Following is an excerpt of Professor Chomsky’s interview with Christiana Voniati, who is head of International News Department POLITIS Newspaper, Nicosia, Cyprus.
By Christiana Voniati | Countercurrents.org, Feb 16, 2009
Voniati: The international public opinion and especially the Muslim world seem to have great expectations from the historic election of Obama. Can we, in your opinion, expect any real change regarding the US approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Chomsky: Not much. Quite the contrary: it may be harsher than before. In the case of Gaza, Obama maintained silence, he didn’t say a word. He said well there’s only one president so I can’t talk about it. Of course he was talking about a lot of other things but he chose not to talk about this. His campaign did repeat a statement that he had made while visiting Israel six months earlier –he had visited Sderot where the rockets hit- and he said “if this where happening to my daughters, I wouldn’t think of any reaction as legitimate”, but he couldn’t say anything about Palestinian children. Now, the attack on Gaza was at time so that it ended right before the inauguration, which is what I expected. I presume that the point was so that they could make sure that Obama didn’t have to say something, so he didn’t. And then he gave his first foreign policy declaration, it was a couple of days later when he appointed George Mitchell as his emissary, and he said nothing about Gaza except that “our paramount interest is preserving the security of Israel”. Palestine apparently doesn’t have any requirement of security. And then in his declaration he said of course we are not going to deal with Hamas -the elected government the US immediately, as soon as the government was elected in a free election the US and Israel with the help of European Union immediately started severely punishing the Palestinian population for voting in the “wrong way” in a free election and that’s what we mean by democracy. The only substantive comment he made in the declaration was to say that the arab peace plan had constructive elements, because it called for a normalization of relations with Israel and he urged the arab states to proceed with the normalization of relations. Now, he is an intelligent person, he knows that that was not what the arab peace plan said. The arab peace plan called for a two state settlement on the international border that is in accord with the long standing international consensus that the US has blocked for over 30 years and in that context of the two state settlement we should even proceed further and move towards a normalization of relations with Israel. Well, Obama carefully excluded the main content about the two state settlement and just talked about the corollary, for which a two state settlement is a precondition. Now that’s not an oversight, it can’t be. That’s a careful wording, sending the message that we are not going to change their (Israel’s) rejectionist policy. We ‘ll continue to be opposed to the international consensus on this issue, and everything else he said accords with it. We will continue in other words to support Israel’s settlement policies- those policies are undermining any possible opportunity or hope for a viable Palestinian entity of some kind. And it’s a continued reliance on force in both parts of occupied Palestine. That’s the only conclusion you could draw.
Voniati: Let us talk about the timing of the assault on the Gaza Strip. Was it accidental or did it purposefully happen in a vacuum of power? To explain myself, the global financial crisis has challenged the almost absolute US global hegemony. Furthermore, the attack on Gaza was launched during the presidential change of guard. So, did this vacuum of power benefit the Israeli assault on Gaza?