Noam Chomsky: Israel’s Response to the United Nation’s Resolution on Palestine Is ‘Hysterical’

By Ken Klippenstein, AlterNet, 28 December 2016. A victory for
the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution 14-0
condemning all Israeli settlements on Palestinian land as having “no legal
validity” and amounting to “a flagrant violation under international law.” The
resolution goes on to note that Israeli settlements pose “a major obstacle to
the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security.”
This represents the first UNSC resolution in almost eight years concerning
Israel and Palestine, and the first in over 35 years regarding
the issue of Israeli settlements. Typically the U.S. would veto resolutions
critical of Israel, but in this case, the Obama administration opted to
abstain, in effect allowing the resolution to pass.
For comment, AlterNet contacted Noam Chomsky, famed linguist, dissident and
professor emeritus of MIT. Chomsky said of the resolution, “The UNSC resolution
is essentially the same as UNSC 446, March 1979, passed 12-0-3. The main
difference is that then two countries joined the U.S. in abstaining. Now the
U.S. stands against the world; and under Trump, in even more splendid
isolation, on much more crucial matters as well.”
Following the UNSC resolution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
quickly responded by announcing a
halt to his government’s funding contributions to numerous U.N. institutions.
Netanyahu called the
resolution “a disgraceful anti-Israel maneuver” and blamed it on an “old-world
bias against Israel.” Furthermore, he vowed to exact a “diplomatic and economic
price” from the countries that supported it.
Shortly thereafter, Netanyahu made good on his threats by personally
refusing to meet with the foreign ministers of the 12 UNSC members that voted
for the resolution and ordering his Foreign Ministry to limit all working ties
with the embassies of those 12 nations. He also summoned the ambassadors to the
Foreign Ministry for a personal reprimand over the vote—including, in a highly
unusual move, the U.S.
Asked about Netanyahu’s response, Chomsky told AlterNet, “The hysterical
reaction in Israel and in Congress (bipartisan) reflects their sharp shift to
the right in the years since, and the whole incident illustrates quite
interesting shifts in world order.”
Palestinian rights advocates have quipped that Israel’s suspension of
relations with the UNSC member nations that voted for the resolution—powerful
countries including the U.K. and France—has effectively realized a goal of the
boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. AlterNet contacted Omar Barghouti,
one of the founders of the BDS movement, to see what he thought of this
assessment. Barghouti replied, “This unanimous resolution, despite its
many flaws in addressing basic Palestinian rights, has dealt Israel’s colonial
designs a serious blow that will inadvertently, yet significantly, enhance the
impact of the BDS movement in isolating Israel academically, culturally,
economically and otherwise.”
“Israel’s delusional hubris and surreal threats to punish the U.N. and
the world indicate above everything else how deeply alarmed it is at fast
becoming an international pariah, as apartheid South Africa once was.”
Ali Abunimah, the Palestinian-American founder of the Electronic Intifada,
told AlterNet that Israel’s use of diplomatic sanctions against the UNSC member
states contradicted its vocal opposition to sanctions advocated by the BDS
movement. Abunimah said, “It’s sort of amusing to Israel try to impose
sanctions and punish the whole world for this decision…Israel claims that
sanctions are illegitimate as a tool except of course when Israel is the one
wielding them, whether it’s against Iran or whether against the countries that
displeased it.”
Though Israel’s heavy-handed response may concretely impact its diplomatic
standing internationally, the resolution itself is largely symbolic and, as
professor Chomsky pointed out, a reiteration of an earlier UNSC resolution.
However, experts like Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at
Princeton University and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human
rights from 2008-2014, don’t think the resolution’s symbolic nature means it
isn’t important.
As Falk told AlterNet, “The SC resolution at this stage is symbolic. Israel
has already announced plans for thousand additional units, and the government
has indicated its refusal to comply with the resolution. Nevertheless, it is of
great psychological and potentially political support for the Palestinian
struggle to end the occupation and achieve a sustainable and just peace. The
fact that aside from the United States’ notable abstention, all 14 other
members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution, is indicative
of the encouraging reality that the world is not ready to forget the
Palestinians, that Israel faces a renewed experience of diplomatic isolation,
and that the growing international solidarity movement, including the BDS
campaign, will be strengthened and encouraged.”
Asked how the resolution could move from symbolic to something with more
concrete effects, Falk responded, “much depends on the future, and whether the
commitment in the resolution to have reports from the U.N. Secretary General
every three months on implementation will lead to any tangible results beyond a
reiteration of censure remains to be seen.”
Though the Obama administration’s unusual decision not to veto a U.N.
resolution critical of Israel might be start toward accountability, many
Palestinian rights advocates remain cynical about Obama. Abunimah told
AlterNet, “Obama has done more than any other president in history to assure
Israel’s impunity.”
“When Obama was president-elect, Israel was engaged in this massacre in
Gaza in 2008, 2009. When Obama came in he blocked any form of international
accountability, trashed the Goldstone report which was the independent U.N.
inquiry. The same in 2014 when Israel attacked Gaza, Obama actually rearmed
Israel while the bombs were falling on Gaza and then of course the same story
of blocking any form of international accountability. And …giving Israel this
unconditional boost in military aid—a minimum of $3.8 billion [per year] over
the next 10 years, up from $3.1 billion [per year] currently.”