the government, including an
immense popular demonstration, backed, for the first time, by the
opposition Labor Party. There was, however, little evidence of any
significant loss of support for Begin and his governing Likud coalition.
The strong and often passionate support for the military operation in
Lebanon on the part of the majority of the population also appears to
have been unaffected by the massacre, though opposition grew in the
following months as the costs began to mount.
The response in the U.S. was interesting. After initial sharp
condemnation, the general reaction, across quite a broad spectrum, was
that the events and the reaction to them highlighted the uniquely high
moral standards of Israel. A New York Times editorial commented that
Israel’s anguish “is only appropriate for a society in which moral
sensitivity is a principle of political life.” Even in journals that are often
regarded as taking a critical stance towards Israel, similar sentiments
were voiced. Time, for example, commenting on protests within the IDF,
wrote that it “has from the start been animated by the same righteous
anger and high moral purpose that has guided Israel through its
tumultuous history.”10 When the Report of the Israeli Commission of
Inquiry into the massacres appeared a few months later, commentary
was rhapsodic: Israel had sought and attained “salvation”; its
achievement was “sublime” (see chapter 6, section 6.8).
No state in history merits such accolades; such comments would be
dismissed with contempt with reference to any other state (apart from
one’s own, in patriotic speeches or the more dismal segments of
Fanning the Flames
scholarship). But with reference to Israel such references are so
commonplace as to pass without notice, quite across the board in
American journalism and scholarship, with rare exceptions. In contrast,
the Palestinians and their organizations, and the Arabs more generally,
have been portrayed in terms of violence, terrorism, irrationality, and un-
compromising refusal to come to terms with the existence of Israel or to
accept the norms of decent behavior. The contrast is clear enough in
journalism and scholarship, and it is also familiar in standard media
fare, where the Arab terrorist is routinely contrasted with the heroic
Israeli. It would, for example, be inconceivable for a TV drama to portray
an Israeli or Jewish character in the manner of the standard Arab villain,
despite the ample record of Israeli terrorism over many years, effectively
concealed in the United States.
Colonel Geva’s comment, cited above, may well be accurate, but the
question of timing is of some significance, as is the stance—both current
and historical—of the Labor Party that dominated the pre-state Zionist
movement and ruled from the establishment of the state to 1977. This
is a question that will be addressed below. The record shows quite
clearly, I believe, that it is a serious error to attribute the deterioration to
Begin’s Likud coalition. The house was on fire long before, and
supporters of Israel have been fanning the flames, a fact long deplored
by many true Israeli doves. Those who have watched the “landslide” in
silence, or have helped it along, or have successfully concealed it by
often vulgar apologetics, or have blamed the Palestinians when they are
persecuted or killed in alleged “retaliations,” have laid the groundwork
for the current conflagration, and for the atrocities in Beirut that finally
evoked some temporary protest. The reasons for this judgment will
appear as we proceed.
It would be salutary, then, to abandon hypocrisy. Either we provide
the support for the establishment of a Greater Israel with all that it
Fanning the Flames
entails and refrain from condemning the grim consequences of this
decision, or we withdraw the means and the license for the pursuit of
these programs and act to ensure that the valid demands of Israelis and
Palestinians be satisfied. This can, perhaps, still be accomplished,
though the possibilities recede with each passing year as the Greater
Israel that we are creating becomes more firmly implanted, and as its
military power—now estimated to be surpassed only by the U.S., the
USSR and China11—continues to grow. A point of no return may soon be
reached, with consequences that may be appalling for Israel and the
Palestinians, for the region, and perhaps for the entire world.
Fanning the Flames
Notes—Chapter 1
Fanning the Flames
Leon Wieseltier, New Republic, Sept. 23, 1981; Robert W. Tucker,
“Lebanon: The Case for the War,” Commentary, October 1982.
Richard Ben Cramer, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 30, 1982. Reprinted in
The Israeli Invasion of Lebanon (Claremont Research and Publications,
New York, 1982), a useful collection of press clippings for June/July
1982. On the extensive scale of Israeli use of cluster bombs in heavily
populated areas, see Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 2,
1982, reporting the findings of munitions experts from the multinational
peacekeeping force. Doctors in Beirut reported that other anti-personnel
weapons, such as phosphorus bombs, were no less devastating in their
impact upon civilians, though the major effect was from the massive air,
sea and artillery bombardment itself.
It could not be known, of course, that an American marine (Cpl. David L.
Reagan) would also be killed by a cluster bomb of the type supplied to
Israel by the U.S.; J. Michael Kennedy, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 2; Time,
Oct. 11, 1982.
On August 5, 1982, New York Times correspondent Thomas Friedman
reported “indiscriminate” shelling of West Beirut by Israeli planes,
gunboats and artillery. The editors deleted the word “indiscriminate” as
inconsistent with the approved image of our Israeli ally. Washington Post
editors, in contrast, felt that it was permissible to report “indiscriminate”
Israeli bombardment on the same day. See Alexander Cockburn, Village
Voice, Sept. 21, 1982, for discussion and details, including Friedman’s
protest to the editors for their lack of “courage - guts,” for being “afraid to
tell our readers and those who might complain to you that the Israelis are
capable of indiscriminately shelling an entire city.” The solicitude of
Times editors for Israel during this period—as before—has been
remarkable, as we shall have occasion to observe below.
Amos Perlmutter describes “the destruction of Palestinian nationalism in
any form” as one of “Begin’s most extreme and cherished ambitions”
Fanning the Flames
(Foreign Affairs, Fall 1982). The same was true of his predecessors, who
typically denied that it existed and sought to destroy its manifestations.
On the measures taken under the occupation to prevent even cultural
expression, see my Towards a New Cold War (henceforth, TNCW;
Pantheon, New York, 1982, pp. 277-8).
6. Haim
Haolam Haze; cited in the Manchester Guardian Weekly,
Sept. 12, 1982.
Economist, Sept. 11, 1982.
For ample though only partial evidence, see TNCW, chapters 9-12. We
return to this matter, and other questions touched on here.
9. UPI,
Boston Globe, Sept. 26, 1982.
10. Editorial,
New York Times, Nov. 6, 1982; Time, Oct. 11, 1982.
11. The estimate is that of the London-based International Institute of
Strategic Studies; Time, Oct. 11, 1982. Israelis tend to rank their power
one notch higher, describing themselves as the third most powerful
military force in the world. See, for example, Dov Yirmiah, Yoman
Hamilchama Sheli (My War Diary; privately printed, Tel Aviv, 1983, to
be published in English translation by South End Press), an important
record of the Lebanon war to which we return.
2. The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
1. Levels of Support: Diplomatic, Material, Ideological

he relationship between the United States and Israel has been a
curious one in world affairs and in American culture. Its unique
T character is symbolized by recent votes at the United Nations.
For example, on June 26, 1982 the United States stood alone in
vetoing a UN Security Council resolution calling for simultaneous
withdrawal of Israeli and Palestinian armed forces from Beirut, on the
grounds that this plan “was a transparent attempt to preserve the P.L.O.
as a viable political force,” evidently an intolerable prospect for the U.S.
1 A few hours later, the U.S. and Israel voted against a
General Assembly resolution calling for an end to hostilities in Lebanon
and on the Israel-Lebanon border, passed with two “nays” and no
abstentions. Earlier, the U.S. had vetoed an otherwise unanimous
Security Council resolution condemning Israel for ignoring the earlier
demand for withdrawal of Israeli troops.2 The pattern has, in fact, been
a persistent one.
More concretely, the special relationship is expressed in the level of
U.S. military and economic aid to Israel over many years. Its exact scale
is unknown, since much is concealed in various ways. Prior to 1967,
before the “special relationship” had matured, Israel received the highest
per capita aid from the U.S. of any country. Commenting on the fact,
Harvard Middle East specialist Nadav Safran also notes that this
amounts to a substantial part of the unprecedented capital transfer to
Israel from abroad that constitutes virtually the whole of Israel’s
investment—one reason why Israel’s economic progress offers no
meaningful model for underdeveloped countries.3 It is possible that
recent aid amounts to something like $1000 per year for each citizen of
Israel when all factors are taken into account. Even the public figures
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
are astounding.* For fiscal years 1978 through 1982, Israel received
48% of all U.S. military aid and 35% of U.S. economic aid, worldwide.
For FY 1983, the Reagan administration requested almost $2.5 billion
for Israel out of a total aid budget of $8.1 billion, including $500 million
in outright grants and $1.2 billion in low-interest loans.4 In addition,
there is a regular pattern of forgiving loans, offering weapons at special
discount prices, and a variety of other devices, not to mention the tax-
deductible “charitable” contributions (in effect, an imposed tax), used in
ways to which we return.5 Not content with this level of assistance from
the American taxpayer, one of the Senate’s most prominent liberal
Democrats, Alan Cranston of California, “proposed an amendment to the
foreign aid bill to establish the principle that American economic
assistance to Israel would not be less than the amount of debt Israel
repays to the United States,” a commitment to cover “all Israeli debts
and future debts,” as Senator Charles Percy commented.6
This was before the Lebanon war. The actual vote on foreign aid
came after the invasion of Lebanon, after the destruction of much of
southern Lebanon, the merciless siege and bombardment of Beirut, the
September massacres, and Israel’s rapid expansion of settlement in the
occupied territories in response to Reagan’s plea to suspend settlement
in accord with his peace proposals, which Israel rejected. In the light of
these events, the only issue arising in Congress was whether to “punish”
Israel by accepting the President’s proposal for a substantial increase in
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
the already phenomenal level of aid—what is called taking “a get-tough
approach with Israel”7—or to take a softer line by adding even more to
the increases that the President requested, as the Senate and most
liberals demanded. Fortunately, the press was sufficiently disciplined so
that the comic aspects of this characteristic performance were
suppressed. The consequences of this message of approval to Israel for
its recent actions on the part of the President and Congress are not at all
comic, needless to say.
It should be noted that in theory there are restrictions on the use of
American aid (e.g., cluster bombs can be used only in self-defense;
development funds cannot be spent beyond Israel’s recognized—i.e.,
pre-June 1967—borders). But care has been taken to ensure that these
restrictions will not be invoked, though the illegal use of weapons
occasionally elicits a reprimand or temporary cut-off of shipments when
the consequences receive too much publicity. As for the ban on use of
U.S. funds for the settlement and development programs that the U.S.
has officially regarded as illegal and as a barrier to peace (i.e., beyond
the pre-June 1967 borders), this has never been enforced, and the aid
program is designed so that it cannot be enforced: “in contrast to most
other aid relationships, the projects we fund in Israel are not specified,”
Ian Lustick observes, and no official of the State Department or the aid
program has “ever been assigned to supervise the use of our funds by
the Israeli government.”
For comparison, one may consider the U.S. aid program to Egypt (the
largest recipient of non-military U.S. aid since Camp David), which is
run by an office of 125 people who supervise it in meticulous detail.
Many knowledgeable Egyptians have been highly critical of the aid
program, alleging that it reflects American rather than Egyptian
priorities, financing U.S. imports which must be brought on American
ships and U.S. consultants, when trained personnel are available in
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Egypt for a fraction of the cost. They also note the emphasis on the
private sector, “pay[ing] Mid-west farmers for wheat which could be
grown at half the price in Egypt” (according to a former AID director),
and in general the infiltration of Egyptian society to the extent that some
perceive a threat to Egyptian national security.8
These examples illustrate the diplomatic and material support that
the U.S. provides for Israel.9 A concomitant, at the ideological level, is
the persistence of considerable illusion about the nature of Israeli society
and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since 1967, discussion of these issues has
been difficult or impossible in the United States as a result of a
remarkably effective campaign of vilification, abuse, and sometimes
outright lying directed against those who dared to question received
doctrine.* This fact has regularly been deplored by Israeli doves, who
have been subjected to similar treatment here. They observe that their
own position within Israel suffers because of lack of support within the
U.S., where, as General (Res.) Mattityahu Peled observed, the “state of
near hysteria” and the “blindly chauvinistic and narrow-minded” support
for the most reactionary policies within Israel poses “the danger of
prodding Israel once more toward a posture of calloused
intransigence.”10 The well-known Israeli journalist and Zionist historian
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Simha Flapan describes “the prejudice of American Jewry” as now “the
major obstacle to an American-Palestinian and Israeli-Palestinian
dialogue, without which there is little chance to move forward in the
difficult and involved peace process.”11 In concentrating on the role of
American Jewry, these Israeli writers focus much too narrowly, I believe.
To cite one last example, an article in the American Jewish press
quotes a staff writer for Ha’aretz (essentially, the Israeli New York
Times) who says that “you American Jews, you liberals, you lovers of
democracy are supporting its destruction here by not speaking out
against the government’s actions,” referring to the wave of repression in
the occupied territories under the “civilian administration” of Professor
Menachem Milson and General Ariel Sharon introduced in November
1981 (see chapter 5, sections 5-8). He goes on to explain the plans of
Begin and Sharon: to drive a large number of Arabs out of the West
Bank, specifically, the leaders and those with a potential for leadership,
“by every illegal means.” How?

You activate terrorists to plant bombs in the cars of their
elected mayors, you arm the settlers and a few Arab
quislings to run rampages through Arab towns, pogroms
against property, not against people. A few Arabs have been
killed by settlers. The murderers are known, but the police
are virtually helpless. They have their orders. What’s your
excuse for not speaking out against these violations of Israeli
law and Jewish morality?

The settlers, he adds, are “Religious Jews who follow a higher law
and do whatever their rabbis tell them. At least one of the Gush Emunim
rabbis has written that it is a mitzvah [religious duty] to destroy Amalek
[meaning, the non-Jewish inhabitants], including women and
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children.”12 The Ha’aretz journalist adds that his journal has “a file of
horror stories reported to us by soldiers returning from occupation duty
in the West Bank. We can refer to them in general terms—we can rail
against the occupation that destroys the moral fibre and self-respect of
our youth—but we can’t print the details because military censorship
covers actions by soldiers on active duty.”13 One can imagine what the
file contains, given what has been printed in the Israeli press. It should
be noted, in this connection, that many crucial issues that are freely
discussed in the Hebrew press in Israel and much that is documented
there are virtually excluded from the American press, so that the people
who are expected to pay the bills are kept largely in the dark about what
they are financing or about the debates within Israel concerning these
matters. Many examples will be given below.
The dangers posed to Israel by its American supporters have
consistently been realized, leading to much suffering in the region and
repeated threat of a larger, perhaps global war.
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2. Causal Factors
2.1 Domestic Pressure Groups and their Interests

The “special relationship” is often attributed to domestic political
pressures, in particular, the effectiveness of the American Jewish
community in political life and in influencing opinion.
14 While
there is some truth to this, it is far from the whole story, in two
major respects: first, it underestimates the scope of the “support for
Israel,” and second, it overestimates the role of political pressure groups
in decision-making. Let us consider these factors in turn.15
In the first place, what Seth Tillman calls the “Israeli lobby” (see note
14) is far broader than the American Jewish community, embracing the
major segments of liberal opinion, the leadership of the labor unions,*
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religious fundamentalists,16 “conservatives” of the type who support a
powerful state apparatus geared to state-induced production of high
technology waste (i.e., military production) at home and military threats
and adventurism abroad, and—cutting across these categories—fervent
cold warriors of all stripes. These connections are appreciated in Israel,
not only by the right wing. Thus Yitzhak Rabin, reputedly a dove and
soon to become the Labor Prime Minister, argued against moves
towards political settlement after the 1973 war. Israel should try to
“gain time,” he urged, in the hope that “we will later find ourselves in a
better situation: the U.S. may adopt more aggressive positions vis-a-vis
the USSR…”17
Many American Zionist leaders recognize these factors. In December
1980, several of them argued in the American Jewish press that “there
is far greater potential commonality of interests among Jews and the
Moral Majority than there is among Jews and the National Council of
Churches” (Jewish Week). Jacques Torczyner, former President of the
Zionist Organization of America and an executive of the World Zionist
Organization, wrote that “We have, first of all, to come to a conclusion
that the right-wing reactionaries are the natural allies of Zionism and not
the liberals”18—he is wrong about the latter, mistakenly assuming that
they do not join in the cold war consensus whereas in fact they have
consistently promoted and helped to maintain it. It should furthermore
be noted that the American left and pacifist groups, apart from fringe
elements, have quite generally been extremely supportive of Israel (con-
trary to many baseless allegations), some passionately so, and have
turned a blind eye to practices that they would be quick to denounce
elsewhere. Again, examples will, appear below.
There is an interesting expression of views akin to Rabin’s in a recent
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study of “the real anti-Semitism in America” by Nathan and Ruth Perl-
mutter, respectively, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation
League of B’nai Brith and his wife, also an active Zionist leader. In the
United States, the Anti-Defamation League is regarded as a civil libertar-
ian organization, at one time, a deserved reputation. Now, it specializes
in trying to prevent critical discussion of policies of Israel by such
techniques as maligning critics, including Israelis who do not pass its
test of loyalty, distributing alleged “information” that is often circulated
in unsigned pamphlets, and so on.19 In Israel, it is casually described as
“one of the main pillars” of Israeli propaganda in the United States. Seth
Tillman refers to it as part of “the Israeli lobby.” We return to some of its
public performances (see chapter 5, section 7.1). The well-known Israeli
military historian Meir Pail, formerly head of the Officers Training School
of the IDF and an Israeli dove, might well have had the League in mind
when he described the ways in which “Golda Meir and the Labor Party
destroyed pluralism and debate within the old Zionist framework,”
mimicking “Joseph Stalin’s tendency towards communist parties all over
the world,” whose interests were to be “subjugated…to the power
interests of the Soviet Union”; “And the Israeli regime’s tendency has
been similar” as it has “destroyed the very process of dissent and
inquiry,” beginning (he says) with the Golda Meir labor government.20
The League has proven a more than willing instrument.
The Perlmutters cite studies showing that whereas anti-Semitism
“was once virulent” in the U.S., today there is little support for
discrimination against Jews; there may be dislike of Jews, anti-Jewish
attitudes, etc., but then much the same is true with regard to ethnic and
religious groups quite generally. What then is “the real anti-semitism,”
which is still rampant, in fact perhaps more dangerous than before? The
real anti-Semitism, it turns out, lies in the actions of “peacemakers of
Vietnam vintage, transmuters of swords into plowshares, championing
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the terrorist PLO…”* The Perlmutters fear that “nowadays war is getting
a bad name and peace too favorable a press…” They are concerned by
“the defamations by the Left of the promptings for our warring in
Vietnam and latterly…their sniping at American defense budgets…”
“Beyond oil it is the very ideology of the liberals in which peace, even if
it is pockmarked by injustice, is preferable to the prospect of
confrontation that today imperils Jews.” Similarly, Jewish interests are
threatened “by this decade’s Leftists, here and abroad, as they
demonstrate against and scold the United States for its involvement in
Nicaragua and El Salvador.” Jewish interests are threatened because the
Central American dictators have been friends of Israel—friendship which
has been and is being reciprocated with much enthusiasm, though the
Perlmutters do not discuss these facts, which help explain why victims
of Somoza and the Salvadoran and Guatemalan generals are not friends
of Israel, not because of anti-Semitism, but for quite understandable
reasons; peasants being massacred with Israeli arms or tortured by
military forces who boast of their Israeli training and support are not
likely to be friends of Israel. According to the Perlmutters, such groups
as the National Council of Churches also threaten Jewish interests by
calling on Israel “to include the PLO in its Middle East peace
negotiations.” “Apologists for the Left—like those for the Right—have
frequently rationalized anti-Semitism or indifference to Jewish interests
as being merely a transitory phase,” but Jews should know better.
Throughout, the argument is that Israel’s interests—understood
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implicitly as the interests of a rejectionist Greater Israel that denies
Palestinian rights—are the “Jewish interests,” so that anyone who
recognizes Palestinian rights or in other ways advocates policies that
threaten “Israel’s interests” as the authors conceive them is, to
paraphrase Stalinist rhetoric of earlier years, “objectively” anti-Semitic.
Those who are “innocent of bigotry” are now placing Jews in “greater
jeopardy” than traditional anti-Semites, with their advocacy of peace,
criticism of U.S. interventionism, opposition to bloodthirsty tyrants and
torturers, etc. This is the “real anti-Semitism,” and it is exceedingly
dangerous. So the Anti-Defamation League has its work cut out for it.21
It might be noted that the resort to charges of “anti-Semitism” (or in
the case of Jews, “Jewish self-hatred”) to silence critics of Israel has
been quite a general and often effective device. Even Abba Eban, the
highly-regarded Israeli diplomat of the Labor Party (considered a leading
dove), is capable of writing that “One of the chief tasks of any dialogue
with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-
Semitism and anti-Zionism [generally understood as criticism of policies
of the Israeli state] is not a distinction at all,” and that Jewish critics
(I.F. Stone and I are specifically mentioned) have a “basic complex…of
guilt about Jewish survival.” Similarly Irving Howe, typically without
argument, simply attributes Israel’s dangerous international isolation to
“skillful manipulation of oil”22 and that “sour apothegm: In the warmest
of hearts there’s a cold spot for the Jews”—so that it is quite
unnecessary to consider the impact of the policies of the Labor
government that he supported, for example, the brutality of the
occupation,* already fully apparent and sharply condemned in Israel
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when he wrote.23
The Perlmutters deride those who voice “criticism of Israel while
fantasizing countercharges of anti-Semitism,” but their comment is
surely disingenuous. The tactic is standard. Christopher Sykes, in his
excellent study of the pre-state period, traces the origins of this device
(“a new phase in Zionist propaganda”) to a “violent counterattack” by
David Ben-Gurion against a British court that had implicated Zionist
leaders in arms-trafficking in 1943: “henceforth to be anti-Zionist was to
be anti-Semitic.”24 It is, however, primarily in the post-1967 period that
the tactic has been honed to a high art, increasingly so, as the policies
defended became less and less defensible.
Within the Jewish community, the unity in “support for Israel” that
has been demanded, and generally achieved, is remarkable—as noted,
to the chagrin of Israeli doves who plausibly argue that this kind of “sup-
port” has seriously weakened their efforts to modify harsh and ultimately
self-destructive government policies. There is even a lively debate within
the American Jewish community as to whether it is legitimate to criticize
Israel’s policies at all, and perhaps even more amazing, the existence of
such a debate is not recognized to be the amazing phenomenon it surely
is. The position that criticism is illegitimate is defended, for example, by
Elie Wiesel, who says:

I support Israel—period. I identify with Israel—period. I
never attack, never criticize Israel when I am not in Israel.

As for Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, Wiesel is unable to
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offer a comment:

What to do and how to do it, I really don’t know because I
lack the elements of information and knowledge… You must
be in a position of power to possess all the information… I
don’t have that information, so I don’t know…25

A similar stance of state-worship would be difficult to find, apart from
the annals of Stalinism and fascism. Wiesel is regarded in the United
States as a critic of fascism, and much revered as a secular saint.
The reason generally offered in defense of the doctrine that Israel may
not be criticized outside its borders is that only those who face the
dangers and problems have a right to express such criticism, not those
who observe in safety from afar. By similar logic, it is illegitimate for
Americans to criticize the PLO, or the Arab states, or the USSR. This
argument actually extends a bit more broadly: it is legitimate—in fact, a
duty—to provide Israel with massive subsidies and to praise it to the
skies while vilifying its adversaries, particularly those it has conquered,
but it is illegitimate to voice any critical comment concerning the use of
the bounty we provide.

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2.2 U.S. Strategic Interests
Returning to the main theme, reference to Jewish influence over politics
and opinion seriously underestimates the scope of the so-called “support
for Israel.” Turning to the second point, the argument much
overestimates the pluralism of American politics and ideology. No pres-
sure group will dominate access to public opinion or maintain consistent
influence over policy-making unless its aims are close to those of elite
elements with real power. These elements are not uniform in interests or
(in the case of shared interests) in tactical judgments; and on some
issues, such as this one, they have often been divided. Nevertheless, a
closer look will illustrate the correctness of the assessment that the
evolution of America’s relationship to Israel “has been determined
primarily by the changing role that Israel occupied in the context of
America’s changing conceptions of its political-strategic interests in the
Middle East.”
26 Let us consider some of the relevant historical
background, in an attempt to clarify this issue.
Despite the remarkable level of U.S. support for Israel, it would be an
error to assume that Israel represents the major U.S. interest in the
Middle East. Rather, the major interest lies in the energy reserves of the
region, primarily in the Arabian peninsula. A State Department analysis
of 1945 described Saudi Arabia as “…a stupendous source of strategic
power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”27 The
U.S. was committed to win and keep this prize. Since World War II, it
has been virtually an axiom of U.S. foreign policy that these energy
reserves should remain under U.S. control. A more recent variant of the
same theme is that the flow of petrodollars should be largely funneled to
the U.S. through military purchases, construction projects, bank
deposits, investment in Treasury securities, etc. It has been necessary to
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defend this primary interest against various threats.

2.2.1 Threats to U.S. Control of Middle East Oil
At the rhetorical level, the threat from which the Middle East must be
“defended” is generally pictured to be the USSR. While it is true that the
U.S. would not tolerate Soviet moves that threatened to provide the
USSR with a significant role in Middle East oil production or
distribution, this has rarely been a realistic concern—which is not to say
that ideologists have not come to believe the fantasies they conjure up
to serve other needs.
28 In fact, the USSR has been hesitant to intrude on
what is recognized to be American turf.
The pattern was set early on in the Cold War, when the U.S.
organized its first major postwar counterinsurgency campaign, in Greece
in 1947. Entering Greece after the Nazis had withdrawn, Britain had
imposed the rule of royalist elements and former Nazi collaborators,
suppressing the anti-Nazi resistance—in Athens, under Churchill’s order
to British forces “to act as if you were in a conquered city where a local
rebellion is in progress.”29 The repression and corruption of the British-
imposed regime revived the resistance. Severely weakened by the war,
Britain was unable to cope with the problem and the U.S. took over the
task of destroying the Communist-led peasant and worker-based
nationalist movement that had fought the Nazis, while maintaining in
power its own favorites, such as King Paul and Queen Frederika, whose
background was in the fascist youth movements, and Minister of the
Interior Mavromichalis, described by U.S. intelligence as a former Nazi
collaborator and given responsibility for internal security. Some Senators
found all of this difficult to reconcile with Truman Doctrine rhetoric
about supporting “free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation
by armed minorities or by outside pressures,” under which the counter-
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insurgency campaign was mounted. To them, Senator Henry Cabot
Lodge explained that “this fascist government through which we have to
work is incidental.”30
The counterinsurgency effort was no small enterprise: in the war that
ensued, 160,000 Greeks were killed and 800,000 became refugees.
The American Mission set itself the task of eliminating those to whom
Ambassador Lincoln MacVeagh referred as “subversive social forces,”
rooted in the insidious “new growth of class-consciousness and
proletarianism”—“an alien and subversive influence,” as American
chargé Karl Rankin described them, to which “no leniency” should be
shown until “the state has successfully reasserted its dominance” and
the “bandit uprising has been quelled” (the Ambassador’s phrase,
standard usage in U.S. documents as in Soviet documents concerning
Afghanistan). It was the American Mission and its fascist clients (and, of
course, the wealthy and, later, American corporations, who were the
real beneficiaries) who represented the “native” element in Greece, as
distinct from the “alien” influence of Greek peasants and workers
subverted by class- consciousness.
The dedicated savagery with which the U.S. Mission set about the
task of liquidating the class enemy was a bit too much even for the
British, who are not known for their gentlemanly decorum in such
procedures; they were also not too happy about being displaced from yet
another outpost of British influence and power. With the enthusiastic
approval and direct participation of the U.S. Mission, tens of thousands
were exiled, tens of thousands more were sent to prison islands where
many were tortured or executed (or if lucky, only “re-educated”), the
unions were broken, and even mild anti-Communist socialists were
suppressed, while the U.S. shamelessly manipulated the electoral
process to ensure that the right men won. The social and economic
consequences were grim. A decade later, “between 1959 and 1963,
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almost a third of the Greek labor force emigrated in search of
satisfactory employment.”31 The fascist coup of 1967, again with
apparent U.S. backing, had its roots in the same events.
A major motivation for this counterinsurgency campaign was concern
over Middle East oil. In his March 12, 1947 speech announcing the
Truman Doctrine, the President observed that “It is necessary only to
glance at a map” to see that if Greece should fall to the rebels
“confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle
East.” A February 1948 CIA study warned that in the event of a rebel
victory, the U.S. would face “the possible loss of the petroleum
resources of the Middle East (comprising 40 per cent of world
reserves).”32 A Russian threat was fabricated to justify U.S. intervention,
but without factual basis; Stalin was trying to rein in the Greek
guerrillas, knowing that the U.S. would not tolerate the loss of this
Middle East outpost, as Greece was regarded, and not at all pleased at
the prospect of a possible Balkan Communist confederation under Titoist
influence. Again, it does not follow from the fact that the threat was
fabricated that it was not believed in some planning circles; in public as
in personal life, it is easy to come to believe what it is convenient to
believe. The exaggeration of the Russian threat should be understood as
an early example of the functioning of the Cold War system by which
each superpower exploits the threat of the great enemy (its “Great
Satan,” to borrow Ayatollah Khomeini’s term) to mobilize support for
actions it intends to undertake in its own domains.
The success of the Greek counterinsurgency campaign, both at the
military and ideological level, left its stamp on future U.S. policy-
making. Since that time there has been recurrent talk about Russia’s
attempts to gain control of Middle East oil, the Soviet drive to the Gulf,
etc. But no serious case has been made that the USSR would risk
nuclear war—for that would be the likely consequence—by pursuing any
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such objective.
A more realistic threat to U.S. dominance of the region has been
posed by Europe.* In the 1940s, the U.S. succeeded in displacing
France, and to a large extent Britain, in part by design, in part simply as
a reflection of the power balance.33 One consequence of the CIA-backed
coup that restored the Shah in Iran in 1953 was to transfer 40% of
Iranian oil from British to American hands, a fact that led the New York
Times editors to express concern that some misguided British circles
might believe that “American ‘imperialism’…has once again elbowed
Britain from a historic stronghold.” At the same time, the editors exulted
that “underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object
lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which
goes berserk with fanatical nationalism.”34 The costs of the object lesson
were indeed heavy, as events were to show, and are still being paid; and
many others have been compelled to learn the same lesson since.
Concern over European involvement in the region persisted. The U.S.
strongly opposed the attempt by Britain and France to reassert their
influence in the area with the 1956 Suez invasion (in conjunction with
Israel); the U.S. was instrumental in expelling all three powers from
Egyptian territory, though Soviet threats may also have played their part.
Henry Kissinger, in his 1973 “Year of Europe” address, warned of the
dangers of a Europe-dominated trading bloc including the Middle East
and North Africa from which the U.S. might be excluded. Later, he
confided in a private meeting that one basic element in his post-1973
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diplomacy was “to ensure that the Europeans and Japanese did not get
involved in the diplomacy” concerning the Middle East.35 Subsequent
U.S. opposition to the “Euro-Arab dialogue” stems from the same
concerns. Today, competition among the state capitalist societies
(including now some lesser powers such as South Korea) for a share in
the wealth generated by oil production is a matter of growing

2.2.2 The Indigenous Threat: Israel as a Strategic Asset
A third threat from which the region must be “defended” is the
indigenous one: the threat of radical nationalism. It is in this context
that the U.S.-Israel “special relationship” has matured. In the early
1950s, the U.S.-Israel relationship was decidedly uneasy, and it
appeared for a time that Washington might cement closer relations with
Egyptian President Nasser, who had some CIA support. These prospects
appeared sufficiently worrisome so that Israel organized terrorist cells
within Egypt to carry out attacks on U.S. installations (also on Egyptian
public facilities) in an effort to drive a wedge between Egypt and the
36 intending that these acts would be attributed to ultranationalist
Egyptian fanatics.*
From the late 1950s, however, the U.S. government increasingly
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came to accept the Israeli thesis that a powerful Israel is a “strategic
asset” for the United States, serving as a barrier against indigenous
radical nationalist threats to American interests, which might gain
support from the USSR. A recently declassified National Security Council
memorandum of 1958 noted that a “logical corollary” of opposition to
radical Arab nationalism “would be to support Israel as the only strong
pro-West power left in the Near East.”37 Meanwhile, Israel concluded a
secret pact with Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia. According to David Ben-
Gurion’s biographer, this “periphery pact” was encouraged by Secretary
of State John Foster Dulles, and was “long-lasting.”38 Through the
1960s, American intelligence regarded Israel as a barrier to Nasserite
pressure on the Gulf oil-producing states, a serious matter at the time,
and to Russian influence. This conclusion was reinforced by Israel’s
smashing victory in 1967, when Israel quickly conquered the Sinai,
Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, the last, after violating the
cease-fire in an operation ordered by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan
without notifying the Prime Minister or Chief of Staff.39
The Israeli thesis that Israel is a “strategic asset” was again
confirmed by Israel’s moves to block Syrian efforts to support
Palestinians being massacred by Jordan in September 1970, at a time
when the U.S. was unable to intervene directly against what was
perceived as a threat to U.S. clients in the Arab world. This contribution
led to a substantial increase in U.S. aid. In the 1970s, U.S. analysts
argued that Israel and Iran under the Shah served to protect U.S. control
over the oil-producing regions of the Gulf. After the fall of the Shah,
Israel’s role as a Middle East Sparta in the service of American power
has evoked increasing American support.
At the same time, Israel aided the U.S. in penetrating Black Africa
with substantial secret CIA subsidies—supporting Haile Selassie in
Ethiopia, Idi Amin in Uganda, Mobutu in Zaire, Bokassa in the Central
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African Republic, and others at various times40—as well as in
circumventing the ban on aid to Rhodesia and South Africa,* and more
recently, in providing military and technological aid, as well as many
advisers, for U.S. clients in Central America.41 An increasingly visible
alliance between Israel, South Africa, Taiwan and the military
dictatorships of the southern cone in South America has also proven an
attractive prospect for major segments of American power.42 Now, Israel
is surely regarded as a crucial part of the elaborate U.S. base and
backup system for the Rapid Deployment Force ringing the Middle East
oil producing regions.43 These are highly important matters that deserve
much more attention than I can give them here.
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
Had it not been for Israel’s perceived geopolitical role—primarily in
the Middle East, but elsewhere as well—it is doubtful that the various
pro-Israeli lobbies in the U.S. would have had much influence in policy
formation, or that the climate of opinion deplored by Peled and other
Israeli doves could have been constructed and maintained. Correspond-
ingly, it will very likely erode if Israel comes to be seen as a threat rather
than a support to the primary U.S. interest in the Middle East region,
which is to maintain control over its energy reserves and the flow of
Support for the concept of Israel as a “strategic asset” has, then,
been considerable among those who exercise real power in the U.S.,
and this position has regularly won out in internal policy debate,
assisted, to some extent, by domestic political pressures. But the
position has not been unchallenged. There have also been powerful
forces in favor of the kind of peaceful political settlement that has long
been possible, a matter to which we turn in the next chapter.
Michael Klare has suggested that a useful distinction can be drawn
between the “Prussians,” who advocate the threat or use of violence to
attain desired policy ends, and the “Traders,” who share the same goals
but believe that peaceful means will be more effective.44 These are
tactical assessments, and positions may therefore shift. It is, to first
approximation, accurate to say that the “Prussians” have supported
Israel as a “strategic asset,” while the “Traders” have sought a political
accommodation of some sort. The point is implicitly recognized in much
pro-Israeli propaganda, for example, a full-page New York Times
advertisement signed by many luminaries (including some who are
doves in other contexts), which calls for establishment of a pro-Israel
political pressure group (NAT PAC) under the heading “Faith in Israel
strengthens America.” To support their case, they write: “…if U.S.
interests in the Middle East were threatened, it would take months to
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mount a significant presence there. With Israel as an ally, it would take
only a few days.” Similarly, Joseph Churba, Director of the Center for
International Security, complains that “the left in Israel” lacks
appreciation of U.S. and Israeli interests and “many in their ranks, as in
the ranks of the American left, are working for the same purpose, i.e.,
that neither country should function as an international policeman, be it
in El Salvador or in Lebanon”—the left in Israel and the U.S., then, are
contributing to anti-Semitism, “threatening the interests of Jews,”
according to the doctrine of “the real anti-Semitism” developed by the
Anti-Defamation League, discussed above. Those who understand U.S.
and Israeli interests believe, as Churba does, that “Western power”
should be “effectively used to moderate Soviet and radical
adventurism,”45 and that the U.S. and Israel should function as
international policemen in El Salvador, Lebanon and elsewhere.
The authentic voice of the “Prussians,” in both cases.
The same distinction is implicit in the argument as to whether Israel’s
“Peace for Galilee” invasion of Lebanon strengthened the American
position in the Middle East and, in general, served U.S. ends. The New
Republic argues that this is so; hence the operation was justified.
Others believe that American interests in the region have been harmed.
Thus Thomas Friedman, after an extensive investigation of opinion in the
Arab world, concludes that “not only did respect for many Arab leaders
die in Lebanon [because they did not come to the defense of the victims
of the Israeli attack, even when a besieged Arab capital was being
defended by “a popular movement,” as a Lebanese political scientist
explained], but so too much of America’s respect in the Middle East,”
because of the perception that “America cannot be trusted” (the director
of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development) and that the U.S.
supports Israel “as an instrument of its own policy.” A senior Kuwaiti
official, echoing widely expressed opinions, stated: “You have lost where
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it matters most—on the humanitarian level. Whatever respect there was
in the Arab world for the United States as a moral authority has been
Who is right in this debate? Both sides are, in their own terms. Those
who deride “the humanitarian level” and the concept of “moral
authority” can argue, with some plausibility, that Israel’s military might
enhances the capacity of the United States to rule the region by force
and violence, and that the invasion of Lebanon contributed to this end,
at least in the short term. Those who have a different conception of
what the U.S. role should be in world affairs will draw different
conclusions from the same evidence.

2.2.3 Subsidiary Services
After the Lebanon invasion, Israel moved at once to underscore its
status as a “strategic asset” and to reinforce its own position by
improving relations with its allies (which, not by accident, are U.S.
allies) in Africa and Latin America. Renewing relations established under
CIA auspices in the 1960s (see above), Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir
visited General Mobutu in Zaire, informing him that apart from direct
military and technical support, “Israel will aid Zaire through its influence
over Jewish organizations in the United States, which will help in
improving [Zaire’s] image.”
* This is a rather serious matter, since the
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image of this corrupt and brutal dictatorship is not of the highest, and as
Mobutu complained, “the main antagonists [of Zaire] in the U.S. are
Jewish members of Congress.” Shamir’s comforting response was: “Jews
criticize us too.” He went on to explain that “with the cooperation of
Israeli groups and with the money that American Jews will contribute, it
will be possible to aid Zaire,” militarily and materially and in improving
its image. General Mobutu expressed his pleasure that Israeli officers are
providing military training (specifically, for his Presidential Guard) along
with French and Chinese advisers. In January 1983, Defense Minister
Ariel Sharon visited Zaire and an agreement was reached that Israeli
military advisers would restructure Zaire’s armed forces. Sharon
“defended Israel’s new arms and military aid agreement with Zaire today
as a step towards increasing Israeli influence in Africa,” UPI reported.
Sharon added that the program (which must be secret) would be “a
contribution to Israeli exports in arms and equipment” and that it would
lead other African countries to turn to Israel for military aid.47
A few weeks earlier, Sharon had visited Honduras “to cement
relations with a friendly country which has shown interest in connection
with our defense establishment.” Israeli radio reported that Israel had
helped Honduras acquire what is regarded as the strongest air force in
Central America, and noted that “the Sharon trip raised the question of
whether Israel might act as an American proxy in Honduras.” “It has
also been reported that Israeli advisers have assisted in training
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Honduran pilots.”48 A “top-level military source” in Honduras stated that
the new Israel-Honduras agreement involved sophisticated jet fighters,
tanks, Galil assault rifles (standard issue for state terrorists in Central
America), training for officers, troops and pilots, and perhaps missiles.
Sharon’s entourage included the head of the Israeli Air Force and the
director-general of the Defense Ministry; they “were accorded the full
measure of honors usually accorded to a visiting head of state.” A
government functionary stated that Sharon’s visit was “more positive”
than Reagan’s shortly before, since Sharon “sold us arms” while
“Reagan only uttered platitudes, explaining that Congress was
preventing him from doing more.” There is no significant domestic force
to prevent Israel from “doing more,” a fact deplored by Israeli doves.
“The unannounced visit and military accord underline Israel’s growing
role as U.S. arms broker and proxy in crisis-ridden Central America.”
Meanwhile in Guatemala, Chief of Staff Mario Lopez Fuentes, who
regards President Rios Montt as insufficiently violent, complained about
U.S. meddling concerning human rights; “What we want is to be left at
liberty,” he said; “It would be preferable if the U.S. were to take an
attitude similar to that of other allies such as Israel, he indicated.”49
Israel’s services in Central America have been considerable, including
Nicaragua (under Somoza), Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and
now apparently Costa Rica since it began to draw closer to U.S. policy
in the region after the election of Luis Alberto Monge in February 1982.
The Israeli contributions to Guatemalan and Honduran military forces
are particularly significant: in the former case, because the military
regimes placed in power through U.S. intervention were finding it
difficult to resist a growing insurrection while congressional human
rights restrictions were impeding direct U.S. military aid to these mass
murderers; and in the case of Honduras, because of Reagan’s
increasingly visible efforts to foment disorder and strife by supporting the
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Somozist National Guard based in Honduras in their forays into
Nicaragua, where they torture and destroy in the manner in which they
were trained by the United States for many years.50 Before the Falklands
war, it had been hoped that Argentine neo-Nazis could be employed for
this purpose, as well as for improving the efficiency of state terrorism in
El Salvador and Guatemala. A more reliable client-ally may be needed to
perform this proxy role, however.
Charles Maechling, who led counterinsurgency and internal-defense
planning for Presidents Johnson and Kennedy from 1961-66 and is now
an associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
described U.S. trainees in Latin America as “indistinguishable from the
war criminals hanged at Nuremberg after World War II,”* adding that
“for the United States, which led the crusade against the Nazi evil, to
support the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads is an
outrage.”51 Apart from being an outrage, it has become difficult, because
of congressional legislation. Hence the importance of Israel’s contribu-
tions through the 1970s and increasingly today, in support of those who
employ the methods of Himmler’s extermination squads.
The congressional human rights campaign (often misleadingly
attributed to the American presidency) was a reflection of the “Vietnam
syndrome,” a dread malady that afflicted much of the population in the
wake of the Vietnam war, with such terrifying symptoms as insight into
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the ways in which American power is used in the world and concern
over torture, murder, aggression, and oppression. It had been hoped that
the disease had been cured, but the popular reaction to Reagan’s revival
of Kennedy-style counterinsurgency showed that the optimism was pre-
mature, so Israel’s contributions are perhaps even more welcome than
before. It has, incidentally, been alleged that the U.S. has been opposed
to Israel’s Latin American ventures (e.g., that Carter opposed Israel’s aid
to Somoza), but this is hardly likely. There is little doubt that the U.S.
could have prevented any intervention of which it did not approve, and it
sometimes did so, though not in Nicaragua, where the Human Rights
Administration in fact supported Somoza to the end of his bloody rule,
even after the natural allies of the U.S., the Nicaraguan business
community, had turned against him.
Israel’s services have extended beyond the Middle East, Africa and
Latin America, to Asia as well. Thus on one occasion Israel supplied
American jets to Indonesia when its arms were depleted in the course of
the massacre of Timorese, and the Human Rights Administration, while
doing its best to provide the armaments required to consummate this
mission, was still reluctant to do so too openly, perhaps fearing that the
press might depart from its complicity in this slaughter.52 Taiwan has
been a particularly close ally. The Israeli press speaks of “the Fifth
World”—Israel, South Africa, Taiwan—a new alliance of technologically
advanced states that is engaged in advanced weapons development,
including nuclear weapons, missiles, and so on.53 We return in chapter
7 to these developments, which may by now be causing some alarm in
With Reagan’s efforts to enflame the Nicaragua-Honduras border and
Sharon’s trip to Honduras, the Israeli connection became so visible as to
call forth some official denials, duly reported as fact in the New York
Times. Noting that Israel is “enlarging its military training missions and
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role as a principal supplier of arms to Central America,” Leslie GeIb
writes that “from every indication, the Israelis are not there, as are most
of the others [Americans, PLO, Cubans, East Germans], as participants
in a form of East-West confrontation or to engage in revolutionary or
counterrevolutionary intrigue.” These “indications” turn out to be
statements to this effect by Israeli and American officials, none of whom
“said that Israel was in Central America to do Washington’s bidding or to
help out in countries such as Guatemala where the Administration is
barred from providing military aid because of civil rights abuses.”
Naturally, one would expect Israeli and American officials to proclaim
any such arrangements openly, so their failure to do so suffices to prove
that there is nothing to this canard. A State Department official
comments that “we’ve indicated we’re not unhappy they are helping
out” in places like Guatemala and Honduras, “but I wouldn’t say we and
the Israelis have figured out together what to do.”54 Elaborate “figuring
out” would seem to be superfluous, given the shared perceptions and
interests, not to speak of the extremely close relations at all levels,
including the military itself, military industry, intelligence, diplomatic,
It is striking that Gelb assumes as a matter of course that while Israel
might be pursuing its own interests (as it no doubt is, one of these being
to render services to U.S. power), this could not be true of, say, Cuba,
which surely has no reason to feel threatened and therefore could not be
trying to break out of its “isolation” (as Israel is, he reports) by
supporting friendly governments. One might have expected Gelb,
perhaps, to be sensitive to this issue. He was the director of the
Pentagon Papers study, which contained the astonishing revelation that
U.S. intelligence, over the 20-year period surveyed, was so completely
indoctrinated by Cold War propaganda that it was unable to conceive of
the possibility that the North Vietnamese might have been motivated by
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their own perceived interests, instead of simply acting as lackeys of the
USSR or China.55

The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
3. American Liberalism and Ideological Support for Israel

As noted, the view of the “Prussians” has generally won out in
internal policy debate. But the story is more complex. American

liberalism has led the way in constructing the “blindly
chauvinistic and narrow-minded” support for Israeli policy that
General Peled deplores. On the same day that the U.S. and Israel stood
alone against the world at the United Nations (see chapter 2, section 1),
the national conference of the Democratic Party “adopted a statement
highly sympathetic to Israel’s recent attacks in Lebanon, qualifying it
only with an expression of regret over ‘all loss of life on both sides in
Lebanon’.” In contrast, the Foreign Ministers of the European
Community “vigorously condemned the new Israeli invasion of Lebanon”
as a “flagrant violation of international law as well as of the most
elementary humanitarian principles,” adding that this “unjustifiable
action” posed the risk of “leading to a generalized war.”
56 This is by no
means an isolated case.
In fact, the front page of the New York Times on that day (June 27)
encapsulates the U.S.-Israel “special relationship” rather neatly. There
are three adjacent columns. One is a report by William Farrell from
Beirut, describing the effects of Israel’s latest bombardments: cemeteries
jammed, people buried in mass graves, hospitals in desperate need of
supplies, garbage heaped everywhere in stinking piles, bodies
decomposing under tons of rubble, buildings little more than shattered
hulks, morgue refrigerators full, bodies piled on the floors of hospitals,
the few doctors desperately trying to treat victims of cluster and
phosphorus bombs, Israel blocking Red Cross medical supplies,
hospitals bombed, surgery interrupted by Israeli shelling, etc. The
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second is a report by Bernard Nossiter from New York, reporting how
the U.S. blocked UN action to stop the slaughter on the grounds that
the PLO might be preserved as “a viable political force.” The third is a
report by Adam Clymer from Philadelphia on the sympathetic support of
the Democratic national conference for Israel’s war in Lebanon. The
three front-page reports, side-by-side, capture the nature of the “special
relationship” with some accuracy—as does the lack of editorial
American liberalism had always been highly sympathetic to Israel,
but there was a noticeable positive shift in attitudes in 1967 with the
demonstration of Israel’s military might. Top Israeli military commanders
made it clear not long after that Israel had faced no serious military
threat and that a quick victory was anticipated with confidence—that
the alleged threat to Israel’s existence was “a bluff.”57 But this fact was
suppressed here in favor of the image of an Israeli David confronting a
brutal Arab Goliath,58 enabling liberal humanitarians to offer their
sympathy and support to the major military power of the region as it
turned from crushing its enemies to suppressing those who fell under its
control, while leading Generals explained that Israel could conquer
everything from Khartoum to Baghdad to Algeria within a week, if
necessary (Ariel Sharon).59
The rise in Israel’s stock among liberal intellectuals with this
demonstration of its military prowess is a fact of some interest. It is
reasonable to attribute it in large part to domestic American concerns, in
particular, to the inability of the U.S. to crush indigenous resistance in
Indochina. That Israel’s lightning victory should have been an inspiration
to open advocates of the use of violence to attain national goals is not
surprising, but there are many illusions about the stance of the liberal
intelligentsia on this matter. It is now sometimes forgotten that in 1967
they overwhelmingly supported U.S. intervention (more accurately,
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aggression) in Indochina and continued to do so, though many came to
oppose this venture for the reasons that impelled business circles to the
same judgment: the costs became too high, out of proportion to the
benefits that might be gained—a “pragmatic” rather than principled
opposition, quite different from the stance adopted towards depredations
of official enemies, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, for example.
(In contrast, the central elements of the peace movement opposed
aggression in both cases on principled grounds; these facts have been
much obscured in the subsequent rewriting of history). Thus the appeal
of Israel’s efficient and successful use of force was, in fact, quite broad.
It was only half-jokingly that people spoke of sending Moshe Dayan to
Vietnam to show how to do the job right.
At the same time, the challenge to authority at home was regarded
with much distress. A dread image was conjured up of Vietcong, Maoist
fanatics, bearded Cuban revolutionaries, rampaging students, Black
Panthers, Arab terrorists and other forces—perhaps on the Russian
leash—conspiring to shake the foundations of our world of privilege and
domination. Israel showed how to treat Third World upstarts properly,
winning the allegiance of many frightened advocates of the virtues of
knowing one’s place. For some, the military might that Israel displayed
induced open admiration and respect, while others disguised these
feelings, appealing to the alleged vulnerability of Israel before the forces
it had so decisively crushed, and still others were deluded by the
effective “‘David and Goliath’ legend” (see note 58).
Individuals have their own reasons, but tendencies of this nature are
readily detectable and go a long way towards explaining the outpouring
of “support for Israel” as it demonstrated its capacity to wield the mailed
fist. It is since 1967 that questioning of Israel policies has largely been
silenced, with effective use of the moral weapons of anti-Semitism and
“Jewish self-hatred.” Topics that were widely discussed and debated in
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Europe or in Israel itself were effectively removed from the agenda here,
and a picture was established of Israel, its enemies and victims, and the
U.S. role in the region, that bore only a limited resemblance to reality.
The situation slowly began to change in the late 1970s, markedly so,
after the increasingly visible repression under the Milson-Sharon regime
in the occupied territories (only partially reported here) and the 1982
invasion of Lebanon, which offered a serious challenge to the talents of
The immense popularity that Israel won by demonstrating its military
efficiency also offered a weapon that could be usefully employed against
domestic dissidents. Considerable effort was devoted to showing that the
New Left supported Arab terrorism and the destruction of Israel, a task
largely accomplished in defiance of the facts (the New Left, as the
documentary record clearly shows, quite generally tended to support the
position of Israeli doves).60
It is interesting that one of the devices currently used to meet the
new challenge is to extend to the press in general the deceptive critique
applied to the New Left in earlier years. Now, the insistent complaint is
that the media are antagonistic to Israel and subject to the baleful
influence of the PLO, motivated by their reflex sympathy for Third World
revolutionary struggles against Western power. While this may appear
ludicrous given the evident facts, neither the effort (see p 36* and
further examples below) nor its not insignificant success in containing
deviations towards a minimal degree of even-handedness will come as
any surprise to students of twentieth century propaganda systems, just
as there was no surprise in the earlier successes of those who were
fabricating a picture of New Left support for PLO terrorism and contempt
for Israel precisely because it is a democracy advancing towards
socialism, one of Irving Howe’s insights.61 We are, after all, living in the
age of Orwell.
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
One can, perhaps, offer a more sympathetic psychological interpreta-
tion. Those who are accustomed to near total dominance of articulate
opinion may feel that the world is coming to an end if their control is
threatened or weakened ever so slightly, reacting in the manner of an
over-indulged child who is chided for the first time. Hence the wailing
about the reflex sympathy of the press for the PLO and its immutable
hatred of Israel when, say, there is an occasional report of the bombing
of hospitals or beating of defenseless prisoners. Or the phenomenon may
simply be an expression of a totalitarian mentality: any deviation from
the orthodox spectrum of “support for Israel” (which includes a variety of
permissible “critical support”) is an intolerable affront, and it is therefore
barely an exaggeration to describe slight deviation as if it were near
As an illustration (there are many), consider a March 1983
newsletter of the American Professors for Peace in the Middle East—a
well-funded organization that is concerned about peace in the Middle
East in the same sense in which the Communist Party is concerned
about peace in Afghanistan—sent to its 15 Regional Chairmen and its
many Campus Representatives. It warns of an “organized, centrally
controlled, information plan” on the “Arab side” which is not matched
by anything representing “the Israeli position.” Their concern is aroused
by “a list of speakers who are being toured through the university
circuit…to present the Arab point of view,” giving presentations that
“smack more of propaganda than of education.” “In order of frequency
and virulence the speakers are: Hatem Hussaini, Edward Said, Noam
Chomsky, Fawaz Turki, Stokely Carmichael, James Zogby, Hassan
Rahman, Chris Giannou, M.D., Israel Shahak, and Gail Pressberg.” As
any observer of the American scene will be aware, these nefarious
figures almost completely dominate discussion of the Middle East in the
United States, and “the Israeli point of view” virtually never obtains a
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hearing, though, the newsletter adds, “there are doubtless many
speakers who espouse the Israeli position” and would speak if only there
were an opportunity for them to do so. Even if there were some truth to
the paranoid concept of “an organized, centrally controlled, information
plan,” or the belief that these speakers are part of it, or that they
“present the Arab point of view,”* it should be obvious that this would
be a phenomenon of marginal significance in the United States and
could not begin to compare with the massive pro-Israel propaganda
system, of which this organization—which alone surely dwarfs anything
on the “Arab side”—is a tiny element. But the frightened little men of
the APPME probably believe all of this. Perhaps they are aware that this
“information plan” and its agents have virtually no access to the mass
media or journals of opinion, but they are right in noting that no way has
yet been found to prevent them from responding to invitations at one or
another college, a flaw in the American system that still remains to be
As the invasion of Lebanon proceeded, the list of those who were
deliberately falsifying the facts to place Israel in a less than favorable
light grew quite long, including the European press and much of the
American press and television, the International Red Cross and other
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
relief agencies, American diplomats, and in fact virtually everyone except
spokesmen for the Israeli government and selected Americans returning
from guided tours. The general tone is conveyed by Eliahu Ben-Elissar,
chairman of the Knesset’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, who received
“the most applause” at the convention of B’nai Brith when he said: “We
have been attacked, criticized, dirtied, besmirched… I wouldn’t want to
accuse the whole world of anti-Semitism, but how to explain this violent
outburst.”62 A similar perception, widely shared, was expressed by
Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon:

Today we are in the arena opposite the entire world. It is the
people of Israel, a small and isolated people, against the
entire world.63

This “horrible thing that is now taking place around us in the world”
is “no doubt” the result of anti-Semitism, not the Lebanon war or the
Beirut massacres a few days before. We return to some details of this
intriguing story.
The truth of the matter is that Israel has been granted a unique
immunity from criticism in mainstream journalism and scholarship,
consistent with its unique role as a beneficiary of other forms of
American support. We have already seen a number of examples and
many more will appear below. Two examples noted earlier in this
chapter offer a clear enough indication of this immunity: the Israeli
terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities and other public places in Egypt (the
Lavon affair), and the attack on the unmistakeably identified U.S.
Liberty with rockets, aircraft cannon, napalm, torpedoes and machine
guns, clearly premeditated, leaving 34 crewmen dead and 75 wounded
in “the Navy’s bloodiest ‘peacetime’ international incident of the 20th
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century”* (see notes 36, 39). In both cases, the general reaction of the
press and scholarship has been silence or misrepresentation. Neither
has entered history as a deplorable act of terrorism and violence, either
at the time or in retrospect. In the case of the bombings in Egypt, the
Israeli novelist Amos Oz, writing in the New York Times, refers to the
terrorist acts obliquely as “certain adventurist Israeli intelligence
operations”—the standard formulation—in a highly regarded article on
the “beautiful Israel” of pre-Begin days.64 The nature of the attack on the
Liberty was also evaded not only by the press fairly generally but by the
government and by a U.S. Naval Board of Inquiry, though high-ranking
figures had no doubt that the official report was a whitewash; former
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, for
example, states that the attack “could not possibly have been a case of
mistaken identity,” as officially claimed.65
Can one imagine that any other country could carry out terrorist
bombings of U.S. installations or attack a U.S. ship killing or wounding
100 men with complete impunity, without even critical comment for
many years? That is about as likely as that across the spectrum of
mainstream opinion, some country (other than our own) should be
depicted as guided by a “high moral purpose” through the years (see
chapter 1, citing Time, a journal regarded as critical of Israel), while its
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
enemies are dehumanized and despised, and history is reconstructed to
preserve the desired illusions, a topic to which we turn directly.

The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
Notes—Chapter 2
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
Bernard D. Nossiter, New York Times, June 27, 1982.
Boston Globe, June 27; June 9, 1982.
3. Nadav
Israel: the Embattled Ally (Harvard, Cambridge, 1978,
pp. 576, 110), a study that bends over backwards to provide an
interpretation sympathetic to Israel; see TNCW, chapter 13, for
G. Neal Lendenmann, “The Struggle in Congress over Aid Levels to
Israel,” American-Arab Affairs, Winter 1982-3 (see chapter 4, note 60);
Boston Globe, Sept. 26, 1982.
For an attempt to assess the actual level of U.S. aid, see Thomas
Stauffer, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 29, 1981. For the specific
details of the official record, see Yosef Priel, Davar, Dec. 10, 1982;
Ignacio Klich, South, February 1983.
Bernard Weinraub, New York Times, May 26, 1982.
“Senate OK’s foreign aid plan with $2.6b for Israel,” Washington Post—
Boston Globe, Dec. 18, 1982.
Ian S. Lustick, “Israeli Politics and American Foreign Policy,” Foreign
Affairs, Winter 1982/83; Amanda Mitchison, “Gift horses,” New
Feb. 4, 1983.
“Israel: Foreign Intelligence and Security Services,” reprinted in
May-June 1982; one of the documents brought by American
journalists from Iran, where they were released after the takeover of the
American Embassy. Given the circumstances, one cannot be certain of
the authenticity of the document, though this tends to be confirmed both
by its character and the subsequent discussion concerning it. A former
chief of the Israeli Mossad (essentially, the Israeli CIA), Isser Harel,
accepted the authenticity of the document but condemned it as “anti-
Semitic, one-sided and malicious,” “dilletantish,” reflecting a tendency in
the CIA to “rewrite history” at the time the report was written in 1979;
Yuval Elizur, Boston Globe, Feb. 5, 1982, citing an interview in Ma’ariv.
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
10. General (Res.) Mattityahu Peled, New Outlook (Tel Aviv), May/June
1975, reporting on a visit to the United States.
New Outlook editor Simha Flapan, speaking at an October 1979
conference in Washington; cited by Merle Thorpe, Jr., President,
Foundation for Middle East Peace, Hearing before the Subcommittee on
Europe and the Middle East of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House
of Representatives, 97th Congress, First Session, Dec. 16, 1981 (U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, 1982, p. 143).
See chapter 4, below.
13. Jessie
Jewish Post & Opinion, May 28, 1982.
14. On the political influence of what he calls “the Israeli lobby,” see Seth
Tillman, The United States in the Middle East (Indiana, Bloomington,
1982). Tillman was on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee with special concern for the Middle East.
Leon Hadar, “Labour of Love,” Jerusalem Post, March 2, 1982.
16. See Stephen Zunes, “Strange Bedfellows,” Progressive, Nov. 1981. He
notes that passionate support for Israel combines readily with fervent
anti-Semitism. See also Richard Bernstein, “Evangelicals Strengthening
Bonds With Jews,” New York Times, Feb. 6, 1983, and J. A. James,
“Friends in need,” Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 1983, discussing the
“potential importance of Evangelical support” in American politics and
the “immense infra-structure” of media at their command, and also the
vast wealth that can be tapped. Davar reports that the Temple Mount
Fund, “established in Israel and the U.S. and financed by Christian
extremists,” intends to donate tens of millions of dollars to Jewish
settlements in the West Bank; Jan. 23, 1983 (Israleft News Service). It
is a reasonable surmise—now sometimes voiced in Israel—that an
Israeli-Evangelical Protestant alliance may become more prominent in
Latin America, following the model of Guatemala, where the Rios Montt
regime (which has succeeded even in surpassing its predecessors in its
murderous barbarity) is supported by Evangelical Protestant movements
and advised and supplied by Israel. See note 42.
Cited by Amnon Kapeliouk, Israel: lafin des mythes (Albin Michel, Paris,
1975, p. 219). This book by an outstanding Israeli journalist is the best
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
account of Israeli government (Labor Party) policies from 1967-1973.
Many U.S. publishers were approached for an English edition, but none
was willing to undertake it.
Cited by Zunes, “Strange Bedfellows.”
19. See, for example, Pro-Arab Propaganda in America: Vehicles and
Voices; a Handbook (Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith, 1983);
Thomas Mountain, “Campus anti-Zionism,” Focus (Brandeis University),
February 1983 (thanking the League for what passes as “fact”); and
many handouts and pamphlets circulated in colleges around the country,
typically without identification, which students distributing them often
attribute to the League.
20. Benny
July 28, 1981; Tillman, The United States in
the Middle East, p.65; Jolanta Benal, Interview with Meir Pail, Win,
March 1, 1983.
21. Nathan and Ruth Ann Perlmutter, The Real Anti-Semitism in America
(Arbor House, New York, 1982, pp. 72, 111, 116, 136, 133f., 159,
125, 231). The book also contains the kinds of defamation of critics of
Israeli policies and distortion of their views that one has come to expect
in such circles and that merit no more comment than similar exercises in
Communist Party literature.
22. Jon
There Could Have Been Peace (Dial, 1973. pp. 310-11).
23. Abba
Congress Bi-Weekly, March 30, 1973; speech delivered
July 31, 1972; Irving Howe, “Thinking the Unthinkable About Israel: A
Personal Statement,” New York magazine, Dec. 24, 1973.
24. Christopher Sykes, Crossroads to Israel: 1917-1948 (Indiana,
Bloomington, 1965), p. 247.
25. Interview,
Jewish Post & Opinion, Nov. 19, 1982. The interviewer, Dale
V. Miller, interprets him, quite accurately and it seems approvingly, as
holding that the “province” of criticism is “the sole right of the Israelis
themselves.” On Wiesel’s attitudes concerning the September Beirut
massacre, see chapter 6, section 6.4.
26. Safran,
p. 571.
Cited by Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power (Harper & Row,
New York, 1972, p. 242).
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
28. For some discussion of this point, see my chapter “What directions for
the disarmament movement?,” in Michael Albert and David Dellinger,
eds., Beyond Survival: New Directions for the Disarmament Movement,
(South End, Boston, 1983).
Cited in Gabriel Kolko, The Politics of War (Random House, New York,
1968, p. 188), from Winston Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy
(Houghton-Mifflin, Boston, 1953, p. 249). For more recent discussion,
see Lawrence S. Wittner, American Intervention in Greece (Columbia,
New York, 1982). The two volumes of the Kolkos’ (see note 27) remain
invaluable for understanding the general wartime and postwar period,
though much useful work has appeared since, including much
documentation that basically supports their analyses, in my view, though
the fact is rarely acknowledged; since they do not adhere to approved
orthodoxies, it is considered a violation of scholarly ethics to refer to their
30. Wittner,
American Intervention in Greece, pp. 119, 88.
Ibid., pp. 1, 149, 154, 296; see the same source for an extensive review
and documentation.
Ibid., pp. 80, 232.
For discussion, see TNCW, chapters 2, 11, and references cited there.
New York Times, August 6, 1954; see TNCW, p. 99, for further quotes
and comment.
35. Cited
p. 457, from MERIP Reports, May 1981; also, J. of
Palestine Studies, Spring 1981. The source is a memorandum obtained
under the Freedom of Information Act.
The man in direct charge of these operations, Avri el-Ad, describes them
in his Decline of Honor (Regnery, Chicago, 1976). See Livia Rokach,
Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (AAUG, Belmont, 1981), for excerpts from the
diaries of Prime Minister Moshe Sharett concerning these events and how
they were viewed at the time, at the highest level. On the ensuing
political-military crisis (the “Lavon affair”), see Yoram Peri, Between
Battles and Ballots: Israeli Military in Politics (Cambridge, 1983), an
important study that undermines many illusions.
37. “Issues Arising Out of the Situation in the Near East,” declassified
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
12/10/81, commenting on NSC 5801/1, Jan. 24, 1958.
38. Michael
Ben-Gurion: A Biography (Delacorte, New York,
1978, pp. 261f.).
Ibid., pp. 315-6; Pen, Between Battles and Ballots, p. 80. It has been
suggested that the Israeli attack on the U.S. spy ship Liberty was
motivated by concern that the U.S. might detect the plans for this attack.
See James Ennes, Assault on the Liberty (Random House, New York,
1979). See also Richard K. Smith, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings,
June 1978, who describes how “with the greatest ease…the Israeli pilots
[and later torpedo boats] butchered the large, slow-moving, and
defenseless Liberty,” which was clearly and unmistakeably identified, in
accordance with “a vital part of Israel’s war plan,” namely, “to keep
foreign powers in the dark” so as to avoid “superpower pressures for a
cease-fire before they could seize the territory which they considered
necessary for Israel’s future security”—a rather charitable interpretation,
given the facts about the cease-fire and some questions that might be
raised about “security.”
40. See
p. 315 and references cited. See also the CIA study cited in
note 9, which states that “The Israelis also have undertaken widescale
covert political, economic and paramilitary action programs—particularly
in Africa.” In his report on U.S. labor leaders, Leon Hadar notes that they
have been particularly “impressed with Israel’s success in establishing
links with the Third World, especially in Africa, to resist Soviet
influence”—the latter phrase being the usual code word for resistance to
unwanted forms of nationalism. That American labor bureaucrats should
be pleased by support for Mobutu and the like no longer comes as any
surprise. See note 15.
Yoav Karni, “Dr. Shekel and Mr. Apartheid,” Yediot Ahronot, March 13,
1983. On the extensive Israeli relations, military and other, with South
Africa, see TNCW, pp. 293f. and references cited; Israel Shahak, Israel’s
Global Role (AAUG, Belmont, 1982); Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, “South
Africa and Israel’s Strategy of Survival,” New Outlook (Tel Aviv),
April/May 1977; Beit-Hallahmi, “Israel and South Africa 1977-1982:
Business As Usual—And More,” New Outlook, March 1983, with further
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
details on the enthusiasm shown by both Labor and Likud for South
Africa though Labor prefers to keep the matter hidden, on the
arrangements to use Israel for transshipment of South African goods to
Europe and the U.S. to evade boycotts, etc.; Uri Dan, “The Angolan
Battlefield,” Monitin, January 1982; Carole Collins, National Catholic
Reporter, Jan. 22, 1982; and many other sources.
42. See
pp. 290f. and references cited; Shahak, Israel’s Global Role;
Ignacio Klich, Le Monde diplomatique, October 1982, February 1983;
Washington Report on the Hemisphere (Council on Hemispheric Affairs),
June 29, 1982; Latin America Weekly Report, Aug. 6, Sept. 24, Dec.
17, 24, 1982; El Pais (Spain), March 8-10, 1983; Steve Goldfield, Jane
Hunter and Paul Glickman, In These Times, April 13, 1983; and many
other sources. It was reported recently that Kibbutz Beit Alpha (Mapam)
has been providing equipment to the Chilean army (Ha’aretz, Jan. 7,
1983). In particular, Israel is now Guatemala’s biggest arms supplier
(Economist, April 3, 1982), helping the U.S. government evade the
congressional ban on arms, and Israeli military advisers are active. The
new regime in Guatemala, which has been responsible for horrible
massacres, credits its success in obtaining power to its many Israeli
advisers; its predecessor, the murderous Lucas Garcia regime, openly
expressed its admiration for Israel as a “model” (see chapter 5, section
7.2). On the new levels of barbarism achieved by the Rios Montt regime,
see Allan Nairn, “The Guns of Guatemala,” New Republic, April 11,
1983 (ignoring the Israeli connection, which could hardly be discussed in
this journal). See references cited, and an unpublished paper by
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, “Israel’s support for Guatemala’s military
regimes,” with information from the Israeli press. We return to further
details. On Israel’s arms sales as a “U.S. proxy supplier of arms to
various ‘hot spots’ in the Third World,” see SOUTH, April 1982. Arms
sales now constitute a third of Israel’s industrial exports (Dvar Hashavua,
Aug. 27, 1982).
See Michael Klare, in Leila Meo, ed., U.S. Strategy in the Gulf (AAUG,
Belmont, 1981).
44. Michael
Beyond the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ (Institute for Policy
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
Studies, Washington, 1981).
Advertisement, New York Times, Oct. 13, 1982; Joseph Churba, letter,
New York Times, Nov. 21, 1982. See also Steven J. Rosen, The
Strategic Value of Israel, AIPAC Papers on U.S.-Israel Relations, 1982;
AIPAC is the officially-registered pro-Israel lobbying organization in
46. Thomas L. Friedman, “After Lebanon: The Arab World in Crisis,” New
York Times, Nov. 22, 1982.
47. Tamar
Dec. 1, 1982; Reuter, Boston Globe, Jan. 20,
1983; UPI, New York Times, Jan. 22, 1983.
New York Times, Dec. 6, 1982.
49. Susan Morgan, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 14, 1982; “Guatemala:
Rightists on the warpath,” Latin America Weekly Report, March 4,
50. For one of many recent examples, see Marlise Simons, New York Times,
Dec. 14, 1982, citing American Roman Catholic missionaries who report
that “the raiders had lately been torturing and mutilating captured
peasants or Sandinist sympathizers, creating the same terror as in the
past,” giving examples. The Somozist National Guard was trained in the
U.S. Army School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone.
51. Charles Maechling Jr., “The Murderous Mind of the Latin Military,” Los
Angeles Times, March 18, 1982.
52. See
p. 429 and chapter 13, and references cited.
Yoav Karni, “The secret alliance of the ‘Fifth World’,” Yediot Ahronot,
Nov. 22, 1981. See TNCW, pp. 292-3.
Leslie H. Gelb, “Israel Said to Step Up Latin Role, Offering Arms Seized
in Lebanon,” New York Times, Dec. 17, 1982.
55. See
For Reasons of State (Pantheon, New York, 1973, p. 51), for
citation and discussion.
Adam Clymer, New York Times, June 27, 1982. Le Monde, June 11, for
the full text; Christian Science Monitor, June 11, 1982.
For references, see John Cooley, Green March, Black September (Frank
Cass, London, 1973, pp. 161-2); my Peace in the Middle East?
(Pantheon. New York, p. 140).
The Origins of the “Special Relationship”
The U.S. press appears to have ignored this important discussion among
Israeli military commanders, apart from a report by John Cooley.
Christian Science Monitor, July 17, 1972. For some discussion of what
he refers to as “the ‘David and Goliath’ legend surrounding the birth of
Israel,” see Simha Flapan, Zionism and the Palestinians (Barnes &
Noble, New York, 1979, pp. 317f.).
Yediot Ahronot. July 26, 1973; see Peace in the Middle East?, p. 142.
See my “Israel and the New Left,” in Mordecai S. Chertoff, ed., The New
Left and the Jews (Pitman, New York, 1971); and Peace in the Middle
East?, chapter 5, including a discussion of some of the remarkable
contributions of Irving Howe, Seymour Martin Lipset, and others. See
chapter 5, below, for further discussion.
See the references of the preceding note on this and other examples, all
presented without a pretense of evidence or rational argument, a stance
always available when the targets are outside the approved consensus.
Jewish Post & Opinion, Nov. 5, 1982.
Jerusalem Domestic Television Service, Sept. 24, 1982. Reprinted in The
Beirut Massacre (Claremont Research and Publications, New York,
1982), from the U.S. government Foreign Broadcast Information Service
64. Amos Oz, “Has Israel Altered its Visions?” New York Times Magazine,
July 11, 1982. On misrepresentation of these events in scholarship,
referring to Safran, Israel, see TNCW, p. 331.
65. For a rare recording of the facts in the press, see the article by staff
correspondents of the Christian Science Monitor, June 4, 1982; also
Cecilia Blalock, ibid., June 22, 1982 and Philip Geyelin, Washington
Post (Manchester Guardian Weekly, June 20, 1982). On the events and
the cover-up, see references of note 39; also Anthony Pearson,
Conspiracy of Silence (Quartet, New York, 1978) and James Bamford,
The Puzzle Palace (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1982).