Zionist-Inflicted Crisis in Gaza

U.S. anarchist Noam Chomky and Israeli Communist Ilan Pappé, both prominent Jewish critics of the state of Israel and its brutal oppression of Palestinians, have put together an important account of contemporary imperialism in Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians, volume edited by activist Frank Barat and published in late 2010. While Gaza in Crisis deals in large part with Israel’s policies with regard to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and in particular the Jewish state’s murderous winter 2008-2009 assault on the territory, the work as a whole constitutes something of a dialectical exploration of domination and negation as perpetuated not only in historical Palestine but also more generally by the system that lords over the Palestinians’ dispossession and colonization. In this sense Gaza in Crisis provides critical perspectives on what the late Edward W. Said termed the question of Palestine as well as the world at large; given the negation that dominates both these spheres, reflection on the reflections of these thinkers could prove an important task.

The profundity of the predicament in contemporary Palestine should be self-evident. Citing the work of Richard Falk, Chomsky claims the “stranglehold” that Israel tightened considerably on Gaza following the 2006 elections that Hamas won handily to represent a “prelude to genocide”; Pappé for his part finds Israel’s behavior during Cast Lead itself to have constituted genocide. The present reality is that of a “human catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions”: reason would demand that Israel be relegated to the status of a pariah state, says Pappé. Instead, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) uses its influence to call for U.S. strikes on Iran as the Obama administration continues to bankroll Israel and protect its settler-colonialist project.

In Chomsky’s view, Israel’s brutality as evinced during Cast Lead reflects “depraved indifference” to human life; in accordance with the Goldstone Report, Chomsky sees the assault as amounting to a clear example of state terror, one reminiscent in fact of the Russian state’s crimes in Chechnya. He claims Cast Lead to have found its basis in conscious efforts taken by Israel and the U.S. to crush the model of resistance proferred by Hamas in Gaza against the collaborative approach favored by the Palestinian Authority, an organization with which Chomsky suggests doing away—this in an interview years before the publication by Al Jazeera and the Guardian of the Palestine Papers. His calculus in this sense follows from his postulation of a Mafia doctrine on the part of the U.S. whereby alternatives to the geopolitical designs favored by prevailing elites, whether they be Islamist or humanist, must be repressed, even and especially through the use of overwhelming force. The support granted by official U.S. society to Cast Lead in particular and Palestine’s destruction in general is obvious and should need no explication/exegesis. For the Israeli and U.S. establishment, indeed, the interests of Gazan Palestinians are at best ipso facto suspect, at worst disregarded entirely—they are “unpeople,” in historian Mark Curtis’s term: moscas (flies), or nadies (no one), as scrawled in Acteal, Mexico, site of a massacre committed by government-affiliated paramilitaries in December 1997. In their victimization by constituted power, Gazans undoubtedly share much with Iraqis, Haitians, Congolese, Mexicans, and many others. It is however not insignificant that Hosni Mubarak, the man who met with Tzipi Livni days before the launch of Cast Lead and kept the Rafah border-crossing closed as Gazans were being ruthlessly bombarded by Israel’s military during subsequent operations, has been overthrown by means of the struggle of subordinated Egyptians. While the present suffering of Gazans, Egyptians, Libyans, and many other peoples of the present world makes rather difficult declarations that would celebrate the facticity of historical progress, the radicality of the efforts taken by the Egyptian masses against Mubarak—itself an echo of previous attempts at intifada, whether in Palestine in 1987, Paris 1789, or Chiapas 1994—is to be welcomed, both in Palestine and elsewhere. Indeed, its applicability can be said to reach something of a present universality.

Critical for the prospect of progress in Palestine is the exploration of how it is that that which currently prevails so does. Chomsky is undoubtedly right to stress that the immediate fact of Cast Lead is explained by the present state of former Palestine: the indigenous Palestinian population itself has no state but is instead the object of U.S.-Israeli domination—a diagnosis that in no way denies the objectified and subordinated Palestinians subjectivity. Neither Chomsky nor Pappé seem to take John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s theses on the Israel Lobby as entirely convincing; both point out that U.S. policy vis-à-vis Palestine is the product of the work at least as much of the Pentagon and arms manufacturers than AIPAC, with Pappé even finding space for fundamentalist Christian Zionists in his account of the historical trajectory of Israel within the official U.S. policymaking apparatus. Indeed, he shows that the U.S. government’s foreign policy has not always unconditionally supported the Zionist project in historical Palestine, as he examines the tradition of the ‘Arabists’ in the U.S. State Department who reportedly held the interests of the region’s populations with less dismissal than Zionism has to date. These Arabist officials included Henry King and Charles Crane, who participated in a commission on inquiry sent by the Versailles Conference held at the close of the First World War to the Levant to investigate the aspirations of the area’s residents in light of the defeat of their imperial overlords, the Ottomans. King and Crane found that most Arabs who were interviewed favored incorporation into a Syrian Arab state, one historical possibility that like others has been negated by that which has passed. Pappé claims Arabists to have been hegemonic in the State Department until the Eisenhower administration, during which the AIPAC was founded, though he also recounts the Bush I administration’s tepid criticality of Israel. In this sense he presents an alternative he finds to have existed through his examination of historical events—an indication that matters can be other than the way they have been and are.

A key point for Pappé in this work as elsewhere is consideration of al-Nakba (the catastrophe) suffered by the Palestinians during the creation of the state of Israel. He finds that examination of the historical negation committed by Zionism at the birth of its state in particular could raise questions regarding the legitimacy of the ideology and its practices altogether—an educative potential largely occulted by formal-educational processes in Israel as in much of the world-system’s core, as Pappé notes. The historian furthermore stresses that al-Nakba should not be considered a merely historical reality, in light of the breadth of Israel’s destructiveness both historically and contemporarily. That which Pappé terms “mainstream” or “pragmatic” Zionism—a project that seeks hegemony in all of that which imperialists call Eretz Israel—is rather firmly in power in Israel: as is the case in the imperial entity’s godfather-country, the official Israeli political class is itself a catastrophe. Beyond having massacred the largely defenseless population of Gaza during Cast Lead, Israeli hegemons threaten other acts reminiscent of those that accompanied al-Nakba at Israel’s origins, in Pappé’s estimation. The émigré-historian finds there to be little grounds for hope for the development of a humane alternative to the present devastation in Palestine from within Israeli society itself; though substantially oppositional forces exist within Israel—Anarchists Against the Wall, for example, or the critical youth demonstrators in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, Hadash perhaps—Pappé finds them to be exceedingly marginalized as regards having much of an impact on Israeli public opinion, which it should be said seems to collaborate enthusiastically with the dispossession of the Palestinians. Whether or not such a conclusion can definitively be made, Pappé nonetheless seems correct to insist that a fundamental transformation of Israeli attitudes and comportment comprises the “principal barrier” to “peaceful reconciliation” among the present resident-subjects of occupied Palestine. It it toward the end of promoting this transformation that Pappé expresses his support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state.

Chomsky finds the prospect of boycotting Israel questionable if advocacy of such a position is not coupled with calls to boycott the U.S., the Zionist state’s imperial enabler. Presenting such a task as largely unthought-of due to widespread perceptions that the U.S. is “simply too powerful,” he demonstrates how far global-justice movements have to develop—a reality which does not, however, seem to be an argument against BDS targeting Israel. As elsewhere, Chomsky in Gaza in Crisis stresses the dire need for the administration of political matters to be devolved to the global demos: he notes that while the most likely future scenario for conflict in historical Palestine will be the very destruction of Palestine, human affairs anarchically depend too much on “will and choice” for this tendency to necessarily become an inevitability. Following the example recently manifested in Tunisia and Egypt, among other places, the U.S. public could for example intervene radically in matters and, together with other ends, enact a more humane and rational approach to the problematics brought about by Zionism. Employing perspectives close to those expressed by autonomous Marxists—and considerably more profound than those proferred in this work by Pappé, who never really goes beyond advocating strategies that would “change” the “political elites’ orientations”—Chomsky warns his audience that Israel’s “murder of a nation” is perpetrated “at our hands.” Responsibility for mass murder and social destruction, whether perpetrated in Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or the world over, lies with the managers of the prevailing system but also crucially with those who collaborate with it.

Javier Sethness is an educator, translator, and libertarian socialist. He the author of Imperiled Life: Revolution against Climate Catastrophe, For a Free Nature: Critical Theory, Social Ecology, and Post-Developmentalism, and he is currently finishing a political and intellectual biography of Herbert Marcuse. Read other articles by Javier, or visit Javier's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on March 8th, 2011 at 8:57am #

    Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe describe , as accurately related in this article by Javier Sethness, the horrendous war crimes and state terrorism that Israel inflicted on the Gazan Palestinians, in that infamous Operation Cast Lead. Moreover, this also illustrates the complicity of the US and its allies in these war crimes. Their deafening silence during that onslaught on the people of Gaza, or are they, as suggested here, “unpeople”, in the eyes of Israel and its allies.

    The attitude of the US and its allies in relation to this war crime, contrast with their hypocritical stand in relation to what is going on in Libya, at this time. All of a sudden we hear of the need to support the civilians, impose sanctions, No-Flying zone and threatened military action, against the Gaddafi regime. Strangely, why was that concern not evident during the Israeli assault on the “unpeople” of Gaza?!!

  2. MichaelKenny said on March 8th, 2011 at 9:20am #

    I have always regarded the Gaza situation as an Israeli manipulation which (as usual!) blew up in their faces. The managed to get the EU to put troops into South Lebanon, which they thought would protect them from Hezbollah and, better yet, would enable them to claim that the EU was Israel’s protector. I think they were planning to pull the same stunt in Gaza: get EU troops in. What went wrong was, not just that the EU was unwilling, but that they realised in the meantime that the EU troops in Lebanon were not protecting Israel against Hezbollah, they were protecting Hezbollah against Israel! Under the EU umbrella, Hezbollah could re-group, and even quietly re-arm, without the Israeli being able to do anything other that fume with rage. They couldn’t get at Hezbollah without attacking the EU troops! Secondly, it dawned on the Israelis that if EU troops occupied Gaza, they could never again attack it or blockade it. Worse than that, a Kosovo-style de facto independent Palestinian state would develop under Hamas, with EU protection and EU money. Inevitably, the West Bank Palestinians would also want EU troops and that would raise the thorny issue of the settlements, which the EU could never accept. Thus, the Israelis got halfway into a scam and then couldn’t back out without admitting defeat. So now, they’re stuck and Gaza may well turn out to the the event which finally turned the world against Israel.

  3. hayate said on March 8th, 2011 at 9:28am #

    “All of a sudden we hear of the need to support the civilians, impose sanctions, No-Flying zone and threatened military action, against the Gaddafi regime. Strangely, why was that concern not evident during the Israeli assault on the “unpeople” of Gaza?!!”

    Well, what would one expect from Jewish zionists and their assorted bog roll wannabees?

  4. MichaelKenny said on March 8th, 2011 at 9:45am #

    The answer to Hayate’s question is, of course, that the American dinosaur was not so enfeebled at that time that people were able to do more than deplore what was happening. And if my earlier interpretation is correct, the EU “shafted” Israel nicely by leaving it holding a baby that it cannot now get rid of without a massive and humiliating climbdown. Also, the various calls for intervention in Libya are coming from Israel’s neocon/leftist supporters in the US. Opinion on US paleoconservative and libertarian sites, for example, is firmly against intervention, which in part, is why I suspect that the Israeli elite privately accept that Israel is an unworkable illusion which can never function in the real world .

  5. jayn0t said on March 9th, 2011 at 6:35am #

    I haven’t read the book yet, but here’s my two cents: Javier Sethness says Chomsky and Pappé are unconvinced by the thesis that Jewish lobbying is the main reason for unconditional US support for Israel, and that the Pentagon and the arms companies are at least as important, along with the pro-Zionist wing of Protestant evangelism.

    So the arms companies support Israel’s uniquely large aid package, so it can spend the money on arms. Any other country would do this just as willingly, so this explains nothing. The ‘Christian Zionist’ thesis lets the left bash Christians and avoid criticising Jews. But how does Jewish manipulation of Christians work? Why is the Jerry Falwell faction dominant over the liberal denominations who support the boycott, or, for that matter, hardline Protestants and Catholics who also don’t love Israel? You won’t find the answer to that from the American left. Again, the ‘explanation’ needs explaining. Surely Chomsky understands this, even if his followers lack a grasp of basic logic.

  6. Deadbeat said on March 9th, 2011 at 10:59am #

    jaynot is absolutely correct and it is good that he sees through the Chomskyite canards. Chomsky is NO anarchist. In fact he does injustice to it by labeling himself as one. Chomsky is a Zionist whose main role over the past 4 decades is to divert attention away from Jewish power, influence and now domination of the U.S. political economy. His narrative is to say that “U.S. Imperialism” with the “corporation” being the dominant force is the reason that Israel behave as it does.

    So as usual, we have the pseudo-Left, claiming that the “right” and the “corporation” are the major power brokers and on Democracy Now! yesterday Amy Goodman presents us with photo of the Koch Brothers with the political lackeys. Yet we are offered NO photos of Bill Clinton with Hiam Saban who just happens to be the largest individual donor to the Democratic Party who donation supersede that of many “corporations” and who support for the fascist state of Israel is quite public. Saban has used his billions to buy up the influential think tank — Brookings Institute. In addition much of the “non-corporate left” obtain its money from “foundations” whose backing are not scrutinized by Chomskyites.

    Therefore Chomsky is not an “intellectual” and by no means an anarchist as he is presented by the pseudo-Left. He is a ZIONIST who main theme is to DIVERT attention away from Jewish Zionist power in the United States. The real “irony” and slap in the face is that the “Left” elevates an adherent of a racist ideology as its intellectual leader in order to cover-up Jewish Zionism.

  7. Jonas Rand said on March 9th, 2011 at 2:49pm #

    Jaynot, you’re right-wing, correct? (Please, if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me on that.) So, where does your opposition to Zionism come from? Most anti-Zionists, other than Hamas or those who support the Iranian government, are left-wing.

    As far as I know, Chomsky explains US support for Israel by saying that it is pro-Zionist intellectuals (think tanks etc.), rather than the Israel lobby, that are responsible for putting the most influential pressure on the US government. He criticizes other, more ‘mainstream’ intellectuals for their willingness to serve as mouthpieces for power structures. To reduce Chomsky’s explanation of the US-Israel relationship to his concerns about US imperialism and hegemony, and then mocking him for those concerns, is disingenuous. Also, nothing you wrote offered any proof that would lead to the conclusion that he is not an intellectual. As he is (undisputedly) a professor, the points on which you disagree with him have no basis on whether he is a real intellectual. An accredited university (MIT) appointed him a professor emeritus.

  8. PatrickSMcNally said on March 9th, 2011 at 3:11pm #

    > it is pro-Zionist intellectuals (think tanks etc.), rather than the Israel lobby

    That is a distinction without a difference. The Israel lobby does not merely consist of people writing letters to Congress. The Israel lobby has consciously fostered intellectual schools which are intended to preach the message of Israel’s importance to the united States.

    > He criticizes other, more ‘mainstream’ intellectuals for their willingness to serve as mouthpieces for power structures.

    Chomsky is actually much more specific than that sort of vague claim. In THE FATEFUL TRIANGLE Chomsky specifically tries to assert that Israel was embraced as a “strategic asset” following the 1967 war by intellectuals who were predominantly concerned with maintaining a strategic presence close to the oilfields of the Mideast. That is without foundation. Talk about Israel’s importance as a strategic asset near the oilfields was indeed used by pro-Zionist ideologues to try to sell Israel to the public. But any serious review of pro-Zionist intellectuals should lead the honest observer to the conclusion that their pro-Zionism preceded any talk about Israel-the-strategic-asset-near-the-oil. Those arguments were constructed to sell the public on something which had already been decided elsewhere.

  9. Jonas Rand said on March 9th, 2011 at 3:23pm #

    Chomsky meant that rather than organizations like AIPAC and other “Jewish organizations”, that think tanks and pro-Zionist academics were the influential voices.

    I am not disputing your claim about that, since I have never read that book. However, he has made more specific claims about pro-Zionist intellectuals promoting Israel’s strategically important location.

  10. PatrickSMcNally said on March 9th, 2011 at 4:39pm #

    The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs would certainly fit the definition, based even just on its title, of a “Jewish organization.” They are also a leading think tank which has promoted “pro-Zionist academics” and greatly influenced the tenor of debate. But Chomsky has always tried to cast such promotion of Israel as if it were merely the result of a cold strategic assessment of Israel’s as a military asset of some kind.

  11. Hashek said on March 11th, 2011 at 11:48pm #

    Had you so stored the fundamental recommendation 181 this way ?

    “On 29 November 1947, without respecting its Charter, under the combined influence of the conflicting objectives of Truman, Stalin, also of ” France “and, evidently under the influence of the Zionist right and left of the planet (not only future Israelis ) in favor of a state exclusively inhabited by Jews or believers of old ancestry trimillénaire such, thirty-three member countries of the UN General Assembly on fifty-seven whereas others should legitimately be included) officially voted “Yes” to the recommendation (prescription only and not binding) of a partition plan for Palestine (without consultation with indigenous referendum). A partition into three territories (and in fact geographically, eight territorial units), including the international status to the Holy Places, Clause absolutely essential to obtain several votes, and a clause that the Zionists had no more intention to respect than the other three, a Jewish state, an Arab state called an economic union. Knowing that the majority required to validate the vote of the UN General Assembly was two-thirds (but ironically) of the only voting “Yes” or “No”, and that three votes needed were either extorted or blackmailed, while those four countries were in fact driven by the Soviet big brother, and that also at least two other votes of Central America (Costa Rica and Guatemala) and also Uruguay were purchased as shown by the records of the Zionist state anomaly. Thus actually, less than 24 free “Yes” on 56 possible”.

    Obviously it is not either very short or succinct compared to the ultra-disinformation “In November 1947: The UNO decides to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state”! But more brevity is an automatic false conceptualization to the serious detriment of Palestinian patriots, because the Zionists constantly hypocritically invoke their legitimacy on the basis of this flawed vote that the UN Charter does not allow him to present as demonstrated by the both French and English speaking Palestinian who was also lawyer of the Arab delegation Henry Cattan.

    What does X or Y answer clearly to the clear following question, as there are not thirty six standard measures for the sincerity of a pro patriotic Palestinian.
    “Yes or no, if it were only for the sake of the most elementary ethics are you or aren’t you in favour of the non violent disappearance of the Jewish entity called Israel as soon as possible and for a non confessional sovereign and “democratic” Palestinian state going from the Mediterranean to the Jordan at least, including “of course”, between others, ex Israeli from more or less ancient and proved ancestry with exactly the same rights as Palestinians from arab ancestry.

    It is without any way out, yes or no.

    Tahish Falastina al Koubra

    PS. Can you french ?

  12. Deadbeat said on March 12th, 2011 at 1:57am #

    Jonas Rand writes …

    Jaynot, you’re right-wing, correct? (Please, if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me on that.) So, where does your opposition to Zionism come from? Most anti-Zionists, other than Hamas or those who support the Iranian government, are left-wing.

    I can’t speak to Jay’s politics but there are many on the right who are opposed to Zionism. One such anti-Zionist Rightist is David Duke. How’s that for irony. You got two racists — Duke and Chomsky. One is a White Supremacist anti-Zionist and the other is a Zionist anti-White Supremacist and intellectual leader of the “Left”.

    Now you know why political alignments in the USA are so screwed up.