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Tel Aviv University
TAU Prof. Gadi Algazi interviews the persona non grata Prof. Noam Chomsky: Israel is not a democracy

Prof. Gadi Algazi Interviews Prof. Noam Chomsky for Israel Social TV:

To listen to the 17 mins audio interview click here†http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8lDuZTuDWQ

Prof. Gadi Algazi:Shalom, Prof. Chomsky.Itís great to have this occasion to talk with you.

Prof Noam Chomsky:Very glad to be with you.

Prof. Gadi Algazi:Wonderful.††I think that we are living interesting times now in the Middle East.Perhaps before we come to reality closer here in Israel, we should say something about the wind of change in the Middle East.

Prof. Noam Chomsky:Itís been quite a spectacular several months.††I think the beginning in the Western Sahara and how it spread onto to Egypt, the democracy uprising, which is shaking a lot of the foundations of policy in the western world and in Israel as well, and of course there is a major promise of change in the region, and I should say promise because the regimes are still in place.Itís possible that the situation might revert to something like the traditional regimes with somewhat new faces and somewhat new rights.

Prof. Gadi Algazi:Do you think that patrons in the west who have cultivated relationships with dictatorships all over the Middle East have something to fear as well?

Prof. Noam Chomsky:Well, itís important to recognize that the west will do any thing it can to prevent the rise of authentic democracy in the Arab world, and to understand why it suffices to look at studies of public opinion in the Arab world.There was a poll taken by one of the most prestigious western institutions, and what they show is that in the Arab world the major threat by an overwhelming majority is regarded as Israel and the United States.††There are some who regard Iran as a threat, maybe 10 percent.††In fact, the opposition to the western cause is so strong that a majority think that the region would be safer if Iran had nuclear weapons.Under those conditions, the west is obviously not going to be able to tolerate an authentic democracy in which peopleís attitudes and opinions influence policy.These reasons will obviously dismantle an entire long-standing system of imperial control and plus undermine current policies.

Prof. Gadi Algazi:So, it does give the lie to the imperial presumption of exporting democracy on bayonets in the Middle East or elsewhere?

Prof. Noam Chomsky:That is sure, that line is for ideologues and propagandists.I mean itís never been true and itís certainly not true now.I will take right where you are for example.There has been one free election in the Arab world, namely in Palestine in January 2006.Well, what happened?The United States, Israel and Europe didnít like the way the population voted.So immediately, US, Israel and with Europe tagging behind, immediately subjected the population to severe punishment.The punishment was for voting the wrong way in a free election.Well, that tells you what you need to know about their love of democracy.††In fact, itís kind of interesting to look at the latest Wikileaks exposures.††When they received big headlines in the United States and Europe was the happy conclusion that the Arabs support US and western policy on Iran, well, what that meant is that the Arab dictators supported and not the Arab population.The Arab population strongly opposes it overwhelmingly, but for western intellectual culture itís sufficient that the dictators support us.††It doesnít matter what the public thinks.

Prof. Gadi Algazi:Taking a longer view of the role of the US in the Middle East ignoring other areas, are you surprised by the late, the recent American veto when the UN Security Council discussed Israeli settlements in the occupied territories?

Prof. Noam Chomsky:The only thing that surprised me was the reaction to it.The latest resolution was kind of a little bit on the comical side because the US was compelled to veto a resolution that called for what it claims was its own policy, mainly ending settlement expansion.Virtually the entire world agrees on a political settlement, namely what was in the January 1976 resolution.The US and Israel were the two rejectionist states.They are barring a political settlement, as they have been doing for the last 35 years.

Prof. Gadi Algazi:So, you wouldnít advise opponents of the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza to rely on Obamaís administration to question radically US imperial policies in the Middle East?

Prof. Noam Chomsky:On the contrary, Obama is one of the worst.††It was clear that he was going to be one of the most extreme opponents of the international consensus on the political settlement and that was made clear right away.There were illusions, but there was no basis for them in the first place.They collapsed in the Arab world as the polls that I mentioned indicate.Itís kind of remarkable that some of them are still held in certain circles in Israel on the basis of absolutely nothing.††And he has taken an extreme position in support of the Israeli occupation and Israeli atrocities.In fact, itís not his position, he participates in them.I mean, when a couple of days ago when military helicopters were killing people in Gaza, their US helicopters.

Prof. Gadi Algazi:Surely.Letís go back then, letís go nearer home at least for us to Israel itself, where do you think the recent upheavals, short that they are not really revolutions, where do you think they place Israel who has claimed for so long to be the only democracy in the Middle East?

Prof. Noam Chomsky:Well, first of all, the claim is a little weak.Israel claims to be a democratic Jewish state.Well, thatís a contradiction.It wouldnít mean much if the commitment to being a Jewish state was purely symbolic, like having a day of rest on Saturday, but itís not.††If you look at Israeli laws, administrative regulations, and so on, they have made a very sharp distinction between the Jewish majority and the non-Jewish minority.Up until the year 2000, most of the land of the country, over 90 percent, was essentially in the hands of an organization which is committed by its contract with the State of Israel for people of the Jewish race, religion, and origin.In fact, non-Jewish citizens were kept off the land.Well, in the year 2000, the Supreme Court technically revised that, and now there is Knesset legislation trying to undermine the court decision.Actually, whatís happening is that while there is a democratic uprising in the Arab world, which should be very welcome if not to Israel, it is going in the opposite direction in Israel.Iím sure you read the article a couple of weeks ago by the head of the Israeli Bar Association, Shlomo Cohen, which he warned that Israel is moving to fascism.That was his term.

Prof. Gadi Algazi:So, in your view, this possession and systematic discrimination radically undermines Israelís claim to be a democracy?

Prof. Noam Chomsky:Well, thatís quite a part from the legislation that is now being considered; maybe some of it has already passed in the Knesset.††For example, investigating the funding of human rights organizations, like Bítselem for example.††Thatís the kind of thing that the head of the Bar Association was talking about, and now, I think this word fascism is a little strong, but you can understand his concern.

Prof. Gadi Algazi:And if we move from the current wave of anti-democratic legislation and actually measures on the ground, to a vision, could you spell out elements of your vision for a democratic Israel?††I wonder how far we can share it.

Prof. Noam Chomsky:Well, a democratic Israel presupposes the opportunity for a democratic Palestine.That means that the occupation has to be brought to an end.Now as far as remembering that as far back as 1967 Israelís biased legal authorities instructed the government that any settlement in the occupied territories is contrary to international law.Thatís later been reiterated by the UN Security Council, a couple of years ago by the International Court of Justice, when the US Justice agreed with a basic point in a separate declaration, so its not really in contention that the settlements are illegal, and of course settlement expansion is multiply illegal.††Well, you canít really talk about a democratic society as long as itís radically violating international law, by its own, conceding of itself, the area of which it exists.And then, internally in Israel, my own view, which goes back to, I should just say to clarify matters, that in the 1940s, I was a Zionist activist, Zionist youth leader, but was opposed to a Jewish state.I was committed to the bi-nationalist concessions that were partially held by Ha-Shomer Ha-Tzair and others.††I thought that the Jewish state was a mistake, but ok once established, it is there and has the rights of any state in the region, in the world, no more and no less.††However, it should move to be a democratic state, that is, a state of its citizens.Thatís not a Jewish state.††

Prof. Gadi Algazi:And the state of its citizens, in your eyes, means individual equalities or also collective equalities for national communities within Israel?

Prof. Noam Chomsky:I still believe what I believed in the 1940s, that it should be, I mean that there is, like it or not, a bi-national society, culturally, in practices, in language, and so on, and multi-national societies, bi-national societies can be democratic, but the point that you are making is that there should be rights of communities within a democratic society, and it can be preserved in many ways.††My own view is that all of Palestine, that is, the former British Mandate, should be integrated into a bi-national democratic society, and I should say that is a long-term process, that is going to take separate stages first.For the first stage, the only suggestion that Iíve ever heard that makes sense is that the first stage would have to be the two-state settlement of international consensus, and maybe move on from there to further integration, and I should also say that I donít see any particular reason to worship the boundaries that were imposed by imperial forces.Thatís a longer term goal, but I think that itís one that people can aspire to.Nothing holy about the imperial imposed borders!

Prof. Gadi Algazi:Do you think this can be helped from outside?††Do you think that the international community, social movements, can do something to prevent the danger of a rapid escalation of a war targeting Iran and the whole Middle East?

Prof. Noam Chomsky:I think so.††First of all, we should be clear about exactly what the Iranian threat is.Iranís an awful state, but thatís a separate question.

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