Chomsky clarifies position on the cultural boycott of Israel

In recent years, people promoting the mantras of ‘constructive engagement’ and ‘bridge-building’ with Israel have cited Professor Noam Chomsky in their defence. He is alleged to oppose the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005.

Artists for Palestine UK contacted Professor Chomsky to ask him to clarify his position, for the record.

He has given us this statement:

‘I am opposed to any appearance in Israel that is used for nationalistic or other propaganda purposes to cover up its occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights. I’ve been involved in activities to hold Israel accountable for its international law violations since before the BDS movement took shape. While I have some tactical differences with the BDS movement, I strongly support the actions and continue to participate in them.’

Asked about arguments that invoke Israel’s purported democracy, he said:

The oft repeated idea that Israel is a “vibrant democracy” is an absurd one. Unless the qualification is purely symbolic, there can be no “democratic Jewish (Christian, Muslim, white) state”. In the case of Israel, the “Jewishness” is very far from symbolic. There is no need to repeat here what I’ve written in the past, documenting extensively Israel’s discriminatory practices.’

APUK thanks Professor Chomsky for his clarification, and respectfully draws the attention of any artist contemplating performing or exhibiting in Israel to the essential point he makes: that the presence of international artists in Israel is used by the government to cover up its occupation and human rights abuses.

UK band Radiohead dismissed appeals from Palestinians and artists around the world to cancel their Tel Aviv concert in July this year, with singer Thom Yorke arguing that Radiohead did not ‘endorse Netanyahu’. But as APUK has shown, Netanyahu’s government certainly endorsed Radiohead, with Israeli politicians and diplomatic missions loudly promoting the group’s anti-boycott stance. All major artists who appear in Israel are likely to find themselves similarly hailed, with every performance considered a victory by Israel’s apartheid regime.

We hope that Professor Chomsky’s clarification encourages international artists to respect the call from their Palestinian counterparts to refrain from performing in Israel until it ends its violations of international law.

16 thoughts on “Chomsky clarifies position on the cultural boycott of Israel

  1. Zoe says:

    Thank you for this. This is so very important.

    I questioned the veracity of the claim that Prof. Chomsky was anti-BDS – writing “…if true…” when referring to it; as it was so obviously contrary to everything he has said in the past.

    I would like to know what his more specific objections/criticisms are re. BDS. Perhaps the concern for the impact on Palestinian goods & produce sold internationally. Although I believe that was more of a problem previously. As some of us boycotted ‘made in Israel’ products & produce prior to the BDS movement & Palestinian produce etc. was also labelled ‘Israel’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Peterson says:

    You call this a clarification, but Chomsky has been much clearer in opposing cultural boycotts in the past:

    * Chomsky distinguished between those BDS campaigns “aimed at the occupied territories”, the “kind that I support”, and “actions against Israel itself” which he dismissed: “You might as well boycott the United States.” *

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dan says:

    Palestinians  have  constantly refused to accept a state on the WB  and Gaza  with E Jerusalem  as  capital…  they did  that   ( not counting the  rejectionist  Arab behaviour   in 1948    1967  etc)    explicitly in   the response to the  Camp David offer in 2000 and several other offers by  latter israeli  governments … it is  clear they are not  only not  satisfied    with such arrangement   but that they are not ready to coexist  peacefully  with the Jewish  State… one  need  only look  at  what they teach  in the Palestinians  schools  and reed  what the Palestinas  press  writes  in arabic  ( not the    english version   adopted to  serve their propaganda machine in the west… no,  the real   stuff what the Palestinian public  reads…).

    Until that changes  the Israelis  will not risk  their lives  and safety  ceding   land  to the Palestinians   …and the   tragic  bloodshed  will continue.

    The only realistic peaceful resolution is a NEGOTIATED two state solution.
    BDS does not aim for this. It aims to force Israel’s surrender.
    It will not happen and only postpones the possible resolution of the conflict.

    Liked by 1 person

    • richard mullens says:

      “they are not ready to coexist peacefully with the Jewish State” – A false conclusion followed by Israeli propaganda. Israel has no intention of ceding land to the Palestinians in fact its aim (as is abundantly clear) is to take more. So Israel deliberately takes action to keep the Palestinians oppressed and dissatisfied so that they rise up only to be killed in large numbers – that is their policy.


    • zaid says:

      Lies…Lies and more lies from the Zionists, what you mentioned were never offered to Palestinians , and also it doesnot address the Refugee right of return.

      The Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami who represented Israel at the Camp Davis negotiations said that if he was a Palestinian he would have rejected the offer.


  4. Chris says:

    It wasn’t the Palestinians who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin and ended the progress of the Oslo peace accords. And how much pain and bloodshed all around would have been prevented if Israel had honoured that process…?


  5. harryabrams says:

    This so-called BDS movement often misrepresents the fact that they intend to ethnically cleanse Israel of Jews.Secondly BDS does not represent an official position of the Palestine Authority or indeed, the Palestinian Arabs who wish to co-exist with Israel and Jews. Many have jobs and do business there too. Boycotts harm them more than the Israelis.


  6. Geyer says:

    Puisque aucun état religieux ne peut être considéré comme démocratique selon Chomsky, pourquoi est-ce que les indignés sélectifs anti-israéliens n’ajoutent-ils pas à leur liste (visant exclusivement Israël…) tellement d’autres états, musulmans, chrétiens, bouddhistes(hé oui !), etc. ?



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