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Noam Chomsky: Profile

By Stand4Facts.org
 


Overview

You will face real star power when Noam Chomsky comes to your campus. He is one of the most famous intellectuals in America and his lectures draw packed, worshipful audiences. Now a professor at MIT, Chomsky made his mark as a brilliant innovator in his field, Linguistics. Though his theories have since been challenged, his reputation for brilliance has not. He carried it with him to his second and more prominent career as a relentless neo-Marxist critic of America-and of Israel. His admirers call him “the most prominent intellectual dissident in the Western world.”[1]

But Chomsky also has vehement critics who see him as part of the far left fringe of the American political spectrum, and even the intellectual elites “consigned him to oblivion” for a time during the late 1980’s and 1990’s.[2] The war in Iraq has catapulted him back into the spotlight. Chomsky’s political views do not seemed to have changed much since the 1960’s, unlike many others who also joined the New Left anti-Viet Nam War movement. When you hear him, you enter a simplistic, inverse moral universe. The US is always the bad guy, the Nazi-like nation in today’s world. All anti-Americans, whether they are dictators or guerilla movements, are the good guys as long as they resist American power and influence.

Chomsky reserves special animus for Israel. Ironically, he is Jewish and briefly lived on a kibbutz before the 1967 War, but that did not soften his anti-Israel stance. Nor has it kept him from taking positions on aspects of Jewish life and history that are difficult to separate from anti-Semitism, such as the preface he wrote for a book by French Holocaust denier, Robert Faurisson. [3]

With his patient and even paternal speaking style, you will hear positions such as:

General Views on world politics

  • “[1]in comparison to conditions imposed by US tyranny and violence, East Europe under Russian rule was practically a paradise.”[4]
  • “Washington has become the torture and political murder capital of the world.”[5]
  • On Pol Pot’s despotic Khmer Rouge who produced Cambodia’s “Killing Fields” in 1975 which claimed the lives of 2 million Cambodians, 1/3 of the population:[6] Their reign had two sides: “[O}n the one hand, oppression, regimentation and terror; and on the other, constructive achievements for much of the population.”[7]
  • “A suicide attack by military forces resisting an invasion can't possibly be called an act of terrorism. Suppose the Iraqi army were surrounding New York and the Iraqi air force were bombing it unopposed. If an American carried out a suicide attack against the invading forces, would anyone call it "terrorism"?[8]

On Jews and Israel

  • “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.”[9]
  • “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.” [10]
  • “The point is, these organizations [Anti-Defamation League] don’t ultimately care about anti-Semitism, what they care about is opposition to the policies of Israel-in fact, opposition to their own hawkish version of the policies of Israel.”[11]
  • “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.”[12]
  • 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…”[13]
  • “Israel is virtually a US military base, an offshoot of the US military system.”[14]
  • “There are a great many horrible regimes in the world. To take just one, the world's longest military occupation. There's little doubt that those under the military occupation would be much better off if the occupation were terminated. Does it follow that we should bomb Tel Aviv?” [15]
  • “Of course [suicide bombers are] terrorists and there's been Palestinian terrorism all the way through. I have always opposed it….But it's very small as compared with the US-backed Israeli terrorism.”[16]
  • Compares Palestinians to African Americans in the South: “I mean you’d have to go back to the worst days of the American South to know what it’s been like for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.”[17]
  • On War of Independence: Arab states were “reluctant” to enter war and the war “was to a large extent not directed against Israel. Of course, they didn’t want the State of Israel around either, and they opposed it-but that was probably a minor consideration in the attack; really a minor consideration, actually.”[18]
  • “What this wall is really doing is…helping turn Palestinian communities into dungeons, next to which the bantustans of South Africa look like symbols of freedom, sovereignty and self-determination.”[19]

[1] Cited in Arch Puddington, “Chomsky’s Universe,” Commentary, October 2004, p. 67

[2] Steve Wasserman cited in Michael Powell, “An Eminence with No Shades of Gray,” Washington Post, May 5 2002 . p. F01at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A27441-2002May3¬Found=true

[3] Werner Cohn, “Chomsky and Holocaust Denial,” The Anti-Chomsky Reader, Collier and Horowitz (editors), 2004, pp. 117-151.

[4] Cited in Arch Puddington, “Chomsky’s Universe,” Commentary, October 2004, p. 67

[5] Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. 1, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, 1979, p. 16

[6] “The Cambodian Killing Fields” at http://www.dithpran.org/killingfields.htm

[7] Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. 2, After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperialist Ideology, 1979, pp. xii-xiii.

[8] Interview with Noam Chomsky, “Chomsky on War,” Znet Magazine, March 31 2003 at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3357

[9] Chomsky letter cited in W.D. Rubinstein, “Chomsky and the Neo-Nazis,” Quadrant (Australia), October 1981, pp. 8-14; also cited in Werner Cohn, “Chomsky and Holocaust Denial,” The Anti-Chomsky Reader, Collier and Horowitz (editors), 2004, pp. 129-130.

[10] Noam Chomsky, “Anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Palestinians,” Video hook up lecture to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, October 11 2002, Transcript archived at http://www.variant.ndtilda.co.uk/16texts/Chomsky.html

[11] p. 52, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky

[12] Soloman, Deborah. Questions for Noam Chomsky: The Ultimate Procovator. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/02/magazine/02QUESTIONS.html?ex=1093406400&en=2febb49c19483a6d&ei=5070&ex=1092888000&en=9dea38d2078f4615&ei=5070

[13] Noam Chomsky, Peace in the Middle East?, 1975 p. 37

[14] Noam Chomsky, “Anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Palestinians,” Video hook up lecture to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, October 11 2002, Transcript archived at http://www.variant.ndtilda.co.uk/16texts/Chomsky.html

[15] Interview with Noam Chomsky, “Chomsky on War,” Znet Magazine, March 31 2003 at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3357

[16] Chomsky Interview, Znet, Australia, April 8 2002 at http://www.zmag.org/content/Mideast/chomlateline.cfm

[17] Peter Mitchell and Paul Shoeffel (eds), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, p. 124, online at www.understandingpower.com/

[18] Peter Mitchell and Paul Shoeffel (eds), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, p.132 online at www.understandingpower.com/

[19] Noam Chomsky, “The Wall as a Weapon,” New York Times Op Ed, February 23 2004

Biography

Students and scholars alike are often surprised to hear that Avram Noam Chomsky had a strong Zionistic background. In fact, his early experiences both with family and travel helped to shape his Zionist identity. Chomsky was born in 1928 in Philadelphia to Jewish immigrant parents. His father, William (Ze’ev) Chomsky, is considered one of the most important Hebrew linguists of his time and sparked Noam’s interest in both Israel and language. At the age of 16, Chomsky enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania and studied linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy. He taught at a local Hebrew school to support his education. As a member of the left-wing Zionist youth group, HaShomer HaTzair, he also quickly developed a passion for politics. The Kibbutz movement impressed Chomsky so much as a vanguard of democratic values that he moved to Israel for a short time in 1953.[1] He did describe the kibbutz as a “successful libertarian community” but stayed for only six weeks.[2] This would be perhaps his last attempt to reconcile his stormy relationship to the Jewish state.

Chomsky also felt intensely the anti-Semitism that once pervaded America and he has vividly described it in some speeches:

“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.”[3]

In 1955, Chomsky received his Ph. D. from the University of Pennsylvania and quickly became a star in Linguistics. He went on to teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he now holds the Ferrari P. Ward Chair of Modern Language.

Chomsky is most well known for his unrelenting criticism of U.S. foreign policy. His involvement in the anti-War movement in the 1960’s brought him into the national spotlight, and helped form his political ideology which is a blend of neo-Marxism and what he calls “anarchist socialism.”[4] It also includes a romantic third-worldism which has led Chomsky to praise third-world movements no matter how brutal they may be. He continued to support North Vietnam leader Ho Chi Minh long after other American New Leftists became disenchanted with the dictatorial regime.[5] Chomsky chided the U.S. and U.S. media for unfairly castigating the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia even after it was discovered that Pol Pot and the communist leadership of Cambodia had either murdered or caused the deaths of two million of its own citizens.[6]

While scholars and commentators are divided on Chomsky’s opinions about Cambodia, his relationship to Robert Faurisson earned him the dubious distinction of being recognized as “an extremist of the left and right.”[7]

Robert Faurisson, a French Holocaust denier, was relieved of his duties at the University of Lyon in the late 1970s because he violated French laws aimed at curbing anti-Semitism. A petition supporting Faurisson began circulating and Chomsky signed it. Chomsky eventually wrote an introduction to one of Faurisson’s books and also went to great lengths to defend Faurisson.[8] “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.”[9] Chomsky also made a concerted effort to defend his scholarship.[10] Chomsky has denied that he endorsed such ideas and that he was merely defending Faruisson’s right to free speech, but during a debate, Robert Nozick, a professor of philosophy, recalled “discussing revisionist [Holocaust revisionism] literature with him well before the Faurisson book.”[11]

Chomsky’s rage about the evils of America is intense, but his animosity toward the Jewish state is even more intense. He has argued in favor of a one-state solution and contends that the very concept of a Jewish state is anti-democratic.[12] He has consistently compared Israeli policy to that of the apartheid South African regime. He charges that the Oslo peace process tried to impose an apartheid system and that Israel is worse than South Africa. He castigates Israel as “ virtually a US military base, an offshoot of the US military system.”[13] He charges that Israel is the obstacle to peace and repeatedly claims that Israel rejected a “full peace offer from Egypt” in 1971.[14] He has also warned that Israel might bring on the next world catastrophe. If it is pressed hard enough to carry out reforms, he contended, Israel may opt for the “Samson Option” or nuclear war that will decimate the world population.[15]

Chomsky is not sympathetic to the PLO, Yasser Arafat or the Palestinian Authority, which he calls “the most corrupt and incompetent Third World movement I’ve ever seen.”[16] but this has not made him any more sympathetic to the predicament Israel faces.

Though Chomsky is widely regarded as an expert on the Middle East, when he was pressed to list his qualifications for his expertise, he responded that he had “none whatsoever.”[17]

Chomsky’s popularity waned after the Faurisson incident and in the relatively quiet 1990’s. “[1]t has been Chomsky's singular fate to have been banished to the margins of political debate," wrote Steve Wasserman in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "His opinions have been deemed so kooky--and his personality so cranky--that his writings no longer appear in the forums ... in which he was once so welcome.”[18] Others who once celebrated him began to criticize his theories. “Chomsky’s political writings are curiously untheoretical, which is surprising in a writer renowned for his contributions to linguistic theory. His apparent assumption is that politics is not a theoretical subject.... One gets the impression from reading Chomsky that if it were not urgently necessary to expose lies, immorality and the abuse of power, politics would have no serious claim upon the theoretical mind,”[19] wrote Sheldon S. Wolin in the New York Times Book Review.

Chomsky’s popularity rose again after the Intifada began in October 2000, and it soared after 9/11, restoring his prominence and prestige as a new anti-war movement took shape. His short book, 9/11, sold over 300,000 copies in 23 languages.[20] Keith Windschuttle argues that Chomsky has ridden the coattails of the 9/11 attacks in order “to restore his reputation.”[21] He has opposed U.S. interventionism in Iraq but also notably in Afghanistan. Christopher Hitchens, a pillar of the left and columnist for The Nation, has consistently criticized Noam Chomsky for statements he has made about September 11. Referring to the passengers who helped subdue the terrorists on one 9/11 flight, Hitchens praised their heroism in the following way, “one iota of such innate fortitude is worth all the writings of Noam Chomsky, who coldly compared the plan of September 11 to a stupid and cruel and cynical raid by Bill Clinton on Khartoum in August 1998.”[22]

Professor Chomsky has been awarded honorary Doctorates by the University of London and the University of Chicago. He has lectured across the United States and around the world. He is a constant contributor to ZNet magazine and has written or co-written over 78 books an articles.

 


[1] Peter Mitchell and Paul Shoeffel, (editors), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, online at http://www.understandingpower.com/

[2] Peter Mitchell and Paul Shoeffel, (editors), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, online at http://www.understandingpower.com/

[3] Noam Chomsky, “Anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Palestinians,” Speech to the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Movement, October 11 2002, archived at http://www.variant.ndtilda.co.uk/16texts/Chomsky.html

[4] Cited in Peter Collier and David Horowitz, (editors), The Anti-Chomsky Reader, 2004, p. xi

[5] Stephen J. Morris, “Whitewashing Dictatorships in Communist Viet Nam and Cambodia,” in Peter Collier and David Horowitz, (editors), The Anti-Chomsky Reader, 2004, pp. 1-34

[6] Stephen J. Morris, “Whitewashing Dictatorships in Communist Viet Nam and Cambodia,” in Peter Collier and David Horowitz, (editors), The Anti-Chomsky Reader, 2004, pp. 1-34

[7] George Jochnowitz, “Noam Chomsky-Extremist of the Left and Right” (http://www.dyske.com/default.asp?view_id=804 )

[8] Werner Cohn, “Chomsky and Holocaust Denial,” The Anti-Chomsky Reader, Collier and Horowitz (editors), 2004, pp. 117-151and Paul Bogdanor, http://www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/04-issue/bogdanor-4.htm

[9] Paul Bogdanor, http://www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/04-issue/bogdanor-4.htm

[10] Paul Bogdanor, http://www.acpr.org.il/ENGLISH-NATIV/04-issue/bogdanor-4.htm

[11] Dershowitz, Alan M. Chomsky’s Immoral Divestiture Petition. http://www-tech.mit.edu/V122/N25/col25dersh.25c.html

[12] (Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky)

[13] Noam Chomsky, “Anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Palestinians,” Video hook up lecture to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, October 11 2002, Transcript archived at http://www.variant.ndtilda.co.uk/16texts/Chomsky.html

[14] Noam Chomsky, “The Wall as a Weapon,” New York Times Op Ed, February 23 2004

[15] Peter Mitchell and Paul Shoeffel, (editors), Peter Mitchell and Paul Shoeffel (eds), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, online at www.understandingpower.com/, online at http://www.understandingpower.com/

[16] p.311, (Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky)

[17] Peter Mitchell and Paul Shoeffel, (editors), Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, online at http://www.understandingpower.com/

[18] http://www.chomsky.info/bios/1991----.htm

[19] http://www.chomsky.info/bios/1991----.htm

[20] Arch Puddington, “Chomsky’s Universe,” Commentary, October 2004, p. 67

[21] Windschuttle, Keith. The Hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky. The New Criterion. http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/21/may03/chomsky.htm

[22] Hitchens, Christopher. Of Sin, the Left and Islamic Fascism. The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20011008&s=hitchens20010924

Accusations and Defamations

Defamations

“Thomas Friedman, I should say, has by now revealed himself, in the Israeli press, as the astonishing racist and megalomaniac that he is.”[1] 1988

“Some people are really extreme. Dershowitz has actually written articles in the ADL journals in which he says I told him that I was "an agnostic about the Holocaust". First of all, I would not have a conversation with Alan Dershowitz if I met him in the street. But this is fabrication.” [2]

“Take say, Elie Wiesel. His position is that one must maintain silence in the face of atrocities carried out by one's favorite state. That is his position, reiterated over and over again in the clearest possible terms….I must say that he is hated in Israel. When he won the Nobel prize, the vituperation in the Israeli press was just explosive…. What is an interesting fact about American culture is that a man who puts forth this position can be regarded as a moral hero.”[3]

“Abba Eban has made an entire career out of presenting undemocratic, harsh, and often rather brutal policies in a framework in which they appear to be peace-loving and democratic. You have to read his work carefully to see what he is really saying.”[4]

 


[1] Levine, Burton. Chomsky Interview: On Trip to Middle East.http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/198805--.htm Znet Magazine. May 1988.

[2] Levine, Burton. Chomsky Interview: On Trip to Middle East.http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/198805--.htm Znet Magazine. May 1988.

[3] Levine, Burton. Chomsky Interview: On Trip to Middle East.http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/198805--.htm Znet Magazine. May 1988.

[4] Levine, Burton. Chomsky Interview: On Trip to Middle East.http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/198805--.htm Znet Magazine. May 1988.



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