BOOK REVIEW:  The Power of Israel in the United States (James Petras)
Posted Oct 26, 2006

James Petras’ New Book: The Power of Israel in the United States

by Stephen Lendman

James Petras is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at
Binghamton University, New York.  He’s a noted
academic figure on the US Left and a well-respected
Latin American expert and longtime chronicler of the
region’s popular struggles.  He’s also an advisor to
the landless workers in Brazil and the unemployed
workers movement in Argentina.  Along the way, he
managed to find time to write many hundreds of
articles and 62 books published in 29 languages
including his latest one in which he discusses another
vital world region he has extensive knowledge of and
has written frequently about - the Middle East and
specifically the state of Israel and its relations
with its neighbors, the Palestinians and, most
importantly and the subject of this book, the US. 

Petras’ powerful new book is titled The Power of
Israel in the United States.  It’s a work of epic
writing and essential reading documenting the enormous
influence of the Jewish Lobby on US policy in the
Middle East.  It focuses like a laser to assure that
policy conforms with Israel’s long-term goal for
regional hegemony.  The Lobby’s influence is broad and
deep enough to include officials at the highest levels
of government, the business community, academia, the
clergy (especially the dominant Christian
fundamentalists/Christian Zionists) and the mass
media.  Petras shows how together they’re able to
assure the full and unconditional US support for all
elements of Israel’s agenda going back decades even
when that agenda harms our interests such as the
unwinnable war in Iraq, any future one against Iran if
it’s undertaken, and the appalling and brutal
subjugation and colonization of the Palestinian people
that serves no US interest whatever.  In spite of it,
the Lobby is able to get the US to go along with
Israel unconditionally with no serious opposition to
it tolerated.

The book is divided into four parts.  This review will
cover each one in detail, and what’s discussed will
likely surprise any reader unfamiliar with the
thoroughly documented account presented in it so
compellingly. Petras sets the table in his
introduction for what’s to come in the later chapters.
He notes what author JJ Goldberg reported in his book
Jewish Power: Inside the Jewish Establishment.
Goldberg wrote in the early 1990s that 45% of the
Democrat Party’s fundraising and 25% of that for the
Republicans came from Jewish-funded Political Action
Committees (PACS).  Petras then updates the numbers
using the ones Richard Cohen published in the
Washington Post showing them now at 60% and 35%
respectively, and that this funding relates to a
single core issue - unconditional US support for
Israel’s agenda including those parts of it human
rights activists and observers of conscience judge
most egregious and illegal.  Petras stresses that no
other single US lobby including Big Pharma, Big Oil,
agribusiness, or any other one has this kind of
dominant influence over the political process here.
He refers to “Zioncon” ideologues and policymakers
whose main goal is to make the Middle East into a
“US-Israeli Co-Prosperity Sphere” under the fraudulent
cover of promoting democracy in the region - but doing
it through the barrel of a gun.

Petras explains the root of the Lobby’s power lies in
the high proportion of Jewish families who are among
the wealthiest and most influential ones in the
country.  He cites Forbes magazine that reported 25 -
30% of the wealthiest families here are Jewish despite
the small percentage of Jews in the population
overall.  They include billionaires with enormous
influence, and along with all others comprising the
Jewish Lobby, have created a “tyranny of Israel over
the US” with consequences grave enough to threaten
world peace and stability, the global economy, and the
very future of democracy in this country. 

That democracy and our constitutionally protected
rights now hang by a thread after the recent passage
of the Military Commissions Act (aka the “torture
authorization act” or more accurately the “US
Constitutional annulment act”) that makes everyone
everywhere an “enemy combatant” subject to arrest and
detention out of sight anywhere in the world without
regard for our (no longer) constitutionally guaranteed
rights.  The new law also applies to US citizens as
the Jose Padilla case showed.  We’ve effectively lost
our habeas and due process rights even though
technically we still have them.

Because of the Lobby’s power, Petras reports, the US
has unconditionally supported Israel’s wars of
aggression since 1967.  It’s influence also led to the
US Gulf war in 1991 and the second Iraq war begun in
2003, now raging out of control and seen by some noted
analysts as unwinnable and causing potential
irreparable economic and political harm to the nation.
Nonetheless, it persists with no plan agreed on to
end it. The Lobby also guaranteed this country’s
unconditional support for Israel’s illegal wars of
aggression against Lebanon and Palestine with all the
devastation they caused and the horrendous
consequences from them unresolved.  The Palestinian
conflict still rages under the radar, and the status
in Lebanon hangs by a hair trigger ready to erupt
again any time Israel decides to resume hostilities.
But inflaming the Middle East powder keg to a near
boiling point is the strong possibility the US and/or
Israel will attack Iran because Israel wants it and
the Jewish Lobby put its powerful support behind it.
More on this, Palestine and Lebanon below.

Today the situation in the Middle East is so dire,
Petras reports a large majority of Europeans and a
growing number of Americans believe Israel is the
greatest of all threats to world peace and stability.
Nonetheless, the Bush administration, in acquiescence
to the Lobby, has “bludgeoned” its European partners
to go along with its uncompromising support for the
Jewish state despite all the obvious perils from it.
In this country, open debate is stifled, public
figures and academics daring to air one truthfully are
pilloried, ridiculed, called anti-semitic and even
threatened, and no serious dissent is ever tolerated
in the corporate-run media or their funded and
controlled so-called public radio or PBS parts of it.

No publication is more servile to, supportive of, or
more influential than the nation’s so-called “paper of
record” publishing “All the News That’s Fit to Print”
- the New York Times.  It’s important because the
stories it features prominently resonate around the
country and the world.  This dominant newspaper
pledges unconditional support and fealty to the state
of Israel whatever it does.  The rest of the major
media go along unquestioningly putting out regular
one-sided pro-Israel uber alles propaganda with no
opposition voices allowed to represent other points of
view.  We call that a free press -  but only for those
who own one.  The state of the corporate-controlled
media in this country is now so pathetic that
Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders -
for press freedom) just ranked the US 53rd in the
world in press freedom behind countries like Benin,
Namibia, Jamaica, France and Bolivia.

James Petras is a courageous independent voice who
bucks this disturbing trend and refuses to go along.
He proves it in his powerful and carefully documented
new book that gives no quarter countering the
mendacity, deceit and danger of the Lobby, its
acolytes and hangers-on, and the corrupted major
media.  In his introduction, he calls for a
“counter-hegemonic movement” to free us from our
destructive “Israeli entanglements.”  It’s needed to
begin rebuilding our democracy and freedoms that are
somewhere between life support and the crematorium.
This book, he says, is his modest effort toward that
goal.  Because of the important information in it,
it’s considerably more than that.  It needs widespread
exposure so people will know about it.  Hopefully this
review will help arouse some of them to want to find
out in more detail.

Part I - Zionist Power in America

Petras begins with a discussion of who fabricated the
lies about Iraq’s threat to our security and why.  He
mentions two competing channels of policy makers and
advisors - the long-in-place formal structure of
career military and civilian professionals in the
Pentagon and State Department and a parallel one Bush
administration neocons set up for this one purpose in
the Pentagon, staffed by political appointees, and
called the Office of Special Plans (OSP).  It was the
OSP’s job to cook the books, come up with the idea of
weapons of mass destruction while ignoring the clear
evidence to the contrary and contrive a fraudulent
case for war against Iraq.  The people in it were
those in Donald Rumsfeld’s and Paul Wolfowitz’s chain
of command and were closely connected to a number of
influential neoconservative and pro-Israel
organizations.  They planned a war agenda based on
lies because Israel wanted it for its security and
hegemony in the region - beginning with the overthrow
of Saddam Hussein followed by regime change in Syria,
Lebanon, Iran and even Saudi Arabia.

Petras points out, contrary to popular belief, this
war happened largely due to the efforts of the Jewish
Lobby representing the interests of Israel.  Big Oil
opposed the idea because it feared attacking Iraq
would jeopardize its business prospects with other
oil-producing states in the region.  Still, Israel and
the Jewish Lobby got their war, and aside from the
gain from high oil prices, Big Oil may end up a
longer-term loser from it.  US oil interests always
prefer stability and normal relationships with
countries where they operate or wish to and were quite
comfortable dealing with Saddam Hussein without
wanting to risk a war that might upset an otherwise
profitable arrangement.  Their fears proved justified
as the war they feared created such unresolved
turbulence in Iraq, it’s become too dangerous and
unprofitable to undertake new ventures there except
perhaps in parts of the Kurdish-controlled north.  Big
Oil also chafes at not being allowed to deal with the
Iranians for contracts now let to its European and
other competitors because US sanctions prevent them
from doing business there.  It’s hard to imagine those
interests would ever go along with US - Israeli
belligerence in the Middle East, but they dare not
oppose it publicly.

Petras observes there’s never a public discussion
allowed about that relationship in the mainstream nor
will there ever be any, especially any hint the US
attacked Iraq in service to Israel. There should be
plenty of it though because the Iraq and Afghanistan
wars have enraged hundreds of millions of Muslims and
all people of conscience worldwide.  They’ve caused
the US to be seen as a pariah state and George Bush as
a dangerous and morally depraved president of a failed
administration.  He and those closest to him like
Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are reviled around
the world and increasingly here at home as witnessed
by the many thousands who took to the streets on
October 5 in over 200 US cities on The World Can’t
Wait Day - Drive Out the Bush Regime. The cost of
Bush’s wars far exceed any possible future benefits
from them, our security has been jeopardized, the
nation’s status has been compromised, and some
analysts believe the total dollar cost of the Iraq
adventure may eventually top $2 trillion - an amount
extremely harmful to the nation’s economy that’s now
worrying key business leaders and responsible people
in government.

The only clear beneficiary of the Bush war agenda is
Israel.  It removed its main adversary in the region
and cut off the political and economic support it gave
the Palestinians.  Petras points out that Iraq along
with Iran and Syria comprised the core resistance to
Israel’s expansionist plans to crush the Palestinians
(one down, two to go), ethnically cleanse them from
their homeland and seize their land as one part of a
long-term goal for a greater Israel and
unchallengeable dominance in the region.  Israel is
the only country in the world with undeclared borders.
It’s kept that status to give itself maximum latitude
to annex all the territory it can toward the goal of a
greater “Eretz Israel” Zionists want that includes the
ancient lands of “Judea” and “Summaria,” the West Bank
biblical parts of Israel Palestinians claim as their

With US help, Israel removed one threat to its plan
for regional supremacy, but it still faces determined
resistance from the Palestinians in spite of having
crushed its democratically elected Hamas government.
It also faces a resilient Hezbollah in Lebanon that
humiliated the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the
summer war there as well as opposition from Iran and
Syria.  In addition, there’s internal opposition
within Israel over its war and colonization agenda
because of its enormous cost plus the added insecurity
it causes.  It’s resulted in a level of out-migration
now exceeding new arrivals as well as an erosion of
the nation’s social programs because the state needs
the resources for its aggression and annexation
agenda.  It’s much like what’s happening under the
Bush administration where the people pay the price for
imperial wars abroad and the moral decay and
authoritarianism at home.

Obstacles and setbacks aside, Israel has pursued its
goal to “democratize” the region through a belligerent
policy of neutralizing its enemies in it by force.
The plan they crafted is for a series of wars with its
US ally taking the lead and the eventual goal of joint
US - Israeli control over the entire region.  Making
it work depends on getting US administrations to go
along, which so far hasn’t been a problem and has
never been easier with the Bush administration in
power and the high-level pro-Zionist officials in it
with long-standing ties to Israel.  They have the most
important policy-making positions in government or are
closely associated with the ones who do.  These
officials have a history of dedication to Israel’s
interests even when they conflict with those here at
home.  They’re in the administration, the Congress as
well as in the most influential Jewish organizations
and lobbying groups like the Conference of Presidents
of Major Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation
League and what some observers believe is the single
most powerful lobby in Washington - AIPAC.

Committed support for Israel also comes from the
“Jewish Diaspora” that comprises thousands of
dedicated activists here - doctors, dentists,
philanthropists, key individuals on Wall Street, the
major banks and the Federal Reserve and other key
segments of business, the major media, the clergy and
academics and journalists given special prominence
because of their willingness to corrupt their
integrity in return for the handsome benefits they get
for their unconditional public support and contrived
rationalizations for the US -Israeli agenda.  This
kind of influence and support has made Israel by far
the largest recipient in the world of US financial aid
that amounts upfront to about $3 billion a year with
more forthcoming any time as needed in added funding,
weapons transfers and large low or no-interest loans
that may never have to be repaid.

Israel also gets the unheard of advantage of receiving
the latest and most advanced US arms and technology,
unrestricted US market access for its products and
services, free entry of its immigrants, unconditional
support for its aggressive wars and colonization of
the Palestinians and South Lebanese, and guaranteed US
vetoes in the Security Council against all UN
resolutions unfavorable to its interests.  It’s also
able to get prominent Washington officials and the
dominant corporate-run and funded media to label all
criticism of Israel anti-semitic and freely uses this
ruse whenever it serves its purpose.  Israel is
allowed to get away with its intelligence operations
here as well including its covert penetration of
military bases, the FBI, IRS, INS, EPA and many other
government agencies.  In addition, it’s believed its
agents knew in advance about the 9/11 attack but
withheld the information knowing it would serve its
interests to let it happen.  There’s also considerable
evidence high US officials either knew about it
themselves or were complicit in carrying it out
because they also knew it would allow them the kind of
reckless free reign at home and abroad they never
could have gotten any other way.  This is a story that
won’t go away nor should it, and one day we may
finally learn all the parts of it we can only
speculate about now.

Because of Israel’s unparalleled ties to the centers
of power and dominant media, Petras notes it’s able
get back $50 in return for every dollar it spends.
That’s how it’s able to finance its military and
colonial settlements in the Occupied Palestinian
Territories (OPT) on annexed land.  The Jewish
networks here support these practices as justifiable
compensation allowed victims of the “Holocaust” (the
ones noted author John Pilger calls “worthy victims”)
and circulate that ideology in the corporate media.
They also reinforce anti-Muslim hysteria labelling all
Arabs untrustworthy, radical Islamic fundamentalists
or Islamo-fascists (“unworthy” victims for John
Pilger), claiming the right to arrest, torture and
mete out summary justice to them in military tribunals
or just attack and kill them in imperial wars of

The result for Israel and its people has been
disastrous because the Palestinians have refused for
almost six decades to accede to this abuse and have
waged two Intifadas to end it.  With little more than
a fierce determination, their bodies and crude
weapons, they’ve fought back with suicide bombings and
attacks on public facilities in Israel knowing what
harsh retaliation they’ll face afterward.  People in
the US have also paid a heavy price in the erosion of
democracy and freedom.  It’s evidenced by the Bush
administration’s harsh legislation beginning with the
infamous USA Patriot Act passed in short order right
after the 9/11 attack, followed by other repressive
laws and practices allowed like illegal surveillance
and secret renditions of anyone targeted to
torture-prisons with court acquiescence or silence
about most of them.

Petras points out that none of this deters powerful
supporters of Israel who raise billions of dollars to
support the country’s war machine and finance its
colonization of annexed Palestinian land plus the
Golan Heights (with its invaluable water resources)
seized and never returned to Syria after the 1967 war.
Israel’s economy is not self-sufficient, and without
this aid, it would have to make unacceptable cuts in
social services, reduce its military budget and
curtail its expansionary plans.  With it, plus the $3
billion a year direct US contribution and lots more
help, US taxpayers (like it or not) have the burden of
funding Israel’s belligerence and colonization agenda.

Petras itemizes what it all costs:

—$3 billion annually in direct aid.

—Billions more in loans as needed.

—Millions annually for resettlement help for Soviet
(now Russian) and Ethiopian immigrants.

—a $10 billion loan guarantee in 1990 and a further
$9 billion one in 2004 plus billions more for the
asking and to be forthcoming to pay the costs of the
2006 Lebanon and Palestine wars.

—Since 1981, economic aid made in cash transfers,
and since 1985 military aid done the same way.

—$45 billion in repayment waved loans since 1974 and
billions more for the asking - free money at US
taxpayer expense.

—Since 1982, ESF cash transfers in one early in the
fiscal year lump sum with no strings attached while
other countries receiving them are paid quarterly with
their use monitored.  Israel invests the money in US
treasuries costing US taxpayers millions more annually
and also gets special FMS funding arrangements costing
US taxpayers well over $1 billion since 1991.

—Other privileged benefits include financial aid to
develop Israel’s defense industry, transfer of
state-of-the-art technology and the latest US weapons,
US guarantee for Israel’s access to oil, and the
likely massive aid still to come to defray the
country’s “special costs” for its Gaza “disengagement
plan” morphing into the colonization of whatever parts
of the OPT Israel wishes to annex for new settlements
US taxpayers pay for.

—Add to this some $22 billion Israel got over the
past 50 years through the sale of its below-market
interest paying bonds that have financed half of its
development - meaning the colonization of annexed
Palestinian lands and military funding for its
predatory imperial wars.

Petras explains the Zionist power structure in the US
makes it all possible, but its reach extends well
beyond the so-called “Jewish Lobby.”  He identifies a
“Zionist power configuration (ZPC) that includes AIPAC
as one part of a “complex network of interrelated
formal and informal groupings, operating at the
international, national, regional, and local levels”
unconditionally supporting the state of Israel and all
its policies including its wars, colonization and
oppression.  It’s power is like a cancer infecting the
highest levels of government and all the other centers
of power and influence as already explained.  It
controls the selection of political candidates and can
defeat incumbents or aspirants daring to criticize
Israel.  It also shapes the reporting on Israel in the
mass media suppressing any of it that’s unsupportive
or critical.  And it’s powerful enough to get
“uncooperative” journalists, and even some academics,
fired and banished from the mainstream for daring to
step out of line.

Petras reports the power of the ZPC was evident in the
run-up to the Iraq war and the Gulf war before it in
1991. Going back to the GHW Bush administration, the
US wanted regime change in Iraq, but that decision
was heavily influenced by the ZPC that considered
Saddam a mortal enemy of Israel who had to be removed.
He managed to survive through the 1990s despite our
efforts to destabilize the country and bring it to its
knees.  But once the GW Bush administration neocons
took over in 2001, the ugly business of war planning
and occupation took hold to complete what the Gulf war
left unfinished, and powerful Zionists (like Paul
Wolfowitz and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman - the
senator from AIPAC) in key policy-making positions
invented the threat to bring it about in March, 2003 -
all based on lies, deceit and subservience to Israel’s
imperial agenda. 

The US military finally removed Saddam and conducted a
scorched-earth campaign to destroy Iraqi society, its
infrastructure and historical treasures to “dismantle
the secular state (and) turn the country in a desert
kingdom - a loose collection of at least three
‘tribal’ client mini-states based on ethnicities,
religious-tribal loyalties (and no viable threat
against) Israeli expansionism, particularly in
Northern Iraq.”  The effort to do this is now underway
after the Iraq puppet parliament’s passage of its
federalism bill to take effect in 18 months that will
effectively divide the country into the three
US-ordered, designed and supposedly more easily
governed parts it wants.

It’s unlikely this can work, but it’s clearer than
ever now what the human cost of the war has been for
Iraqis.  It caused the violent deaths of about 655,000
of them attributable to the war according to a
shocking new study published by the noted Lancet
British medical journal which updated their two
earlier ones done after March, 2003.  The study used
the statistically reliable technique known as random
households “cluster sampling” with personal interviews
conducted across the country that used death
certificate verification in the great majority of
cases to come up with the total.  It’s