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Chomsky: Do We Face a Real Confrontation with Israel?

We should be cautious about the idea that Obama will promote a serious regional peace initiative for the Middle East.

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It should perhaps be added that despite much fevered rhetoric, rational souls understand that the Iranian threat is not the threat of attack - which would be suicidal.  Wayne White, former deputy director of the Near East and South Asia office of State Department intelligence (INR), quite plausibly estimates the likelihood that the Iranian leaders would carry out "some quixotic attack against Israel with a nuclear weapon," thus instantly destroying Iran and themselves, as "down there with that 1 percent possibility." Also timely is his confirmation, from direct knowledge as the INR Iraq intelligence analyst at the time, that Israel's 1981 attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor did not end Saddam's nuclear weapons program, but initiated it.

No one wants Iran - or anyone - to develop nuclear weapons, but it should be recognized that the perceived threat is not that they will be used in a suicide mission, but rather the threat of deterrence of US-Israeli actions to extend their domination of the region.  And to repeat, if the concern were Iranian nuclear weapons, there would be sensible ways to proceed - to which, furthermore, the US is officially committed.

Obama's "new initiative" is spelled out more fully by John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, now chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an important speech at the Brookings Institute on March 9. In interpreting Kerry's words, we have to suspend normal rationality, and agree that the actual facts of history are completely irrelevant.  What is important is not the contrived picture of past and present, but the plans outlined.

Kerry urges that we acknowledge that our honorable efforts to bring about a political settlement have failed, primarily because of the unwillingness of the Arab states to make peace.  Furthermore, all of our efforts to "to give the Israelis a legitimate partner for peace" have foundered on Palestinian intransigence.  Now, however, there is a welcome change.  With the Arab Initiative of 2006, the Arab states have finally signaled their willingness to accept Israel's presence in the region.  Even more promising is the "unprecedented willingness among moderate Arab nations to work with Israel" against our common enemy Iran.  "Moderate" here is used in its technical meaning: "willing to conform to US demands," irrespective of the nature of the regime.  "This re-alignment can help to lay the groundwork for progress towards peace," Kerry said, as we "re-conceptualize" the problem, focusing on the Iranian threat.

Kerry goes on to explain that there is also at last some hope that a "legitimate partner" can be found for our peace-loving Israeli ally: Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.   How then do we proceed to support Israel's new legitimate Palestinian partner?  "Most importantly, this means strengthening General [Keith] Dayton's efforts to train Palestinian security forces that can keep order and fight terror... Recent developments have been extremely encouraging:  During the invasion of Gaza, Palestinian Security Forces largely succeeded in maintaining calm in the West Bank amidst widespread expectations of civil unrest.   Obviously, more remains to be done, but we can help do it."

Routinely, Kerry describes the attack on Gaza as entirely right and just: by definition, since the US crucially participated in it.  It doesn't matter, then, that the pretext lacks any credibility, under principles that we all accept - with regard to others.

General Dayton's forces, armed and trained in Jordan with Israeli participation and supervision, are the soft side of population control.  The tougher and more brutal forces are those trained by the CIA: General Intelligence and Preventive Security.

Kerry is right that we can do more to ensure that West Bank Palestinians are so effectively controlled that they cannot even protest the slaughter in Gaza -- let alone move towards meaningful self-determination.   For this task, the US can draw on a long history of colonial practice, developed in exquisite detail during the US occupation of the Philippines after the murderous conquest a century ago, then widely applied elsewhere.  This sophisticated refinement of traditional imperial practice has been highly successful in US dependencies, while also providing means of population control at home.  These matters are spelled out in groundbreaking work by historian Alfred McCoy ( Policing America's Empire , forthcoming).  Kerry should be familiar with these techniques from his service in South Vietnam.  Applying these measures to Palestine, collaborationist paramilitary forces can be employed to subdue the domestic population with the cooperation of privileged elites, granting the US and Israel free rein to carry forward Bush's "vision" and Olmert's Convergence-plus.  Gaza can meanwhile be kept under a strangling siege as a prison and occasional shooting gallery.

 
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