JSalloum on 26 Oct 2000 04:14:07 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Intifada 3

October 25, 2000

Al-Aqsa Intifada

By Noam Chomsky 

After three weeks of virtual war in the Israeli occupied territories, Prime 

Minister Ehud Barak announced a new plan to determine the final status of the 

region. During these weeks, over 100 Palestinians were killed, including 30 

children, often by "excessive use of lethal force in circumstances in which 

neither the lives of the security forces nor others were in imminent danger, 

resulting in unlawful killings," Amnesty International concluded in a 

detailed report that was scarcely mentioned in the US. The ratio of 

Palestinian to Israeli dead was then about 15-1, reflecting the resources of 

force available.

Barak's plan was not given in detail, but the outlines are familiar: they 

conform to the "final status map" presented by the US-Israel as the basis for 

the Camp David negotiations that collapsed in July. This plan, extending 

US-Israeli rejectionist proposals of earlier years, called for cantonization 

of the territories that Israel had conquered in 1967, with mechanisms to 

ensure that usable land and resources (primarily water) remain largely in 

Israeli hands while the population is administered by a corrupt and brutal 

Palestinian authority (PA), playing the role traditionally assigned to 

indigenous collaborators under the several varieties of imperial rule: the 

Black leadership of South Africa's Bantustans, to mention only the most 

obvious analogue. In the West Bank, a northern canton is to include Nablus 

and other Palestinian cities, a central canton is based in Ramallah, and a 

southern canton in Bethlehem; Jericho is to remain isolated. Palestinians 

would be effectively cut off from Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian life. 

Similar arrangements are likely in Gaza, with Israel keeping the southern 

coastal region and a small settlement at Netzarim (the site of many of the 

recent atrocities), which is hardly more than an excuse for a large military 

presence and roads splitting the Strip below Gaza City. These proposals 

formalize the vast settlement and construction programs that Israel has been 

conducting, thanks to munificent US aid, with increasing energy since the US 

was able to implement its version of the "peace process" after the Gulf war. 

For more on the negotiations and their background, see my July 25 commentary; 

and for further background, the commentary by Alex and Stephen Shalom, Oct. 


The goal of the negotiations was to secure official PA adherence to this 

project. Two months after they collapsed, the current phase of violence 

began. Tensions, always high, were raised when the Barak government 

authorized a visit by Ariel Sharon with 1000 police to the Muslim religious 

sites (Al-Aqsa) on a Thursday (Sept. 28). Sharon is the very symbol of 

Israeli state terror and aggression, with a rich record of atrocities going 

back to 1953. Sharon's announced purpose was to demonstrate "Jewish 

sovereignty" over the al-Aqsa compound, but as the veteran correspondent 

Graham Usher points out, the "al-Aqsa intifada," as Palestinians call it, was 

not initiated by Sharon's visit; rather, by the massive and intimidating 

police and military presence that Barak introduced the following day, the day 

of prayers. Predictably, that led to clashes as thousands of people streamed 

out of the mosque, leaving 7 Palestinians dead and 200 wounded. Whatever 

Barak's purpose, there could hardly have been a more efficient way to set the 

stage for the shocking atrocities of the following weeks. 

The same can be said about the failed negotiations, which focused on 

Jerusalem, a condition observed strictly by US commentary. Possibly Israeli 

sociologist Baruch Kimmerling was exaggerating when he wrote that a solution 

to this problem "could have been reached in five minutes," but he is right to 

say that "by any diplomatic logic [it] should have been the easiest issue to 

solve (Ha'aretz, Oct. 4). It is understandable that Clinton-Barak should want 

to suppress what they are doing in the occupied territories, which is far 

more important. Why did Arafat agree? Perhaps because he recognizes that the 

leadership of the Arab states regard the Palestinians as a nuisance, and have 

little problem with the Bantustan-style settlement, but cannot overlook 

administration of the religious sites, fearing the reaction of their own 

populations. Nothing could be better calculated to set off a confrontation 

with religious overtones, the most ominous kind, as centuries of experience 


The primary innovation of Barak's new plan is that the US-Israeli demands are 

to be imposed by direct force instead of coercive diplomacy, and in a harsher 

form, to punish the victims who refused to concede politely. The outlines are 

in basic accord with policies established informally in 1968 (the Allon 

Plan), and variants that have been proposed since by both political groupings 

(the Sharon Plan, the Labor government plans, and others). It is important to 

recall that the policies have not only been proposed, but implemented, with 

the support of the US. That support has been decisive since 1971, when 

Washington abandoned the basic diplomatic framework that it had initiated (UN 

Security Council Resolution 242), then pursued its unilateral rejection of 

Palestinian rights in the years that followed, culminating in the "Oslo 

process." Since all of this has been effectively vetoed from history in the 

US, it takes a little work to discover the essential facts. They are not 

controversial, only evaded. 

As noted, Barak's plan is a particularly harsh version of familiar US-Israeli 

rejectionism. It calls for terminating electricity, water, 

telecommunications, and other services that are doled out in meager rations 

to the Palestinian population, who are now under virtual siege. It should be 

recalled that independent development was ruthlessly barred by the military 

regime from 1967, leaving the people in destitution and dependency, a process 

that has worsened considerably during the US-run "Oslo process." One reason 

is the "closures" regularly instituted, must brutally by the more dovish 

Labor-based governments. As discussed by another outstanding journalist, 

Amira Hass, this policy was initiated by the Rabin government "years before 

Hamas had planned suicide attacks, [and] has been perfected over the years, 

especially since the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority." An 

efficient mechanism of strangulation and control, closure has been 

accompanied by the importation of an essential commodity to replace the cheap 

and exploited Palestinian labor on which much of the economy relies: hundreds 

of thousands of illegal immigrants from around the world, many of them 

victims of the "neoliberal reforms" of the recent years of "globalization." 

Surviving in misery and without rights, they are regularly described as a 

virtual slave labor force in the Israeli press. The current Barak proposal is 

to extend this program, reducing still further the prospects even for mere 

survival for the Palestinians. 

A major barrier to the program is the opposition of the Israeli business 

community, which relies on a captive Palestinian market for some $2.5 billion 

in annual exports, and has "forged links with Palestinian security officials" 

and Arafat's "economic adviser, enabling them to carve out monopolies with 

official PA consent" (Financial Times, Oct. 22; also NYT, same day). They 

have also hoped to set up industrial zones in the territories, transferring 

pollution and exploiting a cheap labor force in maquiladora-style 

installations owned by Israeli enterprises and the Palestinian elite, who are 

enriching themselves in the time-honored fashion. 

Barak's new proposals appear to be more of a warning than a plan, though they 

are a natural extension of what has come before. Insofar as they are 

implemented, they would extend the project of "invisible transfer" that has 

been underway for many years, and that makes more sense than outright "ethnic 

cleansing" (as we call the process when carried out by official enemies). 

People compelled to abandon hope and offered no opportunities for meaningful 

existence will drift elsewhere, if they have any chance to do so. The plans, 

which have roots in traditional goals of the Zionist movement from its 

origins (across the ideological spectrum), were articulated in internal 

discussion by Israeli government Arabists in 1948 while outright ethnic 

cleansing was underway: their expectation was that the refugees "would be 

crushed" and "die," while "most of them would turn into human dust and the 

waste of society, and join the most impoverished classes in the Arab 

countries." Current plans, whether imposed by coercive diplomacy or outright 

force, have similar goals. They are not unrealistic if they can rely on the 

world-dominant power and its intellectual classes. 

The current situation is described accurately by Amira Hass, in Israel's most 

prestigious daily (Ha'aretz, Oct. 18). Seven years after the Declaration of 

Principles in September 1993 -- which foretold this outcome for anyone who 

chose to see -- "Israel has security and administrative control" of most of 

the West Bank and 20% of the Gaza Strip. It has been able "to double the 

number of settlers in 10 years, to enlarge the settlements, to continue its 

discriminatory policy of cutting back water quotas for three million 

Palestinians, to prevent Palestinian development in most of the area of the 

West Bank, and to seal an entire nation into restricted areas, imprisoned in 

a network of bypass roads meant for Jews only. During these days of strict 

internal restriction of movement in the West Bank, one can see how carefully 

each road was planned: So that 200,000 Jews have freedom of movement, about 

three million Palestinians are locked into their Bantustans until they submit 

to Israeli demands. The bloodbath that has been going on for three weeks is 

the natural outcome of seven years of lying and deception, just as the first 

Intifada was the natural outcome of direct Israeli occupation." 

The settlement and construction programs continue, with US support, whoever 

may be in office. On August 18, Ha'aretz noted that two governments -- Rabin 

and Barak -- had declared that settlement was "frozen," in accord with the 

dovish image preferred in the US and by much of the Israeli left. They made 

use of the "freezing" to intensify settlement, including economic inducements 

for the secular population, automatic grants for ultra-religious settlers, 

and other devices, which can be carried out with little protest while "the 

lesser of two evils" happens to be making the decisions, a pattern hardly 

unfamiliar elsewhere. "There is freezing and there is reality," the report 

observes caustically. The reality is that settlement in the occupied 

territories has grown over four times as fast as in Israeli population 

centers, continuing -- perhaps accelerating -- under Barak. Settlement brings 

with it large infrastructure projects designed to integrate much of the 

region within Israel, while leaving Palestinians isolated, apart from 

"Palestinian roads" that are travelled at one's peril. 

Another journalist with an outstanding record, Danny Rubinstein, points out 

that "readers of the Palestinian papers get the impression (and rightly so) 

that activity in the settlements never stops. Israeli is constantly building, 

expanding and reinforcing the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Israel is always grabbing homes and lands in areas beyond the 1967 lines - 

and of course, this is all at the expense of the Palestinians, in order to 

limit them, push them into a corner and then out. In other words, the goal is 

to eventually dispossess them of their homeland and their capital, Jerusalem" 

(Ha'aretz, October 23). 

Readers of the Israeli press, Rubinstein continues, are largely shielded from 

the unwelcome facts, though not entirely so. In the US, it is far more 

important for the population to be kept in ignorance, for obvious reasons: 

the economic and military programs rely crucially on US support, which is 

domestically unpopular and would be far more so if its purposes were known. 

To illustrate, on October 3, after a week of bitter fighting and killing, the 

defense correspondent of Ha'aretz reported "the largest purchase of military 

helicopters by the Israeli Air Force in a decade," an agreement with the US 

to provide Israel with 35 Blackhawk military helicopters and spare parts at a 

cost of $525 million, along with jet fuel, following the purchase shortly 

before of patrol aircraft and Apache attack helicopters. These are "the 

newest and most advanced multi-mission attack helicopters in the US 

inventory," the Jerusalem Post adds. It would be unfair to say that those 

providing the gifts cannot discover the fact. In a database search, David 

Peterson found that they were reported in the Raleigh (North Carolina) press. 

The sale of military helicopters was condemned by Amnesty International (Oct. 

19), because these "US-supplied helicopters have been used to violate the 

human rights of Palestinians and Arab Israelis during the recent conflict in 

the region." Surely that was anticipated, barring advanced cretinism. 

Israel has been condemned internationally (the US abstaining) for "excessive 

use of force," in a "disproportionate reaction" to Palestinian violence. That 

includes even rare condemnations by the ICRC, specifically, for attacks on at 

least 18 Red Cross ambulances (NYT, Oct 4). Israel's response is that it is 

being unfairly singled out for criticism. The response is entirely accurate. 

Israel is employing official US doctrine, known here as "the Powell 

doctrine," though it is of far more ancient vintage, tracing back centuries: 

Use massive force in response to any perceived threat. Official Israeli 

doctrine allows "the full use of weapons against anyone who endangers lives 

and especially at anyone who shoots at our forces or at Israelis" (Israeli 

military legal adviser Daniel Reisner, FT, Oct. 6). Full use of force by a 

modern army includes tanks, helicopter gunships, sharpshooters aiming at 

civilians (often children), etc. US weapons sales "do not carry a stipulation 

that the weapons can't be used against civilians," a Pentagon official said; 

he "acknowleged however that anti-tank missiles and attack helicopters are 

not traditionally considered tools for crowd control" -- except by those 

powerful enough to get away with it, under the protective wings of the 

reigning superpower. "We cannot second-guess an Israeli commander who calls 

in a Cobra (helicopter) gunship because his troops are under attack," another 

US official said (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, October 3). Accordingly, such 

killing machines must be provided in an unceasing flow. 

It is not surprising that a US client state should adopt standard US military 

doctrine, which has left a toll too awesome to record, including very recent 

years. The US and Israel are, of course, not alone in adopting this doctrine, 

and it is sometimes even condemned: namely, when adopted by enemies targeted 

for destruction. A recent example is the response of Serbia when its 

territory (as the US insists it is) was attacked by Albanian-based 

guerrillas, killing Serb police and civilians and abducting civilians 

(including Albanians) with the openly-announced intent of eliciting a 

"disproportionate response" that would arouse Western indignation, then NATO 

military attack. Very rich documentation from US, NATO, and other Western 

sources is now available, most of it produced in an effort to justify the 

bombing. Assuming these sources to be credible, we find that the Serbian 

response -- while doubtless "disproportionate" and criminal, as alleged -- 

does not compare with the standard resort to the same doctrine by the US and 

its clients, Israel included. 

In the mainstream British press, we can at last read that "If Palestinians 

were black, Israel would now be a pariah state subject to economic sanctions 

led by the United States [which is not accurate, unfortunately]. Its 

development and settlement of the West Bank would be seen as a system of 

apartheid, in which the indigenous population was allowed to live in a tiny 

fraction of its own country, in self-administered `bantustans', with `whites' 

monopolising the supply of water and electricity. And just as the black 

population was allowed into South Africa's white areas in disgracefully 

under-resourced townships, so Israel's treatment of Israeli Arabs - 

flagrantly discriminating against them in housing and education spending - 

would be recognised as scandalous too" (Observer, Guardian, Oct. 15). 

Such conclusions will come as no surprise to those whose vision has not been 

constrained by the doctrinal blinders imposed for many years. It remains a 

major task to remove them in the most important country. That is a 

prerequisite to any constructive reaction to the mounting chaos and 

destruction, terrible enough before our eyes, and with long-term implications 

that are not pleasant to contemplate.

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