First Encounter with Noam Chomsky
Fifty years ago. It was at the height of the antiwar movement, in November or December of 1968. I was a student at MIT. The war in Vietnam was raging, the priority was to oppose it. But was there any public space where one could bring up Palestine without being dismissed or even booed down? Against everyone’s advice I went up to Noam Chomsky, as he was addressing a crowd from the steps of the Student Center. Everyone I consulted was opposed. Was Palestine to remain under wraps? Everyone predicted that Noam Chomsky would not publicly speak on Palestine because, many said, it would divide the antiwar movement. A few were more candid and blunt, they claimed there couldn’t be any room for Palestine in the antiwar movement, as it was not important enough.
On the spur of the moment I went up to Noam. Within earshot of the dozen or so people surrounding him, I called out: Professor Chomsky, will you speak on Palestine? Some were startled, others frowned at me. Noam’s answer: Come tomorrow to my office, we will plan something. And so it was. With the help of a few like-minded students we organized Noam Chomsky’s first public lecture on Palestine and the Middle East. It took place in March of 1969.
Half-a-century, an enduring and deep friendship. Dear Noam: I wish you many more healthy years. Please continue to inspire us, and to challenge us to rebel against all forms of inequality and injustice, and to never give up our struggle for a better world and the preservation of the human species.