Saturday, March 10, 2007

Cherniak, Chomsky and anti Semitism

Cherniak: “While this singling out of Israel can be called "anti-Zionism", the reality is that it is no different than anti-Semitism. It is the singling out of Jews (indeed, an entire country of Jews) amongst all the people of the world for condemnation. I don't see how else you can view it.”

Anti-Semitism is indeed partly to blame. However, to offer up anti-Semitism as the phenomena’s ONLY cause is ridiculous.

It is quite clear that one of the causes is an unwillingness of successive US administrations to call Israel to the account. In other words, the US reluctance to play fair and call a spade a spade generates a great deal of discussion. As the self described leader of the free world, many people are frustrated with US’s unwillingness to treat the issue judiciously. Another cause is that Israel, unlike Iran, Syria, Jordan and China, is considered to be part of the Western orbit, one of us as it where, and as such is held to a higher standard by countries both inside and outside the western orbit.

Cherniak: “This can be applied to our personal lives as well.”

To apply this hair brained theory to various groups and countries is bad enough but to apply it to individuals is even worse.

Cherniak seems not to understand that hotly disputed issues, obviously, draw more discussion than topics that are not hotly disputed. Yes China mistreats Tibetans, but no one in the MSM media, or the political arena or the blogging community disputes this or would be surprised by it if they did not already know. Israel’s right to “self defense” is an entirely different matter and naturally enough people are more eager to discuss it.

As for Chomsky, for someone with political aspirations Cherniak certainly demonstrates a tin ear at times. Say for argument’s sake, that Himmler was a self hating Jew. There is no evidence that he was a Jew by the way. Would this little tidbit help make his case, viz., that Chomsky is an anti-Semite, or distract from it? Look in his comments section and you have your answer. If he wanted to make the case that just because someone is an x does not preclude them from being an x hater, he could have gone about it in a way that would not inflame and distract.

As for the accusation itself, it rests on some pretty weak evidence. Be rest assured, many people believed David Irving’s books were extensively researched and most of them were not anti-Semites. That said, it is very unlikely that Chomsky was truly convinced that Robert Faurisson’s book was based on "extensive research”. He admitted that he does “not know his work very well”. That said, if he did believe Faurisson’s book was based on “extensive research” it would be more of a backhanded complement than anything else. Given his assessment of Faurisson’s work he might as well have said this: “Despite years of extensive research, Faurisson, dim bulb that he is, draws all the wrong conclusions.”

Anyway, as should be clear to anyone, Chomsky’s support for Faurisson is a byproduct of his extreme libertarian view of free speech and is not a byproduct of anti-Semitism. And this was clear to anyone reading the Chomsky’s essay that is at the center of controversy, viz., Some Elementary Comments on the Rights of Freedom of Expression.

“Faurisson's conclusions are diametrically opposed to views I hold and have frequently expressed in print (for example, in my book Peace in the Middle East, where I describe the Holocaust as "the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history"). But it is elementary that freedom of expression (including academic freedom) is not to be restricted to views of which one approves, and that it is precisely in the case of views that are almost universally despised and condemned that this right must be most vigorously defended. It is easy enough to defend those who need no defense or to join in unanimous (and often justified) condemnation of a violation of civil rights by some official enemy.”

A run down of the whole affair can be read at wiki.


Erik Abbink said...

Good posting!


Canadian Tar Heel said...

Hi Kobi,

I can't really tell the main idea of this post. It seems to defend Chomsky against charges of anti-Semitism. One might be persuaded that the accusations against him are unfounded. But relying on Wiki and Zmag as main sources is questionable.

On a related note: There a number of other issues one might take with Chomsky. His historical analysis is dubious. And he often trips over his own ideology.

Koby said...

Chomsky essay is on zmag. Wiki is not used as evidence, but as background.