Review of RFM Recording of Noam Chomsky and Israel Shahak speaking on Jewish Fundamentalism

Recorded on 11/3/94, at MIT, Cambridge MA

With the term "Islamic Fundamentalist" being thrown around today, I thought it appropriate to remind people that no one religion has a monopoly on fundamentalism.

Review of Radio Free Maine Audio and Video Recording of Noam Chomsky and Israel Shahak speaking on Jewish Fundamentalism and Its Role in Israeli Domestic and Foreign Policies
Israel Shahak (1933-2001) was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Professor of Chemistry at Hebrew University and Chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights. After many years of correspondence, Israel Shahak and Noam Chomsky finally met and delivered a powerful talk together on November 3, 1994. The following is a review of that talk written by Arthur Whitman, a Quaker and Maine peace and justice activist


Rarely does an American audience have an opportunity to hear a Jewish Human Rights Activist from Israel speak so forthrightly on issues fundamental to the survival of democratic traditions in the Western World. But to have Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Noam Chomsky on the same platform with Professor Israel Shahak at MIT on November 3, 1994 was a stimulating intellectual �high� indeed. Fortunately the statements of these two life-long defenders of human rights around the world were captured for all to see and hear on audio and video tape recorded by Roger Leisner for RADIO FREE MAINE.

Professors Chomsky and Shahak have engaged in mutually fruitful correspondence for 25 years. This, however, was the first occasion for Chomsky to hear his colleague speak. In his introduction, Professor Chomsky focuses on the U.S. role in the Middle East (which he characterizes as enormous) and in answers to questions later in the program he gives ample evidence of his command of detail and his quick, �steel-trap� mind. Israel, he says, is not our 51st state, it is much more; there is no State in the Union that even comes close to receiving the level of funding which our Congress and the Federal Government on behalf of the American taxpayer sends to Israel, a very wealthy country, each year.

In an overview of what is happening in Israel today, Professor Chomsky sees not the end of colonialism, but the onset, as one Russian Jewish writer wrote, of a Bantustan-type control of Palestinian population as they are segregated into areas of limited self-government, much in the pattern promulgated by �White� apartheid governments for the �Blacks� of South Africa. The confiscation of Arab land for housing for �Jews only� in Jerusalem, the continuing proliferation of Jewish settler communities in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Gaza, all financed by the American taxpayer, are daily reminders of this policy so contrary to principles of western democracy.

Professor Shahak picks up some of these themes and sees policy toward Palestinians in Israel and the occupied areas as essentially racist in character. He tells several stories to illustrate his point:

*The Palestinian Colonel in the Israeli Army (that may be a new thought for many readers) who cannot benefit from the confiscated land because he is not a Jew. He couldn�t even rent such property.

*The Settler aiming his gun at a Palestinian under the law cannot be disarmed until after he shoots the Palestinian.

*The Palestinian prisoner, if he has killed or injured a fellow Palestinian is released to kill and maim once again, while if he has Jewish blood on his hands, Israel refuses to release him.

The only weakness of the tapes is that the questions are not clearly recorded nor are they always repeated by the speaker. In the question period, Professor Shahak makes a telling comment on Fiddler on the Roof, the musical based on the book by the Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem. Professor Shahak sees Jewish tradition as standing in contradiction to democratic society, as indeed did the author Aleichem in his incessant ridicule of Jewish tradition in many of his writings, In Hollywood style, of course, the musical has turned the issue on its head and the playwrights would have us, the audience, revel in Jewish tradition. Aside from the entertaining music of this �hit�, the writer of this review has long viewed it as a clever bit of propaganda for the Jewish nationalist cause which has been so costly in human lives.

Jewish people can and do joke about the duplicity of Jewish fundamentalism and this deception that beguiles the Gentile world. To illustrate, Professor Shahak retells the well-known Jewish joke: Some Jews don�t believe God exists, but they do believe that God gave them the land.

Unfortunately we have fundamentalists of other faiths and those in Washington, too, who do not see or do not want to see the deadly implications of this duplicity, this joke on the world. It is not a joke most thoughtful readers can laugh at.

Professors Shahak and Chomsky both deplore the fact that Americans and many in the Western World have been too quick to abandon their own democratic traditions and to embrace this virulent Jewish fundamentalism (Zionism) that has brought so much misery to the people of the Middle East for the last half century.
Talk available on audio for $11.00 and
VHS video for $20.00
Question and Answer Period available on audio
for $11.00 and VHS video for $20.00
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