Jewish Journal

What Israel means to me

by David Mamet

Posted on Mar. 13, 2008 at 6:00 pm

This is one in a series of articles and essays on myriad topics related to Israel that will run weekly as we approach the Jewish state's 60th anniversary on Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, in May.

Noam Chomsky was interviewed in the summer 2004 issue of Heeb magazine:

Q: What about recent incidents in Europe and the Arab world? It would seem to involve pretty acrobatic leaps of logic to say that those are not anti-Semitic.

Chomsky: In Europe there's a large Muslim population, and much of it has been driven to fundamentalist Islam. They display hatred toward Jews that is a reflection of Israeli practices. I mean, if you carry out a brutal and vicious military occupation for 35 years ... it has consequences. Sometimes the consequences can be quite ugly, and, among them, is the burning of synagogues in France. Yes, it's anti-Semitic, but Israel insists on it. Remember Israel does not call itself the state of its citizens. The high court in Israel declared over 40 years ago that Israel is the sovereign state of the Jewish people, in Israel and the Diaspora.

In effect, as the Jewish state has proclaimed itself the home of all Jews, within its borders in the Diaspora, for the Diaspora Jews to do other than renounce this as a usurpation of their personal rights, of their rights as undifferentiated citizens, is tantamount to their endorsement of that which Mr. Chomsky sees as a criminal enterprise (the State of Israel). Mr. Chomsky, a Jew, does not recognize the Jewish state's right to existence; he does, however, recognize as somehow morally binding the pronouncements of this phantom state. Upon whom are they binding? Upon members of that state's predominant religious group.

These Diaspora Jews, we will note, reside in countries whose right to existence, presumably, Mr. Chomsky does recognize. For example, France.

France, as a sovereign nation, then has the right, as Israel does not, to protect its citizens. The right, however, does not, in Mr. Chomsky's view, extend to French Jews -- their right to live unmolested and in peace has, alone among French citizens, been somehow abrogated by the actions of another state.

Various Muslim countries, Syria, and so on, and the Palestinians, have, as a matter of both religious and political doctrine, expressed their intention of destruction of Israeli Jews. This intent is not an adjunct of a territorial dispute, but an essential component of their polity -- this hatred cannot be mitigated by concession, by negotiation, even by capitulation; it can only be assuaged through blood.

Mr. Chomsky does not seem to object to this incitement to genocide, neither does he extend the same standard for extraterritorial guilt to Diaspora Muslims.

The United States, in the aftermath of September 11, has taken care (it may be insufficient, but it is a matter of national policy) to protect the rights of Arab Americans, on guard lest an ignorant and frightened populace turn on the guiltless because of mere ties of race of religion to the criminal.

This would seem to be the most basic operation of human justice -- to endorse a vendetta against the innocent based on race or religion is here seen, and simply seen, as obscene criminality. Mr. Chomsky, however, sees fit to understand and applaud such actions, as long as they are carried out against the Jews.

This is anti-Semitic -- it is race hatred and incitement to murder.

That Mr. Chomsky wears the mantle of respect, that he occupies the position of "intellectual," and that he continues to confuse and debauch the young with his filth is a shame. To abide this shame is part of the price of living in a free society.

Israel is a free society. The rights of the minority, of the oppressed, indeed, of the criminally foolish are protected. Mr. Chomsky would be as free in Israel to pronounce this nonsense as he is in the United States.

Were he to move to the Arab world, he would be persecuted as a Jew (as, indeed, he might be in France).

And were he, God forbid, persecuted, Israel would offer him a home, under the Right of Return.

That is what Israel means to me.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from "What Israel Means to Me," edited by Alan Dershowitz. Copyright 2006 by Alan Dershowitz.

David Mamet is the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of "Glengarry Glen Ross." He has written more than two dozen screenplays and stage plays and is the author of "The Wicked Son" (Schoken), a book of essays on anti-Semitism.

What Does Israel Mean to You?

Send us a 500-1,500 word essay on this topic by April 20. We'll print a selection of the most powerful writing in our special "Israel at 60" issue on May 16, 2008. Please e-mail your entry to editor@jewishjournal.com and put "What Israel Means to Me" in the subject line.

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