Canada and a range of other Western nations have offered Israel a level of uncritical support over the past few decades that is unseen in their relations with nearly any other country. This support has been maintained and strengthened in recent years as Israeli atrocities continue to amass. Even the ongoing genocide in Gaza has failed to make any significant material impact on the friendship these states have with Israel.

These facts will be disputed by few. The more contentious matter is not if a special relationship exists between these states and Israel, but why it does. 

Those who support Israel sometimes portray this relationship as being a reflection of the will of the people. A May article from right-wing publication Quillette, for example, argued that Israel is genuinely popular among the American public, and government policies are determined as a result of that supposed fact. Others argue that the relationship exists because these states all share common interests, and thus what is good for Israel is also good for the United States, Canada, and others. 

Those who oppose Israel, or at least the nature of the ties it maintains with Western states, have generally offered two different explanations for this relationship. 

The first puts the blame on the Israel lobby that exists within the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and other Western countries. These critics allege that the lobby’s ability to influence what policy looks like, as well as to support pro-Israel politicians while attacking those who aren’t deemed friendly enough, is the main reason for the relationship. 

This view was most famously made in a 2007 book by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt titled The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Mearsheimer has been featured in a wide range of publications since October 7 where he has continued to put forward his theory on the lobby. Last month, another book was released that examines the nature of the Israel lobby: Lobbying for Zionism on Both Sides of the Atlantic by historian Ilan Pappé.

The second explanation for the relationship, which is perhaps the more popular one among the broader left, is that Israel serves as a proxy of the U.S., and by extension, its various Western allies. 

In April, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech, “If the Americans want to stop something, they can make it stop. The claim that the Americans cannot force Israel to do something is nonsense. According to some theories, Israel controls America. No sir, it is America that controls Israel.” Nasrallah went on to call the supposed existence of the “Zionist lobby” a “joke.” Other critics of Israel have also disagreed with the lobby theory in general and Mearsheimer’s articulation of it in specific, such as Norman Finkelstein, who was asked about it directly in April. 

To help continue the discussion, The Maple reached out to two writers with different views on the matter to have a (written) dialogue with each other. Liam Meisner, a freelance writer based in British Columbia, argues that the Israel lobby is the primary reason for Western support of Israel. Tara Alami, a writer from occupied Jerusalem and occupied Yafa, argues that Israel’s status as a Western proxy is why it enjoys support from these states. 

The identity of each writer was kept secret from the other throughout the exchange. Their dialogue is below, with Meisner writing first, Alami replying, Meisner responding and then Alami closing off the conversation.

Read through the conversation between Alami and Meisner, and then vote at the end for which writer you found to be more convincing. Feel free to leave feedback on social media, commenting on the article directly if you are a Maple member or by emailing us at We will share some of this feedback with our email subscribers, and may publish an additional post on our website rounding some of it up.

This is the third edition of the dialogue series at The Maple.

The first edition focused on whether CUPE should have kept education workers on strike in Ontario in 2022.

Should CUPE Have Kept Education Workers On Strike?
Writers Adam King and Abdul Malik discuss whether the union made the right choice by sending members back to work.

The second edition focused on whether leftists should support arms transfers to Ukraine.

Should Leftists Support Sending Weapons To Ukraine?
Writers Taras Bilous and Dimitri Lascaris discuss whether leftists should support arms transfers to Ukraine.

We hope to host more of these sorts of dialogues in the future, providing a space other than Twitter for writers to discuss issues with each other. Consider becoming a Maple member if you are not one already to help us do so.

Enjoy, and remember to vote!

Liam Meisner: There’s no relationship in the world like the one between Israel and the United States. The former state is undoubtedly reliant on the latter for extensive military and diplomatic support, but the typical ‘proxy’ relationship framework, which some in the pro-Palestine camp ascribe to the two states, is insufficient to properly describe their alliance.

The Israel lobby is what makes the U.S.-Israel relationship unique, and what elevates Israel from being simply a useful asset that the American empire can dictate to, to being a country with an enormous amount of leeway, which sometimes, despite clearly being the less powerful and more dependent of the two, does the dictating.

To be clear, this is no antisemitic conspiracy theory about shadowy Israeli puppet masters pulling strings. The relationship is two-sided, with American might on one end and Israeli influence networks on the other. The forces driving Canada’s support for Israel, meanwhile, are somewhat simpler: the lobby has power here, but ultimately we tend to go along with the U.S.

The lobby, which operates through money in politics as well as cultural and economic influence in institutions like media, businesses, and universities, has granted Israel a singular status. Critics get smeared as racist for questioning our support for Israel, which doesn’t happen for any other country. There’s also no other country that could unleash the sort of horrors we’re seeing in Gaza and expect to get the kind of vocal and unconditional support our politicians give Israel.

The genocide in Gaza and the related conflicts in the region have shed light on how counterproductive the current relationship with Israel is for the U.S. Houthi operations in the Red Sea have interrupted the global flow of capital and frustrated the Biden administration. However, as the administration’s limited military efforts against the Houthis have had no success, and they are unwilling to enter into a full scale conflict in Yemen, they have no solution to clear up the shipping lanes because they also refuse to acquiesce to the Houthi demand to stop supporting Israel.

Israel is an albatross around the neck of American prestige and power. In Arab and Muslim-majority countries especially, American support for Israel has always been a factor driving resentment against the U.S. and complicating foreign policy. On more than one occasion Israel and the lobby have actually stymied American efforts in the Middle East, as was the case with the scrapping of the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran.

Proxy theory proponents argue that Israel is a useful imperial outpost in a strategically important region, but between Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states, it’s not as if there’s a lack of those, and American support for Israel precludes alliances that could be made with other countries. It isn’t the Cold War anymore; there’s no threat of communism the empire needs a bulwark against. Palestinians certainly aren’t a threat to the U.S., and the only reason anyone pretends that they are is because Israel wants them to do so.

Tara Alami: The Zionist lobby isn’t the primary reason for Canadian and American support of “Israel.” Instead, the Zionist state is ultimately supported by the United States because it serves as a useful regional outpost/imperialist proxy. And unlike what my dialogue partner suggests, Canada going along with the U.S. is not a result of passivity or powerlessness. Instead, it’s a proactive decision to meet its interests as an imperialist state itself. Canada’s relationship with the Israeli occupation is less costly and overt than that of the U.S., but it still exists.

The U.S. empire and its allies have long had a vested interest in installing an imperialist proxy in the region. The Zionist state was cemented as such between the '60s and '70s, when the U.S. committed to a multi-billion dollar economic relationship. This is well before the Zionist lobby existed in its current form.  

The imperialist proxy framework may indeed be “insufficient” to describe the Western-Zionist alliance, as my dialogue partner suggests. This is not because it’s wrong, however, but rather because the proxy framework doesn’t exist in isolation. The Zionist state is first and foremost a European settler colony, and so analysis of the relationship is incomplete if it isn’t situated within that context. 

Moreover, the question of whether the Zionist state is a U.S. proxy is less about the sort of diplomatic pressure that exists and more about whether the relationship between the two meets certain structural economic and military criteria. 

On an economic level, an analysis of the flow of capital into, out of and within the region, and the theft of natural resources from Palestinian and Arab lands and waters, shows that the relationship between the U.S. and the Zionist state meets the criteria to categorize the latter as a proxy of the former. 

The Zionist state exports stolen raw materials from the Mediterranean sea to the European Union through American gas companies. The U.S. also brokered the Lebanese-Zionist maritime border gas deal in 2022, which secures its position as a permanent mediator and supervisor of all gas extraction projects run by energy corporations with affiliations to the U.S., EU, and United Kingdom. 

The military aspect is relatively simple: the U.S. and its allies bolster the Zionist state by supplying it with crude weapons, materials to build weapons, billions to invest in the weapons industry, and unconditional protection of its genocidal use of this military power.

The limited American response to Ansarullah my dialogue partner mentions is only indicative of regional power dynamics between anti-imperialist forces and the empire itself, and evidence of the fact that “Israel” would never be able to withstand regional resistance without U.S. support. 

Economically and militarily, the U.S. has a direct and concrete interest in keeping the Zionist state on its feet, meaning it is in fact an imperialist proxy. This matters more than the lobby.

Liam Meisner: As far as economic incentives go, the math doesn’t add up to justify the uninhibited support the United States gives Israel.

The natural gas reserves Israel has harvested in the Eastern Mediterranean — measuring around 23 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2022 — are significant for the Israelis, but a drop in the bucket compared to the 1,029 bcm produced by the U.S., the world’s largest producer. They’re also significantly behind the third largest producer, Iran (263 bcm), whose economy has been sanctioned by the U.S., partly due to Israel’s role in tanking agreements that might have alleviated said sanctions.

Israeli gas exports mostly go to Egypt, and while they’re increasing exports to Europe, this is a result of European sanctions on Russia due to the war in Ukraine. As such, this new need can’t account for the longstanding privileged relationship the West has granted Israel.

If this relationship was about imperial resource extraction, the Americans would have lots of better places to look to than relatively resource-dry occupied Palestine. The main beneficiaries of resource extraction in Palestine are the Israeli settlers themselves, not the U.S.

While American support for Israel does indeed date back before the Israel lobby became so powerful, it’s worth remembering the context of the time. In the '60s and '70s, Israel was a strategic asset that helped to counter Soviet allies in the region, Egypt and Syria. Between Egypt’s transformation into a loyal American ally and the end of the Cold War, Israel’s strategic importance waned.

It’s also worth remembering that American backing of Israel wasn’t nearly as unconditional as it is now. In 1981, after the Israelis bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, then U.S. president Ronald Reagan condemned them and suspended the delivery of F-16 fighter jets. During Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, an outraged Reagan called then Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin to demand they cease their shelling of Beirut. This is a world of difference from the treatment U.S. President Joe Biden gives Israel today, where they have carte blanche to kill tens of thousands of civilians.

What’s changed for Israel since then isn’t it gaining singular importance in geostrategic affairs or becoming an entity funnelling super-profits from Palestine to the western imperialist countries. Instead, it’s that a collection of political figures, media outlets, donors, academic institutions and others have focused their efforts on cultivating a political environment in which opposition to and criticism of Israel is unacceptable.

The Biden administration is currently being embarrassed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu screwing them around by apparently telling them he supports a ceasefire and then not making moves to implement one. The Americans, unable and unwilling to criticize Netanyahu for being a bad-faith actor, instead lie and say it’s Hamas who won’t agree to a ceasefire. Far from serving America’s imperial interests, this whole farce is showing the world the incompetence and callousness of the U.S. as it continues to facilitate a genocide in the service of Israel.

Tara Alami: Economically and militarily, the United States has a direct interest in keeping the Zionist state alive.

The economic leg of the imperialist proxy framework cannot be properly understood with only a quantitative analysis of resource extraction and theft. Instead, Vladimir Lenin defined imperialism as monopoly capitalism, “finance capital concentrated in a few hands” and, crucially, as an outgrowth of colonial policy, and Walter Rodney added the under- and de-development of any target of imperialist violence as a core tenet of empire building. 

As such, the economic subjugation of Palestinians to the Israeli occupation and its sponsors is a necessary component of this analysis in this case. As observed by author Ali Kadri, by sustaining this imperialist outpost via the settler-colonial Zionist state, the U.S. and its allies ensure permanent economic de-development in the region, in turn preserving imperialist hegemony and preventing autonomous economic development.   

The implementation of so-called “development policies” also enables imperialist parasitism. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), for example, pledged to provide $500 million USD to the occupied West Bank and Gaza from 2021 to 2024 for, among other things, “economic recovery and growth.” Yet the U.S. ensures this recovery can never take place by funnelling billions more in military aid to the occupation. By definition, this is the Zionist state functioning as a vessel, or proxy, for U.S. imperialism. 

Palestinian economic subjugation and the growth of the Israeli economy have a dialectical relationship. It’s crucial, then, that economic development within the Zionist state is also directly bound to American support. Since 1951, the U.S. has provided more than $317.9 billion USD in aid to the Zionist state (adjusted for inflation). Most U.S. aid is directed toward the Israeli Occupation Forces (at least $225.2 billion USD), but some of it (at least $92.7 billion USD) also sustains health care, science, post-secondary education, agriculture, environmental initiatives and other elements.

The U.S. does indeed have an imperialist relationship with Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States, but this relationship is not isolated from its unconditional support of the Zionist state. Rather, these relationships function and have developed dialectically and in tandem. Reactionary regimes bordering occupied Palestine solidify U.S. presence in the region by preventing the region’s development, and are indisputably necessary for “Israel’s” security, which is valued because of its importance as an imperialist outpost. 

In the past 10 months, both the U.S. and the Zionist state have hemorrhaged billions in military efforts, yet have summarily failed to secure military victories or crush Palestinian and regional resistance. The feasibility of an imperialist outpost is decreasing because of the strength of regional resistance, however, not because of the inherent infeasibility of the Zionist state as an imperialist proxy.

Indeed, Biden and the Zionist regime have been embarrassed and cornered into a politically untenable and costly position. But the insistence of the imperialist ruling class on continuing to support the Zionist state is a clear demonstration of the value “Israel” holds as an imperialist proxy, not the lack thereof.