Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Chomsky-Nasrallah Axis

(Photo: Nasrallah and his buddy Noam from MIT -

I've become quite a fan of some of the critical pieces that have begun appearing in the Lebanese Daily Star in the past months. Of course, there are the obligatory condemnations of Israel, but I sense an openess among its editors, including a willingness to publish articles by Israelis. One of the paper's real stars is Michael Young, who serves as the paper's opinion editor but is widely published and also blogs actively.

Young really made my day, with his latest piece on Hizbullah and its refusal to disarm or to dissolve into the Lebanese military and to respect Lebanese sovereignty. In his op-ed piece ("What's Hizbullah's problem with the army?" - May 25, 2006) he shows how Hizbullah's position is endangering Lebanese stability and he also takes a shoot at poor old Noam Chomsky, who, during his visit to Lebanon on May 13, really seems to have put his foot in his mouth. Apparently,
The visiting Noam Chomsky [...] declared it a "reasonable position" that Hizbullah retain its weapons "until there is a general political settlement in the region and the threat of aggression and violence is reduced or eliminated.
As Young notes,
That could be a long time, certainly longer than most Lebanese groups are willing to give the party without themselves beginning to arm.
Seems like Chomsky's revolutionary fervour just got the best of him. I'm struck as usual by Chomsky's arrogance and righteousness. What gives an MIT linguist the right to jeopardize the average Lebanese person's prospects of living in a stable society governed by the rule of law and not by armed militias?

More details on Chomsky's ass-kissing in southern Lebanon can be found in the partial transcript of the al-Manar (Hizbullah TV-Station) coverage of his visit published in MEMRI's Special Dispatch - No. 1165.


sophia said...

"One of the people that have made the paper more courageous and critical is Michael Young, the opinion editor of the Daily Star who is apparently a Jewish-American expatriate with a long history in Beirut. "

Where did you hear that? He's half-Lebanese.

John said...

That was hearsay, actually, and I will remove it. Thanks for the note. Of course, being half-Lebanese does not disqualify him from being Jewish :)

Laila said...

If Chomsky with his huge reputation of being a broad minded intellectual, a professor of MIT (whether you like it or not!), is arrogant to express his ideas about Lebanon and hizbollah, then what you would call yourself doing the same? Don't you comment on the same issues? So, if he can be called 'ass-kissing', would you please tell us, what you should be nicknamed with?

John said...

I don't take issue with Chomsky expressing his ideas about anything. In fact, I wish he'd make a few more gaffes of this kind. What I take issue with is that this armchair activist, with all his "progressive politics" and his moralism, waded into the Lebanese political arena and backed a movement (Hizbullah) whose refusal to disarm is viewed very critically by many Lebanese. Chomsky, the so-called champion of democracy and of justice, provided support to a movement that is now seen by many Lebanese as a Syrian-Iranian stooge! You seem to have misread the post, because it is not Chomsky's commentary that makes him arrogant in the view of many, but his disregard for the aspiration of local Lebanese democratic forces. Take a good look at some Lebanese blogs and you will find that condemnation of Chomsky on this point was widespread. Work your way outward from these two blogs:

Laila said...

But you see, ignoring Chomsky and calling him with the names that you name him, is ridiculous. Go to the comments of the same blog you have mentioned: and see what people say about him. I just was thinking if the people like him are labelled as you do, what would you say about the ordinary people like me -and at my scale- who oppose you.
Why instead of humiliating and insulting people, we don't speak and discuss their ideas? Why instead of playing with words, we don't try to learn and listen? This kind of behaviour can take you to unacceptable points: disgracing one of the biggest alive intellectuals of the world.

John said...

Well, I'm really sorry that I do not share your veneration of Chomsky. I have to say that I am amused by the fact that you cannot accept that people have different opinions about Chomsky or any other public intellectual for that matter. Any public persona who gets the publicity that Chomsky receives draws their fair share of criticism and, sometimes, invective. Why do you think in such a hierarchical way and believe that certain intellectuals should be spared critique? Chomsky himself would be shocked by your words. If you were to read a little about his academic career, you would find that, as a young academic, he had no compunction about demolishing the arguments of linguists who were much older than him and were believed to be authorities in their field.

By the way, the point of this blog is to discuss and exchange ideas, and your feedback is very much appreciated. We do not critize people on the basis of who they are -- whether they are "ordinary" or "biggest alive intellectuals" --but on the basis of their arguments. That is the difference between personal insults and academic debate.

Thank you for your comments! It is good hearing from Iranians such as yourself and I wish you all the best.

Laila said...

Well, of course I agree with you that we have a right to challenge the people's ideas- whoever he/she is. BUT I don't agree when you insult them. What if you omit some humiliating words from your post? Will it hurt the content?

Anonymous said...


So Cal Mike said...

John is right.
Chomsky speaks outside of his knowledge zone most of the time and when he advocates positions that get people killed as he has in the past defending the Khmer Rouge, he pays no price for being wrong.