The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism
Oil, War and the Lobby


Front Page
Section One
Section Three
Section Four
Back page

Only a few years ago, because of the power of the Israel Lobby, it was almost impossible to acknowledge the power of the Israel Lobby. At the top end of American society, several politicians have had their careers terminated after mildly criticizing US Israel policy. At the other end, I remember arguing that the Israel Lobby was the main cause of the invasion of Iraq at an activist meeting.

The responses to my arguments were

  • that's ridiculous
  • you're mad
  • you're a Nazi

Since the failure of the Iraq war, it has become easier to argue that US foreign policy in the Middle East is generally subservient to the interests of a foreign power, Israel. The turning point was the widely positive reception Mearsheimer and Walt's The Israel Lobby received when it was published in 2007, in spite of a virtual media blackout. Before explaining how Israel has become the most important consideration for US policies in the Middle East, they show how these policies cannot be explained by the phrase 'war for oil'. This is my explanation:


Before the attack on Iraq in 2003, those who claimed it was a war for oil, which includes both supporters and opponents of war, said that conquering Iraq's oilfields would reduce the price of oil, by increasing the supply, benefiting the economy. Following the invasion, the price of oil rose considerably, and the oil industry made record profits. The 'war for oil' chorus then claimed what they meant was it was a war for the oil industry. Both president Bush and vice-president Cheney used to work in that industry, you see. Say no more.

More recently, the oil industry raised the price of oil dramatically after an unusually aggressive speech against Iran by an Israeli cabinet member. This had the effect of warning the world of the disastrous economic consequences of a military attack on Iran. Price-fixing by the oil industry is illegal, so I do not for a moment suggest it was a deliberate warning.

  • In the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988, the USA supported Iraq with varying degrees of enthusiasm
  • The Iraqi attack on Kuwait in 1991 started as a dispute over an oilfield, but Saddam Hussein's concern over working class unrest internally was a more important reason for the war. The US government told Iraq it would remain neutral, but after the invasion, led an international force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. If the USA had supported Iraq instead of Kuwait, it would also have been called a war for oil, with equal justification.
  • Five years after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, some western companies are signing contracts to pump Iraqi oil and gas. For some, this is overwhelming evidence that it was a war for oil.

Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq war, said it was a war for oil both before and after the invasion. Those who triumphantly cite these claims as evidence that the war was all about oil forget two things: the man is a rabid Zionist, and a congenital liar. Only about fifteen percent of US domestic oil consumption comes from the Middle East. If civilian oil was the primary determinant of US policy in the Middle East, it would have similar policies toward the oil-producing countries in the region. In fact, its policies toward the three leading Middle East oil producers are as diverse as can be: hostility to Iran, war against Iraq, and friendliness to Saudi Arabia.

The military importance of oil is a different matter. Realizing that penetrating this aspect of the 'war for oil' hypothesis is beyond my own modest abilities, I humbly approached the work of the esteemed Noam Chomsky. Of all the insights which this towering intellect has contributed to the community, surely none compares to his finding that military forces use lots of oil. Not satisfied with this feat of scholarship, Chomsky goes further, to note that the military consider it a good idea to grab oil for yourself whilst denying it to your enemy. So far, so good. The only difficulty is when he tries to test his theory's predictions against actual US behavior. He claims that the USA invaded Iraq in 2003 in order to 'control' its oil, and that of nearby countries, for military purposes. What he somehow fails to explain is how few oil producing countries the USA has even attacked, let alone controlled, over the last century, for most of which it has been the world's greatest power. The USA turned down an easy opportunity to occupy Iraq after winning the 1991 war. Did it really take the Pentagon until 2003 to work out that it uses a lot of oil?

To summarize, the 'war for oil' theory predicts that, in a conflict in an oil-producing region, the USA will support one side or the other, may occupy one of them, oil companies will invest in the region, and the result will be a rise, or a fall, in the price of oil. I won't insult the reader's intelligence by explaining why this invalidates the theory.


What about the 'Israel Lobby' theory?

The most advanced version of this theory is Mearsheimer and Walt's. It says that the Lobby is the most powerful influence on US Middle East policy, but that the USA is capable of reducing or eliminating that influence. This theory predicts that, where the USA's interests conflict with Israel's, the former will usually support the latter, but that, in some cases, the USA, or parts of it, will act in its own interests.

The predictions of this theory are confirmed by reality:

    a) The USA sometimes tries to restrain Israel, but is then forced to backtrack. More often, it supports Israel to the hilt, even when Israel's actions damage America's plans. Mearsheimer and Walt remind us that, shortly after September 11th 2001, president Bush tried to persuade Israel to call a halt to settlements in the West Bank and make various other concessions to the Palestinians, as a way of helping reduce support for Islamic extremism. Uncooperative and ungrateful as ever for the vast resources America gives it in return for nothing, Israel rudely rebuffed the world's supposedly most powerful man, refused to meet his envoy, and forced him to drop his requests for restraint. A humbled Bush invited Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to the White House, and called him a 'man of peace'. Translation: sorry for the interruption, keep on killing, we won't interfere again.

    b) But, as the theory predicts, there are exceptions. The most outstanding is America's cuddly relationship with Saudi Arabia, a country with a dim view of Israel. Though the US does not give to the Saudis vast quantities of the most modern weaponry, as it does to the Israelis, it does sell them warplanes and co-operate with them in numerous other ways, to the chagrin of Zionists, liberals and Osama bin Laden.

Chomsky doesn't like the Israel Lobby theory. He assumes that Israeli and US interests coincide. His blind spot derives from treating the US political system as, well, a system. Picture a visitor from another planet looking at a car traveling slowly, making a loud noise, and emitting a lot of black smoke. The alien, using his x-ray vision, analyzes the car's engine, carburetor and spark plugs, and describes how the vehicle is perfectly designed to travel slowly, make a loud noise, and emit a lot of black smoke. This analogy illustrates the logical fallacy called functionalism – you cannot say if a system is functioning correctly unless you know what it is designed for. For Marxists, the system is the executive committee of the ruling class – it serves capitalism. For liberals like Mearsheimer and Walt, it is supposed to serve 'the people'. Chomsky does on occasion admit to the influence of the Israel Lobby in the USA, but his theory only allows him to see it as part of the system – he says the Lobby makes the system act in its own interests – by supporting Israel. He notes that the USA often approves Israeli actions in advance – and concludes that shows that Israel obeys the USA. Mearsheimer, Walt and I have proven him wrong – on numerous occasions, when Israel has acted, US politicians, including presidents, have made mild criticisms, the US Israel Lobby has mobilized, and the US politicians have apologized. Unless you believe that this is an elaborate charade to cover the fact that Israel obeys the USA, you find the Israel Lobby is like the engine of a car traveling slowly, making a loud noise, and a lot of black smoke.

On the website Counterpunch and elsewhere, Michael Neumann, Jeffrey Blankfort and others have run rings around the party line defended by Chomsky and similar hacks, that Middle East policy is primarily about oil, elites and hegemony. The complacent platitudes of Chomsky and his disciples are not merely mistakes, nor merely products of dishonesty - there is an element of consciously avoiding a challenge to the power of the Lobby because of cowardice – they refuse to debate the question. Leaving these faint-hearts behind, we – the vanguard – defend the view that, thanks to its Lobby, the greatest influence on US policy in the Middle East is that of Israel, a foreign country with completely different interests, at the expense of good relations with nations and movements with similar interests, and lots of oil.

Whether you believe the US political system is designed to serve the interests of the capitalist elite or the interests of the huddled masses, no honest observer can avoid the conclusion that the Israel Lobby is dysfunctional for that system: the tail wags the dog. The dogma that Israel is a strategic asset of the USA is a dangerous error, because it makes opposing uncritical support for Zionism sound more difficult than it actually is. Some of Chomsky's followers go so far as to claim that Israel is a victim of US policies in the Middle East – by 'goading' it to drop cluster-bombs on Lebanese schoolchildren, the USA forces Israel to stir up hatred against itself, taking the heat off the USA. I'm not making this up.

None of this means the war in Iraq has really benefited Israel. Mearsheimer and Walt argue that the US Israel Lobby is not a perfect cipher for Israeli interests: the Lobby was the prime mover of the Iraq disaster. If Iraq is a little confusing, the case of Iran is clear as glass: US and Israeli interests are completely different. The USA can choose whether to be on good or bad terms with the Islamic Republic, basing its choice on calculated self-interest, whereas Israel faces the problem that Muslims cannot, on principle, recognize a Jewish state on their land. When vice-president Dick Cheney was a businessman, he opposed sanctions against Iran, on the grounds that they are bad for business. When he became a politician, dependent on the democratic system, he had to support sanctions and warmongering. When George Bush Senior was standing for re-election, he had to apologize to the Lobby after he mentioned its influence and was accused of anti-semitism. Jimmy Carter, subjected to the same outrageous slander, did not have to apologize, since he is not seeking office. Bush Junior was able to defy the Israeli war drive against Iran during 2008 for the same reason.

Giving the lie to Chomsky's 'analysis', big corporations and some of the undemocratic parts of the state, such as the intelligence services, are currently more likely to resist the war drive than the elected bits, which are most subject to the pressure of the Israel Lobby. It was the combined weight of all sixteen American intelligence services which leashed the dogs of war at the end of 2007 with a devastating report which said that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. The Lobby was furious – the centerpiece of its war drive, after the exposure of its lies about Iraq, was a stream of fabrications about the Iranian menace – but there wasn't much it could do until the election season came around the following year, when it made the candidates for president appear at its conference and compete with each other to make fawning speeches in support of Israel.

The question has become not if Israel is the primary influence on US policy in the Middle East, but how. We have a partial answer in the Mearsheimer and Walt bestseller – it's the Lobby's mastery of the electoral process. But this wouldn't work if the allegation of 'anti-semitism' directed at any legislator who makes a mild criticism of Israel and its Lobby were ignored, as they would be if the democratic system was simply a tool of the ruling class. It's the irrational deference to Israel which needs explaining. This pamphlet is intended to be a modest step forward – by mixing the critique of anti-fascism developed in the thirties with anti-Zionist theory and a bit of half-serious psychology, I hope to stimulate readers to think critically about this difficult question.

The inability of today's activists to challenge the Israel Lobby goes some way toward explaining the absence of an anti-war movement today. In the seventies, the American 'movement' was the envy of the world, as it helped end the Vietnam war. Did the rise of sensitivity, the notion that how someone feels about an issue is as valid as a scientific fact, make this movement more, or less, effective? The Lobby is not only a key issue in opposing war today, it is also the most effective litmus test separating those who want to change the world from those who want to feel good about themselves.


    caitiff (archaic) chicken (slang) craven, dastard (archaic) faint-heart, funk (informal) poltroon, recreant (archaic) renegade, scaredy-cat (informal) skulker, sneak, wimp (informal) yellow-belly (slang)

Anti-Fascism: Pro-Zionism

Many of those who follow anti-fascism would deny they are allies of the Israel Lobby. They believe they are just as much opposed to the oppression of Palestinians by Jews as they are opposed to white supremacy in Western countries. But, just as it was not possible to fight against Franco in Spain in the 1930's 'autonomously' of the communist party, so today one cannot consistently single out fascism as a unique evil without simultaneously abetting the influence of Zionism. This consequence is quite logical: anti-fascism promotes the idea that murdering Jews is worse than murdering German or Japanese people. This is pro-Jewish racism. Support for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians follows as night follows day.

Liberal anti-fascists don't realize this, but Zionists certainly do. Roughly speaking, anti-fascists can be categorized as follows, in increasing order of their grasp of logic:

  • Radical anti-fascists, mostly anarchist
  • Liberal goody-goodies, with names like 'The Coalition for Human Dignity'
  • Nationwide Zionist pressure groups such as the Anti-Defamation League

These different strands of anti-fascism have more in common than they admit -

  • they greatly exaggerate the danger from white extremists
    They support the moral panics which frequently appear in the media, alternative and corporate alike, claiming fascists are about to make an appearance. A few years ago, the good people of Portland were urged to gather in Gabriel Park, a wealthy part of town, to head off a rumored invasion by 'Nazi skinheads', who, it was claimed, would represent a danger to the Jewish population of the area. As if the police would allow teenagers, even those with unorthodox views on German history, to terrorize a well-heeled district. Claims of racist activity in poorer, blacker areas are more plausible, but here, too, anti-fascism exaggerates. When a shotgun was fired randomly at a house in North Portland, and some white kids were arrested for the offense, 'Hate-Free Zone' posters appeared, and the local TV, newspapers and alternative websites buzzed with excitement, as if one random, victimless shooting was another Kristallnacht, though there was no evidence of racist intent. Yet when a black youth shoots another dead, the silence is deafening. Another aspect of the inherent racism of anti-fascism is shown – 'black-on-black' violence is not important to anti-fascists. This bias mirrors the attitude of traditional racists that what 'they' do among themselves doesn't matter to 'us'. If Ethiopian Mulugeta Seraw had been killed by African-Americans, or if he were white, he would not have become a cause célèbre.

  • they are deliberately vague about what crimes these 'Nazis' are guilty of
    Anti-fascists write and talk about 'Nazi activity', consciously blurring the distinction between expressing an opinion and conspiring to commit criminal violence. Expressing the view that races are more important than they really are, and that some are more important than others, is not a crime, neither in law nor in reality. Those who want to ban racism on the grounds that it spreads 'hate' could easily go on to ban Marxist and similar ideas which promote class conflict. Moreover, it is wrong in principle to ban racist theory. A scientific approach to racism says it is unlikely that a racist theory is both valid and true. Anti-fascism cannot tolerate this ambiguity. James Watson, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA, was fired for saying that some racist ideas might be true. Zionism should not be suppressed on the grounds that it is racist. Whether the USA will indefinitely tolerate agents of a foreign power actively undermining its constitution is another matter.

  • they tell lies about their opponents
    One of the techniques used by anti-fascists is to smear all their targets as 'Nazis'. Any historian who doubts the official story of The Holocaust in all its gory detail, lampshades and all, is condemned as a Nazi sympathizer. In Britain, the 'Anti-Nazi League' claims that the British National Party is 'Nazi'. This used to be almost a half-truth. The BNP's predecessor, the National Front, was founded by outright National Socialists. There are photographs of these clowns wearing Nazi uniforms – in Britain in the nineteen-fifties! It took a long time to live that one down – but the BNP finally found an opportunity to break with its anti-semitic antecedents, in the war on terror. In 2006, following the Israeli attack on Lebanon, the BNP enthusiastically supported it, seeing it as part of the war against Muslims at home and abroad, and made a final purge of anti-Jewish attitudes amongst its membership. For the BNP, support for Israel went along with abandoning anti-semitism.

  • they attempt to police all opponents of anti-fascism, not just fascists
    Anti-fascists are in favor of suppressing debate. Their position 'No Platform for Racists' gives power to those who define what is racist, the product of negotiations between leftist hacks and Zionist lawyers. They don't want you to read this pamphlet. It's not that they disagree with what I say – they want to suppress it altogether, so you can neither agree nor disagree. The editors of the Indymedia left wing websites have deleted articles which they claimed were racist, but which clearly weren't. It is easy to predict how anti-fascists will distort the argument in this pamphlet. They will claim I am saying 'Zionists will accuse us of anti-semitism anyway, so we may as well be anti-semitic'. This is not the case.

Anti-fascists make great efforts to persuade us that they are not aiding 'the state' in general, seemingly unaware that their lies and distortions serve the interests of one state in particular. They encourage attacks on fascists, legal and otherwise, on the grounds that fascists spread violent ideas, but do nothing to oppose Zionists doing the same thing, on a bigger scale, and with more effect.

A poster produced by Zionists sadistically
celebrating the death of Rachel Corrie, a peace
activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer

When the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League decided to use the death of Mulugeta Seraw to attack freedom of speech, they chose to prosecute the White Aryan Resistance, not because this group was actually involved in Seraw's death, not because they thought this prosecution would prevent further deaths, but because fascists are, to say the least, unpopular, so the public were more likely to tolerate this blatant attack on the First Amendment. Following this victory for anti-fascism, Zionists started a campaign to purge academia of critics of Israel. Some were fired, others forced to say they would stop spreading 'hate' in order to keep their jobs. Some even adopted Chomsky's views. As a result of its decision to tackle the Israel/Palestine question, the University of Oregon's Pacifica Forum is currently subject to a campaign by the SPLC and the local anti-fascists of the 'Anti-Hate Task Force' to smear it as anti-semitic and persuade the University to close it down, by linking it to a series of alleged 'hate crimes'.

Anti-fascism, by its nature, is part of the fabric of emotional manipulation which gives Israel more funding from the USA than all other countries put together. This is what gives Israel its license to kill, and its ability to suppress freedom to criticize it. Opposition to this machinery of repression, hate and war cannot be combined with spreading the ideas which support it, or the emotions which support the ideas which support it.

Racially-motivated violence is not the major form of violence. Even at its height, skinhead violence was not the number one killer. Why not campaign against other social phenomena which cause violence, such as the illegality of drugs? The appeal of anti-fascism is not rational calculation of what is the greater social evil. Its appeal is that it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling – you can feel you are fighting against racism, one of the most pernicious aspects of this society, while in reality you are doing the exact opposite. Mountaineers know that a warm fuzzy feeling is the penultimate stage of hypothermia. They also know to hang on to their icepicks when navigating a slippery slope...