In an interview with Muslim Press, Lenni Brenner, author of Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators says, “Patronage of Israel has caused nothing but trouble for U.S. imperialism, whose prime Middle Eastern interest is oil, and backing Zionism never stops inflaming popular opinion in Arab countries and the larger Muslim world.
Read the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: The Israeli education minister has said that Israel should “declare sovereignty” over the occupied territories in the West Bank, which is home to Israeli settlers, if the UN adopts any Security Council resolution further condemning illegal settlement activity. Is that a threat against the UN? Also, the Israeli minister for military affairs says the regime’s next war on Gaza would be the “last” one. What does that mean for Palestinians? And Israeli Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara has said that the two earthquakes, which struck Italy this week, were “retribution” for the country’s support of the UNESCO resolution disregarding the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. What does that say about Israeli officials?
Lenni Brenner: “Speak softly and carry a big stick” - militarily prepare for the worst situations, don’t create them with intemperate declarations - is a proverb diplomats are fond of. But Education Minister Naftali Bennett isn’t a diplomat. Instead he leads the fanatic religious Zionist HaBayit HaYehudi, The Jewish Home party. Their Orthodox Bible’s God gave Palestine to the Jews. They lost it to the Romans, but 20th century Zionist big sticks got it back. Now he demands that Israel use the certainty that the gentile UN will again object to more Jews-only colonial settlements to announce that God’s will has been restored by declaring Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), has secularist leaders, but it must attract pious voters so it doesn’t call for legalizing civil non-religious marriages. His formulation - the next Gaza war will be its “last” - is secularist, but identical in spirit to pious Zionists telling Hamas that it faces God’s wrath and certain destruction.
Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara is a follower of an Arab religious sect, the Druze, a small minority in Israel, Lebanon and Syria. For centuries, their leaders have ordered them to avoid persecution by being fervent supporters of whoever rules their country. Druze are the only Arabs drafted into the Israeli army.
Druze ideology led Kara to announce the quakes to be “retribution” for Italy’s UN vote. But Netanyahu not dismissing him for it is a sign of how pervasive religious hyper-fanaticism is in the highest ranks of Israel’s government.
Israel is militarily very competent but it doesn’t yet understand Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz’s famous maxim “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Wars can solve or increase your political problems. Israel can defy the UN by declaring West Bank sovereignty but attacking or even threatening UN functionaries in the West Bank would only increase world-wide political opposition to it, as would another massive attack on Gaza.
MP: Do you think the US is using Israel as its conduit in the Middle East? How do you evaluate the US support for Israel?
Lenni Brenner: In 1948, an election year, the State Department, Washington’s foreign affairs office, told President Harry Truman not to support creating a Zionist state because “the Arabs have the oil.” But Democratic Party leaders warned him that if he didn’t back Israel, rich Jewish Democratic campaign funders would go over to his Republican opponent and he would lose the election.
He supported Israel’s birth and won the election, but since then patronage of Israel has caused nothing but trouble for U.S. imperialism. Its prime Middle Eastern interest is oil, and backing Zionism never stops inflaming popular opinion in Arab countries and the larger Muslim world.
MP: Israel plans to construct more houses in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh, despite US objections to the plan. What do you think about this? Do you think the US is sincere in its objections?
Lenni Brenner: Sincerity is not an imperialist virtue. Obama genuinely tells Israel that it will never have full peace with the Palestinians as long as it colonizes the West Bank. But he also gave Israel $38 billion worth of weapons over the next 10 years in spite of its ongoing colonization, hoping that the huge gift would help Clinton get Zionist campaign funds and Jewish votes and win the election.
The New York Times says that Obama might issue a strong statement before he leaves the Presidency, admonishing Israel to stop building settlements and negotiate a two-state deal with the Palestinians. But so what? Trump won’t cancel the weapons pact, and neither will a Democratic President if she or he wins the 2020 election.
MP: How do you predict the future of American-Israeli relations under a Donald Trump presidency?
Lenni Brenner: Most American media political pundits say that they hesitate to predict what Trump will do because he has made several outrageous policy declarations and abandoned them after massive public outcries against his proposals. I agree. He can change positions overnight if the public protests.
On November 2, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, Co-Chairmen of Trump’s Israel Advisory Committee, listed some of his intentions. Here are the highlights of their list:
“Military cooperation and coordination between Israel and the U.S. must continue to grow…. Congress will not be limited to give support greater than that provided by the MOU (the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding - LB) if it chooses to do so….
The U.S. should veto any United Nations votes that unfairly single out Israel….
The U.S. should view the effort to boycott, divest from, and sanction (BDS) Israel as inherently anti-Semitic and take strong measures, both diplomatic and legislative, to thwart actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel….
The two major Palestinian political parties — Hamas and Fatah — regularly promote anti-Semitism and jihad.
The U.S. cannot support the creation of a new state where terrorism is financially incentivized, terrorists are celebrated by political parties and government institutions, and the corrupt diversion of foreign aid is rampant….
Pressure should not be put on Israel to withdraw to borders that make attacks and conflict more likely.
The U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and Mr. Trump’s Administration will move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Despite the Iran Nuclear deal in 2015, the U.S. State Department recently designated Iran, yet again, as the leading state sponsor of terrorism — putting the Middle East particularly, but the whole world at risk by financing, arming, and training terrorist groups operating around the world including Hamas, Hezbollah, and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. must counteract Iran’s ongoing violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and their noncompliance with past and present sanctions, as well as the agreements they signed, and implement tough, new sanctions when needed to protect the world and Iran’s neighbors from its continuing nuclear and non-nuclear threats.”
On December 15 Trump nominated David Friedman to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Liberal-leaning U.S. Jewish groups lined up against Friedman. The lobbying group J Street warned that he is “beyond the pale” of American views in the Middle East.
He serves as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, a settlement advocacy group. The Times of Israel said Friedman told reporters that settlements in the West Bank weren’t illegal and that he was “tremendously skeptical” about a two-state solution.
Forty percent of America’s Jews are members of the Union for Reform Judaism, the country’s largest Jewish religious sect. A press release from URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs declared the organization “greatly concerned” that Friedman is against a two-state solution.
In a column for Arutz Sheva, a pro-settlements Israeli website, Friedman once accused Obama of being an anti-Semite, and characterized J Street as being “far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.”
On December 17, the Jewish-owned New York Times, America’s most prestigious daily newspaper, published an editorial, A Dangerous Choice for Ambassador:
“In appointing David Friedman as the next ambassador to Israel, Donald Trump voiced a desire to “strive for peace in the Middle East.” Unfortunately, his chosen representative would be far more likely to provoke conflict in Israel and the occupied territories, heighten regional tensions and undermine American leadership….
He has accused President Obama of anti-Semitism, absurdly, and called supporters of J Street — a liberal American Jewish organization that has lobbied for a two-state solution and the Iran nuclear deal — “far worse than kapos — Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps…
Mr. Trump is within his rights to nominate whomever he pleases. But with his choice of Mr. Friedman, he has displayed a dangerous ignorance of or indifference to the land mines across the Middle East. The Senate has the responsibility to protect Mr. Trump and the country from taking this reckless step.”
Most Jewish voters supported Obama for President. Friedman is in effect saying that they twice helped an anti-Semite become their President and are so stupid that they still don’t know that he’s an anti-Semite. This makes two things certain. Picking Friedman as his ambassador, and rightwing Israeli jubilation about his choice, guarantee that most American Jews will oppose Trump on the Israel issue and become more critical of Israel and Zionism.
Lenni Brenner is an American Trotskyist writer. In the 1960s, Brenner was a prominent civil rights activist and a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War. He is the author of ‘Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators’, in which he argued that many Zionist leaders collaborated with fascism, particularly Nazi Germany in order to build up the Jewish presence in Palestine