Noam Chomsky on Gaza


The MIT linguist and political analyst does a quick recent history of the situation in the region and what Israel hopes to achieve by its successive military assaults on Gaza that are causing outrage and protests in the rest of the world, as this report of a recent rally and demonstration in London demonstrates.

Chomsky writes that when Israel talks of wanting ‘peace’, what it means is that it wants the Palestinians to be quiet while it steadily continues its policies of expropriating Palestinian lands. This is the ‘norm’ that Israel and the US are pursuing.

Israel’s goal had long been a simple one: quiet-for-quiet, a return to the norm (though now it may demand even more). What then is the norm?

For the West Bank, the norm has been that Israel carries forward its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value to it, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to intense repression and violence.

For the past 14 years, the norm has been that Israel kills more than two Palestinian children a week. The latest Israeli rampage was set of by the brutal murder of three Israeli boys from a settler community in the occupied West Bank. A month before, two Palestinian boys were shot dead in the West Bank city of Ramallah. That elicited no attention, which is understandable, since it is routine. “The institutionalised disregard for Palestinian life in the West helps explain not only why Palestinians resort to violence,” the respected Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani reports, “but also Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip.”

He also demolishes the myth promoted by Israel and its supporters of Ariel Sharon’s ‘generous’ withdrawal from Gaza as a peace offering that the Palestinians ungratefully spurned. It was all theater, part of an Israeli-US plan for the continuation of the suppression of Palestinian rights.

For Gaza, the plans for the norm were explained forthrightly by Dov Weissglass, a confidant of Ariel Sharon, the person who negotiated the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005. Hailed as a grand gesture in Israel and among acolytes and the deluded elsewhere, the withdrawal was in reality a carefully staged “national trauma,” properly ridiculed by informed Israeli commentators, among them Israel’s leading sociologist, the late Baruch Kimmerling.

What actually happened is that Israeli hawks, led by Sharon, realized that it made good sense to transfer the illegal settlers from their subsidized communities in devastated Gaza, where they were sustained at exorbitant cost, to subsidized settlements in the other occupied territories, which Israel intends to keep. But instead of simply transferring them, as would have been simple enough, it was clearly more useful to present the world with images of little children pleading with soldiers not to destroy their homes, amidst cries of “Never Again,” with the implication obvious. What made the farce even more transparent was that it was a replica of the staged trauma when Israel had to evacuate the Egyptian Sinai in 1982. But it played very well for the intended audience at home and abroad.

Weissglass provided his own description of the transfer of settlers from Gaza to other occupied territories: “What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that [the major settlement blocs in the West Bank] would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns” – but a special kind of Finns, who would quietly accept rule by a foreign power. “The significance is the freezing of the political process,” Weissglass continued. “And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with [President Bush’s] authority and permission and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

Weisglass explained further that Gazans would remain “on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger” – which would not help Israel’s fading reputation. With their vaunted technical efficiency, Israeli experts determined precisely how many calories a day Gazans needed for bare survival, while also depriving them of medicines and other means of decent life. Israeli military forces confined them by land, sea and air to what British Prime Minister David Cameron accurately described as a prison camp. The Israeli withdrawal left Israel in total control of Gaza, hence the occupying power under international law. And to close the prison walls even more tightly, Israel excluded Palestinians from a large region along the border, including a third or more of Gaza’s scarce arable land. The justification is security for Israelis, which could be just as well achieved by establishing the security zone on the Israeli side of the border, or more fully, by ending the savage siege and other punishments.

The official story is that after Israel graciously handed Gaza over to the Palestinians, in the hope that they would construct a flourishing state, they revealed their true nature by subjecting Israel to unremitting rocket attack and forcing the captive population to become martyrs to so that Israel would be pictured in a bad light. Reality is rather different.

A few weeks after Israeli troops withdrew, leaving the occupation intact, Palestinians committed a major crime. In January 2006, they voted the wrong way in a carefully monitored free election, handing control of the Parliament to Hamas. The media constantly intone that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In reality, its leaders have repeatedly made it clear and explicit that Hamas would accept a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus that has been blocked by the US and Israel for 40 years. In contrast, Israel is dedicated to the destruction of Palestine, apart from some occasional meaningless words, and is implementing that commitment. [My emphasis-MS]

Israel can only continue its current policies because it is underwritten economically, militarily, and politically by the US. This is why the Israel lobby works so furiously to silence any critics in the US, though it is getting harder and harder to do so.

Could US policy change? It’s not impossible. Public opinion has shifted considerably in recent years, particularly among the young, and it cannot be completely ignored. For some years there has been a good basis for public demands that Washington observe its own laws and cut off military aid to Israel. US law requires that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Israel most certainly is guilty of this consistent pattern, and has been for many years. That is why Amnesty International, in the course of Israel’s murderous Cast Lead operation in Gaza, called for an arms embargo against Israel (and Hamas). Senator Patrick Leahy, author of this provision of the law, has brought up its potential applicability to Israel in specific cases, and with a well-conducted educational, organizational, and activist effort such initiatives could be pursued successively. That could have a very significant impact in itself, while also providing a springboard for further actions not only to punish Israel for its criminal behavior, but also to compel Washington to become part of “the international community” and to observe international law and decent moral principles.

Nothing could be more significant for the tragic Palestinian victims of many years of violence and repression.

What the recent surge in violence has made clear to the world is the appalling stranglehold that Israel has placed on the people of Gaza and it is clear is that the siege must be lifted.

Comments

  1. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    Chomsky has largely discredited himself by denying the power of the Zionist lobby to shape US policy in the Mideast. It’s all well and dandy for the public to call for the US to adhere to the fiction of “international law” for all the good that’s going to do, but our leaders take their marching orders from the people who bribe, bully and blackmail them, not the American people.

    Sham “human rights” organizations like Amnesty can call for Israel to be denied arms, since the call amounts to nothing. Only the defeat and destruction of the Zionist lobby in America or the overthrow of the government can result in civilized policies being adapted towards the Palestinians and the rest of Israel’s self-made enemies in the Mideast. Until then, expect more of the same.

  2. AsqJames says

    Have we finally scared colnago80, StevoR, et al away with facts only to have their mirror image turn up?

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    Sean @2:

    Chomsky has largely discredited himself by denying the power of the Zionist lobby to shape US policy in the Mideast.

    Where does he deny this?

  4. Mano Singham says

    Chomsky does not deny that the Israel lobby is powerful but disagrees that it completely drives US policy. He says that in the US-Usrael relationship, the issue is which is the client state. He feels that ultimately Israel is the client state and that ultimately it serves US geopolitical interests and not the other way around, even though the US is constrained by the lobby in what it can make its client do.

    He feels that those who see the US as the client state in the relationship are ascribing too much power to the lobby, that there are other factors (such as oil) and control of sea and air that come into play.

  5. mnb0 says

    “Israel can only continue its current policies ….”
    It’s rather tragic that doesn’t see the long term danger here. The country doesn’t have time at its side.

  6. kraut says

    “Chomsky has largely discredited himself by denying the power of the Zionist lobby to shape US policy in the Mideast.”
    http://www.chomsky.info/articles/20060328.htm
    That is your opinion – and only that. Reading his counter arguments to the John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt thesis is hardly to his discredit. His arguments are cogent and well reasoned, you might disagree with him but to call this “his being discredited” only shows that you are biased and not open to reasoned argumentation.

  7. says

    He feels that ultimately Israel is the client state and that ultimately it serves US geopolitical interests and not the other way around…

    Really? What US “geopolitical interest,” exactly, does Israel or any of its policies, past or present, serve?

    He feels that those who see the US as the client state in the relationship are ascribing too much power to the lobby, that there are other factors (such as oil)…

    Again, how the fuck does anything we’ve done in the Middle East relate to any of our oil-related interests? The only consequences I see WRT oil, are disruption, chaos, stagnation, higher oil prices (for energy-consuming businesses as well as consumers), and more people impoverished by war who might otherwise be buying more stuff from the West. None of that has proven all that good for US business in general (and no, oil is NOT the only factor, or the loudest voice, in the US economy).

    Israel can only continue its current policies because it is underwritten economically, militarily, and politically by the US.

    This is utter bullshit: Israel is perfectly capable of changing its policies. Israeli bigotry, inertia, and lack of political will make change hard, but not impossible; and the idea that US policies are stopping Israel from changing is laughably absurd.

    Chomsky is right to criticize Israel, and US policies, but vague pseudointellectual bullshit like this makes me wonder if he has any idea what he’s talking about.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    Raging Bee @10:

    Israel can only continue its current policies because it is underwritten economically, militarily, and politically by the US.

    This is utter bullshit: Israel is perfectly capable of changing its policies.

    Things can seem vague when your reading comprehension fails. Your response indicates a complete misreading of a fairly simple sentence.

  9. kraut says

    “None of that has proven all that good for US business in general”
    “Again, how the fuck does anything we’ve done in the Middle East relate to any of our oil-related interests”

    You cannot be for real. Such stupid, utterly stupid statements I would have expected from Fox news talking heads.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/17/the-u-s-israel-and-oil-geopolitics/
    “The reason why the unified national interest storyline behind the ‘Israeli Lobby’ thesis is so insidious is that it poses radically divergent interests as singularities. U.S. arms manufacturers and U.S. based multi-national oil companies have their economic interests tied to permanent chaos, war and destruction. ”

    http://secureenergy.org/Oil2025
    “In their decades-long military and diplomatic careers, the members of the Commission on Energy and Geopolitics have experienced first-hand the heavy toll exacted by America’s dependence on oil. This dependence has influenced the country’s involvement in regions of the world that are often unstable and sometimes hostile to American interests.”
    http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-159.html
    “If the chief natural resource of the Middle East were bananas, the region would not have attracted the attention of U.S. policymakers as it has for decades. Americans became interested in the oil riches of the region in the 1920s, and two U.S. companies, Standard Oil of California and Texaco, won the first concession to explore for oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. They discovered oil there in 1938, just after Standard Oil of California found it in Bahrain. The same year Gulf Oil (along with its British partner Anglo-Persian Oil) found oil in Kuwait. During and after World War II, the region became a primary object of U.S. foreign policy. It was then that policymakers realized that the Middle East was “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”(4)

    Subsequently, as a result of cooperation between the U.S. government and several American oil companies, the United States replaced Great Britain as the chief Western power in the region.(5) In Iran and Saudi Arabia, American gains were British (and French) losses.(6) Originally, the dominant American oil interests had had limited access to Iraqi oil only (through the Iraq Petroleum Company, under the 1928 Red Line Agreement). In 1946, however, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Mobil Oil Corp., seeing the irresistible opportunities in Saudi Arabia, had the agreement voided.(7) When the awakening countries of the Middle East asserted control over their oil resources, the United States found ways to protect its access to the oil. Nearly everything the United States has done in the Middle East can be understood as contributing to the protection of its long-term access to Middle Eastern oil and, through that control, Washington’s claim to world leadership. The U.S. build-up of Israel and Iran as powerful gendarmeries beholden to the United States, and U.S. aid given to “moderate,” pro-Western Arab regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan, were intended to keep the region in friendly hands. That was always the meaning of the term “regional stability.”(8)”

  10. Dunc says

    What US “geopolitical interest,” exactly, does Israel or any of its policies, past or present, serve?

    Have you ever heard of the “Suez crisis”?

    This EIA document on World Oil Transit Chokepoints may help you make sense of many aspects of US foreign policy.

  11. says

    U.S. arms manufacturers and U.S. based multi-national oil companies have their economic interests tied to permanent chaos, war and destruction.

    That’s nothing but pure oversimplified, overgeneralized BS, by someone who clearly has ZERO business sense. First, arms manufacturers don’t really need actual wars to prosper — they were doing just fine before 9/11. And second, “permanent chaos, war and destruction” in oil-producing areas really isn’t good for oil production, and it means big increases in the cost of doing business there. Seriously, the costs of protracted war are far greater than any profits that would come of it, and would not come in peacetime. The oil business can make plenty of money without having to take on any of the risks or costs of war.

    Furthermore, do you really think that arms and oil are the only big-moneyed businesses influencing US policymaking? The one-percenters who run those businesses are not the only ones who vote — they’re outnumbered by other businesses, big and small, whose interests are opposite to those of the arms and oil companies.

    You’re either an amazingly stupid leftist who hasn’t updated his tired talking-points in decades, or a Republican posting stupid crap to dumb down any conversation critical of right-wing policies.

  12. Rob Grigjanis says

    Raging Bee @14: From The Corporation;

    Carlton Brown: I’ve got to be honest with you. When the September 11th situation happened, and I must say, and I wanna say this because I don’t want to take it lightly. It’s not a light situation. It was a devastating act. It was really a bad thing. It was one of the worst things I’ve seen in my lifetime, you know. But, I will tell you and every trader will tell you, who was not in that building and who was buying gold and who owned gold and silver, that when it happened, the first thing you thought about was, “well, how much is gold up?” The first thing that came to mind was, “my God, gold must be exploding”. Fortunately, for us, all our clients were in gold. So when it went up they all doubled their money. Everybody doubled their money. It was a blessing in disguise. Devastating, crushing, heart shattering, but on the financial sense, for my clients that were in the market, they all made money. Now, I wasn’t looking for this type of help, but it happened. When the USA bombed Iraq back in 1991 the price of oil went from $13 to £40 a barrel, for cying out loud! Now, we couldn’t wait for the bombs to start raining down on Saddam Hussein. We were all excited. We wanted Saddam to really create problems. “Do whatever you have to do, set fire to some more oil wells, because the price is going to go higher.” Every broker was chanting that. There was not a broker that I know of that wasn’t excited about that. This was a disaster. This was something that was, you know, catastrophe happening. Bombing. Wars. In devastation there is opportunity.

    See also; Halliburton, etc.

  13. Anton Mates says

    Raging Bee,

    I don’t normally spend much time defending Chomsky, but:

    Really? What US “geopolitical interest,” exactly, does Israel or any of its policies, past or present, serve?

    A military foothold in an otherwise largely hostile Middle East; a bastion of democracy and western values and puppies and kittens and people that look kinda white in a wasteland of tribal savages; a subsidy for US industries supplying arms and equipment; an intelligence source on Soviet weapons systems captured from Arab enemies; and, of course, a way of scoring brownie points with the evangelical God by helping his Temporarily Chosen People beat on the heathens until the Second Coming.

    If you feel that some of these “interests” are stupid and other ones are not actually served by Israel, I don’t disagree, but that doesn’t invalidate Chomsky’s claim that US policies toward Israel are motivated by such interests. As opposed to “we must assist Israel because the Zionists command it and we fear their might.”

    That said, if Chomsky thinks the specific interest that influences our relationship with Israel most strongly is oil, I’m not aware of much evidence for that. But I’m not an expert in any relevant field.

    Again, how the fuck does anything we’ve done in the Middle East relate to any of our oil-related interests? The only consequences I see WRT oil, are disruption, chaos, stagnation, higher oil prices (for energy-consuming businesses as well as consumers), and more people impoverished by war who might otherwise be buying more stuff from the West.

    Again, I don’t think that assessing the consequences really tells you why we did what we did.

    To use Iraq as an example, there were multiple competing visions of what to do with Iraq’s oil after we conquered liberated it. The neocons and the Bush administration wanted to privatize all Iraq’s oil assets, in hopes of ending OPEC’s monopoly and bring down oil prices. The US oil lobby and the State Department opposed this, because a) bringing down foreign oil prices would reduce the oil companies’ profit margin and b) privatization was incredibly unpopular among Iraqis and was fueling the insurgency. Eventually the State Department’s plan won out, but the neocons had already gotten their way on the whole “having a war” thing, so we ended up with the current clusterfuck of a shattered Iraq, high oil prices and a shitload of dead people.

    Which just goes to show that, even though our behavior in the Middle East may not generally be beneficial to our oil-related interests, that doesn’t mean that it’s not heavily influenced by those interests. The people who represent them in our government just aren’t very competent or good at long-term cooperation.

    Israel can only continue its current policies because it is underwritten economically, militarily, and politically by the US.
    This is utter bullshit: Israel is perfectly capable of changing its policies. Israeli bigotry, inertia, and lack of political will make change hard, but not impossible; and the idea that US policies are stopping Israel from changing is laughably absurd.

    I think you’re misinterpreting the word “only” there. Chomsky is not saying that Israel is incapable of changing its policies if the US keeps supporting it; he’s saying that Israel will have to change its policies if the US stops supporting it. We’re not stopping it from choosing to change, but we could be forcing it to change instead.

  14. kraut says

    “That’s nothing but pure oversimplified, overgeneralized BS, by someone who clearly has ZERO business sense”

    So your hang you argument on one line of one quote? Dismissing the rest of the links and quotes?
    Then you argue bullshit like: . “And second, “permanent chaos, war and destruction” in oil-producing areas really isn’t good for oil production, and it means big increases in the cost of doing business there.” when it is exactly the result of US politics since the Vietnam wars, wherever the US has been engaged – chaos ensues, be it Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya etc. When it is clear who profited from the supplies to the battlefields, companies like Halliburton who are masters of crony capitalism – google if you don’t know it.
    You are totally oblivious to the fact that weapons alone do not make a war, that the supplies are more valuable and profitable than just supplying weaponry, showing that you are a clueless idiot.
    Yes, I call you that and a fucking arsehole to boot, because all you could do to bolster your bullshit arguments was name calling me. So fuck of you stupid git and rage somewhere els.

  15. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @4. AsqJames : “Have we finally scared colnago80, StevoR, et al away with facts ”

    No. You haven’t scared me away nor do the facts support the Hamas or Arab sides of this issue.

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