The interview on video can be seen here
The Israeli government has called the attack on Gaza killing 170 Palastinians and 6 Israelis "Pillar of Defense". German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Israel has all rights to defend itself. But granting an occupier the right to retaliate against those occupied is absurd, says Gilbert Achcar. Gaza is widely seen as an "open air prison". The Netanyahu government frustrated about not getting a green light from Obama to attack Iran chose Gaza as the "scapegoat". Meanwhile the Egyptian policy toward Israel under president Morsi hasn't changed compared to Mubarak. Ceasefires do not solve the problem, says Achcar. To regain control over the region the U.S. has renewed its alliance with the fundamentalist Muslim Brothers during the 60ies.
Gilbert Achcar: Political Scientist and Sociologist at the "School of Oriental and African Studies", University of London, Peace Activist, Author of "The Arabs and the Holocaust" and together with Noam Chomsky "Perilous Power"
David Goessmann: Welcome to Kontext TV. We are today in the "Haus der Kulturen der Welt" in Berlin. Our guest is Gilbert Achcar. Achcar is Professor at the "School of Oriental and African Studies" at the University of London. He is author of several books. The latest is: "The Arabs and the Holocaust. The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives". Achcar writes regularily for Le Monde Diplomatique, the International Viewpoint and Zcommunications. Welcome to Kontext TV, Mr. Achcar, it’s great to have you with us.
David Goessmann: I want to start with the recent Gaza crisis. There is a cease fire in place – we don’t know if it will hold. Around 170 Palestinians and 6 Israelis were killed. More than 700 people in Gaza were wounded during the bombings. The Israeli government called the attack “Pillar of Defense”. Along with other politicians in Western countries Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has stressed that Israel has all rights to defend itself from rockets fired by Hamas. Is this a credible justification taking into account the timeline of events, the occupations of Gaza and the fact that no Israeli was killed by Hamas rockets after Operation Cast Lead four years ago and before the killing of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari on November 14? What is your assessment of the Gaza crisis?
Gilbert Achcar: The statement that you refer to is one more time that we hear the completely outrageous statements and the fact of putting on a foot of equality what is happening to the Palestinians and whatever is happening to a very much smaller number of Israelis. You can even see that in the media, the mass media, trying to balance any reportage they have about Gaza was a reportage about (?) or anything else just to show that they are balanced in the coverage of the event, although there is no possible comparison between the scale of what is happening to Gaza and what is happening on the Israeli side. Now to speak of a right of Israel to retaliate: You know, i usually don't like these comparisons. But let me just use them for once, they might sound outrageous, but when you think about it they're not that outrageous. It's like speaking of a right of the German army to retaliate against resistance actions in France in 1942 or 1943. That's exactly the same logic. Or to give an example which will raise less exasperation: The right of the Soviet army to retaliate against actions in Afghanistan when it was occupying the country. Because the fact is that Israel, although its no longer directly occupying the Gaza sector, everyone knows that it holds this sector in a (?) of control, everyone knows that Gaza is in fact a wide open-air jail, wide open-air prison, which is controlled by Israel, which imposes a lot of constraints on the territory. And these constraints are just aggravating. The already huge problems in that country, which international agencies have described as a humanitarian catastrophe. That's the reality and whoever starts shooting or whatever, the problem is that to look at things from that narrow angle is just completely misleading, because the wider angle is much more important. The wider angle is the oppression and occupation, which is not Palestinian over Israel but Israeli over Palestinian.
David Goessmann: The Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who was involved in the release of Gilad Shalit, told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari was assassinated just hours after he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire. Your comment?
Gilbert Achcar: I think there is a wide consensus even within Israel itself, at least the critical opinion within Israel, on the fact that this is an electoral war. Basically. I mean, Netanjahu has called for elections, he has fixed a date for elections and people know that regularly now elections are preceded by actions of this kind, that governments in place think will bring more votes to them. And the fact is that Netanjahu has been betting on – everyone knows that also – the victory of Romney in the US elections and has been campaigning now for quite a long time for a green light for a military strike on Iran. And he was confronted by a refusal of the president of the American administration to grant this green light and actually even the previous administration of Bush. We know from an investigation done by the New York Times he had refused to the government of that time at the end of 2008 a green light also to attack Iran. So, having been frustrated with the reelection of Obama in the United States the scapegoat was for Netanjahu Gaza. This is the only rational explanation, if you want to find a rationality in this kind of aggression for what is going on. And it has been denounced as such by a lot of Israelis, those who are critical of all that or reject the kind of policies that are implemented by Netanjahu. One should emphasize that this is a far right government, this is not a centre-right government. What you have in Israel is a far right government, that is when you think far right in Germany or France or whatever. Well, the equivalent is in power today in Israel and people have to keep that in mind.
David Goessmann: The former President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak was seen as a reliable partner by the United States and Israel. With the Arab Spring Mubarak was ousted. What role has the new Egyptian government under President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood played in the recent crisis and what can be expected by Egypt in regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict?
Gilbert Achcar: I would say that there is quite more continuity, between Mursi and Mubarak on what is happening. This continuity is more in the style, in the kind of statements and the rest. But basically, Mursi has led the services, the intelligence services, as was the case under Mubarak. The mediation between Israel and Hamas and the outcome is to a great extent up to now similar to previous outcomes, previous mediations, previous ceasefires, which anyway don't solve the problem at all. The problem remains as it is. I mean, whatever truce or whatever you may have is not a solution to the problem. Actually the problem is not, as you yourself said, Gaza was not in any significant manner engaged in any bombing or provocations against Israel, to the contrary. The muslim brotherhood, beyond the rhetoric, now that they are coming to government, they are in government, they are in power in a few countries in the region, are very much willing to renew and have already proven the kind of alliance they had with the United States in the sixties, when they were allies in the fight against left-wing nationalism, against Nasser in Egypt, against the Soviet Union influence in the region, against Communism and the rest. This alliance is in a way renewed after years of frozen relation or divorce between the two sides. It is getting renewed and that's actually the only response that the United States has towards what is happening. Because the United States is confronted with a major defeat in the region. It's a major disaster. The war in Iraq ended in a total defeat. The United States left Iraq at the end of 2011 without achieving any of its goals. Any of the goals of Washington, any of the goals of the Bush administration for that country. So, its a very deep defeat. And then you have these big uprisings overthrowing allies of Washington. Mubarak being a very big ally of Washington. Washington's response to that, given the weakness of Washington today, which is at a weak point in its history of hegemony of the region, the response has been to strike a deal with the muslim brotherhood as the conservative force emerging from this big uprising. Because it's a deeply conservative force, even if it's fighting against government it's not fighting for progressive changes of society, it's actually in various respects a force of social reaction and cultural reaction. And that's what the United States is betting on, which is no surprise to us, to know that the country, which pretends to promote democracy, blah blah blah, in the whole world and the whole region, would be allying with an Islamic fundamentalist force. This should come as no surprise to anybody, because this is just a continuation of the fact that the oldest and most important ally of the United States in this part of the world is the most fundamentalist, most reactionary, most anti-women, most undemocratic state on earth – the Saudi-Kingdom. And that's the truth.