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Noam Chomsky: What needs to be done has been clear for decades

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. We’re in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Professor Noam Chomsky. Thanks for joining us again. So you’ve done a lot of work on what’s going on in the Middle East. You’ve been there recently. What’s your take?

NOAM CHOMSKY, PROF. LINGUISTICS, MIT: There’s a core problem, the Israel-Palestine issue. There’s other problems, but that’s the core one. And there are a lot of problems in the world for which it’s pretty hard to figure out a solution. This one happens to be uniquely easy to figure out the solution–there is one. It’s been on the table for 35 years. Virtually the entire world supports it. The only holdouts are the United States and Israel. At least in theory and words, Europe, the Non-Aligned countries, the Arab states, the Organization of Islamic States, which includes Iran, they basically all agree on a political settlement on the internationally recognized border. It’s the so-called Green Line, pre-’67 borders, with two states, Israel and a Palestinian state in the occupied territories, and possibly some adjustment of the border. It was a ceasefire line. So when the US was still part of this consensus, it called for moderate and mutual border adjustments. That was actually brought to the Security Council in January 1976. The US vetoed it. Again in 1980 it was–. I won’t run through the whole record, but it’s basically a record of US refusal to accept it. Of course Israel refuses. They want to take over as much as is valuable to them of the occupied territories. Now, since, there actually is one occasion when the US came close to accepting it. That was in January 2001, Clinton’s last month in office. He did–he provided what he called “parameters” for settlement. Both sides accept them, as he pointed out. They met for a week in Taba, Egypt, tried to work out the details, and they apparently came pretty close to a settlement.

JAY: I was in the Middle East recently as well, and one of the things I heard–we were in Ramallah and we talked to a lot of Palestinians on both sides of the border–that the split between Hamas and Fatah is, number one, weakening any real form of resistance, and number two, that any state that might emerge out of this two-state, if in fact anything does–and there’s generally a feeling that Israel, the current leadership of Israel and most of the Israeli elite, has no interest in it–but that this split between Hamas and Fatah is really undermining any real Palestinian resistance. What do you make of that?

CHOMSKY: Well, it’s real, and there is a background. I mean, since the early ’90s, the United States and Israel have been working to try to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. By now they’re almost totally separated. A student in Gaza who wants to go to university in the West Bank, almost impossible. If somebody wants to go for medical treatment in a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem which isn’t available in the Gaza Strip, it’s essentially blocked, partly by Palestinian Authority and Hamas, but primarily by Israel. So that’s gone very far. I mean, even by the ’80s, Israel had recognized it just wants to get rid of the Gaza Strip. It’s so devastated, of no use. Hand it over to Egypt. That increased in January 2006. There was a free election in Palestine, first one in the Arab world, carefully monitored and so on. It came out the wrong way–Hamas won the election. Okay, that’s not what the US wanted. In the typical disdain for free elections if they don’t come out the right way, the United States, and of course Israel, instantly turn to harsh punishment of the population for the crime of voting the wrong way. Europe trailed along timidly, as it usually does. In June 2007, the US and Israel tried to carry out a military coup to overthrow the results of the election in Gaza. It didn’t work. It was beaten back, and Hamas took over. And at that point sanctions became much harsher. And what you now read is, you know, Hamas by force took over the Gaza Strip. Well, that’s sort of half true, but it was in beating back a US-Israeli planned military coup initiative. By now Hamas kind of runs the Gaza Strip with a pretty harsh hand. The Palestinian Authority runs as much of the West Bank as they control, which is very little of it, pretty harshly, and with international support. And yes, that split is there, and both sides by now have a stake in it: Hamas to run the Gaza Strip; Fatah, you know, Palestinian Authority, to run the West Bank. And it’s a barrier to joint resistance. Of course the US and Israel are very happy, ’cause they want to undermine the possibility of a settlement. Now, the settlement option is still there. January 2001 is not that far back. Things have changed, but not so much. And it’s feasible, if the United States shifted its policy. Right now the United States is basically blocking it. Blocking it not in words. They say, yes, we want it. But they’re blocking it by providing decisive military, economic, diplomatic, and ideological support for the Israeli takeover–ideological means, well, it’s the way it’s presented and discussed and so on.

JAY: Our most cherished ally.

CHOMSKY: Yeah. But–and it’s significant. I mean, by now Israel–the settlements occupy over 40 percent of the territory, and about 60 percent of the territory is under–called Area C, is under the control of the Israeli army. It’s not necessary.

JAY: When I was in the West Bank and in some of the refugee camps in Beirut and other–in Lebanon, a lot of Palestinians were saying they thought that the two-state solution?

CHOMSKY: Is dead.

JAY: –is dead, and that there’s–really is one state, and then they’re all living under the same one state. It’s just that some people get to vote and others don’t, and that the issue now is that there should be a movement, one person, one vote, and that people, the Palestinians and Jews that want a democratic state, should simply take over the one state that’s theirs.

CHOMSKY: Personally, I’ve been in favor of that since the 1940s. But it’s pie in the sky. And they’re omitting the fact–this is a common discussion on both sides and in the world, and it’s just omitting an elementary fact. There aren’t two alternatives. There are three alternatives. They’re only talking about two. One alternative is the international consensus on two states. Second alternative of let’s all be–live together in one state. The third alternative, which is the one that’s being implemented, is that the US and Israel take what they want and continue to take what they want. And those who are talking about let’s have one state are actually assisting in that, because, you know, the United States is perfectly happy to have, you know, articles in newspapers saying, fine, let’s everybody live together. Meanwhile, they are participating with Israel in separating Gaza from the West Bank–a crucial fact–and providing the decisive support for the implementation of the programs which are sometimes called the Sharon Plan: take over whatever you want in the West Bank, everything behind the annexation wall (it’s called a separation wall; it’s basically annexation–that means the arable land, the water resources, the pleasant suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv); support the completely illegal expansion of Jerusalem that’s not only in violation of international law but even the direct, explicit Security Council resolutions, which the US indeed voted for. The whole occupation is–settlement program is illegal, and it’s been known. Israel even accepted it in–that in ’67 and said, we’re going to do it anyway. But it’s not even worth discussing. There’s universal agreement on this. But the US is blocking it, and that permits these programs of taking over what’s valuable–hugely expanded Jerusalem, everything behind the separation wall, the annexation wall, the Jordan Valley, which imprisons everything else, a couple of salients cutting through it which essentially cantonize the rest. By now Israel’s constructed a huge infrastructure project–huge highways and so on. You can–you know, you can drive from, you know, Tel Aviv to the most easternmost towns, like Ma’ale Adumim or Ariel, without ever seeing a Palestinian. Palestinians are sort of off there in the hills somewhere. So that’s the real alternative. If there isn’t a two-state settlement, this is what there’s going to be. You can talk about one state, and, you know, it would be nice to be democratic and so on, but nothing is supporting it. There’s no support for it in the world. There’s no steps towards it. It’s–sometimes it’s compared to South Africa, but what people are forgetting is there was decades of struggle to get the world to oppose apartheid. And, in fact, until the United States changed position in the late 1980s, it didn’t really matter what the world thought–the US was still supporting it. Reagan was violating congressional sanctions at that point. But until the US shifted its position, it was there. As late as 1988, the Reagan administration condemned the African National Congress, Mandela’s National Congress, as one of the more notorious terrorist groups in the world.

JAY: Do you see any potential for a change in US position, and to some extent a change in US public opinion?

CHOMSKY: Oh, there’s a substantial change in US public opinion. I mean a lot of issues–. I mean, there was a time not long ago, when I talked about these issues, I needed police protection. But now there’s huge audiences. They’re engaged. There’s what’s called BDS–sanctions-divestment program, which is substantial. A large part of the American public, if they knew about it, would be opposed, in fact outraged, by the idea that Obama made a commitment to Israel to provide them with $30 billion of military aid over the next decade. I mean, people here are even talking about the US military budget. I mean, most people don’t want to hand it over to Israel. So, sure, it would be–. And, in fact, if Obama or anybody in the administration was willing to take a stand on this, they could mobilize public opinion. Now, what’s happening is pretty striking. The strongest support in the media, the most extreme support for Israeli expansion and aggression is the far right. It’s The Wall Street Journal much more than, say, The New York Times. In the political system it’s the Republicans, the party of big business, even more so–the Democrats, too, but they’re more so. And, in fact, you know, military industry, high-tech industry, and so on, they think this is fine. You know, they’re investing there. Lockheed Martin is delighted when we give Israel funds to buy, you know, advanced aircraft and so on. There is a base of support for these policies right at the core of the system. There’s also a substantial lobby, which is influential. I think that’s minor as compared with these more fundamental sources of support. But those are not–it’s kind of like what we talked about on another occasion: it’s not what the public wants. And that can be changed.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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Noam Chomsky has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. His works include: Aspects of the Theory of Syntax; Cartesian Linguistics; Sound Pattern of English (with Morris Halle); Language and Mind; American Power and the New Mandarins; At War with Asia; For Reasons of State; Peace in the Middle East?; Reflections on Language; The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. I and II (with E.S. Herman); Rules and Representations; Lectures on Government and Binding; Towards a New Cold War; Radical Priorities; Fateful Triangle; Knowledge of Language; Turning the Tide; Pirates and Emperors; On Power and Ideology; Language and Problems of Knowledge; The Culture of Terrorism; Manufacturing Consent (with E.S. Herman); Necessary Illusions; Deterring Democracy; Year 501; Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War and US Political Culture; Letters from Lexington; World Orders, Old and New; The Minimalist Program; Powers and Prospects; The Common Good; Profit Over People; The New Military Humanism; New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind; Rogue States; A New Generation Draws the Line; 9-11; and Understanding Power. His most recent book is called Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians published in November of 2010.