It's Not Just the Oil
by Stanley Heller
February 20, 2003

Does a boxer fight with one hand tied behind his back? Why is the anti-war movement reluctant to talk about all the reasons for the drive to invade Iraq? Yes, major reasons for the permanent war drive are corporate greed for oil, dreams of political domination, and the lust to test weapons. But there's another one. Extreme right-wing forces from a foreign country and their powerful American backers are pushing the U.S. to invade Iraq and many other countries. I'm, of course, talking about Israel.

On November 12 Zev Chafets wrote an incredibly revealing article in the New Haven Register. In an article headlined,"Disarming Iraq is only a start in Middle East" he explained that the Arab and Iranian cultures were "irrational" and that nothing could be done to "improve the collective mental health of Arab societies". He proposed "giving the Arabs and Iran a stark choice: they can have sovereignty or jihad (in its secular or religious forms), but not both." He says "disarming" but of course he means invading the "Middle East's most hostile and deranged regimes."

Now, who is Zev Chafets? He was originally from Michigan, but went to Israel in 1967 and fought in their army and became director of the government press office under Prime Minister Menachem Begin. He's now a columnist for the New York Daily News. His ideas reflect the desires of Likud, the Israeli ruling party, one variant of extreme Israeli right wing opinion. The current party head, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is delirious for the war. In his mind, with Iraq leveled the Palestinians will give up hope and he then can go on to his other objectives, destroying the governments of Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

How is this influencing the U.S.? It's not blatant. When you go to the Anti-Defamation League site you see nothing calling for war with Iraq. Sharon doesn't have to engage in noisy public appeals. The forces that demand the Iron Fist as the answer to all problems (the neocons) are at the highest levels of the U.S. government. When I was in Hebrew School I remember the teachers railing at the State Department for being filled with "Arabists" who hated Israel. Nobody rational would say that today. The top officials and advisors to Bush are all rabid neocons. Some like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser actually worked for Israeli think tanks, writing grand papers for (Likud) Prime Minister Netanyahu on how the U.S. and Israel should take apart and reconstruct the Middle East.

Do we have to talk about Congress? Just a few days ago the House voted near unanimously to congratulate the Israeli government on its wonderful fair election. Here's a government that is in material breach of the Security Council "demand" that it remove its forces from the Palestinian cities and Congress offers it hugs and kisses. Is it any wonder? The Israel Apartheid lobby just knocked off a four term Congresswoman (McKinney) as it has done to Senators and Congressmen so many times in the past. Years ago a wit called Congress "Israeli Occupied Territory." The joke is still right on the mark.

Are we giving aid to anti-Semites by denouncing Likud-neocon influence? Not at all. In no way are we advancing the loony Nazi charge that "the Jews" run the country. Sure, many neocons are Jews. Jews are also the leaders of the U.S. anti-war movement. The biggest Jewish organizations are backing Sharon, but most Jews don't support them. According to a 1995 survey by the American Jewish Committee only 22% of American Jews consider themselves Zionists. Most American Jews don't give a dime to the ADL or any other Israel-boosting organization.

A small group of U.S. Jews are fanatical supporters of Israeli Apartheid and they shower it with money. But even though they seem to have the world by a string, it isn't so. When Israeli interests clash with American ruling class interests the tail does not wag the dog. [Ask Jonathan Pollard, who's sitting out a life term in Danbury prison] The U.S. ruling class is overwhelmingly Christian and the fundamentalism that inspires it is Pat Robertson's evangelism, not Jewish Orthodoxy.

Our argument is angry but precise. When the Left denounces Sharon we mean Sharon. When we assail an obvious foreign influence we're not alleging some all-powerful secret plot. When we condemn Israeli apartheid we denounce a Jewish superiority state, not the idea that Jews should live in Israel and enjoy every human right.

With that said we owe it to Americans to tell them the whole truth, that part of the war drive is being fueled by a wacko militarist clique from Israel and its interlocking bands of American Jewish and Christian supporters.

We're told not to bring up Israeli influence on the U.S. because it would split our supporters. Well, who would it alienate? It would tick off a certain group of Jews, those Jews who are schizophrenic politically, people who can be liberal or radical on every cause except Israel. They learned democracy in school, but they're still intimidated by their grandmothers.

An example is Rabbi Michael Lerner. While at times he makes sharp criticisms of Sharon, when it comes down to a critical moment he's on the wrong side. When Palestinians were making progress explaining the Right to Return he got into the editorial page of the New York Times denouncing the mass return of people to their homes. While he will criticize human rights abuses he does not call for any effective action, i.e. boycotting Israel goods or suspending Israeli foreign aid. Hundreds of Israeli Jewish activists are warning that Sharon might force mass deportation of Palestinians during the Iraq invasion, but Lerner calls it anti-Semitic to make a connection between Israel and the drive for an Iraq invasion. Lerner's vocabulary is that of a chauvinist. He uses terms like "pro-Israel" or "anti-Israel". He is constantly brandishing charges about "Israel bashing" and "anti-Semitism".

I will say this. It was wrong to ban him from speaking at the San Francisco demo because he criticized ANSWER. We all have a right and duty to make criticisms. I have plenty problems with the politics of ANSWER, and I wrote about it on Counterpunch. [Yet far from being anti-Semitic on January 18 ANSWER bent over backwards and made no connection between the Iraq war and Israeli government.]

We don't need Lerner. We don't need the American Friends of Peace Now who support Sharon's attempt to grab $12 billion more in American tax dollars. Include these types in your coalitions and you will waste hours and hours talking about the politically correct way to describe Israel. We do need Jews who are fully committed to equality and democracy, but they won't be angered by exposures of the Likud-neocons.

Most importantly we need to be honest and tell the whole truth to Americans. They need to know of all the reasons behind the drive to conquer Iraq. Some of us used the following chant in NYC. I recommend it at your next rally. "Bush and Sharon, they say War. We say, No!, We say No!"

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Stanley Heller has been chairperson of the Middle East Crisis Committee (New Haven) since 1982. He is a moderator of al-Awda-Unity, a division of the Right to Return movement intent on encouraging Jewish activism.

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