February 14, 2012
Norman Finkelstein was speaking after giving a lecture to students at The Henley College. The talk, which was given in a packed Rotherfield Hall on Thursday last week, was the first of a series of lectures about the Middle East organised by college’s students’ union.
The Jewish American, who is banned from Israel, said: “If people hear my actual message, as against the reputation that follows me, I don’t think it is particularly controversial. My message is, ‘let’s settle the conflict according to international law’. The message can be summarised in three words — enforce the law. If we enforce the law, we can resolve the conflict.”
Dr Finkelstein added: “I do not feel my responsibility is to convince. My responsibility is to get people to think. If I convince that is good, but if I do not that is okay.”
Student Gabriel Harper said he enjoyed the talk despite disagreeing with Dr Finkelstein’s view. He said: “The talk was interesting, controversial and disputable on numerous points. I do think he is wrong but it was really interesting and he is a brilliant speaker.” Dr Finkelstein spoke about the history of Israel during his lecture, which was entitled The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict — Reality, Human Rights And International Law.
Last month, the college was urged to reconsider inviting the academic by Harvey Rose, chairman of the Zionist Confederation. Mr Rose said that “academic freedom must be expressed responsibly”.
Speaking after the lecture, college principal Tom Espley said: “Our job here is to encourage students to think for themselves, to look how they can improve their understanding and I think today has been a very important part of that.
“I am delighted this has been student-led and that the students have introduced the speaker, have asked some really good questions and have actually found this to be a very balanced debate about the Middle East.”
Michael Brodsky, director of public affairs at the Israeli embassy, will give a talk on the same topic at the college on March 21.