29 November 2007 - 60 years of self-destruction
Today I attended a talk at Harvard Law School featuring Noam Chomsky (MIT), Beshara Doumani (UC-Berkeley), and Nadim Rouhana (George Mason) on “40 Years Since 1967, 60 Years Since 1948: Palestine, Israel, USA.” They could also have added “20 Years Since 1987,” to mark the anniversary of the first intifada, but evidently all that matters in Palestinian history is defeat.
The message of all three panelists was the same: the Palestinians should reject Annapolis, which only serves American and Israeli interests. There were no opposing voices, though plenty of real gems emerged from the panel. At one point Chomsky said: “If a constellation of forces arose that forced the Israelis to accept the right of return, they would use their nuclear deterrent to destroy the world.”
I had never seen Chomsky speak in person before, and I came to the conclusion that he is little more than a crude propagandist. At one point he read an opinion of the “World Court” (i.e. the International Court of Justice), telling us it was unanimous. In fact what he was reading was the dissenting opinion of the American judge in the 2003 case about Israel’s security barrier. Later, he refused to acknowledge his error.
Chomsky also claimed that international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, was clear as to the illegality of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, when in fact its application to the territories is contested. He also spoke about “Israel’s murderous invasion of Lebanon”—never mind the Hizbullah attack that started it all, or the thousands of Katyusha rockets that rained down on Israel.
In quoting from Ha’aretz, Chomsky claimed it is “Israel’s leading daily,” when in fact it has roughly one-tenth the circulation of Yediot Aharonot. He cited a U.N. resolution from 1976—I am assuming it was 31/20, since he gave no citation—and claimed that it was an Arab offer of a two-state solution. In fact the resolution demands the right of return for Palestinians and fails to mention the word “Israel.”
Not content with describing Arab recognition of Israel as “unilateral,” Chomsky deliberately avoided any acknowledgment of Palestinian terrorism, and even claimed that Iran and Hamas recognize Israel and support full normalization with it. The large audience sat there in rapt attention as he wove his ghoulish fiction about how Israel and the U.S. enforce an intolerant regime of control in the region.
Next up was Beshara Doumani, who claimed recently that “the formation of a Palestinian state . . . has become the vehicle for preempting, rather than delivering, self-determination for the Palestinian people.” (Journal of Palestinian Studies, Summer 2007). Such thinking is a gift to the Israeli far-right, and a good illustration of the self-destructive role played by some Palestinian intellectuals.
Doumani claims to speak on behalf of Palestinian refugees, often representing his views as their views, and their views as the views of Palestinians as a whole. Tonight he said that “Palestinians in the occupied territories are being force-fed a state,” and that the “needs, desires, and rights of Palestinians are being excluded from the conversation” about Palestinian statehood at Annapolis.
Not that he’s against the two-state solution, mind you: “Partition and ethnic cleansing have shaped the political map of the modern world,” after all, he claimed. No, he said—he’s indifferent to the precise form of the solution; he just cares about the “concept of the Palestinian political community,” which he says has been steadfastly rejected by “the Zionist movement,” the UK and the US.
He acknowledged that “[t]he Palestinians have tolerated successive leaderships that have made strategic blunders” – but by this he meant “acquiescence” in the various peace processes with Israel. He ranted on about the Balfour declaration and such, and added that “Palestinians have the right to use any means necessary including force” to resist Israel, though he claimed—of course—to support non-violence.
Last up was Rouhana, who claimed: “Israel as society and state is becoming ready to commit crimes against humanity on a scale that exceeds what is happening now. They are ready, prepared, and willing to do that.” He claimed that Israel has always sought an “exclusive” Jewish state, that it is perpetrating “ethnic cleansing” by subsidizing Jewish settlement in the Galilee, and planning more nefarious acts.
He acknowledged Israel’s achievements, but claimed they “could not have been done without force and violence.” Whether Zionism itself was racist was immaterial, he said: in practical terms it consisted of “fear and threat, an ideology of exclusive ethnic privilege, expressed in a racist form on the ground.” The solution? “We have to de-colonize Israel within the pre-1967 borders, and after the 1967 borders.”
The occupation would not end, he claimed, because Israel’s interpretation of the Holocaust was such that Jews either needed Palestinian recognition, or else to control all Palestinians. The upshot: “There is simply no way that Palestinians will recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Maybe Palestinians could recognize the right of Israeli Jews to a state, but not Jews as such. So occupation and violence it is.
At the end of this appalling hate-fest, which packed the largest lecture hall at the Law School, the floor was opened for a few questions. One timid fellow asked about the potential of joint Israeli-Palestinian efforts such as OneVoice. Chomsky replied that the work of Machsom Watch and Anarchists Against the Wall—two tiny, marginal groups focused entirely on opposing Israeli policies—was more important.
I raised my point about the neglect of the intifada. “You failed to mention the anniversary of one of the formative moments in the history of Palestinian nationalism. Israel didn’t erase it from memory; you did, here tonight.” I added that their version of the Palestinian cause matched what George Orwell called a “negative nationalism”—one defined entirely in opposition to another nation.
“Is there any event in the past sixty years that you would identify as something the Palestinians did themselves, a moment when the Palestinians were the agents of history instead of its passive victims?” The answers I got were really poor. Chomsky just rattled on about the first intifada; Rouhana claimed the Palestinian calendar celebrated “resistance”; Doumani said my question was “disingenuous.”
The group that organized this Two Hours’ Hate is HLS Justice for Palestine, also known as the JFP (or is it the PFJ? Or the JPF?) Tomorrow, ironically, JFP was to have hosted a lecture by Professor J. Lorand Matory, where he was to have explained how criticism of Israel is stifled on campus. The lecture was postponed, however. Perhaps Matory is hiding somewhere, “trembling in fear.”