Apartheid Israel, Bunker Israel: Elvis Costello and Noam Chomsky

The repercussions of the brutal shooting-fish-in-a-barrel Gaza War, of the continued Israeli siege and boycott of the Gaza Strip, and of the vigorous colonization of the Palestinian West Bank by militant Israelis, continue to grow. The clear resistance of the far rightwing government of Binyamin Netanyahu to the two-state solution sought urgently by US president Barack Obama, in favor the massive and ongoing theft of Palestinian land and resources, has increasingly tarred Israel with the brush of Apartheid policies. The greatest danger facing Israel is no longer, as in the past, neighboring Arab armies, tank corps and missiles. It is a series of humiliations in the realm of cultural politics, most of them self-inflicted.

The arts community is often pioneers in symbolically protesting human rights violations that others find it inconvenient to mention. Artists are independent-minded and often financially independent, and so cannot easily be pressured.

Thus, singer Elvis Costello’s decision to join Carlos Santana, Sting, Gil Scott Heron, and Bono in boycotting Israel is likely a harbinger of things to come rather than being just an individual decision of conscience. Costello announced at his web page that:

‘ It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.

One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.

Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.

I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security. ‘

If some world cultural figures will not go to Israel anymore, increasingly irrational and Draconian Israeli restrictions on dissidents have excluded from Israel Jewish-American linguist and activist Noam Chomsky. Aljazeera English interviewed Chomsky on the episode:

Chomsky was told that the Israeli government did not like his writings and that it objected to him speaking at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank but not in Israel proper. He accused Israel of acting like a totalitarian state.

Ironies abound here. The Likud government has by this action legitimated academic boycotts, a political technique that the British Left in particular has advocated be used against Israel itself. Those who argued against boycotting Israel earlier were able to say that it upheld academic freedom and exchange and so should not be isolated. Chomsky himself pointed out that Israel was in essence boycotting Bir Zeit University in preventing his appearance there.

(Another important point is that Israel was making this decision for occupied Palestinians. The latter have no voice in the matter, since they cannot vote for the Israeli government that rules them and decides whose lectures they may attend).

Another irony is that Chomsky could not get official confirmation that he would be permitted to enter the West Bank on a second try, and so he addressed his Bir Zeit audience by video from Amman, with Aljazeera helping out. In the region, Aljazeera has played an important role in giving a platform to a very wide range of political views, and now this Arab media outlet is more open than the supposedly democratic Israel.

The stories of Elvis Costello and Noam Chomsky illuminate two over-arching processes. Israel’s growing reputation as an Apartheid state will not result in major economic boycotts in the near term. But the step Costello took may become more and more common if the Palestinians continue to be deprived by Israel of their basic human rights. Chomsky’s story is one of self-imposed isolation on the part of Israeli officials, mired in the proto-fascist political philosophy of Vladimir Jabotinsky– the intellectual background of the Likud Party and of Netanyahu.

19 Responses

  1. Here is a revealing statement from Ehud Olmert in 2003:

    “More and more Palestinians are uninterested in a negotiated, two-state solution, because they want to change the essence of the conflict from an Algerian paradigm to a South African one. From a struggle against `occupation,’ in their parlance, to a struggle for one-man-one-vote. That is, of course, a much cleaner struggle, a much more popular struggle – and ultimately a much more powerful one.”

    Evidently, even the Israeli leadership agrees that they are running an Apartheid state.

  2. according to the BBC, Chomsky’s reaction to the Israelis’ statement that they didn’t like his writings, was “I asked them if they could find any government in the world that likes the things I say.”

  3. Prof Cole did you watch the

    Senate Foreign Relations Cmte. Hearing on START Treaty (May 18, 2010)
    Senate Foreign Relations Cmte. Hearing on START Treaty In April, Pres. Obama and Russian Pres. Medvedev signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that will limit long-range nuclear weapons. Sec. of State Clinton, Defense Sec. Gates and Jt. Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mullen discussed the treaty at a Senate Foreign Relations Cmte hearing. This would replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the 2002 Moscow Treaty.
    Washington, DC : 2 hr. 16 min.

    Hillary “warmongering” Clinton claimed some things about Iran that I hope you dissect. She said that Iran IS enriching uranium above 20%. She was also saying that she had China and Russia on board for more sanctions.
    link to c-span.org

    Have you noticed all of the energy commercials on the MSM? First they have a Iraqi Vet talking about how the US needs to get off the oil teat in the middle east, show US tanks being blown up by IED’s, then they show a shot of the Iranian President and call him a MADMAN and how our oil addiction puts money in his pocket. Several versions of these commercials but they are being played all over the MSM. MSNBC, CNN etc.

    New strategy to fuel aggression towards Iran

    • Sorry to say this, but it appears that the American public is the most manipulated people in the free world. Actually it is worst than how it was in the USSR. In the USSR most people knew that what they saw and heard was part of government propaganda. As such they could filter out at least some of the propaganda. Here, in this country however, the manipulation and propaganda is pervasive and sophisticated that most people even do not realize who their opinion is being manipulated.

      A sad state of affairs in the land of the free and home of the brave.

      • Every private-sector TV commercial you’ve ever seen is a meta-commercial for corporate rule. They have spent your entire life telling you that they have all the answers, that they are the ones who care about you, that they will make your life easy and protect you from all dangers.

        It all adds up.

  4. Good for Elvis Costello, Santana, Sting, Gil Scott Heron, and Bono!

    I too would like to boycott Israeli products on a personal basis. I am not sure there are a lot of consumer products being sold in this country that are from Israel. I assume most are industrial products and services sold to industries rather than to consumers. Does anyone know about organization or websites that inform consumers on this issue? Thanks.

  5. Dr. Cole (or readers),

    Are there any books on the intellectual history of Likud and Jabotinsky’s political philosophy you would recommend? I had read about fascist influence before, but I don’t know the details.

      • British review of the book here:
        Deep, devastating and original analysis of Zionist ideology, 9 April 2009 By Germinal (St. Ives) – See all my reviews

        This review is from: The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel (Paperback)
        This book is a history and critique of the ideological history of Zionism. It is a complex, often difficult to read, book that is, never the less, worth persevering with as it is also richly rewarding.

        Piterberg is an Israeli who is utterly alienated from Israeli society. This alienation goes back to Piterberg’s childhood when he realised that the propserous Israeli neighbourhood where he grew up had previously been a Palestinian village where the inhabitants had been removed, the buildings razed and the name erased.

        Piterburg shows how right wing German nationalist ideas influenced Zionism. He shows how Theodor Herzl’s novel `Altneuland’ where an anti-semitic Prussian Junker ends up living in a Jewish state in Palestine represents assimilation by other means – by Jews becoming colonialist Europeans in order to become accepted as Europeans. Piterberg shows how Herzl was a right wing German nationalist, a member of a nationalist dueling club and harboured a dream to be a Prussian Junker until he was expelled for being a Jew.

        Another leading Zionist who absorbed German racist nationalist ideas was Arthur Ruppin. Ruppin was the leading light in promoting Jewish coclonisation of Palestine. Ruppin came to believe that Jews were actually Aryans who had been racially corrupted by inbreeding with semites, met with racist ideologues who influenced Himmler, absorbed the racist ideas of Houston Stewart Chamberlain and tried to prove the point by measuring Jewish noses. Ruppin also brazenly copied German colonisation policies in Poland in his model of Zionist colonisation in Palestine.

        Piterberg goes on to criticise Gershon Scholem and his view that Jewish history can only really be written by Jews who have `returned’ to Palestine.

        Amos Oz gets a pasting for editing out Israeli soldiers’ accounts of their own massacres and murders from `Soldier’s Talk’ in order to help propagate the `purity of arms’ myth.

        There are also interesting discussions on the value of Bernard Lazare, Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt as non-Zionist Jewish thinkers.

  6. There is defacto censorship of Noam Chomsky in his own country.

    With the exception of “Democracy Now” where he occasionally is interviewed, I have never even heard his name mentioned on American news.

    Mention of Noam Chomsky’s name is forbidden.

    They fear him. They are afraid of what he has to say.

    • Good point. We do not censor opinion with crude laws. No, we censor by controlling access. Case in point is Chomsky. Our MSM have made him invisible and silent to the public. Well done in deed.

    • He’s been on Charlie Rose once or twice. I suppose his current status as a public intellectual has been helped by the internet a great deal. As Chomsky put it, a large problem is that tv and newspapers are concerned with what they call “concision.” Something that despite his brilliance, or as a result of, Chomsky does not do. : )

  7. Citizen: A number of consumer products sold in the US are made in Israel or are being boycotted because of corporate ties to Israel of various kinds. Motorola, Sabra, Victoria’s Secret, and the Gap are some of the companies on the boycott list. Check out Adalah NY (http://adalahny.org) for information and links.

  8. Glad to see this post.
    I’d be curious to see what criticism this has received in Israel from Likud’s opponents. have any prominent politicians spoken in Chomsky’s defense?

    Juan: “the two-state solution sought urgently by US president Barack Obama”
    I don’t see the urgency or any real difference in policy between Bush and Obama in this regard. In fact, Congress just approved missile “defense” for Israel on top of it’s $30 billion ten-year aid guarantee. Our aid now represents about 20 percent of Israel’s annual defense budget. This is urgency?

  9. I wish I could apply Noam’s brain to banking reform.

  10. On a related note, I’m not sure Mr. Chomsky could get into Canada.

    The British parliamentarian George Galway was denied entry to Canada, for attempting to deliver aid to the Palestinians.

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