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8 Jan, 2018

Christmas eve 2017: When Jewish Intellectual Noam Chomsky went to bat for Palestine

On Christmas eve, 24 December 2017, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), one of the groups on the entry-ban list issued by the Israel government, issued a fund-raising appeal featuring a personal message by Prof Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and laureate professor at the University of Arizona. I am reproducing the full text of his appeal here. His words, which need no further analysis nor interpretation, will help better understand why the Israeli government fears the global impact of its slow but steady efforts to wipe Palestine off the map.

Dear friend,

As a Jewish kid growing up in Philadelphia in the ’30s, I faced my share of antisemitism. It’s easy now to forget how many Americans were openly pro-Nazi before the U.S. entered World War II.

But I did not conclude from this that Jews should live in freedom and safety while other groups should not. On the contrary, I was and remain committed to the ideals of universal equality, democracy, and freedom.

And these days, there are really only a small handful of Jewish organizations that honor those radical working class politics I learned from my Jewish extended family as a child.

Jewish Voice for Peace is one of them. That’s why I’m proud to support JVP.

The first time I visited Palestine/Israel in 1953, I was highly disturbed by the anti-Arab racism I observed there, and by what seemed to me to be ultranationalist tendencies, even among the Israeli left.

Of course, in today’s Israel, these racist and totalitarian ideas have only taken hold more strongly.

Jewish Voice for Peace speaks truth to power. It speaks honestly about Israel’s blatant violations of international law, and of the human rights of Palestinians: both in the occupied territories, and Palestinian citizens of Israel as well.

I am all too familiar with the consequences of speaking out honestly about the reality of Israeli apartheid. As many have pointed out, the mainstream response to the simple assertion that Palestinians deserve basic human rights is reminiscent of McCarthyism.

There is no question that Israel will keep doing what it’s doing as long as the U.S. supports it. If we want to truly shift the balance of power, we have to build a movement that’s powerful enough to challenge the status quo, and win.

Jewish Voice for Peace is a critical part of that movement-building. They are working tirelessly towards a future of justice, equality, and dignity for Palestinians and Israelis.  They are on the ground challenging U.S. policies that enable Israeli apartheid.

They honor the values I grew up with.

Of course, groups like Jewish Voice for Peace don’t get big donations from billionaire donors. They are able to do the work they do because thousands of people just like you and me chip in what we can.