Trump’s support for Zionism includes defining US Jews as foreigners

April 8, 2019

By Stephen Gowans

A core Zionist principle is that Jews are foreigners in their own countries, and belong in Israel, a principle many Jews reject for obvious reasons, as do all people committed to human progress and equality.

By contrast, Donald Trump embraces the Zionist vision. On Saturday the US president referred to Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu as ‘your prime minister’ while addressing a group of US Jews. [1] This wasn’t the first time Trump defined US Jews as Israelis. “At a Hanukkah celebration at the White House” Trump “told American Jews…that his vice president had great affection for ‘your country,’ Israel.” [2]

In 1917, British cabinet member, Edwin Montagu, a Jew, strenuously opposed the Balfour Declaration—Britain’s pledge to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine—for precisely the reason evinced in Trump’s remark.

Montagu foresaw that the creation of a Jewish homeland would reinforce the prejudice that Jews are a nation (rather than a religious community) and that, therefore, they are foreigners in the lands in which they reside, a prejudice Hitler nurtured into what historian Arno J Mayer has called the Judeocide. [3]

“Montagu saw Zionism as a threat to the position in British society that he and his family had so recently, and with so much exertion, attained. Judaism, he argued, was a religion, not a nationality, and to say otherwise was to say that he was less than 100 percent British.” [4]

Anti-Semites would find Zionism to be a simpatico creed. It encourages the emigration of Jews. Indeed, Theodore Herzl, the ideological forefather of the Israeli state, offered this as a reason why Europe ought to support the creation of a Jewish state;  it would rid the continent of Jews, something he believed non-Jews—who he viewed as incorrigible anti-Semites—fervently wished for. [5]

Mike Pence and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo are Christian Zionists, [6] as indeed were many early supporters of the Zionist movement, including Arthur Balfour and US president Woodrow Wilson. Christian Zionists believe the settlement of Jews in historical Palestine will hasten the rapture, that is, the return of Jesus; and so they have done all they can to encourage Jews to settle in the Holy Land. Many evangelical Christians see the founding of the state of Israel as an act of their God.

Trump’s designation of US Jews as properly Israeli and not American (‘Netanyahu is your prime minister’ and ‘your country’ Israel), is as much a gift to Israeli Zionism as is his declaration that Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan belong to Jews.

Israeli Zionists are as keen to see ‘diaspora’ Jews take up residence in Israel, as they are for US presidents to present Israel as the state of the Jews and official representative of world Jewry.

To be sure, Trump is not the first US president to vigorously support either Israel or Zionism. The West’s outpost in the Middle East, as Benjamin Netanyahu once called Israel [7], has, from day one, been used by imperialist powers as an instrument to achieve their own end, namely, protecting their profit-making and profit-making-related strategic interests in the petroleum-rich Arab and Persian worlds.

It is not Christian Zionism, or a sincere (though misplaced) effort to protect Jews from anti-Semitism, that motivate Western governments to support Israel. Nor is US foreign policy in thrall to wealthy Jews and their lobbying efforts, a theory propounded by people whose grasp of the forces that shape US imperialism is tenuous at best. Instead, Western support for Israel is grounded in economic interests.

This point of view was clearly articulated by the British author Rajani Palme Dutt, six months before the infant UN, at the time dominated by colonial powers, served up part of Palestine to a European colonial movement, Zionism, that had pledged to champion Western interests in the Arab world in return for Western sponsorship and protection.

Dutt authored a declaration adopted on 3 March 1947. [8] The declaration adumbrates the arguments presented in my forthcoming book, Israel, A Beachhead in the Middle East: From European Colony to US Power Projection Platform.

Dutt called for “the ending of the imperialist policy which seeks to retain Palestine, not only as an [outpost for dominating the petroleum resources of the Middle East] and point for the military control of Suez, but as the strategic base protecting imperialist interests throughout the Middle East, against the interests and rights of its peoples.”

He warned Jews that Zionism “seeks to make … a Jewish state an ally of the imperialist powers and their base in the Middle East.” It also seeks, he warned, to divert “Jewish people from the real solution of the problem of anti-Semitism,” which he defined as “full equality of rights within the countries where they live.”

Dutt pointed out that it was in the interests of Jews residing in Palestine “to oppose the Zionist conception which seeks to put them in the position of being an instrument of [imperialist powers] in the Middle East [and] in opposition to the struggle for national liberation in Palestine.”

Zionism, he observed, was a tool used by Britain and the United States in pursuit of their “policy of divide and rule; it also seeks to secure the support of reactionary Arab elements to strengthen the Middle East as a base for operations … against the liberation movement of the masses throughout the Middle East,” he wrote. Today, Israel works with the principals of Arab reaction—the kings of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan, and the military dictator of Egypt—to safeguard Western business interests against the aspirations of the Arabs to take control of their land, resources, labour, and markets for their own welfare.

In place of an ethnically-cleansed exclusivist Jewish settler state, Dutt proposed “the creation of a free, independent and democratic Palestinian state”—one that would “guarantee equal rights of citizenship with full religious freedom and full opportunities to develop their culture to all its inhabitants, Arab and Jewish.”

Dutt’s proposal for a single state in Palestine based on equality—once also the vision of the PLO—has increasingly come to be seen as the only practicable and morally defensible position, superior to the misnamed two-state ‘solution,’ whose implicit basis is the assumption that Palestinians will eventually capitulate to the denial of their fundamental rights.

In place of the negation of one people’s rights, Dutt offered the realization of all people’s rights. A free, independent and democratic Palestinian state would deliver Jews from anti-Semitism, and at the same time, deliver Palestinians from anti-Hamitism and the scourge of colonialism.

Zionism, with its nineteenth century vision of an ethnic state, where one ethnic group imposes a lordly rule over another, is an anachronism; the idea of the ethnic state has happily given way in large parts of the world to the idea of universal equality, an idea pioneered by the French Revolution (which emancipated the Jews of France) and brought forward by the Russian Revolution (which emancipated the Jews of Russia).

The notion implied in Trump’s remarks that US Jews are foreigners in their own country is hardly one that anyone who cares about authentic liberal democracy and a world of universal equality ought to be pleased about. Perhaps Netanyahu and other devotees of ethnic Jewish rule in Palestine are pleased, but they are the bearers of an ugly ideology of colonialism and ethnic rule that has been overcome throughout most of the world, and equally deserves to be overcome in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

1) Emily Cochrane, “Pushing for tighter borders, president asks Jews for support,” The New York Times, April 6, 2019.

2) Jonathan Weisman, “American Jews and Israeli Jews Are Headed for a Messy Breakup,” The New York Times, January 4, 2019.

3) Arno J. Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The Final Solution in History, Verso, 2012.

4) David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, Holt, 2009, p 292.

5) Theodore Herzl, The Jewish State, Quid Pro Books, 2014, p. 20.

6) Edward Wong, “The rapture and the real world: Mike Pompeo blends beliefs and policy,” The New York Times, March 30, 2019.

7) Quoted in Adam Shatz, “The sea is the same sea,” The London Review of Books, (Vol. 40 No. 16 · 30 August 2018).

8) Declaration on Palestine, 1947, https://www.marxists.org/archive/dutt/1947/03/palestine.htm .