Noam Chomsky, Jeff Blankfort, and me

Over a year ago Steve Shalom and I interviewed Noam Chomsky about Israel/Palestine. I was hoping to get him to clarify a few things. I felt that I disagreed with him on the Palestinian right of return and on the so-called ‘one-state solution’ to the conflict. His arguments against both these things were unique and unlike any I’d heard before, and given how much I’ve learned from him over the years, I figured (as no doubt many do) that if we disagreed, it must be because I misunderstood something. But no, after the interview more than ever, I realized that I understood what he was saying just fine, and really did genuinely disagree.

In fact, the idea to interview Noam about this stuff came out of some reading I’d done while thinking about writing a strategy piece disagreeing with Noam on these issues and also disagreeing with some other folks who I thought go too far in the other direction, or not too far (since I don’t think that’s possible in some directions), but off in the wrong direction. I was reading someone named Jeff Blankfort, for example, who I didn’t know. A book called ‘Fallen Pillars’, and another by someone in a group called the ‘Council for the National Interest’. These pieces and books had some very compelling arguments, but also missed some important things. I was hoping that by evaluating all of these writers together I could provide something useful for activists. But somehow I couldn’t quite pull it off, and ended up shelving it, and then settling for an interview with Noam.

Recently Jeff Blankfort wrote a long article with lots of quotes from Noam’s work as an extended critique of Noam’s analysis on Israel/Palestine. Like Blankfort’s other work, I thought it made good points. I also thought it was very unfair to Noam, very personal and vituperative, and undermined its own argument and principles in important ways with the audience it is intended to sway. Since his article ends with a call for open and civil debate all with a view to making the Palestine struggle more effective, I wrote him. Two email exchanges ensued, and we agreed that they would be useful for folks to read. I am including them below. His words will be bolded.

Exchange 1

Hi Jeff.

Justin, from ZNet, here. You might have seen the interview Steve Shalom and I did with Noam some time ago. I was, in that interview, trying to change his mind about some of the things you mention in your piece. Do you know Finkelstein? I also tried taking some of these things up with him, with no luck (I wrote about that encounter in my blog). I’ve interviewed Ilan Pappe on some of these things too.

Yes, I did see that interview while preparing my article. No, I don’t know Finkelstein although I have a great respect for him. It is not surprising that he declined since he feels very close to Chomsky who has come to his defense as he has to others who have been under attack. I have interview Pappe twice and he seems to be in general agreement with my position on the lobby as is Tanya Reinhart who I also have interviewed twice and who is also close to Chomsky who mentored her in her early academic years.

I wanted to say that I like your piece, ‘Damage Control’, and, indeed, agreed with a lot of it. About a year and a half ago I was thinking of trying to write a piece that critiqued both you and Noam, but things got ahead of me and I couldn’t figure out a way to do it properly.

I have two criticisms of your piece, however, that I believe undermine your stated intention of helping the Palestine solidarity movement.

1) The tone. You obviously think Noam has done a tremendous amount of damage to the cause. But you are snarky about it, even though you criticize Noam for being ‘smug’, etc. Calling Barsamian his ‘devoted Boswell’ is one example. But more important than that is when you quote right wing critics of Noam saying he only looks at evidence that suits him, acts more like an attorney than a historian, and is only appreciated for the sheer volume of what he’s done. On the first point, how are any of us, including you and certainly Sharp, any different? When you go into the details of how counterevidence is ignored in his work, you give people a basis to evaluate your arguments. When you say that Noam only looks at evidence that favours his conclusions, you’re smearing Noam in a way that does no service to any movement. When you say he’s mostly appreciated for the volume of work, you’re certainly not speaking to all the people who have learned a great deal from him – people you dismiss as his ‘followers’ and imply – as you accuse him of doing – of being stupid, etc. I’m not going to go through and list the reasons Noam is so much appreciated. I disagree with him most strongly on the points you bring up in your work, and on various other points. But you aren’t going to make headway with your (important) case by sounding mean-spirited.

I makes no bones about it. I do believe Noam has done a tremendous amount of damage to the Palestinian cause (and in a private letter he wrote before I began my article, he said the same of me). It is for this reason that I finally decided to write it and as I read more and more of his prolific output I realized that I had made the right decision. The irony, of course, is that at the same time that he has turned more people on to left politics and to the injustices heaped on the Palestinians than any one else, he has misled with what I believe is spurious information to the point that whatever efforts they have undertaken to now have been ineffectual. I have been active on this issue since spending four months in Lebanon and Jordan in 1970 and so I have had an ample opportunity to see how this has played out.

I know David and he does good radio but his failure to ask Chomsky the tough questions makes him appear some times like a lap dog. As far as the right wing critics, and I saw nothing that Sharp wrote that made me identify him as that, what was important to me was that he was saying exactly what my conclusions had been for some time. For that matter, I would recommend reading Pat Buchanan, a person I detest on many other issues, about US involvement in Iraq and our relations in Israel, before Chomsky because what Buchanan has to say, whatever his motives is what I see as the truth. And Chomsky does ignore or dismiss counter evidence. His failure, in my mind, to include the historic battles between Gerry Ford and Bush Senior in his many books, interviews and speeches is really unconscionable, and if I had additional space I would have criticized his description of Carter’s relations with Israel. To my mind, this is intellectually dishonest.

I would not use the term “stupid” for those who rely on him for information and whose eyes glaze over when you speak of him critically, but I certainly don’t have a great deal of respect for the political opinions of folks I know, mainly Marxists, in fact, who cite him verbatim (without attribution) when it comes to both the lobby and Israel’s alleged position as a US client state. If I had had the space I would have quoted from web sites in the UK and the US that do just that When I have tried to line up debates on these issues there are always excuses not to. Chomsky himself when approached in 1991 to debate me at the Socialist Scholars Conference after we had had an exchange in the old National Guardian, refused, saying “it wouldn’t be useful” (to whom, I wonder). When approached by the same person last year he again refused and didn’t recall the 1991 request. The same has been true with Joel Beinin and Phyllis Bennis, for the same reason “it wouldn’t be useful”) and Zunes, after agreeing to debate, kept putting it off with one excuse after another. He is now being asked by KPFA in Berkeley to do it. I won’t hold my breath, I don’t know about being “mean-spirited.” I am angry and I am not at all ashamed to admit it. What has been happening to the Palestinians is not a US directed exercise; the occupation is not something the US has supported for its own interests, but something it has opposed since Nixon, for geopolitical reasons, not for any benefit for the Palestinians and when Chomsky twists the truth about it, and people mimic that nonsense because of his ubiquitous presence, I am certainly justified and I want others to be angry to.

2) The quoting, with approval, of folks like Sharp, or folks from the Council on the National Interest. The fact that there is a group of imperialists who don’t like Israel doesn’t have very much to do with justice for Palestine. I found a part of Findley’s book where he discusses an arms deal with Saudi Arabia that was blocked by Israel. When Noam compares Israel to a powerless client state whose economy is controlled by the US, you can rightly and sarcastically say ‘poor Israel’. But when I read Findley’s line about the arms dealers, I thought: ‘oh, poor arms dealers.’ If, as you argue, Noam’s work has made it hard for some activists to come to grips with Israel’s real relationship to the US, how much worse have been unholy alliances with a variety of right-wing forces? This can be trumped up, to be sure, and inevitably is, with all the charges of antisemitism and so on. But we have to discern very clearly who our real friends and allies are and who our real enemies are. I don’t see CNI as being allies.

You pick out a line in Findley’s book whereas I can pullout whole chapters in Chomsky’s. Who is telling the truth about the lobby? Findley or Chomsky? That’s what’s important, not whether Findley qualifies in your book as an “imperialist,” a definition I don’t happen to agree with, although some of the folks in CNI well may be. What is important to me is that they are telling the truth regarding US support for Israel and the voices of the left are not. And frankly, one of the reasons the left is not is that as an American Indian leader told me back in 1988, “they’re are too many liberal Zionists.” When I sued the ADL for spying back in 1992, my lawyer was former congressman Pete McCloskey, a Republican and classmate at Yale with Bush Senior. He opposed the Vietnam War, defended Geronimo Pratt and has more integrity than any registered Democrat I have ever known with the exception of Cynthia McKinney. This weekend I will be on a program with Paul Findley, Azmi Bishara and Diana Buttu among others, speaking about Palestinian rights and the lobby and I have no problem with that.

One reason Chomsky has been so effective is that his ‘followers’ can instantly know something about each other’s overall moral perspective and world view. Not everything, but something – and that’s more than you can say about most writers. Reading your stuff over a couple of years, I still don’t have a sense of where you’re coming from. That’s largely because of the things I mentioned above. When you said that Bush Sr.’s overall record adds up to being a war criminal, I thought – okay, this guy and I might be on the same page politically. Same with when you said there’s no limit to how much dirty work the US is ready to do for itself, these days, etc. But you are, in some sense, trying to convince Chomsky’s ‘followers’ that being really consistent with Chomsky’s positions on human rights, imperialism, etc., means breaking with Chomsky on the issue of Israel/Palestine. That’s how I think of it. You aren’t going to do that by smearing Noam or quoting right-wingers.

I agree that Chomsky has been effective, but at doing what? Certainly not building a movement which is something only those with rose colored glasses can see in this country. And yes, Chomskyites are like a cult. Some do good work. Some don’t. But when it comes to taking constructive action and building the kind of movement that these days require it just isn’t there. As Israel Shahak noted in his letter to me, Chomsky appeals to those who are looking for easy answers. Where am I coming from? Progressive and radical political activity going back to 1944 when I was ten and my father ran the congressional campaign of the first person to be elected to Congress as a write-in, and the SOB promptly sold out as did every other Demo I worked for until I understood how the system worked. I protested the Korean War, was doing civil rights work in LA before there was movement of that name, was active against the Vietnam war, worked with and for a time was the “official” photographer for the Black Panthers, and of course, my work around Palestine.. I, like my friend, Amira Hass, am pessimistic about the future and when she told me before the second intifada that the only things that kept her going as “anger,” what keeps me going is my sense of outrage..

I am guessing you are going to keep this up, and I think you should. But your work isn’t going to lead to the kind of critical thinking and rethinking this movement needs unless it’s cleaned up a bit, is my feeling.

From the responses I have received thus far, including some from friends of Chomsky, I would disagree. And the response, in general, have been overwhelmingly positive and the article is on a number of web sites including Deir Yassin Remembered of which I am a board member.

Exchange 2:

Thanks for the reply. I do understand you a bit better now, but you seem quite unmoved by what I have had to say, and I am unmoved by your answers It seems to me there wouldn’t be much profit in going back and forth endlessly over email. Though I do think that your article has had an impact, has perhaps opened the discussion, and I believe in your stated aims (of making the Palestine movement more effective), even though I think your work doesn’t fulfill those aims as much as it should, and easily could have.

JB: From what I have seen already, it has begun to stir a debate and further questions about the issues I raised. True, a few who appreciated the article suggested that it might have been organized differently, and even in a less personal manner, but it would have been less honest on my part since, at least from my evaluation, Chomsky’s role in organizing around the I-P issue has been critical and it overall, whatever his motives, it has been instrumental in keeping it ineffective. In real terms, this means not challenging either locally or nationally, liberal Democratic politicians who may be PC on every other issue but back Israel to the bloody hilt, literally, when called upon to do so. In San Francisco, we have Nancy Pelosi, the House whip who has been given a pass by all but a few of the marginalized left who know where the organizing begins, and Tom Lantos, who gets labor support because he is strong on their issues, and again, like Pelosi, is ignored by both ANSWER and UFPJ. Chomsky’s relegation of Congress to the sidelines when it comes to Israel has produced similar responses to culpable Democrats across the country.

1) You have great respect for Finkelstein, Hass, Reinhart, Pappe – but not Noam? You are happy to say all of them support your position, presumably because you think they are (justly) respected, but you don’t think the same of Noam, who you suggest is only respected because of sheer volume of writing? You really don’t think conceding that Noam has more going for him than output and friendships would strengthen what you are saying at all?

JB: I have great respect for them because of the content of their writings as well as their personal courage. While such judgements, of course, are purely personal, I don’t think Noam measures up to any of that group in either category. What he has done, and for which credit is due, is support and assist numerous scholars here and in Israel but this while meritorious, does not account for the deficiencies that I have found in his writings. That is not to say we are on totally different pages, far from it. On most issues, we are in total agreement, but on the critical ones on this critical issue, we are poles apart. And since, in a manner inconsistent with any definition of “intellectual” he not only is unwilling to debate me, he says openly that he won’t even read what I’ve written.

2) It’s not one line out of Findley’s book I have a problem with, it’s the whole concept of ‘the National Interest’ as conceived by the figures who make up the CNI. Theirs is not a left critique. I believe that there is room for a left critique of Noam on Palestine issues, and you make some of the strongest points for that critique. But you also muddy the waters by throwing in these arguments about national interest, Pat Buchanan, and so on. What’s at stake is the kind of political alliance or coalition that could force change in the US-Israel relationship. Here’s where you and I probably have an analytical disagreement. I don’t think the US would abandon Israel unless the political culture in the US changed massively in favor of oppressed constituencies, anti-racist consciousness, more democratic media. I think you think that more conventional political pressure on politicians could make a bigger difference than I do. If you are right, then we can work with CNI or Pat Buchanan on an issue-by-issue basis. If I’m right, then by letting them in the boat we’re throwing others out – and I don’t mean liberal zionists but oppressed constituencies who are unimpressed by the politics of CNI on other issues.

JB: I understand and share your feelings concerning the term, “national interest.” but is that necessarily reactionary? Does it not depend on how that interest is perceived? I recently interviewed Prof. Andrew Bacevich who has written an important book, “The New American Militarism,” from what would be, I would guess, the CNI point of view, that the US military should exist to defend the country from attack from the outside and not as a global police force for US capital. He was coming to that point as a 23 year vet, West Point graduate, etc. While, no doubt, we have differing opinions on other issues, I think his book is more useful in convincing those not on the left of the unjustness of US policy and the present war in Iraq. How many progressives will buy and use the book? Not many, I would guess. In the case of Buchanan, it’s the same. If he is making the right arguments, ones that on the left you are only likely to find with Cockburn here, not to use them to stick one’s head in the sand. Back to the CNI, I am not aware that it takes positions on other issues than US support for Israel. If the left or progressive groups would adopt their position on this issue I would applause, but they don’t and I’m not holding my breath until they do.

3) On where you’re coming from: thanks for that. You didn’t have to say so much, but I do appreciate it. I’m much younger, though I think as outraged. And I don’t like the tendency our activists have of looking for ‘easy answers’ any more than you or Israel Shahak. But talk about easy answers, Jeff. As important as intra-left critique is for moving forward, and as important as I believe this particular critique is, you have to understand that there is a certain lack of proportion here? Surely Noam is not to blame for the situation in Palestine? And indeed, that even the movement has serious problems that go well beyond consequences of the bias towards Israel that Noam admitted he had in 1970?

JB: Of course, Noam is not to blame for the situation in Palestine. But I do know that the refusal over the years to place the Palestinian struggle for justice near the top of the movement’s international agenda has allowed it to develop to the point it has, and this has had to do with Chomsky’s point of view on the issues of Congress and the lobby and their connection to the aid issue and how it has been eagerly been taken up by those who are looking for the easy answers, “blame it all on US imperialism,” and, are either protective of Israel at some deeper level, like Chomsky, or afraid of provoking that bogeyman, “anti-semitism.”

The last comment in your email below suggests you are satisfied with the responses you’ve gotten and satisfied with your piece. If that’s the case I guess there’s not much point going too much further, especially in private email. On the other hand, if you’d like, I could post this all in my blog, along with your reply to this note (you should have the last word), and of course a link to your original leftcurve piece, in the interest of keeping the debate you opened going. I really do wish I found your piece as satisfying, but I don’t, for the reasons I’ve outlined. Still, there are important points there that activists should read.

JB: While I am pleased by the response that I have received so far, from sources that I respect, if I had more time and space, I might have organized the article differently. It’s essence, however, would be the same. As to putting this correspondence on your blog, that would be fine with me.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

13 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky, Jeff Blankfort, and me”

  1. Justin,
    I am way out of my

    Justin,

    I am way out of my league here, so take this with a grain of salt. I also did not read more than a quarter of Jeff Blankfort’s article. And I’ve only read a little of Noam Chomsky’s work (but many of his essays and interviews over the past few years). But I do have one strong area of experience, if not expertise, having spent every single one of my 44 years deeply enscoced in “conservative” evangelical “Christianity”.

    Many evangelical Christians see the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. You have to just accept how powerful this belief is, because it defies all logic. We all have some things we believe in so strongly that we subconsciously ignore all contrary evidence. But belief in the state of Israel among the the people I call Bush Christians is a mortal faith; it is so powerful that many would be willing to die for it.

    To people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, securing the profitable supply of oil is worth the death of their own (younger, poorer, and not personally related) countrymen. But to people like James Dobson or Franklin Graham, supporting Israel is worth dying for.

    Yesterday I read Molly Ivins’ essay, AlterNet: Christian Right Goes Nuclear, and then the comments, and I think this one in particular tells part of this story:

    Dominionism
    Posted by: Word Lackey on Apr 26, 2005 8:04 PM
    I’m not sure whether it’s something in the water but the whole Dominionism movement/cult seems to be popping up everywhere for me during the last week or two. I wrote a blog post on Dominionism but I really only scratched the surface. I’m certainly going to go look for the May Harpers for the articles on them.

    That person referred to the following very long essay (I didn’t read the whole thing today, but it might not be a bad idea): The Despoiling Of America, by Katherine Yurica.

    References:
    http://www.leftcurve.org/LC29WebPages/Chomsky.html
    http://www.alternet.org/columnists/story/21873/
    http://demiorator.blogspot.com/2005/04/dominionism.html
    http://www.yuricareport.com/Dominionism/TheDespoilingOfAmerica.htm

    Peace! Keep peacemongering, my friend!

  2. Justin,
    I may not have made

    Justin,

    I may not have made my point clearly (since it’s just now clarifying in my own head). Noam Chomsky looks for a rational explanation of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. So does Jeff Blankfort, and you, and me. All analytical types do. But I am at the same time a religious fanatic, and understand to the core of my being that some things are just plain irrational. Part of the support of the state of Israel is purely irrational because it goes to the root of a deep religious faith. As such, it is impervious to all arguments. The only thing we can do, I think, is to consistently tell the truth, in a respectful and loving manner. This is hard, but the only way to win over people of blind faith is by acts of selfless love.

    So be peaceful, and be true. Be humble. Basically, keep writing like you have been!

  3. “What has been happening to
    “What has been happening to the Palestinians is not a US directed exercise; the occupation is not something the US has supported for its own interests, but something it has opposed since Nixon, for geopolitical reasons, not for any benefit for the Palestinians and when Chomsky twists the truth about it, and people mimic that nonsense because of his ubiquitous presence, I am certainly justified and I want others to be angry to.”

    Am I reading this correctly? That Blankfort is saying that that the occupation is “something [the US] has opposed since Nixon, for geopolitical reasons”?? I agree that Noam’s views on Israel-Palestine should be debated, but not from where Blankfort is coming from, if I’m reading him correctly. The US has funded, armed, and defended the occupation for over thirty years and if he is going to attribute that to the work of the pro-Israel lobby vs. the failed efforts of “lonely” and brave politicians like Bush Sr. then I see no point in discussion.

  4. Appreciate the comment
    Appreciate the comment Aaron, but don’t be so dismissive (‘I see no point in discussion’). Part of what I dislike about Blankfort’s work on Chomsky is precisely that he gets too personal and vituperative, attacking Chomsky as opposed to ideas or positions on numerous occasions. But Noam, after a lifetime of dealing with attacks in bad faith, has become understandably dismissive of all attacks and anything that smacks of bad faith. It’s understandable for Noam – it isn’t right, though, for folks like us, without lifetimes of bad faith questions and smear attacks to harden us, to do the same.

    I think Blankfort is wrong on the point you raise – that the US has ‘opposed the occupation’. But what’s interesting is that I don’t think he’s as wrong as he seems at first blush. He is, I think, overstating his case, partly because he is trying to encourage people to break with Noam’s view that it’s all the US. I used to think the ‘strategic asset’ theory made sense… but increasingly I don’t. Not that I think it’s a ‘strategic liability’ either. I think it’s much more perceived simply as ‘our people over there’, who can no more be abandoned than Florida or California could be. In other words, I think that neither Noam’s idea that Israel is the local cop on the beat and Blankfort’s, that Israel is a huge strategic liability kept close because of the lobby, explains the relationship. The relationship transcends geopolitics. To oversimplify my own case, it’s based on racism, and it is, for US planners, simply a fact that has to be protected at all costs, because it is ‘us’.

    At any rate, I do see a point in discussion. Even the very counterintuitive point you took issue with has some truth to it. Would the US be happier and better off if there were no occupation? Does the US benefit from the occupation? I don’t think so, except inasmuch as US and Israeli interests are completely inseparable. Blankfort thinks they aren’t, and therefore that it’s strategic to try to break the two up. I disagree with him, but I don’t think his arguments can or should be dismissed casually.

  5. Just a couple of random
    Just a couple of random comments:

    1) I read the lengthy article. I think it’s worth reading, and as I was reading, I just didn’t pay much attention to any of tone. I have learn a great deal from reading Chomsky, but we all have to keep in mind that all of us will make mistakes. (And I think when you are a public figure, it may be more difficult to change your mind, especially when you are trying to make a point… not necessarily rational, but I get the impression that people dig in their position hard when they have a lot of visibility)

    2) I think those discusssions maybe at times blurring 2 things: a) strenght of the lobbies, b) 1 vs 2 state solution. Finkelstein appears to be in Chomsky’s camp for a 2 states solution, but I’m under the impression that he’s not in Chomsky’s camp with regards to blaming the whole fiasco on the US. I don’t think Finkelstein’s as dismissive of the lobby as Chomsky is. And speaking for myself, I’m not a strong believer in the “single big bully” theory (as I’ve mentionned not long ago while talking about power being pyramidal, with competing interests); when it comes to 1 vs 2 states, I’m leaning very timidly towards the 2 states solution on practical considerations. Morally, the 1 state solution is the way to go. But we should be careful not to blur the matters into meaning that “you support a 2 states solution, therefore, you are supportive of the lobbies”.

    Anyways, those are my comments, and I reserve the right to change my opinion in the future 🙂

  6. Jeff Blankfort, if you catch
    Jeff Blankfort, if you catch this, I have to say that a few of your comments are disgraceful. In 1982, when the left was still enamoured with Israel, when De Beavoir wouldnt even allow an article that was critical of Israel in her journal, Chomsky decided to not particpate at a large anti nuclear rally that he had helped organize because the other organizers refused to bring up the recent invasion of Lebenon. What on earth do you mean that he helped in downplaying the issue?

    That was also the year when Chomsky sealed his fate as an “disreputable intellectual” by authoring one of the finest books on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. To disclose a personal bias, I am a Palestinian who was raised in a firmly nationalist and political involved household; but The FateFull Triangle impelled me to look deeper into the issue, to sift fact from falsehood, something that I do to this day.

    And I can always turn to his works for the basics, and the unimpeachable methodolgy. The conlusions are sound, all evidence considered. But more than that, his example is what should be considered.

    Moral consistency, courage, simplicity in presentation, and objectivity. That is not what you will get from Findly, and Curtiss. I listened to Findly speak months ahead of the elections in 2000, when he told the crwod to vote Republican. I’ve also read Curtiss say htat American foreign poicy is great, the problem is when it comes to Israel, and that only because of the Jewish lobby. I seldom use this word, but if that were not an symptom of antisemitism, I dont know what is.

  7. Just to add another comment
    Just to add another comment regarding lobbies influence, I’d like to point out that Uri Avnery (of Gush Shalom) is very much in the camp that says that the Israel lobby is VERY strong in Washington. I recall a TV program aired in Canada in which he said something to the effect that if congress is asked to choose between the pres and Sharon, it’s Sharon all the way. I tought this was a very strong statement.

    So, it’s fair to say that well respected (at least by me) Uri Avnery is completely at odd with Noam Chomsky on the matter of lobbying.

    (I don’t think people should get bogged down by the tone of Blankfort, and instead focus on what matter. That’s not meant as disrespect of Chomsky, nor approval of Blankforth’s style/tone)

  8. Hey Justin:
    A couple of

    Hey Justin:

    A couple of comments:

    1) You have obviously stated that you agree with some of Jeff’s claims. I was wondering if you could reiterate which precise claims/criticisms of his you agree with, and whether one of those agreements is on the question of the Zionist lobby. If so, how much impact you think it has on policy formulation?

    2) I’m inclined to follow your lead on attributing a good deal of this US policy toward Israel on straight out racism. Chomsky has emphasized the point that the US has at various times relied heavily on non-Arab powers in the region or on its periphery to be its principal clients in the region, since non-Arab regimes and their populations would not have the level of Arab resentment and nationalism found of course in Arab societies. These powers included Pakistan, Iran under the Shah, Turkey, and of course Israel. But the three former powers are at least Muslim, and so the Muslim Arab societies had at least that bond with those non-Arab countries. But Israel was both a colonial settler state and a Jewish society, and so the sheer amount of resentment that has caused in the important Middle Eastern region among peoples who have coupled their correct anti-Zionist sentiment with a latent and sometimes not so latent anti-Jewish sentiment should have caused US planners to rethink whether supporting this “non-Arab” regime is such a wise idea. I’d appreciate your comments on this.

    3) Finally, it seems as if the whole debate on this question is more for historical clarification and explanation, and seems pretty moot today. Today, we know that Israel is one of the most formidable military forces in the world, with a world-class air force and ample nuclear warheads. It is most apt to see Israel today as Chomsky puts it, our military outpost there. I simply don’t think there is even the issue of abandoning Israel in the near future, unless as you say there is massive changes internal to the US.

    Best,
    Junaid

  9. While I respect Chomsky I
    While I respect Chomsky I would agree with Jeff that he does not take criticism well when he is contradicted. I totally agree with Jeff about the influence of the Lobby and the soft Zionism of the progressive/peace movement. Folks who have been watching the debate over Palestine in the anti war movement will agree that any mention of the issue and the strong criticism of Israel is not allowed and fought over tooth and nail.
    I think it is time to stop talking of THE intellectuals of the left and look and respect the others who may not be included in the “acceptable” magazines as representing THE LEFT in the US. I find the genuflecting of Chomsky rather repuslive. He has great points to make, and he is wrong as well. I live on the east coast and have been to many of his talks, read many of his books. THe back slapping among this group of the progressives is digusting. If you disagree…then there is a verbal attack.
    I find Jeff refreshing and his tone of voice or manner of speaking no different from others on the left when they are contradicted. Jeff speaks with passion because of the deep anger over this injustice….
    Chomsky, because of his powerful position, among the liberal left does indeed do damage to the cause of the Paletinians because folks who read him,as if he speaking the gospel truth ,do not question his conclusions.
    NO ONE should be in this postion.

  10. I will summarize what Jeff
    I will summarize what Jeff Blankfort and people like him really want to promote:

    1) Nationalism is wrong. Jewish nationalism is VERY wrong. But palestinian nationalism is FANTASTIC.

    2) Muslim countries are OK for existing as muslim countries. But the world’s only jewish country is WRONG for existing as a jewish country.

    3) Violence is wrong. Of course, every country on earth was formed via civil war, takeover, revolution and violence at one point or another. Antizionists are OK with this, EXCEPT in the case of the jewish people. Jewish people have no right to keep a country that involved any violence in forming. But EVERYONE ELSE gets to keep their countries, even if they were violent, which almost all of them were.

    4) Killing innocent people is wrong, except if you do it to israeli jews. THen it’s OK.

    5) Statehood in general is wrong! Except palestinian statehood on top of the jewish state. That’s FANTASTIC and we support it!

    6) Every single country on earth has immigration restrictions that make it easier for some people to immigrate than others. THis is fine, EXCEPT in the case of the jewish state. We are against the world having a country that opens its doors to jews above non-jews, yet we have NO PROBLEM with countries that are antisemitic against jews that CAUSE THE NEED for a place like israel in the first place.

    Anti-zionists don’t want a peaceful palestinian state next to a peaceful jewish state. They want muslims to flood into the jewish state, take over and form the majority, with israeli jews fleeing for their lives by the millions (or staying and probably dying, or being subjected to rule under an islamic majority that absolutely hates israeli jews.)

  11. To stevie(1) – crap summary.
    To stevie(1) – crap summary. Your summary: 2+2=6. get a life dude…..

    I am Chomsky through and through, absolutely idolize the man – but I disagreed with his response to the Harvard paper too. But then I didn’t feel let down ideologically by what I see as his shortcomings in his analysis – the man has done more academically for the Palestinian cause than anybody by simply documenting the facts about the peace process and unveiling the extent of the pro-Israel bias in the U.S media (those he’s never quite detailed enough(for me) why this is. Simply pointing out U.S rejectionism at the U.N has never quite convinced me that the sole reason for supporting Israels brutality was to fulfil U.S interests through oppression of Arab nationalism and rights.

    But no matter – it seems pretty self-apparent to me(at least) that is a matter of two powerful interest groups(corporate and lobbyist(the Israel one being completely unique) converging in common, if not, imperfect goals. Nothing there to provoke an ideological split between either academics or activists. The goal is the same – the realization of Palestinian rights and their legitimate claim by any standards to a state.

    I’ve not seen anything from Blankfort to suggest he opposses the state of Israel in practise(it does exist and the people who live there are also deserving of rights if your on the left) so – where’s the beef???

    My own opinion is that a concerted effort against the Israel lobby for the most part involves a continuing battle for truth and awareness about Israel’s policies and practises and exposing the overwhelmingly corrupt practises of the U.S lobby as much as possible, which for the first time(LOL) have become somewhat of a discussion in the MM…

  12. To stevie(1) – crap summary.
    To stevie(1) – crap summary. Your summary: 2+2=6. get a life dude…..

    I am Chomsky through and through, absolutely idolize the man – but I disagreed with his response to the Harvard paper too. But then I didn’t feel let down ideologically by what I see as his shortcomings in his analysis – the man has done more academically for the Palestinian cause than anybody by simply documenting the facts about the peace process and unveiling the extent of the pro-Israel bias in the U.S media (those he’s never quite detailed enough(for me) why this is. Simply pointing out U.S rejectionism at the U.N has never quite convinced me that the sole reason for supporting Israels brutality was to fulfil U.S interests through oppression of Arab nationalism and rights.

    But no matter – it seems pretty self-apparent to me(at least) that is a matter of two powerful interest groups(corporate and lobbyist(the Israel one being completely unique) converging in common, if not, imperfect goals. Nothing there to provoke an ideological split between either academics or activists. The goal is the same – the realization of Palestinian rights and their legitimate claim by any standards to a state.

    I’ve not seen anything from Blankfort to suggest he opposses the state of Israel in practise(it does exist and the people who live there are also deserving of rights if your on the left) so – where’s the beef???

    My own opinion is that a concerted effort against the Israel lobby for the most part involves a continuing battle for truth and awareness about Israel’s policies and practises and exposing the practises of the U.S lobby as much as possible….

  13. It was for me a little
    It was for me a little painful to read (well, skim) Blankfort’s article and see that he had a point. Chomsky’s position that “it’s all owing to the US government, don’t punish the state of Israel with sanctions, etc.” seemed definitely (and suddenly) haywire. Chomsky is a great human being, no question, but I guess he’s still in some ways “just” a human being, with some of the foibles we all have, like a degree of innate tribalism & adherence to what’s taught to us when we’re really young. But he always rejected the cult of personality, so it’s probably better for me to see him as fallible anyway.

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