Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Current Crises in the Middle East at MIT (September 21, 2006)

Just for the record: Alan Dershowitz said in the debate "Israel and Palestine After Disengagement"at Kennedy School of Government, November 29, 2005, that: "What Chomsky is telling you to do, is read the available record in Esperanto. He constantly tells you to read sources he knows you can't read, because he knows if you check…his sources, they are false." He also said "Go back tonight and Google, and read the sources. Read them in English. Read them in whatever language you can, and then email us both as to what the sources show."

In fact, I do what he recommends, regularly: I google and read the sources, read them in English as much as possible and as far as I know, they are always true, and never selective.

I think a proper transcript of this talk will come up on the MIT World website later. The talk begins at 1:16. I’m responsible for the punctuation.

The Current Crises in the Middle East at MIT (September 21, 2006)

Chomsky: Thanks. Well, I see you managed to find your way through the maze of room changes, so that’s a help. We almost were assigned to the Lockheed Martin room, but escaped by a miracle, although in a way it would have been appropriate for what I’m going to talk about. The title that was announced was “The Current Crisis in the Middle East,” singular, which is a mistake, it’s my fault. It should have been “crises” plural, because there are quite a few of them.

There are at least four major ones. The first is Palestine, which has been systematically destroyed both of its parts: Gaza and the West Bank. The second is Lebanon, which has just been largely destroyed once again. That’s the fifth Israeli invasion in 30 years, all backed by the United States, which is the part that ought to concern us. The third is Iraq, which is a hideous catastrophe and getting worse. The fourth is Iran, which is an impending catastrophe that could blow up the whole region. And it doesn’t take much imagination to think of others. Well, I’m going to say a few words about each of them; mainly the first two, Lebanon and Palestine, which I think are closely linked. So, let’s start with Palestine.


It’s commonly recognized and rightly to be the core of the good deal of the turmoil and conflict in the region. In much of the world, that conflict, Israel and Palestine, is regarded as the most serious threat to peace in the world. It seems on the surface to be hopeless; it’s degenerating into something like tribal warfare with a familiar cycle of escalating violence, revenge and fanaticism. It’s not entirely false but it’s a highly misleading picture because there is a very reasonable solution which could lead to peace and security, maybe lay a basis for something more satisfactory for the people of, the two peoples, both populations and for the region. Furthermore, it’s well known. It’s also well known or it should be, why it’s still only a hope, not a reality.

The basic outlines of solution were formally presented at the UN Security Council 30 years ago in January 1976. It was the resolution backed by the major Arab states, the most of the world, supported by the PLO: the Palestine Liberation Organization. It incorporated the wording, the basic central wording of what are recognized on all sides to be the core diplomatic document, UN 242 of November, 1967. It incorporated that wording including recognition of the rights of all states in the region to live in peace and security within recognized borders, but it added something to UN 242; 242 said nothing about the Palestinians except the refugees and something ought to be done for them. But by the mid-70s, the Palestinian issue had entered the international agenda. The January 1976 resolution called for two-states, side-by-side, both recognized, both living in peace and security within recognized borders, with some variations. These have been basic outlines of settlement right up to the present, there are a few changes but not much.

Israel refused to attend. Instead it bombed Nabatea, it’s a town in southern Lebanon, killing many inhabitants with anti-personnel weapons, rockets and bombs. No credible pretext was ever offered. It presumably was retaliation against the United Nations for daring to consider a political settlement; however, there was no need for Israeli concern. The big brother stepped in, vetoed the resolution but that’s the first of several, another one in 1980, since then there is a host of General Assembly resolutions. I won’t run through them. The votes are usually something like 150 to 2 or something like that, virtually annually.

Nabatea was reduced to ruins. Last July, once again, there was another act of wanton savagery. It’s actually vivid for several of us here, because we just visited at-- it was a couple of weeks ago, a flourishing hopeful town. Walk to the streets, they were welcomed into homes; now, all heaps of rubble, even burial grounds for people we met.

The 1976 resolution was not only supported by the major Arab states, their confrontation states as they’re called, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, but as I mentioned, they were also supported by the PLO, which denounced what it called “the tyranny of veto” after the United States vetoed it.

Israel’s UN ambassador, Chaim Herzog, who was later the President, denounced the resolution, claimed it was written by the PLO. It’s just extremely unlikely, it was a bit paranoid but the paranoia is understandable. Israel has been very deeply concerned about the prospect of the threat of peace for quite a long time and for a very simple reason: peace means the end of expansion. And it also grants rights to the indigenous population, recognizes their existence and that’s psychologically difficult for many people to accept. And it continues until today.

One of Israel’s most astute and informed commentators for a great many years, Uri Avnery, had an article about a week ago with the headline “Help! Peacemongers!” It opened like this, and it sort of summarizes what’s been going on for 30 years: “In the corridors of powers in Jerusalem, the cry is going up: ‘Help! Peace is upon you, Israel!’ A terrible enemy is conspiring to impose peace on us. He is advancing against us from two sides in a giant pincer movement. One arm of the offensive is the Palestinian Unity Government that is about to be set up. The other is the decision of the Arab League to revive the Arab Peace Plan.” of 2002. He knows what he’s talking about. This has been going on for years.

In fact 1976, which I mentioned, was not the first case. The first case, and a very important one, was 1971. In 1971, President Sadat of Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty, almost exactly in the terms of official US government policy at that time. Israel recognized it to be a genuine peace offer. The cabinet considered it and decided to reject it. It was a choice, so they preferred expansion to security. That would have meant security, would have meant the end of international conflict for all intensive purposes. Expansion at that time was primarily into the North Eastern Sinai, where Israel had expelled thousands of farmers, driven them into the desert, destroyed towns and mosques, cemeteries, leveled the place in order to establish a new city, an all-Jewish city called “Yamit” and a group of other--keep several Kibbutzim in other settlements. This, incidentally, was the Labor government regarded as doves.

A real question was how the US would react: it would continue with its earlier policy, therefore supporting Egypt’s peace offer, or would shift and support Israeli expansion. It was a discussion, Kissinger prevailed, the national security advisor at that time. And the United States adopted his policy what he called “stalemate,” meaning no negotiations, just force.

That led directly to the 1973 war, which turned out to be a very close thing for Israel. And it compelled the United States and Israel to accept Sadat’s 1971 proposal. It took several years but after many negotiations, the United States finally accepted the 1971 offer in 1979 at Camp David. That is recorded in US history as a great triumph of US peace making. In fact, it was a diplomatic disaster which led to a major war, virtual and serious threat of a nuclear war, anguish and torment for years, but it was finally accepted.

Actually the terms that the US and Israel finally accepted in 1979 were harsher, from their point of view, than the one Sadat offered in 1971. His ‘71 offer also said nothing about the Palestinians, just they mentioned rights of refugees, but as I said by the mid-70s the Palestinians national issue had entered international agenda, so it brought it up. And there was various hand-waving about it.

Well, the 1971 decision, which unfortunately is rarely discussed, I think was one of the most fateful ones in Israel history, in fact history in the region.

Israel and the United States had a clear choice. The choice was for Israel, one option was for Israel to integrate peacefully into the region. The alternative was to live by the sword, meaning in particular becoming a US client state, because this is another way to live by the sword. Israel chose the second option. So, as I mentioned that it almost led to its destruction in 1973 and it’s proceeding in the same directions since, going right to the present.

So take, what happened this summer is the destruction of, the on-going destruction of Palestine and destruction of much of Lebanon before our eyes. Nobody seriously doubts that that’s creating new generations of Jihadis, full of hatred and committed to revenge with consequences that will apply to Israel and much more broadly, perhaps here as well.

Well, Israel is by no means alone in assigning a low priority to security, preferring, in this case, expansion. Assigning a low priority to security in comparison with other aims is pretty standard state behavior: for example, it’s standard for the Israel’s super power patron. Many, many examples are.

The most dramatic recent example is invasion of Iraq. It was undertaken with expectation by intelligence agencies and others that it will lead to increase in terror and nuclear proliferation; dynamics are understood. And it did, in fact to a degree well beyond what had been anticipated.

But there were other priorities and increasing the risk of terror, maybe nuclear terror, maybe a nuclear war is just not a high priority for state managers. Many examples in history, where were replete with examples.

This threat of peace has arisen-- that Avnery’s talks about--has arisen constantly. Take 1982. That was the year of the worst US-Israeli invasion of Lebanon. I call it US-Israeli invasion because all those forces were Israeli, the arms were US, the United States provides the diplomatic support, vetoes resolutions, stand in conflict, and so on. So that was the worst US-Israeli invasion.

And we understand the reasons. There’s pretty good record. Immediately after the invasion, Israel’s leading scholar on Palestinians, a Hebrew university professor Yehoshua Porath, who is incidentally no dove, explained in Israel’s leading newspaper that Israel was facing what the government regarded as “a veritable catastrophe,” in his words, “a veritable catastrophe” was embarrassing PLO offers for negotiations, which were becoming harder and harder to evade. That would be a catastrophe, said from their point of view, of Israeli government, it’s much better to drive the PLO back to terrorism and avoid this dread threat of political settlement. It was pretty openly described that the highest political and military echelons as a war for the West Bank, and a devastating war. There is a propaganda version, which is transmitted to reporters and commentators.

Thomas Friedman is a typical example. According to him and many others, the invasion was undertaken to protect northern Israel from Palestinian rockets. The only problem with that is that there are no Palestinian rockets. There had been a ceasefire established after conflict a year earlier, the Palestinians had adhered to it rigorously despite extensive and sometimes quite murderous Israeli violations, which apparently were an effort to elicit retaliation which would be a pretext for the planned invasion. When no pretexts to be found, there was one invented and invasion took place.

The first act of invasion was to bomb the Sabra/Shatila refugee camp, later the site of a famous or infamous massacre. That bombing which opened the war killed 200 Palestinians in the camps, according to an American Middle East specialist Cheryl Rubenberg, who was there at that time. The invasion went on to kill maybe 15-20,000 more people. We really never know the numbers of our victims; they are not counted. The only numbers that are counted where we have detailed forensic analysis to try to pick up every piece of bomb and so on as somebody else’s crimes. But rough estimate is in 15-20,000 range, destroyed much of Lebanon.

The pretexts for the other invasions, including the latest one in July, collapse on the slightest examination. I won’t run through them, there’s plenty in print.

They largely reduce when you look at them to the same motives, the same concerns. One concern is maintaining the rejectionist stance, not with respect to Palestinian rights, rejecting it unilaterally in the world. And the second is maintaining regional dominance for what has become predictably since 1971 a US client state, by now virtually an offshore military base and high tech center.

The invasion in July(2006) is not much difference, the same basic reasons except there was another one plausible reason--we don’t have internal documents obviously, so anything you say is speculation--but another likely reason was to eliminate a Lebanese-based deterrent to an eventual attack on Iran if the US and Israel decide to undertake it.

Well, US-Israel rejectionism is not rhetoric, it also goes on to deeds which is a lot more important. It means regular projects of settlement in the Occupied Territories, huge infrastructure projects breaking them up right through the Oslo years, the years so-called “the Oslo Peace Process” from 1993 to 2000.

The settlement and infrastructure development continued steadily, steady pace all along, the US paid for it, Israel carried it out. The peak was Clinton’s last year 2000, also the last year of Prime Minister Barak. In that year, leading right up to the Camp David meetings, the pace of settlement increased by almost 50% but was steady. Then come Bush and Sharon, that’s all accelerated.

Today there’s a euphemism for it: it’s called “convergence,” and we’re supposed to praise it as courageous withdrawal. Actually the convergence program, announced a couple of months ago, is a program of annexation and dismemberment and imprisonment explicitly: Israel annexes valuable lands and major resources particularly water, the rest of the shrinking territories assigned to the Palestinians are broken up, dismembered to virtually separated cantons, all of them are virtually separated from whatever sliver of Jerusalem is to be left to Palestinians--it’s the center of commercial, educational, cultural, political life. And it’s all imprisoned, because Israel is effectively annexing the Jordan Valley, look at the map, it’s imprisoned. Of course, air space and any other access. All of this is fulfilling goals which were set out quite clearly in the early days of the occupation under the Labor government.

They were described to the Cabinet, for example, by Moshe Dayan, who was, one of among the Israeli leaders, one of the most sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians. His advice to the Cabinet was that Israel should tell the Palestinians in the territories that we have no solution, you shall “continue to live like dogs” and “whoever wishes may leave,” and “we will see where this process leads.” That’s the leading principle of the occupation right up to the present, becoming harsher all the time.

The background reasoning was given by Chaim Herzog, later, the president, as I mentioned, in 1972, he said, “I do not deny the Palestinians a place or stand or opinion on every matter. But certainly I am not prepared to consider them as partners in any respect in a land that has been consecrated in the hands of our nation for thousands of years. For the Jews of this land,” that means everything to the west of Jordan, “there cannot be any partner.” To much of the leadership it meant east of Jordan, too.

Well, it was not unanimous, not everyone agreed. One of those who didn’t agree was the hawkish, military governor of the West Bank, General Shlomo Gazit. He’s recently written his memoirs, which is quite illuminating. He describes how the military governor, then Israeli military intelligence forwarded the political leadership--this remembered as a dovish political leadership--kept forwarding to them the proposals for some degree of a local autonomy for the Palestinians for what are called notables, the wealthiest sectors and mayors and so on, just some form of self-government.

The Israeli government had no interest at all, it didn’t even respond. It rejected all such proposals, their intent was full Israeli control: what Dayan called “permanent rule” over the territories and expansion into Sinai at that time. Pretty much the same policies are carried out within Israel.

So just two days ago, one of Israel’s most outstanding journalists, Amira Hass, reviewed a new book by an Israeli historian Hillel Cohen, it’s based on recently released the internal records. And it outlines on a quarterly review. It outlines the official paradigm since 1948, “continued theft of lands, continued fragmentation and weakening of Arab society, and undermining the possibility of the Arabs developing an independent leadership.” After 1967, the same principles were applied to the Occupied Territories. Continuing with Hass, the paradigm is “maximum weakening in every possible way, of the Palestinian national collective, so that it will not be able to realize its goal and establish a state worthy of the name.” Policies included blocking education and social and economic development. It was all she says in “the name of security, but not for its sake.” The record illustrates that very clearly, apparently the internal documents spell out the planning.

The rejectionism is quite consistent. To just to mention one or another striking moment, in 1988, the Palestinian National Council formally accepted a two-state settlement on the international border, before that, they implicitly accepted it. Israel had an immediate reaction. It was at the time of a coalition government, Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres. And they came out immediately with the plan, stating that the first point was that there cannot be “an additional Palestinian state,” between Israel and Jordan; presupposition is Jordan already is a Palestinian state. They can’t have a second one. The second plank was that the fate of territories will be decided in accord with the guidelines of the state of Israel. That proposal was immediately endorsed by George Bush No1 and James Baker, Secretary of State. It’s called “the Baker Plan” in December 1989, which simply endorsed without comment the Israeli program. That’s the most extreme anti-Palestinian position that has formally been accepted by any US government. Bush No1 is considered too critical of Israel. It’s a standard view and most of this is under the rug but it’s there. And this goes on.

In fact, to be precise, there has been one break. One week in Taba, in Egypt, 2001, there was a week when Israeli and Palestinian negotiators came together, pursuing a peace plan. In their final session, after a week, they had a press conference in which they said if they had a little more time-- they thought they were going to iron out the details and reach an agreement pretty much along the lines of international consensus--well they didn’t have any more time; Israel Prime minister Barak cancelled the meetings early, and that’s the end of that.

But that’s the one real break in 30 years of US-Israeli rejectionism. After that, negotiations continued, what are called track 2 negotiations, non-official negotiations with high-level negotiators, that continued, finally led to the Geneva Accord, which was released in December 2002, was welcomed by almost the entire world, the Arab states, the PLO.

Israel rejected it outright. The US simply dismissed it, didn’t even respond. In fact, of the world major countries, the US was the only one that didn’t even send words of greeting to the Geneva Accords. And accordingly it was simply dismissed and ridiculed in the US press. And it’s still there, but it’s going to take a significant change in US policy for anything like that to be implemented.

Among the relevant actors today, this kind of political settlement, it’s like details changing, this general form of this settlement is accepted with near unanimity. It’s formally accepted by the Arab League--that’s the plan that Uri Avnery was referring to--the 2002 Arab League Plan, which called for normalization of relations with Israel, full normalization of relations within a two-state settlement. It’s formally supported by Iran. That was reiterated recently by what they call the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who is in charge of foreign policy, top cleric, reiterated that Iran accepts the Arab League Plan. As far as I’m aware that hasn’t been reported in the United States. It’s been accepted repeatedly by Hezbollah. The leader Sayyid Nasrallah has repeatedly stated that Hezbollah doesn’t want to recognize Israel, but it’s a Lebanese organization, and if the Palestinians decide to recognize Israel and the two-state settlement, Hezbollah won’t disrupt it; they’re Lebanese. Hamas, now the government, has made many statements, indicating pretty clearly that they accept that plan calling for negotiations for it.

Actually there are only two significant opponents of what Hillel called “George Bush’s vision,” of a two-state settlement. The two opponents are George Bush and his administration and Prime Minister Olmert of Israel, just pursuing the traditional policies of systematic rejectionism.

Well, the US liberal media, like our journal here, preferred a different story. So, according to the Boston Globe, a couple of weeks ago, Charles Radin, a Middle East correspondent, according to him, Israel is fighting Hezbollah, which, like the Iranian regime, “is sworn to the destruction of Jewish state.” It just doesn’t matter, that they have said they’re going to recognize it in accord with the Palestinian and the Arab League proposal. And that’s pretty standard, it’s kind of unfair to pick him out. It provides useful justification for US-Israeli rejectionism, rejection of political settlement and insistence on violence.

Well, from the start, it’s now almost 37 years, the occupation has been harsh and brutal, there has been no credible security pretext, today there’s mounting savagery.

There is a policy that was called “Gaza’s disengagement.” hailed as very forthcoming, in fact it was openly announced immediately as a “West Bank expansion plan.” Sane Israeli hawks and US hawks understood that after Gaza had been reduced to being virtually unlivable after decades of occupation, that didn’t make any sense at all to keep a few thousand Israeli settlers there protected by a large part of the IDF, the Israeli army, taking over--I think it was about a third or so-- of the most valuable land and major resources primarily water. That’s pointless, it makes a lot more sense to transfer them over to the other occupied territories, mainly the West Bank and also Golan Heights.

In order to make it look dramatic, they staged what was ridiculed by some Israeli commentators correctly “They staged a national trauma,” to make it look just extremely painful to withdraw from this area. So in fact, (….) remembers, too, there was a huge media extravaganza, pictures of a little Jewish boy trying to hold back the soldiers destroying his house and so on. All-stage, it was, a lot of settlers were allowed in, so that could be pretense of violence; there wasn’t any. But then you can say “never again, never again, we shall abandon our land, the Jewish should not suffer” and so on. The withdrawal could have been done perfectly quietly. All that was necessary was for Israel to announce there would be withdrawal on 15th, just to announce that on August 1st, the IDF, the army will withdraw. And immediately the settlers who had been subsidized to go there in the first place and stay there would get onto the trucks that were provided for them, and move over to the West Bank where they could move in a new subsidized settlements. But if they did it that way, there would have been no national trauma, any justification for saying we never can give up another square millimeter of land and so on. What made all this even more ridiculous was that it was a repetition of a staged trauma in 1982. What was described in Israel’s leading paper “Ha’aretz” is the Operation National Trauma 1982. After Israel finally agreed to Sadat’s 1971 offer, it had to evacuate northeastern Sinai, and there was another staged trauma, which again was ridiculed by Israeli commentators, by a miracle: none of the settlers who were resisting didn’t even need a band aid, while Palestinians were being killed all over the place. But you could have that same trauma; so that was carried out.

Meanwhile, after the so-called withdrawal, Israel maintained Gaza as a prison. Israeli human rights groups called it “the world’s largest prison,” any access in and out of this controlled by Israel is repeatedly stopped. Attacks on Gaza, that continued steadily. From September of the withdrawal to June of this year, 144 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including 29 children. Israeli casualties were zero.

It became worse in January (2006). What happened in January is that the Palestinians committed a major crime: they voted the wrong way in a free election. And that has to be punished. The US and Israel immediately announced that they would punish the population for this democratic crime. They cut off supplies, they cut off funds that Israel is legally obligated to provide, even went to the extent of cutting off water, which is really gratuitous cruelty in the area where water is extremely scarce, people don’t have drinking water, so water-starved region. This is nothing new.

In fact, it’s a standard operating procedure; there are many examples in recent American history. Famous one, it should be famous is Chile. When they voted the wrong way and elected Salvador Allende, the US policies-there were the soft line and the hard line. The soft line was to "make the economy scream," to punish the population for voting the wrong way. The hard line was to support a military coup which led to what is often called in South America the first 9/11, 1973. I won’t go into it but in fact much more serous than the second 9/11. That’s what you do when people commit democratic crimes.

It’s another sign of many other examples. Another sign is the almost visceral hatred for democracy, functioning democracy on the part of the Bush administration but in fact elite opinion pretty generally, this goes back a long time.

Democracy is fine under a particular definition. Democracy is fine if it comes down to do what we say or else. And “or else” can be pretty brutal. The record is voluminous, but it’s very well contained, it’s one of the major successes of containment doctrine.

In June, this year 2006, the Israeli attacks on Gaza escalated. According to the United Nations, which keeps the detailed record, in June, there were 40 deaths, Palestinian deaths in Palestine, 36 in the Gaza Strip, 12 children. In June, there were 3 Israelis. That escalated very sharply after the capture of an Israeli soldier, corporal Gilad Shalit on June 25. In the first month after his capture, 171 were killed, 34 children, it’s quadrupling of killings. Israel destroyed the power system, that means virtually destroyed them, means the most of the scarce water supply is gone. By mid-September, a couple of weeks ago, more than 250 Gazan have been killed since July, including at least 45 children and eleven women. One of Israel’s best reporters, the world’s best reporters, Gideon Levy described Gaza as “now a withered blighted garden enveloped in grief and suffering, bearing both in silence as this hot and lethal summer draws to a close,” pretty accurate.

What was the reason for the June escalation? Well, there’s an official story, again we can go to the Boston Globe. The Globe explained as follows. It said: “The attack on military targets inside Israel,” meaning the capture of Gilad Shalit, “that military action led to an Israeli solder being taken hostage, it was not merely an arbitrary reflex within a cycle of vengeance. It was ordered by someone with command responsibility in Hamas, who could not be indifferent to the timing of its action or to its politically and military consequences. Because the hostage-taking operation has brought Palestinians and Israelis alike to the brink of a new round of foreseeable disasters, it is crucial that all concerned parties focus their remedial efforts on the right address.” Hamas, that’s the editorial editors called for the voice of reason. “If unreason prevails, a tsunami of unnecessary suffering will break upon the people of the region.”

Well, it’s useful to bear in mind that all of this is pure cynical farce. That was demonstrated conclusively the day before the capture of corporal Gilad Shalit. The day before, Israeli forces, June 24, kidnapped and abducted two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother, Muamar brothers, kidnapped, taken join thousands of others somewhere in the Israeli prisons who were also kidnapped--it’s called “the administrative detention” held without charges-- there are about 8,000 others who were technically sentenced and put on trial that are mockery, many of them were transported from the Occupied Territories to Israel, which is another violation of international law, the Geneva Conventions. But with impunity, it goes under the umbrella of the outlaw superpower and the reining intellectual and moral culture which permits all this in clients.

The kidnapping of the Muamar brothers was certainly known but it wasn’t reported in the Boston Globe. It was reported a little bit elsewhere, there were scattered reports, pretty marginal, quickly dismissed. The Washington Post had 87 words on it; it was quickly forgotten. Kidnapping civilians is a far more serous crime than capture of a soldier. But crimes don’t matter when they’re committed by our side, just as elections don’t count if they come out the wrong way. Recall that I’m not quoting the redneck barbarians, I’m quoting the voice of the educated liberal elite, in the essence of America--it’s self-designated.

Well, that’s Gaza. The West Bank is much the same. There isn’t much of massive violence, just random brutality, humiliation that’s been going for decades. Now, under the rubric of convergence, all totally illegal, the World Court determined that--they were ruling on this separation wall, now the annexation wall--determined that it’s totally illegal, unanimous. Even the US justice who signed a separate declaration declared any part of the wall built for defense of Israeli settlement, he said, is “de facto in violation of international law.” But it is backed by the global ruler. So therefore, it’s called moderate. And if you read the press and commentary, Prime Minister Olmert of Israel is praised for his courageous withdrawal plan. To translate it to English, is vicious and criminal annexation, dismemberment and imprisonment plan, designed with US aid to drive the final nails into the coffin of Palestinian national rights.

Well, Olmert explains soulfully that he just has to do it. The reason is that there is no Palestinian partner. Hamas, the governing party, doesn’t qualify, nor did its predecessor. It’s true that Hamas observed a year-and-a-half truce, despite regular Israeli atrocities, and it called for a semi-permanent truce during negotiations for a two-state settlement. But that’s not enough.

Hamas has first to satisfy three interesting conditions: First, it has to recognize Israel. Second it has to renounce violence and third it has to accept prior agreements. Let’s just imagine we had media and journals in the United States, what would they point out?

Do Israel and the United States recognize Palestine? Do they renounce violence? No, bad joke, of course not. But conditions are for the weak, not for the strong. That’s a fundamental, doctoral principle. What about accepting prior agreements? The New York Times editors delivered a stern lecture on this to Hamas. They instructed Hamas that they must agree to the 2002 Arab League Peace Plan, quoting the Times, since that is “an admission ticket to the real world, a necessary rite of passage in the progression from a lawless opposition to a lawful government.” Like others, the Times editors omitted a minor fact, namely the US and Israel forcefully reject this proposal. They are alone in doing so among the relevant actors. I can go on, but time’s tight. The other conditions are even more ludicrous. Well, that’s Bush’s vision, his famous vision, now being implemented as annexation, dismemberment and imprisonment in the West Bank, imprisonment and destruction of the other half of Palestine. A Hebrew University sociologist Baruch Kimmerling describes it as “Politicide,” the destruction of a nation. Something we don’t see very often, in fact we don’t see now either, because we’re carrying it out. So, therefore it’s invisible. That’s the first crisis.


The second crisis is Lebanon. On July 12 (2006), Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, that’s set off a fierce US-Israeli attack, killed maybe 1200-1300 people, destroyed much of the country, aimed at the infrastructure and at the population. The organization Doctors without Borders, its spokesman reported that it had to use taxis because ambulances were being specifically targeted. Even the US press did provide some fraction of hideous story, it was actually much worse.

There is now a ceasefire, the US delayed a ceasefire as long as it could to permit maximal carnage. But the killing was going to continue despite the ceasefire without a shot being fired. Particularly in the last three days of the offensive--after the ceasefire had been announced but before it was implemented and went into force--in the last three days the IDF saturated southern Lebanon with over a million cluster bombs. These are extremely lethal anti-personnel weapons, about a third of them roughly don’t explode on contact. They explode, if you pick them up, say or hit them with a rake.

Either that’s incredibly in bad quality control or the intention is to render areas uninhabitable. The death toll right now is reported about four a day. A little child picks one of these things up, he thinks it’s a ball, his head’s blown off. Patrick Cockburn in the British press, an excellent reporter, reports that “Lebanon’s farmers are caught in deadly dilemma: To risk the harvest or to leave the produce on which they depend to rot in the fields.”

Israeli artillery officers who are now being quoted pretty extensively in the Hebrew press estimated that the IDF fired 160,000 shells during the recent war. By comparison in the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria, that was a major war, the IDF fired less than 100,000 shells. Soldiers, accordingly Israeli press, said their orders were in the last three days to fire everything they had, to destroy everything they could, to turn the region into a free fire zone. They didn’t even know what they were shooting about, it’s just like the master.

Take Cambodia, in Henry Kissinger’s immortal words, their orders to the air force were to “hit anything to send anything that flies against anything that moves.” I don’t know of such an explicit call for genocide in archives in any state but it passes unnoticed here.

On July 13, Israeli rockets hit a fuel storage tank at the main power station in Lebanon. Two days later they returned, hitting the tank again but destroying the concrete and earth barrier, that’s designed to prevent spilled oil from spitting into Mediterranean. And there was a huge oil spill, the largest ever in eastern Mediterranean, destroyed the coast line. Oil at Syria may reach Cyprus and Greece, avoids Israel because the way the currents flow.

Many of you, I’m sure, read science magazine, the Triple S journal, its latest issue says that 15,000 tons have washed the shore, small proportion of it. They revealed high concentration of cancer-causing aromatic hydro carbons, much has sunk below the surface, causing further risks to the food chain and difficulties for clean up. The Environment Minister of Lebanon stated that “a highly poisonous cloud has spread over a third of the country, an area that’s home to half of its people from the fire that burned for 12 days, it has high levels of poisonous lead and mercury, highly dangerous PCBs,” continue with him, “not only have we been breathing this for a month but all the agricultural produce has been subjected to it. Even worse, all these poisons will come down with the rain, and some will seep through the soil, and give us a polluted water table. Then in a couple of years every single citizen in Lebanon will definitely be subjected to poisonous matter in his drinking water. “

He expected more Lebanese to die from the pollution than the 1200-1300 overwhelmingly civilians who were killed in the war. It’s bigger disaster even than the war itself. Notice all of this is purposeful, you don’t miss targets like that. Well, what’s the reason for the savagery of the US-Israeli assault? You should make no doubt about it, the blood is in our hands.

There’s a standard explanation like the Globe’s. Hezbollah committed an intolerable act of aggression by capturing the soldiers. And again, this is pure cynical farce. For decades, Israel has been kidnapping Lebanese civilians in Lebanese territory, on the high seas, transits from Cyprus to Lebanon, holding them on for some years, some decades, sometimes holding them as hostages, sometimes in secret prison, torture chambers. Also known, no secret about this but not reported in the United States. Of course, no one has ever called for invasion of Israel and retaliation. So, it’s all farce, a complete farce.

What about the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon? It’s true in the year 2000, Israel withdrew--that’s after 22 years of brutal and murderous occupation in violation of Security Council orders--but with US support it was OK. Since then, since the withdrawal, UNIFIL, UN force in the south, keeps very careful records, they report daily violations of Lebanese territory by Israel. In contrast, the number of rocket firing in these six years attributed to Hezbollah is zero. There’s one possible exception where the origin was undetermined.

Well, if the world were ruled by justice, not force, the expanded UNIFIL force--they were all ruling about--would be not in the southern Lebanon but in northern Israel or maybe in Washington or in Boston. Well, there’s a lot more to say about this but I’ll put it aside.


Let’s turn to the third crisis, Iraq. I don’t have to describe the incredible catastrophe for Iraqis; I have written enough about that. What should the US do at this point?

Well, there are some principles. One principle is that invading armies have no rights whatsoever: they have only obligations and responsibilities. The first obligation is to pay massive reparations for the crime of aggression: the supreme international crime, according to the Nuremberg judgment, which “encompasses all evil that follows.” The second obligation would be to put on trial the people responsible for the supreme international crime. That’s the first. (applause)

The second major obligation is to observe the will of the victims. That’s a primary obligation of an invading force. We know pretty well what that will is. There are regular US-run polls taken in Iraq. The most recent one released said that, a couple of months ago, that 87% of Iraqis--it includes the Kurds incidentally-- 87% of the population wants a concrete time table for withdrawal; that was the wording. Tony Blair and George Bush immediately announced that it would not happen. As Bush put it in the UN two days ago, “We will not abandon you and your struggle to build a free nation,” meaning we will not accept the will of 87% of the population that we set the firm timetable for withdrawal. It doesn’t really matter what 87% of the population want. That’s another toothpick to add to the mountain of evidence, demonstrating the visceral hatred for democracy. The technical name for it in Western commentary, it’s called “democracy promotion” or “visions of democracy,” and so on.

There’s a great deal of discussion going on about the withdrawal plans, almost invariably--I’ve yet found an exception--evading the main issue. For the United States, for US planners, a sovereign Iraq would be a complete nightmare. Simply consider its likely policies. A sovereign moderately democratic Iraq has a Shiite majority. First thing they’d do-- in fact they’re doing already--is to improve relations with the Shiite in Iran, next door; the majority of the clerics come from there, one of the major militias in the south are trained there. They may not love Iran, but they much prefer friendly relation than hostility with their major neighbor, so it’s already happening. Right across the border in Saudi Arabia, there happens to be a Shiite majority. As Iran has even attentive moves toward sovereignty, it increases pressures there for some kind of at least minimum human rights under vicious oppression from the US-backed tyranny, but also some sort of autonomy. You can see what might develop-- I’m sure Washington planners are having nightmares about it--what might develop is a loose, Shiite alliance: southern Iraq, Iran, neighboring areas of Saudi Arabia. That happens to be where most Saudi oil is, so that alliance could control most of world’s energy, independent of Washington, an unspeakable nightmare which could get a lot worse.

Europe is intimidated when the US shakes its fists and backs off. China isn’t. That’s why China is considered a great threat. It’s not a military threat but it won’t be intimidated, been around for three thousand years, no particular interest in what barbarians were saying, so they continue to invest--including Saudi Arabia, the prize--send military aid, every reason why they’d like to attract this alliance into their orbit.

There are already major organizations. Shanghai Cooperation Council includes Central Asian states. Asian Energy Security Grid based primarily in China, including Russia, neighboring states probably will include India before too long. If the Middle East oil resources move into it, the United States will become a second class power. Controlling the world’s energy resources has been a prime policy objective for 60 years just as it was for Britain before us and for obvious reasons. That’s not trivial. Any withdrawal proposal that doesn’t take this into consideration, it’s just not serous. Pentagon can think of a withdrawal plan just as easily as we can in our spare time. But what happens afterwards? Unless you think about that, you’re not talking about withdrawal.


Let’s talk about the forth crisis briefly, Iran. That’s an extremely dangerous one. And there are possible peaceful settlements. Three years ago in May 2003, the Khatami government--that’s the reformist, moderate government--but with the support of Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, they offered the United States negotiations on all issues, on a two-state settlements of Israel-Palestine, on nuclear issues and so on. The US did respond, they responded by reprimanding the Swiss diplomat who brought the offer. That was a total response. So it continues.

Right afterwards, Iran and the European Union entered into an agreement by bargain. The bargain was that Iran would suspend its uranium enrichment programs to which it’s entitled under the Non Proliferation Treaty but it would suspend them. And in return, the European Union would provide what were called “firm guarantees” on security issues. Everyone knows what the security issue means. It means the US and Israeli threats, credible threats to attack Iran. Those threats incidentally are themselves a major violation of international law which bars threat or use of force. But again one outlaw state carries it out, the educated community accepts it as legitimate. The negotiations went on for about two years, the European Union backed down on its side, apparently under US pressure. After that, Iran backed down also and returned to uranium enrichment. The way it is described here is Iran broke the agreement, returned to uranium enrichment. Not quite the story.

Well, the US has indicated under plenty of pressure, willingness to negotiate but under two conditions. The fist condition is that the outcome of the negotiations, namely, no uranium enrichment, is a pre-condition, for negotiations has to be fixed in advance; so the first you fix the outcome, then we have negotiations. The second is that the negotiations must proceed when Iran has a gun to its head. The US refuses to withdraw the threats of attack--that renders negotiations virtually meaningless--as I said threats are violation of international law but that’s a minor detail.

And threats are very real, they’re not just words. The last couple of years, the United States has sent to Israel over hundred advanced F16s produced by our generous benefactor in the next room. These are publicly advertised as capable of bombing Iran and returning. Israel already has air and armored forces--believe it or not, are larger and technologically more advanced than any NATO power outside the United States. But this is a supplement aimed specifically and publicly at Iran. Germany has just sent to Israel submarines equipped to carry nuclear-tipped missiles. The purpose of that is well known, the purpose is to strengthen Israel’s second strike capacity and those of you who play strategic analysis games know that means undermining any potential Iranian deterrent to an attack. These actions and threats have two immediate effects which are well understood.

The first effect is to harm Iranian reformers, democratic reformers who are complaining bitterly about it.

The most well known of them, Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Prize laureate, has written that “the threat of regime change by military force, while reserved as an option by some in the western world,” polite reference to the United States, and that threat “endangers nearly all the efforts democracy-minded Iranians have made in these recent years. The threat of military force gives the system a pretext to crack down on its legitimate opposition and undermines the nascent civil society that is slowly taking shape here. It means Iranians overlook their resentment of the regime and move behind their unpopular leaders out of defensive nationalism. I can think of no scenario more alarming, no internal shift more dangerous than that endangered by the West,” the US, “imagining that it can bring democracy to Iran, through either military might or the fomentation of violent rebellion.” And her position has been forcefully reiterated by other leading Iranian reformers and dissidents and the reason is clear.

The second consequence of the US stands is that they deter their efforts to reach a political settlement which might well be possible. Opposition to an attack in Iran is even greater than opposition to the Iraq war, where incidentally is overwhelming world-wide: the international Gallop polls found perfectly no country where the support was greater than 10%. The current polls reveal surprisingly that in the neighboring states--Iran’s neighbors, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan-- the public prefers a nuclear-armed Iran to any US military action. And even in Europe, which is the part of the world that’s most supportive of Washington, the US is considered a major threat to world peace, ranking far above Iran or any other countries listed in the poll includes China, Russia, and North Korea. US military presence in Iraq is ranked as a greater threat than Iranian nuclear weapons. And the Israel-Palestine conflict is ranked as among the greatest threats to world peace.

In some sense, all of this awful news is actually good news. The reason is that we live in the state that is regarded worldwide as a lawless and dangerous rogue state, but we also have incomparable freedom, incomparable legacy of freedom and of privilege. That means that the power to end these crimes and avert further ones lies in our hands. Thanks.


Matt said...

what an incredible resource this is! You do a great job transcribing.

Mariko said...

Thank you for your encouraging words. In making a transcript, I just keep realizing that I know almost nothing and have to do lots of readomg and googling but it's sure worth doing.

Rocker said...

Good to see Chomsky transcribed.