Monday, May 31, 2010

The Beautiful Killers has a link to this interview with Chomsky by Israeli TV, in the wake of Israel's refusal to let him into the West Bank. (Still called "Israel" in a number of online sites.)

It's reasonably entertaining to watch him fillet the interviewer, who lobs one bit of Israeli propaganda after another at him, only to have him shoot them down. It's also a reminder that Chomsky's a Zionist, a point of which Chomsky's fans can hardly be ignorant since it's a well-known part of his origin story that he was planning to make aliya but became a linguist instead. I suspect that many of Chomsky's fans are as selective and self-deceiving in their knowledge of his positions as, say, many of Barack Obama's fans are of his.

I've seen a flurry of links lately to some articles scoring Chomsky for opposing boycotts and divestment from Israel, yelling He's totally a Zionist, comrades! The word "duh" comes to mind. If there are Chomsky dittoheads who follow Chomsky's opinions and recommendations without question, so much the worse for them. I wouldn't object to being called a Chomsky fan, but I've disagreed with him before, many other people who are basically on the same side have disagreed with him. (One of the pleasures of reading his book-length dialogue with Gilbert Achcar, Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice, is that Achcar doesn't hesitate to disagree with Chomsky on important points, and Chomsky debates him back without rancor or hysteria.) I take Chomsky seriously enough to listen to his arguments, and I agree with him more often than not, but I don't feel any obligation to follow him slavishly, and I don't feel constrained to go along with him on (say) the boycott of Israel.

One writer accused Chomsky of dismissing disagreement with "contempt," which is probably true, but so what? Contempt isn't Guantanamo, it isn't Bagram, it isn't Gaza, it isn't even being sent to bed without your supper. If his contempt is the worst Chomsky's critics have to deal with, they're getting off easy in world-political terms, and if it intimidates them, they are just dittoheads and should be dismissed with contempt.

And the boycott is, I believe, going to be more important than ever in the wake of Israel's latest atrocity, an attack in international waters on the Freedom Flotilla, a peaceful aid mission to Gaza, killing at least ten people (Democracy Now! says at least 15) and injuring more, following up with the shameless lies we've come to expect from the Light of the Nations. (I myself am impressed at the chutzpah involved in Israeli complaints that when the storm troopers swarmed onto the boat, they were attacked with sticks and knives, small-arms fire, or even people "speaking Arabic" -- clear evidence of anti-Semitism, I suppose. Even if they are telling the truth for once [and they've got video], why shouldn't the flotilla defend itself?) I've already sent e-mail to the President and my Congressman -- phone calls and snail mail are not really feasible from East Asia -- and I urge everyone to do the same sort of thing. Pressuring the Obama administration and the US Congress to put real pressure on Israel is probably a lost cause, but writing and calling are one place to start. Support the boycott -- Elvis Costello just canceled a concert in Israel in solidarity with it -- or not, if you disagree. But think about what is going on, and do what you think right.