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Posted January 25, 2003
Chomsky: the Joan Peters of the Left
A. N. Chomsky is one of many experts on the Middle East who lines up to take pot shots at Joan Peters's book, From Time Immemorial. Like Peters, Chomsky contributes a valuable and well-informed, if sometimes inflexible, perspective on the Middle East's most intractable conflict. Also like Peters, however, Chomsky not infrequently succumbs to the temptation to propogandize, to the point that the factual value of his research is compromised. One notorious example of this is in his discussion of the Hebron massacre of 1929, where the victims were not Zionist settlers, but members of the indigenous Jewish population of Palestine. One might wonder why Chomsky is at such pains to deflect blame from the Arab perpetrators, blaming the incident on Zionist incitement. Conjecture: it is politically explosive to acknowledge that Palestinians (in this case, Jewish Palestinians) were expelled from their ancestral homes prior to 1948, and so a way to displace responsibility must be found. Another classic: Chomsky avers--with hand on heart, as it were--that the PLO scrupulously upheld its end of a ceasefire agreement, which Israel violated a great many times before commencing its invasion of Lebanon. Yet impartial readers might have liked to know that Israel's idea of a ceasefire included not only cross-border attacks but also international terrorism--terms which the PLO violated more than 200 times during the period in question. I believe that the perspective he brings is genuinely valuable at times, given the complexity of the conflict and the many angles from which it must be viewed, but, as with so many spinmeisters on the opposing side, Chomsky and his victims have ultimately cast more darkness on the subject than light.
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