November 9, 2005
By P. David Hornik
In a recent issue of the far left web magazine Counterpunch, Neve Gordon, senior lecturer in the Department of Politics and Government at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, again comes to the defense of Normal Finkelstein, professor of political science at DePaul University. Gordon favorably reviews Finkelstein’s new book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (University of California Press).
Finkelstein is a strange figure for an Israeli academic to be praising. Back on November 18, 2002, Finkelstein gave a lecture at Georgetown University. Four days later the Anti-Defamation League, in a letter to the president of Georgetown, said it was “shocked and troubled” that the university had “sponsored a lecture by a known Holocaust denier and anti-Israeli propagandist, Norman Finkelstein. [The] lecture was a one-sided program, intended to promote hatred of Israel and perpetuate classic anti-Semitic stereotypes.”
The ADL letter went on to note that “in his highly publicized book, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, Finkelstein argues that the Holocaust ‘has become a straight-out extortion racket.’ Finkelstein is well known for his anti-Israel rhetoric and his claims that Jews have exploited the Holocaust to make money. He has said that he ‘truly honored’ Hezbullah fighters from Lebanon for ‘having inflicted an exceptional and deserving defeat on their foreign occupiers,’ and that, ‘I can’t imagine why Israel’s apologists would be offended by a comparison to the Gestapo.’ “
The ADL could have added, among other things, that The New York Times called The Holocaust Industry “a novel variation on the anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; that historian Peter Novick called it “trash”; and that Gabriel Schoenfeld, author of The Return of Anti-Semitism, labeled Finkelstein’s views as “crackpot ideas, some of them mirrored almost verbatim in the propaganda put out by neo-Nazis around the world.”
The ADL could also have mentioned that Finkelstein appeared on the official Hezbollah television network al-Manar, and that he is a popular speaker among German neo-Nazis, one of whom called him the “Jewish David Irving.”
Gordon and Finkelstein have, of course, some things in common, including an attraction to anti-Israel terrorists. On February 3, 2002, Israel’s Ynet reported that “250 left-wing activists violated the Israeli army’s orders and entered Ramallah for a meeting with Arafat. . . . Neve Gordon . . . was photographed with Arafat with hands clasped [see picture]. . . . In reply to the question of whether he felt comfortable hugging the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, responsible according to Israel for acts of terror, he replied: ‘I don’t know who’s responsible for the terror attacks, that’s what the media says. . . . ‘ ”
Gordon, who has written that “Israel’s gravest danger today is not the PA or even Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, but the one it faces from within: fascism,” and whom Ma’ariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini accused (along with Haifa University’s Ilan Pappe) of “spread[ing] their articles dripping with anti-Zionist poison all over the world, some of which appear on anti-Semitic websites,” also shares with Norman Finkelstein an Ernst Zundel connection.
Zundel, a pamphleteer who has been jailed several times for hate literature, was deported this year from Canada to his native Germany to stand trial for Holocaust denial. On October 27, 2000, his Zundelsite.org posted Gordon’s glowing review (which had originally appeared in The Nation magazine) of Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry, in which Gordon opined that “[Finkelstein], and not the Jewish organizations he criticizes, is following the example set by the great Jewish prophets.”
Zundel prefaces the review by remarking: “I think it is pretty balanced, even though there are a few politically correct hiccoughs.” And on November 23, 2002, Zundel approvingly posted another Gordon article from The Nation.
In his Counterpunch review of Finkelstein’s latest opus — which the publisher demanded that Finkelstein revise after Alan Dershowitz complained that it libeled him — Gordon demurs from “an odd and troubling conclusion: the Jews, Finkelstein implies, are also to blame for the rise of anti-Semitism.”
But Gordon goes on to praise Finkelstein’s attempt to debunk Dershowitz’s defense of Israel’s human rights record in his The Case for Israel. Finkelstein, in trying to pillory Israel for alleged violations, relies on human rights outfits like Physicians for Human Rights Israel, whose “crude propaganda,” wrote Israeli professor Gerald Steinberg, “is seen by many as anti-Semitic, and has prompted the Israeli Medical Association to end all cooperation with this group.”
As always, Neve Gordon retains his carte blanche from Ben-Gurion University to conduct his “research” and to “teach” Israeli students.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem whose work has appeared in many Israeli, Jewish and political publications. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.