Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cry Havoc?

If this gets worse, of course, it will mean civil war, which will mean the eventual breakup of Iraq. I have ambivalent feelings about this. Iraq is, in many ways, an artificial entity, a creation of colonial interests now long forgotten and irrelevant. Perhaps, objectively speaking, it would be better for the factions involved to stay together in a federated country, but objectivity generally matters little when nationalism and faith are involved. In some senses, I am quite sympathetic to this, especially in the case of the Kurds. Several people I have spoken to whose knowledge on the subject I trust have told me that the Kurds are essentially biding their time until the moment is ripe to declare independence. If they do, I’m afraid I would have to support them. Mainly because they so obviously deserve it. One of the often suppressed facts about Israel’s relationship to the rest of the Middle East is that it has been supportive of the Kurds since its inception, long before it was fashionable and long before most of the world knew the Kurds existed. It's obviously not my place to say so, but if it were up to me I’d have to venture the opinion that the Kurds have long since earned their own state.

A state, incidentally, that would likely be democratic and an American ally. Theoretically, it could serve as an anti-terrorist buffer state between Iraq and Iran. On purely realist terms, therefore, a Kurdish state could be very much in America's interest.

As for the rest of Iraq, God only knows how it would break apart. The Sunnis and Shiites seem to be much more mixed together than one might assume, and my guess would be that nasty things ethnic cleansing and massacre would likely be swift in coming if civil war broke out. I don’t know enough about the issue, unfortunately, but it certainly seems like we would be looking at another Lebanon, and with American troops on the ground and in the crossfire. That, I think, is something we should now be pulling out all the stops to prevent.

Horban in Iraq

This photo essay (via Andrew Sullivan) brings home the measure of destruction inflicted on the al-Askariya mosque by Iraqi terrorists (since I want to be able to sleep tonight, I will not use the facile Western media term “insurgents”).  I realize that there is now a wave of Shiite reprisals across Iraq, and this may swiftly turn into a mutual succession of atrocities, I cannot help but feel a particular sympathy for the victims of this assault.  Jewish history is replete with catastrophes of this kind, and the destruction of our holiest site remains the most pivotal moment in our long history.  We know what it is to have the earthly incarnations of our culture annihilated by the wanton and the barbaric.  Whether the barbarian goes by the name of Rome or Germany.  The destruction of a holy site is the destruction of the labor of generations.  It is an assault on the universal truth that when a man attaches himself to a collective he makes himself a part of eternity.  Albert Camus once said that a mission exists for any human group which can derive pride and fecundity from its labors and its sufferings.  Atrocities such as this are not merely attacks against wood and stone but an existential assault on this pride and fecundity, and the labors and sufferings which gave birth to it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Jewish Self-Hatred on the Front Page

There is a good article up at FrontPageMag about Jewish self-hatred in regards to Israel. Its a bit slim, in my opinion. I wish it had gone into the role of liberal anti-semitism in regards to this issue, as well as the long history of Jewish self-hatred, which is well in keeping with our current problems. Nothing that is going on with folks like Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein is particularly new in Jewish history. There have always been Jews who have bound themselves to anti-Jewish hatred for a myriad of various reasons. It’s a very old problem and unlikely to go away anytime soon. Nor is it unique to the Jewish experience, all oppressed peoples have their Uncle Toms. Still, an interesting interview and well worth reading.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Kundun Comes to Beersheva (and some thoughts on Emmanuel Levinas...)

The Dalai Lama was in Beersheva yesterday. Not being much enamored with either Buddhism or pacifism I didn’t try standing in the enormous security line to see him, but there is a write up in Ha’aretz. I was struck by this section.
War, he said, destroys those who are called your enemy, but in reality, they are part of yourself. Because all the world is a single body, the destruction of the enemy is like the destruction of yourself.
I’m sure the Dalai Lama is a very nice and well-meaning man, he certainly seems to be, but as a Jew I cannot accept this philosophy. Anne Frank and Hitler were not of the same body, and the destruction of one was not the destruction of the other. To say otherwise is madness. To pick a less extreme example, I am not of the same body as someone I meet on the street, or my best friend, or my lover. Not only is this the case, it is essential to realize it. I agree with Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy that recognition and apprehension of the Other is the basis of the ethical relationship. If we believe that we are One with the Other than we are subsuming him, making him over in our own image. It is only in the recognition of our separation, face to face, and our recognition of our responsibility, the one to the other, that ethics can be born. War is not the result of a failure to recognize Oneness but a failure to recognize Otherness, and the inherent right of Otherness. It is the tyranny of Oneness that causes war, because it is the desire to destroy the Other and to reduce him to non-existence. The demand of absolute unity is the source of murder. The issue is basic. It is the right to exist. We can only recognize the right of existence when we look into the face of the Other and accept that it is not our own.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Noam Chomsky is an Iconic Mass Murderer (and other experiments in turnabout as fair play...)

I have been fortunate enough to come across a transcript of the debate (thanks to Chomsky’s official website; irony of ironies, all is irony) between Alan Dershowitz and our beloved professor which was held at Harvard a few months ago. The topic was that perennial obsession of America’s liberal institutions: the Arab-Israeli conflict. As to be expected, Dersh wipes the floor with the good professor, and I say this as someone who has deeply ambivalent feelings about Dershowitz and who does not agree with his political position in regards to the conflict. Contrary to Dershowitz, I believe that the terms offered by Barak at Camp David were far too generous and Oslo appears to have been a very bad idea from the beginning, though I am not opposed in principle to a land for peace deal or a Palestinian state of some kind. Nor do I think that a negotiated peace with the Palestinians is possible at the moment. Dershowitz seems to continue clinging to that unfortunate chimera. However, these are disagreements on details. Dershowitz at least argues his case in good faith and attempts to stick to a reasonably accurate rendition of history. Chomsky not only lies relentlessly about the facts and history of the conflict throughout this debate, he lies repeatedly about his own work and his own previous positions. While I understand his need to distort history in order to justify his apologetics for Arab war crimes and terrorism against Israel and Israelis, I must confess to being a bit puzzled by this obvious and often wholly unnecessary distortionism in regards to his own record. Chomsky claims, not once but several times, that he has supported a two-state solution since the 1970s. For anyone who has read anything of Chomsky’s work, this is obvious nonsense. Peace in the Middle East? and The Fateful Triangle (whose title, I would note, is plagiarized from an earlier work on the British Mandate, originality is not Chomsky’s strong suit) are little more than a mantra on the topic of “bi-national socialism”, as the good professor put it in the former work. The furthest Chomsky has ever gone in supporting Jewish sovereignty is to endorse some vague form of political-religious autonomy within a larger bi-national state. A state which would, obviously, have an Arab majority and therefore be, as anyone knows who has the slightest inkling of how things work in the world beyond the ivory tower, an Arab state.

Chomsky also spins his usual lies about civil conflict in Central and South America during the Cold War and engages in his usual apologetics for Castro’s totalitarian regime. Not to mention placing the entirety of the blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict on the shoulders of Israel and the United States. Nothing that he says is particularly new, except for his sudden rewriting of his own intellectual legacy, and not particularly surprising. Chomsky’s usual methods, if one can dignify them by such a term, are abundantly on display throughout. He blubbers out the usual blizzard of scholars and politicians whom he claims have said various things, as well as namedropping various figures on the Israeli extreme Left as though they represented objective Israeli academic opinion. He also makes an utter fool of himself by invoking the name of Ron Pundak on numerous occasions as an authority only to be revealed by an audience member to be, in fact, completely ignorant of Mr. Pundak or what his involvement in the peace process was. (Full disclosure: Mr. Pundak is the ex-boss of a friend of mine. I have never met him, but I have some knowledge of the Shimon Peres Peace Center that he heads and for which my friend worked and to describe it as harboring more than a few agendas of the distinctly Leftist variety is to make a mild understatement.) Chomsky ends his parade of stumbling approbations by calling Shimon Peres an iconic mass murderer. Which besides being psychotically slanderous is also a bit confusing. One would think such a status would arouse Chomsky’s sympathy. He has displayed in the past, after all, a more than passing affection for iconic mass murderers.

But let us begin at the beginning. A brief observation: anyone who doubts the ubiquity of the Chomskyite mind in America’s institutions of higher education need look no further than the host of this honored event, who manages to cough up this slathering introduction for one of the most corrupted intellectual legacies of the last half-century.
BRIAN MANDELL: From his articulate opposition to the Vietnam War in the mid '60's, to his book, Manufacturing Consent in 1988, and to his even more challenging text, 9-11, published after the terrorists attack that year, Noam Chomsky has never retreated from taking on the most pressing issues of our day.
I could go into how Chomsky’s opposition to the Vietnam War was, in fact, little more than a tissue of lies and communist propaganda, and included comparing America to Nazi Germany and its actions to Auschwitz, which is not to mention his acts of treason on behalf of North Vietnamese propaganda. I could elaborate on how Manufacturing Consent is a tired retread of the Frankfurt School bordering on outright plagiarism. I could even note that the term “challenging text” is usually used to refer to something like, say, an essay by Jacques Derrida or a novel like Moby Dick; in other words, a difficult, obscure piece of work requiring close attention and study to understand. Not, in other words, a clapped together transcription of Leftwing agitprop. But I refrain. Such a thing would be as absurd as calling Chomsky an iconic mass murderer, since, as we all know, Chomsky has only supported mass murder, he’s never had the guts to do it himself.

So, I will simply say that any host who give an introduction such as this really ought to be in the audience, scribbling away furiously trying to get every last utterance from the master down for future publication; and, one must presume, for assigned reading in college courses.

Chomsky begins his challenging text with one of his usual denials of reality, claiming that Israeli withdrawal is, in fact, Israeli expansion.
There was no effort to conceal the fact that Gaza disengagement was in reality West Bank expansion. The official plan for disengagement stated that Israel will permanently take over major population centers, cities, towns and villages, security areas and other places of special interest to Israel in the West Bank. That was endorsed by the U.S. ambassador, as it had been by the President, breaking sharply with U.S. policy.
In fact, the administration endorsed only the obvious fact that an absolute return to the 1967 borders is impossible. Both facts on the ground and Israel’s defense requirements have long since rendered the green line obsolete. Moreover, UN Resolution 242, which about which Chomsky does some copious lying later in the debate, anticipated as much when it was adopted in 1967. No specific borders, however, were endorsed in 242, nor were they endorsed recently by the White House, merely the principle that the ’67 borders are not a prerequisite for peace. Chomsky’s blubbering to the contrary is, at best, mere hyperbole.
There is near unanimity that all of this violates international law. The consensus was expressed by U.S. Judge Buergenthal in his separate declaration attached to the World Court judgment, ruling that the separation wall is illegal. In Buergenthal's words, "The Fourth Geneva Convention and International Human Rights Law are applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory and must therefore be fully complied with by Israel. Accordingly, the segments of the wall being built by Israel to protect the settlements are ipso facto in violation of international humanitarian law," which happens to mean about 80% of the wall.
I will not waste time discussing the absurdly corrupted process by which the World Court rendered its self-evidently racist and morally bankrupt condemnation of a wall which has most likely helped save my life and those of many of my friends. If the World Court considers its obviously biased interpretation of international law more important than human lives, then it deserves its lousy reputation. But it is important to point out that Chomsky himself endorses the idea that there are moral considerations which go beyond the law, as he himself proved by going to prison for protesting against the Vietnam War and in favor of a communist victory. For an anarchist, Chomsky puts remarkable stock in the opinion of elite institutions when it suits him to do so. The American judge, by the way, also dissented from the World Court’s final opinion, which Chomsky conveniently does not mention.
You can find detailed documentation about all of this in work of mine and others who have supported the international consensus for 30 years in print, explicitly. In Israeli literature, like Benny Morris's histories, you can find ample evidence about the nature of the occupation. In Morris's words, "founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers and daily intimidation, humiliation and manipulation, along with stealing of valuable land and resources." Like other Israeli political and legal commentators, Morris reserves special criticism for the Supreme Court, whose record, he writes, "will surely go down as a dark day in the annals of Israel's judicial system."
Fascinating. When Yasser Arafat died, Chomsky wrote an article describing Benny Morris as a racist advocate of transfer who had distorted Arafat’s admirable record in an article in the NY Times. Now, Morris is apparently an unimpeachable source on Israeli history. Again, full disclosure: I have participated in a seminar taught by Professor Morris. He’s an amusing fellow, but just as bonkers as Chomsky in his own way. At any rate, Chomsky really ought to decide if his experts are vile ethnic cleansers or legitimate historians before he goes around citing them. He might also have done us the honor of letting us know that Morris (I will treat him as the latter, unimpeachable, Morris, if only for argument’s sake) in fact rejects Chomsky’s entire narrative of the Oslo Process and the Camp David negotiations. Morris believes that the Palestinians have never made peace with Zionism and that the current conflict is entirely the result of their genocidal rejectionism. As they say, context is everything. Of course, in Chomsky’s next debate he’ll probably be calling Morris an iconic mass murderer. We can’t expect reliability from dilettantes.

This is also, it is important to point out, the first time Chomsky makes his claim that he has “supported the international consensus for 30 years in print, explicitly.” He doesn’t spell out what this “international consensus” is, but we can only assume, based on his prior statements, that it means a two-state solution. Putting aside the foolishness of taking Noam Chomsky’s word on what the generally held opinion of four billion human beings might be, we can nonetheless make the assertion (indeed, I already have) that not only has Chomsky never supported any such thing, he has specifically and vociferously rejected it in print for 30 years, explicitly. Why Chomsky feels the need to lie about this is beyond me. Firstly, because it is so easily disproved. Secondly, because it doesn’t help his case in the least. He could simply say that he once supported a one state solution and now supports a two-state solution. I can only hypothesize that the issue here is a personal one, namely the egomania of someone who has long since bought into his own manufactured iconography. Chomsky, it appears, can never admit to being wrong about anything, past or present; even when it involves exposing himself as a fool and a liar in the process.

Furthermore, such obvious dissembling must beg the question of which Chomsky we are to believe, the Chomsky who endorses a two-state solution today, or the one who has advocated the destruction of Israel for 30 years in print, explicitly. It may, in fact, lead to believe that, while advocating the former in order to appear more moderate in debate, he in fact still holds fast to the latter, implicitly.

As for the opinions of Israeli political and legal commentators, Chomsky clearly does not read the Hebrew press very often. If there is one issue in this country around which an overwhelming consensus exists, and there aren’t many of them, it’s the wall and its necessity.

Now we start the lying about history, or, to stick to pretensions, “the diplomatic record.”
Keeping to the diplomatic record, the first -- both sides, of course, rejected 242. The first important step forward was in 1971, when president Sadat of Egypt offered a full peace treaty to Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. That would have ended the international conflict. Israel rejected the offer, choosing expansion over security. In this case, expansion into the Egyptian Sinai, where General Sharon's forces had driven thousands of farmers into the desert to clear the land for the all-Jewish city of Yamit. The U.S. backed Israel's stand.
In fact, Sadat offered no such thing. He offered the possibility of negotiations following a complete withdrawal from the Sinai by Israeli forces. This took place, I would note, in the midst of a War of Attrition, with the Soviet-supplied Egyptian army sitting in full force on the other side of the Suez Canal. Even had such negotiations been forthcoming, and there was no guarantee of this, it would not have ended the conflict, since it would have been a bilateral peace treaty with Egypt and not the other Arab states still at war with Israel. Sadat’s offer, in other words, was a tactical maneuver to gain time to build up his forces. It was a non-offer of a non-peace and Israel acted accordingly. There are some Israeli historians who believe the track should have been pursued, others think it should never have been given the attention it received, but none of them make the ridiculous claim that anything like a full peace or an end to the conflict was on offer.

But the most hilariously obvious lie is the obsequious “of course” in the first sentence. “Both sides” did not “of course” reject Resolution 242. Israel, in fact, accepted it. The Arab states rejected it, as they rejected any recognition of or negotiations with Israel at the Khartoum conference held soon after the Six-Day War. The PLO, of course, completely rejected 242 as it would have resulted in the recognition of Israel’s perpetual existence and the end of any possibility of destroying it in favor of an Arab nationalist state. Chomsky must not only lie in order to indict Israel, he must lie in the most embarrassingly obvious fashion about a subject with which even cursory students of the conflict are familiar. The academy’s lionization of this walking joke of a pseudo-scholar is all the proof we will ever need of the degeneration of American learning at the hands of the ‘60s generation.
The matter reached a head in 1988, when the PLO moved from tacit approval to formal acceptance of the two-state consensus. Israel responded with a declaration that there can be no, as they put it, "additional Palestinian state between Jordan and the sea," Jordan already being a Palestinian state -- that's Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir -- and also that the status of the territories must be settled according to Israeli guidelines. The U.S. endorsed Israel's stand. I can only add what I wrote at the time: "It's as if someone were to argue the Jews don't need a second homeland in Israel, because they already have New York."
The PLO has never, in fact, officially recognized Israel. That is, it has not done so according to its own rules for adopting changes to the PLO Charter. As for Israel’s refusal to negotiate with the PLO in 1988, or at anytime before Oslo, it was based on the presumption that doing so would likely lead to, well, the type of situation we have now. It is important also to remember that the PLO was, at the time, still openly a terrorist organization and was still engaged in acts of terror against Israeli civilians. In other words, Israel acted the way any other country would and the way all other countries have. Nothing to be particularly ashamed of, except in the eyes of apologists for terrorism such as the good professor.

As for Chomsky’s attempted reductio regarding New York, and I will ignore its obvious antisemitism, it is self-evidently absurd, even as a facile attempt at irony. The Jews do not have sovereignty over New York City (which is not an independent country anyways) nor do they constitute a majority of its population. The Palestinians are a majority of the kingdom of Jordan. Monarchies cannot last forever in our day and age, and the Palestinians will eventually take control of Jordan, a fact which any Israeli leader has to take into account when planning for Israel’s long term future. Unlike Jordan, there is, obviously, no chance of a Jewish takeover of New York, except perhaps in the minds of Noam Chomsky’s more ardent supporters.
Clinton -- we don't have to debate it, because Clinton recognized that Palestinian objections had validity, and in December 2000 proposed his parameters, which went some way toward satisfying Palestinian rights. In Clinton's words, "Barak and Arafat had both accepted these parameters as the basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations."
Again, we find context annihilated in favor of distortionist name dropping. Clinton, in fact, blamed Arafat for having rejected “an historic opportunity for peace” (I perhaps paraphrase) and praised Barak for having gone so far in order to accommodate Palestinian demands. Clinton remains the staunchest defender of the Israeli position on Camp David and one of Arafat’s most outspoken critics. He insisted at the time and continues to insist that the failure of the 2000 negotiations was entirely the fault of Yasser Arafat and not Ehud Barak or Israel. In other words, despite the rather desperate and undignified assertion from the almighty Chomsky, I’m afraid we do have to debate it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, my name is Michi Harmon, I'm from Jerusalem and this is a question for Professor Chomsky. I wanted to know if you think that it actually is relevant to dwell upon forming a shared narrative of both sides in going forth towards any solution of peace between us. Is it important for us to actually agree [on] what '48 represents for one side and what '48 represents for the other in order to live together in peace in the future?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yes, I think it's very relevant to understand history if you want to understand the present.

BRIAN MANDELL: Professor Dershowitz, a comment.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: I agree and I think that the history has to be objectively verifiable, and it doesn't become true because Professor Chomsky says it's true. There was a two-state solution proposed by the United Nations in 1948, and if the Palestinians had accepted what the Israelis accepted, a small non-contiguous state with "Bantustans", to quote Professor Chomsky, and instead had not invaded, and if the Egyptians had not occupied the Gaza, something that nobody complained about-it was literally a prison for 20 years-and if the Jordanians hadn't occupied the West Bank-literally a prison for 20 years, and had the situation gone forward as it was supposed to go forward in '48, we would not be here. We would have a two-state solution. But, what happened is, it's clear that the Palestinian and Arab leadership was more interested in destroying the nascent, Jewish state of Israel than in establishing a Palestinian state. That is simply the truth, and there is no way to deny that. And no amount of rhetoric can undercut that reality.

NOAM CHOMSKY: You'll notice that he starts with 1948 and I'd be glad to discuss that if you like but it's not relevant.

So, it’s relevant when it isn’t relevant. Or it isn’t relevant when it’s relevant. Or, Chomsky is such an articulate critic of foreign affairs that he can’t say two sentences without wrapping himself into knots. Of course, 1948 is relevant because the questioner asked about it. The only thing it is not relevant to is Chomsky’s desire to make Israel (and by extension the US) look as bad as possible, since the events of 1948 imply the horrifying possibility of some measure of Palestinian and Arab responsibility for the current conflict. Why the slightest indulgence of the Israeli point of view arouses such terror in Chomsky that he has to pretend it doesn’t exist (sorry, “it’s not relevant”) would seem to indicate the measure of Chomsky’s confidence in his own position.

And now the ubiquitous Ron Pundak enters the picture.
NOAM CHOMSKY: For those who you would like to see the map, I have it. It's as I said, from Ron Pundak, the leading Israeli scholar, the head of the Shimon Peres Peace Center. It shows-this is the Camp David map, which Clinton recognized was impossible, which is why they went on to Taba. And it cuts through the West Bank completely. (Referring to Alan Dershowitz's map) It's not that. It's…


NOAM CHOMSKY: Here it is. Here it is. This is Ron Pundak's map…

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: This is Dennis Ross' map.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yes, Dennis Ross was the US negotiator whose word is meaningless. Ron Pundak is…Ron Pundak is the leading Israeli scholar, and if we want to go into why Ross' book is worthless I'll be happy to say it. It's obvious to any reader, it stops right be…

NOAM CHOMSKY: The head of the Shimon Peres Peace Center, Ron Pundak, who is the leading scholar on this (...)

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Now, see how you change your view. First it's accepted, then it's left open. What is your next position?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Fine. Let's be precise. They did not say anything about that, because the Palestinians had already at Camp David and at Taba accepted the so-called pragmatic settlement, which would not affect the demographic character of Israel.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: That is simply false.

NOAM CHOMSKY: If you want to learn about that, read the serious scholarship, like Ron Pundak, head of the Shimon Perez (sic-Benjamin) Peace – (…)
But then…dread accuracy rears its ugly head.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: [L]et's say that this new party, after the election, guided by Sharon, is to offer the Palestinians a deal-doesn't matter which deal-a deal that will be accepted by most Palestinians, would you support this deal even if it doesn't reflect your views or your ideological views?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I'm glad to see that you-I assume that you endorse Ron Pundak's expert knowledge. Correct? I therefore recommend to all of you who read English that you read the summary of his review of all of this in the Journal of the Institute of Strategic and Security Studies in England, and for those of you who read Hebrew, like you, I presume, you read the much longer study that Ron Pundak and Shaul Arieli wrote--it's on the Ha'aretz Center website--which describes in detail, if you like I can quote it for you. As to what I would accept…

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ron Pundak was not in Camp David, by the way.


AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ron Pundak was not in Camp David.

NOAM CHOMSKY: He was one of the negotiators in the background…


NOAM CHOMSKY: He was one of the negotiators in the background, and he was from…


NOAM CHOMSKY: …He was from Oslo, and his study…

AUDIENCE MEMBER: He's from Oslo. He was never. He was not even close to Camp David, just for the record.

NOAM CHOMSKY: His study, he was one of the advisors, as you know…

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Chomsky says so, it must be true.(…)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I didn't get an answer, sorry.

NOAM CHOMSKY: That's the answer to your question. Yes.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, the answer was, even if it wasn't your plan…


AUDIENCE MEMBER: …and most Palestinians…


AUDIENCE MEMBER: Even if it wasn't the plan that you think is optimal, or I…

NOAM CHOMSKY: What are you asking?
Judging by this inadvertently hilarious exchange (I love how Chomsky is reduced to blubbering sentence fragments by the end, the man sounds senile) we must conclude several things. Firstly, that Chomsky is so ignorant of the one scholar he cites at length (or, rather, namedrops a comical number of times, as if the name Ron Pundak were a holy mantra capable of exorcising the terrible Dershowitz) that he has absolutely no idea what the nature of his involvement with the Peace Process was and therefore has no means of gauging the accuracy of his statements. Certainly, he has no more capacity for doing so than he has to indict Dennis Ross, who unlike Pundak was at Camp David. Secondly, Chomsky is claiming that there is such a thing as a “leading scholar” on an event which is barely six years old. Anyone who actually studies history, rather than simply pontificating about it, knows that such a thing is impossible. Thirdly, Chomsky thinks that avowedly left wing scholars from the Shimon Peres Peace Center somehow constitute a decisive “expert knowledge” beyond that of any other Israeli scholar. Chomsky could, in fact, cite the aforementioned Benny Morris, who, as I have noted, completely rejects everything Chomsky claims in regards to the 2000 negotiations and is far better known and more respected than Ron Pundak. Nor is Morris alone in this. There are divisions within Israeli academia, and no consensus as such exists on the Camp David negotiations, but Ron Pundak is the “leading scholar” on the issue only in Chomsky’s fevered imagination. In other words, on this issue, we must conclude that Noam Chomsky has not the slightest idea what he’s talking about.

There is, incidentally, no such thing as the Ha’aretz Center.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Perfect selective use of Shimon Peres. You know, the Shimon Peres Peace Center. I want to read you a quote from Noam Chomsky. He described Shimon Peres, he described Ronald Reagan at one point, as the semi-divine Reagan, as one of the iconic group of mass murderers from Hitler to Idi Amin to Peres. So, on one day of the week you find Noam Chomsky describing Peres, this great man of peace, as an iconic mass murderer, and on another day he's quoting the authority of Shimon Peres to make peace. I mean…

NOAM CHOMSKY: Excuse me.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: …where do you stand on Shimon Peres? Is he a man of peace or is he an iconic mass murderer?

NOAM CHOMSKY: He is an iconic mass murderer, and I've given plenty of evidence for it, and he is not a man of peace. I did not refer to Shimon Peres. I referred to the director of the Shimon Peres Peace Center.


NOAM CHOMSKY: That's not Shimon Peres.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: But you stick to the argument that Shimon Peres, the man who just joined in to make peace is an iconic mass murderer…

NOAM CHOMSKY: You want me to read…

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: …and not a man of peace. I think that says it all.


NOAM CHOMSKY: You want me to run through his record?

BRIAN MANDELL No, I think we…

NOAM CHOMSKY: Including the fact that as late as 1996, he informed the press that a Palestinian state will never happen? And in 1997 he said, "Maybe we can ultimately tolerate it somewhere, but we're not saying where"? That's not a man of peace.
A brief Google search showed no trace of such a quote. However, even if we are to grant Chomsky the unlikely benefit of the doubt, we can easily cut to the substance of the charge; and since Chomsky is so concerned with relevancy, let us judge from a recent interview that Mr. Peres is noticeably innocent of the charges with which Chomsky has slandered him. I have already said my piece on Chomsky’s disgraceful yet typical slander of the man in question, a man with whom I have many disagreements, but who is nonetheless a great deal farther from an iconic mass murderer than his slanderer is. (I would note that Chomsky does not even bother to defend the point, preferring to move on to the “man of peace or not?” issue.) We may also point out that, judging by his continued obfuscation on the subject, Chomsky probably does not want us to “run through his record,” as he puts it, on the subject of peace. Or mass murder for that matter.

Reading Chomsky in debate is rather like watching a beached whale thrashing about. Chomsky cannot debate, he cannot analyze history, he cannot understand politics, he has no grasp of military realities, he cannot quote or cite accurately, he continually distorts his own work and that of others, and he deals in moral absolutes rendered instant hypocrisy by the briefest study of his own record. What results is not so much a debate as a prolonged exercise in rhetorical onanism. Brian Mandell may find Chomsky challenging, which says more about him than it does about Chomsky, but I do not. I find him pitiable, a washed up piece of wreckage from the era of the Worst Generation. The last believer in the blustering ethos of ’68: revolution as Puritan dandyism, contrarianism as idolatry, debate as self-edifying slander. We may be thankful that this lumbering scholar-clown is still around to remind us what a lamentable train wreck it was.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Incomparable

The Jerusalem Post has a short article on the French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. I consider it a blessing to have encountered Levinas as early as I have, and I recommend everyone to read his extraordinary collection of essays on Judaism, Difficult Freedom. Levinas presents nothing less than a vision of Judaism as a unique means of being through which the ethical relationship between human beings is created. His fascination with faces, with the possibility of human relationship based on apprehension and realization rather than the contest for domination, and his extrapolation of these themes through the Talmud constitute an extraordinary intellectual legacy which both embraces the modern and refuses to compromise Judaism or Jewish identity in the process. He proposes a Judaism which is a kind of ethical existentialism, and yet acknowledges the “trace of God” throughout his thought. Unlike most modern Jewish thinkers, he embraced and transmuted the tradition rather than reject or manipulate it for his own purposes. His philosophy is both within and outside the tradition of Western philosophy. Like Judaism itself, he succeeds in existing between worlds.