Noam Chomsky made the following comments earlier this week at Barnard College in New York City:
Israeli Jews are people. Palestinians are unpeople. And a lot follows from that as clear illustrations constantly. So, here’s a clipping, if I remembered to bring it, from the New York Times. Front-page story, Wednesday, October 12th, the lead story is “Deal with Hamas Will Free Israeli Held Since 2006.” That’s Gilad Shalit. And right next to it is a—running right across the top of the front page is a picture of four women kind of agonized over the fate of Gilad Shalit. “Friends and supporters of the family of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit received word of the deal at the family’s protest tent in Jerusalem.” Well, that’s understandable, actually. I think he should have been released a long time ago. But there’s something missing from this whole story. So, like, there’s no pictures of Palestinian women, and no discussion, in fact, in the story of—what about the Palestinian prisoners being released? Where do they come from?
And there’s a lot to say about that. So, for example, we don’t know — at least I don’t read it in the Times — whether the release includes the Palestinian—the elected Palestinian officials who were kidnapped and imprisoned by Israel in 2007 when the United States, the European Union and Israel decided to dissolve the only freely elected legislature in the Arab world. That’s called “democracy promotion,” technically, in case you’re not familiar with the term. So I don’t know what happened to them. There are also other people who have been in prison exactly as long as Gilad Shalit—in fact, one day longer. The day before Gilad Shalit was captured at the border, Israeli troops entered Gaza, kidnapped two brothers, the Muamar brothers, spirited them across the border, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, of course. And they’ve disappeared into Israel’s prison system. I haven’t a clue what happened to them; I’ve never seen a word about it. And as far as I know, nobody cares, which makes sense. After all, unpeople. Whatever you think about capturing the soldier, a soldier from an attacking army, plainly kidnapping civilians is a far more severe crime. But that’s only if they’re people. This case really doesn’t matter. It’s not that it’s unknown, so if you look back at the press the day after the Muamar brothers were captured, there’s a couple lines here and there. But it’s just insignificant, of course—which makes some sense, because there are lots of others in prison, thousands of them, many without charges.