Chomsky on Gaza-part 2
The timing of the invasion was presumably influenced by the upcoming Israeli elections―Ehud Barak, who ran the invasion, had been lagging in the polls. But one Israeli commentator Ran HaCohen, in the early days of the slaughter, calculated that every forty Arabs killed, Barak gains one parliamentary seat. However, the reasons lie much deeper than winning the election. I think the reasons are those that I mentioned. On the surface, it doesn’t take much insight to perceive them.
Aggression always has a pretext: in this case, that’s the mantra endlessly repeated, you’ve heard them a thousand times in Israel and the United States and Europe. The mantra is that Israel has the right to use force to defend itself against Quassam rockets. And that’s partially accurate. Rocketing is a criminal act and it is true that a state has the right to defend itself against criminal attacks. But the claim that a state has the right to use force to do so goes far beyond any principle that we would or should accept.
So for example, I doubt that many people here think that Nazi Germany had a right to defend itself against the terrorism of the partisans which was quite real.
Kristallnacht in 1939 was not justified by the fact that Herschel Grynszpan assassinated a German Embassy official in Paris. The British were not justified in terrorizing Irish Catholics in response to IRA terror. And incidentally, when they finally turned to the sensible policy of addressing legitimate grievances in the territories they occupied, the terror ended. It’s not a matter of proportionality, that widely used word. It’s a matter of choice of action in the first place, proportional or not: is there a more justified response than violence forgetting proportionality?
Well, any resort to force always carries a heavy burden of proof. And in every case, including the present case, we have to ask where we can be met―can we be met in the case of Israel’s effort to quell any resistance to its criminal actions both in Gaza and in the West Bank, where the criminal actions continue relentlessly? Perhaps I may quote myself if you don’t mind. In an interview of Israeli press a couple of years ago, on Olmert’s announced convergence plans for the West Bank. What I said was that “the US and Israel do not tolerate any resistance to these plans, preferring to pretend―falsely of course―that “there is no partner” as they proceed with the programs that go back a long way. We may recall that Gaza and the West Bank are recognized to be a unit, so if resistance to the US and Israeli annexation and cantonization programs is legitimate in the West Bank, then it is in Gaza, too.” I think that’s correct.
A separate question is whether the modality of resistance is legitimate. A totally separate question. We may agree that Herschel Grynszpan committed a criminal act and that the partisans committed a terror. But that has nothing to do with the question whether Germany had a right to respond with force, the same in the British case. So there’s just two questions you have to separate.
Well, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a highly respected Palestinian parliament and an official, he reported that since George Bush’s Annapolis extravaganza in November 2007―we may recall very impressive rhetoric about dedication to peace and justice―he reports that since November 2007, Israeli attacks on Palestinians escalated sharply with an almost 50% increase in the West Bank along with a sharp increase in settlements and Israeli checkpoints. Quite obviously these criminal actions are not in response to rockets from Gaza, although the converse may well be the case as in fact he suggests.
Israel has a straight-forward means to defend itself. Easy. Put an end to the criminal actions in the occupied territories. That means to accept the long-standing international consensus on a two state settlement on the international border with perhaps minor and mutual modifications.
That has been an overwhelming international consensus for over 30 years blocked by the United States and by Israel.
That began officially in 1976: Washington’s first veto of a Security Council resolution calling for a two state settlement. I’m not going to run through the rest of the record. There’s no time but it’s very clear.
Today, US-Israeli rejectionism is even more blatant than it has been in the past. Partly because of the Arab League’s formal proposal for a settlement that goes beyond the international consensus calling for full normalization of relations with Israel.
Every time we see the word Hamas in the newspapers, it’s accompanied by “Iranian-supplied Hamas,” not “US-supplied Israel” and Hamas which is committed to the destruction of Israel―which you don’t read is Hamas, which long ago joined the international consensus on a two state settlement that the US and Israel bar. That would be excluded in “the free press.” Biased, but it’s a fact.
So, the Arab League is calling for normalization, Hamas is calling for a two state settlement, Iran and Hezbollah have made it clear explicitly that they would abide by any agreement the Palestinian accept, that leads the United States and Israel in splendid isolation, both in word and also of course in actions. They are acting to undermine it and making it impossible day by day.
Now, there is one exception, crucial exception to the persistent rejectionism of the United States and Israel. You’ll recall in the year 2000, there were negotiations in Camp David which collapsed. Contrary to the standard story, President Clinton recognized that the US/Israeli proposals at Camp David were quite unacceptable. And in December 2000, he presented what he called his “parameters.” They were kind of vague but were more forthcoming. You could at least imagine a settlement in most terms. Clinton also pointed out, gave a speech in which he pointed out that both sides had accepted the parameters and that both sides had reservations. And then they met in Taba, Egypt in January 2001 to resolve the differences and they came very close to a settlement.
In fact in their final press conference, they said if they had a few more days, they could have reached a settlement. And the negotiations were cancelled at that point by Prime Minister Barak of Israel. That’s the one break in 30 years of US-Israeli rejectionism. And I should say that it’s not that many years ago. There is no reason why that one break can’t be resumed if an American president decides to allow it to be resumed in which case there’ll be no shrieks from the famed Israel lobby just as there were none at that time and it could easily be implemented. It’s up to us to determine.
Well, I’ve just reported the facts, you can easily affirm―I’d urge that you verify them. It’s not that hard. I’ll give you the sources if you like. But there’s preferred version which is as usual quite different from fact. The preferred version by Ethan Bronner of the New York Times correspondent in Israel is that “Many abroad recall Barak as the prime minister who in 2000 went further than any Israeli leader in peace offers to the Palestinians, only to see the deal fail and explode in a violent Palestinian uprising that drove him from power.” Well, he’s partly right. It’s true that many abroad believe this fairy tale thanks to what Bronner and all too many of his colleagues call “journalism.”
There’s also a narrower question on one of… just I’ve been discussing. That narrow question puts aside resistance to Israel’s ongoing West Bank crimes―again, when I say Israel, I mean US/Israel crimes because they can’t be done without US authorization, material and diplomatic and in fact ideological support―so put aside all that and just consider Gaza alone.
Does Israel have peaceful alternatives to the use of force and in response to attacks on its territory? Just keep in Gaza alone. Well, the answer is that it surely does. It could accept a ceasefire. Sometimes in fact it has accepted a ceasefire, well, instantly violating it. The most recent case, a crucial case is June 2008. There was a ceasefire that was instituted. It called for opening the border crossings, (quoting) “to allow the transfer of all goods that were banned and restricted to go into Gaza.” Israel agreed but immediately announced that it would not open the borders until Hamas released Gilat Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured by Hamas in June 2006. It ended that ceasefire. Well, that’s another mantra, incidentally.
Everybody has heard about Gilat Shalit. And the terrible crime of capturing him in a (…)41:01 till he’s released. You know, how can you move towards peace? But that’s just more hypocrisy.
In fact the hypocrisy is so blatant there really is an oppressive feat for Western journalism, especially American journalism and intellectual culture to suppress it.
One day before Hamas captured Shalit, Israeli soldiers entered Gaza, Gaza city, and kidnapped two civilians, the Muammar brothers, their names are not known, and they brought them to Israel and, of course in violation of international law, to join the thousands of other prisoners held there, close to a thousand without charge.
Of course, that had been regular Israeli practice for a long time. I mentioned some other cases. Now, kidnapping civilians is a far more serious crime than capturing a solder of an attacking army. But all it remains in memory, allegedly blocking peace, is the capture of Shalit. Again, that reflects the difference in treatment between human beings on one side and “two-legged beasts” on the other. Shalit should be returned in a fair prisoner exchange. But try to find an honest comment on this anywhere.
It was after the capture of Shalit that Israel’s military attack passed from vicious to truly sadistic. But it’s all well to remember that even before his capture in June 2006, Israel had fired more than 7700 shells at northern Gaza since its September withdrawal, eliciting virtually no comment, maybe none.
Israel has maintained the siege ever since it rejected the June 2008 ceasefire that it had accepted. A siege is an act of war, justifying massive violence in response. That’s a point on which Israel has always insisted when its own access to the outside world is hampered in anyway, in fact it’s justification for major wars. So it that’s true, it surely should be justification for rockets.
Israel went so far in the siege as to prevent the UN Relief and Work Administration, the UN agency that keeps the Palestinian alive―they were kept from even replenishing the stores. “So when the ceasefire broke down, we ran out of food for 750,000 people who depend on us.” That’s John Ging, the Irish director of UNRWA informing the BBC.
Despite the continuing Israeli siege, again a serious act of war, rocketing sharply reduced during the period of the ceasefire. The ceasefire broke down last year, November 4th, with an Israeli raid into Gaza. The raid was very carefully timed as usual. It came shortly before Hamas/Fatah talks in Cairo. They were aimed at reconciling their differences and creating a single unified government. That would have been the first such meeting since the civil war in June 2007 that left Hamas in control of Gaza and would have been a significant step towards advancing diplomatic efforts. So it’s quite useful to undercut that danger by violating a ceasefire and invading Gaza and killing 6 people. The Civil war itself was instigated by the United States and Israel. It was a very crude attempt to carry out a military coup to overthrow the democratically elected government that the United States opposes. Again, a pretty standard practice.
The blockade was tightened further after November 4th, the disastrous consequences for the population. Both sides escalated violence. All the deaths were Palestinian. And that continued until the ceasefire formally ended on December 19th. And Prime Minister Olmert authorized the full scale invasion.
A few days before that, Hamas had proposed to return to the original July ceasefire agreement, which Israel had not observed. That offer was transmitted to a senior official in the Israeli Army by Robert Pastor, he’s academic historian and a former Carter administration high official. But Israel did not respond except by launching the invasion. Of course, Israel was aware of it. The head of Shin-beit, the internal security agency, was quoted in the Israeli sources on December 21st, saying that “Hamas is interested in continuing the calm with Israel, while its military wing is continuing preparation for conflict.” OK, so no calm. We’d rather have conflict.
Israel’s senior diplomatic correspondent Akiva Eldar, reports that shortly before Israel launched its full-scale invasion on Saturday December 27th, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal proposed a ceasefire and return to the arrangement of 2005, which permitted continuous opening of the crossings for desperately needed supplies. The response was the invasion.
In a front page think-piece on the latest Gaza invasion, New York Times correspondent Steven Lee Meyers writes that “in some ways, the attacks on Gaza were reminiscent of the gamble Israel took in Lebanon in 1982, when it invaded to eliminate the threat of Yasir Arafat’s forces.” He’s correct. There’s a similarity and the threat is the same. He’s correct but not in the sense he had in mind.
In 1982, as in 2008, the threat was the threat of political settlement. And it was crucially necessary to eliminate that threat. That’s again, standard practice. I mean it’s not that Israel does not want peace, of course it wants peace. Everyone wants peace. Hitler wanted peace for example. The question is on what terms. From its origins, long before its establishment of the state, the Zionist movement has understood that to achieve its goals, it would have to delay political settlement, meanwhile slowly building facts on the ground as the basis for some eventual settlement.
Even the occasional agreements, as in 1947, were recognized by the leadership to be temporary steps towards further expansion. The 1982 war is a dramatic illustration of the need for undercutting the threat of political settlement. It was called pretty openly in Israel “a war for the West Bank.”
We’d have to get rid of the diplomatic efforts of the Palestinians which were becoming pretty annoying, we can continue to take over the West Bank at the cost of destruction of Lebanon and killing of thousands of people.
The 1982 Lebanon war was followed by Israeli support for Hamas so as to undermine the secular PLO and its dangerous peace initiatives.
Another case that should be familiar, if it isn’t, is Israeli provocations before the 1967 war, which were designed to elicit a Syrian response that could be used as a pretext for Israeli violence and for takeover of more land. That’s at least 80% of the incidence, according to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.
This persistent effort to delay political accommodation has always made perfect sense. It’s not irrational. The same is true with historical lies about how there is no partner. That’s simply that there is no other way to take over land where you are not wanted. So it’s sensible.
And for the similar reasons, Israel has consistently preferred expansion to security. That’s been particularly evident since 1971, when Israel made a really fateful decision, I think, backed by Henry Kissinger, namely the decision to reject the offer of a full peace treaty by President Sadat of Egypt, which incidentally offered nothing to the Palestinians.
It’s an agreement that Israel and the US were compelled to accept at Camp David 8 years later after a major war, which was a near disaster for Israel and immense suffering. That goes down in history as a wonderful achievement of US involvement in bringing peace. In fact it was a diplomatic catastrophe for the reasons I mentioned but that’s beyond the capacity of educated people to discuss or think about. Again I urge you look at the facts if you’re interested.
Now, peace treaty with Egypt in 1971, which the US and Israel rejected, that would have ended any significant security threat. There was none for the Palestinians and Egypt was the major Arab military force by far, but there was an unacceptable quid pro quo. Sadat insisted Israel abandon its extensive settlement programs in Egypt namely in the northeastern Sinai. As usual, security was a lower priority than expansion, as it still is.
Today, Israel could have security, normalization of relations, integration into the region. But it very clearly prefers illegal expansion, conflict, repeated exercise of violence to teach lessons to the “two-legged beasts,” actions that are severely eroding its security even if it gains a short-term military victory.
One of the wisest voices in Israel, unfortunately a tiny minority, Uri Avnery, recently wrote that after an Israeli military victory in Gaza, “what will be seared into the consciousness of the world will be the image of Israel as a blood-stained monster ready at any moment to commit war crimes and not prepared to abide by any moral restraints. This will have severe consequences for our long-term future, our standing in the world, our chance of achieving peace and quiet. In the end, this war is a crime against ourselves, too, a crime against the State of Israel.” There’s good reason to believe he’s right.
If I can quote myself again, several decades ago, 30 years ago, I wrote that “those who call themselves supporters of Israel are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and its probable ultimate destruction.” And regrettably that judgment looks more and more plausible.
Meanwhile, we are observing a very rare moment in history. That’s what the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling called “politicide.” That’s the murder of a nation at our hands.