Noam Chomsky responds to Gisha’s “What we want from Noam Chomsky”

Noam Chomsky in Gaza - Oct 2012

Noam Chomsky in Gaza – Oct 2012

By Noam Chomsky, Israeli Occupation Archive – 17 Nov 2012

Noam Chomsky’s “Impressions of Gaza,” written after his visit to Gaza in late October 2012, has been circulating widely.   Among the reactions was “What we want from Noam Chomsky,” published on Gaza Gateway, the Gisha blog.  Gisha is an Israeli civil rights organization “whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law” (from About Gisha).

Noam Chomsky’s response, below, was sent to Gisha on 12 November 2012; we were waiting for it to be published before posting it here.  However,  rather than posting or acknowledging Chomsky’s response, Gisha chose to post ‘Clarifications‘ to its earlier criticism of Chomsky’s original article.  The ‘Clarifications’ require no further comment.


I have always admired the work of Gisha, and therefore read its response to my “Impressions of Gaza” with much interest — and comparable disappointment.

The response refers to exactly one statement of mine: ‘heavy equipment in Gaza is not “lying idle”, as Chomsky describes.’ My statement is quite accurate. Gisha’s researchers can learn very easily that heavy equipment is indeed “lying idle,” contrary to its charge, simply by visiting the maintenance buildings full of heavy equipment lying idle, because parts cannot be obtained for repair.

Gisha responds by observing that construction goes on. Plainly, that observation does not refute the accurate statement that heavy equipment is “lying idle,” because it is disabled for lack of parts and is therefore unavailable for clearing rubble from Israeli bombing, dealing with the miles and miles of hideous slums, and other urgent tasks.

The rest refers to statements I did not make, a fact obscured by the lack of citations.

Though irrelevant to what I wrote, the attempted rebuttals are nevertheless of some interest. Thus Gisha writes: “Israel does not limit the entry of medicine into the Gaza Strip. Shortages of medicine that have occurred in Gaza were and are the result of disputes between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.” This is presumably intended to be a response to my comment that “The director of the Khan Yunis hospital, who is also chief of surgery, describes with anger and passion how even medicines are lacking, which leaves doctors helpless and patients in agony,” as a result of the failure of Egypt to open the Rafah entry to Gaza.

Evidently, the Gisha comment is again irrelevant to the accurate words of the hospital director that I quoted, and to Egypt’s responsibility. Its comment does, however, provide a significant criticism of Israeli policy that I did not bring up. As Gisha observes, Israel chooses not to send medicine and medical equipment directly to Gaza, but rather to work through the PA in Ramallah — one element of the US-Israel-PA program of trying to undermine Hamas, while also harming the people of Gaza.

One may also ask why Gisha feels that it must absolve Israel of a criticism of Egypt, which doesn’t even mention Israel.

The rest refers obliquely to statements by credible sources that I quoted accurately. If Gisha believes their comments and analyses are wrong, it can contact them: but with reasons, not evasions. In any event, this has nothing to do with the accuracy of the article of mine they criticize.

I certainly agree with the final injunction: we should not make “compromises on factual accuracy.” Good advice, always.

Noam Chomsky


Noam Chomsky: Impressions of Gaza

How Chomsky came to Gaza: a statement by eight who accompanied him

Chomsky makes first Gaza visit

The complete IOA coverage of Noam Chomsky

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