Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned linguist who has gained a reputation as one of Israel’s fiercest critics, believes that those advocating for a boycott of Israel are misguided since their efforts will not be enough to effect a change in policies toward the Palestinians.
Writing in The Nation, Chomsky warns that the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign could end up harming the Palestinian cause since the demand for a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees has failed to muster significant international support.
Chomsky also said that while Israel critics invoke the South African model of apartheid to describe the situation in the West Bank, “the necessary educational work has not been done,” as public opinion in the United States has yet to mobilize against Israel the way it did against South Africa.
The MIT professor went on to accuse Israel of committing crimes that are “far worse” than those perpetrated by the white nationalist regime in South Africa.
“Within Israel, discrimination against non-Jews is severe,” Chomsky wrote in The Nation. “The land laws are just the most extreme example. But it is not South African-style apartheid. In the occupied territories, the situation is far worse than it was in South Africa, where the white nationalists needed the black population: it was the country’s workforce, and as grotesque as the bantustans were, the nationalist government devoted resources to sustaining and seeking international recognition for them.”
“In sharp contrast, Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinian burden. The road ahead is not toward South Africa, as commonly alleged, but toward something much worse.”
Chomsky surprisingly questions the wisdom of boycotting Israeli academic institutions.
“If we boycott Tel Aviv University because Israel violates human rights at home, then why not boycott Harvard because of far greater violations by the United States?” Chomsky writes. “Predictably, initiatives focusing on [academic boycott] have been a near-uniform failure, and will continue to be unless educational efforts reach the point of laying much more groundwork in the public understanding for them, as was done in the case of South Africa.”