The US, Israel & Hamas

Z Sustainer question: Do you think the US/Israeli position of refusing aid/relations with the PA under Hamas is likely to have the effect of making Hamas take a more radical uncompromising stance vis-a-vis Fatah and Israel? If so, do you think this is an intended effect of cutting off relations? It seems that refusing to work with Hamas is an effective way of forcing them to rely on more radical elements such as Iran rather than cooperate with Hamas.

Noam Chomsky: Press reports in Israel indicate that, as expected, the government is delighted with the Hamas victory, which enables the government to persist in its "there is no partner" posture, enabling it to carry forward its programs of taking over the valuable parts of the West Bank and ensuring that remaining fragments left to Palestinians will be unviable — a second prison alongside of Gaza, decisions now explicit with the announcement of the virtual annexation of the Jordan Valley and steps to expel the population gradually.  The US position is probably more complex.  Washington doubtless welcomes the opportunity to carry forward the Israeli plans for which it has provided decisive support.  On the other hand, it is reasonably clear that Washington would have preferred to pursue these policies within the framework of a powerless Palestinian authority, reduced to weak rhetorical gestures and discrediting the cause of securing Palestinian national rights.  A genuine commitment to realizing these rights was not one of the options.  The non-option is supported by almost the entire world and by a considerable majority of the US population, but that is largely irrelevant, as in many other cases, and will remain so until real progress is made at home in "democracy promotion," to borrow a fashionable phrase.

There is no way for Hamas to rely on Iran.  With US backing, Israel completely controls the territories, which are virtually insulated from the outside, and can cut off financial flows.

More important for us than speculating about what Palestinians can do under these onerous circumstances is to pay attention to what we can and should do.  First, we should pay attention to some important facts.  Deplorable and ominous as many of Hamas’s public positions are, we should bear in mind that they are in crucial respects more moderate and forthcoming than the official positions of the US and Israel.  That is clearly true of US-Israeli positions until 2000, and in fact remains so if we look closely.  A second point has to do with the more general moral and political implications of the US-Israeli plans (somewhat different tactically, but not much more, as far as evidence is available). 

On the moral implications, the plans were reported on Feb. 14 in the front-page lead story in the New York Times.  Two days earlier, the Times published a blistering review of Osama bin Laden’s "morally outrageous" pronouncements, which reached the ultimate depth of depravity in 2002, with a message that put forth "the perverse claim that since the United States is a democracy, all citizens bear responsibility for its government’s actions, and civilians are therefore fair targets." The reviewer, law professor Noah Feldman, is correct in describing this as ultimate depravity.  The Feb. 14 story, and subsequent ones, have provided details on how the US and Israel have adopted Osama’s "perverse claim," descending to ultimate depravity, and are proceeding to implement it.  The announced plans are intended to impose suffering and starvation on Palestinian civilians because they voted the wrong way, and to ensure that others do not come to their relief (the goal of a trip to the Middle East by Condoleezza Rice, according to the Times).  We may also note that this is nothing new.  Osama’s "perverse claim" has been official US policy for at least 45 years, often formulated in virtually his words.

The political implications are no less clear and significant.  The mantra that all right-thinking people are supposed to chant is that the administration is guided by the President’s "messianic mission" to bring democracy to the Middle East.  Inspection reveals that the evidence for this belief scarcely goes beyond declarations of noble intent by the leadership, while counter-evidence is massive.  We now can add more counter-evidence.  The Bush administration refused to allow elections as long as Yasser Arafat was alive, because the wrong man would win.  That was not kept secret, and Arafat’s death was welcomed with joy because now the US could promote elections that could be expected to come out the right way.  As the elections approached, and it became clear that the victory of the right man was not certain, Washington resorted to standard techniques of subversion: as reported in the national press, US aid was diverted to show pieces that could be used to bolster the image of the preferred candidate.  When subversion failed, the US and Israel at once proceeded to undermine the elections, adopting Osama’s doctrine (borrowed from traditional US rhetoric and practice).

These I think are a sample of the matters that should concern us.



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