So-Called Bloodless Wars: Isreal

An Interview with Noam Chomsky, by Carl Whithaus

Two blue lines to represent the Israeli flag

CW: In part of "Military Mashups: Remixing Literacy Practices," Steven Fraiberg examines how the Israeli army acts as an incubator for high tech startups. It seemed appropriate since Obama is heading over to the Middle East today (June 2, 2009) to ask you a little bit about shifts in national policy, military policy around the Middle East. Do you see the Obama administration making a significant change from the Bush regime that was in place the previous eight years? Or do you see Obama’s policies as a continuation of fundamentally the same policies?

Chomsky: There is a lot of talk about a major turning point in Middle East policy. There’s a lot of hype about it. But when you look at the facts, it’s very slim. Supposedly there is a confrontation between Obama and Netanyahu [the prime minister of Israel]. There are a lot of headlines about this great confrontation and what it’s going to mean. There is a confrontation, but appearances are deceiving.

CW: I wonder if we think about the use of technology by the IDF as a mechanism of control of the population in Gaza and also in the West Bank, I wonder if you would want to make any links between that and Israeli success in terms of high-tech corporations. You were speaking earlier of going all the way back to ARPAnet. It seems that in the last 5 to 10 years the U.S. has been less successful in spinning out military technology into civilian applications than the Israelis have been. Do you think that is accurate?

Low-Tech Control in Gaza

Chomsky: Well, it differs. In Gaza, they don’t need high technology, they just have a very savage siege to strangle the population. And that has been going on ever since, in force, ever since there was a free election in Palestinian in which the wrong people won. Right away the U.S. and Israel imposed very harsh punishment on the population for the sin of voting the wrong way. But in Gaza it is mostly sort of low-tech strangulation. There is a naval siege that drives fishermen toward the shore. That kills the fishing industry. Israeli bombing has destroyed the power plants and sewer plants are all contaminated. This is probably related to an Israeli effort to gain control of the natural gas deposits that were discovered there a couple of years ago. The naval blockade keeps people on shore and the fishermen in polluted waters. The surrounding siege, jointly with Egypt incidentally, prevents the import of toys and macaroni. It’s just pure savagery. And then it’s there for target practice. They can bomb when they feel like it. They can invade when they like.

High-Tech Control on the West Bank

Chomsky: In the West Bank, it’s a more sophisticated means of control. John Kerry, who made a big speech, an important speech about all of this, outlining essentially the administration’s thinking, said it looks as if there is finally a legitimate partner for peace among the Palestinians. He cited the West Bank. He referred to General Dayton’s army. General Dayton is a US general who has been training Palestinian forces in Jordan in collaboration with Israel, with Israeli participation and supervision.

Kerry said that they are really doing an efficient job and he gave an example. He said that during the Gaza attack, it was expected there would be civil disorder in the West Bank. People would protest the fact that Gazans were being slaughtered and destroyed. But he said the Dayton Army did such a successful job that there was no civil disorder. That means it is a very efficient collaborationist force of the traditional colonial kind.

Kind of like the Philippine constabulary that the US set up a century ago, but by now much more sophisticated. That is not the harshest repressive force. The harsher ones are run by the CIA. This is the softer one.

[Note: The Kerry speech Chomsky refers to was delivered on March 9, 2009, to the Brookings Institute].

Israeli High Tech and US High Tech

Chomsky: As far as Israeli high tech, it is very advanced. In fact, it is almost an offshoot of US high tech. The relations are very close. It’s so close that Israel has been transferring some of the operations of its high tech industry to the U.S. A couple of years ago, one of the main military industries, Rafael, moved some of its management sectors to the United States because of more access to subsidies and bigger markets and so on.

Intel has just announced a huge, gigantic installation in Israel, Kiryat Gat, which is the biggest in the world. It is going to, they say, produce, carry out a revolution in chips, a sharp and extreme reduction in size. Chips which will set a new industry standard. Intel says that chips made there will be used all over the world.

Other high-tech US industries are also investing very intensely in Israel. They think it is fine. In fact, from the point of view of US power—state and private power—it is a very good thing to have an advanced, industrial society, a rich society with advanced technology, intensely linked to the United States. Also, a military base where the U.S. can pre-position its weapons for potential use elsewhere in the region, close intelligence connections. A lot of this is high-tech oriented and closely integrated.


Chomsky's face and glasses with lines Introduction
West Point Cadets Training U.S. Military Officers
Philipines The Conquest of the Philippines
Flying Drone IT in the Early 21st Century
Binary Numbers Cyber Section of the Pentagon The Cyber Section of the Pentagon
Lt. General William Caldwell's name on a uniform Blogs and Schizophrenia
Intellectual Property Intellectual Property
Red Block to represent current page Israel
Circuit Board High Tech Corporations
War Photograph War Images
Chomsky Closing

Note: The complete audio recording of the interview is available to listen to as you browse the edited webtext.