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Chomsky denounces Obama on Israel

Published: November 18, 2011
Section: News

Professor, philosopher and one of the world’s most preeminent linguists Noam Chomsky spoke to Brandeis students on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Thursday for the second consecutive year.

He largely reiterated sentiments, also given at the 2010 speech, that the U.S. alliance is the largest impediment to resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He denounced President Barack Obama, who he said held “the world record of any American president when it comes to ignoring the atrocities of America,” and his voting record on Israel.

“It is one of the simplest problems in the world,” he said, “The world is full of problems so stark and complex that it is hard to imagine a solution for them. This is not one of them.”

According to Chomsky, the two-state solution is realizable, but for the United States’ interference and backing of Israeli policy decisions. “We know what stands in the way, United States ‘rejectionism.’” In the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions, he says, and the gradual return of democracy to the region, “the United States is trembling in fear of a working democracy. A democratic Egypt is a severe threat the United States and its allies, dedicated to stop democracy from functioning as more than a superficial veneer.”

Israel and the United States’ diplomatic history has been dappled with instances of failed negotiations, which American media has, according to Chomsky, grossly misrepresented. Instead of Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Chomsky says, the United States and Israel have consistently refused the Palestinians basic human rights and burdened proposed treaties with stipulations that antecedently refused Palestinians their requests, including evacuating settlements. He says the lack of Palestinian recognition is “not a conflict between two groups of human beings, but people and un-people.”

His classically firebrand statements inspired demonstrations and a walk-out of Chomsky’s previous lecture at Brandeis. Last year, a group of students stood up during the talk, carrying or wearing Israeli flags, and left the hall. Students also stood on the Raab steps, holding signs that read “I support Israel.”

The lecture Thursday night, however, did not stir any such action. The event went quietly, and few, if any, of the audience members disagreed with Chomsky. The majority of Brandeis students, however, may not. “I don’t think it’s the majority,” said Sarah Fahmy ’14, “but many students do agree but don’t step forward.”

Many students were not aware of the event, which may have explained the lack of uproar.

Chomsky was extremely critical of United States foreign policy in the Middle East and Northern Africa, especially the Arab Spring uprisings. He repeatedly told the audience that the perceived threat to the region, according to opinion polls of the region, was not Iran, as the United States government claims, but the United States and Israel. The free elections in Palestine were quickly put down by Israeli forces, Chomsky says, and this reaction touched on “something deep in contempt for democracy, and were a danger to elite sectors of society. Of course they don’t say it that way but it’s painfully obvious.”

According to Chomsky, the United States’ backing of Israel was against the consensus of the rest of the world and, if the situation were to be resolved, Europe must stop “toddling along behind whatever the United States tells them to.” If the United States were serious about resolving the conflict, they would begin “authentic negotiations run by a neutral country, like Brazil. One side would be the United States and Israel, on the other side the world.”

He called the United States a “rogue state, a major perpetrator of oppression,” not only within its own borders, but a funder and supporter of oppression internationally. United States press on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “ironic”: “Israel is perfectly open according to the United States press, when it’s exactly the opposite.”

The United States press, according to Chomsky, consistently fails to represent attitudes and events in the Arabic world as they occur. He chastised the lack of media coverage of the travails of the thousand Palestinian prisoners traded for Gilad Shalit, while they focused intensively on the single Israeli soldier.