The tenor of Middle East debate in this country is evolving faster than most of us realize, and in unpredictable directions. The latest is the attack on Noam Chomsky for being too sympathetic to Zionism.
Chomsky was interviewed December 2 on Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, a weekly talk show on radio station KPFA, the Pacifica flagship outlet in Berkeley, California. He was questioned on boycotting and divestment as a tactic against Israel, and said it was not productive. A month later the producers decided to follow up and held a discussion with two supporters of boycotts, sanctions and divestment, Ali Abunimah, Chicago-based editor of the Electronic Intifada Web site, and Jeff Blankfort, a longtime critic of Israel and Zionism. The host says Chomsky had been invited, too, but declined. Probably a smart move. They were out for blood.
The KPFA site says it will keep the discussion up until January 27. Here is another link on the Voices of the Middle East etc. Web site, which presumably will remain active.
It’s worth noting that Abunimah sticks to issues; he criticizes Chomsky’s views on economic sanctions and the one-state versus two-state solution, meaning the legitimacy of Israel’s existence, which Chomsky accepts and Abunimah rejects. Blankfort takes on Chomsky on the power of the Israel lobby and the Jews. In the original interview, interviewer Khalil Bendib challenged Chomsky for failing to criticize the Israel lobby. Chomsky insisted he been doing so for years and repeatedly asked what else he was supposed to say. Bendib basically fumfitted—he apparently wanted to say that Chomsky failed to attack Jewish influence and control but he couldn’t bring himself to say that out loud. Blankfort takes it on with gusto.
I found this discussion on Philip Weiss’s Mondoweiss.net site, which regularly attacks Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. The post on Chomsky and KPFA includes some fascinating reader feedback, including attacks on Weiss himself for being too pro-Israel and pro-Zionist. Weiss comes right out and says he doesn’t like blanket attacks on Jews, which would be obvious to anyone who reads him with any regularity and sees the Jewish moral anguish at work. Also in the feedback thread: Blankfort himself explaining how his Jewish upbringing in the 1950s shaped his current views.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).