The dog and the tail

Jeff Halper War against the people: Israel, the Palestinians and global pacification Pluto Press, 2015, pp352, £13

Jeff Halper’s new book is a must-read, a major contribution to the subject. I cannot recommend it too highly.

It is a devastatingly effective antidote to the silly ‘Israeli tail wags American dog’ (Itwad) theories, according to which the US slavishly supports and protects Israel, although this damages true American ‘national interests’. Such theories have been put forward not only by bourgeois political ‘scientists’, but very regrettably also by some would-be leftists. This apparently masochistic US behaviour is explained by the influence of the Jewish and fundamentalist Christian pro-Israel lobby, or - more crudely - by the influence of Jewish plutocrats. This explanation, of course, begs the question as to why the really dominant section of the US ruling class does little to counteract the influence of the said lobby.

I have argued against the Itwad theory, pointing out that Israel, far from acting globally ‘against US interests’, is in fact a great asset to US imperialism. In a recent article, ‘US imperialism and Israel’s role’ (Weekly Worker June 11), I pointed out the pivotal role that Israel plays in conjunction with the US military-industrial complex. Israel is a leading producer and supplier of hi-tech hardware and software for asymmetric warfare, pacification and surveillance. It also trains military and paramilitary personnel of many countries in methods of counter-insurgency and violent control of dissent and the dark arts of surveillance.

Halper’s book greatly extends, expands and elaborates this theme, stressing Israel’s key role in the global system of imperialist hegemony. An impressive, well-researched array of factual material shows how Israel is helpful to this hegemony, not only by direct synergy with the US military-industrial complex, but also indirectly by its collaboration with the forces of oppression in semi-peripheral and peripheral countries. 

In a long but extremely useful digression from the main theme of the book (Israel’s specific role), Halper provides a description and analysis of the mechanisms of present-day imperialist hegemony - including the military big stick, wielded to deter and intimidate any would-be global rivals to this hegemony (mainly China), asymmetric warfare against recalcitrant states and non-state forces, and policing of the dispossessed in the belly of the hegemonic leading capitalist countries themselves.

Finally, in analysing Israel’s key role as an important contributor to global hegemony, Halper also draws attention to the unique economic utility for Israel of its continued occupation of the West Bank, Golan, ect. Although I believe that Israel’s opposition to the two-state ‘solution’ is long-standing, and predates Israel’s present global role, this factor provides a very powerful additional motive for holding onto the occupied territories.

It has long ago been pointed out by Matzpen members (including me) that Zionist colonisation (unlike the colonisation of South Africa or Algeria, for example) has not been based on exploiting the labour-power of the indigenous people, but on excluding them. This is, of course, a key fact in analysing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But what is unique about Zionist colonisation and the Israeli settler state is that it has worked out a novel mode of colonial economic exploitation. The occupied territories are a vast laboratory for testing Israeli military and security exports. Israel draws enormous economic benefit from exploiting not the labour-power of its colonial subjects but their collective body as laboratory human animals, on whom it tests its hardware, software and strategies of oppression and pacification. Thus Israel gains competitive advantage in the global marketplace from the fact that its military and security exports are tested in real action.

I should add that, although Marx is mentioned only once in this book, Halper’s approach is thoroughly Marxian, giving material factors and class relations their proper importance in his analysis; and his mode of argument is imbued with the dialectic. No postmodernist rubbish anywhere in sight.

Moshe Machover