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Their View of the World is Through a Bombsight
Noam Chomsky, USA
September 1, 2006
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 pretence
to legitimacy. Amid all the charges and counter-charges,
the most immediate factor behind the assault is the Israeli-
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
Organization’s annoying calls for a diplomatic settlement.
Despite many different circumstances, the July invasion
falls into the same pattern.
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 well.
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 formalising its programme 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
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
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
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 services”.
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
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 did.
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 This article was first published in the Guardian on Sept. 1, 2006.