Quite apart from his dismissal of the power of the pro-Israel lobby and, consequently, the role of Congress which I have found to be the foremost obstacle in trying to educate people around that issue, Chomsky’s opposition to BDS, (what he now describes as qualified support) and his ongoing efforts to dissuade people from using the term, apartheid, to describe Israel’s control over Palestinian society, should raise serious questions about Chomsky’s judgment, not to mention that his reason for opposing the Palestinian right of return and a one-state solution is identical to that of most liberal Zionists, i.e., that it would lead to Jews becoming a minority in that single state.
The question as to whether or not to use the term apartheid is a critical one. That Chomsky objects to the use of the term despite the fact that such a description has long been made by both Israeli critics of their country’s policies and by former victims of South African apartheid, all of whom are in a far better position than him to know what they were talking about can not simply be dismissed as a difference of opinion.
Everyone knows the negative connotations that word carries and that if widely applied to Israel it would most certainly raise the level of public consciousness in this country and with it the possibilities of changing US policy. The attacks on Jimmy Carter by the entire Jewish establishment for his use of the word in the title of his book was a clear indication of the latter’s fear of that happening. Motivations aside, Chomsky should be embarrassed to see whose side he is on when it comes to this issue.
That otherwise intelligent people have not seen through Chomsky’s deceptions by this time I attribute to their having confused his admittedly harsh criticism of Israeli actions and US support for those actions with what is needed in the US to counter that support. This requires challenging the power of the Zionist establishment and that is something that Chomsky would have us believe is irrelevant.
If any other public figure revered on the left would take positions on Palestine as those of Chomsky, he or she would be dimissed as a Zionist apologist. (Imagine if someone purporting to be an anti-apartheid activist had taken similar positions on South Africa.) In Chomsky’s case, because of the excellent writings and statements that he has made on other issues outside of the Israel-Palestine conflict, he seems to have been given a pass for his questionable positions on Palestine. This amounts, in practice, to saying that the man, Chomsky, is more important than the issue, justice for Palestine. I don’t think anyone seriously concerned with the latter actually thinks or would say that but, unfortunately that is the only conclusion one can draw from the fact that Chomsky still continues to be invited to speak by groups whose dedication to justice for Palestine can not be questioned.
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As a result of reading Noam Chomsky’s statements in a 2003 interview in the South African journal, Safundi, opposing BDS against Israel (because the Israelis would be against it!) and against using the term, apartheid to describe the Palestinian situation, and adding that to his long history of denying the destructive power of the pro-Israel lobby, I decided to write a critical article about his stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict which was published in Left Curve in the Spring of 2004. — Jeff Blankfort
Following is Kevin Barrett’s interview with Jeff Blankfort*, pro-Palestinian activist, critic of Zionism, and long-time critic of Noam Chomsky.
* Jeffrey Blankfort was raised in a Jewish non-Zionist family. He produces a radio program on KZYX, the public radio station for Mendocino County in Northern California and has written extensively on the Middle East. He was formerly the editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin and co-founder of the Labor Committee of the Middle East. His photographs of the Anti-Vietnam War and Black Panthers Movements have appeared in numerous books and magazines. “In February 2002, he won a lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which was found to have had a vast spying operation directed against American citizens opposed to Israel’s policies in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza and to the apartheid policies of the government of South Africa and passing on information to both governments.” -IfAmericansKnew.org