Chomsky Discusses Peace Process

MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky expressed his views on relations between Israelis and Palestinians as well as the role of the United States in the Middle East last night to an overflowing audience at Harvard's Yenching Library.

Chomsky's speech, entitled "What is the peace process in the Middle East," focused on the soon to be implemented Palestinian autonomy zones in the West Bank. These zones would provide for a limited amount of Palestinian self-rule in specified areas of the West Bank.

"In Israel it has been pointed out that the agreement that's now been made is not like the end of apartheid, it's like the institutionalization of apartheid," Chomsky said.

According to Chomsky, this self-rule would be effective in the municipal areas of about six Palestinian towns and within about 100 scattered land blocks on the West Bank, which would be surrounded, by Israeli-held areas.

Chomsky said that under the terms of the agreement, Palestinians would gain some autonomy within about 30 percent of the West Bank.


Chomsky described how the autonomy zones are separated, both from one another and from Egypt. He said the zones have been separated so that Israelis could easily imprison Palestinians either by closing roads or by imposing curfews.

Said Chomsky: "Any time there is an Israeli atrocity [against Palestinians] they can impose curfew to deter any Palestinian reaction." He also said that there are now huge roadway construction programs underway in the West Bank so that Israelis will continue to be able to drive around the region without encountering Palestinians.

He said the planned system of limited Palestinian self-rule is unjust because after years of Palestinian and international calls for Israel to with draw from the West Bank the current agreement contains "no rights for the Palestinians and no withdrawal."

Chomsky said that the diplomatic process in Israel was set in motion in 1967, with the conclusion of the Six Day War. According to Chomsky, "From this time until 1990 the U.S. simply tried to block every effort at diplomatic negotiations."

He said reports of these efforts to thwart the peace process have been suppressed by the U.S. government and the press because they were in opposition to stated U.S. policy. He characterized the Israeli peace process during this period as "25 years of total refusal to accept any diplomatic mediation."

Chomsky said the 1990 Gulf War gave the U.S. the opportunity to implement a "genuine" Israeli-Palestinian peace process: "Genuine because it was implemented unilaterally by the U.S."

Chomsky stressed that calls by the UN and countries around the world for Israel to leave the West Bank have gone unheeded because of U.S. support of Israeli activities.

"International law is another flexible concept which means whatever the United States decides," he said.

Chomsky made repeated references to Israeli imperialism in the West Bank, saying that "Israel is finally realizing that the only thing that makes sense is to revert to the classic imperialistic pattern."

He aptly summarized his views when he said: "In my opinion the prospects of the Palestinians are... very gloomy."

Laura B. Mutterperl '97, a board member of Harvard Students for Israel, said Chomsky's speech contained a mix of facts and opinions.

"Within his list of facts, he also inserts subjective opinions, which are not always recognized and gain credibility because they are surrounded by facts," Mutterperl said.

"Both sides of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict are guilty of atrocities and both should recognize their guilt," she said

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