Paris attacks show hypocrisy of West’s outrage: Chomsky

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Philosopher and political commentator Noam Chomsky has criticised the hypocrisy of the West’s outrage following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared “a war against terrorism, against jihadism…against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity,” Chomsky wrote in an opinion piece for the CNN.

Charlie Hebdo, which had published sacrilegious cartoons, had been attacked by three men in early January leaving 12 people dead, including the editor and four other cartoonists. A subsequent attack at a kosher supermarket in Paris had left four Jews dead. Condemnation rallies in France after the attacks drew crowds of many hundreds of thousands and several world leaders. 

Chomsky said that the crimes which elicited a flood of commentary, inquiring into the roots of what he termed were “shocking assaults in Islamic culture” and exploring ways to counter the murderous wave of terrorism without sacrificing their values. “The New York Times described the assault as a “clash of civilizations,” but was corrected by Times columnist Anand Giridharadas, who tweeted that it was “Not & never a war of civilizations or between them. But a war FOR civilization against groups on the other side of that line. #CharlieHebdo.”

He further said that, “The scene in Paris was described vividly in The New York Times by veteran Europe correspondent Steven Erlanger: “a day of sirens, helicopters in the air, frantic news bulletins; of police cordons and anxious crowds; of young children led away from schools to safety. It was a day, like the previous two, of blood and horror in and around Paris…”

…The scene, Erlanger reported, “was an increasingly familiar one of smashed glass, broken walls, twisted timbers, scorched paint and emotional devastation.”

He, however, argued that these reports were are not from the January 2015 attack. “Rather, they are from a report by Erlanger on April 24, 1999, which received far less attention. Erlanger was reporting on a NATO ‘missile attack on Serbian state television headquarters’ that “knocked Radio Television Serbia off the air,” killing 16 journalists.”

“There were no demonstrations or cries of outrage, no chants of ‘We are RTV,’ no inquiries into the roots of the attack in Christian culture and history. On the contrary, the attack on the press was lauded. The highly regarded US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, then envoy to Yugoslavia, described the successful attack on RTV as ‘an enormously important and, I think, positive development,’ a sentiment echoed by others,” Chomsky lamented.

He added that there were many other similar events in history which have called for no inquiry into western culture and history – for example, the worst single terrorist atrocity in Europe in recent years, the July 2011 attack by Anders Breivik, a Christian ultra-Zionist extremist who slaughtered 77 people in Oslo.

“Also ignored in the ‘war against terrorism’ is the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times – Barack Obama’s global assassination campaign targeting people suspected of perhaps intending to harm us some day, and any unfortunates who happen to be nearby. Other unfortunates are also not lacking, such as the 50 civilians reportedly killed in a US-led bombing raid in Syria in December, which was barely reported.”

To hammer home his point, Chomsky gave the example of the assault on Fallujah in November 2004, which he termed as ‘one of the worst crimes of the US-UK invasion of Iraq.’

“The assault opened with occupation of Fallujah General Hospital, a major war crime quite apart from how it was carried out. The crime was reported prominently on the front page ofThe New York Times, accompanied with a photograph depicting how ‘Patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs.’

He argued that the occupation of the hospital was considered meritorious and justified: it “shut down what officers said was a propaganda weapon for the militants: Fallujah General Hospital, with its stream of reports of civilian casualties. Evidently, this is no assault on free expression…”

He further questions how France upholds freedom of expression and the sacred principles of “fraternity, freedom, solidarity” by expelling miserable descendants of Holocaust survivors (Roma) to bitter persecution in Eastern Europe; by the deplorable treatment of North African immigrants in the banlieues of Paris where the Charlie Hebdo terrorists became jihadis or when the courageous journal Charlie Hebdo fired the cartoonist Siné on grounds that a comment of his was deemed to have anti-Semitic connotations.

“Anyone with eyes open will quickly notice other rather striking omissions. Thus, prominent among those who face an “enormous challenge” from brutal violence are Palestinians, once again during Israel’s vicious assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, in which many journalists were murdered, sometimes in well-marked press cars, along with thousands of others, while the Israeli-run outdoor prison was again reduced to rubble on pretexts that collapse instantly on examination.”

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