For three days now we have been waiting here in Port Said for the boat with its cargo of 12 fully equipped ambulances and 40 trucks loaded with medical supplies and special needs equipment.

Part of the 120-member delegation has already left, brokenhearted, unable to enter Sinai, let alone Gaza, and others are due to return to Europe in the next few days.

But some have stayed on, among them Senator Fernando Rossi and 12 European Parliament members who joined us yesterday in Port Said.

The ship is presently in Libya and should be arriving in Port Said at the end of the week—that is, if permitted by the Egyptian authorities, who have been playing a game of nerves with us since our arrival

Dr. Arafat Abu Madi, who is in charge of the convoy, wrote yesterday to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, asking him to put pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open all the border crossings immediately, to allow humanitarian aid and reconstruction material into the Gaza Strip.

We really get the feeling we are unwelcome in Egypt. Yes, here in Egypt, when you mention the blockade of Gaza and the terrible predicament of the Palestinians–a situation in which Egypt is playing an active part–you bring the wrath of the authorities down upon you.

So here we are, all in the same hotel, under surveillance from without and within. For now, we have cut off all contact with our Egyptian friends, for their own protection.

In any case, by sending us to Port Said, the Egyptian authorities have deliberately separated us from the Egyptian activists, who are even now being subjected to harassment and even arrest.

In the last four days, 56 activists have been arrested in Egypt for having participated in or having announced their intention to participate in the “Day of Anger”—organized demonstrations to protest the founding of the state of Israel.

In the past, many other Egyptians have been arrested for speaking out about their government’s “Egypto-Zionist” policies concerning Gaza. Some are still under arrest, like Magdi Hussein, Secretary-General of the Labor Party, or the poet-blogger Ahmed Doma, who were sentenced, respectively, to 2 years and 1 year in prison for illegally crossing the eastern Egyptian border, after their solidarity visit to the Gaza Strip following the Israeli attack that killed 1434 Palestinians wounded more than 5000, and left more than 100,000 homeless.

We have decided to keep on waiting, even though we have no idea what will happen next.

I hope to be able to tell you soon: “We are in Gaza.”

Traduction française :

Attente à Port Saïd pour la Délégation “Un Espoir pour Gaza”

Note: Please click on the video’s right and left buttons to check Norman’s lecture from Part 1 to Part 9.

Basset Makes Statement:

To the Editor: As some members of the campus community know, I have told the students involved with the Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights (CUSPR) that a planned talk by Professor Norman Finkelstein will not take place this semester. The University remains committed to inviting a wide range of speakers to encourage diversity of opinions on controversial topics. My decision was predicated on its untimely and unfortunate scheduling. The University began planning for the First International Graduate Students’ Conference on Holocaust and Genocide Studies a year ago. While I do not believe that the students who invited Mr. Finkelstein to campus intended it as an affront to those planning the conference, in the eyes of many in the Clark community and our invited guests, it seems to be just that. It is possible that our understanding of the Middle East conflicts would be enriched by conversations with Professor Finkelstein. It is my judgement, however, that having Professor Finkelstein speak on the same evening as our planned conference would only invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding. By this letter, copied also to the Chair of the Faculty and the President of Student Government, I am asking the campus community — faculty, staff, and students — to engage in dialogues about the right breadth at Clark for visiting speakers on controversial topics, about related matters of scheduling as raised in this case, and about this particular case. I will consult with faculty, staff, and students right after Fall Break in early October and report back to The Scarlet on those discussions. After those discussions have taken place, I will be happy to discuss with interested students the appropriateness of an invitation to Mr. Finkelstein.

If you would like to express your opinion to President Basset on his decision to cancel my lecture, you can reach him here:

presidentsoffice[at], or through Clark University President’s Office contact page.

Please forward your letter to Normangf[at] for posting on this website.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Weighs In on Clark Cancellation

04.10.2009 | ACLU (pdf)

By email: presidentsoffice[at] and first class mail
John Bassett, President
Clark University
Geography Building – Room 202
950 Main St.
Worcester, MA 01610

Dear President Bassett:

The ACLU or Massachusetts is very disturbed bv your decision to cancel a talk by Norman Finkelstein who had been invited by a student organization to speak in April on the Clark campus. You have been Quoted in the Boston Globe today as saying that Finkelstein’s presence “would invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding” and that you objected to the timing of his speech which was to take place on the first day of a conference on the Holocaust. Finkelstein’s lecture was not about the Holocaust (even though he is the son of two concentration camp survivors), but was to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. According to the Globe, the Jewish student organization Hillel raised objections to Finkelstein speaking at Clark.

I have also been informed that when students who had arranged the Finkelstein event met with you, the Dean, and the Provost, administrators referred to Finkelstein as as “extremist” who was “beyond controversial”, thus warranting cancellation of his speaking engagement.

In an email on this issue, you have stated:

There is no question that Clark University stands for full freedom of inquiry in the pursuit of truth and of the good. My decision in this case was based solely on the unfortunate timing of the propsed talk…. Clark’s Difficult Dialogues series next year is focusing on Israel and Palestine. We need to be good listeners to many perspectives. Perhaps one of those will be Norman Finkelstein’s.

Email from Basset to Witty available at

Even if you are now relying solely on the timing of the Finkelstein talk, as opposed to his being controversial or “beyond controversial”, the cancellation of his speech violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom which are so fundamental to an institute of higher learning. The existence of an opportunity to speak at another time or in another location does not remedy the wrong of censorship. Certainly the Clark University campus is large enough to accommodate a speech at the same time as a conference on another subject. This is not the kind of “time, place or manner” restriction on a speaker who is seeks to speak in the same location at the same time as another speaker.

Nor may complaints from those disturbed by Finkelstein’s writings about the post-Holocaust “industry” justify a decision to prevent the lecture from taking place. Indeed, even if demonstrators came to protest against Finkelstein’s views, the obligation of a university is to protect the spaeker’s right to be heard and prevent diisruption of the speech by others. By censoring speech because of complains about offensiveness or the controversial nature of the speaker, the university has essentially allowed what the courts call a “heckler’s veto” over what speech can be heard.

Not only does this censorship violate Clark University’s own principles and your statement that “Clark University stands for full freedom of inquiry,” but it also at odds with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) principles, under which Clark University receives accreditation. Standard Eleven: Integrity, at 11.3 provides that the institution must be “committed the the free pursuit and dissemination of knowledge. It assures faculty and students the freedom to teach and study a given field, to examine all the pertinent date, to question assumptions, and to be guided by the evidence of scholarly research.”

The University’s censorship also conflicts with the principles of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The AAUP statement on outside speakers is available at their website and is relevant to the issue of censorship based on objections by others to a speaker:

The university is no place for a heckler’s veto….We have always been clear that colleges and universities bear the obligation to ensure conditions of peaceful discussion, which at times can be quite onerous. Only in the most extraordinary circumstances can strong evidence of imminent danger justify rescinding an invitation to an outside speaker.

There was no such evidence in this case.

These principles are just as important at a private university like Clark University as they are at a public university which is bound by the First Amendment. This was recognized recently by Tufts University President Lawrence Bacow.

While Tufts is a private institution and not technically bound by First Amendment guarantees, it is my intention to govern as President as if we were. To put it another way, I believe that students, faculty, and staff should enjoy the same rights to freedom of expression at Tufts as they would if they attended or worked at a public university….During the McCarthy era, a number of university presidents in the United States failed to defend the principle of expression. Students, faculty, and stuff paid for this equivocation as the government sought to purge University campuses of those expressing particularly unpopular opinions. We must be vigilant in defending individual liberties even if it means that from time to time we must tolerate speech that violates our stadards of civility and respect.

“Freedom of Expression at Tufts” (August 27, 2007)

The Tufts president is not alone. The Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences has adopted free speech guidelines which include a similar statement:

Because no other community defines itself so much in terms of knowledge, few others place such a high priority on freedom of speech. As a community, we take certain risks by assigning such a high priority to free speech. We assume that the long-term benefits to our community will outweigh the short-term unpleasnt effects of sometimes-noxious views. Because we a community united by a commitment to rational processes, we do not permit censorship of noxious ideas. We are commited to maintaining a climate in which reason and speech provide the correct response to a disagreeable idea.

We urge you to acknowledge, as President Bacow did at Tufts, that mistakes have been made by Clark University in canceling the Finkelstein lecture. AS the U.S. Supreme Court has noted: “[t]he vigilant protection of constitutional freedom is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.” Shelion v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479,487 (1960). The Court has emphasized that the “college classroom with its surrounding environs is peculiarly the ‘marketplace of ideas,’ and we break no new constitutional ground in reaffirming this Nation’s dedication to safeguarding academic freedom.” Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 180-81 (1972), quoting Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 603 (1967).

I look forward to hearing from you about these important issues.

Sarah Wunsch

Clark drops Holocaust scholar – Schedule conflict, controversy cited

04.10.2009 | The Boston Globe

By Matt Byrne – Globe Correspondent

Clark University canceled a campus talk scheduled for later this month by controversial Holocaust scholar Norman Finkelstein, saying his presence “would invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding,” and would conflict with a similar event scheduled around the same time.

The Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights, a student-run group on the Worcester campus, had arranged for Finkelstein to speak on April 21, said Tom MacMillan, the group’s president. School administrators, however, contend the topic and the timing conflict with a similar university-sponsored event.

In a letter to the university’s campus newspaper, Clark’s president, John Bassett, wrote: “The university remains committed to inviting a wide range of speakers to encourage diversity of opinions on controversial topics. My decision was predicated on its untimely and unfortunate scheduling.”

Finkelstein’s address would conflict with a similar conference hosted by the university’s Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, scheduled for April 23-26, two days after Finkelstein’s speech, Bassett said in his letter. That conference could draw Holocaust scholars who MacMillan said may disagree with Finkelstein.

Although Bassett wrote that he did not believe that students intended Finkelstein to be an affront to the conference, he said he believed it could be viewed that way.

“It is possible that our understanding of the Middle East conflicts would be enriched by conversations with Professor Finkelstein,” Bassett said in the letter. “It is my judgement, however, that having Professor Finkelstein speak on the same evening as our planned conference would only invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding.”

John Foley, assistant secretary at Clark, declined to comment when reached late last night. Jane Salerno, a university spokeswoman, deferred comment to a later date.

Finkelstein agreed to the engagement in February, and the student group received funding from a variety of other campus organizations to help pay his speaking fee.

The dispute came to the attention of college administrators after Hillel, a Jewish campus group, objected to Finkelstein’s scheduled appearance.

Bassett met with MacMillan, two other members of the group, and a handful of other campus administrators, including public safety personnel, on Monday to discuss Finkelstein’s speech, MacMillan said.

At that meeting, the administration suggested that as many as six uniformed or plain-clothes security officers attend Finkelstein’s speech, in case the forum became violent, MacMillan said.

Finkelstein has been the center of controversy in the past. In June 2007, DePaul University in Chicago denied Finkelstein’s bid for tenure after a feud with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz escalated when Dershowitz publicly opposed Finkelstein’s tenure application.

Finkelstein asserted in his book “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History” that Israel uses accusations of anti-Semitism to deflect criticism, a response to Dershowitz’s book “The Case for Israel.”

Clark’s decision to deny Finkelstein’s speech comes less than a month after Boston College made a similar move, barring William Ayers, a University of Chicago professor and a former member of the Weather Underground, from speaking on campus at the request of a student group there.

Student group protests Clark canceling talk Speaker’s views controversial

04.11.2009 | Telegram & Gazette

By Danielle M. Williamson – Telegram & Gazette Staff

Clark University President John Bassett said the fact that political author Norman G. Finkelstein is considered controversial would not, in itself, keep the former professor from speaking on campus.

After learning that a student organization planned for Mr. Finkelstein to speak at Clark the same week as a scheduled Holocaust and genocide studies conference, however, Mr. Bassett questioned the timing of the speech. Mr. Finkelstein, whose Jewish parents survived concentration camps during World War II, has written and spoken about a “Holocaust industry” that he believes exploits the memory of the Holocaust. He has also argued that the genocide is overused to justify Israeli behavior in the current conflict with Palestinians.

“I’m not in the business of canceling talks,” Mr. Bassett said of his decision to nix the plans of Students for Palestinian Rights, an organization at the university, for Mr. Finkelstein to speak April 23. “This may well happen next year. I just said, ‘This is the wrong week, folks.’ ”

Mr. Bassett’s action, announced to student leaders Monday and justified in a letter to the student newspaper Wednesday, has prompted Students for Palestinian Rights to circulate two petitions. One questions whether the president should be able to cancel events without first consulting event organizers, and the other asks whether Clark students can have productive conversations about issues with which they may not agree.

“We consider this an abuse of academic freedom,” said senior Thomas MacMillan, president of the organization, which had raised half of the $1,800 costs associated with Mr. Finkelstein’s talk before Mr. Bassett canceled it. “Free speech is probably one of the greatest things we have in this country, as long as it’s not encouraging hate or violence toward someone else.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts echoed the sentiment in a letter to Bassett yesterday, saying the cancellation of the speech: “violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom, which are so fundamental to an institution of higher learning.”

Mr. Finkelstein, a scholar of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Holocaust, has been on the professional speaking circuit since resigning in 2007 from DePaul University in Chicago. Before resigning, Finkelstein had put on administrative leave by the university. Harvard professor, lawyer and political commentator Alan Dershowitz had publicly criticized Mr. Finkelstein for his writings about Israel.

“Our group helps bring the issue of Palestinian suffering to light,” Mr. MacMillan said. “People are perfectly within their rights to come or not come to our events and question sternly our speakers, but we are within our rights to have them.”

Mr. Finkelstein’s talk, similar to one Mr. MacMillan saw him give Thursday night at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, was to be titled “The Gaza Massacre” and was not related to the Holocaust, Mr. MacMillan stressed.

“Any Middle Eastern topic is going to generate controversy,” he said. “But most Clark students are very willing to sit down and talk about a controversy.”

Mr. Bassett wrote in his letter to The Scarlet student newspaper that a speech by Mr. Finkelstein on the same night as the start of the April 23-26 conference hosted by the university’s Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies “would only invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding.”

Mr. Bassett said Clark’s Jewish campus group, Hillel, opposed Mr. Finkelstein’s appearance. He said his decision to cancel the talk, however, was made before representatives from Hillel approached him.

Clark University President asserts that ‘anti-Semitism is increasing in America’

04.11.2009 | Mondoweiss

By Philip Weiss

I missed a stretcher. Yesterday Clark University President John Bassett wrote a letter seeking to justify his censorship of Norman Finkelstein, who had been scheduled to give a speech on campus, and his letter included this statement:

What especially exaggerates emotions on this topic are the combined facts that Palestinians have suffered and are suffering many abuses and that anti-Semitism is increasing in America.

I notice that commenters have leapt on this statement. My friend James North says it is possibly the most astonishing statement he’s ever read on this site. What is Bassett’s evidence that anti-Semitism is increasing? And to equate that with the horrors in Palestine? What does he mean by abuses? Why not call things by their name? 1200 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. That’s abuses? This is a disgrace. And remember, Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors. He can tell you about anti-Semitism. Bassett’s action is the sort that feeds anti-Semitism, because it seems an expression of Jewish power. Note that Witty thinks that anti-Semitism is a real problem in the U.S. but he wants to let Finkelstein speak!

Students rally after school cancels controversial speaker

04.13.2009 | NECN

By Jennifer Eagan

(NECN: Jennifer Eagan, Worcester, Mass.) – Students rallied outside Clark University Monday in response to the school’s decision to cancel a controversial speaker.

The university’s president told students Dr. Norman Finkelstein wouldn’t be allowed to visit campus later this month.

Finkelstein is a scholar of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and was scheduled to speak on that topic at Clark. He’s also faced controversy for his views on the Holocaust.

Finkelstein’s parents survived World War II concentration camps.

He’s written and spoken of a “Holocaust industry”, which he says exploits the genocide to further Israeli interests and make money.

As the president of Clark noted in the student newspaper last week, Dr. Finkelstein’s speaking engagement was canceled because it fell during the same week as a conference hosted by Clark’s center for holocaust and genocide studies.

Letters to Clark University President Office – 1

04.11.2009 | Original

By Doug Tarnopol

Once again, a university has bowed to pressure to limit free speech and academic freedom. Once again, in so doing, it has made itself a laughing-stock and has amplified the message of the person disinvited. The excuses are transparently false. From Freud to Fraud in just under a century; you must be so proud. Well done!

I understand that a college president’s main job is to ensure the flow of funding, but one would hope that some vague notion of the educational purpose of the university would still occasionally penetrate the miasma of corporate decision-making.

As for Hillel’s position, take it from this American Jew whose family lost members during the Nazi holocaust: by using that historical event to undermine, Nazi-like, the free speech and academic freedom of a nonviolent scholar, you have committed one of the worst moral atrocities I can imagine that doesn’t entail physical violence. Well done!

This is surely the triumph of ethnocentrism over ethics, and it pretty much solidifies in the public’s mind that Dr. Finkelstein’s work on Israeli crimes in the occupied territories, and the ideological use of the Holocaust to silence those crimes, is pretty much on the ball.

I’m of two minds on this — on the one hand, I’d like to see you stop your hysterical jihad against Finkelstein; on the other hand, said hysteria is the best imaginable publicity for his utterly crucial message. Given my experience with Hillel and other supposedly representative Jewish organizations, there is little chance that any of you will stop acting like little Dershowitzes, so my desires are probably beside the point.

So, keep up the good work: your hysterical reactions only serve to widen the cracks in American Zionism.

Letters to Clark University President Office – 2

04.12.2009 | Original

By Omar Baddar

Dear Mr. Bassett,

I was very disappointed to read that you have cancelled Dr. Finkelstein’s talk at Clark University, on the grounds that it was scheduled close to the conference on Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The problem here is two-fold: (1) The false assumption that Dr. Finkelstein’s appearance can legitimately be taken as an “affront” to those planning the conference, and (2), even if it that false assumption were correct, that it would then be appropriate to cancel one academic talk to accommodate the fragile sensibilities of the organizers of another event.

The first fold of the problem is of little interest to me; though I would encourage you to read what the late Dr. Raul Hilberg, widely recognized as the leading Holocaust scholar, had to say about Dr. Finkelstein to acquire a better picture on the issue’s merits. As for the second fold, you certainly wouldn’t cancel a lecture by one theoretical physics professor on the grounds that it is scheduled too close to the lecture of another theoretical physics professor who strongly disagreed with the first. A serious commitment to academic freedom would extend this tolerance of intellectual diversity to slightly more contentious issues.

I hope that you will reconsider your decision.

Omar Baddar; M.A.


Dear Mr. Baddar:

My decision to decline to bring Professor Norman Finkelstein to campus next week was based upon mindful concern of a scheduling conflict with an institutionally sponsored event that had been in the planning stages for more than a year. This concern remains.

At no time did I indicate that Professor Finkelstein would not speak at Clark on another occasion. I also support a broad and deep engagement of the Clark community with the Israel-Palestine issues.

If our students wish to schedule the speaker here before the semester ends, or in the future, they can certainly work through the student planning process to make this happen. I would not oppose such a visit at all.

I have respect and often commend the activism of Clark’s bright and engaged students. I expect this administration and Clark’s dozens of student organizations will work together on these and other issues now and as we move forward.

John Bassett

Letters to Clark University President Office – 3

04.12.2009 | Original

By Mirène Ghossein

Dear President Basset,

If Clark University’s motto is truly “Change Convention, Change Our World”, then Norman Finkelstein should be your ideal choice for a “Conference on Holocaust and Genocide Studies”. Indeed Dr. Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry challenges the conventional views on the Nazi Holocaust, and goes on to prove that the quote he chose to introduce the book was indeed appropriate : “It seems to me the Holocaust is being sold-it is not being taught” ( Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, Hillel Director, Yale University) .

Raul Hillberg, founder and undisputed authority on holocaust studies, refers to those passages in Dr. Finkelstein’s book which deal with the claims against the Swiss Banks, as a “breakthrough”, and predicts that one day, we would all come to agree with Finkelstein’s findings. Hillberg was right. Many articles have since been published showing the misuse of humanitarian compensation funds by American and Israeli Jewish organizations alike, as well as individuals. Haaretz ( 08-06- 2007) , The Jewish Week ( 05-04-2007), The Jewish Forward (06-06-2003) are but a few examples. Haaretz cites one Holocaust survivor as saying : ” I want the Germans to know that Israel took the money we should have received”.

Remembering this (and more) I was truly taken aback by your letter to the editor of The Scarlet, especially by the use of the word “affront” in the following context: “While I do not believe that the students who invited Mr. Finkelstein to campus intended it as an affront to those planning the conference, in the eyes of many in the Clark community and our invited guests, it seems to be just that”. Speaking of Norman Finkelstein, Raul Hillberg said : ” It takes an enormous amount of academic courage to speak the truth “. It also would take academic courage to stand up for one’s own motto, against pressure groups. I urge you to reverse your decision regarding Dr. Finkelstein ‘s talk. Let your “invited guests” challenge his facts, in a true scholarly manner. And unless Dr. Finkelstein would find it an “affront” to speak, after reading your letter, he should be allowed to make his case. For one , it would be intellectually more stimulating for students to hear different and opposing points of view. It would also show that Clark University is neither afraid of the truth, nor of freedom of speech.

Mirène Ghossein

I refer now to the part of the book that deals with the claims against the Swiss banks, and the other claims pertaining to forced labor. “I would now say in retrospect that he was actually conservative, moderate and that his conclusions are trustworthy. He is a well-trained political scientist, has the ability to do the research, did it carefully, and has come up with the right results. I am by no means the only one who, in the coming months or years, will totally agree with Finkelstein’s breakthrough.”

Letters to Clark University President Office – 5

04.12.2009 | Original

By Bridget Kane

Dear Ms. David,

My name is Bridget Kane, and I graduated from Clark in 2007. I have never been anything less than proud to tell people I am a Clarkie — that is, until today. When I read the article in the Boston Globe today about Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s visit to Clark being canceled, I was embarrased and ashamed that it was all coming from my Alma Mater. To me, this cancellation really negates Clark’s reputation of “Challenging Convention” and encouraging real “Difficult Dialogues,”. As an undergrad, I craved for a speaker like Finklestein to come into the Clark community and show an informed, educated and respected “other side” to the student body. Too many times at Clark, students are scared too speak their mind if it doesn’t exactly mesh with what the general student body appears to think. If there is any school around that would benefit from having a speaker like Finklestein to their campus, it’s Clark that needs it the most. I hope you will consider rescheduling him, as I think his presence would be of great value to the Clark community.

Bridget Kane


Dear Ms. Kane,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Clark University stands for full freedom of inquiry in the pursuit of truth and of the good. President Bassett’s decision regarding the lecture featuring Dr. Norman Finkelstein was based solely on the unfortunate timing of the proposed talk. He has not banned Dr. Finkelstein from ever speaking on campus. He has asked for some campus reflection on the issues raised by the controversy, that is what—if any—boundaries govern invitations to speakers on campus and what—if any—scheduling concerns are legitimate.

There is no question that this campus, like all others, needs to hear voices on the Israeli-Palestinian tensions that reflect Palestinian perspectives. What especially exaggerates emotions on this topic are the combined facts that Palestinians have suffered and are suffering many abuses and that anti-Semitism is increasing in America. Therefore reactions to speakers being invited and perceived censorship are stronger than they otherwise would be.

Clark’s Difficult Dialogues series next fall will focus on Israel and Palestine. We need to be good listeners to many perspectives. As the president has said, perhaps one of those will be Norman Finkelstein’s.

Paula R. David
Vice President, Marketing and Communications

Letters to Clark University President Office – 6

04.12.2009 | Original

By Khusro Elley

Dear Sir,

Any conference on the Holocaust is incomplete without Prof. Finkelstein’s comments. Much as you seem to believe in diversity, you seem to turn the conference into a propoganda opportunity for those who would much rather present it in one light only. Far from bering an affront, I believe Prof. Finkelstein’s comments would add to our knowledge of that unfortunate event. I hope you will review your decision, in the interest of championing diversity and therfore the truth.

Letters to Clark University President Office – 7

04.12.2009 | Original

By Sally Eberhardt

Dear President Bassett,

I’m writing to you as a person concerned about the state of academic freedom in this country. We all depend on the critical examination of accepted ideas in a free society. Dr. Finkelstein’s presence on Clark’s campus would be an important part of that process. To refuse him access to your campus on the pretext of sensitivity to the Holocaust is to deny the scholarly status of his ideas as endorsed, for example, by Professor Raul Hillberg, to say nothing of the insult it does to the memory of Dr. Finkelstein’s parents who were both Holocaust survivors.

I hope you will reverse your decision.

Your sincerely,
Theaters Against War

Letters to Clark University President Office – 8

04.12.2009 | Original

By April Lambert

President Bassett,

I am writing to express my disappointment with your choice to cancel the Norman Finkelstein event. College campuses have an obligation to be active and open forums for a wide variety of topics, opinions, and speakers. It is our responsibility to fulfill that obligation by creating and maintaining an environment in which many topics will be discussed, many opinions will be stated, and many diverse speakers will be welcomed. I feel that your choice to cancel this event erodes that environment.

I am also extremely worried about the precedent that this decision sets. I am grateful to be in a community that is academically engaged and passionate about many issues and I know that this community is capable of handing controversial speakers and/or unfortunate scheduling conflicts in appropriate, mature, and respectful ways. We cannot begin censoring events, speakers, groups, etc on this campus even in the face of logistical difficulties. It will do us all harm and it will do this community a great disservice.

I am very disappointed and worried by this decision and I hope that a unilateral decision to censor a group’s event will not occur in this fashion again.

With respect,

Letters to Clark University President Office – 9

04.12.2009 | Original

By Dave Markland

Dear President Basset,

I was troubled to read that Clark University has chosen to cancel an appearance by respected scholar Norman Finkelstein. The fact that a Jewish intellectual finds himself censored on the pretext of protecting open debate on the shoah is an extreme irony which only serves to disgrace Clark University.

One wonders what the late Raul Hilberg would have thought. Hilberg, long the leading holocaust scholar (and a man whose political leanings were much the opposite of Finkelstein’s) was a professed admirer of Finkelstein’s work. I trust that Clark will not be banning all reference to Hilberg at the conference, though that would at least be consistent with your actions thus far.

The impulse to stifle debate is common amongst those whose views cannot sustain an open airing of the issues. The problem for Clark is that few people are fooled by this ruse and the school’s reputation will justly suffer as a result.

I encourage you to reconsider this affront to freedom of speech and inquiry and allow Dr. Finkelstein to speak.


Letters to Clark University President Office – 10

04.13.2009 | Original

By Al-Habbo Abdelkerim

Mr. president,

This is an outrage. I get that the media being owned by major corporation won’t invite professor Finkelstein on their show (actually I don’t really get it). But an univerisity, as prestigious as Clark University, banning a eminient scholar on the grounds that his ideas might not be the one shared by the establishment is an outrage. The students you are educating are the future leaders of this nation. By cancelling Finkelstein’s invitation, I am regretefully announcing you that censorship is what Clark University is inculcating in its students. You are alienating the current student and prospective student by such behaviors. Just because a minority of vey influent people have a narrow-minded vision on what is the most tragic event in modern history (Palestinian crisis), you are ready to bet on the reputation of a 19th century institution. One last thing, ask yourself what Freud would have thought and I had hoped that academic freedom was already established after the Franz Boaz and Stanley Hall’s dispute. History is repeating itself it seems.

If it was up to me, you should resign.


Letters to Clark University President Office – 11

04.13.2009 | Original

By Shadi Z. Ghrayeb

I’m very disappointed to hear you’ve banned Dr. Finkelstein from speaking at Clark University. Dr. Norman Finkelstein stands as a moral example that the quest for hope, justice, truth, and equality can and should prevail.

Letters to Clark University President Office – 12

04.13.2009 | Original

By Muttasem Razzaq

Your cancelling of Norman Finkelstein’s scheduled talk puts you and Clark University squarely on the wrong side of history. I read both the Boston Globe article as well as the Worcester Telegram’s article citing your move, but did not read anywhere why you thought it might offend people attending the Holocaust Conference. Simply put: what does the struggle for Palestinian rights have to do with the Holocaust?

The fact is, as you well know, that the truth about the Palestinian issue offends supporters of Israel because it sheds light on the lies that form mainstream discussion on the issue.

Your attempt to silence Dr. Finkelstein is much like Holy Cross’ decision several years ago cancelling Dr. Michael Prior’s talk, or last year’s cancellation of Joel Beinin’s talk in California, or Tony Judt’s talk in New York, or …, you get the picture.

The end result of your action is in fact irrelevant. More and more people are understanding the reality of life under Israeli occupation in spite of your attempts to silence the truth. Witness the fact that countless groups and organizations worldwide are preparing to bring War Crimes charges against Israel to hold it accountable for the atrocities committed in Gaza. People with open minds will get different sources of information to structure their opinions.

What you have denied the Clark community is the thrill of watching someone speak truthfully. So go ahead and hide behind your lame excuses.

Letters to Clark University President Office – 13

04.13.2009 | Original

What does a distinguished professor’s speech have to do with other events on campus? College campuses were once regarded a bastion of free speech, regardless of the type of things being said. This is precisely the type of campus climate that facilitates the dismissal of great academics like Finkelstein, a professor who consistently received the highest student evaluations in the political science department at Depaul University. This whole incident is a shame to your school.


Dear Shalin:

My decision to decline to bring Professor Norman Finkelstein to campus next week was based upon mindful concern of a scheduling conflict with an institutionally sponsored event that had been in the planning stages for more than a year. This concern remains.

At no time did I indicate that Professor Finkelstein would not speak at Clark on another occasion. I also support a broad and deep engagement of the Clark community with the Israel-Palestine issues.

If our students wish to schedule the speaker here before the semester ends, or in the future, they can certainly work through the student planning process to make this happen. I would not oppose such a visit at all.

I have respect and often commend the activism of Clark’s bright and engaged students. I expect this administration and Clark’s dozens of student organizations will work together on these and other issues now and as we move forward.

John Bassett

Letters to Clark University President Office – 14

04.13.2009 | Original

By Will Brown

Mr. Bassett,

Although I am not a student at Clark University , it had been my intention to attend the talk Norman Finkelstein was scheduled to give on your campus later this month. It was with great disappointment that I learned of its cancellation.

Last December the IDF launched an indiscriminate assault on the already destitute and suffocating people of Gaza . They bombed civilian infrastructure–schools, hospitals and mosques. By the time a ceasefire was established on January 18th, roughly 1,200 Palestinians had been slaughtered, many of them burned alive by white phosphorous shells. One third of those killed were children. For decades the people of Palestine have endured oppression, humiliation and abject poverty under a brutal military occupation that stands in direct violation of international law.

Both of Dr. Finkelstein’s parents were survivors of Nazi extermination camps. The dedication of his book ‘Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict’ reads

“To my beloved parents, Maryla Husyt Finkelstein, survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, Maidanek concentration camp; and Zacharias Finkelstein, survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz concentration camp. May I never forget or forgive what was done to them.”

Norman Finkelstein has dedicated his life to speaking out on behalf of silenced and subjugated people. It is a cause that has cost him a stable career and sentenced him to a lifetime of threats and slander.. Academia should champion those who have the courage to speak truth to power, not silence them.

You canceled Finkelstein’s lecture, claiming that it would be inappropriate for his talk on Palestinian rights to coincide with a conference on genocide because it “would only invite controversy.” How could anyone be deeply concerned about the memory of the Holocaust and simultaneously disdain Finkelstein’s tireless dedication to defending the factual record regarding atrocities going on in Palestine ? Human suffering is human suffering. Injustice is injustice. To me, the implicit message of this decision is that Jewish lives are worth more than Palestinian lives, that the devastation of the former merits a conference, while discussion of similar devastation experienced by the latter–devastation going on as we speak, enabled by our tax dollars–should be censored, or *maybe* just saved for another time. This is an affront to human decency and to academic freedom.

As a descendant of Jewish refugees, it is my deepest conviction that human civilization must learn from the Shoah that no people should ever be abandoned to systematic deprivation and destruction. It seems that for the establishment and Hillel at Clark University , the lesson of the Holocaust is that Jews should be entitled to special privileges because they have suffered, privileges including the right to inflict suffering on other groups and to do so without being subject to criticism or protest. I find such sentiments to be tragic beyond words.

Will Brown
Student, UMass Boston

Letters to Clark University President Office – 15

04.13.2009 | Original

By Maren Hackmann

President Bassett:

Your cancellation of Dr. Norman G. Finkelstein’s talk at Clark University is outrageous. An apology is in order — both to the student organizers and to Dr. Finkelstein himself. And, of course, the event should take place as scheduled.

It says on your website that in 2002 you launched the so-called President’s Lecture Series which “includes two-three lectures a year with eminent speakers in the sciences, arts, humanities and international relations.” It seems you don’t yet have a candidate for 2009. Why not invite Dr. Finkelstein? Surely you can find a date that’s a non-affront?

Maren Hackmann
Editor & Translator

Letters to Clark University President Office – 16

04.13.2009 | Original

Dear President Basset:

It was with great displeasure that I read of your decision to cancel Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture. I was displeased even further when I read of your justification for doing so. Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture had absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust. Even if it did, even a cursory glance at Dr. Finkelstein’s work would have made it clear that Finkelstein is not in anyway a Holocaust denier or an anti-semite. As you may or may not know, Dr. Finkelstein is the child of Holocaust survivors and a longtime friend/colleague of the great Holocaust historian Raul Hillberg. These are not the credentials of a man bent on offending the sensibilities of the participants in Clark’s Holocaust Remembrance Conference.

While it is true that Dr. Finkelstein has written about the “Holocaust Industry,” that work was in no way disparaging to the victims of the Holocaust or controversial in the least from a scholarly perspective. If anything, the thesis of that work – that the victims of the Holocaust were being bilked out of large sums of money by the organizers of Holocaust reparations movement – should be recognized as sympathetic to the plight of the survivors and all those who perished during the war at the hands of the Nazis.

If you decided to cancel Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture knowing all of the aforementioned, then I can only assume that your decision was based on Dr. Finkelstein’s work concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict. It should be noted at the outset that the Israel-Palestine conflict is not to be conflated with the Holocaust. While there are historical connections between the formation of the Israeli State and the Holocaust, there is no currently relevant connection between the Holocaust and the current goings-on in the middle east. A lecture against the Occupation of the Palestinian Territories has absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust and, if you feel differently, I would be interested to know exactly how you came to that conclusion.

Holocaust Remembrance reminds us of the importance of maintaining free speech and the free flow of ideas to ensure that a second catastrophe of similar proportions never occurs again. Your actions stand in contradiction to this principle. Indeed, if anything, your actions have strengthened those conspiratorial anti-Semites who believe in the age-old canard that Jews control American institutions and restrict/warp the flow of information to their advantage.

I hope my concerns are taken to heart and you reconsider your decision to cancel Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture.

Best Regards,

Letters to Clark University President Office – 17

04.13.2009 | Original

By S. Marciniak

Dear Sir

I have read your letter published in the Scarlet on April 9th and I am disappointed to learn of your institution’s decision to cancel Dr Finkelstein’s forthcoming speaking engagement. Even though this e-mail is unlikely to arrive in time to persuade you to revise this decision, it is important nevertheless for me to correct the mistaken assertion that Mr Finkelstein’s attendance is likely to cause an unacceptable degree of controversy.

I understand that Dr Finkelstein was scheduled to discuss the recent conflict in Gaza at your university. I had the benefit of listening, along with 150 others, to Dr Finkelstein’s talk on the same subject at the end of February at Kings College, London. If I may be permitted to attempt to encapsulate Dr Finkelstein’s argument, Israel’s invasion of Gaza was based on two principles: firstly to restore its “deterrence capability” ie Arab states’ fear of Israel following its recent failed engagements in Lebanon and secondly, to thwart the most recent of the Palestinian “peace offensives.”

The expressions I have placed in quotation marks are not Dr Finkelstein’s own words:”deterrence capability” was used by Ariel Sharon in 1967 and “peace offensive” by Avner Yaniv in 1982. I would also stress that at no point during the talk did Dr Finkelstein attempt to relate or compare the conflict to the Holocaust or to the Nazi Final Solution – the talk now appears online on Youtube.

I can understand the concern that to discuss the Gaza conflict in the wake of the event itself may touch many raw nerves amongst members of your institution. However, I would argue that it is immaterial whether one agrees or disagrees with Dr Finkelstein’s point of view about the reasons for the conflict. The critical point is that Dr Finkelstein in the talk I attended attempted to place the Gaza situation within the context of Israeli state philosophy and policy over the last 40 years. By premising his arguments on the available evidence, Dr Finkelstein promoted reasoned and reflective debate with his audience, not controversy.

There is a danger that the university’s preconceptions concerning Dr Finkelstein may persist and become ingrained, which this is the reason I am compelled to write to you in these terms. I therefore hope that by the time this matter falls to be reconsidered, a better informed and reasoned decision can be made.

Yours Sincerely
Mr S. Marciniak

Letters to Clark University President Office – 18

04.13.2009 | Original

By Timothy Newman

Dear President Bassett,

As an alumnus of Clark University (class of 2006), I am deeply disappointed to learn about your recent decision to cancel Norman Finkelstein’s speaking event at Clark.

I came to Clark University as a Making a Difference scholar and I was attracted to Clark because of its motto, “Challenging Convention, Changing our World.” Clark’s commitment to positive change in the world is embodied in the school’s mission statement which is to educated students “to be imaginative and contributing citizens of the world.” The mission statement also says, “The free pursuit of inquiry and the free exchange of ideas are central to that commitment.” I chose to attend Clark because of these ideals and I am proud to have attend this university.

During my years at Clark, I learned so much about the world through engaging in passionate and scholarly debates about the most critical issues facing our local communities and global society. Additionally, I learned a great deal about strategies to positively impact my community and create social change. Through participating in various student organizations and community projects, I learned so many lessons that I use every day in my current capacity as a Campaigns Director of a DC-based NGO working to protect workers’ rights globally.

So, it is with great dismay that I have learned about your recent decision to cancel the Norman Finkelstein event sponsored by Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights. It is clear that this move was a violation of academic freedom and free speech. Of course scheduling conflicts are unfortunate and controversy can be uncomfortable, but students (and all of us) benefit from openly engaging with difficult discussions. Your decision sets a dangerous precedent for silencing dissenting voices in a university that has long prided itself in challenging convention and dealing directly with important political issues. In my years at Clark, I planned a large number of similar events and attended many lectures given by speakers I agreed and disagreed with fervently and I never heard of the administration ever intervening in an event like this. For example, during my junior year, former CPA head Paul Bremer — an immensely controversial figure internationally — spoke on campus. Dissenters had the opportunity to share their opinions and the event went on as scheduled.

The other aspect of your decision that disturbs me is that it also discourages student engagment and organizing. Unilaterally canceling a student group’s event has a detrimental impact on the ability of students to organize on campus and excercise their rights. Participating in running campaigns and planning educational events at Clark was an important part of my education as a citizen and an organizing professional — and I think my efforts had a meaningful and positive impact on the Clark community. Your decision is hurtful to the development of students as active and globally-conscious citizens. Instead, it sends a negative message about how easily democracy can be undermined.

President Bassett, as a proud Clark University alumnus, I ask that you reconsider your decision and ensure that Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights are able to bring Norman Finkelstein to speak at Clark this semester. I also ask that you refrain from cancelling other speaking events planned by student organizations in the future and that you meet with CUSPR members to ensure that their concerns are adequately addressed. I will be paying close attention to this issue and I am sharing my thoughts with my fellow alumni as well.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Timothy Newman (’06)

Letters to Clark University President Office – 19

04.13.2009 | Original

By Kevin Greenstein

Dear President Bassett,

I am writing to express my satisfaction at you decision to cancel Mr. Finkelstein’s appearance at Clark It is gratifying to find at least a bit of compass left in university leadership, which has utterly folded in the face of liberalism and so-called free speech You will no doubt receive an inundation of criticism from a ready-to-go knee-jerk cluster of Finkelstein supporters This is only because assent is usually met with a lack of correspondence, and programmed criticism is always at the ready.

Thank you again for demonstrating some very rare sensible leadership on an American campus.

Kevin Greenstein, M.D.

Letters to Clark University President Office – 20

04.13.2009 | Original

By Joel French

Dear President Basset:

I am very disappointed to hear that you decided to cancel a visit by Norman Finkelstein, one of the world’s leading scholars on the Israel-Palestine conflict I am part of a group that hosted Dr. Finkelstein at the University of Alberta recently, and his visit was appreciated by many I recognize that his lecture was to take place shortly before another event and that the schedules were deemed to be conflicting, however, from my experience, frequent events with speakers like Dr. Finkelstein and others of his caliber can surely only further enrich the minds of students.

I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision for the benefit of the students of Clark University.

Thank you for your time.

Joel French
Palestine Solidarity Network – Edmonton

Letters to Clark University President Office – 21

04.13.2009 | Original

By Minna Virtanen

Dear President John Bassett,

I’ve never heard of Clark University before, but browsing your websites, I see it’s situated in Worcester, Massachusetts. The university is advertised with words: ‘Difficult dialogues -creating a culture of dialogue on campus’, and with your statement about how proud you are ‘that Clark University is featured in Loren Pope’s book Colleges that Change Lives’.

I understood that Dr Norman Finkelstein was supposed to give a lecture on Gaza at your campus, but his lecture was cancelled because of ‘unfortunate scheduling’ as it would collide with a conference on Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and because it may be viewed as an ‘affront’ to the Clark community and the invited guests. Unfortunate schedulling and insensitivity, Dr Finkelstein’s lecture?? Anybody who was awake during the recent Gaza war crimes, would see the irony of epic proportions.

The real question is: Is it really the right time to talk about the holocaust? Before the victims in Gaza have hardly turned cold in their graves? Talk about an affront.

Also diverting the discussion from real issues, the real victims right here and now, to the historical victimhood of the perpetrators of these recent warcrimes (the holocaust which no-one in their right mind denies took place during the WWII) is giving consent to the warcriminals. Is this what you’re so proud of – college that changes lives? With all due respect, your timing stinks.

Minna Virtanen
Helsinki, Finland

Letters to Clark University President Office – 22

04.13.2009 | Original

By Troy Derek Hill

President Bassett,

As a Clark alumnus, I am often asked about my experience at Clark. It’s been a great pleasure to be able to offer nothing but praise for the University, and in particular, to be able to enthusiastically endorse Clark’s intellectual atmosphere. In my experience, the sense of social activism and intellectual engagement so common among Clark students sharply distinguishes them from the broader population of college students.

Thus, it is with deep disappointment that I became aware of your decision to stifle the campus’ intellectual discourse by barring Dr. Norman Finkelstein from speaking. As you surely know by now, Dr. Finkelstein is a renowned expert on the Israel-Palestine conflict, a widely respected scholar, and a stellar example of the values Clark ostensibly embraces – he is a fierce advocate for social justice, speaking truth to power, and intellectual accountability (Dr. Finkelstein’s critics are always given priority during post-lecture Q&A sessions).

Though his lecture at Clark was to address the Israel-Palestine conflict, Dr. Finkelstein has written widely about the exploitation of the Holocaust in the service of ideology, specifically as it is used to stifle dissenting perspectives and criticism of Israeli aggression. Nonetheless, I’m sure you didn’t intend irony when you cited the concurrent Holocaust conference being held at Clark, and rising anti-Semitism in America as sufficient grounds for canceling a lecture centered on Palestinian human rights. Frankly, I can think of nothing more insulting to Holocaust victims and their descendants than co-opting their tragedy to silence a political opponent. And your assertion that Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture would fuel anti-Semitism is equally offensive. When did advocating human rights become anti-Semitic? At what point did international law become the domain of anti-Semites? Conversely, when did Israeli war crimes become indistinguishable from Jewish identity? You should be ashamed. I have never felt such disgust towards my alma mater.

Discussions about Israel-Palestine, the defining crisis of our lifetimes, should never require official sanction. I strongly encourage you to clarify your statements and remedy this situation. A public apology to Dr. Finkelstein and the Clark community strike me as a bare minimum. If this stain on Clark’s integrity is not removed, I can assure you that my future donations and endorsements will go to more deserving causes, and that I will urge others to follow suit.

Troy Derek Hill (B.A. 2006)
Research Assistant

Letters to Clark University President Office – 23

04.13.2009 | Original

By G. Turner

On an excerpt from the Boston Globe: “The dispute came to the attention of college administrators after Hillel, a Jewish campus group, objected to Finkelstein’s scheduled appearance.

Bassett met with MacMillan, two other members of the group, and a handful of other campus administrators, including public safety personnel, on Monday to discuss Finkelstein’s speech, MacMillan said.

At that meeting, the administration suggested that as many as six uniformed or plain-clothes security officers attend Finkelstein’s speech, in case the forum became violent, MacMillan said.”

What an appalling decision you have made.

What a disgusting rationale you have used in a feeble attempt to “justify” it.

Mr. Finkelstein’s speaking topic, Israel’s recent assault on Gaza (not the Nazi holocaust), is, in fact, relevant to the other planned conference at Clark University.

The barbaric attack on a caged and starving people was a part of the ongoing attempt to eliminate the Palestinian people.

The use of 155 mm white phosphorous (M825A1 – USA supplied), F-16 jet fighters (USA supplied), Merkava tanks, DIME weapons (GBU-39 – USA supplied), 120 mm flechettes, MK-82 bombs, Apache attack helicopters (USA supplied), etc. on civilians killing over 1,400 constitutes war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Keeping these and other facts from public exposure is the true reason for your denial of Mr. Finkelstein’s speaking engagement.

No criticism of Israel’s expansionist genocidal wars and brutal occupation will be permitted.

The government of Canada recently denied entry to Mr. George Galloway, M.P., United Kingdom, in order to stifle debate on the Gaza massacre.

What grounds did it use? The old stand-by of, “national security” and even more ludicrous, “fund raising for terrorists.”

Even the U.S. government was not that stupid.

Galloway’s denial and your denial of Finkelstein is part of an ongoing campaign to deny the truth and re-brand Israel.

It is a closing down of debate and opinion to ensure that only the dominant permissible narrative of the mythology of Israel is disseminated.

Eric Blair would be proud.

Mr. G. Turner
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Letters to Clark University President Office – 24

04.13.2009 | Original

By Mark Lance

Dr President Bassett:

I have just read the published press report on your decision to rescind the invitation of students to Norman Finkelstein. I am hoping that you were misquoted, but since the reports came from reputable sources and were cited, I am writing under the assumption that you were not.

I say that I’m hoping you were misquoted, because the alternative is really very sad. The two reasons given – that the event would “conflict” with another event two days later, and that it would lead to conflict rather than understanding are simply too silly to be taken seriously. Even if the event had been at the same time as an event on the same topic, you know as well as I do that this happens all the time at universities. And at most it would justify a suggestion that students change the date. But since the events are not at the same time, you can’t possibly have this in mind. One can only surmise that the “conflict” in question is an academic one – that the views put forward by Finkelstein would be different from those put forward at the conference. But of course treating this to be a bad thing is anathema to all that a university is supposed to stand for.

No better is the explanation in terms of conflict. First, who are you to make such a determination and on what basis. Norman Finkelstein is a respected and established scholar whose presentations are highly academic, calm, and perfectly in line with normal academic practice. His views are quite different from the dominant ones in academia and the US political scene, but again, cf the ideals of a university. Perhaps you mean that there would be conflict because some on your campus promised it – promised to disrupt as is so often the case at his talks. If so, then you are simply caving to threats from university groups, and not even with the usual excuse of caving to threats because we both know that there is no real chance of Hillel and the ADL resorting to violence. Dr. Finkelstein has given hundreds of such talks, and been greeted at most of them with dishonest and propagandistic leafletting organized by Hillel and ADL, and occasionally been interrupted by similar groups. But never has there been the slightest threat of violence. But even if there was such a threat, you obviously have it in your power to respond to this in a way that doesn’t make a mockery of academic freedom.

So neither of these explanations withstand a moment’s scrutiny, which leaves me with the sadness. It is simply impossible to read these excuses as anything other than shallow justifications for bowing to the demands of one ideological interest group to silence views that run counter to their own. If that is indeed what is going on here, you will have sold your ability to be taken seriously or respected as an academic for a very low price. The first job of a university academic is to uphold the ideals of the university. And the right of the university community to hear the views of scholars that they invite is paramount among those ideals.

I would be more than happy to find that the characterization of the incident is not as it was reported. Barring that, I will have to conclude that Clark “University” is a university in name only, not an institution deserving of respect from its peers and not one which shares our core commitments.

Mark Lance
Professor of philosophy
Professor of justice and peace
Director, program on justice and peace
Georgetown University
(Affiliation for identification only. I speak here, obviously, for myself alone.)

Letters to Clark University President Office – 25

04.13.2009 | Original

By Michael Shanahan

Dear Dr Basset

I am writing to express my sadness at the decision to prevent Dr Finkelstein from speaking at the university on 21 April 2009. I understand that the lecture was due to take place under the auspices of Clark University Students for Palestine Rights. I read that you are quoted as saying that you do not believe that the invitation to Dr Finkelstein is intended as an affront to those planning a holocaust conference due to take place 23-26 April 2009 and I welcome such a firm statement of principle. However, you go on to claim that ” many in the Clark community and invited guests” think otherwise. With respect, I am left to wonder how you came to such a conclusion in the first place. In the last twelve months Dr Finkelstein has lectured at a number of different colleges in London University (and also at centres of higher education throughout UK) and no doubt there was at least a group that was very anxious that he did not have such platforms. Had they sought to apply the pressure you have clearly experienced then the whole idea of academic debate would have to be consigned to the dustbin of knowledge. Perhaps you should have reminded your protesting visitors that democracy does have certain disadvantages when it comes to promulgating ideas and that possibly they are not yet mature enough to engage in such a process, even though involved with a university of the stature of Clark. Father Holtschneider (President of DePaul) felt unable to resist the pressure of such as Alan Dershowitz over the tenure process of Dr Finkelstein and there is obviously a form of repeat process at the present time.

The thought occurs; whenever Dr Finkelstein has lectured here in UK he has attracted audiences in such large measure that a form of rationing by ticket has been necessary (based on first come first served of course). Looking now at the ‘similar conference’ you appear to be worried about (hosted by the university’s Strasser Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies) it might just be that an unflattering comparison could be made in terms of the interest shown on the days in question.

Yours faithfully

Michael Shanahan

Letters to Clark University President Office – 26

04.14.2009 | Original

By Samaa Elibyari


I am truly astonished by the flimsy excuse you are giving to cancel Prof Finkelstein’s talk.

The planned seminar would have been the best time for his talk unless your college wants to promote one narrative, not dialogue and academic discourse.


Letters to Clark University President Office – 27

04.14.2009 | Original

By Cameron Merrill

Mr. Bassett,

Concerning your statement on the cancellation of Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture, three glaring fallacies stand out:

1) Your description of the “untimely and unfortunate scheduling” of Dr. Finkelstein because of the coinciding Holocaust event fails to acknowledge that Finkelstein himself is a Holocaust scholar, not to mention son of two Holocaust survivors. By omitting this information, your statement implies that Finkelsteins’s “diversity of opinions on controversial topics” encouraged by your university could or would be derisive against Jews and thus are not tolerated.

2) In similar regard, it is widely known that Finkelstein’s lectures focus primarily on Israel and not the Holocaust, whereas your opinion that the speech would inhibit “dialogue and understanding” insinuates an aura of antisemitism surrounding Mr. Finkelstein. Were this not the case, any lecture on Mideast conflicts, as you term his topic, would be perfectly acceptable to coincided with a Holocaust convention.

3) Finally, it would seem that you missed the logical contradiction in your statement when you write, “…that having Professor Finkelstein speak on the same evening as our planned conference would only invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding,” after previously expressing your desire to “encourage diversity of opinions on controversial topics.” What many administrators and bureaucrats fail to notice time and time again is that tolerance depends upon divergence of viewpoints and the majority of controversies that arise are due to one side being given perferences over the other to express their views, as it seems you are doing.

The likely conclusion is that your decision has created more controversy on an even larger scale. And while truly unfortunate, the only message your statement sends is one of a degraded sense of tolerance and understanding that favors one student group over another.

meant very sincerely by a university student,

Cameron Merrill
University of Georgia undergraduate

Letters to Clark University President Office – 28

04.14.2009 | Original

By Zak Starr

Dear President Basset,

I am writing to you to express my concern and frustration as a Clark alum, over your recent decision to cancel the scheduled talk by Norman Finkelstein. You cited “unfortunate timing” and a desire not to “invite controversy” as reasons for doing so. I find it ironic that to avoid one controversy, Clark has perpetrated a much greater one. Censorship, in my opinion, is really controversial. We paid an accomplice to war crimes (Paul Bremmer) $40,000 to speak at Clark. Did that not invite controversy? I also believe that you are flat out wrong to assume that Mr. Finkelstein’s talk would not promote discourse and understanding just because it was scheduled to happen at the same time as an even with conflicting ideas. You are grossly underestimating the intelligence and open-mindedness of the student body. That is a shame.

You say that you have not barred Finkelstein from ever speaking at Clark, but you have just rebuked him in a most cynical way. If he does speak at Clark in the future, and is not again turned away, it will be with the knowledge that he is not wanted by some in our community. Almost more than the cancellation itself, the lack of candidness in explaining your decision is troubling. The fact that you have chosen to defer discussion on the issue until October creates the perception that there is something to hide. When I see my University in the news, I want it to be because Clark is “Challenging Convention and Changing our World”, not challenging dissent and changing it’s views on censorship.

Zak Starr ’07

Letters to Clark University President Office – 29

04.14.2009 | Original

By Alexander Zaimi

Dear Pres. Basset,

I am writing in regards to your decision to cancel a visit by Norman Finkelstein to Clark University. Based on what I’ve read, you made this decision either before meeting with members of the campus Jewish group Hillel, who complained about Finkelstein’s scheduled visit to the campus. You have said that Finkelstein cannot speak at Clark University because his scheduled appearance coincided with a Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide. I really cannot understand why this is even an issue. Finkelstein was scheduled to speak on the subject of the Gaza Massacre, not the Nazi Holocaust. You also said that Finkelstein’s visit would invite controversy. This may be the case, but so what? Upholding free speech is far more important than the desire to avoid controversy. Finkelstein may be controversial, but he is also an internationally known scholar on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the exploitation of the Nazi Holocaust. His work on the ‘Holocaust Industry’ has been translated into at least 16 languages and this work made him well known in Europe. His works have been praised by such people as Noam Chomsky, the late Raul Hilberg, Avi Shlaim and Christopher Browning.

You, as the chief representative of Clark University, should be delighted that your students would have the opportunity to meet such a distinguished scholar. If the campus Hillel group has a problem with Finkelstein, they would do well to debate him, not try to ban him from the university. I hope that you reconsider your decision and re-invite Finkelstein to your university. By doing so, you might upset some groups, but you will be praised by all those who champion free speech.

Best Regards,

Letters to Clark University President Office – 30

04.14.2009 | Original

By John M. Kuchta

President Bassett’s assertion that the presence of Holocaust scholar Norman Finkelstein “would invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding” is false because controversy directly inspires conversation. To consider controversy “dangerous” is patronizing to and implies doubt in the faculty and their students, because it presupposes that they cannot thoughtfully consider Dr. Finkelstein’s views.

At stake is not the privilege of CUSPR to bring a noted scholar to campus, but the integrity of Clark’s academic mission, which is founded upon the free exchange of ideas. We are not progressive if we do not act progressively when it is controversial, and we cannot respect the diversity of the community if the administration shows favor to any particular sect.

Women’s suffrage, reproductive rights, the abolition of slavery and the gay rights movement have each met controversy. Freedom itself has caused discord since before the American Revolution. In each movement, progressives have fought to consider unpopular ideas for the betterment of mankind. To imply that Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture is unfortunately timed is not only patronizing to the faculty and their students, but also implies doubt in their academic integrity. Clark is well-equipped to handle controversy and deserves exposure to the Palestinian rights movement. If President Bassett had the opportunity, would he prevent Dr. King from speaking for fear that there would be violence?

Open-mindedness is not a lack of skepticism, nor is it entertaining only those ideas with which you already agree. Open-mindedness is a willingness to challenge what you believe by considering new arguments presented with persuasive evidence. Open-mindedness and freedom of expression are necessary complements; you cannot have one without the other, and they are foundational to academic inquiry. Are you ready to consider that Israel may not be totally justified in all of its actions?

The founding fathers enshrined free expression in the Bill of Rights so that those in power could not silence political minorities. In fact, the right to free expression is the primary reason why so many have been able to thoroughly publicize the horrors of the Holocaust. Opposition to the presentation of ideas with which you don’t agree is antithetical to the mission of the university. If Clark forsakes freedom of expression, it does so despite itself.

According to Matt Byrne’s April 10, 2009 article in the Boston Globe, “The dispute came to the attention of college administrators after Hillel […] objected to Finkelstein’s scheduled appearance.” This suggests that the administration did not initially object to Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture, but Hillel convinced the administration to cancel it. According to CUSPR, John Bassett said the event came to his attention after Jack Foley, head of campus security, brought it to his attention. If this is so, what were the extraordinary security concerns of this event? What exactly did President Bassett say to the CUSPR executive board during their April 6, 2009 meeting? What were Hillel’s specific reasons for objecting to the presence of a scholar whose parents survived the Holocaust? If Hillel has compelling reasons to cancel the speech, why don’t they present the entirety of their correspondence with the administration on this matter?

Further, by canceling Dr. Finkelstein’s lecture, the administration has granted Hillel de facto veto power over who is allowed to speak on campus–power no student group should have, and a privilege which should enrage every student and professor regardless of political inclination. The problem with veto power is epidemic–if Hillel can silence Israel-Palestine conflict scholar Norman Finkelstein, can the Newman Association silence Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards? Can the Christian Students Union silence religious scholar and anti-theist Sam Harris? Can Republicans of Clark silence affirmative action activist and Columbia University president Lee Bollinger? The premise is absurd and insulting not only to those who might like to hear those people speak, but to the whole community. To cancel Dr. Finkelstein’s speech for “untimely and unfortunate scheduling” is to deny his detractors the opportunity to publicly challenge his views, and to deny everyone an open-minded environment in which higher learning can take place. Clark must be free to endure controversy and to challenge convention, because that is how we change our world. Clark University must not pander to those who use “anti-Semitic” to describe critics of Israeli foreign policy.

In all of this, we witness the defining moment of John Bassett’s presidency, and a defining moment for Clark academics at large. If we are dedicated to dialogue and understanding, we will bravely face adversity and demand that President Bassett allow Dr. Norman Finkelstein to deliver his lecture. Should an ideological conflict arise, we should see the unique opportunity to foster an incredibly difficult dialogue. Will we endure controversy to defend academic freedom, or compromise our integrity by catering to the petulant and intellectually bankrupt?

John M. Kuchta
Class of 2007

Letters to Clark University President Office – 31

04.15.2009 | Original

By John St Lawrence

Dear President Basset:

I heard Dr Finkelstein speak at Brown University last year, a school which doesn’t limit intellectual inquiry and “diversity of opinion” to the student handbook. Professor Finkelstein was a commanding presence with his enlightening and exhaustive grasp of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In the Q&A, we heard from a former Israeli soldier, students from Hillel, Palestinian students, and people from the Providence community. It was civil and informative and there was no police presence that I could see.

If your students have a problem with controversial ideas and are unable to tolerate ambiguity or dissent, then it is a reflection on you and your administration. You set the tone on campus and a lack of civility or tolerance is your responsibility.

You have done your students a disservice; and you should no longer be considered or ranked by the Princeton Review as one of the best liberal arts colleges. You don’t deserve it.

The most recent newsletter published by speaks of The New Campus McCarthyism. You should be the first to read it.

John St Lawrence
Johnston, RI

Letters to Clark University President Office – 32

04.15.2009 | Original

By Ali Shokouhbakhsh

Dear President Bassett,

President, Clark University,

Mr, Finkelstein was planing to talk about Israeli massacre in Gaza not Holocaust. One more time Holocaust is used to silence critics of Israeli war crimes.

No integrity.


Ali Shokouhbakhsh

Letters to Clark University President Office – 33

04.15.2009 | Original

By Eva Moseley

Dear President Bassett,

Today’s Boston Globe reports that the Clark administration has cancelled a talk by Norman Finkelstein because it would conflict with a conference on a similar topic that begins two days later, and because it would “invite controversy and not dialogue or understanding.”

In regard to the first reason, one could just as well say that it would augment or complement the conference being held by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. And in regard to the second, if Clark “remains committed to inviting a wide range of speakers to encourage diversity of opinions on controversial topics,” as your letter in the student newspaper avows, then it makes no sense to cancel a talk by someone who may “invite controversy.”

The real reason, if the Globe article is accurate, appears to be that Hillel “objected to Finkelstein’s scheduled appearance.” Hillel members are no doubt of the Israel-can-do-no-wrong school of thought and will put up with controversy about anything except Israel and Palestine. It is disappointing, to say the least, to see yet another university cave in to this sort of pressure. If that is not what happened, there are many of us who would like to know the real reason, as those quote in the article are so unconvincing. And let me add that I’m Jewish and as a child was a refugee from Nazi Vienna, one of the lucky few who escaped the terrible fate of so many Jews, and who believes that Israel should have learned from the Holocaust not to oppress another people.


Eva (Steiner) Moseley
Cambridge, MA

Letters to Clark University President Office – 34

04.15.2009 | Original

By Claiborne Clark

The Anti-Defamation (sic) League is at it again. This time they are defaming Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Lansing State has shown backbone and I hope UNC does too.

You are also aware of the shameful action taken by the president of Clark University in canceling a talk by Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors. The ADL and the other usual suspects must certainly be behind this one too. Finkelstein, who had been invited by a student group which advocates for Palestinian rights, is the author of a book called “The Holocaust Industry” which argues that the Nazi Holocaust is being used in attempts to justify Israel’s harmful actions towards Palestinians who had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

Finkelstein asserts in his more recent book “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History” that Israel uses accusations of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel. Clark University president Bassett said it was inappropriate for Finklestein to speak at the University at the same time a conference on the Holocaust is going on there. After the carnage in Gaza, which a Jewish Member of the British Parliament compared to the actions of Nazis, it is a profound shame that Finkelstein, the son of death camp survivors, is banned from Clark University. It seems to me that the actions taken against Finkelstein by the president at Clark University, and the defamation of Desmond Tutu by the Anti-Defamation (sic) League bear out the points Dr. Finkelstein makes.

It must be terrible to support something that has so little tolerance for truth.

Letters to Clark University President Office – 35

04.15.2009 | Original

By Chris Caesar

President Bassett,

As I’m sure you’re inundated with letters of protest and concern regarding the cancellation of Norman Finkelstein’s event, I wanted to extend my tremendous thanks for doing the right thing and allowing Dr. Finkelstein to return to the campus as soon as possible. While the university never explicitly ‘banned’ Dr. Finkelstein per se, many of us were concerned that the indefinite postponement of the event may have been an attempt to silence him.

Thank you for nevertheless respecting our concerns and acting with such haste in responding. Indeed, many Presidents would not be so gracious.

I’m afraid that a number of us nevertheless remain concerned that the university, in an official capacity, seems to have conflated Dr. Finkelstein’s criticisms of the Israeli occupation with an affront to the memory and legacy of the Holocaust. We’ve never really understood why the university foresaw any kind of “situational conflicts” between Finkelstein’s talk on Gaza (relying solely on published accounts by locally operating human rights groups like Amnesty, HRW, etc.) and a symposium on the Holocaust. I spoke to someone in the communications department, and it seemed that she could not explain it, either.

I would hope that the university would repudiate such a notion. Many Clarkies – myself included – have family histories in the Holocaust, and find the implication that one cannot simultaneously honor the memory of those who perished there and those currently perishing in Gaza utterly unacceptable – not to mention extremely offensive.

Perhaps we are misapprehending something about your decision to postpone Dr. Finkelstein’s talk, but I thought you should know many of us are heartbroken at the insinuation, along with it’s implications for intellectual development and critical dialogues at the school.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. We never meant to drag Clark through the mud or throw you under a bus – just do what a great school so thoughtfully prepared us to do as post-graduates.

Best and warmest regards,
Chris Caesar ‘06

Letters to Clark University President Office – 36

04.15.2009 | Original

By Tina Issa

Dear President Bassett,

You have clearly infringed on the freedom of speech of the students of your University by cancelling Norman Finkelstein’s speech. I would encourage your students whose rights you stepped on to take legal action against you for doing so. I understand from the articles that the Jewish Group, Hillel put pressure on you to cancel Professor Finkelstein’s speech. I really don’t understand what is happening in academia here in America, we the nation and pioneers of freedom of speech can no longer be described as such because of people like you and groups like Hillel. You are corrupting our Universities by not allowing both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict to be told.

Professors like Finkelstein, Joel Kovel and others are being persecuted and relieved of their duties because they dare to use scholarly evidence, information that the entire world knows except for the United States of America, and tell the other side of the Palestine / Israel conflict. I have attended lectures by Mr. Finkelstein and find him to only use solid facts and evidence to prove his points, he is also an extremely intelligent and articulate person who earnestly wants the other side of the story told. Your students would certainly be enlightened by hearing him speak.

By censoring Mr. Finkelstein, you and Hillel are not helping the cause, you are enabling the problem to get worse, and it is not good for anybody for this problem to grow. Education and analyzation is the only way to ensure that this dire situation improves, but you, the head of an educational institution no less, won’t allow that to happen. Also, to cave in to a group of people instead of looking out for the greater good is cowardly to say the least.

Academia is not what it used to be, we have Professors being censored and ostracized for doing what they are supposed to do and we have students who are not allowed to explore and be educated, and we have bullies who dictate what the University can teach and say. Really what is the role of the University if it is not to educate, pursue the truth and explore all avenues of problem solving. It ceases to be an institution for learning at that point.

You can correct this by rescheduling Professor Finkelstein and allowing your students to learn. Shame on you if you don’t.

Thank you for your time.

Tina Issa
Chicago, IL

Letters to Clark University President Office – 37

04.15.2009 | Original

By R. C. Olwen

Dear Sir,

You made many words to mask a wellknown attitude towards warmongers: cowardice.

Do you have in your university library a book by the late Erich Maria Remarque? In English the title should be something like “Nothing New In The West” — I know that there is a translation.

Please read this war report from World War One. It was one of the books that helped end it, and formed the opinion that war is unacceptable for a civilization (together with the protests by civilians, there is still little research on them)

And then show that the world — and yourself — has learned something meanwhile and rescind the cancellation of the Finkelstein lecture.

The topic Dr. Norman G. Finkelstein has been lecturing for years now, and will continue to speak about is the war against the civilians in Gaza, and I do hope he can do so at Clark University April 23

Rune C. Olwen
Euro Region South Jutland

P.S.: Our last war against our neighbors was 145 years ago. Nobody nowadays can understand the hatred of these times, or the arrogance of the rulers; we put all that behind us and I do urgently wish that the Palestinians and Israelis can enjoy the same.

Letters to Clark University President Office – 38

04.20.2009 | Original

By George Salzman

Dear Mr. Bassett,

A report by the anti-censorship sub-group Muzzlewatch of the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, tells of your action as follows:

The Clark Students for Palestinian Rights have circulated two petitions. One questions whether the president should be able to cancel events without first consulting event organizers, and the other asks whether Clark students can have productive conversations about issues with which they may not agree.

We consider this an abuse of academic freedom,” said senior Thomas MacMillan, president of the organization, which had raised half of the $1,800 costs associated with Mr. Finkelstein’s talk before Mr. Bassett canceled it. “Free speech is probably one of the greatest things we have in this country, as long as it’s not encouraging hate or violence toward someone else.”

The ACLU also wrote a letter to President Bassett in which they noted that this cancellation: “violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom, which are so fundamental to an institution of higher learning.”

Norman Finklestein commented thusly:

Part of the Clark University-Boston Globe disinformation campaign is the pretense that I was scheduled to speak on the Nazi holocaust. In fact I was scheduled to speak on the Gaza massacre. Isn’t it too perfect that Clark was using The Holocaust as a pretext to silence criticism of Israel?

I urge you to apologize to the students and to Mr. Finkelstein, and to encourage them to hold the event, albeit at a later date than originally planned.

George Salzman
Prof. Emeritus of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston

Letters to Clark University President Office – 39

04.20.2009 | Original

By Charles Parsons

President Basset:

You have betrayed the very concepts which you have espoused such as “diversity of opinion” when you rejected Proffessor Finkelstein’s invitation to speak at Clark University. A discussion regarding the World War II Holocaust has no meaning unless the lessons derived from it are applied to present day situations. To deplore the past and ignore the present is hypocrisy under the cover of feigned concern. Clark University could have accomplished much more had it honestly dealt with the present treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis within the context of the Holocaust. Otherwise, the University’s conference regarding the Holocaust is nothing more than a guilt trip to support the unsupportable in Israel.

Charles Parsons
Lake City, Michigan

Letters to Clark University President Office – 40

04.21.2009 | Original

By Aamer Khan

Dear President Bassett:

Your cancellation of Dr Norman Finkelstein’s speech is a serious violation of academic integrity.

I submit to you three (elementary) propositions that (I hope) can function as a starting point for discussion:

1. Clark University is university before it is a business. A university is a zone where free expression is sacred. Therefore academic freedom should trump all other considerations short of interfering with other peoples freedom.

2. The President of Clark University is a scholar before he is a politician. Therefore defending the right of scholarly expression trumps seeking popularity with powerful constiutuencies.

3. Freedom of expression is not a tactical device that we use to criticize others when others censor speech that we have no strong opinion about. It is an absolute standard that we apply to ourselves in order to tolerate speech that we may strongly disagree with, and even find offensive. If freedom of expression does not mean that, then what value does it have?

These propositons lead inelectably to the following conclusion

Your action has dishonered your office, your university, and your standing a member of the Academy.

Please point out any errors in my logic. If you cannot find any, then please admit your mistake, and rescind your cancellation of Dr FInkelstein. It takes a big man to say he was wrong.

Question: Is free speech a vacuous intellectual slogan or an ideal we should strive towards especially when it is inconvenient?

An observation: Free speech is a constitutional freedom that should not be taken for granted. The current understandings of free speech were the result of many years of struggle and bloodshed not just in our republic, but the civilized world. They can easily be lost or eroded if citizens lose vigilance. Take for example the well documented abuses of the Bush administration with regard to some key constitutional protections.


Letters to Clark University President Office – 41

04.25.2009 | Original

By Michael Shanahan

Dear Dr Bassett

I was pleased to hear that Dr Norman Finkelstein is to speak at Clark University only a little after the originally planned date for the event. Your lecturer has, as I am sure you are aware, a world-wide reputation for his erudite and scholarly approach to the subject in question. I see, in passing, that such as Baruch Kimmerling (late Professor of Sociology, Hebrew University) , Daniel Boyarin (Professor of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley), Avi Shlaim (Professor of International Relations, Oxford Unioversity), Sara Roy (Senior Research Fellow, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University) and Noam Chomsky (Institute Professor, M.I.T) have lauded his many and varied contributions to the Israel-Palestine issue.

It may be that you have not previously had the opportunity to hear Dr Finkelstein (although I see he has spoken twice at the university) and hopefully your engagements will allow you to attend in person if that is your wish.

Yours faithfully

Letters to Clark University President Office – 42

04.25.2009 | Original

By Chris Caesar

President Bassett,

I appreciate the candor of your email, and am quite relieved to hear the university decided to go forward with the effort. I can vividly remember when UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter was brought to campus in 2002, and how central Clark’s willingness to host controversial speakers so positively affected my intellectual development. Thank you for being so sensitive to our concerns.

We’re all still kind of unclear, though, as to what kind of courtesy would be jeopardized by Dr. Finkelstein’s appearance on campus. While we appreciate your response, a number of our questions went unanswered. Many alumni remain upset that the university seems to believe it is in poor taste (or even offensive) to discuss Gaza and the German Holocaust on the same campus. On a personal level, I can certainly understand you declining to comment on such considerations, though declining to do so will simply reinforce the perception that this was indeed the reason the university postponed the event.

We would simply like to let the President’s office know — should this, for whatever far-out reason, happen again — that there are many alumni whose lives and worldviews have been touched by the Holocaust, and not all of us share the view that criticizng the Israeli occupation is somehow that memory.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Chris Caesar ’06


Thank you for sharing your concerns. The students have arranged for Professor Norman Finkelstein to speak at Clark University on April 27, only four days later than the date originally discussed. Clark is dedicated to full and free inquiry on all controversial issues, especially including the relations between Israel and Palestine. My decisions along the way in this case were made in an attempt to balance two goods—free inquiry and common courtesy to visiting speakers. And, the decisions were always made with my primary concern being what is best for Clark University.

I freely admit that the process could have been better. I should have begun by consulting with the leaders of the sponsoring student organization, not by announcing a decision. I also should not have assumed that, because April 20-24 is the last full week of classes, nothing else could happen until fall. That assumption left too many people thinking that free speech was in abeyance for five months.

The students involved have conducted themselves in the best “Clark way” and I hope the result shows that one can achieve both goods.

John Bassett
Clark University

By Atticus Mullikin

MALMO, Sweden (Reuters) – Anti-Israeli protesters clashed with riot police outside an Israeli-Swedish Davis Cup tennis match in Sweden on Saturday, but did not break through police lines.

Due to security concerns, the three-day match is being played in an empty stadium in this southwestern port city, which has a large immigrant population.

Several hundred left-wing militants carrying banners saying “Turn left, smash right,” and “Boycott Israel” joined a peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstration by about 6,000 people.

About 200 of the militants began pelting police with stones, fireworks and paint bombs, Reuters witnesses said, while organizers of the official demonstration shouted at the masked protesters not to use violence against the authorities.

Police said they arrested eight protesters and detained more than 100, most of whom were released after identity checks.

Malmo, which is Sweden’s third largest city and is ruled by a left-of-center coalition, was heavily criticized by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and by Israeli players for its decision to close the stadium to the public.

Around 1,000 police officers have cordoned off a large area around the stadium to prevent protesters from getting in.

Sweden took a 2-1 lead over Israel on Saturday when Robert Lindstedt and Simon Aspelin won the doubles match over Andy Ram and Amir Hadad. The best-of-five tie will be wrapped up on Sunday.

Tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors have been heightened by a three-week Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip which began on December 27 and killed about 1,300 Palestinians and 14 Israelis.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Grassman; Reporting by Kim McLaughlin; Editing by Charles Dick)

Video of the protest:

03.07.2009 | Aljazeera English

by martinpegg

Israel’s War Against Palestinian Civilians

by mixedblessing

On the 40th day after the first child in Palestine was killed in Gaza during the most recent Israeli military offensive, this vigil remembers all the children who died in Gaza. Some members of the Jewish community also showed up and read a composite list of names of Israeli children who have been killed.

By sirotnikov

Israeli satire about the messages and style of Israelis trying to justify Israeli policy to peple living abroad

In a drunken racial tirade, an Israeli settler threatens a British film crew. The wild exchange has the settler cursing Jesus, threatening to kill the film crew and Palestinians. Warning: Vulgar Language

Click here for video if below doesn’t work.

By photooscar

Boicot del partit de bàsquet Barça – Maccabi de Tel Aviv. Palau Blaugrana. 5 de febrer de 2009.

Boicot a Israel. Solidaritat amb Palestina!!

By Laila

A shoe was thrown at Israel ‘s ambassador to Sweden, Mr. Benny Dagan, when
he was giving a speech at Stockholm University today. The shoe hit its
target. It was followed by two books and a note pad, all hitting the
severely embarrassed ambassador.

The two protesters, a young woman and a young man, shouted “Murderers!”
and “Intifada!” while pelting Dagan with the objects. They are currently
under arrest, suspected of assault and public disturbance.

The lecture was organised by the Foreign policy association at Stockholm
university. The ambassador was supposed to talk about the upcoming
elections in Israel , but turned quickly to issues of Hamas and Iran and
developed a lengthy defence for Israel ‘s recent actions in the Gaza

Some 20 minutes into the lecture, a woman stood up in the audience, threw
a red shoe at the ambassador and shouted “Murderers!”. The shoe hit Dagan
in his stomach. Another protester then joined in and hurled two books and
a note pad.

Dagan was dumbstruck and paralysed, but returned to his lecture shortly
after a few minutes – only to face shouts and other verbal protests from
the audience. The meeting ended in chaos, while the two protestors were
taken to custody.

The boycott movement in Sweden has gained momentum during the last weeks,
not the least since Veolia lost its Stockholm metro contract, worth some
3.5 billion euro a year, after a long campaign against the company’s
notorious involvement in the Jerusalem tram project. The movement is now
taking aim at the Davis Cup tennis match between Sweden and Israel
scheduled in Malmö 6-8 March.

ISM didn’t participate in the action, but was at the meeting.
International Solidarity Movement-Sweden:

* Part 1: “You say you had some input into UN Resolution 242…”

add video to your blog

  • UN Resolution 242: Lord WHO?
  • Internal investigations of the IDF
    human rights organizations
  • “the Extremist” and his evidence
  • “the kind of” two-state settlement
  • the debate on UN 242:
    3 volumes

    1 Orlando Sentinel editorial from yr. 2000

* Part 2: “Listen to his source — this is a scholar…”

add video to your blog

  • high school syllabus
    — serious sources?
  • Dershowitz:
    “George Orwell’s turnspeak”

    Orwell’s “newspeak”

See also: Harvard undergrad sacked for pulling a Dersh
(The Harvard Crimson: “Crimson Cuts Columnist for Lifting Material,” 10.27.2006)

* Full Finkelstein/Dershowitz debate, parts 1 and 2

* The Dershowitz Hoax


This video was recorded by Vermont’s CCTV, Channel 17.

RUSH transcript

Finkelstein: … appearance… such a beautiful space. There’re only two places to live in the United States — San Francisco and Vermont. [audience laughter] Unfortunately, I’m in Chicago. [audience laughter] There’re older people in this room, mostly my age cohort, so you remember the button “War is not healthy for human beings and other living beings,” well, neither is Chicago. [audience laughter] And since… Chicago… to dispense with Dr. Finkelstein and judging from this crowd should be either Comrade or Tovarisch. [audience laughter] And I’ll take that… [inaudible] I’m going to not speak directly on the topic that was advertised this afternoon. During my travails with Professor Dershowitz of Harvard, who is not an old comrade, [audience laughter] one student once came up to me and accused me of plagiarism on the ground I was repeating the same speech more than once. [audience laughter] He was very emphatic about it. [audience laughter] I think quite …[inaudible] plagiarism. I did learn from that particular experience — if I’m gonna be speaking twice in the same day I should have two lectures with me so I don’t have to deal with that piece of lunacy.

“There is this claim that the obstacle is that Hamas won’t recognize Israel… all of those UN resolutions I mentioned, and I can go through a quite copious documentary record, the Palestinians always supported it. It’s true, a new element entered the picture with Hamas being elected in January but it’s simply not true that were it not for Hamas, there would be a settlement.”
So this afternoon I’m not going to speak on the longer topic, in the evening I’ll go on at some length, roughly between the lengths of Castro and Chavez [audience laughter]… I smell sulfur… [audience laughter] But this afternoon, it’s a smaller… [inaudible] we can get to know each other and what I decided to do this afternoon is to speak on a narrower topic which is the most recent events in Gaza and Lebanon. Obviously, I could’ve included Iraq but there are many people that are more knowledgeable on Iraq and are more available, so I’m gonna speak on mostly some developments in Gaza and Lebanon, and also, at the end, to sort of reflect on where things are headed, because I do believe, it’s often used, the expression, “we’re at a turning point” or “we’ve reached a turning point” and most of the time… [inaudible] that expression is hot air. But I do believe that in the case of the recent war in Lebanon there were significant developments which will have a substantial impact on the the unfolding of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the conflict between the US and Israel on one hand and Arab, Muslim nations in the Middle East onthe other. I’ll get to that at the very end.

Let me begin with the… [inaudible] of the most recent course of events, which begins January 2006 when Hamas, the Islamic leadership, is elected to power in the West Bank and Gaza. They were elected in January 2006 and in March 2006 they took office. Immediately, as they took office, the United States and Israel, and then the European Union, inflicted on Hamas a quite brutal sanctions regime… … and the sanctions were conditional on Hamas doing two things. The two demands which were imposed on Hamas were:

1. they have to renounce terrorism or renounce violence and

2. they have to recognize the State of Israel

… those two demands, the economic sanctions against the Palestinians would continue. So first of all, let’s look at those two conditions. On their face, it seems to me, the two conditions are perfectly legitimate. The bargaining [poor audio quality] of civilians for political ends is the basic definition of terrorism and any State or organization, or movement is legally bound and morally bound to renounce the resort to terrorism. That seems to me a legitimate demand. The number two demand, that Israel be recognized within its borders, the right, as the language has it, to territorial integrity and political sovereignty within its borders. That demand seems to me perfectly legitimate also, in fact it’s, frankly, uncontroversial.

So the issue is not the demands that were put on Hamas, those, as I’ve said, I think are pretty much uncontroversial. The question is the uniformity of those demands. That is to say — are they applied across the board to all the parties in the conflict? Or are they being applied to one party in the conflict? If they’re applied across the board then we can call them moral principle, if they’re applied to one side, the proper word is to call it hypocrisy.

Let’s see how the demands work out in terms of their uniform application to all parties to the conflict…. …

Let’s look at that first demand, the question of renouncing terrorism. … what’s been happening since what’s called the beginning of the second Intifada, which is to say, since September 2000 until today. If you look at the most recent numbers posted on the B’Tselem website — B’Tselem is the Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories — the most recent numbers from last night, you’ll see that there’ve been been 3800 Palestinians killed since September 2000, September 28, 2000, and approximately 1,000 Israelis killed, the ratio being roughly 3.8 to 1. On both sides, between one half and two thirds of the fatalities have been civilians. So if we limit ourselves to the total number of fatalities or the number of civilians killed on both sides, the ratio comes to roughly to about 4 times as many Palestinians killed as Israelis killed.

Some people want to go beyond those numbers and say that those numbers are still not capturing reality because, the argument is made, “ok, it’s true, Israel kills civilians but it’s not true that they target civilians. And one has to make the distinction between targetting civilians and civilians who are ‘collateral damage'” and that will be the last time I’ll use that expression. I alredy feel guilty using it now.

What does the record show? Once again we have quite extensive human rights reports, quite extensive documentation — the record shows that Israel has routinely targetted civilians for killing. I’ll get to that later when I discuss the question of Lebanon but we have quite a bit of documentation from Human Rights Watch, from Amnesty International and so forth, that Israel targets civilians for death. So at that level, again, there seems to be, pretty much, an equivalence between the actions of Hamas and the actions of the State of Israel.

It’s also true to say, and you’ll find this through out the human rights literature, that Israel indiscriminately kills Palestinians. That is to say, it fires wildly into crowds and many Palestinians get killed. The argument, among human rights organizations at any rate, that technically — no, I shouldn’t say technically — in effect, there’s no difference between indiscriminately killing civilians and targeting civilians.


So let’s just take a couple of examples. If Hamas targets a bus in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and blows it up, and then afterwards, says, “well, we didn’t really wanna kill the civilians, we just wanted to destroy the bus,” people would laugh, that’s ridiculous. So if Israel drops a one ton bomb on a densely populated area of Gaza, as it did in July 2002 in order to “kill” a Palestinian leader, a fellow named Shahade, and then they said “well, yes, it’s true, 14 others were killed (9 of them babies) but we didn’t intend to. we intended only to kill the Palestinian leader.” The argument seems to me as silly and unacceptable as the argument of a hypothetical Hamas claim that “we wanted to just blow up the bus.”

Or if you take it on a larger scale, if the United States said “we dropped the atomic bomb on Heroshima because we wanted to kill Hirohito.” Well, that’s just silly. You know you are knowingly using violence in a way that’s going to inflict massive civilian casualties. And so even quite conservative Israeli — smart but very conservative — Israeli legal scholars, I’ll quote to you Yoram Dinstein, he was the president of Tel Aviv University and he’s the leading authority on international law, he writes in one of his… … says “there’s no genuine difference between a premeditated attack against civilians” — what Hamas does — “and a reckless disregard of the principle to distinguish between civilians and combatants.” They are, under international law, equally forbidden. Well, that raises the obvious question. Why is it that the demand to renounce violence is only imposed on Hamas? Noone has imposed during this whole period — which as I’ll get to in a moment, is turning into quite a horrific state in Gaza — nobody’s imposed the same demand on Israel? Why is it only one side is being asked to renounce violence, and for those who care about the numbers, the side which is numerically far less culpable of terrorist acts by a ratio of one to four?

Let’s turn to the second demand, namely the demand for mutual recognition, or, I should say, the demand of recognizing the State of Israel. As I said, already twice now, that’s an uncontroversial demand. Israel is a member of the United Nations, it has a right to have its territorial integrity and political sovereignty respected by its neighbors, the right to live in peace.

Well, fair enough, but now let’s look at the other side of the equation. You could say, first of all, just to return for a moment, Hamas’ statements on the issue of recognizing Israel have been ambiguous. I don’t think it’s incorrect to say they play down what their current position is. As far as one can tell, their current position is that they’re willing to accept a long-term ceasefire, the equivalent more or less of an armistice with Israel. They’re not ready to recognize Israel, except, they said, if a Palestinian government negotiates a settlement with Israel and the Palestinian population supports it, then they will not stand in the way. Which is basically the position that’s been articulated by the Iranian leadership as well as the Hezbollah. Philosophically, as a movement, they won’t accept recognition but if a government does negotiate a settlement, the Palestinians support it, they won’t stand in the way.

Ok, I’m willing to acknowledge that that’s an ambiguous position on their part. But now let’s look at the other side of the equation. The other side of the equation is pretty straight forward. In fact, it’s not complicated at all. Since 1967 no Israeli government, no Israeli political party, no Israeli senior official has ever recognized a Palestinian State within the June 1967 borders. Now, it is true that they’ve recognized, recently, since roughly the case of the Likud Party…[inaudible]… ’97, the case of Sharon, roughly.. early 2001, they’ve recognized the right of Palestinians to a State. That has no bearing and no reference to a State as it’s understood by the international community.

There has been, since roughly the mid 1970s, you could say for the past three decades, there’s been a consensus in the international community on how to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. And the consensus, I suspect, is familiar to everybody in this room — it’s called the Two-State Settlement. It’s not two States anywhere and of any shape. The two States have very specific meaning under international law. A fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter, as anchored in article two of the UN Charter, is that it’s inadmissible to acquire territory by war or by force. You can’t change countries’, nations’ borders simply through the imposition of force. For those of you who know the technical side of the Israel-Palestine conflict, you know that a famous UN Resolution 242 from November 1967 lists out the basic principles for resolving the conflict at the very top. The first principle listed is the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by war.

That principle was upheld in the recent 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the World Court. That means concretely that Israel has to “fully” withdraw from the territory acquired during the June 1967 war, for our purposes in particular, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Why? Because all of those territories were acquired in the course of a war and under international law you have no privy whatsoever to territory acquired in the course of a war. Now, no Israeli party, no Israeli government, no Israeli official has ever acknowledged a full withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. And we know that because the record, as I said, is quite clear. Every year, for the past 20 years, the United Nations, usually around December, has a resolution called Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question. Every single year. And every single year the vote is exactly the same. It’s the whole world on one side, I’ll quote to you from this year, the last vote was December 2005… It was 156 to 6, the whole world on one side and on the other side — I should just point out that this resolution calls for a Two-State Settlement on the June 1967 border — it’s the United States, Israel and depending on the year, it’s some variation of Palau, Nauru, Tuvalu, Micronesia and the Martial Islands. That’s seven all together but usually one drops out. Each year they grow… [inaudible]… depending on who gets paid that year. [audience laughter] It’s the whole world on the one hand, the United States and Israel on the one hand and those South Sea …[inaudible]… on the other hand. And the record has been that way, you know, if you take the year 1989, it was 151 to 3, the three then were the US, Israel and the island State of Dominica. Dominica still comes in and out, you know like Grenada is also another major super power [audience laughter] … [inaudible] … depending on the year.

And it’s always been the United States and Israel who have opposed that Two-State Settlement. That’s at the level of rhetoric. Now, at the level of practicality.

So you could say on the Palestinian side Hamas has made ambiguous statements about a settlement on the June 1967 border. On the Israeli side there has been no ambiguity whatsoever, it’s a categorical “NO,” and we should add — a categorical “NO” across the board. There’s no issue here of a different political party having a different position. That’s at the level of rhetoric. We should also add two caveats.

There is this claim that the obstacle is that Hamas won’t recognize Israel, as if to say, if they did the problem would be resolved. But nobody disputes that for the past 30 years the Palestine Liberation Organization did support the Two-State Settlement but Israel still opposed it. So it’s can’t be, logically, the Palestinian side that’s the obstacle. Because all of those UN resolutions I mentioned, and I can go through a quite copious documentary record, the Palestinians always supported it. It’s true, a new element entered the picture with Hamas being elected in January but it’s simply not true that were it not for Hamas, there would be a settlement.

Let’s just give another relevant example. In April 2002 the Arab League met in… … the Two-State Settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict. And they even gave a very understated statement on the refugee question. Rather than calling for the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees, they only called for “a just solution of the refugee problem.” It was a major consession on the Arab side. Now, if you read the press, even the Israeli press, the question arises: “Will Hamas recognize the Arab League initiative of April 2002?” Well, it’s an interesting question but it seems to me an irrelevant one because Israel completely rejected that initiative. Israel did
denounced that initiative. So whether Hamas recognizes it or not is a mute questions. Israel opposes the Two-State Settlement as understood by the entire international community and has always done so, since probably within a month of the June 1967 war.

But that’s all at the level of rhetoric. We also have to look at the reality of what’s happening on the ground. While Hamas makes ambiguous statements about recognizing Israel rhetorically. In fact, on the ground, Israel is unambiguously destroying any possibility of a Palestinian State. As I stand here and speak now, as you in the audience listen, Israel’s building a wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice which will absorb about 10% of the West Bank, according to the most recent figures. Number two, Israel has now de facto annexed the Jordan Valley, which is about 25% of the West Bank and it has cut up, through its settlement building, it’s cut up the West Bank into 3 fragments. 1 fragment in the north, a settlement called Ariel, and 1 fragment to the north and south, a settlement block called Maale Adumim. And what’s being left to the Palestinians is what The Economist called a “Swiss Cheeze State” on about, they estimated about 50% of the West Bank.

That’s the level of practicality. Right now, as we speak, Hamas is being asked to verbally recognize Israel, while Israel is in fact, on the ground, systematically destroying any possibility of a Palestinian State.

And we have to bear in mind that it is the Palestinians are being subjected now to extraordinarily brutal economic sanctions. If they don’t meet the two conditions, no sanctions against Israel. A couple of days ago one of the raportuers on human rights at the United Nations, a smart guy and I think a principled guy, his name is John Dugard — he’s considered the “father of human rights” in South Africa, a South African white lawyer who now currently works for a human rights division of the UN, and his …[inaudible]… so to speak is Palestine — he said something, which I found quite resonent, he said, “in effect, the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions — the first time an occupied people have been so treated. This is difficult to understand. Israel is in violation of major Security Council and General Assembly resolutions dealing with unlawful territorial change and the violation of human rights and” Israel “has failed to implement the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice,” which called on Israel to dismantle the wall it’s building, “yet it escapes the imposition of sanctions. Instead the Palestinian people, rather than the Palestinian Authority, have been subjected to possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times.” And now there’s an interesting footnote which the older people in the room will remember, he says “It is interesting to recall that the Western States refused to impose meaningful economic sanctions on South Africa to compel it to abandon apartheid on the grounds that this would harm the black people of South Africa. No such sympathy is extended to the Palestinian people or their human rights….”

That was all the first few months of the imposition of the economic sanctions. The most recent round of the disaster occuring as we speak. In Gaza [it] began on June 25 when Palestinians related to Hamas captured an Israeli soldier and demanded the release of the women and children prisoners in Israeli jails. There’re roughly at this moment 9,000 Palestinians being held prisoner in Israel of whom 215 are minors, about 700 are administrative detainees — which means no charges have been leveled against them, no trial has been given to them, they are, for all intents and purposes, they are hostages, no charges and no trial.

At that point Israel proceeded to starve Gaza into submission in order to get back that one Israeli and to stop the Qassam rocket fire into Israel. Just on this question of the Kassam missiles, about which we hear a lot, let me just give you a couple of statistics to keep in mind. The withdrawal from Gaza, which all of you remember, that Steven Spielberg extravaganza, occured in September 2005.

Between September 2005 and the beginning of the latest round on June 25th, Israel fired about 7,000 to 9,000 artillery shells into Gaza. In that same period as Israel fired seven to nine thousand artillery shells into Gaza, the Palestinians fired about 1,000 of these clunky Kassam missiles into Israel.

The casualties are also interesting to compare. Between January and June 80 Palestinians had been killed, while on the Israeli side, from these terrible, horrible, lethal, ghastly Qassam rockets, 5 Israelis had been killed in the last 6 years. 5 Israelis killed in the last six years, 80 Palestinians in the last six months but you’d never know it if you follow the media. All they care about are those [Qassam rockets]… … what is Israel to do?

Soon after, Israel began to impose the ruthless sanctions against Gaza, I’m now quoting Meron Benvenisti, one of Israel’s leading authorities on the Occupied Territories, formerly the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, he said, to use his words “Israel took about a third of the Hamas government hostage.” That’s his words.

In fact, if words have any meaning, the entire 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza have now been taken hostage by Israel. Since June 25, when the current round begins, 262 Palestinians have been killed, about half of them were not participating in any hostilities. 260 on one side, on the Israeli side 1 soldier has been killed. 50% of the work force is unemployed, poverty is at 80%. Let me just quote to you from the past couple of weeks, what Gaza looks like now, as we speak. Let me quote to you first Patrick Cockburn, the distinguished journalist from the Brittish Independent, he says “Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the verge of starvation. A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians in prison in the most heavily populated area in the world.” …… “what most dread is an unknow voice on their cell phone saying that they have 1/2 hour to leave their home before it is hit by bombs or missiles. There is no appeal.”

Ok, some of you don’t trust the goyim, so read what Gideon Levy has to say, the chief Israeli correspondent in the Occupied Territories for Haaretz newspaper. He wrote (“Gaza’s darkness,” Haaretz, 09.03.2006) a couple of weeks ago “Gaza has been reoccupied. It is in its worst condition ever. The Israeli army has been rampaging through Gaza — there’s no other word to describe it — killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately…. In large parts of Gaza nowadays, there is no electricity. Israel bombed the only power station in Gaza… There’s hardly any water. More than ever, Gaza is also like a prison…. This is disgraceful and shocking collective punishment.”

The Israeli Human Rights Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, just released a report this past week entitled “Act of Vengeance,” in which it describes the repercussions of Israel’s destruction of the only power plant in Gaza and it describes, accurately I think, what Israel did as a war crime.

Finally, let me quote again John Dugard. He says (Haaretz, 09.26.2006) “Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison for Palestinians where life is “intolerable, appalling, tragic” and the Jewish state appears to have thrown away the key… If … the international community cannot … take some action, [it] must not be surprised if the people of the planet disbelieve that they are seriously committed to the promotion of human rights.” If the international community does not take any action, then they shouldn’t be surprised that the people of Gaza are skeptical about their commitment to human rights.

And that actually is a segway into the other side of the conflict, namely the one in Lebanon. Because amidst the destruction, rampaging in Gaza, on July 12, the Hezbollah, Islamic movement of Lebanon, decided to take action. They captured 2 Israeli soldiers, several others were killed in the course of a battle. Hizbullah’s action, the capturing of 2 soldiers, was generally attributed to 2 causes. Number 1, Israel was also keeping Lebanese prisoner and the Hizbullah wanted its prisoners released. And Hezbollah said not directly but by indirection instead that we were taking this action in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Gaza. And now I’ll speak off the record and I’ll just speak personally, I happen to think that’s a noble gesture. I don’t see any reason …[inaudible]… why the Palestinians have to be starved to death, starved into submission, and the whole world has to sit silently by while this gang of murderers and monsters proceed on their way. And if Hezbollah wants to take an action of solidarity I don’t know what international law says on that topic — I’m right now reading international law, it gives me something of a headache — and I finally don’t care. I think they have a right to act in solidarity with a people who’s being starved to death. Well, Hezbollah took the action, as I’ve described it and then the Israeli reaction set in.

On July 13th, I think, or 14th, Israel attacked Lebanon. The information we have was that Israel for a long time has been planning this invasion of Lebanon. Basically, had to teach Hezbollah a lesson because Hizbullah had inflicted a defeat on Israel in 2000 when after a guerilla war enduring about 18 years they drove Israel out of Lebanon. And Israel has to restore, what’s called, a fancy phrase they use, they have to restore their “deterrence capacity.” Deterrence capacity basically mean they have to restore the principle that what Israel says goes and to hold Arab neighbors in a state of terror. Israel used the attack by Hezbollah, the capture of its 2 soldiers, as the pretext to invade Lebanon and then Israel proceeded to use the tactics which it always does.

This is the 5th time Israel has invaded Lebanon — major invasion. Operation Litani in 1978, Operation Peace in the Galilee in June 1982, Operation Accountability in 1993, Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996. They sometimes had Biblical names, as when …[inaudible]… was in charge, Operation Grapes of Wrath, ’cause he likes to think he’s profound. And then there are certain beaurocratic names, Operation Accountability, that was Rabin, who was no nonsense. The one they’re currently using for the Gaza, it’s a very nice name, called — as they starve the Palestinians to death — they call it Operation Summer Rains. These are nice titles. I wonder which one the Germans dreamt up when they were destroying the Warsaw Ghetto.

In any case the tactics Israel used in the last war are pretty much typical. The tactic basically is — Hezbollah is a guerilla army, and they want to separate the army from the people — and the tactic basically is to fire, destroy indescriminately the civilian infrastructure and the civilians themselves in the hope that they will break with Hizbullah and blame Hizb’ullah for all of the destruction that’s brought. That was the expectation during the first few days of the war.

Anyone who knows the history, every time Israel enters Lebanon it does 2 things. It carpet bombs the south because it wants to teach the civilians in the south, if you support Hezbollah, this is what you’re going to get. And number 2, it drives the civilian population to take take root, hoping that enough pressure would be put on the government to disarm Hizbullah. It’s the same tactic over and over again. There’s a retired Israeli army colonel, he said, this past war: “the goal of Israel’s military campaign is to create a rift between the Lebanese population and Hezbollah supporters,” which is exactly what they wanted to do. To the credit of Israelis, I have to say, there’s a certain amount of candor about the kinds of tactics they’re using. So the Defense Minister [Chief of Staff of the Israeli army] Halutz said at the very beginning of the war, “if the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years.” “Nothing is safe in Lebanon, it’s as simple as that.” You can also add that it’s as simple as that, that’s a criminal statement. Under international law, the most basic principle, the principle of distinction, distinguishing between the civilians and combatants, civilian areas and military areas. When you make a statement that “nothing is safe in Lebanon” you are uttering a legally criminal statement.

On July 28, Israel’s Justice Minister said “all those now in South Lebanon are terrorists.” And who are the terrorists? By July 28, those who had money, those who had the wherewithal, they had already fled to Beirut. Those who remained, estimates were about 50,000, they were the old, the infirm, the poor. Those who remained were to whom Ramon, Justice Minister Haim Ramon, were terrorists. That is to say they are fair game. Ehud Olmert, the …… he said, “All the population which is the power base of the Hezbollah in Lebanon was displaced. They lost their properties, they lost their possessions” (Matthew Tostevin, Reuters, 2 Aug 2006). He’s boasting about it. This was the big achievement of the war and who are their power base? Most of you in this room know it because you saw the scenes when Hezbollah had its victory demonstration a few days ago, it’s half the population of Lebanon. That’s the estimate. About half support, that’s the power base, which was displaced, they lost their properties, they lost their possessions. And then Mr. Olmert, the Prime Minister, then went on, got a little carried away, entered into fantasy land. He said “they are bitter, they are angry at Hezbollah and the power structure of Lebanon itself has been divided and Hezbollah is now entirely isolated in Lebanon.” Easily, you can judge for yourself, from that demonstration, the biggest one ever in Lebanese history.

What was the result of the war? About 1200 Lebanese were killed, the estimate is that about 90% were civilians. On the Israeli side there were 160 Israelis killed, 43 of the civilians. So if we look at the numbers absolutely, about 1,000 Lebanese civilians to about 40 Israeli civilians. It’s about a factor of 25. Or if you look at it relatively, on the Lebanese side 90% civilians, on the Israeli side 20% were civilians. However you look at it, the fact remains.

If Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, if you want to make that claim, I won’t argue with you so long as you say further that Israel is a terrorist organization by probably, at least, 25-fold greater. That’s what the numbers show. Whether absolutely or relatively, the record of Hezbollah is just much better than the record of Israel.

Human Rights Watch put out a report (Fatal Strikes) about 2 1/2 weeks into the war and this is what found. Let me recall a few passages. “In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target… Israel repeatedly attacked both individual vehicles and entire convoys of civilians who heeded the Israeli warnings [to abandon their villages]” …… The also attacked “humanitarian convoys and ambulances” that were “clearly marked.” While none “of the attacks on vehicles…resulted in Hezbollah casualties or the destruction of weapons;” “in some cases…Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.”

And here’s an interesting finding by Human Rights Watch, register it in your memory bank — “no cases [were found] in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack.” So all those claims that you heard in the media that Hezbollah was hiding among civialians, forcing Israel to target civilian areas against its will, because it was the only way to get the cowardly Hizbullah… Human Rights Watch, which is very far from a pro-Arab (whatever that means) perspective, very far — Human Rights Watch gets most of its funding from Jews, or a large percentage, they’re very touchy on this question — they couldn’t find ONE case, one, where Hezbollah was using the Lebanese population as shields.

They said [that] “on some limited occasions, Hezbollah fighters have attempted to store weapons near civilian homes and have fired rockets from areas where civilians live.” They found 2 cases of that and they conclude that Israel committed war crimes.

Amnesty International, about 5 weeks after the war, around 30 of August also came out with a report (Israel/Lebanon: Deliberate destruction or “collateral damage”? Israeli attacks on civilian infrastructure) that said “the country’s [Lebanon] infrastructure suffered destruction on a catastrophic scale,” that much of this destruction constituted “war crimes that give rise to individual criminal responsibility.”

I mentioned a moment ago that however you look at the record, the record of Hezbollah is much better than the record of Israel in terms of numbers. But there’s also a second issue.

Under the laws of war it’s strictly prohibited to target civilians as reprisals. That is to say, if they target your civilians, you’re not allowed to target theirs as a reprisal. Ok, we will grant that. Those are the laws of war and probably the laws of war are sensible, to the extent that “laws of war” has any meaning at all, I remain very confident that in a hundred or two hundred years, should humanity survive, that it will look back with sheer bewilderment and consternation at this notion of laws of war. It’s sort of like — etiquette of cannibals. It doesn’t seem to work. But, granting the existence of the concept of laws of war, and granting the fact that it prohibits reprisals, the fact remains that, according to Hezbollah, and Amnesty in its report did not dispute this, it only targetted civilians after Israel initiated such attacks and was aimed at stopping them.

At one point, in one of his speeches, Nasrallah said (Amnesty report, 09.14.2006) “any time you decide to stop your attacks on our cities, villages and infrastructure, we will not fire rockets on any Israeli settlement or city. Naturally, we would rather, in case of fighting, fight soldier to soldier on the ground and battlefield.”

That’s the war as seen through the eyes of its two belligerents.

There’s another element that ought to be of special concern to us in the audience because by, I would say, the 3rd or the 4th day of the war it ceased to be an Israeli-Lebanese war and it became an American/Israeli war on the one side and the Lebanese on the other side.

It was very clear that the United States fought, that here was an opportunity to deliver a real blow to that “Axis of Evil,” which has an element of truth. Just as, in my opinion, the domino theory has elements of truth. There is no doubt, no dispute, that there are forces in the Arab world which, to a lesser or greater degree, are opposing US hegemonic ambitions in the region. And those forces mainly manifest themselves now in terms of Iran, to much lesser degree Syria. There are some forces in Iraq, for example those represented by the fellow [Moqtada al-] Sadr. And then there is Hezbollah and Hamas. Hamas is obviously a very weak link and it’s now being, as I’ve said, decimated. The hope was, by the Americans, that if Israel can inflict a significant enough blow against Hizbullah, it would set back the regional ambition of Iran, Syria and the Sadr forces in Iraq. That is to say, they hope that they can salvage something from the mess they created in the Arab world — a mess in terms of their own interests, a mess they created…

And so then you have that horrifying scene of that freak from hell Condoleezza Rice saying that they’re not just being incinerated, she said this is the “birth pangs of the new Middle East” [Special Briefing on Travel to the Middle East and Europe, 07.21.2006]. That’s what they hope. They hope that they can set back, deliver a …[inaudible]… blow to the forces which oppose them.

It’s very interesting in this regard. I never read anything by Arab leaders because it’s such hot air, such nonsense, [with] no direct relationship to anything happening in the real world. But Nasrallah’s speeches were quite interesting. I wanna just quote on this point… As many of you know, since I see this is an informed audience, there’s this whole debate which recently ensued among those interested in this topic on the power of the Israel Lobby, the Jewish Lobby. There’s this paper written by a fellow from the University of Chicago John Mearsheimer and the Dean at the Kennedy School Steve Walt in which they were very emphatic about the power of the Jewish Lobby and claim that the Jewish Lobby is behind the war in Iraq, and so on. How many people are familiar with it? Good.

What’s very striking about is, while it used to be the case that the Left would claim that it’s US imperial interests that are behind what’s going on in the Middle East and it was the Arab world which claimed “the Jews are behind it, the Jewish conspiracy.” And now, oddly enough, there’s been a reversal. While we here are debating the power of the Jewish Lobby, it was very striking to me, at any rate, to read Nasrallah’s speech (BBC Monitoring International Reports/ Al-Manar, 09.23.2006). The last one, in which he said: “Brothers and sisters, we should today stress that this war was an American war in terms of decision, weapons, planning, and desire, and by giving several deadlines for the Zionists; one, two, three, and four weeks.” So now, he’s come around to the conventional leftist view. That it’s not the tail wagging the dog, it’s not Israel controlling the United States through the machinations of The Lobby. He’s saying, no, this is a war of American interests and desires, and they’re using Israel to do the demolition job.

Now …[inaudible]… the political implications of what’s happened. Usually these wars don’t have significant implications, the only one that actually did was June ’82, when Israel invaded Lebanon. Estimates are, they killed 18,000 to 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians. And that did have significant implications because they drove the Palestine Liberation Organization into exile and set in motion significant changes. But generally, these wars just result in “trivial” things, like the deaths of many, many people and the destruction of people’s possessions, belongings and so forth. This time I don’t think that’s the case.

I would say there are about 3 or 4 significant changes as a result of this war.

Number 1, Hezbollah demonstrated that you can defeat Israel. And you don’t need a large conventional army of the kind that Egypt had in 1973. You can defeat Israel through a guerilla war. That much is pretty obvious.

There’s a 2nd crucial lesson, which I think is much more important. Hezbollah showed not only that you can defeat Israel. It showed how to defeat Israel. It proposed a relatively simple, but to my thinking fundamental, formula. So in this speech, the last speech (09.23.2006), Nasrallah raised this issue: “what is the Hezbollah model?” He considers it as follows: “Resistance depends on planning, organization. This resistance experience, which should be conveyed to the world, depends – on the moral and spiritual level – on faith, certainty, reliance [on God], and readiness to make sacrifices.” Ok, you have to be committed. You have to be willing to go the full nine yards. The next sentence I found remarkably interesting. It says: “It also depends on reason, planning, organization, armament, and, as is said, on taking all possible protective procedures…. The pious, God-reliant, loving, and knowledgeable resistance is also the conscious, wise, trained, and equipped resistance that has plans. This is the secret of the victory we are today celebrating, brothers and sisters.” To most of you this doesn’t sound like anything particularly profound but, in fact, it is because at the end of the day Israel always depended on the fact that its adversaries were stupid, incompetent, blowhards and windbags, and hot air baloons, and, in fact, they were right… That when they were dealing with a Nasser, he was a blowhard; a Saddam Hussein, he was a windbag; when they were dealing with Yasser Arafat, he was a hot air ballon. They were nothing of any substance… [inaudible]… That was Israel’s ace in the hole. Now comes along an Arab leader who says we have to use “reason.” It’s a very remarkable thing to read. We have to use “reason.” We have to think, plan, organize. And he didn’t just say it … [inaudible]… As I’m sure, as most of you know, that the Israelis were reporting that their [Israeli] population was waiting anxiously for each speech from Nasrallah to find out what’s going on [Poll: Israelis believed Nasrallah over Peretz,, by Anat Breshkovsky, 09.03.2006]. They [Israelis] stopped believing their own media and they only believed what he had to say. No more of the Arab windbaggery — on the second day of the war in ’67 Nasser says ‘we destroyed all of the Israeli Air Force.’ Or when the hot air baloon Saddam Hussein, after defeat in 1991, gave out Victory Medals to the Iraqi Army. That era is over. This is a serious leadership whose commitment is matched by its intelligence and its incorruptibility. And that really is the formula. And now the United States and Israel are in living dread because they don’t fear Hezbollah — it’s 3,000 fighters — that’s not what they fear. What they fear is, throughout the Arab world all the anti — they call it American, I’ll call imperialist — all the anti-imperialist movements will now be emulating the Hizbullah model. Those who want to defeat the Americans, the American designs in the region, they’re going to look for the Hezbollah model and the Hizbu’llah model says you have to “reason,” you have to think, you have to “plan,” you have to anticipate, and if you do that, you can win. And the fact is, it’s true. If you do that, you can beat them.

Because as a fundamental fact, as Azmi Bishara (a leading member of the Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, an extremely smart fellow, he said — I thought it ahead of time [audience laughter], I was glad he confirmed it — he said, Israel can’t win. They can’t win because, for the older people in the room, there was an era of the proverbial farmer-fighter, the Israeli who was the farmer and the fighter, it was the equivalent of our own American West when you had the Settler-Fighter — that era is over. Israel is, for better or for worse, it’s a Westernized society and they don’t have… they’re interested in hi-tech, they’re interested in a good time, they cannot fight and win against the types who embody Hezbollah values. It’s just not going to happen. When they described in the newspapers how Hezbollah organizes, they said this is not an organization that you can knock on the door, can I join? No. They start from a quite young age and they learn discipline. What does discipline mean? [The Guardian, 07,29.2006] They tell a fellow, you go over there in that barn and you wait there until we call you. And sometimes they sit in that barn for 2, 3 and 4 days, waiting to be called and until they’re called, they don’t leave. You know, most people in the West can’t do that. I’m not knocking it. May be it’s for the better. I don’t know. But that kind of mental discipline, commitment, it’s not going to be replicated any longer.

The old Israel, yes, they could do it. That generation. The truth of the matter is, the old Zionist generation was completely incorruptible. They really were. They were totally dedicated on a level of dedication that is really quite awesome. Take someone like Abba Eban, he graduated with triple honors, triple A’s, from either Oxford or C …[inaudible]… and he goes to work for this crumby little organization called the Zionist Movement, you know, it was nothing then, when he joined. This is pre-’67. From commitment. From ideals. Now, the Israeli government, for those who follow, almost every single member of the government is now under indictment. [audience laughter] Who saw that article a couple of days ago, by Uri Avnery? He’s going through it, every single member is under indictment. One for sticking his tongue down 6 women, one for… [inaudible]…it’s now a level of moral corruption where they can’t compete. At the end of the day they always depended that they’re adversaries were corrupt, stupid blowhards who wanted to become part of the American system. Nasser wanted to be in the American system, the Americans rejected him. That’s when he went to the Soviets. They all want to be part of the American system. Hezbollah doesn’t. As far as one can tell now.

And that leads me to the last point because some people think that I am “anti-Israeli.” Actually, I don’t even know what the term means. Those concepts are totally alien to me.

But let’s say, you’re entitled to, I suppose, your first allegiance, your first commitment, your depest convictions are with Israel. My view is, if that’s how you feel, then — I’m not going to dispute it for the moment — really, you have more reason than anyone else to want to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Because now, I think, Israel is facing a very serious threat.

Its old tactic — the tactic has always been the same from the very first days of the Zionist movement — “the Arabs only understand the language of force.” So whenever they get out of line, take out the club and break it over their skull. That’s been the Israeli approach. And the Americans have now pretty much internalized it — that is the lunatics let loose, the Condoleeza Rices and the Rumsfelds that during the last war… take out the club and break it over their head — that isn’t gonna work. You know, the first day of the war, I’ll never forget, Nasrallah said “the universe can blow up, the stars can crash, the planets can collide — you are not getting back those two prisoners. There’s going to be a prisoner exchange, you’ll not get them back unilaterally from us.”
Well, Israel unleashed its Air Force, it unleashed its Army that went to work for 5 weeks. They didn’t get them back.

Taking out the club and breaking it over their skull won’t work. What’s happening is very different. This time they attacked Haifa — first time Israel’s rear was hit. There’s no question that next time it will be Tel Aviv. And then the time after that, well frankly, I don’t know if we’ll be around to see it.

So if your 100% commitment is to Israel, Israel Uber Alles, or whatever… I say, you should work with all of us to try to resolve this conflict peacefully, reasonably. Use the principles of international law and try to achieve, together with all of us, a just and lasting settlement to the conflict. Thank you.

By Juan Gonzalez, Daily News columnist

When the bullets started to fly, New York photojournalist Bradley Will was clutching a camera, doing what he loved most – filming a group of downtrodden people fighting for respect in some forgotten corner of our world.

This was last Friday, on a narrow street on the outskirts of Oaxaca, Mexico, where Will, 36, a longtime member of New York’s radical IndyMedia Center, had gone in early October to document an amazing story.

It is one our own national media somehow managed to ignore for five long months.

Since June, residents of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico’s poorest region, have been in open yet relatively peaceful rebellion against the abuses of their governor, Ulises Ruiz.

Thousands of teachers have shut down all the public schools throughout the state. Their supporters in the student and trade union movements, numbering in the tens of thousands, occupied the grand old central plaza in the capital city.

The protesters chased Ruiz and his administration out of the state capital. They took over the radio and television stations and organized spontaneous so-called Oaxaca People’s Assemblies in dozens of smaller towns across the state.

They vowed to keep up the protests until Ruiz, a leader of Mexico’s corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party, resigned.

Not since China’s Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989 had a Third World nation witnessed such a massive and intractable public protest.

But you couldn’t tell that by watching network news reports in this country or reading the national press. Here was Mexico, our next-door neighbor and one of the world’s most populous nations, in the throes of a huge crisis, and the big American media paid no attention.

So Jenny Smith, Will’s close friend for many years, wasn’t surprised when she heard he was heading for Oaxaca.

Smith first met Will back in 1993, when she was 19 and they were both budding poets in Boulder, Colo., enrolled in something called the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

“Every issue that involved people being oppressed or needing help, Brad wanted to be there,” Smith said yesterday. “He was just fearless.”

For a few years, Will wandered the country, first as a tree-sitting environmental activist in the Pacific Northwest, then as a squatter and defender of community gardens on the lower East Side. At some point, he picked up a camera and turned to documentary films.

He took his camera to Ecuador and Brazil to do stories on peasants fighting to recover their land, and to Prague to chronicle protests against the World Trade Organization.

Wherever there was a cause the big commercial media ignored, Will headed there to tell the story.

“He went to places where popular movements were trying to create direct democracy,” said Eric Laursen, another longtime friend. “Sometimes, he seemed to defy gravity.”

There are more than a few in our modern media who desperately want to dismiss social activist-journalists such as Will, the same way that a hundred years ago others sought to discredit muckrakers like Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair.

Last Friday, Will was filming on the outskirts of Oaxaca in a place where no other American journalist had bothered to go.

His film, available on, shows a large red dump truck drive onto a narrow street. A few dozen protesters start throwing rocks at the men in the truck, who are supporters of the government.

Suddenly, men in plainclothes from the truck begin to fire guns. The crowd retreats. Another shot is fired and Will is heard crying out.

His camera, still running, falls to the ground. Will, shot in the stomach, would die minutes later.

Initial press reports in this country claimed he died in a crossfire. His 80-second film clip, however, shows no crossfire. All the shooting came from one side.

The next day, thousands of federal police moved in and retook the city’s downtown in a show of force. Early this week, Oaxaca’s governor refused a request by both houses of Mexico’s congress for his resignation, so the crisis continues.

Maybe now it will get a little more attention.

Originally published on November 1, 2006

Oaxaca, part 1

Oaxaca, part 2

Gaza, fuoco sulle donne

VIDEO: La Republica

Beit Hanun: l’esercito israeliano spara sul corteo. Vittime e diversi feriti
[3 novembre 2006]

Two women have been killed as Israeli troops opened fire on a crowd of women gathered to help besieged gunmen flee a Gaza mosque, witnesses and doctors say.

11.03.2006 | BBC News

“We risked our lives to free our sons”

— Um Mohammed
Beit Hanoun woman

Editor’s note: Transcript below video.

add video to your blog

Transcript: Question and Answer section

RUSH transcript

Questioner: …inaudible..(auditorium echo)

Finkelstien: I think there are 2 separate issues on the question of Arafat. Namely, number 1, as a leader of the Palestinian people, and that’s a responsibility for Palestinians to judge and not myself, and the second issue is whether he was an obstacle to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. The second issue, it seems to me, we can look at the documentary record and come to a fairly clear conclusion. The PLO, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, from the mid-1970s supported the two state settlement and supported the international consensus for resolving the conflict. That’s not controvercial at all because they were voting for it and supporting it in many different fora, the United Nations and elsewhere. So on the question of whether Arafat was, as we’re constantly told, the main obstacle to resolving the conflict, that Arafat blocked a resolution in the year 2000 during the Camp David and later Taba negotiations, I think the scholarly, the diplomatic record is very clear there and the answer is a resounding No.

00:27:22, Disk Two

Questioner: [poor audio quality] Another question reads “What is the real hidden agenda that dominates US policy regarding Israel? Why is there supression of information regarding the truth
[on the issue] in this country?

Finkelstien: I think there’s no possibility of resolving that question here and I don’t think there’s been any definite resolution of the question in the scholarly literature. There are basically two camps, everybody in this room is familiar with these two camps. One camp says that Israel serves US strategic interests in the Middle East and is basically a garisson state or a watch dog of US interests in the Middle East and the other claim is [that] there’s a powerful Jewish — sometimes it’s called Jewish, sometimes Zionist, sometimes Israeli — Lobby, which is shaping and determining US policy when it comes to the Middle East. That’s one of those questions where, I think, people can legitimately disagree. It’s a question for which I’ve not seen any definite responses which are absolutely convincing. I think you can find examples where the Israel lobby, or Jewish lobby, or Zionist lobby proved to be very powerful and then there are instances where the US government decided “this is not in our interest” and put Israel in its place. You can find exmaples on both sides and I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer to that question. And some people may argue, and I think there’s some truth to it, the question has become moot nowadays because Israel and the United States have become so interlocked that to speak of Israel on one side and the US on the other, it’s kind of an artificial separation. It’s like asking the question “Does President Bush serve Texan interest or American interests?” Nobody raises that sort of question, some people think it’s Texas, [laughs] ok… but most rational people don’t think it’s a significant question and it may no longer be a significant question between Israel and the US.


Questioner: Next question is “you spoke of the wall Israel is constructing in the West Bank, the majority of Israeli citizens support the wall, doesn’t the Israeli government have the right and the obligation to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks by Palestinians? Proponents of this wall argue that [poor audio quality] [..when…] you reduce terrorism there will be no need for this wall, if Palestinian leaders would reign in Palestinian extremists.”

Finkelstien: Well, let’s be clear about basic matters, Israel has every right to build a wall, as any sovereign state has the right to build a wall. It has a right to build a wall on its property but it doesn’t have the right to build the wall on another people’s property. That’s the only issue. That was the only issue that came up in the World Court decision. It’s not a complicated question for Americans. My parents — we lived in Brooklyn, NY, we owned a house — my parents were difficult people, they didn’t get along with anyone [audience laughter]. Actually, they didn’t even get along with each other [audience laughter]. So, on the other side were the Golds and on the other side were the Kasslers and they did not get along with the Golds and they did not get along with the Kasslers, so they built a fence. And it was within their right to build a fence but, as everybody knows, when you build at fence, at any rate in New York, you first have to hire a surveyor. That’s a fact, I’m not joking. You have to hire a surveyor and you have to make sure that fence is right down the line on your property because if that fence is literally one quarter of an inch on the Golds’ side or on the Kasslers’ side, they have the right to tear it down. Under law, that’s it. Now, let’s take Israel’s wall. What happens if my parents decide to build a fence that’s not only on the Kasslers’ side but goes right around their swimming pool? [audience laughter] Well… some people will begin to wonder “are Mary and Harry Finkelstein trying to protect their property? Or are they trying to steal the Kasslers’ swimming pool?” [audience laughter] Now, it happens…[audience applause] it happens that the Israel fence takes in the most productive water and land resources on the West Bank. So you begin to wonder whether it’s about terrorism or it’s about theft. Now, what happens if my parents’ fence went not only right around the swimming pool but went straight through the living room? Well, then you’ll begin to wonder whether my parents are trying to get rid of the Kasslers. Now, it happens that Israel’s fence is cutting the West Bank in half and making any possibility of a Palestinian State null and void. That’s all the human rights organizations are saying. If you divide the West Bank in half and you annex Jerusalem, which accounts for 1/2 to 2/3’s of the whole Palestinian GNP, there’s no Palestinian State, it’s over. That’s the issue. There’s no question about Israel’s right to build a wall. A wall on its border and that’s the only question [audience applause].


Questioner: The next question touches upon a very interesting…[inaudible] debate… “since a Bantustan is the only type of entity Israel grants the Palestinians, why don’t the Palestinians give up the two state idea and expand it instead to ….[inaudible]

Finkelstien: Well, you know that question constantly comes up and I don’t want to give a glib answer to it because I happen to think that’s another area where honest people can disagree. I’ll just give you my opinion on the topic. The prospects of a one-State solution are very far off in the distant future and people have to be honest about that. It’s not a snap solution. And you have to ask yourself a question — and it’s a serious moral question, it’s about moral responsibility — when you start advocating a one state settlement you’re confining the Palestinians who are not living under a misserable occupation, you’re consigning them to perhaps another century of misery… because that’s what we’re talking about, if we’re arguing for a
one-State settlment. Now some people may argue, “well, there’s no other alternative because the two-State settlement is dead.” I’d say there’s an argument there, I’m not going to dispute it, but I think a morally responsible position is — if there’s even a 5% possibility of a two-State settlement and ending the Israeli occupation within our lifetime, then that’s the position we should be fighting for. As a general rule, I don’t think it’s a complicated question. You know, people say, one State, two States, well, I’m of the old school of thought. I think the world would be a very nice place with no States… so it’s not just, you know, Palestine-Israel, [audience applause] it’s the whole world. But… I don’t have to bear the consequences for making that statement, because I’m very secure in my United States, or at least upto now [audience laughter]… with my American citizenship and my American passport, I’m not living under occupation. But when you start advocating that for Palestinians you have to be very careful about what you’re doing, because you’re in effect saying “from now through a very long period into the future they’re going to have to live with that occupation” and you have to be very morally responsible before you condemn people to that fate.


Questioner: Professor Finkelstein you have been criticized for saying you support Hezbollah. Can you explain your thoughts on this claim, if there’s any basis for it?

Finkelstien: Well, there’s excellent basis for it. At Columbia University [March 9, 2006] they [protesting students] held up signs saying I love Hezbollah, I happen to think that was over stating it, I like it a lot [audience laughter]… I don’t think the Hizbullah question is particularly complicated. We have, with all due respect, we have oldsters in the room. And I think a lot of the oldsters, in particular if they’re of Jewish descent, they were 100% behind the Red Army’s victory over the Fascist occupation. And they were thrilled when the Red Army smashed the Nazi war machine. And I’m sure a lot of the oldsters in this room were thrilled at the communist and socialist resistances in many of the countries of Western Europe to the Nazi occupation. Now, Stalin’s record on human rights was NOT exactly what you would call stellar [audience laughter]… And neither was the record of the Communist Parties… but we all recognize the right of any people to resist a foreign occupation of their land. And the Hezbollah resisted the brutal Israeli occupation of Lebanon and dealt them a swift blow and defeat. I, for one, am very glad about that [audience applause]… I think a foreign occupier should be thrown out of countries [audience applause]… And I personally would be the very worst hypocrite in the world were I to condemn the Hezbollah for it’s defeat of the Israeli occupation, whereas ’till this day I still celebrated the Red Army’s defeat of the Nazi occupation of Europe. I refuse to be a hypocrite. They had a right to expell the foreign occupiers, so does Hezbollah. It was a splendid victory [audience applause]…


Questioner: Considering the cost of [poor audio quality] war/wall, the settlements must be the most expensive [poor audio quality] real estate in the world …[poor audio quality]… [Finkelstein:] why are they investing in the settlements?

Finkelstien: That’s a good question — “what is the rational behind the settlements?” — and actually the book that I mentioned earlier in my talk, The Accidental Empire, is supposedly an analysis of that question, “how Israel came to build the settlments in the occupied territories.” I don’t agree with his argument at all. His basic argument is that the religious crazies took over organizations like Gush Emunim and so forth, and the government was unable to reign them in. I don’t think that’s really what happened. Israel from early on had a conception of what the Israeli State should look like. Come 1947 there was a partition of Palestine, they never really accepted those partition borders ’cause they felt that they should have more of Palestine, that they should have really the whole of Palestine, which included for them, depending upon whom you’re talking about, Jordan, parts of Lebanon, the Sinai and so forth. In 1948 during he war they expand beyond the Partition borders and they now have 77-78% of Palestine. 1956 — they invade Egypt along with the French and the Brittish, they conquer Gaza, they conquer Sinai, unfortunately for them, the Americans at that point said to get out, and they always had a fairly large conception of their view of what their State should be. Their main problem, come 1967, is a very basic problem. They want the land but all those Arabs, and they still want a Jewish State. So how do you preserve a Jewish State with all those Arabs? In 1948 they solved that problem by expelling the Arabs. But in 1967, for various reasons, not least of which the war was so short, they only managed to expell about 250,000 – 300,000 Arabs. After the war they have all these ideas, Levi Eshko, who was the Prime Minister, he says “let’s take those Gazan refugees and settle them in Iraq” and they were trying to settle them in Iraq. They got rid of around 100,000 that way but in the end it didn’t pan out. So, they want the land but a problem of the people and the way they tried to resolve that problem is basically the South Africa style, namely create Bastustans, stuff the Arabs in as dense an area as possible and then keep the rest for yourself. There’s an interesting quote I came across, a remark I came across yesterday. Mr. Sharon is still convinced that can work because he said the problem in South Africa was there were many more Blacks than Whites and the ratio was such that the Bantustans couldn’t work. But he remains confident that because of the population, the ratio’s pretty even in Israel-Palestine, the Bantustan policy can work. They’ll have all these little enclaves where they’ll stick the Arabs, sort of like our Native American reservations and they’ll have it encircled by White settlements and they think it can work. It’s an interesting question because it’s one where I think ideology is more significant than rational interest. They remain, at some level, Zionists and they have a conception of what their State should look like. They’re sticking hard and fast to that ideology and then trying to accomodate the reality of all those Arabs and what to do with them.


Questioner: Outside earlier some people were handing out, may be some people’ve see them… I read one of those quotes that was attributed to Finkelstein. It says “Finkelstein accuses Jewish leaders of being ‘…Jew liars who [ ] huckster their dead,’ on p. 127 of his book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. When I actually go to that page it says “anti-Semites gleefully mock the ‘Jew liars’ who even ‘huckster’ their dead” [audience laughter]. In fact he Finkelstein was quoting anti-Semites but they attribute this quote to him [audience laughter]… [poor audio quality]… [Finkelstien:] I want to be clear about that…

Finkelstien: I wanna be faithful to the record. I don’t shy away from a laugh and I don’t shy away from undiplomatic language but I’m deadly serious about what I write and I’m very careful about what I say. They are acting like hucksters and they are huckstering the dead. And that’s what’s so godly awful about the whole thing. That they have turned, these people have turned the Nazi holocaust into a racket. It’s not me that originated this brilliant idea. Take the most authoritative scholar on the Nazi holocaust in the world, Raul Hilberg. For any of you who study the subject you know Rual Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews, his three volume study is the standard one on the topic and nobody disputes he is the dean of Nazi holocaust historians. It was Raul Hilberg, not Norman Finkelstein, who in 1999 said that Jews are, I’m quoting him literally, “Jews are, for the first time in history, they’re making use of the blackmail weapon.” They are blackmailing, this is my part now, they are blackmailing the Swiss banks, the German industrialists to extract what they call holocuast compensation for needy holocaust victims. That was all sheer fakery. It was a fraud. It was a disgusting fraud for several reasons. Number 1, it was exploiting the most collosal chapter in Jewish suffering and turning it into a blackmail racket. Number 2, the claims that were being made against the Swiss banks and the German industrialists were simply not true. Number 3, when they got the money, which they extracted in the name of, quote on quote, needy holocaust victims, the needy holocaust victims never saw any of the money. The money went into the pockets of these Jewish organizations and of the settlement class action lawyers. It was, exactly as I say in the book, it was a double shakedown. Now, there are a couple of things that are worth noticing. Number 1, not only were they turning the Nazi holocaust into a shakedown racket, not only were they huckstering the Nazi holocaust, acting exactly like stereotypes straight out of Der Stürmer but what’s worse was — and it’s one of those weird ironies when you study the record — they were turning into the world’s leading holocaust deniers. Well, how can that be? It’s not so complicated. In order to extract the monies from the Swiss and the Germans they had to claim there were all of these needy holocaust [survivor] victims out there. Well, they started to escalate the number of survivors. And each year, if you read the publications, and I document it, each year the numbers of survivors start to increase. So you now had claims, for example, they claim that in the year 2025 “tens of thousands” of Nazi holocaust survivors will still be alive, in the year 2025. 90 years after the end of World War 2 “tens of thousands” of holocaust survivors are going to be alive. Well, if you start increasing the numbers of survivors and you have an absolute number population you end up decreasing the number of victims. As my late mother used to say… and they get so enraged when I quote her. I don’t like to bring in personal biography, it’s relevant now, I will — my late mother, my late father were survivors of the Nazi holocaust, both of them survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, after the Ghetto my mother was in Maidanek concentration camp and two slave labor camps, my father was in the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Auschwitz death march. And my mother used to go around saying “if everyone who claims to be a holocaust survivor actually is one, who did Hitler kill?!” [audience laughter] Everyone’s a survivor! And that’s what they were doing, they were turning… so, some of you know this fellow, David Irving, the so called holocaust denier. David Irving would go around saying, one of his famous quips was, “an Auschwitz survivor is born every day.” Wel, you know what the problem was? The problem was, according to the Holocaust industry, it was true, an Auschwitz survivor was being born every day because they were increasing the numbers to justify extracting more compensation monies from the Europeans. There was no basis for these numbers. You take the fellow who just passed away a few weeks ago Simon Wiesenthal, some of you know him as the famed Nazi hunter. I don’t particularly go for the fellow BUT he was in the camps. They asked him last year “how many survivors are still around?” His figure — he said ten or fifteen thousands, at most. But you read these people [lawyers and Jewish organizations] and “tens of thousands” would be “alive in 2025 or 2035!” You know what’s funny? I burried my parents in 1995. According to actuarial charts, I won’t be alive in 2035! I won’t but they’re saying “tens of thousands” will still be alive.


Questioner: … why you felt it important enough to write this book?

Finkelstien: There are three reasons to write The Holocaust Industry. Number 1, I was involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict and it was quite clear that the Nazi holocaust was being used as a bludgeon to silence criticism of Israel. That was the political motive. And then there was a personal motive. I honestly belive and here I have to again go into the area of personal biography… I was very close to my late parents and I was as sensitive as anyone could be to their suffering and I thought they deserved better. I didn’t think that the Nazi holocaust should be reduced to the moral stature of a Monte Carlo casino and that’s what was being done. Finally, because I think as a historical phenomenon it [the Nazi holocaust] is significant. I’m not saying it’s the most significant and I’m not saying it’s unique but I think there’s an enormous amount you can learn from it. And when I read the memoirs, in particular the ones from right after World War 2, the wonderful one which is very hard to get now by Ella Lingens-Reiner called Prisoners of Fear. Some of you know Alex Cockburn, he was recently writing on the topic and I asked him please please read Ella Lingens-Reiner’s Prisoners of Fear and he wrote me the other and he said “I picked it up and, you know, I couldn’t put it down.” There’s a lot of stuff, a lot’s been written, which really moves, which has depth, which has profundity, and you can learn a lot from it. The problem is you can’t learn anything from the topic now because the Nazi holocaust has been hijacked by a gang of hucksters and that’s a real problem. I thought they need to be exposed and that was the purpose of the book. And I have no appologies for it, in fact, one of the weird things is, things I couldn’t possibly have imagined, you know, I was just skimming the surface when I wrote the book… Who would’ve imagined that Dr. Israel Singer, the head of the World Jewish Congress, who was attacking the Swiss bankers because of those secret Jewish bank accounts, who would’ve imagined that this past year Dr. Israel Singer, it turns out, he took out a secret Swiss bank account where he was throwing in World Jewish Congress money? That’s funny. Or who would’ve imagined the lead council for the holocaust victims, this fellow named Burt Neuborne at New York University, who went around saying “I’m doing it pro bono, I’m doing it pro bono” — and I used to call him the “pro bono holocaust huckster” [audience laughter]… Who would’ve imagined that Burt Neuborne, who was doing it pro bono, he said “I’m doing it for my daughter, she was a Rabinical student, died prematurely from a heart attack, I’m doing it for her…” Who would’ve imagined that Burt Neuborne, the pro bono holocaust huckster, took five million dollars [$4.4 plus expenses] from the German settlement? And then, this past month, he put in the bill for $4.1 million dollars in the Swiss settlement. That’s the pro bono holocaust huckster. “I’m doing it for free” he said. It’s all a bad joke. And, if I could say finally in my own defense, let them say what they want… but the world’s leading authority on the Nazi holocaust bar none is Raul Hilberg and Hilberg wrote, I’ll ask you to just read the back of the book [turns to panelist]… [Questioner:] Raul Hilberg on the first edition of The Holocaust Industry: “When I read Finkelstein’s book, The Holocaust Industry , at the time of its appearance, I was in the middle of my own investigations of these matters, and I came to the conclusion that he was on the right track. I refer now to the part of the book that deals with the claims against the Swiss banks, and the other claims pertaining to forced labor. I would now say in retrospect that he was actually conservative, moderate and that his conclusions are trustworthy. He is a well-trained political scientist, has the ability to do the research, did it carefully, and has come up with the right results. I am by no means the only one who, in the coming months or years, will totally agree with Finkelstein’s breakthrough.” [Finkelstein:] Not bad. [audience laughter & applause]… Just as a matter of the factual record, Hilberg is a Conservative Republican — I’m at the other end of the spectrum, certainly… but we both have one quality in common: we respect facts, we respect truth and it was a meeting ground for us. He told me, I met him subsequently, he said he was getting calls literally every week from Ellie Wiesel and from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, begging him to remove his endorsement from my book… And he said he wouldn’t because what I wrote was true. And I think that’s an insightful episode. It tells you that however much people differ on ideologies, if you’re respectful of facts and truth, there’s a lot more common ground than you would imagine. A month ago I debated Israel’s former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami on Amy Goodman’s program Democracy Now!. You’d be very surprised, there was no rancor, hardly any disagreement, except at the very end. Why? Because Shlomo Ben-Ami is firstly, professionally, he’s a historian. His field of expertise is the Spanish Civil War. And he’s secondly a diplomat. He respected facts. He respected truth. For those of you who’ve watched the tape… how many of you’ve watched it, just out of curiosity?… Notice, not one time did he say “you’re lying, that’s not true.” He never said it. He never even brought up issues like “anti-Semite,” “Holocaust Denier…” He’s serious. He was serious about facts. And that’s a validation of the main thesis of my remarks this evening: among serious people, among honest people, among peopel who studied the record, whether you’re a conservative Republican or you’re on the far left like myself, there’s very little controversy. There really is very little disagreement. It’s only when you drag in all of this nonsense about “holocaust deniers” and the other one… it’s kind of funny… I’m charged with two things, the same two things all the time… “I’m either exploiting the fact that my parents passed through the Nazi holocaust” or I’m accused of being “a Holocaust Denier.” Now, how can you be both? [audience laughter]. People say “oh Finkelstein always brings up the fact that his family was exterminated by the Nazis,” yes I do. But then they say “Finkelstein, he’s a Holocaust Denier!” How can it be both? Because none of these labels mean anything anymore. They’ve been turned into the verbal equivalent of spittle. [audience laughter] There’s only a matter of time before “Holocaust Denier” enters the Dictionary of American Slang as an equivalent of the F-word. So probably in around ten words people will be saying “Holocaust you!” [audience laughter]… Or “Mother Holocauster…” It doesn’t mean anything! [audience laughter]…

Questioner: [poor audio quality] out of time… thanky you…[audience applause]

Editor’s note: more Latuff! cartoons here.

Editor’s note: See also Kill Arabs, Cry Anti-Semitism.

Listen / Watch: Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! interviews Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D – NY) about his attempt to bar the Palestinian delegation at the United Nations. In May, Weiner infamously stated the delegation “should start packing their little Palestinian terrorist bags.” Weiner says Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not represent the PLO and that the group is listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department. Author and Professor Norman Finkelstein says he’s wrong on both counts. [includes rush transcript] Democracy Now! had a chance to interview Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D – NY) yesterday in New York. In May, Weiner successfully added an amendment to a House bill banning aid to the Palestinian Authority. The amendment would outlaw the Palestinian delegation at the United Nations and kick them out of the United States.

  • Rep. Anthony Weiner (D – NY), questioned by Amy Goodman, August 29, 2006.

    But is Rep. Weiner’s information accurate? Not his point of view – the facts. We speak with author and professor, Norman Finkelstein.

  • Norman Finkelstein, professor of Political science at DePaul University in Chicago. His latest book is “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.”


AMY GOODMAN: After I spoke with [Congressmember John Murtha], I talked to New York Democratic Congressmember Anthony Weiner. In May, Weiner successfully added an amendment to a House bill banning aid to the Palestinian Authority. The amendment would outlaw the Palestinian delegation at the United Nations and kick them out of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: You called for the Palestinian delegation to the UN to pack their bags, or more specifically, to pack their “little Palestinian terrorist bags.”



REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Well, for the longest time, the Palestinian — the PLO Mission — PLO hasn’t been an accepted voice of the Palestinians for the longest time. Congress has said very clearly back in the 1980s, as recently as the middle of the 1990s, that they were not welcome here in the United States. And frankly, the PLO is an organization that, frankly, no longer seems to represent anyone, but they’re still considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

AMY GOODMAN: So would you call the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a terrorist?


AMY GOODMAN: And yet, the people who are at the UN —

REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Not the Mission of the Palestinian Authority. This is the PLO Mission. Mahmoud Abbas does not represent — I hope he doesn’t represent the PLO. He certainly doesn’t say he does. He represents the Palestinian Authority. The PLO is a terrorist organization. It’s acknowledged it’s a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. And the only reason that they’re still there is because a court ruled that they were an adjunct of the United Nations, and thus there were two conflicting laws that are in place about — one that says the PLO has to leave the United States and the other that says that missions to the United Nations may stay. And so, frankly, I think that what I tried to do with the amendment you’re referring to is just clarify the PLO is not welcome in the United States, nor should they be.

AMY GOODMAN: They represent the Palestinian government. The Palestinian government is led — the president is Mahmoud Abbas.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Not true. The PLO Mission, the PLO Mission. The Palestinian Liberation Organization is a terrorist organization and is acknowledged that by the United States government. The Palestinian Authority, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas — arguably that doesn’t represent the Palestinian people anymore since the election either, but that’s a whole different story. But the PLO is a terrorist organization, and I believe that they should lose their quasi-diplomatic status, as they no longer represent anyone — any of the Palestinians, and they are considered a terrorist organization.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Anthony Weiner. He called for kicking the Palestinian delegation out of the United States. But is his information accurate? Not his point of view, just the facts. Norman Finkelstein joins us in our Firehouse studio, professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago. His latest book is called Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. The facts, Professor Finkelstein?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The facts can become a little technical, because there are multiple organizations now operating in the Occupied Territories, but Mahmoud Abbas was the successor to Yasser Arafat, when Arafat passed away and he became the chairman of the Palestinian — PLO chief — chairman of the PLO Executive. So he’s clearly a member of the PLO. That, I don’t think, is a matter of dispute.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of the PLO being on the list of terrorist organizations of the Justice Department?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: My recollection is — I don’t want to be — I’ll be as precise as I can. The PLO was on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations until 1988. In 1988, there were these famous words that George Shultz had made Arafat recite in public.

AMY GOODMAN: The Secretary of State under Reagan.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, Secretary of State George Shultz. And at that point, he was — the PLO was removed from the list of terrorist organizations, and the United States openly had diplomatic relations or ultimately was able to meet with the PLO. I’m sure your listeners will recall, before then there was the incident with Andrew Young having met with the PLO when it was a terrorist organization — officially a terrorist organization. But afterwards, it was removed from the list.

AMY GOODMAN: So, for almost 20 years, it’s been removed and the PLO has had a mission to the United Nations.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, the PLO Mission to the United Nations began, if my memory serves, in 1974. The PLO Observer Mission began at the UN. Some of your older listeners will recall that’s when Arafat gave that famous speech at the United Nations, “The Gun or the Olive Branch.” So the Mission, I think, began in 1974, and right now the PLO is pretty much considered an ally of the United States against Hamas. So it’s kind of peculiar that Mr. Weiner should be venting his ire at the PLO. Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO are considered U.S. allies. We work with Dahlan, who’s the main PLO representative in Gaza. He heads up their security forces, works with the CIA, works with Israel. These are our people.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break. And then we’re going to come back to the conversation with Congressmember Weiner. And then we’re going to Lebanon to play comments of a member of parliament in Lebanon about whether Israel should be accused of war crimes. Finally, we’ll speak with an Iranian dissident about the situation in Iran now and particularly about U.S. policy. We’re talking to Professor Norman Finkelstein of DePaul University. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: We continue with my conversation with New York Congressmember Anthony Weiner.

AMY GOODMAN: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the New York Times has called for an investigation of Israel for the use of cluster bombs on Lebanon. What are your thoughts?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Well, first of all, a lot of those organizations, Amnesty International in particular, has always had bias against Israel, and frankly I would argue that in many cases, the New York Times has, as well. You know, Israel didn’t choose to have a war. Israel — this is not about land. Hezbollah hasn’t said, “We want this sliver of land.” They’ve essentially crossed over an international border. They are an organization who, their avowed purpose is to eliminate Israel. Frankly, they’re the enemies of the United States, as well.

In times of war, bad things happen, and it is tragic when there is any innocent loss of life. But when the — when Hezbollah chose to declare essentially — violate an international border, a UN-recognized border, a border that was agreed to by Israel and, theoretically, the nation of Lebanon. When they chose to invade Lebanon and essentially take over by creating a government within a government, they, to some degree, chose the war, and Israel, you know, they’re a sovereign state. They have to prosecute it the way they think it’s best.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. government is now investigating whether Israel’s use of cluster bombs violated their relationship with the United States, in terms of getting cluster bomb technology. Your thoughts on that?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER: Well, look, I certainly think that the United States government should make sure that all laws were followed, but we mustn’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. This was a horrible thing that happened. Why did it happen? It happened because the Iranians have armed Hezbollah to be a surrogate army for them, to essentially occupy the — occupy Lebanese territory, to then invade Israel. None of these things were chosen by Israel, and Israel, frankly, has to be able to defend herself, just like we do.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question, do you think the New York Times is anti-Israel?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER: I think that there have been times it is — that the New York Times has shown bias, but, you know, the — I’ve heard many of my friends who support the Palestinian position say the same thing about the New York Times on that side. So perhaps that’s the definition of a — of someone who’s the middle ground. But I do think that they are — that the New York Times has shown a bias in its reporting.

AMY GOODMAN: That is New York Congressmember Anthony Weiner. Our guest is Norman Finkelstein, professor at DePaul University in Chicago, professor of political science, author of Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. The issue of Human Rights Watch — I guess he’s talking about Amnesty International — and then to the New York Times of being anti-Israel.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, it depends on what standard you’re using. Throughout most of the world, I think American media, generally, and the New York Times, in particular, are considered very pro-Israel. I suppose in certain extreme fanatical corners of the universe, they’re considered anti-Israel, but if you look at — you know, you take an ordinary incident, and it’s useful to look at ordinary incidents.

Take the case in June of this year when there was the killing of the Palestinian family in Gaza Beach, and there was the famous scene of the ten-year-old girl wailing beside her father. Now, there were two ways the story could have been reported. There was the official Israeli version. They claim they had nothing to do with the killing of the family and the firing of the shell. And then you had the version of Human Rights Watch, which is one of the leading human rights organizations in the world. They sent over an expert to examine all the available evidence. He concluded that the evidence was overwhelming that the Israeli government was responsible for the deaths of that family.

What did the New York Times do? It reported the Israeli government version. Then it reported the Human Rights Watch version. And then, a few days later, the Human Rights version disappeared, and the New York Times stated that the deaths that occurred on Gaza Beach, we don’t include as among those for whom Israel is responsible. Why? Because the Israeli government said it wasn’t responsible.

Now, that kind of reporting you haven’t found in the United States since the days of the Daily Worker, when it reported on the Stalin purge trials to take the word of a government against the word of a human rights organization, and then to simply deposit the findings of the human rights organization in Orwell’s memory hole. Human Rights Watch disappeared. Israel wasn’t responsible. Why? Because the Israeli government said it wasn’t responsible.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to this issue of criticizing organizations or people who criticize Israeli military policy, calling them “anti-Israel,” and then there’s always the step beyond, “anti-Semitic.” Your comment.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, first of all, it has a long history [See Beyond Chutzpah]. Every time Israel comes under international pressure, as it did recently because of the war crimes committed in Lebanon, it steps up the claim of anti-Semitism, and all of Israel’s critics are anti-Semitic. 1974, the ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, puts out a book called The New Anti-Semitism. 1981, the Anti-Defamation League puts out a book, The New Anti-Semitism. And then, again in 2000, Abraham Foxman and people like Phyllis Chesler, they put out these books called The New Anti-Semitism. So the use of the charge “anti-Semitism” is pretty conventional whenever Israel comes under attack, and frankly it has no content whatsoever nowadays.

If you open up, like, Phyllis Chesler’s book, The New Anti-Semitism, she says Jewish feminists are anti-Semites, NPR is anti-Semitic, BBC is anti-Semitic, Los Angeles Times is anti-Semitic, New York Times is anti-Semitic, Washington Post is anti-Semitic. Everybody is anti-Semitic. The term is devoid of any content. Anyone who ever criticizes Israel is anti-Semitic.

What does the evidence show? There has been good investigation done, serious investigation. All the evidence shows there’s no — there’s no evidence at all for a rise of a new anti-Semitism, whether in Europe or in North America. The evidence is zero. And, in fact, there’s a new book put out by an Israel stalwart. His name is Walter Laqueur, a very prominent scholar. It’s called The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism. It just came out, 2006, from Oxford University Press. He looks at the evidence, and he says no. There’s some in Europe among the Muslim community, there’s some anti-Semitism, but the notion that in the heart of European society or North American society there’s anti-Semitism is preposterous. And in fact — or no, a significant rise in anti-Semitism is preposterous.

The people who write this stuff — you know, you just quoted Mr. Weiner that Mr. Abbas is not a member of the PLO. If you read these people — Phyllis Chesler, her book The New Anti-Semitism had lots of praise by serious intellectuals like Paul Berman. She keeps saying in the book that India is an Arab country, and she’s very emphatic about this, that India is an Arab country. That’s the level of intellectual, you know, debate and discussion in this country when it comes to the Arab world.

AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t the ADL come out this week with a statement about Amnesty International?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, the ADL came out with a statement that Amnesty International is borderline anti-Semitic, and that’s pretty conventional from the ADL, that these organizations are anti-Semitic or then, you know, in other cases, they accuse individuals or organizations of being Holocaust deniers. None of this — first of all, as I said, it’s pretty commonplace in these organizations. The Simon Wiesenthal Center recently issued a statement condemning the United Church of Christ for being not borderline anti-Semitic, but functionally anti-Semitic, because they oppose the wall that Israel is building in the Occupied Territories.

Anyone who’s a critic of Israel becomes an anti-Semite. And the truth of the matter is, the real anti-Semites, they don’t really care about — or the real Holocaust deniers, which is their other favorite epithet to hurl at people or expectorate at people who are critical of Israel —

So you take the case, you know, now there’s a lot of discussion about the Iranian president’s statements denying the Nazi Holocaust. Whether he actually did or not literally, I’m not going to get into now. It’s not so important. For argument’s sake, let’s say he did do it. He denied the Nazi Holocaust. Now, you heard Mr. Weiner. He’s very fond of Abbas. He says Abbas has nothing to do with the PLO. Now, you take Abbas. Abbas is an authentic Holocaust denier. He wrote his doctoral dissertation denying the Nazi Holocaust. He published it as a book in 1982. He said less than a million Jews were killed during World War II. He denied the Nazi gas chambers. Now there you have a real Holocaust denier. You don’t have to really probe the meaning of his words. It’s pretty straightforward. Well, he’s the American favorite now. Everybody loves Mr. Abbas, because he does the American bidding. So they don’t care that he’s a Holocaust denier.

Let me just give another pretty indicative example. Take the case of Ronald Reagan. Nowadays many people are fond of Reagan. You listen to rightwing radio, which I listen to all the time, and you listen — everyone loves Reagan. Everybody forgets Reagan was the one who went to Bitburg, gave the speech saying that the Nazi soldiers, including the Nazi — the Waffen-SS, were victims, just like the Jews in the concentration camps. That was his famous statement at Bitburg. The ADL, which claims to be so vigilant about Holocaust denial, the ADL gave him their Torch of Liberty Award.

Then, just this past — two years ago, Berlusconi, the president [prime minister] of Italy —


[cartoon: ADL head Abraham Foxman gives Reagan award after the latter said that Waffen SS officers burried at Bitburg cemetary were “victims of the Nazis just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.”]

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Former president of Italy, gave this speech praising Mussolini and saying all the charges against Mussolini were false, he was basically a good guy. Three weeks — three weeks after he gave his speech — and remember, Mussolini passed the Anti-Semitic Laws, at the end of his regime, sent Jews to their death. Three weeks after he gave his speech, the ADL, Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, who is now accusing Amnesty of borderline anti-Semitism, they gave him the distinguished Statesman of the Year Award, had a big gala for him, and even fairly conservative economists like Robert Solow, Paul Samuelson, Modigliani — okay, they’re not conservative by conventional standards — mainstream economists. They wrote a very irate letter to the New York Times: Why is the ADL giving this guy an award? Well, the answer was simple. Because at that point, he was the only European leader who was very pro — he was very pro-Israel. They don’t care about Holocaust denial. They have no interest in it.

Let me give you one example, just —

AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, one example, just from what you were airing a moment ago. You heard the speech by Rumsfeld, where he says that Iraq is like the Nazis in the 1930s. Now, remember, the tenet of the Holocaust industry is, never compare the Holocaust to anything else. Never compare, and if you compare, they say you’re a Holocaust denier. But that side is always comparing. The Mufti of Jerusalem was Hitler. Nasser was Hitler. Saddam Hussein was Hitler. Hezbollah is now Hitler. Iran is Hitler. Hamas is Hitler. Iraq is Hitler. They’re the worst Holocaust deniers in the world, by their own definition. They’re always comparing.

AMY GOODMAN: Norman Finkelstein, I want to thank you for being with us, professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago. His new book is called Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.

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