On Friday, listeners to Democracy Now! heard Prof. Noam Chomsky's speech at Columbia University on
November 20th. It was an event honoring the late Prof. Edward Said whose position on the role and power
of the Israel lobby was distinctly different from that of Chomsky. Chomsky's otherwise excellent speech was
marred, in my opinion, by his refusal to see Israel as anything but a client state of the United States and his
unwillingness to deal with the efforts of past administrations to get Israel to withdraw from all of the territories
it occupied in 1967. Here are the two portions of the speech with which I take issue with him.
Noam Chomsky at Columbia U, Nov. 20, 2003 as heard on Democracy Now!:
Chomsky: ďA couple of weeks ago, there was a European Union poll which aroused some interest here.
The poll asked Europeans who they thought was the greatest threat to world peace. It turned out the United
States was ranked right next to North Korea and Iran. Same percentage. Well, that was felt to be a surprise
but it shouldn't have been a surprise because that's what polls have been showing for a year, over a year,
over growing concern and fear that the United States is out of control under the present leadership and is a
tremendous threat to peace. Actually, the poll, rather the commentary on the polls, focused on something
else, namely the United States, North Korea and Iran, were ranked right below Israel which was ranked as
the greatest threat to peace. My suspicion is that's because the questions in the poll were wrongly asked.
You have to be really careful reading polls. Israel, in itself, is not a threat, much of a threat at all, but US
support for Israel is an enormous threat to world peace, and I presume, that's what people were answering,
however the question was phrased. And if thatís correct, then, major threats to peace in Europe are
perceived as US support for Israel which is the regional super power and US actions elsewhere in the world.
Now, if thatís the right interpretation, then the polls are reflecting an understanding of phenomena that are
real and important and widely understood. ÖÖĒ
There have been many comments about this poll but none, thus far, until that of Prof. Chomsky,
which would suggest that, irrespective of the wording of the question, that the 59% of Europeans
who indicated that Israel is a threat to world peace donít really believe that, and that they only
consider it to be a threat to world peace because of its support by the United States, and moreover,
that Israel is not a threat by itself.
His conclusion is rather astonishing and certainly belied by the poll's numbers which show that more
Europeans apparently see Israel as a threat to world peace than they do the US, by a 59% to 53%
margin. If what Chomsky says had any validity those poll numbers would at least be reversed. As it
is, he offers no evidence to support his conclusion. His statement is also belied by Israelís history
which included the threat of using nuclear weapons during the 1973 war as a means of blackmailing
the US to rush aid in the form of conventional weaponry to confront the Egyptian and Syrian attack
and that Israel remains a major nuclear threat not only to the Middle East..
Chomsky: ďAnother contributing factor to this extremely dangerous amalgam is the US support for Israelís
continued rejection of a long standing international consensus on a political settlement of the Israel-Palestine
issue and its ongoing actions to undermine any possibility that a political settlement can be reached. Always,
crucially, with decisive US support, otherwise those actions are impossible. Now for 30 years now the US
has been, unilaterally, and thatís worth stressing, unilaterally blocking the possibility of a political settlement
and providing the decisive diplomatic, economic and military means that permit the actions that step by step
make any such settlement impossible. That is dramatically true right now. Itís all been consistently
suppressed in the doctrinal system and now, of course, if itís to be even mentioned, eliminated from history
by the usual means, by the convenient doctrine of change of course. Well, this has been decisive for 30 years
and itís going on. We should pay attention to it if we care about the future.Ē
Here, Chomsky repeats what has become one of his standard mantras which is, at best, an
oversimplification of the complicated relationship between the US and Israel which as often as not,
has seen the Israeli lobby (whose role and power Chomsky has made a principle of dismissing) and
the Congress which it holds in thrall on one side and the State Department (until Bill Clinton) on the
other, with the president in between. Beginning with the Secretary of State William Rogers Plan in
1969 under Nixon, every US president has made an effort or come up with a plan, including the
Schultz Plan under Reagan, to get Israel out of the territories it occupied in 1967, not for the benefit
of the Palestinians, the Syrians and until 1978, the Egyptians, but because it was seen by the State
Department has being beneficial for US regional interests.
On every occasion, except one, the lobby was victorious, and that was when Carter pushed through
Camp David, although it required massive bribes to Israel, and secondarily to Egypt, to do it. Israel
did not want to give up the Sinai and neither did itís lobby. PM Begin immediately tested Egypt by
invading Lebanon before the treaty went into effect and Sadat responded by doing nothing which has
been its position regarding the Israel-Palestine issue ever since. In March of 1978, Carter demanded
that Begin withdraw Israelis troops from Lebanon which he reluctantly did, again losing points within
the organized Jewish community., Then, despite Carterís very public demands that he stop, Begin
began actively building settlements in the territories.
Ronald Reagan had a number of humiliations at the hands of Israel but none was more pointed than
what happened when he called on Sharon to let up on his siege of Beirut in 1982. Sharonís response
was to bomb Beirut the very next day at 2:42 and 3:38 in the afternoon which just happened to be
the two resolutions calling for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
There are those, such as Chomsky, who think that all of the statements by the various presidents
calling on Israel to do this or that and which are publicly rebuffed by Israel are simply for show and
to appease the Arab world, but does anyone, without a vested interest in their preciously held
theories to the contrary, seriously believe that one US president after another would willingly accept
to be publicly humiliated by a country that he could, if he had the power to do so, bring to its knees
virtually overnight?. But, due to the ability of ďthe lobbyĒ to buy and intimidate the overwhelming
majority of both houses of Congress, and itís uncontested influence over the media , no president
since Eisenhower has been able to do that.