On Israel, Lebanon and
Noam Chomsky interviewed
by Kaveh Afrasiabi |
Middle East Online, August 7,
Do you agree with the argument that Israel's
military offensive in Lebanon is "legally and morally justified?"
Noam Chomsky: The invasion itself is a serious breach
of international law, and major war crimes are being committed as it
proceeds. There is no legal justification. The "moral justification" is supposed to be that
capturing soldiers in a cross-border raid, and killing others, is an
outrageous crime. We know, for certain, that Israel, the United States
and other Western governments, as well as the mainstream of articulate
Western opinion, do not believe a word of that. Sufficient evidence is
their tolerance for many years of US-backed Israeli crimes in Lebanon,
including four invasions before this one, occupation in violation of
Security Council orders for 22 years, and regular killings and
abductions. To mention just one question that every journal should be
answering: When did NasrAllah
assume a leadership role? Answer: When the
Rabin government escalated its crimes in Lebanon, murdering Sheikh Abbas
Mussawi and his wife and child with missiles fired from a US helicopter.
was chosen as his successor. Only one of innumerable cases.
There is, after all, a good reason why last February, 70% of Lebanese
called for the capture of Israeli soldiers for prisoner exchange.
The conclusion is underscored, dramatically, by the
current upsurge of violence, which began after the capture of Corporal
Gilad Shalit on June 25. Every published Western "timeline" takes that
as the opening event. Yet the day before, Israeli forces kidnapped two
Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother, and sent them to the Israeli
prison system where they can join innumerable other Palestinians, many
held without charges -- hence kidnapped. Kidnapping of civilians is a
far worse crime than capture of soldiers. The Western response was quite
revealing: a few casual comments, otherwise silence. The major media did
not even bother reporting it. That fact alone demonstrates, with brutal
clarity, that there is no moral justification for the sharp escalation
of attacks in Gaza or the destruction of Lebanon, and that the Western
show of outrage about kidnapping is cynical fraud.
Much has been said about Israel's right to defend
itself from its enemies who are taking advantage of Israel's withdrawal
from Gaza, thus causing the latest chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Do you agree?
NC: Israel certainly has a right to defend itself,
but no state has the right to "defend" occupied territories. When the
World Court condemned Israel's "separation wall," even a US Justice,
Judge Buergenthal, declared that any part of it built to defend Israeli
settlements is "ipso facto in violation of international humanitarian
law," because the settlements themselves are illegal.
The withdrawal of a few thousand illegal settlers
from Gaza was publicly announced as a West Bank expansion plan. It has
now been formalized by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with the support of
Washington, as a program of annexation of valuable occupied lands and
major resources (particularly water) and cantonization of the remaining
territories, virtually separated from one another and from whatever
pitiful piece of Jerusalem will be granted to Palestinians. All are to
be imprisoned, since Israel is to take over the Jordan valley. Gaza,
too, remains imprisoned and Israel carries out attacks there at will.
Gaza and the West Bank are recognized to be a unit,
by the United States and Israel as well. Therefore, Israel still
occupies Gaza, and cannot claim self-defense in territories it occupies
in either of the two parts of Palestine. It is Israel and the United
States that are radically violating international law. They are now
seeking to consummate long-standing plans to eliminate Palestinian
national rights for good.
The United States has refused to call for an
immediate cease-fire, arguing that this would mean a return to the
status quo ante, yet we are witnessing a "back to the past"
re-occupation of parts of Lebanon, and Lebanon's rapid decline to
political chaos by the current conflict. Is the US policy correct?
NC: It is correct from the point of view of those who
want to ensure that Israel, by now virtually an offshore US military
base and high-tech center, dominates the region, without any challenge
to its rule as it proceeds to destroy Palestine. And there are side
advantages, such as eliminating any Lebanese-based deterrent if
US-Israel decide to attack Iran.
They may also hope to set up a client regime in
Lebanon of the kind that Ariel Sharon sought to create when he invaded
Lebanon in 1982, destroying much of the country and killing some
What will be the likely outcome of this "two-pronged"
crisis in Lebanon and the occupied territories, in the near and
NC: We cannot predict much. There are too many
uncertainties. One very likely consequence, as the United States and
Israel surely anticipated, is a significant increase in jihadi-style
terrorism as anger and hatred directed against the United States,
Israel, and Britain sweep the Arab and Muslim worlds. Another is that
, whether he survives or is killed, will become an even more
important symbol of resistance to US-Israeli aggression. Hezbollah
already has a phenomenal 87% support in Lebanon itself, and its
resistance has energized popular opinion to such an extent that even the
oldest and closest US allies have been compelled to say that "If the
peace option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance, then only the war
option remains, and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region,
including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those
whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire." That's
from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who knows better than to condemn the
United States directly.
What steps do you recommend for the current
hostilities to be brought to an end and a lasting peace established?
NC: The basic steps are well understood: a cease-fire
and exchange of prisoners; withdrawal of occupying forces; continuation
of the "national dialogue" within Lebanon; and acceptance of the very
broad international consensus on a two-state settlement for
Israel-Palestine, which has been unilaterally blocked by the United
States and Israel for thirty years. There is, as always, much more to
say, but those are the essentials.