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MER WEEKEND READING:
Professor Noam Chomsky is one of the world's most
acclaimed political commentators. "Arguably the
most important intellectual alive" was the comment
made some years ago in the NEW YORK TIMES when
reviewing one of his dozens of important books
about contemporary affairs. And those who have
not seen "MANUFACTURING CONSENT - CHOMSKY AND THE
MEDIA" (a unique 3-hour video documentary) have
missed one of the most important commentaries
about our times that is essential to understanding
the age in which we live.
C H O M S K Y O N P A L E S T I N E
"The PLO leadership over the years failed to comprehend
how the more democratic societies function and I think
Palestinians have suffered gravely from these failures."
Just before the Oslo Accords, I happened to come across some remarks
by Haider Abdel Shafi, in a talk he gave in Bethlehem, July 1993, when
the PLO leadership was secretly taking matters into its own hands by bypassing
the Palestinian negotiators. In his talk he held out little hope
for the peace process. He said it was structured in such a way that it
could not lead to real self-determination. These are conclusions he repeated
after the conclusion of the Declaration of Principles was
announced a few weeks later, and as the next stages were underway.
The basic problem he discussed in his July 1993 talk, which became still sharper when the PLO leadership took over, was that the negotiations were taking place between a rich, powerful, well-organised state that was virtually an accessory of the superpower in charge, and on the other hand representatives of a society that had been oppressed and lacked internal cohesion, democratic institutions and a representative leadership. In such a confrontation the outcome is predictable, as he pointed out, and also the path towards improving these conditions to allow more meaningful negotiations is also clear from that analysis.
To quote his own words;
The negotiations are not worth fighting about, the critical issue is transforming our own society. We must decide amongst ourselves to use all our strengths to develop our collective leadership and the democratic institutions that will achieve our goals and guide us to the future. The important thing for us is to take care of our own internal situation and to organise our own society, and correct the negative aspects of the negotiations from which our society has been suffering from for generations, the reason for our losses against our foes.
OSLO: "A PREDICTABLE AND OMINOUS PATH"
These remarks struck me as perceptive and accurate when I read them in August 1993, even more so when the Oslo Accords were announced a few weeks later, and as events developed, what seemed to me a predictable and ominous path. More recently, Asmi Bashara stressed the fact that only democracy can save the Palestinian administration from 'Lahadism', while absence of democracy will turn its Bantustan situation into the final status, a conclusion that also seems to me to be plausible and accurate.
In the absence of democracy a popular mobilisation will be deflected into a catastrophic confrontation with the Palestinian Authority instead of Israel, which seems largely correct. I would only add that to be a success, the confrontation will have to cut across Palestinian and Israeli society to join elements in both societies, and it will also have to rely on a form of international solidarity amongst peoples abroad, particularly in the US, which is overwhelmingly dominant in this region, and indeed the world.
These are dimensions of the problem that I think have not been overly faced in the past, and they reflect the internal problems of Palestinian society which Dr Abdel Shafi has spoken.
INTERNAL FAILURES IN THE PALESTINIAN LIBERATION STRUGGLE
One aspect of these problems is the isolation of leadership from a healthy
democratic interchange that might have helped to correct a seriously-mistaken
course. The internal problems of democratisation involve dismantling
of authoritarian and
repressive institutions, ranging from the family to the larger society. That is a prerequisite for developing effective policy, and constructing a public stance that might yield a favourable outcome, despite extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It's a problem that has taken place, sometimes in ways that are quite remarkable, and inspiring, under conditions of terrible oppression and poverty, some of which I have witnessed.
Under such conditions, people have sometimes, in some remarkable fashion, found the inner resources to create vibrant, lively civil societies and to open a democratic state -that's been true of the Palestinians as well, dramatically so, during the Intifada - which I had the chance to see a little bit of myself, travelling through the West Bank in 1988. I don't have the competence to say anything about the internal problems of Palestinian society that Dr Shafi and Asmi Bashara are raising, I would like to keep to discussion of the issues I know something about, in part from direct experience over quite a few years.
I want to talk about two questions, two rather simple matters. One is the question of international solidarity, and the second is the matter of confronting illusions and failure. Both of these relate closely to the issue of internal democratisation, the creation of healthy, democratic institutions that really function, and open space for free discussion and interchange and a representative leadership that grows out of that background, and constantly returns to it. Those are factors that are crucially involved in factors that I want to discuss, and it should hardly require emphasis that for the people who are suffering the most, relations with international community and a clear-headed understanding without illusions, are matters of essential importance.
Liberation requires limits on the power of the oppressor, from within, otherwise there will be no liberation. Again, that's true from personal relations to large-scale political and social structures. History shows that quite clearly, direct experience confirms it, often richly, again, I stress of every relationship, from interpersonal relationships, to social-political struggle of a broader type. In the specific case of national liberation, this translates into the need to construct bonds of sympathy and support with people inside the system of power that is holding the gun. That can be done, and personally, some of the most treasured moments of my own life involved participating in relations of just that kind within the US and in many parts of the world.
For the Palestinians what this means is within Israel and the US one of the great failures of the Palestinian leadership is that it has not undertaken these initiatives as it might have, and in fact it has even erected barriers to establishment of such relations, and the cost in suffering and anguish have been great. The lack of roots in a society with internal democracy has very likely been a factor. There are many illustrations of the crucial significance of international solidarity, of links between those who are struggling against oppression and popular forces elsewhere, crucially within the powerful systems that are conducting the oppression themselves. For example, the US wars in Indo-China, there is no question whatsoever that the US could easily have smashed the resistance at very little cost to itself, simply by declaring a WW II-style national mobilisation, and unleashing its national forces of violence. That would have ended the war very fast. That was prevented by internal opposition in the US, which developed very slowly and against very serious difficulties but, it did develop, and it was based overwhelmingly on moral grounds. That's a fact, although it's considered unsophisticated to recognise it, but it is a fact.
The same was true of the US wars in Central America, in the 1980s, and the US 35-year war against Cuba. All of those could easily have been won, if it were not for the internal impediments, or barriers, to using the force that is more than available. A case relevant to here is South African white society, which had more than enough force at its command to destroy the ANC, and to maintain the apartheid system, and the Bantustans. Internal opposition within white society and strong international solidarity movements limited those measures and, after enormous suffering, the system was overthrown. We should remember the dramatic collapse of the apartheid system and of course the dismantling of the homelands was recent, and very surprising. No one could have predicted that a few years ago, but the oppression was reaching a peak a few years ago, and the early 1990s was probably the time of the greatest atrocities, while 10 years ago there was a virtual war against the African population, and the ANC was barely able to survive.
But it changed, and it's an indication of what can happen, with dedicated
and courageous struggle. In this case, crucially dependent on very powerful
bonds of sympathy and support, from within the oppressive society and the
outside world. And
there are many other examples. In fact I don't know of a successful liberation struggle that doesn't have this characteristic.
These examples show that injustice will not be overcome without dedicated, courageous struggle by the victims, but that more is needed if concentrations of power are not to prevail. Those concentrations must be restricted and eroded, and that can only come about from within, and indeed that will come from links from sympathy and support for struggles against injustice.
Another crucial element of liberation is the willingness to free oneself from illusions. That is never easy, and in societies that are less free it can be extremely difficult. A leadership that is isolated from democratic and popular interaction is more likely to act on the basis of illusion and misunderstanding, for reasons that are clear, and I think are well demonstrated by the historical record. It's particularly difficult and important to face failure honestly and to ask why they occurred. The Palestinian national movement has achieved a great deal in the face of an extremely powerful enemy and enormous obstacles, but there have also been enormous failures, and I think Dr Shafi identified those accurately.
Specifically the PLO leadership over the years failed to comprehend how the more democratic societies function and I think Palestinians have suffered gravely from these failures and should think about them quite seriously. Among the cases that I know about from study or direct participation, the PLO is unusual and perhaps unique in its failure to make any serious effort to reach public opinion in the US, or even to understand the importance of doing so.
The guiding idea seems to be that politics is a matter of deals made in secret among the elite, and this is true in part, but only in part. Popular sentiment and action play a very significant role, and the PLO leadership never seems to have recognised that. It is unnecessary to stress the US overwhelming significance in this regard. It basically has run this region for the last 50 years, and even more so in the last few years, and the Middle East region is of central importance in US strategic planning, not because of Israel and the Palestinians, but the oil resources. Not to pay attention to what is happening in the US is an invitation to disaster. In the US the PLO would have found it easier to present its case than many other third world movements. And it had also had unlimited resources, maybe too much for its own good!
The Palestinian cause could have gained a great deal of popular support. Just to illustrate with a crucial part of the story, for more than 20 years the US government has unilaterally blocked the diplomatic efforts to implement the very broad international consensus in favour of the two-state settlement of the Palestine-Israel conflict. Meanwhile the US population favours that outcome 2 to 1, and that is remarkable because few people had heard any advocacy of this position, meaning they made it up for themselves, and virtually no one was aware of the role of their own government in blocking the path to a peaceful settlement. No significant solidarity movement developed, despite the efforts of many activists within the US. Even the most elementary fact could not break through to public attention and awareness. This is quite different from the cases that I mentioned before, and others like them.
Well, there are many reasons for these painful failures, and all of us have to think about our own roles in those failures, but one reason is the choices made by the PLO leadership. These are matters again that I think Palestinians should consider quite carefully. Edward Said has recently begun to discuss some of the efforts that he had undertaken, to convince the leadership to "organise a strategic campaign abroad, to articulate the moral dimensions of the cause, rather than posturing as romantic militants." He uses the example of the anti-apartheid campaign as a model that could have been followed, and that in fact was proposed as the model to be followed, but was not followed. It is an appropriate analogy, now that we see the outcome, one of many.
I was personally involved in some of these efforts for many years and the failure was total, beyond anything I know of, and significant opportunities were lost. I don't think that is forever, I think it can be overcome, but only if the issues are faced squarely, honestly, and without illusion. The facts about these matters have never really been made public for all sorts of reasons, but it isn't hard to discover them.
FREEING ONESELF FROM ILLUSIONS
Let me turn to some illusions that have seriously undermined the Palestinian cause; there are many such. These include: misunderstandings of issues of solidarity and democratic politics; about armed struggle; terror; the role of the Soviet Union; Palestinian armed strength in Lebanon; and the world order and its rules, some examples I know of from personal experience.
More recently there are more serious illusions about the Oslo Process. Again, a lot of these have been serious and have caused a great deal of harm. A more democratic community could have provided a corrective and still can.
One example to illustrate is from a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement
in Delhi just a few weeks ago. An interview with Farrouk Kaddoumi,
a representative of the Palestinians [Ed: and head of the PLO's political
department], was published in a
very good Indian journal. Here are a few of his statements:
Firstly: "Peace for Land is the basis of the Oslo Peace Agreement, and Israel has given a commitment to withdraw from the Palestinian Occupied Territories, but this has collapsed because Netanyahu was against the Peace Process from the beginning. Although I feel there is still hope for the peace process to be resurrected."
Secondly: "Under the Oslo Agreement, Palestinians were supposed to have control over water, telecommunications and transportation, amongst other things."
Thirdly: "The PLO insisted on sticking to the text of the initiative made by former US-President Bush, which involved the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on Palestine, this would have solved the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people."
Fourthly: "Israel gave guarantees at Oslo regarding Jerusalem, although they were secret, but current efforts to Judaise Jerusalem violate these guarantees."
That picture is completely wrong from start to finish, and has no resemblance to the truth. Let me go through it, case-by-case. Take the notion of 'peace for land' and Oslo. The Declaration of Principles didn't say much, but the crucial part, the only part that was definite was what it said about the permanent settlement, that is the long-term settlement to be reached down the road. It said it would based on 242, crucially excluding other UN declarations on Palestinian rights.
Now you know very well there has been a long debate about this for many years. 242 is completely rejectionist, it says nothing about Palestinian rights, but only a just solution to the refugee problem. That is the only reference to the Palestinians. So it is a totally rejectionist agreement, and from the 1970s and other declarations about Palestinian rights, the US has blocked them, and all are excluded from a permanent settlement. That is a very crucial fact, that 242 is the basis for settlement, not the UN declarations on Palestinian rights.
Secondly, what is UN 242? You don't answer questions like that by looking in a dictionary, or selecting pronouncements you happen to like. The meaning of international laws is determined by the doctrines and practice of the powerful. You can have delusions about this if you like, but it's not sensible to have delusions if you are vulnerable and defenceless.
In this case, the US runs the show in the Middle East, and has made it extremely clear for a long time what UN 242 means in practice. The record is clear, and it is senseless to ignore it, and for the victims it is dangerous as well. UN 242 was reached in 1967, at the initiative of the US. And it had nothing about Palestinians, it just meant full Israeli withdrawal from territories in return for full peace. That is the essence of it. That indeed was the US interpretation, the only qualification was that there would be minor and mutual territorial adjustment, for borders to be straightened out, and this was formalised in 1969 with the Rogers Plan, and that remained the US position, until 1971.
Then there was a crucial turning point in Middle East diplomacy when
President Sadat accepted the US position, solely with regard to Egypt,
taking up a position which was completely rejectionist, with nothing about
Palestinians, and saying nothing
about the West Bank and Golan either, but he agreed to a full peace treaty with Israel if Israel withdrew to the pre-1967 Egypt-Israel borders which is exactly the US position. Israel welcomed this as a genuine peace offer, but said it would not
At that time the US had an interesting choice, a decisive choice, was it going to continue to maintain its traditional position, meaning it would line up with Egypt against Israel, or would it shift its position, and adopt the Israeli interpretation of only partial withdrawal? There was an internal conflict over this, and it could have gone either way. Kissinger, the National Security adviser, won this internal bureaucratic conflict, and the US accepted his position of 'stalemate', meaning no negotiation, no diplomacy, just reliance on force, and Sadat's offer was rejected, and the US changed its interpretation of 242, which in the real world means 242 changed its meaning, and that's an important fact to recognise.
From that time on, UN 242 means what the US says it means, because those
with force determine these things. It means partial withdrawal as the US
and Israel determine. That's the meaning of UN 242, it remains completely
rejectionist. At that point the
US and Israel were in complete international isolation, as the rest of the world interpreted 242 differently. That isolation became more extreme in 1976.
Then the UN Security Council debated a resolution, which incorporated
all of 242, in its exact wording, but added to it a call for Palestinian
rights for the first time, in fact calling for a two-state settlement which
has since become a familiar idea, with UN 242 interpreted in its original
sense of full withdrawal, and a Palestinian state in the territories from
which Israel would withdraw. That resolution was supported by Europe, the
Non-Aligned countries, by the Arab confrontation states, Syria Jordan and
Egypt, but the PLO very vigorously - in fact the Israeli ambassador Herzog
asserted the PLO prepared the resolution - and I don't know whether that's
true but they certainly supported it vigorously. The US vetoed it, as it
did so again
several times later.
In an interesting aside - it's interesting and, for me, an amazing fact that is very revealing - that the PLO seems to have forgotten its public and open support for a two-state settlement. In 1976, in quite unambiguous terms, more unambiguous than ever, since commonly in the Palestinian literature, PLO literature, this decision is traced to 1988, but that's not correct. It was a public, open, and vigorous support in January 1976, which seems to have disappeared from the memory of the PLO. That's a sign of rather deep confusion, which also merits some thought.
Well, without going on with the details of this, from 1971, UN 242 means partial withdrawal as the US and Israel determine unilaterally, and there is to be no recognition of Palestinian rights. That's the US position, and that is built into the Declaration of Principles explicitly: the permanent settlement is to be solely on the basis of 242, meaning as the US interprets it, and none of the other resolutions calling for Palestinian rights.
There is nothing to be gained by illusion about these matters and much
to be lost. What about the one that referred to an Israeli commitment to
withdraw from the Occupied Territories, which was stopped by Netanyahu?
That is not true. Israel made no commitment - ever - to withdraw from the
Occupied Territories. That is clear and unambiguous. It was stressed by
Rabin and Peres, and the officials responsible for settlement, all of whom
announced plans not to withdraw, very publicly, and
implemented these plans. In fact, construction and development in the Territories increased after Oslo, and the Declaration of Principles. Netanyahu did not change much in this regard, apart from style.
Furthermore all of this construction is not in violation of the Declaration of Principles, nor Oslo II, which is written carefully in such a way as to permit it, under various guises, and nothing is gained by pretending otherwise.
In terms of the second statement, under the Oslo agreement, Palestinians
were supposed to have had control over water, telecommunications and transport.
That is completely false. The Declaration of Principles said nothing whatsoever
matter. Oslo II however, that does say a lot, and it says the opposite. In specific detail, Israel keeps almost all the water, even in the final settlement, it gives the exact figures, maintains control over transportation, sometimes in ways that are quite astonishing, and Israel imposes strict limitations including complete control of anything related to the areas it intends to keep, and requires prior Israeli authorisation for anything the PLO does in Area C, namely 70 percent of the West Bank. So those statements are just the opposite of the truth, completely wrong in every respect.
On the claim the PLO insisted to the text of the initiatives made by
former US President Bush, which involved the implementation of UN Security
Council resolutions on Palestine. Again, that is just the opposite of the
truth. There is no record
of any initiative by Bush, and it is very unlikely that such an initiative was made in secret. As I mentioned, the US vetoed the crucial Security Council resolution, relating to Palestinian rights, every time they appeared, and they are explicitly excluded from the Declaration of Principles and Oslo II. The Bush administration never modified its official policy, nor has any subsequent administration modified official US policy since December 1989. That policy was official policy, endorsed the consensus agreement of the Shamir-Peres government, as the only negotiations options. Palestinians were allowed to discuss these, but nothing else.
The first principle of these is that there can be no additional Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan. The phrase "additional" is meant to imply that there already is a Palestinian state, namely Jordan, so that issue is moot.
Secondly, is that the future of Gaza, Judea and Samaria, the outside territories, will be settled according to the basic guidelines of the Israeli government, and that is official US policy. There are no other US initiatives, they have just been barely modified in the Madrid proceedings, Declaration of Principles and Oslo II.
Again, the only change since then is the willingness to accept the PLO as a partner to these arrangements, and there is no point in pretending otherwise, to ourselves, or anyone else.
The fourth point, of Israel giving guarantees at Oslo regarding Jerusalem, although they were in secret, but "the efforts to Judaise Jerusalem violate them". Well, I can't discuss secret guarantees, but it is very hard to believe that they exist. The public pronouncements, and more importantly, actions are radically in contradiction to these alleged guarantees.
JUDAISING JERUSALEM: THE "PICTURE WINDOW' WITH U.S. SUPPORT
Judaising Jerusalem has been Labour policy since 1967, when Teddy Kollek, known as 'the Great Humanitarian', took particular pride in having done nothing for the Arabs of Jerusalem, as he announced with enormous pride, "I've never done a thing for the Arabs of Jerusalem", saying the only thing he did for them was to allow them to have sewage systems, but that's because Jews would suffer if there was cholera spreading through the Arab districts.
He would allow things to have what he called a 'picture-window' effect,
meaning they would look good to international observers, and policy was
implemented along those lines. This is all public record, you don't have
to search very far to find it,
and you can see it happening on the ground. Labour certainly has had a firm commitment to Judaise Jerusalem, so it's extremely difficult to imagine secret commitments to the contrary. Here Jerusalem is understood to be an indeterminate entity, expanding in all directions reaching practically to Jericho to the east, including Ma'ale Adumim, effectively splitting the West Bank in half, cutting it off from what remains of Arab Jerusalem.
These plans have not materially changed since the transformation of Labor and Likud, merely speed or tactics or something, style mainly, in my opinion. Take the announcement to build what Israel calls Har Homa, the announcement to build 6,500 units for Jews only was taken by the Peres government, in February 1996, with a plan for ground breaking in exactly a year, which is exactly when it happened, under the Netanyahu government.
These projects continue because the US pays for them, under one or another subterfuge. The American population would be outraged if they knew anything about this, about how their tax dollars were spent. But they don't know, and the reasons carry us back to the failures and the problems I mentioned earlier.
ILLUSIONS TRANSMITTED TO
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY COMMUNITY
In brief, the picture Farrouk Kaddoumi presented to the Non-Aligned
Movement in India is completely erroneous. This is not the first time,
incidentally. I travelled in India in 1996, and gave talks all around the
country, and met lots of intellects and
activists, who were highly sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, and who therefore strongly supported the Oslo peace process because they understood it in the terms that the Palestinian leadership presented, a world of illusion which could not survive free and open debate.
The significant support for Palestinian rights is undermined and neutralised by these suicidal misunderstandings and illusions. Notice that the same people did not support apartheid, and the bantustans. All of that is very similar to the Oslo process, which merits the term 'peace process' as much as what is going on right here, but they did not support it, and they had no illusions about it. If the ANC had told them about this wonderful peace process, the homelands and so on, they would have supported it, and that would have undercut the international solidarity that was a major factor in overcoming apartheid and the bantustans policy.
The same is true in South America, where I spent a month last Fall,
finding very much the same picture, of strong support for Oslo II from
people who supported Palestinian rights, because they were interpreting
it as a world of illusion, presented to them
by the Palestinian leadership primarily. It is the same in Europe, but most importantly in the US, which is the most important case, something the PLO has never properly understood.
For years the PLO was very proud of the fact that it was recognised
by a huge number of countries, and had overwhelming support in the UN.
All this is true, and irrelevant, because it refused to understand some
very simple, elementary realities. If there is a vote at the General Assembly
at the UN, say 150 to 2, which is pretty common, that means the resolution
is vetoed if the 2 happen to include the US. The reasons for this concern
elementary facts about world order, which is not governed by
pretty words, but relations of power. The Palestinian leadership has chosen to live in a kind of dream world, and it can do that if it likes, but that 's no help to the people they claim to represent, and we return to Shafi's remark.
Secondly, the Palestinians have to recognise that the policies of the powerful states are not immutable. The US could readily shift its policy to support Palestinian rights, just as it chose at some point to support the overthrow of apartheid, which was crucially important, and it wouldn't have happened otherwise. If the US were to change its position that would arouse enormous popular support, from a population that already supports it overwhelmingly, without ever having heard anyone propose it. If it were advocated by those in power, support would go from 2 to 1, to something much, much, higher. The population would support it on the usual moral ground. That can still make a great difference.
Let's go back to the crucial fact that Oslo is based on UN 242 alone, excluding all other UN resolutions on the Palestinians, and that means 242 as determined by the US, partial withdrawal, as the US decides some kind of Bantustan-style arrangements for the Palestinians. It is not a law of nature that the US government interprets 242 in this fashion, it did not do so from 1967, to 1971, and its decision in 1971 could have gone either way. The same was true in 1976 when the issue of a two-state settlement reached the international agenda. The US could have gone along with the overwhelming international consensus and there would have been overwhelming internal support for it. If there had been any public interest, that probably would have happened, at least if the Palestinian leadership understood the importance of reaching public opinion, instead of alienating the public, and contributing to Israeli propaganda efforts, which unfortunately it did, and it does not make sense not to remember that experience. It happened as in the case of other national liberation movements and it is important to recognise what happened, why, and how failures came about.
The PLO leadership has not been alone in undermining potential international
support, by fostering illusions. The Egyptian embassy in the US has just
publicised an analysis very much like Kaddoumi's and the message is that
Americans must support
the Israeli Labor Party, and the peace process that Israel and the US has designed, and are now implementing, that is, a homeland, Bantustan-style settlement. Well, that just undercuts international support, exactly as it would have if the ANC and African states had taken the same stance. The Oslo process exists, and there is no point denying that. It's a peace process, if you like, but very much in the sense that the homelands policy that S. Africa was putting into place 40 years was a peace process, and in that case the world didn't accept that as a peace process. If the US and Israel are clever enough to give the name 'state' to whatever sectors they decide to leave under Palestinian administration, the world will recognise and even applaud that outcome, and that is in large measure a result of the failures to develop the international solidarity and understanding. It's important to recognise these failures and that it's never too late to overcome them.
I'm misleading you in picking one factor, namely the role of the PLO leadership. This is far from the only factor, but it's the one that is potentially under your control, and the one that relates to the nature of Palestinian society.
There is going to be a struggle over the long-term meaning of the Declaration of Principles , but even the subsequent agreements are somewhat open-ended, and what is on paper is not graven in stone. There are plenty of opportunities to stimulate the popular movement that will defend Palestinian human and political rights, in the US, which remains the most important case, because of its enormous power. Such efforts from the Palestinian community could draw from and help stimulate similar forces in Israel, which have been politically marginalised, in part because of their lack of US support.
There are also new opportunities for solidarity. These arise from processes underway throughout the world, usually called globalisation. This is largely fraudulent, in my opinion, but it has some elements of reality. The one thing that is being globalised is the structural model of third world societies. Any third world society that you look at, either in Central Africa or Asia, or Latin America, has the same structural problems. There are islands of great wealth and privilege within a wider mass of suffering and misery, in very sharply divided societies. There has been quite deliberate social policy in the last 20 years which is instituting something similar in rich societies also - the well-reported gaps between the poor and rich societies of the world has been growing for almost 40 years - but another much less-publicised fact is that the gap between the richer and poorer sectors of the world population, internationally cutting across societies, has been growing even faster. This a sign of the 'globalisation process' I am talking about.
These are large topics, but one consequence is that these developments are providing a new stimulus, for international solidarity and it is quite real, although somewhat invisible, for example, in the US Labor movement. That's a new and significant development. It has not been true in the past that US workers were supporting labour rights in other countries, in fact the opposite was true till now. This a very significant change, and it reflects the fact that there is a recognition of shared interests, and what's barely beginning to happen, and I think is important, is the common material interests of the poor and oppressed are coming to interact with moral concerns. That's a powerful agent for international solidarity across international lines.
Palestinians can be part of this rather promising development, but it's not going to come about by itself. It's going to take a serious, honest, intellectual effort, and for this to happen I think the recommendations of Dr Shafi concerning the need for internal democracy should be taken very, very seriously.
[Professor Chomsky last visited the Middle East in June three years
ago and delivered
these remarks at Bir Zeit University on the occupied West Bank at that time].
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