Chomsky, sensible as always

September 2, 2006

In News

American support for Israel’s unwinnable aim of destroying Hizbullah only boosts its support in Lebanon and beyond

by Noam Chomsky

In Lebanon, a little-honored truce remains in effect –
yet another in a decades-long series of ceasefires
between Israel and its adversaries in a cycle that, as
if inevitably, returns to warfare, carnage and human
misery. Let’s describe the current crisis for what it
is: a US-Israeli invasion of Lebanon, with only a
cynical pretense to legitimacy. Amid all the charges and
counter-charges, the most immediate factor behind the
assault is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This is hardly the first time that Israel has invaded
Lebanon to eliminate an alleged threat. The most
important of the US-backed Israeli invasions of Lebanon,
in 1982, was widely described in Israel as a war for the
West Bank. It was undertaken to end the Palestinian
Liberation Organisation’s annoying calls for a
diplomatic settlement. Despite many different
circumstances, the July invasion falls into the same

What would break the cycle? The basic outlines of a
solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict have been
supported by a broad international consensus for 30
years: a two-state settlement on the international
border, perhaps with minor and mutual adjustments.

The Arab states formally accepted this proposal in 2002,
as the Palestinians had long before. Hizbullah leader
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has made it clear that though
this solution is not Hizbullah’s preference, they will
not disrupt it. Iran’s “supreme leader” Ayatollah
Khamenei recently reaffirmed that Iran too supports this
settlement. Hamas has indicated clearly that it is
prepared to negotiate for a settlement in these terms as

The US and Israel continue to block this political
settlement, as they have done for 30 years, with brief
and inconsequential exceptions. Denial may be preferred
at home, but the victims do not enjoy that luxury.

US-Israeli rejectionism is not only in words but, more
importantly, in actions. With decisive US backing,
Israel has been formalizing its program of annexation,
dismemberment of shrinking Palestinian territories and
imprisonment of what remains by taking over the Jordan
valley – the “convergence” program that is,
astonishingly, called “courageous withdrawal” in the US.

In consequence, the Palestinians are facing national
destruction. The most meaningful support for Palestine
is from Hizbullah, which was formed in reaction to the
1982 invasion. It won considerable prestige by leading
the effort to force Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in
2000. Also, like other Islamic movements including
Hamas, Hizbullah has gained popular support by providing
social services to the poor.

To US and Israeli planners it therefore follows that
Hizbullah must be severely weakened or destroyed, just
as the PLO had to be evicted from Lebanon in 1982. But
Hizbullah is so deeply embedded in society that it
cannot be eradicated without destroying much of Lebanon
as well. Hence the scale of the attack on the country’s
population and infrastructure.

In keeping with a familiar pattern, the aggression is
sharply increasing the support for Hizbullah, not only
in the Arab and Muslim worlds beyond, but also in
Lebanon itself. Late last month, polls revealed that 87%
of Lebanese support Hizbullah’s resistance against the
invasion, including 80% of Christians and Druze. Even
the Maronite Catholic patriarch, the spiritual leader of
the most pro-western sector in Lebanon, joined Sunni and
Shia religious leaders in a statement condemning the
“aggression” and hailing “the resistance, mainly led by
Hizbullah”. The poll also found that 90% of Lebanese
regard the US as “complicit in Israel’s war crimes
against the Lebanese people”.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Lebanon’s leading academic scholar
on Hizbullah, observes that “these findings are all the
more significant when compared to the results of a
similar survey conducted just five months ago, which
showed that only 58% of all Lebanese believed Hizbullah
had the right to remain armed, and hence continue its
resistance activity”.

The dynamics are familiar. Rami Khouri, an editor of
Lebanon’s Daily Star, writes that “the Lebanese and
Palestinians have responded to Israel’s persistent and
increasingly savage attacks against entire civilian
populations by creating parallel or alternative
leaderships that can protect them and deliver essential

Such popular forces will only gain in power and become
more extremist if the US and Israel persist in
demolishing any hope of Palestinian national rights, and
in destroying Lebanon.

Even King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Washington’s oldest
ally in the region, was compelled to say: “If the peace
option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance, then
only the war option remains, and no one knows the
repercussions befalling the region, including wars and
conflict that will spare no one, including those whose
military power is now tempting them to play with fire.”

It is no secret that Israel has helped to destroy
secular Arab nationalism and to create Hizbullah and
Hamas, just as US violence has expedited the rise of
extremist Islamic fundamentalism and jihadi terror. The
latest adventure is likely to create new generations of
bitter and angry jihadis, just as the invasion of Iraq

Israeli writer Uri Avnery observed that the Israeli
chief of staff Dan Halutz, a former air force commander,
“views the world below through a bombsight”. Much the
same is true of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice and other top
Bush administration planners. As history reveals, that
view of the world is not uncommon among those who wield
most of the means of violence.

Saad-Ghorayeb describes the current violence in
“apocalyptic terms”, warning that possibly “all hell
would be let loose” if the outcome of the US-Israel
campaign leaves a situation in which “the Shia community
is seething with resentment at Israel, the US and the
government that it perceives as its betrayer”.

The core issue – the Israel-Palestine conflict – can be
settled by diplomacy, if the US and Israel abandon their
rejectionist commitments. Other outstanding problems in
the region are also susceptible to negotiation and
diplomacy. Their success can never be guaranteed. But we
can be reasonably confident that viewing the world
through a bombsight will bring further misery and
suffering, perhaps even in “apocalyptic terms”.

Noam Chomsky’s most recent book is Failed States: The
Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy; he is
emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology