In an interview late last month with Democracy NOW!, University of Arizona professor and supporter of socialism Noam Chomsky minimized Russian interference in the 2016 election, arguing that Israeli meddling is far worse.
He mocked the media for obsessing about Russian interference, which he described as “almost a joke” in the rest of the world.
“First of all, if you’re interested in foreign interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely weighs in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly, and with enormous support,” Chomsky said. “Israeli intervention in U.S. elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done.”
Chomsky emphasized Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 visit to the U.S. During that visit, House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress about the disastrous Iran nuclear deal.
“Netanyahu goes directly to Congress without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president’s policies,” Chomsky declared.
“Did Putin come to give an address to the joint sessions of Congress, trying to call on them to reverse U.S. policy, without even informing the president?” the left-wing academic asked. “And that’s just a tiny bit of this overwhelming influence.”
Even so, Chomsky noted that this Israel meddling is small in the grand scheme of things. “Even that is a joke,” he said. “One of the most elementary principles of functioning democracy is that elected representatives should be responsive to those who elected them.”
The left-wing academic argued that America’s politicians aren’t accountable to the people, but rather beholden to the interests of “the 1 percent.”
Netanyahu’s address to Congress in 2015 is utterly different from Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election. The principle of separation of powers vests Congress and the president with different powers, and the Speaker of the House can invite whomever he desires to Congress. The president could stop this, especially if the speaker invited someone who had broken American law.
Netanyahu is a foreign actor, but he came at the request of an American politician to discuss a very controversial issue that concerned Israel. Russian agents carried out Internet attacks on American party servers and infiltrated Americans’ political attitudes via social media. These efforts were much more hostile, less justified, and entirely unsolicited (save Donald Trump’s joking encouragement for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails).
As for politicians kowtowing to the “1 percent,” the recent Republican scuffle with the Koch brothers should put such concerns to rest.
All the same, Chomsky is right about the small scale of Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election. This does not justify the meddling, but it should balance the rightful concerns about the meddling. There is little to no reason to suggest that the interference is responsible for Trump’s victory.
America needs to protect itself from future attacks, but the time for re-litigating the 2016 election, if it were ever right, is far past. Even Noam Chomsky thinks this major part of the Trump-Russia narrative is a “joke.”