And that’s exactly what happened last week at Brown University, where Chomsky engaged in a lively debate about Middle East peace with Dennis Ross, whose involvement in peace talks goes back to the Oslo Accords in the ’90s.
When asked about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Ross and Chomsky disagreed from the outset about the nature of the question, drowning each other out and barely letting each other get a word in.
Ross said he generally does not support the movement, which calls for worldwide economic measures targeting Israel to force the country to accept a host of Palestinian goals. This approach is wrong because of its link with a one-state solution, he said. Chomsky avoided the question, saying the movement does not exist in practicality, so talking about it is a “total waste of time.”
But Chomsky said he does support certain boycotting efforts, including those targetting businesses building in the West Bank.
So according to Chomsky, there is no BDS movement, like the spoon in the movie, The Matrix.
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What about academic boycotts?
Prior to the event, Chomsky told The Herald that he does not support the boycotting of Israeli universities, adding that the United States is involved in international crimes as well, and he would not suggest boycotting MIT or Harvard.
Boycotts need to be “principled,” and “targeted” in order to be effective, he told The Herald.
While Chomsky doesn’t explicitly state that he’s opposed to BDS, his use of the words “principled” and “targeted” would appear to exclude the BDS movement, which calls for a complete economic, political, cultural, and sports boycott of Israel. It also has no concern for the international standards that grant Israel the right to exist. So it’s neither principled or nor targeted, and thus ineffective.
But Chomsky’s reluctance to state his opposition to BDS outright suggests that he may be trying to play it both ways. After all, Chomsky has been a hero among Israel bashers for years. What would they think if they realized Chomsky were going soft on Israel?
(Image of Chomsky via https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelastminute/97182354/in/set-72057594061270615/)