Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You wrote the book “American Settler Colonialism: A History”. This very important book for the understanding of American history explains the violence and brutality of American colonialism with the different wars that have occurred in its history. In your opinion, can we speak of a genocide against the Amerindians? And why has the violence that was practiced by colonialism never come to light? Can we talk about a hidden story?
Dr. Walter L. Hixson: “Genocide” is a word and all language is subjective because words can only represent what is real, they are not real in themselves. I am comfortable using genocide as a term to explain and understand certain aspects of American history, for example the unrestrained killing of California Indians in the 1850s. If “genocide” means destruction of a way of life, then certainly Americans committed genocide against indigenous people. Other scholars prefer “ethnic cleansing” to genocide and others the more benign “Indian removal.” I also refer to indiscriminate warfare and exterminatory warfare. Whatever term you use, Americans subjected other peoples–Indians, Mexicans, and the Japanese among them–to unrestrained killing. With respect to Indians, Americans also took their land illegally and shamefully. Together with slavery, these were surely massive American crimes against humanity.
In your opinion, can we say that the United States is a nation founded on blood and violence?
Yes, but we can say this about many other nations as well. I don’t think the United States is uniquely evil, but the existence of a massive land occupied by a weaker people ravaged by disease enabled a high level of “frontier” violence in American history. The United States is far from innocent in this regard, but human beings are, like chimpanzees, a violent species.
In your very interesting and informative book “The Myth of American Diplomacy”, you analyze US foreign policy. Doesn’t the fact that the U.S. has set itself up as the world’s policeman and has waged imperialist wars all over the world stem from this myth? Don’t the consequences of this fanatical vision risk leading humanity to an irreparable catastrophe? How do you explain the United States’ need to have an enemy at all times?
Yes and yes. The “myth of American exceptionalism,” deeply influenced by certain strains of Christianity—notably the idea of being “God’s chosen nation” destined to lead the world (“Manifest Destiny”) –has enabled a great deal of violence and warfare. The United States has been at war for the overwhelming majority of its history. The country seems to depend on having external enemies in order to reaffirm its own identity as the exceptional, chosen nation. But many Americans don’t like war, especially as the history since Vietnam has been almost entirely one of failure. The warfare state is wearing down the American public—even Trump opposes it!
In your opinion, don’t the peoples of the earth have everything to gain from having a multipolar world free of US hegemony? Is this a utopia?
It may be a utopia but there is no alternative to global cooperation, especially with climate change bearing down on the world. Americans continue to be obsessed with their “homeland” and “national security” when what they should be concerned with is global community and global security, not only for climate change but to control weapons of mass destruction and of course, as we now see vividly with the pandemic, to control disease. The United States dd a great service by introducing the UN and funding it, but it has since largely ignored multilateral security (other than NATO and various alliances) in deference to unilateral pursuit of the supposed “national interest.”
You wrote the book “Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict” in which you provide a pertinent analysis about the weight of the Israeli lobby on American foreign policy. How do you explain the special relationship between the United States and Israel? And how do you explain the weight of the Israeli lobby in the political decision in the United States?
The Israel lobby plays a powerful role in American Middle East policy, yet this is often denied and people who point out the influence of the lobby are often condemned for advancing a conspiracy theory. But no one can reasonably deny that the Israel lobby is by far the most powerful lobby acting on behalf of a foreign country in all of American history. No other country has ever had a lobby of remotely the power and persuasion of the Israel lobby in US history. AIPAC is the most prominent organization but there are scores of Zionist groups—literally too many to count–that make up the Israel lobby. In the United States the Israel lobby is very powerful, much like the gun lobby, the pharmaceutical lobby and the elderly persons’ lobby.
The Zionist movement took advantage of the fact that the United States had the largest Jewish population in the world and mobilized it to support the movement throughout the twentieth century. Following World War II, Americans felt sympathy for Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide and the lobby exploited feelings of guilt because the United States had done little to stop the German assault on Jews. At that point the lobby began to exert dramatic influence in the US Congress to receive massive funding and support for Israel. It also began to work successfully to elect candidates who supported Israel and to target and often defeat candidates that were not supportive. Israel—a tiny little country of fewer than 9 million people–thus became by far the most heavily funded foreign country in US history. The United States currently sends Israel $3.8 in mostly military aid every year. Israel as a result is the most powerful and heavily militarized country in the Middle East.
Can it be said that successive US administrations have always been subject to the Israeli lobby?
No US presidential administration can escape the influence of the Israel lobby. Eisenhower forced Israel out of Suez in 1956—since that time all US administrations have caved in to the lobby. Unlike his son, George H.W. Bush did try to stand up to the lobby after the Persian Gulf War. He tried to withhold loan guarantees because of Israel’s illegal settlements and he did force negotiations at Madrid. He lost the next election for which he blamed the lobby (though it was not the only reason for his defeat). The Republicans vowed never to let this happen again while the Democrats, beginning with Truman and accelerating with Johnson, have always appeased Israel. Carter and Obama wanted to force Israel to compromise but both quickly gave in to lobby pressure. Biden is uncritically pro-Israel, just like Trump, though many Democrats are opposed to the West Bank annexation.
How do you explain the unconditional support of the United States for Israel? Why does the United States need Israel?
The United States does not “need” Israel. In fact, I would argue the unquestioned and unbalanced support for Israel undermines US security and has anchored a disastrous Middle East foreign policy characterized by the endless “forever wars” in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks that were motivated in part by the one-sided US support for Israel. Instead of pursuing a just settlement in Palestine the United States has pursued a wrong-headed pro-Israeli policy that has produced a human rights nightmare and has constituted a damaging blow to efforts to achieve international justice. In my view, and largely because of the warped tilt toward Israel, US Middle east policy has been a disaster on a par with the Vietnam/Indochina disaster.
What is your analysis of Israel’s standardization with certain Arab countries such as the Emirates, Bahrain, etc.? The decisive role of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the Deal of the Century and this standardization is evoked. What do you think about it?
Kushner is very shrewd—much smarter than his father in law—and is trying to use the lure of money and weapons with these reactionary Arab regimes to secure the final defeat of the Palestinians. He has nothing but contempt for the suffering of the Palestinian people. These Arab regimes want weapons and a cozy relationship with the Americans and trade with Israel as well as alliance against mutual enemies such as of course Iran. Both the United States and Israel—and apparently the Saudis and others as well—are obsessed with Iran. This demonization of Iran carries the persistent threat of war, which Obama backed by the Europeans had successfully managed until undone by Trump and Kushner.
The world is turning a blind eye to the crimes that Israel is committing against the Palestinian people. Why?
Fatigue has set in with regard to Palestine. The PA made a grave mistake at Oslo and since that time the Palestinians have been fighting a losing battle. The reactionary Arab regimes have lost interest but perhaps their publics have not. If another “Arab spring” arises these dictators could pay a heavy price for siding with Israel and the United States. As I said, Kushner is smart and he has emphasized that Jerusalem will be accessible to the Arab people because he realizes how central Jerusalem is to the Islamic faith.
In your opinion, aren’t the Palestinians subject to an apartheid regime?
Beyond question, Israel is an apartheid regime. You cannot be a “Jewish state” and “democratic state” at the same time. That is literally impossible. Israel has always marginalized and discriminated against its Arab minority while brutally repressing and slaughtering residents of Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Lebanon for that matter. Israel is not the “sole democracy” in the Middle East that it claims to be, it is instead a repressive, militarized apartheid state. Under Netanyahu, Israel has basically embraced apartheid through passage of the blatantly racist “Jewish state law.”
Aren’t BDS actions necessary to counter Israeli apartheid?
BDS is completely justified and remains the best weapon today to fight back against Israeli repression in Palestine. Israel realizes this and together with the Israel lobby in the United States has lashed back with propaganda and attacks on freedom of speech and false charges of anti-Semitism. Israel and the lobby are willing to attack and undermine American democracy as well as the freedom of Palestinians. They use any and every means to attack critics and perceived enemies not only in politics but in academia as well. They have millions and millions of dollars to deploy in this effort. Yet BDS does not go away. Moreover, younger and non-Orthodox Jewish Americans are turning against the lobby, which is supported primarily by rich orthodox Jews like the despicable Republican casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. The lobby has turned increasingly to cultivating right-wing Christian fundamentalists who support Israel because they think it will hasten the return of Jesus Christ, as per biblical prophecy. Despite the much ballyhooed separation of church and state, the United States is one of the most naïve and fanatical religious nations in the world.
A minority of progressive Democrats such as Bernie Sanders, AOC, Betty McCollum, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are boldly critical of Israel. Their ranks should grow in the future but history and culture change slowly, I’m afraid.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Dr. Walter L. Hixson?
Walter L. Hixson is a diplomatic and cultural historian and the author most recently of American Settler Colonialism: A History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), which received an Outstanding Academic Title designation from Choice. His previous work includes The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and US Foreign Policy (Yale University Press, 2008), which also received the Choice designation; Parting the Curtain: Propaganda, Culture, and the Cold War, 1945-1961 (St. Martin’s Press, 1997); Witness to Disintegration: Provincial Life in the Last Year of the USSR (University Press of New England, 1993); and George F. Kennan: Cold War Iconoclast (Columbia University Press, 1989; winner of the Bernath Book Prize). He has published numerous additional and wide-ranging books, articles, and essays, including assessments of the Vietnam War in history and memory, analysis of Tom Clancy’s novels as a reflection of Reagan-era national security mentalities, and the cultural context of sensational crimes in American history.
Hixson, who is distinguished professor of history at the University of Akron, is in the process of making final revisions to a textbook, American Foreign Relations: A New Diplomatic History, which will be published in the fall by Routledge. The text emphasizes the role of cultural factors, especially race, religion, and gender, in explaining the history of American foreign relations.
For his next project Professor Hixson will focus on the U.S.-Israeli special relationship in historical and cultural context. The analysis will interrogate and recast U.S.-Israeli relations in light of settler colonial studies and his previous work on culture and diplomacy. In 2012 Hixson traveled throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories with the NGO Interfaith Peace Builders, concluding with a solo tour of Lebanon. Hixson has otherwise taught, lectured, and traveled widely, including several weeks in Vietnam and Southeast Asia as well as Fulbright teaching awards at Kazan State University in the former USSR (1990-91) and the China Foreign Affairs Institute in Beijing (2009). A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Hixson received the Ph. D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1986. He enjoys dining with his family, walking his dog, hiking in the Rocky Mountains, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and taste-testing varieties of Pinot Noir.
Published in American Herald Tribune January 25,2021: https://ahtribune.ca/interview/4539-walter-l-hixson.html