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A Wall as a Weapon by Noam Chomsky NYT February 23, 2004

Chomsky’s title speaks volumes: Israel builds a fence and in the words of the eloquent linguist it becomes a wall and a weapon. If Israel held out a flower it would be a dagger lily. And if Israel did and said nothing, it would be the silence that kills.

In a brief article that operates like a machine gun, Noam Chomsky throws the book at Israel. But he takes care to anchor his volley of accusations to a clever lie: “Few would question Israel’s right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks like the one in Jerusalem on Sunday…” No need to prove this wholesome thought? It happens to be utterly unsubstantiated and easily countered by hundreds of statements from identifiable sources including the very Palestinians who argued the case before the International Court at the Hague. The terrorist attacks are a strategic weapon (as lethal as a wall?) meant to achieve precise if unstated political, territorial, and religious ambitions. If Israel can protect itself from the attacks and, in addition inflict political and territorial losses on the enemy that has been perpetrating them, then it would mean that humanocide bombings failed to achieve their strategic goals. When human affairs work in a normal way, losers lose.

Chomsky says that the problem with the wall is the frontier it traces. But then he claims that Israelis have been committing “politicide” against the Palestinians, that they have already turned the West bank into an impossible hodge podge, that they have been killing Palestinians for 35 years of “brutal occupation,” stealing their land and water, giving it to greedy colonists, leaving the Palestinians with not even a drop to drink, and all of this oppression, murder and privation is nothing less than an underhanded means of achieving their final goal: expulsion.

Then how could an adjustment of the frontier traced by the fence undo the evil done by Israel? Last Friday Palestinians who had gathered to worship on the Temple Mount (their Harum el Sharif) threw rocks at Jewish women praying at the Kotel; in his spitfire op-ed, Noam Chomsky throws peace-plan rocks at Israel. It would take a whole issue of the New York Times to spread out the reliable historical data that debunks all of those perfect two-state propositions that were offered to an ungrateful Israel. But that is not the point and there is no reason to fall into the trap. The peace plan argument is no more valid than the land and water grab one.

No matter how many times we reply to those arguments they will be thrown back at us with renewed vigor. They must be attacked at the roots. Shaken to their very premises. Chomsky’s arguments, the same ones we’ve heard hundreds of times, are tacked up against the pure white background of a hidden assumption that nations behave like angels. All nations, except Israel, play by the rules of chivalry, conduct foreign affairs like elegant ladies and gentlemen at a royal dinner party, behave like innocent children preparing their first communion. Because Israel does not get the whitewash, its normal sovereign nation behavior is painted in lurid colors and the Palestinians wear the halo of the aggrieved party. This is the essential quality attributed to the Palestinians; nothing they do can change their status as the aggrieved party. If they lose, it is not because they played badly, if they commit evil they must not be punished, if they lie their words become truth.

Against the pure white background of a world without conflict, without history, without causes and consequences, in the static space of this artificial configuration, a wall is a weapon and killing 900 civilians is asking for a drop of water and a crumb of bread.

The wall, according to Chomsky, is a weapon because it does not follow “the Green line established after the 1948-49 war?” And if the Arab armies had achieved their goal and swept the Jews into the sea, the beach would now be the legal border? All the word games, op-eds, UN resolutions, Durban conferences and travesties of international justice will not make that twisted logic come true. Let us hope that one day the Palestinians will find decent statesmen who will lead them into reality and out of the prison they have made for themselves.

An abstract of Chomsky’s article is now at the archives of NYT

The complete article by Chomsky has been published also by “Spiegel” at,1518,287558,00.html


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Nidra Poller

Author, Paris, France



  • The Middle East conflict as seen from Europe and particularly France:
  • French policy
  • media coverage
  • public opinion
  • Jewish community reaction






Read all stories by Nidra Poller