Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chomsky on Gaza-part1 (January, 2009)

I transbribed this talk that he gave at MIT on January 13, 2009, but a few days ago Znet offered a comprehensive article on this at:
http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/20316

Noam Chomsky on Gaza-part 1 (rough transcript)

As you know, on Saturday, December 27th, the latest US-Israeli attack on hopeless (helpless) Palestinians was launched. It had been meticulously prepared. We know from the Israeli press that both aspects of the campaign had long been carefully prepared―both the military aspect and the propaganda aspect―learning from the lessons of the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, that it was argued that was not planned well, and from the military point of view it was not advertised properly. So, this time, both of those aspects were under control with extensive programs. That means we can be reasonably confident that anything that is happening or that is said is purposeful. It’s planned that way. Maybe not everything but most of it.

One thing that was planned carefully was that the time of the launching of the war. It was carefully chosen. It was shortly before noon on Saturday when children were returning from school and crowds were milling around in the streets of densely populated Gaza City. And it took only a few minutes to kill well over two hundred people and wound around 700, which is an auspicious opening to the mass slaughter of the defenseless civilians trapped in a tiny cage with nowhere to flee. That was Saturday, December 27th.

Last Saturday, two weeks later, Israel barred humanitarian shipments to the Gaza Strip because we have to, after all, honor the holy days. None of this is at all surprising. It’s familiar. Just to mention one parallel which is relevant―we’ll come to it later―in June 1982, when Israel launched its US-backed invasion of Lebanon, the first targeted attacked was the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, later to become famous because of the major massacre. The bombing hit the hospital, the Gaza Hospital, killed more than two hundred people. That was the opening day of an invasion which killed maybe 15,000 to 20,000 people and destroyed much of southern Lebanon, large parts of Beirut. It was able to proceed, as usual, because of US support, US authorization, US arms, diplomatic support which included vetoing a series of Security Council resolutions calling for an end to the carnage. The aggression was undertaken also as usual and as conceded in fact, to defend Israel, namely from the threat of peaceful political settlement. It’s contrary to much routine deceit in the United States particularly but it’s all so well documented that it’s hardly necessary to talk about it. All of this is normal and it’s not concealed by high Israeli officials.

Just to give you one example: thirty years ago, the Chief of Staff of the army Mordechai Gur pointed out, since 1948, “we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities.” Israel’s major military analyst, Ze'ev Schiff, summarized his remarks. He said “the Israeli army has always struck civilian populations purposely and consciously.” The Army, Gur said, “has never distinguished civilian from military targets but has purposely attacked civilian targets.” And the reasons were explained at the same time, by the distinguished statesman, Abba Eban, considered as dove, he said “there was a rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that affected populations would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities satisfying Israel’s goals.” Eban happened to be commenting on a speech by Menahem Begin which presented a picture, Eban said, “of an Israel wantonly inflicting every possible measure of death and anguish on civilian populations in a mood reminiscent of regimes which neither Mr. Begin nor I would dare to mention by name.” Eban did not contest the facts. He criticized Begin for speaking about them so frankly which could be harmful to the Israeli image. His own views which I just quoted could also be attributed to countries which we dare not mention by name.

As the latest US-Israeli assault on Gaza began, a small boat, the Dignity, was traveling from Cyprus to Gaza---there were doctors and human rights activists aboard—and they intended to violate Israel’s criminal blockade and to bring supplies to the trapped population.
The boat was intercepted far out at sea in international waters. The Israeli Navy rammed it without warning, severely damaged the boat. It managed to limp to a Lebanese harbor. Israel provided routine lies, terrors and etc, and claimed the boat wasn’t rammed. But unfortunately for the propaganda system, there were respected journalists on board including CNN correspondent Karl Penhaul who reported―there were other Al Jazeera reporters―but Penhaul was hard to dismiss, so he was dismissed(note: I'm not sure about this part). Also aboard that was Cynthia McKinney, the (US) former representative, presidential candidate for the Green Party. She and other passengers verified Karl Penhaul’s account which I’ve just stated. This is all quite a serious crime. For example, ramming an almost sinking boat in international waters is a much more serious crime than piracy off the coast of Somalia for example. It received very little notice, a few words here and there. It’s a—which reflects a tacit acceptance of the principle that Israel is authorized to carry out crimes on the high seas in order to defend itself against any interference with its illegal military occupation by trying to provide some (…) for the victims.

It also tacitly accepted is that the Gaza Strip is an occupied territory that Israel has a right to impose a siege on it. Well, that lack of attention again, makes good sense. It’s all familiar. For decades, Israel has been hijacking ships in international waters between Cyprus and Lebanon killing passengers or kidnapping them. Many of them were brought to Israel, some were held as hostages for a long time in prison, sometimes in the secret prison/torture chambers which have been exposed in Israel and Europe but not reported here. And it’s known. You occasionally see it mentioned in US commentary but never considered very serious. So there’s no particular reason why this new crime should be treated with anything more than a yawn.
These regular practices are quite significant. They underscore the utter hypocrisy of the standard claim that Israel had the right to invade Lebanon once again in 2006, 5th invasion because soldiers were captured at the border. Actually, as I say, this has been Israeli practice over many years, this has been far more extreme, killing, intercepting ships, killing people there, capturing them as hostages. All that is a far more extreme crime than capturing soldiers at a border post. If you think what you’d do about that, but it doesn’t rank anywhere near it. So if that justifies the invasion which once again devastated southern Lebanon and parts of Beirut, if principles are operated, you can draw your own conclusions. But fortunately they don’t operate, fortunately for the US and its clients.

This cross-border operation of Hezbollah in 2006 was its first cross-border action of any kind in six years since Israel had withdrawn from southern Lebanon where it had occupied―southern Lebanon with US support for 22 years in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Meanwhile, Israel daily violates the border throughout these six years as indeed as it is doing today. Again that’s with impunity and nothing more than a yarn even if it’s mentioned.

Well, these new crimes that began on December 27th, they don’t fit easily into any of the standard categories except for one—namely familiarity. They do fit into the category. I’ve given a couple of examples. If there’s time, we’ll return to more.
Literally, US-Israeli invasion falls into under the category of terrorism. At least according to the US official, the definition of the word but that does not capture their enormity of the crime. It cannot be called an aggression. The reason is that it’s taking place in the occupied territory. That’s accepted in the West tacitly. And it’s basically beyond question. It’s recognized by Israeli scholarship. So the most important case I know is the one and only comprehensive scholarly history of Israeli settlement in the occupied territories. It’s now been translated into English called Lords of the Land by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar. They point out that after Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in August 2005, the ruined territory was not released “for even a single day from Israel’s grip or from the price of the occupation that the inhabitants pay everyday.”

“Israel left behind scorched devastated services and people with neither a present nor a future. The settlements were destroyed. The Jewish settlements in an ungenerous mood by an unenlightened occupier, which in fact continues to control the territory and kill and harass its inhabitants by means of its formidable military might” which is exercised with extraordinary savagery always with firm US support and participation. Crucial fact for us even before the latest onslaught.

The US-Israeli assault on Gaza escalated in January 2006, a few months after the formal withdraw, because Palestinians committed a real crime: they voted the wrong way in a free election. And that’s a serious crime. They had to learn that—like others, it’s easy to add examples―that there’s a cost to disobeying the commands of the Master who incidentally continues to prate about his yearning for democracy without eliciting ridicule from the educated classes which is quite an achievement of our educational and cultural system. One of many.

Since the terms terrorism and aggression are inadequate, some new terms are needed for the sadistic and cowardly torture of people who are caged with no possibility to escape. While they are being pounded daily by the most sophisticated products of US military technology provided in a certain knowledge that this is how they will be used happens to be in direct violation of US law of course, also international law, but self-declared outlaw states that’s just another minor technicality, so there’s no need to comment on it.
Just how serious these weapons are remains to be completely verified. They apparently include white phosphorus according to Human Rights Watch and this is another violation of international laws of wars and who knows what else.

One of the heroic volunteers in Gaza, a Norwegian doctor Mats Gilbert describes the scene of horror as an “all-out war goes on against the civilian population of Gaza.” He estimates that half the casualties are women and children. The men who were killed are also civilians by any reasonable legal standards, almost all. He says he has scarcely seen a military casualty among the hundreds of shredded bodies but that’s in accord with the Gur-Eban-principles which I mentioned and in fact with consistent practice.
His estimate was confirmed by UN humanitarian chief John Holmes, who informed reporters that it’s a “fair presumption” that most of the civilians killed were women and children in a humanitarian crisis that is “worsening day by day as the violence continue.”

Those who don’t like that story can be comforted by the words of Tizpi Livni, who is the leading dove in the electoral system, who assured to the world that there is “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza” thanks to israeli benevolence.

Like others who care about human beings and their fate, Gilbert and Holmes, called for, pleaded in fact, for a ceasefire. But not yet. The US blocked the Security Council from issuing a formal statement calling for a ceasefire. There was the official reason which I’ll quote, “there was no indication Hamas would abide by any agreement.” Of all the justifications that have been offered for delighting in slaughter, this must rank among the most cynical. Of course, that was Bush and Rice. They are soon to be replaced by Barack Obama, who compassionately repeats “if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep I would do everything in order to stop that.” He’s talking about Israeli children. Beyond that, he had maintained his silence.

A few days later, under intensive international pressure, the US did back a Security Council resolution which called for, what they called a “durable ceasefire.” It passed 14 to zero, the United States abstaining. Israel and US hawks were angered that the United States did not veto it as its usual practices. The abstention, however, does give Israel if not a green at least a yellow light to continue its slaughter.

The resolution called for stopping the flow of arms into Gaza. They are not into Israel. In fact vast quantities of arms continues to flow into Israel. On December 30th, three days after the latest invasion, the Pentagon released the fact that the US has commissioned several German ships to bring huge quantities of arms from Greece to Israel. Nobody knows they are there labeled ammunition. I think it was 3000 tons. The very few inquiries to the Pentagon about what’s going on were answered with assurance that the arms would arrive too late to be used on the current assault against Gaza, which is probably correct. The Pentagon also said that they were not really intended for Israel, which is also probably correct, but rather they’re being pre-positioned in Israel. Israel is regarded as an offshore US military base right on the periphery of the most important region of the world, oil and energy producing region. It’s one of its contributions, one of its services to US power. And the arms that are pre-positioned there will be, if the Pentagon is accurate, not for Israeli violence but for US violence. So, the next act of aggression in the region can make you serve the arms stored there for the purpose. There’s much more. If it ever gets reported, you can predict that it will be explained that this is to defend, to protect the free flow of oil and to assure stability. Those are the technical terms used for aggression and criminal violence standardly.

Well, going back to the UN resolution, did call for stopping the flow of arms into Gaza but in fact it will also “ensure the sustained re-opening of the crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.” What was the 2005 agreement? That determined that the crossings to Gaza would be operated on a continuous bases―that is never closed―and that Israel would also allow the crossings of the goods between Gaza and the West Bank, the two parts of Palestine.

In January 2006, the US and Israel abandoned the agreement. That’s part of the punishment for the Palestinians for voting the wrong way in a free election. We take democracy very seriously here. It must be understood. There’s a good deal of sober debate these days on what the attackers hoped to achieve. I don’t think that’s very obscure when we take a brief look at recent history.

Israel abandoned Gaza in September 2005. Why? Well, rational Israeli hard liners, like Ariel Sharon, that’s the patron saint of the settler movement, understood that it was senseless to subsidize a few thousand settlers to live illegally, of course, in the ruins of Gaza protected by a large part of the IDF, the Israeli army, while they took over the use of much of the land and scarce resources including its water. It made much more sense to turn Gaza into what’s been properly called “the world’s largest prison” and just to let the people to rot and to transfer the settlers to the West Bank, which is much more valuable territory, they can be subsidized illegally to live there and a couple of other places.

Israel is quite explicit about its intentions about the West Bank in word and in deed. The goal is clearly, they say it, to annex the arable land and the water supplies, the pleasent suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, all of those that lie within in what they call “the Separation Wall” and an “Annexation Wall.” It was declared illegal by the World Court. US justice agreeing but of course that’s again, irrelevant for an outlaw state.
The territory to be annexed includes a vastly expanded Jerusalem. That’s in violation of Security Council orders that go back 40 years. In addition, Israel will take over and in fact has been taking over the Jordan Valley. It’s about a third of the West Bank. That imprisons what’s left, that parts that are imprisoned are broken into fragments by settlers’ salients to major salients that basically trisect the territory and many other settlements and hundreds of mostly arbitrary checkpoints which are designed to make life impossible.

They are “two-legged beasts” who may well remain and will be like ”drugged roaches scurrying around in a bottle”. I’m quoting the highest Israeli political and military leaders. In this case, they are revered “princes,” as they are called. And the owners of the land may grant “the drugged roaches” a few scattered parcels but that’s out of good will. Not by right.

Prime Minister Olmert as he may recall, addressed at a joint session of Congress in May 2006, to rousing applause and standing ovation, he said “I believed, and to this day still believe in our people’s eternal and historical right to this entire land.” The entire land includes at least everything from Jordan to the sea. Given his background it may include Jordan as well, to which (……) reclaimed.

He also announced the program what he called “convergence.” That’s a program for taking over valuables in the West Bank leaving the Palestinians in isolated cantons. Such plans are not new, you know, maybe the details are, but trace back to the earliest days of the occupation. A few days after the end of the war, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who, among the Israeli leaderships is perhaps the most sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, he explained poetically that “the situation today resembles the complex relationship between a Bedouin man and a girl who he kidnaps against his will.” “You Palestinians, as a nation, don’t want us today. But we will change your attitudes and by forcing our presense on you. You will live like dogs, and whoever will leave, will leave. And meanwhile we’ll take what we want.” That’s 1967.

At the very moment, there was no doubt that these announced policies were criminal. Immediately after the 1967 war, the Israeli government was informed by its highest legal authority, Theodor Meron, a well-known figure of international law, they were informed that “civilian settlement in the administered territories”―that’s what they call them―”contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” That’s a serious crime. And it’s incumbent on all of the high contracting parties, the parties that signed the Geneva Convention―it’s incumbent on them to act to prevent such crimes.
Of course, they don’t do it. The United States not only doesn’t do it but abets the crimes. But again, in an outlaw state, that’s irrelevant so there’s no discussion of it.

That’s Theodor Meron. He was supported by―Israel’s Justice Minister concurred his judgment. The World Court unanimously endorsed that conclusion in its decision in 2004 on the Annexation Wall. Meanwhile the Israeli High Court formally agrees with the World Court while disagreeing in its usual convoluted style, if you look at the judgments.

In the West Bank, Israel can pursue its criminal programs with US support and with no disturbance. That’s thanks to its effective military control. And by now it’s also the cooperation of the collaborationists Palestinian security forces that have been armed and trained by the United States and its allies. It can also carry out regular assassinations and other crimes while the settlers rampage under IDF protection.
But while all the West Bank has been effectively subdued by terror, there still is resistance in the other half of Palestine: the Gaza Strip. That, too, has to be quelled for the US/Israeli programs of annexation and destruction of Palestinians to proceed.

Hence, the invasion of Gaza.

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