Sunday, June 28, 2009

Q&A Session part5&6

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"
7 April 2009 Madison, WI

Part 5

Chomsky (continued): Now the Russians understand that as well as the Americans. And in fact if they don't understand it, they can read it in American strategic analysis journals, where they can read the detailed explanation of why the "missile defense" system is a potential threat to the Soviet deterrent. Okay, if there's a threat to the Soviet deterrent, what they're going to do is build up offensive military capacity to get around it, which is exactly what they're doing of course. That increases the threat of nuclear war – of maybe, by accident, if you have systems on high alert – . They've come really close to accidents very frequently – maybe stopped by human intervention in the last two minutes or something. So we're consciously increasing the threat of nuclear war. And there are many other cases. I mean, let's take a major case: We just had the NATO summit, okay? Think about NATO for a minute. If somebody wanted some other topics to work on, take NATO. Why does NATO exist? Okay, now, during the Cold War there was a kind of rationale. I mean, you could believe or not; but it had a rationale that wasn't total imbecility: It was supposed to be there to protect ourselves from a Russian attack. Was there a possibility of a Russian attack, you know? Probably not. But at least there's some kind of a credible rationale. Well, you know, after the Soviet Union disappeared, what's the rationale? I mean, there isn't any! And take a look at what happened. I mean, as the Soviet Union collapsed, Gorbachev, the Russian premier, made an astonishing concession to the United States, he allowed – he agreed to allow a unified Germany to be of course militarized and also to join a hostile military alliance. Now that's astonishing. Just look at the history of the past century: I mean, Germany alone practically destroyed Russia several times in the century. Now he's saying a militarized Germany – a main power in Europe – can join a hostile military alliance led by the United States. Amazing concession! But he insisted on a quid pro quo and got it. He insisted that the Bush administration (this is Bush I) agree that – the words they used – that NATO would not expand "one inch" to the east. Okay, that gives Russia a kind of a buffer zone. And that was agreed upon; it was a pledge by the United States. Gorbachev also proposed a nuclear weapons free zone from the Arctic down to the Mediterranean, which would, again, reduce the threat of accidental conflict or some other kind of conflict. The US never responded to that, as far as I know; and it never happened. All right, then Clinton came in. One of Clinton's first acts was to violate that pledge and expand NATO to the east. You know, the Clinton administration – people like Strobe Talbott who was in charge of eastern Europe – say, well, we had to do that to get the eastern European states to join the European Union. But that's just not true. There's no connection between joining the European Union and being a member of NATO. I mean, there's a lot of states – Austria, Finland, Sweden – are part of the European Union but they're not part of NATO. So, okay, you want the eastern European states in the European Union? It makes some sense; it's got nothing to do with NATO. Expanding NATO to the east is just a seriously aggressive act, which significantly threatens Russia, so of course they reacted, by expanding offensive military capacity. Then Bush came along with his aggressive militarism, and it expanded even further. And now it's expanded still further by Obama, by insisting on putting systems in eastern Europe which can only be understood – you know, it's not even a worse case analysis [but] the only rational interpretation of them – is as a threat to the Soviet deterrent which is going to increase tensions. Well, you know, that's not the only example. But there's case after case where actions are being taken which increase the threat of nuclear war. (And that's terminal; you know, nothing much is going to survive a nuclear war.) Many other examples. That's one case, and the other case is environmental destruction, which is creeping along; you know, it's not like imminent and total the way a nuclear war is; but it's going to be severe. Nobody knows the exact details; but everybody knows that the longer you wait, the worse it's going to be. And it could be very severe. Again, [there's] a lot of uncertainties; but all the uncertainties look bad, and most of them look pretty bad. So that's two good reasons why the species is not likely to survive.

Part 6

Chomsky (continued): As for the Samson option, that's actually real. I mean, I said before that if the United States essentially tells Israel, "you've got to withdraw", they'll almost certainly do it. But they do have an option. It was called – It goes back to the 1950s. [If] you look at the Israeli records back to the 1950s, when they were a weak state, not a powerful state, they did say – the top leadership, you know, the Defense Ministry and others (this is the Labor government) – that if anybody crosses us, "we will go crazy". That was the phrase that was used: "we'll be a crazy state; we'll do something so wild that they'll be forced to do what we want." Well, they couldn't really do that back in the 1950s. But once they have nuclear weapons options, they can. And in fact if you read US military journals, you find analyses saying that the Israeli nuclear weapons are a threat to us. You know – not that they're going to attack us, but they'll do something that will cause such, you know, blow-up in the world that we'll get in real trouble. Okay, that's the "Samson option". It goes back to the biblical story of Samson who, you remember, killed a lot of Philistines, and then they caught him and blinded him. And he was in a Philistine temple. He'd gotten his strength back; his hair grew. (You've all learned this stuff.) And he stood between two pillars, and he pulled down the pillars, and the ceiling fell, and he killed more Philistines in his death than in his lifetime. He was basically the first suicide-bomber, who killed lots of Philistines. He's a hero, you know. But that's the Samson option: "we'll bring the temple down, even if we kill ourselves." And it's real, you know. And it's a danger. The more we strengthen Israel's military capacity, the greater the threat to us. I mean, the former head of the Strategic Command, General Lee Butler, after he left it – . (That's, you know, the part of the military that controls strategic weapons, including nuclear weapons.) He was very straight about it; he said, the greatest threat in the region is that Israel has this extraordinary destructive capacity, which first of all impels others to try to match it, but also is an enormous danger in itself. [] So we may be shooting ourselves in the head by letting a crazy state develop. And the craziness of the state is not because the people are insane. Once you pick a policy of choosing expansion over security, that's what you end up getting stuck with.

Questioner #6: I was wondering if you could address the Palestinian refugee problem and the question of the right of return in terms of a two-state solution.

Chomsky: Well, there are some problems that are solvable, and there are others that unfortunately – much as we regret it – aren't solvable. It'd be nice if it were otherwise. A two-state settlement can be achieved. But the rights of Palestinian refugees are not going to be achieved except symbolically. It's a horrible story; but if you think about it, it's basically a fact. The refugees in Lebanon or in Jordan – some of them – under a political settlement – some of them could return. Very few are going to return to their homes. I mean, that's about as likely as, you know, Native Americans coming and resettling in Madison. I mean, you could give an argument for it that it would be just. But it's not going to happen in the real world. And the Palestinian refugees – very few are going to return to their homes which have been destroyed, taken over, and so on. I mean, some proportion of them might go back to a Palestinian state, which is of course not their home and is very poor and so on – at best. But most of them are just going to have to be absorbed somewhere. And the right solution, I think, would be for the United States to bring them to the United States. I mean, we have a large degree of responsibility for their plight; we have the wealth and resources to take care of refugees. So, yeah, we ought to do it. I mean, just as in the late – .

Questioner #7: You think Israel and the US will go after Iran?

Chomsky [hoarsely]: I think I better end at this point, because I can't talk.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Q&A Session part3&4

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"

7 April 2009 Madison, WI

Part 3

Questioner #3: Hi. In the early 1980's when Zbigniew Brzezinski left his post as National Security Advisor for Jimmy Carter, he went back to Columbia University and taught as one of his first students Barack Obama – taught Sovietology – one of eight students chosen for that. In 1981 Barack Obama visited Pakistan and was, by the last year's president, after Musharraf resigned in 2008, the man who just became president [[?…inaudible…]] to (quote) "watch over" Barack Obama. This was at a time when State Department was discouraging all Americans from going to Pakistan; in fact, you had to have government approval to do so. And then in 1983, he left the university and worked for Business International, a CIA front company. And this is in Bill Blum's "Anti-Empire" project; this is where this information comes from, and from the New York Times in terms of the specific corporation that he worked for. And then fast forward to, you know, the presidential campaign: all of a sudden for the first time in the post-war – . Well, during the entire Cold War every president came from a high-military-spending state – per capita income, above average military spending. Every president elected during the Cold War. And then Clinton has his CIA connections. And Barack Obama are the only two exceptions. We had Illinois and New York – two very low military-spending per capita states – vying for the presidency. What was the difference? Barack Obama carried fourteen of the fifteen highest per capita military spending states in the primaries and became the next president. So is this change we can believe in, or is this just more of the military-industrial complex we've had all along?

Chomsky: Well, I don't put much faith in any of that, frankly. I'm not sure of the data. But let's say they're right. I really don't think it tells us much. If you want to know something about Obama's likely policies, don't look at military spending; take a look at his financing. That's a very good predicter of policies; in fact, there's good studies of this. His financing is primarily from the financial institutions, which preferred him to McCain quite a lot – by a large margin. And that's the kind of policies that he's implementing domestically – those that are favored by the financial institutions that were his largest funders. As far as military spending is concerned, you know, it stays pretty constant; you know, it goes up and down a little; but it stays pretty constant through presidencies. In Obama's case, it's being modified slightly: there's less spending for high-tech military equipment (like the F-22 Fighter) and more for intervention forces. Okay, that reflects the new perceived tasks of the Pentagon. They're not expecting to fight a war against Russia; they're expecting to invade other countries. But I think that's almost independent of where the president comes from. Incidentally, the so-called military-industrial complex – That's a little misleading – the phrase – you know, Eisenhower's phrase. I mean, the "military-industrial complex" in fact is the core of American high-tech industry. Thing like (say) computers and the internet and so on come out of the military-industrial complex. In fact, a large part of Pentagon funding is just devoted to creating the next phrase of the electronics-based economy. So, sure, every president is in favor of that: in favor of having the public pay the costs and take the risks of funding future profits.

Questioner #4: Dr. Chomsky, you dispelled several myths indoctrinated into the American culture tonight about the Middle East. A couple weeks ago, you shared at M.I.T. some myths about the economy. Because these are so hard to detect until you've been exposed to the other side, could you briefly list some more of these myths indoctrinated into our culture, so that we may broader our horizons?

Chomsky: Pick the topic, and you'll find myths. And, what's worse, the same is true of every country I know of. So which topic?

Questioner #4: Whatever you feel is important.

Chomsky: Let's take the main domestic concern of Americans. For decades, the major domestic concern of Americans – either top or very close to the top – hsas been the health system. Okay. And it's obvious why: it's a total catastrophe. It has about twice the per capita costs of other industrial countries and has about the worst outcomes. And, you know, like fifty million people don't have insurance or many more have much too limited insurance. Now those are things that really hurt people. You know, they're not abstract. Drug prices are like two or three times as high as in comparable countries. That hurts people, and they care about it. And furthermore people have consistent ideas, consistent beliefs over a long period. And on this issue, they have very consistent beliefs. For decades, a large part of the population has been in favor of some kind of national health care system. It's called here "single-payer" or, you know, it's called "Canadian style". The reason it's called "Canadian style" is because people know that Canada exists. And it's not called, you know, "Australian style" (which is a better system) because who knows what they have in Australia? But there's been overwhelming support for it. And it would almost certainly be much cheaper than the system we have now. In fact, if you take the socialized part of the system – Medicare – its administrative costs are a fraction of the privatized system. I mean, there's constant talk about, you know, the "problems" that Medicare is facing down the road: "we got to do something to stop it." Yeah, it's true, but the problems are because it has to work through the privatized system, which makes it highly inefficient, costly, bureaucratized, a lot of intervention, and so on.

Part 4

Chomsky (continued): Well, the public has wanted something that makes sense. But it's not on the political agenda. Very few people know that that's what everybody wants and know the reasons for it, because it's not discussed. Okay, that's a pretty impressive achievement: to have suppressed for decades – . Like, everything I said you could find the data in papers, but you've got to research it. But here's a situation where there's a major domestic concern; there's a lot of public support. If it was even discussed publicly, the support would grow much higher. You know, when things are not discussed and debated, people may have an opinion, but their feeling is: "Well, I must be crazy!"; you know, "Nobody else believes this." If it was part of an ongoing, lively debate and discussion (as would happen in a functioning democratic society), yeah, then people would see the reasons for it, and it would reinforce, and you'd have public pressure. Well, up until 2004, these ideas were never on the political agenda. So [if] you go back to the 2004 election (Kerry/Bush election), take a look at the debates and the coverage. The last debate, right before the election, was on domestic issues. [If] you go back and look at the New York Times or the Washington Post the next day, they point out correctly that Kerry never suggested any government involvement in the health care system because it's "politically impossible" and "lacks political support". Okay, the only support it had was the large majority of the population, but it "lacked political support" and was "politically impossible", which means the insurance companies didn't like it, the financial institutions didn't like it, pharmaceutical corporations didn't like it, and so on. In fact, shortly after that, Congress passed legislation which made it illegal for the government to use its purchasing power to negotiate drug prices. I think the United States must be the only country in the industrial world where anything like that is true. So, like, the Pentagon can negotiate prices, you know, to get paper clips, let's say. But Medicare can't negotiate to get lower drug prices. Well, you know, [the] Medicare program created which is a gift to the insurance companies – incidentally, the Democrats voted for it. This year, 2008, something changed: For the first time, the Democrats began putting forward programs which are towards what the population has wanted for decades. (They don't really get there; but at least they're in that direction.) First, Edwards; then, Obama and Clinton. Well, what happened between 2004 and 2008? Public opinion didn't change; it's been pretty much the same for decades. What changed is that the manufacturing industry starting coming out in favor of a national health care system, because they are being smashed by the cost of the privatized system in the United States. Like, General Motors says it cost them over $1,000 more to produce a car in Detroit than across the Canadian border, because they have a rational health care system – more rational – not perfect, but better. Well, you know, when a sector of concentrated capital becomes interested in something, it starts to become "politically possible" and have "political support". You know, these are things that people ought to be discussing and think about. What does that tell you about functioning democracy, if something can become sort of "politically possible" (even if [it's] not what the public wants), but only if a major sector of concentrated capital is in favor of it? I mean, these ought to be topics that are, you know, the main issues for people who want to create a functioning democratic society. And that's the major domestic concern. Now if you take a look at Obama's program today, it's being criticized because it's going to be expensive and we can't afford it. Well, yeah, the way he's planning, it's going to be expensive, because it's maintaining the privatized system. And in fact [the] privatized health care system is complaining bitterly right now, because if there's an option of the coverage system, as is written into the program, they won't be able to compete on a level playing field. That's a way of saying, "We're so inefficient and costly that we can't compete with a national health care system; so it's unfair." And Obama's proposals – such as they are – are now being tinkered with to help the costly and inefficient privatized system compete on a level playing field. Well, why should the population allow any of this to happen? Okay, there's a topic – a very different one – on which popular organizing can take place and should have been for decades, and in fact would have been, if democracy was functioning. If democracy means that, you know, wealthy elites run the country, then of course democracy doesn't function. And this takes us to a broader question: The general population is pretty much aware of this. If you take a look at polls, for a long period, something like 80% of the population says that the government is "run by a few big interests looking out for themselves", not by "the people". That's pretty serious. You know, is it impossible to organize people who think we live in a tyranny, that feel so hopeless they can't do anything about it? Well, it shouldn't be that hard. You know, again, much greater achievements have been made. Okay, those are other issues. And you can continue on and on. Everywhere you look, there's delusion, deceit, control of attitudes and opinions – very systematic. A lot of the business world in fact is devoted to those things, as well as media and so on. They all have to be countered by popular movements. And when they have been in the past, you've got steps towards a more decent society. There's no shortage of such tasks. Take a look almost anywhere, and you'll find them.

Questioner #5: You said before that you think there's a possibility that the human species won't survive the 21st century. I was wondering if you could explain why you think that's true, also if you could discuss Israel's Samson Plan.

Chomsky: I got everything but the last word. ....Oh, the "Samson complex". Well, actually that worries me. There's two good reasons why the species may not survive very long. (So, again, you got some Martian looking at what's gone on here: they wouldn't put high odds on the survival of the species.) One of those is nuclear weapons. I mean, there could be a nuclear war almost any time. I mean, in fact it's kind of like a miracle that we survived since Nagasaki without a nuclear war. We've come awfully close many times – I won't run through the record – but much too many for any rational person to expect. And it continues. So take (say) Obama the other day: Obama made a nice speech about reducing nuclear weapons. Okay, that's good. In the same speech, he said we're going to go ahead with the so-called missile defense programs in Czechoslovakia and Poland. All right, that increases the threat of nuclear war, for obvious reasons. Everyone on all sides is aware that so-called missile defense is a first-strike weapon. It's the only thing it could conceivable do if it were ever [[?...inaudible...]] is to stop a deterrent strike; [it could] never stop a first strike. So it could conceivably stop a deterrent if it ever worked, which it doesn't.

(to part 5&6)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Q&A Session part1&2

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" Q&A

7 April 2009 Madison, WI

Part 1

(starting at 04:28)

Questioner 1: Thank you so much for your analysis. I think it is exactly what I saw when I was in the West Bank in 2006. And yet I find what you say rather discouraging. So what gives you hope that we actually will be able to turn this around? And what do you think we need to do?

Chomsky: Well, it's really very easy. It's one of the easier things to do. The reason is that the population of the United States is already on our side. I mean, a large majority of the population supports the international consensus. There's high-level support for it, like in the bipartisan commission that I mentioned. All that's necessary is to organize the already-existing support into an activist movement – and there have been plenty of them in the past and they have succeeded – which will cause a change in the rejectionist commitment of the Obama administration, which has no fundamental, you know, interest in sustaining the illegal criminal occupation and can just withdraw support for it, like stop funding the daily criminal activities in the West Bank and in Gaza. In Gaza it's pretty serious; I didn't go into a lot of it. But the siege – . I mean, you know about the destruction in Gaza; but there's a lot more going on which never gets reported. So, for example, in the year 2000, British Gas – a British petroleum company – discovered an apparently pretty substantial natural gas field off in the territorial waters of Gaza. Well, of course Israel wants to get its hands on it. And what's been happening since then, according to local activists (this includes the people who are involved in the Free Gaza Committee, the ones sending ships in to try to break the blockade), Israel has been driving fisherman out of the Gazan territorial waters, closer and closer to shore. Now there's no official statement to that effect, and they don't warn them; they just start shooting at them with the gunboats. And then they get closer and closer to shore. Now you can't fish near the shore in Gaza because the destruction of the power and sewage systems have made the pollution so intense that you just can't fish anywhere near shore. So it's wiping out the Gazan fishing industry, and also laying Israel's claim to take over Gazan energy resources which apparently could be pretty substantial – you know, could play a significant role in developing the country. Israel right now – if you read the petroleum journals (you know, the industry journals) – is sending delegations to make a deal with British Gas to have the gas that's discovered off the waters sent to Israel. Well, you know, those are things we don't have to tolerate, any more than we have to tolerate anything else that's going on. And I don't think it's a hard problem to deal with. I mean, there are much harder problems: say, global warming, or, you know, ending the US occupation of Afghanistan and the bombing of Pakistan. Those are really harder problems because there you're running into fundamental state interests.

Part 2

Chomsky (continued): Here, what's necessary is to carry out enough of an educational program so that people are not deluded by the constant flood of lies and distortion. I mean, when people hear every day unremitting claims that "of course Israel had a right to invade Gaza in self-defense", it's not very hard to explain to people that there's absolutely no basis for that. You know, it takes like two minutes. And if enough people are convinced, they can also be organized to do something about it. So among many tasks that have been carried out over the years, this doesn't really seem to be like a very hard one. It requires organization, and activism, and educational efforts.

Questioner #2: Some of what tonight you say reminds me of what happened to the people and presumably the culture of Diego Garcia. But the question I have for you is: There are progressive Palestinians and progressive Israelis who are now pushing for a one-state solution, which would clearly, it seems to me, put the government of Israel in the light of an apartheid regime, because it will not be able to maintain, you know, what it's trying to do without doing something closer to what happened in South Africa under apartheid. Is that a usable strategy – one-state solution – for activists?

Chomsky: Well, first of all, a one-state solution is sort of meaningless. I mean, what would make sense to look forward to is a binational state. I mean, you got two separate communities with different cultures, different languages. It could be a multi-national state. And that's a reasonable objective; I mean, I've believed in it all my life. But you have to make a distinction between proposing something and advocating it. Like, we can propose that everybody ought to live in peace; you know, beat your swords into plowshares; let's all love each other. Nice proposal. But it isn't advocacy. It becomes advocacy when you spell out a path from here to there. Now there is a way to advocate a binational state – in fact, one and only one way, as far as I'm aware of. And that's to begin with a two-state settlement. It has to be approached in stages. Now there was a time when it could have been implemented directly. That was – . First of all, before 1948, it could have been. But since 1948, it could have been implemented in the period from about 1967 up to '75. And in fact, something like it was even advocated by Israeli military intelligence, but the government turned it down. During that point, it could be literally advocated; Israel was in a position to implement it. And there was discussion of it at the time; I wrote about it a lot in fact. But it was absolute anathema – you know, bitterly condemned. And the reason was: it was feasible. Now it's tolerated, in fact encouraged. So you can read proposals about it in the New York Times and, you know, the New York Review of Books. Why is it tolerated now, but anathema then? Because now it's completely unfeasible. So therefore it serves only to undermine what might be the first stage towards achieving it. So therefore it's popular. You know, I'm not suggesting that those who propose it are trying to undermine a settlement. Of course they're not trying to; but they're doing it. And that's why what they're doing is tolerated. You should think that through: why was it anathema when it was feasible, but tolerated now that it's totally unfeasible? It has no support anywhere. It's not at all like South Africa. If you look back at – . The South African illustration is actually a good model; but you have to pay attention to what happened. First of all, Israel under the current US-Israeli policies – you know, "convergence plus" – Israel's not going to become an apartheid state. It's going to be demographically, ethnically pure. It's going to include Jews and kick out Palestinians, including those who are in Israel. So the apartheid issue will never arise. Furthermore, in the case of South Africa, it did make sense to, you know, have boycotts and divestment and so on to end apartheid, first of all, because South Africa could not get rid of its black population. It's not like Israel; it delighted to get rid of the Palestinian population. South Africa couldn't; it's their entire workforce; you know, it's eighty/eighty-five percent of the population. In fact, that's why South Africa developed the Bantustans: they wanted them to viable, because they needed them. And therefore they became an apartheid state. But even in that case, the protests against apartheid took decades before they developed. I mean, the major programs with, you know, boycott, divestment, and so on were actually in the 1980's. That was after decades of educational effort. It was at a time when there was nobody speaking in favor of apartheid; I mean, literally, it was gone. Congress was passing anti-apartheid legislation. The US corporations were opposed to it; they wanted to end it because it was bad for business. And at that point, you could have boycott/divestment programs, which were in fact effective and important in kind of intensifying and dramatizing these efforts. And they had an effect. The situation in this case is totally different. I mean, the South African model is just irrelevant. I mean, you can talk about a one-state settlement. But it's on a par with calling for everyone to live in peace. That would be nice too, you know. But what's the path to get there? Well, there is a path. It would start with a two-state settlement, which practically the whole world, including the US population, favors. That would cut back the level of violence. It would set up the circumstances in which possibly – and in fact, I think, likely – relations between the two states would grow – commercial relations, cultural relations, commerce, you know, cross-border, and so on. And maybe it would, as circumstances permit, lead to proposals for closer integration, which would make a lot of sense. But if there's another form of advocacy of a binational state, I haven't heard of it. That's the only form I've ever heard of. And I think the appeal which many good activists are entering into for a one-state settlement is simply a diversionary force which is undermining the possibilities for peace, and even undermining the possibilities for an eventual integration into a single state.

(to part 3&4)

Monday, June 15, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part8&9

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part8

Part 8

You know, suppose you're sitting on Mars, and you're watching this. The US is telling Iran to give up arms and terror?! I mean, does Iran have 800 military bases around the world? You know? Does Iran produce half of the world's armaments? I mean, is Iran the country that blocks Security Council Resolutions to regulate arms trade? Is Iran the country that has to abandon aggression? The US in fact has invaded and occupies two countries right next door to Iran. Does Iran occupy Canada and Mexico? When was the last time Iran committed aggression? You know? But this passes without comment. It tells us a lot about ourselves – ourselves, you know, people like us. We sit there and watch this and don't collapse in ridicule. In fact, it's applauded: "Obama is so much more forth-coming than Bush! Isn't that wonderful!" Well, that's the kind of thing that happens constantly.

What are the prospects actually for the Palestinians at this point? There's basically two. One is that the United States will join the world; it'll accept the international consensus. If it agrees to a two-state settlement, stops supporting Israel's violation of international law in the Occupied Territories, Israel will go along. They basically have no choice. Once they decided to abandon security in favor of expansion, they have to do what the US says. So they would withdraw. It's sometimes claimed that they couldn't, because it would lead to a civil war. That's not true, however. I mean it's partly true: like, if the Israeli army tried to eliminate the settlers by force, it would probably lead to a civil war, because of the religious, nationalist elements in the officer corps and so on. But there's absolutely no need for the Israeli army to withdraw any settlers. It would be sufficient for the government of Israel to announce that on such and such a day the army returns to Israel, and then provide, you know, trucks and buses, and the settlers who have been subsidized to live illegally in the Occupied Territories would climb quietly into the buses and go quietly back into Israel where they would be subsidized there. Maybe a few would remain: you know, a couple of religious Jews from Brooklyn maybe would decide to hang onto to pieces of rock Okay, they can do that. [If] they want to live under Palestinian authority, [it's] their choice; they don't have to be removed. In fact, the disengagement from Gaza [2005] could have been handled exactly the same way. There was what was called a "national trauma": you know, they sent in the army, and they had to take the settlers out screaming; big pictures on the front pages of little boys pleading, "Don't take us away from our homes!"; cries of "Never again!", you know, "Auschwitz!" and so on. This was all staged, totally staged. I mean, it was staged so transparently that commentators from the Israeli press were just ridiculing it, because it was totally unnecessary. They didn't have to remove a single settler. All they had to do was announce that on August 1st the IDF – the army – will leave Gaza, and the settlers would have left, you know, period. But then you wouldn't have had a "national trauma", and you wouldn't have had a justification for increasing settlement in the West Bank (which was the whole point of the disengagement), and you wouldn't have the cries of "Never again!" and so on. And what made this even more ridiculous was that it was a repetition of a staged "national trauma" in 1982. In 1982, after Israel and the United States finally accepted Sadat's 1971 offer, Israel had to evacuate settlements of northeastern Sinai. So there was a staged trauma, in which miraculously not a single settler was injured. In fact, the Israeli press – maybe Rita [Giacaman] will remember – had headlines saying, "National Trauma 1982", and making fun of it. Okay, it was just a repeat in 2005. And if they want to leave the West Bank, it'll be the same thing. So no civil war, no national trauma. Just pull out, and the settlers will follow you, if you help them by sending lorries, okay, they'll get into the lorries.

That's one possibility. The other possibility is "convergence" or " convergence plus": that is, the US and Israel pursue the policies that they are now developing right in front of our eyes – they're not secret; they go every day – just carrying forward. Sometimes it's claimed that that'll lead to an apartheid state. That's just not true. Israel will take what it wants. The Palestinians – those who remain – will be left somewhere in isolated cantons. In fact, the Israeli tourist bureau may even subsidize them, because it's "picturesque": if Israelis and American tourists drive past on the superhighways they're building, it'll be nice for the Israeli tourist guide to point to a Palestinian leading a goat up on the hills as kind of a Biblical scene; you know, it kind of looks nice. So they may even subsidize them. And the rest will rot, like Dayan said, you know: "live like dogs; if you want to leave, leave." No apartheid, no civil rights struggle, you know, nothing. Just take what you want, and let the others rot. That's the alternative.

And it gets worse. There was an ultra-right position in Israel advanced by Avigdor Lieberman who's now the Foreign Minister. When he announced this, this was described as "neo-Nazi". The idea was to take parts of Israel that had that heavy Palestinian population – there's one particular area (Wadi Ara) which is in Galilee right up near the Green Line – take that area, force the population into Jordan or into a Palestinian state in fact, force them into a derisory third-world barely-existing Palestinian state, and then take over the parts of the West Bank that we want, which would solve the "demographic problem" (the problem of "too many non-Jews in a Jewish state"). Well, of course the population is strongly opposed to it. You can read articles in the Washington Post by the Israeli correspondent describing it. You know, they don't want to lose their citizenship in the country where they live, a rich first-world country, and be kind of tossed into a barely surviving third-world country. But they don't matter. You know, we do what we want. It doesn't matter what the people want. Now when Lieberman proposed that, it was literally denounced as "neo-Nazi". Now it's mainstream. It was accepted by Kadima. Tzipi Livni, who's the official dove, thought it was a good idea. Kissinger thought it was a great idea; he said the only people who oppose this are those who want anarchy and so on. The New York Times thinks it's a great idea. The New York Times correspondent in Israel Ethan Bronner ["In Israeli Vote, With Two Parties Nearly Tied, the Winner Is Gridlock", 12 Feb 2009] wrote a couple of weeks ago that Lieberman's proposal appeals to the left: the left "likes" it because he's calling for "yielding areas that are now part of Israel" in a land swap. "Yielding areas." He didn't bother to tell us how they're "yielding areas". They're going to "yield areas" where the population wants to stay where they are and have the limited rights they now have in a rich country.

Part 9

But Israel is going to humanely "yield" them, over the bitter opposition of the population. Well, you know, right now that's mainstream policy. And if they move towards some ridiculous form of "two-state" settlement, that'll probably be included.

Well, you know, none of this is graven in stone. I mean, Americans don't have to accept.the deluge of lies and deceit and support for terror and violence that's constant. They don't have to watch silently as our government implements a very rare event in history: namely, the systematic murder of a nation at our hands. And it is at our hands.

(continuing to Q&A)

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part7

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part7

Part 7

In fact, the US-style of what's called neo-colonialism – you know, developed paramilitary or military forces, colaborationist forces, to control the population and make sure they don't do outrageous things like express sympathy when some other part of the population is being slaughtered – that's very "encouraging" and we're good at it. It's second nature. Now General Dayton's forces are the soft side of population control. There are also much tougher and more brutal forces in the West Bank: they're called General Intelligence and Preventive Security. And those guys are really tough, not like Dayton. They're trained by the CIA. There's no supervision for CIA training. So they can really train, you know, mass killers. General Dayton is technically under State Department supervision, and that means Congress occasionally has a look at and maybe some soft-hearted Congressman will say something about human rights conditionalities. But the CIA-trained forces can just be, you know, unconstrained in brutality, and torture, and terror. So that's the tough part of the "encouraging" developments, which finally give Israel a "legitimate partner for peace" for the first time.

Well, let's go back to the "reconceptualization", the core of the Obama policies. Israel-Palestine is now side-lined, with the exception of supporting the "encouraging" development of paramilitary forces to control the population and keep them quiet; and we now have to move towards a "coalition" of Israel [and] the Arab "moderates" who are now willing to cooperate with Israel against Iran. Well, what's US policy towards Iran? Obama and Kerry agree that the US must maintain the threat of force against Iran. So that's what it means to say, "All options are open." Threat of force is first of all in violation of international law: Take a look at the UN Charter; it says, "the threat or use of force" is barred, is criminal. But the US has no particular interest in international law. It's also against the will of a large majority of the American population. A large majority of the population thinks we ought to enter into normal relations with Iran: no threat of force. But the population is as irrelevant as international and domestic law are.

So they [Obama and Kerry] agree on that. And they agree on a lot more. The Obama administration is willing to negiotiate with Iran, but on a condition: namely, the condition that US demands – namely, the ending of uranium enrichment – are conceded in advance. So if Iran agrees to our conditions, we'll then negotiate with them, but not before. That was put most clearly by Vice President Biden who spelled out the administration's position. He said that the US is willing to negotiate if Iran first puts a stop to its "illicit weapons programs." Well, what are Iran's "illicit weapons programs"? There was a National Intelligence Estimate [] a year ago – a little over a year ago [November 2007] – which concluded, with "moderate-to-high confidence", that Iran had no weapons programs and hadn't had any for years. But that doesn't matter: the Obama administration, when it came into office said, "We reject the Intelligence Estimate." They conceded that they had no evidence, but we don't like it, so we reject it. So therefore they have "illicit weapons programs". And until they stop the programs, which they may or may not have (and US intelligence says they didn't have them), we can't agree to negotiations.

We also read constantly that the "international community" has demanded that Iran stop uranium enrichment. First of all, everyone agrees that uranium enrichment is a right of Iran: they signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty; they have the right of uranium enrichment, unlike Israel, say, which didn't sign it, doesn't have that right, but has a couple hundred nuclear weapons. So who's the "international community"? Well, the "international community" consists of Washington, US allies who agree with Washington, and nobody else. It omits most of the world. The Non-Aligned States (most of the world's states) forcefully support Iran's right to develop – to enrich uranium for nuclear power. So they're not part of the "internatinal community". A large majority of Americans agree with them: about seventy-five percent agree, yes, Iran has the right to enrich uranium. So they're not part of the "international community". The "international community" is reduced to Washington and whoever goes along with them. Okay, so in that sense, it's true the international community demands that Iran stop its enrichment of uranium. Just to add a little bit to the irony, the programs that Iran is carrying out were strongly supported by the United States, by Kissenger, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, as long as the Shah was in power. The US had installed a brutal tyrant, overthrew Iranian democracy. They [the Iranians] somehow remember that, but we're not supposed to. And during that period, the US insisted strongly and helped Iran develop uranium enrichment programs. In fact, a lot of it was done at M.I.T., where I was. [There was] a big fuss about it when the Shah sent thousands of nuclear engineers to be trained at M.I.T. to develop nuclear enrichment programs. Well, that was then, you know; then, the country was ruled by the tyrant we imposed. Now, not; so now they "don't need" nuclear energy.

There is no attention at all paid to the most important proposal, which a large majority of Americans agree to: that is, to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region, which is the right idea. That would include Iran, Israel, and any American forces deployed there, with a verification system. Okay, that would mitigate, if not eliminate, any potential threat that Iran poses. But that's off the agenda, because it would mean that Israel has to get rid of its illegal and huge collection of nuclear weapons and of course the US forces wouldn't be able to have nuclear weapons there. The US has also blocked nuclear-weapons-free zones in other parts of the world because it wants to deploy nuclear-armed forces there: in the South Pacific, Europe, and elsewhere. But this one is off the agenda, though a large majority – about seventy-five percent – of Americans favor it. Well, Obama did give a speech, which you read about, to Iran, you know, reaching out in friendship on the Iranian new year Nowruz. A lot of publicity for that. What did he actually say? He said, "Yes, we're delighted to deal with you." (A big, radical change from the Bush administration.) "But first you have to show that you're responsible members of the civilized world: You have to give up arms and terror. Okay?"

(to part 8)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part6

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part-6

7 April 2009
Madison, WI

Part 6

An illustration of what the US did was that the European Union proposed – I'm quoting now – to provide some health aid – needed aid for health care. Well, the US blocked it. And it had a reason; the reason was that "US officials" – I'm reading the New York Times [Weisman, "Europe Plan to Aid Palestinians Stalls Over U.S. Salary Sanctions", 15 June 2006] – "US officials expressed concern that some of the money might end up paying nurses, doctors, teachers and others previously on the government payroll, thereby helping to finance Hamas," which won the election. That was said with no shame; you know, just sort of: "Yeah, normal. We don't like the outcome of elections: we punish the population. It's natural." It's also natural that this goes on side by side with "soaring rhetoric" about our "idealism", our "commitment to democracy promotion", and so on and so forth. No contradiction – which in a sense is natural too, because it's so consistent. Well, Israeli attacks picked up severely in the following months: by June Israel had fired 7,700 rockets at northern Gaza; that's since its formal withdrawal in September.

Now on June 25th, an event occurred which sharply escalated the US-Israeli attack. On June 25th, Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier on the border: Gilad Shalhevet. That led to a huge outcry in the United States and in fact in Europe too: you know, "What a crime!": kidnapping – [correction:] capturing – (you can't "kidnap" a solider) – capturing a soldier from an attacking army. Okay, maybe that's wrong; but there are worse crimes, like one committed one day before the capture of Gilad Shalhevet: namely, the Israeli army invaded Gaza, kidnapped this time two civilians – a doctor and his brother – in Gaza City, spirited them across the border (violation of international law), and they sort of disappeared somewhere into the Israeli prison system where nobody knows what goes on; but there are certainly hundreds – at least – of people under what's called "administrative detention", just kept there without charge. These two brothers, the Muamar brothers, have disappeared. Now that was one day before the capture of Gilad Shalhevet. And kidnapping civilians is a far worse crime than capturing a soldier in an attacking army. But the two events are treated quite differently: The capture of Shalhevet is a major international event. To this day, Israel offers it, puts it forth – with the support of the United States and indeed Europe – as a reason for refusing a political settlement. What about the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers? Well, it was reported: about a couple dozen words in the Washington Post. But it disappeared, which in a way is justified, because this is standard, regular Israeli practice. In the preceding decades, they have repeatedly kidnapped civilians in Lebanon, on the high seas (an act which is much worse than Somoli piracy), killing them sometimes, bringing many of them to Israel, where they are then kept in prisons, sometimes secret prison torture chambers, sometimes for decades, and held as hostages. Well, since that's regular practice, why care if they did it once again on June 24th? But of course if Hamas captures a soldier of an attacking army, well, you know, "the world is coming to an end!" That's again a typical illustration of Western racism. If somebody else does something to us, it's a horror story; if we do much worse to them consistently for decades, you know, it's a yawn.

Let's go back to January 2006. (I should say, after the capture of Shalhevet, the attack on Gaza escalated very sharply: huge attack, large-scale destruction, destroyed the power systems, the water systems, the sewage systems, and so on. But that was considered okay too after this "outrage", which still today is put forth as the main reason for refusing a ceasefire and a setttlement.)

Well, in order to overturn the election, the United States and Israel went farther: they armed a military force, a paramilitary force, led by Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan (you know, a tough thug), whose task was to carry out a military coup in Gaza to overthrow the elected government. Well, that failed. Hamas preempted it. And that led to new attacks and a strengthened seige. But also the US and Israel didn't stop there. A US general was sent, General Keith Dayton, to train a paramilitary force, with the help of Jordan, which would be the Fatah paramilitary force. And here we get back to Kerry. He gives a reason to explain why Israel now has a "legitimate" Palestinian "partner": the reason is the Dayton-run paramilitary force, which he says is really good. In fact, he says it's the most important development to show Palestinian legitimacy. And our goal – our primary goal – , he said, is to strengthen General Dayton's efforts to train Palestinian security forces to "keep order" in the West Bank and to "fight terror". And then he says, "Recent developments have been extremely encouraging: During the invasion of Gaza, Palestinian Security Forces were largely successful in maintaining calm in the West Bank amidst widespread expectations of civil unrest. …More has to be done, but we can help" extending this force.

Well, to translate that into English: During the Israeli invasion of Gaza, it was expected that there would be protests in the West Bank. You know, it's the same country after all. But thanks to the US-trained paramilitary forces, they were able to keep the population under control, and there was no expression of sympathy for the people being slaughtered in Gaza. And that's, as Kerry says, "extremely encouraging" and we have to do more. Well, the US has a lot of experience in this, in fact unique experience. It goes back a century, since the US established the Philippine Constabulary to try to control the Philippines. After invading it and killing a couple hundred thousand people, there was a lot of unrest. But the US did succeed, in complicated and sophisticated measures, to create a Philippine paramilitary force, which still pretty much runs the country; that's one of the reasons why the country is kind of a basket case, and it's a century later. And it's happened over and over: the national guards in the Caribbean and Central America, the paramilitary forces in Columbia, which were responsible for, you know, huge atrocities in the last couple of decades. And in fact the military forces themselves, which, for example in Columbia, just cooperate with the paramilitaries; [they are] part of them essentially. And other armies too. So we got a century of experience in how to control populations with collaborationist paramilitary and military forces. So we should be able to achieve it in the West Bank too. And that's, for Kerry, most "encouraging". It includes his own experience in Vietnam, where the Saigon army was such a force; its task was to control the population and prevent them from achieving any form of self-determination. And so, yes, we're pretty good at that.

(to part7)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part 5

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part 5

7 April 2009 Madison, WI

Part 5

Well, let's go back to Kerry, and his expression of his views in his explanation, outlining of the positions of the Obama administration. He talks about the invasion of Gaza – different than Obama, who omitted it. But his position is the standard one, in fact universal position. He said that – . (Incidentally the invasion was of course in violation of international law, but also in violation of US law. US law very explicitly bars the use of US weapons for anything but strictly defensive purposes. And [we] can't even pretend that in this case, but that's kind of overlooked. We don't care about US law any more than about international law.) But he justified the invasion in the universally accepted terms: He said that (I'll quote him) "if terrorists in Quincy, Massachusetts, were launching rocket attacks into Boston…we'd have to put a stop to it, just as the Israelis were forced to respond" in Gaza. And, again, that's Obama's statement about "what I would do if my daughters were being attacked by missiles". And that's pretty near universal. You have to look pretty far to – There is debate about whether the Israeli attack was "disproportionate", but there's no debate about the fact that it was "necessary, justified, in self-defense".

Well, that's not only false, but it's transparently false. It's false in an unarguable fashion. The issue which is constantly evaded is not whether Israel had a right to defend itself. Sure, everyone has a right to defend themself. The issue was: did they have a right to defend themselves by force? That's a totally different question. Nobody, in Washington or anywhere else, accepts the principle that every state has the right to defend itself by force. So when, for example, Vladimir Putin invaded Chechnya, practically destroyed the place, he claimed correctly that it was a reaction to Chechen terror, which was pretty awful. But it wasn't praised here, or anywhere. In fact, it was bitterly condemned, because he had a way to resolve – to eliminate the terror without force: namely, withdraw from Chechnya. When the British army was in the United States in the 1770's, they had a right to defend themselves from the terror of George Washington's army, which was incidentally very real. But they didn't have a right to defend themselves by force, because there was a way to settle it without force: leave the country, you know. And you can give case after case. The question is: did Israel have a right to defend itself by force? Had they exhausted peaceful means? That's the crucial question. And the reason the issue is evaded is because the answer to that question is transparent: they had not even tried peaceful means, because they didn't want them. There are peaceful means, which are narrow, which would have sufficed: namely, to accept a ceasefire. Hamas repeatedly offered a ceasefire right up to the invasion. And in fact there had been a ceasefire in June 2008, one of many. And, like every other one, Israel didn't live up to it. So, in the ceasefire of June 2008, there was an agreement: Israel would put an end to siege, open the borders; and Hamas would put an end to rockets. Well, Hamas lived up to it. Israel did invade in November 2008, killed half a dozen Palestinians. But up until that invasion, the Israeli government concedes that there wasn't a single rocket. Okay, so [Hamas] lived up to it totally, while Israel didn't live up to it at all; it maintained the siege. A siege is an act of war, and a very brutal act of war in this case. Nevertheless, Hamas lived up to it. Well, after Israel broke the partial ceasefire – the unilateral ceasefire – again there were repeated offers of ceasefire and Israel rejected them; they went up to right before the invasion. So there was a very narrow way for Israel to put an end to rocket-firing if it cared about it.

But there's also a broader and more important way, which is similar to Putin in Chechnya and the British in the colonies: Israel could stop the criminal activities in the West Bank and in Gaza, for that matter. And that they are criminal activities is not in doubt, as I mentioned. So they could put an end to the criminal activities, and that presumably would put an end to the resistance to them. It's pretty hard to argue that people don't have a right to resistance to constant, ongoing, criminal attacks on them. So, okay, that's a broader way to defend themselves against rocket-fire.

The conclusion is that there was no justification whatsoever for Israel to invade Gaza. And the reasons are really not debatable; I mean, they are transparent. They are based on a principle that everyone accepts – and we not only accept but insist upon in the case of our enemies: namely, the use of force is not legitimate unless peaceful means have been exhausted. If they have, you can then debate whether the use of violence is legitimate. You need still [to face] a burden of proof. But you can't raise the question if peaceful means have been rejected. So the universal assent – near universal assent to the idea that Israel had a right to invade Gaza is just pure hypocrisy; it's just a reflection of the depth of imperial mentality.

Well, let's return to Kerry's thesis that now at last there's a "legitimate" Palestinian "partner for peace"; there wasn't one before, but he goes on to say, "Now there is one." And he gives a very interesting argument for that. The "legitimate partner for peace", he said, for the first time is now Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. Let's review a few facts about them and the rest of Palestine. In January 2006 there was an election – a free election – a lot observers ratified it as a free election – in fact the only one in the Arab world. It came out the wrong way: the United States and Israel didn't like the outcome of the election. And so therefore they reacted in a standard fashion by punishing the population for the crime of voting the wrong way in a free election, and punishing very harshly. The punishment was extreme: in the case of Israel, you know, assassinations and so on. But it also went even as far as cutting off the flow of clean water to the arid Gaza strip where sewage and everthing else has destroyed the aquifer; it's very hard to get any water. They cut off the water.  

(to part 6)

Monday, June 08, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part-4

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories"part-4

7 April 2009 Madison, WI

Part 4

So, for example, Prime Minister Olmert of Israel came to the United States in May 2006 and gave an address to a joint session of Congress, where he received a rousing ovation for saying that the historic rights of the Jewish people to the land of Israel are beyond question. Huge applause. What did he mean by "the land of Israel"? Well, you know, traditonally that's kept pretty vague. But his background is in the Likud party which is now considered the more "moderate" element of the governing coalition. And they have a charter. Their charter calls for Israel to control both sides of the Jordan [River]. In other words, everything in the Palestinian mandate and the state of Jordan. And they have recently somewhat moderated that position: In 1999 they restated their charter, and it calls for Israel to dominate – rule everything from the Jordan to the sea. That's the historic "land of Israel". And then it says, everything that "dominates the Jordan Valley". That's pretty vague. I mean, of course it includes everything on the Palestinian side; but it could be interpreted – and they may mean it – as whatever is of value on the other side. But anyway, at the very least, the most sympathetic reading, [is] everything from the Jordan to the sea: all of Palestine. And there Israel has the "right" to settle anywhere, because it's "the land of Israel"; you know, "God said so; it's the land of Israel; we can settle anywhere." And in that territory there cannot be any Palestinian self-determination. Okay, that's the official charter from 1999 of the "moderate" element of the ruling coalition. (You know, everybody talks about the Hamas charter, which nobody has paid the slightest attention to except in propaganda. But try to find a reference to the 1999 charter of the "moderate" element of the ruling coalition.) Well, that's the plan. And in the May 2006, Olmert spelled it out. The plan is what he called "convergence": that means Israel takes over everything within the so-called Separation Wall – actually, an annexation wall. That includes more than half of the water supplies of the region and a good part of the arable land. It takes over the Jordan Valley; that's about a third of Palestine. That traps what's left. And it takes over salients that run through the remaining area: one to the east of Jerusalem, going through the town of Ma'ale Adumim which was settled and colonized and built during the Clinton years in order to bisect the West Bank, effectively. And then, a couple of other salients farther north which break up what's left. And then, you know, random checkpoints all over the place, to make life impossible for whoever remains and to lead to the kinds of medical conditions that you can read about.

Well, he gave up that position. And, again, rousing applause. He gave up that position as too moderate a year later and moved to what you might call "convergence plus", fundamentally the same idea, but more extensive. And, again, those are not words. They are being implemented constantly. So last year, 2008, there was a sixty percent increase in housing starts in the areas that the US and Israel intend for Israel to annex. That compares with housing starts in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, inside Israel, where housing starts dropped considerably. And a vast increase is planned. The current plans are to double settlers in the Occupied Territories. That's according to an assessment by Peace Now, which monitors settlement. You can read it in the US press a little while ago. So that's happeneing. And it happens every day, you know.

Right now, in fact, there's an Israeli effort to remove Palestinians from a traditional – an old Palestinian area right in the center of East Jerusalem, throw them out, replace them by Jewish settlers – religious Jewish settlers. ([There's] all kind of pretexts which aren't worth talking about.) There was a very sharp condemnation of that by the European Union, because, again, that almost eliminates the possibility – or at least makes it much harder to achieve anything like a meaningful settlment. And there was also an admonition by Hillary Clinton: she said it was "unhelpful". The Israeli leadership, no doubt, quaked in their boots when they got this, you know, thirty lashes from a piece of macaroni or something like that. And that's pretty typical. I mean, the US regularly says, "It's unhelpful to do what we're paying you to do and what we're giving you the military, and economic, and ideological support to do." Well, that continues with no change.

Incidentally, all of this is in violation of Security Council orders, going back to December 1968, which at that time the US supported, because – remember – then the US was part of the world. So it voted for those resolutions which barred any Israeli actions in Jerusalem. But that's "past history". And of course it's against international law. And there's never been the slightest doubt about that. In 1967, the Israeli government was informed by its highest legal authorities: the very distinguished international lawyer Theodor Meron (its main legal advisor), and the Justice Minister. They were advised that any movement of population into the Occupied Territories is in gross violation of the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law: the Geneva Conventions. And that was understood. Moshe Dayan, who was the Defense Minister and in charge of the Occupied Territories, agreed that it was illegal. But he said there's nothing new in that. "The situation today" – he described it sort of poetically: he said, "the situation today resembles the complex relationship between a Bedouin man and a girl he kidnaps against her will…." He said, "You Palestinians, as a nation, don't want us today, but we'll change your attitude by forcing our presence on you." You will "live like dogs, and whoever will leave, will leave," while we take what we want. So, okay, it's illegal; but that's the way the world works: the powerful do what they want. The World Court ruled on this a couple of years ago and – again, unanimously, including the US justice – declared that any transfer – that the Geneva Conventions apply to the Occupied Territories – any transfer of population is illegal, all settlements are illegal. Well, that's international law; but international law has no enforcement mechanism. If the powerful want to disregard it, they disregard it. It's not the only case. In fact, the US is a leader in disregarding international law when it doesn't like it. And as long as the population of the United States accepts that, you know, nothing's going to stop it.

continuing to part 5

Saturday, June 06, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part 3

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part-3

Part 3

Now the critical question, as always, was: what would the United States do? There was an internal beaurocratic battle in the Nixon administration. The State Department –William Rogers – wanted to continue with what had been US policy: so no expanion; withdraw to the international border. And that would mean: accept President Sadat's offer and have security. Henry Kissinger objected. He was National Security Advisor. His position, as he described it, was "stalemate", meaning no negotiations, just force. Okay, not unusual for Mr. Kissinger. And he won out in the beaurocratic battle, and the United States backed off its traditional position since '67 and left the world. And it's been out of the world since then on this issue. That was critical. Israel made a really fateful decision, preferring expansion to peace and security, with US backing. It meant that Israel's completely reliant on the United States really for survival: it's going to be in a position of military confrontation and so on; it's got to have a powerful foreign backer; and the United States is it. So what happened from then on was more or less set in February 1971.

Now President Sadat of Egypt kept warning that if the United States and Israel don't accept peace, he's going to go to war. They were laughing at him basically. It was a period of extreme racism both in Israel and the United States: mockery of Arabs: "how could they fight a war?", "they didn't know which end of a gun to hold", and so on. Well, Sadat went to war, and Israel was practically destroyed. It came very close. It even came close to a nuclear war, because apparently they armed their nuclear warheads and the US declared a nuclear alert; so it was no joke. Okay, that finally was settled. But then, you know, the clouds lifted. It became clear to Israeli leaders and Kissinger that Egypt can't be dismissed as a basket case. They're going to have to negotiate with it. And then started a series of negotiations. I won't run through them. They ended up at Camp David in 1978 and '79. And what actually happened at Camp David is the United States and Israel accepted the offer by Sadat that they had rejected in 1971. Now, in US diplomatic history, that goes down as a great diplomatic triumph of the United States: Carter's "great triumph". That was a diplomatic catastrophe: they accepted an offer that they had rejected eight years earlier; the result was a major war with, you know, huge loses and suffering, almost a nuclear war; and then they finally accepted the offer. It's not exactly a diplomatic triumph; but that's the way it's interpreted in powerful states with obedient intellectuals, like us.

Well, meanwhile, in those years, something else had happened: The Palestinian issue, which had been side-lined before – it was not [even] there – entered the international agenda for various reasons, and it entered it very explicitly in January 1976. In January 1976, the major Arab states, all the relevant ones, brought a resolution to the Security Council of the United Nations, calling for a two-state settlement; that's what the Arab League recently reiterated and what the rest of the world agrees to. Well, that didn't get very far: the United States vetoed it. Now that happens all the time. But when the United States vetoes a resolution, it's a double-veto: first of all, it doesn't happen, and then it's wiped out of history. So, again, you have to look hard to find the record of that; but it's there. The same thing happened in 1980 under Carter. At that point, the Security Council was sort of dismissed; the US wasn't going to let anything happen there. The isssue shifted over to the General Assembly where there is actually a veto, but technically there isn't: a US vote against a resolution amounts to a veto. And there were almost annual resolutions at the General Assembly, kind of reiterating the call for Palestinian national rights. The votes were pretty uniform: you know, 150 to 2: the United States and Israel. Sometimes the United States picked up, you know, Dominica or the Marshall Islands or somebody. But that was the record right through the General Assembly sessions, and it goes right up till today. I mean, Obama and Kerry have just reiterated it, in their indirect and deceitful way.

Now actually it's very important to recognize that, in this record of over 30 years of blocking a diplomatic settlement, there was one exception, a very crucial one. In the last month of Clinton's term, he modified his rejectionist position. In December 2000, he presented what he called his "parameters" for a settlement. They were kind of vague, but they tolerated the international consensus as a part. He then made an important speech in which he said both sides have accepted the parameters, but both sides have presented reservations. They then met in Taba, Egypt: a week of negotiations. And the two sides came pretty close to a resolution which was not very far from the international consensus – a pretty detailed resolution on all issues. And in fact in their final press conference they said if they had a few more days, they probably could have solved the problem. Well, they didn't have a few more days: Prime Minister Barack of Israel canceled the negotiations prematurely, and that came to an end. But that's important. Things have happened since 2001, but not anything fundamental with regard to a settlement. And what it tells us is that if a US president were just willing to tolerate a settlement, it could very likely be reached, just as it almost was reached then. Well, that's out of history too. Again: wrong story. But it's there.

Well, these are the kinds of things that John Kerry omitted when he talked about our failed efforts to be an honest broker since the three no's of 1967. And they're pretty critical, and, again, he's an intelligent person; and if he can omit this, it tells us something. He also, like Obama, brought up the Arab League proposal, but omitted its central component. So that tells us quite a lot.

I should add that this is not just words. I mean, it's not just that the US and Israel block a settlement in words. Much more importantly, they block it in deeds. And that's what's actually happening on the ground. If you were here last night, you saw Rita [Giacaman] put up a map up on the screen back there, which described what the US and Israel have been doing in the West Bank. And what they've been doing is a very planned, systematic project – continuing right now – of undermining the possibility of a two-state settlement. So it's one thing to veto dipolomacy in words, but it's more important to act in a way to undermine the possibility of realizing it. And that goes on constantly, and it's not secret.

(to part 4)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part-2

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part-2

Part 2

Well, Obama is an intelligent man. He's literate. He chooses his words carefully. So we can learn something from what he said and what he didn't say. What he didn't say is what the content of the Arab League proposal is. Slight omission. The content of the Arab League proposal is simply a reiteration of the international consensus, which in fact the Arab States had agreed to 30 years earlier. They reiterated it in the 2006 proposal, just as before, same as the Volcker commission, same as everyone who's talked about it: two states on the international border with maybe minor modifications. And they said in that context the Arab States should proceed to normalize relations with Israel. Well, Obama very scrupulously avoided the content and just talked about the corollary: normalize relations with Israel. To any rational person, that tells us what he has in mind: namely, a continuation of US rejectionism which unilaterally has blocked a diplomatic settlement for over 30 years.

Well, there's a more extensive presentation of the Obama administration's position in an important speech that was given by the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee. He's very close to the administration. He gave a speech ["Restoring Leadership in the Middle East: A Regional Approach to Peace " - 4 March 2009 -] to the Brookings Institution in Washington, considered kind of "center-left" – whatever that's supposed to mean. And it was a very interesting talk and should be read carefully. I'll quote some parts of it and comment on it. He began by saying that we should recognize the failure of our past efforts to bring about a political settlement among these two adversaries. He said we've tried honorably to reach a political settlement; we have failed because of the intransigence of the Arab States and because – I'm quoting – although "for years everyone has talked of the need to give the Israelis a legitimate partner for peace...", we and our Israeli ally have failed in that effort and we should therefore agree that it's behind us. So we have to – As he put it, we have to "reconceptualize" the problem. Since our efforts to act as an honest broker have failed – we haven't been able to find "a legitimate partner for peace" for Israel – , we've got to look at the whole issue in a different framework. We should look at it as a "regional" issue. We should put the Israel-Palestine conflict to the side. We've tried; we can't solve it. And we should form a "coalition" against Iran, including Israel and the "moderate" Arab States. Now, "moderate" is an interesting word in the techical jargon of diplomacy; "moderate" means you follow orders. So the "moderate" Arab States are the brutal Egyptian dictatorship and the most extreme, radical Islamic-fundamentalist state in the world – also a dictatorship – Saudia Arabia. Those are the "moderates", because they more or less do what we say and they are our natural allies. So we should form a coaltion between the "moderate" Arab States and Israel, under our aegis, to confront the "real" problem in the region: namely, Iran. And, he says, it's been difficult in the past, but now it's possible. It's possible because he says there's been what he calls a "techtonic shift in Middle East geopolitics". I'm quoting now: "The rise of Iran has created an unpredented willingness among moderate Arab nations to work with Israel. This realignment can help to lay the groudwork for progress towards peace." And he says there's a crucial new fact: the Arab peace initiative of 2006. And he goes on: "Whereas once the Arab world voted unanimously for the three no's [of Khartoum], [meaning] no dialogue with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no peace with Israel," – that was before – "there are now three different no's which dominate many discussions in the region; no Iranian nukes, no Iranian meddling, and no Iranian hegemony."

Well, the "three no's" were in 1967 and a few things have happened between 1967 and today, which he omitted. What happened? Well, the first thing that happened was in fact in 1967, right after the "three no's". President Nassar of Egypt began trying to open up ways for peaceful settlement, rejecting the "three no's". At that time, the United States was still part of the world, which is important. The US had a position; its position was UN 242, November 1967. The US interpreted that as meaning: no acquisition of territory by force, Israel returns to the international border, and there's a diplomatic settlement. Now 242 has nothing in it for the Palestinians; so therefore the US and Israel like it. In every international negotiation, they constantly insist that 242 has to be the sole topic under discussion, because it has nothing about Palestinian rights. There's a whole series of other UN resolutions, but they're off the agenda. And of course Israel and the United States don't interpret it the way they did when the United States was part of the world. Well, that was 1967. And that lasted for a few years.

In 1971 there really was a tectonic shift, a significant one, so significant that it's been wiped out of history. You've got to look hard to find the evidence; but it's there. In February 1971, Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty – a full peace treaty – everything – in return for Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory. They mention "territories"; they only cared about Egyptian territory. Again, nothing about the Palestinians. Okay, Israel had what it regarded as a genuine peace offer. Egypt is the – by far – in fact the only major military force in the Arab world. If it made peace with Israel, Israel's security problems would be eliminated. There was no Palestinian issue to speak of at the time. So they could have had security. They rejected it. They rejected it in favor of expansion. At that time, it was expansion into northeastern Sinai. There was some settlement in the West Bank, but it was mostly northeast Sinai, where Israel was planning to – it was the Labor government incidently – the doves – were planning – and soon did – expel thousands of Bedouin farmers into the desert, pretty brutally, destroy the villages, destroy the mosques, the cemetaries, everything, driving them behind barbed wire into the desert, and proceed to develop a major city – it was intended to be a million people – a seaport – Yamit and a lot of settlements. Well, that was the choice: security or expansion. And Israel chose expansion. And in fact that's continued until the present.

(continuing to part 3)