noam chomsky and entourage walking near chatila camp

Yesterday, Malcolm and I went to Chatila, the Palestinian refugee camp where I volunteered last summer. I wanted to visit, Nohad, the director of the vocational center where I had been. I hadn’t see her in many months. She’s an amazing person who had become a good friend and I was feeling really guilty for sort of losing touch. Malcolm was interested in seeing the camp, so off we went.

When we got to her office, Nohad wasn’t there. A young guy who turned out to be the new computer teacher, turned up and told us that she had gone out to show Noam Chomsky around the camp. This would have been more shocking, but of course we knew that Chomsky was in Lebanon. I had tried to go and see him give a lecture at AUB just a few days before, but the hall was full. The computer instructor offered to take us to look for them and we went.

We wandered around the camp for awhile, with Malcolm admiring some of the murals painted on the walls. The camp is small and everybody knows what is going on, so the guy was pretty easily able to figure out where they had gone by asking around. This is how we ended up sitting in on a meeting between Noam Chomsky and some leaders of Fatah in Lebanon. The leaders sat under a massive portrait of Yasser Arafat in the shabby concrete office and (sort of) answered Chomsky’s questions which were filtered through a translator. Most of the talk centered around what was going to happen to Fatah now that they had lost the elections to Hamas and most of their funding was drying up. (There doesn’t seem to be much of a plan).

After this meeting, we walked to the mass grave where somewhere between 800-1500 people are buried following the massacre in 1982. I didn’t talk to Chomsky much, though he was very polite. I chatted quite a bit with his wife, who was very lively and lamented that everywhere they go, Dr. Chomsky has to be urged to slow down, rest, etc.

It was great to see Nohad and we made plans to meet up again before I leave (in a week and a half - yikes).