By Paul Bogdanor
In Noam Chomsky’s books, essays and public campaigns stretching back for decades, one theme is constant: his portrayal of the state of Israel as the focus of evil in the Middle East, a malevolent outlaw whose only redeeming feature is the readiness of its own left-wing intelligentsia to expose its uniquely horrifying depravity. His efforts began in the 1970s with the short polemic, Peace in the Middle East?, in which he argued that the country should be replaced by a binational socialist regime; they escalated in the 1980s with his lengthier works, Fateful Triangle and Pirates and Emperors, which portrayed Israel as a terrorist state with “points of similarity” to Nazi Germany; and they culminated in his most recent collection of diatribes, Middle East Illusions, in which he continues to present Israel as the main obstacle to peace in the region, in the midst of horrible war crimes against Israeli civilians.1 Dozens of publications, lectures and interviews contain further symptoms of Chomsky’s fixation upon the Jewish state. However, as we shall see, his polemics on the Arab-Israeli conflict bear the hallmarks of his intellectual repertoire – massive falsification of facts, evidence, sources and statistics, conducted in the service of a bigoted and extremist ideological agenda.
Central to Chomsky’s position is the idea that Israel should cease to exist in its present form. This view is set out in his earliest writings on the subject, where he proclaims that Israel is “a state based on the principle of discrimination. There is no other way for a state with non-Jewish citizens to remain a Jewish state...”2 Taken literally, the claim hardly merits debate. Must a Jewish state deprive its non-Jewish citizens of the right to vote, form political parties, or hold elective office? Must it deny them freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or freedom of association? Chomsky gives no reason why a Jewish homeland must deny these rights to its non-Jewish citizens, although it must be said that they were totally absent in many states to which he has been attracted, such as Maoist China, which he considered “quite admirable”, or Stalinist Vietnam, where he found “a miracle of reconciliation and restraint”, or Pol Pot’s Cambodia, which he compared favorably with the American Revolution, with liberated France, and – to return to our topic – the Israeli kibbutz system.3
According to Chomsky, Israel’s Jewishness “resides in discriminatory institutions and practices... expressed in the basic legal structure of the state”, which defines it as the home of all Jews, wherever they live.4 But he does not object to democratic Armenia, which promotes “the protection of Armenian historical and cultural values located in other countries” and guarantees that “[i]ndividuals of Armenian origin shall acquire citizenship” through “a simplified procedure”; or democratic Lithuania, which announces that “[e]veryone who is ethnically Lithuanian has the right to settle in Lithuania”; or democratic Poland, which holds that “[a]nyone whose Polish origin has been confirmed in accordance with statute may settle permanently in Poland.”5 Nor does he call for the abolition of other democratic countries, such as the Ukraine, which “promotes the consolidation and development of the Ukrainian nation, of its historical consciousness, traditions and culture” and “provides for the satisfaction of national and cultural and linguistic needs of Ukrainians residing beyond the borders of the State”.6 Clearly Chomsky’s abhorrence of the modern nation-state is less than universal.
Equally offensive, in his eyes, is the relation between Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. The Jewish state, he maintains, cannot be Jewish in the sense that France is French, for whereas a citizen of the Jewish state is not necessarily Jewish, a citizen of France is automatically French.7 The appropriate analogy, in his view, is “a White State with Black citizens” or “a Christian state with Jewish citizens”. He compares the notion that Israel is a Jewish state, “a democracy dominated by Jews”, to the idea that “England is a Christian state, a democracy dominated by Christians.”8 As every high school student knows, there is no state called England; but there is a country called Britain, which is in fact a Christian state, with an official Anglican Church, an Anglican head of state, an Anglican state education system, etc. Does Chomsky oppose the existence of Britain, an Anglican state with non-Anglican citizens? Does he oppose the existence of Ireland, a Catholic state with non-Catholic citizens; or Greece, a Greek Orthodox state with non-Orthodox citizens? For Chomsky, the list of discriminatory states is rather long, incorporating not only the countries just mentioned but also every Arab society, although it does not include his preferred communist tyrannies in Vietnam, which expelled its Chinese population, drowning as many as 250,000 boat people, or in Cambodia, where ethnic minorities were savagely decimated by the Khmer Rouge.9
How would Chomsky replace the Jewish state which he is so anxious to abolish? His proposed alternative is “socialist binationalism”.10 But Chomsky’s ideal is far more objectionable than a Jewish state with non-Jewish citizens: in his scheme there will be Jewish cantons with Arab inhabitants, and Arab cantons with no Jewish inhabitants. At one point Chomsky does stipulate that any individual “will be free to live where he wants”.11 But then he abandons this principle in favor of the binational state which he considers “the most desirable”, one in which “Palestinian Arabs who wish to return to their former homes within the Jewish-dominated region would have to abandon their hopes,” while “Jews who wish to settle in the Arab-dominated region would be unable to do so.”12 In other words, Arabs will not become a majority in Jewish areas, while Jews will be forbidden even to live as a minority in Arab areas. The founders of apartheid would surely applaud.
The details of Chomsky’s plans are even more disturbing. His binational socialist state will be “integrated into a broader federation” and modeled on the “successful social revolution” in communist Yugoslavia, where 70,000-100,000 people were massacred.13 It is in fact a “people’s democracy” of the familiar type, which will have to be “integrated” into the Arab world by force, given that “support for compromising Israeli independence is virtually non-existent in Israel.”14 The human costs of such a transformation can only be imagined. Perhaps this explains why Chomsky sponsored the leader of the Marxist-Leninist Matzpen party, who openly advocated terrorist atrocities against his fellow Israelis while promising that unless they were “split from Zionism”, they would suffer “another Holocaust”, because “the Arab revolution is going to win.”15
In his later writings, the absurdity of “socialist binationalism” became apparent even to him, and he altered his position. Demanding the creation of an independent Palestine, Chomsky now uses the term “rejectionism” in two senses: in one sense it refers to Arab calls for the destruction of Israel; in the other sense, it includes Israeli policies which “deny the right of self-determination to Palestinian Arabs”, that is, the right of the PLO to establish an irredentist dictatorship in the West Bank and Gaza.16 Thus Chomsky equates the PLO’s goal of destroying an existing state, a free society with Jewish and Arab citizens, with Israel’s reluctance to establish a new state, a nationalist dictatorship intended solely for Arabs. Such is the political morality which he recommends to his readers in the name of “peace” and “justice”.
Arab “Moderation”, Israeli “Rejectionism”
Chomsky’s bigoted views on the future of Israel are matched by his apologetics for Israel’s enemies. In his opinion, “the PLO has the same sort of legitimacy that the Zionist movement had in the pre-state period,”17 an insight which would be valid only if the pre-state Zionist movement had been founded with the goal of destroying a country and murdering its population. Furthermore, there is an “international consensus” including “the major Arab states, the population of the occupied territories, and the mainstream of the PLO” in support of a “two-state political settlement”, and this position is rejected only by America and Israel.18 This “consensus” view holds that Israel must make “peace” on the aggressors’ terms, creating a hostile PLO dictatorship in the West Bank and Gaza while triggering civil war by admitting millions of exiles under the PLO’s “Right of Return”, and allowing the military forces of the entire Arab world within striking distance of its major cities.19 It is not very surprising that Chomsky is so anxious to vindicate this position.
In fact, even these demands are purely tactical, as Chomsky is well aware but neglects to inform his readers. He pretends to believe in Nasser’s public overtures, a sign that “[Arab] rejectionism began to erode” after 1967. But Nasser was planning “a far-reaching operation” against Israel. Conscious of the need to “hide our preparations under political activity”, he instructed his generals: “You don’t need to pay any attention to anything I may say in public about a peaceful solution.”20 Equally misleading is Chomsky’s view of Anwar Sadat, who “moved at once” to implement “peace with Israel” in 1971.21 Sadat’s true position concerning “total Israeli withdrawal” was stated by his adviser Mohammed Heykal, editor of the official newspaper of the Egyptian regime: “If you could succeed in bringing it about, you would have passed sentence on the entire state of Israel.”22
Chomsky also suppresses the fact that in 1974 the PLO formulated its infamous “Phased Plan”, seeking through “armed struggle” to create a “fighting national authority” in part of the country before achieving “a union of the confrontation states” with the aim of “completing the liberation” of the rest of Palestine by destroying Israel.23 Instead he assures his readers that the Arab regimes and the PLO made “an important effort to bring about a peaceful two-state settlement”. As evidence of this effort, he adduces the draft UN Security Council resolution of January 1976, without explaining that the text of the resolution included an endorsement of the PLO’s “Right of Return” for millions of Palestinian exiles, which entails the dissolution of Israel.24
Chomsky’s counterfactual history of peace proposals continues in this vein. After Israel surrendered the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1979, PLO leader Yasser Arafat declared that “when the Arabs set off their volcano there will be only Arabs in this part of the world,” pledging “to fuel the torch of the revolution with rivers of blood until the whole of the occupied homeland is liberated; the whole of the homeland is liberated, not just a part of it.”25 One year later, Arafat made the following announcement: “Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations.”26 Shortly afterwards, Arafat’s Fatah, supposedly the most moderate faction of the PLO, reiterated its founding commitment to “the complete liberation of Palestine” and “the liquidation of the Zionist entity economically, militarily, politically, culturally and intellectually”.27 Chomsky, however, finds it “quite clear” that the PLO “has been far more forthcoming than either Israel or the US with regard to an accommodationist settlement”, a conclusion which would have embarrassed the editors of Pravda.28
While Chomsky offers every possible excuse for Arab extremism, he applies very different standards to Israel. In his version of reality, one of the “constant themes” of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, was conquest of the whole region, “including southern Lebanon, southern Syria, today’s Jordan, all of cis-Jordan [Palestine], and the Sinai”, thus establishing Zionist hegemony “from the Nile to Iraq”.29 He adds that a “plausible long-term goal” of Israeli policy might be “a return to something like the system of the Ottoman empire”. He also believes that Israeli missiles are designed to “put US planners on notice” that pursuit of peace efforts “may lead to a violent reaction” intended to cause a confrontation between the superpowers, “with a high probability of global nuclear war”. All of these possibilities are part and parcel of Israel’s “Samson complex”, the final degeneration of an “Israeli Sparta” which has become the world’s “fourth greatest military power”, menacing the Saudi oil fields and even the USSR, and creating the danger of “a final solution from which few will escape”.30 Thankfully, the sage of MIT is at hand to expose the Jewish state’s nefarious plans for the destruction of the human race.
Lebanon: Heroes and Criminals
Perhaps the best view of Chomsky’s ideas on the Middle East can be gained from his coverage of the war in Lebanon. Here, again, the heroes are the terrorists of the PLO, while the criminals are the leaders of Israel. Thus Chomsky assigns “unique credibility” to an Arab journalist who discovered “relative peace” in PLO-controlled areas of Lebanon; his source was writing in the midst of the Israeli invasion,31 when PLO terrorists could no longer perpetrate acts of slaughter such as this:
The PLO men killed Susan’s father and her brother, and raped her mother, who suffered a haemorrhage and died. They raped Susan “many times”. They cut off her breasts and shot her. Hours later she was found alive, but with all four of her limbs so badly broken and torn with gunshot that they had to be surgically amputated. She now has only the upper part of one arm.
After Israel evicted the PLO from Beirut in 1982, “some Christian women conceived the idea of having Susan’s picture on a Lebanese stamp, because, they said, her fate symbolizes what has happened to their country – ‘rape and dismemberment by the PLO’,” but they were dissuaded.32 We can also learn of a pregnant mother of eleven children who was murdered “just for the fun of it” along with her baby; small children mutilated and killed when terrorists threw a grenade at them; a man whose limbs were chained to four vehicles which were then driven in opposite directions, tearing him to pieces; a newspaper editor found with his fingers cut off joint by joint, his eyes gouged out and his limbs hacked off; a local religious leader whose family was forced to watch as his daughter was raped and murdered, with her breasts torn away; a dead girl with both hands severed and part of her head missing; men who were castrated during torture sessions; men and women chopped to pieces with axes; and various other manifestations of “relative peace” under the benevolent rule of the PLO.33
Chomsky’s delusions about the PLO were not shared by its victims. The American Lebanese League stated that the country had been “occupied by PLO terrorists” who “committed an orgy of atrocities and desecration against women and children, churches and gravesites... From 1975 through 1981 the toll among civilians was 100,000 killed, 250,000 wounded, countless thousands made homeless,” with 32,000 orphans and the capital city “held hostage by PLO criminals”.34 Many years later, the World Lebanese Organization, the World Maronite Union, and multiple human rights groups concerned with the Middle East issued a public declaration accusing the PLO of genocide in Lebanon and addressing Yasser Arafat in the following terms: “You are responsible for the killing of 100,000 Lebanese civilians... The United States government should have asked you to appear at the Hague for the crimes you perpetrated in Lebanon...”35 But while the victims search for ways to commemorate the “rape and dismemberment” of their country by the PLO, Chomsky ponders a slightly different question: whether “the PLO will be able to maintain the image of heroism with which it left Beirut.”36
For Chomsky it is perfectly obvious that the PLO evacuated Beirut for humanitarian purposes, “to save the city from total destruction” at the hands of the criminal Israelis.37 Meanwhile, journalist David Shipler reported PLO tactics whereby “crates of ammunition were stacked in underground shelters and antiaircraft guns were emplaced in schoolyards, among apartment houses, next to churches and hospitals.”38 Israel’s conduct was somewhat less to his liking: Chomsky writes that in a comparable case, “few would have hesitated to recall the Nazi monsters.”39 But military historian Richard Gabriel observes that “concern for civilian casualties marked almost all IDF operations throughout the war.”40 After witnessing the combat first-hand, Trevor Dupuy and Paul Martell conclude: “As military historians we can think of no war in which greater military advantages were gained in combat in densely populated areas at such a small cost in civilian lives lost.”41 For Chomsky, however, while Israel “cannot be compared to Nazi Germany”, there are nevertheless “points of similarity, to which those who draw the analogies want to draw attention”.42 Not to be deterred by the absence of gas chambers and crematoria, he discloses the existence of Israeli “concentration camps”,43 and, for good measure, he refers to “the genocidal texts of the Bible”.44
He is equally dishonest about the human cost of the war. Whereas the Lebanese police tabulated 19,085 dead, with a combatant/civilian ratio of 57%/43%, Chomsky edits the sources to suggest that nearly all of the dead were civilians.45 Discussing the Phalangist massacre of hundreds of people in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, he refers to “high-level planning and complicity” by the Israelis.46 The Kahan Commission, by contrast, found that Israeli commanders warned the Phalangists “not to harm the civilian population”.47 A New York libel trial judged as “false and defamatory” the claim that Ariel Sharon had intended the deaths of civilians.48 Robert Hatem, security chief to the Phalangist commander Elie Hobeika, published a book maintaining that “Sharon had given strict orders to Hobeika... to guard against any desperate move,” and that Hobeika committed the massacre “to tarnish Israel’s reputation worldwide” for the benefit of Syria.49 Hobeika subsequently joined the Syrian occupation government and lived under Syrian protection; further massacres in Sabra and Shatila occurred under the Syrian aegis in 1985, initiating the slaughter of 3,781 people by Syrian-backed Amal terrorists and their PLO opponents, a bloodbath which evoked no reaction from Chomsky.50
The World’s Leading Terrorist Commanders
In recent years, Chomsky has surveyed the field of terrorism, where he discovers, yet again, that Israel is a paragon of criminality. Central to his argument is the deliberate misquotation of sources. Thus he explains that the “military doctrine of attacking defenseless civilians derives from David Ben-Gurion,” who is supposed to have confided in his diary: “If we know the family – strike mercilessly, women and children included. Otherwise the reaction is inefficient. At the place of action there is no need to distinguish between guilty and innocent.”51 This is a interesting example of Chomsky’s technique: the alleged quotation is not from Ben-Gurion, but an adviser, Gad Machnes. And the latter’s comments were the opposite of Chomsky’s version: “These matters necessitate the utmost precision – in terms of time, place, and whom and what to hit...only a direct blow and no touching of innocent people!”52 Meanwhile, Ben-Gurion’s own views were clear and explicit: “There is no other way than by sharp, aggressive reprisal, without harming women and children, to prevent Jews from being murdered...”53
Another example of Chomsky’s method can be found on the very same page. Here we are given a selective quotation of Labor Party diplomat Abba Eban, who wrote that as a result of Israel’s reprisal policy, “there was a rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that affected populations would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities.” Chomsky reproduces the statement under the headline: “The Rational Basis for Attacking the Civilian Population”.54 Readers are informed that Eban “does not contest” the allegations he is discussing, namely the picture “of an Israel wantonly inflicting every possible measure of death and anguish on civilian populations...” Eban, of course, does contest these allegations, as is readily apparent from his insistence, elsewhere in his article, that Israeli leaders “were no senseless hooligans when they ordered artillery response to terrorist concentrations”.55
In addition to mutilating quotations which his readers are unable to verify, Chomsky makes his case by inflating or exaggerating each and every Israeli action involving civilian casualties. Reviewing the 1948 war, he tells us that Menachem Begin “took pride” in the infamous Irgun attack on Deir Yassin. In fact Begin, having ordered his followers to give advance warning to civilians and “to keep casualties to a minimum”, denied that a massacre had taken place.56 Elsewhere Chomsky refers to “the massacre of 250 civilians” at Lydda and Ramle, an allegation promoted by left-wing “revisionist” historians and long since discredited.57 He also discusses “the massacre of hundreds of others at the undefended village of Doueimah”, citing a possible death toll of 1,000, when even Arab officials had dismissed this claim as “exaggerated” at the time, recording 27 killings, apparently carried out in revenge for atrocities against Jews.58 But while distorting the facts of Jewish excesses, Chomsky has nothing to say about Arab violence and massacres which killed 2,000 Jewish civilians, let alone the fate of nearly 600 Jewish captives who were “slaughtered amid scenes of gang rape and sodomy...dismembered, decapitated, mutilated and then photographed”.59 These horrors are conveniently absent from his chronicles of “Middle East terrorism”.
Chomsky has other revelations in store, including a “recently-discovered Israeli intelligence report” which “concludes that of the 391,000 Arab refugees [in 1948]...at least 70% fled as a result of Jewish military operations.”60 Turning to the scholarly literature, we learn that far from being an “intelligence report”, this document was an unclassified “review” by anonymous authors found in the private papers of Aharon Cohen, who was “convicted of treason in 1960 for illegal contacts with Soviet agents” – surely “the last place to look for official IDF documents”, as historian Shabtai Teveth observes.61 No doubt the flight of Arab civilians during a war initiated by their own side with the intention of destroying the Jewish population was a major tragedy; equally tragic was the Arab ethnic cleansing of 800,000 Middle Eastern Jews once the hostilities were over, a crime which elicits no great concern in Chomsky’s writings.62
Other examples of Israeli “terrorism” include “the expulsion by bombing” of “a million and a half civilians from the Suez Canal” during the War of Attrition in 1967-70. In academic studies, however, we find that Egypt launched a massive artillery attack on Israeli forces, which “returned fire, targeting Egyptian artillery, the Suez refineries, and oil storage tanks”, whereupon “Nasser continued to evacuate the canal cities,” so that “by mid-September the town of Suez had only 60,000 of its original 260,000 citizens, and Ismailiya 5,000 of 173,000.”63 In other words, Israel was not perpetrating “the expulsion by bombing” of vast numbers of civilians but reacting to Egyptian attack, and it was not Israel but Egypt which removed the population from the war zone.
Another Chomsky tactic involves alluding to selected PLO atrocities against Israeli civilians, which he sanitizes as far as possible, and then equating them with Israeli operations against terrorists, which he depicts as premeditated attacks on civilians. In May 1974, PLO terrorists attacked Ma’alot, murdering 22 children before perishing in the Israeli rescue attempt.64 Chomsky’s version of the massacre is that “members of a paramilitary youth group were killed in an exchange of fire.”65 To this atrocity he counterposes the allegation that Israel was then engaged in “‘napalm bombing of Palestinian refugee camps in southern Lebanon,’ with over 200 killed”. His source is Edward Said, a former member of the PLO’s ruling council. Not to be outdone, Chomsky reveals that Israel was involved in “large-scale scorched earth operations”, with “probably thousands killed”, although “no accurate figures are available,” perhaps because his source for this claim appears to be an article by a far-left journalist in a short-lived fringe publication which cites unverified estimates by anonymous “observers”.66 These examples are matched by Chomsky’s assertion that over 200 people were killed by Israeli bombing of Sabra and Shatila in June 1982, based on an “eyewitness account” by an anti-Zionist propagandist in the PLO-sponsored Journal of Palestine Studies.67
Many of Chomsky’s judgments border on the surreal. In June 1976, PLO terrorists hijacked an Air France plane and diverted it to Idi Amin’s Uganda, where the passengers were to be held hostage. A week later, Israeli commandos rescued the victims in the famous raid on Entebbe. Reacting to public admiration for this blow against international terrorism, Chomsky lamented “the outpouring of hatred and contempt for popular movements of the Third World”. He felt that Israel’s rescue mission should be compared with “other military exploits, no less dramatic, that did not arouse such awed admiration in the American press”, notably the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For Chomsky, the liberation of innocent hostages ranks with the fascist aggression which drew the United States into World War II.68
Extending his catalogue of Israeli “terrorism”, Chomsky describes an Israeli bombing raid against Baalbek in Lebanon in January 1984, “killing about 100 people, mostly civilians, with 400 wounded, including 150 children in a bombed-out schoolhouse”. He then ponders the likely reaction “if the PLO or Syria were to carry out a ‘surgical strike’ against ‘terrorist installations’ near Tel Aviv, killing 100 civilians and wounding 400 others, including 150 children in a bombed-out schoolhouse along with other civilian victims.”69 But his own sources report that the target area was “the headquarters of the militant Shi`ite Moslem group known as Islamic Amal. About 350 Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been operating there as well, reportedly helping to train Lebanese and foreign volunteers in terrorist tactics, especially the use of bombs.” The Lebanese government, plainly a most impartial and reliable observer, claimed 100 dead in total – not 100 civilian dead, as Chomsky pretends – and 400 wounded, while a media correction the following day noted that “the figures were not independently confirmed” and that “the ‘civilian’ identification of the casualties was an assertion, not an agreed fact.”70 The Shi`ite militias had recently killed 241 American peacekeepers and 58 French soldiers, along with 29 Israeli soldiers and 32 Arab prisoners, another fact which he chooses not to mention.
Chomsky also describes an incident in which “Israel hijacked a ferryboat operating between Cyprus and Lebanon,” suppressing media reports that “the ferry was captured after intelligence information indicated several key Palestinian guerrillas were aboard” and that “there were indications the men were planning attacks on Israel,” facts which might be of interest to those who think that countries have the right to intercept vessels believed to be carrying terrorists preparing to slaughter innocent civilians in their territory.71 Having lambasted the Israeli interception of suspected terrorists who were promptly released unharmed when found to be innocent, Chomsky proceeds to compare the PLO massacre of schoolchildren at Ma’alot with Israeli bombardment of a Lebanese island near Tripoli, where casualties included “children at a Sunni boy scout camp” in his words, actually members of al-Tawhid, an Islamic fundamentalist terror faction then allied to the PLO.72
Chomsky also reports that in April 1985, “several Palestinians were kidnapped from civilian boats operating between Lebanon and Cyprus and sent to secret destinations in Israel,” a discovery which stems from his careful reading of News From Within, a Marxist-Leninist publication in Jerusalem.73 He complains that “Israel’s hijacking of a Libyan civilian jet on February 4, 1986 was accepted with equanimity, criticized, if at all, as an error based on faulty intelligence” – not surprisingly, one might add, when we learn that the aircraft was an executive jet carrying official passengers after a major international terrorist conference attended by PLO commanders such as George Habash, Ahmed Jibril, Nayef Hawatmeh and Abu Musa, and that the interception was based on intelligence information that the haul might include Abu Nidal; as it happened, none of the wanted fugitives were aboard, and Israel promptly released the travelers unharmed, permitting the Syrian Ba`ath Party officials to return to Damascus after their visit to a rogue dictatorship during a gathering of international terrorist leaders.74 Perhaps they were there to enjoy the scenery.
By falsifying facts and manipulating sources in his trademark fashion, Chomsky is able to generate his desired conclusion, that the American President and the Israeli Prime Minister – Ronald Reagan and Shimon Peres, respectively – are “two of the world’s leading terrorist commanders”.75 The pretext for this claim is Israel’s bombing of the PLO headquarters in Tunis. If Chomsky’s verdict is accepted then this attack on a prime terrorist target is worse than the slaughter of 100,000 civilians during the years of PLO terror and destruction in Lebanon; worse than the massacre of up to 55,000 inhabitants of Hama by the neo-Nazi rulers of Syria; worse than the murder of 450,000 victims by the Ba’athist criminals in Iraq; worse than the execution of 30,000 opponents by the fundamentalist ayatollahs in Iran; worse than the genocide of 2 million people by theocratic fascists in Sudan.76 These examples of Chomsky’s mendacity can easily be multiplied.
Sources of Chomsky’s Anti-Zionism
As we review this squalid record of apologetics for aggression and neo-Nazi fanaticism, one question springs to mind: Why? What is Chomsky’s motive for pretending that Arab regimes are falling over themselves to make peace, that the PLO is a bastion of moderation, that Israel is driving the Middle East, and perhaps the whole world, towards catastrophe and nuclear war? There are several possible answers. First, Israel is America’s most important ally in one of the world’s vital regions. In Chomsky’s words: “There is an offshore US military base in the Middle East called Israel.”77 If America is the Great Satan, then Israel, by extension, must be the Little Satan. Second, the Jewish state has disappointed Chomsky’s hopes that it would move toward “socialist binationalism” and solidarity on “class lines”.78 Contrary to his advice, Israel has not supported revolutionary movements such as the FLN terrorists who butchered up to 150,000 innocent people after Algerian independence; and he responds to this betrayal with all the fury of a rebellious teenager.79
Another explanation suggests itself. In his first writings on the subject, Chomsky asserted that a key barrier to a “just peace” was “commitment to a Jewish state”, such an aspiration being wholly unacceptable for a people which had suffered genocide in Europe as well as brutal aggression and ethnic cleansing in the Middle East.80 Shortly afterwards, he complained that his “peace” plan, entailing abolition of this Jewish state, had been thwarted by “the commitment of the Israeli government to Jewish dominance throughout the region”.81 He soon came to believe that the Jewish homeland was “a place where racialism, religious discrimination, militarism and injustice prevail”, with non-Jews subject to persecution “all too reminiscent of the pogroms from which our forefathers fled”.82 As we have seen, his work on the conflict is littered with analogies between Israel and Nazi Germany, culminating in references to “Israeli concentration camps” and “the genocidal texts of the Bible”, along with dark warnings of a Zionist “final solution” which will eventuate in the total destruction of the human race.
These sentiments recall Chomsky’s involvement in the Faurisson scandal, specifically, his decision to sign a public statement in support of the French Holocaust denier. Written by a prominent neo-Nazi, the petition depicted Faurisson as a “respected professor” of “document criticism” who had carried out “extensive historical research into the ‘Holocaust’ question”. It claimed that after making his “findings” public, the poor man had been subject to “a vicious campaign of harassment, intimidation, slander and physical violence in a crude attempt to silence him”, necessitating a defense of his “freedom of speech and expression”.83 On the pretext of defending civil liberties, Chomsky endorsed a statement which (a) affirmed the scholarly credentials of a Holocaust denier (in “document criticism”); (b) dignified his propaganda as “extensive historical research”; (c) placed the term “Holocaust” in derisory quotes; and (d) portrayed his lies as “findings”.84
Stung by criticism of his actions, Chomsky hastened to pronounce the following judgment:
I see no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the holocaust. Nor would there be anti-Semitic implications, per se, in the claim that the holocaust (whether one believes it took place or not) is being exploited, viciously so, by apologists for Israeli repression and violence.85
He proceeded to lavish praise on the deniers: Robert Faurisson was “a relatively apolitical liberal of some sort”, Serge Thion was “a libertarian socialist scholar with a record of opposition to all forms of totalitarianism”, and Pierre Guillaume was “libertarian and antifascist on principle”.86 In Chomsky’s mental universe, defenders of Nazi Germany are infinitely preferable to nefarious “apologists for Israeli repression and violence” who are not convinced that Israel’s overriding objective is the reconstruction of the “system of the Ottoman Empire” in the service of “Jewish dominance” throughout the Middle East.
Nor can we forget the unadulterated bile which Chomsky has seen fit to pour upon his fellow American Jews. Explaining why his Fateful Triangle was virtually ignored in the American Jewish media, he charged that “[t]he Jewish community here is deeply totalitarian. They do not want democracy, they do not want freedom.”87 Elsewhere he felt compelled to mention New York, with its “huge Jewish population, Jewish-run media, a Jewish mayor, and domination of cultural and economic life”.88 After all, he insists, American Jews are now “a substantial part of the dominant privileged elite groups in every part of the society...they’re very influential, particularly in the ideological system, lots of writers, editors, etc. and that has an effect.”89 Horrified by this injustice, America’s leading “dissident” will bravely endeavor to protect the suffering masses from their Jewish oppressors.
In sum, Chomsky’s writings on the Arab-Israeli conflict are a mass of distortions, misrepresentations and plain falsehoods, all of which serve to incriminate the victims and exonerate the aggressors in this ongoing tragedy. Every crime by Israel’s foes is portrayed as a regrettable but understandable lapse, a mere detour from the course of moderation which they pursue with such dedicated benevolence, in the midst of the infinite wickedness of the nation they are fighting to destroy. It is hardly surprising that for the advocate of such a worldview, fellow Jews are hated enemies, and Holocaust deniers cherished allies.
Noam Chomsky, Peace in the Middle East?, Fontana, 1975, [hereafter PME]; Fateful Triangle: United States, Israel and the Palestinians, 1983; rev. ed. Pluto Press, 1999, [hereafter FT]; Pirates and Emperors, Old and New: International Terrorism in the Real World, 1986; rev. ed. Pluto Press, 2002, [hereafter PE]; Middle East Illusions, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003, [hereafter MEI].
PME, p. 37.
Alexander Klein, ed., Dissent, Power and Confrontation, McGraw-Hill, 1971, p. 118; Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, South End Press, 1979, pp. 20-1, 28; Chomsky and Herman, After the Cataclysm, South End Press, 1979, pp. 140, 149, 205.
Noam Chomsky, Bernard Avishai, “An Exchange on the Jewish State”, New York Review of Books, July 17, 1975.
Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, arts. 11, 14; Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, art. 32; Constitution of the Republic of Poland, art. 52.
Constitution of Ukraine, arts. 11, 12. See also Constitution of Albania, art. 8; Constitution of the Republic of Hungary, art. 6; Constitution of Romania, art. 7.
PME, p. 110.
“An Exchange”, supra.
On communist ethnic cleansing of the Chinese in Vietnam, see e.g. Henry Kamm, New York Times, July 22, 1979; for the death toll among the boat people, see San Diego Union, July 20, 1986, citing the United Nations; on Cambodia’s minorities, see Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79, Yale University Press, 1998).
PME, p. 43.
Ibid., p. 39.
Ibid., p. 114.
Ibid., p. 69. For the death toll in communist Yugoslavia, see New York Times, July 9, 1990.
PME, p. 115.
See Carl Gershman, “Matzpen and its Sponsors”, Commentary, August 1970; Arie Bober, Noam Chomsky, Letters, Commentary, October 1970.
FT, pp. 39-40.
Ibid., p. 3. Chomsky repeatedly cites the assessments of Israeli “doves” as proof of Arab moderation, just as Nazi apologists might have illustrated the Fuhrer’s peaceful intentions by invoking the delusions of British appeasers during the 1930s.
See Col. Irving Kett, “Israel’s Territorial Imperatives”, Jerusalem Post International Edition, May 5, 1990, citing the views of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and over 100 US generals; Michael Widlanski, ed., Can Israel Survive a Palestinian State?, Jerusalem: Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, 1990).
FT, p. 64; Michael B. Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Oxford University Press, 2002,pp. 319, 326.
FT, p. 64.
Interview, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, Autumn 1971, p. 7. See Gil Carl AlRoy, “Do the Arabs Want Peace?”, Commentary, February 1974.
Resolution of the 12th Session of the Palestine National Council, Cairo, June 8, 1974.
FT, p. 67; UN Security Council Draft Resolution S/11940, January 26, 1976. Similar considerations apply to the 1982 Fez Plan, based on the 1981 Fahd Plan, which calls for “peaceful coexistence”, according to Chomsky; ibid., p.344. This plan also included a thinly veiled endorsement of the “Right of Return”.
Associated Press, March 12, 1979.
El Mundo, Venezuela, February 11, 1980; quoted in John Laffin, The PLO Connections, Corgi Books, 1982, pp43-4.
Associated Press, June 5, 1980.
FT, p. 41.
Ibid., p. 161; PE, p. 58.
FT, pp. 455, 467-9.
Ibid., pp. 186-7, also citing two left-wing Israeli journalists who made the same points, again writing in the midst of the Israeli invasion, not during the peak years of PLO barbarism and massacre. Worse still, his footnote, p. 316 n. 10, cites a report by David K. Shipler, New York Times, July 25, 1982, as if it supports his claims; in fact Shipler’s article is devoted to accounts of PLO tyranny.
Jillian Becker, The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization,, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1984, p. 154.
Ibid., pp. 143, 153, 159, 268, n. 13; Raphael Israeli, ed., PLO in Lebanon: Selected Documents, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1983, pp. 240, 244-6, 234-53, passim.
American Lebanese League, “The PLO Must Quit Lebanon!”, New York Times, July 14, 1982, advertisement.
World Lebanese Organization et al., “Who is the Oppressor in the Middle East?” Washington Times, October 7, 1996, advertisement.
FT, p. 314.
FT, p. 309.
New York Times, July 25, 1982. For protests by Lebanese civilians against PLO tactics, see Becker, op. cit., pp. 153, 280, n. 10.
FT, p. 217, referring to a hypothetical Syrian conquest of northern Israel.
Richard A. Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee, Hill & Wang, 1984, pp. 86-7.
Trevor N. Dupuy and Paul Martell, Flawed Victory: The Arab-Israeli Conflict and the 1982 War in Lebanon,, Hero Books, 1986, p. 173.
FT, p. 313.
Ibid., pp. 217, 240, 307, 333, 335, 390, 398, 404, 415.
Ibid., p. 444.
FT, p. 221. The Lebanese figures comprise 12,310 killed outside Beirut, with a combatant/civilian ratio of 80%/20%, and 6,775 dead inside Beirut, with a ratio of 16% / 84%; Associated Press, December 1, 1982; Christian Science Monitor, December 21, 1982.
FT, p. 405.
“Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Events at the Refugee Camps in Beirut, The Kahan Commission”, February 8, 1983, published in the Jerusalem Post, February 9, 1983.
New York Times, January 25, 1985.
See the report by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “Elie Hobeika’s Assassination: Covering Up the Secrets of Sabra and Shatilla”, Jerusalem Issue Brief, Vol. 1, No. 17, January 30, 2002.
New York Times, March 10, 1992, citing figures from the Lebanese police, who added that another 144,000 died in the civil war, 1975-90, with 13,968 abducted by Christian and Muslim militias, most presumed dead, in addition to 6,630 killed in “conflicts involving Palestinians” and 857 killed in the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
FT, p. 182; also PE, p. 73.
Protocol of Meeting, January 1-2, 1948, Kibbutz Meuhad Archive, Ramat Efal, Israel, pp. 3-4; reproduced in Efraim Karsh, “Benny Morris and the Reign of Error”, Middle East Quarterly, March 1999. Emphasis added.
Protocol of Mapai Central Committee Meeting, September 16, 1954, David Ben-Gurion Archive, Sde Boker, Israel; reproduced in David Tal, “Israel’s Road to the 1956 War”, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1, February 1996, p. 67. Emphasis added.
FT, p. 182; also PE, p. 73, which further twists Eban’s statement by misconstruing it as a reference to the “savage attack” on Lebanon.
Abba Eban, “Morality and Warfare”, Jerusalem Post, August 16, 1981. Emphasis added.
FT, pp. 95-6; Michael S. Arnold, Jerusalem Post, April 3, 1998. Chomsky writes of 250 dead, but by 1987 historians at Bir Zeit University had reduced the figure to 120, i.e. 13 fighters and 107 civilians; Danny Rubinstein, Ha’aretz, January 28, 1998.
PE, p. 78; Alon Kadish, Avraham Sela and Arnon Golan, Kibush Lod, 1948 [Hebrew: The Conquest of Lydda, 1948], Tel Aviv, 2000). The figure of 250 dead was the number of Arab casualties reported by the local Israeli commander after the suppression of an armed rebellion; Arab rumors initially claimed that 3,000 had been massacred. Israel’s far-left “revisionist historians” have produced some noteworthy atrocity fabrications; see Meyrav Wurmser, “Made-Up Massacre”, The Weekly Standard, September 10, 2001, discussing the Tantura hoax.
PE, pp. 30, 78; Noam Chomsky, Turning the Tide, South End Press, 1985, p. 76; on the casualties, see Yoav Gelber, Palestine 1948, Sussex Academic Press, 2001, p. 209, noting that 80 died in the conquest of the village; on the revenge, see Associated Press, August 24, 1984.
On the Jewish civilians, see Netanel Lorch, The Edge of the Sword: Israel’s War of Independence, 1947-1949, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1961, p. 450; on the captives, Sarah Honig, Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2001.
PE, p. 198, n. 105.
Shabtai Teveth, “The Palestine Arab Refugee Problem and its Origins”, Middle East Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, April 1990, pp. 214-49; quotations are at pp. 216-7.
Ya’acov Meron, “Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries”, Middle East Quarterly, September 1995; Moshe Gat, The Jewish Exodus from Iraq, 1948-1951, Frank Cass, 1997); Malka Hillel Shulewitz, ed., The Forgotten Millions: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands, Continuum, 2001); Itamar Levin and Rachel Neiman, Locked Doors: The Seizure of Jewish Property in Arab Countries, Praeger, 2001).
PE, p. 73; Jonathan Shimshoni, Israel and Conventional Deterrrence: Border Warfare From 1953 to 1970, Cornell University Press, 1988, pp. 137-8.
Becker, op. cit., pp. 186-7.
FT, p. 189; PE, p. 65; Chomsky’s source for the claim of “thousands killed” seems to be the article by far-left writer Judith Coburn quoted in FT, pp. 190-1.
FT, pp. 197, 318, n. 42.
Seven Days, July 1976; reprinted in Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, Autumn 1976.
PE, p. 76.
New York Times, January 5, 6, 1984. See also Boston Globe, January 5, 1984.
PE, p. 64; Boston Globe, July 3, 1984.
PE, p. 65, citing New York Times, June 30, 1984, which naively repeats official Lebanese claims that the casualties were “boy scouts” and seems unaware that al-Tawhid was allied to the PLO, thus giving the erroneous impression that the Israeli and Lebanese versions were in conflict.
PE, pp. 64, 194, n. 71.
Ibid., p.64; New York Times, Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1986.
PE, p. 38.
On Syria, see “The Massacres of Hama: Law Enforcement Requires Accountability”, Syrian Human Rights Committee, London, 2002, reporting 30,000-40,000 massacred and 10,000-15,000 disappeared. On Iraq, Gerard Alexander, “A Lifesaving War”, The Weekly Standard, March 29, 2004. On Iran, Christina Lamb, “Khomeini Fatwa ‘Led to Killing of 30,000 in Iran’”, Sunday Telegraph, UK, February 4, 2001. On Sudan, “Quantifying Genocide in Southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, 1983-1998”, US Committee for Refugees, 1998.
Taimur Khan, “Controversial Linguist Rails at US Policies”, Daily Pennsylvanian, October 4, 2002.
PME, pp. 43, 66-7. He quotes with approval anti-Zionist calls for the replacement of “war between nations” by “war between classes”, p. 78.
Ibid., p. 73. On the FLN massacres, see Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962, Viking Press, 1977, p. 538.
PME, p. 33.
“An Exchange on the Jewish State”, New York Review of Books, July 17, 1975.
“Time to Dissociate From Israel”, Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 1988, advertisement signed by Noam Chomsky et al.
The text of the petition is reproduced in the definitive study of the subject, Werner Cohn, Partners in Hate: Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers, Avukah Press, 1995, pp. 53-4.
The professed goal of defending free speech was a fraud: Faurisson’s right to teach had not been withdrawn, his books had been neither seized nor censored, he had not been denied access to public libraries or archives, and the law suit against him was a private action. See Nadine Fresco, “The Denial of the Dead: On the Faurisson Affair”, Dissent, Fall 1981.
W.D. Rubinstein, “Chomsky and the Neo-Nazis”, Quadrant, October 1981.
Chomsky, “Some Elementary Comments on the Rights of Freedom of Expression”, published as the preface to Robert Faurisson, Memoir en Defense, Paris: La Vieille Taupe, 1980); The Nation, February 28, 1981; Letter, Village Voice, March 18, 1986.
Interview, Shmate: A Journal of Progressive Jewish Thought, Summer 1988.
Lies of Our Times, January 1990.
Interview, “Israel, the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism”, Alternative Radio, October 24, 1986; for a transcript, see Noam Chomsky, Chronicles of Dissent: Interviews With David Barsamian, Common Courage Press, 1992, pp. 89-103.