NOAM CHOMSKY:
PETER ZEGERS' ACCUSATIONS OF AUTHOR OF BOOK ON JEWISH HISTORY FOR ANTI-SEMITISM SURPASS ABSURDITY
 

In 1994 Israel Shahak, an Israeli human rights activist, published a work: "Jewish History, Jewish Religion: the Weight of three thousand Years". Shahak from 1968 led the Council against the destruction of (Palestinian) houses, and later was part of the Civil Rights League. While he in other contexts repeatedly has criticized the rabid anti-Semitism of the Arab world and Arab intellectuals, his book in this case criticizes Zionism on the basis of among other Rabbinic literature.

In November 1996, Peter Edel, who also is critical of the way religious extremism in Israel leads to not only the killing of Palestinians, but also led to the killing of prime minister Rabin, wrote a positive article on the book, "Israel Shahak en het joodse chauvinisme" (Israel Shahak and the Jewish chauvinism) in the Dutch Journal Kleintje Muurkrant. The article can be found (in Dutch) at http://www.stelling.nl/kleintje/edelfask/018f.htm

Peter Zegers, who has criticized Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy for anti-Semitism, has also criticized Peter Edel for his criticism of Zionism in a number of articles in Kleintje Muurkrant. Zegers also thinks that the views of Peter Edel and Israel Shahak are expressions of Jewish self hatred and that Shahak has misused the Rabbinic literature as a foundation of his criticism of Zionism.

The criticism by Peter Zegers has been answered in a number of articles by Peter Edel in Kleintje Muurkrant; May/356, June/357, July/358, August/359 and September/360 2001.

According to the "Discussie Zegers - Edel deel VI" (Discussion Zegers - Edel part 6), Kleintje Muurkrant Nr 360, 28th Sept. 2001, Noam Chomsky finds the accusations by Peter Zegers of  Shahak for anti-Semitism to surpass absurdity.

From the discussion:

Peter Edel:

"Even if Weininger was a good example of jewish self hatred, (...) any comparison (by Zegers) between him and jewish anti-Zionists like Lenni Brenner, Noam Chomsky and Israel Shahak is futile. (...) I know the concept of jewish self hatred mostly as a means to kill criticism on zionism in the jewish community."
(nr 359, August 2001)

"When Shahak was still alive, I asked Noam Chomsky what he thought about Zegers' accusation of "an old antisemitic tradition (...):

Noam Chomsky: "Shahak is an old personal friend. We disagree on many things, but I haven't the slightest doubt about his integrity, courage and remarkable scholarship. The charge of "anti-Semitism" surpasses absurdity. Is it because he is "anti-Semitic" that he was selected a few years ago as the person to be honored on the annual "Day of remembrance of the Shoah", with his autobiographical article (including the Warsaw Ghetto and Bergen-Belsen) prominently published? Or that he has hundreds of letters published in Hebrew press? Or is that the reason why so much of his writing (articles and letters) consists of attacks on the Palestinian Authority and the rabid anti-Semitism of the Arab world and Arab intellectuals? 

I don't know Zegers, but I have to wonder whether he knows anything at all about Shahak and what he does. Of course, Shahak is making "selective use" of the Rabbinic sources he cites (rarely the Talmud, incidentally). That is true of 100% of the finest and most careful scholarship. The question is whether his choices distort the original texts. If Zeeger believes he can show that, I am impressed with his scholarship; few people have the deep knowledge of the Rabbinic literature that would be required to have any judgment on the matter. I would certainly await with interest his demonstration of this charge with a careful scholarly analysis of the original sources that Shahak cites; a demonstration that has not yet been attempted, to my knowledge. Lacking that, one can only regard his charges as sheer slander." "
(nr 360, September 2001)

While fighting racism, including anti-Semitism, is one of the essential tasks of our time, it cannot mean a prohibition to critizise racism and violation of human rights when that occurs in Israel as an expression of Zionist extremism. Zeger's accusations of not only Rudolf Steiner, but also Israel Shahak and Noam Chomsky for anti-Semitism indicates that he at present seems to tend in a somewhat extreme black/white position and perspective on the issue.

Mr. Zegers need not see enemies of Jews and Jewry everywhere. To most people, anthroposophists as well as non-anthroposophists, Evangelical Christians and non-Evangelical Christians, and Muslims as well as non-Muslims, it is completely uninteresting if someone is a Jew or not, or coloured in some way or not, or a Muslim or not, in relation to their personal qualities as individuals. When I become a pensionist, I look forward to meeting with him for a beer in a pub somewhere in Holland, if he is still there then.

Sune Nordwall, Stockholm

(The quotes above are published with the kind permission of Mr. Edel.)

Page last updated November 20, 2002.