More On The Treachery Of Noam Chomsky

More On The Treachery Of Noam Chomsky

February 23, 2006

By Benjamin Merhav,

This article deals with an article by one of Noam Chomsky’s cronies, Norman Finkelstein, but in every other way it is the continuation of the treachery of Noam Chomsky himself. Norman Finkelstein, like his mentor, is a zionist in disguise. This feature of Norman Finkelstein is more conspicuous, of course, because unlike his mentor’s cover-up protection by dishonest pretences as “guru of the Left”, he has never been considered such a guru.

Like the game of a shrewd peddler, who tries hard to gain his customers’ trust by a display of false honesty, Noam Chomsky was able – with the help of zionist “criticism” – to gain the trust of people on the Left. Norman Finkelstein, on the other hand, has not done the self promotion propaganda work to the extent that Chomsky has done, therefore his zionist disguise is far more obvious. He has credited himself with exposing the zionist holocaust industry, yet he never exposed the collaboaration of the zionist hierarchy in the mass murder of Europe’s non-zionist Jews during the 2nd ww. He purports to support the Palestinian cause yet, like his mentor, he never condemned the zionist apartheid regime of Israel, never supported the right to return of the Palestinian refugees, never supported a democratic non-racist Palestinian state all over historic Palestine. Which brings us to a very interesting article titled, Finkelstein’s Boycott: A Meta-Narrative on the Ills of ‘Liberal-Zionism’, by Mohammed Abed, published on the 12th of February, 2006.

Analysing Norman Finkelstein’s article in the Norwegian paper, Aftenposten of the 14th January,2006, Mohammed Abed arrives at the conclusion that the article is no more than the expression of ‘Liberal Zionism’, which is in opposition to the inalienable rights of the Arab people of Palestine. Here is the relevant part of Abed’s article:

“Norman Finkelstein’s recent article on the ‘economic’ boycott of Israel (‘Why an Economic Boycott of Israel is Justified,’ Aftenposten 01.14.2006) appears to take a principled moral stand against injustice in Palestine. Finkelstein’s views are couched in the language and methodology of ‘objective’ scholarship, even if ‘editorial’ is a more appropriate description of the article’s surface form. Consistent with the basic principles of ‘semantic sleight of hand,’ the article contains more than its fair share of true statements, most of them established by constant references to independent reports produced by International and Israeli human rights organizations, United Nations Resolutions, and various international treaties and conventions to which the state of Israel is a signatory.

This ‘scholarly’ edifice creates and sustains a semantic fugue that deflects the reader’s attention away from the highly controversial – if not downright false – claims that Finkelstein smuggles into the article. The author offers no arguments for these claims, and yet they contain the seed of what is, in essence, the ‘liberal-Zionist’ narrative about resolution of the conflict in historical Palestine.

Of course the reality about ‘liberal-Zionism’ is that it’s a contradiction in terms; Zionism is an exclusionary national movement that prevents the return of the Palestinian Refugees and exiles to their homeland on the basis that their presence would ‘upset’ Israel’s Judeo-centric ‘demographic’ balance, whereas there’s nothing in liberal political theory that would justify the state placing limitations on where an individual can live on the basis of nothing more than their ethnic origin.

Just as the apparatus of ‘scholarly’ discourse can be used to legitimize claims that are morally indefensible, ‘moderate’ Zionists can use the language of liberal-democracy and human rights to conceal a deep ideological affinity with oppressive institutions and an unwillingness to recognize that it’s in everybody’s long-term interests that those institutions be dismantled.”

There is only one mistake in Abed’s article, and it is his definition of Zionism : “Zionism is an exclusionary national movement”. Zionism is exclusionary alright, but it is not and never has been a “national movement” , simply because there is no “Jewish nation” in reality. Even anti-zionists who do not see zionism as a form of fascism – as I do – do not endorse the definition of zionism as a “national movement”. Other than that, Abed’s article is excellent ! Here is how Mohammed Abed goes on to expose the dishonesty of Norman Finkelstein:

“Finkelstein tells us that ‘the basic terms for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict are embodied in U.N. resolution 242 and subsequent U.N. resolutions, which call for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these areas in exchange for recognition of Israel’s right to live in peace and security with its neighbors.’ The first thing to notice about this claim is its placement in the text. Rather than supporting it with an argument that takes account of all the relevant facts and applies principles the author professes to endorse in an impartial manner, the claim is strategically placed at the conclusion of four long paragraphs that express, in stock scholarly terms, Finkelstein’s disapproving attitude towards Israel’s policies of wanton killing of Palestinian civilians, torture, house demolition, and the ‘apartheid nature’ of its regime in the West Bank and Gaza. Since the fourth paragraph contains perhaps the best example of semantic sleight of hand in the entire article, I consider it in more detail below, but for the moment, we can note that nothing in the paragraphs preceding the sentence quoted above provides any support for the idea that ‘embodied’ in U.N. Resolution 242 are ‘the basic terms for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict,’ and yet the placement of this claim makes it seem as if the two-state program is the logical outcome of accepting a body of facts about judiciously selected aspects of Israel’s human rights record, even though in reality, there is no more than a tenuous connection between the two. The two-state program does not naturally follow from the facts Finkelstein has chosen to highlight, appearances to the contrary, so we might wonder about the set of criteria he’s using to determine what counts as an appropriate selection. If we knew this, we would have a basis for explaining why violations that seem to be relevant from a ‘human rights’ perspective are omitted.

The first point to note in this regard is that on reading Finkelstein’s essay, one could be forgiven for thinking that Palestinians residing outside the West Bank and Gaza are not intimately invested in and directly affected by the outcome of the conflict in their homeland. Nothing is said about these invisible persons, even though it’s an uncontroversial fact that displacement and exile are insufferable harms that can only be remedied by facilitating their return to Palestine. Unlike ‘liberal’ and ‘Zionist,’ there’s no contradiction in supporting the right of return and also thinking that the principles of reparative justice should provide the normative basis for an international political culture, unless we believe the bizarre claim that ‘right of return’ is synonymous with ‘throwing the Jews into the sea,’ which presumably no reasonable person does. There are also no demographic, territorial, or economic impediments to materializing the return of the refugees, as scholars like Salman Abu-Sitta, Nasser Abufarha and others keep pointing out again and again. Given all this, what justification does Finkelstein have for ignoring the suffering and needs of the majority of Palestinians in the world? Their systematic expulsion from their homeland in 1948 is the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so facts about the refugees and their plight seem doubly relevant to a discussion of what program of resolution is best, on the principle that in order to resolve a conflict – as opposed to ‘managing’ or ‘containing’ it (doublespeak for ‘accepting the status quo’) – you must address its causes rather than blunting some of its effects.”

Mohammed Abed then goes on to expose the hypocricy and dishonesty of both Finkelstein and his mentor Chomsky, who purport to support the Palestinian cause but in reality they defend the zionist aprtheid regime of Israel. Here is Abed again :

“Finkelstein does have a justification for ignoring these facts, although it’s not a very good one, and it’s certainly at odds with his statements in support of a just resolution in Palestine. Liberal coat of paint or not, it’s a basic plank of Zionist politics to ignore aspects of the Palestinian cause that problematize the idea that Israel, conceived of as a state that privileges Jews, is an accomplished fact that cannot be challenged, even if morality requires it. It would make a mockery of the right of self-determination if the Palestinian refugees returned to live under a state that by definition excludes them.

A morally adequate program of reparations would therefore include the idea that Israel should be replaced by a political system that impartially guarantees both the individual rights of its citizens and the national equality of Israeli-Jews and Palestinian Arabs in the entire territory of historical Palestine. But an arrangement of this sort is anathema to the Zionist project, and this fact explains why Finkelstein wants to rely so heavily on resolution 242 as the framework for resolving the conflict. 242 and the ‘land for peace’ formula leaves Israel’s ethno-centric character untouched and legitimizes what in other circumstances would be forcefully condemned. One wonders how people concerned with human rights would have reacted if the United Nations called for the territorial partition of South Africa along ethnic lines so that the apartheid regime could live in ‘peace and security’ with its neighbors. It’s difficult to think of a good reason to accept a discourse that relies so heavily on the arbitrary whims of the institution that in 1947 gave ‘official’ sanction to the idea that ‘peace’ is synonymous with ethnic separation. After all, this idea initiated the processes that eventually led Israeli forces to cleanse 800,000 Palestinians from the areas that became the state of Israel. But even if we suppose, for the sake of argument, that the United Nations is a legitimate trans-national institution and that majority opinion has anything to do with truth, we could still be forgiven for wondering why Finkelstein would be so adamant about defining the basic parameters of resolution solely in terms of 242 rather than 194 (refugee return) or any of the other resolutions on the books. It’s clear from his article that he has faith in multi-lateral institutions, so what could explain this omission?

One possibility is that like his mentor Noam Chomsky, Finkelstein thinks that being ‘realistic’ or ‘practical’ about the conflict entails paying nothing more than mere lip service to the rights of the refugees. For Chomsky, ‘prudence’ also issues in a steadfast refusal to be involved in building a movement that transcends the shortcomings of the two-state framework, even in the face of stark evidence that – morality aside – the policies Israel is currently pursuing ‘will abort any possibility of a viable Palestinian state,’ to use Finkelstein’s words. Chomsky’s version of the ‘argument from prudence’ takes note of the ‘international support’ that exists for the two-state program but fails to mention consistent international support for the return of the refugees, at least if annual re-affirmations of 194 in the U.N. General Assembly is any indicator of the ‘majority opinion’ that Finkelstein and Chomsky put so much stock in. The best explanation of this selective deference is the exceptionalism that, as Noah Cohen and others have explained so clearly, propels Chomsky to resist the implementation of basic human rights in Palestine on the grounds that Israel’s ‘historical vulnerability’ makes it unique amongst colonial nations that commit massive atrocities against the indigenous peoples they conquer. As a result, the logic goes, Israel ought to be held to a different set of standards. Perhaps the translation of ‘international support’ is ‘deference to the opinions emanating from the corrupt centers of power [U.S. administration, Israeli government, Palestinian Authority, the amorphous ‘Europeans’]. After all, the governments and institutions that Chomsky derides with such vehemence in his discussions of other issues don’t support the implementation of the right of return, so there’s no danger that their policies will challenge Israel’s status as an apartheid state.

Again, a pertinent question to ask is whether Chomsky’s ‘pragmatist’ bent would have led him to get firmly behind the ‘general will’ if the international community had decided to ‘come to terms’ with the apartheid regime in South Africa, perhaps by accepting that ‘water and oil don’t mix,’ hence the Blacks must be shoved into an ethnic ghetto that would nevertheless remain under the military domination of the apartheid regime.

And what would he have said under the condition that the ‘general will’ was interpreted as being nothing more than the attitude of resistance the United States and other powerful nations displayed towards the prospect of comprehensive decolonization in South Africa? The ‘record’ shows that whereas Chomsky supported a boycott of the regime in South Africa, he refuses to back a similar boycott of Israel, even though both are apartheid states distinguished only by Israel’s relative lack of dependence on indigenous labor, a historical means to creating lebensraum completely untainted by the original inhabitants of the land. In an attempt to make sense out of this inconsistency, Chomsky will often retreat to the even more dubious claim that, since Israeli society will never accept to have even more Arabs live amongst them, the international community should stick to the ‘water and oil don’t mix’ formula that has repeatedly failed to yield peace, despite its ad nauseam application since the partition plan of 1947. Similarly, at one time white South African society would have rejected a life of equality with Blacks, but perhaps one can surmise that in this case, Chomsky would not have so forcefully objected to the idea that the preferences of a racist community are irrelevant to determining what kind of political arrangement international civil society should work towards, or what methods it should use to achieve this end. It seems that in all cases of injustice and resulting conflict, what matters are broad principles and the facts relevant to the application of those principles, of which facts about the whims of an oppressor society are not. (Emphasis added)”

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More On The Treachery Of Noam Chomsky

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