Noam Chomsky gives lecture to packed Birzeit hall - First visit to Birzeit Community since 1988

Renouned MIT linguistics professor and political analyst Noam Chomsky, author of "The Fateful Triangle" and "Deterring Democracy", today visited Birzeit University to deliver a lecture on "Democracy and National Soverignty in 'Third World' Countries". Lectures were also given at several Israeli institutions.

The visit was organised by Israeli Knesset member Dr. Azmi Bishara who attended the lecture, and by the Alternative Information Center. Dr. Mohsen Yusef, head of the international studies masters programme at Birzeit, hosted the visit. Chomsky visited the Birzeit community in 1988, but met with administration members in East Jerusalem, due to the 51 month closure of the university campus at that time, then in its first year.


Chomsky was greeted by Dr. Hanna Nasir, University President, Dr. Ahmad Baker, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and Mr. Albert Aghazarian, Director of Public Relations. In their initial meeting and over lunch, the group discussed the problem of Birzeit's Gazan students, access of Palestinians to Jerusalem, and the peace process in general.


The lecture room, in Birzeit's Engineering Building, was packed with students and faculty for an hour before the lecture began. Chomsky was introduced by Dr. Mohsen Yusef, who accompanied Chomsky at the podium, together with Dr. Hanna Nasir. (17K image)

Chomsky spoke and answered questions for about an hour-and-a-half, talking about the current state of the peace process, Israeli and U.S. strategies, and mistakes in the Palestinian strategy. "Illusions make it hard to achieve democracy," he said, "especially in leaderships distant from their people. It is best to face failure honestly."

Chomsky challenged the PLO leadership's view that Oslo established the principle of "land for peace", or that it guaranteed the Palestinian people soverignity over any land at all. "The Oslo accords did not say that the Palestinians have rights over their water or land or transportation," he stated, "it says the total opposite, that Israel does."

He blamed the lack of public relations work by the PLO leadership amongst the American public for American support for the current peace process. "The world didn't accept Apartheid in 1948," he said, "so it doesn't have to do this now." Chomsky claimed that Oslo has left the PLO confused, saying, "It is startling and surprising that the PLO has forgotten about the two-state settlement."

Chomsky repeatedly challenged Palestinians to "think carefully" about the current situation. He was not without hope for a positive resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even if the current peace agreements were a "suicidal misunderstanding," he said. The model of the Anti-Apartheid movement was worth emulating, he stressed. "Oslo was an illusion that wouldn't have survived open doubts," he said.

The challenging lecture was greeted with a positive reaction by those present, who welcomed the opportunity for a frank and open discussion about Oslo.