Finkelstein at Georgetown

November 18, 2005

In News

By Sarah Mellott, Hoya Staff Writer

Amidst protest from student groups, DePaul University Professor Norman Finkelstein criticized the tactics of Israel’s supporters and said that the American public is receiving a distorted picture of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in a speech Tuesday in Copley Formal Lounge.

Finkelstein, author of the new book “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History,” focused in his speech on refuting “The Case for Israel,” by Alan Dershowitz, as well as bringing to light what he called the inaccuracy of the American media in reporting on the conflict in the Middle East.

Finkelstein said that Israel’s claims to disputed territory were rendered invalid by the July 2004 decision of the World Court that stated that it was “inadmissible to acquire territory by war.”

“[The decision] essentially said that Israel has no title whatsoever to the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem,” Finkelstein said. “Israel has no title to any of the territories acquired by the June 1967 war.”

Finkelstein also said that the Israeli withdrawal from four settlements in the West Bank this summer was falsely exaggerated to be a “milestone to a two-state future.”

“That’s what we’re told in public life,” Finkelstein said. “When you look at it, nothing has changed.”

Finkelstein noted that numerous human rights groups have published reports calling Palestine a “prison” and that Israel still maintains control over many aspects of West Bank life, including trade, the economy and the movement of people in and out of the territory. Finkelstein compared the situation to that of a jailer and prisoners.

“If jailers give the prisoners the keys to the jail, but redeploy [themselves] on the periphery of the prison, then they’re still prisoners,” he said. “It’s still a prison.”

Finkelstein also discussed his views on why the conflict remains a topic of debate in the United States. He said that there are two sides to the disagreement: legitimate disagreement and other disagreements that “divert attention from the real facts.”

Finkelstein stressed that the conflict is not as complicated or unique as it appears. He also dismissed the idea of “new” anti-Semitism around the world as “ridiculous” and called what he saw as the tactic of using the Holocaust to bolster support for Israel a “moral abomination.”

Finkelstein ended the lecture by telling the audience that “truth and justice are on our side.”

“The truth is no longer inaccessible,” Finkelstein said. “The challenge now is how to wield the weapons of truth and justice. I think we have the possibility of winning if we have truth and justice on our side.”

In response to the university’s decision to host Finkelstein, Scott Weinstein (COL ’06), president of the Jewish Students Association, said he was “shocked to see that CCAS and the School of Foreign Service decided to sponsor such a lecture.”

“I am completely open to Finkelstein sharing his views on the Arab-Israeli conflict with students and others, but he goes beyond this in his work,” Weinstein said. “Finkelstein’s work is very inflammatory towards Jews.”

Finkelstein’s speech was sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the School of Foreign Service, the university and Students for Justice in Palestine.

The CCAS defended its sponsorship of the lecture, saying that the issue, regardless of one’s views, was “interesting.”

“We’re not about to make judgments about [Finkelstein’s] personal views,” Michael Hudson, director of the CCAS and a professor of international relations, said. “We’re more interested in the debate he’s inspired. … Just because we co-sponsor
doesn’t mean we necessarily endorse his views.”