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Gaza in Crisis

01/21/2011 4:00 PM Wong Auditorium
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, MIT; Nancy Murray, Co"founder and President, Gaza Mental Health Foundation

Description: Two speakers steeped in the ongoing crisis of the Middle East describe abominable conditions for Palestinians living inside Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2007. They demand urgent action for civilian victims, and condemn both the Israeli and U.S. governments for pursuing policies of "genocide." An impassioned Nancy Murray details daily life inside what has become a 26"mile"long prison, and Noam Chomsky offers background on how this zone of misery came into being, with withering words for those he labels perpetrators.

Murray asks us to imagine living "in a territory which over the past four years has served as a kind of laboratory to find the breaking point of human beings." Israel has deliberately worked to keep Gaza functioning at the lowest level possible, preventing Palestinians from repairing their war"torn water and sewer infrastructure, and severely limiting food supplies -- literally controlling calorie intake, says Murray. Israel has also blocked the reconstruction of hospitals and clinics to tend to those wounded by war, or suffering mental health trauma from years of harassment. She cites a 2006 study showing that 98% of Gaza children had been subject to violence, tear gas, or home searches.

In a long"term, calculated effort to strangle economic development, Israel has also deprived fishermen of the right to safe maritime areas, and declared the small patches of arable land "to be a no"go zone," targeting farmers and children attempting to attend school nearby. The education system has also been hard hit, with schools in disrepair, and children "using old shipping containers as classrooms." If the future looks grim now, Murray believes there is worse to come, with Israel preparing for another round of war, capping "a six decade" long project of destroying resistance to oppression."

There is no surprise for Noam Chomsky in the tightening vise around Gaza. It is of a piece with years of Israeli disregard for human rights and international law, he argues. The blockade, which began soon after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election, is but the latest episode in a history of betrayal, oppression and outright annihilation. Beginning in 1948 and the formation of Israel to 1967 and beyond, the Palestinians have been systematically humiliated and degraded. In spite of efforts by the U.N., and rulings by other international institutions, says Chomsky, Israel, with the backing of the U.S., has been intent on preventing a Palestinian state, and breaking the will of Palestinians. The 1987 Palestinian uprising goaded the Israelis, who since then have made merely a show of peace talks and increased the pace of their settlements on former Palestinian land. Last May, Israel attacked a ship attempting to break the blockade, killing nine people, and though there was an "international outcry," says Chomsky, Israel continued its siege, decried by Amnesty International and other human rights groups. The change in U.S. administration made no difference, he says. "The U.S. exerts no pressure, but participates actively and crucially in these crimes. The roadblock to peace remains."

About the Speaker(s): Nancy Murray has worked as a teacher, scholar and social activist in Great Britain and Kenya as well as the United States. After teaching for seven years in the University of Nairobi, she directed a nation"wide program to combat racism in the media at London's Institute of Race Relations. As founder (in 1987) and director of the ACLU of Massachusetts Bill of Rights Education Project, she has encouraged teachers, students and the general public to work for a future in which civil liberties and civil rights will be safeguarded and enlarged. She co"founded and directed Project HIP"HOP (Highways into the Past: History, Organizing and Power), and over an eight"year period took high school students South and to South Africa to explore the history of the civil rights movement and struggle against apartheid. Her publications include an innovative curriculum for schools entitled Rights Matter: the Story of the Bill of Rights. Murray holds a B.A. from Harvard University, and a B.Phil. and Ph.D. in Modern History from Oxford University. Noam Chomsky has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. Most recently, with Ilan Papp_ he has completed Gaza in Crisis (Haymarket Books, 2010). Other examples of his prolific work include: The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory; Aspects of the Theory of Syntax; Language and Mind; American Power and the New Mandarins; Reflections on Language; Rules and Representations; Knowledge of Language; The Culture of Terrorism; Manufacturing Consent (with E.S. Herman); Understanding Power; Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance; and most recently, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post"9/11 World, (with David Barsamian).

Chomsky received his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. He then came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in 1961 was appointed full professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics. During the years 1958 to 1959 Chomsky was in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. In the spring of 1969 he delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford; in January 1970 he delivered the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lecture at Cambridge University; in 1972, the Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, and in 1977, the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, among many others.

Chomsky has received honorary degrees from universities around the world, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science.

Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, Center for International Studies

Tape #: T10535

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