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From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

More of the Same from Noam Chomsky. But You Already Knew That. In this week’s on-line edition of Al-Ahram Weekly, none other than Noam Chomsky comes to the defense of the late Yasser Arafat. Yes, we’re all shocked. There is so much flagrant dishonesty—not to mention godawful, run-on sentences—in the piece that one hardly knows where to begin. Here’s a typical example:

Turning to actual history (sic), the Camp David proposals divided the West Bank into virtually separated cantons, and could not possibly be accepted by any Palestinian leader. That is evident from a look at the maps that were easily available, but not in the NYT, or apparently anywhere in the US mainstream, perhaps for that reason. After the collapse of these negotiations, Clinton recognised that Arafat's reservations made sense, as demonstrated by the famous "parameters", which, though vague, went much further towards a possible settlement -- thus undermining the official story, but that's only logic, therefore as unacceptable as history. Clinton gave his own version of the reaction to his "parameters" in a talk to the Israeli Policy Forum on 7 January 2001: "Both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat have now accepted these parameters as the basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations."

This can only be a bold faced lie. As Chomsky must surely know, not least because Dennis Ross has explained it innumerable times, the Camp David proposals did not separate the West Bank into “cantons,” virtually separated or otherwise. And whatever “maps that were easily available” have little if anything to do with the Camp David proposals because, as Ross has likewise explained innumerable times, no such maps were published or available, easily or otherwise, or even drawn up until Ross included them in his recent book. This endlessly repeated nonsense about “cantons” and “maps” in regards to the Camp David negotiations are quite simply a myth that has been disseminated by Arafat apologists for years. Despite the remarkable consistency of their application, to borrow a phrase, they have no basis in reality. Last spring, I attended two talks given by Ross, and he mentioned his weary amusement when he hears about these canton/Bantustan maps. After all, these maps had conveniently appeared after Arafat’s refusal at Camp David, and they were maps that neither Ross, Barak, or Clinton had seen, much less drafted or proposed. Yet this is what the Palestinian leadership and its apologists were using to justify Arafat’s refusals. Rather than offering any real or honest explanation for why they rejected the Clinton proposals, the Palestinian leadership shirked responsibility and hid behind made-up maps and other lies. And Chomsky helps keep the charade alive.

In a classic example of self projection, Chomsky states that “Ross's view is so lacking in independent support and so radically selective that one has to take with a heavy grain of salt anything that he claims, from the specific details he meticulously records verbatim (maybe with a hidden tape recorder) to the very general conclusions presented as authoritative but without credible evidence…. In general, the book is next to worthless.” This, coming from a guy who’s still spewing forth about the so-called maps and cantons of the Camp David proposals.

And speaking of radically selective and heavy grains of salt, Chomsky’s blustering assertion that the Camp David proposals “could not possibly be accepted by any Palestinian leader” is, well, garbage, seeing as Arafat himself did eventually accept those very proposals. When it comes to “Reshaping History,” we see that Chomsky knows whereof he lies, er, speaks.

Chomsky’s blathering also includes this gem:

Since the issue of Palestinian national rights in a Palestinian state reached the agenda of diplomacy in the mid-1970s, "the prime obstacle to its realization", unambiguously, has been the US government, with the NYT staking a claim to be second on the list. That has been clear ever since January 1976, when Syria introduced a resolution to the UN Security Council calling for a two-state settlement. The resolution incorporated the crucial wording of UN 242 -- the basic document, all agree. It accorded to Israel the rights of any state in the international system, alongside of a Palestinian state in the territories Israel had conquered in 1967. The resolution was vetoed by the US. It was supported by the leading Arab states. Arafat's PLO condemned "the tyranny of the veto".

The notion that either the US government or the NYT has presented—nay, unambiguously presented—a greater barrier to Palestinian nationalism than, say, Palestinian terrorism or the corruption and incompetence over the decades of the Palestinian leadership, would be unambiguously laughable if it weren’t so Orwellian. And Chomsky is wrong yet again when he claims that the vetoed UNSC resolution of January 1976 “incorporated the crucial wording of UN 242.” UNSC 242 did not—and does not—require complete Israeli withdrawal from all the territories acquired in 1967, yet the vetoed resolution not only called for just such a complete withdrawal but even prejudged the status of these disputed territories, labeling all of them “Arab territories.” This itself was a violation of UNSC 242, and the resolution was rightly vetoed.

Chomsky is correct that the PLO condemned what its representative called “the tyranny of the veto.” These were the words of the PLO’s representative, Farouk Kaddoumi. He also delivered the requisite claptrap about “racist Zionism” and so on and so forth, conveniently omitting any mention of Palestinian terrorism. A charming fellow, to be sure, so little wonder that Chomsky quotes him. Nowadays, Kaddoumi is the Palestinian “Foreign Minister,” and even he admits that the PLO’s charter was never changed to recognize Israel. Notwithstanding the corresponding corollaries of such a principle, to borrow another phrase, Chomsky claims that “Arafat repeatedly offered negotiations leading to mutual recognition.” Well, sure. I’ll let Kaddoumi and Chomsky straighten out that line of reasoning.

Chomsky, despite writing in the semi-official mouthpiece of the Egyptian government, even disparages “media think-pieces,” all the while proffering yet another example par excellence. One can pick just about any sentence from this ridiculous screed and highlight within it an obfuscation or an out-and-out falsehood. Print the article and throw a dart at it, and chances are that you’ll hit something like this:

The US remains alone in blocking a diplomatic settlement. A recent important example was the presentation of the Geneva Accords in December 2002 (sic), supported by the usual very broad international consensus, with the usual exception: "The United States conspicuously was not among the governments sending a message of support," the NYT reported in a dismissive article (2 December 2002 (sic)).

In Chomsky’s world, the likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, and all the other myriad groups of terrorists and self-detonating Palestinian freedom fighters offer no blockage to a diplomatic settlement. This blockage comes solely from the United States. Seriously. And Chomsky’s partial quote from the NYT is telling as well. ( The article, like the presentation of the Geneva Accords, dates from 2003, not 2002, but who’s counting? Certainly not Chomsky.) As with other quotes in this piece, it’s hardly the first time Chomsky has cited it. While reading Chomsky one often experiences a sort of déjà vu, because so much of his writings are regurgitations and rehashes of speeches or other pieces. I wonder if he has a scrapbook of the (partial) quotes that he likes to recycle.

You’ll be less than shocked that this “dismissive article” is, well, not exactly dismissive. Or even “generally disparaging,” as Chomsky earlier described it. The full quote, incidentally, is “The United States conspicuously was not among the governments sending a message of support, though a low-level representative was present on Monday and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell previously sent negotiators a letter of encouragement.” Seeing as the latter part of the sentence offsets Chomsky’s hysterical claim that the US alone blocks a diplomatic settlement, it’s little wonder that he omits everything after the comma. Go figure.

And speaking of reshaping history, Chomsky mentions that the Oslo Accords were “celebrated with much fanfare on the White House lawn in September 2003 (sic).” Chomsky’s off by an entire decade on this one, but again, who’s counting? By this point in the essay, one isn’t sure if these are typos or simply a symptom of how Chomsky sees the world. When an essay contains so many mistakes, obfuscations, and falsehoods, especially when penned by a tenured MIT professor (speaking of “a career in respectable circles”), it tends to point to something more malignant than rhetorical sloppiness or editorial incompetence.

I could go on with this, and I may yet, but I can only deal with Chomsky for so long before “up” begins to seem like “down,” black becomes indistinguishable from white, 2+2 seems to equal 6, and so on. It’s like dealing with an intellectual charlatan who once tried to whitewash a Holocaust denier. Oh, wait.

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