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(DV) Petersen: Whither Elementary Morality?







Whither Elementary Morality?
by Kim Petersen
May 29, 2006

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The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, the ruling party in Palestine, is under increasing pressure from much of the international community to acknowledge the scofflaw state of Israel’s “right to exist.” The “right to exist” specifically refers to the question of whether or not the Jewish people, have a right to erect a homeland for themselves on the land of the Palestinians. According to acclaimed intellectual Noam Chomsky, the “right to exist” for any geographical entity is “a concept unknown in international affairs.” [1]

Chomsky notes the hypocrisy in the Zionists’ rejectionism: “Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s ‘right to exist’ mirrors the refusal of Washington and Jerusalem to accept Palestine’s ‘right to exist.’”

Chomsky follows up with a criticism of Hamas: “Hamas’s formal commitment to ‘destroy Israel’ places it on a par with the US and Israel, which vowed formally that there could be no ‘additional Palestinian state.’” Chomsky equates Hamas with the US and Israel because it rejects the continuation of a state that came into existence through a pogrom against the Palestinian people.

Hamas did call for the obliteration of Israel, but Hamas has since dropped this call. [2] However, if Hamas were to agree to Israel’s “right to exist” on the Palestinian homeland, it would undermine part of its raison d’être as laid out in its covenant.

Chomsky speculates:

Although Hamas has not said so, it would come as no great surprise if Hamas were to agree to allow Jews to remain in scattered cantons in the present Israel, while Palestine constructs huge settlement and infrastructure projects to take over the valuable land and resources, effectively breaking Israel up into unviable cantons, virtually separated from one another and from some small part of Jerusalem where Jews would also be allowed to remain. And they might agree to call the fragments “a state.” If such proposals were made, we would -- rightly -- regard them as a reversion to Nazism, a fact that might elicit some thoughts. If such proposals are made, Hamas’s position would be essentially like that of the US and Israel for the past five years. [3]

Some thoughts are elicited. If Hamas were to agree to the continuation of a Jewish state in scattered cantons, would “we” then consider Hamas’s position to be one of Nazism? Chomsky equates such a speculative Hamas position to the current position of the US and Israel. But wait! Israel is guilty of Nazism, and the US through complicity, because they steal the territory of the indigenous Palestinians and squeeze them into non-viable cantons. If the Palestinians attempt to recover the territory stolen from them -- but not all -- and leave scattered cantons for the ethnic cleansers, then they are guilty of Nazism? What kind of logic is this?

In a classic case of demonizing the victim, Chomsky writes, “It is entirely fair to describe Hamas as radical, extremist, and violent, and as a serious threat to peace and a just political settlement. But the organization hardly is alone in this stance.” [italics added]

The comment is actually quite outlandish coming from a progressive. One wonders: what is even remotely fair about drawing an equivalency between an aggressor which has violently invaded and occupied the territory of an indigenous people and the victims who are only defending and attempting to recover their territory? If a gang were to break and enter into the abode of Chomsky and fiercely attempt to evict him and his family, would an act of a violent defense render Chomsky and his family the terroristic equivalent of the gang? Would such a conclusion be fair?

For Hamas to pose a “serious threat to peace and a just political settlement,” there must be such “a just political settlement” on offer. But Chomsky’s own scholarship over the years clearly points out the rejectionism of the US-Israel duo of myriad proposals for a “political settlement,” -- just or not -- with the Palestinians. [4] Why, then, does he characterize Hamas as a “serious threat” to something that does not exist and never has existed?

It should also be noted that Hamas -- “a serious threat to peace” -- has scrupulously maintained a ceasefire for the last 16 months. Meanwhile, on 20 May, Israeli forces assassinated another Palestinian leader, Mohammed Dadouh, in Gaza, killing also a woman, her five-year-old son, and the grandmother. Who is the “serious threat to peace”: the side upholding the ceasefire or the side that engages in what is, by definition, terrorism?

Nonetheless, Palestinians have the inalienable right of self-defense and the right to resist occupation.

For Hamas to acknowledge the state of Israel’s “right to exist” is tantamount to acknowledging Israel’s “right to deny the right to exist” of themselves on their own land. It is to acknowledge the right of people from another continent to invade and ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homeland that they have inhabited for 4,000 years. It is the right to kill for territorial theft.

What Hamas is being demanded to do is to acknowledge and accede to their own history of being ethnically cleansed. It is a demand to agree to their dispossession. Sheer nonsense!

Rewarding Zionism at the United Nations

The absurdity continues with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Annan desires Israel’s “unqualified” membership in the UN. At a function celebrating the centennial of the American Jewish Committee in Washington, Annan said, “I hope that within my lifetime, just as in this country, where Jews are accepted without question as full citizens by all their fellow citizens, so Israel will be accepted without question as a member by the whole family of nations.” [5]

The 1947 UN Partition Plan imposed a Jewish area upon 55 percent of the territory of Palestinians; no referendum was permitted. The UN had, in effect, rewarded the use of ethnic cleansing by a racist aggressor.

Then, in 1950, the UN General Assembly granted conditional membership to Israel. UN General Assembly Resolution 273 ordered Israel to implement UN General Assembly Resolution 181 that defines the borders of Israel and Palestine and Resolution 194 that recognizes the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Israel has never complied with either demand. What does this imply about the validity of Israel’s status as a current member of the UN? The fact that UN General Assembly Resolutions are non-binding under international law does not absolve Israel of its moral duty to honor agreements that it has signed. Morality and Zionism, however, are mutually exclusive. There is no morality in the territorial theft of another people’s land. [6]

The state of Israel is a serial violator of international law. By Israeli reckoning, from 1967 to 1988, the UN Security Council passed 88 resolutions against it. During that time period, the UN General Assembly passed 429 resolutions against Israel. [7]

Annan’s words amount to a repudiation of the institution that he nominally heads, an institution sinking deeper into political irrelevancy.

Why doesn’t Annan call for “unqualified” Palestinian member state status in the UN? Why does the UN not recognize one half of the partition it imposed on Palestine?

But then, what kind of comments would one expect from an individual who categorically states that the invasion of UN member state Iraq was illegal, and makes no public moves to oppose the aggression?

Annan stood dismally by when three of his humanitarian heads in Iraq (UN humanitarian aid chiefs Dennis Halliday, Hans von Sponeck, and World Food Program chief Jutta Burghardt) resigned in disgust at the genocide being wreaked on Iraqis by UN sanctions. Annan’s public silence is, at worst, complicity with genocide.

Trumping Elementary Morality

Israel is a state erected on the destruction, still ongoing, of another state and its indigenous people. Israel has been in existence since 1948: a 58-year fact-on-the-ground. Chomsky holds that the passage of time does give legitimacy to the state of Israel. As a solution to the current violence, Chomsky concedes this violent fact-on-the-ground by referring to the “reality” of options available to the Palestinians. Chomsky argues that it is in the best interests of the dispossessed and brutalized Palestinians and the brutalizing Zionist dispossessors to agree to a confederation, but the “reality” is that the outcome will probably be a two-state solution. [8]

In other words, to end the present suffering of Palestinians, the Palestinians should agree to their dispossession and in return they will be rewarded, supposedly, by a cessation of the violence against them for the audacity of wanting to live on their land. What does elementary morality posit about such reasoning?

Further, since the Zionists have consistently violated international law and international agreements that they have undertaken, and since they have refused to delimit their Zionist state, why would any thinker suggest that Palestinians should reach an agreement on territorial sharing with the Zionists? Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion stated, “The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan. One does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today -- but the boundaries of the Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them.”

Zionist morality is apparently quite different than conventional elementary morality. In 1937, Ben-Gurion wrote, “I support compulsory transfer [i.e., ethnic cleansing]. I don’t see anything immoral in it.” Following the logic of Ben-Gurion, the Nazis were operating within the bounds of morality when they were transferring European Jews.

Chomsky’s statements provide cover for several decades of Zionist expansion. Is Chomsky correct? Does the passage of time obviate morality and legitimate evil deeds?

What conclusions would Martian observers of humanity reach when one of Earth’s most celebrated living scholars intellectually concedes not the tactic of ethnic cleansing but the result on the grounds of “reality”?

By the same “reality”-based logic, shouldn’t Chomsky also call for gifting Iraq’s oil to the invader-occupiers in exchange for partial restoring of Iraq’s sovereignty and ceasing the lethal violence against Iraqis? After all, the “reality” is that as long as the Iraqis resist occupation, Iraqis will die in large numbers.

Shouldn’t the Afghan resistance relent and allow the traversing of its territory by pipelines in exchange for an end to occupation and oppression?

The same reasoning would permeate the historical chain of imperialism. The Vietnamese should have acquiesced to the Americans, and to the French before them, to spare violent misery being heaped upon the people. But the Vietnamese succeeded at pushing the aggressors out of Vietnam. The Iraqi resistance is so far having stunning success against overwhelming odds. Why, in the particular case of Zionist atrocities, should Palestinians concede their dignity and accept decades of ethnic cleansing, killing, and humiliation based on Chomsky’s view of “reality” that he does not seem to apply elsewhere?

What is the lesson here? Elementary morality dictates that it is wrong to kill and thieve. However, according to the rationale proffered by Chomsky, “reality”-driven considerations trump elementary morality; if an entity thieves and kills, it should be placated with possession of some of its ill-gotten booty in exchange for a cessation of its violence. There is no call for sanctions against the thieving killer; instead it is rewarded for agreeing to end its violence.

What does such logic ordain for subsequent acts of theft and violence?

How does it look to Martian observers when the effete figurehead of the UN and a foremost intellectual and progressive advocate what amounts to a bankrupting of elementary morality?

Kim Petersen, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, lives in the traditional Mi'kmaq homeland colonially designated Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org.


[1] Noam Chomsky, “Afterword: Failed States,” ZNet, 26 April 2006.

[2] Chris McGreal, “Hamas drops call for destruction of Israel from manifesto,” The Guardian, 12 January 2006.

[3] Chomsky,
op. cit.

[4] Noam Chomsky, “Rejectionism and Accommodation” in Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel & The Palestinians (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1983, 1999), 39-88.

[5] Breaking News, “Annan wants full U.N. membership for Israel,” JTA, 4 May 2004

[6] The UN correctly recognized the immorality of Zionism in 1975, when UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 was adopted. US pressure had this resolution overturned in 1991.

[7] Reference Desk, “The U.N.’s Record Vis a Vis Israel,” Arutz Sheva.

[8] Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (New York: New Press, 2002) Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel (Eds.), 134-135.

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