Posted 9 months ago on Aug. 9, 2014, 10:38 a.m. EST by flip
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AMY GOODMAN: Noam, Mohammed Suliman, a Palestinian human rights worker in Gaza, wrote in The Huffington Post during the Israeli assault, quote, "The reality is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel won’t stop occupying, as its leaders repeatedly affirm. The besieged Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had a motto 'to live and die in dignity.' As I sit in my own besieged ghetto," he writes, "I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation. We’re tired of war. ... But I also can no longer tolerate the return to a deeply unjust status quo. I can no longer agree to live in this open-air prison." Your response to what Mohammed Suliman wrote?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, several points again. First, about the Warsaw Ghetto, there’s a very interesting debate going on right now in Israel in the Hebrew press as to whether the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was justified. It began with an article, I think by a survivor, who went through many details and argued that the uprising, which was sort of a rogue element, he said, actually seriously endangered the Jews of the—surviving Jews in the ghetto and harmed them. Then came responses, and there’s a debate about it. But that’s exactly the kind of question you want to ask all the time: What’s going to be the effect of the action on the victims? It’s not a trivial question in the case of the Warsaw Ghetto. Obviously, maybe the Nazis are the extreme in brutality in human history, and you have to surely sympathize and support the ghetto inhabitants and survivors and the victims, of course. But nevertheless, the tactical question arises. This is not open. And it arises here, too, all the time, if you’re serious about concern for the victims.
But his general point is accurate, and it’s essentially what I was trying to say before. Israel wants quiet, wants the Palestinians to be nice and quiet and nonviolent, the way Nicholas Kristof urges. And then what will Israel do? We don’t have to guess. It’s what they have been doing, and they’ll continue, as long as there’s no resistance to it. What they’re doing is, briefly, taking over whatever they want, whatever they see as of value in the West Bank, leaving Palestinians in essentially unviable cantons, pretty much imprisoned; separating the West Bank from Gaza in violation of the solemn commitments of the Oslo Accords; keeping Gaza under siege and on a diet; meanwhile, incidentally, taking over the Golan Heights, already annexed in violation of explicit Security Council orders; vastly expanding Jerusalem way beyond any historical size, annexing it in violation of Security Council orders; huge infrastructure projects, which make it possible for people living in the nice hills of the West Bank to get to Tel Aviv in a few minutes without seeing any Arabs. That’s what they’ll continue doing, just as they have been, as long as the United States supports it. That’s the decisive point, and that’s what we should be focusing on. We’re here. We can do things here. And that happens to be of critical significance in this case. That’s going to be—it’s not the only factor, but it’s the determinative factor in what the outcome will be.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Norm, the ceasefire has been announced. It’s holding, well, just hours into it. And there is, if it holds, going to be negotiations taking place. Talk about what has happened.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, the first thing is to have clarity about why there is a ceasefire. The last time I was on the program, I mentioned that Prime Minister Netanyahu, he basically operates under two constraints: the international constraint—namely, there are limits to the kinds of death and destruction he can inflict on Gaza—and then there’s the domestic constraint, which is Israeli society doesn’t tolerate a large number of combatant deaths.
He launched the ground invasion for reasons which—no point in going into now—and inflicted massive death and destruction on Gaza, where the main enabler was, of course, President Obama. Each day he came out, he or one of his spokespersons, and said, "Israel has the right to defend itself." Each time he said that, it was the green light to Israel that it can continue with its terror bombing of Gaza. That went on for day after day after day, schools, mosques, hospitals targeted. But then you reached a limit. The limit was when Israel started to target the U.N. shelters—targeted one shelter, there was outrage; targeted a second shelter, there was outrage. And now the pressure began to build up in the United Nations. This is a United Nations—these are U.N. shelters. And the pressure began to build up. It reached a boiling point with the third shelter. And then Ban Ki-moon, the comatose secretary-general of the United Nations and a U.S. puppet, even he was finally forced to say something, saying these are criminal acts. Obama was now cornered. He was looking ridiculous in the world. It was a scandal. Even the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, was now calling it a criminal act. So finally Obama, the State Department said "unacceptable," "deplorable." And frankly, it’s exactly what happened in 1999 in Timor: The limits had been reached, Clinton said to the Indonesian army, "Time to end the massacre." And exactly happened now: Obama signaled to Netanyahu the terror bombing has to stop. So, Obama—excuse me, Netanyahu had reached the limit of international tolerance, which basically means the United States.
And then there was the domestic issue. Israel had launched a ground invasion ostensibly to stop the so-called rocket attacks, but then it turned into something different: the tunnels. Now, the tunnels had nothing to do with Israel. That’s totally ridiculous. Israel claims there were 12 tunnels that had passed through its border. There were many more tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. The first thing Sisi did when he came into power in Egypt was seal the tunnels. Did he have to destroy all of Gaza to seal the tunnels? Israel couldn’t have done the same thing—seal the tunnels on its side of the border, exactly what Sisi did in Egypt? What did the Hamas have? It had spoons. It had shovels. You’re telling me that Israel didn’t have the earth-moving equipment to build a wall that went deeper than the tunnels? It had nothing to do with the tunnels entering Israel.
The problem was, the tunnels in Gaza, it turned out, they had created a fairly sophisticated network of tunnels, incidentally—I know we’re not allowed to make these comparisons—not unlike the bunkers that were built in the Warsaw Ghetto—primitive, but effective—and the Hamas fighters were able to come out of the tunnels, and they inflicted a significant number of casualties on Israel. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008, '09, 10 Israeli combatants were killed, of which four were from friendly fire. This time it was about 65. Now, during the Lebanon War in 2006, about 120 Israeli combatants were killed, but that was against the Hezbollah, which is a formidable guerrilla army. So, half and more were killed in Gaza this time. So, Israel's aim was not to destroy the tunnels going into Israel. That’s ridiculous. What they wanted to do was destroy the tunnel system inside Gaza, because now an effective—not very effective, but effective—guerrilla force had been created. And Israel, every few years, has to—or less than few years, has to mow the lawn in Gaza. And so, they wanted to make sure the next time they mow the lawn—