I’m generally a big fan of Noam Chomsky’s work, but I’ve often found myself disagreeing with some aspects of his analysis of the Israel-Palestine conflict. So I’m not especially impressed by his comments as reported here in the Guardian on BDS and the apartheid analogy.
But that aside, what interests me more about his latest article, published in the Nation magazine, is what it reveals about the Guardian’s relationship with Chomsky. Most of the time, Chomsky’s views – on the media, and more generally his political analysis of current events – are treated by the paper with either sneering disdain or a casual dismissal, typically for his presumed “anti-Americanism”. Remember, for example, the Guardian’s hatchet job a few years back from interviewer Emma Brockes, who suddenly lost her recording of their meeting when challenged about the accuracy of her quotes. Or George Monbiot’s snide suggestion that Chomsky consorted with genocide deniers.
But here the paper gives him a sympathetic platform in its news pages. And I very much suspect this sudden respect for the professor is not unrelated to the fact that he is saying something the Guardian sees as helpful to Israel’s cause, because it may damage the BDS movement and discredit the growing apartheid analogy.
The Guardian’s long support for Israel as a Jewish state – and its abhorrence of the occupation, in part because it might threaten Israel’s status as a Jewish state – has been documented in the book “Disenchantment”. It recalls that the paper’s most important editor, C P Scott, was the lynchpin in securing the Balfour Declaration, in which Britain promised to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
Chomsky understands very well how the mainstream media work. So I suspect too that he may be prepared to concede that in this case the Guardian and the Nation, liberal transatlantic twins who have never hidden their sympathies for Israel as a Jewish state, are trying to harness his reputation to advance their own political agendas.