Renowned political dissident, linguist and scholar Noam Chomsky told i24NEWS in an interview last week that “Judeo-Nazi tendencies” in Israel are growing stronger while the Palestinians increasingly rely on international aid and solidarity.
Chomsky, a long time critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, referred to an argument made by the late Jewish Israeli intellectual icon Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who warned of the consequences of occupation.
“Leibowitz warned that if the occupation continues, Israeli Jews are going to turn into what he called, Judeo-Nazis. It’s a pretty strong term to use in Israel. Most people couldn’t get away with that but he did. It will happen, he argued, simply by the dynamics of occupation,” Chomsky told i24NEWS.
“If you have your jackboot on somebody’s neck, you have to find a way to justify it. So you blame the victims. Leibowitz’s warning was a direct reflection of the continued occupation, the humiliation of people, the degradation, and the terrorist attacks by the Israeli government. We have many historical examples of that. Europe has plenty of them. And I think that’s what you are seeing in Israel,” he explained.
The former MIT linguist said that being critical of the occupation in Israel today means being labeled a traitor, a phenomenon which has caused the left to virtually disappear from the political spectrum.
He pointed to opposition to the situation in the Gaza Strip, which he likened to a concentration camp, as an example of the delegitimization of the left.
“Take Gaza. If you are going to place two million people in a concentration camp, which is in effect what it is, and put them under a vicious siege, you have to ask yourself; am I justified in doing this? People who try to oppose it are traitors, Arab lovers and so on. You have seen this phenomenon in European history, I don’t have to give you examples,” Chomsky said.
Since 1967, Israeli leaders on both sides of the political spectrum have argued that a military presence in the West Bank is necessary for security reasons. Chomsky dismisses this argument, saying the opposite is true; that “a military occupation” of the West Bank only endangers Israel’s security.
“Ask any Israeli strategic analysts. They all understand that occupation of the West Bank is a threat to Israeli security. In the 1973 war when Syria invaded from the north, the IDF couldn’t react immediately because they first had to evacuate the settlers,” he said.
“If Israel pulled out of the West Bank, there would be a demilitarized Palestinian state, caught between two hostile powers; Israel on one side, Jordan on the other. If they could survive, it would be remarkable,” he added.
Chomsky went on to present a number of incidents where Arab leaders have offered Israel peace in return for withdrawal from the West Bank, all rejected by Israel.
Israel, he argues, is deliberately choosing expansion over security, referring to former President Ezer Weizman who pointed this out in the 1970’s. If Israel chose peace, it could not “live at the scale and scope of what could be achieved by settlement. That’s the crucial issue,” Chomsky said.
In Israel, US President Donald Trump is being hailed for his decisions to cut funding for the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, have severed ties with the US as a result of those decisions among others. According to Chomsky, the future for the Palestinians look bleak, and only substantial international aid and solidarity can save them.
“The Palestinians are in a very grim situation now. The Trump administration is the most extreme in its support of Israeli expansion and repression. It’s the first
administration to have accepted Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem. And remember that it’s not historic Jerusalem. What is now called Jerusalem is about five times the historic one. It takes in Palestinian areas in the West Bank,” he said.
Chomsky added that the “ultimate peace deal” which is currently being drawn up by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, “indicates that it’s a sell out of any Palestinian rights.”
“In the Lebanese refugee camp of Shatila, there is just one wray of hope that people have, the UNRWA school. That’s gone. Everywhere, Palestinians can only achieve something with substantial amount of international solidarity,” he said. Trump, however, has said that he expects both the Israelis and Palestinians to make concessions. Israel, Trump said, will have to “pay a higher price” after he took Jerusalem “off the table” when he recognized it as Israel’s capital.
Although Chomsky finds many of Trump’s policies catastrophic, such as his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, he says the controversial US president should also be praised for some of his decisions.
Chomsky has long called for normalizing the US relationship with Russia, bringing North and South Korea towards rapprochement, as well as withdrawing from trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump has done all of that, although Chomsky laments that NAFTA has virtually been “replaced with an identical deal.”
Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki in July was seen by many US lawmakers and commentators in the US as almost amounting to treason, given Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US Presidential election.
However, this should not be a reason to refrain from normalizing ties with Russia, according to Chomsky, who has written extensively about US interference in elections around the world.
“With regards to Russia, I think he is right when he says we have to do something to reduce the tensions,” he argued.
Another foreign policy move that Trump deserves accolades for, in Chomsky’s view, is his overtures to North Korea. Decades of tension between North Korea and the United States should be resolved diplomatically, he argued, which is what Trump has attempted to do.
“Some of the policies he is most condemned for are actually quite good. They are praiseworthy in my view. The main one is North Korea. There was a critically important declaration in April between the two Koreas which laid out fairly detailed proposals of how to move towards integration, reduction of tension, economic integration, and denuclearization. And they are following that timetable, stressing that they want to move forward on their own accord. Crucial words,” Chomsky said.
“In other words, leave us alone. That’s pretty much what Trump has done. He has not interfered much. He has been bitterly condemned for the Singapore meeting with Kim, but he should be praised for it. If you look at the actual content, he actually temporarily called off US military manoeuvres in South Korea,” he added.
Language and Populism
The expert in language says that the current wave of right-wing populism and xenophobia sweeping across Europe and the US is often attributed to the influx of immigrants to both continents, but it fails to address the roots of the phenomenons.
He points to a study made by economists who looked carefully at the figures of the rise of the far right in Sweden, which has taken in a large number of immigrants in recent years.
“The study showed that the rise of the far right preceded the immigrant flow. Of course it escalated after the immigrants came. They trace it to the cutback on social policies of the government which had the usual effect of neo-liberal programs, namely concentrating wealth in certain sectors, and casting out a large part of the population that are no longer beneficiaries of the functioning society,” Chomsky said.
The same goes for the US, Chomsky said, where racism, xenophobia and misogyny are pathological symptoms used by Trump to gain support. We live in a time of great distress, he said, where huge masses of people are stagnating while great wealth is being produced for a small percentage of the population.
“Under those circumstances, pathological symptoms do emerge. And they will be exploited by demagogues,” Chomsky concluded.