When the war began in northern Israel and the Gaza operation was expanded, Palestinian director and actor Juilano Mar Hamis sent out an e-mail asking who would paint the “Guernica” of Lebanon. Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” which shows the results of the Nazi bombing of Guernica in Spain, is still considered a symbol of the destruction and devastation that war leaves in its wake.
According to Mar Hamis, his e-mail was intended to awaken the world. “Just as Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ is black and white evidence of the slaughter in Spain under Franco’s reign of terror, someone needs to testify about the atrocities Israel is carrying out in Lebanon and Gaza,” he said.
The response was not long in coming. Over the weekend a number of world-renowned intellectuals published an open letter to make it clear that the world is not ignoring what is happening in the Middle East, and is following events here with great concern.
The signatories to the letter include MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky; playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter; Portuguese writer José Saramago; Indian writer Arundhati Roy, winner of the Booker Prize for The God of Small Things; Canadian journalist and writer Naomi Klein, author of No Logo; art critic and essayist John Berger; American historian Howard Zinn; Pakistani writer Tariq Ali; Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, author of The Open Veins of Latin America; writer, playwright and scriptwriter Gore Vidal; University of Chicago Professor WJT Mitchell; and journalist Charles Glass.
The letter, also published on Noam Chomsky’s web site, starts out by accusing Israel of escalating the conflict:
“The latest chapter of the conflict between Israel and Palestine began when Israeli forces abducted two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from Gaza. An incident scarcely reported anywhere, except in the Turkish press. The following day the Palestinians took an Israeli soldier prisoner - and proposed a negotiated exchange against prisoners taken by the Israelis - there are approximately 10,000 in Israeli jails.”
The letter continues
“That this ‘kidnapping’ was considered an outrage, whereas the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the systematic appropriation of its natural resources - most particularly that of water - by the Israeli Defense (!) Forces is considered a regrettable but realistic fact of life, is typical of the double standards repeatedly employed by the West in face of what has befallen the Palestinians, on the land allotted to them by international agreements, during the last seventy years.
“Today outrage follows outrage; makeshift missiles cross sophisticated ones. The latter usually find their target situated where the disinherited and crowded poor live, waiting for what was once called Justice. Both categories of missile rip bodies apart horribly - who but field commanders can forget this for a moment?
“Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over. But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows, all serve as a distraction in order to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.
“This has to be said loud and clear for the practice, only half declared and often covert, is advancing fast these days, and, in our opinion, it must be unceasingly and eternally recognized for what it is and resisted.”
Chomsky is part of America’s radical left, and while the letter is liable to be seen as anti-Zionist, Chomsky has stated that he considers himself a Zionist. In a television interview he noted that he had always supported a Jewish ethnic homeland in Palestine, but that this was different from a Jewish state.
While he believes that there are good arguments to be made for an ethnic homeland, he noted that the question of whether there needs to be a Jewish state or a Muslim state or a Christian state or a state for whites is something else entirely.
Chomsky’s views on terrorism—he distinguishes between terrorism aimed at civilians, and terrorism against soldiers and military installations—have often aroused opposition. In his book, 9-11, he says that indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians is terror, not a war against terror.