Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blankfort vs. Chomsky

Jeffrey Blankfort, relentless critic of the Israel lobby and what he sees as the failure of the left to properly engage the question, has written a long-awaited critique of Noam Chomsky's views. Blankfort writes:
The 2005 edition of Left Curve has been published and most of it is now available online including my latest article: "Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict." I am aware that its contents will be controversial but I hope it will stimulate further critical analysis of Chomsky's writings and statements on that issue, an analysis that, given his status among progressive thinkers and activists, is long overdue.

You know, The Chom is held in such demigod-like reverence by the leftoid legions, that I would enjoy seeing him deflated a little--if it were by anyone other than Blankfort, who seeks to exculpate US imperialism of its crimes by scapegoating the Jews (oldest trick in the book), and is manifestly incapable of arguing honestly. For those masochists who waded through this self-righteous if ill-conceived exercise, I offer some responses:
The Blank begins by assailing The Chom for opposing sanctions against Israel. Chom says blaming Israel lets its imperial underwriters off the hook. Drawing an anaology to Poland's crushing of the Solidarity movement in the early '80s, he states: "It's like putting sanctions on Poland under the Russians because of what the Poles are doing. It doesn't make sense. Here, we're the Russians." Responds The Blank:

What role the Soviet Union had in that has been debated, but it should be obvious that there is no serious basis for such a comparison.
Oh? Why is it "obvious"? So much easier to just say it is "obvious" and move on than to actually make an argument. It seems to me a few paragraphs back Blank was blasting Chom for using the word "obvious" in this disingenuous manner. They seem to be birds of a feather.
In retrospect, however, it was no surprise. In the Eighties, Chomsky placed Israel’s relationship to the US in the same category as that of El Salvador when the Reagan administration was backing its puppet government against the FMLN. Not embarrassed at having spouted such nonsense, he still repeats it.
Does Blanky care to explain to us unenlightened souls WHY it is "nonsense"? It does not appear so nonsensical to me. No analogies are ever perfect, but both situations fall into the same broad "category" of a US client state doing dirty work with US taxdollars.
The Blank actually claims (on no evidence) that a Chomsky statement accusing Labor and Peres as well as Sharon of being "war criminals" was "comforting to the eyes and ears of Israel’s supporters in 'the left.'" Huh?
More from The Blank:
If we follow Chomsky’s "logic," it would be an injustice to bring charges of war crimes against Indonesian, El Salvadoran [sic], Guatemalan, Haitian, or Filipino officers, soldiers, or public officials for the atrocities committed against their own countrymen and women since they were funded, armed and politically supported by the US. Perhaps, General Pinochet will claim the Chomsky Defense if he goes to trial.
I thought The Chom was just quoted calling both Peres and Sharon "war criminals" a few paragraphs back. Huh?
The Blank calls for "Exposing and challenging the pro-Israel lobby’s stranglehold on Congress and its control over US Middle East policies which is accepted as a fact of life by political observers in Washington and elsewhere, but not by Chomsky."
Which "political observers" exactly? The Liberty Lobby? Is even Blanky-boy arguing that those wily Jews "control" US Middle East policy? We are in Iraq ONLY because of the Israel lobby? That's what the word "control" implies. It denies that ANY other influences or considerations are at play.
In an attempt to deflate the "Strategic Asset" theory, The Blank quotes a former Senate staffer: "The strategic service that Israel is said to perform for the United States–acting as a barrier to Soviet penetration of the Middle East–is one that is needed primarily because of the existence of Israel, but for which the Arabs would be much less amenable to Soviet influence..."
Yeah. So? If it weren't for Washington propping up dictatorships in Central America, the Soviets never would've got their foothold in Nicaragua in the '80s either. Does this mean the Somozas were secretly "controlling" US foreign policy? And I thought The Chom was talking about "indigenous" threats to US interests in the Middle East (a word he used in a quoted passage from his book The Fateful Triangle). Washington was just as afraid of radical Arab nationalists seizing the oil as of the Soviets gaining a foothold. Jeez, the US finally went to war with Iraq only AFTER the Soviets had virtually disappeared as a world power in '91, and only invaded Iraq after the Soviets had disappeared completely.
The Blank assails The Chom for quoting (again in Fateful Triangle) longtime Washington Senator Scoop Jackson saying Israel's task was to "inhibit and contain those irresponsible and radical elements in certain Arab states..." The Chom's crime is apparently failing to let the readers know of Jackson's "hawkish pro-Israel background." Does The Blank really think we don't know Scoop Jackson was an ultra-hawk? This only LOANS credibility to his statement on how the Beltway hawks view Israel as a strategic asset!
The Blank:
"To which we may add," Chomsky wrote in the preface to the new edition of Fateful Triangle, "performing dirty work that the US is unable to undertake itself because of popular opposition or other costs." Chomsky is still writing as if it were the Seventies or Eighties; there apparently is no limits [sic] to the "dirty work" the US will do for itself these days.
The Iraq atrocities notwithstanding, the US is still playing "good cop" with the domesticated Arab regimes (which is now all of them). The Israelis, with their nuclear arsenal, are still needed as the Bad Cop waiting in the wings.
The Blank favorably quotes Harold Brown: "The Israelis would say, ‘Let us help you,’ and then you end up being their tool."
Too perfect! The former Secretary of State--of the Carter administration, no less, which had been humiliated and destroyed by blunders in the Middle East--scapegoats the all-powerful Jews for unpopular US policies, thereby revealing with stark clarity how Israel is indeed a "strategic asset" for propagandistic as well as political/military purposes. And Blankfort applauds! Not because this poor player has shown his hand, but because Blankfort buys the propaganda! Pathetic!
You know, I've only made it around halfway through this disingenuous diatribe, but that seems quite enough, for now at least. I imagine I will be drawn into an interminable pissing match with The Blank when he replies here accusing me of being pro-Israel (just like The Chom, who calls Simon Peres a "war criminal" and is passionately hated by real Zionists)...

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