The past few years have proven to be particularly awful for the Palestinian people. The suffocating Israeli siege of Gaza, despite some slight loosening, continues to this day, with Egypt’s active support and Washington’s tacit approval; Israel’s 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, was the single most devastating event for the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories since 1967; Israel’s settlement program proceeds unabated; Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has raised the level of violent confrontation further; and Israel’s crackdown on domestic dissent, particularly among its Palestinian citizens, has reached unprecedented levels with the arrest of activists and threatened measures against Arab MPs.
The Israeli Occupation Archive asked Noam Chomsky for his assessment of the current situation and future prospects.
IOA: The Goldstone report, the Abu Dhabi Mossad assassination, the Gaza Flotilla attack: all these have severely weakened Israel’s international reputation — in Europe, in Turkey, in Egypt. How has the US-Israeli relationship fared through all this, and how has this affected the larger US strategic project in the Middle East and its efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Noam Chomsky: I would add the Gaza attack itself, quite apart from the Goldstone report. It was so savage that it led to a substantial change in attitudes among the general population, though not noticeably among the political class or the media. But governmental relations haven’t changed, and no change should have been expected. Washington strongly supported the Gaza attack, and participated directly in it. The attack was clearly timed so that Obama could keep to the hypocritical “there’s only one president so I cannot comment” stance. It ended, surely by plan, at the moment that he took office, so that he could adopt the posture of “let’s look forward and forget the past,” very convenient for partners in crime. The media and commentators — unanimously, to my knowledge — evaded the central fact about the war: the issue was not whether Israel had a right to defend itself from rockets, but whether it had the right to do so by force. It surely did not, because the US-Israel knew that peaceful means were available but refused to pursue them: accepting Hamas’s offer to renew the cease-fire, which Hamas had observed even though Israel did so only partially. That suffices to establish the criminality of the attack. Disproportionality in the use of force is a minor crime by comparison. The other events you mention had little impact in the US, with one exception: there is now some concern in the US military and intelligence that support for Israeli crimes and intransigence may harm military operations in the field. General David Petraeus quickly retracted his comments to this effect, but others are expressing the same concern, among them Bruce Riedel, an influential long-time senior intelligence official and presidential advisor. Israeli intelligence understands this problem very well. Mossad chief Meir Dagan warned the Israeli Knesset that they are treading on thin ice for this reason. That might prove significant.