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September 4, 2006
7:15 am

NOAM CHOMSKY in LEBANON
CHOOSING DIALOGUE OVER DESTRUCTION

"...the events of September 11 were a horrendous atrocity, probably the most devastating instant human toll of any crime in history, outside of war."
—Noam Chomsky, Oct 18, 2001

 

It was halfway through the recent escalation of warfare between Hezbollah and Israel when I stumbled on a right wing website stating that in May of 2006, Noam Chomsky had visited Lebanon and met with Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah.

It caught me by surprise.

Granted, I had been thinking for some time about the necessity of philosophically-minded leaders meeting with terrorists to increase dialogue and discuss grievances as a means to limiting future killing—and no Western leaders or statesmen ever seem to meet with Nasrallah.1

But the thought of Chomsky doing so made me feel a little nauseous.

Having read about it in hardliner David Horowitz's article Noam Chomsky's Love Affair With Nazis didn't help.

Horowitz described Chomsky's visit with Hezbollah as:

"...the logical continuation of the professor's longstanding admiration for global terrorists and Jew-haters...In 1993, Chomsky's host Nasrallah declared: "Death to America was, is, and will stay our slogan." As [Chomsky's] pilgrimage to Hezbollah's mecca confirms, it is Noam Chomsky's life-dream as well."

Interestingly, Horowitz's website advertises "conservative T-shirts" (worn by a cute, perky American-looking brunette) that state, with a colour picture of a nuclear bomb exploding: "Iran wants nukes? Give them to 'em!"2

I don't think that's very nice either.

***

As for Hezbollah's slogan "Death To America,"3 it is indeed unnerving—and recalls my childhood in the early 1970s when my only awareness of these people in some place called the Middle East would be unveiled during Saturday morning cartoons on a short presentation called "In The News" (yes, even in Canada).

My understanding, perhaps like Horowitz's, was clear: people with oil gather in crowds, chant violently in a language I can't understand, burn the American Flag and terrify me.

As for my unease with the Chomsky/Hezbollah meeting, it was not unlike what I've felt hearing Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney defend the quagmire they've created in Iraq to counter terror by destroying the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens (and the occasional terrorist) and the nightmare in Afghanistan, where the mercilessly battered people, of course, pay the price.

I contemplated my nausea while looking up a Chomsky quote on terror:

"[Terror is] primarily a weapon of the strong—overwhelmingly, in fact. It is held to be a weapon of the weak because the strong also control the doctrinal systems and their terror doesn't count as terror. Now that's close to universal. I can't think of an historical exception—even the worst mass murderers view the world that way."4

That's when I figured it out.

My nausea wasn't just about Chomsky meeting with the leader of Hezbollah, whose history of terrorism is well-documented (and called by some 'legitimate resistance').

It wasn't just from reading the ideologically predictable fury and battle-lines drawn over whether Israel's "response was measured" or which infraction was truly the "inciting incident"5 in a war that goes back, if not into the fog of prehistory, at least to 1978.

It was from two things.

One: the indoctrinated belief that our terrorist actions and our terrorist allies are somehow more humane than our terrorist enemies.

Two: the nauseous fear of losing my own freedom. Having read Chomsky for years, and even interviewed him, I felt his linkage with Hezbollah in some way linked me to terrorists—and we know what can happen to those linked people, even if innocent, even in a democracy.

It's an old paranoia, and I swear I'm anti-terrorism and pro-Semitic—my girlfriend's half Jewish, for the love of the church. But fears like this sometimes hit me when I read covert histories or political blogs or see Rumsfeld on TV talking about freedom—or jihadist flag-burners, for that matter.

You probably know the feeling I'm talking about; the subtle one that creeps in and tries to scare you from acting according to your conscience.

For the record, even writing this essay scares me a little—what with all the slander and fatwas out there. I just want conversation with my sisters and brothers.

Ironically, it ended up being Chomsky's writing that reminded me to be vigilant about the right to not cower just because someone I've interviewed and like is constantly being called an anti-American, Nazi-loving, Jew-hating liar.

But here's his point, and I think it's important:  

"For a dedicated totalitarian, ruling powers are to be identified with the people, the culture, and the society...criticism of state policy is criticism of the country and its people. For those who have any concern for democracy and freedom, such charges are merely farcical."

"Similar charges [like labeling American dissidents as America-hating] were familiar in the old Soviet Union: dissidents were condemned for hating Russia...Such criticisms reflect deeply held totalitarian values."6

***

Even with my nausea dissipating, I still had to figure out if Chomsky was in secret negotiations with Hezbollah to overthrow the Jewish State and, for all I knew, the American Empire.

I went on line.

It turns out Chomsky went to Lebanon with his wife Carol, who's apparently also in on the plot (the quiet "shadow figure"), and must be either a self-hating Jew or an anti-Semitic Jew—although she keeps this hatred pretty much to herself.

Nice cover, Noam.

Chomsky further decoyed his devious plans by having a busy schedule that he acted out "in public."7

Supposedly at the end of the Chomsky/Nasrallah dialogue, Nasrallah asked Chomsky what to do about America's "pernicious" propaganda against Hezbollah.

Maybe Chomsky could have begun by telling Nasrallah to stop Hezbollah committing acts of terror (and maybe he did tell him). That cuts down on bad press right away—to the point you're no longer talked about at all.

But Chomsky's response was still relevant.

He told Nasrallah that the first thing to remember about the propaganda is that American public opinion is often deeply opposed to American foreign policy.

Now call me a pragmatist, but anytime a Jew from the U.S. shares a friendly cup of tea with an Islamic terrorist and gets the chance to tell him how and why Americans are damn good people...? That's a good day for the entire species.

Hopefully Chomsky mentioned to Nasrallah that a solid chunk of us Canadians are opposed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's foreign policy in Afghanistan, too.

Like Roméo Dallaire, the last UN Commander abandoned in Rwanda, I thought we should have sent troops to the Congo for humanitarian reasons instead of Afghanistan.

But then again, only four million people have died in the Congo in the last ten years.

***

I've gone on line some more.

I'm pretty sure there is no Hezbollah/Chomsky plot.

The give away? It turns out that a couple weeks after the Hezbollah incident, Chomsky gave a talk at West Point Military Academy.

Now that, my friends, is a contradiction.

Would it be outlandish8 to guess that some parts of the military establishment are bitter with being railroaded into this war by a chain of command whose interests were in hindsight insanely myopic and whose predictions for Iraq were ludicrous—while this hated Jewish professor from MIT was pretty much bang on with his predictions?

Either way, I can't see West Point, Hezbollah and Chomsky together in a plot. I'd say that's right up there with the theory that JFK actually shot himself.

The more I considered Chomsky's Hezbollah visit, the less nauseous I felt; the more I could see he's doing what our leaders need to find the courage to do: engage in transparent (and sometimes politically unpopular) dialogue in order to understand the grievances of those who perceive to have their neck under the heel of an imperial or tyrannical boot.

Don't get me wrong, I am anything but excited about the thought of an Islamic State rising up under Shari'a law, with its pervasive neglect of human rights, women's rights, religious tolerance, and its belief that life is made up of good and evil, with barely a tango in between for the poet in all of us.

It seems to me that pundits across the board in the Middle East have forgotten their countries (or areas) were colonized by Islamic invaders in the first place.

Nasrallah may be a man of God, but he is clearly not a man of peace.

Is there hope?

A few converted terrorists include a virtual symbol of modern freedom, Nelson Mandela, former Israeli Prime Ministers Monachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, Gerry Adams went from the IRA to an Irish MP and Uri Avnery became an Israeli peace activist.9

A list of on-again, off-again terrorists (and vice-versa) according to American policy, is less stable. It includes Panama's Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein,10 Muammar Gadafi, and so many Middle Eastern question marks, dependant on myriad factors, mostly economic.

As for Chomsky, he went to Lebanon to get a different view of the country than "President George Bush has from Texas."

Who doesn't need that?—if only to further appreciate the endless privilege and miracle of this temporary life.

"Lebanon has many facets," Chomsky was quoted as saying on arrival. "I am here today for the first time to learn what I can during my short visit."11

If Chomsky's appearance in Lebanon suggests to the people there that we're connected across the clashing swords of power politics and religion, I'm all for it.

As for the hardliners who believe that the Islamo-fascists are only after one thing: the destruction of the west (which is in some areas undoubtedly true and for the love of God calls for dialogue), it's time to admit that these hardliners in the west who refuse to converse, negotiate, listen, or be creative, also believe in destruction.

Chomsky once said:

"At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, and sympathy, and concern for others, or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control."12

We need dialogue. If some don't like Chomsky talking to Nasrallah, why don't they try to get some of their own dialogue going? Unfortunately, we can't even seem to talk on a blog without vitriol.

This attitude of aggression over dialogue is epidemic.

Daniel Ben Simon wrote in Ha'aretz on August 26th:

"I am trying to recall when I last saw Israeli leaders talking with Arab leaders about peace, and finding it hard to remember. In recent years, our compulsive tendency to talk to ourselves about an agreement with the Arabs has been strengthening, as though the real conflict in the Middle East were between the right and the left...It is torturous to think that had similar diplomatic energy been invested vis-à-vis Palestinian leaders, Lebanese leaders and Syrian leaders, perhaps everything would look different. Perhaps we would even be living in peace with them."13

***

There is no escaping the human condition. The inhumane violence of which these fundamentalist leaders are capable, be they from Hezbollah, Israel, Iraq, Iran, China, Russia, Britain, America or anywhere else, may well be unstoppable.

There is no immediate answer to these people—or their organizations, whether based on greed, ethnicity or tribal religion. They seem virtually incapable of seeing themselves in another.

But if they take our joy, our awe, our ability to be intimate with life, across false borders, they have taken everything.

At the same time, it is suicidal to not grasp that most of the world's population is still ethnocentric—the west included. The challenges are overwhelming.

If something other than increased brutality is possible, I think strong, creative dialogue will be that mysterious lover who somehow leads us towards a more embracing worldcentric diversity.

In the meantime, growing pains.

After Chomsky's meeting with Nasrallah, he said to the TV cameras outside the building:

"I think Nasrallah has a reasoned argument and persuasive argument that [the arms] should be in the hands of Hezbollah as a deterrent to potential aggression—and there are plenty of background reasons for that. So...I think his position...is that until there is a general political settlement in the region, the threat of aggression and violence is reduced or eliminated there has to be a deterrent, and the Lebanese army can't be a deterrent."14

Hilal Khashan, a Hezbollah expert at the American University of Beirut, in a phone interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, said, on the other hand:

"Hezbollah is a doomsday movement. You need to understand the Shi'ite faith to understand their ideology. They believe in the eventuality of a conflict between good and evil. For them, the return of the Madhi (a revered ninth-century imam) and the final victory against the forces of evil is inevitable. When Nasrallah talks about 'winning' and 'losing,' he looks at the greater picture."

So what are we to do, dear friends? Follow the ideas of, say, former Israeli Prime Minister and current opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who with good reason decries Hezbollah as terrorists, while in the same month (this July) celebrated a two day commemoration of the Isareli terrorist group Irgun blowing up the King David Hotel in 1946 to get rid of the British mandate?

Ninety-two people were murdered on that horrific day of terrorism: seventeen Jews, twenty-eight Brits and forty-one Arabs.

The leader of the group was Menachem Begin, who, as mentioned earlier, would become Prime Minister of Israel. In 2005 he was polled as the statesman Israelis most missed.

Chomsky offered this at a talk given at MIT.15

"There is an official definition [for terrorism]. You can find it in the US code or in US army manuals...[T]error is the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain political or religious ideological goals through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear. That's terrorism. That's a fair enough definition. I think it is reasonable to accept that. The problem is that it can't be accepted because if you accept that, all the wrong consequences follow."

Former Prime Minister Netanyahu defended celebrating the Irgun organized explosion by saying:

"It's very important to make the distinction between terror groups and freedom fighters, and between terror action and legitimate military action. Imagine that Hamas or Hezbollah would call the military headquarters in Tel Aviv and say, 'We have placed a bomb and we are asking you to evacuate the area.'"16

***

By the time of the 2006 ceasefire in Lebanon and Israel, according to Amnesty International and the Lebanese government, an estimated 1,183 Lebanese had died, about a third of them children. Over four thousand people were wounded and some 970,000 were displaced from a population of under four million.

One hundred and fifty-seven Israelis had died, including 39 civilians. Over 860 Israelis were wounded.17

With this conflict, the media cameras lit up, the blogs and the pundits salivated, and the three peace-loving religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—began their celebratory preparations for the end of the world and the prophesied bloodbath when, at best, one of the three will be returned to glory.

In the span of the conflict—July 12th to August 14th—over 500,000 children in the developing world died of malnutrition related diseases. That's about 16,500 children dying unheard, every day—girls, boys, babies.18

Who could ever explain why that isn't headline news?

To quote Chomsky's view on another Holocaust:

"By entering into the arena of argument and counterargument [with Holocaust deniers], of technical feasibility and tactics, of footnotes and citations, by accepting the presumption of legitimacy of debate on certain issues, one has already lost one's humanity."19

This is pure hypothesis, but our amazing species seems to be shackled inside an ideological system that deludes us into believing our own opinion yelled loudly enough somehow makes up for the fact that we know almost nothing about who we are, why we're here and where we're going.

In other words, in terms of what we don't know, we're all in a virtual dead heat with a row of turnips.

Or is that just the human condition?

Chomsky once said: "There might have been a period in history when it was sensible to ask, what's the best form of slavery? The least awful form of slavery? Then you could discuss different forms of slavery and which ones would be best. But there is something wrong with the question because it assumes that some system of coercion and control is necessary. And it isn't."20

Those of us so fiercely attached to our own verbal animosity could well ask if we're even capable of not being so right all the time.

***

To conclude out of hand that all rebel groups and rogue states that are killing and dying have no legitimate grievances to justify dialogue is to label them as evil. For if they don't have legitimate grievances, what force other than evil could be pushing them to plan and create terror?

This analysis also goes for all nation states involved in terrorism—if not, no one would ever talk again.

I'm not denying evil, but to conclude evil is to keep ourselves trapped in the twisted bandwidth of Nazi consciousness. This happens all the time; between nations, on line, in traffic, in our thoughts—and it leads to war and genocide.

It's a truism that some people can never rise above the yelling of their own ideology—including me sometimes from my chaise longue in Canada.

It's a truism that some people like and seek war.

If only we were compelled to listen with passion, self-reflected humour and hope.

If only we were compelled to force leaders to learn to tango together and eat vegetarian food—and after dinner recite in funny accents poetry that extends beyond the tribe to all humanity.

Clearly we need more sleepovers.

There is a famous quote from David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel:

"If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?"21

We need original thinkers like Noam Chomsky (and creative contrarians) to speak and unite and listen across borders, across religions, across this barrage of divisive propaganda that promotes hatred and killing but will never rewrite humanity's miraculous, unstoppable connection by DNA, blood, history, trauma, love, joy, laughter, understanding, compassion—and possibly soul.

Can this happen with presidents and rebel leaders and even most intellectuals? I doubt it; there's too much addiction to violence, political survival, funding, praise, elitism, and ingrained identification with ethnicity and religion.

But given a little grace and effort, I do not have to follow that. I wish for the people on both sides who seek creative dialogue to know that I am with them in solidarity.

If Noam Chomsky's visit to Lebanon even minutely improves the way a handful of Lebanese view Americans—Americans who, to a large degree because of a foreign policy decided by the powerful few (and fewer and fewer), are notoriously disliked worldwide—I applaud it, salute it, and I ask for more.

I believe all these people, insane and beautiful and otherwise, across borders and religions and foreign policies, are somehow my sisters and brothers. If Chomsky going to Lebanon or anywhere else helps to make that more apparent to me or them, I back him all the way.

In his own words:

"There is great hope for a better future, and to create it should be a primary commitment for people in the US, the west generally, and the rest of the world. And there are very hopeful signs, which I constantly stress.

As for the 'American model,' it depends what you mean. The people of the United States have many wonderful achievements to their credit: protection of freedom of speech, for example, is unique in the world, to my knowledge, and many other rights have been won. These have not been gifts from above, but the result of dedicated popular struggle.

If that is the model you have in mind, I hope it will be more successful, in the US and elsewhere."22

Keep talking, keep trying. It's a long road for Israel. It's a long road for Palestine. It's a long road for all of us.

We'll get there.

 

COMMENTS

 

Footnotes:

(1) Hezbollah is simultaneously politically represented in Lebanon and considered a terrorist organization by four countries: the US, Canada, Israel and the Netherlands.

The UK and the EU "make a distinction between the organization's terrorist activities and its social activities and only label the security organization a terrorist organization" (Wikipedia, Hezbollah).

Anti-Semitic remarks from Nasrallah are many and putrid (as they would be the other way around); confirmed and uncomfirmed. Translation of his comments are screamed/debated about, everywhere, perhaps understandably.

Wikipedia is a decent start. Interviews and Q&As are perhaps the most revealing (unless they are all packs of lies).

From the Washington Post, February 22, 2000: "I am against any reconciliation with Israel. I do not even recognize the presence of a state that is called 'Israel.' I consider its presence both unjust and unlawful. That is why if Lebanon concludes a peace agreement with Israel and brings that accord to the Parliament our deputies will reject it; Hezbollah refuses any conciliation with Israel in principle."

With Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker (the Syrian Bet), July 18, 2003:

"...at the end of the road no one can go to war on behalf of the Palestinians, even if that one is not in agreement with what the Palestinians agreed on."

I'm not certain where this comes from, but I think it's (AP), December 31, 1999:

"In a scathing speech to a rally of more than 1,000 supporters, Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said peace deals between Arabs and Israel would not bring stability to the Middle East or legitimacy to the Jewish state.

"There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel," he told the crowd. "Peace settlements will not change reality, which is that Israel is the enemy and that it will never be a neighbor or a nation.

"Peace will not wipe out the memory of the massacres it has committed...And on this last day of the century, I promise Israel that it will see more suicide attacks, for we will write our history with blood," Nasrallah declared."

The whole process is foul, full of hatred, with citizens in Israel and Lebanon, (and Palestinians), and elsewhere always paying the most brutal price.

(2) Horowitz has probably never read Deborah Campbell's recent essay Iran's Quiet Revolution, in Walrus, September 2006

"Iran is a land of contradictions, and it's hard to imagine any country in the world where a Westerner would enjoy a more gracious welcome...

...In my six-month journey from the mountains of Kurdistan in the northwest to the bazaars of Kerman in the east to the oil regions on the border with Iraq, it is impossible to catalogue how many meals and accommodations were offered by strangers of a half-hour's acquaintance.

And as often as I attempted to interview them, they turned the tables: What do they know of us in the West? Do they think we are all terrorists?

What could I tell them in return?"

Or even Abbas Milani from the conservative (some say neo-con) Hoover Institute:

"Over the last 50 years, the lure of modernity, fueled by the power of petrodollars, has led to the creation of a rapidly burgeoning, increasingly "wired," surprisingly cosmopolitan Iranian middle class. This middle class has much more in common with its Western counterparts than with its Muslim brethren...They constitute a veritable Trojan horse within the Islamic republic, supporting liberal values, democratic tolerance, and civic responsibility."

(3) With Chomsky and in a 2003 interview with CNN senior Correspondent Sheila MacVicar, Nasrallah qualified his "Death To America" statement:

MacVicar: You talked about how during the days when American forces were in Beirut, people in the southern suburbs screamed "Death to America." You went on to say, now,   "With U.S. forces back in the region, "Death to America" was, is and shall remain our slogan, and not merely a slogan but a policy." How does Hezbollah intend to implement that policy?

Nasrallah: In that same speech, I said, we don't mean death to American people but death to the U.S. project in the region. We don't want to kill. We did not launch attacks on U.S. grounds. We don't want to kill Americans.

(4) From a forum at which Chomsky spoke, MIT, Oct 18, 2001.

"For a dedicated totalitarian, ruling powers are to be identified with the people, the culture, and the society..."

I was stunned as usual to see Chomsky's point be so quickly vindicated.

At a press conference yesterday (Sept 15, 2006), President Bush said, in response to what Colin Powell said about America losing their moral credibility:

“If there’s any comparisons between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, that’s flawed logic. I just simply can’t accept that. It’s unacceptable to think that there’s any kind of comparison between the behaviour of the United States of America and the actions of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.”

He's right, there is no comparison. And nobody should compare them. The part to take note of is President Bush using extremists and comparing them not to American foreign policy, but to the American people, as if the foreign policy and the civilians are one and the same.

Again: “For a dedicated totalitarian, ruling powers are to be identified with the people, the culture, and the society…”

(5) In a February, 2006 interview with former terrorism expert for Ronald Reagan, Edward Peck, options for bargaining were laid out by Nasrallah, suggesting their imminence:

"The only possible strategy is for [us] to have Israeli prisoners, soldiers—the soldiers as prisoners—and then you negotiate with the Israelis in order to have your prisoners released. Here, this is the only choice. Here, you don't have multiple choices in order for you to choose one of them. You have no multiple choices. You have two options, either to have these prisoners or detainees remain in Israeli prisons or to capture Israeli soldiers."

(6) Chomsky interviewed by Hawzheen O Kareem, Komal Newspaper, Jan 2, 2004.

(7) See Assaf Kfoury: Noam Chomsky in Beirut, Z Net, July 12, 2006.

In sum, Chomsky gave two lectures at the American University of Beirut to "overflow crowds" and another at a movie theatre in Masrah al Madina; he visited an Israeli prison and torture compound in Southern Lebanon; he spent a morning at the Sabra-Shatila refugee camp outside of Beirut; he met with MP Walid Jumblat; he met with lawyer Chibli Mallat; he met with leaders of the Communist Party; he was part of a seminar on "Palestine 1948" at the Lebanese American University and he gave "dozens of interviews" for TV, radio and print, both Lebanese and international.

It was in this hectic schedule that Chomsky had "lengthy meetings with Hezbollah leaders."

(8) An interview with Lt. Gen Paul Van Riper (US Marine Corps-Ret.) for Rumsfeld's War, PBS, Frontline

Van Riper: I see inside the United States Army the germs of a second intellectual renaissance that's approaching these problems [with countering terrorism]. And they're not caught up in the sloganeering that most of the Joint [Staff] community's caught up in. They really are studying; they're having conferences. The conferences aren't love fests, where they put out some idea and try to get people to sign up to it. It's a real debate, real argument, trying to synthesize some new knowledge out of it.

Interviewer: Is there anything in the current Defense Department that would lead you to believe those ideas will flourish?

Van Riper: I see nothing from the highest levels of the Pentagon that would lead to this. What I see is a support of the Joint Forces command by edict being told to be innovative. You cannot demand innovation. You can't simply say to an organization, as Mr. Rumsfeld apparently did to the Army: "Be more innovative. You're not innovative enough. Service Chief, you're out of here." That's not the way to do it.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh has met with Nasrallah a few times. Here's what he said talking with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (August 2006):

"[I]ntelligence people around the world and some of the intelligence people in the Middle East—when the Iraqi war began to start—they encouraged me to see [Nasrallah], on grounds that this guy has a better feel for what's going on in Iraq, as a Shia—he's very close to the Shia leadership, to [Grand Ayatollah] Sistani, also to the Iranians..."

(9) Uri Avnery, a devoted peace activist, and outspoken protester against Israel occupation, was also a member of the Israeli terrorist group known as Irgun in the fight against the British. Avnery left the group for their anti-Arab policies, and in 1945 explained his reasons in a booklet entitled: "Terrorism, the infantile disease of the Hebrew revolution."

Nelson Mandela was designated for decades a terrorist as head of the African National Congress, which was fighting against South African apartheid rule.

Mandela has said: "...terrorism is a relative term... Those people who did not agree with your activities will label you a terrorist. But when you succeed, the same people are prepared to accept you and have dealings with you as a head of state."

Gerry Adams, the head of Sinn Fein (the IRA), was in December of 1982 banned from entering Britain under their Prevention of Terrorism Act. Six months later he was elected with a majority as a Member of Parliament for West Belfast.

The following quotes were cited in a paper by Joel Beinin:"Is Terrorism a Useful Term in Understanding the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict?" Radical History Review, Issue 85, Winter 2003.

The first is from Menachem Begin's memoirs of the struggle against the British in Palestine: Menachem Begin, The Revolt (New York: Dell, 1977), 100-101.

"Our enemies called us terrorists...And yet we were not terrorists...It all depends on who uses the term. It frequently happens that it is used by both sides in their mutual exchange of compliments."

The second is Yitzhak Shamir, quoted in Nicholas Bethell's The Palestine Triangle: The Struggle between the British, the Jews, and the Arabs, 1935-48 (London: Deutsch, 1979), 277-78.

"There are those who say that to kill Martin [a British sergeant] is terrorism, but to attack an army camp is guerrilla warfare and to bomb civilians is professional warfare.

But I think it is the same from the moral point of view. Is it better to drop an atomic bomb on a city than to kill a handful of persons? I don't think so. But nobody says that President Truman was a terrorist [for dropping the atomic bomb].

So it was more efficient and more moral to go for selected targets. In any case, it was the only way we could operate, because we were so small. For us it was not a question of the professional honour of a soldier, it was the question of an idea, an aim that had to be achieved. We were aiming at a political goal.

There are many examples of what we did to be found in the Bible—Gideon and Samson, for instance. This had an influence on our thinking. And we also learned from the history of other peoples who fought for their freedom—the Russian and Irish revolutionaries, Garibaldi and Tito."

In a Q&A with the Washington Post on Feb 20, 2000, Nasrallah said:

"In truth, the most conspicuous examples of terrorism are the actions undertaken by Israel in occupying Palestine and other Arab territories, its aggression against peaceful civilians and civilian installations, its destruction of villages and water sources, and the tremendous damage which it aggressively inflicts. All of this is done under the full protection of the American administration and with its help in the form of funds, weapons and political support. Truly, this is the terrorism. We are involved in legitimate resistance which is fully justified. This is what all people do when their land is occupied."

(10) From Chomsky, in an interview with Harry Kreisler in 2002:

"If George Bush tells us, like he did last week, and Tony Blair tells us, in this case, that "We can't let Saddam Hussein survive because he's the most evil man in history, he even used chemical weapons against his own people," I agree that far.

But it gives hypocrisy a bad name to stop there. You have to add, 'Yes, he used chemical weapons against his own people [and Iranians], with the support of Daddy Bush, who continued to support him right past that, knowing what he was doing; who helped him develop weapons of mass destruction. Welcomed him as a friend and ally, gave him lavish aid, after all these crimes.'

Unless you add that, it's just, like I say, giving hypocrisy a bad name. Well, nobody says that. You can read the commentary and the learned opinion and leading figures, and they just stop, "He used chemical weapons against his own people."

If you don't believe Chomsky about American support for Hussein during his worst atrocities, you can read Pulitzer-Prize winning author Samantha Power's section on Iraq in her book "A Problem From Hell."

Powers is no big fan of Chomsky, for the record (pg 173):

"After the September 1988 [chemical weapons] attack, Senator Clairborne Pell introduced a sanctions package on Capital Hill that would have cut off agricultural and manufacturing credits to Saddam Hussein as punishment for his killing unarmed civilians..."

"Pell argued that not even a U.S. ally could get away with gassing his own people. But the Bush administration, instead of suspending the CCC program or any of the other perks extended to the Iraqi regime, in 1989, a year after Hussein's savage gassing attacks and deportations had been documented, doubled its commitment to Iraq, hiking annual CCC credits above 1$ billion."

A few other Middle Eastern examples of American-and-their-allies' "non-terrorist" actions include backing the Shah's regime, which returned to power by overthrowing the democratically elected Mossadegh government in Iran, in a 1953 coup d'etat planned by American and British intelligence; the jihadist mujahideen in Afghanistan (organized, trained and funded by the CIA with the Pakistan ISI—"the most violent, crazed elements they could find" ) who would become the largest web of terrorists ever assembled and core elements of both the Taliban and Al-Qaida; to add to the sad record, 14 of the 19 Twin Tower terrorists are thought to be from Saudi Arabia...

(11) See www.yalibnan.com, Noam Chomsky visits Lebanon, May 9, 2006

(12) Cited in Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, pg 221.

(13) A propos to these comments, journalist Seymour Hersh in an interview with Democracy Now!, August 20, 2006:

"...[the Bush administration] is an administration that still refuses to deal with people it doesn't like. [We] have a president that won't talk to the Iranians, although they've wanted to, and there's been a lot of stories written about that. And they won't talk to the Syrians...

I've interviewed the President of Syria, Bashar al-Asad, a couple of times...He's written letters to George Bush, saying, "Let's get together. Let's talk. We have a lot in common. We can help you. We and Iran basically both have more—we can do more for you in Iraq than any other country. Why aren't you using us? We don't need a Somalia on our borders. We're not interested in chaos there."

And this White House doesn't believe it. And the letters weren't answered, he told me. His ambassador here in Washington, Imad Mustafa, is absolutely isolated. All this talk that the White House has made, Condoleezza Rice, about having openings to Iran, to Syria, are just, you know—they're not worth much. There's been some low-level talk. Nobody has made any efforts.

Syria has, as I've written in the New Yorker years ago, was one of the biggest helpers we had after al-Qaeda struck us, because Syria is—the old man Asad, the father of the current president, hated Jihadism. He did not like the Muslim Brotherhood. They were his opponents. And he kept the best books going on the Muslim Brotherhood, which is very closely connected to al-Qaeda. In fact, we learned more about al-Qaeda from Syria after 9/11 than from any other country. Asad, the president...agreed to give us access to thousands of files. And I wrote a story, I think in '02 or '03 for the New Yorker, in which I quoted a senior intelligence official of Syria saying, "We're willing to even talk about our support for Hezbollah with you. We want to see you win the war on terror."

So it's been an amazingly horrific performance by this White House..."

(14) See www.yalibnan.com Ali Hussein, Chomsky Needs To Learn A Lot More About Lebanon, May 13, 2006.

(15) Speech given at MIT, Oct, 18 2001

(16) See www.timesonline.co.uk British Anger at Terror Celebration, July 20, 2006.

(17) Amnesty International August, 2006, Lebanon: Destruction of Civilian Infrastructure

(18) See The State Of Food Insecurity In The World, 2005:

"Hunger and malnutrition are the underlying cause of more than half of all child deaths, killing nearly 6 million children each year...Relatively few of these children die of starvation. The vast majority are killed by neonatal disorders and a handful of treatable infectious diseases, including diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and measles."

(19) American Power and the New Mandarins, 1969.

(20) Language and Politics, pg 745 (the cognitive revolution, II, with David Barsamian)

(21) From Nahum Goldmann's the Jewish Paradox.

(22) Noam Chomsky interviewed by Hawzheen O. Kareem, Jan 2, 2004.

 

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copyright 2006 Pete McCormack