Monday, June 28, 2004

A Belated Reply From the Man Himself

My apologies, with everything that's been going on I just haven't had time for my comments page. Apparently, someone did send Chomsky my review of Peace in the Middle East and posted his response:
I started reading it, but stopped when I got to his "favorite howler." Even those extreme apologist for state crimes knows (1) that there was nothing remotely like the predicted slaughter in South Vietnam, or for that matter any slaughter, and (2) far more important, that to advocate an actual slaughter in South Vietnam, as the editors were doing, on the grounds that it would prevent a later slaughter (that did not take place) belongs in the annals of Nazism and Stalinism. It was bad enough when they wrote it. For Sullivan to repeat it now that he knows the outcome goes beyond that. To call it a "howler" really does lead one to question the man's sanity, to borrow some of his rhetoric.

The rest is just a hysterical tantrum. Impossible to comment on such crazed frothing at the mouth.

What's below that brilliant insight I'm afraid I won't discover.

Noam Chomsky
Well, from what I can decipher from this rather tangled non-response response, we can reach four conclusions: 1) Chomsky is still in the business of denying atrocities on the part of regimes he supports; in this case, North Vietnam. It is he who is the apologist for state violence - and a career one, at that - and not I. 2) He is also still in the business of comparing everyone he dislikes to the Nazis. 3) He thinks someone named Sullivan - I'm guessing Andrew Sullivan; flattering, but untrue - wrote the piece. 4) Chomsky didn't actually read it. My comment on Chomsky's asinine apologetics for totalitarianism in Vietnam is in the first third of the piece, before most of my major arguments and criticisms. If he's going to call me hysterical - and he should know - he might at least actually read what I wrote.

Oh, and the Chomskyite who posted it signed off with the comment that he assumes I get lots of F's on my term papers. Charming fellows, aren't they?

Hoffer on the Artist as Extremist

While waiting for exams to begin this morning, I came across this fascinating passage in The True Believer, Eric Hoffer's excellent study of extremist movements; I think it relates quite well to what I mentioned in my post Beyond Satire, where I noted the strangely apolitical nature of most Chomskyites, and their tendency to occupy non-political roles in society - artists, musicians, teachers, etc:
The most incurably frustrated - and, therefore, the most vehement - among the permanent misfits are those with an unfulfilled craving for creative work. Both those who try to write, paint, compose, etc, and fail decisively, and those who after tasting the elation of creativeness feel a drying up of the creative flow...are alike in the grip of a desperate passion. Neither fame nor power nor riches can still their hunger. Even the whole-hearted dedication to a holy cause does not always cure them. Their unappeased hunger persists, and they are likely to become the most violent extremists in the service of their holy cause. (p. 50)
I think this goes a long way towards explaining the fact that Chomsky tends to be quoted more often by rock bands than by anyone involved in politics or foreign policy, and the tendency of his most dedicated followers to be young - and sometimes not so young - members of the alienated or disillusioned middle class, rather than the legions of poor and downtrodden for whom Chomsky claims to advocate.

Friday, June 25, 2004


to James Panero at the New Criterion weblog Armavirumque for the link and the very generous compliments.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Is Chomsky an Anti-Semite?

A loaded question, I realize. I am reticent to enter into this issue in depth, since it always arouses violent passions on all sides, but I don't think there's any sense in pretending it doesn't exist.

To get things out of the way: Yes, I do consider Chomsky an anti-Semite. This inevitably raises the second question: How can Chomsky be considered an anti-Semite when he's a Jew himself? Firstly, being Jewish has, unfortunately, never precluded fealty to anti-Semitism. In fact, many of the most brutal polemical assaults against Jews and Judaism have been accomplished at the hands of their former co-religionists. The first time the Talmud was burned, in the 13th century, it was at the behest of a Jewish apostate to Christianity named Nicholas Donin, who denounced the Talmud as heretical. To choose a more modern example, the Bolshevik government in 1920s Russia organized its persecution of Orthodox Judaism mainly through the services of the Jewish Bund; an anti-religious socialist movement which had, ironically, played no small part in the February Revolution which toppled the Czar. And, of course, there is the classic image of Karl Marx, born a Jew and baptized only at the age of six, who could nonetheless write
What is the Jew's foundation in this world? Usury. What is his worldly god? Money...Money is the zealous one God of Israel, beside which no other God may stand...The bill of exchange is the Jew's real God...Only then could Jewry become universally dominant...The social emancipation of Jewry is the emancipation of society from Jewry.
But then another question arises, why not simply term Chomsky a self-hating Jew? The truth is, I dislike the term. It implies a tragic pathos that absolves its object of an elementary moral responsibility. It also implies an inner-directedness which I consider false and misleading. Chomsky's attitudes towards the Jews are directed outwards, at the Jews as an object, and not towards any outwardly "Jewish" qualities within himself.

Is Chomsky, for lack of a better term, an Uncle Tom? Now, it is certainly true that members of very small and oft-persecuted minorities often adopt highly contemptuous attitudes towards their fellows in order to escape the burden of an alienated identity; this is especially common in countries like the United States, where the rate of assimilation is high and, thus, identification with the dominant culture very strong. The United States, however, is not an anti-Semitic country (though anti-Semitism does exist and is growing in certain circles) and, while denial of one's Jewish identity, even at an unconcious level, is widespread in American Jewry, the adoption of outright anti-Semitic attitudes does not axiomatically follow.

This does lead us somewhere, however, and it is to the ideological nature of the radical circles in which Chomsky serves as both guru and priest. Although the broader society in which Chomsky lives is not anti-Semitic, the microcosmic milieu in which he travels most certainly is. It would be, quite simply, impossible for Chomsky to retain his credibility among his fellow ideologues without adopting such attitudes. He walks, after all, in circles in which Jewish revolt or revolution is strictly forbidden. In his chosen family, Chomsky may dance at everyone's wedding but his own. We are dealing, after all, with a culture which aggrandizes Fanon and brands Jabotinsky a fascist. Other groups may assert their national identities and partake in the regenerative qualities of revolt. Chomsky, however, must take his rebellion secondhand, and thus is doubly alienated; both from his own identity, and from the identity of those through whom he rebels vicariously. Chomsky cannot hate his own enemies, but he can hate theirs, and when their enemies become the Jews, we see how this monstrous dialectic reaches its end: with the advocate becoming the most zealous of prosecutors. Witness the following:
In the US when I was growing up anti-Semitism was a severe problem. In the 1930’s depression when my father finally had enough money to buy a second-hand car and could take the family on a trip to the mountains, if we wanted to stop at a motel we had to check it didn’t have a sign saying ‘Restricted’. ‘Restricted’ meant no Jews, so not for us; of course no Blacks. Even when I got to Harvard 50 years ago you could cut the anti-Semitism with a knife. There was almost no Jewish faculty. I think the first Jewish maths professor was appointed while I was there in the early ‘50s. One of the reasons MIT (where I now am) became a great university is because a lot of people who went on to become academic stars couldn’t get jobs at Harvard-so they came to the engineering school down the street. Just 30 years ago (1960s) when my wife and I had young children, we decided to move to a Boston suburb (we couldn’t afford the rents near Cambridge any longer). We asked a real estate agent about one town we were interested in, he told us: ‘Well, you wouldn’t be happy there.’ Meaning they don’t allow Jews. It’s not like sending people to concentration and termination camps but that’s anti-Semitism. That was almost completely national.
This is all completely true, of course, and it is surprising to see the emotion strung in between those words; it is clear that Chomsky feels the sting of anti-Semitism, even today. It is fascinating to see, however, where this leads him.
By now Jews in the US are the most privileged and influential part of the population. You find occasional instances of anti-Semitism but they are marginal.
With a disconcerting surety, he echoes the very thoughts of the anti-Semites he has just denounced. Jews are not a privileged and influential part of the population, they are the most privileged and influential part of the population. And privilege is, of course, not something achieved, but something bestowed. The Jews, in other words, are neither persecuted nor marginalized, as he acknowledges, with some bitterness, they once were; but rather favored sons of the society of which he just a moment ago spoke so bitterly. And whither anti-Semitism?
Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, fortunately. It’s raised, but it’s raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control. That’s why anti-Semitism is becoming an issue. Not because of the threat of anti-Semitism; they want to make sure there’s no critical look at the policies the US (and they themselves) support in the Middle East. With regard to anti-Semitism, the distinguished Israeli statesman Abba Eban pointed out the main task of Israeli propaganda (they would call it exclamation, what’s called ‘propaganda’ when others do it) is to make it clear to the world there’s no difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. By anti-Zionism he meant criticisms of the current policies of the State of Israel. So there’s no difference between criticism of policies of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism, because if he can establish ‘that’ then he can undercut all criticism by invoking the Nazis and that will silence people. We should bear it in mind when there’s talk in the US about anti-Semitism.
Thus, not only does anti-Semitism not exist but, in an extraordinary turn of the worm, it has become a tool in the hands of the "privileged people" who desire, not mere control, but "total control". And, at last, we begin to hear that old echo. That frenetic compendium of secret conspiracy which first issued to us from the minutes of the elders of Zion.
The Hebrew press is much more open than the English language press, and there’s a very obvious reason: Hebrew is a secret language, you only read it if you’re inside the tribe. Like most cultures it’s a tribal culture. I don’t want to exaggerate, but the English translations on the internet are very revealing and very interesting.
Thus, there is no anti-Semitism except as a means to silence. There is no anti-Semitism except as a weapon of the propagandists and the privileged against their critics. There is no anti-Semitism except to further the ends of the tribe, with their secret language in which are couched dark doings which, while one doesn't wish to exagerrate, are at least sinister enough to be couched in this code which only the privileged may decipher.

Now, I don't wish to exagerrate either, but we should examine where this process ends. Should French teenagers, for instance, beaten or stabbed in the street, claim anti-Semitism as the cause; they are not aggrieved victims of racist violence, but rather agents of the quest of the privileged to rule all. American college students, at MIT lets say, who are greeted on Holocaust Memorial Day by protestors equating Israel and Nazi Germany and complain that such statements are anti-Semitic; are not stung by vicious, thoughtless, and deliberately hurtful rhetoric, but rather brutal totalitarians attempting to "silence" the innocent agents of justice and truth. Even the Israeli father who considers the suicide bomber who eradicated his family, propelled by the imam's admonition of "death to the Jews", to be anti-Semitic is no more than a derelict apologist for American and Israeli atrocities.

There is, of course, something a little monstrous in all of this. On scales of evil, perhaps, it is not the highest, but it is of a piece. Of a piece with the political violence Chomsky aggrandizes and of a piece with his apocalyptic dehumanization of all who fail his test of beleaugered sanctity. There are those sanctified by Chomsky, there are holy innocents, even; but there is also conspiracy, and, as Alain Finkielkraut has pointed out, anyone who talks of conspiracy eventually ends up talking about the elders of Zion. Even, it seems, Noam Chomsky.

The link in question was discovered through my fellow counterrevolutionary at Chomskywatch, who has, thankfully and at long last, begun posting again.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Beyond Satire

A glimpse into the narcissistic bubble that is Leftwing America:

For those of a certain political bent, Noam Chomsky is something of a hero. Or at least the idea of Noam Chomsky holds endless fascination. Anybody who was politically engaged (from the left) in the early 90's saw the documentary Manufacturing Consent and subsequently could be seen toting one or another of Chomsky's books or even The Chomsky Reader. In the ensuing years he has entered the pantheon of leftist iconography along with Ralph Nader, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Che Guevara, The Dalai Lama and in some states out west, Leonard Peltier. It is possible that in the glare of the spotlight this soft-spoken, dauntingly intelligent and notably contrarian academician has become a victim of the same media manipulation he regularly decries. And this is the starting point, I think, for The Butane Group's production The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky playing until February 28th at TIXE, Chashama's new performance space.

The first thing that springs to mind is that any movement that turns Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Dalai Lama into political bedfellows has got some serious issues with cognitive dissonance.

The performance begins with Chomsky (played with remarkable accuracy and great skill by the Asian-American actress Aya Ogawa) seated center stage, looking away from the audience at a wall of mirrors. The stage is all white, surrounded by a low barrier that looks as if it were constructed from military-issue wooden crates. On top the barrier are two video monitors that swivel and move on tracks. The back walls of the theater are entirely mirrored and the only set piece is the single Aeron-style rolling chair on which Chomsky is seated.

Forgive me for abusing a cliche, but you really can't make this up.

While this tension between the perceived and the real, between Chomsky as brilliant iconoclast and deluded egomaniac, undergirds the entire performance (The "Christopher Hitchens Silent Genocide Air Quote Dance" was also very clever and well executed) there were two moments in particular that struck me as particularly effective and poignant.

The first was a re-enactment of an episode of American Morning with Paula Zahn in which Chomsky appeared opposite Bill Bennett. Chomsky, ever meek and defiant, struggles to get a word in edgewise, as Bennett, played with accurate and appropriate self-satisfaction and bluster by Kniffen, shuts Chomsky down repeatedly. This in and of itself would be interesting, as we watch Bennett's patriotic sound bites drown Chomsky out repeatedly. But what makes this sequene particularly riveting is the interpolation of speeches from, I think, Charles L. Mee, Jr.'s Agamemnon 2.0. The program also lists Sophocles' Oedipus Rex as a source, so the prophetic quotes may have been from that. In the set-up of the video element of the sequence Bennett is said to be from Thebes and Chomsky is said to be from Delphi. Mea Culpa, I should do my research, I would be able to tell you for sure.

Nonetheless it is extremely powerful. Mid-answer, "Chomsky" diverges from his text, Ogawa changes her voice ever-so-slightly and intones oracular visions such as, "These are visions I can see/at any time of night or day/eyes opened or eyes closed." (I think, once again, I suggest you check with director Noel Salzman for exact attribution). While perhaps overstating Chomsky's visionary powers, this subtle recontexualization of America's dreams of empire into the stuff of Greek Tragedy makes a powerful point simply.

The only thing I remember about the Bennett interview was Chomsky (very unmeekly) accusing Bennett of being a liar for claiming that Chomsky's book 9/11 justified the 9/11 attacks; which, of course, it did. Oh, and Bennett asking Chomsky why he still lived in the United States; a by no means unreasonable question, in my opinion. No doubt thats one of the "patriotic soundbites" they're referring to.

Culturebot has been hearing rumors about an arts and culture exposition that will be held during the Republican National Convention in August to foster discussion of political issues. Chomsky would certainly start conversation. Maybe on a double-bill with I'm Gonna Kill The President (A Federal Offense), which was such a big hit back in October out at One Arm Red.

Am I the only one who thinks that there's something slightly sinister about someone looking forward to a play called I'm Gonna Kill the President? Has irony truly won out over all other values?

Putting all that aside, I do think this article says something interesting about the Chomskyite phenomenon; at its heart, its more of a cultural, revivalist phenomenon than an intellectual one. One of the most interesting things about most Chomskyites is that, for the most part, they aren't really political people. They tend to be artists, writers, social workers, professors, teachers, etc. Like fanatical environmentalists, they're people who are ultimately searching for a theology, for something to replace their feeling of frustration and unhappiness with their lives and the world as they find it, and render a frighteningly disjointed existence comprehensible. As Eric Hoffer writes in The True Believer: "To the frustrated a mass movement offers substitutes either for the whole self or for the elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of their individual resources." One of the appealing things about Chomsky is that, however brutal his perception of the world may be, it still makes sense. Paul Berman deals with this quite well in Terror and Liberalism, where he points out how Chomsky's worldview, while fraught with evil on all sides, is nonetheless rational and understandable, and therefore somewhat comforting. Chomsky purports to look beyond the complicated surface to the simple and easily grasped underlying realities (Berman relates this to Chomsky's linguistic theories, about which I am not anywhere near qualified to comment. For that, go to this guy, who knows of what he speaks.) I think there's a great deal of truth in that, and thus a great deal of appeal for those of us who may find the frightening realities of a chaotic and often irrational world simply impossible to accept. Looked at this way, the "cult of Chomsky" appears as a cult in the very real sense of the word, and possessed of a great many of the phenomenon's attendant horrors.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Horowitz on Chomsky and 9/11

David Horowitz has probably been the most visible anti-Chomskyite in the media over the last few years, and he is a unique example of a former Leftist who published Chomsky's work in the '60s and knows Chomsky's milieu and ideology intimately. As long as we're on the subject of the Afghan War, its worth it to link to Horowitz and Richard Radosh's excellent deconstruction of Chomsky's stance on 9/11 and the War in Afghanistan. Horowitz's rhetoric is a bit turgid for my tastes, but he knows what he's talking about when it comes to the Left and its Chomskyites. His comments on the Afghan libel are excellent:

Of course, these were cold and calculated lies. In fact, it is this kind of malicious libel, characteristic of Chomsky’s political writings that has put them on the shelf alongside the Turner Diaries and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the genre of paranoid conspiracy tracts. Readers unused to such blunt mendacity, might still want to give Chomsky the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they think Chomsky could not possibly have meant what he wrote. Surely he does not mean to place American democracy on a par with Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and other apostles of the mass annihilation of innocent populations. If so, however, they would be wrong, and Chomsky is the first to let them know it. "All right," he continues, "let’s turn to the slightly more abstract question, forgetting for the moment that we are in the midst of apparently trying to murder 3 or 4 million people, not Taliban, of course, their victims..."

Recall how Chomsky sets up the scenario of a Washington plot to deliberately starve 3-4 million innocent Afghan civilians: "On September 16th, the Times reported, I’m quoting, that the United States demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population." That was September 16th. A month later, on October 16th -- two days before Chomsky’s speech another article appeared written by Elisabeth Busmiller and Elizabeth Becker, which began: "President Bush promoted his relief fund for Afghan children at the headquarters of the American Red Cross today…" In other words, the Bush Administration was working to prevent the starvation of Afghan civilians.

"The Pentagon and the British Defense Ministry," the same article reported, "have agreed to coordinate the air strikes so they will not hit relief convoys…" Evidently, the truck convoys continued. To get to Chomsky’s conclusion, therefore, one has to deny first the reality of American governmental relief efforts and then convert every concern expressed by private relief agencies – some of which like Oxfam have a history of hostility to United States foreign policy -- into irrefutable statements of fact. One would also have to ignore the role played by the Taliban itself in the food crisis. As the Times story itself notes (and Chomsky ignores), the Taliban was stealing food from the very convoys Chomsky refers to, in order to supply their own forces:
The Taliban have also begun levying a tax of $8 to $37 a ton on wheat coming into the country. "One convey of 1,000 tons of wheat was held up for five days trying to negotiate the tax," Mark Bartolini of the International Rescue Committee said. Since airstrikes began, several warehouses have been looted and local staff members have been beaten.
Of course the war conditions in Afghanistan that militate against the delivery of food are the result of the terrorist aggression supported by the Taliban regime. No one would think of blaming Churchill and FDR, rather than Hitler, for the harsh conditions in Germany during the war.

Actually, I rather think Chomsky would.

On November 16 -- almost a month after Chomsky’s MIT talk -- another article appeared on the front page of the New York Times with the title, "Now, the Battle to Feed the Afghan Nation." Written by Tim Weiner, the article reported that the American military was using its full resources to "deliver relief for millions of hungry, cold, sick, war-weary Afghans." Moreover, "NATO allies" -- acting as a "full partner" to relief agencies – "will ship food, clothing, shelter and medicine to the nations surrounding Afghanistan for United Nations relief organizations, private aid groups and intrepid Afghan truckers to deliver to people in ruined cities and shattered villages."

In other words, the facts tell a story the exact opposite of Chomsky’s malicious claims. US led military action saved Afghan lives, led to the restoration of food relief, and lessened the danger of the mass starvation that might have been in store had Taliban rule continued. Because of the US action, some five million Afghans, who could have starved, now have hope. While the aid effort is international, the US alone is "paying for much of the good that the coalition is moving into Afghanistan." As Mark Bartolini, vice president of the International Rescue Committee told the Times, "had this war not occurred, we wouldn’t have had the access we have now -- the best access in the past decade." At the time, the Bush administration had in fact provided $320 million in food aid, which has "resolved for the moment" the question of actual food supplies getting to the people.

The Times story was reinforced by an article by Laura Rozen in the on-line magazine, which appeared the next day: "Aid experts say that the agencies’ repeated alarms about the impact of the U.S. military campaign against the Taliban have ignored the fact that more food has been reaching Afghanistan since the U.S. bombing began than was before—a lot more." Rozen quotes John Fawcett, a humanitarian relief worker, who stated unequivocally, "more aid has gone into Afghanistan in the past month than in the past year. The aid agencies cried wolf. They said the bombing will stop us from delivering humanitarian aid. It will create 1.5 million refugees. Well, in fact, the result of the bombing is there are 150,000 new refugees -- one-tenth of what they expected, and there’s been a tenfold increase of humanitarian aid getting in..."

Chomsky’s indictment had two counts – the alleged genocide and the silence that supposedly accompanied it: "Plans are being made and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next few months very casually with no comment, no particular thought about it." The first count -- as we have easily established -- is obviously false. The second originates in a thesis familiar to readers of Chomsky’s book, Manufacturing Consent, a vulgar Marxist tract arguing that the American media functions as a propaganda agency for the government and its ruling class bosses. In his MIT address, Chomsky asserted, "the Special Rapporteur of the UN in charge of food pleaded with the United States to stop the bombing to try to save millions of victims. As far as I’m aware that was unreported. [Chomsky did not reveal how he knew this if it was "unreported."] That was Monday. Yesterday the major aid agencies OXFAM and Christian Aid and others joined in that plea. You can’t find a report in the New York Times. There was a line in the Boston Globe, hidden in a story about another topic, Kashmir."

In fact, the story in the Boston Globe was headlined "Fighting Terror Tensions in South Asia" – a region that includes Afghanistan – and there were three full paragraphs on the pleadings of the aid groups to stop the bombing. Moreover, as the citations above show, the story received attention in other sources, including the Times story of October 16. It was also reported on the nightly television network newscasts. It is reasonable to presume that the reason the story failed to receive even wider coverage was that it had no basis in fact, but only in the exaggerated fears of the aid groups, which responsible reporters would check. Put another way, the reason the genocide of Afghans was not a big news feature was that it was not news at all; it was just a figment of Noam Chomsky’s malignant imagination. Since there was no such planned genocide there was also no silence concerning one. Chomsky built his case, as his practice, on a tissue of distortions. It is in the cumulative effect of these distortions that his cultic power derives.

A good final point there. The blizzard of facts and figures, which goes by so quickly that the audience can barely register them, let alone verify their context or authenticity, is the preferred form of Chomskyite argument. The real issue here, however, is bad faith. Chomsky sees his audience's likely ignorance as an opportunity to exploit, rather than an impetus to intellectual responsibility. This is the true mark of the totalitarian intellectual at work. His goal is not to enlighten or to educate, but to control. I have to say, I think Chomsky's statements on Afghanistan represent some sort of nadir for the American intellectual Left. Here is their primary guru, immediately following a horrendous terrorist atrocity on American soil; accusing his own country of monstrous crimes in full consciousness of the fact that there was no truth in it whatsoever. If you want to know how low Chomskyites can sink, this is it.

Friday, June 18, 2004

From Phnom Penh to Kabul

A Tech Central Station article by Pejman Yousefzadeh has come interesting comments on Chomsky's Cambodia denials:

An important and thorough paper written by historian Sophal Ear, exposes Chomsky's poor analysis of the Cambodia crisis. In one portion of the paper, Ear discusses Chomsky's and co-author Edward Herman's analysis of the forced evacuation of the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh:

"Chomsky and Herman accuse the U.S. government of war-induced famine, but hypocritically assert that Khmer Rouge quick thinking in evacuating Phnom Penh served to rescue the population from starvation. Chomsky and Herman want to have their cake and eat it too. For instance, after dwelling on the several allegedly faked photographs of a man being murdered by the Khmer Rouge, and another pulling plows, they conclude that 'Even if the photograph had been authentic, we might ask why people should be pulling plows in Cambodia. The reason is clear, if unmentioned. The savage American assault on Cambodia did not spare the animal population.' Their logic is . . . appalling . . ."

To argue, as Chomsky does, that the Cambodian people were forced to pull plows by the vicious and barbaric Khmer Rouge simply because of a "savage American assault" on the Cambodian "animal population," would be comic if the subject matter were not so serious and morbid.

Chomsky engages in more sophistry, as Ear points out. Speaking about refugee accounts of the Khmer Rouge slaughter, Chomsky and Herman said that "refugees questioned by Westerners or Thais have a vested interest in reporting atrocities on the part of Cambodian revolutionaries, an obvious fact that no serious reporter will fail to take into account." Chomsky and Herman further wrote that "allegations of genocide are being used to whitewash Western imperialism, to distract attention from the 'institutionalized violence' of the expanding system of subfascism and to lay the ideological basis for further intervention and oppression."

As if this were not enough, Chomsky and Herman then proceeded to blatantly misrepresent the nature of the Khmer Rouge evacuation of Cambodians into the countryside, stating that "the evacuation of Phnom Penh, widely denounced at the time and since for its undoubted brutality, may actually have saved many lives." Ear scrutinizes this demented statement as follows:

"[Chomsky and Herman] forget that [the evacuation] was because of the Khmer Rouge's two month long siege of Phnom Penh that made the city a living hell for the 2 million refugees who now flooded her streets. Having it both ways, Chomsky and Herman argue in a self-contradictory logic that: (1) had there been starvation, it was due to American aggression and savagery; (2) that there may not have been starvation, or at least not as much as there could have been thanks to the brilliant Khmer Rouge evacuation strategy."

Most fascinatingly, he relates the while sordid tale to Chomsky's comments just before the War in Afghanistan, perhaps the most brazen act of baldfaced lying ever undertaken by an intellectual of standing:

Given this history, it's little wonder that Chomsky preposterous assertions continue in analyzing the war on terrorism. One of Chomsky's more notable comments regarding the then-impending U.S. military action in Afghanistan, was the following statement he made in a speech:

"According to the New York Times there are 7-8 million people in Afghanistan on the verge of starvation. That was true actually before September 11th. They were surviving on international aid. On September 16th, the Times reported, I'm quoting, that the United States demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan's civilian population. As far as I could determine there was no reaction in the United States or for that matter in Europe."

In the event that readers/listeners wouldn't understand the charge he was making against the United States, Chomsky spelled matters out more forcefully in the next paragraph:

"Looks like what's happening is some sort of silent genocide. It also gives a good deal of insight into the elite culture, the culture we are part of. It indicates that whatever, what will happen we don't know, but plans are being made and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next few months very casually with no comment, no particular thought about it, that's just kind of normal, here and in a good part of Europe."

To flatly say, without any evidence whatsoever, without any logical reasoning at all, that the United States was making plans "on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next few months," is the worst possible kind of cheap demagoguery. And as it turns out, not only were Chomsky's comments utterly outrageous and despicable, they were also completely wrong. As pointed out by Matt Welch, "[t]he Associated Press, Reuters and other organizations conducted their own inquiries into civilian deaths, arriving at numbers between 600 and 1,500," a far cry from the Hitlerian holocaust that Chomsky accused the United States of preparing to perpetrate.

At the time, I had a friend who was a fanatical Chomskyite, who told me that the number of projected dead would change at every lecture. Sometimes it would be three million, sometimes five, sometimes ten. Any way you look at it, its pretty clearly intended to stir up as much anti-American sentiment as possible at a very delicate moment. In my opinion, the fact that Chomsky traveled to India and Pakistan and made these statements there, with American troops based not far away under volatile conditions, comes pretty close to Jane Fonda-style sedition.

On the Mass Chomskyfication of Europe

French anti-Chomskyite and all-around voice of sanity Alain Finkielkraut on the Chomskyfication of the European Left:

After a brief parenthesis, the grands simplificateurs are back. Since the fall of communism, we've been witnessing the stupefying restalinization of part of the intelligentsia and the movement of the socially-concerned. No longer having any adversary to measure up to it, America appears all-powerful. And this image of American omnipotence has breathed new life into the pernicious idea that politics can do everything: all the world's misfortunes are perceived as crimes; the objective universe seems to be made up of subjective wills, those which resist evil and those which foment it. This is why the idea of conspiracy has once more seized hold of the feeble-minded, and whoever talks about conspiracy soon or later ends up talking about the Elders of Zion…

One might have hoped we could have left the twentieth century with a different idea of politics than the Robespierrist conception of the struggle between humanity and its enemies. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall however, this idea has been making a paradoxical comeback. And it's the tragic character of politics which has become obscured once again. Anti-Americanism is no less violent than it was in the 1950s. When America is a victim, as on September 11, it's because it is a hyperpower. The one original feature of our time: adding Israel to the camp of absolute evil. Thus, during the movement against the war in Iraq, a new demonic entity was invented: Busharon…

It is not the institutional left we are dealing with here but the so-called "Left of the Left" and its increasing grip on the spirit of the age. Back in 1968, leftists were reading Marx, Trotsky or Lenin. In our day, everyone is invited to read Noam Chomsky. I thought this intellectual had been discredited by his preface to Faurisson [a French academic Holocaust denier] and by his ardent denial of the Cambodian genocide. I was wrong. The most prestigious publishers are fighting over the rights to the political works of a man who condemns to non-existence every crime or atrocity for which the American-Zionist entity cannot be held responsible.

It is important to remember that, while Chomsky is still a fringe figure in the United States, he is an increasingly mainstream intellectual in Europe. Certainly, the increasing derangement of the European Left is expressed in rhetoric which is, in all essential points, indistinguishable from Chomsky's.

I fully recommend reading the whole interview. Finkielkraut is a brilliant, if at times unnecessarily verbose (he is French after all), voice of decency and reason in a time of metastasizing dissonance. He is one of the few French intellectuals left who has attempted to continue the tradition of Albert Camus in opposing ideological tyranny even when it has become unpopular, isolating, and even dangerous to do so. Needless to say, I admire him immensely.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

My Apologies, Again...

For not responding to all of you who have emailed me. My exams are a week away and between studying and writing and other recent developments, I've found my time suddenly much more truncated than usual. I will do my best to get back to all of you who took the time to write.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Windschuttle on Chomsky and the Khmer Rouge

A lot of readers have written in asking me to post the Keith Windschuttle article on Chomsky from the New Criterion. I actually felt the piece went far too easy on Chomsky; omitting, for instance, any mention of the Faurission affair and Chomsky's connections to the European extreme Right. However, Windschuttle's retelling of Chomsky's denial of the Khmer Rouge slaughter is excellent. Its a bit long, but worth reproducing in full:

Nonetheless, if he was as genuinely aloof from totalitarianism as his political principles proclaimed, the track record of communism in the USSR—which was by then widely known to have faked its statistics of agricultural and industrial output in the 1930s when its own population was also suffering crop failures and famine—should have left this anarchist a little more skeptical about the claims of the Russians’ counterparts in China.

In fact, Chomsky was well aware of the degree of violence that communist regimes had routinely directed at the people of their own countries. At the 1967 New York forum he acknowledged both “the mass slaughter of landlords in China” and “the slaughter of landlords in North Vietnam” that had taken place once the communists came to power. His main objective, however, was to provide a rationalization for this violence, especially that of the National Liberation Front then trying to take control of South Vietnam. Chomsky revealed he was no pacifist.

I don’t accept the view that we can just condemn the NLF terror, period, because it was so horrible. I think we really have to ask questions of comparative costs, ugly as that may sound. And if we are going to take a moral position on this—and I think we should—we have to ask both what the consequences were of using terror and not using terror. If it were true that the consequences of not using terror would be that the peasantry in Vietnam would continue to live in the state of the peasantry of the Philippines, then I think the use of terror would be justified.
It was not only Chomsky who was sucked into supporting the maelstrom of violence that characterized the communist takeovers in South-East Asia. Almost the whole of the 1960s New Left followed. They opposed the American side and turned Ho Chi Minh and the Vietcong into romantic heroes.

When the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975 both Chomsky and the New Left welcomed it. And when news emerged of the extraordinary event that immediately followed, the complete evacuation of the capital Phnom Penh accompanied by reports of widespread killings, Chomsky offered a rationalization similar to those he had provided for the terror in China and Vietnam: there might have been some violence, but this was understandable under conditions of regime change and social revolution.

Although information was hard to come by, Chomsky suggested in an article in 1977 that post-war Cambodia was probably similar to France after liberation at the end of World War II when thousands of enemy collaborators were massacred within a few months. This was to be expected, he said, and was a small price to pay for the positive outcomes of the new government of Pol Pot. Chomsky cited a book by two American left-wing authors, Gareth Porter and George Hildebrand, who had “presented a carefully documented study of the destructive American impact on Cambodia and the success of the Cambodian revolutionaries in overcoming it, giving a very favorable picture of their programs and policies.”

By this time, however, there were two other books published on Cambodia that took a very different line. The American authors John Barron and Anthony Paul called their work Murder of a Gentle Land and accused the Pol Pot regime of mass killings that amounted to genocide. Fran├žois Ponchaud’s Cambodia Year Zero repeated the charge.

Chomsky reviewed both books, together with a number of press articles, in The Nation in June 1977. He accused them of publishing little more than anti-communist propaganda. Articles in The New York Times Magazine and The Christian Science Monitor suggested that the death toll was between one and two million people out of a total population of 7.8 million. Chomsky mocked their total and picked at their sources, showing some were dubious and that a famous photograph of forced labor in the Cambodian countryside was actually a fake.

He dismissed the Barron and Paul book partly because it had been published by Reader’s Digest and publicized on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, both of them notorious anti-communist publications, and partly because they had omitted to report the views of journalists who had been to Cambodia but not witnessed any executions.

Ponchaud’s book was harder to ignore. It was based on the author’s personal experience in Cambodia from 1965 until the capture of Phnom Penh, extensive interviews with refugees and reports from Cambodian radio. Moreover, it had been favorably reviewed by a left-wing author in The New York Review of Books, a publication for which Chomsky himself had often written. Chomsky’s strategy was to undermine Ponchaud’s book by questioning the credibility of his refugee testimony. Acknowledging that Ponchaud “gives a grisly account of what refugees have reported to him about the barbarity of their treatment at the hands of the Khmer Rouge,” Chomsky said we should be wary of “the extreme unreliability of refugee reports”:

Refugees are frightened and defenseless, at the mercy of alien forces. They naturally tend to report what they believe their interlocutors wish to hear. While these reports must be considered seriously, care and caution are necessary. Specifically, refugees questioned by Westerners or Thais have a vested interest in reporting atrocities on the part of Cambodian revolutionaries, an obvious fact that no serious reporter will fail to take into account.
In 1980, Chomsky expanded this critique into the book After the Cataclysm, co-authored with his long-time collaborator Edward S. Herman. Ostensibly about Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the great majority of its content was a defense of the position Chomsky took on the Pol Pot regime. By this time, Chomsky was well aware that something terrible had happened: “The record of atrocities in Cambodia is substantial and often gruesome,” he wrote. “There can be little doubt that the war was followed by an outbreak of violence, massacre and repression.” He mocked the suggestion, however, that the death toll might have reached more than a million and attacked Senator George McGovern’s call for military intervention to halt what McGovern called “a clear case of genocide.”

Instead, Chomsky commended authors who apologized for the Pol Pot regime. He approvingly cited their analyses that the forced march of the population out of Phnom Penh was probably necessitated by the failure of the 1976 rice crop. If this was true, Chomsky wrote, “the evacuation of Phnom Penh, widely denounced at the time and since for its undoubted brutality, may actually have saved many lives.” Chomsky rejected the charge of genocide, suggesting that

the deaths in Cambodia were not the result of systematic slaughter and starvation organized by the state but rather attributable in large measure to peasant revenge, undisciplined military units out of government control, starvation and disease that are direct consequences of the US war, or other such factors.
After the Cataclysm also presented a much more extended critique of refugee testimony. Chomsky revealed his original 1977 source for this had been Ben Kiernan, at the time an Australian graduate student and apologist for the Pol Pot regime, who wrote in the Maoist-inspired Melbourne Journal of Politics. What Chomsky avoided telling his readers, however, was that well before 1980, the year After the Cataclysm was published, Kiernan himself had recanted his position...

Kiernan argues for a total death toll between April 1975 and January 1979, when the Vietnamese invasion put an end to the regime, of 1.67 million out of 7.89 million, or 21 percent of the entire population. This is proportionally the greatest mass killing ever inflicted by a government on its own population in modern times, probably in all history.

Chomsky was this regime’s most prestigious and most persistent Western apologist. Even as late as 1988, when they were forced to admit in their book Manufacturing Consent that Pol Pot had committed genocide against his own people, Chomsky and Herman still insisted they had been right to reject the journalists and authors who had initially reported the story. The evidence that became available after the Vietnamese invasion of 1979, they maintained, did not retrospectively justify the reports they had criticized in 1977.

They were still adamant that the United States, who they claimed started it all, bore the brunt of the blame. In short, Chomsky still refused to admit how wrong he had been over Cambodia.

I'm afraid my conclusions are much harsher than Windschuttle's. He portrays Chomsky as first blinded by ideology and then driven by stubborn arrogance to continue denying all and deflecting blame on to others. I take a darker view. I think it is very likely that Chomsky knew that the charges against the Khmer Rouge were true. At the very least, he had to know there was a strong likelihood that they were true. Chomsky denied the Khmer Rouge's crimes for, I think, two reasons: The first is Chomsky's oft-repeated assertion that America's crimes were infinitely worse than anything a Third World liberation movement could come up with. As I have noted before, under Chomsky's theology, rebellious Third World Leftists simply cannot be guilty; whatever brutalities they may undertake in the cause of resisting the American imperium, which alone can be considered culpable in their crimes.

The second reason is unpleasant even to write. It is my own opinion, and need not be taken as anything more than that. It seems clear to me that Chomsky believes that those killed by the Khmer Rouge deserved to die. I don't see how one can conclude anything else from his comparisons of the Khmer to the French Resistance and other liberation movements. I think he considered those executed to be collaborators with imperialism and/or obstacles to the revolution who deserved their fate. Not pretty, but there it is.

Salving One's Ego by Berating Teenagers

From the blog 2Blowhards, a glimpse of Chomsky the conscientious professor:

“The Second World War is a slightly different story,” Chomsky continued. The United States and Britain fought the war, of course, but not primarily against Nazi Germany. The war against Nazi Germany was fought by the Russians. The Germany military forces were overwhelmingly on the Eastern Front.”

“But the world was better off,” the student persisted.

“First of all, you have to ask yourself whether the best way of getting rid of Hitler was to kill tens of millions of Russians. Maybe a better way was not supporting him in the first place, as Britain and the United States did. O.K.? But you’re right, it has nothing to do with motives—it has to do with expectations. And actually if you’re interested in expectations there’s more to say. By Stalingrad in 1942, the Russians had turned back the German advances, and it was pretty clear that Germany wasn’t going to win the war. Well we’ve learned from the Russian archives that Britain and the U.S. then began supporting armies established by Hitler to hold back the Russian advance. Tens of thousands of Russian Troops were killed. Suppose you’re sitting in Auschwitz. Do you want the Russian troops to be held back?”

The student was silent...

Chomsky continued to berate the student for a long time, ignoring his attempts to break in. People cried out “Let him talk!” but to no avail. Another student stood up and called out a request that he be allowed to help, but Chomsky ignored him. People made loud, disgruntled noises in protest at this treatment, but Chomsky ignored those, too. Finally, the first student sat down.

I've always despised professorial bullying. There's something extraordinarily disgusting about watching these wretched little men abuse what little power they've managed to accumulate in their lives in order to defend their delicate egos against the horrendous threat of a thinking eighteen year old. I try to avoid being personal on this blog, but one can't help but conclude from stories like this that, whatever one thinks about his politics, Chomsky is a pretty nasty piece of work. Its nice to read that the audience was having none of it.

Oh, and his remarks about World War II are ridiculous. The Russians couldn't have gotten anywhere without the Allies' massive bombing campaign against Germany's economic and military infrastructure. And his belittling of the accomplishments of those who fought at immense cost and sacrifice on the Western Front, which included such bloodbaths as Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge, is beneath contempt. This man needs to read a history book before he embaresses himself again.

As for supporting Hitler, the US was neutral and isolationist through most of the 1930s, and Britain didn't support Hitler, they appeased him; exactly what Chomsky wants us to do today with Islamic radicalism.

The Gray Lady Defers

A kid gloves interview (is there any other kind when Chomsky is concerned?) at the NY Times nonetheless contains some interesting little revelations:

Your new book on American foreign policy, ''Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance,'' includes a blurb on the jacket that calls you ''arguably the most important intellectual alive.''

I don't like the intellectual label. In the academic world, most of the work that is done is clerical. A lot of the work done by professors is routine.

Its nice that it starts off with a strong, skeptical question. Chomsky is right about professors though, I'll give him that.

I have known people who are working class or craftsmen, who happen to be more intellectual than professors. If you are working 50 hours a week in a factory, you don't have time to read 10 newspapers a day and go back to declassified government archives. But such people may have far-reaching insights into the way the world works.

As someone who, unlike Chomsky, actually grew up working-class, I know pseudo-populism when I see it. Most working class people I know would have little time for Chomsky's politics, even those that are still Democrats are more or less conservative in outlook. I also have a funny feeling that, if one of his precious working class intellectuals dared to, say, disagree with his opinions, his outlook on their intrinsic wisdom would not be nearly so sanguine.

Do you ever doubt your own ideas?

All the time. You should read what happens in linguistics. I keep changing what I said. Any person who is intellectually alive changes his ideas. If anyone at a university is teaching the same thing they were teaching five years ago, either the field is dead, or they haven't been thinking.

Well, I know nothing about Chomsky's linguistics work, but in the realm of politics, as this interviewer notes at one point, his ideas haven't changed "one iota". In fact, one of the most fascinating and disturbing aspects of Chomsky's political writing is his total lack of conscience, he seems to have no capacity for self-criticism whatsoever.

I objected to the founding of Israel as a Jewish state. I don't think a Jewish or Christian or Islamic state is a proper concept. I would object to the United States as a Christian state.

This is wonderful. You notice he's talking about a Jewish state only as a religious state. This is simply a banalization of the PLO Charter's stance that the Jews do not deserve statehood because they are adherents of a "religion of revelation" and not a nation; a stance which is both anti-historical and, in my opinion, axiomatically racist.

Your father was a respected Hebraic scholar, and sometimes you sound like a self-hating Jew.

It is a shame that critics of Israeli policies are seen as either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. It's grotesque. If an Italian criticized Italian policies, would he be seen as a self-hating Italian?

Well, if said Italian advocated the dismantling of Italy and became a prominent apologist for anti-Italian acts of war and terrorism, then yes.

By the way, Chomsky is not a self-hating Jew, he's a Jewish anti-Semite. As far as I can see, Chomsky has nothing but the most fervent and sincere love for himself.

How would you explain your large ambition?

I am driven by many things. I know what some of them are. The misery that people suffer and the misery for which I share responsibility. That is agonizing. We live in a free society, and privilege confers responsibility.

I will assume that the misery for which he bears responsiblity does not include two million dead Cambodians. Note the "free society" remark. Once again we see Chomsky moderating his rhetoric to accomodate his audience.

If you feel so guilty, how can you justify living a bourgeois life and driving a nice car?

If I gave away my car, I would feel even more guilty. When I go to visit peasants in southern Colombia, they don't want me to give up my car. They want me to help them. Suppose I gave up material things -- my computer, my car and so on -- and went to live on a hill in Montana where I grew my own food. Would that help anyone? No.

Actually, I'd imagine those paesants wouldn't mind getting a free car. Just a guess. Chomsky is, like his followers, a member of the disaffected bourgeoisie; the class which has given us Marx, Lenin, Mao, and the leadership of most radical movements since the French Revolution. He knows next to nothing about those whose cause he claims to advocate.

Have you considered leaving the United States permanently?

No. This is the best country in the world.

Everything he writes and says about it notwithstanding. What's that line he's always quoting about hypocrisy?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Big News

Had quite an extraordinary meeting today in Jerusalem and, barring unforseen acts of God, I will be writing something for the Jerusalem Post on this subject, and possibly others as well. I want to thank all of you for helping make this happen. I'm frankly still a little in shock, so I'll keep this brief, but let me just assure you that I and this blog will not be neglecting the anti-Chomskyite cause wherever else I may be going or whatever else I may be writing. No matter what, the counterrevolution lives!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

On a Lighter Note...

Putting genocide denial aside, I always felt Chomsky was a prime target for satire. Here's a marvelous riff on Chomsky and Zinn's DVD commentary to The Fellowship of the Ring.

Some choice moments:

Chomsky: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. "The world has changed," she tells us, "I can feel it in the water." She's actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

Zinn: Of course. "The world has changed." I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn't changed. Not at all.

Chomsky: We should examine carefully what's being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the "master ring," the so-called "one ring to rule them all," is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor...

Zinn: You view the conflict as being primarily about pipe-weed, do you not?

Chomsky: Well, what we see here, in Hobbiton, farmers tilling crops. The thing to remember is that the crop they are tilling is, in fact, pipe-weed, an addictive drug transported and sold throughout Middle Earth for great profit.

Zinn: This is absolutely established in the books. Pipe-weed is something all the Hobbits abuse. Gandalf is smoking it constantly. You are correct when you point out that Middle Earth depends on pipe-weed in some crucial sense, but I think you may be overstating its importance. Clearly the war is not based only on the Shire's pipe-weed. Rohan and Gondor's unceasing hunger for war is a larger culprit, I would say...

Chomsky: And now, with Frodo in the midst of a hallucinogenic, paranoid state, we meet Strider.

Zinn: Note that the first thing he starts talking about is the ring. "That is no trinket you carry." A very telling irony, that. It is the kind of irony that Shakespeare would use. It is something Iago might say. And did you hear that? "Sauron the Deceiver." That is what Strider, the ranger with multiple names, calls Sauron. A ranger. I believe today we call them serial killers.

Chomsky: Or drug smugglers.

Zinn: And notice how Strider characterizes the Black Riders. "Neither living nor dead." Why, that's a really useful enemy to have.

Chomsky: Yes. In this way you can never verify their existence, and yet they're horribly terrifying. We should not overlook the fact that Middle Earth is in a cold war at this moment, locked in perpetual conflict. Strider's rhetoric serves to keep fear alive.

Read it all, its absolutely uncanny.

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Political Economy of Genocide Denial

A reader sent this excellent link which fisks (in very effective and original fashion) Chomsky's Nation article in which he denied the Khmer Rouge's slaughter of over a million of its own citizens. While this may not reach the level of Holocaust Denial (it took him a few more years to get there), at least in terms of body count, it is nonetheless one of the most horrendous intellectual atrocities of the twentieth century. In my opinion, it ranks with Heidegger's embrace of Nazism and the legions of intellectuals who genuflected before Stalin to the ugly, bitter end.

The fisk continues here, with a recent example of the most appalling aspect of this case: Chomsky's continued refusal to acknowledge his collaboration with political evil and his vicious assaults on those who would call him to account:

Dear Editor:
Anthony Lewis writes (June 23) that I "refused to believe what was going on in Cambodia," and "put the reports of killing down to a conspiratorial effort by American politicians and press to destroy the Cambodian revolution." The second charge is an invention. The first is his rendition of my suggestion that in dealing with horrendous crimes, one should try to keep to the truth, whoever the agent: for Cambodia, that means during both halves of the "decade of genocide," as the years 1969-79 are described in the one governmental inquiry (Finland). At the time I reviewed these and many other cases, including the "grisly" record of Khmer Rouge "barbarity."

More interesting than the invented charges is what Lewis omits: my comparison of two huge crimes of 1975-1978, Cambodia and East Timor. The cases are not identical. There was no constructive proposal as to how to end or even mitigate Pol Pot's crimes (as a check of Lewis's columns will illustrate). In contrast, there were easy ways to respond to the crimes in Timor, apparently the worst slaughter relative to population since the Holocaust: by withdrawing the decisive US military and diplomatic support for them. The reaction to the two cases is instructive, as is Lewis's conclusion that by describing Khmer Rouge crimes as comparable to those in Timor I was denying these crimes.

Noam Chomsky

In fact of course, he did not at first describe the Khmer Rouge crimes as comparable to those in Timor. In his 1977 article [1] he compared them to the French resistance against the Nazis and never mentioned Timor. In his 1979 book [11x] he compared them to the US occupation of Japan, and ridiculed the suggestion that they were comparable to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor.

This illustrates quite well one of the ugliest aspects of Chomsky's work; his relentless refusal to adhere to the most elementary standards of truth and good faith argument. On its own it would be merely reprehensible, the fact that it is employed in defense of mass political slaughter is simply chilling.

There will be more on this subject soon.

A Choice Quote

From a reader, on Chomsky's response to 9/11:

The first paragraph is classic, of course, reminding me of nothing more than Heidegger's remark that the Holocaust was terrible, but so is mechanized agriculture.

Unfortunately, intellectual collaboration with political evil is nothing new. It didn't start with Chomsky and I guarantee you it wont end with him.

Mailing List

If you would like to recieve posts from this blog via email, send me your address and I'll take care of it. My apologies to all who emailed who haven't yet gotten a response. The volume of mail has really been overwhelming and the last 24 hours have been pretty hectic. I don't want to jinx anything, but I've been approached by one of the English-language dailies in Israel to write something for them, probably on this subject. I don't know if it will work out, but I will definately keep you all posted. I never expected the response this blog has generated, I really appreciate everyone's interest and the many kind words that have been coming my way (along with a few violent denunciations). Thanks to all who read and all who wrote and commented. Discovering an audience has been quite an experience. Stay tuned, more is on the way.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

A Hush Falls Upon the Crowd...

Recently recieved, and presumed genuine:

So, a mere student deems to tell the professor that
he is full of feathers?

I would suspect that your bias towards the
terrorists of Israel make you an expert on such
matters, as downing this well respected man.

If what you say about Chomsky is so salient, then
why hasn't a major publication sought you out?

You seem to be a snot nose kid, who needs to study
more of his studies, instead of wasting time
blathering on the internet.

Chomsky has been unfairly taken to task before, and
every time, Noam has answered back with his razor

I sent him your piece on his Middle East book. I
will email his answer shortly.

I assure you, that will most certainly be posted.

Linked Again

Many thanks to Joe Katzman over at Winds of Change for the link and the words of encouragement. Another fine blog of the anti-idiotarian variety, go check him out.

The Chomskyite Catechism

Via email (anonymous, of course): cannot argue with the Chomsky, you know? And it's pointless to try. Is it because he's smarter than you (and he is)? No. Is it because he's better than you (hard to say whether this one's true)? No. It's because he's a truth-teller. He tells the truth about the capitalist machine, what it takes to run it (how much blood the boilers need, in other words) and what its implications are. Chomsky's just too cutting for most people to take. Yes, the U.S. is like Nazi Germany these days; it's a comparison that's too compelling for anyone but the most hard-core dullards/deniers to ignore. The Nazis invaded Poland, with all attendant scariness and weird swastika symbols; America invades Iraq with smiley-faces plastered on everything and ol' glory waving in the breeze. It's a kinder, gentler form of fascism, that's all. What's the logical endpoint of capitalism? Imperialism. What's the logical endpoint of imperialism? Fascism. What's the logical endpoint of fascism? Violent overthrow, revolution, the rabble burning the rich. Never forget the following: it's in the capitalist state's best interest to have a 9/11 go down, and, subsequent to that, it's in the capitalist state's best interest to work for the passage of a PATRIOT Act (which couches fascistic policy in that singularly time-honored, fear-based necessity: protecting the "homeland" [spin in yer grave Mr. Orwell!] from terrorists and the brown-skinned "other"). Chomsky knows that American democracy is a load of horseshit that nobody even bothers to serve warm anymore, and further knows that propaganda is the true lifeblood of the capitalist state, working to convince the citizenry that the horseshit is indeed piping hot and completely different from the last load of horseshit they were served (as opposed to being, in reality, very cold and without question the same horseshit as always).

Someday, Chomsky will be regarded as a great man, one of the greatest - he may even get his face on a coin or a dollar or something - and Ronald Reagan will be vilified as an ugly, wretched scourge the earth had to endure for too many years. This is WAY in the future - 500 years? - and although contested, is undoubtedly the truth. (Don't even bother to refute it, it's gonna happen and you know it.) It takes eons for the great ones to be judged by history's most objective eye, and Chomsky, with this eye upon him, will be revered as one of the great ones.

History will also wonder what the hell was going on with our veneration of murderers, plunderers, environmental rapists, etc. I hope there's a time machine out there in the future, and they come and visit me, 'cause I will tell them the truth.

I think I'll let this one speak for itself.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Witness to the Cardboard Car

A great email from Pavel, who witnessed the truth:


...I was born in Prague and we used to own one of those laminated-cardboard East German Trabant cars. Even the not-so-bright in my old country know that Czechoslovakia's economy went into the gutter within a decade after the 1948 coup. Chomsky doesn't? What an idiot.

So much for high levels of egalitarian economic growth. Thanks for telling it like it was, Pavel.

A Chomsky Flashback

Reader Mark sent me this fantastic tale of encountering the good professor himself:

Hi Benjamin:

I came upon your blog today from a link posted by Andrew Sullivan, and can't
resist sending this reminiscence:

In 1973 Noam Chomsky was already a well-known polemicist and in those days, at least, the prestige of his early achievement in linguistics gave him an undeserved credibility. He came to Brooklyn College, where I was a freshman student, to give a talk or lecture and I was in the audience. No doubt his anti-Western themes were the same then as they are today with slight variations, but I remember only one thing he said, because it caused a kind of epiphany: "it's reasonably clear that Richard Nixon stole the [1972] election." Now I had been a McGovernite in 1972, had manned campaign tables, stuffed envelopes and made phone calls for the candidate, and in 1973 I was following the burgeoning Watergate controversy with fascination. But I knew that no one "steals" a 60% to 40% landslide. It took a few moments for the full absurdity to sink in, and then I got up and walked out. What really struck me was the dressing of reluctant academic objectivity ("it is reasonably clear, etc. . . .") with which he coated this piece of rhetoric, and the apparent ease by which it went down with the rest of the audience. I learned a lesson that day from Noam Chomsky, though it wasn't the one he had come to teach, and as a small side-benefit it's been unnecessary for me to pay the slightest attention to him ever since.

Yes, that's it exactly: "reluctant academic objectivity", the professorial waving hand of dismissal. I've encountered it too. I once saw Chomsky on local television saying something like: "Nobody really wants to talk about it, but the comparison on everybody's mind is Nazi Germany..." referring to the United States in Iraq. Its a marvelous way of distracting people from the extremism of what's being said. "I don't want to think it," he wants us to believe, "but everybody else is, so..." It is also, as I mentioned in my review of Peace in the Middle East?, an extraordinarily cowardly way for an intellectual to conduct himself. It essentially amounts to a refusal to take responsibility for the implications of one's political stances, a refusal to engage honestly with those who may disagree with you. So much for speaking truth to power.

Thanks to Mark and all the rest who wrote in. Keep the emails coming, guys, I'm loving it!

Thanks to All

I just want to say thanks to everyone whose been writing in and complaining/congratulating/berating/encouraging me over the last few days. This blog has attracted more notice more quickly than I ever expected. Needless to say, its been very edifying, if a little surprising. I didn't anticipate the deluge of emails and suggestions (or the recent job offer) I've been getting, so bear with me while I muddle through. I'll get back to all of you eventually. It means a lot to me that people read my stuff and give it the time to think and write about it, good things or bad. Thanks to all of you and keep reading!


I've been linked by Andrew Sullivan.


Monday, June 07, 2004

Ok, I Couldn't Resist

I was hoping to put this off, but when you run into cosmic idiocies like this, you have to seize the opportunity. From Chomsky's blog, posted by one of his minions:

Questioner: Frequently, when conservatives respond to allegations of inequality in capitalism, they say that "The boats are all rising, who cares if the tide carries some higher?" That is, if growth is occurring at some rate, capitalism's good. What is your reaction to this…

It’s a fine argument for Stalinism and Nazism. Russia had quite a substantial growth rate until the 1960s -- that caused great concern among US and British leaders. Same with Eastern Europe on Kremlin Rule. And pretty egalitarian, by the standards of the US and its satellites.

Hitler's enormous popularity was based in no small part on the economic progress in Germany.

In the US, there was high and egalitarian growth from World War II to the mid-1970s, when the "neoliberal" reforms (absurdly called "globalization") were introduced. Since then growth and other relevant economic indices have deteriorated, and for about 90% of the population, real incomes have stagnated or declined, along with benefits, while for the ultrarich they have skyrocketed, particularly under Bush.

In other words, there's nothing to respond to. It's hogwash, and these people should not be permitted to defame the honorable term "conservative." There are scarcely any genuine conservatives in the public arena, political or other.

I don't even know where to begin with this. First of all, the obvious: neither Stalinist Russia nor Nazi Germany were capitalist societies and are therefore irrelevent to the discussion. At any rate, the claim that the USSR had "quite a substantial growth rate" is absurd. What it had was Stalin industrializing the country by fiat, a plan which soon fell prey to inefficiency and stagnation, as all state-controlled industries inevitably do. In other words, any "growth" ascribed to Stalinism was wholly artificial and could not sustain itself over the long term. This is why Russia, which began the century with the highest economic growth rate in the world, finished the century as little more than a Third World backwater with an enormous army. For the gory details on how communism annihilated the Russian economy read Richard Pipes' extraordinary A Concise History of the Russian Revolution, which unfortunately ends with the death of Lenin, but you get the general idea. The little throwaway apologia for the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe (where cars were made of cardboard and took seven years to get) is a nice touch.

By the way, if the Soviet growth rate was so "substantial" what were all those famines I keep reading about?

As for the Hitler references, I wont dignify them with much discussion. They're just words being thrown around in order to demonize the other side for fear of coming out on the losing end of a rational discussion. Suffice it to say, what this Chomskyite calls "economic progress" might be better described as mass militarization/nationalization of the entire German economy. Always a jump start in the short term, but never sustainable. At any rate, its irrelevent, since Hitler managed to completely destroy the German economy by starting a war that was a direct result of his Nazi ideology. So much for a good argument.

As for the claim that the American economy has deteriorated since the 1970s, this illustrates more than anything else how psychotically alienated the Chomskyite Left has become from the country in which it lives. A nation which has half of its population invested in the stock market is not one in which people are struggling with erosion of their economic status. Moreover, the claim that growth has deteriorated since the 1970s is absurd. Ask anyone who was alive then about inflation, interest rates, and unemployment and you'll start to understand why reforms were necessary. By any standard, the American economy has undergone a massive expansion since the early 1980s and continues to do so today, even though we now consider ourselves in a time of economic downturn. The very fact that we consider ourselves in a downturn despite our current rates of growth is an indication of the tremendous affluence to which America has become accustomed over the past thirty years.

The point here is that, while the free market does increase inequality, it also raises the general standard of living for all. This is nothing to sneer at. The average middle-class American lives better than your average upper-class Englishman. My relatives in Britain still don't have central heating on the second floor of their house, for God's sake. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, whereas capitalism is an unequal distribution of benefits, socialism is an equitable distribution of miseries. I believe that economic developments over the past thirty years have borne this out empirically.

Equally hilarious is the use of the term "neo-liberal" and its conflation with "globalization". I know no one who claims the two are synonymous. Neo-liberalism is an idea, basically it refers to the concept that free markets are better than state-controlled and centralized economies. Globalization, however, is not an idea but a phenomenon, i.e. the massive growth of world trade and economic collaboration that came about as a result of the fall of the communist bloc and the embrace of free market reforms in the Third World. You can argue that globalization is a result of neo-liberalism, but they are not synonymous. This is either a bizarre attempt to construct a straw-man argument or a desperate bid to sound intelligent. Either way, our erstwhile Chomskyite doesn't know what he's talking about.

As for there being no conservatives in the public arena, I can only say that denial is a terrible thing.

And, of course, it all ends with a professorial reassurance that its all "hogwash" anyways. Apparently, to be a Chomskyite means never having to consider that someone who disagrees with you might be halfway intelligent and worth engaging in an honest intellectual debate . This whole post is not an answer to a query, but a statement of arrogant disengagement, of a righteous alienation from the possibility of other ideas and ideologies than one's own. A fine case study of the Chomskyite mind at work, I would say.

Raise Your Blood Pressure In One Easy Step

For those of you without enough problems, here is Chomskyite Ground Zero: ZMag. The foremost Chomskyite journal of opinion in the United States. Includes Chomsky's own blog, unpretentiously titled Turning the Tide (unfortunately, its comments section was brutally annihilated by LGFers on the first day of operation). Like Chomsky's own books, it does appear questionable how much he actually writes and how much is researched/ghostwritten by others. Your guess is as good as mine as to what "official observations drawn from personal correspondance" means when translated from the Chomskyite. At any rate, I plan to have some fun with this one in the near future.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

To Contact Me

If you want to email me directly, you can do so by clicking on my profile. All hate mail is subject to immediate publication with scathing retort. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

A Minor Revision

Some readers complained that the old color scheme rendered the text impossible to read, so I've reversed the colors. I kind of liked the look of the old one, though, so we'll see what happens. Let me know if you folks prefer this template.

Thanks for All the Links

Many thanks to uber-anti-Chomskyite Charles at LGF for linking to the previous post, and to Amritas the Dissident Linguist for making me his link of the week. When I started this blog I wasn't sure anyone but me was interested in this subject, its edifying to be proven wrong. Having sweated blood over reviewing Peace in the Middle East? (its not easy to spend a week reading nothing but Chomsky), I'm glad people are enjoying the results.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Peace in the Middle East? : A Review

Chomsky's Peace in the Middle East?, which appears to have been published in the year following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, is not so much a systemic analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict as it stood at the time as it is, like most of his books, an elongated pamphlet. It consists of five essays written over the course of several years and mostly covering the period between the Six Day War in 1967 to the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and its aftermath, although most of them appear to have been heavily revised at the last minute in order to incorporate the latter confrontation, leading to some interesting inconsistancies and contradictions. Ultimately, Chomsky concludes that the solution to the Middle East conflict is in the dismantling of Israel in favor of "socialist binationalism", a binational state. He gives us little in the way of specifics as to how such a state would be constituted, but it seems to be someting along the lines of the Muslim/Christian Lebanon model, i.e. binationalism based on political parity for ethnic/religous collectives. Ironically, this book predates the collapse of the Lebanon system into bloody civil war by only a year or so. Chomsky also claims that the conflict is perpetuated by the Superpowers, especially the United States but, to a lesser degree, Russia, who see it as serving their imperial interests. He strongly hints, however, that an imposed solution will be forthcoming. The first four essays are essentially the same piece reprinted four times, and I will deal with them as an integrated whole, since they are nearly identical in all essential points. The final essay, Chomsky's defense against his Leftwing critics, deserves to be dealt with on its own, but I will say here that I found it remarkable in its brazen dishonesty and the violence of its rhetoric.

First, some general remarks. I must say that I was initially quite surprised at the tone of the book, since it lacks the embittered, violent tone of Chomsky's more recent writings on Israel. Chomsky's rhetoric is strident and often unnecessarily contemptuous, but the book, for the most part at least, does not read as a poison pen letter to Israel. He manages to avoid comparisons to Nazi Germany or labeling Israel a fascist state, although he sidles up to the line on occasion. Nor does he spew lists of atrocities with gleeful abandon as he often does today. There is a certain measure of indulgent generosity, at least towards the Israeli Left, and at least the recognition of the Zionist case, something very much lacking in Chomsky's current work.

When the target changes to the United States, however, the tone changes noticeably, and a more recognizable Chomsky emerges, all bitter denunciations and apocalyptic condemnations laced with a level of rhetorical bile so vicious and unnecessary that it quickly begins to raise questions as to the man's psychological health. This seems to bear out something I have long felt: that Chomsky's hatred of Israel stems as much from his loathing for the United States as from any feelings he may have towards Israel specifically. As the US-Israel alliance has grown stronger and closer over the years, Chomsky's ferocity has increased in kind, until now he relates to both countries as little more than two sides of the same demonic coin. Witness the following remarkable statement:

It is common these days to hear Israel described as a tool of Western imperialism. As a description this is not accurate, but as a prediction it may well be so. From the point of view of American imperial interests, such dependence would be welcomed for many reasons...The United States has a great need for an international enemy so that the population can be effectively support the use of American power throughout the world and the development of highly militarized, highly centralized state capitalism at home...Now that the Cold War consensus is eroding, American militarists welcome the threat to Israel. (p. 82)
I will not dwell on the merits of Chomsky's worldview here, it would take too long and those convinced of it are unlikely to be swayed by anything I might bring to the table. Suffice it to say that I consider Chomsky's assertions here to be those of a man who is at best deeply naive and prone to conspiracy mongering and at worst bordering on manifestly deranged. How Chomsky considers a country which pays for its oil to be dominating its producers imperialist-style, or why, if America were truly interested only in its economic interests, it would continue to oppose the Arab states' war against Israel, are elementary questions with which Chomsky appears inexplicably unconcerned. It is very clear, however, that Chomsky (and his devotees) believe devoutly in this theology. I don't think it is going too far to postulate that the trend which Chomsky elucidates here, the inevitable absorbtion of Israel into the imperial circle of the United States, is one which he now sees as consummated and complete. This is, of course, a type of political demonology, and of a particularly Manichean variety, one which seperates the world into absolute forces of good and evil. Or, in Leftist parlance, reactionary and progressive. The identification of Israel, through its alliance with the United States, with the world's forces of reaction and imperialism is, in the Chomskyite vocabulary, no less a charge of perpetual sin than the Christian Passion play. The ferocious hostility of the Chomskyite Left (and, more and more, the Left in general) towards Israel and Zionism, seeing in them an evil of a cosmic, metaphysical nature, would seem to have at least some of its origins here.

Needless to say, this is neither a scholarly, not even a particularly intelligent point of view. It is a religious one, propelled by an active, overarching monist faith and Chomsky's own very real cult of personality.

Secondly, as to the book's documentation, I can only say that it leaves much to be desired, although some of Chomsky's most blatant howlers are to be found tucked away in the end notes. This was my favorite:

To the editors of Dissent, withdrawal seems as inhumane as a war of attrition because it would almost certainly leave the country under communist control "and there would almost certainly follow a slaughter in the South of all those...who have fought against the Communists." They seemed oblivious to the likely consequences of a United States-Saigon victory... (p. 184)
Highly amusing (or horrifying, depending on your point of view) in the light of later developments in Vietnam.

Besides apologia for Southeast Asian communism, Chomsky's notes provide us with extraordinary reading material. Despite the deluge of footnotes, there is little in the way of actual documentation. Most of the sources are newspapers, a notoriously unreliable source of hard information, and certainly not one any reputable historian would make use of. Besides this, there are some references to a few books of which I have never heard, and I think I am reasonably conversant in the major literature on this subject (admittedly, we are some thirty years after the writing of this book, and the generally accepted source literature has certainly developed over that time). Added to this are several works by Arab writers and Israeli Leftists which may or may not be accurate, although I am inclined to believe that material credited to The Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut (a still-existant think tank linked to the PLO), or far-Left Israeli wingnut Israel Shahak, may suffer from a slight ideological bias.

Objectively speaking, one has to conclude that, whatever the merits of Peace in the Middle East? as propaganda, it would likely be rejected as a doctoral dissertation.

This book, at least in its first four chapters, is an attempt at geopolitical analysis and political history, and it is worthy to discuss its merits in those terms. There is no question that on both counts, the book is a miserable failure. While somewhat effective as polemic, it is wholly unconvincing as a scholarly work.

While it is possible that he may simply be highly ill-informed, it is difficult to believe, considering Chomsky's vaunted reputation, that many of the book's shortcomings are not a result of deliberate distortionism. There is no question, however, that Chomsky is an extremely naive and unsophisticated observer of international politics. For one, he has an absurdly exagerrated perception of Superpower influence. Overriding his analysis is the assertion that the Superpowers could (and probably will) impose a solution on the parties, but choose not to because the conflict serves their imperial interests, as though ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, or any other long term conflict for that matter, were as easy as flipping a switch on and off.

If the United States comes to the conclusion that the major premise of its poicy is now "inoperative", it can move towards an alternative policy option, and, with Russian support, impose a settlement along the lines of United Nations Resolution 242 of November 1967. (p. 127)
This plays into Chomsky's perception of all things being the result of conspiratorial manipulations on the part of enormously powerful actors working behind the scenes. As though the Arab-Israeli conflict were merely a gigantic gladiatorial event carried out for the edification of the world's secret aristocracy. It seems not to occur to him that the Superpowers may not be imposing a solution to the conflict because they cannot impose one. Or, at least, they cannot impose one without risking nuclear war and/or suffering military and economic damage they are unwilling to sustain. This prediliction seems to bear out the assertion of historian Richard Pipes that intellectuals, having no experience of power themselves, often have an extremely exagerrated idea of what it can accomplish.

Secondly, Chomsky seems remarkably ignorant of military matters and how to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of a nation's military capabilities. I am inclined to think this is, for the most part, not deliberate. Chomsky has no military experience and cites no works which might be termed military history or analysis. What he does give is page after page of newspaper articles citing various military deliveries to Israel from the United States, concluding from these that Israel has the military advantage over all its enemies by an overwhelming margin.

Israeli policy since 1967, and American support for it, have been based on the premise that Israel is a military superpower by the standards of the region and that its technological predominance will only increase. (p. 124)

It remains true that Israel is the most advanced technological society and the major military force in the region. (p. 128)

If these reports as correct, the Israeli military advantage in offensive weaponry is even greater than previously supposed. (p. 98)

The first [factor] is the Israeli military and technological predominance, already noted, which appears to be considerable and growing. (p. 96)
Chomsky's assertion of overwhelming Israeli military superiority, contradicating as is does the events of the then just ended Yom Kippur War, is most likely the result of Chomsky's ignorance of the subject itself. In examining the capabilities of any nation in the military sphere, the level of hardware acquired is only one of many factors. There are numerous others: how the weaponry is integrated into the existing forces, methods of training, the command structure, the geographical position of the nation in question, the relationship of the army to the economic/political structure of society, etc. Chomsky mentions none of these, and if it is not a deliberate omission, it is an indication of a serious incompetence regarding the most basic methods of military analysis. Chomsky seems to think that Israel has a massive military advantage so long as it continues to have and acquire large amounts of weapons. In truth, however, Israel's military advantages and weaknesses have always lain in other areas. Its advantages have always been in its unified command structure and meritocratic system. The Arab countries, being divided amongst themselves and given to handing out high military positions to the scions of bribery and nepotism, have always had a distinct disadvantage in this area. The Arab states partly overcame this weakness, with the help of Russian advisors, in the Yom Kippur War, with disastrous results for Israel in the war's opening days.

Israel's weaknesses, however, are clear to anyone who has looked at a map. Israel is a tiny country with a tiny population relative to its enemies. This has two manifestations: the geographic and the economic. Israel's tiny size demands that Israel strike quickly and immediately take the war on to enemy territory. This is difficult to achieve and is decided in a war's opening stages. If the initial advantage is lost, Israel is then in a very perilous situation however much hardware is brought to bear on the battlefield. In the economic sphere, the situation is even more delicate. Unlike the Arab states, which have populations sufficient to sustain a large army over an extended period, Israel's army consists largely of reserve units which must be moblized beforehand in order to face any invasion force. This consists of almost the entire adult male population and the country's economy effectively stops in the case of full mobilization. This means that any war Israel fights must be as short as possible. The Yom Kippur War was devastating to Israel's economy, as it dragged on for an extended period. Israel lost a full year's worth of GNP in that war, taking nearly a full decade to recover.

Chomsky nowhere mentions these facts in his book, facts which would provide a more balanced portrait of the relative military capabilities of the parties in question. Since at least some of these factors were widely discussed at the time, the economic effects of full mobilization probably being the most prominant, one must harbor the suspicion that there is at least some measure of intentional omission on Chomsky's part in order to prejudice the case against Israel and bolster his assessment of the country as a massive regional superpower armed to the teeth with American weapons of war.

Chomsky also makes much of statements made by various Israeli generals, mostly in the Hebrew press, boasting of Israel's military superiority. Chomsky regards these statements as being as flawlessly accurate as tactical reports. It seems not to occur to him that the generals in question may be making these statements in order to reinforce Israel's detterrance. No military man makes public statements without the knowledge that they will be read by the enemy and will have an effect on the enemy's perception of one's strength. Such statements, in any case, prove nothing.

There are several major omissions in Chomsky's analysis that are worth mentioning here. The first is the Khartoum Conference. After the Six-Day War, Arab leaders met in Khartoum and adopted a platform which rejected all recognition and/or negotiation with the State of Israel. This event, noted by every reputable historian of the conflict as being of some significance, is mentioned nowhere in Chomsky's book. It is impossible that this is anything but a deliberate ommission. It is certainly an understandable one. For Chomsky to cite it would have destroyed his central thesis: that Israeli territorial intransigence is the major cause of the continuing conflict and not Arab rejectionism.

Chomsky also omits any mention of the Eshkol cabinet vote taken soon after the Six-Day War, which stated Israeli willingness to withdrawal from nearly all the occupied territories (Jerusalem was to remain united) in exchange for a comprehensive peace treaty. The Khartoum Conference rendered this offer moot, but it indicates an early willingness to engage in territorial compromise which runs against Chomsky's historiography of frustrated Arabs facing relentless Israeli "creeping annexation".

Chomsky's whitewashing of Arab policies and actions is most glaring in regards to the Palestinian national movement. His portrayal of the Palestinians is in keeping throughout with his early statement that they are "victims more than agents" (p. 9). An assertion which is wholly unsupportable by history. The Palestinians, after all, initiated the '48 War after rejecting the UN's Partition Plan, agitated to push Nasser into war in 1956 and 1967, and actively undertook infiltration into Israeli territory throughout the '50s. Furthermore, one can hardly call the wave of terrorist attacks inaugurated by Yasser Arafat's PLO in the 1970s, including the 1972 Munich atrocity, as being the acts of a people helpless before the winds of history. Chomsky also consistently refuses to mention Palestinian rejecion of any legitimacy to the Zionist movement and does not mention the more ferocious portions of the PLO charter, particularly the clause demanding that all Jews who immigrated to Israel after 1948 be deported. His comments on the use of terrorism by the Palestinians are couched in the most apologetic terms:

One continuing danger, recently emphasized by the brutal massacre at the Lod airport, is that of terror, a weapon of the weak and the desperate... (p. 107)
This quote is particularly ironic, since, unfortunately for Chomsky, the assassins at Lod airport were neither weak nor desperate. In fact, they weren't even Palestinian. They were Japanese members of a Leftist terror cell who had been contracted by the PLO and paid for with Soviet funds. In fact, Chomsky does not comment at all on the international and ideological nature of Palestinian terror, perhaps because it might implicate some people and groups dangerously close to home. Nor, indeed, is he willing to recognize any role whatever on the part of Palestinian nationalist ideology, particular its rejection of Jewish peoplehood and national rights, in acts of extraordinary violence. He is eminently willing to ascribe the sins of Israel to evils hardwired into Zionist ideology, but refuses to subject those with whom he is sympathetic to similar scrutiny.

This becomes most glaring in regard to the war between Jordan and in the PLO in 1970. Chomsky refers obliquly to this brutal conflict, in disarmingly neutral terms:

There are tensions, which in 1970 erupted into a bloody war, between Palestinian Arabs and the largely Bedouin forces of Hussein. (p. 90)
He has little more than this to say on the issue, as well he might not, since the destruction of the PLO in Jordan was entirely the fault of the PLO and the destabilizing effect of the campaign of international terrorism it undertook from Jordanian bases. This campaign culminated in an attempt by the PLO to assassinate King Hussein and take over the kingdom. Even this did not tempt Hussein to retaliate, and only when Arafat turned down an offer from Hussein to form a coalition government, with Arafat as Prime Minister, and a Palestinian terror group blew up three jets in Amman airport, did Hussein proceed to crush the PLO and its subsidiery organizations. Seemingly desperate to evoke sympathy for the movement, Chomsky declares the following:

[T]he Palestinian guerrilla movements appear to have been severely weakened, if not virtually destroyed...The commander of the Palestine Liberation Army stated in an interview in Beirut that "the PLO is about to be destroyed. Its offices, establishments, and apparatus ghave been all but paralysed, and its exitence has been rendered only symbolic." (p. 98)
This passage was written simultaneously with the PLO relocation to Beirut and the Bekaa Valley with large infusions of Soviet financial and military aid, where it became, if anything, even more powerful. Chomsky is most certainly aware of these facts, he omits them in order to continue his illusory assertion that the Palestinians are the perpetual victims of the Middle East conflict, pure of heart and motive and relentlessly wronged by powerful and ruthless collaborators with American imperialism.

Chomsky's most glaring omission, however, and this is most certainly deliberate, is his lack of emphasis on Soviet imperialism and its relationship to pan-Arab nationalism. He concentrates mostly on American and other Western "imperial" interests (I have already expressed my contempt for this particular term in this context, but none the less it is necessary to use it if only to illustrate Chomsky's point of view), saying nothing much of consequence about Soviet influence in the region.

During and after World War II, the United States took over the dominant role in controlling these [oil] resources, displacing Great Britain...We may assume, with fair confidence, that the United States will make every effort to ensure that this great prize will be available, and to the extent possible, under the control of American oil companies. (p. 9)

A third factor is that the Soviet Union appears to have rather limited ambitions in the Middle East, so far as can now be determined. Evidently, it wants the Suez Canal opened, and it will no doubt attempt to maintain its dominant position in Egypt, but there is no indication that it is intending to initiate or support further military action in the Middle East. (p. 98)
This is, of course, extraordinary balderdash. The Soviet Union's ambitions in the Middle East were as they were elsewhere: expansion and dominance. The Soviets engineered both the 1956 and 1967 Wars, the former by supplying Nasser with a massive, and thus highly destabilizing, arms deal, and the latter by deliberately feeding the Syrians false intelligence about Israeli troop movements. They sponsored Nasser's bloody invasion of Yemen and both funded and armed the PLO and its related groups, a fact that Chomsky also never deigns to mention. Indeed, the Yom Kippur War would have been impossible without Russian arms and advice, which essentially built the Egyptian and Syrian armies anew from the bottom up. One would think that, considering their role in starting two wars and aiding and abetting mightily in another, not to mention sponsoring the most powerful terrorist organization in the region, Chomsky might have a bit more to say on the subject of Soviet brinksmanship.

Furthermore, Chomsky seems totally uninterested in the pan-Arab movement in its entirety. A shocking omission, considering its centrality to the conflict with Israel from the middle fifties onward. Gamal Abdel Nasser is mentioned a handful of times, Assad is not mentioned at all. The nature of pan-Arab ideology, with its expansionist doctrine and total negation of Israel, is also left unexplored. Not altogether surprising, since that might also prejudice the reader in Israel's favor, were the extent of Nasser's imperial ambitions to be made explicit.

So much for Chomsky as geopolitical analyst. As a political historian, he fares no better. And in this case, we are certainly dealing with deliberate distortionism, as Chomsky has longstanding family and institutional connections to the Zionist movement, as he never tires of reminding us.

I grew up with a deep interest in the revival of Hebrew culture associated with the settlement of Palestine. I found myself on the fringes of the left wing of the Zionist youth movement, never joining because of certain political disagreements, but enormously what I saw as a dramatic effort to create...some form of libertarian socialism in the Middle East. (p. 45-46)
Chomsky's recounting of his personal history is most likely accurate. His recounting of Zionist political history is not. He portrays the Zionist Left as wholly opposed to the idea of Jewish statehood, with only Vladimir Jabotinsky's dread Revisionists (the villians of choice for all Leftwing historians of Zionism) insisting upon it, due to their "semi-fascist" ideology.

In opposing the Revisionist demand for a Jewish state in the 1930s, Ben-Gurion, a labour leader as well as a spokesman for Jewish nationalism, was also expressing a very different conception of what kind of society the new Palestine was to be. (p. 40)

[T]he centrist socialists in the Zionist movement had abandoned any interest in a solution based on political parity by the early 1940s, and the Revisionist demands became the official position of the Zionist movement. (p. 42)
Chomsky's claims here, that the socialist Zionists did not want a Jewish state and essentially adopted the Revisionist position due to "the complex internal strife in Palestine in 1936-9, World War II, and the realization of the meaning of Nazi success for the Jewish communities in Europe." (p. 42) are completely false, and in my opinion, quite obviously deliberately falsified.

In reality, both the Left Zionists (with the exception of HaShomer HaZair and a handful of other groups on the extreme Left of the Kibbutz Movement) and the Revisionists favored Jewish statehood from the beginning. The question was not if but when and how. To understand their disagreement, one has to look to the founder of Zionist ideology, Theodore Herzl. Herzl advocated a full-scale evacuation of Europe's Jews to the Land of Israel. Literally, a wholesale transfer in one fell swoop. Obviously, this was quickly recognized as unrealistic by almost all but Herzl, who spent the rest of his life trying to obtain an imperial charter to this end. The opposition to Herzl, led by the likes of Chaim Weizmann, proposed a slow colonization of the land. This would be accompanied by the building of various institutions, the revival of the Hebrew language and culture, and a host of other endeavors of renewal and rebirth. Eventually, this Jewish society would ascend to sovereignty. This state would have a Jewish majority and would be open to unlimited Jewish immigration from around the world. It was hoped and believed that, by the time statehood occured, the Arabs, having seen the benefits brought by the Zionist settlement, would have reconciled themselves to Jewish statehood. Ben-Gurion later extended this concept to include the integration of the Jewish state into the united Arab Middle East which everyone thought was coming in the thirties and forties. Essentially, it would be a completely sovereign Jewish Commonwealth within a loose federation of Arab states. (The best information on Ben-Gurion's positions in this regard are to be found in his very interesting book, My Talks with Arab Leaders, which Chomsky seems to have skipped in favor of scouring back issues of The Guardian.)

Jabotinsky, a far more radical and uncompromising nationalist (his writings often remind me of Malcolm X), was having none of this. He believed the Jewish situation in Europe was catastrophic and that time could not be wasted in slow colonization. He revived Herzl's mass evacuation plan and that remained the position of the Revisionist Movement until Jabotinsky's death in the 1940s. He was also completely opposed to any partition of the land, and desired to include Jordan as part of the Jewish state which would be founded in the wake of the Jewish transfer. At no time did the socialist Zionists adopt the Revisionist's mass evacuation plan or any of Jabotinsky's territorial demands.

In short, Chomsky is full of it on this point. And rather obviously so. His motives are fairly transparent. As an advocate of "socialist binationalism", in other words, the end of the Jewish state, he seeks to disarm his critics by attempting to place himself within the mainstream of Zionist opinion. This is nothing less than breathtakingly dishonest. There were sections of the Zionist Movement which advocated binationalism, but they were, as is Chomsky, on the fringes of the movement, and with the founding of the state quickly faded into history. It should be noted that when the time came to sign Israel's Declaration of Independence, these factions did not hesitate to do so, along with all the other major political parties, Zionist and non-Zionist.

There is, of course, a great deal more, but these are the major flaws in Chomsky's analysis. As to the big picture, this is, of course, a matter of opinion. I personally find Chomsky's point of view that Israeli militarism and American imperialism are the major stumbling blocks in the way of a peace settlement in the region to be absurd on their face. Others may well disagree with me, but to prove their points, they would have to display a great deal more knowledge and perception than the amateurish gadflyism on display in this volume.

The fifth chapter of Peace in the Middle East?, the only one which differs in a substantial way from the others, is essentially a long polemic by Chomsky against his critics and, it seems at times, the entire Jewish Left-Liberal population of the United States. Chomsky is not a man well suited to debate, and his rhetoric jumps from strident to hysterical in a fascinatingly short time. Clearly, we are dealing here with a surprisingly fragile ego for a man of his accomplishments. There is also a remarkable amount of outright lying in this chapter, far more so then the others, where Chomsky's sins are mostly ones of omission and bias rather than outright falsification. Chomsky has a bizarre tendancy (which continues to this day) to argue that he did not say what, in fact, he quite clearly did say and was rather emphatic about. This relentless bad faith that typifies Chomsky's style of argumentation strikes me as a combination of cowardice and arrogance. Chomsky seems to be both terrified of having to defend some of his more grotesque conclusions, and to be simultaneously convinced that he is demonstrably smarter than everyone else and none of us will be swift enough to catch him in his rhetorical sleights of hand. I think this may be due to Chomsky's perception of himself as preaching to two audiences. One, the radical Left audience who come to Chomsky specifically for his uncompromising extremism; and the second, a more mainstream audience before whom he fears being discredited by that same extremism. This attempt to speak in two voices leads to some fascinating moments of cognitive dissonance and outright, baldfaced lying. Taken all together, this final chapter displays a Chomsky more recognizable to us today than the one we meet in the previous essays: petulant, patronizing, insulting, and almost spectacularly dishonest. It isn't pretty stuff, but it says a lot about what can happen when men begin to believe the rumors of their own genius.

Most of the chapter is spent denouncing a series of specific figures on the American Left, almost all of them Jews, and disparaging their criticisms of Chomsky and his fellow travelers on the subject of Israel. Chomsky does not spend time beating around the bush, he calls them all a bunch of damn liars and keeps doing so for thiry-odd pages:

Irving Howe wrote [of New Left doctrine on Israel] that "Jewish boys and girls, children of the generation that saw Auschwitz, hate democratic Israel and celebrate as revolutionary the Egyptian dictatorship." ...He gave no examples of any celebration of the Egyptian dictatorship. In fact, he did not refer at all to the scanty New Left literature on the subject he was discussing. Nathan Glazer went still further: "It is clear", he asserted, "that the New Left has an overwhelming and unbendable tendency to support the Arabs and to oppose Israel." Glazer presented no evidence whatsoever to support this categorical judgement and was unpurterbed when presented with substantial evidence showing that it was false. (p. 132)
We are presented with only Chomsky's word on this "substantial evidence", and on the exagerrative quality of Howe's comments. Considering the plethora of balderdash encountered in the previous four chapters, I am afraid I am not prone to giving Chomsky the benefit of the doubt on this one. At any rate, Chomsky's assertion offends the common sense. The idea that the New Left would be anything other than hostile to Israel, as an ally of the United States and enemy both of Third World radicalism and Soviet expansionism is a categorical absurdity.

More hilarious, however, is the following:

[I.F] Stone and I, according to [Seymour] Lipset, have

"a commitment which currently involves defining the al-Fatah terrorists as 'left-wing guerrillas' and Israel as 'a collaborator with imperialism', if not worse. One doubts whether even the most sophisticated presentation of Israel's case could ever regain their support."

Note the quotation marks around the phrases "left-wing guerrillas" and "a collaborator with imperialism", the implication being, presumably, that these phrases were taken from our writings...All of this is complete fabrication. The alleged quotations do not exist. I have discussed Fatah, not identifying it as a left-wing movement, which would be nonsensical, but pointing out that it contains left-wing elements, as, of course, it does...Neither Stone nor I have ever written anything expressing the commitment Lipset attributes to us (without reference), though it is easy enough to find explicit refutations of these views. (p. 132-133)
This has to be the most incompetent use of the straw-man argument I have ever witnessed. Firstly, Lipset's use of quotation marks is, in my opinon at least, quite obviously intended to mock the ludicrousness of such ideas and not to imply that they are a direct quotation from the works of either Stone or Chomsky. In any case, Chomsky is hardly one to be accusing anyone of not correctly sourcing their writings. Secondly, when Chomsky claims he has never written what Lipset says he wrote, he is lying outright. Not only has he written such things, he has written them in this book.

In particular, [Safran] fails to see the significance of the rise of El-Fatah, which many observers believe to be a genuine expression - the first - of the national consciousness of the masses of Palestinian Arabs...

The explicit goal of El-Fatah is to involve the masses in struggle, now that they have recognized the futility of looking to the Arab states for salvation...

In short, it seems accurate to say that Israel now faces a liberation movement modelling itself consciously on others that have proven successful...a conscious mass-based liberation movement... (emphasis mine - Benjamin) (p.61-64)
Chomsky then proceeds to analogize Fatah to the Vietnamese communist guerrillas. Now, it may be that Chomsky considers "mass-based", popular, anti-imperialist, FLN-styled Third World liberation movements to be conservative in nature, but I am inclined to doubt it.

As to Israel as a "collaborator of imperialism", while Chomsky has stated (as I quoted in the introduction) that such a description is "not accurate", I must say that, while this may be his ideological position, in practice it is clearly a bad faith argument. Chomsky is quite explicit about considering America an imperialist power. He also hands us reams of pages describing America's military and political support for Israel, support which he explicitly states as serving America's interest, i.e. the interests of an imperial power. How this does not qualify as accusing Israel of being a "collaborator of imperialism" is beyond me.

Without question, this section is the low point of the book, a deplorable piece of deliberate falsehood combined with a heady dose of character assassination. I think only Noam Chomsky could convince himself that he could write such lies and get away with it when the evidence to refute them is contained in the same book. Perhaps he thinks we're all too dumb or lazy to flip a few pages back and check out his claims for ourselves. At any rate, it certainly is no testament to the man's alleged genius that he feels the need to engage in such obvious lying in order to buttress his arguments.

Chomsky is, if anything, even more brazen in the footnotes to this chapter, denying outright the existence of anti-semitism among black radical groups.

...I did comment on the zeal with which some American Zionist sociologists seek out statements in obscure periodicals to 'prove' that the black groups are anti-Semitic, and I noted the exagerrated conclusions that are drawn as to the significance of these instances...I have yet to see any instances of anti-Semitism or even anti-white "reverse racism"... (p. 180)
It is unclear to me how Chomsky manages to define The Autobiography of Malcolm X or Soul on Ice as "obscure periodicals". One can only conclude from this astonishing paragraph that Chomsky is either lying, willfully blind, or so self-hating that he is simply unable to recognize anti-semitism when he sees it. Reading passages like this, it is not hard to see how Chomsky in his later years became so sanguine about the subject of Holocaust denial.

Nothing, however, echoes with more resounding bad faith than Chomsky's self-martyrization in the face of his critics.

Were American resisters and deserters enemies of the United States, or were they defending the interests of the American people and their professed ideals? The semantic trap is obvious. Apologists for state power are always quick to identify opposition and resistance to state policy as an attack on the society and its people. In the case at hand, support for policies of the Israeli state may or may not be "support for Israel" in any reasonable sense of this notion, and criticism of these policies must also be analysed on its merits. (p. 155)
This is a familiar argument to anyone who has argued with an anti-war protestor. They are not anti-American, they claim, they simply disagree with their government's policies. By the same token, they say, someone who criticizes Israel is not axiomatically anti-semitic. This is, in my opinion, a monumentally dishonest argument, particularly in Chomsky's case, for the simple reason that Chomsky is not criticizing specific policies but rather arguing that the existence of Israel is, within itself, unjust and the country ought to be dismantled. In the same manner of war protestors who proclaim their country a racist, imperialist monster from its origins and then claim to be only criticizing specific policies, Chomsky's stance on Israel is not political but existential.

In the essays that follow and elsewhere, I have argued that socialist binationalism offers the best long-range hope for a just peace in the region. (p. 33)

Under any agreement that can be imagined for the near future, Israel will remain a Jewish state - that is, a state based on the principle of discrimination. (p. 37)

[T]here is, perhaps, a slender hope...This can only mean a programme of socialist binationalism, which might take various forms. (p. 129-130)

Israel is a Jewish state with non-Jewish citizens. By law and administrative practice it must be - and is - a state based on discrimination and exclusivism. (p. 153)

Like many other left-liberal American Zionists...Howe always skirts the crucial question...How can a Jewish state with non-Jewish citizens be a "democratic state", let alone a socialist society? (p. 161)
Chomsky is eminently clear on this point: Israel as it is currently constituted is an insult to universal principles of justice and human rights. He desires it to be destroyed in its current form and reconstituted as a utopian binational entity. His criticisms, therefore, are precisely the opposite of what he claims they are. They are, in fact, "an attack on the society and its people", for he does not believe that Israeli society is worthy of continued existence. The fact that he claims to be shocked and dismayed that some of his fellow Jews, and liberal Gentiles for that matter, might disagree with demolishing a society of several million people for the sake of ideological abstractions simply cannot be taken seriously. As for his sniveling and petulent attempts to weasel his way out of acknowledging the extremism of his own statements, I can only say that I have rarely seen such undignified cowardice in an intellectual of standing. His statements are shameful enough, the fact that he makes them and then lacks even the requisite courage to stand by them under public criticism and argue their merits in good faith is nothing short of obscene.

For my own edification, I must note my objections to Chomsky's stance on this matter. It does us no good to ignore such assaults. I live in Israel and feel obliged to defend its right to exist against its critics, however foolish I may believe them to be. There is no question that there are issues with Israel's Arab citizens and their place in a Jewish state. There is racism and there is discrimination. It is not Apartheid by any stretch of the imagination. It is also nothing particularly unusual in states with large national minorities. Particularly when, as in Israel's case, that minority considers itself an inseperable part of a hostile regional majority. I would gladly put Israel's record in regards to its Arab minority up against that of any of the states of Europe or Asia, or even the United States, and certainly against the record of the Arab states, many of whom brutally persecute their national or religious minorities if they have not exprelled them outright.

I also violently disagree with Chomsky that Israel is a state based in discrimination. It is a state based on identification with the Jewish people. Contrary to Chomsky, I do not see this as a cosmic evil fundamentally different from France, Japan, Turkey, or a multitude of other countries, including our myriad Arab and Muslim neighbors. Indeed, in comparison to many other countries Israel is immensely liberal, granting its minorities substantial legal and religious autonomy. I am not naive, however, it is very difficult to be an Arab in Israel, especially at moments like this, when the conflict is so inflamed and bitter. There is no question that aspects of Israel's culture and society will and ought to be changed. I believe this can happen within the framework of a Jewish state. Israel can fulfill the human rights of its minorities while also expressing the national rights of the Jewish people. I would argue, furthermore, that Israel's existence is essential to both the national and human rights of the Jewish people. I agree with Hannah Arendt that the experience of the Jews in World War II bears out the position that the guarantee of human rights is impossible without first the guarantee of national rights. Were the Arab peoples living in a single Arab state surrounded by twenty-odd Jewish ones, I rather think they would feel the same way.

Thus, I must dissent from Chomsky's position that only socialist binationalism is a just solution to the conflict, as it would deny the Jewish people the sole expression of their national, collective rights, and thus also their essential rights as human beings. Furthermore, seeing as how no socialist binational state has ever existed in history, let alone between two warring ethnic groups with a history of violent enmity, I am not inclined to trust to the feasibility of such a project, even if argued in the best of faith and by the most airtight logic. On both counts, Chomsky fails miserably.

I have spent the better part of the last two years studying the history of Israel, the Jewish people, and the Israeli-Arab conflict at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. I am not an expert by any means, but I am at least as qualified as Noam Chomsky (who, after all, holds no credentials in this area of study) to comment on the issues at hand at reach some conclusions as to the value of Peace in the Middle East? as an analysis of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Firstly, this book needs to be seen for what it is: a collection of polemics, not a work of competent scholarship. Though heavily footnoted, its sourcing is shoddy and its methodology dishonest. It is advocacy and not objective historical/political analysis.

Secondly, it is clear that the real villian of this peace is not so much Israel as the United States. Chomsky's obsession with American power and the dark intentions which govern it overshadow everything he writes in this book. His hostility towards Israel is real, but it strikes me as inextricably connected to his demonization of the US. This becomes manifest in the final chapter where he tries to link American intellectual support for Israel to the Vietnam War, a bizarre attempt that smacks of paranoia and delusions of persecution. Ultimately, he concieves of most of the world's events as in some way the result of the machinations of American and, to a much lesser degree, Soviet foreign policy, or lack thereof. Either way, his conception of Superpower omnipotence remains.

That this is a simplistic and unnuanced view of things has been noted by many of Chomsky's critics before. In my opinion, Chomsky's worldview is not so much simplistic as it is an overarching, Manichean theology in which the United States, and, by extension, Israel, are forever guilty and their victims, i.e. the Palestinians, Third World revolutionary movements, international socialism, etc., are forever innocent, whatever their actions or ideologies. I have already noted Chomsky's considerable use of willful distortionism matched with his professional incompetance as a political/historical/military analyst. I would add to this that one cannot read this book without realizing that all these manipulations point in the same direction: towards indicting Israel and the United States and absolving the Arab states of all responsiblity to end the conflict. Nowhere does he suggest that the Arab states, as the more wealthy and numerous party to the conflict, may have a responsiblity of their own to lessen tensions and undertake peace initiatives. Nor does he recommend that the first step towards such a goal may be the Arab states' acceptance of Israel's right to exist. Indeed, he cannot do so, as he does not accept it himself.

Such a stance is, needless to say, not merely one-sided, but also grotesquely unfair and unjust. Criticism of Israel is one thing, negation is quite another. In this sense, there is little light between Chomsky and the most maximalist of Israel's enemies, only the details of Israel's eradication are at issue. Chomsky does attempt a moderate tone, and his vocabulary is redolent with words like "justice", "peace", "co-existence" and a host of other terms rendered Orwellian by the service to which he puts them, for his purpose is not to turn Israel into a place of serenity but a desert of Jewish dreams. Putting aside the dishonesty of his style, I must seperate from Chomsky even in absolutely objective terms. He believes a utopian socialism will be sufficient to ameliorate the sufferings and needs of the Jewish people. I believe this is an idea already relegated to the ash-heap of history. I am not a Zionist because of my contempt for other peoples, I am a Zionist because I believe that a just world is impossible without justice also for the Jewish people, a justice which will not be obtained with pie-in-the-sky dreams of a socialist paradise, nor with reckless appeals to the goodwill of our enemies. It is my hope that, sooner rather than later, Israelis and Arabs will settle into a tense but bloodless mutual contempt which, with time, may dissapate into some form of mutual rapproachment. Any other solution is, I believe, naive and foolish. Rewriting history in an attempt to prove otherwise will only obscure our ability to comprehend ourselves and others, and perpetuate that fruitless dissonance which is so much a part of the political life of the Middle East. Chomsky's irresponsibility and intellectual violence serve the good of no one. Peace can only come through mutual recognition, negation will not help us cross that Rubicon. As someone who values truthful historiography, I can regard Peace in the Middle East? as merely contemptible. On a moral level, I am appalled by it. This is a work which does nothing to remove the question mark of its title. It is a fractured mirror which only reinforces the bitterness and greivances of a single side, and thus perpetuates this war which can only end through the replacement of negation by acceptance. A bitter, unwanted acceptance, perhaps, but an acceptance nonetheless, and one which silences guns and unclenches fists, if only from opposite sides of a wall between two states composed of angry and nightmare-plagued refugees and their children. For such a consummation, Chomsky has nothing but contempt and scorn. A contempt and a scorn which we must regard, perhaps, as tragic, for he can clearly concieve of no just solution but self-immolation. But a contempt and a scorn which are also, for those of us who must live with the reality of the violence which for Chomsky is but a matter of words, a bitter and unnecessary contribution to a conflict which has already had its fill.