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Forum Post: chomsky On Israel-Palestine and BDS - part 1

Posted 3 years ago on July 7, 2014, 7:23 a.m. EST by flip (7101)
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On Israel-Palestine and BDS

By Noam Chomsky

The misery caused by Israel’s actions in the occupied territories has elicited serious concern among at least some Israelis. One of the most outspoken, for many years, has been Gideon Levy, a columnist for Haaretz, who writes that “Israel should be condemned and punished for creating insufferable life under occupation, [and] for the fact that a country that claims to be among the enlightened nations continues abusing an entire people, day and night.”

He is surely correct, and we should add something more: the United States should also be condemned and punished for providing the decisive military, economic, diplomatic and even ideological support for these crimes. So long as it continues to do so, there is little reason to expect Israel to relent in its brutal policies.

The distinguished Israeli scholar Zeev Sternhell, reviewing the reactionary nationalist tide in his country, writes that “the occupation will continue, land will be confiscated from its owners to expand the settlements, the Jordan Valley will be cleansed of Arabs, Arab Jerusalem will be strangled by Jewish neighborhoods, and any act of robbery and foolishness that serves Jewish expansion in the city will be welcomed by the High Court of Justice. The road to South Africa has been paved and will not be blocked until the Western world presents Israel with an unequivocal choice: Stop the annexation and dismantle most of the colonies and the settler state, or be an outcast.”

One crucial question is whether the United States will stop undermining the international consensus, which favors a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized border (the Green Line established in the 1949 ceasefire agreements), with guarantees for “the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all states in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.” That was the wording of a resolution brought to the UN Security Council in January 1976 by Egypt, Syria and Jordan, supported by the Arab states—and vetoed by the United States.

This was not the first time Washington had barred a peaceful diplomatic settlement. The prize for that goes to Henry Kissinger, who supported Israel’s 1971 decision to reject a settlement offered by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, choosing expansion over security—a course that Israel has followed with US support ever since. Sometimes Washington’s position becomes almost comical, as in February 2011, when the Obama administration vetoed a UN resolution that supported official US policy: opposition to Israel’s settlement expansion, which continues (also with US support) despite some whispers of disapproval.

It is not expansion of the huge settlement and infrastructure program (including the separation wall) that is the issue, but rather its very existence—all of it illegal, as determined by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice, and recognized as such by virtually the entire world apart from Israel and the United States since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who downgraded “illegal” to “an obstacle to peace.”

One way to punish Israel for its egregious crimes was initiated by the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom in 1997: a boycott of settlement products. Such initiatives have been considerably expanded since then. In June, the Presbyterian Church resolved to divest from three US-based multinationals involved in the occupation. The most far-reaching success is the policy directive of the European Union that forbids funding, cooperation, research awards or any similar relationship with any Israeli entity that has “direct or indirect links” to the occupied territories, where all settlements are illegal, as the EU declaration reiterates. Britain had already directed retailers to “distinguish between goods originating from Palestinian producers and goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements.”

Four years ago, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to abide by “its international legal obligation” to remove the settlements and to end its “blatantly discriminatory practices” in the occupied territories. HRW also called on the United States to suspend financing to Israel “in an amount equivalent to the costs of Israel’s spending in support of settlements,” and to verify that tax exemptions for organizations contributing to Israel “are consistent with U.S. obligations to ensure respect for international law, including prohibitions against discrimination.”

There have been a great many other boycott and divestment initiatives in the past decade, occasionally—but not sufficiently—reaching to the crucial matter of US support for Israeli crimes. Meanwhile, a BDS movement (calling for “boycott, divestment and sanctions”) has been formed, often citing South African models; more accurately, the abbreviation should be “BD,” since sanctions, or state actions, are not on the horizon—one of the many significant differences from South Africa.



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[-] 4 points by turbocharger (1756) 3 years ago

I don't remember hearing the stories of the Native Americans just rolling over, saying "Ok, you want to call this America, we can make it work, no biggie".

I think they were pretty upset and fought back with all available tools, as should be expected.

Same for "insurgents" in Afghanistan.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5157) 3 years ago

I shall not confirm nor deny the culpability of Israel in the creation and continuation of hatred and bloodsheds in the Holy Land. Nor will I confirm or deny the favoritism the U.S. had shown to protect Israel. I could not possibly comment on these opaque issues that elude my mental capacities.

[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5157) 3 years ago

It took the catastrophe of WWII and the Cold War to calm things down in Europe and East Asia with the nuclear umbrella coverage under Pax Americana. The Middle East is so full of all kinds of fault lines that it may well take many battles to expend the religious, tribal, and psychic energy in these fault lines.

It is not deliberate neglect (as evidenced by John Kerry's peace initiative) but realistic assessment of the power of the U.S. Frankly, the U.S. does NOT measure up to the holiest City. By its very nature, secular power cannot tame religious fervor. Even the ancient Romans learnt that with Christianity.

Maybe when the Jews no longer want a Jewish state, the Muslims no longer fight over the legacy of the Prophet Mohammed, and the Palestinians welcome citizenship in the United Peoples' Republic of the Middle East, the U.S. can help out more, as it should, not as the authoritative parent but as the big brother with longer arms and deeper pockets, good for reaching for the high-up cookie jar.

[-] 0 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

you have been reading too much mainstream history - i disagree with most of what you write. i have been in turkey where a 500 yr old christian church is next to an old mosque. i know sunnis who have married shias - these fault lines - while old like the protestants and catholics were mostly invisible until bush 1 invaded. - from chomsky "Why do they hate us when we're so good?" -- George Bush's poignant question -- it's a very old question, for it was asked by President Eisenhower in 1958 -- actually, in secret at that time. But now it's a pretty free country, we have a lot of documentary evidence so we know what's been going on. Back in 1958 -- which turned out to be a very crucial year in world history -- that was the year, in particular, in which the US fought a major clandestine war to try to break up Indonesia, and a number of other things. ... The US at that time had three major crisis areas, according to the internal discussions, all in Islamic countries, all in oil-producers. One was Indonesia, one was Algeria, one was basically Iraq -- the Iraqi region. Those were the three crises. It was made explicit in the internal meetings. In fact, Eisenhower, vociferously, according to the minutes, insisted on this: there was no Russian involvement. The enemy is indigenous nationalism. In fact, that's true throughout the Cold War, but very explicit then, and Eisenhower did discuss it with his staff, said there is a campaign of hatred against us -- not on the part of governments but on the part of the people, and we wanna know why that's true. And he got some answers. John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, said the problem is that the communist -- "communist" just means anybody who's a nationalist, and the CIA was telling them strongly that their main enemy wasn't communist but it didn't matter, "communist" just means the ones we don't like -- and they said the communists have an advantage over us, an unfair advantage. He said they can appeal to the masses of the population. That's an appeal that we can't counter. And the reason is they appeal to the poor and the poor have always wanted to plunder the rich. That's the big problem with world history. And we somehow find it hard to sell our message that the rich can -- should -- plunder the poor. That sentence I added -- the rest was his.

But there was a more serious and considered answer given by the National Security Council, the highest planning agency. They pointed out that there's a perception in the Arab world that the United States supports status quo regimes which, of course, are brutal and oppressive, and does so in order to secure its own interests in obtaining oil, and then they said, well, it's hard to counter this perception because it's correct. They said it's natural for the United States to link itself up with the status quo regimes and try to sustain them and to pursue its interest in obtaining oil. So the end result is that there's a campaign of hatred against us among the people who we're basically robbing and on whom we're imposing harsh, brutal, repressive and corrupt regimes, and it's pretty difficult to counter that campaign. You know, that's exactly what The Wall Street Journal is finding after September 11th.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5157) 3 years ago

The worst atrocities such as genocides happen when peoples of differing convictions are forced to live together fighting for Lebensraum.

Globalization to benefit the eelites' financial empires has mushed together just such peoples. The U.S. is just seconds away from the Middle East electronically. SARS and Ebola epidemics can get to the U.S. in less than a day.

The various peoples have unrealistic understanding of the other peoples. Many of us believe that we know the other peoples but of course we do NOT really know. I do not even need to cross the U.S. national borders to observe this cultural dissonance even though the U.S., in my opinion, is already far more homogeneous culturally than the Middle East. We still have racial conflagrations in a number of cities. It is only natural that the holiest City of the Middle East should sit at the epicenter of religious, tribal, historical, and psychic hatred raised to the n-th degree.

The poor hate the rich when they are forced to live together without welfare sharing and caring. It is not necessarily the fault of the rich that the others are poor. There IS a big dose of blind luck involved but of course most of the rich weave stories justifying their superiority on the basis of personal integrity, efforts, morality, etc. Snobbery feeds discontent although wealth needs not lead to snobbery.

It takes three elements to form an explosion: fuel, oxidant, and ignition. Having the rich and poor living intimately together without powerful Love provides the fuel and the oxidant. I see walls as the most immediate solution to avoid ignition. The Dynastic Rich understand this well and are indeed mostly discreet but the Nouveau Riche cause real problems.

[-] 2 points by flip (7101) 3 years ago

did you read what i sent

[-] 1 points by grapes (5157) 3 years ago

Yes, maybe it was the U.S. strict control of indigenous nationalism of post-WWII Germany and Japan that helped them not going rogue again. China may be going rogue due to the lack of this control. Trade can beef up an adolescent economy's muscles but using nationalism for bolstering state cohesion raises the testosterone level and causes problems.

The U.S. stages huge number of troops in Japan and Germany but not so in China.