Books by former intelligence, military and political leaders are frequently tedious and self-serving. Obsessed with securing their own legacy, and proving how right they were about some long-standing grudge or another, such volumes rarely make for much of an enlightening read.
One such book I probably will subject myself to, however, is titled Periphery by the former Israeli spy Yossi Alpher. For all the tediousness one has to wade through in such propagandising dross, there are sometimes a few nuggets of insight – usually given away unintentionally.
Alpher is a former military intelligence officer. Periphery, released earlier this year, is his account of years of desperate Israeli efforts for allies in a region it is inherently alienated from, due to its long record of military aggression against neighbouring countries, the 67-year-long military occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people.
The Periphery strategy sought out allies in states and minority groups considered outside of the Arab or Muslim mainstream of the region. Israeli spies sought to forge alliances with the Kurds of northern Iraq; Turkey, during the height of the military’s political power there; and Iran, under the dictatorship of the Shah.
Another such alliance sought was with the Maronite Christians of Lebanon. Such plans have a long and well documented history, going back to 1954 when, according to the diaries of former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, David Ben Gurion drew up plans to invade Lebanon and impose a “Christian State” on the country. The plan never quite succeeded, but the history of Israel alliance with the right-wing Christian Lebanese militias in the 1970s and 1980s is well known. To destroy the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Israel did eventually invade Lebanon in 1982, imposing Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel as a short-lived puppet president.
However, few of these plans to find allies have come to much. Gemayel was assassinated shortly after his imposition on the country. The Shah was overthrown by a revolution and the Islamic Republic was established in Iran.
Ironically today, Israel’s main ally in the region is the Saudi regime, which is right at the heart of the Arab world. Although the two countries do not have official diplomatic ties, they are working together on more violent subversion than ever, especially when it comes to opposing Iranian influence.
In a recent interview in the Israeli press to promote his book about this “Periphery” doctrine, Alpher does indeed make a telling statement, giving away perhaps more than he intended.
Of some of the anti-democratic regimes in the region he was seeking to forge ties with he states: “we knew that the issue of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion plays a very important role for them. To a certain degree even, we played that card, so they’d think we have immense influence over the world, and could manipulate US policy in their favour in particular. The Moroccans, the Iranians, the Turks, Idi Amin – they were all sure that one word from us would change Washington’s position towards them.”
In other words, Israeli spies and diplomats (despite propaganda claims to be the protectors of the Jews of the world) actively encouraged the dissemination of a notorious anti-Semitic forgery for their own cynical power-political reasons.
To convince certain regimes it had powerful influence over the Americans, Israel actually encouraged belief in the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the Jews control the world (as is reflected in the “Protocols,” a notorious Tsarist forgery).
It’s another reminder that Zionism is indeed a form of anti-Semitism. This may seem counter-intuitive, for a country that claims to be the “Jewish State,” but there is a long history of Zionist leaders making anti-Semitic statements, and encouraging hatred against Jews, including Arthur Ruppin and even Theodor Herzel himself. This is something I have dubbed Zionist Anti-Semitism.
But more than that, as has long been observed by Palestinian scholars such as Joseph Massad, the very idea at the heart of Zionism is anti-Semitic: the idea that Jews do not “belong” to their home countries (such as France, Britain, Germany, the US) and are actually “Oriental” beings alien to the West who need to “go back” to a mythical “Land of Israel”.
At it’s most extreme, Zionism has included threats to impose the “liquidation of the Exile” – i.e. any Jew who does not live in Israel. Those are the words of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League and Kach (once considered by the FBI to be terrorist organizations).
It would be Israel’s interests for the region to be divided up into small, sectarian, confessional states, too busy at war with each other to oppose Israeli colonialism. This is why it is actively stoking the flames of civil war in Syria right now, even to the extent of aiding Syrian rebel groups allied to al-Qaeda.
It comes as little surprise, then, to learn of Alpher’s promotion of anti-Semitism around the region. Perhaps remember that next time Netanyahu exploits a tragedy or claims to speak for all Jews.
An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.