Monday, December 08, 2003

Chomsky Interviewed by Kurdish newspaper: "On the matter of legitimacy and recognition, once the State of Israel was established in 1948, my feeling has been that it should have the rights of any state in the international system: no more, no less. That includes, specifically, the right to live in peace and security within its recognized international borders, understood to be the pre-June 1967 borders, with minor and mutual adjustments. These rights have been recognized by a very broad international consensus since the mid-1970s, including the major Arab states. The US and Israel, virtually alone, have opposed the international consensus since the mid-1970s, and still do. Since the mid-1970s, the US has vetoed Security Council resolutions calling for a two-state settlement on the international border with full recognition of the rights of Israel and a new Palestinian state, has regularly voted against General Assembly resolutions to this effect (along with Israel, sometimes one or another dependency), and blocked other diplomatic efforts seeking to achieve this goal. The only US-Israel proposals, all informal, require that the Palestinian territories be broken up effectively into several cantons, virtually separated from one another and from some small part of Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian cultural and economic life. Something similar is projected, also without formal declaration, in the Gaza Strip. Jewish settlements and enormous infrastructure projects proceeded without a break right through the period of the Oslo 'peace process,' establishing these 'facts on the ground' while talk continued, taking control of the scarce water resources and much of the valuable land. They still continue, at an accelerating pace. The US and Israel have demanded further that Palestinians not only recognize Israel's rights as a state in the international system, but that they also recognize Israel's abstract 'right to exist,' a concept that has no place in international law or diplomacy, and a right claimed by no one. In effect, the US and Israel are demanding that Palestinians not only recognize Israel in the normal fashion of interstate relations, but also formally accept the legitimacy of their expulsion from their own land. They cannot be expected to accept that, just as Mexico does not grant the US the 'right to exist' on half of Mexico's territory, gained by conquest. We do not have sufficient archival evidence to be confident, but I suspect that this demand was contrived to bar the possibility of a political settlement in accord with the international consensus that the US and Israel have rejected for thirty years."

"The US presumably seeks to establish a powerful position right at the heart of the world's major reserves of energy, thereby strengthening its control over this "stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history," as the State Department described the Gulf region at the end of World War II. Formal democracy in Iraq and elsewhere would be acceptable, even preferable, if only for public relations purposes. But, if history is any guide, it will be the kind of democracy that the US has tolerated within its own regional domains for a century. Here, the US has sought to bring about democratic change but only if it is restricted to "limited, top-down forms of democratic change that did not risk upsetting the traditional structures of power with which the United States has long been allied," maintaining "the basic order of quite undemocratic societies"; I am quoting Thomas Carothers, a Latin America scholar and an official of the Reagan administration who worked in its "democracy enhancement" programs. The historical record amply supports that judgment, in the Middle East as well. The rich and instructive historical record will be disregarded only by those who have blind faith in powerful states. And of course the US is by no means alone in these practices."

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