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MER WEEKEND READING:
THE CURRENT CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
WHAT CAN WE DO?
By Professor Noam Chomsky
[Transcript of lecture
delivered at MASSACHUSETTS
INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT) on 12/14/00]
MIT must be relaxing its standards if this many people can show up right on
eve of finals.
Well, just how dangerous is the crisis in the Middle East? There is a UN
Envoy, a Norwegian, Roed-Larson. A couple of days ago, he warned that
blockade of the Palestinian areas is leading to enormous suffering and could
rapidly detonate a regional war.
Notice that he referred to the blockade. He didn't refer to the
the other atrocities. And he's right about that. The blockade is
tactic. There can be a blockade which is very effective because of the
so-called 'peace' process has evolved under U.S. direction, meaning hundreds
of isolated Palestinian enclaves, some of them tiny, which can be blocked off
and strangled by the Israeli occupying forces. That's the basic
what's called here the peace process. So, there can be an extremely
blockade. And a blockade is a sensible tactic for the United States and
and it's always together. Remember that anything that Israel does, it
U.S. authorization, and usually subsidy and support.
The blockade is a tactic to fine-tune the atrocities so that they don't become
too visible, visible enough to force Washington or the West (which means
essentially) to make some kind of response.
There have been mistakes in the past and the United States and Israel have
learned from them. So in 1996 for example, when Shimon Peres launched
attack on Lebanon, killing large numbers of people and driving
out of their home, it was fine and the U.S. was able to support it and Clinton
did support it, up until one mistake, when they bombed a UN Camp in Qana,
over a hundred people who were refugees in the camp. Clinton at first
it, but as the international reaction came in, he had to back off, and Israel
was forced, under U.S. orders in effect, to call off the operation and
That's the kind of mistake you want to avoid. So, for those of you
the diplomatic service, you can't allow that kind of mistake to happen.
want low level atrocities, fine-tuned, so that an international response is
The same thing happened more recently, just a year ago, last September, when
the U.S.-backed slaughter in East Timor, which had been going on nicely for
25 years, finally got out of hand to such a degree that Clinton was compelled,
after the Country was virtually destroyed, to essentially tell the Indonesian
generals that the
game is over, and they instantly withdrew. So that, you want to avoid.
In this particular case, there is a clear effort to keep killings, which is
hits the front pages, at roughly the level of Kosovo before the NATO bombing.
In fact, that's about the level of killings right now, so that the story
sort of fade into the background.
Now, of course, the Kosovo story was quite different. At that time, the
needs were the opposite. The killings were under fairly similar
and the level of Serbian response was approximately like Israel's response in
the occupied territories. (Then, in fact, there were attacks from right
the border, so it would be as if Hizbollah was carrying out attacks in the
or something like that). That time, the propaganda needs were different,
therefore, it was described passionately as genocide. A well designed
system can make those distinctions. So in that case it was genocide, and
this case it's unnoticeable and justified reprisal.
The general idea, and I think you can expect this to continue for awhile, is
for the tactics to be restricted to: assassination; lots and lots of
wounded (severely - many of them will die later, but that doesn't enter into
consciousness); starvation (according to the UN, there are about 600,000
facing starvation, but again that is below the level); and curfews (24 hour
like in Hebron, for weeks at a time, while a couple of hundred Israeli
strut around freely, but the rest of the population, tens of thousands of
are locked in their homes, allowed out a couple of hours a week).
The isolation in the hundreds of enclaves, and so on, is so that suffering can
be kept below the level that might elicit a Western response. And the
which is pretty plausible, is that there is a limit to what people can endure,
and ultimately they will give up.
Well, there is, however, a problem in the Arab world, which is more sensitive
to these massive atrocities, and it could explode, and that's what Roed-Larson
is warning about. The governance in the Arab world is extremely fragile,
in the crucial oil producing region. Any popular unrest might threaten
fragile rule of the U.S. clients, which the U.S. would be unwilling to accept.
And it might, equally unacceptably, induce the rulers of the oil
to move to improve relations (particularly with Iran, which, in fact, they've
already been doing), which would undermine the whole framework for U.S.
of the world's major energy reserves.
Back in 1994, Clinton's National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake, described
he called a paradigm for the post cold war era, and for the Middle East.
paradigm was what's called "dual containment", so it contains Iraq
but as he pointed out, dual containment relies crucially on the Oslo process,
the process that brings about relative peace between Israel and the Arabs.
that can be sustained, the dual containment can't be sustained, and the whole
U.S. current policy for controlling the region will be in serious danger.
Just two years ago in December 1998, the U.S. and Britain bombed Iraq with
and very explicit contempt for world opinion, including the UN Security
Remember that the bombing was timed just at the moment when the Security
was having an emergency session to consider the problems of inspection in
and as they began, they got the announcement that the U.S. and Britain had
it by bombing. That, and the events before it, lead to a very negative
in the Arab World, and elsewhere for that matter, and did lead to very visible
steps, particularly by the Saudi ruling monarchy, but also others, towards
to Iran, and indication of some degree of acceptance of an Iranian position
has been around for awhile, that there should be a strategic alliance in the
region that's independent of Western (meaning primarily U.S.) power.
something that the U.S. is highly unlikely to accept and could lead to very
Furthermore, on top of this, the countries in the region, Iran and Syria in
are testing missiles, which might be able to reach Israel. The United
and Israel are working not only on missiles, but also on an anti-missile
the Arrow anti-missile system. When armaments are at that level,
easily break out suddenly and unpredictably and lead to a war with advanced
which can get out of hand pretty quickly.
Well, how dangerous is that? Turn to another expert, General Lee Butler,
retired. He was head of the Strategic Command at the highest nuclear
under Clinton, STRATCOM. He wrote a couple of years ago that it's
in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle
nation has armed itself, ostensibly with stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the
hundreds, and that inspires other nations to do so as well, and also to
other weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent, which is highly combustible
and can lead to very dangerous outcomes. All of this is still more
sponsor of that one nation is regarded generally in the world as a rogue
which is unpredictable and out of control, irrational and vindictive, and
on portraying itself in that fashion. In fact, the Strategic Command
has, in its highest level pronouncement, advised that the United States should
maintain a national persona, as they call it, of being irrational and
and out of control so that the rest of the world will be frightened. And
are. And the U.S. should also rely on nuclear weapons as the core of its
including the right of first use against non-nuclear states, including those
that have signed the Non-Proliferation treaty. Those proposals
have been built
into presidential directives, Clinton-era presidential directives, that don't
make much noise around here, but it is understood in the world, which is
impelled to respond by developing weapons of mass destruction of its own in
defense. But these are prospects that are indeed recognized
by U.S. intelligence
and high level U.S. analysts. About two years ago, Harvard professor
Huntington wrote an article in a very prestigious journal, Foreign Affairs, in
which he pointed out that for much of the world, he indicated most of the
the United States is considered a dangerous rogue state, and the main threat
to their national existence. And it's not surprising, if you look at
in the world from outside the framework of the U.S. indoctrination system.
very plausible even from documents, and certainly from actions, and much of
world does see it that way, and that adds to the severe dangers of the
Well, the recent history of the Middle East provides quite a few further
I'll just mention one example, which is very crucial in the present
right now - that's 1967, in the June 1967 war when Israel destroyed the Arab
armies, the armies of the Arab states, Egypt most importantly, and it
currently occupied territories. That set the stage for what's still
right now. At that time, the Soviet Union was still around, and the
there became serious enough so that it almost led to a war - a nuclear war,
would have been the end of the story. Then Defense Secretary Robert
observed, in his words, "we damned near had war". At the end
of the June war
there were hot line communications, apparently President Kosygin warned that
if you want to have war, you can have it. There were naval
the Russian and the U.S. fleets in the Eastern Mediterranean.
There was also another case. There was an Israeli attack on a U.S. spy
USS Liberty, which killed about 35 sailors and crewman and practically sank
ship. The Liberty didn't know who was attacking it. The attackers
Before they were disabled, they got messages back to the 6th Fleet
in Naples, who also didn't know who was attacking it. They sent out
which were nuclear-armed, because they didn't have any that weren't
to respond to whoever was attacking it, and they didn't know who they were
to bomb - Russia, Egypt, you know, anybody. Apparently the planes were
back directly from the Pentagon sort of at the last moment. But that
could have lead to a nuclear war.
All of this was understood to be extremely hazardous. Most of this
had to do with Israel's plans to conquer the Golan Heights, which they did
the ceasefire. And they didn't want the United States to know about it
because the U.S. would have stopped them, and probably that's what lies behind
most of this. Documents aren't out, so we can only speculate, and they
probably never come out. Anyhow, the situation was ominous enough so
great powers on all sides figured that they better put a stop to it, and they
very quickly met at the Security Council and accepted a resolution, UN 242,
famous UN 242 from November 1967, which laid out a framework for a diplomatic
And it's worth paying close attention to what UN 242 was and is. It's
now from what it was then. The information about this is public
but barely known and often distorted, so just pay attention to what it is.
can easily check it if you like.
UN 242 called for - the basic idea was full peace in return for a full
So, Israel would withdraw from the territories that it just conquered,
return, the Arab states would agree to a full peace with it. There was
of a minor footnote, that the withdrawal could involve minor and mutual
example, regarding some line or curve, they could straighten it out, that sort
of thing. But that was the policy, and that was U.S. policy - it was
initiative. So, full peace in return for full withdrawal. Notice
very crucially, and it's very crucial now, that UN 242 was completely
I use the term "rejectionist" now in a slightly non-standard sense,
in a non-racist
sense. It is usually used in a completely racist sense. So the
are those who deny Israel's right to national self-determination. But,
there are two national groups contesting, and I am using the term rejectionist
in a neutral sense, hence non-standard, to refer to a denial of the rights of
either of the two contestants, including denials of Palestinian rights.
terminology is never used in the United States, and can't be used, because if
it is used, it will turn out that the United States is the leader of the
camp, and we can't have that. So therefore the term is always used in a
sense. So, you will understand that I'm switching from normal usage now.
UN 242 was completely rejectionist. It offered nothing to the
There was no reference to them, except the phrase that there was a
that somehow had to be dealt with. That's it. Apart from that, it
was to be
an agreement among the states. The states were to reach full peace
context of complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories. That's UN
Well, without proceeding, for the local people in the region, the Israelis and
the Palestinians, the crisis is obviously extremely grave. It could lead
a regional war that could easily escalate to a global war with weapons of mass
destruction with consequences that are unimaginable, and that could happen at
almost any time.
Secondly, the U.S. role is highly significant. That's always true
the world just because of U.S. power, but it's particularly true in the Middle
East, which has been recognized in high level planning for 50 years (and goes
back beyond that, but explicitly for 50 years) as a core element in U.S.
planning. Just to
quote documents from 50 years ago, declassified documents, the Middle East was
described as the "strategically most important region of the world",
source of strategic power", "the richest economic prize in the
world", and, you
know, on and on in the same vein. The U.S. is not going to give that up.
the reason is very simple. That's the world's major energy reserves, and
only are they valuable to have because of the enormous profit that comes from
them, but control over them gives a kind of veto power over the actions of
for obvious reasons, which were recognized right away at the time. So,
a core issue. It's been the prime concern of U.S. military and strategic
for half a century. The gulf region, the region of major energy
always been the target of the major U.S. intervention forces, with a base
that extends over a good part of the world, from the Pacific to the Azores,
consequences for all of those regions because they are backup bases for the
forces targeting the gulf region, also including the Indian Ocean.
And this is a big issue right now, in England at least, and much of the world,
but not in the United States. The inhabitants of an Indian Ocean island,
Diego Garcia, that were kicked out and unceremoniously dumped on another
Mauritius, some years ago, and those who managed to survive it, have been
through the British Courts (this was a British dependency) to try to gain the
right to return to their homes. They finally won a couple of months ago
High Court in England and were granted the right to return, except that the
won't relinquish the Island, where it has a major military base that's used
the Middle East targeted forces. Just a couple of days ago, they
indemnity of about 6 billion dollars, and the U.S. is refusing, of course.
Albright commented on it. She said it's just an issue between Britain
We don't have anything to do with it, even though we hold the Island and
to allow them to return, and refuse to pay indemnities. I think you'll
pretty far to find some discussion of this in the U.S. press, but that's part
of the base system for targeting the Middle East.
Well, for years, there was a kind of a public pretext for all of this.
pretext was that we had to defend ourselves against the Russians. That
pretext for everything, and the pretext for this in particular. There is
rich internal record, bequest by documents, which tells quite a different
however. The story it tells is that the Russians were, at most, a
often no factor. But, fortunately there is no need to debate the matter
because it has been conceded publicly. It was conceded, in fact,
after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which sort of got rid of the pretext.
can't appeal to the Russian threat anymore.
A couple of weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Bush Administration
submitted its annual message to Congress, calling for a huge military budget,
and it was a very interesting document. Unfortunately it wasn't
it was very important obviously - the first call for a huge military budget
the fall of the
Berlin Wall, when you can't appeal to the Russians anymore. So,
revealing and tells you what's really going on. As expected, the Russian
was gone. We don't need a huge Pentagon budget because of the Russians
around anymore, but we still need it. In fact, it turned out to be
it was in the past, and we needed it for reasons which are now frankly
We needed it because of what they called the technological
Third World countries, which is a way of saying they pose a danger of becoming
independent. And, we need it because we have to maintain what's called
industrial base, which is what pays our salaries among other things. The
industrial base is just a term for hi-tech industry, which has to be funded by
the public, which has to bear the costs and risks of development. MIT is
of the funnels for that. That has to be maintained. We have to
keep the source
of the dynamic sectors of the economy, which are substantially in the public
sectors, so we have to maintain the defense industrial base. And we also
have to keep the intervention forces that we've always had still targeting the
Middle East, the gulf region. Then it adds (where the threat to our
that involve possible military action could not be laid at the Kremlin's door
- contrary to half a century, forty years, of lies), sorry, folks, we've been
lying to you, but we still need them there because of the technological
of Third World powers, that is, the threat that they may become independent.
Notice that the threat to our interests could also not be laid at Iraq's door
at that time because Saddam Hussein was still a nice guy. He had only
Kurds, and torturing dissidents, and that sort of thing. But he was
obedient, so he was a friend and ally. This is early 1990. It
changed a few
So, we don't have to debate the question of the war with the Russians.
now conceded that that was not a significant threat, could not be laid at the
Kremlin's door, and the threat, in fact, is what it is all over the world, and
has been right through the cold war, the threat of what's called "radical
nationalism". It doesn't make much of a difference where it is in
spectrum. But, if it's independent, it's a danger and you have to
it as a way of threatening what's called stability, that is, the subordination
of the world to the dominant interests that the U.S. represents.
Actually U.S. relations with Israel developed in that context. The 1967
was a major step forward, when Israel showed its power and ability to deal
Third World radical nationalists, who were, at that time, threatening,
Nasser. Nasser was engaged in a kind of proxy war with Saudi Arabia,
most important country, that's where all the oil is, and the Yemen. And
put an end to that by smashing Nasser's armies and won a lot of points for
and U.S. relations with Israel really became solidified at that point.
had been recognized 10 years earlier and the U.S. intelligence had noted that
called the logical corollary to opposition to radical Arab nationalism is
for Israel as a reliable base for U.S. power in the region. And Israel
because it's under threat, and therefore it needs U.S. support, which has
logical corollary, that for the U.S. interests', it's a good idea for Israel
to be under threat. That essentially continues, and a good deal of the
is based on the way that context developed. If there was time, I
about it, but I'll skip it.
Anyhow, we can thankfully put the pretext aside at this point, and just look
at the reasons which are now on the table - it's the threat of independent
and in the case of the Gulf region, that's particularly important because
the world's major energy reserves.
Well, the final consideration, on to the topic, is that the U.S. role is not
the only one, of course. It's one factor in a complicated mixture, but
a decisive factor, and crucially, it's the one factor that's under our
We can directly influence it. So, we can bewail the terrible
actions of other
people, but we can do
something about our own actions. That's a rather critical difference, in
life and in international affairs. And it's illuminating to observe how
attention is given to the crimes of others, which most of the time we can't do
anything about, and compare it with the amount of attention that is given to
our own crimes,
which we can do a great deal about. That's an instructive comparison,
you take the trouble to work it out, you learn a lot about the intellectual
in which we live and to which we're expected to contribute. For that
alone, and it's far from the only one, we ought to be discussing primarily the
And furthermore, that role is little understood. It's often just
which is another reason to focus on it.
Well, let me illustrate the things that are happening right at this moment.
The Intifada, the current uprising, began on September 29th, that was the day
after General Ariel Sharon appeared at the Haram al Sharif with a lot of
That event alone was provocative, but it probably would have gone by
any reaction. What happened the next day, however, was different.
day is the Friday, the day of prayers, and there was a huge military presence,
mostly border guards who were kind of like the paramilitaries, the ones you
out atrocities to, and they were there in force, and as people came out of the
Mosques, it was obviously extremely provocative. Some rock throwing took
They shot into the crowds, killed four or more people, wounded over a
And after that, it just took off. This is incidentally Barak, not
It's easy to blame Sharon, and there's plenty to blame on him for fifty years
of atrocities but this happened to be Barak's planning.
Let me just consider one aspect of what has gone on since, mainly the use of
helicopter gunships. On October 1st, right after this, Israel military
meaning U.S. helicopters with Israeli pilots, killed two Palestinians in Gaza.
On October 2nd, the next day, they killed 10 Palestinians, wounded 35
Gaza at Netzarim, which if you follow this closely, you'll notice is the scene
of many of the major atrocities, including the famous photo of the 12 year old
boy who was killed. What's Netzarim? Well, the fact is, Netzarim
is just an
excuse to split the Gaza Strip in two. There's a small settlement south
purpose of which is to require a big military outpost to protect it, and the
military outpost then requires a road, a huge road, which cuts the Gaza Strip
in two, so that separates Gaza City, the main population concentration, from
the Southern part of the strip, and Egypt, and insures that in any outcome,
imprisoned inside Israel in effect. There are other breaks down
but Netzarim is the main one, and that is where a lot of the atrocities have
been. So this October 2nd killing of 10 and wounding of 35 at Netzarim
is just one of these many incidents.
On October 3rd, the next day, the Defense Correspondent of Ha'aretz, which is
the major serious Hebrew newspaper, reported the largest purchase of military
helicopters in a decade - that means U.S. military helicopters. These
and spare parts for Apaches. Apaches are the main attack helicopters.
had been delivered a few weeks earlier. They were getting spare parts,
The next day, October 4th, Jane's Defence Weekly, which is the major military
journal in the world, the British military journal, reported that the Clinton
administration had further approved a new sale of attack helicopters, Apache
attack helicopters, because they had decided that upgrading the ones that they
had just sent would not be sufficient, so they really had to send new, more
ones. The same day the Boston Globe reported that Apache attack
were attacking apartment complexes with rockets, again in Netzarim. The
press agencies at that time quoted Pentagon officials, as saying, and I'm
a Pentagon official, "U.S. weapon sales do not carry a stipulation that
cannot be used against civilians. We cannot second guess an Israeli
who calls in helicopter gunships." Okay, so, the story so far
- U.S. helicopter
gunships are being used to attack civilians, but they aren't advanced enough,
and Israel doesn't have enough of them, so therefore, the Clinton
had to move in with the biggest purchase in a decade. Purchase means
taxpayers pay for it in some indirect fashion. And then it had the next
to extend it further, sending them more advanced Apache helicopters, and
no stipulation going along with them that they can't be used against
Well, that carries us up to October 4th.Then come more and more attacks
civilians, and I'll skip them.
The first reference in the U.S. press to any of this is on October 12th.
was an opinion piece in the Raleigh North Carolina newspaper, which said they
thought this was kind of a bad idea. That's also the last reference to
the U.S. press, meaning the only reference. It's not that editors don't
Of course they know about it. In fact, it has been explicitly brought to
attention of editors of leading newspapers, as if they didn't know already.
And it's not that it's unimportant, because it is obviously very important.
It's just the kind of news that's not fit to print. And that's very
not only in this part of the world, but everywhere. It's extremely
that the public be kept in the dark about what's being done, because if they
know about it, they're not going to like it. And if they don't like it,
might do something about it. So, there's a grave responsibility on the
and on intellectuals generally, the educational system and so on, to ensure
people are kept in the dark about things that it's better for them not to
like this for example. And the task is carried out with very impressive
This is not an untypical example.
On October 19th, Amnesty International published a report condemning the
States for providing new military helicopters to Israel. They were also
the atrocities. That was not reported in the United States. It was
On November 10th, Amnesty International published a much broader condemnation
of the excessive use of force and terror, and so on, that was barely
So it continues.
Well, let's turn to the question what can we do? The answer is we have
We can do a lot. So, for example, we can continue to provide
and other military support to ensure that Israel is able to attack civilians,
maintain a blockade, starve them to death, and so on. And we can provide
funding that allows Israel to continue to integrate the occupied territories
within Israel proper as it has been doing, settlements, infrastructure, etc.
It doesn't matter which government is in office. It goes on under
the same way it did under Netanyahu. And it's anticipated to go on next
The budget provisions have already been made for next year. So we
with that if we'd like. Or, we can act to stop their participation in
activities, which is pretty straightforward. It doesn't require bombing
It just means stop participating in atrocities, the easiest thing to do.
a choice. And, in fact,
we may even go further and call them off, as is pretty easily done when a
has the power that the United States has. I gave a couple of examples.
Well, if we decide on the latter choice, which is always open here and
there's a prerequisite. The prerequisite is that we know what's going
you can't make that choice, say to stop providing military helicopters (and
know the helicopters are just an illustration of a much bigger picture)
about it. Again, the grave responsibility of the intellectual world, the
journals, universities, and others, is to prevent people from knowing.
takes effort. It's not easy. As in this case, it takes some
dedication to suppress
the facts and make sure that the population doesn't know what's being done in
because if they do, they aren't going to like it, and they'll respond.
you get into trouble.
Well, the very same applies to the diplomatic record. Let me turn to
Let's begin with the current phase of diplomacy, what started in September
that's the famous Oslo process. In September 1993, there was a meeting
White House lawn, very august, with the Boston Globe having a headline
as "a day of awe". The Israelis and the Palestinians agreed,
supervision, to what's called a Declaration of Principles. There were at
time a number of issues, and it's crucial to understand how the Declaration of
Principles dealt with them.
Okay, so one issue, was territory - what's going to happen with the occupied
territories, how they are going to be assigned - that's issue number one.
Number two, is the issue of national rights. Now that issue only arises
Palestinians. There is no question in the case of Israel, that's just
question and hasn't been in question at all. The only question is what
the rights of the Palestinians?
The third question is what about the right to resist? And do the
or the Lebanese for that matter, have the right to resist military occupation.
That's the third question.
The fourth question, which is kind of a counterpart to that, is whether the
power (does Israel, which means the U.S. here) have the right to attack in the
occupied territories and in Lebanon? Those are the four main questions.
There were answers in the Declaration of Principles. With regard to
the Declaration of Principles stated that the permanent settlement would be on
the basis of UN 242, but that raises a question. What does UN 242 mean?
we have to go to the earlier diplomatic record. I'll return to it in a
The second, with regard to national rights, again, is settled in terms of UN
242. And anyone who is paying attention in September 1993 could see
where this was going. The Declaration of Principles states that the
settlement, long term outcome, you know, the end of the road, will be based
alone. Now for 20 years, the issue in international diplomacy had been
of UN 242. Remember, UN 242 says nothing about the Palestinians.
For 20 years
there have been a series of efforts by the whole world to supplement UN 242 to
include Palestinian rights alongside the rights of Israel, which were never
in question. That was the issue from the mid-70's right up until Oslo,
U.S. won flat out on that one. Palestinian rights are not to be
It's just UN 242, no Palestinian rights. They are not mentioned
the permanent settlement. So, territories, it's UN 242, which means what
U.S. decides (I'll
come back to that), national rights - U.S. wins flat out, the rest of the
capitulates. What about the right to resist?
Well, Arafat agreed at the signing of the Declaration of Principles to abandon
any right to resist, and it's taken for granted that in Lebanon the population
also has no right to resist. It's called terrorism if they resist.
Arafat have to state this? He actually said it over and over again.
he made solemn
pronouncements to that effect over and over, but the purpose here was just
humiliation. You have to make sure you humiliate the lower breeds to
that they don't get too big for their britches. George Schultz,
State, who is considered something of a dove, put it pretty plainly. He
it's true that
Arafat has said unc, unc, unc, and he said oh, oh, oh, but he hasn't said
uncle, uncle in a sufficiently submissive tone, and we ought to make sure that
he does, over and over again. That's the way you treat the lower breeds.
once again, Arafat had to say uncle, loudly and submissively, and thank you
and sign a statement saying, you know, once again, we reject the right to
Same in Lebanon, it isn't even a question.
What about the fourth question, the right to attack? A counterpart is
right to attack. Well, they've retained that right, and Israel continues
use it repeatedly with U.S. support before and after. Notice that over
period there is virtually no defensive pretext, contrary to what you read in
That goes way back. But, contrary to propaganda, almost the entire
U.S./Israeli attacks, certainly in the occupied territories, but in Lebanon as
well, were not for any defensive purpose. They were initiated.
the 1982 invasion, and that's no small matter. I mean, it's not
big deal here,
but during the 22 years that Israel illegally occupied Southern Lebanon in
of Security Council orders (but with U.S. authorization), they killed about
45,000 or 50,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, not a trivial number. This
many very brutal attacks going on after the Oslo accords as well, in 1983,
and so on.
Incidentally, you might again want to compare this with Serbia and Kosovo.
comparison in this case has to be kind of like a thought experiment, because
it never happened. But, imagine if Serbia had been bombing Albania to
that Israel was bombing Lebanon, that would be an analogy. It didn't
you can just imagine what the reaction would have been. It tells you
about our values and of the need to maintain discipline on these issues, so
people don't think it through.
Well, the PLO accepted all this, just abjectly. Israel in return and the
of Principles committed itself to absolutely nothing. You should take a
back at what happened on the White House lawn, on "the day of awe".
Rabin made a very terse comment, a couple of lines, in which, after Arafat
agreed to all of this stuff, he said that Israel would now recognize the PLO
as the representative of the Palestinians - period. Nothing about
Nothing. We just recognize you as the representative of the
his Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, considered a dove, explained why right
Israel, in Hebrew. He said, well, yeah, we can recognize them now
capitulated, so there is no problem in recognizing them. They can now
a kind of junior partner in controlling the Palestinian population, which
a traditional colonial pattern.
Israel and the United States had made a rather serious error in the occupied
territories. It's not a good idea to try to control a subject population
your own troops. The way it is usually done is, you farm it out to the
That's the way the British ran India for a couple of hundred years.
by Indian troops, often taken from other regions, you know like the Gurkhas
so on. That's the way the United States runs Central America, with
forces, which are called armies, if you can keep them under control.
the way South Africa ran the Black areas. Most of the atrocities are
out by Black mercenaries, and in the Bantustans, it was entirely Blacks.
the standard colonial pattern and it makes a lot of sense. If you have
own troops out there, it causes all kinds of problems. You know, first
they suffer injuries, and these are people who don't like to feel good about
killing people, and their parents get upset and so on and so forth, but if you
have mercenaries or paramilitaries, you don't have those problems. So,
and the United States were going to turn to the standard colonial pattern and
have the Palestinian forces, who in fact mostly came from Tunis, control the
local population - control them economically and politically, as well as
That was the idea, a sensible reversion to standard colonial practice.
Well, let's move a little back to the earlier diplomatic record, which helps
put all of this in context. So, what about the right to resist?
The right to
resist military occupation in the territories, and in Lebanon? That
has been discussed in the international community, though you wouldn't know it
here. In December
1987, which was right at the peak of all of the furor about international
you know, the plague of the modern world, and so on and so forth, the UN
Assembly considered and passed a resolution condemning terrorism very
you know, international terrorism is the worst crime there is, and had all of
right wording in it and so on and so forth. The resolution was passed
2, which is actually pretty normal. The two were the usual ones, the
States and Israel. One country only abstained, Honduras, for unknown
so it was essentially unanimous except for the United States and Israel.
why would the United States and Israel reject, and that means veto since it's
a U.S. vote against, a resolution denouncing terrorism? Well, the reason
because it contained one paragraph which said that nothing in this resolution
prejudices the right of people to struggle against racist and colonialist
and foreign military occupation and to gain the support of others for their
for freedom under these conditions. Well that, the U.S. won't accept of
For example, that would have given the A.N.C. in South Africa the right
the South African regime, which is unacceptable. It would have given the
the right to resist Israeli military occupation and attacks which can't be
and it would have extended to the occupied territories as well. So,
the U.S. and Israel rejected it, and in fact, as usual, it is vetoed from
It was never reported here, it was never mentioned, it might as well not
unless you read this in the literature. It's there, I mean if you go to
UN's dusty records you can find it. But that's the right to
resist, which was
blocked by the United States in 1987 and is out of history.
What about the right to attack? Well, that exists by U.S. fiat, as I
during the 22 years of Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon. With U.S.
they killed tens of thousands of people, probably 40,000 to 50,000, and there
are plenty of atrocities, terrorist iron fist operations in 1985 for
example. But, it's not only there. The right extends much further.
and 1986 are interesting years. That was the peak of the hysteria about
terrorism, you know, the top story and so on and so forth. And, in fact,
was plenty of international terrorism in those years. For example, in
bombed Tunis, killing 75 people, Tunisians and Palestinians, no pretext.
United States publicly backed it, although Schultz, then Secretary of State,
backed off when the Security Council condemned it unanimously as an act of
aggression, namely a war crime, with the U.S. abstaining. The U.S. was
involved. The 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean sort of pulled back so that
Israeli planes would be able to refuel with the 6th Fleet pretending not to
them, and the United States did not warn Tunisia, an ally, that this bombing
attack was coming. So that's a major act of terrorism outside the local
of the Middle East, and there are many others. In fact, the main act of
in that year, sort of garden variety terrorism, was a car bombing in Beirut
killed 80 people and wounded about 200, set off by the C.I.A., British
and Saudi Intelligence, in an effort to kill a Muslim cleric who they missed,
but they got a lot of
their people. It was a car bombing right outside a mosque, timed to go
when everybody would be coming out, so you get maximum killing of civilians.
That's there, but also not in the annals of terrorism, anymore than the
of Tunis, or for example, the U.S. bombing of Libya the next year, which is
act of armed aggression, but considered okay.
I should say that Arab opinion in the Middle East, and here too, is very
about all this in my opinion, pretty clearly in fact. It very
if you read it now or in the past, claims that the United States overlooks
terrorism because of the Jewish influence or Jewish lobby, or something like
that. And this is
simply untrue. It's missing the fact that a much more general principle
to this case and to many others. The principle is that the United States
the right of terrorism and that right is inherited by its clients, and it
matter who they are. So, Israel happens to be a U.S. client, so it
the right of terror.
And you can see this very easily in other parts of the world. Just to
illustration from a different part of the world at the same time, 1987, the
Department conceded what anyone paying attention knew, that the U.S. terrorist
forces attacking Nicaragua were being directed, commanded, and trained to
what were called "soft" targets, meaning defenseless civilian
targets, like agricultural
cooperatives and health centers and so on. And they were able to do this
the U.S. had total control of the air, and surveillance, and was able to
the position of the Nicaraguan army forces to the local terrorist forces
from Honduras, that they could go somewhere else, and so on. That was
publicly, but nobody paid much attention except those who are interested in
things. But the human rights groups did protest. Americas Watch
this, and said this was really awful.
And there was a response, an interesting response that you should read, by
Kinsley, who was a kind of representative of the dovish left in mainstream
and still is. He had an article in which he pointed out, speaking from
left, that it's perfectly true that these terrorist attacks against
undefended targets, in his words, "caused vast civilian suffering but
nevertheless be sensible and legitimate", and the way we decide this is
out "cost benefit analysis", namely, and I'm quoting all through
this, we have
to measure "the amount of blood and misery that we will be pouring
in" and compare
with the outcome, you know, democracy in our sense, meaning ruled by the
world with the population crushed. And if the cost benefit analysis
okay, then it's right to pour in blood and misery and cause vast suffering.
In short, aggression and terror have to meet a pragmatic criterion, and we are
ones who decide whether it's met, not anybody else, and U.S. clients inherit
that right - and it doesn't have to be Israel. It can be anybody else.
it can be Arabs for example. Saddam Hussein is a striking case. In
Saddam Hussein was still a loyal friend and ally, and that's when he committed
his worst crimes, that's the gassing of the Kurds, and so on. The U.S.
that was okay and they continued to support him. They downplayed it, and
him with military equipment, sent agricultural assistance which he badly
The Kurds were in an agricultural region, so Iraq was short of food, so
Bush Administration moved in and that continued. In fact, Iraq, an Arab
was allowed to do something that up until then only Israel had been allowed to
do, mainly attack a U.S. ship and kill sailors. Iraq was permitted to
the USS Stark, the destroyer, and kill 37 crewmen with missiles, and didn't
get a tap on the wrist. That means you're really privileged if you are
to do that. Up until then, the only country that had been allowed to do
was Israel in 1967 in the case of the USS Liberty. And remember, this is
Arab state. That was important. Again, nobody pays much attention
in the region people paid attention. In particular, Iran paid attention.
was part of what convinced Iran to capitulate to Iraq as the U.S. wanted.
other major event that convinced Iran that the U.S. was really serious was the
shooting down of an Iranian airliner. Killing 290 people by an American
in Iranian airspace, it wasn't even a problem. Again it's kind of
here, not very important, but for the Iranians, that was important, and they
understood from these acts that the U.S. was
going to go to any lengths to ensure that Saddam Hussein won, so they
not a small point in the politics of the region. Here, people don't want
think about it, but elsewhere in the world they do.
So, I think the thing to be recognized is, contrary to a lot of the Arab
abroad and here, Washington really is an equal opportunity employer.
it adheres pretty well to a policy of non-discrimination in advocacy of terror
and war crimes, and so on. Other issues are involved, not, you know, who
Well, let's go a couple of steps back further, to 242. Remember that UN
the basic document and the permanent settlement according to the current
was strictly rejectionist, nothing for the Palestinians. It was taken
seriously. There was a threat of war at the time, nuclear war. It
full peace in
return for full withdrawal. There was a deadlock. Israel refused
the Arab states refused full peace. That deadlock was broken in 1971,
Sadat of Egypt, who had just come into office, offered to accept the official
U.S. position. So, he said, yeah, he'll accept full peace with Israel in
for partial withdrawal, didn't even go as far as 242, namely withdrawal from
Egyptian territory. So, if Israel would withdraw from the Sinai, Sadat
agree to full peace. Didn't say anything about the Palestinians, nothing
the West Bank. Israel recognized that officially in response as a
offer. Rabin in
his memoirs later called it a "famous milestone on the path to
Internally in Israel it was understood that they could have peace at this
general peace. One of the leading Labor Party officials, a retired
Haim Bar-Lev, wrote in a Labor Party journal at the time, that's okay, with
offer we can have full peace. The conflict's over, if we decide it's
I think we
should refuse, because if we hold out, we can get more. This would
to withdraw from the Sinai, and I don't think we have to. So therefore,
hold out and abandon peace, and that's what Israel did. Its response was
it would not withdraw to the pre-June borders.
Well, the U.S. was then in a dilemma. Should it continue with its
the policy which in fact it had initiated, UN 242, or should it abandon it,
that means siding with Sadat-Egypt against Israel, or should it abandon its
and side with Israel against Egypt, but that means rescinding UN 242 in
there was an internal conflict. The State Department was in favor of
to this policy. Kissinger, National Security Advisor, wanted what he
stalemate, meaning no diplomacy, no negotiations, just force. And in the
conflict, Kissinger won out. The U.S. effectively rescinded UN
242, which no
and people should understand that.
UN 242 now means what the United States says it means, as do other things,
the meaning of power. It means withdrawal, insofar as the U.S. and
and that's what it's meant ever since. So when Palestinians or Arab
complain that Israel isn't living up to 242, they are just choosing to
ignore the historical record and blindness is not a helpful position if you
in world affairs. You might as well have your eyes open. UN 242
1971 does not exist. It exists only in the Kissingerian sense.
Now, here you
have to be a little nuanced, because officially the U.S. continues to endorse
UN 242 in its
original sense. So you can find statements by Jimmy Carter and Ronald
or you know speechwriters, and George Bush, saying yeah, we insist on 242 in
its original sense. You can't find statements by Clinton. Clinton,
is the first president not even having given lip service to it. But the
is that the lip
service is pure hypocrisy, because while they are adhering to it for public
they are also providing Israel with the wherewithal, the funds, the military
support, the diplomatic support, to violate it, namely to act to integrate the
occupied territories within Israel, so the endorsement of it is hypocritical
and you should
compliment Clinton on having the honesty simply to withdraw it, in effect.
Well, that brings us up to February 1971. The United States has also
all other UN resolutions, except for one, UN resolution 194, December 11,
which called for the right of return of refugees, or a compensation.
technically endorsed by the United States, like they voted for it at the UN
but pure hypocrisy. And again Clinton overcame the hypocrisy. He
for it. So the last vote was unanimous with Israel and the United States
and the Clinton Administration also declared all other related UN resolutions
null and void. It will now only be the Oslo process, so that's honesty
Sadat in 1971 made it very clear, and continued for several years, to make it
clear that if the United States refused to accept a negotiated settlement, he
would be forced to go to war. Nobody took him seriously. A lot of
it was assumed that Arabs didn't know which end of the gun to hold and that
Finally war came in 1973, and it turned out to be a very close thing, and it
scared everyone. There was another near nuclear confrontation and Israel
in deep trouble for awhile. And it was understood that Egypt can't just
off. They're not just a basket case. So, Kissinger moved to the
position, namely exclude Egypt from the conflict. It's the only Arab
so we can't just ignore it, so exclude it from the conflict, then you get
diplomacy. In 1977, comes Sadat's famous trip to Jerusalem, where he was
as a kind of a saint for being the first Arab leader to be willing to talk to
In fact, in Jerusalem, if you look at his speech, it was less forthcoming than
his offer in February 1971. In February 1971, he offered full peace,
about the Palestinians. In his trip to Jerusalem, he insisted on rights
the Palestinians. But that's allowed to enter history. February
1971 is out
of history. I mean
you can't even find it in the scholarly literature. But, the trip to
is in history because at that time the U.S. was compelled to accept the offer,
whereas in February of 1971 it was able to reject the offer. So one is
history, the other is in history. Sadat is a secular saint because of
in 1977, not because of his more forthcoming offer in February 1971.
Well, that goes on to Camp David in 1978 and 1979, under Carter, and it's
a grand moment of the peace process. Israel did agree to withdraw from
as Egypt had offered seven years earlier, and the U.S. at this point had no
but to agree. The result, however, was understood very clearly in
leading Israeli military strategic analyst, Avner Yaniv, pointed out right
that the Camp David settlement eliminates the only Arab deterrent and
allows Israel to continue at will to integrate the occupied territories into
Israel and to attack its northern neighbor, to attack Lebanon, with massive
support in both cases. The Carter Administration rapidly increased
more than half of the total U.S. aid overseas, to make sure that these ends
Well, while all this was going on, there was another current. The
consensus on the issue had shifted. In 1967, there was nothing for the
no Palestinian rights. By the early 70's that was changing. By the
there was an extremely broad international consensus, including just about
calling for Palestinian national rights, alongside of Israel. It
Russians, it included Europe, it included Asia, Latin America, virtually
That came to a head in January 1976, another very important event, crucial for
understanding what's happening now, but out of history, because it tells the
wrong story. You can find it, but you know, it's out of history, again
out of scholarship. In January 1976, the United Nations Security Council
a resolution calling for a two state settlement. It included all the
of UN 242, so everything about Israel's rights and so on, but it added
rights for the Palestinians in the territories that had been occupied, from
Israel was to withdraw according to the original understanding of 242.
what happened to that? Well that resolution was actually brought by what
called the confrontation states, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. It was
by the PLO, though they may have forgotten that. In fact, I suspect they
But in fact according to Israel's UN representative, Chaim Herzog (later
the resolution was actually prepared by the PLO. I don't think that's
but that's what Israel perceives at least. Anyhow, it was certainly
by them, and by the confrontation states, and indeed, by virtually the entire
world. Maybe Khaddafi didn't support it, I don't remember, but
whole world supported it.
And Israel and the United States had to react. Israel reacted in a
by bombing Lebanon. It bombed Lebanon, killing 50 people in some village
was chosen at random. That was reported here, but considered
It was retaliation against the United Nations, in effect. The
reacted in a
simpler way, namely by vetoing the resolution, so it was vetoed by Carter, and
that means vetoed from history. Remember, it's very common for the U.S.
Security Council resolutions. In fact, it's the champion of the world by
shot. But they disappeared from history as well. Carter did the
in 1980, same resolution. But, meanwhile, the international consensus
Here you can begin to understand the significance of the fact that the
of Principles in September of 1993 referred to UN 242 and nothing else.
by then, there is a whole raft of resolutions vetoed by the U.S. at the
Council, but passed at the General Assembly, calling for Palestinian national
rights, and they were not to be part of the permanent settlement under the
version of the peace process. The General Assembly had votes year after
I won't run through the details, but their wording varied a little bit, but
were more or less the same, you know, kind of a two state settlement, national
rights for both groups. The votes were 150 to 2, or something like that.
the U.S. would pick up another vote, from El Salvador, or somebody, but that
was year by year, essentially never reported. They will, in fact,
The last vote was December 1990, 144 to 2, and the date is important.
after that, a couple of weeks after, the United States and Britain bombed
Saddam, remember, had shifted from loyal friend and ally to
Hitler, not because of any crimes, the crimes were fine, but because he had
orders, or maybe misunderstood orders, and that's not permitted, so that's a
standard transition, and therefore, you had to get rid of the beast of
and you know, it's obvious where the power was, so that worked. During
George Bush announced, probably the coming of the New World Order. He
it very simply. What we say goes, said it sort of clearly, certainly
to the Middle East. The rest of the world understood that.
off. Europe disappeared, the Third World was in disarray, Russia was
At this point, the U.S. could simply ram through its own extreme rejectionist
position, and it did. The Madrid conference took place a few months
then you go straight on to Oslo. Then come successive agreements and the
of the territories continues right through the Oslo period. The various
- it's late so I won't run through them, authorize this, the U.S. funds it, it
protects it diplomatically, which brings us up to Camp David and the year
Regarding the public discussion about Barak's remarkable offers and, you know,
forthcoming this and that, and willing to give away everything - there is
no basis for any of that.
There was a focus on Jerusalem, and for good reasons. Jerusalem is
the easiest of all of the problems to solve, and for Clinton and Barak it made
good sense to focus on Jerusalem because then you would divert attention away
from what's important, namely what's going on in the occupied territories, the
settlement, the infrastructure development, the enclaves, and so on. For
it also made good sense to focus on Jerusalem because he is desperately eager
to get support from the Arab states, and the Arab states don't give a damn
happens to the Palestinians. Their populations may, but certainly not
On the other hand, they will find it difficult to abandon control over
sites, because if they do that, their populations will blow up. So, by
on the religious sites, it's kind of a negotiating ploy for Arafat, so they
focused on that, neglecting the crucial problem, what's gone on elsewhere.
I have a couple of Israeli maps with me. These are final status maps,
what it's supposed to look like in the long term. And what it looks like
the long term, briefly, is what's called Jerusalem extends all the way to the
Jordan river, so that splits the West Bank in two, with a substantial city,
Adumim in the
middle and extension all the way. There is another break in the North
through Samaria, includes towns that are settled there. Israel keeps the
river. Jericho is isolated. You end up with four Palestinian
from one another, separated from Jerusalem, but there's some hint that in the
long term, some meaningless connection will be established between them, but
they are essentially completely controlled and surrounded. What's called
extends north of Ramallah, and south of Bethlehem. If you look at the
the area which splits the northern and central and southern settlement areas.
It's kind of modeled on South Africa's policies in the early 60's.
concentrations should be under local administration, but everything else is
over by the dominant power, the resources, the useable land, and so on.
there is massive infrastructure developments that sort of lie behind this.
The U.S. is paying for all of it, of course. That's the marvelous offer
was given. And apart from what's talked about, what actually counts, of
is what's happening on the ground. And what's happening on the ground
implementing this. Finally you can't spend half a day driving through
Bank without seeing it. It's a little harder to drive through Gaza,
it's usually closed off, but essentially the same thing is happening there.
And the situation is extremely serious. Right through the occupation
to 1993, Israel was making sure, and again, when I say Israel, I mean the
States, was making sure that there would be no development in the occupied
So, right after 1993, when Israeli journalists who had covered the
were finally able to go to Jordan, they were shocked by what they saw and they
wrote about it in the Hebrew press. Jordan is a poor country, and Israel
a rich country. Before the 1967 war, the populations in Jordan and the
populations were pretty comparable, in fact, there was more development in the
West Bank. By 1993, it was totally different. In the poorer
there were agricultural development, universities, schools, roads, health
all sorts of things. In the West Bank there was essentially nothing.
could survive by remittances from abroad, or by doing dirty work in Israel,
no development was allowed, and that was very shocking to Israeli reporters,
and it is also backed up in the statistics. The most important work on
topic, if you want to learn about, is by Sara Roy, a researcher at Harvard who
has spent an awful lot of time in the Gaza Strip. Just to give you a
of her figures, current ones, in 1993 electric power usage in the West Bank
Gaza was two thirds that of Egypt, half that of Jordan - and those are poorer
countries, remember. Israel is a rich country. Sanitation and
housing in the
West Bank and Gaza was about 25 percent for Palestinians, 50 percent in Egypt,
and 100 percent in Jordan, and the figures run through that way. GDP,
and consumption per capita declined and then it got worse. After 1993,
been the worst. So
GDP, per capita, and consumption per capita have dropped, according to her,
15 percent in the West Bank and Gaza since 1993 - that's even with large
assistance pouring in, from Europe, mostly.
It's gotten worse in other respects. Up until 1993, the U.S. and Israel
humanitarian aid to come into the territories. UN humanitarian aid was
into the West Bank and Gaza. In 1993, that was restricted. This is
the peace process. After Oslo, heavy customs duties were imposed, lots
restrictions were imposed, you know various kinds of harassment. Now,
Right now, humanitarian aid is blocked. The UN is protesting, but
matter. If the UN protests the blocking of humanitarian aid, and it
register here, it doesn't matter. And it doesn't register here because
not reported. So, they can say, yeah the Israelis are stopping
aid from coming in, and people are starving, and so on, but what does it
as long as people in the United States don't know about it. They
can know in
the Middle East, they can know in Europe, but it makes no difference.
are our choices again.
For the Palestinians themselves, they are under a dual repression, very much
like the Bantustans again, the repression of Israel and the United States, and
then the repression of the local mercenaries who do the work for the
and enrich themselves. It's again a standard, colonial pattern.
taken a look at the Third World sees it.
As for the goals of Oslo, they were stated very nice and neatly by one of the
leading Israeli doves, who is now the Minister of Security in the Barak
and a temporary foreign minister, known as an academic dove, Shlomo Ben-Ami.
In an academic book, 1998, so before he got into the government, he
the goals of Oslo as to impose what he called a permanent neo-colonialist
in the West Bank and Gaza. And that's pretty much accurate, that's what
U.S. has been aiming for through the peace process - period.
As for the population, it's kind of hard to improve on a description by Moshe
Dayan about 30 years ago. He was in the Labor Party, and among the Labor
leaders, he was one of those most noted for his sympathetic attitude towards
Palestinians, and also his realism. And he described what Israeli policy
U.S. policy as well. He said the Palestinians should live like dogs and
wishes may leave, and we'll see where this leads. Reasonable policy, and
U.S. policy as well, and it will continue that way as long as we agree to
it. [Transcription by Angie D'Urso
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