Israel & Gaza
By Noam Chomsky at Nov 29, 2006
The following is an exchange between a ZNet Sustainer and Noam Chomsky, which took place in the Sustainer Web Board where Noam hosts a forum...
ZNet Sustainer: Prof. Chomsky, I fnd myself frustrated trying to figure out what is going on in the occupied territories, especially the assaults on Gaza. In following the US media, they send the image that Israel is defending itself from Qassam rockets. Given Israel's history of persisting in its occupation, albeit in a slightly different form in Gaza since the "pullout," I have a hard time believing that the attacks on Gaza are motivated by pure self-defense. At the same time, it seems like it is difficult to find accurate accounts of what is really going on. For example, is Israel really going after militants only? Are they using disproportionate force? I understand the issue of self-defense is somewhat tenuous because one can put forth a very good argument that Palestinians have the right to resist. Whether it is practical or beneficial for them is separate question. I'm curious about your thoughts on breaking through the mainstream media's image of the assaults on Gaza, and the occupation in general.
Noam Chomsky: I don't think it's very difficult to find out what is going on, at least for people with access on the internet. Just read the regular reports by Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, sometimes Danny Rubinstein and others in Ha'aretz, Tanya Reinhart occasionally in Yediot Ahronot, reports by Chris McGreal and a few others in the London press, and sometimes here, sometimes between the lines. And other sources: Jennifer Loewenstein's excellent direct reports in Counterpunch, UN sources, many articles and other reports. I've reviewed what I think is going on in print, in a book called Failed States a few months ago, another that just appeared called Perilous Power . And many talks and articles. And so have quite a few others. In brief, Israeli hawks came to understand that to deal with the "demographic problem" (too many non-Jews in a Jewish state), and for other reasons, it is crazy to keep a few thousands Jewish settlers in Gaza in the midst of over a million Palestinians who have been driven to ruin by the brutal occupation, with the subsidized illegal Jewish settlers taking a large share of Gaza's scarce water and arable land, and protected by a substantial part of the IDF. So they therefore carried out a carefully staged "national trauma," evacuating the settlers before the TV cameras, all as part of openly announced programs of expanding their takeover of the West Bank. The PR operation sold beautifully in the West, as it usually does. The Israeli press was much more honest, and contemptuous. I've given a number of quotes in print, just a sample. After "withdrawal," Israel continued to pound Gaza with murder of people it doesn't like (and others who happen to be nearby), economic and other controls, and other actions to prevent the (very unlikely) reconstruction of a viable society from the wreckage of the occupation.
In January, Palestinians committed a major crime: they voted the wrong way in a free election. In accord with their fabled commitment to democracy, revered in just about every article and book that appears, the US and Israel instantly determined to punish the Palestinian population for this atrocious act. Always thanks to US backing, Israeli illegally withheld funds it owes to the Palestinian authority, stepped up its violence, even went to the extent of cutting off water to the water-starved Gaza strip, an extreme act of savage cruelty. Meanwhile, again thanks to US backing (and that includes the complicity of the media and intellectual class), Israel continued its programs of takeover of whatever it wants in the West Bank. That was formalized by Olmert's program of "convergence," lauded here as a noble act of "withdrawal," in reality a brutal program of annexation, dismemberment of what's left of Palestine, and imprisonment (as Israeli took over the Jordan valley).
Everyone, even Israel and the US, regards the West Bank and Gaza as a unit, so if resistance is legitimate in the West Bank (and it would be interesting to see how this could be denied), it's legitimate in Gaza. It's possible to discuss this in the mainstream right-wing press in Israel (I've done so), but not here, as far as I know.
In Gaza, Israel stepped up its atrocities, peaking in June. By then, Hamas ended it's year-and-a-half unilateral cease-fire, which Israel ignored as it ignored Hamas's call for negotiations (today's NY Times informs us that the cease-fire between the two sides -- which Israel rejected -- might be "reinstated'). Always, of course, thanks to US support. On June 24, Israel committed yet another crime, kidnapping two Gaza civilians, the Muammar brothers, and sending them off to its prison system, where they presumably join 8-900 other Palestinians held without charges -- therefore kidnapped -- many brought to Israel from the occupied territories, another serious breach of the Geneva Conventions (I omit those sentenced by Israeli courts, often another disgrace). There were a few scattered reports here of the Muammar brothers kidnapping, mostly recycling IDF apologetics, but it was basicly ignored or greeted with a yawn. The next day, June 25, Palestinians in Gaza captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, a far lesser crime than kidnapping civilians of course. All hell then broke loose. Israeli killings in Gaza sharply escalated, along with other severe punishment. And the West nodded its head in agreement that Israel has to defend itself from such crimes as capture of a soldier of an attacking army. Pure, total cynicism, whatever one thinks of the Shalit kidnapping, as revealed by the entire history, in particular by the reaction to the far worse crime of kidnapping the Muammar brothers just one day earlier. And so it continues, routinely.
During this period some Palestinians, apparently not from Hamas (at least until recently), were firing Qassam rockets into Israel, an act which in my opinion, as I've written, is both "criminal" and "stupid." On the other hand, hardly inexplicable. When you crush people under your jackboot for too long, sometimes they react badly, instead of looking up politely and saying "thank you Massa for your kindness." That outrageous behavior causes immense fury in the West.
As always, there's a lot more to say. But this seems to me the essence of it, and pretty clear from ample data available to us. And in this particular case, we know exactly who to blame for the ongoing crimes. It's right here, at home.