Jewish zealotry and libels on Chomsky

by Israel Shahak

Because I happen to be myself a Holocaust survivor who was in Warsaw Ghetto until its end and subsequently, after some "adventures", spent nearly two years in Bergen Belsen, and in addition to personal knowledge has also read much of the more honest historical and other literature on the Holocaust (more available in Hebrew than in English), the continuing industry of libels against Noam Chomsky employing slanders connected with Holocaust and Nazism annoys me especially. This is one of the reasons why I want to respond to the article: "A degree too far" by Elie Schuster (Globe and Mail, April 18, 2000). Another reason is that as an Israeli Jew, I am member of a society where questions related to Jewish issues, including Holocaust, are discussed with a greater freedom than allowed in North America generally, and Canada especially, where, in my view, Jewish zealotry has succeeded to establish control of media impossible in Israel itself. Before discussing some issues misrepresented by Schuster let me point out, that the most popular Hebrew paper in Israel, Yediot Ahronot, has prominently included Noam Chomsky among the hundred most important Jews of the last century, and that the second important paper, Maariv, when compiling its own list, was not much behind with its praises for him as one of the distinguished Jews living now. Although both papers noted Chomskyls criticism of Israeli policies they recognized his honesty.

By way of a partial answer to Schuster let me discuss, especially from the Jewish and Israeli point of view, two issues on which he libels Chomsky: the so-called Faurisson Affair and a comparison of some policies of the USA under Reagan to policies of Hitler's Germany. The essence of Faurisson Affair was, contrary to Schuster and detractors of Chomsky in general, not Faurisson's denial of Holocaust (I am sure more abhorrent to Chomsky than to his detractors), but two issues they try to hide: whether people who express abhorrent views should be punished by the state, and whether a state has the right to pass laws stating that holding a given historical view, however offensive, is a crime. On those two issues I fully support Chomskyls position which is that freedom of expression, the cornerstone of human rights and democracy, demands that views should be distinguished from acts and, as Spinoza wrote: "In a free state, each person thinks what he wants and says what he thinks", without punishment for the expression of any view whatsoever. However, being more interested than Chomsky in specifically Jewish issues, I add that the Jews should be among the first to adopt this opinion, not only for the sake of democracy but also for the sake of their own true interests.

It is a fact that many Jews hold now, and once all the Jews held views most abhorrent to Christians. Jews who believe in religious authority of Talmud, believe, for example that Jesus Christ was a criminal justly executed by a Jewish court without any intervention of Pontius Pilate for the crimes of idolatry and witchcraft. They also hold that he is being punished in Hell by being boiled in excrement. Those views are recorded in Talmud and reiterated, together with much else, in subsequent Talmudic literature. They were especially circulated among religious Jews during recent visit of John Paul II to the Holy land and were recently mentioned as an example of Jewish opinions about Christianity by the prestigious Hebrew paper Haaretz, although this may have gone unreported by Globe and Mail. Let me add that the above mentioned stories are used in Israel (and I presume in Canada as well) in education of Jewish children, being often explained in easy Hebrew in popular books like 11Sefer HalAggadall ("Book of Talmudic Legends") edited by Bialik - the national Hebrew poet - and Ravnitzky. For me this view is abhorrent and pernicious nonsense and I am conscious of its being most offensive to Christians. I will even hazard a guess that Talmudic views about Jesus are more offensive to the majority of Canadians than any opinion held by Noam Chomsky. However, I think that opposition to an orthodox Jew receiving a honorary degree from Canadian university on the ground that, as a believer in the authority of Talmud, he holds abhorrent opinions would be labelled "anti-Semitism". For me the libels of Schuster are the equivalent of the worst kind of anti-Semitism.

Let me add that the deep influence of Jewish zealotry is shown no less in current politics than in theological slanders. The problem of Israel refusing to free Palestinian prisoners "with blood on their hands" is one of the most urgent hindrances to any stable cease fire (peace is anyhow impossible in my view), not only between Israel and Palestinians but with entire Arab world. The reason is that the Israelis and Arabs (although perhaps not the Canadians), are fully aware that the "blood" referred to is only "Jewish blood". Israel gladly releases Palestinian prisoners who have "only" killed non Jews, while Jews who killed Arabs are regularly amnestied after serving quite short periods of imprisonment for the most atrocious murders. This policy derives from views of Jewish orthodoxy, which holds that the life of a non Jew has only a limited value, contrary to the life of a Jew which is of a supreme value, and the need of Israeli governments to pander to the religious Jewish parties who support this view. Let me add that important Israeli rabbis denigrate what they call "non Jewish blood". For example, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel, rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and rabbi Yosef the spiritual head of influential Shas party and many other rabbis opined in 1995 that the religious Jews should avoid receiving blood donations from non Jews (and to lesser extent from impious Jews) because of what the rabbis consider as the "bad" quality of the non Jewish blood. The influence of pernicious theology on the Israeli politic can be illustrated by a recent (January 19, 2000) pronouncement of the above mentioned rabbi Eliyahu. He opined that Damascus belongs to the Jews because, according to the Bible, it had been conquered by king David. Because of this, possibly mythical, conquest, he opined that Syria should "return" it to Israel as a condition of peace.

Let me deal more briefly with Schuster's accusation that Chomsky had been comparing the USA policies under Reagan with Hitler's Germany. The comparison of Yasser Arafat to Hitler was, for many years, the staple of of Israeli politics, echoed by many Jewish leaders in other countries, including Canada. Prime Minister Begin has referred to Arafat as "Hitler in his bunker" when Israeli planes were bombing Beirut in 1982, and his phrase is still current among the Jewish zealots. Before this, Nasser and other Arab leaders were often compared to Hitler or just called "Hitler" by Israeli Prime Ministers and many important Jewish leaders throughout the world. Although in the fall of 1996 Netanyahu has called Arafat 'my friend and partner", I did not hear any important Jewish leader asking a simple question: how could a person regarded as Hitler by one Israeli Prime Minister become the friend and partner of another. This example should teach us that comparing a modern politician to Hitler is a common Jewish form of rhetoric. In any case why what is allowed to Begin and Ben-Gurion and their followers should be forbidden to Chomsky? Had the detractors of Chomsky a modicum of honesty, and had they really objected to comparing modern politicians to Hitler, they would have also condemned Begin and other Jewish leaders.

However, with all my abhorrence of Talmudic views on many issues (not only about Jesus), and of the pronouncements of orthodox rabbis about non Jewish blood, I will firmly oppose any prohibition of those views and any punishment for holding them and, I am sure, so would Noam Chomsky. In my view, withholding a honorary degree from a rabbi of great scholarship because he holds such views, and even an inquisition about the views he holds, or withholding a degree from an eminent Jewish leader in Canada because years before he called Arafat Hitler, constitutes a persecution which should be opposed by all persons devoted to freedom of expression, exactly as opposition, backed by libels, to Chomsky receiving an academic honor should be opposed. In this context, let us remember that Talmud was burned or censored by Inquisition and other Christian authorities because it is really full of views and laws abhorrent to pious Christians and, let me add, to any honest person. The detractors of Chomsky are following in the steps of Inquisition and the modern totalitarian regimes, while he continues the work of Enlightenment, one of whose major consequences was the equality of the Jews and other minorities, which before it used to be discriminated because of their opinions. It is obvious in my view that one of possible consequences of a limitation of freedom of expression for opinions regarded by many as abhorrent can be a renewal of discrimination of the Jews, because many of them are holding views which are abhorrent to many Christians and Muslims. The great political work of Noam Chomsky should be regarded, as I regard it, as being not only in the interest of humanity, but also as being in the best interests of the Jews. It is a mistake, often made by Jewish zealots, to suppose that one can separate between the two. As the recent history, particularly during the Holocaust which I have witnessed, has abundantly shown, Jewish rights can be only secured by struggle for the increase of universal freedom. They can not be permanently secured by increase of the so-called "Jewish power". I, and most Holocaust survivors were liberated by armies of the Allies. Even now, when Jews are persecuted by a moderately strong state such as Iran, their only hope lies in an appeal to the world opinion. Such appeals on behalf of persecuted minorities, many of which supported by Noam Chomsky and few (except those made only for the Jews) by his detractors, have a better chance of succeeding when the freedom of expression is increasing. They have a much smaller chance when it decreases. By persecuting Chomsky for his views, his enemies are undermining the freedom and equality which Jews enjoy in the countries where freedom of expression is increasing.

 [Sent by Israel Shahak to Toronto's newspaper "The Globe and Mail" in response to cited article by Elie Schuster, part of an ongoing attack on Chomsky in Canada, but so far not printed by the newspaper. Published by permission of Israel Shahak]

 Posted on August 1, 2000, by Knut Rognes