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
(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.
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)