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Chomsky on Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine
AFRASIABI: Do you agree with the argument that Israel’s military offensive in Lebanon is “legally and morally justified?”
CHOMSKY: The invasion is a serious breach of international law and major war crimes are being committed as it proceeds. There is no legal justification.
The “moral justification” is supposed to be that capturing soldiers in a cross-border raid, and killing others, is an outrageous crime. We know, for certain, that Israel, the United States, and other Western governments, as well as the mainstream of articulate Western opinion, do not believe a word of that. Sufficient evidence is their tolerance for many years of U.S.backed Israeli crimes in Lebanon, including four invasions before this one, occupation in violation of Security Council orders for 22 years, and regular killings and abductions.
To mention just one question that every journal should be answering: When did Nasrallah assume a leadership role? Answer: When the Rabin government escalated its crimes in Lebanon, murdering Sheikh Abbas Mussawi and his wife and child with missiles fired from a U.S. helicopter. Nasrallah was chosen as his successor. Only one of innumerable cases. There is, after all, a good reason why last February, 70 percent of Lebanese called for the capture of Israeli soldiers for prisoner exchange.
The conclusion is underscored, dramatically, by the current upsurge of violence, which began after the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 25. Every published Western “timeline” takes that as the opening event. Yet the day before, Israeli forces kidnapped two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother, and sent them to the Israeli prison system where they join innumerable other Palestinians, many held without charges—hence kidnapped. Kidnapping of civilians is a far worse crime than capture of soldiers. The Western response was quite revealing: a few casual comments, otherwise silence. The major media did not even bother reporting it. That fact alone demonstrates, with brutal clarity, that there is no moral justification for the sharp escalation of attacks in Gaza or the destruction of Lebanon, and that the Western show of outrage about kidnapping is cynical fraud.
Israel certainly has a right to defend itself, but no state has the right to “defend” occupied territories. When the World Court condemned Israel’s “separation wall,” even a U.S. Justice, Judge Buergenthal, declared that any part of it built to defend Israeli settlements is “ipso facto in violation of international humanitarian law,” because the settlements themselves are illegal.
The withdrawal of a few thousand illegal settlers from Gaza was publicly announced as a West Bank expansion plan. It has now been formalized by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with the support of Washington, as a program of annexation of valuable occupied lands and major resources (particularly water) and cantonization of the remaining territories, virtually separated from one another and from whatever pitiful piece of Jerusalem will be granted to Palestinians. All are to be imprisoned, since Israel is to take over the Jordan valley. Gaza, too, remains imprisoned and Israel carries out attacks there at will.
Gaza and the West Bank are recognized to be a unit by the United States and Israel as well. Therefore, Israel still occupies Gaza and cannot claim self-defense in territories it occupies in either of the two parts of Palestine. It is Israel and the United States that are radically violating international law. They are now seeking to consummate long-standing plans to eliminate Palestinian national rights for good.
The United States has refused to call for an immediate ceasefire, arguing that this would mean a return to the status quo, yet we are witnessing a re-occupation of parts of Lebanon and Lebanon’s rapid decline to political chaos by the current conflict. Is the U.S. policy correct?
It is correct from the point of view of those who want to ensure that Israel, by now virtually an offshore U.S. military base and high-tech center, dominates the region, without any challenge to its rule as it proceeds to destroy Palestine. There are side advantages, such as eliminating any Lebanese-based deterrent if U.S.-Israel decide to attack Iran. They may also hope to set up a client regime in Lebanon of the kind that Ariel Sharon sought to create when he invaded Lebanon in 1982, destroying much of the country and killing some 15-20,000 people.
What will be the likely outcome of this “two-pronged” crisis in Lebanon and the occupied territories?
We cannot predict much. There are too many uncertainties. One very likely consequence, as the United States and Israel surely anticipated, is a significant increase in jihadistyle terrorism as anger and hatred directed against the United States, Israel, and Britain sweep the Arab and Muslim worlds. Another is that Nasrallah, whether he survives or is killed, will become an even more important symbol of resistance to U.S.-Israeli aggression. Hezbollah already has a phenomenal 87 percent support in Lebanon, and its resistance has energized popular opinion to such an extent that even the oldest and closest U.S. allies have been compelled to say that, “If the peace option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance, then only the war option remains, and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire.” That’s from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who knows better than to condemn the United States directly.
What steps do you recommend for the current hostilities to be brought to an end and a lasting peace established?
The basic steps are well understood: a cease-fire and exchange of prisoners; withdrawal of occupying forces; continuation of the “national dialogue” within Lebanon; and acceptance of the very broad international consensus on a two-state settlement for Israel-Palestine, which has been unilaterally blocked by the United States and Israel for 30 years. There is, as always, much more to say, but those are the essentials.
Noam Chomsky is professor of linguistics at MIT and author of numerous books. His latest is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (2006). Kaveh Afrasiabi is the founder and director of Global Interfaith Peace and author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press). This interview appeared on the Information Clearing House website, August 7, 2006.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.