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Noam Chomsky discusses prospects for Middle East peace


Chomsky (left) engages a community member following his lecture in Packard Auditorium on February 5.



Linguist, author and social critic Noam Chomsky delivered an extensive talk on the Middle East before a packed audience at Lehigh’s Packard Auditorium last week.

The lecture, titled “Prospects for Peace in the Middle East,” lasted two hours and touched on a variety of subjects related to American foreign policy decisions in the Middle East.

During his day-long visit to Lehigh, Chomsky also met with students, faculty and community members and held a question-and-answer session in Neville Auditorium.

“It’s not easy to put the phrases ‘prospects for peace’ and ‘Middle East’ in the same sentence; they don’t really fall together easily,” said Chomsky, a professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Syria is careening into national suicide with no obvious way out, Egypt is in complete chaos, and the threat of serious war is now in place across the region.”

Members of the “political class” in the United States, Chomsky said, believe that Israel and Iran pose the most significant security threats to the Middle East.

But Chomsky, a long-time critic of American foreign policy, argued that Israel and the United States pose the greatest threats to Middle Eastern security.

Chomsky has harshly criticized Israel for its treatment of the Palestinian people. In a 2008 interview with the magazine “Counterpunch,” he repeated his assertion that “’supporters of Israel’ are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction.”

In his lecture at Lehigh, Chomsky stressed that nuclear power has become an integral issue for international diplomacy and charged that the United States has refused to compromise on nuclear policies with Iran. He said the U.S. had canceled a conference in Helsinki last November—which was intended to establish “nuclear-free zones” in the Middle East—after learning that Iran was planning to attend.

Chomsky also reiterated his belief that American foreign policy initiatives take the form of preemptive strikes against nations or people who could potentially, but have not actually, posed a direct threat to U.S. security.

“Of all the countries in the world, the U.S. is one of the few that has the obligation to enact ‘security conflict resolution,’” said Chomsky. “Other countries don’t have the rights that we do and are therefore just expected to obey.”

Chomsky’s lecture was co-sponsored by Lehigh’s Visiting Lecturers Committee; the Humanities Center; the Office of the Chaplain; the South Side Initiative; the Departments of Political Science, English, History, Journalism and Communication; and the Center for Global Islamic Studies. 

Photo by Christa Neu



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