"Israeli troops go on a rampage in the West Bank, kill Palestinians, demolish
Posted May 20, 2014
Israel's Iron Dome and Palestinian Armed Resistance
Transcript Part 1
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN:
Welcome back to Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.
In his book Method and Madness, Norman Finkelstein wrote, Israel's evolving
modus operandi for restoring its deterrence capacity describes a curve steadily
regressing into barbarism. Israel gained its victory in 1967 primarily on the
battlefield, albeit in a, quote, Turkey shoot, while in subsequent hostilities,
mostly in Lebanon, it sought both to achieve a battlefield victory and to
bombard the civilian population into submission. But Israel targeted Gaza to
restore its deterrence capacity because it eschewed any of the risks of
conventional war. It targeted Gaza because it was largely defenseless.
Further down, Norman writes, a supplementary benefit of this deterrence
strategy was that it restored Israel's domestic morale. A 2009 internal UN
document concluded that the invasion's "one significant achievement" was that it
dispelled doubts among Israelis about, quote, their ability and the power of the
IDF to issue a blow to its enemies. The use of excessive force proves Israel is
the landlord (...) The pictures of destruction were intended more for Israeli
eyes than those of Israel's enemies, eyes starved of revenge and national pride.
Near the end of his book, Norman writes, in the Gaza Strip, they (meaning the
people of Gaza) preferred to die resisting rather than continue living under an
inhuman blockade. The resistance is mostly notional, as the makeshift
projectiles caused little damage. So the ultimate question is: do Palestinians
have the right to symbolically resist slow death punctuated by periodic
massacres? Or is it incumbent upon them to lie down and die?
Again joining us in the studio is Norman Finkelstein.
Thanks for joining us again, Norman.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST,
ACTIVIST, AND AUTHOR: Thank you so much.
JAY: So, just quickly again, Norman is one of the foremost scholars of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and as I mentioned, his latest book: Method and
Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel's Assaults on Gaza.
So talk about this deterrence capacity, the necessity of Israel to prove the
destruction it's capable of wielding.
FINKELSTEIN: Alright. Well, Israel, it's a long-standing is a feature of their
security policy, basically, to remind the neighboring Arab states, Palestinians
included, but neighboring Arab states as well, about who's in charge and what
are the consequences of challenging Israel. You saw that, for example, in the
1960s. It goes back quite a ways, but I'll fast-forward to the 1967 War. It was
quite clear--and Israel knew it; we know for sure Israel knew it--we knew two
things: number one, that Nasser did not intend to attack on the eve of the
Israeli first strike; and number two, even if he did attack and even if he did
it in concert with neighboring Arab states Jordan and Syria, that the war would
be over very quickly. Famously, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, he
predicted that the war would last seven to ten days, and he was always proud of
that prediction. In fact, the war was over in the first day, because Israel, in
its first strike, demolished all of the Egyptian planes on the ground. So the
war was over. The only reason it lasted seven days was because Israel then
proceeded to take land in Jordan, take land in the Golan Heights. It wasn't even
seven days; it was really one day and the whole thing was over.
JAY: What is
the evidence, so that people who haven't followed the story, that Israel knew
that Egypt wasn't going [crosstalk]
FINKELSTEIN: Okay. That's a good question. The evidence is as follows, the
evidence I prefer to lean on. There's all sorts of evidence, but I'll use the
evidence I prefer to lean on. People quote the the famous statement by Prime
Minister Menachim Begin at the national war college of Israel in July 1982. It
was during the Lebanon War. And Menachem Begin had been a member of the national
unity government that was formed in 1967, so he knew all the inner workings. And
he famously said in this 19--July 1982 lecture at the national war college, he
said, let's be honest with ourselves: there was no evidence that Nasser was
going to attack; we decided to attack first. But that to me is--that's some
evidence. It's not necessarily definitive evidence, because Begin at that time
was trying to defend his decision to attack Lebanon in June 1982.
But internal evidence, which I consider overwhelmingly supportive of what I'm
about to say, is the Israelis, they desperately needed--in 1967 they needed the
U.S. green light because they were afraid if they attack like they did in 1956,
that the U.S. president is going to force them to withdraw, just like Eisenhower
forced Israel to withdraw in 1956. So they wanted that American green light, so
once they attacked, they wouldn't be forced to unilaterally withdraw. And so
they were sending all of their officials here to show evidence that we're facing
a existential threat from Egypt, Egypt is going to attack.
And so Johnson took all the evidence--Lyndon Johnson, the president at the
time--he gave it to, like, six or seven U.S. security organizations, the
equivalent of--like, I don't know if it's the same name now then, but it was,
like, the National Security Council, the CIA, all of the organizations. He asked
them, okay, vet the Israeli information, use your own information--what do you
come back with? And each time he checked with them, they kept saying, there's no
evidence that Egypt is going to attack. And they also said, if there were an
attack, and even if it were a concerted attack, it's clear that Israel's going
to, in the famous statement, Johnson--I was talking to Israeli official. I think
it was Abba Eban, the foreign minister, but I can't say for sure. And he says
that all our intelligence shows us, number one, Egypt is not going to attack,
and number two, if they do--and Johnson's famous line was: you're going to whip
the hell out of them.
Now, you might say, well, that says what the Americans thought; what about
what the Israelis thought? It's very interesting. On June 1--that's just a few
days before the Israeli attack--the head of Israeli intelligence, Meir Amit, he
comes to Washington. He's consulting. He's also trying to convince and he's also
trying to sniff out what will the U.S. do if we attack. He meets with the
American intelligence. And what does he say? He says, our intelligence agrees
with all of your intelligence about whether Nasser will attack and what will
happen if he is--attacks. So there's complete agreement across the
board--American intelligence agencies, Israeli intelligence agencies: Nasser is
not going to attack; Nasser, even if he did, we will whip--Israelis will whip
the hell out of them. Which brings is now back to your question.
The question is: then why did Israel attack? And the response--one of the
responses, the one by Ariel Sharon--because there was a split in the cabinet
whether or not--Israeli cabinet--whether to launch the first strike. And Sharon
said, if we don't--this was Ariel Sharon. It's the same cast of characters--goes
back quite a ways. Ariel Sharon, he says, if we don't attack, it's going to
diminish our deterrence capacity. What does that mean? Because Nasser was making
all of these noises, Nasser did close the Straits of Tehran, Nasser did move
troops into the Sinai, and Nasser--you know the rhetorical flourishes about
we're going to defeat Israel and so on and so forth, and so had whipped up a
kind of ecstatic hysteria in the Arab world, finally, to challenging Israel.
Now, de facto--de facto--Nasser was a windbag--a congenital problem in the
Arab world, leaders who are windbags--and obviously there was nothing backing
his claims, but they thought that this was whipping up too much of a hysteria in
the Arab world; it's time to remind them who's in charge.
JAY: Well, then we get this term deterrence capacity.
Deterrence capacity. And incidentally, the expression "turkey shoot", that came
from the national security adviser Walt Rostow. And he says, well, yeah, it
was--the Israelis attacked. He said, well, it was more like a turkey shoot,
which is what it was.
JAY: And I should mention, in Method and Madness, all the sources for this are
there. So if you want to know how we know so-and-so said what they said, check
out the book, 'cause it's very--the notations are very detailed.
Well, then, this deterrent--.
FINKELSTEIN: And--yeah. So now to bring it up to date, to where we begin with
Gaza, because the book effectively begins with--.
JAY: Let's--before you do
that, I want to get to deterrence capacity runs into some trouble in a place
called Lebanon [crosstalk]
FINKELSTEIN: That's exactly what I was going to get to. That's exactly--we're on
the same wavelength. So the book begins with the Israeli attack on Gaza
Operation Cast Lead in 2008, December 27, 2008, to January 17, 2009. So what was
the Israeli purpose behind that? It's deterrence capacity--its ability to
frighten, terrify the Arab world. It suffered a real blow during the July-August
2006 war in Lebanon. Israel went in with a full force of its high-tech killing
machine, inflicted massive death and destruction. About 1,200 Lebanese were
killed. Of those 1,200, about 1,000 were civilians, 200 were Hezbollah fighters.
But Israel was very careful not to launch a ground invasion, because you
don't want to go to war, hand-to-hand combat, with the Party of God, the
Hezbollah. I've met Hezbollah fighters. They're serious, and they want nothing
more than to tangle with Israelis, and Israeli soldiers did not want to tangle
with the Party of God. The long and the short of it was Israel, as I say, used
its high-tech killing machine for about three weeks' time--well, it was 34 days.
But after about--okay, let's call four weeks' time. And then it was clear that
the only option now was to launch the ground invasion, because the Hezbollah had
JAY: What year are we in?
FINKELSTEIN: Two thousand six. Hezbollah--Israel
claims it knocked out the medium- and long-term missiles. I don't know if that's
necessarily true, but let's for argument's sake accept it. The problem was these
short-range rockets that Hezbollah had. You can't disable them from the air. The
only you can disable them was with a ground invasion. And Hezbollah kept firing
more and more and more, and not inflicting massive damage, but showing it's
still resisting. The only way to get rid of them is, as I said, through a ground
invasion. Israel did not want a ground invasion, because it knew it would suffer
significant combatant casualties.
And so Condoleezza Rice in the UN was blocking any resolution ending the
conflict. Then it was clear, we'd better end this now because we're in a mess.
And so Condoleezza Rice finally allowed the resolution to pass in the Security
Council and the Lebanon so-called--well, it was a war--in some ways was over. It
was horrible what the Israelis did at the end. It's all completely forgotten.
The resolution was passed. The war was over. All that was waiting was now
implementation on the ground. Everybody agreed the war is over. What did Israel
do in the last 72 hours? It's all completely eliminated from the historical
record. It dropped 4 million--4 million cluster bomblets on South Lebanon,
saturated the whole of South Lebanon. It was like a science fiction movie.
JAY: How do we know this?
FINKELSTEIN: Oh, you just look at the Human Rights Watch report. It was called
Flooding South Lebanon. It's a very vivid depiction of the monstrousness of what
Israel did. It depicts homes, their roofs; through the windows the cluster
bomblets enter. Entire apartments are just saturated with them, 4 million
In any case, that's a separate issue maybe one day I'll come back and talk
about, but for now the point is Nasrallah kept referring to it as our divine
JAY: Nasrallah, leader of the Hezbollah.
FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, the head of the
Hezbollah, Sayed Nasrallah, kept referring to it as our divine victory. And
that, of course, shook up the Israelis, 'cause it was like Nasser, but with a
real victory. And it was time--they had to figure out a way to restore their
deterrence capacity. And they chose Gaza. And in a typical cowardly way, they
chose a place which was utterly defenseless and then proceeded to--.
JAY: Prove how tough they are.
FINKELSTEIN: Prove how tough they are against a
defenseless victim in Operation Cast Lead. About 1,400 Palestinians were killed.
JAY: This was 2009.
FINKELSTEIN: Two thousand eight, nine, of whom about--up
to 1,200 were civilians. They left behind 600,000 tons of rubble, which was
actually--it paled in comparison to what they did during Operation Protective
Edge this past summer. Protective Edge was much worse. But it also was different
because the Palestinians did manage to produce, to build the tunnel system. And
because of the tunnel system, they were able--the tunnel system was--the tunnels
were not vulnerable to artillery strikes or air attacks. They were pretty
impressive. Anyone who knows the Arab world knows every--four out of every three
Palestinians is a civil engineer, and in Gaza you have a lot of unemployed civil
engineers. And so with very primitive implements they'd actually built a very
impressive, sophisticated catacombs, tunnel system in Gaza.
And so, when Israel went in, it never went very far in. There was a
misunderstanding about that. They basically stayed on the border, because the
Palestinians were coming out, the Hamas fighters were coming out of the tunnels.
And there was--it's not Stalingrad, it's not Leningrad, but in the first
Operation Cast Lead, ten Israeli combatants were killed. Of those ten, four of
the ten were killed from friendly fire, which means only six were actually
killed by Hamas fighters.
This time it was different. It was 67 Israeli combatants who were killed. And
they were basically killed for two reasons. First of all, the Hamas fighters
appeared to have been more sophisticated this time. It said they were trained by
Hezbollah, but I don't know. But secondly, it was their tunnel system.
JAY: But your main point here is that the fundamental reasons for attacking Gaza
is to sort of reassert the fear factor.
FINKELSTEIN: Fear factor. But there
was also a second factor, which I discuss at equal length, which is the peace
offensive, that every time Hamas was becoming too respectable, every time Hamas
was becoming too reasonable, every time Hamas was upholding the terms of the
ceasefire it had signed with Israel, there was the fear by Israel that somebody
will say, well, if they're respecting agreements, if they're carrying on in a
responsible fashion, then why don't you negotiate with them? And the Israelis
have a nice--or one Israeli political scientist (his name is Avner Yaiv), he
coined a nice expression. He called it the fear of Palestinian peace
offensives--they're becoming too reasonable. And so we have to hit them hard so
that the quote-unquote radical and extremist elements will gain the upper hand
internally. So every time there's a Palestinian peace offensive, Israel launches
one of its murderous invasions. And that's exactly--.
JAY: And the sort of--I guess one of the nightmares of the Israelis in terms of
all this is some reunification with Hamas and Fatah and the PLO. And that's
exactly what happened. They created this unity government.
And that's actually how--that's the proper starting point for what happened in
Gaza this past summer. It was called the government of national consensus that
was formed at the end of April 2014. And surprisingly, the United States and the
European Union, they did not immediately break off relations with the new
government, because technically Hamas is or has--a terrorist organization in the
U.S., a terrorist organization in the E.U. So you would have expected the U.S.
would break off relations and the E.U. would, but they did not.
Part of it, I think it was punishment because of the Kerry peace initiative,
which was sabotaged by Netanyahu, and they wanted to get even with him for that.
So they said, no, we'll take a wait-and-see approach with the Hamas government.
And this inflamed and incensed Netanyahu, because this is the second time these
countries are dealing with terrorists. The first, of course, is Iran. They're in
the midst of these negotiations with this government that's threatening a second
Holocaust against Israel and all that sort of nonsense. And now they're
negotiating with Hamas, which, you know, wants to destroy Israel. But all
Netanyahu could do was fume. He wasn't able to do anything about it until in
June of this past year: when the three kidnappings occurred of the Israeli
teenagers, he found his opportunity. He decided to use that as a pretext. He
knew the kids were killed, were dead almost within 24 hours. He knew all that.
JAY: So he didn't have to go looking for them.
JAY: And it was also known almost right away that Hamas
leadership were not in on this.
FINKELSTEIN: Exactly. He knew all that. But they used it as a pretext to lunch
what they called Operation--.
JAY: In your book you call it a gift. It's--.
FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, they are gifts. But these are politicians. You know,
sometimes people feel like when you say expression like gift, that's just
a little bit too callous. They're politicians. After 9/11, yes, Rumsfeld,
Condoleezza Rice, Cheney, they got in their little office, they shed their salty
tears, and then 15 minutes later they said, now, what are we going to do with
it? Now let's get down to serious business. We're not here to cry. And it's the
same thing with Israel. Okay, three kids are killed. We're not happy about that.
Now, what can we do with it? And so he launches Operation Brother's Keeper,
Israeli troops go on a rampage in the West Bank, kill Palestinians, demolish
Palestinian homes, arrest 500 militants from Hamas, knowing full well that this
is going to evoke a violent reaction from Hamas. And then, when they get that
violent reaction, they can say exactly--.
JAY: Violent reaction meaning
rockets that basically don't hit very much.
FINKELSTEIN: Right, or some crazy thing, whatever is going to happen. And then
Netanyahu can say, as he did say a few weeks later, he said, quote, never
second-guess me again on Hamas; when I say they're a terrorist organization,
they're a terrorist organization. And now he had his proof. And so he exploited
JAY: 'Cause as long as he can keep Hamas, as a terrorist
organization, out of the talks, any possibility of any reconciliation or deal is
off the table.
FINKELSTEIN: Right, because he then says the Palestinian Authority doesn't
represent all Palestinians. So how can we negotiate a deal with them? The whole
JAY: And he comes to Congress and they stand up 27 times or
whatever the crazy number of standing ovations was.
FINKELSTEIN: Mhm. But now he--I think he went a little too far with the last
visit to Congress.
JAY: Okay. We're going to talk about that and where we're
at in the next segment.
Please join us for the continuation of our discussion with Norman Finkelstein on
Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.
Transcript Part 2
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN:
Welcome back to Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay.
And we're continuing our discussion with Norman Finkelstein.
Thanks for joining us again, Norman.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST,
ACTIVIST, AND AUTHOR: Thank you.
JAY: So Norman's biography's below the video here, and just read it, but you
should watch the other segments of this interview that leads up to this. So
we're not going to do another big interview. Just suffice to say Norman's most
recent book is Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel's Assaults on
So in the last segment we talked about deterrence capacity. Israel has to
keep the fear factor. They need to prove to the Palestinians and the Arab world
that we have overwhelming dominance over you militarily, we are not afraid to
kill, including women and children. It seems to me that's an important part of
it. They need to show they're willing to kill, including civilians, and that
they don't have reservations about that.
But there also seems to me, on the other side, Hamas has to prove how tough they
are, 'cause it would seem reasonable, when Israel launches such an attack,
actually not to send rockets when you're not going to hit very much, and let it
be absolutely clear that this is a massacre. But they do; Hamas sends rockets.
And, you know, what was it? Five or six Israelis were killed in the last war,
their last assault? I mean, they're not very effective. It is essentially
symbolic. But it's a kind of symbolism that seems to just play into Israel's
hands--oh, look at the rockets, and then, falling on us, we have a right to
defend ourselves. And that becomes the mantra. We hear that over and over again,
we have the right to defend ourselves.
FINKELSTEIN: Well, there are many
things to be said. What you're saying, in my opinion, is entirely correct. First
of all, there's the factual side. In fact there were no Hamas rocket attacks on
Israel if by rocket you mean some sort of lethal weapon which has the
capacity to inflict even minimal damage. There were no rocket attacks on Israel.
And it's very easy to demonstrate. Israel says between four and five thousand
Hamas rockets were fired at Israel--I'm going to leave aside the mortar shells.
Four to five thousand rocket attacks were fired on Israel.
Of those four to five thousand rocket attacks, there were five civilian
casualties and there were $15 million in property damage. That's the official
figure Israel gives: five civilian casualties, $15 million in property damage.
Now, Israel claims the reason there were so few civilian casualties and so
little property damage, they claim it's because of Iron Dome, the antimissile
defense system, that had it not been for Iron Dome--that's what we're told all
the time--had it not been for Iron Dome, it would have been a catastrophe that
was inflicted on Israel.
There's a very easy way to test that proposition. What we have to do is go back
to Cast Lead. In 2008-09, there was no Iron Dome. Iron Dome is an invention
that's first tested in November 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense. There
was no Iron Dome in 2008-09 during Operation Cast Lead. Approximately 1,000
rockets during Operation Cast Lead, and there were three civilian casualties. So
if you multiply--it's 4,000 during Protective Edge. So if you do the
multiplication, without Iron Dome there would have been about 12 civilian
4 × 1,000 = 4,000
3 × 4 = 12
In fact, there were about five--.
JAY: Well, unless Hamas rockets are more
FINKELSTEIN: Yeah. Well, I mean, that's an important point. In fact Hamas
rockets were most much less sophisticated, because you have to remember during
2008-09 there was a tunnel system that enabled Hamas to smuggle in rockets, say,
from Iran. But that by 2014, the Sisi government had come to power in Egypt and
sealed all the tunnels. All of what was fired in 2014 was much more primitive,
because they were all homemade and there was no material to make anything in
Gaza. It had been sealed.
And so in fact Iron Dome accounted--I said possibly it accounted for five
civilian casualties. It would've been 12, it was seven, so it's five. But in
fact it didn't even account for that, because between Cast Lead and Protective
Edge, Israel had significantly upgraded its civil defense civil warning system.
So if fewer people died, it was because of the civil defense system, not because
of Iron Dome.
JAY: So I go back to my point. What--.
FINKELSTEIN: Just let me do--
JAY: Yeah, go ahead.
FINKELSTEIN: --just make one last point. One of the
world's leading authorities on antimissile defense is Theodore Postol from MIT.
and Postol has, to his credit, that he was the one who exposed the Patriot
missile hoax, which I don't have time to go into now. But he said at most--at
most--the efficacy rate of Iron Dome was at most 10 percent, probably closer to
5 percent. And so now we have a very simple mathematical problem which will take
me two seconds. You fire 4,000 rockets at Israel. Iron Dome deflects at most 10
percent. That's 400 rockets. There are 3,600 rockets which make their way into
Israel. Israel itself says only $15 million in property damage. How could 3,600
rockets cause just $15 million in property damage? It couldn't be the civil
defense system, because buildings don't go into shelters. If you fired a rocket
at this building--it's a nice building--it's $15 million in property damage. So
how could it be?
JAY: Well, our building's not worth that much, but I take your point.
FINKELSTEIN: You take my point.
JAY: Yeah. This is downtown Baltimore.
FINKELSTEIN: Right, but it's a
beautiful building, too.
How could that be? Simple reason: they weren't rockets. They were enhanced
The problem is exactly as you said it. You caught the problem. Israel has a
stake in claiming their rockets so it could say it acts in self-defense.
Unfortunately, Hamas has a mutual stake in claiming their rockets in order to
prove that armed resistance works. So they have a mutual stake in maintaining
this pretense that there were rockets being fired in Israel.
In fact you're right: they have no--there is a difference between three things.
One, what you have a right to do. Hamas has the right to fire those rockets, in
my opinion. I understand what Amnesty International says: they're unguided
rockets; therefore they are indiscriminate, and therefore they're illegal. I
don't want to get into the technicalities there. If you want me to get into the
technicalities, I can. In my opinion, they have the right to fire those rockets.
JAY: Well, just quickly, I know in your book you make the point, you know, the
ability of the rocket to be precisely targeted is a relative concept. So if
you're comparing it to these highly sophisticated weapons that the Americans and
the Israelis have, yeah, you can't target them that way. But as you make the
point in your book, that means only rich countries are going to be able to fire
FINKELSTEIN: Exactly. Exactly. But there is a second point. What you said,
exactly. In effect it means poor people have no right to resist for foreign
invasions and foreign assaults.
But there is a second point, and it's a Gandhian point. Gandhi made the
point, when you have a huge discrepancy in power, a huge discrepancy in power,
then when a weak party resists, it's not violence. He gives a few examples. He
says, take the case of a woman who resists a rapist by scratching the rapist and
hitting the rapist. He says that's not violence; that's just a woman trying to
summon up the internal moral courage to die. That's with dignity. With dignity.
And then he says in 1939, you have the German Wehrmacht, the Army, the Luftwaffe
(the air force), they invade Poland. Poland has six tanks. Poland resists. They
use violence, they use their tanks. Gandhi says they had that right because it
was such a huge discrepancy in power. He says it wasn't resistance; it was dying
with dignity. You're just trying to summon up the moral wherewithal to die with
And in my opinion--I can't prove it; I can just convey it, and then you decide
whether the analogies are right in the metaphors are right. When Palestinians
who are under a merciless, inhuman, immoral, and illegal siege for seven years,
when 95 percent of the drinking water is not fit for human consumption, when
nobody in the world cares, when they keep signing agreements at the end of each
of these rounds which says the blockade is going to be lifted, including the
agreement that was signed after Protective Edge, the blockade would be lifted,
the blockade is never lifted, the illegal, immoral, and inhuman siege continues,
when parents have to poison their children each day by giving them water which
they know is not fit for human consumption, then you're telling me the
Palestinians can't fire symbolic symbols of resistance, notional symbols of
resistance, namely these enhanced fireworks, which are actually more a message
to the world than they are inflicting damage on Israelis? It's SOS help us? No,
they have that right.
Now, I'm not going to quarrel with Amnesty International. I know they're a
respected human rights organization, and I respect their work. But as I said,
there's a legal issue, and then separately from the legal issue, in my opinion,
you can still make a moral judgment. You can say legally they don't have the
right to do it, though for me it's a little bit unclear how you can claim that
movements for self-determination have the right to use armed force to win their
right of self-determination. That's international law. But then tell me every
time they use a weapon, the weapon is illegal, they're not allowed to use it,
that doesn't make sense to me.
But let's leave aside the legal issue. There is a moral issue, and it's a
separate one from the legal issue. You could say legally this is the case, but
morally it's a different judgment. Morally, in my opinion, they have the right
to use those rockets.
There are other arguments, legal ones, but I don't want to get into
technicalities now. I think they have the right. But there's a difference
between having a right, a moral right or a legal right--here I think they had
the moral right. The legal right is grayer. As I say, I can't go into the--. But
is it a prudent political strategy? And for reasons which you just said, I agree
JAY: Well, before we get that, let's just one more time remind everyone that
Israel does have very sophisticated rockets, can target them precisely, and are
killings thousands of civilians, thousands of children.
boasted during the Operation Cast Lead that they had 99 percent accuracy with
the rockets they fired. Okay. If it was 99 percent accuracy, how did it happen
that you destroyed all these civilian buildings? That had to be calculated. And
that was what the Goldstone Report concluded. So, yes, if you want to claim this
degree of precision, then you have to accept the moral and legal responsibility
that comes from the fact that you were targeting civilian infrastructure and you
were targeting civilian sites.
Now they're making all of this talk about how Hamas, you know, was using
Palestinians as human shields and Hamas was using weapons, you know, locating
weapons near civilian sites. There is some evidence for that, but let's be for
real. First of all, there were 500--the estimates range now between 538 and 550,
but 538 and 550 children were killed during Operation Protective Edge. So you
had those four kids who were playing soccer.
JAY: On the beach.
FINKELSTEIN: Yeah. Where was Hamas? Where were these Hamas fighters? Were they
being used as human shields? Is that what happened? When they were bombing the
UN shelters which are keeping women and children to the point that even Ban Ki-moon,
the comatose puppet for the United States, even Ban Ki-moon finally had to
denounce it as a moral outrage on August 3, were there Hamas fighters there? Not
according to the UN. Not according to the UN. So exactly what you said: if
you're going to claim these are precision weapons which can target perfectly,
then you have to accept the legal and moral responsibility that comes with the
fact that you're targeting civilian infrastructure and you're targeting
JAY: Okay. So now let's talk about Hamas's tactic of firing these
rockets or allowing rockets to be fired. It seems to play in Netanyahu's hands,
into Israel's hands, and give a justification for what essentially is a
FINKELSTEIN: Look, I have said many times I do not believe armed resistance can
work in the Palestine context. It had a justification in the case of Lebanon
because nobody cared about South Lebanon. Israel had an occupation there from
1978 to 2000. Did anyone care? Was it in the eye of the international community?
No. So nonviolent civil resistance had no possibility of working there. It's
exactly what happened Arundhati Roy writes when she describes what's going on in
the forests in India. Indian government comes in, commits mass murder,
massacres. Nonviolence? Nobody even knows it's going on.
But Palestine occupies a unique place in the international arena,
international stage. People do follow what's going on in Palestine. And
therefore you have the potential of mobilizing public opinion. And I think in
places like Palestine, nonviolent civil resistance, including in Gaza, for
example mass march with children at the front, just like in Selma--if it's good
Selma and it's good in Birmingham, it's good in Palestine. They used to say to
King too, Martin Luther King, you're exploiting the kids. And he used to say,
oh, you're so concerned now about black children? They put children--if you read
Taylor Branch's--the first volume, when he describes the victory of
Birmingham--you know what it's called, the chapter? An incredible chapter. It's
called "The Children's Crusade". "The Children's Crusade". It was putting
children at the front. Yes, if the people in Gaza, they put children to the
JAY: You're talking about, like, a million people from Gaza come to the border.
FINKELSTEIN: That's correct, with women and children at the front. And we in the
solidarity movement in the West does its job, educates about this immoral,
inhuman siege. I can't go into the details now. It will take time. I think it
So I think they do have an alternative strategy. I think they're hung up on this
idea of armed resistance as being the only--resistance equals armed resistance
as being the only option they have. I think they have another option. However,
saying they have, in my opinion, another option does not mean that I'm saying
they don't have the right to do what they [want (?)]. I think it's politically
not wise. That's a political judgment on my part. But morally and (had time been
available, I can make the argument) legally, I think they have a case. Of
course, legally it's a troubling case because Amnesty, which I respect--.
You're only talking about the rockets. They certainly have a legal right to use
arms to defend themselves.
FINKELSTEIN: Right. But it doesn't really come into play. That's the problem.
The moment the arms to defend themselves came into play in Gaza, they just
stopped the ground invasion, because they don't want--Hamas was fighting back,
and it was not enough to send in the planes, as they did during Cast Lead, and
level everything in front of them. If you read the orders from Operation Cast
Lead, the orders were very clear. We know all of it now, 'cause soldiers came
forward and told what they were told. Everything to the left of you, everything
to the right of you, everything in front of you, just flatten it. That's the way
you don't have combatant casualties. You just destroy everything.
The problem for Israel was, when they did that in Operation Cast Lead, it got
hit with the Goldstone Report. And so it was worried that if they tried to
repeat it during Protective Edge, they may get another Goldstone Report, from
which they wouldn't be able to escape.
But then some things started to work in their favor. The details would take us
too long. But one thing that--the ground invasion was launched the night of the
same day of the downing of the Malaysian airliner over the Ukraine. Nobody has
to doubt that Mr. Netanyahu is very attuned to cameras. He understands the
media. And so he knew that that was the moment that the cameras would be fixed
on the Ukraine, the Malaysian airliner--the charge is that Russia was behind
it--and that he could now get away with committing mass murder and mayhem, which
he did for a while.
Then, when things started to get out of hand--it was August 3 when Ban Ki-moon
denounced the attack on the sixth UN shelter--then the Obama administration
denounced it. And then Netanyahu announced the end of the ground invasion. But
then he was saved again because this new phenomenon emerged out of nowhere. It
was called ISIS. And a reporter was killed by ISIS, and all the cameras shifted
to that. And then Netanyahu, if you recall, at the very end, it was kind of like
watching a computer game. They were just demolishing one high-rise building in
Gaza after another. You just saw the buildings come down. It was like a mini
JAY: And he links Hamas to ISIS, as if they're the same thing.
Yeah, and he links Hamas to ISIS. Exactly. And so he got another reprieve from
the international community. The problem was Hamas wasn't stopping--the rocket
attacks had basically ended by the end, but the mortar attacks continued.
Another Israeli civilian was killed, and he decided it's time to end it. And so
it came to an end on August 26.
JAY: Okay. We're going to do one more segment and talk about the current
situation and the possibility of a resolution at the United Nations. Please join
us for Reality Asserts Itself with Norman Finkelstein on The Real News Network.
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