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Protecting Israel: Chomsky’s Way

By Ghali Hassan

05 April, 2006

“[In 1953, after the establishment of Israel] I spent several very happy months working in a Kibbutz and for several years thought seriously about returning permanently. Some of my closest friends, including several who have had a significant influence on my own thinking over the years, now live in Kibbutzim or elsewhere in Israel and I retain close connections that are quite separate from any political judgments and attitudes”.
Noam Chomsky [1].

Reading the latest attacks to discredit Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt very credible and insightful assay on the pro-Israel Jewish Lobby in the US, one wonders why so many people come to defend Israel blindly. It appears that the critics are more interested in protecting Israel and elevating their positions than defend ‘free speech’, democracy, or the rights of the Palestinian people.

One of those attackers is the “celebrated” American linguist and US policy critic, Noam Chomsky. Chomsky condemnation of the two prominent professors, who are now accused of being “anti-Semites”, and lost the support of Harvard University, is a betrayal of academic freedom. Protecting Israel and Zionism has been Chomsky’s sacred duty from an early age. Chomsky is on record denying the existence of the pro-Israel Lobby in the US. Chomsky has no time for the role of Congress on US politics where 11 of its 100 congress members are unquestionably pro-Israel Jews. Chomsky’s criticism is often directed against the White House and the presidency ignoring the power of Congress.

Chomsky has been labelled as ‘self-hated Jews’, ‘radical leftist’ and recently as the ‘most important intellectual alive’. He is also revered by many people around the world. Chomsky protection of Israel is often misunderstood and unwisely credited with credibility and scholarship. But careful reading of Chomsky’s sheer volumes of repetitive work (books, articles, interviews and speeches) reveals the opposite of what his friends and “foes” follow and worship. While Chomsky allows people to see through US foreign policy, he limits them to a narrow form of thinking; a kind of brainwashing similar to that practice by religious cults and gurus. His supporters and devotees control an array of media outlets and publishing house. Criticising Chomsky is considered blasphemy and “anti-Semitism”.

Chomsky is not afraid to criticise Israel (you have to do that) and often called Israel justifiably “a terrorist state” for its brutal treatments of the Palestinian people. But Chomsky blames all Israeli crimes on the US. It’s the US who is committing the crimes, not Israel, said Chomsky. Israel is an innocent bystander. The same could be said for US-protected dictators around the world from Saudi Arabia and Egypt to Chile dictatorship under Pinochet.

It is part of the game to deflect the main responsibility on the US for providing Israel with aid and arms. This is part of the propaganda and provides people with some thing to feel good about. It is anti-Americanism and people love it. Indeed, a large segment of the “anti-war” movement is anti-Americanism and has nothing to do with opposing the US war on Iraq.

Chomsky’s argument is essentially that US support for Israel is to enhance US strategic interests, including Israel fight against Arabs “radical nationalism”, not due to pressure from the pro-Israel Lobby. In other word, Israel is a US “strategic asset”. This argument however proved to be the least credible, and is at best an old Zionist propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion, particularly American. In fact it is propagated by Israeli leaders and the pro-Israel Lobby for decades.

The evidence provided by Chomsky to support his argument is vague and at best not credible when compared with reality on the ground. For example, had the US supported more than 300 million Arabs – with the world most important energy resources – and not the few millions Israeli colonisers of Palestine, the US would be much, powerful and beloved than it is today. This is interesting because with the exemption of Iraq, all Arab governments are anti-nationalism. How Israel failed to predict the fall of the Shah of Iran and other major crises, Chomsky is not clear.

In 1991, the US Administration of George H. Bush (the father), was the only known US Administration to have stood up to the Pro-Israel Lobby. Knowing the support of the American people for a peaceful solution, the Bush administration initiated the James ‘Baker Plan’ for peace. According to the former Secretary of State, peace with the Palestinians and Israel's security “can be accommodated in a settlement based on Resolution 242”. UN Resolution 242 was adopted unanimously by the Security Council on 02 November 1967 after the 1967 war. It calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from [all] territories occupied in the recent conflict” and the “[t]ermination of all claims or states of belligerency”. It is important to mention here that Chomsky like most Israeli leaders finds UN Resolution 242 “rejectionist” and support Israel refusal to accept it.

Israel and the pro-Israel Lobby refused negotiation based on 242. Bush reacted angrily to the pro-Israel Lobby. In a press conference on 12 September 1991 Bush reiterated his opposition to the Lobby interference in US politics: ‘We are up against some powerful political forces ... very strong and effective groups that go up to the Hill … We’ve only got one lonely little guy down here doing it ... [But] I am going to fight for what I believe. It may be popular politically but probably not ... the question isn’t whether it’s good for 1992 politics. What’s important here is that we give the process a chance. And I don’t care if I only get one vote ... I believe the American people will be with me’ [2]. Unhappy about Bush, US Senators and Jewish organisations in the US led by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) mobilised a vicious successful campaign to defeat Bush. As predicted, Bush lost the 1992 elections to Bill Clinton by a narrow margin and Israel triumphed again.

AIPAC is simply “a de facto agent for a foreign government” and enjoys tax exempt status no other foreign organisation enjoys. With about 100,000 wealthy members form a single ethnic group and a massive budget wields a formidable force in US politics. “AIPAC’s success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and punish those who challenge it”, write Professors Mearsheimer and Walt. Supported by the US major television networks and the nation’s largest newspaper chain and most influential single newspaper, the New York Times, AIPAC has ousted anyone who is not following its pro-Israel agenda. In 1982, AIPAC led a very successful campaign to defeat Senator Paul Findley, of Springfield, Illinois. And in 1984 Senator Charles Percy Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee was ousted, and everyone since got the message.

Furthermore, Chomsky fails to analyse the role of the pro-Israel Lobby, and AIPAC in particular in funding and electing pro-Israel candidates while it continues using its formidable “anti-Semitism” tool to intimidate and bully those who disagree with its Zionist agenda. It doesn’t concern Chomsky, himself a pro-democracy dissident that the pro-Israel Lobby has become the most anti-democratic force in the US. His condemnation of Professors Mearsheimer and Walt is a betrayal of academic freedom and only enhances the power of the pro-Israel Lobby.

On the ‘right of return’ of Palestinians to their homeland, a right which is enshrined in UN Resolution 194 (III) and recognised by the vast majority of the world community, Chomsky was deceptive: “[T]here 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”. In other word, don’t upset the illegal Jewish settlers because of the Palestinian refugees.

On a single, democratic and secular state for Jews and Palestinians (Muslims and Christians), Chomsky is non-negotiable: “There has never been a legitimate proposal for a democratic secular state from any significant Palestinian (or of course Israeli) group. One can debate, abstractly, whether it is ‘desirable’. But it is completely unrealistic. There is no meaningful international support for it, and within Israel, opposition to it is close to universal. It is understood that this would soon become a Palestinian state with a Jewish minority and with no guarantee for either democracy or secularism (even if the minority status would be accepted, which it would not). Those who are now calling for a democratic secular state are, in my opinion, in effect providing weapons to the most extreme and violent elements in Israel and the US”. Of course, Chomsky provides no evidence for this charade.

In the early 1970s, most Palestinians supported the formation of a single democratic state for Palestinians and Jews to live together, as it has been for centuries. Today, many Palestinians have no problem coexisting with Jews in a Palestine based on democratic and equal right principles, which is the only just and genuine solution. It is Israelis who refuse to recognise the Palestinians. According to Israeli daily, Ha’aretz (22 March 2006) more than 68 per cent of Israeli Jews refuse to live in the same building with Palestinian citizen of Israel. Chomsky is in favour of a dominant, “Jewish-only state”. He sees Jews living as a “minority” in a democratic Palestine with equal rights is unacceptable. Chomsky must be thinking that Jews are ‘superior race’. As Virginia Tilley argues, a single sate which provides protection for all its citizens “against ethnic discrimination is the only viable option”.

It is important to remember that Chomsky is leading the pack for the so-called “two-state” option, or the Geneva Accord. The “two-state” option is a trap for Palestinians and Chomsky knows it very well. According to the Geneva Accord, Palestinians will be trapped in prisons-like ghettoes made inaccessible by illegal settlements and Jews-only roads. Palestinians will continue to be denied self-determination and freedom of movement. The new ghettoes will be separated from each other with no meaningful sovereignty, resources of its own, independent economy or army capable of defending the population. The four million Palestinian refugees will lose their ‘right of return’ to their land. It is the legalisation of the 1948 Nakbah – the ‘catastrophe’ of dispossession and expulsion. It will legitimise Israel’s claim on Palestine and enforce Israel’s colonial rules, as Amram Mitzna, Labor member of the Knesset revealed in his Ha’aretz article. It is like the Oslo “Peace Process”, a game to continue the Palestinian genocide. The “two-state” option was never a viable option giving Israel’s terror against the Palestinians.

Israel is happy to continue cutting Palestinian land into ghettoes separated by the Apartheid Wall and under a brutal system of Apartheid and Occupation. The system is recently described by liberal Jews and Israeli journalists as worse than that practiced in South Africa two decades ago [3]. It should be noted that the system is very useful in keeping the Israeli military (Occupation forces) in a strong position politically. The Israeli society functions as militarised society with a form of democracy similar to that in the US.

With Israel relies heavily on the massive aid it receives from US taxpayers, any economic sanctions could force Israel to seek a peaceful settlement with the endogenous Palestinians. Chomsky views on sanctioning Israel to force it in the same way South Africa was forced to dismantle Apartheid and Iraq was forced to give-up WMDs are hypocritical at best. In March 2004, on behalf of the Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies (Safundi), Professor Christopher Lee of Harvard University interviewed Chomsky about Israel’ Apartheid Wall and sanctions. “Apartheid was one particular system and a particularly ugly situation”. To use the term to describe Israel, “It's just to wave a red flag, when it's perfectly well to simply describe the situation. But I should say is that this is all entirely different from the Occupied Territories” [4].

When Chomsky asked if he sees sanctions against Israel as a possibility? He replied: “No. 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”. He added: “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”. The Palestinian people are enduring years of sanctions imposed on them by Israel’s long blockades and restrictions of freedom of movement. Indeed, The Palestinian people have time and again called for sanctions against Israel.

We know that Chomsky was behind the recently watered-down divestment resolution at MIT, where he is emeritus professor and exerts formidable influence on students’ activism there. Chomsky denounced the campaign and voted against divestment and sanctions against Israel. Many people and organisations around the world, including prominent Palestinian intellectuals and politicians, have called for divestment and sanctions against Israel. Palestinians were shocked by Chomsky’s betrayal of their cause. Chomsky’s aim is to deceit rather than defend the Palestinians.

According to Francis Boyle is Professor of International Law Legal at Illinois University; “[A] worldwide divestment/disinvestment campaign against Israel can produce an historic reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians--just as it successfully did between Whites and Blacks in South Africa. This new divestment/disinvestment campaign should provide the Palestinians with enough economic and political leverage needed to negotiate a just and comprehensive peace settlement with the Israelis--just as it did for the Blacks in South Africa”. Giving Israel’s dependence on massive US aid, any form of economic sanction will force her to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

Palestine is becoming a career; it is no longer a terrorised community. Academics and intellectuals have used the suffering of the Palestinian people to advance their own interests and egos. It is like those who are making a career out of attacking Islam and Muslims.

On the US war on Iraq, Chomsky agrees with many people that the US motive is the control of Iraq’s oil resources and US imperialism. Although this is partially true, protection the state of Israel and the expansion of Zionism ideology remains major motives. It is on every American mind that Israel and the pro-Israel Lobby in the US are the main motivators for the war on Iraq. Indeed, the so-called “War for Oil” was the creation of the pro-Israel Lobby and spread out by Jewish intellectuals and their key operatives in the US government and the Zionist mainstream media. Chomsky even refuses to acknowledge that the group of Zionists ‘cabal’ or the neocons, including Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, ‘Scooter’ Libby, Elliot Abrams and others who formulated the policy and made the decision to got to war. Does Chomsky know who is pushing for war on Iran?

Chomsky criticised the US because the US violated international law and the UN Charter and committed crimes against Iraq. The war was an illegal act of aggression, and the Occupation of Iraq is against the majority of the Iraqi people. However, Chomsky praised the invasion for it “removes Saddam and the sanctions”. As we know these are the views of Bush and Blair. Iraq is far worse today than before the invasion at all levels. On the Occupation itself, Chomsky is like his army of devotees; he is very surprised it didn’t work. Chomsky calls the premeditated and deliberate destruction of Iraq an “American incompetence”. The worst is that Chomsky praised the US-staged elections as “democratic”. Elections under foreign occupation are illegitimate and imperialist propaganda. The Iraqi elections were fraudulent elections designed to legitimise the imperialist Occupation and cement civil strife and fratricidal killings.

On the right of Iraqis to self-determination and national independence, Chomsky is flagrant. He called the Iraqi Resistance “bomb throwers” and follows the Bush-Blair line of labelling anyone resisting US terrorism as “terrorist”. The US war on Iraq is “creating more terrorists”, said Chomsky. On the Iraqi Resistance, Chomsky is emphatic. It is a “violent insurgency”, he said. Chomsky seems unaware of the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children needlessly slaughtered with “trigger happy” violent US forces and their mercenaries. The illegal mass arrests without charge, torture, abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi civilians is not the most flagrant violation of human rights. The daily bombardments – with cluster bombs, napalms, chemical and phosphorous bombs – and the destruction of Iraqi cities are not the most heinous war crimes in the history. How long will the American people remain silent in the face of injustice, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in their name?

Finally, Chomsky’s analysis of Middle East suffers from his tendency of demonising the Arabs, while covertly defending his own ethnic group. Chomsky’s earlier views are not different form his views today. People with moral consciousness and open mind should not fall into Chomsky’s trap.

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia.


[1] Chomsky, Noam. (1974). Peace in the Middle East. Vintage: London, (p. 49-51).

[2] Arens, Moshe. (1995). Broken Covenant, Simon & Schuster: New York.

[3] McGreal, Chris (2006). Worlds Apart. The Guardian, 06 February. Gideon Levi (2006). One racist nation. Ha’aretz, 27 March 2006.

[4] Lee, Christopher J. (2004). South Africa, Israel-Palestine, and the Contours of the Contemporary World Order: An Interview with Noam Chomsky. Safundi, 13-14.









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