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In Israel, a Tsunami Warning
Noam Chomsky -
Truthout | Op-Ed
Thursday 7 July 2011
In May, in a closed meeting of many of Israel`s business leaders, Idan
Ofer, a holding-company magnate, warned, `We are quickly turning into
South Africa. The economic blow of sanctions will be felt by every
family in Israel.`
The business leaders` particular concern was the U.N. General Assembly
session this September, where the Palestinian Authority is planning to
call for recognition of a Palestinian state.
Dan Gillerman, Israel`s former ambassador to the United Nations, warned
participants that `the morning after the anticipated announcement of
recognition of a Palestinian state, a painful and dramatic process of
Southafricanization will begin` – meaning that Israel would become a
pariah state, subject to international sanctions.
In this and subsequent meetings, the oligarchs urged the government to
initiate efforts modeled on the Saudi (Arab League) proposals and the
unofficial Geneva Accord of 2003, in which high-level Palestinian and
Israeli negotiators detailed a two-state settlement that was welcomed by
most of the world, dismissed by Israel and ignored by Washington.
In March, Israel`s Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of the prospective
U.N. action as a `tsunami.` The fear is that the world will condemn
Israel not only for violating international law but also for carrying
out its criminal acts in an occupied state recognized by the U.N.
The U.S. and Israel are waging intensive diplomatic campaigns to head
off the tsunami. If they fail, recognition of a Palestinian state is likely.
More than 100 states already recognize Palestine. The United Kingdom,
France and other European nations have upgraded the Palestine General
Delegation to `diplomatic missions and embassies – a status normally
reserved only for states,` Victor Kattan observes in the American
Journal of International Law.
Palestine has also been admitted to U.N. organizations apart from UNESCO
and the World Health Organization, which have avoided the issue for fear
of U.S. defunding – no idle threat.
In June the U.S. Senate passed a resolution threatening to suspend aid
for the Palestine Authority if it persists with its U.N. initiative.
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., warned that there was `no
greater threat` to U.S. funding of the U.N. `than the prospect of
Palestinian statehood being endorsed by member states,` The (London)
Daily Telegraph reports. Israel`s new U.N. Ambassador, Ron Prosor,
informed the Israeli press that U.N. recognition `would lead to violence
The U.N. would presumably recognize Palestine in the internationally
accepted borders, including the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza. The
heights were annexed by Israel in December 1981, in violation of U.N.
Security Council orders.
In the West Bank, the settlements and acts to support them are clearly
in violation of international law, as affirmed by the World Court and
the Security Council.
In February 2006, the U.S. and Israel imposed a siege in Gaza after the
`wrong side` – Hamas – won elections in Palestine, recognized as free
and fair. The siege became much harsher in June 2007 after the failure
of a U.S.-backed military coup to overthrow the elected government.
In June 2010, the siege of Gaza was condemned by the International
Committee of the Red Cross – which rarely issues such reports – as
`collective punishment imposed in clear violation` of international
humanitarian law. The BBC reported that the ICRC `paints a bleak picture
of conditions in Gaza: hospitals short of equipment, power cuts lasting
hours each day, drinking water unfit for consumption,` and the
population of course imprisoned.
The criminal siege extends the U.S.-Israeli policy since 1991 of
separating Gaza from the West Bank, thus ensuring that any eventual
Palestinian state would be effectively contained within hostile powers –
Israel and the Jordanian dictatorship. The Oslo Accords, signed by
Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, proscribe
separating Gaza from the West Bank.
A more immediate threat facing U.S.-Israeli rejectionism is the Freedom
Flotilla that seeks to challenge the blockade of Gaza by bringing
letters and humanitarian aid. In May 2010, the last such attempt led to
an attack by Israeli commandoes in international waters – a major crime
in itself – in which nine passengers were killed, actions bitterly
condemned outside the U.S.
In Israel, most people convinced themselves that the commandoes were the
innocent victims, attacked by passengers, another sign of the
self-destructive irrationality sweeping the society.
Today the U.S. and Israel are vigorously seeking to block the flotilla.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton virtually authorized violence,
stating that `Israelis have the right to defend themselves` if flotillas
`try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters` – that is, the
territorial waters of Gaza, as if Gaza belonged to Israel.
Greece agreed to prevent the boats from leaving (that is, those boats
not already sabotaged) – though, unlike Clinton, Greece referred rightly
to `the maritime area of Gaza.`
In January 2009, Greece had distinguished itself by refusing to permit
U.S. arms to be shipped to Israel from Greek ports during the vicious
U.S.-Israeli assault in Gaza. No longer an independent country in its
current financial duress, Greece evidently cannot risk such unusual
Asked whether the flotilla is a `provocation,` Chris Gunness, the
spokesperson for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the major aid agency
for Gaza, described the situation as desperate: `If there were no
humanitarian crisis, if there weren`t a crisis in almost every aspect of
life in Gaza there would be no need for the flotilla â(euro) [ 95
percent of all water in Gaza is undrinkable, 40 percent of all disease
is water-borne ... 45.2 percent of the labor force is unemployed, 80
percent aid dependency, a tripling of the abject poor since the start of
the blockade. Let`s get rid of this blockade and there would be no need
for a flotilla.`
Diplomatic initiatives such as the Palestinian state strategy, and
nonviolent actions generally, threaten those who hold a virtual monopoly
on violence. The U.S. and Israel are trying to sustain indefensible
positions: the occupation and its subversion of the overwhelming,
long-standing consensus on a diplomatic settlement.
Noam Chomsky`s most recent book, with co-author Ilan Pappe, is ``Gaza in
Crisis.`` Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
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