Sunday, May 17, 2009

Noam Chomsky interviewed by Jean Feraca-part 1

Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders APRIL 7, 2009 

 

(From the website)
"If the Nuremburg laws were applied, then every post World War American president would have been hanged." Noam Chomsky said that. He'll be paying Here On Earth a visit during his stay on the UW-Madison campus.

About Obama on the Middle East

President Obama: The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical, not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject but also to strengthen opportunity for all people.

Jean Feraca: In his historic speech at the Turkish parliament in Ankara yesterday, President Obama aimed to overcome widespread resentment in the region for what many saw as the Bush administration’s aggressive policies against Moslems and Arabs. The speech which lasted 45 minutes and covered a wide array of issues including the Arab-Israeli peace process was carried by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya and drew favorable responses throughout the Middle East. Welcome to Here On Earth, Radio Without Borders from Wisconsin Public Radio. I’m Jean Feraca. This hour, Noam Chomsky reflects on US Middle East policy. 

JF: You’re here for a series of lectures that you’ve been giving, among other things, focused on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and especially on health issues there.

NC: Well, actually the people who are speaking about health issues are people who have actually worked on them:Rita Giacaman, who is a health worker/physician from the West Bank, from Ramalla, and Graham Watt, who is British and works extensively on health issues in the occupied territories. And I’m there partly to listen, partly to fill in some background.

JF: President Obama did mention the Israel-Palestine situation in his speech yesterday saying that “the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis and people of good will around the world. That is a goal that (the) parties agreed to in the Road Map and at Annapolis. That is a goal that I will actively pursue as president. Both Israelis and Palestinians must take the steps that are necessary to build confidence.” 
How do you respond to that message?

NC: Well, there’s a couple of striking omissions that should be filled in. First, it’s not just Israelis and Palestinians who have to build confidence, but it’s primarily the United States. The United States has to act in such a way that will build confidence. And there is a history which he ignores. The history is that for over 30 years, the US and Israel have unilaterally blocked the diplomatic settlement that the rest of the world agrees to and has agreed to for a long time and that is exactly a two-state settlement. 

What he fails to mention is where that two-state settlement will be. So, even the most reactionary and nationalist Israeli politicians say, yes, OK, a two-state settlement. But for the Palestinians, it will be some scattered cantons that they can call a state if they want, but won’t be viable. Now he’s carefully omitting that. 

And there’s another crucial omission. And the US has blocked the settlement up until now. And everything he said indicates that he intends to continue with that policy. 
Now, he says that everyone agreed to the Road Map. That happens to be incorrect. Israel formally signed the Road Map but immediately added 14 reservations which almost completely eliminated its content and the US backed them. So, the US and Israel don’t accept the Road Map. 

As far as the Annapolis decisions are concerned, they were pretty vague. But the current foreign minister of Israel, at his first pronouncement after his appointment, said that Israel is not bound by Annapolis. So, there are some critical gaps, the most important one being the absence of recognition of what the US role has been for over 30 years and his own intentions with regard to perpetuation of this role.

JF: And to add to what you just told us about prime minister Netanyahu, Israel’s new foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman declared Wednesday that “those who wish for peace should prepare for war” and that “Israel was not obligated by understandings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reached at Annapolis,” that is [what Lieberman called]“the American-sponsored peace conference in late 2007.”

NC: Yeah. And Lieberman added that the US is bound by the Road Map, failing to point out that Israel had instantly added reservations which undermined the Road Map to which he is committed. 

JF: Syria, in particular, was elated by President Obama’s speech especially with regard to his pledge to pursue a two-state solution in the Middle East, even going so far as to assume that that two-state solution would have Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestine state. I think that’s hardly likely, but what impresses me about that response is that, A, that it is coming from Syria, a state that President Bush, the former president Bush labeled as part of the Axis of Evil, and [B], that it seems to suggest that Middle Eastern countries are ready to assume that President Obama really is holding out an olive branch and plans to do something tactical about the problems of the Palestinian territories. 

NC: Well, President Obama during his campaign and since, has shown an absolute genius in speaking and acting in such a way that people will draw their own favorite conclusions from it. His typical style through the campaign has been essentially to present himself as a kind of a blank slate on which you write your wishes and hopes. So, very careful to avoid saying…dealing with specific issues and taking a rhetorical stance of friendship, hope, change, partnership and so on. And yes, it’s very easy for people who have been kind of under the lash to think, well, maybe something good is coming. 

Over and above that, you should expect the leadership of every state to welcome whatever is said by the master of the world. You know, you want to be on the good side.
So, the Syrian leadership, which is not necessarily Syria―it’s a dictatorship so it’s not necessarily the popular response―but the leadership will, of course, welcome what sound like accommodating statements from the leader of the world’s sole superpower, and will hopefully add their own interpretation to it. 

But he said nothing about what matters: where are the two-states? George Bush said we are dedicated to a two-state settlement. Where? 
The United States continues to act in a manner which undermines the possibility of a two-state settlement.

So for example, right at the moment, Israel is extending settlements in the occupied territories. The most recent event was essentially throwing out Arab settlers in a critical area of Jerusalem and replacing them by Jewish settlers. That was harshly condemned by the European Union. But all the Obama administration said is that it’s “unhelpful.” Well, that’s not going to exactly frighten the Israeli government. And while not criticizing it except in a meaningless way, the United States also continues to subsidize it. OK.
As long as that continues, the words wouldn’t mean anything even if they were definite, but they’re kept crucially indefinite. 

For example, will the…just let me give you a concrete example. Obama has in fact made one declaration on Israel and Palestine. It was in the press conference where he introduced George Mitchell as his emissary. He did refer indirectly to the two-state settlement. He said there is one constructive proposal which we should really take seriously:the Arab League Proposal, which, in fact, reiterates the wide, long-standing international consensus that the US has blocked. It calls for a two-state settlement on the internationally recognized border, maybe some minor modifications. And it says that, in that context, the two-state settlement (on the internationally recognized border maybe with some minor modifications), the Arab states will proceed with normalization of relations with Israel. (Emphasis and explanation added by the transcriber)

OK, Obama’s correct to say that it’s a significant statement. But notice the gloss that he gave to it. 
He said, yes, it’s a very constructive statement, the Arab states should proceed to normalize relations with Israel; that wasn’t the Arab League proposal. The proposal, as he knows, was to…reiterating the international consensus, the view of the world: two-state settlement on the international border and in that context, normalize relations. 

Well, by eviscerating the (Arab League) proposal, he gave a pretty clear indication that he expects the US to maintain its rejectionist program. And it’s—it is unilateral. I mean everyone accepts this (the Arab League proposal), even Hamas, Iran, Europe and the non-aligned countries, Palestinians. That’s been true for over 30 years with a few exceptions. If we had time, we could go through the exceptions, but it’s basically been true. And he said nothing to indicate any change in that.

JF: Well, he said nothing yet, as we all know by now, he’s a very careful politician. He chooses his words very judiciously. The fact that he managed to please both secularists and Islamists in Turkey, I think, testifies to that. What do you think of the choice of Ankara as a place for him to deliver this speech?

NC: Well, let me just say a word on his ability to please all sides that he’s notorious for that. Last summer I think it was in July, he visited Israel. And there were statements by various people he visited, like Shimon Peres, who’s regarded as a dove(whatever that means), said, oh, he was very happy, Obama agreed with him about everything. And Binyamin Netanyahu, who is regarded as a hawk, said oh, delighted we had a great conversation, he agreed with him about everything.
And one of the Israel’s leading correspondents, Aluf Ben, wrote in an article in a main paper saying well, yeah, that’s Obama: he talks to you in such a way that he’s friendly and outgoing, he makes you think he agrees with you. But these two people are at swords points in every way. He couldn’t have agreed with both of them. It’s just that he made them feel that way. 

Yeah, that’s pretty much what the campaign has been and his presentation has been. Why he made it in Ankara? Well, Ankara[sic] is a critical country from the point of view of US strategy. It’s been a major ally since the Second World War. In fact it’s part of the sometimes what’s called “peripheral system” that the United States has set up to control Middle East oil resources. Its major US military bases are in eastern Turkey. It’s a Muslim country but basically secular and has had a close alliance with Israel since 1958. It’s a part of the Israel-Turkey-Saudi-Iranian-(before the Shah fell)-alliance, basically aimed at controlling the region. It did have a serious falling-out with the United States in 2003.

JF: Because they refused to allow a path through the country to Iraq.

NC: That’s right. I mean that Turkey was very, bitterly condemned in 2003 as we recall, because the Turkish government followed the will of 95% of the population. 

(Break)


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