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Chomsky on Israel’s Hindering of Palestinian Pandemic Response & Threat to Annex Occupied West Bank

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Noam Chomsky says Israel’s planned annexation of the occupied West Bank “basically formalizes” what has already been official policy over the last half-century, from both left-wing and right-wing parties in Israel. He compares Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to anti-immigrant policies in the United States, and says the main goal of annexation is to take over as much territory while excluding its Palestinian inhabitants. “Israel does not want to bring Palestinian populations into the greater Israel they’re constructing.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Israel. Thousands of people have been protesting the way Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, also protesting his corruption. This comes as the United Nations warns Israel’s threat to annex parts of the West Bank has hindered Palestinian efforts to control the pandemic. The U.N. special envoy made the remarks a day after Israeli authorities demolished a coronavirus testing center in the West Bank city of Hebron. Can you talk about what’s happening there, both the issue of the coronavirus pandemic and Netanyahu’s express attempt, any day now, to annex the West Bank?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, what’s happening with the virus is pretty horrible. If you look at the records of the main Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, they actually report cases in which settlers, what’s called the Hilltop Youth — extremist, right-wing, ultra-religious settlers in settlements that even the government of Israel regards as illegal, but leaves them alone and supports them — some of them did have coronavirus. These young, crazed militants broke into Palestinian villages to try to spread the virus. I mean, that’s at the extreme end. Destroying the centers, as you described, is the legal part of it.

In fact, Israel is treating the Palestinians — it has for a long time, all of modern history — pretty much the way the United States is treating immigrants in the virtual concentration camps south of where I live. The annexation, which they’re holding off for the moment, basically formalizes policies that have been implemented over the last 50 years.

This is both major political groupings. The Labor Party has pretty much disappeared, but it used to be the major party. So, under the Labor Party, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, others, under the — Shimon Peres — under the Labor Party, as under the Likud-based coalition, the same policies have been carried out, trying to create a Greater Israel, which takes over everything in the West Bank that is valuable, and integrates it into Israel, with huge infrastructure projects, and ban Palestinians, of course. You can drive from Ma’ale Adumim, built mostly during the Clinton years, a town east of Jerusalem, kind of virtually bisects the West Bank — you can drive from there to Tel Aviv without even seeing a Palestinian on a superhighway.

So, you take what’s important, but avoid the population centers. Israel does not want to bring Palestinian populations into the Greater Israel they’re constructing. That’s what’s called the demographic problem: too many non-Jews in a Jewish state. Can’t have that. So, we want to avoid the population centers, don’t take over Nablus, other population centers. Take over the areas that are of value to us. There is a Palestinian population; try to get rid of them as much as possible by making life unlivable, or else isolate them in unviable cantons, probably almost 200 of them in the areas that Israel is taking over, where people are cut off from their fields, from their olive groves. They have to pass through checkpoints to cross the road. Just make life as impossible as possible, and try to limit the population and take over what’s valuable.

The Jordan Valley, about a third of the West Bank, take that over. Palestinian populations have mostly been removed by one or another technique. Set up military firing zones, where nobody’s allowed in it. So you kick out the Palestinians, then you put in a Jewish settlement and tie it to the electrical and water grid. Pretty soon, it’s settled by Jews. Do the same with the Gurion Park, and so on. That’s the policy for the last 50 years. Do it slowly, sort of under the radar, so outsiders can pretend they don’t see it. But that’s what’s been happening. Annexation will essentially formalize it.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I wanted to ask what you would like to see happen here in the U.S. in the months leading up to this election, which you’ve said is the most important in human history. What should happen here in the country, in the U.S.? What should people be doing to organize?

NOAM CHOMSKY: They should be doing anything they can think of — demonstrations, protests, political organization, pressure on every pressure point you can think of, to try to block the very transparent effort of Trump, backed by his party, to set up major military confrontations, which will be an excuse for trying to either eliminate the election or to affect its results so that he doesn’t have to leave the White House.

Also, stressing the fact that we are in a major crisis. The pandemic is the immediate crisis. Meanwhile, the environmental crisis is growing seriously, has to be addressed now. We cannot wait. We must put into practice means to mitigate the crisis and overcome it, to get off of fossil fuels, to get to zero net emissions within a short time. All of this has to be done now.

We have to strongly act constantly to try to prevent the crazed lunatics in the White House from carrying out nuclear weapons tests. That’s the next thing on the agenda, breaking down the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Try to pressure them — it’s possible — to renegotiate the New START treaty. If the Democrats win the election, they’ll do it, even though it may be too late to get anywhere. All of these things have to be done right away. No let-up. We’re in a very dangerous period for the next few months. What happens may determine the fate of the country, the fate of the species.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, joining us from Tucson, Arizona, where he’s sheltering at home in the midst of the pandemic with his wife. Noam Chomsky is 91 years old. He’s professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than 50 years, now laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, Tucson, author of more than 100 books. To see Part 1 of our interview we broadcast last week, go to democracynow.org.

And this news just in: The U.S. economy contracted by a record 33% in the second quarter, and another 1.43 million people filed for state unemployment last week. More than 50 million people have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic.

And that does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks so much for joining us.

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