Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A couple of nice quotes by and about Chomsky

Nice quote from Chomsky on the Epic Tragedy of Zionist Israel:
In 1947, when the Truman administration was considering its stance towards the Palestine mandate that Britain was abandoning, the State Departments senior intelligence official, William Eddy, warned that partition 'would only intensify support for Zionist expansion and would represent an endorsement of a theocratic sovereign state characteristic of the Dark Ages.'

For those familiar with the Jewish community in Palestine and its ideological roots, the first prediction might have seemed reasonable enough, but the second an outlandish prospect for the secular socialist idealistic society that had taken root. Both evocative memoir and sober analysis, Ofra Yeshua-Lyths [whose book Chomsky is here reviewing] penetrating study reveals that Eddys grim prediction is not the fantasy it might once have seemed. She reviews the painful course by which the chains of religious orthodoxy from which the early Zionists sought to escape have become hanging cords, as Israeli Jews accept life in a homemade trap constructed from the dedication to expansionism and religious-nationalist domination that shatters aspirations for democracy and enlightenment. These might yet become more than mocking words, she suggests, but not without a willingness to face honestly the internal contradiction in the concept of a democratic Jewish state. [July 2007.]

That's about as good a one or two paragraph summary of the tragic trajectory of Zionism/Israel as could be found anywhere. One of the things I admire about Chomsky is not just his incredible depth of knowledge or his sound moral/philosophic foundation, it's the quality of his judgement and his insight. The best bar none.

Now onto another quote. John Brady Kiesling attracted deserved praise for being one of the very, very few people in the vast Anglo-American (including Australian) defence and government establishments who had the courage to resign in protest against the criminal Iraq war. The fact is, of course, that the 'Nuremberg Defence' ('I was only following orders') is the same defence everyone would use and very, very few people will ever give up their jobs or careers for 'principle'.

Kiesling writes:

Most Greek bookstores carry Greek translations of all the latest books by Noam Chomsky, an American intellectual gifted at connecting all the dots of U.S. behavior into a tidy picture. In 2001 I assured Mr. Tegopoulos, the publisher of Athens’ most popular leftist newspaper, that his favorite American philosopher was clinically insane.” Chomsky, I said, had deduced a vast, invisible mechanism of systematic U.S. oppression and exploitation, one that was not true to human nature and could not have operated over decades without becoming visible to its employees. I reassured Tegopoulos that the U.S. foreign policy apparatus could not conspire its way effectively out of a paper bag.

I feel more charitably disposed toward Chomsky now. The Iraq War proved that the United States does have a small group of extremely intelligent, disciplined, highly competitive individuals competent enough to mobilize the U.S. bureaucracy around a single mission such as regime change in Iraq. Chomsky’s favorite conspirators, the former Troskyites turned neoconservatives, might even have read Chomsky in their youth. Certainly they made the same mistake he did. They confused mastery over the U.S. bureaucratic system with U.S. power to triumph over the real world.

Kiesling might feel more charitably disposed, and we can charitably assume these are honest opinions, but they are a most absurd characterization of Chomsky's outlook. If these are the considered views of someone who resigned the Empire in protest, what would be really frightening would be the views of people inside the Empire - the deluded and the committed, capable of any folly. One recalls the dismal words of the Swedish diplomat as quoted by Barbara Tuchman in The March of Folly: "Know, my son, with what little wisdom the world is governed."

PS. Some other insightful review comments:

The foremost strength of the book is how it critiques not simply the religious establishment but how that establishment and its values have crept into the consciousness of the political-Zionist so-called "Liberal Left". These days, in an era where radicalized criticism of Islamic "religious fundamentalism" has become a mainstream intellectual trend, it is enlightening to meet an author and a work that exposes the political reality to the effect religious fundamentalism was introduced to the Middle East by political Zionism and that the State of Israel is a primary fundamentalist religious actor in the Middle East equations. - Uri Davis

This is a daring book, written in a country where the consensus is oppressive because the political correctness here requires not only proper language but also a proper defense of an improper, oppressive religion by a population which is the most non-religious one on earth. This is shameless hypocrisy. Behind it stands a secular religion, and secular religion is politically a most dangerous 20th-century disease. - Joseph Agassi

Israel Shahak was among the first, I assume, to critique the role of Orthodox Judaism in the disaster, but it now looks like a torrent of commentary is breaking around the subject.

No comments: