14 July, 2010
If Americans Knew
In an interview on the Council for the National Interest internet radio program “Jerusalem Calling,” MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, author of The Fateful Triangle and other books on Israel-Palestine, said that he opposes boycotting Israel.
In a July 8th interview with new CNI President Alison Weir, Dr. Chomsky at first denied that he opposed the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, calling this an “internet rumor.”
However, when Weir said she had heard him say that he opposed boycott during a lecture at the University of California Berkeley several years ago, Chomsky admitted that he had opposed boycotting Israel then and said that he still did so now. He said that he felt that activists should instead only divest from American companies.
Chomsky claimed that the boycott movement “hurts Palestinians,” because he felt it was “hypocritical to boycott Israel and not the US, which funds Israeli actions.” Weir pointed out that many authors – among them Donald Neff, George Ball, Stephen Green, Kathleen Christison, Edward Tivnan, Walt and Mearsheimer, and, most recently, Grant Smith – have provided massive evidence that the primary reason the U.S. supports Israel is the Israel Lobby (the most powerful lobby for a foreign country in the US).
Chomsky, who has consistently denied the power of the Israel Lobby, said that AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) would use the charge that the Palestinian support movement is allegedly “hypocritical” to undermine its effectiveness, and that therefore this boycott would be harmful to Palestinians. While this statement appeared to indicate that Chomsky now acknowledges the power and significance of the Israel lobby, later in the interview he continued to deny the importance of this lobby.
In response to Chomsky’s assertion that the boycott movement allegedly hurts Palestinians, Weir pointed out that Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly calls for such a boycott. She said that over a hundred different Palestinian groups – including farmers’ groups, women’s groups, and others – have asked for an international boycott of Israel.
A caller to the show, long-time Middle East analyst Jeffrey Blankfort, commented that he felt it was highly inappropriate and condescending for Chomsky, a Jewish-American who had lived on a Kibbutz and says that he supports Israel, to tell Palestinians what’s good for them. Blankfort has long criticized Chomsky’s perspective on the lobby.
During the interview, Chomsky said that he has long favored a binational state. He said that he felt that the call for a “single, secular, democratic state” did not make much sense, suggesting that calls for one state were “rhetorical” and did not “rise to the state of advocacy” because proponents had not sketched out a path of how to get there. He did not comment on the books on this subject by Ali Abunimah and Virginia Tilley, which contain in-depth discussions on this approach.
Because technical problems caused occasional problems during the program, Weir, who is also executive director of If Americans Knew, has invited Chomsky to come on the show again so that he may explain his position further. Chomsky accepted the invitation and will appear again in a few months when his schedule permits.
The interview, in which Chomsky also discusses other aspects of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, can be heard in full on the CNI: Jerusalem Calling section of the WS Radio website. Outgoing CNI President Eugene Bird says that CNI will post a transcript on the CNI website within a few days.