Imperial Ambition: Chomsky on Iraq and Palestine

In mid-March, Bush made what was called his first significant pronouncement on the Middle East. If you read it, it was boilerplate, except for one sentence. That one sentence, if you take a look at it closely, gives his roadmap: “as the peace process advances, Israel should terminate new settlement programs.”

2003.05.16

David Barsamian: What does the Iraq war and occupation mean for the Palestinians?

Noam Chomsky: Disaster.

DB: No roadmaps to peace?

NC: It’s interesting to read it. One of the rules of journalism—I don’t know exactly how it got established, but it’s held with absolute consistency—is that when you mention George Bush’s name in an article, the headline has to speak of his vision and the article has to talk about his dreams. Maybe there will be a photograph of him right next to it peering into the distance. And one of George Bush’s dreams and visions is to have a Palestinian state somewhere, sometime, in some unspecified place, maybe in the desert. And we are supposed to worship and praise that as a magnificent vision. It has become a convention of journalists. There was a lead story in the Wall Street Journal on March 21 which I think had the words “vision” and “dream” about ten times.

The vision and the dream is that maybe the United States will stop undermining totally the long-term efforts of the rest of the world, virtually without exception, to create some kind of a viable political settlement. Up until now, the U.S. has been blocking it, for the last twenty-five to thirty years. The Bush administration went even further in blocking it, sometimes in pretty extreme ways, so extreme that they weren’t even reported.

For example, last December at the U.N., for the first time the Bush administration reversed U.S. policy on Jerusalem. Up until now, the U.S. had, at least in principle, gone along with the 1968 Security Council resolution ordering Israel to revoke its annexation and occupation and settlement policies in East Jerusalem. And for the first time, last December, the Bush administration reversed that. That’s one of many cases intended to undermine the possibility of any meaningful political settlement.

To disguise this, it’s called a vision, and the effort to pursue it is called a U.S. initiative, although in fact what it really is, as anyone who pays the slightest attention to the history knows, is a U.S. effort to catch up to long-standing European and Arab efforts and to try to cut them down so they don’t mean very much. The great praise for Sharon in the United States, who is now considered a great statesman—he is after, after all, one of the leading terrorist commanders in the world for the last fifty years—that’s an interesting phenomenon, and it reveals another substantial achievement of propaganda, the whole story, and a dangerous one.

In mid-March, Bush made what was called his first significant pronouncement on the Middle East, on the Arab/Israeli problem. He gave a speech. Big headlines. First significant statement in years. If you read it, it was boilerplate, except for one sentence. That one sentence, if you take a look at it closely, gives his roadmap: “as the peace process advances, Israel should terminate new settlement programs.”

What does that mean?

That means until the peace process reaches a point that Bush endorses, which could be indefinitely far in the future, until then Israel should continue to build settlements. That’s a change in policy. Up until now, officially at least, the U.S. has been opposed to expansion of the illegal settlement programs that make a political settlement impossible. But now Bush is saying the opposite: Go on and settle. We’ll keep paying for it, until we decide that somehow the peace process has reached an adequate point. So, yes, it was a significant change towards more aggression, undermining of international law, and undermining of the possibilities of peace. That’s not the way it was portrayed. But take a look at the wording.

Author: Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian

News Service: Monthly Review

URL: http://www.monthlyreview.org/0503chomsky.htm