A reader comments on "I ACCUSE!"

March 19, 2020

In Blog Letters To Finkelstein

Norman Finkelstein is indignant about injustice. He is also a methodical scholar.

From this perspective, his new book “I Accuse!” explores two aspects of the recent history of Gaza:

1) Repeated decisions by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court not to investigate the events of 31 May 2010, when Israeli soldiers boarded the “MV Mavi Marmara” (flagship of the Gaza Flotilla) in international waters and killed 9 passengers. This incident is discussed in the larger context of the blockade of Gaza and the precarious humanitarian situation of its civilian population.

2) An examination of differing accounts of incidents during “Operation Protective Edge” (a series of military activities by the Israeli military in Gaza, in 2014). Internal investigations by “Israel’s Military Advocate General” are contrasted with investigations by a number of respected human rights groups.

These topics are, of course, highly contested in public discourse. Much of the reporting seems to obfuscate matters more than to clarify. In my experience, it can be very frustrating to try and contextualize the analyses that are commonly presented.

Norman Finkelstein is an indefatigable source of highly systematic, yet accessible, work on aspects of the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. For those who want to arrive at an informed analysis of their own, I consider Norman’s books one extremely useful starting point. Even if one were to disagree with some of his analyses or conclusions, the books are at the very least an excellent introduction to a lot of relevant source material about the subject matter.

Taking a broader view, Norman has spent the last decades on the front-lines of a struggle for facts-based, serious analysis in a field that has been rife with highly partisan and disputed narratives.

Lately, similar difficulties arise increasingly in the general political discourse: basic facts about reality are more commonly put aside and replaced with questionable claims and poorly argued talking points.

In these times, Norman’s voice seems to me more important than ever: His writing insists that, by and large, reality exists – and it is worth to establish the facts and to consider them earnestly.

Clearly, Norman believes that the arc of the moral universe doesn’t bend towards justice of its own accord. That we need to do the work that enables us, collectively, to recognize and to strive towards such justice.

Once one moves past cheap platitudes, the search for truth and justice can be a challenging and uncomfortable activity.

In this sense, Norman’s books are at the same time harrowing as well as engaging and enlightening.

— Heiko, Germany