Criticism of Chomsky: Asset or Liability? by Jeremy R. Hammond

by Jeremy R. Hammond
Featured Writer
Foreign Policy Journal
24 July, 2010

Tirades against Noam Chomsky never cease to amaze me. And I’m not talking about the kind of criticisms of the man that come from Alan Dershowitz and other apologists for Israeli crimes; I mean from critics of Israel who support Palestinian rights.

There are a number of common gripes about Professor Chomsky. The leading one is that he is actually a Zionist and “left gatekeeper” who, despite appearances, really seeks to limit debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Another, part and parcel of the first, is that he denies the power of the Israeli Lobby and wrongly believes that Israel is a strategic asset of the U.S. A third and more recent criticism is that he is opposes to a boycott against Israel and considers activists who support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BSD) campaign “hypocritical”.

Such arguments, in truth, only serve to demonstrate either the ignorance of Chomsky’s actual views or the dishonesty of the writer who deliberately misrepresents them. In a recent example that typifies the latter class of articles, Jeffrey Blankfort has written a piece entitled “Chomsky and Palestine: Asset or Liability?“, in which he does an excellent job of constructing a strawman Noam Chomsky to contend with.
Blankfort begins by noting that Chomsky gained some mainstream media attention when Israel denied him entry from the Palestinian West Bank, where he was scheduled to give a lecture and meet the unelected prime minister Salam Fayyad. Fayyad is “a favorite of both Washington and Israel and, it would appear, Chomsky”, writes Blankfort, the implication being that Chomsky favors Fayyad, and for the same reasons as Washington and Israel.

To support that implication, Blankfort cites Chomsky from an interview with Democracy Now! in which he stated that Fayyad “is pursuing policies, which, in my view, are quite sensible, policies of essentially developing facts on the ground.” Chomsky described the policies as “sensible and sound ones.”

Chomsky was — it should go without saying — referring to specific policies Fayyad has implemented — those of seeking to construct the infrastructure for a de facto Palestinian state now, without waiting indefinitely for Israel to shift its policy away from rejection of such a state. Blankfort thus portrays Chomsky’s support for a de facto Palestinian state as a blanket endorsement of the Palestinian Authority and all its actions.

“Unfortunately,” continues Blankfort, “Chomsky was not questioned about his support for the nation building priorities of the earlier Zionists nor if he considered the Palestine Authority’s endorsement of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, of its attempts to suppress a UN investigation of the Goldstone Report, and of the role played by its US-trained militia in protecting Israel, to be also ‘sensible and sound.’”

The intended implication, of course, is that Chomsky supports the Zionist theft of Arab land, the Israeli blockade, the blocking of the Goldstone Report, and P.A. collusion with Israel — all of which, as anyone who is familiar with Chomsky’s actual views knows — is just complete asinine nonsense.

Yet, Blankfort adds, “For those puzzled by that question, be assured that it is meant to be taken quite seriously” — something that should be quite difficult for any reader who actually has any knowledge of Chomsky’s actual views, and given Blankfort’s propensity for mischaracterizing and distorting them.

Blankfort continues, saying that “Once upon a time Prof. Chomsky was considered by many to be the most important spokesperson for the Palestinian cause.” This, however, was because of his writings and activism on other issues in which “unlike the case with Israel, he had no personal vested interest.” Chomsky “maintained that position” even though there have been Palestinian professors “who were and are more knowledgeable about the subject” and who “could speak from personal experience that does not include prior service as ‘a Zionist youth leader’ — Chomsky’s background”.

Blankfort is correct on this point. Chomsky in fact makes no attempt to conceal the fact that he was what he calls a Zionist youth leader. But the intended implication is that he supported the Zionist rejection of Palestinian rights and supports the policies of contemporary Zionism. It should go without saying — again, for anyone remotely familiar with his work — that this is more asinine nonsense and contradicted by Chomsky’s volumes of work on the subject and criticism of those same Zionist policies. As for being a self-confessed “Zionist”, Chomsky explains:

[In] the 1940s I was what was called a Zionist youth leader. But Zionism at that time included my own position, which was opposition to a Jewish state and a call for a binational settlement in the former Palestine. And I still held — one of the reasons I went to that specific kibbutz was that it was … the kibbutz organization which had indeed been opposed to a Jewish state up ’til 1948.

As I explain in “The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination“, the binational settlement was in fact the one favored and proposed by the Arab states — but rejected by the Zionist leadership and their Western benefactors. Chomsky  explained further in the interview, as he has elsewhere, what he has meant when he’s referred to himself as a “Zionist”:

What I said was that I remain a Zionist in the sense of Zionism in the 1940s. Zionism has changed. That doesn’t mean my views have.

But, never mind Chomsky’s actual views. That Chomsky could remain the leading spokesperson for the Palestinian cause, Blankfort continues, is “a reflection of the political culture of the American Left which was and remains substantially if not predominantly Jewish”.

Thus it is not because his work has any merit, but only because Chomsky is really a Zionist Jew that his work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been so highly regarded. Because of “deeply embedded” support for Israel and fears of anti-Semitism, criticism of Israel could only come from “someone within the tribe”, like Chomsky, “who unequivocally supported” Israel’s existence.

Blankfort himself is perfectly well aware of Chomsky’s actual views. The above quotes from Chomsky come from an interview Blankfort himself cites in his article, and which Blankfort himself participated as well, having called in to the live program. Yet he chooses to omit the fact that Chomsky was opposed to the creation of a “Jewish state” and instead supported the solution favored by the Arabs, a single binational state. Instead, Blankfort deliberately tries to create the impression that Chomsky was an ardent Zionist in the sense that the term “Zionism” has become known today; which is to say that Chomsky “unequivocally supported” the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine at the expense of the rights of the majority Arab inhabitants.

Continuing, Blankfort asserts that Chomsky’s being a Zionist Jew “largely explains why Chomsky maintains his reputation despite public utterances over the past half dozen years that have done more to undermine the Palestinian cause than to help it.”

Blankfort claims a “destructive impact” of Chomsky’s “dismissal of the pro-Israel lobby as an influential force in shaping US Middle east policy”, and a “destructive role” Chomsky plays with his “unyielding opposition to the BDS [boycott, divestment, and sanctions] campaign launched by the leading organizations of Palestinian civil society.”

It might be instructive to turn here to what Chomsky actually has had to say about divestment, from the same interview:

I clearly cannot deal with the rumors that circulate in the internet gossip system. I mean, I’ve been in favor of the divestments since 2002 — in fact before the movement was even formed I was one of the sponsors of one of the first efforts. And I’ve repeatedly supported and in fact been one of the initial supporters of divestment efforts.

However, while Chomsky supports divestment, it is true he is opposed to the BDS campaign against Israel. He explains:

What I have opposed is the BDS proposals that harm Palestinians. If we’re serious about BDS or any other tactic we ought to want to ask what the consequences are for the victims.

Blankfort acknowledges that “Chomsky does support” a “vastly different, US-centered” campaign that targets “US companies that provide goods and services that assist Israel in maintaining the occupation.” But this campaign, Blankfort curiously asserts, “avoids penalizing Israel”.

The divestment campaign Chomsky supports includes, for example, pressuring the U.S. corporation Caterpillar “to stop selling bulldozers to the Israel military which it has used to destroy Palestinian homes.” Blankfort agrees “this is a worthy endeavor”, but suggests it would not “change the current situation for the Palestinians in any significant way”, which in turn suggests, he posits, that Chomsky is really just engaged in “damage control on Israel’s behalf”.

This is further evidenced by Chomsky’s statements in a recent interview, in which “Chomsky not only repeatedly attacks advocates of an Israeli boycott as being hypocritical, he accuses them of doing damage to the Palestinian cause.” Blankfort quotes Chomsky saying that a boycott of Israel harms Palestinians, but — unsurprisingly — omits Chomsky’s explanation for his position (which we’ll come to). Continuing, he emphases Chomsky’s remarks that the U.S. is “responsible for most of Israel’s crimes“, and, again, that the U.S. is “responsible for a lot of Israel’s criminal behavior.

Chomsky has written extensively on which crimes he means, and anyone even modestly familiar with his work knows he is referring to U.S. financial, military, and diplomatic support for Israeli violations of international law under the “special relationship” that has developed particularly since 1967, including U.S. support for the illegal occupation and colonization of Palestinian territories, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the rejection of the two-state settlement, the ’08-’09 massacre in Gaza, and so on.

But Blankfort doesn’t turn to anything Chomsky has ever actually written about U.S. support for Israel for examples. Nor does he deny that this U.S. support for Israeli crimes exists. Instead, he simply constructs a further strawman argument, suggesting Chomsky is here blaming Israel for the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 — suggestions for which Blankfort offers no supporting evidence from any of Chomsky’s voluminous writings and talks on the subject. This should not be surprising, since none exists.

Blankfort again criticizes the kind of divestment campaign Chomsky favors — one targeting the U.S. — on the grounds that “failure” is “patently inherent in such a campaign” and “would bring further disaster down upon the heads of the Palestinians.”

Blankfort makes no effort to explain why divestment in U.S. corporations supplying the Israeli criminal regime with the tools of oppression would be a “failure” or why it would bring “disaster” upon Palestinians. Nor does he explain the contradiction between, on one hand, agreeing that divesting from U.S. companies like Caterpillar is “a worthy endeavor”, while on the other suggesting such action would be a “failure”; between saying on one hand that it would not “change the current situation for the Palestinians in any significant way”, while on the other saying that it would be a “disaster” for them.

Turning back to Chomsky’s actual views on divestment, he explained further why he views a boycott of Israel as hypocritical and harmful:

If we’re serious about BDS or any other tactic we ought to want to ask what the consequences are for the victims. We have to distinguish always in tactical judgments between what you might call the “feel-good” tactics and “do-good” tactics. There are tactics that may make people feel good. “Look, I feel good. I’m doing something.” But maybe they harm the victims. There are other kinds that actually do good. That is, they benefit the victims. That’s a distinction we have to make and it’s a critical one. I’ve discussed what I think about it. But where there are actual “do-good” efforts of BDS, I’ve always supported them. In fact, long before the program even announced itself…. So, yes, I do oppose a boycott I think that’s harmful to Palestinians. And the reason it’s harmful is very obvious: It is so hypocritical that it discredits the whole effort.

Again Blankfort turns to his preferred rhetorical device, the strawman argument, to make his case against Chomsky. He paraphrases Chomsky as arguing that it would be “hypocritical” because the Israeli lobby “will use this against the Palestinians by pointing out that the US has committed far greater crimes than Israel.” By asking us to believe that American Jewish organizations would actually “compare America’s crimes to Israel’s”, Blankfort adds, Chomsky “insult[s] our intelligence”.

But — needless to say — Chomsky didn’t at all argue that it was “hypocritical” because the lobby would compare U.S. crimes with Israeli crimes. Rather, he pointed out the fact that it is hypocritical for Americans to support a boycott of Israel while not boycotting their own country, because the U.S. “supplies it with the tools of oppression”.

It should also be needless to say that the definition of “hypocrisy”, in the Biblical sense of the word (which is the sense in which Chomsky uses the word, as he himself has pointed out), is refusing to apply to oneself the same standard one applies to others. The principle is summarized by Jesus in the analogy of removing the plank from one’s own eye first, so that one can see clearly to remove the splinter from one’s brother’s.

Thus, by definition, boycotting Israel without first divesting from American corporations that support Israeli crimes, is “hypocritical”.

This simple application of this most elementary moral truism either completely escapes Blankfort, or he simply chooses to reject it in order to deliberately and dishonestly mischaracterize Chomsky’s actual argument.

The dishonest mischaracterization continues as Blankfort continues to attempt to portray Chomsky as a “Zionist” supporter of Israel. To do this, he quotes Chomsky saying, “I don’t regard myself as a critic of Israel. I regard myself as a supporter of Israel”, which he follows by reminding readers that Chomsky “likes to boast of his early Zionist activities”.

Chomsky has made this point many times, and explained his reasons for making it and his definition of “support” for Israel, but Blankfort refers here specifically to an interview on an Israeli news program earlier this year. Turning to the source, the interviewer had said to Chomsky, “You undermine Israel’s existence, it’s right to exist…” Chomsky interrupted to her to say:

That’s quite false. In fact, I don’t regard myself as a critic of Israel. I regard myself as a supporter of Israel. The people who are harming Israel, in my opinion, it’s what I’ve said many times, are those who claim to be supporting it. They are helping [to] drive Israel towards moral degeneration and possible ultimate destruction. I think support for Israel should be support for policies which are for its benefit.

The interviewer then correctly pointed out that Chomsky does not “support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state“, which Chomsky then acknowledged, noting later in the show that neither does he “think that the United States should exist as a Christian state” or that “Pakistan should exist as an Islamic state”.

Thus, taken together with his enormous body of work on the subject, clearly what Chomsky means by saying he is “a supporter of Israel” is not that he supports Israel as a “Jewish state”, that he supports Zionism in the contemporary understanding of the word, that he supports the occupation, or any other such asinine nonsense, but just the opposite — that he opposes all of these policies. It’s those who support Israel’s criminal policies, in Chomsky’s view, who in fact are acting against Israel’s own best interests by encouraging its “moral degeneration”.

Blankfort, of course, declines to provide his readers with the explanation Chomsky gave for his statement that he is a “supporter of Israel”, which followed in his very next breath and in which he made perfectly clear that his own position is precisely the opposite of that which Blankfort would so disingenuously have his readers believe it to be.

Blankfort next quotes Chomsky as saying, “once Israel was formed in 1948, my position has consistently been that Israel should have all the rights of every state in the international system, no more and no less.” We are supposed to draw the conclusion, apparently, that Chomsky views Israel’s creation through an act of ethnic cleansing as having been legitimate.

But Blankfort yet again declines to share with his readers Chomsky’s explanation for that position, in which he explicitly rejected that Israel has a “right to exist”. As anyone familiar with his work knows, Chomsky has consistently held that:

No state has a right to exist, and no one demands such a right. For example, the United States has no such right. Mexico doesn’t respect the right of the United States to exist, sitting on half of Mexico, which was conquered in war. They do grant the U.S. rights in the international system, but not the legitimacy of those rights. This concept “right to exist” was in fact invented, as far as I can tell, in the 1970s when there was general international agreement, including the Arab states and the PLO, that Israel should have the rights of every state in the international system. And therefore, in an effort to prevent negotiations and a diplomatic settlement, the U.S. and Israel insisted on raising the barrier to something that nobody’s going to accept. Certainly, the Palestinians can’t accept it. They’re not going to accept Israel’s existence but also the legitimacy of its existence and the legitimacy of their dispossession. Why should they accept that? Why should anyone accept it?

Returning to the Israeli news interview, when asked whether it was relevant to his criticism of Israel that he is Jewish, Chomsky responded:

Well sure. Since I’m Jewish, and since I have a special relationship with Israel since childhood, and since I care about it, I think it should take positions that are moral, realistic, and appropriate for its own peace and survival.

When his Israeli interviewer suggested that Chomsky was being hypocritical by disproportionally focusing on Israel, instead of other oppressive regimes, Chomsky replied:

You started by asking, “Why is Israel in the center?” Answer: It isn’t. Not for me. What’s in the center for me is the United States, and for a very elementary moral reason. The moral principle is: we are responsible for our own actions and their consequences. Every crime that Israel commits is because of U.S. participation and authorization. So any decent American citizen, even without a special interest in Israel, as I have, should have these in the center of their attention; because those are the ones we are participating in, we are responsible for.

This, of course, goes back to Chomsky’s point that Americans should rather support divestment in U.S. corporations that participate in Israeli crimes before seeking divestment from Israel itself — again, a position based on a perfectly elementary moral truism that Blankfort must either reject or fail utterly to comprehend.

Chomsky also cited in the interview examples of Israeli actions that could not continue without U.S. support:

Israel, for example, could not have attacked Gaza, could not carry out the occupation, and so on, without decisive and direct U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic support…. Israeli actions in the occupied territory with crucial U.S. backing, are, first of all, illegal — Israeli recognized that in 1967 — they’re illegal, and they’re harmful.

Yet we may recall how Blankfort chooses to ignore Chomsky’s own specific examples, which he’s written on constantly and documented extensively, of how the U.S. is “responsible for a lot of Israel’s criminal behavior”, instead preferring to create a strawman argument by suggesting he was referring to Israeli actions in ’48 and ’67 that the U.S. did not decisively and directly support — and which, contrary to what Blankfort would have his readers believe, Chomsky has never claimed the U.S. was responsible for.

Chomsky also expressed his support for the Goldstone Report and opposition to it’s suppression in the interview, as he has elsewhere:

Take, say, the reaction to the Goldstone Report, which was quite interesting. Now, Israel has turned it into an international incident. If Israel had acted rationally, they would have responded to the Goldstone Report by saying, “Thank you, Mr. Goldstone, for your careful work. Thank you particularly for giving us a great gift”, as he did.

Recall Blankfort’s dismay that “Chomsky was not questioned” about whether he supported attempts to suppress the Goldstone Report and whether he found those efforts to be “sensible and sound”. It would seem that Blankfort might not be so puzzled about Chomsky’s position on this if he didn’t choose to deliberately withhold  it from his readers.

This is not to say Chomsky has not been critical of the report; he’s criticized it for being biased in favor of Israel for focusing on Israel’s conduct in it’s assault on Gaza without addressing the question of whether or not that attack itself had any legitimacy under international law — which, Chomsky has observed, noting that it was not Hamas but Israel that violated the cease-fire, it didn’t.

But never mind what Chomsky actually has to say about anything. It’s simple enough just pretend Chomsky has never actually expressed his views on such matters in order to carry on this charade that if he did answer questions about such things, his support for Zionist injustices towards Palestinians might be exposed, which is why Chomsky is supposedly silent on such matters.

Taking this theme further, Blankfort implies that Chomsky rejects the Palestinian right of return, saying Chomsky thinks it “not only unrealistic but potentially dangerous”, and asserting that Chomsky “rarely, if ever mentions” the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in which more than 700,000 Arabs were made refugees, “unless asked about it”.

On the right of return, Blankfort suggests Chomsky’s “preferred outcome” is that “the refugees would be obligated to give up their ‘right of return’ under a ‘two-state solution’”. Apparently in an attempt to provide evidence for this claim from Chomsky’s own work, Blankfort provides a lengthy quote in which Chomsky explains his view that it is unrealistic to expect that this right will ever be exercised — that is, that large population of Palestinian refugees will actually be allowed to return to the their land in what is today Israel. But nowhere does Chomsky even remotely suggest that he thinks that it is right or preferable that Palestinians not be allowed to return.

But, by taking Chomsky’s expression of what he deems realistic and turning it into an expression of what Chomsky deems preferable, Blankfort huff and puff and blow the strawman Chomsky down.

The real Chomsky, for his part, as Blankfort also perfectly well knows, has discussed this very topic of  “realism” versus “acting on principle” — a false dichotomy, in Chomsky’s view — at length.

Chomsky in fact also recognizes and supports the Palestinian’s right of return, noting that “Their right to return or compensation is written into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 10, 1948), spelled out more explicitly in UN Resolution 194 passed unanimously the next day, and reiterated annually.”

As for Blankfort’s statement that Chomsky “rarely, if ever mentions” the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in what Israelis call “The War of Independence” and the Arabs call “The Nakba”, or “catastrophe”, it is possible he is not being dishonest here, and that he is truly just almost completely ignorant about Chomsky’s actual work. Chomsky, of course, frequently refers to the “Nakba”, or the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine, in his writing.

Take, for instance, Chomsky’s 1983 epic analysis, “Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians“, in which he notes (pp. 95-96) that “The Irgun-LEHI Deir Yassin massacre in April had already taken place, one major factor in causing the flight of much of the Arab population” in the subsequent ethnic cleansing. “By May, about 300,000 Arabs had fled, about 1/3 of them from territories assigned to the Palestinian State” in the U.N. General Assembly partition proposal. “The armies of the Arab states entered the war immediately after the State of Israel was founded in May. Fighting continued, almost all of it within the territory assigned to the Palestinian state…. About 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled in the 1948 conflict.”

Or take his more recent 1999 book, “The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo“, in which he notes (p. 17) that the estimates of refugees from that conflict “are about the same as the number of Palestinians who fled or were expelled in 1948…. In that case, refugees numbered about 750,000, 85% of the population, with over 400 villages levelled.”

But never mind the real Chomsky. Blankfort’s imaginary Chomsky, which he finds it much easier to exercise his intellectual prowess against, avoids mentioning it because he secretly believes in the legitimacy of the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Blankfort continues, quoting Chomsky as saying:

Palestinian refugees should certainly not be willing to renounce the right of return, but in this world – not some imaginary world we can discuss in seminars – that right will not be exercised, in more than a limited way, within Israel. Again, there is no detectable international support for it, and under the (virtually unimaginable) circumstances that such support would develop, Israel would very likely resort to its ultimate weapon, defying even the boss-man, to prevent it. In that case there would be nothing to discuss. The facts are ugly, but facts do not go out of existence for that reason. In my opinion, it is improper to dangle hopes that will not be realized before the eyes of people suffering in misery and oppression. (Emphasis added) Rather, constructive efforts should be pursued to mitigate their suffering and deal with their problems in the real world.

He then feels it necessary to “interpret” Chomsky’s meaning for his readers, offering:

What Chomsky is saying to the refugees is that if they persist with their demand to return to Palestine, and should that demand, support for which is currently undetectable in Chomsky’s eyes, actually grow to the point where Israel feels threatened with an avalanche of returnees, it is likely to use its nuclear weapons and blow up the planet.

Notice, among other problems with Blankfort’s “interpretation”, he asserts that by “ultimate weapon” Chomsky meant “nuclear weapons”, when in fact Chomsky clearly stated that the “ultimate weapon” he was referring to was Israel simply ignoring orders from Washington, D.C., in the unlikely hypothetical scenario that the U.S. would actually tell Israel to permit refugees to return. It would seem readers might not be expected to find Chomsky’s remarks quite so detestable if Blankfort didn’t see fit “interpret” them for us in a way that served only to distort his meaning.

Blankfort similarly “interprets” Chomsky pointing out that under Israeli law and in practice, Palestinians have “second class citizenship” by saying this is a defense of “Israel’s legitimacy”. His main objection seems to be that Chomsky compares Israel to “the US and other Western democracies” in this respect — the U.S. Constitution, after all, defines blacks as three-fifths of a person, and so on. But Blankfort turns Chomsky’s longstanding criticism of Israel in this regard into an “attempt to rationalize Israel’s ongoing discrimination of those Palestinians who remained after the Nakba”.

Yet, after all this, Blankfort has the chutzpah to accuse Chomsky of “intellectual dishonesty”. By such dishonest means as these, Blankfort turns Chomsky’s insistence on applying an equal standard and not being hypocritical into “double standards”, and he twists Chomsky’s criticisms of Israel into Chomsky’s “defense of Israel”.

He states that Chomsky “and his followers continue insisting that US support for Israel is based on it being a ‘strategic asset’ for the United States even when an increasing number of mainstream observers who are not linked to AIPAC or the Zionist establishment have judged it to be a liability”, thus suggesting — falsely — that Chomsky’s himself shares the view that Israel is a “strategic asset”.

As any person even remotely familiar with Chomsky’s work on the subject — and who is willing to be honest about it — knows, he does not share that view. Rather, he simply observes that as defined by the political and economic elite in Washington, Israel is a strategic ally. In fact, he points this out in the interview Blankfort participated in, explaining briefly the interest of the military industrial complex in Israel:

Once they send those high tech weapons to Israel, then Saudi Arabia and the Emirates comes along and say well, we want them too, and the U.S. military industry can provide them — which they of course pay for — with masses of less advanced weaponry. And in general, military intelligence cooperation between Israel and the United States has been very close for many years. So, sure, there are many domestic factors that we should definitely pay attention to when we consider how policy is formed.

He further elaborated on his meaning in describing Israel as a strategic asset:

Now the term “national interest”, these are all very vague notions, but let me return to what I said before. The strongest support for Israel in the United States comes from the business sector. That’s why the Wall Street Journal is the most strong pro-Israel journal. That’s why you get increasing high-tech investment in Israel. That’s why you have things — That’s why the military lobby supports it. Now you can argue that this is against something called the national interest, whatever that is, but in so far as the national interest is determined by powerful domestic forces in the United States…

Chomsky was cut off for a commercial break at that point, but his point is clear, and he has made it repeatedly elsewhere. It is not his view that Israel is a “strategic asset” of the U.S. — and he’s argued endlessly to the contrary — but that is nevertheless the longstanding predominant view within the U.S. policy-making elite. This is a rather elementary observation that is hardly debatable, Blankfort and others’ efforts to manufacture a controversy over it notwithstanding.

Blankfort concludes by suggesting that “serious supporters” of the Palestinian cause should ask themselves whether Chomsky isn’t actually a liability to that cause.

Serious supporters of the Palestinian cause would do well to set aside such claptrap as Blankfort and his ilk see fit to spend their time and efforts writing on and go out and pick up Fateful Triangle or read any of Chomsky’s other countless writings on the subject, read it thoroughly and actually listen to what he actually has to say, and make an effort to actually comprehend it.

One needn’t agree with everything Chomsky writes, but one can learn a lot from the man who has rightfully earned his place as a — if not the – leading American critic of Israeli crimes and supporter of Palestinian rights.

And, at the very least, one can certainly learn much more about Chomsky’s actual views from the real Chomsky than from reading about some imaginary Chomsky the likes of Blankfort so dishonestly choose to manufacture in all their intellectual masturbation that serves only to distract attention away from the real issues concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst whose articles have been featured in numerous print and online publications around the world. He is the founder and executive editor of Foreign Policy Journal (, an online source for news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy. He was a recipient of the 2010 Project Censored Awards for Outstanding Investigative Journalism and can also be found on the web at


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9 thoughts on “Criticism of Chomsky: Asset or Liability? by Jeremy R. Hammond

  1. If you want an example of Chomsky’s Left Gatekeeping, just take a listen to what you don’t hear on Democracy Now! where Chomsky frequently plays the role of Dan Schorr.So when it comes to the issue of the Israel Lobby, you don’t hear its critics,such as Mearsheimer and Walt, you get Chomsky dissing them. You don’t hear Jim Petras, Grant Smith or Phil Giraldi. And as for serious criticism of the official 9-11 narrative,fagettabout it. Chomsky has bought the Bush narrative from the get-go. One doesn’t have to agree with any counter-narrative but there are legitimate questions about what happened but thanks to Chomsky’s influence, you won’t hear them on DN!.

  2. If I may offer an observation: It is typical of adherents to the Authoritarian Left to criticize libertarian socialist or anarchist viewpoints. Specifically, the deluded followers of Lev Trotsky specialize in the vilification of all who would stray from the rigid doctrine promulgated by SWP and their ilk. Since the tendency has long been noted, there are various front organizations that conceal this unpopular and moribund school of Left thinking. One would think that people who profess to speak for the working class would realize that that more internecine strife is counter-indicated. Whenever I see Labor Committee in a person’s background, the apologists for Trotsky are not far behind. Please stay out of the way, and allow the working class to develop their own means of liberation, for whichever country of region in which they live. Chomsky has been very specific in his explication of his Zionist past. The fact that the kibbutz in which he lived was anarcho-syndicalist in nature and belief should settle any doubts as to his dedication to the free choice of autonomous workers’ collectives, and to his firm support of Palestinian-Israeli cooperation in defeating both the hierarchy of the reactionary Right, and the posturings and deceit of the authoritarian Left.

    • Why don’t you read the article Glick, instead of pontificating about something you know nothing about. Not only am I not a Trotskyist, virtually all the Trotskyist groups channel the Chomsky line without thinking twice or even thinking at all.

      • Read it Blankfort. It’s a useless piece of claptrap. None of the Trots echo Chomsky: you should read their horse manure before generating your own.

  3. Pingback: Noam Chomsky: The Challenge for Peace « Dandelion Salad

    • You’re all over the web on this issue but I notice that you removed my short comment from your own website. Bad show, old man.

  4. I would challenge the claims about “left gatekeepers.” Someone who is less far to the left isn’t limiting anyone else’s politics or ideology. Chomsky, in this case, isn’t doing anything to limit the ability of critics of Israel to express their views and engage in activism based on those views.

    The whole “left gatekeepers” thing is so frustratingly passive and implies that we must all depend on leaders to tell us what to do.

    • “… implies that we must all depend on leaders to tell us what to do.”

      That’s exactly what’s going on everywhere–in politics, the news, etc–one person/”party” or another trying to coerce a particular stance, usually not offering a “body of thought,” as Chomsky and others so generously DO.

      Many are suffering in this dualistic version of living; many are deliberately keeping it alive to preserve their advantage in such a “reality.”

      “The whole “left gatekeepers” thing is so frustratingly passive…” I’ve had enough of the gatekeeping, too. I am my own gatekeeper!

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