Chomsky, panelists talk Arab, US relations

Chomsky, panelists talk Arab, US relations

By Marc Larocque

Public intellectual Noam Chomsky would be front page in the US Weekly scholarly world edition, said Azeo Fables.

“Noam Chomsky was spotted at Northeastern University,” said Fables, a senior philosophy major. “What is he wearing? Who is he going to marry?”

Chomsky, sporting that celebrity status, was the third and final panelist to speak to about 50 people last Wednesday in the Raytheon Amphitheater. The discussion, called Vision of the Future: U.S.- Arab Relations, was presented by NU ArabSA for Arab Awareness Week.

Chomsky began by talking about post-9/11 and how he thinks America made no distinctions between Arabs and Muslims.

He pointed out a connection between the media, government and public opinion. Expounding on a Wall Street Journal article called “Money Muslims,” published September 12, 2001, he discussed how negative views of the Middle East made it easier for the government to argue in favor of a war.

“Money Muslims were rich bankers and professionals right inside the U.S. system. They were described as having a ‘visceral hatred of democracy,'” he said. “Of course there have been much harsher views on the U.S. from non-Muslims, but those ones don’t count.”

The Iraq war has inflamed negative attitudes and increased the threat of terror in the United States, he said.

“In this war today, first, we were against terror. Then, the United States shifted gears to a freedom agenda,” Chomsky said. “Allowing sovereignty in Iraq is such a small move. No one discusses that Iraq is an energy epicenter.”

The world is aghast at the Iran situation, he said. He said if the U.S. does attack Iran, it will be World War III, some are saying.

“The solution would be for the U.S. and Iran to become functional democratic societies,” he said. “Not just a functional government that controls, but a system in which the popular opinions actually shape public policies.”

Speaking first was Dr. James Zogby, founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Arab American Institute, which conducts policy research and political advocacy for the Arab American community. He sees the potential for the violence in Iraq to escalate.

“Jordan and Syria are drowning from refugees. The worst is still yet to come,” he said. “I don’t know what [President George Bush] is smoking in the White House, but he’s still talking about Iraq as a beacon of democracy and an example for the Middle East.”

But Zogby does not think a unilateral withdrawal of troops from Iraq is the answer.

“The administration is at fault for a lot of their problems and we need to take them on ourselves to fix,” he said. “Unilateral withdrawal would be about as bad as us going there in the first place.”

Next speaking was Nabil Fahmy, ambassador from Egypt to the United States. He gave his experience as an Egyptian-American and said he sees stereotyping on both sides.

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