An interesting question from a correspondent:

March 10, 2011

In News

Dear Mr Finkelstein,

My name is Jessica and I am a Canadian Muslim from Montreal, Quebec. I am writing to you for 2 reasons.
First I want to deeply thank you for caring about Palestinians and their fate. It seems that you are sacrificing your entire life for this cause and I find that extremely admirable and courageous. It seems that your fellow Jews are seriously mistreating you because of what you are doing so it is our community’s duty to support you and to be there for you. We owe you immensely and can never pay you back appropriately for your work. None of us Muslims can ever have the effect that you have because our voices are considered unimportant.
Last night I watched this documentary about you (American Radical) and it affected me deeply. Which brings me to the second reason for writing this email to you. I have a question to ask you. In the documentary we see you speaking in some Canadian city and this girl comes to the microphone to ask you a question and she starts crying because she thinks that the way you talk about the Holocaust is offensive etc. So you tell her that these are crocodile tears etc. What I want to know is why is it that most Jews are so emotional about the atrocities that have been done to them during the Holocaust yet they have absolutely no feelings for Palestinians who suffer just as much and generally other people’s sufferings. I just cannot understand this. I thought since you come from that community you might understand them a bit more and perhaps enlighten me. Personally whenever I hear about atrocities that occurred in the Holocaust, in Palestine, on 9/11, in Viet-Nam, in Hiroshima, Nagasaki or any other location to any other people of any religion, I cry. I cannot take it. Just like it is for you, human suffering is unbearable for me to look at or hear about and I don’t discriminate between suffering of Muslims versus suffering of people from other traditions. To the extent that if I even hear about a suicide bomb IN ISRAEL done by a Palestinian which killed Jewish kids and other innocent civilians, I would probably cry for that too. But HOWEVER do you explain these Jews’ and Israelis’ carelessness about human suffering except for their own?? Is it because they think that they are the chosen people and everyone else is no more important than a cockroach? Or is it because they have been brainwashed since birth by their parents and/or community to care for no one but themselves? Are they utterly selfish? When I was in college, I started a ‘major’ in Jewish studies and I had this Jewish teacher for my ‘Jewish World Views’ course who explained the Israelis’ disregard for the Palestinian people by comparing it to the British, the Spanish and the French’s disregard for the Native Indians of the Americas. He said with a little smile and a shrug that Western people have this habit of not caring about aboriginal people when they invade a land. He obviously felt absolutely no shame for what he was saying and I just felt like slapping his face. One wrong doesn’t explain another and I think that mentalities have evolved since the 1600’s so if the discovery of the Americas was done in this century the international community would not accept that the Native Indians be mistreated the way they were at that time. I for one am very ashamed of my country’s past and am not proud to say that my ancestors used to call Native Indians ‘savages’ (I am originally French Canadian; I converted to Islam 10 years ago).
Are they really crocodiles? Or is there some humane way to explain their lack of emotion for the sufferings of others?
My husband used to study at McGill university and when Israel attacked Gaza, the Student Society of McGill University wanted to vote a motion to condemn the Israelis’ bombing of educational institutions in Gaza. My husband went to that meeting in order to vote and then a incredible number of Jews turned up you could never believe how many they were, some of the wearing Israeli flags and they came up with some law that allowed them to prevent even the discussion of the topic. They didn’t even want to vote against the motion, they simply didn’t want the vote to occur and the discussion to take place. So everyone voted about whether the first motion should even be discussed and the Jews that came were so many that they won and the discussion did not take place. The Muslims and other non-Jews couldn’t believe it. One Muslim asked them ‘What are you scared about?’ That’s what I cannot understand! They love Israel so much that whatever it does cannot even be questioned! Where does that feeling come from?? If Canada does something wrong or even if some Muslims do something wrong I’ll be the first to condemn it. Why don’t they want to ackowledge that the Israeli government makes its generous share of mistakes too?

I don’t know if you have the answers to my questions but I just felt like I had to ask because I cannot understand and I need help in order to not think of them as demons. I hope that you will receive and read my email and also answer it. I am very sorry for the length of it and for taking from your precious time. Also the documentary ended by saying that some powerful Jews in the US were trying to make your landlord evict you from your home. I pray and hope that they were unsuccessful and will never succeed in crushing you the way they seem to so badly want to. I didn’t know about you before watching that documentary so I sincerely regret not having attended your lecture when you came to Montreal but I hope you will come back and I will definitely go and see you.

You are now my hero.

Thank you so much again.