U.S. Imperialism and Israel

Lawrence Albright

As the world reacts to the outbreak of war between the State of Israel and Hamas (Arabic for “Islamic Resistance Movement”), and as the USS Gerald R. Ford and its strike group have been stationed in the Mediterranean Sea close to Israel, it is appropriate to examine the role of U.S. imperialism and its relationship to Israel.

When the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948—the intention at the time was to have two states, Israel and Palestine—the three years that had elapsed since the end of World War II saw a significant change in the international arena. The wartime cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States changed as numerous countries in Eastern and Central Europe adopted socialism, a fact that substantially limited U.S. influence in the region and gave rise to what has become known as the “Cold War.”

Consequently, U.S. foreign policy was oriented primarily around protecting and expanding its influence. Anti-communism was a central aspect of U.S. policy domestically and internationally from 1952 onward. The Zionist leaders of Israel were similarly committed to expansion, making them allies of U.S. imperialism—from which they have benefited in many billions of dollars in financial assistance.

This alliance was a catalyst for Israel’s neighbors, particularly Egypt, to adopt increasingly anti-imperialist positions in the wake of what became known as the “Suez Crisis.”  On October 29, 1956, Israeli, French and British forces invaded Egypt in an effort to take control of the Suez Canal, which had been nationalized by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser earlier that year.

Israel denied there was any coordination with the British and French forces, claiming their involvement was coincidental. But this was not the case. “As we know, the plot failed, thanks to the opposition of U.S. imperialism for its own reasons and thanks even more to the threat of the Soviet Union to enter the conflict on Egypt’s side,” wrote CPUSA leader Hyman Lumer (1909-1976). “France and England were forced to withdraw, and Israel was eventually compelled to abandon its Sinai conquest.  But its leaders did not abandon their policy of collusion with imperialism against the Arab peoples … and U.S. imperialism became the Israeli government’s chief backer.” (Hyman Lumer, Zionism: Its Role in World Politics, International Publishers, 1973, pp. 37-38).

As the Suez Crisis showed, when there is a conflict between U.S. imperialism on the one hand, and Israeli imperialism on the other, U.S. imperialism will ultimately prevail. Eleven years later, in 1967, hostilities between Israel—which had the backing of U.S. imperialism—and its neighbors resulted in Israel capturing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and Sinai, effectively redrawing the map of the Middle East. Subsequently, anti-imperialist organizations would repeatedly demand that Israel withdraw to its pre-1967 boundaries.

War broke out between Israel and its neighbors again in 1973. This conflict, known as the “Yom Kippur War,” again saw strong support for Israel from U.S. imperialism and its allies. This conflict was the impetus for the Camp David Accords signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Washington, D.C. on September 17, 1973.

For decades, the main opposition to U.S. imperialism internationally came from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations, as well as from many of the non-aligned nations. The dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 31, 1991 left the U.S. as arguably the only “superpower” on the international scene. And in Israel, the once-dominant social democratic Labor Party has lost power on several occasions to ultra-right coalitions consisting of ultra-Orthodox political formations and the successors of the Revisionist Zionist movement of Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who promote a strongly nationalist (and arguably quasi-fascist) program akin to the MAGA movement in the U.S. today. Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin (1977-1983), who was a member of the terrorist Irgun, and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are both part of the Revisionist Zionist tradition. Begin did not share the ideological positions of then-President Jimmy Carter any more than Netanyahu does those of President Biden. But U.S. imperialism finds it in its best interests to have Israel as an ally, and to maintain its economic and military presence there.

Perhaps Hyman Lumer summed it up best:

The primary concern of [U.S. imperialism] in the Middle East is not Israel’s well-being, but the defense of the interests of the powerful oil monopolies. Israel is useful to them only insofar as its role serves this end. Should support of Israel come into direct conflict with these imperialist interests, it is undoubtedly Israel which would be considered expendable.

(Hyman Lumer, Zionism: Its Role in World Politics, International Publishers, 1973, pp. 56-57)