Does It Matter If the Israel Lobby Is the Tail or Dog?
by John Spritzler (www.spritzlerj.blogspot.com)
There is a running debate among anti-Zionists over whether the Israel Lobby in the United States controls U.S. foreign policy, in particular it's pro-Israel stance and, some would add, its invasion of Iraq.
There is the "dog" theory which says that when it comes to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, AIPAC (the main Israel Lobby organization) is the dog that wags the tail. And there is the "tail" theory which says that AIPAC is only the tail and the dog is the U.S. ruling class, a plutocracy of mainly non-Jewish families.
Some say the "dog" theory is an anti-Semitic canard, conjuring up old myths about Jews behind the scenes controlling everything. I disagree. The advocates of the "dog" theory don't point the finger at Jews in general. On the contrary, they point out that only about 1/3 of American Jews at most are involved in Israel Lobby efforts, and that the Israel Lobby really is made up only of a very tiny number of Jews who, however, are very wealthy. The "dog" theory is essentially that when it comes to U.S. Middle East foreign policy, extremely wealthy Jews, not ordinary Jews, call the shots. They do this by giving big sums of money to pro-Israel candidates to run against any politician who takes an anti-Israel position. This works whether or not there are many Jews living in the candidate's district.
Proponents of the "tail" theory agree that U.S. Middle East policy is controlled only by very wealthy people, but they say it is controlled by the American plutocracy (who are mostly non-Jewish) in general, not just the Jews of the plutocracy. There are different versions of the "tail" theory offering different explanations of why elite non-Jews would want to support Israel. Chomsky says it is because Israel is a "cop on the beat" in the Middle East. I, on the other hand, believe it is because Israel foments a race war between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East and this makes both ordinary Jews and ordinary Arabs more controllable, allowing Arab elites, Israeli elites, and of course American elites to control the population of the region and thereby control the wealth of the Middle East and keep it out of the hands of ordinary people. When the race war atmosphere subsides, as it did during Oslo in 1997, class war breaks out. For example in December 1997 a huge general strike shut down all of Israel over the issue of pensions that the government was taking away from people. The Arab dictatorships need the threat of Israel to justify their own armies which are used for domestic repression.
Let us assume for the sake of argument that the "dog" theory is right -- that wealthy Jews alone call the shots. In order for this to be credible, one must also assume that wealthy non-Jews in the U.S. either agree with the wealthy Jews about supporting Israel, or at least that they are neutral on the issue or not strongly opposed to supporting Israel. Otherwise the wealthy non-Jews, being greater in numbers and owning, collectively, far more wealth, would easily outspend AIPAC whenever that organization donated money to a pro-Israel candidate to defeat an anti-Israel candidate. If the wealthy non-Jews strongly disagreed with the wealthy Jews about Israel, AIPAC would have lost the fight for a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy long ago.
Therefore, when it comes to Israel, the only difference between the "dog" and the "tail" theory is that the former says wealthy non-Jews are not very concerned whether the U.S. supports Israel or not, and the latter says wealthy non-Jews have their own reasons for supporting Israel which have nothing to do, obviously, with being Jewish.
From the point of view of building a popular mass movement in the United States against apartheid Israel, both the "dog" and the "tail" theory endorse anti-Israel divestment and boycott efforts, and education to expose the injustice of apartheid Israel.
Now let's consider domestic policy in the United States. The plutocracy has been carrying out domestic policies for the last several decades which share in common the characteristic that they create material or psychological insecurity for ordinary Americans by lowering their expectations about what life can offer. Massive layoffs and outsourcing eliminated the kind of jobs that once enabled working class people to support a familty with one wage earner. Market-driven health care eliminated, even for people with nominal health insurance, the security of knowing they would have the health care required when a serious medical condition affected them, and it has led to rising numbers of people without health insurance altogether. Welfare "reform" eliminated the social safety net. Two-tier wage systems in many corporations tell young workers that they will never earn what older workers are paid even though they do the same work. High stakes standardized testing in the public schools makes even working class children worry that they will never be good enough to deserve a decent job and a good life.
All of these policy initiatives have come from ruling class think tanks and have been implemented by politicians, and nobody seriously blames the Israel Lobby for this. This is the work of wealthy Americans who are mainly not Jewish. The purpose is to make ordinary Americans more controllable, an especially urgent need after the 1960's when ordinary Americans, with rising expectations based on an economy with hardly any unemployment and the lowest degree of inequality in American history (measured by indices like the ratio of CEO salary to ordinary employee pay) launched a radical rebellion against corporate and government authority across the board, from welfare rights moms to wildcatting labor strikes to blacks standing up against Jim Crow to students and workers protesting the Vietnam war.
So now let us once again ask what practical difference the "dog" or "tail" theory makes. The "dog" theory focuses attention mainly on just the wealthy Jews; the "tail" theory focuses attention on wealthy people generally. We know that very wealthy non-Jewish people, whether they care about Israel or not, definitely care about maintaining their control over all the other aspects of life in the United States, because if they didn't they would lose their power and their wealth. Building a popular mass movement against whomever it is that controls U.S. foreign policy requires organizing to fight the plutocrats who control the government and the media. Which theory helps more to do this? One that offers a coherent view of the connection between the attack on working class Americans and the attack on foreign workers by the very same plutocracy for the very same reason -- to make people more controllable? Or one that isolates the attack on foreign workers from any coherent connection to the domestic policies aimed against Americans?
The first (the "tail" theory) speaks to people about all aspects of their lives and appeals to them to act in solidarity with working people abroad who are being attacked by the same plutocracy (made up of Jews and non-Jews) which is attacking them. The second (the "dog" theory) focuses only on the attack on foreign workers, or if it mentions domestic issues at all it is only to say that there would be more money available for domestic programs if it weren't being wasted on supporting Israel. The "dog" theory even suggests that the non-Jewish plutocrats are not so bad because they're not the culprits with respect to the only issue at hand (Israel) ; this approach doesn't gain much respect from working class people who know very well that their lives are under attack by non-Jewish plutocrats as well as the Jewish ones.
Sometimes, when it is impossible to conclusively prove one social theory right or wrong, it is best to compare the alternatives on the basis of which is most helpful in changing the world for the better. This is how we need to evaluate the merits of the "dog" versus the "tail" theory.