In their extensive correspondence on the American Civil War, Marx and Engels discuss filibusters. Before the term was understood as a U.S. Senate delaying speech, filibusters were known as American private military mercenaries seeking to conquer land, mostly in the Caribbean and Central and South America, to establish slavery in those lands by claiming the land for themselves and establishing a new country (for instance, Texas). Marx and Engels saw filibustering as an extension of American imperialism driven by slavery’s existential insatiable need to expand constantly, or die, like capitalism itself. The swashbuckling filibusters themselves, always relying on slavery for their production once they stole the land, saw their role as either highly ideological, or highly profitable, or just for adventure. This brings us to Israeli settlers, many of whom are Americans.
A 2015 Oxford University study estimated that 15% of Israeli settlers on Palestinian land, about 60,000, are American born, a number which is likely much higher today.
“Hirschhorn said her research reveals that most American Jewish settlers came when they “were young, single, highly-educated – something like 10 percent of American settlers in the occupied territories hold PhDs, they’re upwardly mobile, they’re traditional but not necessarily Orthodox in their religious practice, and most importantly, they were politically active in the leftist socialist movements in the US in the 1960s and 70s and voted for the Democratic Party prior to their immigration to Israel.... “They’re not only compelled by some biblical imperative to live in the Holy Land of Israel and hasten the coming of the messiah, but also deeply inspired by an American vision of pioneering and building new suburbanized utopian communities in the occupied territories. They draw on their American background and mobilize the language they were comfortable with, discourses about human rights and civil liberties that justify the kind of work that they’re doing.”
Marx and Engels would recognize American settlers in Israel as nothing more than filibusters from the imperial core, stealing land at the point of a mercenary gun. Given the apocalyptic joie de vivre of the 21st century version, precious little separates an American settler in the West Bank from a Mormon trekking to Utah to settle on native held land because he heard a talking salamander opine about gold plates dug up in Missouri, or a Spanish priest raising a crucifix in the face of an Aztec demanding his gold in the name of Christ Our Savoir. In a Marxist analysis, an American settler in Israel is an imperial capitalist cancer that is very old indeed, whose last flare up (not coincidentally) was immediately before the American Civil War, in capitalist slavery’s most desperate moment, just before its death.
And yet, analyzing Palestine through the lens of colonialism has relied solely on categorizing Israel as the colonizer stealing the land. In fact, under a Marxist analysis, the only structurally theoretical change brought about in Palestine by the creation of Israel after World War II is that the colonizer changed from Britain, the first global capitalist empire, to the United States, the next capitalist empire. The $3 billion yearly from American taxpayers to the Israeli government is merely the most obvious proof. The capture of both major American political parties by Israeli settlers would be understood by Marx and Engels as mirroring exactly the “slaveocracy’s” capture of American government across the board during the century before Ft. Sumter in 1861. The filibustering settlers carrying AR-15s shouting in Brooklyn accents as they lynch the Palestinians whose land they stole are merely the most visible, sharpest end, of capital’s sword. Like filibusters in the mid-19th century dragging America into the Mexican War, then the Civil War, American settlers in Israel hijack the American state into myriad wars profoundly unsupported by the American people, whether they want the war or not. The apocalyptic mania is just the icing on the cake. From a dialectical approach, Israel is merely the predictable result of capital, like the Confederacy before it.
Tim Russo is author of Ghosts of Plum Run, an ongoing historical fiction series about the charge of the First Minnesota at Gettysburg. Tim's career as an attorney and international relations professional took him to two years living in the former soviet republics, work in Eastern Europe, the West Bank & Gaza, and with the British Labour Party. Tim has had a role in nearly every election cycle in Ohio since 1988, including Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020. Tim ran for local office in Cleveland twice, earned his 1993 JD from Case Western Reserve University, and a 2017 masters in international relations from Cleveland State University where he earned his undergraduate degree in political science in 1989. Currently interested in the intersection between Gramscian cultural hegemony and Gandhian nonviolence, Tim is a lifelong Clevelander.