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Chomsky, Shahak Discuss Jewish Fundamentalism

By Stacey E. Blau
Staff Reporter

Institute Professor Noam A. Chomsky and scholar Israel Shahak addressed the issues of Jewish fundamentalism in the domestic and foreign policy of Israel in a forum last Thursday.

The pair spoke to a full crowd in 26-100 and met with opposition from several members of the audience when individuals had the opportunity to voice comments and ask questions.

Shahak is the author of Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of 3,000 Years.

Chomsky began the event with a discussion of what he called the "overwhelming" degree of U.S. influence in the Middle East, which is used "as a lever for world control." The United States and England have financed Middle East dictators who function as "an array of local managers" for American and British interests, Chomsky said.

With U.S. support that amounts to a yearly $1,000 per capita, the highest amount received by any foreign country from the United States, Israel has essentially become "local cops on the beat" in control of the Middle East, Chomsky said.

But this support of Israel has been at the expense of Palestinians, Chomsky said. "If you don't perform any services to the powerful, your human rights are zero," Chomsky said. "Palestinians have negative rights."

Shahak described the situation of Palestinians as a "manifestation of apartheid in the territories" of Israel. Although Palestinians account for 70 percent of Israeli citizens, they are regularly dealt with unjustly and are denied resources such as land and water, Shahak said.

Palestinians are also subject to unfair legal treatment, Shahak said. Israeli Jews who have killed or wounded Palestinians are freed, but Palestinians are punished - often tortured - for committing the same acts against Jews, he said.

"We are doing to Palestinians what Christians have done to [Jews]," Shahak continued, tracing the history of the oppression of Jews throughout European history. "It is quite common that a persecuted group becomes a persecutor," he said.

Audience members had the opportunity to voice their questions and comments after Chomsky and Shahak spoke. Some accused Chomsky and Shahak of exaggerating and not speaking the truth. One audience member called Chomsky a liar.

Another accused Chomsky of promoting "a cesspool of misinformation." Echoing the words of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin about Baruch Goldstein, the Jew who last February murdered 29 Palestinians in a mosque in Israel, the audience member said to Chomsky, "We spit you out with every bit of power we have."

Chomsky responded, "The feeling is mutual."

In reply to the audience's hostility, Shahak said that Jews who perpetuate a "denial of common humanity" are "Jewish Nazis."

Another audience member angrily responded to Shahak, "You were lucky you survived [the Holocaust], but 6 million Jews didn't."

Several others said that Shahak's use of the phrase "Jewish Nazis" was disrespectful to the memory of the Holocaust. Shahak maintained that "Jews can become Nazis."

In response to a call, Campus Police asked one heckler to leave because he "was disrupting the event," according to Campus Police Lieutenant David A. Carlson. The person ejected from the event was not affiliated with MIT, Carlson said.

The forum will be broadcast on radio station WMFO 91.5 FM on Thursday, Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 6 to 8 p.m.