Gaza in Crisis

By Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé; Haymarket Books, 2010, 240 pp.

When two of the most informed academics in the world collaborate on a project, the reader expects to have clear information and insights into the topic at hand. Chomsky and Pappé provide that in Gaza in Crisis. The book starts with an earlier Chomsky interview highlighting possible outcomes of the Palestine situation, the use of boycott and divestment, and, as always, the important role that the U.S. plays in supporting Israel. The "crushing of the Palestinian and other violent crimes are possible only because the United States provides [Israel] with unprecedented economic, military, diplomatic and ideological support."


That leads into a brief summary of U.S. involvement in the Palestine question, highlighting general attitudes/positions that have helped create today's situation:

  • Christian Zionism, the conversion from pro-Arabism to
    Zionism in view of the King-Crane commission

  • the creations and advancement of the pro-Israel lobby within the U.S.
  • the dominance of the five sisters (the big oil companies)
  • the true nature of a peace process that allows Israeli colonialism in Palestine

The third chapter deals with the nabka—the 1948 expulsion/exodus of Palestinians—an essential background to any discussion on Palestine. Chomsky and Pappé look at the broader picture and how it is utilized in context with overall Palestinian/Israeli relationships. The current peace negotiations focus on the 1967 "green line," the demarcation between what Israel conquered after the UN Partition plan was rejected. Part of the reason for highlighting the 1967 date is that for the Israelis it allows them to conceal the events of the nakba. This serves the heroic narrative that is part of the collective denial of the ethnic cleansing that occurred during the 1947-48 war (and continued well after). The stilted nature of the peace process after 1967 is then limited to mainly the settlement process and the subjugation of the now "enclaved" Palestinian people, whereas otherwise it would necessarily include the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of Palestinian towns and the recognition of the internationally accepted right of return for persons displaced by war.


The United States plays a central role in all Israel actions. Whether supplying direct military aid, testing new weapons and security control systems, supplying direct financial aid, or providing diplomatic and political support at the UN and other organizations, the U.S. has been a tacit partner in all Israeli actions.


The issue of what will be the final outcome of all this is represented in two discussions which intersect with the overall goal of Israel, complete "control of Mandatory Palestine." The latter section emphasizes the current process of decreasing territories divided into bantustans or ghettos that are completely subordinate to Israeli rule. In the case of Gaza, that becomes essentially a large open air prison containing a million and a half Palestinians in a state of suspended livelihood.


An excellent summary of Israeli violence towards Gaza is made in "The Killing Fields of Gaza 2004-2009." Israeli policymakers have resorted to using "brutal military power as a short-term reaction to a problem they had no idea how to solve politically." From "First Rains" to "Summer Rains" to "Autumn Clouds" to the overwhelming brutality of "Cast Lead," the attacks on Gaza stem from Israel's military humiliation in Lebanon and the capture of one Israeli soldier. The whole population has been demonized based on the Israeli narrative of its moral superiority and right to all Palestinian lands. At first presented as part of the global war against the "World Jihad," the…use of such highly disproportionate firepower revealed the "nature of the military operations…[as] an Israeli military wish to experiment with new weapons, all intended to kill civilians as part of…the need to brand in the Palestinian consciousness the fearsome might of the Israeli army."


The Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak is mentioned several times through this work. When discussing the attacks on Gaza where "the Arabs are finding a way to do nothing as the Israelis slaughter Palestinian children," the authors say of Egypt, "Perhaps the most shameful of the Arab regimes is the brutal Egyptian dictatorship, the beneficiary of the most U.S. military aid, apart from Israel." Later, while discussing the policies in relation to the attacks on Gaza, its absolute control of the area, and its overall determination to "separate Gaza from the West Bank," the authors indicate "These are only the bare outlines of very ugly policies in which Egypt is complicit as well." Finally, while discussing the possibilities of peace in relationship to the Obama administration, the authors cite Obama's words in relation to Mubarak as a "force for stability and good," and a "stalwart ally, in many respects, to the United States."


I look forward to a second volume that incorporates new information: the events and ramifications surrounding the "Palestine Papers" (the negotiations between the PA and Israel as revealed by Al Jazeera) and the Egyptian revolution.


Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles's work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.