In a recent post, the intrepid blogger behind the Ariel Nietzsche blog set out an email exchange she had with Noam Chomsky about IOC recognition of the 1972 Munich massacre. She asked some challenging questions and here is Chomsky’s response:
If I understand, there are really three questions here. One has to do with the IOC: should they commemorate a crime that took place at the Olympics? The second question is whether in considering the Munich killings we should also consider the background of crimes of which they were apart. The third is whether the Munich killings were anti-Semitic.
On the first, I have no special thoughts. On the second, definitely yes. On the third, I don’t think so, because of the answer to the second.
I’m absolutely fascinated by Chomsky’s response.
With regard to the question that prompted the correspondence — the question that millions of people were discussing — Chomsky has absolutely nothing to say. This is the question, of course, that pertains to commemorating the murder of Israeli Jews.
With regard to the new question, whether or not we should consider the background conditions that led to those murders about which Chomsky has nothing special to say: “Definitely yes.” In other words, it’s not particularly important to discuss the murder of Israeli Jews but it’s definitely important — if those murders are discussed — to put them in the proper context.
The subtext in Chomsky’s two word answer is that context matters here, that there’s a way to contextualize (and thereby explain) the murders of these Israeli athletes. The crimes of the Israeli state against Palestinians — Chomsky implies — makes these murders understandable.
Because the Israeli state oppresses Palestinians, dispossesses many of them of their land, and abuses their human rights, Palestinians have ample cause to murder Israeli Jews — and sometimes non-Israeli Jews — wherever they happen to find them. The Munich murders didn’t happen in a vacuum, Chomsky wants us to remember, and it’s the context that definitely needs to be discussed … even if he has no special thoughts on whether the murders themselves ought to be commemorated.
This is the same logic behind the Palestinian suicide bomber who targets Israeli children to protest the abuse or murder of his comrades-in-arms. And it’s the same logic of the Israeli government, which demolishes the homes of the bomber’s family in retaliation for the bombing.
The practitioner of this sort of logic responds to harm with more harm, arguing that there’s always a good reason behind the harm that one does; he seeks out representative victims who are easy to come by because every Jew is a potential Israeli soldier and every Palestinian a terrorist in training.
This is the logic of perpetual conflict.