[Marxism] Israel, Palestine and the Hypocrisies of Power – Noam Chomsky

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Wed Dec 31 12:28:14 MST 2008

Everything about Chomsky's analysis of a year and a half ago seems 
helpful in its general terms, as a backgrounder worth re-reading, in 
understanding the present situation and the likely prognosis:

And on boycott:
[I have always been sceptical about academic boycotts. There may be 
overriding reasons, but in general I think that those channels should be 
kept open. As for boycotts in general, they are a tactic, not a 
principle. Like other tactics, we have to evaluate them in terms of 
their likely consequences. That is a matter of prime importance, at 
least for those who care about the fate of the victims. And 
circumstances have to be considered with care.
Let’s consider South Africa and Israel, which are often compared in this 
context. In the case of South Africa, boycotts had some impact, but it 
is worth remembering that they were implemented after a long period of 
education and organizing, which had led to widespread condemnation of 
apartheid, even within mainstream opinion and powerful institutions. 
That included the US corporate sector, which has an overwhelming 
influence on policy formation. At that stage, boycott became an 
effective instrument.
The case of Israel is radically different. The preparatory educational 
and organizing work has scarcely been done. The result is that calls for 
boycott can easily turn out to be weapons for the hard right, and in 
fact that has regularly (and predictably) happened. Those who care about 
the fate of Palestinians will not undertake actions that harm them.
Nevertheless, carefully targeted boycotts, which are comprehensible to 
the public in the current state of understanding, can be effective 
One example is calls for university divestment from corporations that 
are involved in US-Israeli repression and violence, and denial of 
elementary human rights.
In Europe, a sensible move would be to call for an end to preferential 
treatment for Israeli exports until Israel stops its systematic 
destruction of Palestinian agriculture and its barring of economic 
In the US, it would make good sense to call for reducing US aid to 
Israel by the estimated $600 million that Israel has stolen by refusing 
to transmit funds to the elected government. And the cynicism of 
funneling aid to the faction it supports should be exposed as just 
another exercise in undermining democracy.
Looking farther ahead, a sensible project would be to support the stand 
of the majority of Americans that all aid to Israel should be cancelled, 
until it agrees to negotiate seriously for a peaceful diplomatic 
settlement, instead of continuing to act vigorously to undermine the 
possibility of realizing the international consensus on a two-state 
That, however, will require serious educational and organizational 
efforts. Readers of the mainstream press were well aware of the shocking 
nature of apartheid. But they are presented daily with the picture of 
Israel desperately seeking peace, but under constant attack by 
Palestinian terrorists who want to destroy it.]

New Internationalist

August 20, 2007

  Israel, Palestine and the Hypocrisies of Power – an interview with
  Noam Chomsky

    In the course of an interview given to the Lambeth and Wandsworth
    (London) branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in July 2007,
    the celebrated American intellectual and activist *Noam Chomsky*
    provided a devastating insight into what lies behind the continuing
    conflict - and could lead to the death of the Palestinian nation
    itself, if the ‘rejectionists’ are allowed to prevail against
    overwhelming public opinion, East and West.

      What is your view of the situation in Gaza today? Could it mark
      the beginning of the end for the Palestinian Authority?

Some background is necessary. Let’s begin with January 2006, when 
Palestinians voted in a carefully monitored election, pronounced to be 
free and fair by international observers - despite US efforts to swing 
the election towards their favourite, Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. 
But Palestinians committed a grave crime, by Western standards. They 
voted ‘the wrong way’. The US instantly joined Israel in punishing 
Palestinians for their misconduct, with Europe toddling along behind as 

There is nothing novel about the reaction to these Palestinian misdeeds. 
Though it is obligatory to hail our leaders for their sincere dedication 
to bringing democracy to a suffering world - perhaps in an excess of 
idealism - the more serious scholar/advocates of the mission of 
‘democracy promotion’ recognize that there is a ‘strong line of 
continuity’ running through all administrations: the US supports 
democracy if, and only if, it conforms to US strategic and economic 
interests (Thomas Carothers, head of the Law and Democracy Program of 
the Carnegie Endowment). In short, the project is pure cynicism, if 
viewed honestly. The US project should be described as one of blocking 
democracy, not promoting it - dramatically so in the case of Palestine.

The punishment of Palestinians for the crime of voting the wrong way was 
severe. With constant US backing, Israel increased its violence in Gaza, 
withheld funds that it was legally obligated to transmit to the 
Palestinian Authority, tightened its siege and, in a gratuitous act of 
cruelty, even cut off the flow of water to the arid Gaza Strip. The 
Israeli attacks became far more severe after the capture of Corporal 
Gilad Shalit on 25 June, which the West portrayed as a terrible crime.

Again, pure cynicism. Just one day before, Israel kidnapped two 
civilians in Gaza – a far worse crime than capturing a soldier – and 
transported them to Israel (in violation of international law, but that 
is routine), where they presumably joined the roughly 1,000 prisoners 
held by Israel without charges, hence kidnapped. None of this merits 
more than a yawn in the West.

There is no need here to run through the ugly details. The US-Israel 
made sure that Hamas would not have a chance to govern. Of course, the 
two leaders of the rejectionist camp flatly rejected Hamas’s call for a 
long-term cease-fire to allow for negotiations for a settlement in terms 
of the international consensus on a two-state settlement, which the 
US-Israel reject - as they have done in virtual isolation for over 30 
years, with rare and temporary departures.

Meanwhile, Israel stepped up its programmes of annexation, dismemberment 
and imprisonment of shrinking Palestinian cantons in the West Bank, 
always with decisive US backing, despite occasional minor complaints 
accompanied by the wink of an eye and munificent funding. The programmes 
were formalized in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s ‘convergence programme’, 
which spells the end of any viable Palestinian state. His programme was 
greeted in the West with much acclaim as ‘moderate’, because it did not 
satisfy the demands of ‘greater Israel’ extremists. It was soon 
abandoned as ‘too moderate’, again with understanding - if mild - notes 
of disapproval by Western hypocrites.

There is a standard operating procedure for overthrowing an unwanted 
government: arm the military to prepare for a military coup. The 
US-Israel adopted this conventional plan, arming and training Fatah to 
win by force what it lost at the ballot box. The US also encouraged 
Mahmoud Abbas to amass power in his own hands - steps that are quite 
appropriate in the eyes of Bush administration advocates of presidential 
dictatorship. As for the rest of the Quartet, Russia has no principled 
objection to such steps, the UN is powerless to defy the Master and 
Europe is too timid to do so.

Egypt and Jordan supported the effort, consistent with their own 
programmes of internal repression and barring of democracy, with US backing.

The strategy backfired. Despite the flow of military aid, Fatah forces 
in Gaza were defeated in a vicious and brutal conflict, which many close 
observers describe as a pre-emptive strike, targeting primarily the 
security forces of the brutal Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan (Alistair 
Crooke, Jonathan Steele, and others).

However, those with overwhelming power can often snatch victory from the 
jaws of defeat, and the US-Israel quickly moved to turn the outcome to 
their benefit. They now have a pretext for tightening the stranglehold 
on the people of Gaza, cheerfully pursuing policies that the prominent 
international law scholar Richard Falk describes as a prelude to 
genocide that ‘should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge of 
“never again”’.

The US-Israel can pursue the project with international backing, unless 
Hamas meets the three conditions imposed by the ‘international 
community’ - a technical term referring to the US Government and whoever 
goes along with it. For Palestinians to be permitted to peek out of the 
walls of their Gaza dungeon, Hamas must: (1) recognize Israel or, in a 
more extreme form, Israel’s ‘right to exist’ - that is, the legitimacy 
of their expulsion from their homes; (2) renounce violence; (3) accept 
past agreements - in particular, the Road Map of the Quartet.

The hypocrisy again is stunning. No such conditions are imposed on those 
who wear the jackboots: (1) Israel does not recognize Palestine, in fact 
is devoting extensive efforts to ensure that there will be no viable 
Palestine ever, always with decisive US support; (2) Israel does not 
renounce violence - and it is ridiculous even to raise the question with 
regard to the US; (3) Israel firmly rejects past agreements, in 
particular, the Road Map, with US support. The first two points are 
obvious. The third is correct, but scarcely known. While Israel formally 
accepted the Road Map, it attached 14 Reservations that completely 
eviscerate it. To take just the first, Israel demanded that for the 
process to commence and continue, the Palestinians must ensure full 
quiet, education for peace, cessation of incitement, dismantling of 
Hamas and other organizations, and other conditions. Even if they were 
to satisfy these virtually impossible demands, the Israeli Cabinet 
proclaimed that ‘the Roadmap will not state that Israel must cease 
violence and incitement against the Palestinians’. The other 
reservations continue in the same vein.

Israel’s instant rejection of the Road Map, with US support, is 
unacceptable to the Western self-image, so it has been suppressed. The 
facts did finally break into the mainstream with the publication of 
Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The book elicited a 
torrent of abuse and desperate efforts to discredit it, but these 
sections – the only part of the book that would have been new to readers 
with some familiarity with the topic – were scrupulously avoided. It 
would, rightly, be considered utterly ludicrous to demand that a 
political party in the US or Israel meet such conditions - though it 
would be fair to ask that the two states with overwhelming power meet 
them. But the imperial mentality is so deeply embedded in Western 
culture that this travesty passes without criticism, even notice.

While now in a position to crush Gaza with even greater cruelty, Israel 
can also proceed, with US backing, to implement its plans in the West 
Bank, expecting to have the tacit co-operation of Fatah leaders, who 
will be amply rewarded for their capitulation. Among other steps, Israel 
began to release the funds – estimated at $600 million – that it had 
stolen in reaction to the January 2006 election, and is making a few 
other gestures. The programmes of undermining democracy are proceeding 
with shameless self-righteousness and ill-concealed pleasure, with 
gestures to keep the natives contented – at least those who play along - 
while Israel continues its merciless repression and violence ; and, of 
course, its immense projects to ensure that it will take over whatever 
is of value to it in the West Bank. All thanks to the benevolence of the 
gracious rich uncle.

To turn, finally, to your question ; the end of the Palestinian 
Authority might not be a bad idea for Palestinians, in the light of 
US-Israeli programmess of rendering it nothing more than a quisling 
regime to oversee their extreme rejectionist designs. What should 
concern us much more is that US-Israeli triumphalism - and European 
cowardice - might be the prelude to the death of a nation, a rare and 
somber event.

      Do you think that there are any conditions under which the US
      might change its policy of 'unconditional support' for Israel?

Full: http://www.newint.org/features/special/2007/08/20/chomsky/

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