Posted 4 years ago on March 21, 2012, 3 p.m. EST by fiftyfourforty
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Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict
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Article/book #: 18734 Title: Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict
By: Jeffrey Blankfort
Published in: Dissident Voice Date of issue: 24 May 2005 Topic(s) addressed: US policy on the Middle East
US: Zionism/Israel as a determinant of US foreign policy -- tail wags the dog scenario
American policy on Israel/Palestine
Critique of theories regarding US support for Israel: Chomsky's explanation for US policy
Language bias in discussing the Middle East People/entities mentioned in this item: Omar Barghouti Noam Chomsky Noah Cohen Juan Cole Ian Lustick Cheryl Rubenberg Edward Said Israel Shahak
Cross-reference(s): See another critique by Mark Green in Marwen Media This Erik Schechter article in the Jerusalem Post refers to this article. Commentary (by a person who is not a member of the UCC Palestine Solidarity Campaign ):
Perhaps there is a simple explanation for Chomsky's reticence to acknowledge the centrality of Zionist groups in explaining US policy (esp. in relation to Israel/Middle East). In 1989 Norman Finkelstein, someone with mostly coincident views with Chomsky, visited the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, for a lecture and a discussion with Jewish students. During his discussion with the Jewish students at the Hillel building, one of the Jewish students stated that Jews shouldn't bother about other Americans' reaction to their support for Israel because "we own the joint". NF's reply to the student was of interest: NF suggested that the Jewish student was pushing the arguments made by generations of anti-semites. Now, here comes Blankfort, himself Jewish, and provides ample documentation to support the thesis that American Zionists have a strangle hold on the US's political process, the media, the top corporations, unions, mafia, and so on. So, NF, and thus Chomsky, will find it uncomfortable to acknowledge Blankfort's thesis. That is, if they accept Blankfort's thesis, then they will have to acknowledge that some of the statements made by anti-semites contain an element of truth. This may explain why both Chomsky and NF have refused to enter a discussion about this issue. The way out of this quandary is to analyze the nature of Zionist political pressure and control, and to separate it from the racist and demagogic propaganda.
»Despite his low-key demeanor and monotone delivery, Chomsky has been anything but reluctant. On closer examination, however, it appears that he has gained his elevated position less from scholarship than from the sheer body of his work that includes books by the dozens–30 in the last 30 years – and speeches and interviews in the hundreds.
In the field of US-Israel-Palestine relations he has been a virtual human tsunami, washing like a huge wave over genuine scholarly works in the field that contradict his critical positions on the Middle East, namely that Israel serves a strategic asset for the US and that the Israeli lobby, primarily AIPAC, is little more than a pressure group like any other trying to affect US policy in the Middle East. For both of these positions, as I will show, he offers only the sketchiest of evidence and what undercuts his theory he eliminates altogether.
Nevertheless, he has ignited the thinking and gained himself the passionate, almost cult-like attachment of thousands of followers across the globe. At the same time it has made him the favorite hate object of those who support and justify the US global agenda and the domination of its junior partner, Israel, over the Palestinians. Who else has whole internet blogs dedicated to nothing else but attacking him?
What is less generally known is that he admits to having been a Zionist from childhood, by one of the earlier definitions of the term–in favor of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and a bi-national, not a Jewish state–and, as he wrote 30 years ago, "perhaps this personal history distorts my perspective.? Measuring the degree to which it has done so is critical to understanding puzzling positions he has taken in response to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Given the viciousness and the consistency with which Chomsky has been attacked by his critics on the "right," one ventures cautiously when challenging him from the "left." To expose serious errors in Chomsky’s analysis and recording of history is to court almost certain opprobrium from those who might even agree with the nature of the criticism but who have become so protective of his reputation over the years, often through personal friendships, that have they not only failed to publicly challenge substantial errors of both fact and interpretation on his part, they have dismissed attempts by others to do so as "personal" vendettas.«
»Although I had previously criticized Chomsky for downplaying the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on Washington’s Middle East policies, I had hesitated to write a critique of his overall approach for the reasons noted. Nevertheless, I was convinced that while, ironically, having provided perhaps the most extensive documentation of Israeli crimes, he had, at the same time immobilized, if not sabotaged, the development of any serious effort to halt those crimes and to build an effective movement in behalf of the Palestinian cause.
An exaggeration? Hardly. A number of statements made by Chomsky have demonstrated his determination to keep Israel and Israelis from being punished or inconvenienced for the very monumental transgressions of decent human behavior that he himself has passionately documented over the years. This is one of the glaring contradictions in Chomsky’s work. He would have us believe that Israel’s occupation and harsh actions against the Palestinians, its invasions and undeclared 40 years war on Lebanon, and its arming of murderous regimes in Central America and Africa during the Cold War, has been done as a client state in the service of US interests. In Chomsky’s world view, that absolves Israel of responsibility and has become standard Chomsky doctrine.«
»A more disturbing exchange occurred later in the interview when Chomsky was asked if sanctions should be applied against Israel as they were against South Africa. He responded:
In fact, I've been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it. Sanctions hurt the population. You don't impose them unless the population is asking for them. That's the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israel is that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.
Obviously not. But is it acceptable to make such a decision on the basis of what the majority of Israelis want? Israel, after all, is not a dictatorship in which the people are held in check by fear and, therefore, cannot be held responsible for their government’s actions. Israel has a largely unregulated, lively press and a "people’s army" in which all Israeli Jews, other than the ultra-orthodox, are expected to serve and that is viewed by the Israeli public with almost religious reverence. Over the years, in their own democratic fashion, the overwhelming majority of Israelis have consistently supported and participated in actions of their government against the Palestinians and Lebanese that are not only racist, but in violation of the Geneva Conventions.