Chomsky on Gaza conflict

Gaza’s Torment, Israel’s Crimes, Our Responsibilities
Noam Chomsky
Z
July 12, 2014

At 3am Gaza time, July 9, in the midst of Israel’s latest exercise in savagery, I received a phone call from a young Palestinian journalist in Gaza. In the background, I could hear his infant child wailing, amidst the sounds of explosions and jet planes, targeting any civilian who moves, and homes as well. He just saw a friend of his in a car clearly marked “press” blown away. And he heard shrieks next door after an explosion but can’t go outside or he’ll be a likely target. This is a quiet neighborhood, no military targets – except Palestinians who are fair game for Israel’s high tech US-supplied military machine. He said that 70% of the ambulances have been destroyed, and that by then over 70 had been killed, and of the 300 or so wounded, about 2/3 women and children. Few Hamas activists have been hit – or rocket launching sites. Just the usual victims.

It is important to understand what life is like in Gaza when Israel’s behavior is “restrained,” in between the regular manufactured crises like this one. A good sense is given in a report to UNRWA [Brief report to UNRWA: The Gaza Health Sector as of June 2014: PDF] by Mads Gilbert, the courageous and expert Norwegian physician who has worked extensively in Gaza, also throughout the vicious and murderous Cast Lead operation. In every respect, the situation is disastrous. Just keeping to children, Gilbert reports: “Palestinian children in Gaza are suffering immensely. A large proportion are affected by the man-made malnourishment regime caused by the Israeli imposed blockage. Prevalence of anaemia in children <2yrs in Gaza is at 72.8%, while prevalence of wasting, stunting, underweight have been documented at 34.3%, 31.4%, 31.45% respectively.” And it gets worse as the report proceeds.

When Israel is on “good behavior,” more than two Palestinian children are killed every week, a pattern that goes back over 14 years. The underlying cause is the criminal occupation and the programs to reduce Palestinian life to bare survival in Gaza, while Palestinians are restricted to unviable cantons in the West Bank and Israel takes over what it wants, all in gross violation of international law and explicit Security Council resolutions, not to speak of minimal decency. And it will continue as long as it is supported by Washington and tolerated by Europe – to our everlasting shame.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2015 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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8 Responses to Chomsky on Gaza conflict

  1. Peter Samuel says:

    Agree!
    What about West Bank?
    Gaza people are fighting for a Palestinian state, so why West Bank keep quiet? Are they traitors to the cause?
    It was supposed, both should be fighting together.
    Shame on West Bank.

    Btw, I know another Fatah.

  2. ablokeimet says:

    Well, last I heard there have been widepread protests on the West Bank, including a general strike. Fatah, however, are not happy and have been trying to prevent the protests.

  3. ablokeimet says:

    This post on Live From Occupied Palestine gives an idea of the breadth of the protests – not just in the West Bank, but also in Israel itself:

    http://livefromoccupiedpalestine.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/palestinians-stage-general-strike.html

  4. Futilitarian says:

    The main problem with Hamas is that it’s comprised of authoritarian, quasi-fascist, Jew-hating morons. It fetishises ‘resistance’ for its own sake, knowing that the Israeli response will be vicious in the extreme. This happens like clockwork every few years. More moronic than Hamas are the ordinary Palestinians who comprise its supporters because they are the ones who suffer the most from Hamas’s stupidity.

    It was once possible for Palestinians to cross over from Gaza into Israel to work and trade. There was even co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian unions. All that came to an end with Hamas’s moronic bombing campaigns and the Israeli response in constructing the wall. Hamas’s stupidity has also caused the Israeli electorate to lurch to the right and be more supportive of aggressive anti-Palestinian policies. Each additional act of moronic violence by Hamas impels Israel’s settlement movement to more determinedly pursue the takeover of Palestinian land. Hamas’s ‘methods’ are a lose/lose situation for Palestinians. Freud would say that Hamas, and its Gazan supporters, are being driven by the death drive. There’s definitely something like that happening there.

    Predictably, the rhetoric of Marxist-Leninists is always in support of Hamas, no matter how stupid and self-defeating its actions may be. Leninists dare not act contrarily to Lenin’s dogma that whomever fights for ‘national self-determination’ ought to be slavishly supported. Seemingly, this dogma sometimes finds its way into anarchist thinking as well.

  5. Ablokeimet says:

    It’s difficult to tell which of Futilitarian’s appalling misinterpretations need correcting first. I’ll therefore take them in the order they appear.

    “The main problem with Hamas is that it’s comprised of authoritarian, quasi-fascist, Jew-hating morons.”

    No. It’s definitely a problem, but not the main problem. And, while the leadership hates Jews, that need not necessarily be the case with all the members. Some may have been attracted because it is the biggest resistance organisation in Gaza. Some may have been attracted because of the workings of political patronage.

    The biggest problem with Hamas is that it is a reactionary religious party, that oppresses the Palestinians over whom it rules and has signalled its willingness to sell the Palestinians down the river as long as Israel offers a deal marginally better than the one Fatah accepted. It has signalled it rather than announced it formally, because it saw the result of Fatah giving Israel what it wanted as part of an interim settlement – once Israel had what it wanted, it no longer had any incentive to offer ground. Having learnt that lesson, Hamas is giving no commitments until it gets a final deal. They may be ratbags, but they’re not mugs.

    “It fetishises ‘resistance’ for its own sake, knowing that the Israeli response will be vicious in the extreme. This happens like clockwork every few years. ”

    Israel has, quite deliberately, left very few ways for Palestinians to resist. Those who counsel against Hamas’ tactics are obliged to offer better ones. I note that Futilitarian hasn’t done so. Criticising the tactics of Hamas while offering no alternative is to counsel capitulation.

    “It was once possible for Palestinians to cross over from Gaza into Israel to work and trade. There was even co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian unions. All that came to an end with Hamas’s moronic bombing campaigns and the Israeli response in constructing the wall. Hamas’s stupidity has also caused the Israeli electorate to lurch to the right and be more supportive of aggressive anti-Palestinian policies.”

    How about if we blame the perpetrator, not the victim? The same logic criticises a woman for “leading on” the man who raped her. Israel’s actions are not “self defence”, but aggressive attempts to force Palestinian capitulation to Israeli Government policy.

    “Each additional act of moronic violence by Hamas impels Israel’s settlement movement to more determinedly pursue the takeover of Palestinian land. Hamas’s ‘methods’ are a lose/lose situation for Palestinians.”

    Wrong. Israel’s settlement movement is only emboldened by Palestinian “quiet”. The Oslo Accords, which ended the First Intifada, were the prelude to a massive expansion of settlements – in complete contravention of Israel’s obligations under those Accords. Israel wants “quiet” from the Palestinians so that it can focus its energies and resources on continuing to steal Palestinian land.

    “Predictably, the rhetoric of Marxist-Leninists is always in support of Hamas, no matter how stupid and self-defeating its actions may be.”

    It is an act of absolute political ignorance to refer to “Marxist-Leninists” in the way Futilitarian does. The term “Marxist-Leninist” means Maoist and includes neither Trotskyists nor Moscow line Stalinists. In theory, it shouldn’t, but the Maoists own the term now, just as the Nazis own the term “national socialist”.

    “Leninists dare not act contrarily to Lenin’s dogma that whomever fights for ‘national self-determination’ ought to be slavishly supported.”

    It’s certainly true that Stalinists operate in this way. They divide the world into “good peoples” and “bad peoples” and provide unconditional support to whatever the movements of the “good peoples” do. Trotskyists avoid that particular political crime, but often fall into one of a somewhat lesser scale – providing a degree of political support to a national liberation movement. Basically, the more opportunist the Trotskyists are, the more likely they are to provide political support. The Sparts, however, never do this. They withhold political support, while supporting the military victory of the liberation movement over the imperialist power.

    From my observation, the Spartacist approach is Lenin’s one. Anarchists often underestimate Lenin and don’t acknowledge how determined he was to overthrow capitalism around the world (basically reading the practices of current Stalinist and Trotskyist groups back onto him). Our disagreement with Lenin is not on whether capitalism should be destroyed world-wide, but on the nature of revolutionary organisation (he wanted a vanguard party and we vehemently oppose the proposition) and on the question of the State (Lenin wanted to smash the capitalist State and create a workers’ State, while we, though we agree with the first proposition, oppose the latter and instead propose mass organs of workers’ democracy, organised on the basis of consistent federalism).

    If Lenin was as slavishly opportunist as most of the current organisations that claim his heritage, the Bolsheviks would have gone to water in August 1914 and lined up behind their own ruling class over World War I, just as every other section of the Second International except the Serbians. Instead, Lenin opposed the War, just as the Australian IWW did, as well as most prominent Anarchists around the world (though not, to his eternal disgrace, Peter Kropotkin). If Anarchism is ever to eclipse Leninism on the Left, we must not under-estimate our rival.

    Finally, there is the question of answering the challenge I posed to Futilitarian. My proposal is certainly not capable of success in the immediate future, but neither is any other path. It is based on what is required to win and the steps required to get there.

    Basically, the Zionist fortress has to be cracked from within. Workers’ revolution has to overthrow the Zionist regime in Israel and establish libertarian communism. Before that can happen, however, revolution has to sweep the Arab world. The working class of most important Arab countries, with the definite inclusion of Egypt, would have to rise up to overthrow the sheiks, the generals and the tin pot self-styled “Caliph”. It is only by overthrowing capitalism across the Arab world that the rug can be pulled out from under the Zionists.

    It is well known across the Arab world that the Palestinians cannot achieve their liberation unless the existing Arab regimes are overthrown. It will be clearer than ever after the current war, in which both Egypt and the House of Saud have given Israel full and public backing. It is not widely understood, however, that this liberation would not be achieved by secular nationalist pan-Arab solidarity or by pan-Arab Islamic jihad. Both political strategies lead to military confrontation which Israel, backed by the United States and in possession of nuclear weapons, would win – or to a genocidal massacre in which both the Palestinians and the Jews were annihilated and many Arab cities destroyed.

    It is only, therefore, by cracking Israel from within that Zionism can be defeated and the Palestinians have their liberation. And that will take successful class struggle that overthrows capitalism.

    Forget about the Two State Solution. Forget about the One State Solution. The only solution is the No State Solution.

  6. Futilitarian says:

    Strewth, Ablokeimet, you must’ve had a pretty slow weekend to want to sit down and come up with this piece of over-theoretised, over-speculated, pompous nonsense. I didn’t even bother reading it to the end. My days of finding undergraduate-style political argumentation interesting are far behind me. I stand by my “misinterpretations,” though, because that’s how I happened to view events. My experience is my experience.

    I’m astounded that you’re suggesting a condition of my criticism of Hamas’s madness should be that I provide an alternate strategy for Palestine. Only the most convinced utopian millenarian would attempt that one. I exempt myself from that kind of vanity but thanks for the invitation. I reject also your “blaming the victim” accusation. I’m ascribing blame to no victim; I’m ascribing it to an active agent in the current round of bloody madness, i.e. Hamas, who, outnumbered and out-gunned, insists on engaging in strategies that provoke death and destruction upon the people and property of Gaza, and retard the process of self-determination further and further. Breaking the cease-fire yesterday (or the day before?) was a smart move, too, wasn’t it? Their foolishness continues and continues.

    By the way, in relation to your ‘woman as victim’ scenario, are you saying that a woman’s appearance, or manner of dress, or manner of carrying herself, has *nothing whatsoever* to do with exciting a male assault upon her, given the nature of male sexuality, especially when attached to a sociopathic personality? After all, the rationale behind Muslim women’s covering-up is precisely not to excite male passions. I guess, for utopians, cause-and-effect doesn’t operate in some instances.

    As regards “Marxism-Leninism,” I’ve never met a Trotskyist who didn’t regard him or herself as a Marxist and a Leninist. Ditto with the old-style, pro-Soviet Communists; they explicitly used the term, in fact. The Maoists may have sought to obtain the copyright but their opponents didn’t relinquish it. I used it as an umbrella term for the whole gamut of Leninoid pathologies. Sorry it didn’t please you but you’re quite wrong to say that it *only* refers to Maoism.

    I guess you didn’t have a problem with Freud’s death drive?

    Love your punch-line. Only in your dreams.

  7. ablokeimet says:

    Futilitarian has been sufficiently provoked to reject my arguments, but not sufficiently provoked to rebut them. I note:

    1. Ad hominem argument:

    “Strewth, Ablokeimet, you must’ve had a pretty slow weekend to want to sit down and come up with this piece of over-theoretised, over-speculated, pompous nonsense. I didn’t even bother reading it to the end. My days of finding undergraduate-style political argumentation interesting are far behind me.”

    For the record, I graduated about three decades ago.

    2. Dodging the question:

    “I’m astounded that you’re suggesting a condition of my criticism of Hamas’s madness should be that I provide an alternate strategy for Palestine. Only the most convinced utopian millenarian would attempt that one.”

    On what basis could anyone consider Futilitarian to be someone other than a closet Zionist? He/she criticises Hamas but offers no alternative strategy for the Palestinians. He/she doesn’t even acknowledge that the Palestinians, as an occupied people, have the right to use reasonable force in self defence and resist the occupation. The implication is, therefore, that the Palestinians should just sit back and cop it, while Israel continues stealing land, expanding the settlements and turning the Palestinians into prisoners.

    3. Falling for Zionist propaganda:

    “Breaking the cease-fire yesterday (or the day before?) was a smart move, too, wasn’t it?”

    We only have Israel’s word that Hamas violated the ceasefire – and Israel has lied about this sort of issue consistently, both in this war and previous ones.

    4. Extending the victim-blaming to women:

    “… are you saying that a woman’s appearance, or manner of dress, or manner of carrying herself, has *nothing whatsoever* to do with exciting a male assault upon her, given the nature of male sexuality, especially when attached to a sociopathic personality? After all, the rationale behind Muslim women’s covering-up is precisely not to excite male passions. I guess, for utopians, cause-and-effect doesn’t operate in some instances.”

    This is a doozy! Futilitarian is:

    (a) Ignoring the fact that dressing “modestly”, being “ugly” or being “unprovocative” is no guarantee for women of immunity from sexual assault;

    (b) Ignoring the fact that women are entitled to dress how they want, be as beautiful or otherwise as nature had dictated for them and “carry themselves” in any way that a man is entitled to; and

    (c) Essentialising male sexuality as a natural and unchangeable violent force, for which men are not responsible but for which women are responsible for managing.

    The parallels with Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians are striking. Futilitarian treats Israel as a force of nature, not subject to ethical judgment, but demands that the Palestinians not “provoke” it. The blame for the violence of Israel is thus attributed to the Palestinians, just as women are often blamed for “provoking” men to rape them, merely by doing things they are actually entitled to do.

    5. Arrogated to him/herself the right to define words in the English language:

    “I used it as an umbrella term for the whole gamut of Leninoid pathologies. Sorry it didn’t please you but you’re quite wrong to say that it *only* refers to Maoism.”

    What I did was explain what the term “Marxist-Leninist” means in the English language already, when used by the vast majority of people who use it. Because of the way political debate has been conducted over the course of decades, to be a “Marxist-Leninist” is now a different thing to being a “Marxist and a Leninist”. It’s not my decision – it’s the decision of the people who speak the English language. Futilitarian’s position reminds me of the following exchange:

    > “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what
    > I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

    > “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

    > “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

    - Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass.

    To conclude, I repeat my challenge to Futilitarian. What course of action is he/she recommending? Capitulation? Or something else?

  8. Futilitarian says:

    Something else.

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