Israel at 60: A Grim Balance Sheet

By Mark Weber

An interview with the director of the Institute for Historical Review, conducted by the Mehr news agency, and published in the Tehran Times, a leading English-language daily in Iran, May 14, 2008.

Israel was established 60 years ago this month. Israelis are celebrating, but Arabs recall the state's founding as the 'Nakba,' or catastrophe. What's your view?

When Israel was established in May 1948, its leaders pledged that the new state would be a model of justice in the world – a "light unto the nations." They told the world that they were founding a country in which, at long last, Jews would live in peace and security. They said that Israel would be a self-sufficient nation where Jews would prosper on the basis of their own labor, abilities and efforts.

Israel's leaders declared that they were creating a new society in which Jews would finally live as a "normal" people in a country of their own. Israel and its founding ideology, Zionism, was supposed to solve the centuries-old problem of tension between Jews and non-Jews.

Although Israelis cite some impressive achievements over the past 60 years, the Zionist state has failed to achieve its proclaimed goals.

Far from being a beacon of morality, it has deservedly earned a global reputation as an oppressive, self-righteous, arrogant and belligerent state.

Israel was founded on terrorism, massacres, ethnic cleansing and the dispossession of its native Palestinian population. Even now it violates international law, inflicts a harsh collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza, and continues to deny Palestinians their human and national rights. In accord with its Jewish supremacist ideology, Israel's discrimination against non-Jews is systematic and institutional. It is the only country in the region that occupies territory of its neighbors, that refuses to define its borders, and which possesses a large and illegal arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Even as a Jewish sanctuary, Israel cannot be regarded as a success. Jews are less safe and secure in Israel than almost anywhere else in the world. The great majority of Jews in the world have preferred not to live in "their" country.

Israel has never been self-supporting. It has always required massive subsidies from the outside – above all from the United States. Total direct US aid to Israel has amounted to well over $140 billion (in 2003 dollars). In addition, Germany and other European states and companies have paid out many billions in 'restitution,' and wealthy Jewish communities, especially in the US, have provided substantial financial assistance.

Far from transforming Jews into a "normal" people, Israel and its Zionist ideology have highlighted and encouraged Jewish distinctiveness. Zionism holds that Jews around the world make up a separate nationality or people, and that Jews everywhere owe a primary loyalty to Israel and the world Jewish community, rather than to the countries of which they are citizens. And indeed, most Jews around the world express loyalty to Israel and the "Jewish people," for example, through support for openly Zionist organizations.

Why does the United States support Israel?

President Harry Truman gave US diplomatic recognition to the new Israeli state immediately following its proclamation in May 1948. In doing so, he rejected the advice of nearly every American official who was responsible for US foreign policy. Secretary of State George C. Marshall angrily told Truman that recognizing Israel would put partisan political interests above America's national interest.

Loy Henderson, head of the State Department's bureau for Middle East affairs, warned the President that US backing for the new Zionist state would be "contrary to the interests of the United States and will eventually involve us in international difficulties of so grave a character that the reaction throughout the world, as well as in this country, will be very strong." Zionists, Henderson advised, "ignored such principles as self-determination and majority rule," and instead embraced "the principle of a theocratic racial state." He also warned that the establishment of a US-backed Zionist state "would guarantee that the Palestine problem would be permanent and still more complicated in the future."

Contrary to claims made by American and Israeli political leaders, US support for Israel has never been in America's authentic national interest, nor has it been based on a commitment to democracy and freedom.

Instead, US support for Israel has always been an expression of Jewish-Zionist power. America's wealthy and well-organized Jewish community wields tremendous influence through its important role in the media, in political and cultural life, and, more directly, through massive donations to the election campaigns of politicians of both major political parties.

The Jewish-Zionist grip has tightened over the years, and has reached a high point in the "neo-conservative" administration of George W. Bush. This is manifest above all in the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Although the motives are complex, concern for Israel's interests was an essential factor in the White House decision to attack and subdue one of Israel's greatest regional adversaries.

Has American support for Israel been good for the United States?

Just as perceptive Washington officials foresaw in 1948, America's pro-Israel policy has proven terribly costly to the United States – in wasted billions of dollars, in lost international credibility and standing, and in lives squandered for the interests of a foreign state. In the years ahead, the price paid by Americans for their nation's commitment to Israel will undoubtedly rise.

The US invasion of Iraq alone has been a calamity for America. It has cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. Around the world, it has generated unmatched distrust and hostility toward the US. In Arab and Muslim countries, it has fueled intense hatred of the United States, and has brought many new recruits to the ranks of anti-American terrorists.

One important reason why Americans are unable to effectively offset the power of the organized Jewish community is that the US population lacks cultural, religious, ethnic or racial cohesion, and thus any common basis on which to rally and organize. In a country of individualists whose concerns center on themselves and their families and friends, the power of the focused and well-organized Jewish community is immense.

Given these realities, any fundamental shift in US Middle East policy is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

What is Israel's future?

In spite of its impressive military arsenal, and virtually unlimited support from the United States, Israel's long-term prospects are not good.

Although the US will continue to be the world's foremost military, financial and economic power for the foreseeable future, and will continue to provide Israel with crucial financial, military and diplomatic support, the relative global power of the US is steadily declining.

Around the world, including the United States, loathing of Israel is widespread and steadily mounting. In Asia and Europe, political and business leaders increasingly regard Israel and its policies as harmful to global order and stability.

Regional demographic trends are also important. In Israel and its occupied territories, the Arab population is growing at a faster rate than the Jewish population, and within 20 years non-Jews will almost certainly be the majority.

Very few persons in 1985 foresaw the collapse six years later of the mighty and seemingly solid Soviet Union. But its end was predictable because it was an essentially artificial entity based on an inhumane and impractical ideology. Although Israel is a formidable military power, it is an aberrant, crisis-prone state, artificially kept alive with outside support, and based on an unworkable ideology.

Given its artificial character and built-in problems, as well as global political-economic and regional demographic trends, Israel's future in the next 60 years is not bright.