Under the sponsorship of Science for Peace, the Student Christian Movement, and the Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation, Noam Chomsky delivered the Lois and John Dove Memorial Lecture on October 24, and a public lecture of October 25. This was sold out well in advance to a mixed but largely sympathetic audience. It was an outstanding fundraiser and it also undoubtedly served to make Science for Peace more widely known.
The title of his lecture was “The Middle East: Prospects for Peace and Justice”. He discussed the sorry history of the Middle East in the twentieth century, which he sees as a continuing attempt by Britain, and later the United States, to maintain control of the region and access to its resources, through the agency of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. The so-called “arms for hostages” deal, which began before there were any hostages, was an attempt to strengthen the Iranian military to enable them to carry out a coup to restore the Shah. He is not at all hopeful about the future of the Palestinians, and referred with approval to a statement of an Israeli friend likening the recent granting of autonomy to them in certain areas to the establishment of pseudo-autonomous Bantustans in South Africa during the time of apartheid.
Chomsky’s manner is extremely persuasive. His tone is well-bred and reasonable, with none of the truculence often displayed by members of the left. My initial reaction was that what he was saying was so obviously true that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself. It was only on later reflection that I began to wonder if things could really be so simple, and if the western powers were really capable of such a prolonged and effective conspiracy to keep a large part of the world under their control. In spite of such reservations however I shall certainly look more critically in the future at what is written about this troubled area.