Noam Chomsky: U.S.-Backed
Israeli Policies Pursuing "End of Palestine";
MIT professor Noam Chomsky says the US and Israel are punishing
Palestinians for electing Hamas, and says Hezbollah's capture of
Israeli soldiers subjects Lebanese "to terror and possible
extreme disaster" from Israeli strikes. We also get comments
from Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani in Jerusalem.
Lecture date: 07/14/06
Israel has intensified its attacks on Lebanon as warplanes
launched fresh strikes on Beirut airport, communication
networks, Lebanese roads and a power plant.
More than 60 Lebanese civilians have been killed in the
offensive which follows the capture of two Israeli soldiers by
Israeli jets bombed the main highway linking Beirut to
Damascus, tightening an air, sea and land blockade of Lebanon.
The Israeli army said Hezbollah fighters fired more than 100
rockets on northern Israel on Thursday, killing two people,
wounding 92 others and hitting Haifa, Israel's third largest
city. Hezbollah denied firing into Haifa, but Israel described
the incident as a "major escalation" of the crisis. The Lebanese
army also responded to the offensive with anti-aircraft fire.
Israel has warned that the south of Beirut could be targeted.
Israeli jets dropped leaflets on Thursday warning people to stay
away from Hezbollah offices. Some areas of the city are now
without electricity following an attack on a power station.
Israeli jets also struck a pro-Syrian Palestinian group in
eastern Lebanon. No casualties were reported.
The escalation has sparked international calls for restraint.
The European Union and Russia have criticized Israel's strikes
in Lebanon as disproportionate. President Bush said Israel has
the right to defend itself, but should not weaken the Lebanese
The UN Security Council is due to hold an emergency meeting
later on Friday. Lebanon has urged it to adopt a resolution
calling for a ceasefire. The US has already vetoed a council
resolution demanding Israel end its military offensive in the
Gaza Strip. Eight of the last nine vetoes have been cast by the
United States. Seven of those were to do with the
- Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics and
philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He
is author of dozens of books, including his latest "Failed
States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy." In
May he traveled to Beirut where he met, among others,
Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. He joins us on the
line from Massachusetts.
- Mouin Rabbani, senior Middle East analyst with
Crisis Group and a contributing editor of Middle East
report. He joins us on the line from Jerusalem.
AMY GOODMAN: We're joined on the phone right now by
Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics and philosophy at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of dozens of
books. His latest is Failed States: The Abuse of Power and
the Assault on Democracy. In May, he traveled to Beirut,
where he met, among others, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan
Nasrallah. He joins us on the phone from Masachusetts. We
welcome you to Democracy Now!
NOAM CHOMSKY: Hi, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Well, can
you talk about what is happening now, both in Lebanon and Gaza?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, of course, I have no inside
information, other than what's available to you and listeners.
What's happening in Gaza, to start with that -- well, basically
the current stage of what's going on -- there's a lot more --
begins with the Hamas election, back the end of January. Israel
and the United States at once announced that they were going to
punish the people of Palestine for voting the wrong way in a
free election. And the punishment has been severe.
At the same time, it's partly in Gaza, and sort of hidden in
a way, but even more extreme in the West Bank, where Olmert
announced his annexation program, what’s euphemistically called
“convergence” and described here often as a “withdrawal,” but in
fact it’s a formalization of the program of annexing the
valuable lands, most of the resources, including water, of the
West Bank and cantonizing the rest and imprisoning it, since he
also announced that Israel would take over the Jordan Valley.
Well, that proceeds without extreme violence or nothing much
said about it.
Gaza, itself, the latest phase, began on June 24. It was when
Israel abducted two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother. We
don't know their names. You don’t know the names of victims.
They were taken to Israel, presumably, and nobody knows their
fate. The next day, something happened, which we do know about,
a lot. Militants in Gaza, probably Islamic Jihad, abducted an
Israeli soldier across the border. That’s Corporal Gilad Shalit.
And that's well known; first abduction is not. Then followed the
escalation of Israeli attacks on Gaza, which I don’t have to
repeat. It’s reported on adequately.
The next stage was Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli
soldiers, they say on the border. Their official reason for this
is that they are aiming for prisoner release. There are a few,
nobody knows how many. Officially, there are three Lebanese
prisoners in Israel. There's allegedly a couple hundred people
missing. Who knows where they are?
But the real reason, I think it's generally agreed by
analysts, is that -- I’ll read from the Financial Times,
which happens to be right in front of me. “The timing and scale
of its attack suggest it was partly intended to reduce the
pressure on Palestinians by forcing Israel to fight on two
fronts simultaneously.” David Hearst, who knows this area well,
describes it, I think this morning, as a display of solidarity
with suffering people, the clinching impulse.
It's a very -- mind you -- very irresponsible act. It
subjects Lebanese to possible -- certainly to plenty of terror
and possible extreme disaster. Whether it can achieve any
result, either in the secondary question of freeing prisoners or
the primary question of some form of solidarity with the people
of Gaza, I hope so, but I wouldn't rank the probabilities very
JUAN GONZALEZ: Noam Chomsky, in the commercial press
here the last day, a lot of the focus has been pointing toward
Iran and Syria as basically the ones engineering much of what's
going on now in terms of the upsurge of fighting in Lebanon.
Your thoughts on these analyses that seem to sort of downplay
the actual resistance movement going on there and trying to
reduce this once again to pointing toward Iran?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the fact is that we have no
information about that, and I doubt very much that the people
who are writing it have any information. And frankly, I doubt
that U.S. intelligence has any information. It's certainly
plausible. I mean, there's no doubt that there are connections,
probably strong connections, between Hezbollah and Syria and
Iran, but whether those connections were instrumental in
motivating these latest actions, I don't think we have the
slightest idea. You can guess anything you’d like. It's a
possibility. In fact, even a probability. But on the other hand,
there's every reason to believe that Hezbollah has its own
motivations, maybe the ones that Hearst and the Financial
Times and others are pointing to. That seems plausible, too.
Much more plausible, in fact.
AMY GOODMAN: There was even some reports yesterday
that said that Hezbollah might try to send the Israeli soldiers
that it had captured to Iran.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Israel actually claims that it
has concrete evidence that that's what was going to happen.
That's why it's attempting to blockade both the sea and bomb the
NOAM CHOMSKY: They are claiming that. That's true. But
I repeat, we don't have any evidence. Claims by a state that's
carrying out the military attacks don't really amount to very
much, in terms of credibility. If they have evidence, it would
be interesting to see it. And in fact, it might happen. Even if
it does happen, it won't prove much. If Hezbollah, wherever they
have the prisoners, the soldiers, if they decide that they can't
keep them in Lebanon because of the scale of Israeli attacks,
they might send them somewhere else. I’m skeptical that Syria or
Iran would accept them at this point, or even if they can get
them there, but they might want to.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky , we have to break. When we
come back, we'll ask you about the Israeli ambassador to the
United Nations comments about Lebanon. We'll also be joined by
Mouin Rabbani, speaking to us from Jerusalem, Middle East
analyst with the International Crisis Group. Then Ron Suskind
joins us, author of The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside
America's Pursuit of its Enemies Since 9/11. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest on the phone is Noam Chomsky,
professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. His latest book is Failed States: The Abuse of
Power and the Assault on Democracy. I wanted to ask you
about the comment of the Israeli ambassador to the United
Nations. He defended Israel's actions as a justified response.
This is Dan Gillerman.
DAN GILLERMAN: As we sit here during these very
difficult days, I urge you and I urge my colleagues to ask
yourselves this question: What would do you if your
countries found themselves under such attacks, if your
neighbors infiltrated your borders to kidnap your people,
and if hundreds of rockets were launched at your towns and
villages? Would you just sit back and take it, or would you
do exactly what Israel is doing at this very minute?
AMY GOODMAN: That was Dan Gillerman, the Israeli
ambassador to the United Nations. Noam Chomsky, your response?
NOAM CHOMSKY: He was referring to Lebanon, rather than
AMY GOODMAN: He was.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah. Well, he's correct that hundreds
of rockets have been fired, and naturally that has to be
stopped. But he didn't mention, or maybe at least in this
comment, that the rockets were fired after the heavy Israeli
attacks against Lebanon, which killed -- well, latest reports,
maybe 60 or so people and destroyed a lot of infrastructure. As
always, things have precedence, and you have to decide which was
the inciting event. In my view, the inciting event in the
present case, events, are those that I mentioned -- the constant
intense repression; plenty of abductions; plenty of atrocities
in Gaza; the steady takeover of the West Bank, which, in effect,
if it continues, is just the murder of a nation, the end of
Palestine; the abduction on June 24 of the two Gaza civilians;
and then the reaction to the abduction of Corporal Shalit. And
there's a difference, incidentally, between abduction of
civilians and abduction of soldiers. Even international
humanitarian law makes that distinction.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what that distinction
NOAM CHOMSKY: If there's a conflict going on, aside
physical war, not in a military conflict going on, abduction --
if soldiers are captured, they are to be treated humanely. But
it is not a crime at the level of capture of civilians and
bringing them across the border into your own country. That's a
serious crime. And that's the one that's not reported. And, in
fact, remember that -- I mean, I don’t have to tell you that
there are constant attacks going on in Gaza, which is basically
a prison, huge prison, under constant attack all the time:
economic strangulation, military attack, assassinations, and so
on. In comparison with that, abduction of a soldier, whatever
one thinks about it, doesn't rank high in the scale of
JUAN GONZALEZ: We're also joined on the line by Mouin
Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst with the International
Crisis Group and a contributing editor of Middle East Report.
He joins us on the line from Jerusalem. Welcome to Democracy
MOUIN RABBANI: Hi.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you tell us your perspective on
this latest escalation of the conflict there and the possibility
that Israel is going to be mired once again in war in Lebanon?
MOUIN RABBANI: Well, it's difficult to say. I couldn't
hear Professor Chomsky's comments. I could just make out every
sixth word. But I think that Israel is now basically, if you
will, trying to rewrite the rules of the game and set new terms
for its adversaries, basically saying, you know, that no attacks
of any sort on Israeli forces or otherwise will be permitted,
and any such attack will invite a severe response that basically
puts the entire civilian infrastructure of the entire country or
territory from which that attack emanates at risk. Judging by
what we've seen so far, it more or less enjoys tacit to explicit
international sanction. And I think the possibilities that this
conflict could further expand into a regional one, perhaps
involving Syria, is at this point quite real.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the UN resolution,
a vote in the draft resolution, 10-to-1, on Gaza with the U.S.
voting no and for countries abstaining -- Britain, Denmark, Peru
MOUIN RABBANI: Well, I think it would have been news
if that resolution had actually passed. I think, you know, for
the last decade, if not for much longer, it’s basically become a
reality in the United Nations that it's an organization
incapable of discharging any of its duties or responsibilities
towards maintaining or restoring peace and security in the
Middle East, primarily because of the U.S. power of veto on the
Security Council. And I think we've now reached the point where
even a rhetorical condemnation of Israeli action, such as we’ve
seen in Gaza over the past several weeks, even a rhetorical
condemnation without practical consequence has become largely
unthinkable, again, primarily because of the U.S. veto within
the Security Council.
AMY GOODMAN: Mouin, what do you think is going to
happen right now, both in Gaza and in Lebanon?
MOUIN RABBANI: Well, I think it's probably going to
get significantly worse. I mean, in Lebanon, it seems to be a
case where Hezbollah has a more restricted agenda of compelling
Israel to conduct prisoner exchange, whereas Israel has a
broader agenda of seeking to compel the disarmament of Hezbollah
or at least to push it back several dozen kilometers from the
Israeli-Lebanese border. You know, the Israeli and Hezbollah
perspectives on this are entirely incompatible, and that means
that this conflict is probably going to continue escalating,
until some kind of mediation begins.
In Gaza, it’s somewhat different. I think there Hamas has a
broader agenda, of which effecting a prisoner exchange with
Israel is only one, and I would argue, even a secondary part. I
think there Hamas's main objective is to compel Israel to accept
a mutual cessation of hostilities, Israeli-Palestinian, and I
think, even more important, of ensuring their right to govern.
And I think, at least as far as the Israeli-Palestinian part of
this is concerned, Hamas's main objective has been to send a
very clear message, not only to Israel, but to all its
adversaries, whether Israeli, Palestinian or foreign, to remind
the world that political integration and democratic politics for
them are an experiment, that they have alternatives, and if
they're not allowed to exercise their democratic mandate, that
they will not hesitate, if necessary, to exercise those
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Noam Chomsky, right now
industrial world leaders gathered in St. Petersburg for the G8
meeting. What role does the U.S. have in this?
NOAM CHOMSKY: In the G8 meeting?
AMY GOODMAN: No. What role -- they're just gathered
together -- in this, certainly the issue of Lebanon, Gaza, the
Middle East is going to dominate that discussion. But how
significant is the U.S. in this?
NOAM CHOMSKY: I think it will probably be very much
like the UN resolution that you mentioned, which is -- I’m
sorry, I couldn't hear what Mouin Rabbani was saying. But the UN
resolution was -- the veto of the UN resolution is standard.
That goes back decades. The U.S. has virtually alone been
blocking the possibility of diplomatic settlement, censure of
Israeli crimes and atrocities. When Israel invaded Lebanon in
1982, the UN vetoed several resolutions right away, calling for
an end to the fighting and so on, and that was a hideous
invasion. And this continues through every administration. So I
presume it will continue at the G8 meetings.
The United States regards Israel as virtually a militarized
offshoot, and it protects it from criticism or actions and
supports passively and, in fact, overtly supports its expansion,
its attacks on Palestinians, its progressive takeover of what
remains of Palestinian territory, and its acts to, well,
actually realize a comment that Moshe Dayan made back in the
early ’70s when he was responsible for the Occupied Territories.
He said to his cabinet colleagues that we should tell the
Palestinians that we have no solution for you, that you will
live like dogs, and whoever will leave will leave, and we'll see
where that leads. That's basically the policy. And I presume the
U.S. will continue to advance that policy in one or another
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky , I want to thank you for
being with us. His latest book is Failed States: The Abuse of
Power and the Assault on Democracy. And Mouin Rabbani,
senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group,
joining us from Jerusalem. Thank you both.
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