Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Israel and Palestine After Disengagement, Noam Chomsky debates with Alan Dershowitz: This recent debate is reminiscent of the older debate between Chomsky and Richard Perle. Dershowitz (like Perle before him) speaks well and appears to give a coherent account, in fact about as good as can be done. But Chomsky is so much better informed and with more things and more truthful things to say that there is no contest. In fact both 'debates' might have been improved for the reader by eliminating the comments of the other side altogether and concentrating on Chomsky's contribution only. A few excerpts from Chomsky:

"A European Union report concludes that U.S.-backed Israeli programs will virtually end the prospects for a viable Palestinian state by the cantonization and by breaking the organic links between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Human Rights Watch, in a recent statement, concurs.

"There was no effort to conceal the fact that Gaza disengagement was in reality West Bank expansion. The official plan for disengagement stated that Israel will permanently take over major population centers, cities, towns and villages, security areas and other places of special interest to Israel in the West Bank. That was endorsed by the U.S. ambassador, as it had been by the President, breaking sharply with U.S. policy."

"There is near unanimity that all of this [wall building and settlement activity] violates international law. The consensus was expressed by U.S. Judge Buergenthal in his separate declaration attached to the World Court judgment, ruling that the separation wall is illegal. In Buergenthal's words, “The Fourth Geneva Convention and International Human Rights Law are applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory and must therefore be fully complied with by Israel. Accordingly, the segments of the wall being built by Israel to protect the settlements are ipso facto in violation of international humanitarian law,” which happens to mean about 80% of the wall."

"And practically speaking, [Chief Justice's Barak's doctrine that Israeli law supersedes international law] is correct, as long as the United States continues to provide the required economic, military and diplomatic support, as it has been doing for 30 years, in violation of the international consensus on a two-state settlement."

"... the nature of the occupation. In Morris's words, “founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers and daily intimidation, humiliation and manipulation, along with stealing of valuable land and resources.”"

"The first important step forward was in 1971, when president Sadat of Egypt offered a full peace treaty to Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. That would have ended the international conflict. Israel rejected the offer, choosing expansion over security."

"In 1976, the major Arab states introduced a resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for a peace settlement on the international border, based on U.N. 242, but now adding a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. That's Syria, Egypt, Jordan and every other relevant state. The U.S. vetoed the resolution again in 1980. The General Assembly passed similar resolutions year after year with the United States and Israel opposed. The matter reached a head in 1988, when the PLO moved from tacit approval to formal acceptance of the two-state consensus."

"Clinton recognized that Palestinian objections had validity, and in December 2000 proposed his parameters, which went some way toward satisfying Palestinian rights. In Clinton's words, “Barak and Arafat had both accepted these parameters as the basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations.”

"The reservations were addressed at a high level meeting in Taba, which made considerable progress and might have led to a settlement, but Israel called them off. That one-week at Taba is the only break in 30 years of U.S.-Israeli rejectionism. High-level informal negotiations continued, leading to the Geneva Accord of December of 2002, welcomed by virtually the entire world, rejected by Israel, dismissed by Washington. That could have been the basis for a just peace. It still can. By then, however, Bush-Sharon bulldozers were demolishing any basis for it."

.... and so many more excellent and informative points. Chomsky argues that Israel/Palestine is important because of US support for the occupation and its central role in geopolitics, but to so some extent, as with East Timor, many people are discussing and thinking about the problem because Chomsky has decided to write about it. In other words, one of the biggest weaknesses and criticisms of Chomsky is the stuff he doesn't write about. He writes so well about the topics he chooses, that a distortion is introduced into world discourse in that important topics he hasn't written about might come to be neglected.

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