Paul Graham: Stephen, the title of your latest book pretty much says it all. “Israel serves Western imperialism” would be a, a shorter title perhaps. Can we begin at the beginning? Where did the idea of Israel as a modern Jewish state originate?
Stephen Gowans: It originates in the thought of Theodore Hertzel or not only him, but he has probably the most consequential figure. He was a 19th century secular Austrian Jew who was searching for a solution to the problem of antisemitism. And his solution was for Jews to get out of Europe and establish a Jewish majority state elsewhere. I think it’s important to note that his solution contrasts with an alternative solution of building a world of universal equality where all would be equal and free from prejudice and discrimination, as well as free from oppression and exploitation. This latter view was the view proposed by socialists and more robustly, by communists. And it’s a very different view from, the view espoused by Herzl and the solution that he proposed.
Paul Graham: In reading your book, I was amazed to learn that Napoleon Bonaparte was an early proponent of some kind of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Who were some of the other early Zionists?
Stephen Gowans: Well, Zionism was not originally an idea of Jews as one might think today, but of Christians, and they took their Zionist views from their reading of the Old Testament. Indeed, Western statesmen who were the most ardent supporters of political Zionism were usually men who read their Bible regularly. So they believed and evangelical Christians believe today that Palestine was promised to the Jews by their gods, that is, the god of the Christians and the Jews and the Muslims, and that the return of the Jews to Palestine fulfills a biblical prophecy. So you know, evangelical Christians today, and previous decades, believed that anti Zionism or any political position at odds with wholehearted support for Israel is against biblical prophecy. So consequently, they are ardent supporters of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Mainstream Western newspapers would never brand Israel as a racist state, a reality which says more about the nature of Western newspapers than about the character of Israel. But occasionally newspapers in the West do make observations which reveal the racist character of Israel, if the observations are placed within the context of liberal democracy and are compared with what is formerly tolerable within such countries as the United States and Canada.
In a September 19 report on the Israeli election, The Wall Street Journal observed that “Mr. Netanyahu and other politicians have framed Arab-Israeli politicians as enemies who would undermine Israel’s…Jewish character.”
While the statement may clearly reveal Netanyahu’s narrow racism, the broader racism of the Israeli state may not be immediately apparent. But it becomes evident if it is placed within the framework of US or Canadian politics. Imagine the parallel of white US politicians framing black US politicians as enemies who would undermine the United States’ white character, or of a Roman Catholic Canadian politician framing a Muslim politician as an enemy who would undermine Canada’s ‘commitment to Western (i.e., Christian) values.’
Formally, the United States is a state of all its citizens, not a state of white people. Formally, Canada is a state of all its citizens, not a state of the English or of Christians. In contrast, Israel is not a state of all its citizens, but one in which Jews have priority. Netanyahu makes no apologies for this, and nor do most Jewish Israelis.
Netanhyahu’s equivalent in the United States, namely, US politicians who would identify their ‘whiteness’ as a significant political category, brand black politicians as enemies, and seek to defend the ‘white character’ of the United States, would quite rightly be denounced as racists. They would almost certainly be open or covert members of the KKK, or open or covert admirers.
Likewise, the notion that the ‘white character’ of the United States must be preserved would be clearly recognized as a white supremacist concept and anyone who spoke of, or even hinted at ‘the white character’ of the United States as a normative idea would be justifiably censured as an intolerable racist whose views must be immediately renounced and corrected. Why then would the parallel view of the Jewish character of Israel as a normative concept, when expressed by Israelis or their supporters, not be denounced as racist?
The New York Times has often dismissed as unthinkable the prospect of Palestinian refugees exercising their right, under international law, to return to the homes from which they were driven or fled on what is now Israeli-controlled territory. The “refugees number in the millions, and their return,” explained David M. Halbfinger in a 2018 article, “would probably spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.” In other words, Palestinians cannot be repatriated otherwise the ethnic character of Israel as a Jewish state will be undermined.
This is not unlike justifying an immigration policy that bars the entry of non-whites into the United States on the grounds that the influx of millions of dark-skinned people would threaten the United States as a white state, or bars Muslims in order to preserve ‘the Christian character’ of the country. Such a policy would be recognized as racist in the US or Canadian contexts, so why would the parallel policy in the Israeli context not be branded as racist as well?
The case is made stronger, if we acknowledge that the parallel is imperfect. Unlike prospective immigrants to the United States, the Palestinians are natives of the territory to which they seek entry, not aliens. They have a right to be there, and many of them are not there, because the founders of the Jewish state organized a program of demographic engineering to create an artificial Jewish majority (that is, to create a state with a Jewish character) by ethnically cleansing a large part of the Palestinian homeland. The current caretakers of the state preserve the outcome of the founders’ demographic aggression by denying the Palestinians’ their UN-mandated and UN-enjoined right of repatriation.
Hence, the Israeli policy of denying natives repatriation to their own land in order to preserve the ethnic character of Israel as a Jewish state is indefensible on multiple grounds.
It defines the natives (Palestinians) as aliens and the aliens (Jewish immigrants who carried out the ethnic cleansing and their descendants) as the natives.
It violates international law.
It preserves the outcome of a program of ethnic cleansing.
It is racist.
Calling out Israel as a racist state is countered by Israel and its supporters by the levelling of accusations of anti-Semitism against anyone who dares to proclaim the obvious. Indeed, in some circles, defining as racist the notion that Israel ought to have a Jewish character is defined as anti-Semitic. This exercise in casuistry rests on the logical error of equating Zionism with Judaism, so that criticism of Zionism becomes construed as criticism of Judaism and Jews.
But by this logic anyone who decried the racism of apartheid South Africa or white supremacist Rhodesia, or decries the KKK as white supremacist, is anti-white. And by the logic that undergirds the Zionism equals Judaism formula, all whites are supporters of the KKK and apartheid South Africa, so that anyone who denounces the KKK or racist South Africa denounces whites as a category.
Imagine a definition of anti-white racism as denial of the Afrikaners’ right to a white settler state in southern Africa on the stolen land of the natives. If you can imagine this, then you’ve imagined the growing practice of formally defining anti-Zionism as an element of anti-Semitism. Denial of the Afrikaners’ right to a white settler state in southern Africa on the stolen land of the natives is also the denial of apartheid South Africa’s right to exist, and is equivalent to denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on the stolen land of Palestinians. To deplore racism while at the same time proclaiming Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is to deplore racism except when it is exercised by Zionists. By what logic is the racism of Zionism uniquely exempted as an instance of racism? By no logic at all, and instead by:
The illogic that holds that because Jews were the victims of a crime of great enormity perpetrated, not only by the Nazis, but by their European collaborators, that the actions of a state claiming to talk in the name of the Jews are beyond reproach.
The politics of power by which the United States defends Israel and allows it a free hand because it collaborates in the defense and promotion of US economic and strategic interests in the petroleum-rich Middle East.
Calumniating as an anti-Semite anyone who insists that Zionism is a form of racism.
Pointing out that Israel is a racist state that does not have a right to exist as an ethnic state for the Jews, nor as a settler colonial state whose Jewish majority is a product of demographic engineering, is not anti-Jewish racism; on the contrary, denunciation of any kind of ethnic privilege is not inherently hostile to the ethnic communities that seek it. It is, instead, inherently inimical to the assignment of rights, obligations, and privileges on the basis of ethnic hierarchies; that is, it supports universal equality and freedom from racist oppression.
Political Zionism, the ideological basis of the Israeli state, originated in an attempt to find a solution to anti-Jewish racism through separation. The trouble is that it did so by mimicking nineteenth century European nationalism, with all its racist underpinnings, and rejecting the growing movement for universal equality, which saw the solution to racism, including that of an anti-Jewish stripe, in the building of non-ethnic states of equality for all, regardless of one’s race, religion, language, and ethnicity, as well as one’s sex or possession of property. Jews were an important part of the movement for universal equality, and remain so today.
Indeed, Michael Oren, formerly an Israeli ambassador to the United States, identifies the Jewish community in the United States as belonging to the latter tradition of universal equality in contrast to Israeli Jews, who have embraced the former, Jewish nationalist solution to anti-Jewish racism. The Jewish nationalist solution is an anti-Arab racist solution to anti-Jewish racism of European origin, or of getting out from beneath one’s own oppression by oppressing someone else. The idea is inherently supremacist in defining the welfare of Jews as superior to that of Palestinians so that the welfare of Palestinians can be sacrificed in the service of the welfare of Jews. In this view, Jews and Palestinians are not equal; instead, Jewish rights trump Palestinian rights.
“The American Jewish idea is fundamentally different from the Jewish Zionist idea,” Oren told The Wall Street Journal. “The American Jewish idea is that Judaism is a universal religion, that we are not a nation or a people, that our duty is to all of humanity, and that America is the promised land, and that the Land of Israel is not the promised land,” he said.
“That fundamental gap, he added, has prompted many Israeli right-wing politicians to essentially give up on liberal American Jews and focus on friendlier constituencies such as evangelicals.” Significantly, US evangelicals, including US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, embrace Christian Zionism, the idea that the ingathering of Jews to Israel fulfills a biblical prophesy. In their view, by supporting Israel as a state with a Jewish character—that is, by colluding in racism—they’re abiding by their deity’s will.
Zionism is largely misunderstood as an exclusively Jewish ideology, when it has always also been strongly a Christian ideology, whose principal supporters have been officials of imperial states who read their bibles. This was as true in the early twentieth century when such statesmen as Arthur Balfour in England and Woodrow Wilson in the United States found support for the fledgling political Zionist movement in their reading of the bible, as it is today. Last year, Pompeo told a reporter for The New York Times Magazine that the Bible “informs everything I do.” The reporter noticed an open Bible in his office, with a Swiss Army knife marking his place at the end of the book of Queen Esther.” In the bible’s telling of the tale, Queen Esther saved Jews from being massacred by Persia (Iran’s forerunner.)
At the same time, historically, the movement for universal equality attracted Jews at a rate far in excess of their numbers in the population. As Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi wrote, Jews who fought alongside non-Jews in the struggle against racism and for universal equality “refused to limit their concerns to their own tribe. Theirs was a grander, purer dream. Salvation not just for Jews, but for the whole of humanity, and that would eliminate the ills of the Jewish condition once and for all.”
On the one hand, a pure and grand vision, dating from the French Revolution, of Liberté,Equalité, Fraternité, and the universalist idea of a state of all its citizens; on the other, the particularist idea of the ethnic state for Jews, made possible by the demographic engineering of a Jewish majority, obtained by the expulsion of the natives and denial of their repatriation, and the exercise of a racist regime over the natives who weren’t dispossessed; in short, the idea of universal equality versus the conservative tradition of hierarchy, racism, colonialism, and religious bigotry. To criticize Israel and Zionism is not to hate Jews, but to deplore the conservative tradition of ethnic privilege, racism, and colonialism from which Israel sprang and which it continues to exemplify.
Below is an excerpt from my new book, Israel, A Beachhead in the Middle East: From European Colony to US Power Projection Platform. The excerpt is from Chapter 3, titled Nakba. The book is available from Baraka Books.
May 14, 2019
By Stephen Gowans
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved Resolution 181, calling for the partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, linked by an economic union, with Jerusalem set aside as an international territory outside the jurisdiction of either state. Palestine would be divided into eight parts. Three parts would constitute the Jewish state, while the Arab state would be comprised of three other parts, plus a fourth, Jaffa, which would be an Arab exclave within the territory of the Jewish state. Jerusalem—envisaged as a corpus separatum, or international city—was the eighth part.
The Jewish population had grown rapidly from World War I under the stewardship of the British colonial administration from approximately 10 percent of the population to about one-third. Yet, while Jewish settlers remained in the minority and were outnumbered two to one by the indigenous Arabs, the resolution granted the Jewish state 56 percent of the Palestinians’ country, while the Arabs, with two-thirds of the population, were given only 42 percent. The balance, two percent, represented Jerusalem.
Some people continue to see the partition resolution—and its descendant, the two-state solution—as fair and practical, but it was neither of these things. Laying aside the inequitable apportionment of a greater territory for a Jewish state to a smaller Jewish population, there are larger issues to confront.
The first is the denial of Palestinian sovereignty. There is no question that the indigenous population was adamantly opposed to the expropriation of its land. While it made up the majority of Palestine’s inhabitants, its wishes were completely ignored by the United Nations. This was predictable. At the time the world body was dominated by First World powers steeped in the colonial tradition. Many of the countries that voted for the resolution were settler colonial states themselves: Britain, France and Belgium, and the British settler offshoots, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. There was no chance that a similar resolution would have passed from the 1960s onwards, when the balance of power in the United Nations General Assembly shifted from the First World to the Third World. Countries with colonial pasts unwaveringly considered Zionism a legitimate political ideology, while countries victimized by colonialism regarded it as a form of colonialism.
The second issue, following from the first, is that the partition resolution called for the creation of an unacceptable institution: a colonial settler state. Colonial settler states have been overcome one by one by determined resistance—in Algeria, Rhodesia, South Africa, and elsewhere—to the deserved applause of the majority of humanity. The demise of each settler colonial state is a sign post in the progress of humanity. The question of whether the Jewish state envisioned by the partition resolution, or Israel today, is a colonial settler state isn’t even controversial. Neither Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, David Ben-Gurion, the father of the state of Israel, nor Le’ev Jabotinsky, founder of revisionist Zionism, were in any doubt that a Jewish state built by settlers on the land of another people was unequivocally settler colonialism.
As to the practicality of Resolution 181, it is as indefensible as the partition plan’s alleged equity. A practical settlement to the conflict would have been one that all sides accepted. But neither side accepted the resolution. The indigenous population rejected it for the obvious reason that it denied them sovereignty over 56 percent of their territory and handed it to a minority population of recent immigrants. No people on earth would have accepted this proposal for themselves; why the Palestinians were expected to accept it, boggles the mind. Ben-Gurion accepted the resolution in words, but only as a tactical manoeuvre, recognizing that an embryo Jewish state could be incubated into the Land of Israel through military conquest. The Revisionists rejected the planned partition, because it fell short of fulfilling Zionist aspirations for a Jewish state in all of south Syria (the name by which Palestine and Jordan were known by the indigenous population.)
For the settlers, the demographics of the partition plan were all wrong. The Jewish state would contain 500,000 Jews but almost as many Arabs. There would be 440,000 Arabs living in the territory Resolution 181 envisioned for the Jewish state. Jews, then, would constitute only a bare majority. A bare majority could quickly become a minority, depending on immigration, and on the birth rates of the two communities. Moreover, how could 500,000 Jews rule almost as many Arabs, considering that the Arabs rejected Jewish rule? The plan was completely unworkable. The only way to create a viable Jewish state would be to engineer a radical reduction in the number of Arabs living within its frontiers while at the same time expanding its borders to absorb as many of the 10,000 Jewish settlers the resolution had assigned to the Arab state.
The resolution’s proclamation immediately touched off fighting between the native Arabs and the immigrant Jewish settlers. The settlers were determined to drive as many natives as possible out of the territory assigned by the UN to a Jewish state, while capturing territory assigned by the UN to an Arab state. When the dust settled, a Jewish state, named Israel, was proclaimed, comprising 78 percent of Palestinian territory, not the 56 percent envisaged by the resolution. Meanwhile, 700,000 Arab natives had been exiled from their homes and the settlers refused their repatriation, keen to protect the outcome of their demographic engineering.
Today, Israelis insist their state grew out of a UN resolution that Arabs rejected and Jewish settlers accepted. While the Arab natives certainly rejected the resolution, the settlers rejected most of it as well, accepting only one small part of it—the call for the creation of a Jewish state. They rejected all the other parts, including the call for the creation of an Arab state within specified borders; the prohibition against expropriating Arab land within the Jewish state; the designation of Jaffa as an Arab exclave; the creation of an international Jerusalem; and the creation of an economic union between two states.
British rule of Palestine came to an end on May 15, 1948. On May 14, Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel, sparking what has become known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was the first in a series of settler-native wars—armed conflicts between the army of the Jewish colonial settler state and various Arab armies and Arab irregulars.
The Arab belligerents in 1948—Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria—dispatched some 20,000 troops to help their compatriots resist settler efforts to transform Palestine into the Land of Israel. Only three of these states— Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq—had armies of consequence, and only one, Jordan, had an army that was prepared for war. All three states were British clients, governed by kings who served at the pleasure of London. All were armed by John Bull, and Jordan’s army was under the direct command of 21 British officers who took their orders from London. This was significant, since Britain favored the settlers, and could—and did—restrict the flow of weapons and ammunition to their client states. It’s not by accident that the core Arab armies did not intervene in Palestine until after British forces exited Palestine, even though settler forces began operations to drive the Arab natives out of Palestine five months earlier. When the British-controlled Arab armies did finally intervene, the settlers had largely ethnically-cleansed Palestine, and their entry into the affray was a near farce.
The Arab forces had no central command and no coordination. It has been remarked that one of the reasons five Arab armies were defeated by one Israeli army was because there were five Arab armies.
Worse, there were inter-Arab rivalries that further weakened the combined Arab forces. Jordan and Iraq, led by British-installed kings, brothers of the Hashemite dynasty, were eager to see the defeat of the Egyptian army of King Farouk. Farouk was a rival for influence in the Arab world, and the Hashemites desired his defeat. Jordan and Iraq, then, had no intention of doing anything to help their rival’s military forces.
On top of these problems, was the general weakness of the Arab armies. The Egyptian forces were under equipped and poorly led. They had no maps, no tents, and insufficient logistical support. Their officers were generally incompetent, having attained their rank through political connections. When orders were issued to soldiers in the field, they were often contradictory. The Iraqi army was even worse; it was sent into battle without ammunition.
Finally, there was betrayal. Abdullah, the king of Jordan, had secretly worked out an arrangement with the settlers to annex the West Bank to his kingdom. Glubb Pasha, the British officer who commanded Abdullah’s army, deliberately restrained his forces, ordering them not to enter territory assigned by the UN to a Jewish state, though Israeli forces had seized territory assigned to an Arab state.
It would have been difficult enough for the Arab armies to prevail under these trying circumstances, but the fact that they were outnumbered made victory all but impossible. Under-manned, lacking coordination, incompetently-led, ill-equipped, largely untrained, betrayed from within by Abdullah, and sabotaged by their British masters, 20,000 Arab soldiers were no match for the 60,000 unified and determined settlers under arms, many of whom were highly trained soldiers, having served in the British Army during the Second World War.
The Israelis have misnamed the First Settler-Native War as The War of Independence, as if it were a national liberation struggle of an oppressed people against a colonial power, Britain. On the contrary, it was a colonial war fought by Jewish settlers whose victory was aided in the background by the British. It was a war of dispossession, not a war of restitution.
Israel does Washington’s dirty work in Syria where US law limits the Pentagon’s actions, former US envoy reveals
April 23, 2019
By Stephen Gowans
In his book A World Without Islam, former Kabul CIA station chief, Graham E. Fuller, argues that the 9/11 and other attacks on the United States by aggrieved Muslims would have occurred even in a world without Islam, because the attacks were a reaction against US imperialism, and were not a product of the attackers’ religion. It “would be a mistake,” wrote Fuller, “to consider Islam as the source of the resistance; otherwise we would have to believe that if these Muslims were not Muslims, they would not be rebelling against foreign domination.” 
US domination of the Middle East is attributable, above all, writes Fuller, to “the Muslim world’s oil and energy-resources.” Oil is the “key driver for incessant Western intervention.” US Middle East policy is shaped by concerns about “ownership of oil, control of the oil companies, pricing policies and shares of prices [and] political manipulation of leaders in order to obtain the best deals on oil,”  according to Fuller, who also served as the vice chairman of the US National Intelligence Council at the CIA.
What’s more, there’s the reality that “The United States today is, by its own reckoning, the overwhelmingly dominant power of the globe in nearly all spheres, with the determination to impose its will by one means or another.”  This, it does, far beyond the Middle East. As a country that began as 13 colonies on the Atlantic seaboard, but expanded across a continent, and added colonies in the Pacific and Caribbean, the United States is, and always has been, an imperialist country.
In contrast, some people believe that US domination of the Muslim world is traceable to the influence of wealthy Jews and the Jewish lobby on US foreign policy decision-makers, and that, in a world without Israel, the United States would not intervene militarily and politically in the Middle East. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt famously made this case in a 2006 article in The London Review of Books, “The Israel Lobby,” and in a book the following year. Others, including Jean Bricmont and Diana Johnstone, have gone further, arguing that “as far as the drive to war with Syria is concerned, it is Israel that directs U.S. policy.”  According to these analysts, the processes that made the United States an imperialist behemoth the world over are somehow absent in the Middle East. But to paraphrase Fuller, it would be a mistake to consider the Israeli lobby or Tel Aviv as the source of US foreign policy decisions; otherwise we would have to believe that if Israel didn’t exist, the United States would not seek to dominate the oil-rich Muslim world.
The United States has used Israel as an instrument for protecting and advancing its economic and related strategic interests in the Middle East since 1967, when the self-proclaimed Jewish state did a great service to Washington and US oil interests by handily defeating Arab nationalism—which opposed US domination of the region under the slogan “Arab oil for the Arabs” —in the June War.
Ever since, the role that Israel has played as an instrument of US power has been overlooked in the West, but rarely in the Third World. Arab opponents of US imperialism, from Gamal Abdel Nasser to Leila Khaled to Hassan Nasrallah, have understood Israel to be a cudgel used by the United States against the Arabs. For Hugo Chavez, Israel was one of the United States’ “imperialistic instruments.”  Even Israel’s political and military leaders, from Moshe Dayan to Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed. Dayan said that Israel’s mission is to “be a rock, an extension of the West, against which the waves of… Arab nationalism [bearing the banner Arab oil for the Arabs] will be broken.”  Netanyahu described his country as the “West’s outpost in the Middle East.” 
Only in the West has Israel’s role as an apparatus of the United States been difficult to grasp. That’s partly because the contribution of Israel to US power projection has sometimes been inconspicuous. At other times, it has hidden behind false claims of self-defense, with Israel’s actions on behalf of its US patron appearing to be motivated by purely Israeli concerns for self-preservation rather than shared US-Israeli goals of weakening forces inspired by the idea that the Arab world should exist for the Arabs, not Jewish settlers and US oil companies.
For example, Syria and Iraq declined to back the PLO in 1970 against Jordan’s King Hussein, fearing that if they acted to help topple a US puppet, that Washington would order Israeli attacks against both countries. Both Syria and Iraq knew they were no match for the powerful Israeli military, and had no intention of precipitating Israeli retaliation. As Sun Tzu observed, the best general is the one who wins without fighting, and Israel has often used its US-supplied military edge to deter local forces of independence and national assertiveness. But because in these instances it doesn’t have to fight to win, its contribution to cementing US domination of the region is difficult to see.
Israel played the lead role in preventing Iraq and Syria from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, destroying nuclear reactors in both countries, thereby facilitating the US invasion and conquest of Iraq in 2003 and the recent US invasion and occupation of one-third of Syria. The airstrikes which destroyed the reactors were presented by Israel and its US patron as self-defensive, but since Israel was already nuclear-armed, the development of a nuclear weapons capability by either Arab country would only have established nuclear parity, not an offensive threat to Israel. Nuclear arms in the hands of Iraq or Syria, would at best, have deterred US and Israeli attacks. This was confirmed by Major General Amir Eshe, chief of the Israeli army’s planning division, who asked whether the United States would have “dared deal with …Saddam Hussein if [he] had a nuclear capability?” “No way,” he replied.  The same question can be asked about Syria. Would the United States have so freely installed itself in one-third of Syria had Assad possessed a nuclear capability? Doubtful.
More recently, Israel has acted as a US instrument by carrying out airstrikes in Syria against forces aligned with Damascus. The attacks—Israel carried out thousands of bombing raids in Syria in 2017 alone —are portrayed as defensive strikes against Iranian efforts to establish a military presence in Syria to threaten Israel. But that’s a cover.
The truth of the matter is that the United States has no domestic legal authorization to attack Syrian and Iranian forces, both of which seek militarily to recover on Damascus’s behalf Syrian territory under US occupation. To conduct its ongoing fight to shape Syria’s post-war environment, Washington has recruited Israel, unconstrained by US law, to act as its proxy. As Brett McGurk, until recently the United States’s special envoy in Iraq and Syria, revealed a few days ago in Foreign Affairs, “The United States coordinated its approach with Israel, which in 2017 began launching air strikes against Iranian military assets in Syria [because] Washington had no legal authority to target Iranian forces inside Syria.” McGurk notes that the “combination of Israeli hard power, American diplomacy, and the U.S. military presence [in northeastern Syria have given] Washington a powerful bargaining chip with the Russians” to influence what McGurk calls “post-civil war” Syria. 
None of this is to say that Israeli actions on behalf of its US patron are inimical to its interests; they aren’t. Israeli and U.S. objectives in the Middle East largely overlap, which is why the two states have a special relationship. Both are keenly interested in suppressing local forces of independence and national assertiveness, though their reasons for doing so differ. Washington aspires to control the region’s petroleum resources and the sea and land routes to and from them on behalf of the US business elite, monopolizing the benefits at the expense of the local population. Israel seeks to contain, weaken, and undermine local forces of independence and national assertiveness in order to preserve its Herrenvolk democracy on land plundered from the Arabs. Both states rely on the other to achieve their respective goals.
While U.S. and Israeli objectives mesh, US foreign policy goals in the Arab world exist independently of Israel. A Middle East without Israel would still be a region bursting with “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history” , as a US State Department analysis described the Arab world before there was an Israel. What’s more, a world without Israel would still be a world in which the United States was dominated by titans of industry and masters of finance, scouring the globe for profit-making opportunities, acutely interested in great material prizes.
As I explain in the final paragraph of my new book Israel,A Beachhead in the Middle East,
At the heart of the unceasing wars on the Middle East reposes the question of who owns and controls Arab and Persian oil and the marine and overland routes to and from it—the natives, or the US government and the investors it represents? The Zionist answer has always been clear: Western political and economic interests must have supremacy in the Middle East. Israel began as a European colony, established anachronistically just as the great wave of decolonization was getting underway. As the United States superseded Britain and France as the dominant imperialist power in the region, Israel transitioned from the formers’ outpost of terror in the Arab world into a power projection platform for US investor interests. Throughout this transition Israel has remained interlocked with imperial power, unfailingly serving as the West’s beachhead in the Middle East.
These arguments are developed more fully in Israel,A Beachhead in the Middle East, now available from Baraka Books.
1) Graham E. Fuller. A World Without Islam, (Little, Brown & Company, 2010), 256.
6) Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi. The Israeli Connection: Who Israel Arms and Why, Pantheon Books, 1987), 5.
7) Adam Shatz, “The sea is the same sea,” The London Review of Books, (Vol. 40 No. 16 · 30 August 2018).
8) Ethan Bronner, “Israel sense bluffing in Iran’s threats of retaliation”, The New York Times, January 26, 2012.
9) David Morrison, “Israel complains about violation of its sovereignty while being a serial violator,” Open Democracy, March 1, 2018; Gregory Shupak, “Painting an Israeli attack on Syria as Israeli ‘retaliation’,” Fair.org, February 21, 2018.
10) Brett McGurk, “Hard truths in Syria: America can’t do more with less, and it shouldn’t try,” Foreign Affairs, April 16, 2019.
11) Quoted in Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, (Pluto Press, 1999), 61.
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.  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.” 
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. 
“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.” 
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. 
Mike Pence and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo are Christian Zionists,  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 , 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 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).
Israel’s occupation, annexation, and plunder of Syria’s Golan recapitulates all that is repugnant about the Zionist state: its wars of aggression, land theft, ethnic cleansing, racism, quest for lebensraum, and contempt for international legal norms. It also shows that Israeli citizens, including the country’s Left, are not only complicit in these abominations, but approve of them. Moreover, Washington’s toleration of Israeli actions reveal that it has long accepted the Zionist state’s criminality, while falsely professing the deepest respect for international law; US president Donald Trump’s sanctifying Israel’s illegal 1981 annexation of Syrian territory only formalizes the United States’ informal acceptance of the Israeli crime.
Syria’s Golan is a 1,800 square kilometer plateau which overlooks Israel to the west, Lebanon to the north, and Jordan to the south. Two-thirds of the territory, 1,200 square kilometers, is occupied illegally by Israel, while Damascus retains control of the remaining one-third. Exhibiting a pro-Israeli bias, Western journalists often define the territory as coterminous with the area occupied by Israel, ignoring the Syrian-controlled portion. 
Golan is coveted by Israel for its strategic military significance as a commanding height overlooking three Arab countries, as an important source of fresh water, and as lebensraum—soil on which to settle Jews who have difficulty finding housing in crowded Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. An important oil discovery in recent years has only enhanced the attractiveness of the Syrian territory to the self-proclaimed Jewish state. (Many Jews reject the idea that Israel is their state and prefer not to be associated with it. The appellation Jewish state is one Israel arrogates onto itself.)
Through the years, Israel has used its possession of stolen Golan territory to attempt to extract concessions from Syria; Israeli politicians have offered to return the occupied parts of the plateau to Damascus in return for a peace deal of the kind worked out with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat in the late 1970s. In exchange for the Sinai, seized by Israel in 1967 along with Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan, Egypt agreed to renounce its Arab nationalism, and accept as legitimate Zionist claims to a state in Palestine. As recently as 2010, Benjamin Netanyahu offered to return the Israeli-occupied part of Golan to Syria, if Syrian president Bashar al-Assad severed his alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, and renounced the Syrian Arab Republic’s commitment to Arab nationalism.
Prior to its capture by Israel, Golan was home to approximately 140,000 Syrians. All but a little over 6,000 were ethnically cleansed by Israel — expelled from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers. Today, the population is a little more than one-third of what it was then. About half of the current population of 50,000 residents of the Israeli-occupied part of Golan are Jews and the other half are Syrian Druze the Israelis didn’t expel to avoid alienating Druze citizens of Israel. Most Druze residents of Israeli-colonized Golan do not recognize Israel’s conquest, and refuse to take Israel citizenship. Israel runs an apartheid regime on the captured territory, denying the Syrians equality with Jewish settlers.
How Israel came to occupy Golan
In1967, a half century had elapsed since the British cabinet, on no authority, moral, legal or otherwise, promised Palestine, part of the Arab homeland, to Jews who viewed their co-religionists as a nation rather than a religious community and sought to recreate the Jewish state of antiquity in Palestine as a palladium against European anti-Semitism. Twenty years had elapsed since the United Nations, at the time dominated by First World states, many with long histories of colonizing Asia, Africa, and Latin America, promised 56 percent of Palestine to a Jewish state, even though Jews in Palestine, most of them recent immigrants, constituted a minority that owned no more than ten percent of the land. Their immigration to Palestine had been opposed by the Arab natives who recognized that the Jewish settlers had come not to live as equals but to displace the Arabs. Nineteen years had elapsed since the declaration of a Jewish state, ruling on nearly eighty percent of Palestinian territory, and the defeat of the Arab armies in 1948. The plunder of most of Palestine, by colonial settlers, abetted by colonial states, was attended by the forced exile of over 700,000 Arabs. For 50 years Arabs had been afflicted by one Zionist injury after another, and in the view of the Arab people, it was time for the injustices to end. Arabs pressured Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt, who they viewed as a new Saladin, to carry out a war of liberation, to free the homeland from the European implantation in Palestine, and to recover Arab dignity.
In Arab aspirations for immediate redemption, however, lay the seeds of a disaster. The Arab armies were in no state to wage war against Israel. The Egyptian military, the largest of all, had an air force that lacked pilots; its army reserve was poorly trained; and Egyptian officers were largely incompetent.  The government’s financial situation was so straitened that Nasser could afford a war that lasted no more than a few days.  A lightening war, a blitzkrieg, may have been possible if Egyptian military power was many orders greater, but it wasn’t, and to make matters worse, Nasser’s best troops were tied up in Yemen, fighting with republican forces against a monarchy supported by Israel, the Shah of Iran, and the Saudi royal family, coordinated by Washington. 
The Israelis welcomed a war with Nasser, were ready to start one, and knew they would win.  What’s more, they were certain that if, by chance, matters should go awry, the United States would step in to prevent a Nasserist victory. More importantly, they had an ace up their sleeve—an atomic bomb. As The New York Times reported in 2017, in the weeks leading up to the war, the Israelis raced to assemble an atomic device. A secret plan, called a ‘doomsday operation,’ had been developed to force the Arab armies to back off if the tide should improbably turn against the Jewish state. In the event of an impending defeat, the atomic bomb would be detonated atop a mountain in the Sinai desert as a demonstration of the horror Israel could inflict on its Arab adversaries.  Victory for the Arabs, then, was completely out of the question. The Israelis had a nuclear sword, and all Nasser had was a poorly-trained, ill-equipped, under-staffed and incompetently-led military, the best part of which was deployed over a thousand miles away. Everything augured against an Arab victory and everything portended a rapid Arab collapse. Leaving nothing to chance, the Israelis had even arranged for the Kurds, who they had been supplying with training and arms since 1958, to mount an offensive against Arab nationalist Iraq, to prevent the Iraqi army from rushing to Nasser’s aid.  A trap had been set, and the Arab street was blindly pushing Nasser toward to it.
In March 1967, tensions grew between Syria and Israel over the demilitarized zone separating the two states.  The Soviets warned Nasser that Israel was preparing an attack on his Syrian ally. In April, the Jordanians and Saudis, taking their instructions from the CIA, accused Nasser of cowardice. He talked big, they said, but his inaction belied his words. He was nothing but a paper tiger. Their intention was to goad the Arab leader into attacking Israel, to hand Israel the casus belli it needed to eliminate the new Saladin and his Arab nationalist movement, a movement which threatened the Saudi and Jordanian monarchies as much as it did Zionist settler colonialism. 
On May 12, Israel threatened to invade Syria to topple its Arab nationalist government, and immediately moved troops to the Syrian border. Convinced that an Israeli attack on Syria was imminent, Nasser ordered UN forces to withdraw from the Sinai, to clear the way for a deployment of Egyptian troops to the Israeli border. The United Nations had deployed peacekeepers to the Sinai in 1956 in the wake of the British-French-Israeli attack on Egypt, known as the Suez Canal Crisis. The withdrawal of UN forces would allow the Egyptian army to advance toward the Israeli border, positioning Egypt for an attack on Israel if Israel pursued an attack on Syria.  On May 18 and 19, Egyptian troops, dressed for battle, paraded in front of Western embassies in Cairo, before heading to the Sinai. In a further effort to deter Israeli aggression, the Egyptian president signed a defense pact with Syria and Jordan.
With Egyptian forces advancing on the Israeli border, Arab states importuned Nasser to close the Strait of Tiran, Israel’s nexus to the Red Sea and to the Indian Ocean beyond, in order to pressure the Zionists to back off their threats to attack Syria. Nasser complied, blocking Israeli shipping from the Gulf of Aqaba into the Red Sea. The Israelis declared this to be an act of war. 
In an effort to lower tensions, the US and Soviet ambassadors to Egypt told Nasser on May 26 that the Israelis wouldn’t launch an attack. Nasser assured the ambassadors that he too had no intention of firing the first shot.
Nasser was in no position to go to war with the Israelis and expect anything other than total defeat. The odds were stacked heavily against him. It’s very unlikely that he was ready to undertake a suicide mission. The Israelis knew this. Yitzhak Rabin, at the time Israeli chief of defense staff, noted that Nasser had sent only two divisions to the Sinai, hardly sufficient to launch an offensive war. “He knew it and we knew it,” recalled Rabin. “I don’t think Nasser wanted war.”  Menachem Begin, a guerrilla leader and prime minister, and at the time an Israeli cabinet minister, said: “We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” 
On June 2, Moshe Dayan joined the Israeli cabinet as minister of defense. Dayan, a one-eyed Zionist Spartan who defined Israel’s role as acting as the West’s bulwark against Arab nationalism, was known for advocating war with Egypt to undermine Nasser.  Having lulled the Arab paladin into a false sense of safety by assuring him that Israel would not attack, Washington gave Dayan the green light to initiate an attack. Working with the Israelis, the CIA developed the military plans that would guide the Israeli offensive.  CIA director Richard Helms assured the US president Lyndon Johnson that an Israeli victory was certain. 
On June 5, Israel struck, executing a plan that had “been in the making for ten years,” according to Shimon Peres, an Israeli prime minister who years before had been involved in the planning of the British-French-Israeli assault on Egypt.  Israel destroyed 304 Egyptian warplanes of a total of 419, or 73 percent, in the first two hours of the war, most as they sat on ground.  Four days later, most towns and cities in the Sinai had fallen to the Israelis. On June 10, Israeli forces captured Syria’s Golan, and prepared to march on Damascus. The Soviets warned the Israelis to go no further. Washington took the warning seriously and enjoined the Israelis to stand down. 
On June 11, a ceasefire went into effect. In just six days, the Israelis reduced the Egyptian army to ruins. According to Nasser’s accounting of Egypt’s war losses, eighty percent of its military equipment was destroyed. 
The war was an unalloyed triumph for Israel; it significantly expanded its territory. Rather than the Arabs moving forward to victory against the colonization of the Arab world, an outcome they hoped their new Saladin would bring about, the Zionists had colonized even more of it. 
On November 22, 1967, the United Nations Security Council weighed in on Israel’s occupation of Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan. Resolution 242 noted that the acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible under international law and affirmed that the fulfillment of the principles of the United Nations Charter required the “[w]ithdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Israel ignored the resolution.
With Israel defying international law, Egypt and Syria took matters into their own hands. On October 6, 1973, the two countries launched a surprise attack on Israeli forces in the Sinai and Golan, with the aim of recovering their territories. The two armies initially met with considerable success. Iraq sent 30,000 troops, including an armored division, to reinforce Syrian troops in the battle to recover the Golan. But Israel, as it had from the moment of its birth, enjoyed technical superiority over its Arab adversaries. This, combined with emergency airlifts of arms by the United States, negated Syria’s early gains. By October 26, the fighting was over, and Israel was still in possession of the territory it had captured in 1967. 
A disengagement agreement in 1974 divided Golan into three zones. The largest, comprising two-thirds of the plateau, would be controlled by the Israelis. The remaining territory would be split between the Syrians and UN peacekeepers, with the peacekeepers controlling a thin buffer zone between the two armies. 
In 1981, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin annexed the Israeli-occupied portion of Golan, touching off riots by Syrian locals and a complaint by Syria to the UN Security Council.  The Security Council issued Resolution 497, declaring “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.” Israel ignored this resolution, as it had Resolution 242. In practice, so too did the rest of the world ignore the resolutions, including those countries such as the United States which exercised great leverage over Israel, but did little to force the Zionist state to comply with the Security Council’s directives.
Israel’s settler colonialism in Golan
According to the New York Times, within a month of the 1967 war, Israel had established a settlement, Merom Golan, on Syrian soil.  Settlement building on occupied territory is illegal under international law, but Israel acts as if it’s unbound by the international legal order and its patron, armorer, and financier, the United States allows the Zionist state to defy international law with impunity. That Israel allowed Jews to establish exclusivist communities on the plateau belied its claim that it was occupying Syrian territory for defensive purposes. Settlement activity was an early indication, since confirmed by events, that Israel’s aim is to build a Jewish settler colonial state on as much of Arab land as it can seize by force of arms.
At first, the settler population was small, only 600 in 1972, but it has grown apace. In 1983 it reached 6,800, jumped to 13,000 in 1995, grew to 20,500 in 2014,  and has reached an estimated 30,000 today, spread out over 33 Jews-only colonies.  Jewish aliens now outnumber those of the original inhabitants and their descendants who weren’t ethnically cleansed in 1967.  “The settlers [have] built orchards, wineries, boutique hotels and a ski resort, turning the area into an Israeli vacation spot.”  In 2015, Naftali Bennett, at the time a senior Israeli minister, proposed an aggressive development goal — 100,000 new residents across the Golan in five years … to solidify Israel’s hold on the Golan.” 
To make way for Israeli boutique hotels and ski resorts, 130,000 Syrians were driven from their homes and two hundred Syrian villages were razed.  Only five Druze villages remain. 
The ethnic cleansing of Syrians from Golan is hidden by Western press reports, which use anodyne language and obfuscations to spare the Israelis bad press. The New York Time’s David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner characterized the systematic expulsion of over 95 percent of the Syrian community as a ‘depopulation,’ in which “thousands of Syrians [fled] north.”  In the New York Times’s account, Syrians appear to have engaged in a voluntary act of self-depopulation. Worse, Sophia Marchesin, writing in Le Monde Diplomatique, conceals Israeli ethnic cleansing altogether behind these words: “Some 115-120,000 Syrians are believed to have moved from the Golan to Damascus and other parts of southern Syria early that June.”  This is equivalent to saying that a number of people the Nazi state deplored moved to the Polish town of Auschwitz in the early to mid 1940s, or that the aboriginal people of the Ohio Valley moved to the West.
By contrast, Zena Agha, a Palestinian-Iraqi writer and poet from London, wrote in Foreign Affairs that “130,000 Syrians … were forcibly transferred or displaced at the start of the Israeli occupation of the Golan in 1967,”  while Zachary Laub, writing for The Council on Foreign Relations, an informal think-tank of the US State Department, noted that the Syrians had been “forcibly displaced in 1967.”  Nazareth-based independent journalist Jonathan Cook correctly characterized the depopulation of Golan as a systematic expulsion carried out by the Israelis.  In prosecuting a campaign of ethnic cleansing, Zionist Jews reprised the systematic expulsion of Palestinians they had carried out in 1947 and 1948, and later in 1967. The Zionists sought to accomplish a feat of demographic engineering necessary to create a Jewish-majority state in a land in which the Jews were a minority. The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe called this ‘the ethnic cleansing of Palestine,’ and wrote about in a book by the same name.  The ethnic cleansing of Golan is continuous with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine; it is a manifestation of the same pathology of settler colonialism that lies at the core of the Zionist project.
Today, the Druze community in Israeli-colonized Golan numbers 22,000, up from 6,400 in 1967. Their five remaining towns and villages are outnumbered by the 33 illegal Jews-only settlements.  As non-Jews living in territory the Israeli state claims as a Jewish homeland, the Syrian Druze are subjected to unequal treatment, i.e., an apartheid regime. According to Al-Marsad, a Golan-based human rights group, “Syrians in the occupied Golan face calculated Israeli efforts to restrict their building and land use, destroy their enterprises, cleanse their Arab culture, manipulate their Syrian identity, and suffocate their freedom of movement.” 
Why Israel conquered the Syrian territory
There is no single reason why the Zionist state conquered Golan; Israeli actions in connection with Golan originate in a network of mutually reinforcing multiple causes.
First, Israel, from its inception, has been an expansionist state, bent on absorbing as much of its neighbors’ territory as it can seize, part of a vision of creating an expanded Jewish settler state, a Greater Israel, from the Euphrates to the Nile, the territory the Jews’ mythology says a supernatural being named Yahweh gave them. Territorial expansion based on a desire to recreate the Jewish state of antiquity, justified by a mythology of a privileged relationship of Jews to Yahweh as a chosen people, is at the core of the Zionist project. In 1956, the Jewish nationalist state attempted to pirate the Sinai from Egypt, in a conspiracy with Britain and France, which, to the chagrin of the conspirators, was quickly upset by the intervention of Washington. As shown above, the June 1967 war was an Israeli-initiated aggression whose outcome was a vast expansion in territory under the control of Jewish nationalists. The evidence for Israeli expansionism is found in Israel’s behavior. The Zionist state settled Jewish colonists in all conquered territory—Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan. After the 1967 War, Israel also settled Jews in the Sinai. The regional Leviathan invaded Lebanon in 1982 with the war aim of expelling the PLO, but continued to occupy southern Lebanon for the next 18 years, despite having quickly brought about the PLO’s expulsion. The only reason the Star of David no longer flies over Lebanese territory is because Hezbollah, a nationalist movement that arose with the specific purpose of expelling the Israeli invaders, through its violent resistance, made the foreign occupation of their land too costly for the invaders.
Second, conquering territory provides diplomatic leverage over hostile states that quite naturally want their territory back, and may be willing to bargain away principled opposition to Israel’s settler colonialism for irredentist aims. Anwar Sadat’s peace deal with Israel in exchange for the return of Sinai has been a boon for Israel. The compact eliminated Egypt as an Arab nationalist state and placed it firmly in the orbit of the US Empire. It is now a de facto ally of Israel, linked to the US satellite by a common patron, the United States. Israel no longer has to worry about Egypt limiting its room for manoeuvre, as it did when the Arab behemoth was led by Nasser, a man the Arab world counted on to rescue it from the settler colonial project that Britain had implanted at its heart (along with backing a string of puppet monarchs: the king of Egypt, the king of Iraq, the king of Jordan, the king of Saudi Arabia, among others.)
Since Israel’s annexation of Golan in 1981, “both left-leaning Labor and right-leaning Likud governments in the years after carried out negotiations with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, and later his son Bashar, over a possible normalization of relations,” according to The Council on Foreign Relations.  “In the most recent round of negotiations, in 2010, Netanyahu reportedly was willing to withdraw [from Golan] in exchange for Bashar al-Assad breaking his ties with Iran and Hezbollah. But Netanyahu broke off those negotiations after the Arab Spring came to Syria in March 2011.” 
That may have been just as well, as far as the Israelis were concerned. As then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin remarked in 1995, “the greatest danger Israel has to face in the negotiations with Syria is the possibility of losing control over the Golan Heights’ water resources.” 
“More than one-third of Israel’s water supply comes from” Golan. The territory “offers access to two major water systems: the drainage basin of the Jordan River and its tributaries to the west, and Lake Tiberias and the Yarmuk River to the south.” 
What’s more, “Golan also has more than 200 springs and scores of streams, many of which Israel impounds in reservoirs for settler use. Since 1984, Israel has built more than eight deep wells to access Syrian aquifers. Combined, these wells have extracted more than 2.6 billion gallons of water, which is mostly pumped to settlements for unfettered access.” 
Four years ago, “Afek, an Israeli subsidiary of Genie Energy, a US oil company, announced that it had found considerable reserves of oil under the Golan,”  totalling potentially billions of barrels—a highly lucrative prize. But for US investors and the Israeli state, salivating at the prospect of reaping a bounty of oil profits from Israeli-colonized Golan, there was a hitch. Under international law the proceeds belong to Syria.  Jonathan Cook argued in 2015 that were “the US to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan, it would likely clear the way for Israel to plunder any economically viable reserves located there.”  That may be why shortly after the discovery Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu began calling on the United States to recognize Israeli authority over Golan. In August 2016, Netanyahu led a cabinet meeting in Israeli-colonized Golan “calling on the world to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the conquered territory.” At the same time, the Israeli prime minister, who had only five years earlier been willing to bargain away Golan in return for Syria formally designating as legitimate a Jewish-exclusivist state on Arab soil, was now vowing “that Israel would never give [Golan] back.” 
Netanyahu advanced a series of sophistries to explain why Israeli-colonized Golan should be recognized as part of Israel. It had “been an integral part of the land of Israel since ancient times,” he argued, adding that “dozens of ancient synagogues in the area … attest to that.”  Soon after its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Israel dispatched survey crews to find evidence of ancient Jewish habitation of the country it had just invaded. As in Golan the purpose was to establish an historical claim to the territory. The presence of ancient synagogues on Syrian soil led Netanyahu to conclude that Golan had been occupied by Syria from the point Israel was founded in 1948, until the territory was ‘recovered’ in 1967.  His reasoning was that Golan was inhabited by Jews in antiquity, that Israel is the successor to the Jewish state of antiquity, and, as such, it has an historical right to all territory that the ancient Jews once controlled, including Golan. Therefore, authority over Golan reverted to Israel in 1948, and Syrian authority over the territory from that point forward was illegal. In fact, Syria had occupied Golan! For his part, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman intoned that he could not “imagine, frankly, a circumstance where the Golan Heights is not a part of Israel.’” 
Golan offers Israel another attraction: living space. Michael B. Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington, and an Israeli legislator, sees Golan “as a way to ease the housing crisis in crowded, expensive areas around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”  By settling Jews atop the 200 destroyed villages of the 130,000 original Arab occupants of Golan, the plan envisages surcease for Jews from the plagues of overcrowding in Israeli cities. How is this not like Hitler’s plan to dispossess Slav untermenschen to make way for German settlers devilled by the housing crisis in crowded, expensive areas around Berlin, Hamburg, and other pullulating German cities?
Once US president Donald Trump agreed to recognize Israel as sovereign over the two-thirds of Golan that Israel had stolen from Syria, Netanyahu struck a different note. Instead of invoking irredentist claims based on Jewish occupation of the land in antiquity, he declared that Golan was the just spoils of a ‘defensive war.’ “There is a very important principle in international life,” he opined. “When you start wars of aggression, you lose territory, do not come and claim it afterwards. It belongs to us.”  Of course, this inverted reality; Israel’s 1967 war of aggression—the one of which Menachim Begin had said “We must be honest with ourselves; we decided to attack”—had become a defensive war, in Netanyahu’s highly tendentious view of history. The Israeli prime minister told reporters, “Everyone says you can’t hold an occupied territory, but this proves you can. If occupied in a defensive war, then it’s ours.” 
The next day, at the State Department, a reporter had this question for secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Pompeo is a Christian Zionist, who believes, as many evangelical Christians do, that as a project promoting the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, the creation of Israel is an act of the supernatural being in which the Christians believe, and that this presages an important supernatural event in Christian mythology, the rapture, when Christ will return to earth to lead believers to heaven, leaving Jews and other unbelievers to a Dantesque fate. 
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary. Just to follow up on the Golan, yesterday Prime Minister Netanyahu said that basically he is entitled to keep it because they won it by war. Are you setting a precedent that powerful countries can actually overtake land over international law?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, ma’am, that’s a good question. The answer is absolutely not. This is an incredibly unique situation. Israel was fighting a defensive battle to save its nation, and it cannot be the case that a UN resolution is a suicide pact. It simply can’t be, and that’s the reality that President Trump recognized in his executive order yesterday. 
Pompeo wriggled out the conundrum of seeming to legitimize acquisition of territory by force by echoing Netanyahu’s mischaracterization of Israel’s part in the June 1967 war as self-defensive. Little noticed is that Pompeo inadvertently made the case for why North Korea should not face international sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs. Pyongyang’s programs are self-defensive, intended to protect the small country against the aggressions of the US Leviathan, and it cannot be the case that a country’s bending to international sanctions is a suicide pact.
Collusion of Israeli Jews, including the Left
Today, the idea that Golan is an integral part of Israel “goes without saying for the vast majority of Jewish Israelis, including many on the political left who refuse to visit West Bank settlements but do not hesitate to drink wine produced in the Golan or hike among its waterfalls.”  In 2015, the Center-Left candidate for minister of defense, Amos Yadlin, proposed that Washington recognize Israel’s authority over Golan to repair the ill-will it had earned by signing the Iran deal.  “Before fighting took hold in Syria,” noted Jonathan Cook, “polls showed between 60 and 70 percent of Israelis rejected returning the Golan to Syria, even if doing so would secure peace with Damascus. The percentages are likely to be higher now,” he speculated. 
As for the United States and its allies, “neither the platitudes of the international community nor the displeasure of the United Nations [have] stopped Israel from building settlements, kibbutzim, wineries, and even a ski resort deep into the territory,” Zena Agha observes. 
Israel as a US bulwark against Arab forces of independence
Following Trump’s announcement that he would sanctify Israel’s Golan annexation, the Golan-based human rights group, Al-Marsad, issued this statement:
“Israel committed an act of aggression when it attacked Syria in 1967, seized the Syrian Golan, and forcibly displaced 95 percent of its population. Israel continues to violate international law in the occupied Golan, including the Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions, which regulate belligerent occupation. The United Nations, including in multiple U.S.-backed Security Council Resolutions, has always rejected Israel’s activities in the occupied Golan. With its decision today, the U.S. shows support for egregious abuses of international law and encourages territorial expansionism through aggression. This sets an extremely hazardous standard. The U.S. has proved that it can no longer be an honest broker in the Middle East.” 
Notwithstanding the statement’s last sentence, the United States has never been an honest broker in the Middle East. US Middle East policy is governed by the interests of the US business community which seeks to control the region’s vast petroleum reserves and the shipping routes to and from its oil wells and gas fields; it does this for strategic and corporate profit-making reasons. Accordingly, US policy is to suppress the local forces of independence and national assertiveness that contest US control of the region’s assets, and which aim to vest them in the hands of the local population, for the local population’s benefit. That’s where Israel comes in. From its founding Israel has hired itself out to empires in exchange for protection. This was an imperative identified by Theodore Herzl, Israel’s ideological founding father. Since 1967, Herzl’s Jewish state has acted as an outpost of US power in the Middle East; before that, it was a beachhead of British and French influence in West Asia. In his 1993 book, A Place Among Nations, Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that Israel is, indeed, “the West’s outpost in the Middle East.”  Moshe Dayan, who had multiple roles in the Israeli state, including chief of defense staff, articulated the role Israel would play as the West’s cudgel against Arab forces of independence. The “Jewish people has a mission, especially its Israeli branch,” Dayan is reputed to have said. “In this part of the world, it has to be a rock, an extension of the West, against which the waves of… Arab nationalism will be broken.” 
The Syrian Arab Republic, the self-proclaimed den of Arabism (i.e., Arab nationalism), has been among the most uncompromising of the Arab forces of independence and national assertiveness and has kept the flame of Arab resistance burning where it has guttered out in other Arab capitals. As a result, Washington has waged a long war on Syria, seeking to topple its Arab nationalist governments in favour of a collaborationist regime. Israel has played an important role in this effort.
To believe that the United States was ever an honest broker in the Middle East is to be misled by the guile Washington propagates to disarm its critics and pacify opposition. As the Palestinian revolutionary Leila Khaled observed in 1973, “Israel is America and Europe combined in Palestine” (emphasis added.)  For all his egregious failings, Trump’s lone virtue may be that he has made plain what Khaled observed years ago: the United States isn’t a neutral party. Israel is an instrument of US policy in the Middle East—a dagger pointed at the heart of the movement of Arab nationalism. The wielder of the dagger cannot be an honest broker between the weapon he brandishes and the enemy his weapon is intended to slay.
1. For example, William R. Polk, writing in The Atlantic (December 10, 2013), and Sophia Marches in Le Monde Diplomatique (October 2016) define Golan as a 1,200 square meter plateau, excluding the portion over which Syria exercises authority, as if it doesn’t exit, or the only part of Golan that is of any significance is that part in which Israel plays a role.
2.Said K Aburish (a), The Last Arab: A Biography, (St. Martin’s Press, 2004), 102.
3. Aburish (a) 257.
4. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, The Israeli Connection: Who Israel Arms and Why, (Pantheon Books, 1987), 18.
5. Aburish (a), 251.
6. William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “Last secret’ of 1967 war: Israel’s doomsday plan for nuclear display,” The New York Times, June 3, 2017.
7. Beit-Hallahmi, 19.
8. Aburish (a), 252.
9. Aburish (a), 253.
10. Aburish (a), 253.
11. Aburish (a), 255.
12. Khalid Amayreh, “The 1967-war revisited (Part I),” The Palestinian Information Center, June 6, 2009.
14. Aburish (a), 255.
15. Aburish (a), 258.
16. Aburish (a), 256.
17. Aburish (a), 260.
18. Aburish (a), 260.
19. Aburish (a), 264.
20. Khaled, Leila, (with George Hajjar). My People Shall Live: The Autobiography of a Revolutionary, (Hodder and Stoughton. 1973), 103.
21. “Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine”, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, February, 1969.
22. Said, K. Aburish (b), Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge, (Bloomsbury, 2001), 106.
23. Zachary Laub, “The Golan Heights: What’s at Stake With Trump’s Recognition,” The Council on Foreign Relations, March 28, 2019.
25. Jodi Rudoren, “As Syria reels, Israel looks to expend settlements in Golan Heights,” The New York Times, October 2, 2015.
27. Sophia Marchesin, “Golan Druze hang on,” Le Monde Diplomatique, October, 2016.
28. Ben Hubbard, “The Golan Heights Was Once an Arab Rallying Cry. Not Anymore.” The New York Times, March 22, 2019.
31. Jonathan Cook, “Israel stakes claim to Golan after oil find,” Middle East Eye, November 13, 2015.
32. Marchesin; Cook.
33. David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner, “Netanyahu Says Golan Heights Move ‘Proves You Can’ Keep Occupied Territory.” The New York Times, March 26, 2019.
35. Zena Agha, “What’s driving Israeli claims to the Golan Heights? Israel wants the region’s water,” Foreign Affairs, November 1, 2018.
38. Illan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, (Oneworld, 2006).
Washington’s decision to recognize Israel as sovereign over Golan doesn’t make Israel’s possession of the Syrian territory legitimate; Golan will always be part of Syria by right, regardless of what is decided in the capital of a country with its own rich history of territorial annexations (one-third of Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands, to say nothing of the ruthlessly plundered land of the native Americans.)
Neither is legitimacy conferred on the possession of any other territory by the Jewish settler state as a consequence of US recognition—not Jerusalem, and not those parts of Palestine that the UN, in 1947, at the time dominated by colonial powers, assigned to a Jewish state. And not the territory the UN assigned to an Arab state that Zionist settlers seized and declared their own. Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, belongs to Palestinians, not to European settlers, no matter what the United States says.
Nor does recognition of Israel’s claim to stolen Syrian territory make the act of conquest lawful. In matters of international relations, Washington has no authority to decide unilaterally what is legal and what is not. The US decision, then, means nothing.
But by acknowledging openly what has long been acknowledged implicitly, Washington has torn the mask off its collusion with Zionist settler colonialism. Where the United States once affected to act as an impartial arbiter between the Israelis and the Arabs whose land the settler state had expropriated, it now declares it is no longer willing to maintain the fiction of neutrality. “Trump’s recognition of Israel’s” absorption of Syrian territory, observed the journalist Robert Fisk, merely accepts “what we’d all secretly gone along with.”
Indeed, the United States and its major allies could have easily forced Israel to relinquish the conquered Golan, but haven’t. In 1967, Israel was prepared to conquer Damascus, just a short drive down the road from the newly seized Golan. Washington laid a restraining hand on its Middle East Sparta, and Damascus remained an Arab capital. In 1982, at Washington’s behest, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt, territory also pirated in 1967 as part of the Zionist state’s six-day war of territorial expansion. Israel, like an obedient attack dog, obeys its master.
As a small island of only six million Jews in a vast sea of Arabs, Israel depends on the West for its survival. Its 1967 conquest of Egyptian (Sinai and Gaza), Syrian (Golan), and Jordanian (West Bank and East Jerusalem) territory was possible only owing to its possession of an atomic bomb, acquired with the assistance of France, which it was prepared to detonate in the Sinai; arms from Washington; aid from the CIA; the diplomatic conniving of the United States; and the fact that a large part of the Egyptian army was in distant Yemen.
The states that border Israel—Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan—are home to over 130 million Arabs who wish the dissolution of Jewish supremacy over Arab land as indigenous south Africans hoped for the end of apartheid.
As a state which assigns permanent political ascendancy to Jews, Israel would perish in a moment without Western support—not because Arabs have an enmity to Jewish settlers because they’re Jews, but because they’re settlers who have stolen their land and frustrate Arab aspirations to shape their own destiny.
On the other hand, transformed into a democratic state in which all citizens have equal rights and obligations, regardless of religious affiliation, language, and ethnicity, Israel, or a successor state under a different name, could exist quite peacefully with its neighbors, and would not require Western support to survive, so long as it renounced its existence as the West’s outpost in the Middle East, as Benjamin Netanyahu once called Israel.
Western states, inheritors of the colonial tradition, have, in practice favored the first model—Israel as a settler colonial state in which Jews (European settlers) exercise permanent political supremacy over the natives, just as they favored the apartheid state of South Africa, as a settler colonial state in which another group of European settlers did the same. The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—themselves the product of settler colonialism, go along with Israel’s annexations and land grabs, as does Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Japan, states which once dispatched their own settlers to foreign lands to exercise permanent political supremacy over the natives. It’s a Western tradition, and not one the West, in its support for its outpost in the Middle East, is entirely prepared to retire.
While going along with Israeli colonialism, the United States and its allies backed UN resolutions calling on their Israeli protégé to end its occupation of territories conquered in 1967, including Golan, but did nothing to enforce Israel’s compliance, even though, if the outpost’s compliance was genuinely desired, the United States had it within its power to obtain. It was a sham. And Trump has exposed the sham for what it is.
US vice-president Mike Pence declared that “we stand with Israel because her cause is our cause, her values are our values, and her fight is our fight.” What Pence didn’t say is that the cause, values, and fight which bind the two countries are rooted not in democracy but in its very antithesis—settler colonialism and the enforcement of the international dictatorship of the United States.
Moshe Dayan, an Israeli chief of defense staff, minister of defense, and minister of foreign affairs, is reputed to have said that the “Jewish people has a mission, especially its Israeli branch. In this part of the world, it has to be a rock, an extension of the West, against which the waves of… Arab nationalism will be broken.” Those waves have included Nasser’s Egypt, Ba’athist Syria, and Ba’athist Iraq, fierce opponents of US domination of the Arab world. Iran and Hezbollah have also opposed US control of West Asia, and have, accordingly, been targeted by Israel.
The United States stands with Israel because her cause (the projection of US power) is its cause, because her values (settler hegemony over the natives) is it values, and because her fight (suppressing the national aspirations of the natives) is its fight.