From the beginning, the international Zionist movement was linked to the global capitalist movement and the imperialist political center of power.
Israel began as a Zionist project for imperialism, as a main base to extend its hegemony over the Arab region, and to protect its interests there, as well as to curb the rise of Arab national liberation movement, and to hold the development of each individual Arab country back.
But this mission would not negate Israel’s own ambitions to control the Arab region. The opportunity came in the June War (1967), from which Israel emerged and occupied the entire land of Palestine, the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. Then, Israel exercised its Zionist dream of expanding beyond Palestine.
After the October War (1973), Israel began preparing to play a new role within the region, no longer limited to being a proxy base for international monopolies and the expansion of Zionist capital, and their extension represented by multinational companies. Rather, it has come to express the needs of the development of the Israeli economy itself, with its objective and subjective difficulties and its aspiration to expand — authentically — within the Arab region.
The growth of Israeli industry aspires to break the barriers of isolation and launch into markets that constitute a natural field for it, which are primarily Arab markets. This development has recently been embodied in Israel’s ambitions for economic control over the Arab region, and its capitalism’s ambition to participate directly in the theft of Arab wealth by obtaining its share of Arab money and Arab oil as well.
In the face of these urgent considerations, Israel proceeded to put forward “peace” slogans according to its conditions, hoping to achieve, through the new colonial method, what it had not yet achieved through the old colonial methods. Thus, a project was established in the Arab land, “Palestine,” which is like any capitalist project that tolerates profit and loss, but it has continued to achieve its economic feasibility for the imperialist countries until now.
And we must clearly distinguish within Israel. Between the imperialist phenomenon and the Zionist phenomenon, when Imperialism, in general, can be described as the movement of colonial capitalists in the world, while Zionism is specifically the movement of Jewish settlers in the Arab region.
Simha Flapan in his book “Zionism and the Palestinians,” which published in London in 1979, said, “that Israeli political thought was formed during the period preceding the establishment of Israel itself, and in the process of crystallizing this thought, a doctrine was formulated from several basic concepts:
1- The gradual construction of economic and military organizations as a basis for achieving political goals.
2- An alliance with a major power outside the Middle East.
3- Not recognizing the existence of a national entity for the Palestinians.
4- Economic, social and cultural discrimination as necessities for the renaissance of Jewish national life.
5- Peace by force.
Thus, the issue of our classification in the past of the form and essence of Israel as either a driving force for global colonialism in the Arab region, or merely one of its tools…is not completely accurate. On the basis that the first view cannot be considered to be correct, and the second view is not entirely correct.
And if Israel maintained for a long time the image of being the pampered stepchild of colonialism, it has now transformed, by successfully performing its role, into a small colonial power, especially when it now adds to the methods of regional expansion the neo-colonial methods of economic control within the Arab region.
Palestine is at the heart of the imperial project
The interest of the colonial and imperial regimes in Palestine began during the period of free trade capitalism and commercial competition between colonial industrial capitalist countries, even before the middle of the 19th century. The primary motivation for this was the importance of Palestine’s strategic geographical location for international colonial trade, which was considered the most important economic branch in the field of colonial competition in the stage of free competition and the colonial struggle to secure foreign markets.
Palestine is located in the middle of the “Arab East” and is considered the shortest land route between the colonial capitalist countries in Europe, especially Britain, and its colonies in the Far East — India and others. At this stage, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire, which was suffering from weakness, economic underdevelopment, and backwardness compared to the industrially advanced capitalist countries. Therefore, during the stage of free competition, the imperialist countries tried to infiltrate the Ottoman Empire, especially to its sections in the Near East, and pave the way for dividing their legacy in this important region. These attempts took several forms, including the attempt of the imperialist regimes to get closer to the Ottoman Sultanate with the aim of obtaining privileges, such as securing trade routes and allowing capitalist commercial convoys to cross and pass through the Palestinian and Syrian lands (at that stage, the lands of Palestine, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Syria constituted Historical Syria).
The facts indicate that “between the years 1839 – 1854,” and with the increase of interest in Palestine, the major European powers established consulates in the city of Jerusalem. The imperialist countries also tried to adopt the various sects in Palestine and pretend to defend their interests as a mask behind which they concealed their true intentions to monopolize the center of influence in Palestine and create a material base on which it is based. Perhaps the most prominent thing that reveals the imperialist intentions behind the cover-up slogan of defending the interests of the sects is the position of British imperialism towards the Jewish community and its attempts to make it its main pillar for extending its colonial influence.
At the beginning of the forties (of the nineteenth century), many British imperialist politicians called for Jewish settlement in Palestine as a guarantee to defend British imperialist commercial interests and secure freedom of roads to India. In his book “The History of Zionism” the Zionist Nahum Sokolov highlights many examples and citations that confirm the reality and dimensions of ambitions. British colonialism was behind the idea of settling Jews in Palestine even before the emergence of the World Zionist Organization on the political scene.
Sokolov mentions, for example, that British Foreign Secretary Viscount Palmerston wrote on September 25, 1840, confirming the “Syrian question,” after Britain intervened militarily alongside Turkey to repel the forces of Ibrahim Pasha. He wrote that he proposed establishing a British colony there, and added that the region needed money and work… And the Hebrews are waiting to return to Syria. Therefore — he said — if the countries guarantee the laws to achieve equality in Syria and the doubts of the Hebrews are dispelled, then the call will mobilize them and they will go out with their wealth and industry…He stressed in the end that the colonization of Syria by the Hebrews is the cheapest and surest way to supply these areas, sparsely populated and needs it.
In fact, the goal of British colonialism was never to provide the natural needs of the population of Syria and to seek help from Jewish settlement to achieve this goal. Rather, its primary goal was to remove any competing power by continuing to guarantee British imperial trade privileges and its trade routes with its colonies. From this standpoint, and to preserve its interests, it stood along with the Ottoman Empire against the young state in Egypt led by Muhammad Ali and against his forces led by his son Ibrahim.
In the period from 1831 to 1840, Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim tried to establish a large Arab state. This state extended from Egypt through Historical Syria to the borders of Minor Asia. Palmerston indicates in a letter he sent to his country’s ambassador in Naples on March 21, 1833, that the goal of Muhammad Ali is the establishment of an Arab kingdom that includes all the countries that speak Arabic. He noted that this project in itself may not cause any harm, “but it will lead to the dismemberment of Turkey, and this is what we are not satisfied with. Moreover, we see no reason to justify replacing Turkey with an Arab king in controlling the India Road.”
Palestine gained special importance on the map of conflict between the imperial regimes after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, but the imperial conflict to carve up the territories of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine, between Britain, France, Tsarist Russia, and the German Empire, which raged at the beginning of the twentieth century, especially on the eve of and during World War I, led to the Sykes-Picot Treaty in 1916, which divided the countries of the Near East between France, England, and Tsarist Russia.
Israel and imperial financing to establish the entity
Since the first months of the founding of the Zionist entity, the capitalist countries have undertaken the task of financing it, “the United States of America – Sweden – Switzerland – Belgium – France – West Germany.” Therefore, the flow of foreign capital to Israel is considered the most important basis for the development of its economy, according to Galina Tynikina in a book entitled “The State of Israel.”
Rather, the main character of the Israeli economy was rapid growth due to the expanded import of capital, until in that period, the rate of capital formation per capita in Israel became the highest rate in the entire world, and the entire economy, including the private sector, became completely dependent on foreign aid that reached… Through channels controlled by the state, it flows into immigration, settlement, and employment projects, and thus contributes to financing the daily lives of the citizens of the new state.
In the beginning, the purpose of imperial external financing was to encourage immigration to Israel, absorb immigrants there, and develop its agriculture and industry. At every challenge facing the Zionist occupation, the imperialist countries were quick to inject the Israeli economy with German reparations, US aid, and French weapons, in addition to concluding bilateral trade agreements, loans, and donations in forms of sales of bonds and loans for import and export, loans for surplus American agricultural crops, and encouragement of direct private investment.
Thus, the prevailing opinion regarding the formation of national capital is carried out by the country itself. Israel has been assigned this vital task by the major imperialist powers. Therefore, the role of global capital in creating the so-called “Israeli miracle” must be continuously revealed. In Israel, the total resources exceed the total Gross National Product, which allowed for an intensive investment effort that led to a high annual growth rate, without accompanying pressure on consumption levels.
Consequently, we are faced with a unique phenomenon, which is the emergence of an entire state as an economic project financed by all of global imperialism, and this alone is sufficient to demonstrate the convergence between Zionism and imperialism. It’s a fact that unilateral transfers/free transfers was an important feature of support for the fusion between imperialism and Zionism, however foreign investment had a distant and tangible signification it was a manifestation of the participation of international Zionism and imperialism in the project to establish the state of Israel.
Israel and the transition to American imperialism
From the beginning, the international Zionist movement was linked to the global capitalist movement and the imperialist political center of power. At the beginning of the last century, international Zionism pinned its hopes on Germany, a rising capitalist power which was competing with the British monopoly. After the Balfour Declaration and the Allied victory in World War I, loyalty shifted to Great Britain, which opened the doors of Palestine to Jewish immigration, and since World War II, the World Zionist Organization moved its headquarters to the United States and began pinning hopes on it,
On May 11, 1942, what was then called the “Baltimore Statement” was approved by the Extraordinary Zionist Conference held at the Baltimore Hotel in New York. The most important thing included in the statement was reliance on the United States of America as the main support of the Zionist movement.
Indeed, the leadership of the capitalist world then passed to the United States, which had by chance encroached on the Arab oil wells, while its major financiers had been linked to the Jewish Agency for a long time (Cohn, Lieb, Lehman, Goldman, Sachs, Guggenheim, Mullazar, Rockefeller, and Morgan). With the end of World War II and the collapse of the centers of France and Britain in the Arab East, the United States intervened more forcefully in the entire region, and was behind the United Nations decision to partition Palestine and establish Israel.
However, in the early years of Israel’s founding, the United States was keen to hide its funding of Israel for fear of provoking Arab hostility towards it. In agreement with the United States, West Germany took up the funding process in those years, whether openly with compensation or secretly with weapons, and the United States did not appear on the scene. It was revealed only with the June War, and since then, it has not hidden its special relationship with Israel nor its full commitment to it.
As for financing, the United States of America was the organizer, driver, and financier of the process of establishing Israel. Between 1948 and 1962, Israel obtained from the United States an amount exceeding USD 3,200 million, which was used to equip and expand agricultural settlements, build housing, create and renew roads, ports, and transportation, and provide food to the population.
After the June War, the United States became the main source of foreign funds in various forms. For example, the US aid provided during the five years that followed the aggression exceeded double what the United States provided in similar aid to Israel during the twenty years that preceded the war, and the aid continued and even increased, especially soft loans.
Talking about US loans to Israel contains quite a bit of excess: these loans are completely soft. The grace periods for postponing loans, periodic exemptions from previous debts, the initiative to provide new grants and loans, preferential treatment in customs tariffs, and the distinct tax treatment with which gifts granted to Israel are treated, all make American loans are like Israeli treasury bonds.
As for US investments, they played an important functional role in strengthening the Zionist economy even before the establishment of Israel, as the cooperation between those investments and the Jewish Agency was great, and we mention here the prominent role of two American companies: (the Palestinian Economic Company), which was founded in 1926, and (the American Palestinian Company), which was founded in 1942. This company is considered to be the giant monopoly that links American capitalism and Zionism. The company established many companies inside occupied Palestine in partnership with the Histadrut, or the Israeli state.
To this day, even with the change of administrations between Democrats and Republicans, US support is continuous and renewed through decisions and legislation from the US House of Representatives.
In conclusion, the relationship between imperialism, especially the US, and Israel cannot be described as good, bad, or wavering, given that Israel is considered one of the states of the United States, but it is in an advanced place, and this organic connection was not and is no longer hidden, and this is what we tried to show in the previous lines.
Wael Mustafa al Hersh is a student activist and political leader. He is the secretary of the Progressive Student Union Bloc which is the student arm of the Palestinian People’s Party. He researches and writes on economics and political science. He has a masters in economics and is currently in the process of writing his doctoral thesis.