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Forum Post: Chomsky not a shape shifter, just a blame shifter.

Posted 2 years ago on March 21, 2012, 3:37 p.m. EST by ShubeLMorgan2 (1088) from New York, NY
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http://niqnaq.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/blankfort-again-illustrates-chomskys-inveterate-pro-zionism/

blankfort again illustrates chomsky’s inveterate pro-zionism Chomsky and Palestine: Asset or Liability? Jeff Blankfort, Pulse Media, Jul 20 2010

When Noam Chomsky was stopped at Jordan’s Allenby Bridge and prevented from entering the Palestinian West Bank by Israeli occupation forces in May, the widespread condemnation of that action extended even into the mainstream media, which in the past has paid little attention to his comings and goings and even less to what he has had to say. Chomsky, who has visited Israel on a number of occasions and lived on a kibbutz in the 1950s, had been invited to give a lecture at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah and had also arranged to meet with Salam Fayyad, the unelected prime minister of the Palestine Authority and a favorite of both Washington and Israel and, it would appear, of Chomsky. The negative publicity arising from the incident caused the Israeli government to reverse its position, blaming its refusal to admit Chomsky on an administrative error. Chomsky was not mollified and decided to forego the trip to the West Bank and present his talk to the Bir Zeit students by video from Amman. When interviewed by phone the following day from New York by Democracy Now, on which he is a familiar presence, Chomsky noted:

I was going to meet with the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. But his office called me here in Amman this morning, and we had a long discussion. He is pursuing policies, which, in my view, are quite sensible, policies of essentially developing facts on the ground. It’s almost, I think it’s probably a conscious imitation of the early Zionist policies, establishing facts on the ground and hoping that the political forms that follow will be determined by them. And the policies sound to me like sensible and sound ones.

Unfortunately, Chomsky was not questioned about his support for the nation building priorities of the earlier Zionists nor if he considered the Palestine Authority’s endorsement of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, of its attempts to suppress a UN investigation of the Goldstone Report, and of the role played by its US-trained militia in protecting Israel, to be also “sensible and sound.” Missing from the discussion about what was made to appear a blunder on Israel’s part was a much more important issue: Why had Chomsky been invited to speak at Bir Zeit in the first place? For those puzzled by that question, be assured that it is meant to be taken quite seriously. Once upon a time, Chomsky was considered by many to be the most important spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. It was a position he attained largely on the basis of his writings and activism in opposing the Vietnam War and US intervention in Central America in which, unlike the case with Israel, he had no personal vested interest. That Chomsky has maintained that position despite the presence in the US of a number of distinguished Palestinian professors, among them the late Edward Said, who were and are more knowledgeable about the subject and could speak from personal experience that does not include prior service as “a Zionist youth leader,” Chomsky’s background, is a reflection of the political culture of the US Left, which was and remains substantially if not predominantly Jewish, particularly in its leadership positions. Support for Israel had become so ingrained and fear of anti-Semitism so deeply embedded in the psyche of US Jewish Leftists in the aftermath of WW2 that if the Jewish state was to be criticized it had to be by someone from within the tribe who unequivocally supported its existence. Unfortunately, to the detriment of the Palestinians and the building of a viable Palestinian solidarity movement within the US, that mindset persists to this day, and largely explains why Chomsky maintains his reputation despite public utterances over the past half dozen years that have done more to undermine the Palestinian cause than to help it.

I examined Chomsky’s history in some detail in an article that I wrote for Left Curve in 2005, which called attention to the destructive role he has played regarding the Palestinian-based boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targeting Israel and the equally destructive impact of his dismissal of the pro-Israel lobby as an influential force in shaping US Middle East policy. That he is still at it, and that his influence among what are considered “progressives” has lessened only imperceptibly, requires another look at the professor’s fierce and unyielding opposition to the BDS campaign launched by the leading organizations of Palestinian civil society. This movement has been gaining support in the world that exists outside of the US, particularly among trade unions, a fact that is causing considerable concern within Israel and among its lobbyists/agents around the world who claim it is a campaign to “delegitimize” the Jewish state. Within the US, however, this campaign challenging Israel has frequently and in certain instances, intentionally, been confused with a vastly different, US-centered, campaign that avoids penalizing Israel while targeting US companies that provide goods and services that assist Israel in maintaining the occupation. This latter campaign Chomsky does support, as does the leading Jewish peace group Jewish Voice for Peace, which has recently been conducting a drive to get 10,000 signatures for its campaign to pressure Caterpillar to stop selling bulldozers to the Israel military which it has used to destroy Palestinian homes. While this is a worthy endeavor, does anyone seriously think that a refusal by Caterpillar to sell its products to Israel would change the current situation for the Palestinians in any significant way? Or are we seeing something else here on the part of both Chomsky and JVP with their competing campaign, namely, damage control on Israel’s behalf? One might certainly draw that conclusion from comments Chomsky has made over the past several years and most recently in interviews with Israeli television (clip1) and with Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, the newly appointed president of the Council for National Interest, on the CNI’s online radio program Jerusalem Calling. In the interview with Alison Weir, Chomsky not only repeatedly attacks advocates of an Israeli boycott as being hypocritical, he accuses them of doing damage to the Palestinian cause, saying:

What I have opposed is BDS proposals that harm Palestinians. If we are serious about BDS or any other tactic, we want to ask what the consequences are for the victims. We have to distinguish always in tactical judgments between what you might call feel-good tactics and do-good tactics. There are tactics that may make people feel good in doing something, but maybe they harm the victims.

Pushed on the subject by Weir, he repeats that a boycott of Israel is “harmful to Palestinians and the reason is harmful is very obvious.” And what is obvious about it, Chomsky tells us in the very next sentence, saying:

"It is so hypocritical that it discredits the whole effort. I mean, why boycott Israel and not boycott the US? The US has a much worse record."

When reminded by Weir that “Palestinian civil society issued a call, signed by dozens of diverse organizations calling for a boycott of Israel,” Chomsky was dismissive and condescending, upbraiding Weir and by implication the Palestinian people themselves:

"There are groups who call themselves Palestinian civil society who are calling for a boycott, and I think they are making a mistake and I’ve explained why. I’m not going to take, adopt positions which have already been and will continue to be quite harmful to Palestinians. If you want to, then do it, but it’s clear why the call for a boycott has been harmful for Palestinians and will continue to be. The reason is very simple. It’s so utterly hypocritical that it’s basically a gift to the hardliners. They can say, look, you’re calling for a boycott of Israel, but you’re not calling for a boycott of the US, which has a much worse record, in fact, it’s even responsible for most of Israel’s crimes. So therefore, if your position is that hypocritical, how can we even take you seriously? That’s like giving a gift to the hard-line elements. I find your commitment to harming Palestinians surprising. It is quite obvious why a call for a boycott of Israel is a gift to AIPAC. It’s a gift because they can point out that it is utterly hypocritical. We are not boycotting the US, for example, which has a much worse record and is responsible for a lot of Israel’s criminal behavior. I can give you cases if you want where the calls like the one you’re advocating have, in fact, for good reasons, harmed Palestinians."

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[-] 1 points by ShubeLMorgan2 (1088) from New York, NY 2 years ago

When reminded by Weir that “Palestinian civil society issued a call, signed by dozens of diverse organizations calling for a boycott of Israel,” Chomsky was dismissive and condescending, upbraiding Weir and by implication the Palestinian people themselves:

There are groups who call themselves Palestinian civil society who are calling for a boycott, and I think they are making a mistake and I’ve explained why. I’m not going to take, adopt positions which have already been and will continue to be quite harmful to Palestinians. If you want to, then do it, but it’s clear why the call for a boycott has been harmful for Palestinians and will continue to be. The reason is very simple. It’s so utterly hypocritical that it’s basically a gift to the hardliners. They can say, look, you’re calling for a boycott of Israel, but you’re not calling for a boycott of the US, which has a much worse record, in fact, it’s even responsible for most of Israel’s crimes. So therefore, if your position is that hypocritical, how can we even take you seriously? That’s like giving a gift to the hard-line elements. I find your commitment to harming Palestinians surprising. It is quite obvious why a call for a boycott of Israel is a gift to AIPAC. It’s a gift because they can point out that it is utterly hypocritical. We are not boycotting the US, for example, which has a much worse record and is responsible for a lot of Israel’s criminal behavior. I can give you cases if you want where the calls like the one you’re advocating have, in fact, for good reasons, harmed Palestinians.

Let’s stop a moment before going on and ask ourselves some questions about what Chomsky has been saying. One, shifting blame for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians to the US (the Nakba?, the 1967 capture of the West Bank and Gaza?) he argues that rather than calling for a boycott of Israel, Palestinians should be calling for a boycott of the US. Apart from the failure patently inherent in such a campaign, what does Chomsky believe would be the response of the majority of USAians to a call by Palestinians for such a boycott? Or, for that matter, a call by supporters of the Palestinians in the US for a boycott of their own country? Beneficial for the Palestinians, or harmful? Or just plain stupid? Since the answer to that question is obvious, genuine supporters of the Palestinian struggle who still see Chomsky as an ally need to ask themselves why he would call for a campaign that would bring further disaster down upon the heads of the Palestinians. Now think about his main argument that boycotting Israel as opposed to the US is hypocritical; that the “hardliners,” in which he specifically includes AIPAC, which otherwise he dismisses, will use this against the Palestinians by pointing out that the US has committed far greater crimes than Israel. While there are some US-Jewish settlers who have taken this position, referring to the Vietnam and Iraq wars, does Chomsky seriously believe that AIPAC or any major US Jewish organization would make this argument and compare US crimes to Israel’s? Again, the answer is obvious. But why does Chomsky insult our intelligence by asking us to believe such a fatuous claim? Why do those who know better let him get away with it? The answer to the first question was given by Chomsky to the interviewer from Israel’s Channel Two television station who paid him a visit in Amman on May 19, two days after he was turned back at the Allenby Bridge. When challenged about statements he had made strongly criticizing Israel, Chomsky responded:

I don’t regard myself as a critic of Israel. I regard myself as a supporter of Israel.

Chomsky, who, in certain circles likes to boast of his early Zionist activities, did so for both his Israeli interviewer and for Alison Weir. Noting that he had opposed the notion of a Jewish state in favor of a bi-national state, he said:

Once Israel was formed in 1948, my position has consistently been that Israel should have all the rights of every state in the international system, no more and no less.

He would repeat exactly the same words when speaking with Weir six weeks later. Chomsky volunteered to his Israeli interviewer that up to five or six years ago, he had considered living there as an alternative to the US and in the 1950s, “we had considered staying there, in fact.” In other words, he seems to have no problem with the Jewish “right of return” to what, until 1948, was Palestine, but considers a similar demand by the Palestinians who were actually born there to be not only unrealistic but potentially dangerous. Although presented with an opportunity in both interviews to do so, Chomsky made no mention of the plight of the 750,000 Palestinians made refugees in the period of Israel’s founding nor of the more than 400 Palestinian villages that Israel purposely destroyed to wipe out their traces. In fact, that history and the situation of the now millions of Palestinian refugees today, is something he rarely, if ever mentions, unless asked about it. On one such occasion (Znet, Mar 30 2004), when he was asked if the refugees would be obligated to give up their “right of return” under a “two-state solution,” Chomsky’s preferred outcome, he replied:

Palestinian refugees should certainly not be willing to renounce the right of return, but in this world, not some imaginary world we can discuss in seminars, that right will not be exercised, in more than a limited way, within Israel. Again, there is no detectable international support for it, and under the virtually unimaginable circumstances that such support would develop, Israel would very likely resort to its ultimate weapon, defying even the boss-man, to prevent it. In that case there would be nothing to discuss. The facts are ugly, but facts do not go out of existence for that reason. In my opinion, it is improper to dangle hopes that will not be realized before the eyes of people suffering in misery and oppression. Rather, constructive efforts should be pursued to mitigate their suffering and deal with their problems in the real world.

What Chomsky is saying to the refugees is that if they persist with their demand to return to Palestine, and should that demand, support for which is currently undetectable in Chomsky’s eyes, actually grow to the point where Israel feels threatened with an avalanche of returnees, it is likely to use its nuclear weapons and blow up the planet. So, for the sake of the “real world” that has ignored them and to keep Israel, a country that he unhesitatingly supports, from exercising the “Samson Option,” the refugees should forget about going home and await some nebulous “constructive efforts to mitigate their suffering.” I can imagine what most Palestinians would say to that, but it is unprintable. When Weir asked if he had been aware of the Nakba in the days when he had been a Zionist youth leader, Chomsky acknowledged that he had been “well aware of that,” but rather than offer any opinion on it, he referred to his membership in Hashomir Hatzair, which had supported a binational state, and that he lived on a kibbutz which, prior to 1948, called for “Arab-Jewish cooperation in a socialist state.” He did not come to live on that kibbutz, however, until 1953, five years after the Nakba. In speaking with Weir, Chomsky did not hesitate to defend Israel’s legitimacy, saying:

Within Israel, within the so-called Green Line, the internationally recognized borders, it’s a democratic state in the sense of Western democracies. There are laws and more than laws, practices that assign second-class citizenship to Palestinians. In that respect it is not different from the US and other Western democracies.

While there are few who will deny that racism exists in every Western and non-Western society, and that it has often taken violent forms, Chomsky’s attempt to rationalize Israel’s ongoing discrimination of those Palestinians who remained after the Nakba, by lumping it together with the forms of racism practiced in the US and elsewhere, is too riddled with holes to analyze here but raises additional questions about on which side of the barricades he stands. The fact that he says “the occupation is simply criminal,” as if Israel is not, should not deceive us. It should also be pointed out that Chomsky’s accusing Weir of harming the Palestinian cause is in keeping with the modus operandi he has employed when challenged from the Left regarding his stands on the Israel-Palestinian issue. With Alison Weir, it was the boycott of Israel. With Noah Cohen, in 2004 (Znet, Jul 26 2004), it was the latter’s advocacy of a single state and the Palestinian right of return. Chomsky accused Cohen of “serving the cause of the extreme hawks in Israel and the US, and bringing even more harm to the suffering Palestinians.” I have also been not immune from such an attack. On Nov 12 2004, before writing my article for Left Curve and after I had written the professor, asking him a number of questions that I hoped would clarify his positions, he responded in a letter thusly: