"The Strong Do as They Can"

by NERMEEN AL-MUFTI

Noam Chomsky, in an interview with Al-Ahram’s NERMEEN AL-MUFTI, takes stock of the month-long US-Israeli onslaught on Lebanon and reflects on the fallout.

Why is Israel given the right to self- defense while Arab countries are denied it?

Thucydides gave an answer to that a long time ago: "The strong do as they can, and the weak suffer as they must." It is one of the leading principles of international affairs.

Many Arab states declared that they would not sever relations with Israel, saying that this was Hizbullah’s war, the consequences Hizbullah’s fault. Do you think there was — and perhaps remains — American pressure behind these statements?

At an emergency Arab League meeting, most Arab states — apart from Algeria, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen — condemned Hizbullah. In doing so, they were willing to "openly defy public opinion", as The New York Times reported. They later had to back down, including Washington’s oldest and most important ally in the region, Saudi Arabia.

King Abdullah said that, "if the peace option is rejected due to Israeli arrogance, then only the war option remains, and that no one knows the repercussions on the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire."

Most analysts assume — plausibly I think — that their primary concern is the growing influence of Iran, and the embarrassment caused by the fact that alone in the Arab world, Hizbullah has offered support for Palestinians under brutal attack in the occupied territories.

Was there any legal or moral justification for this war, as Bush, Rice and Western news media insisted?

We can ignore Bush and Rice, who are participants in the US-Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

We know very well that by Western standards there is no moral or legal justification for the war. Sufficient proof is the fact that for many years Israel regularly kidnapped Lebanese, sending them to prisons in Israel, including secret prisons like the notorious Camp 1391, which was exposed by accident and quickly forgotten (and in the US, never even reported within the mainstream). No one suggested that Lebanon, or anyone else, had the right to invade and destroy much of Israel in retaliation.

As this long and ugly record makes clear, kidnapping of civilians — a far worse crime than the capture of soldiers — is considered insignificant by the US, UK, and other Western states, and by articulate opinion within them quite generally, when it is done by "our side".

That fact was revealed very dramatically once again at the outset of the current upsurge of violence after Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, on June 25. That action elicited a huge show of outrage in the West, and support for Israel’s sharp escalation of its attacks in Gaza. One day before, on June 24, Israeli forces kidnapped two civilians in Gaza, a doctor and his brother, and sent them off somewhere in Israel’s prison system. The event was scarcely reported, and elicited little if any comment within the mainstream. The timing alone reveals with vivid clarity that the show of outrage over the capture of Israeli soldiers is cynical fraud, and undermines any shreds of moral legitimacy for the ensuing actions.

So for Israel, any pretext could justify daily massacres in Lebanon and Gaza?

With a vivid imagination, one can conjure up all sorts of pretexts. In the real world, there are none. And we may add the forgotten West Bank, where the US and Israel are proceeding with their plans to drive the last nails into the coffin of Palestinian national rights by their programs of annexation, cantonization and imprisonment (by takeover of the Jordan Valley). These plans are carried out within the framework of another cynical fraud: "convergence" (in Hebrew, hitkansut ), portrayed in the US as "withdrawal", in a remarkable public relations triumph. Also long forgotten is the occupied Golan Heights, virtually annexed by Israel in violation of unanimous Security Council orders (but with tacit US support).

As an Iraqi, I understand that the ongoing war against Lebanon and Gaza is an essential part of the Bush scheme of reshaping the region: to redraw the borders mapped by Sykes- Picot…

I doubt that most of them have even heard of Sykes-Picot. They have their own plans for the region. Primary among them is the traditional commitment to control the world’s major energy resources. Those who do not fall in line can expect to be targets of subversion or aggression. That should not be surprising, at least to those familiar with the history of the past century — in fact well before.

Do you think that Iran and Syria were behind this war, as Bush inferred?

It is generally assumed that they at least gave Hizbullah authorization for the July 12 attack on Israeli military forces at the border. However, many of the most serious analysts of Hizbullah, and of Iran, have concluded that Hizbullah’s actions are taken on its own initiative.

How can we explain the role of the Security Council in destroying Lebanon and Gaza now, and Iraq before?

The Security Council acts within constraints set by the great powers, primarily the United States. In turn, the United States can generally rely on Britain, particularly Blair’s Britain, which is described sardonically in Britain’s leading journal of international affairs as "the spear-carrier of the pax Americana."

In the early post-war years, for obvious reasons, the UN was generally under US domination, and was very popular among US elites. By the mid- 1960s, that was becoming less true, with decolonization and the recovery of industrial societies from wartime devastation. Since that time, the US has been far in the lead in vetoing Security Council resolutions on a wide range of issues, with Britain second, and none of the others even close.

Correspondingly, elite support for the UN sharply declined in the US, though, interestingly, popular support for the UN remains remarkably high, one of the many illustrations of an enormous gap between public opinion and public policy in the US.

Over and above that crucial constraint, US power allows it to shape those resolutions and actions that it is willing to accept. Other powers have their own cynical reasons for what they do, but their influence is naturally less — again, the maxim of Thucydides. Popular forces could make a substantial difference, and sometimes do, but until the prevailing "democratic deficit" is reduced, that effect will be limited.

I am unable to understand this Israeli arrogance. Are you?

The maxim of Thucydides again. But it is worth bearing in mind that Israel can go just as far as its protector in Washington permits and supports.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly.






 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Colin Todhunter
Hypnotic Trance in Delhi: Monsanto, GMOs and the Looting of India’s Agriculture
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Gary Corseri
Gaza: Our Child’s Shattered Face in the Mirror
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
Paula Bach
Exit the Euro? Polemic with Greek Economist Costas Lapavitsas
August 03, 2015
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington