Chomsky, BDS, and the Jewish Left Paradigm

In his latest article in The Nation, Noam Chomsky selectively cherry picks the facts that fit his preferred narrative, while ignoring and disguising relevant details that contradict his thesis. One would expect an academic of Chomsky’s stature to perform at a much higher standard of intellectual integrity.

Reviewing Chomsky’s latest criticism of the BDS reveals that the MIT linguist borders on deception. It is especially fascinating to examine Chomsky’s tactics in light of the current violent events in Israel/Palestine.

Chomsky writes, “The opening call of the BDS movement, by a group of Palestinian intellectuals in 2005, demanded that Israel fully comply with international law by “(1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall.”

This is simply not true. In July 2005 BDS’ first goal read rather differently: “(1). Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.”

In 2005 the first BDS goal didn’t include any reference to 1967 as Noam Chomsky suggests. It expressed opposition to the Israeli occupation of the entire land of historic Palestine. This goal was very upsetting for Jews and especially distressful to members of the Jewish Left. For them, the meaning was obvious; it implied that the Zionist project was a pure land grab. Then, at some unknown date around 2010 and without any protocol that suggested a formal decision, the goal changed as if by ‘magic’ and the words “occupied in June 1967” were added.

Attempts to discover who, within the BDS movement, had made the change didn’t reveal any answers. We do know, however, that the change followed growing pressure from Jewish anti Zionists within the BDS movement. We also know that the change occurred when BDS formed a dependence on EU money and Wall Street financiers such as George Soros. I would like to believe that Chomsky, who is a meticulous researcher who doesn’t miss details, is well aware of this change in BDS’ Goal statement. However, it may as well be possible that I am totally wrong and Chomsky was not aware of this BDS saga at the time he wrote his article.

But what is really the difference between the original 2005 BDS goal that called for an end to the occupation of ‘all Arab lands’ and the amended call that specified opposition to land occupied in 1967 only?

The answer is clear. BDS was initially a forceful political tool aimed at delegitimizing Israel, but has now become an instrument of the Jewish Left used to legitimize the existence of the Jews only State. The recent considerable success of BDS in organizing a boycott of products from the settlements proves this point. By targeting the settlements, it implicitly legitimizes the pre 1967 Jewish State in accordance with the Left Zionist perception that the gist of the Arab/Israeli problem stems from the ‘occupation.’ The message of the Israeli Left is as simple as it is wrong: once the occupation ends, peace will prevail. But is that really the case? As shown below, recent events in Israel/Palestine prove the opposite. The violent clashes between the IDF and Arab Israeli citizens this week are well within the borders of pre 1967 Israel.

It seems that the success of Jewish ‘anti’ Zionists’ in bending the BDS into submission served to increase the appetite of Jews-only groups. It was only a question of time until they asked for more Palestinians concessions. In his article in The Nation, Chomsky pursued just such a call. He criticized the third goal of the BDS, “(3) Respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”

Admittedly, the third BDS goal is uniquely weak. It ‘respects, ‘protects’ and ‘promotes’ the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. If I were a Palestinian refugee living in a camp for more than six decades, I would expect my ‘grassroots’ BDS movement to demand my absolute ethical ‘right to return’ to my land instead of weakly ‘respecting’ or ‘promoting’ it.

Chomsky, however, advocates the opposite goal. He tells the Palestinians — forget about your return, just move on. In his Nation piece, Chomsky recommends that the BDS abolish the third goal. “Insistence on (3) is a virtual guarantee of failure… this could lead to a ‘no-state solution’ — the optimal one, in my view, and in the real world no less plausible than the ‘one-state solution’ that is commonly, but mistakenly, discussed as an alternative to the international consensus.” To clarify the deliberately obscure, Noam Chomsky advises the Palestinians to dump the core of their cause. And why? Because of an alleged ‘international consensus.’

This obsession with ‘legalism’, ‘international law,’ and ‘consensus’ while ignoring ethics, morality, and justice is typical of the materialist thinking inherent in Left and progressive schools of thought. It is, once again, the commissar advocating the ‘correct’ political ‘action’ instead of adopting a humanist discourse driven by an authentic sense of justice and truthfulness.

We should remind Chomsky, the master of detail, that Israel actually holds the world record in ignoring international law, dismissing human rights and scorning UN resolutions. Israel chooses instead to invest its energy buying political influence in the west through its forceful lobbies. And no surprise, the same Chomsky who now recommends that the Palestinians abandon their aspirations to return was also the first to criticize Mearsheimer and Walt’s work on the Israeli Lobby and its immense influence.

The message to the Palestinian Western activists who worked for years to build a dialogue with the Jewish Left is simple and devastating – you went to bed with the wrong people. Trust in the Jewish left killed your resistance and seems to have killed whatever is left of your cause. Chomsky, on the other hand, may not be the sophisticated mind that some people believe he is, but he is at least dedicated to his cause – Chomsky is a light Zionist by admission. He promotes and operates within Jews only political cells. Chomsky is consistent. However, the Palestinians who for years enlisted his support were tricked into betraying their own cause and their people’s interests.

Recent events in Israel and Palestine prove beyond doubt that that Left Zionist paradigm has been thoroughly misleading. The clashes this week are taking place within Israeli territory in Jerusalem, the Galilee and Negev, not in the occupied territories, and the violence has little to do with the ‘occupation.’

The Award-winning Palestinian novelist Sayed Kashua, probably the best Hebrew writer and for many years a symbol of Arab/Israeli co-existence, expressed this realisation better than anyone else. Kashua concluded last week that co-existence is “a lie.” Following the bloodthirsty calls for revenge coming from all quarters of Israeli society Kashua wrote about the continued prospect of living together – “this is really the end, it’s finished.” For Kashua, an Israeli Palestinian the Nakba II is now, he wants to leave Jerusalem and never return. He has been ethnically cleansed by the Jewish State.

The verdict is clear. The occupation is not the problem; it is just a symptom of the problem. The Jewish state is a problem and it is a serious problem. The Jewish Lobby is an even greater problem and it is a global one. And as it seems, even the Jewish Left a la Chomsky is also a grave problem. At the very least it has been an obstacle that prevented the Palestinians from grasping the real context of their struggle.

  • See also “Who Decides for the Palestinians?
  • Gilad Atzmon, now living in London, was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of The Wandering Who and one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. He can be reached at: atz@onetel.net.uk. Read other articles by Gilad, or visit Gilad's website.