The Press Conference at the United Nations on June 5, 2006
This is an excerpt of a two-hour press conference Chomsky gave at the United Nations about a month before the 2006 US-Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The transcript on its Latin America part is available here.
21:18 Q: You seem to talk a lot about international law in this book and in other books. There is a Security Council resolution 1559 on Lebanon, which calls on all militias to be disarmed. You recently visited Hizbullah, can you tell us what you think of Hizbullah in that light, and does it violate the Security Council resolution and international law?
NC: Hizbullah doesn’t violate it but the government of Lebanon does. The government of Lebanon has been unwilling to implement that component of the Security Council resolution. Should they implement it? Well, you know, that’s up to the Lebanese. Hizbullah is a major political party in Lebanon. In the south, it has allegedly about 80% support and the rest of the support is mostly to Amal, which has very similar programs. The polls indicate that a majority of the population does not think that they should disarm. But that’s for them to decide. It’s for the government of Lebanon, not-- (Q: --- international law?) If you think that the government of Lebanon is violating international law, then convince the Security Council to sanction them.
Q: …call on all the militias to be disarmed, (NC: Yeah, that’s right) only Lebanon…[hard to hear because the questioner spoke without a microphone]
NC: Yes, but militias are not responsive to any more than I am. If the Security Council says that-- (Q: renounce …) If the Security Council passes a resolution saying that I should move to some other part of the city, I don’t have to do it. That’s up to… (Q: Isn’t it violating international law?) No, because an individual doesn’t violate international law. International law is imposed on states. OK? And states can observe international law, or like the United States and Britain and others, it can radically violate international law. It’s up to the people of Lebanon and the government of Lebanon to decide whether they want Hizbullah to disarm.
Q: …(inaudible) Iran and Syria violating international law?
NC: The states might, if you have credible evidence just as the United States radically violates international law by providing massive arms to… (Q: inaudible) Yes, I understand what you want. [note: Chomsky now talking directly to the questioner] You want to concentrate on some minor footnote in the whole story. And I suggest that we look at the whole story.
All right, turning to your minor footnote-yes, which is natural for someone who accepts and adopts and wants to pursue the policies of powerful states-turning to that minor footnote, whether Hizbullah should disarm is a matter for the people of Lebanon to decide. They have a semi-democratic government, very sectarian but it’s got democratic forms. And if they decide that Hizbullah should disarm, yes, then it should disarm.
Why aren’t they doing it? Well, there is a reason. You may not want to think about it, but the Lebanese think about it. The reason is that they know very well that a guerrilla formation in southern Lebanon is the only potential deterrent to yet another US-backed Israeli invasion. There have been four US-backed Israeli invasions since 1978, violent and brutal ones. They were finally driven out after 22 years of occupying southern Lebanon in violation of Security Council resolutions. And they were driven out by guerrilla warfare. And the retaining, remaining potential for guerrilla warfare is the only deterrent for another invasion.
Well, should Lebanon decide that they need a deterrent? Yeah, it’s up to them to decide. It’s up to them to decide. (Q: --- international law?) If they are violating a Security Council resolution, then they should be treated exactly the way the US and Israel are treated when they radically violates Security Council resolutions. So, for example, if you really think that the Security Council resolution should be enforced, then, yeah, I’m with you. But let’s take the big cases first.
So, for example, start with the UN Charter, which is the foundation of modern international law. It calls aggressive war the supreme crime. That’s the Nuremburg principle accepted by the United Nations. Aggression is the supreme international crime. Gross violation of the UN Charter. So fine, let’s..... and remember supreme international crime “encompasses all the evil that follows,” right? That’s the Nuremburg decision accepted by the UN-- so fine, let’s start punishing the serious violators of international law, like the countries, the people sitting in the White House. Yeah, I think that international law should be enforced. And we can go down for a whole series of other violations.
So, for example, I thought the UN resolutions calling for, Security Council resolutions calling for Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon should have been enforced for 22 years. But they weren’t. And I’m sure you didn’t care about it. Or if you did, let me know. That should have been enforced. They finally did withdraw under guerrilla warfare.
The separation wall, which is part of the annexation program of the West Bank, has been declared illegal by a unanimous judgment of the World Court including the US justice, contrary to what you may believe-- if you read his independent declaration, you’ll say that he agrees with that-- so that’s a unanimous declaration of the World Court. Yeah, that’s binding in international law. That should be enforced. Instead, people like us are helping to violate that law by supporting the annexation program and the US and tacitly European Union support for it.
So sure, I would like to see all international law enforced but if we’re going to be serious about it, we don’t just take some toothpick on a mountain which happens to conform to power interests in the powerful states, and say "OK, let’s focus on that."
What we do is look at the whole picture. Start with the serious cases. Then when we get down to the toothpicks on the mountain, we can pay some attention to them, also paying some attention to the reasons why probably a majority of the population of Lebanon thinks they need a deterrent.