April 27, 2010
In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict
Dear Dr Finkelstein,
Living here I am constantly reminded of three Orwell quotes:
“People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts on the ground can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”
“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
“Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”
I am a strong supporter of your work, but the overall message of your books goes against many favored truths here. It is like telling a child Santa Claus doesn’t exists and mommy and daddy ate all the reindeer and melted Frosty in the microwave. For Israelis, it is changing the music from Rachmaninoff to fingernails on a chalkboard. Most are not ready to hear any of the information. The work of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch is meaningless in the eyes of many Israelis. It might as well be coming from The National Inquirer. It is for this reason, I feel myself forced into the corner of using only Israeli sources and writers to support my strong “Just Social Order” stance. Fortunately, there are enough good Israeli sources out there (Akiva Eldar Lords of the Land – highly recommended- and Gidoen Levy Haaretz among them.) Sometimes I find the irony to be so thick I nearly choke on it. On the one hand using UN 181 as the birth certificate and on the other disregarding everything the UN says. One of my favorite documents to reference is the Israeli Declaration of Independence because it is prominently displayed in nearly every building in Israel. It states that Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex…….and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” It is difficult for Israelis to ignore because it is everywhere, but they somehow manage to do so.
My wife and I moved to Israel over one year ago. We came here looking for a positive place to raise a family and now we find ourselves awestruck and saddened by the disaster before our eyes. I expected to find a situation much better than my trip here more than ten years prior. Until about 9 months ago, I had never even heard of Norman Finkelstein. It was only after I moved to Israel that I began to take interest in your writings. I feel very foolish in hindsight for not listening earlier. But I must say, I would have never believed any of what you have written. All my life I have believed Israel was a country worthy of support at all costs. I believed they wanted a just peace and were doing everything in order to achieve that end. Unfortunately, there is too much evidence to support the contrary. It is sad to witness the voices of reason drowned out by the voices of religious zealots calling claim to a land that clearly is not theirs. It is impossible to unlearn what I have now learned. My life would be much easier here if I was able to go back to my blissful ignorance.
Since living here, I have been searching for voices of reason mostly to be met with close minded, racist myrmidons. (just ask the Ethiopian Jews in Israel). I have lived in several countries in my life; South Africa among them. I would be hard pressed to say there was less racism here than in South Africa. In South Africa I at least felt people understood they were making racist statements. Here it is as though people think it is a normal thing to do, like going to the beach on the weekend. There is little sense of unity or solidarity besides the all too common dislike of all things Arab. I came here expecting to find a nation of people ready to do anything to support each other, to recognize the establishment of a country for a people who have suffered for thousands of years. I feel much more comfortable when I travel to the West Bank as I feel a sense of genuine kindness in people’s hearts and minds. There is true feeling of solidarity among people.
People here often say “But nobody reports on all the good things Israel is doing.” This sounds like the bank robber telling the court “Why do you keep asking me about the money I stole….don’t you remember that time I helped that kitten out of a tree?” People report on those issues because those are the issues.
That said, there are many kind and well intentioned Israeli people. There are many fantastic Israeli organizations that are working day and night to create a just social order.
There is hope.
“Separation between peoples is not a solution for any of the problems that divide peoples.” – Edward Said
De Omnibus Dubitandum
P.S. to supporters of Israel: If you have never lived here, I urge you to awaken the dormant Zionist inside you, and come see what is actually happening on the ground here. Look this disaster in the face. Take a good long look. Spend more time here than a holiday week at the King David. Ask yourself if what you see before your eyes represents a just social order. Live here, work here, and travel here. You don’t like what Dr Finkelstein says? You don’t believe him? Fine. Then prove him wrong. He has ample sources to support his claims. Prove him wrong. I wish he was wrong.