Chomsky on the Legitimacy of Israel
Interviewer: There has been much debate regarding the legitimacy of the Israeli state. To what extent is Israel a legitimate, or an illegitimate, state?
Chomsky: I don’t think that the notion of legitimacy of a state means very much. Is the United States a legitimate state? It’s based on genoice; it conquered half of Mexico. What makes it legitimate? The way the international system is set up, states have certain rights; that has nothing to do with their legitimacy. Every state you can think of is based on violence, repression, expulsion, and all sorts of crimes. And the state system itself has no inherent legitimacy. It’s just an institutional form that developed and that was imposed with plenty of violence. The quetion of legitimacy just doesn’t arise. There is an international order in which it is essentially agreed that states have certain rights, but that provides them with no legitimacy, Israel or anyone else.
For me, the point is simple. EITHER you recognise that all nation states are based on violence and exclusion and are essentially racist - in which case Israel is just a state like any other, no worse, and Palestinian nationalism tends to the same thing - OR you think that nation states are broadly a good thing and national self-determination is a right - in which case you have to accept the Israeli state and Jewish nationalism.