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Noam Chomsky on the economic war on Latin America

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 28 September 2015, US President Barack Obama said that ‘for 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people’, and proclaimed: ‘We changed that.’ His speech comes after much news signalling a thaw in relations rooted in the Cold-War era.

But does the US foreign policy shift in relations toward Cuba indicate a change in regional goals, or does it signal new strategy to advance the same old objectives? Internationally acclaimed public intellectual and linguist Noam Chomsky answers the big questions about US relations with Latin America.

In this episode of Amygdala, New Internationalist Digital Editor Chris Spannos speaks with Chomsky about Economic War on Latin America. From his Boston office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, Chomsky discusses the historic fear that the superpower has had toward an independent Latin America. The interview looks at the past US blockade on Cuba and recent changes in US diplomacy toward the small island nation, the history of US foreign policy toward the region, Brazil as an economic power-house and Latin America’s efforts at regional integration.

This episode of Amygdala was produced for New Internationalist.

New book by Noam Chomsky

When the US is involved in, say, Iraq or Afghanistan, that's called ‘stabilization’. If Iran tries to increase its influence, that's destabilization.

Mohammed Ameen/Reuters

Actually, there are many problems in the world where it’s difficult even to imagine a solution, but this one happens to be particularly easy. There is almost universal agreement on what the solution should be – backed by the Arab League; by the Organization of Islamic States, including Iran; by Europe; by the United Nations; by international law; in fact, essentially by everyone. So how come it isn’t solved? That’s the second question.

Well, there are some straightforward answers to these questions, but they do not enter discussion within Western ideology and doctrine, and the answers that are so simple are quite remote from general conventions. So let me say a few words about them.

With regard to the threat of Iran, there is a very authoritative answer, provided by military and intelligence reports to Congress in April 2010.

They say that the threat of Iran is not a military threat. Iran has virtually no offensive military capacity. Its military spending is quite low, of course a minuscule fraction of US military spending, but also pretty low by regional standards. They point out that the goal of Iranian military strategy is to try to defend the borders of the country and, in case they’re attacked, to try to delay invading forces sufficiently so as to permit a negotiated settlement.

‘The US doesn’t care one way or the other what the government is like. It wants it to follow orders to improve stability.’

They discuss the question of whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons and say that if they are – which they don’t know – the goal would be deterrence to prevent an attack on Iran. That’s basically the story.

What then is the threat? Well, the threat is also explained. The primary threat is that Iran is engaged in destabilizing its neighbours. It’s trying to increase its influence in surrounding countries, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US is, of course, involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that is not destabilizing. That’s stabilizing.

The US is there to improve stability and, if Iran tries to have influence in its neighbouring countries, that’s destabilizing.

Now that’s very standard terminology in foreign policy literature and discussion. I mean, it reaches to the point that the former editor of Foreign Affairs, the main establishment journal, was able to say with a straight face and with no reaction from anyone that the United States had to destabilize Chile under Allende; had to destabilize the government of Chile, and overthrow it, and establish a dictatorship in order to bring about stability. It sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t when you understand that ‘stability’ has a meaning. It means US control. So we had to destabilize the country that was out of US control in order to bring about stability, and it’s the same problem with regard to Iran. It doesn’t follow orders and, therefore, it is destabilizing the regional situation.

There is another problem with Iran: namely, it supports terrorism. So, for example, you may believe today that you’re celebrating National Liberation Day but in terms of Western doctrine what you’re celebrating is the success of terrorism and, in fact, the success of aggression against Israel in southern Lebanon... Iranian aggression... So you’re celebrating Iranian aggression against Israel in southern Lebanon and its success, and celebrating terrorists and terrorism (quoting Israeli Labor Party high official Ephraim Sneh). It’s not Liberation Day.

You have to understand how to interpret these matters properly if you want to enter into the framework of imperial discourse. This is not just the US and Israel. It’s Western Europe as well. There are a few exceptions.

So that’s the threat of Iran.

The description is not incorrect. Iran does not follow orders. It’s trying to maintain its sovereignty. This is all quite independent of what anyone thinks about its government. You may have the worst government in the world, but that’s not the issue here. The US doesn’t care one way or the other what the government is like. It wants it to follow orders to improve stability. That’s the Iranian threat.

Honest broker?

What about Israel and Palestine? Well, there is an official version of that conflict, too. You see it every day in the newspapers. The United States is an honest broker and neutral arbiter trying to bring together two sides which are irrational and violent. They won’t agree, and the United States is trying to settle the conflict between them.

That’s why there are proximity talks where the US mediates between the two irrational opponents: the Palestinians and the Israelis. That’s the official version. You can read it every day. There’s also a reality. I won’t run through the whole story, but the basic facts are clear.

In 1967, Israel conquered the Occupied Territories and there was a Security Council resolution calling for settlement of the conflict: UN 242. It called for Israel to withdraw to its borders and, in return, there should be guarantees for the security of every state in the region and recognition of every state in the region within recognized borders. There’s nothing in it for the Palestinians. They are mentioned only as refugees. So that’s in essence UN 242, which everyone agrees is the general framework for political settlement.

Well, in 1971, four years later, President Sadat of Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty, with nothing for the Palestinians. In return, total withdrawal from the Occupied Territories – and he really only cared about the Sinai. Jordan made a similar offer a year later. Israel had to make a decision. Are they going to choose security or expansion?

A peace treaty with Egypt means security. Egypt was, of course, the major Arab military force. But they were, at that time, working hard to expand into Egyptian territory – into the Sinai, northeast Sinai – in order to establish a city and settlements and so on. They made what I think was the most fateful decision in the history of the country. They decided to prefer expansion to security, so they rejected the peace offer. Now the crucial question always is: ‘What is the Master going to do?’ So, ‘What will Washington decide?’

And there was a bureaucratic battle in Washington about this. Henry Kissinger won the internal battle and he was opposed to negotiations. He was in favour of what he called ‘stalemate’ – no negotiations. So he backed Israel’s decision to choose expansion over security and that led very quickly to the 1973 war, the October War. It was a very close thing for Israel, and Israel and the United States recognized that they could not simply disregard Egypt.

Then began a long period of diplomatic interaction, ending up at Camp David a couple of years later, when the United States and Israel essentially accepted Sadat’s 1971 proposal. This is called, in Western doctrine, a great diplomatic victory for President Carter and Henry Kissinger. In fact, it was a diplomatic catastrophe. They could have accepted it in 1971 and the cost of refusal was a very dangerous war and close to nuclear war; a lot of suffering and misery.

Actually, what the United States and Israel had to accept at Camp David was partially, from their point of view, harsher than Sadat’s 1971 offer because by this time the issue of Palestinian national rights had entered the international agenda. So they had to accept, at least in words, some form of Palestinian national rights in the territories from which Israel was supposed to withdraw.

Meanwhile, in the intervening period, in 1976 there was another crucial event. In 1976, the major Arab states – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and others – brought to the Security Council a resolution calling for a settlement of the conflict in terms of UN 242. It had all the relevant wording of 242 with its guarantees for rights and so on, but with an addition – a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories.

‘You can control history as long as you have a submissive intellectual class, which the West does have.’

Israel refused to attend the session. The United States vetoed the resolution. It vetoed a similar one in 1980. Now when the United States vetoes a resolution, it’s a double veto. First of all, it doesn’t happen; and secondly, it’s vetoed from history. So if you look at even the scholarly record it’s rarely mentioned, and there certainly isn’t anything in the media or general discussion.

The events that I’ve just described didn’t happen. They’re not there. You have to search very hard to find a reference to them. That’s one of the prerogatives of an imperial power. You can control history as long as you have a submissive intellectual class, which the West does have. I won’t go through the rest of the history, but it continues pretty much like that.

Up to the present, the United States and Israel are out of the world. With rare and temporary exceptions, they have continued to block the political settlement that has almost universal agreement, which means that, if there were serious proximity talks today, conducted maybe from Mars, then the two antagonists that would be brought together would be the United States and the world. You could have proximity talks between them and, if they could reach an agreement, there would be a settlement of this problem. Well, that’s the factual record.

Making crucial facts invisible

Of course, historical events are always more complex than a simple description, but these are the basic facts. They’re not controversial. There’s no serious question about them, but they aren’t part of general discourse about these topics because they lead to the wrong conclusions and, therefore, they’re excluded. If I talk about this in the West in most places, the words are almost unintelligible. It’s not unique to this case. It reveals the extraordinary power of imperial ideology.

Even the simplest, the most obvious, the most crucial facts are invisible if they do not accord with the needs of power.

I’m by no means the first person to talk about this. George Orwell wrote about it, for example. He was discussing how in England, a free society, unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force, just voluntarily, and he gave a few reasons. The most important one was a good education. He said, if you have a good education, you have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things it wouldn’t do to say – or even to think, for that matter. This essay of his is not very well known because it wasn’t published, maybe proving his thesis. This was to be the introduction to his book Animal Farm.

Everyone has read Animal Farm. It’s about the totalitarian state, the totalitarian enemy and its evil ways. But, just to prevent too much self-satisfaction, Orwell wrote an introduction commenting on free England. It was not published. It was found many years later in his unpublished papers. It is not his greatest essay, but his point is basically correct. Unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force, and a good education is an effective means to reach this result. Well, unless we can become capable of thinking the thoughts that are banned by imperial ideology, understanding of what’s happening in the world is going to be very difficult to attain.

Extracted with permission from Noam Chomsky’s latest book, Power and Terror: Conflict, Hegemony, and the Rule of Force published worldwide by Pluto Press and in North America by Paradigm Publishers on 20 April.

Israel, Palestine and the hypocrisy of power

In January 2006 Palestinians voted in a carefully monitored election, pronounced free and fair by international observers. But Palestinians committed a grave crime, by Western standards. They voted the wrong way – for Hamas. The US instantly joined Israel in punishing them for their misconduct, with Europe toddling along behind as usual.

There is nothing novel about the reaction to these Palestinian misdeeds. It is obligatory to hail our leaders for their sincere dedication to bringing democracy to a suffering world, perhaps in an excess of idealism. However, the more serious scholar/advocates of the mission of ‘democracy promotion’ recognize that there is a strong line of continuity running through all US administrations. The US supports democracy if, and only if, it conforms to US strategic and economic interests. The project is pure cynicism, if viewed honestly. It should be described as blocking democracy, not promoting it.

The punishment of Palestinians for the crime of voting the wrong way was severe. With constant US backing, Israel increased its violence in Gaza, withheld funds that it was legally obligated to transmit to the Palestinian Authority, tightened its siege and, in a gratuitous act of cruelty, even cut off the flow of water to the arid Gaza Strip.

The Israeli attacks became far more severe after the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit on 25 June, which the West portrayed as a terrible crime. Again, pure cynicism. Just one day before, Israel kidnapped two civilians in Gaza – a far worse crime than capturing a soldier – and transported them to Israel, where they presumably joined the roughly 1,000 prisoners held by Israel without charges, hence kidnapped. None of this merits more than a yawn in the West.

Rejectionist camp

There is no need here to run through the ugly details. The US-Israel made sure that Hamas would not have a chance to govern. The two leaders of the rejectionist camp flatly rejected Hamas’s call for a long-term ceasefire to allow for negotiations in terms of the international consensus on a two-state settlement.

The US supports democracy if, and only if, it conforms to US strategic and economic interests

Meanwhile, Israel stepped up its programmes of annexation, dismemberment and imprisonment of shrinking Palestinian cantons in the West Bank, always with decisive US backing, despite occasional minor complaints accompanied by the wink of an eye and munificent funding. The programmes were formalized in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s ‘convergence programme’, which spells the end of any viable Palestinian state. His programme was greeted in the West with much acclaim as ‘moderate’, because it did not satisfy the demands of ‘greater Israel’ extremists. It was soon abandoned as ‘too moderate’, again with mild notes of disapproval by Western hypocrites.

There is a standard operating procedure for overthrowing an unwanted government: arm the military to prepare for a military coup. The US-Israel adopted this conventional plan, arming and training Fatah to win by force what it lost at the ballot box. The US also encouraged Mahmoud Abbas to amass power in his own hands – steps that are quite appropriate in the eyes of Bush administration advocates of presidential dictatorship.

As for the rest of the Quartet, Russia has no principled objection to such steps, the UN is powerless to defy the Master, and Europe is too timid to do so. Egypt and Jordan supported the effort, consistent with their own programmes of internal repression and barring of democracy, with US backing.

The strategy backfired. Despite the flow of military aid, Fatah forces in Gaza were defeated in a vicious conflict. Many close observers described this as a pre-emptive strike, targeting primarily the security forces of the brutal Fatah strongman, Mohammed Dahlan.

However, those with overwhelming power can often snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and the US-Israel quickly moved to turn the outcome to their benefit. They now have a pretext for tightening the stranglehold on the people of Gaza, cheerfully pursuing policies that the prominent international law scholar Richard Falk describes as a prelude to genocide that ‘should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge of “never again”’.

Conditions

The US-Israel can pursue this project unless Hamas meets the three conditions imposed by the ‘international community’ - a technical term referring to the US Government and whoever goes along with it. For Palestinians to be permitted to peek through the walls of their Gaza dungeon, Hamas must: (1) recognize Israel or, in a more extreme form, Israel’s ‘right to exist’ – that is, the legitimacy of their expulsion from their homes; (2) renounce violence; (3) accept past agreements – in particular, the Road Map of the Quartet.

The hypocrisy again is stunning. No such conditions are imposed on those who wear the jackboots: (1) Israel does not recognize Palestine, in fact it is devoting extensive efforts to ensure that there will be no viable Palestine ever, always with decisive US support; (2) Israel does not renounce violence – and it is ridiculous even to raise the question with regard to the US; (3) Israel firmly rejects past agreements, in particular the Road Map.

The first two points are obvious. The third is correct, but scarcely known. While Israel formally accepted the Road Map, it attached 14 reservations that completely eviscerate it. To take just the first: Israel demanded that, for the process to commence and continue, the Palestinians must ensure an end to all hostilities, education for peace, cessation of incitement, dismantling of Hamas and other organizations. Even if they were to satisfy these virtually impossible demands, the Israeli Cabinet proclaimed that ‘the Road Map will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians’. The other reservations continue in the same vein.

Israel’s instant rejection of the Road Map, with US support, is unacceptable to the Western self-image, so it has been suppressed

Israel’s instant rejection of the Road Map, with US support, is unacceptable to the Western self-image, so it has been suppressed. The facts did finally break into the mainstream with the publication of Jimmy Carter’s _Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid_. The book elicited a torrent of abuse and desperate efforts to discredit it, but the relevant sections – the only part of the book that would have been new to readers with some familiarity with the topic – were scrupulously avoided. The imperial mentality is so deeply embedded in Western culture that this travesty passes without criticism, even notice.

Now in a position to crush Gaza with even greater cruelty, Israel can also proceed, with US backing, to implement its plans in the West Bank, expecting to have the tacit co-operation of Fatah leaders, who will be amply rewarded for their capitulation. Among other steps, Israel began to release the funds – estimated at $600 million – that it had stolen in reaction to the January 2006 election, and is making a few other gestures. The programmes of undermining democracy are proceeding with shameless self-righteousness and ill-concealed pleasure, with gestures to keep the natives contented – at least those who play along. Israel continues its merciless repression and violence; and, of course, its immense projects to ensure that it will take over whatever is of value to it in the West Bank. All thanks to the benevolence of the gracious rich uncle.

Boycotts – for and against

What should concern us is that US-Israeli triumphalism, and European cowardice, might be the prelude to the death of a nation – a rare and sombre event.

A large majority of Americans oppose US Government policy and support the international consensus on a two-state settlement. Furthermore, a large majority also think that the US should deny aid to either of the contending parties – Israel and the Palestinians – if they do not negotiate in good faith towards this settlement. This is one of a great many illustrations of a huge gap between public opinion and public policy on critical issues.

I have always been sceptical about academic boycotts. There may be overriding reasons, but in general I think that those channels should be kept open. As for boycotts in general, they are a tactic, not a principle. Like other tactics, we have to evaluate them in terms of their likely consequences.

Let’s consider South Africa and Israel, which are often compared in this context. In the case of South Africa, boycotts had some impact, but they were implemented after a long period of education and organizing, which had led to widespread condemnation of apartheid, even within mainstream opinion and powerful institutions. That included the US corporate sector, which has an overwhelming influence on policy formation. At that stage, boycott became an effective instrument.

The case of Israel is radically different. The preparatory educational and organizing work has scarcely been done. The result is that calls for boycott can easily turn out to be weapons for the hard right. Those who care about the fate of Palestinians will not undertake actions that harm them.

Nevertheless, carefully targeted boycotts, which are comprehensible to the public in the current state of understanding, can be effective instruments. One example is university divestment from corporations that are involved in US-Israeli repression and violence. In Europe, a sensible move would be to call for an end to preferential treatment for Israeli exports, until Israel stops its systematic destruction of Palestinian agriculture and barring of economic development. In the US, it would make good sense to call for reducing US aid to Israel by the estimated $600 million that Israel has stolen.

Looking farther ahead, a sensible project would be to support the stand of the majority of Americans that all aid to Israel should be cancelled until it agrees to negotiate seriously for a peaceful diplomatic settlement.

That, however, will require serious educational and organizational efforts. We can debate the extent to which Israel relies on US support. But there can be little doubt that its crushing of Palestinians, and other violent crimes, are possible only because the US provides it with economic, military, diplomatic and ideological support.

So, if there are to be boycotts, why not of the US, or Britain, or other criminal states? We know the answer – and it is not an attractive one.

This is an excerpt from an interview with the Lambeth and Wandsworth (London) branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, conducted in July 2007. A full version of the interview can be found on the *NI* website, *www.newint.org*

©Palestine Solidarity Campaign 2007 **

Israel, Palestine and the Hypocrisies of Power – an interview with Noam Chomsky

What is your view of the situation in Gaza today? Could it mark the beginning of the end for the Palestinian Authority?

Some background is necessary. Let’s begin with January 2006, when Palestinians voted in a carefully monitored election, pronounced to be free and fair by international observers - despite US efforts to swing the election towards their favourite, Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. But Palestinians committed a grave crime, by Western standards. They voted ‘the wrong way’. The US instantly joined Israel in punishing Palestinians for their misconduct, with Europe toddling along behind as usual.

There is nothing novel about the reaction to these Palestinian misdeeds. Though it is obligatory to hail our leaders for their sincere dedication to bringing democracy to a suffering world - perhaps in an excess of idealism - the more serious scholar/advocates of the mission of ‘democracy promotion’ recognize that there is a ‘strong line of continuity’ running through all administrations: the US supports democracy if, and only if, it conforms to US strategic and economic interests (Thomas Carothers, head of the Law and Democracy Program of the Carnegie Endowment). In short, the project is pure cynicism, if viewed honestly. The US project should be described as one of blocking democracy, not promoting it - dramatically so in the case of Palestine.

The punishment of Palestinians for the crime of voting the wrong way was severe. With constant US backing, Israel increased its violence in Gaza, withheld funds that it was legally obligated to transmit to the Palestinian Authority, tightened its siege and, in a gratuitous act of cruelty, even cut off the flow of water to the arid Gaza Strip. The Israeli attacks became far more severe after the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit on 25 June, which the West portrayed as a terrible crime.

Again, pure cynicism. Just one day before, Israel kidnapped two civilians in Gaza – a far worse crime than capturing a soldier – and transported them to Israel (in violation of international law, but that is routine), where they presumably joined the roughly 1,000 prisoners held by Israel without charges, hence kidnapped. None of this merits more than a yawn in the West.

There is no need here to run through the ugly details. The US-Israel made sure that Hamas would not have a chance to govern. Of course, the two leaders of the rejectionist camp flatly rejected Hamas’s call for a long-term cease-fire to allow for negotiations for a settlement in terms of the international consensus on a two-state settlement, which the US-Israel reject - as they have done in virtual isolation for over 30 years, with rare and temporary departures.

Meanwhile, Israel stepped up its programmes of annexation, dismemberment and imprisonment of shrinking Palestinian cantons in the West Bank, always with decisive US backing, despite occasional minor complaints accompanied by the wink of an eye and munificent funding. The programmes were formalized in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s ‘convergence programme’, which spells the end of any viable Palestinian state. His programme was greeted in the West with much acclaim as ‘moderate’, because it did not satisfy the demands of ‘greater Israel’ extremists. It was soon abandoned as ‘too moderate’, again with understanding - if mild - notes of disapproval by Western hypocrites.

There is a standard operating procedure for overthrowing an unwanted government: arm the military to prepare for a military coup. The US-Israel adopted this conventional plan, arming and training Fatah to win by force what it lost at the ballot box. The US also encouraged Mahmoud Abbas to amass power in his own hands - steps that are quite appropriate in the eyes of Bush administration advocates of presidential dictatorship. As for the rest of the Quartet, Russia has no principled objection to such steps, the UN is powerless to defy the Master and Europe is too timid to do so.

Egypt and Jordan supported the effort, consistent with their own programmes of internal repression and barring of democracy, with US backing.

The strategy backfired. Despite the flow of military aid, Fatah forces in Gaza were defeated in a vicious and brutal conflict, which many close observers describe as a pre-emptive strike, targeting primarily the security forces of the brutal Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan (Alistair Crooke, Jonathan Steele, and others).

However, those with overwhelming power can often snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and the US-Israel quickly moved to turn the outcome to their benefit. They now have a pretext for tightening the stranglehold on the people of Gaza, cheerfully pursuing policies that the prominent international law scholar Richard Falk describes as a prelude to genocide that ‘should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge of “never again”’.

The US-Israel can pursue the project with international backing, unless Hamas meets the three conditions imposed by the ‘international community’ - a technical term referring to the US Government and whoever goes along with it. For Palestinians to be permitted to peek out of the walls of their Gaza dungeon, Hamas must: (1) recognize Israel or, in a more extreme form, Israel’s ‘right to exist’ - that is, the legitimacy of their expulsion from their homes; (2) renounce violence; (3) accept past agreements - in particular, the Road Map of the Quartet.

The hypocrisy again is stunning. No such conditions are imposed on those who wear the jackboots: (1) Israel does not recognize Palestine, in fact is devoting extensive efforts to ensure that there will be no viable Palestine ever, always with decisive US support; (2) Israel does not renounce violence - and it is ridiculous even to raise the question with regard to the US; (3) Israel firmly rejects past agreements, in particular, the Road Map, with US support. The first two points are obvious. The third is correct, but scarcely known. While Israel formally accepted the Road Map, it attached 14 Reservations that completely eviscerate it. To take just the first, Israel demanded that for the process to commence and continue, the Palestinians must ensure full quiet, education for peace, cessation of incitement, dismantling of Hamas and other organizations, and other conditions. Even if they were to satisfy these virtually impossible demands, the Israeli Cabinet proclaimed that ‘the Roadmap will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians’. The other reservations continue in the same vein.

Israel’s instant rejection of the Road Map, with US support, is unacceptable to the Western self-image, so it has been suppressed. The facts did finally break into the mainstream with the publication of Jimmy Carter’s Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The book elicited a torrent of abuse and desperate efforts to discredit it, but these sections – the only part of the book that would have been new to readers with some familiarity with the topic – were scrupulously avoided. It would, rightly, be considered utterly ludicrous to demand that a political party in the US or Israel meet such conditions - though it would be fair to ask that the two states with overwhelming power meet them. But the imperial mentality is so deeply embedded in Western culture that this travesty passes without criticism, even notice.

While now in a position to crush Gaza with even greater cruelty, Israel can also proceed, with US backing, to implement its plans in the West Bank, expecting to have the tacit co-operation of Fatah leaders, who will be amply rewarded for their capitulation. Among other steps, Israel began to release the funds – estimated at $600 million – that it had stolen in reaction to the January 2006 election, and is making a few other gestures. The programmes of undermining democracy are proceeding with shameless self-righteousness and ill-concealed pleasure, with gestures to keep the natives contented – at least those who play along - while Israel continues its merciless repression and violence ; and, of course, its immense projects to ensure that it will take over whatever is of value to it in the West Bank. All thanks to the benevolence of the gracious rich uncle.

To turn, finally, to your question ; the end of the Palestinian Authority might not be a bad idea for Palestinians, in the light of US-Israeli programmess of rendering it nothing more than a quisling regime to oversee their extreme rejectionist designs. What should concern us much more is that US-Israeli triumphalism - and European cowardice - might be the prelude to the death of a nation, a rare and somber event.

Do you think that there are any conditions under which the US might change its policy of 'unconditional support' for Israel?

A large majority of Americans oppose US Government policy and support the international consensus on a two-state settlement - in recent polls it’s called the ‘Saudi Plan’, referring to the position of the Arab League, supported by virtually the entire world, apart from the US and Israel. Furthermore, a large majority think that the US should deny aid to either of the contending parties – Israel and the Palestinians – if they do not negotiate in good faith towards this settlement. This is one of a great many illustrations of a huge gap between public opinion and public policy on critical issues.

It should be added that few people are likely to be aware that their preferences would lead to cutting off all aid to Israel. To understand this consequence one would have to escape the grip of the powerful and largely uniform doctrinal system, which labours to project an image of US benevolence, Israeli righteousness and Palestinian terror and obstructionism, whatever the facts. To answer your question: US policy might well change if the US became a functioning democratic society, in which an informed public has a meaningful voice in policy formation. That’s the task for activists and organizers, and not just in this case. One can think of other possible conditions that might lead to a change in US policy, but none that holds anywhere near as much promise as this one.

What message do you think the appointment of Tony Blair as the Quartet’s envoy will send to the Palestinians and others around the region?

Perhaps the most apt comment was by the fine Lebanese political analyst Rami Khouri. He said that ‘appointing Tony Blair as special envoy for Arab-Israeli peace is something like appointing the Emperor Nero to be the chief fireman of Rome’.

Blair was indeed appointed as an envoy, but not as the Quartet’s envoy, except in name. The Bush administration made it very clear at once that he is Washington’s envoy, with a very limited mandate. It announced in no uncertain terms that Secretary of State Rice (and the President) would retain unilateral control over the important issues, while Blair would be permitted to deal only with problems of institution building - an impossible task as long as Washington maintains its extreme rejectionist policies. Europe had no noticeable reaction to yet another slap in the face. Washington evidently assumes that Blair will continue to be ‘the spear-carrier for the Pax Americana’, as his role was described in the journal of Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Do you think that the corporate media in the US should worry about its lies and fantasies being exposed by online fringe media (ZNet, Counterpunch, GNN, etc), or is there a finite limit on how far these alternative media can ever penetrate in a population like the US?

For the present, the media – and the intellectual community – need not be too concerned about the exposure of ‘lies and fantasies’. The limit is determined by the strength and commitment of popular movements. They certainly face barriers, but there is no reason to think they are insurmountable ones.

Do you see any cracks in American Zionism? Do you see any factors that would at least temper it, and force a more pragmatic policy?

One has to be cautious in speaking of American Zionism. The most strident and extremist voices are those of the organized Jewish community. They do not reflect the opinions of most American Jews. That is probably true of ethnic diaspora communities generally, but it has been dramatically true in this case since 1967, when attitudes towards Israel changed radically for a variety of reasons, many of them having little to do with Israel.

For the late Edward W Said, the solution was one state where all the citizens (Arabs, Jews, Christians…) will have the same democratic rights. Do you think that because of the situation in Gaza and the ever-spreading settlements, the pendulum will now swing towards a one-state solution, as being the only possible end point to the conflict?

Two points of clarification are necessary. First, there is a crucial difference between a one-state solution and a bi-national state. In general, nation-states have been imposed with substantial violence and repression; for one reason, because they seek to force varied and complex populations into a single mold. One of the more healthy developments in Europe today is the revival of some degree of regional autonomy and cultural identity, reflecting somewhat more closely the nature of the populations.

In the case of Israel-Palestine, a one-state solution will arise only on the US model: with extermination or expulsion of the indigenous population. A sensible approach would be advocacy of a bi-national solution, recognizing that the territory now includes two fairly distinct societies. The second point is that Edward Said – an old and close friend – was one of the earliest and most outspoken supporters of a two-state solution. By the 1990s he felt that the opportunity had been lost and he proposed, without much specification, a unitary state - by which I am sure he would have meant a bi-national state.

I purposely use the word ‘propose’, not ‘advocate’. The distinction is crucial. We can propose that everyone should live in peace and harmony. The proposal rises to the level of advocacy when we sketch a path from here to there. In the case of a unitary (bi-national) solution, the only advocacy I know of passes through a number of stages: first a two-state settlement - in terms of the international consensus that the US-Israel have prevented - followed by moves towards bi-national federation, and finally closer integration, perhaps to a bi-national democratic state, as circumstances allow.

It is of some interest that when bi-nationalist federation, opening the way to closer integration, was feasible – from 1967 to the mid-1970s – suggestions to this effect (my own writings, for example) elicited near hysteria. Today, when they are completely unfeasible, they are treated with respect in the mainstream (New York Times, New York Review of Books, etc.). The reason, I suspect, is that a call today for a one-state settlement is a gift to the jingoist right, who can then wail that ‘they are trying to destroy us, so we must destroy them in self-defence’. But true advocacy of a bi-national state seems to me just as appropriate as it has always been. That has been my unchanged opinion since the 1940s. Advocacy, that is, not mere proposal.

Looking ahead, what do you consider to be the best case, worst case and most likely scenarios for the boundaries and control of occupied Palestine in the next 10 years?

The worst case would be the destruction of Palestine. The best case, in the short term, would be a two-state settlement in terms of the international consensus. That is by no means impossible. It is supported by virtually the entire world, including the majority of the US population. It has come rather close, once, during the last month of Clinton’s presidency, the sole US departure from extreme rejectionism in the past 30 years. The US lent its support to the negotiations in Taba, Egypt (January 2001), which came very close to a settlement in the general terms of the international consensus, before they were called off prematurely by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. In their final press conference, the negotiators expressed some hope that if they had been permitted to continue their joint work a settlement could have been reached. The years since have seen many horrors, but the possibility remains.

As for the most likely scenario, it looks unpleasantly close to the worst case - but human affairs are not predictable: too much depends on will and choice.

The University and College Union in Britain has recently voted in favour of considering an academic boycott of Israeli universities. Do you think that this and other types of boycott are appropriate measures and could have a positive effect on Israeli policies?

I have always been sceptical about academic boycotts. There may be overriding reasons, but in general I think that those channels should be kept open. As for boycotts in general, they are a tactic, not a principle. Like other tactics, we have to evaluate them in terms of their likely consequences. That is a matter of prime importance, at least for those who care about the fate of the victims. And circumstances have to be considered with care.

Let’s consider South Africa and Israel, which are often compared in this context. In the case of South Africa, boycotts had some impact, but it is worth remembering that they were implemented after a long period of education and organizing, which had led to widespread condemnation of apartheid, even within mainstream opinion and powerful institutions. That included the US corporate sector, which has an overwhelming influence on policy formation. At that stage, boycott became an effective instrument.

The case of Israel is radically different. The preparatory educational and organizing work has scarcely been done. The result is that calls for boycott can easily turn out to be weapons for the hard right, and in fact that has regularly (and predictably) happened. Those who care about the fate of Palestinians will not undertake actions that harm them.

Nevertheless, carefully targeted boycotts, which are comprehensible to the public in the current state of understanding, can be effective instruments.

One example is calls for university divestment from corporations that are involved in US-Israeli repression and violence, and denial of elementary human rights.

In Europe, a sensible move would be to call for an end to preferential treatment for Israeli exports until Israel stops its systematic destruction of Palestinian agriculture and its barring of economic development.

In the US, it would make good sense to call for reducing US aid to Israel by the estimated $600 million that Israel has stolen by refusing to transmit funds to the elected government. And the cynicism of funneling aid to the faction it supports should be exposed as just another exercise in undermining democracy.

Looking farther ahead, a sensible project would be to support the stand of the majority of Americans that all aid to Israel should be cancelled, until it agrees to negotiate seriously for a peaceful diplomatic settlement, instead of continuing to act vigorously to undermine the possibility of realizing the international consensus on a two-state settlement.

That, however, will require serious educational and organizational efforts. Readers of the mainstream press were well aware of the shocking nature of apartheid. But they are presented daily with the picture of Israel desperately seeking peace, but under constant attack by Palestinian terrorists who want to destroy it.

That is not just the media, incidentally. Just to illustrate, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government published a research paper on the 2006 Lebanon war that has to be read to be believed - but is not untypical. It’s by Marvin Kalb, a highly respected figure in journalism, head of the Kennedy School’s media programme. According to his account, the media were almost totally controlled by Hezbollah, and failed to recognize that Israel was ‘engaged in an existential struggle for survival’, fighting a two-front war of self-defence against attacks in Lebanon and Gaza. The attack on the pathetic victim from the south was the capture of Corporal Shalit. The kidnapping of Gaza civilians the day before, and innumerable other crimes like it, are more self-defence.

The attack from the north was the Hezbollah capture of two soldiers on 12 July. More cynicism. For decades Israel has been kidnapping and killing civilians in Lebanon, or on the high seas between Lebanon and Cyprus, holding many for long periods as hostages, while unknown numbers of others were sent to secret prison-torture chambers, like Facility 1391 (not reported in the US). No-one has ever condemned Israel for aggression or called for massive terror attacks in retaliation. As always, the cynicism reeks to the skies, illustrating imperial mentality so deeply rooted as to be imperceptible.

Continuing with the Kennedy School version of the war - it demonstrates the extreme bias of the Arab press with the horrified revelation that it portrayed Lebanese to Israeli casualties at a ratio of 22-1, whereas objective Western journalism would of course be neutral. The actual ratio was about 25-1.

Kalb quotes New York Times correspondent Steven Erlanger, who was greatly disturbed that photos of destruction in South Beirut lacked context: they did not show that the rest of Beirut was not destroyed. By the same logic, photos of the World Trade Center on 9/11 revealed the extreme bias of Western journalism by failing to show that the rest of New York was untouched. The falsification and deceit - of which these are a small sample - would be startling if they were not so familiar. Until that is overcome, punitive actions that are well-merited are likely to backfire.

All of this raises another point. For the most part, Israel can act only within the framework established by the Great Power on which it has chosen to rely ever since it made the fateful decision, in 1971, to prefer expansion to peace, rejecting Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s proposal for a full Israel-Egyptian peace treaty in favor of settlement in the Egyptian Sinai. We can debate the extent to which Israel relies on US support, but there can be little doubt that its crushing of Palestinians and other violent crimes are possible only because the US provides it with unprecedented economic, military, diplomatic and ideological support.

So, if there are to be boycotts, why not of the US, whose support of Israel is the least of its crimes? Or of the UK, or other criminal states? We know the answer, and it is not an attractive one, undermining the integrity of the call for boycott.

©Palestine Solidarity Campaign 2007 www.palestinecampaign.org

Filtering the news

‘If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before 24 hours my occupation would be gone. The business of a journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press... Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.’

_*John Swinton* of the_ New York Times _toasting his profession before the New York Press Club in 1953, quoted by [http://www.cyranosjournal.com](http://www.cyranosjournal.com)_

1st Filter – Business interests of owner companies

‘You’ve certainly led one of the most extraordinary lives of the 20th century and it’s been entirely of your own making. Can you accept the accolade that you are probably the most remarkable Australian in about 200 years?’

_*Terry McCrann* interviewing *Rupert Murdoch* in the Rupert Murdoch-owned_ Adelaide Sunday Mail.

2nd filter - Selling audiences to advertisers

‘The Coca-Cola company requires that all insertions are placed adjacent to editoral that is consistent with each brand’s marketing strategy... We consider the following subjects to be inappropriate: hard news, sex, diet, political issues, environmental issues... If an appropriate positioning option is not available, we reserve the right to omit our ad from that issue.’

_Memo from *Coca Cola’s* ad agency to magazines._

3rd Filter - Sourcing information from agents of power

‘The most cited economic experts in the international press are from free-market think-tank the Institute for International Economics.’

‘PR Newswire. _The leading source of news from corporations worldwide for media.’_

Mark Laity, former BBC war correspondent, got so close to his sources that he now works for NATO.

PR Newswire _publicity._

4th Filter - Flak, pressure on journalists, and threats of legal action

Jane Akre and Steve Wilson were fired by Fox TV in Florida over an investigative report on Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone in milk. The General Manager of Fox told them: ‘We paid $3 billion for these television stations, we'll decide what the news is. The news is what we tell you it is.’

[http://www.foxbgh.org](http://www.foxbgh.org)

‘The most esteemed journalists are precisely the most servile. For it is by making themselves useful to the powerful that they gain access to the “best” sources.’

_*Walter Karp* of_ Harpers _magazine._

5th Filter - Ideological belief in free markets

‘Buy Nothing Day is in opposition to the current economic policy in the United States.’

_US news channel_ CBS _rejecting_ Adbuster’s _‘Buy Nothing Day’ commercial which called for a 24-hour shopping moratorium._