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“Impressions of Gaza”

By Noam Chomsky, written following his trip to the Gaza Strip on October 25-30, 2012.


(Ashraf Amra / APA Images)


Noam Chomsky responds to Washington Post review

Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2007

[Note that the Washington Post finally published Professor Chomsky's letter, albeit in abridged form, after some pressure from chomsky.info readers; see "The Department of Defense" in the Letters section of this site.] The letter to the Washington Post that follows was written as an experiment, to see just how low the editors would sink in their efforts to block a book containing evidence and analysis that they do not want to reach the public. The letter is a response to a crude and vulgar diatribe, in the form of a review of my collection Interventions. In response, I wrote a point-by-point refutation of each charge, a straightforward matter, as the editors doubtless understand. The letter was sent to the Post immediately, altogether four times, with a request for acknowledgment of receipt. Unpublished, no acknowledgment of receipt. Two weeks after the review appeared, Sept. 16, the Post did publish two letters responding to it. The letters were critical of the review, but acceptable by the standards of the editors, because they left the lies and slanders standing -- the authors could have had no way to refute them without a research project.

I think it is fair to take the editors' silence to demonstrate that they know precisely what they are doing, and are too cowardly even to acknowledge receipt.

-- Noam Chomsky


Washington Post

Jonathan Rauch's review of my Interventions (WP, Sept. 2) brings to mind Orwell's famous observations on the "indifference to reality" of the nationalist, who "not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but ... has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

Rauch runs through a series of what he regards as "flights into a separate reality" and "tendentious whimsy." When exposed, a straightforward matter, his charges may appear to be conscious deceit, but are more charitably understood as a textbook illustration of Orwell's observations.

Rauch is appalled that I should charge Washington with bombing Serbia in 1999 "not to prevent ethnic cleansing but to impose Washington's neoliberal economic agenda." I neither made nor endorsed the statement. Rather, I quoted it -- accurately, not in his words. The source is a high official of the Clinton administration directly involved in the Kosovo events, describing how events were perceived at the highest level. See p. 179.

Another bit of "tendentious whimsy" is the statement that "North Korea's counterfeiting racket may actually be a CIA operation." I neither made nor endorsed the statement, but cited it, accurately, from the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Rauch finds equally appalling the fact that "In Chomsky's universe, the 2001 U.S. attack on Afghanistan was undertaken with the expectation that it might drive several million people over the edge of starvation." The statement is precisely accurate. That is why aid agencies bitterly condemned the bombing, joined by leading Afghan opponents of the Taliban, including US favorites. It is also why many months after the bombing ended, Harvard's leading specialist on Afghanistan, Samina Ahmed, wrote in the Harvard journal International Security that "millions of Afghans are at grave risk of starvation." That and more is in the book under review, but in these op-eds I did not provide full details that would be familiar to readers of the mainstream press, for example, the increase in estimate of those at the edge of starvation by 50%, to 7.5 million, when the bombing was announced and initiated. If Rauch is indeed unfamiliar with the mainstream press, he can find precise references in books of mine cited here.

Particularly amazing in Rauch's universe is the idea, in his words, that "President Bush -- the first and only U.S. president to declare formal American support for a Palestinian state -- is the obstacle to a two-state solution that Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran are all prepared to accept (I am not making that up)." The tiny particle of truth here is that Bush announced his "vision" of a Palestinian state -- somewhere, some day, a pale reflection of the long-standing international consensus on a two-state settlement. Bush did indeed innovate: he is the first president to officially endorse Israeli annexation of the major illegal settlements in the West Bank, a long step backwards from Clinton's "parameters," and a death blow to any hope for a viable Palestinian state, as minimal familiarity with the region demonstrates.

In contrast, Iran's "supreme leader" Ayatollah Khamenei formally announced that Iran "shares a common view with Arab countries on ... the issue of Palestine," meaning that Iran accepts the Arab League position: full normalization of relations in terms of the international consensus. "Khamenei has said Iran would agree to whatever the Palestinians decide," the prominent Iran scholar Ervand Abrahamian observes. If Rauch reads the journal in which he writes, he knows that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniye called for "statehood for the West Bank and Gaza..." (Washington Post, July 11, 2006) There are innumerable other examples, perhaps most important among them the statement of the most militant Hamas leader Khalid Mish'al, in exile in Damascus, calling for "the establishment of a truly sovereign and independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in June 1967" (Guardian, Feb. 23, 2007). Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly stated that as a Lebanese organization, Hezbollah will not disrupt anything agreed to by the Palestinians.

Much as it may distress the nationalist, on this matter the positions of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah are more moderate -- that is, closer to the long-standing international consensus – than those of the US and Israel.

In Rauch's universe, Washington "tolerates a sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq whose Shiite government is friendly toward Iran." No comment should be necessary for readers of the daily press.

That exhausts Rauch's charges. Orwell triumphs again.

It is perhaps not surprising that Rauch's furious exertions did not unearth even a misplaced comma. As he knows, the op-eds passed through New York Times fact checking. There might be a lesson there for the journal in which he is a senior writer.

Noam Chomsky