Gaza in Crisis – Noam Chomsky and Nancy Murray

Want to know more about about the Israeli-Palestine conflict? You have to start with Chomsky. The following lecture, given at MIT on January 21, 2011, discusses historical as well as current events. Make sure to stick around for the Q&A’s, you won’t regret it.

Two speakers steeped in the ongoing crisis of the Middle East describe abominable conditions for Palestinians living inside Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2007. They demand urgent action for civilian victims, and condemn both the Israeli and U.S. governments for pursuing policies of “genocide.” An impassioned Nancy Murray details daily life inside what has become a 26-mile-long prison, and Noam Chomsky offers background on how this zone of misery came into being, with withering words for those he labels perpetrators.

Murray asks us to imagine living “in a territory which over the past four years has served as a kind of laboratory to find the breaking point of human beings.” Israel has deliberately worked to keep Gaza functioning at the lowest level possible, preventing Palestinians from repairing their war-torn water and sewer infrastructure, and severely limiting food supplies — literally controlling calorie intake, says Murray. Israel has also blocked the reconstruction of hospitals and clinics to tend to those wounded by war, or suffering mental health trauma from years of harassment. She cites a 2006 study showing that 98% of Gaza children had been subject to violence, tear gas, or home searches.

In a long-term, calculated effort to strangle economic development, Israel has also deprived fishermen of the right to safe maritime areas, and declared the small patches of arable land “to be a no-go zone,” targeting farmers and children attempting to attend school nearby. The education system has also been hard hit, with schools in disrepair, and children “using old shipping containers as classrooms.” If the future looks grim now, Murray believes there is worse to come, with Israel preparing for another round of war, capping “a six decade- long project of destroying resistance to oppression.”

There is no surprise for Noam Chomsky in the tightening vise around Gaza. It is of a piece with years of Israeli disregard for human rights and international law, he argues. The blockade, which began soon after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election, is but the latest episode in a history of betrayal, oppression and outright annihilation. Beginning in 1948 and the formation of Israel to 1967 and beyond, the Palestinians have been systematically humiliated and degraded. In spite of efforts by the U.N., and rulings by other international institutions, says Chomsky, Israel, with the backing of the U.S., has been intent on preventing a Palestinian state, and breaking the will of Palestinians. The 1987 Palestinian uprising goaded the Israelis, who since then have made merely a show of peace talks and increased the pace of their settlements on former Palestinian land. Last May, Israel attacked a ship attempting to break the blockade, killing nine people, and though there was an “international outcry,” says Chomsky, Israel continued its siege, decried by Amnesty International and other human rights groups. The change in U.S. administration made no difference, he says. “The U.S. exerts no pressure, but participates actively and crucially in these crimes. The roadblock to peace remains.”


  1. MIT Center for International Studies, Gaza in Crisis:

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