A conversation with Noam Chomsky on Palestine/Israel, covering Zionism, the nature of statehood, bi-national / one-state / two-state solutions, the right of return, and the BDS movement – its actions, and their impacts on the Palestinian people. Filmed September 2nd, 2010.
Henning Mankell, aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla: “We have been attacked while in international waters. That means the Israelis have behaved like pirates … The moment they start to steer this ship towards Israel, we have also been kidnapped. The whole action is illegal.”
It is not our right or responsibility to lecture the Palestinian leadership on what they should do. That is up to the Palestinians to decide. But it is very definitely our responsibility to focus attention on what we should be doing. Of prime importance is to educate and organize the American public and to develop popular forces that can overcome the dominant propaganda images that sustain the US policies that have been undermining Palestinian rights.
IOA Editor: And much more from Noam Chomsky on the US and Israeli dynamics of the Occupation, and on approaches available to the anti-Occupation movement, including detailed comments on BDS.
[Israel's] refusal to negotiate in 1971 led to the grimmest moment in [its] history, and preference for expansion over security and diplomacy has had dire consequences since, with perhaps worse to come. Israel often speaks of an “existential threat.” The most immediate and severe “existential threat” is its unwillingness to pursue diplomatic options that are open.
Noam Chomsky talks about US and Israeli aggression in Lebanon and the Middle East, criticizing Obama’s right-wing policies, war making, medical care, coziness with commercial interests. He warns of the coming war in Kandahar and Israel’s possible attack on Iran that could go nuclear.
Like other states, Israel has the right of self-defense. But did Israel have the right to use force in Gaza in the name of self-defense? International law, including the U.N. Charter, is unambiguous: A nation has such a right only if it has exhausted peaceful means. In this case such means were not even tried, although—or perhaps because—there was every reason to suppose that they would succeed. Thus the invasion was sheer criminal aggression, and the same is true of Israel’s resorting to force against the flotilla.
Hijacking boats in international waters and killing passengers is, of course, a serious crime… For decades, Israel has been hijacking boats in international waters between Cyprus and Lebanon, killing or kidnapping passengers, sometimes bringing them to prisons in Israel including secret prison/torture chambers, sometimes holding them as hostages for many years. Israel assumes that it can carry out such crimes with impunity because the US tolerates them and Europe generally follows the US lead.
IOA Editor: UPDATED to correct an omission from Noam Chomsky’s statement on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
Citing the US and Israeli refusal of the Arab Peace Initiative since 1976 until this day, Chomsky countered the mainstream argument that it is Palestinian rejectionism that is blocking a settlement. “These facts are not part of general discourse because they lead to the wrong conclusion. The most crucial facts are invisible if they do not conform to the interests of power,” he said. “If the US changes its policy, Israel has no option but to go along – the parameters agreed upon at Taba would be a start.”
“Denying my entry to the West Bank was a minor event, but significant because it indicates irrational behavior on the part of Israel,” the linguist Noam Chomsky said at the start of his lecture last Tuesday to a few dozen students and faculty members of Bir Zeit University. He delivered his lecture, “Americans and the World,” by video conference, of course: He in Amman, his audience in one of the university’s lecture halls.
Noam Chomsky interviewed by a raving Israeli Channel 2 News reporter.
Please consider adding your name to the protest of Israel’s barring Noam Chomsky from entering the West Bank in order to deliver a speech at Birzeit University.
[N]either Chomsky nor I are have any illusions about the limits of the aforementioned initiatives or their possible (if not probable) failure in the face of Israel’s hubris and the power disparity between the parties. But Chomsky also alluded to the lesson of a movement that succeeded, not by waiting for favorable political conditions to hand it the vision it sought, but by moving ahead with building its project and waiting for the right political conditions to incrementally achieve what it did.
Gush Shalom wrote to the Minister of the Interior – and considers a Supreme Court appeal – demanding clear and transparent criteria for who shall be denied entry into the country and for what arguments. “Such decisions cannot be left to anonymous officials and security operatives, who become a thought police and censor political opinions.”
Gideon Levy on Israeli-style democracy, one that is run by a military elite: “After we sent Prof. Noam Chomsky away, and there was no sharp rebuke by Israeli academics (who in their silence support a boycott of Bir Zeit University), we will be left with a narrow and frightening intellectual world.”
“Israel,” Chomsky was informed, “doesn’t like what you say.” Is this a reasonable pretext for a democratic state to detain someone for questioning or hold him up at the border? And who is this “Israel” that doesn’t like what Chomsky says? The general public? The Interior Ministry? The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories? The government?
Chomsky spoke yesterday to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whom he was supposed to meet in Ramallah. Fayyad’s office released a statement saying the two men “discussed the political situation and developments in Palestine.” Fayyad said he “strongly condemns the decision of the occupation forces to prevent Chomsky from entering Palestinian land.”
Noam Chomsky: “The first point was that they don’t like my opinions about Israeli policies, which is true of every other country but has never stopped me coming and giving lectures before. The second, most crucial point was that they didn’t like the fact that I was visiting the West Bank but then not going on to speak in Israel. The issue was going to Birzeit, just as I would any other university, without specific Israeli approval. I would say that is very unusual, perhaps unique, outside totalitarian states.”
I have never heard of a democratic state denying entry to thinkers… who neither call for violence or break local or international law. So what on earth is happening to Israel? … If anything, barring Chomsky gives ammunition to those who say that Israel is infringing on academic freedom in the Palestinian Authority, and that a boycott against its universities is therefore justified.
Amira Hass: Chomsky told Haaretz that he supports a two-state solution, but not the solution proposed by Jerusalem, “pieces of land that will be called a state.” He said that Israel’s behavior today reminds him of that of South Africa in the 1960s, when it realized that it was already considered a pariah, but thought that it would resolve the problem with better public relations.
IOA Editor: See also Al-Jazeera: Chomsky ban – “An end to freedom”?
Noam Chomsky… has been barred from entering the West Bank… across the Allenby Bridge from Jordan on Sunday. The linguistics professor, who frequently speaks out against Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, had been scheduled to give a lecture at Birzeit University in the West Bank. (Video interview with Noam Chomsky)
Noam Chomsky: “The government did not like the kinds of things I say and they did not like that I was only talking at Bir Zeit and not at an Israeli university too,” he said… I asked them if they could find any government in the world that likes the things I say.”
Amira Hass: Left-wing American linguist Professor Noam Chomsky was denied entry into Israel on Sunday, for reasons that were not immediately clear. Chomsky, who was scheduled to deliver a lecture at Bir Zeit University near Jerusalem, told the Right to Enter activist group by telephone that inspectors had stamped the words “denied entry” onto his passport when he tried to cross from Jordan over Allenby Bridge.
The original language of this story referred to “entry into Israel;” it was subsequently revised to read “entry into Israel and West Bank.” In reality, the Israeli authorities denied Chomsky the right of entry into the West Bank — he did not seek entry into Israel — a territory Israel controls by military force, for nearly 43 years, against the wishes of its Palestinian inhabitants and in violation of numerous international laws, conventions, and UN resolutions. It is interesting that the Israeli media (both Haaretz and Ynet) misrepresent this story by referring to it as a denial of entry to “Israel.”
“Iran is perceived as a threat because they did not obey the orders of the United States. Militarily this threat is irrelevant. This country has not behaved aggressively beyond its borders for centuries. Israel invaded Lebanon with the blessing and help of the US five times in thirty years. Iran has not done anything like this.”
Many of Israel’s critics blame an “Israel lobby” for the near-total complicity of the US in Israeli annexation, colonization and cleansing programs in the occupied West Bank… Years after Noam Chomsky, Stephen Zunes, Walter Russell Mead published their critiques of the Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer “Israel lobby” thesis, many of the sharpest critics of Israel continue to attribute US foreign policy in the Middle East to the influence of the lobby. Given the prevalence of the Israel lobby argument, and the latest diplomatic confrontation between the US and Israel, it is important to revisit the flaws in the thesis, and properly attribute US behavior to the large concentrations of domestic political and economic power that truly drive US policy.
IOA Editor: The question: Noam Chomsky or Stephen Walt/John Mearsheimer? Very important!