“What about Israel?”

The quotes below are produced from an interview by Noam Chomsky, delivered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, on 2013-06-20; the excerpt is taken from the brand-new book named “Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy” where David Barsamian has interviewed Chomsky.

When reading books I highlight everything that’s interesting to me. Usually this amounts to a few notes per book. For this book, which I’ve so far not even read a tenth of, I’ve tried not to highlight nearly everything, which is not an exaggeration.

Yet again, the below is from 2013, more than four years before the Trump administration decided to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

David Barsamian: What about Israel? Viewed in the long term, the occupation seems self-destructive. And even former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former Shin Bet leaders have basically acknowledged this. So why does Israel persist?

Noam Chomsky: I would question the word “acknowledged.” The way they’re presenting the situation, Olmert and the others, is that we either accept a two-state settlement or else there will be one state with the so-called demographic problem—too many Palestinians in a Jewish state. Either we will have to move to intolerable apartheid, they say, or else we will disappear. Those are the alternatives they offer.

The trouble is, those aren’t the alternatives. It’s a delusion. And I’m sure they know it. The alternatives are either a two-state solution along the lines of the international consensus—or Israel and the United States continue doing exactly what they’re doing right now.

And you can see that very clearly. The policy is explicit. It’s being implemented before our eyes. First, separate Gaza from the West Bank. That’s in violation of the Oslo Agreements, but who cares? It’s a crucial step, because it means any autonomous government in the West Bank, however limited, will be cut off from the outside world. Gaza stays under a state of harsh siege, and as for the West Bank, Israel takes over the Jordan Valley—which is, in fact, what it’s doing. Step by step, every couple of days, kick out another village, drill some more wells, and so on. Do it quietly, so the goyim don’t notice—or at least pretend not to notice.

And then Israel will take over maybe 40 percent of the region that’s left: the areas inside the so-called Separation Wall, which is actually an annexation wall; Greater Jerusalem, a hugely expanded area around Jerusalem proper; a couple of corridors extending through the occupied territories—one to the east of Greater Jerusalem through Ma’ale Adumim, which virtually bisects the West Bank, and one to the north that takes in the city of Ariel and cuts off most of the rest of the West Bank. Meanwhile, move the Palestinians out, but slowly, a village at a time, without fanfare or international publicity.

When all of this is integrated into Israel, there’s not going to be any “demographic problem.” There will be very few Arabs in the areas that Israel will ultimately integrate. No civil rights struggle, no anti-apartheid struggle. And the Palestinians will be left with a couple of small cantons that can supervise newspaper deliveries in the morning or maybe collect some taxes.

This has been going on for a hundred years. Quietly “create facts on the ground” without talking about it—that’s been the traditional method of Zionist colonization. The Palestinians who remain are completely hemmed in. They don’t even have access to Jordan, which is a U.S. client state.

There are some exceptions. In postcolonial systems, privileged elites have to be given a little piece of the action. If you go to the poorest, most repressed Third World countries, there’s a privileged elite living in amazing luxury. That’s what’s happening in Ramallah, which is kind of like Paris and London. The Palestinian elite have a nice life there. So let that continue. That will kind of pacify them. And the rest of the population, let them rot.

That’s the policy that’s being carried out. That’s the alternative to a two-state settlement. There is no one-state alternative. It’s not an option.

Whatever Olmert may say, he’s smart enough to know that Israel is not going to allow one state to emerge, for exactly the reasons he says. They don’t have to, because they can continue the current policy. So, I hate to say it, but those who think they’re helping the Palestinians by calling for one state are in practice supporting the continuation of the current policies, which may lead to some form of Palestinian autonomy, but of an utterly fragmented, meaningless kind.

Those are the alternatives—and that’s what you have to face if you want to live in this world, not some world of abstractions in philosophy seminars.

David Barsamian: Why does the U.S. government persist in its support of Israeli policies?

Noam Chomsky: The primary reasons have been geostrategic. But Israel also has close links with U.S. military and intelligence. An illustration comes via WikiLeaks, which exposed a diplomatic cable listing sites of uniquely high significance to the United States. One was near Haifa: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, manufacturer of drones and other high-tech military equipment. It’s so closely linked to the U.S. military industry that it shifted its headquarters to Washington to be closer to the money.1

Israel has also been called upon to perform secondary services for the United States. For example, enabling Ronald Reagan to evade congressional restrictions to pursue his terrorist wars in Central America.2 And it’s highly valued by U.S. investors. Intel has established a major plant there for a new generation of chips. Warren Buffett recently said, after purchasing a major Israeli company, that “Israel is the leading, largest and most promising investment hub outside the United States.3

Apart from numerous such advantages, there are significant cultural factors. Elite Christian Zionism, based on biblical mythology, goes back long before Jewish Zionism. And particularly since 1948, it has been joined by the Zionist extremism of the vast evangelical movement, by now a substantial part of the Republican Party’s base.

We should also not overlook another reason. The three countries that are most supportive of Israel are the United States, Australia, and Canada—all settler-colonial societies that virtually exterminated their indigenous populations. What Israel is doing seems quite consistent with their own national images.

Then there are the significant lobbies that support Israel: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the military industry, evangelicals, and others. In contrast, Palestinians lack all of these. They have neither wealth, nor power, nor support among the powerful, so they have no rights, by normal principles of statecraft.

Finally, one should not forget the dependency in the relationship, and its significance. When the United States puts its foot down, Israel must obey. That has happened repeatedly, from Reagan to George W. Bush.

David Barsamian: What will it take to change U.S. policy?

Noam Chomsky: The primary mechanism is the usual one: popular organization and activism. That can have an effect. There is also some concern in the military and intelligence about Israeli policies and their impact on U.S. interests. So far that concern has been mostly squashed, but it could become a factor. If the Arab oil producers or Europe were to pursue an independent course, that could also have an effect.

  1. Barak Ravid and Reuters, “WikiLeaks: Israel Weapons Manufacturer Listed as Site Vital to U.S. Interests,” Haaretz, 6 December 2010. Available online at: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/wikileaks-israel-weapons-manufacturer-listed-as-site-vital-to-u-s-interests-1.329222[back]
  2. For analysis, see Noam Chomsky, The Culture of Terrorism, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015).[back]
  3. Elise Ackerman, “Israeli Software Maker Varonis Systems Files for IPO,” Forbes, 23 October 2013.[back]
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