When Napoleon Won at Waterloo by Uri Avnery

Napoleon won the battle of Waterloo. The German Wehrmacht won World War II. The United States won in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Zealots won against the Romans, and Ehud Olmert won the Second Lebanon War.

You didn’t know that? Well, during the last few days the Israeli media has paraded a long series of experts, who did not leave any room for doubt: the war has brought us huge achievements, Hezbollah was routed, Olmert is the great victor.

The TV talk-show hosts and anchormen put their microphones at the service of professors, publicity experts, “security personnel” and “strategists” (a title not denoting generals, but advisers of politicians). All of them agreed on the outcome: an honest-to-goodness victory.

Yesterday, I switched on the TV and saw a person radiating self-assurance and explaining how our victory in Lebanon opens the way for the inevitable war with Iran. The analysis, composed almost entirely of clichés, was worthy of a high-school pupil. I was shocked to learn that the man was a former chief of the Mossad. Anyway, we won this war, and we are going to win the next one.

So there is no need at all for a commission of inquiry. What is there to inquire into? All we need is a few committees to clear up the minor slips that occurred here and there.

Resignations are absolutely out. Why, what happened? Victors do not resign! Did Napoleon resign after Waterloo? Did Presidents Johnson and Nixon resign after what happened in Vietnam? Did the Zealots resign after the destruction of the Temple?

Joking aside, the parade of Olmert’s stooges on TV, on the radio, and in the newspapers tells us something. Not about the achievements of Olmert as a statesman and strategist, but about the integrity of the media.

When the war broke out, the media people fell into line and and marched in step as a propaganda battalion. All the media, without exception, became organs of the war effort, fawning on Olmert, Peretz, and Halutz, waxing enthusiastic at the sight of the devastation in Lebanon, and singing the praises of the “steadfastness of the civilian population” in the north of Israel. The public was exposed to an incessant rain of victory reports, going on (literally) from early in the morning to late at night.

The government and army spokespersons, together with Olmert’s spin team, decided what to publish and when, and, more importantly, what to suppress.

That found its expression in the “word laundry.” Instead of accurate words came misleading expressions: when heavy battles were raging in Lebanon, the media spoke about “exchanges of fire.” The cowardly Hassan Nasrallah was “hiding” in his bunker, while our brave chief of staff was directing operations from his underground command post (nicknamed “the hole”).

The chicken-hearted “terrorists” of Hezbollah were hiding behind women and children and operating from within villages, quite unlike our Ministry of Defense and General Staff, which are located in the heart of the most densely populated area in Israel. Our soldiers were not captured in a military action, but “abducted” like the victims of gangsters, while our army “arrests” the leaders of Hamas. Hezbollah, as is well known, is “financed” by Iran and Syria, quite unlike Israel, which “receives generous support” from our great friend and ally, the United States.

There was, of course, a difference of night and day between Hezbollah and us. How can one compare? After all, Hezbollah launched rockets at us with the express intent of killing civilians, and did indeed kill some 30 of them. Our military, “the most moral army in the world,” took great care not to hurt civilians, and therefore only about 800 Lebanese civilians, half of them children, lost their lives in the bombardments, which were all directed at purely military targets.

No general could compare with the military correspondents and commentators, who appeared daily on TV, striking impressive military poses, who reported on the fighting and demanded a deeper advance into Lebanon. Only very observant viewers noticed that they did not accompany the fighters at all and did not share the dangers and pains of battle, something that is essential for honest reporting in war. During the entire war, I saw only two correspondents’ reports that really reflected the spirit of the soldiers – one by Itay Angel and the other by Nahum Barnea.

The deaths of soldiers were generally announced only after midnight, when most people were asleep. During the day, the media spoke only about soldiers being “hurt.” The official pretext was that the army had first to inform the families. That’s true – but only for announcing the names of the fallen soldiers. It does not apply at all to the number of the dead. (The public quickly caught on and realized that “hurt” meant “killed’.)

Of course, among the almost one thousand people invited to the TV studios during the war to air their views, there were next to no voices criticizing the war itself. Two or three, who were invited for alibi purposes, were shown up as ridiculous weirdoes. Two or three Arab citizens were also invited, but the talk-masters fell on them like hounds on their prey.

For weeks, the media suppressed the fact that hundreds of thousands of Israelis had abandoned the bombarded North, leaving only the poorest behind. That would have shaken the legend of the “steadfastness of the rear.”

All the media (except the Internet sites) completely suppressed the news about the demonstrations against the war that took place almost daily and that grew rapidly from dozens to hundreds, and from hundreds to thousands. (Channel 1 alone devoted several seconds to the small demonstration of Meretz and Peace Now that took place just before the end of the war. Both had supported the war enthusiastically almost to the finish.)

I don’t say these things as a professor of communications or a disgruntled politician. I am a media person from head to foot. Since the age of 17, I have been a working journalist, reporter, columnist, and editor, and I know very well how media with integrity should behave. (The only prize I ever got in my own country was awarded by the Journalists’ Association for my “life work in journalism.”)

I do not think, by the way, that the behavior of our media was worse than that of their American colleagues at the start of the Iraq war, or the British media during the ridiculous Falklands/Malvinas war. But the scandals of others are no consolation for our own.

Against the background of this pervasive brainwashing, one has to salute the few – who can be counted on the fingers of both hands – who did not join the general chorus and did indeed voice criticism in the written media, as much as they were allowed to. The names are well known, and I shall not list them here, for fear of overlooking somebody and committing an unforgivable sin. They can hold their heads high. The trouble is that their comments appeared only in the op-ed pages, which have a limited impact, and were completely absent from the news pages and news programs, which shape public opinion on a daily basis.

When the media people now passionately debate the need for all kinds of inquiry commissions and examination committees, perhaps they should set a personal example and establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the actions of the media themselves at the time of supreme test.

In Goethe’s Faust, the devil presents himself as the “force that always strives for the bad and always produces the good.” I do not wish, God forbid, to compare the media to the devil, but the result is the same: by its enthusiastic support for the war, the media deepened the feeling of failure that came afterwards and which may in the end have a beneficial impact.

The media called Hezbollah a “terror organization,” evoking the image of a small group of “terrorists” with negligible capabilities. When it became clear that this is an efficient and well-trained military force with brave and determined fighters, effective missiles, and other weapons, that could hold out against our huge military machine for 33 days without breaking, the disappointment was even more bitter.

After the media had glorified our military commanders as supermen and treated every one of their boasts with adulation, almost as if they were divine revelations, the disappointment was even greater when severe failures in strategy, tactics, intelligence, and logistics showed up in all levels of the senior command.

That contributed to the profound change in public opinion that set in at the end of the war. As elevated as the self-confidence had been, so deep was the sense of failure. The gods had failed. The intoxication of war was replaced by the hangover of the morning after.

And who is that running in front of the mob clamoring for revenge, all the way to the Place de la Guillotine? The media, of course.

I don’t know of a single talk-show host, anchorman, commentator, reporter, or editor who has confessed his guilt and begged for forgiveness for his part in the brainwashing. Everything that was said, written, or photographed has been wiped off the slate. It just never happened.

Now, when the damage cannot be repaired anymore, the media are pushing to the head of those who demand the truth and clamor for punishment for all the scandalous decisions that were taken by the government and the general staff: prolonging the war unnecessarily after the first six days, abandoning the rear, neglecting the reserves, not sending the land army into Lebanon on day X and sending them into Lebanon on day Y, not accepting the G8’s call for a cease-fire, and so on.

But, just a moment –

During the last few days, the wheel may be turning again. What? We did not lose the war after all? Wait, wait, we did win? Nasrallah has apologized? (By strict orders from above, the full interview of Nasrallah was not broadcast at all, but the one passage in which he admitted to a mistake was broadcast over and over again.)

The sensitive nose of the media people has detected a change of the wind. Some of them have already altered course. If there is a new wave in public opinion, one should ride it, no?

We call this the “Altalena Effect.”

For those who don’t know, or who have already forgotten: Altalena was a small ship that arrived off the coast of Israel in the middle of the 1948 war, carrying a group of Irgun men and quantities of weapons, it was not clear for whom. David Ben-Gurion was afraid of a putsch and ordered the shelling of the ship, off the coast of Tel-Aviv. Some of the men were killed; Menachem Begin, who had gone aboard, was pushed into the water and saved. The ship sank, the Irgun was dispersed, and its members joined the new Israeli army.

Twenty-nine years later, Begin came to power. All the careerists joined him in haste. And then it appeared, retroactively, that practically everybody had been on board the Altalena. The little ship expanded into a huge aircraft carrier – until the Likud lost power and Altalena shrunk back to the size of a fishing boat.

The Second Lebanon War was a mighty Altalena. All the media crowded onto its deck. But the day after the war was over, we learned that this was an optical illusion: absolutely nobody had been there, except Captain Olmert, First Officer Peretz, and Helmsman Halutz. However, that can change any minute now, if the trusting public can be convinced that we won the war after all.

As has been said before: in Israel nothing changes, except the past.



Kill Arabs, cry anti-Semitism

By Norman G. Finkelstein

Download the Word doc original here.

A central thesis of my book Beyond Chutzpah is that whenever Israel faces a public relations debacle its apologists sound the alarm that a “new anti-Semitism” is upon us. So, predictably, just after Israel faced another image problem due to its murderous destruction of Lebanon, a British all-party parliamentary group led by notorious Israel-firster Denis MacShane MP (Labor) released yet another report alleging a resurgence of anti-Semitism (Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism, September 2006). To judge by the witnesses (David Cesarani, Lord Janner, Oona King, Emanuele Ottolenghi, Melanie Phillips) and sources (MEMRI, Holocaust Education Trust) cited in the body of the report, much time and money could have been saved had it just been contracted out to the Israel Foreign Ministry.[1]

The single novelty of the report, which mostly rehashes fatuous allegations already disposed of in Beyond Chutzpah, is the new thresholds in idiocy it breaks. Consider the methodology deployed for demonstrating a new anti-Semitism. The report defines an anti-Semitic incident as any occasion “perceived” to be anti-Semitic by the “Jewish community.”[2] This is the school of thought according to which it’s raining even in the absence of any precipitation because I feel it’s raining. It is the dream philosophy of paranoids – especially rational paranoids, for whom alleged victimhood is politically serviceable. The report includes under the rubric of anti-Semitic incidents not just violent acts and incendiary speech but “conversations, discussions, or pronouncements made in public or private, which cross the line of acceptability,” as well as “the mood and tone when Jews are discussed.” The wonder is that it didn’t also tabulate repressed anti-Semitic libidinal fantasies.[3] In the category of inherently anti-Semitic pronouncements the report includes “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” (only comparisons of contemporary Arab policy to that of the Nazis are permissible) and “theories about Jewish or Zionist influence on American foreign policy” (even if Jewish and Zionist organizations boast about this influence).[4]

Much of the evidence of pervasive British anti-Semitism stretches and strains credulity. The lone item listed under the ominous subheading “The Blood Libel” is a Syrian television series “that would be possible for viewers in the UK to see…if they had suitable satellite receiving equipment.”[5] The report also notes the unreferenced “case of a Jewish university lecturer who was subjected to an anti-Semitic tirade from a student in the middle of a lecture and subsequently asked to explain to the university authorities why he had upset the student.”[6] Is it anti-Semitic to wonder whether this is a crock? And then it cites the warning of the London Assembly Conservative Group that “there is a risk that in some political quarters ‘views on international events can, almost subconsciously, lead to subtly different attitudes to, and levels of engagement with, different minority groups.'”[7] The new anti-Semitism business must be going seriously awry when British conservatives start sounding like Lacan. Finally, it is anti-Semitic for student unions to advocate a boycott of Israeli goods because this “would restrict the availability of kosher food on campus.”[8] Maybe Israel can organize a “Berlin airlift” of gefilte fish.

Although claiming that, in the struggle against anti-Semitism, “none of those who gave evidence wished to see the right of free speech eroded,” and “only in extreme circumstances would we advocate legal intervention,”[9] the report recommends that university authorities “take an active interest in combating acts, speeches, literature and events that cause anxiety or alarm among their Jewish students,” and it registers disquiet that “classic and modern anti-Semitic works are freely available for ordering on the Amazon.com website,” and that “the United States in particular has been slow to take action” in closing down “anti-Semitic internet sites.”[10] It is at moments like this that even the least patriotic of souls can take pride in being an American.

* * *

1. The report’s statement that “we received no evidence of the accusation of anti-Semitism being misused by mainstream British Jewish community organizations and leaders” (para. 79) perhaps speaks more to the selection of the witnesses than the reality.

2. Report, para. 3; cf. para. 73.

3. Quoted phrases from Report “Summary.” The police data on an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in itself proves little because, as the report concedes, the spike might be due to more incidents being reported and a coarsening of British life generally, as well as the “spillover” from the Israel-Palestine conflict (Report, paras 28, 29, 59, 64, and Beyond Chutzpah, pp. 81ff.). In addition, there is little evidence of “organized,” “politically motivated” anti-Semitic attacks; there is no evidence that perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks were disproportionately Muslim; and most of the suspects in the incidents were adolescents (Report, paras. 55, 56, 58, 151). For 2005 the report cites a couple incidents that were “potentially” life-threatening (para. 61). It cites no comparative data for other minorities in Britain, although tacitly acknowledging that “the level of prejudice and discrimination by Jews in Britain remains lower,” a considerable understatement (para 17). On a related note, it deplores that “less than one in ten [anti-Semitic] incidents reported to the police resulted in a suspect becoming an accused” (para. 69), but cites no comparative data indicating whether this ratio is aberrant.

4. Report, para. 84, 119; cf. para. 148. On a related note the report expresses worry that “the use of language and imagery of the Holocaust has become increasingly widespread in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (para. 93). Of course, what’s new about such imagery in the West is that it’s no longer only used against Arabs.

5. Report, para. 99.

6. Report, para, 101.

7. Report, para. 104.

8. Report, paras. 203, 204.

9. Report, paras. 74, 75.

10. Report, paras. 183, 189, 220.

Reader letters

Dear Professor Finklestein

There are some truly suspect definitions of anti-semitism and the authors/sponsors of this would have done well to read “Beyond Chutzpah” to ensure this exercise does not go the same route it has across the pond. I will say though that the UK Jewry have seemed to me to be a far more moderate than the bunch that ive been reading about in your books and on your site. I think a Dershowitz or an Abraham Foxman would be given short shrift here; on the whole most UK Jews seem to be more sympathetic towards the Palestinian issue and were more vocal in their opposition to the invasion of Lebanon, with notable exceptions of course. The BBC for example was regularly accused of being anti-Semitic in its reporting on the war which i thought was nonsense.

You have to remember though that the Muslim population in Britain have elements within it that do support violence against Jewish people and have been so brainwashed in their hate that discussion is impossible. There are many who are disenfranchised and others from second generation middle class families looking for meaning in their otherwise miserable lives and finding the wrong answers. I personally do not think these groups are the main source of any increase in what i call real anti-semitism (violence and verbal abuse). These groups have the means and if they wanted to inflict harm they probably would have caused serious damage by now; rather this is directed at the US as we have seen in the recent attempt to blow up transatlantic planes. There is however another group: the rag tag, anti-globalization mob who have, in consort with some British Muslims, high-jacked the ME issue. Although their hearts are, for the most part in the right place, they find it difficult to engage in debate without becoming irrational or violent. And then there is of course the problem of alcohol. Having lived here for 10 years and knowing as I do the propensity of English people (esp in london) for serious drinking, its not hard to imagine someone watching the bombing of Qana, then consuming half of bottle of whisky (not necessarily in that order), walking down the street on a friday eve and thumping the face of the first frumadik he sees. The Orthodox community in Stamford Hill referred to in the report live cheek by jowl with Muslim communities (not far from me and incidentally less than a mile or so from the infamous Finsbury Park Mosque) and relations seem to have been good in the past. But I wont deny they have of late become targets for abuse and Ive seen this myself on the tube one evening when some drunk kids launched into an unpleasant political tirade at a man with his 2 children. Although i agreed with their general sentiment I felt ashamed afterwards that i did not stop them. Its a complicated business being Jewish and angry at Israel’s actions.

I dont think this report is timed to quell critisism of Israel because many of the signatories are openly opposed to Israel’s policies. So totally disagree that its a public relations stunt. In the area or physical and verbal abuse its a response to a real issue but one that I dont think should be blown out of proportion nor used by Zionist groups for their own ends.


Brian Rom

UN human rights envoy says Gaza a prison for Palestinians

“In other countries this process might be described as ethnic cleansing but political correctness forbids such language where Israel is concerned”

Editor’s note: See also Finkelstein’s UNPUBLISHED OP-ED ON GAZA WITHDRAWAL from September 17, 2005:

In a recent study entitled One Big Prison, B’Tselem (report, summary) observes that the crippling economic arrangements Israel has imposed on Gaza will remain in effect. In addition, Israel will continue to maintain absolute control over Gaza’s land borders, coastline and airspace, and the Israeli army will continue to operate in Gaza. “So long as these methods of control remain in Israeli hands,” it concludes, “Israel’s claim of an ‘end of the occupation’ is questionable.”[2]

UN human rights envoy says Gaza a prison for Palestinians

Last update – 21:10 26/09/2006 | Ha’aretz
By Reuters

Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison for Palestinians where life is “intolerable, appalling, tragic” and the Jewish state appears to have thrown away the key, a UN human rights envoy said on Tuesday.

Special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory John Dugard said that the suffering of the Palestinians was a test of the readiness of the international community to protect human rights.

“If … the international community cannot … take some action, [it] must not be surprised if the people of the planet disbelieve that they are seriously committed to the promotion of human rights,” he said in a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The South African lawyer, who has been a special UN investigator since 2001, repeated earlier accusations that Israel is breaking international humanitarian law with security measures which amount to “collective punishment.”

Israel says its security restrictions, which include the construction of a steel and concrete barrier in the West Bank, are designed to stop suicide bombers entering Israel. Bombings have declined since the barrier was built.

It also maintains tight restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza also due to security measures.

Dugard also attacked the United States, the European Union and Canada for withdrawing funding for the Palestinian Authority in protest at the governing party Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist.

Hamas, a militant Islamic group that came to power after elections in January, is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

“Israel violates international law as expounded by the Security Council and the International Court of Justice and goes unpunished. But the Palestinian people are punished for having democratically elected a regime unacceptable to Israel, the U.S. and the EU,” Dugard said.

There was no immediate comment from either Israel or its main ally the United States, but the Palestinian question was due to be debated by the Human Rights Council later on Tuesday.

Past criticism, however, has been strongly rejected by Israel and the United States, which say that the current crisis has been provoked by attacks by Palestinian militants.

Dugard said that three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.4 million people were dependent on food aid. Bombing raids by Israel since the June 25 capture of an army corporal by Palestinian militants had destroyed houses and the territory’s only power plant.

“Gaza is a prison and Israel seems to have thrown away the key,” he said.

The West Bank also faced a humanitarian crisis, albeit not as extreme as Gaza, in part due to the barrier, which Dugard alleged was no longer being justified by Israel on security grounds but was part of a move to annex more land.

Palestinians living between the barrier and the Green Line, the frontier at the end of the 1967 Six Day War, could no longer freely access schools and places of work and many had abandoned local farms, he said.

“In other countries this process might be described as ethnic cleansing but political correctness forbids such language where Israel is concerned,” Dugard said.


Israeli intellectuals petition for contacts with Syria, Hamas

Israeli intellectuals petition for contacts with Syria, Hamas
Posted by peoplesgeography on September 26th, 2006

Dialogue is the way … this initiative and these academics are to be applauded
Mon Sep 25, 11:24 AM ET

 Israeli scientist Aaron Ciechanover signs a chair at Stockholm's Nobel museum in 2004. Ciechanover is part of a group of Israeli university lecturers, writers and reserve officers, who have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to open contacts with Syria and Hamas.(AFP/Pressensbild/File)

AFP/Pressensbild/File Photo: Israeli scientist Aaron Ciechanover signs a chair at Stockholm’s Nobel museum in 2004. Ciechanover is part of a group of Israeli university lecturers, writers and reserve officers, who have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to open contacts with Syria and Hamas (AFP/Pressensbild/File)

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Dozens of Israeli university lecturers, writers and reserve officers have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to open contacts with
Syria and the Palestinians, including Hamas.

Among the 71 signatories were well-known writers Amoz Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, as well as Aaron Ciechanover, who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2004, and retired general Shlomo Gazit, a former head of military intelligence.

“The war in Lebanon is behind us, but its results have significantly increased the risk of another war: a new war in south Lebanon, a war with Syria or even a conflict involving the Iranian army,” said the petition seen by AFP.

“Everything should be done to avoid that,” it continued.

The petition urged the prime minister to “examine” any appeal for dialogue emanating from an Arab country and to “sound out the possibility of secret negotiations”.

According to the signatories, Israel should act on the “three axes” of Syria, the Palestinians and Lebanon “to consolidate the ceasefire and UN resolution 1701″ that ended Israel’s recent 34-day war with Shiite militia Hezbollah.

On the Palestinian front, the intellectuals said the idea of talking to officials from the ruling Islamist movement Hamas should not be ruled out.

The petition was delivered to Olmert and five of his cabinet ministers, said Naphtali Raz, a teacher behind the initiative.

New Pro Israel Lobby will be created in Europe

Elders of Zion to Meet in Brussels Graveyard

New Pro Israel Lobby will be created in Europe

09.07.2006 | Israel Today
by Staff Writer

A gala event in Brussels next week will celebrate the creation of a new pro-Israel lobby in Europe, similar to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) operating in the United States.

The organization, “European Friends of Israel,” already has 150 members from the European Parliament. The body is backed financially by Jewish businessmen. Lobby members decided to make their activities as a pan-European lobby official and to network Israel supporters among members of the European Parliament and in national parliaments where no such lobby currently exists. The organization also aims to strengthen ties between existing pro-Israel groups across the continent and to help to improve Israel’s image in Europe.

The opening event will host Knesset members from Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry gave its blessing to the formation of the organization and instructed its European embassies to assist and cooperate with it. Officials in the Foreign Ministry said that it is an important initiative in light of the current relationship between Israel and the European Union.

Michel Gur-Ari, head of the organization, said that the lobby intends to help transform Europe into an ally of Israel.

Gala launches ‘European Friends of Israel’

Hundreds of European and Israeli politicians, parliament members, other senior officials attend formal induction in Brussels of new organization of European supporters of Israel. EFI rep: Aim is to unite supporters of Israel into political force that will aid political-diplomatic arena, commerce

09.14.2006 | YnetNews.com
by Ronny Sofer

During the induction ceremony of a new organization of European Friends of Israel (EFI) at the European parliament in Brussels, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert noted that Europe had a key role in building the diplomatic process in the Middle East. Olmert made the comments in a pre-filmed address broadcast at the formal launch party.

Olmert further reiterated that he was willing to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas without preconditions

The gala event to launch the pan-European pro-Israel body, which unites hundreds of EU parliament members, was attended by a number of Knesset members including Limor Livnat, Danny Yatom, Amira Dotan and Avshalom Vilan.

Knesset Chairman Dalia Itzik and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is currently on a diplomatic visit in New York, also sent missives to the participants in the event.

Some 200 European parliament members attended the launch, which was held in Brussels, Belgium. Likewise, representatives of the Israeli aerial industry, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, the Technion and other Israeli bodies also attended. Special displays on Israel were presented in the reception hall.

Representative of EFI in Israel, Yehoshua Mor Yosef, said that this was the first time an effort was being made to join forces among European supporters of Israel.

“The aim is to unite all supporters of Israel to a political force that will aid not only in the political-diplomatic arena but also in the issue of trade in Europe. The even was held with the blessing of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and it will help publicize Israel in this area. I see great importance in this development and in Europe’s continued support of Israel,” Mor Yosef said.

Chavez at UN “The world is waking up against American Empire” and he promotes Chomskys book

Video of a Chavez speech at the UN, calling Bush the Devil and claiming the podium still smells of sulpher from Bushes speech the day before.  Well worth a listen.

for more see here http://fanonite.wordpress.com/2006/09/21/it-smells-of-sulphur-here/

Clash of civilizations? Noam Chomsky

On 5 November 2001, Noam Chomsky gave a lecture on ‘Militarism, Democracy and People’s Right to Information’ at a public forum convened by the National Campaign for the People’s Right to Information. During the question-answer session that followed the lecture, Chomsky was asked whether he thought that ‘the present conflict between the Taliban and the US and its allies can be seen as a “clash of civilizations” of the kind expected by Samuel Huntington.’ His response:


REMEMBER the context of Huntington’s thesis, the context in which it was put forth. This was after the end of the Cold War. For fifty years, both the US and the Soviet Union had used the pretext of the Cold War as a justification for any atrocities that they wanted to carry out. So if the Russians wanted to send tanks to East Berlin, that was because of the Cold War. And if the US wanted to invade South Vietnam and wipe out Indo-China, that was because of the Cold War. If you look over the history of this period, the pretext had nothing to do with the reasons. The reasons for the atrocities were based in domestic power interests, but the Cold War gave an excuse. Whatever the atrocity carried out, you could say it’s defence against the other side.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the pretext is gone. The policies remain the same, with slight changes in tactics, but you need a new pretext. And in fact there’s been a search for pretexts for quite a long time. Actually, it started twenty years ago. When the Reagan Administration came in, it was already pretty clear that appeal to the pretext of the Russian threat was not going to work for very long. So they came into office saying that the focus of their foreign policy would be to combat the plague of international terrorism.

That was twenty years ago. There’s nothing new about this. We have to defend ourselves from other terrorists. And they proceeded to react to that plague by creating the most extraordinary international terrorist network in the world, which carried out massive terror in Central America and Southern Africa and all over the place. In fact, it was so extreme that its actions were even condemned by the World Court and Security Council. With 1989 coming, you needed some new pretexts. This was very explicit. Remember, one of the tasks of intellectuals, the solemn task, is to prevent people from understanding what’s going on. And in order to fulfil that task, you have to ignore the government documentation, for example, which tells you exactly what’s going on. This is a case in point.



Just to give you one illustration. Every year the White House presents to Congress a statement of why we need a huge military budget. Every year it used to be the same: the Russians are coming. The Russians are coming, so we need this monstrous military budget. The question that anyone who is interested in international affairs should have been asking himself or herself is, what are they going to say in March 1990? That was the first presentation to Congress after the Russians clearly weren’t coming – they were not around any more. So that was a very important and extremely interesting document. And of course, it is not mentioned anywhere, because it’s much too interesting. That was March 1990, the first Bush Administration giving its presentation to Congress.

It was exactly the same as every year. We need a huge military budget. We need massive intervention forces, mostly poised at the Middle East. We have to protect what’s called the ‘defence industrial base’ – that’s a euphemism that means high-tech industry. We have to ensure that the public pays the costs of high-tech industry by funnelling it through the military system under the pretext of defence.



So it was exactly the same as before. The only difference was the reasons. It turned out that the reasons we needed all this was not because the Russians were coming, but – I’m quoting – because of the ‘technological sophistication of Third World powers.’ That’s why we need the huge military budget. The massive military forces aimed at the Middle East still have to be aimed there, and here comes an interesting phrase. It says, they have to be aimed at the Middle East where ‘the threat to our interests could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door.’ In other words, sorry, I’ve been lying to you for fifty years, but now the Kremlin isn’t around any more so I’ve got to tell you the truth: ‘The threat to our interests could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door.’

Remember, it couldn’t be laid at Iraq’s door either, because at that time Saddam Hussein was a great friend and ally of the United States. He had already carried out his worst atrocities, like gassing Kurds and everything else, but he remained a fine guy, who hadn’t disobeyed orders yet – the one crime that matters. So nothing could be laid at Iraq’s door, or at the Kremlin’s door.

The real threat, as always, was that the region might take control of its own destiny, including its own resources. And that can’t be tolerated, obviously. So we have to support oppressive states, like Saudi Arabia and others, to make sure that they guarantee that the profits from oil (it’s not so much the oil as the profits from oil) flow to the people who deserve it: rich western energy corporations or the US Treasury Department or Bechtel Construction, and so on. So that’s why we need a huge military budget. Other than that, the story is the same.

What does this have to do with Huntington? Well, he’s a respected intellectual. He can’t say this. He can’t say, look, the method by which the rich run the world is exactly the same as before, and the major confrontation remains what it has always been: small concentrated sectors of wealth and power versus everybody else. You can’t say that. And in fact if you look at those passages on the clash of civilizations, he says that in the future the conflict will not be on economic grounds. So let’s put that out of our minds. You can’t think about rich powers and corporations exploiting people, that can’t be the conflict. It’s got to be something else. So it will be the ‘clash of civilizations’ – the western civilization and Islam and Confucianism.



Well, you can test that. It’s a strange idea, but you can test it. For example, you can test it by asking how the United States, the leader of the western civilization, has reacted to Islamic fundamentalists. Well, the answer is, it’s been their leading supporter. For instance, the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist state in the world at that time was Saudi Arabia. Maybe it has been succeeded by the Taliban, but that’s an offshoot of Saudi Arabian Wahhabism.

Saudi Arabia has been a client of the United States since its origins. And the reason is that it plays the right role. It ensures that the wealth of the region goes to the right people: not people in the slums of Cairo, but people in executive suites in New York. And as long as they do that, Saudi Arabian leaders can treat women as awfully as they want, they can be the most extreme fundamentalists in existence, and they’re just fine. That’s the most extreme fundamentalist state in the world.

What is the biggest Muslim state in the world? Indonesia. And what’s the relation between the United States and Indonesia? Well, actually the United States was hostile to Indonesia until 1965. That’s because Indonesia was part of the nonaligned movement. The United States hated Nehru, despised him in fact, for exactly the same reason. So they despised Indonesia. It was independent. Furthermore, it was a dangerous country because it had one mass-based political party, the PKI, which was a party of the poor, a party of peasants, basically. And it was gaining power through the open democratic system, therefore it had to be stopped.



The US tried to stop it in 1958 by supporting a rebellion. That failed. They then started supporting the Indonesian Army, and in 1965 the army carried out a coup, led by General Suharto. They carried out a huge massacre of hundreds of thousands, maybe a million people (mostly landless peasants), and wiped out the only mass-based party. This led to unrestrained euphoria in the West. The United States, Britain, Australia – it was such a glorious event that they couldn’t control themselves.

The headlines were, ‘A gleam of light in Asia’, ‘A hope where there once was none’, ‘The Indonesian moderates have carried out a boiling bloodbath’. I mean, they didn’t conceal what happened – ‘Staggering mass slaughter’, ‘The greatest event in history’. The CIA compared it to the massacres of Stalin and Hitler, and that was wonderful. And ever since that time, Indonesia became a favoured ally of the United States.

It continued to have one of the bloodiest records in the late twentieth century (mass murder in East Timor, hideous tortures of dissidents, and so on), but it was fine. It was the biggest Islamic state in the world, but it was just fine. Suharto was ‘our kind of guy’, the way Clinton described him when he visited in the mid-nineties. And he stayed a friend of the United States until he made a mistake. He made a mistake by dragging his feet over IMF orders.

After the Asian crash, the IMF imposed very harsh orders, and Suharto didn’t go along the way he was supposed to. And he also lost control of the society. That’s also a mistake. So at that point the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, gave him a telephone call, and said literally, ‘We think it’s time for a democratic transition.’ Merely by accident, four hours later he abdicated, but Indonesia remained a US favourite.



These are two of the main Islamic states. What about the extreme Islamic fundamentalist non-state actors, let’s say the Al Qaeda network. Who formed them? They’re the creation of the CIA, British intelligence, Saudi Arabian funding, Egypt and so on. They brought the most extreme radical fundamentalists they could find anywhere, in North Africa or the Middle East, and trained them, armed them, nurtured them to harass the Russians – not to help the Afghans. These guys were carrying out terrorism from the beginning. They assassinated President Saddat twenty years ago. But they were the main groups supported by the US. So, where is the clash of civilizations?

Let’s move a little further. During the 1980s, the United States carried out a major war in Central America. A couple of hundred thousand people were killed, four countries almost destroyed, I mean it was a vast war. Who was the target of that war? Well, one of the main targets was the Catholic Church. The decade of the 1980s began with the assassination of an archbishop. It ended with the assassination of six leading Jesuit intellectuals, including the rector of the main university. They were killed by basically the same people – terrorist forces, organized and armed and trained by the United States.



During that period, plenty of church people were killed. Hundreds of thousands of peasants and poor people also died, as usual, but one of the main targets was the Catholic Church. Why? Well, the Catholic Church had committed a grievous sin in Latin America. For hundreds of years, it had been the church of the rich. That was fine. But in the 1960s, the Latin American bishops adopted what they called a ‘preferential option for the poor.’ At that point they became like this mass-based political party in Indonesia, which was a party of the poor and the peasants and naturally it had to be wiped out. So the Catholic Church had to be smashed.

Coming back to the beginning, just where is the clash of civilizations? I mean, there is a clash alright. There is a clash with those who are adopting the preferential option for the poor no matter who they are. They can be Catholics, they can be Communists, they can be anything else. They can be white, black, green, anything. Western terror is totally ecumenical. It’s not really racist – they’ll kill anybody who takes the wrong stand on the major issues.

But if you’re an intellectual, you can’t say that. Because it’s too obviously true. And you can’t let people understand what is obviously true. You have to create deep theories, that can be understood only if you have a PhD from Harvard or something. So we have a clash of civilizations, and we’re supposed to worship that. But it makes absolutely no sense.


* Based on the transcript of a lecture delivered at the Delhi School of Economics on 5 November 2001, to be published by Oxford University Press. Thanks are due to Ingrid Evjen-Elias and Emma Schwartz for help with the transcription.