Bradley Brooks writes in the AP, “Last year [Brazilian Archbishop Dadeus] Grings told a magazine, ‘More Catholics than Jews died in the Holocaust, but this isn’t known because the Jews control the world’s media.’”* Is the inference correct? Impossible to know. Modern communal Judaism sacralizes Jewish suffering, to the point of creating an identity around it, a problem for us to work out. Many communities of suffering sacralize or elevate their own suffering. Most don’t do so in order to justify horrible atrocity. The American Jewish community does. None of this leads to the facile inference that because Jewish people control “the world’s media,” we don’t quite as commonly speak of non-Jewish deaths in the Holocaust. Anyway, Jews don’t control “the world’s media”; Jewish people are disproportionately represented among media institutions and amongst their ownership, as the Jewish demographic disproportionately lands on the wealthy end of the spectrum.
There are two overlapping groups. Capitalists and Jewish capitalists. Owners of media conglomerates and Jewish owners of media conglomerates. It’s common–at least on the left–to accept that capitalists have shared interests, that media conglomerates have shared interests, chiefly survival and the accumulation of power. Do those interests derive from their position in the class structure, due to ethnic identification, or due to both? Consider that Jewish capital ownership is out-of-proportion to the world’s Jewish population, but at the same time, Jewish capital formation is far from a majority of overall capital formation. What this sort of non-sense asks us to do is to accept that a small portion of capital is bullying a larger portion of capital into doing what it wants. This is possible. Coalitions of investors express their interests through fractious arguments over policy and through the instantiated arguments about policy that we call “elections.” But there’s something bizarre about it too. How small a portion of the global political economy is controlled by Jewish people? Why would Jews act in a way detrimental to their class interest, and so uniformly? Why would the rest of American capital back them up in this refusal? The Answer, stipulated rather than defended, is to defend Israel, either ideologically, or materially (whatever that means), begging every single relevant question.
Anyway, I have been sporadically reading Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler’s seminal work, especially the Global Political Economy of Israel. I need to read it more carefully. An excerpt from a review:
Returning to the notion of dominant capital, the authors identify what they term the weapondollar-petrodollar coalition as a key component of global dominant capital as a whole. They show an increasing interaction between the major oil companies and arms manufacturers and examine how the pursuit of differential accumulation by this coalition is linked with so-called energy conflicts in the Middle East.
In a remarkable series of graphs, the authors plot the rate of return of the major oil companies (dubbed the petro-core) in comparison with dominant capital as a whole. They then show that each sustained period of negative differential accumulation for this sector (i.e., where dominant capital has outpaced the petro-core in terms of differential profits) has been immediately followed by an “energy-conflict” such as the 1967 and 1973 wars, the Iran-Iraq war, and the 1990–1991 Gulf War.
Turning once more to an analysis of the concrete, the authors take each of these conflicts in turn and trace an increasing interaction between arms exporters and the oil companies over time. Around the 1973 War, the arms business became more commercialized (expressed by the Nixon Doctrine) and in conjunction with the petro-core began to exert a greater influence on U.S foreign policy.
The increasing confluence between the interests of the oil-arms coalition and foreign policy continued until just after the 1990–1991 Gulf War. At this point, the global regime of accumulation moved from depth back towards one of breadth. Dominant capital was able to take advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union, reduction of tariffs and dismantling of barriers to capital mobility, and the opening up of “green-field” investments in the South. This new stage of breadth marked the onset of globalization, characterized by the rise of a new section of dominant capital, the technodollar-mergerdollar coalition. This group sought differential accumulation through absorbing technological innovation through mergers and acquisitions, expanding into new areas that became known as “emerging markets” and benefiting from the privatization of government-owned enterprises.
It is this shift towards a breadth regime, according to Nitzan and Bichler, that explains the so-called peace process in the Middle East. Profits were to come from open markets in both goods and people instead of war and conflict. One of the consequences of this process for Israel was the increasing transnational ownership of the Israeli economy—the key conglomerates that had dominated the economy under the shelter of the state were taken over by capital from the core, particularly the United States.
What’s the point? The point is that Israel’s relationship to the United States, and its relationship to the global capitalist system in which American capital is a major component, is embedded in a thick network of material links both stabilized and strengthened by ideology: Zionism, or ethnic tribal atavism. Zionism rose to prominence in the United States at a specific historical moment, within a specific community. It originally emerged to stabilize a certain sort of arrangement of the global political economy. And now both American Zionism and Israeli Zionism have become partially unhinged, becoming partially independent variables: maximalist land-grabbing, the Likudnik policy, doesn’t work for American capitalism, nor for many sectors of Israeli capitalism. As Nitzan and Bichler write,
During the 1990s, however, there emerged, perhaps for the first time, a major cleavage within the elite. On the one hand, there is the ‘reactionary’ Zionist faction which hopes to freeze the world of yesterday. On the other hand, there is an increasingly powerful, ‘progressive’ faction, which seeks to ‘normalise’ the country, yet whose commitment to such normalisation weakens as its investment outside the country increases.
The Bantustization that will be the real as opposed to ideal implementation of the two-state solution does work for American capitalism, or works better, in the short-run. In the long-run it will promote destabilizing hate, hate that will end in Israeli self-immolation. (As capitalism will end in world immolation through anthropogenic climate change. But who talks about the capitalism lobby??). But even in the medium-run the hatred that a Bantustan solution will cultivate will be useful, useful for arms sales, useful for creating an excuse to prop up dictatorships that buy American weapons and that use their oil monies not for their population but for the enrichment of American and European elites. Nitzan and Bichler again:
Although U.S. public officials swore allegiance to the national interest, their actual policies toward the Middle East proved much more ambivalent. The ambiguity remained latent as long as the so-called national interest coincided with the differential interests of the Weapondollar–Petrodollar Coalition. But when the two collided, the policy stance almost invariably tilted in favour of the coalition. The result was that, during the 1970s and 1980s, the United States ended up promoting both instability and high oil prices, exactly the opposite of its openly publicised aims.
Note that the group that brought us to Iraq was precisely part of this coalition. Its intellectual salesmen were neo-con Zionist intellectuals, sure. But materialism matters.
And so overcoming Zionism and defeating Israeli policy doesn’t mean talking about this Zionist owner of a media conglomerate who doesn’t run articles criticizing Israel, applauding that one for supporting so strongly the two-state solution. It doesn’t mean defending American realists like Mearsheimer and Walt, now oddly taken to be our strategic rather than conjunctural allies. (They live in a fantasy world where there is a National Interest. Leave them to it, or use them, but smartly). And above all, it doesn’t mean exulting about every mention of the Lobby, or calling those who either down-play the Lobby’s significance or situate it in materialist terms crypto-Zionists or vulgar Marxists. It means taking arguments seriously. What that means is an awful lot of scut work: empirical research investigating the core institutions of the global system. We must ask: do they benefit from this Zionist policy? Or all Zionist policies? How do we defeat them? How are they connected to the oil companies? To weapons companies? To global capital formation? To the petro-dollar complex? To hot capital flows? How is the Israeli economy braided into the global economic system? Could sectors of Israeli capitalism be tightly tied to the weapons manufacturers and oil majors, so as to benefit from constant warfare? Yes, this is a bunch of boring crap to have to deal with no question. But the fact that some answers are (perhaps somewhat unfairly) judged unsatisfactory, maybe because they asked the wrong questions or didn’t look hard enough, is no reason to discard materialism, to piss on Chomsky, or to make allies with right-wing populists, America Firsters, or anti-Semites. Let them come to us, and we’ll enfold them in our camp. Not the other way around.
*5.1 million Jews died in the Holocaust. The author of the article nor his editor bothered to correct this although it’s been known for years.