This video was recorded by Vermont’s CCTV, Channel 17.
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.
|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,Ynetnews.com, 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 YouTube.com, 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
— Um Mohammed
Beit Hanoun woman
Editor’s note: Transcript below video.
Transcript: Question and Answer section
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 How MEMRI doctored Finkelstein’s interview to portray him as a “Holocaust denier”.
MEMRI video posted on YouTube.com:
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.
But is Rep. Weiner’s information accurate? Not his point of view – the facts. We speak with author and professor, Norman Finkelstein.
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: Right, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
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?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER: No.
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 —
AMY GOODMAN: Former.
[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.
To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.
“Jewish Community Relations Council, You Do Not Speak For Us!”
POSTED: 4:05 pm PDT August 22, 2006 | KTVU.com / Bay City News
SAN FRANCISCO — Police arrested 14 men and women Tuesday after
they blocked the doors of the Jewish Community Federation in
downtown San Francisco in protest of U.S. involvement in Middle
Bound together by ropes and metal tubing, six of the protesters
sat directly in front of the building’s glass doors, which had
been covered by adhesive posters and handbills.
Sparks flew when a firefighter lowered a handheld power saw onto
the piping connecting the arms of each protester. Once they were
separated, officers escorted, carried or dragged each protester
into a police van while onlookers cheered.
According to police Captain Denis O’Leary, the protesters were to
be transported to the Southern Police Station and booked on
misdemeanor counts of disturbing a business and lack of proper
The protest did not turn violent, O’Leary said.
Several of the activists, a few wearing traditional yarmulkes,
screamed that they were, “Jews against Israel’s siege of
“I am a U.S. Jew and a taxpayer,” one protester yelled as police
carried her into the van. “And I am against the Israeli
occupation of Palestine and Lebanon.”
Inside the building, as the posters were ripped down, men in
suits watched as the demonstrators were carted off.
Yitzhak Santis, a spokesman with the Jewish Community Relations
Council, a public affairs organization representing the Jewish
Community Federation, said the protesters were part of a “tiny
fringe of the Jewish community.”
“The Bay Area Jewish community overwhelmingly supports Israel and
stands with Israel against terrorist organizations, such as
Hezbollah and Hamas,” Santis said.
He also said that the Jewish Community Federation, which
represents 80 different Bay Area groups involved with charity and
fundraising, supports sending a multi-national force into
Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah from rearming.
But Samantha Litman, a spokeswoman for the demonstrators, said
they were disputing a claim that all Bay Area Jewish
organizations promote a blanket policy of supporting Israeli
“We’re appalled by what we’re seeing happening in Lebanon and
Palestine,” Litman said. “Killing civilians, attacking government
institutions and destroying the infrastructure of modern
society is an immoral course of action that will ensure security
for no one.”
08-09-06 Aasif Mandvi “interviewed” on the situation in the Middle East.
Jul. 30 – An Israeli air strike in Qana, Lebanon has prompted the country to tell U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice she is unwelcome in Beirut before a ceasefire.
The death toll is at least 54 – 37 of which were children.
Distraught people in Qana screamed in grief and anger amid wrecked buildings as others scrabbled at slabs of concrete with their hands to try to reach people buried in the debris.
Natural sound only, with Arabic speech.
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MOHAMAD SHELHOUB FROM QUANA SAYING :
“We were about 50 people in the room, about 30 children. Most of the children died. I’m not a fighter, neither is my wife. We are disabled people. We were sleeping in the shelter. My brother, my sister died and also my daugther who was six years old. My wife is here, she was wounded too.”
© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.
Editor’s note: MEMRITV.org‘s video clips are hosted by CastUp.net, a company whose clients also include:
|*||Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs||*||Israeli Broadcast Authority|
|*||Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive||*||Taglit – Birthright Israel|
|*||Israel Youth Movement|
MEMRI.org Press Release:
Lebanon’s New TV: ‘Contradictions, Lies, and Exaggerations’ in Number Killed in ‘Jewish Holocaust’
06.29.2006 | MEMRI.org
On June 21, 2006, Lebanon’s New TV aired an interview with U.S. author Norman Finkelstein, who wrote the book The Holocaust Industry. In the introduction to the interview, the New TV narrator asserted, “Never has there been an issue subject to as many contradictions, lies, and exaggerations regarding the number of victims as the issue of the Jewish Holocaust.” In his interview, Finkelstein stated that the number of the Jewish survivors from the Holocaust had been grossly inflated by the “Holocaust industry” in order to blackmail Europe.
TO VIEW THIS CLIP: http://www.memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1180>
The following are excerpts from the interview:
New TV: “Never has There Been an Issue Subject to as Many Contradictions, Lies, and Exaggerations Regarding the Number of Victims as the Jewish Holocaust”
Report: “The ‘Holocaust’ is the Jewish term for burning the sacrificial offering to ashes. Never has there been an issue subject to as many contradictions, lies, and exaggerations regarding the number of victims as the issue of the Jewish Holocaust. The number of people killed in the Holocaust was estimated, in the film Night and Fog by the French director Alain Resnais, to be between eight and nine million, on the basis of documents invented by the Jews. The number dropped to four million Jews in the Soviet report to the Nuremburg trials. The figure dropped further, to 300,000 victims, according to British historian David Irving, and reached only 50,000, according to Raul Hilberg the Jew.
“Given the statistical contradictions in the number of Holocaust victims, the French intellectual Roger Garaudy asks how the truth can be determined. The Holocaust Industry, by Dr. Norman Finkelstein, recounts how the Jews of the world have turned Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis into a political and ideological industry in order to garner support for Israel, and into a source of economic extortion, which has yielded inconceivable sums for the Jews and their organizations, using as a pretext the so-called victims of the Nazi annihilation operations.”
Finkelstein: I Wrote My Book Because “The Nazi Holocaust Was Being Used as a Political Weapon in Order to Silence Criticism of Israeli Policies in the Occupied Territories”
Norman Finkelstein: “The main reason I wrote the book is because I thought that the Nazi Holocaust was being exploited by Israel and its supporters in the United States against the Palestinians and against basic principles of justice. That is, the Nazi Holocaust was being used as a political weapon in order to silence criticism of Israeli policies in the occupied territories.
“There are also other reasons for writing the book. Obviously, there was a personal reason – namely, my parents passed through the Nazi Holocaust. Every member of their families was exterminated during the war, and I felt it was important to accurately represent what happened to them during the Nazi Holocaust.”
“My book is mostly about the misuse or exploitation of the Nazi Holocaust for political purposes. The main claims I make in the book are, first of all, that this notion of Holocaust uniqueness – that is, no group of people in the history of human kind has suffered the way Jews have suffered.
“This notion of Holocaust uniqueness has no basis in historical fact and is an immoral doctrine, because it ranks human suffering, saying some suffering is better and some suffering is worse. The main purpose of this claim of Holocaust uniqueness is to immunize Israel, protect Israel, from criticism.”
“There has Been a Gross Inflation of the Number of Survivors of the Nazi Holocaust… All the Historians Have Shown [That] Hitler’s Extermination of the Jews was Very Efficient”
Finkelstein: “Well, one of the points I tried to make in the book is that there has been a gross inflation of the number of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. In fact, as all the historians have shown, Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was very efficient. It was like a factory, an assembly line. Jews were processed to be murdered. When you have such an efficient system there can’t be very many survivors. In fact, the best estimates show that by May 1945, that is, at the end of World War II, about 100,000 Jews had survived the death camps, the ghettos, and the labor camps. If 100,000 Jews survived the camps and ghettos in 1945, then 60 years later – that is, roughly around now – there can’t be more than a few thousand survivors still alive.”
The Holocaust Industry Claimed Hundreds of Thousands of Survivors to Blackmail Europe
Finkelstein: “But the Holocaust industry wanted to blackmail Europe in order to get compensation moneys. And in order to blackmail Europe they said there were hundreds of thousands of needy Holocaust victims who were still alive, and they started to inflate the number of survivors in order to blackmail Europe.”
“I do not believe that the Nazi Holocaust is unique, and I do not believe that the suffering of Jews is unique. I think there is no basis in the historical argument for the uniqueness of the Nazi Holocaust. There are aspects, features, of the Nazi Holocaust which are unique, just as there are aspects and features of other genocides that are unique, but that does not mean that the Nazi Holocaust belongs in a seperate category, apart from all the other sufferings in the history of humankind. I do not agree with that.
“On a moral level, it’s simply an abomination to rank suffering, and say one people has suffered more than another. How can you say it is more painful to die in a gas chamber than it is to die when your flesh is incinerated by napalm? Who is to decide which is a more painful suffering? That, I think, is absurd.”
“And there is something wrong when the United States has a museum devoted to what Germany did to the Jews, but it does not have a museum devoted to what America did to its native population – the expulsion and extermination of the Native Americans. It does not have a museum devoted to what was done to Africans brought over here as slaves, yet it has a museum about what happened in Europe. What would Americans think if Germany, in its capital, were to create a museum commemorating slavery in the United States, commemorating the extermination of Native Americans, but no museum devoted to the Nazi Holocaust? Of course, Americans would say that’s pure hypocrisy. Well, we are now guilty of the same hypocrisy.”
“No Evidence at All That Swiss Banks Ever Kept Billions of Dollars That Belonged to Jews During WW II, or Before”
Finkelstein: “There is no evidence at all that Swiss banks ever kept billions of dollars that belonged to Jews during World War II or before World War II. The basic facts are as follows: Number one, most Jews before World War II were very, very poor. They lived in little villages in Eastern Europe. The villages were called shtetls. They were little villages in Russia and in Poland. Most Jews were poor.
“Number two, beginning in the early 1930s, there was a worldwide depression, which means even if you had money, you lost it during the depression.
“And number three, if you had the money, and you were… and you kept the money, then you managed to escape during the Nazi Holocaust. That’s one of the advantages to being rich. You have enough money to buy your way out.
“So those Jews who had money and kept it after the depression – they used the money to get out, and then they withdrew their money from the banks after the war.”
MEMRITV.org Press Release:
Lebanese TV Channel Questions Number of Holocaust Victims and Hosts Norman Finkelstein, Author of “The Holocaust Industry”
MemriTV.org | 6/21/2006 | Clip No. 1180
Following are excerpts from an interview with Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry, which aired on New TV on June 21, 2006.
Report: The “Holocaust” is the Jewish term for burning the sacrificial offering to ashes. Never has there been an issue subject to as many contradictions, lies, and exaggerations regarding the number of victims as the issue of the Jewish Holocaust. The number of people killed in the Holocaust was estimated in the film “Night and Fog,” by the French director Alain Resnais, to be between eight and nine million, on the basis of documents invented by the Jews. The number dropped to four million Jews in the Soviet report to the Nuremburg trials. The figure dropped further, to 300,000 victims, according to British historian David Irving, and reached only 50,000, according to Raul Hilberg the Jew.
Given the statistical contradictions in the number of Holocaust victims, the French intellectual Roger Garaudy asks how the truth can be determined. The Holocaust Industry, by Dr. Norman Finkelstein, recounts how the Jews of the world have turned Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis into a political and ideological industry in order to garner support for Israel, and into a source of economic extortion, which yielded inconceivable sums for the Jews and their organizations, using as a pretext the so-called victims of the Nazi annihilation operations.
Norman Finkelstein: The main reason I wrote the book is because I thought that the Nazi Holocaust was being exploited by Israel and its supporters in the United States against the Palestinians and against basic principles of justice. That is, the Nazi Holocaust is being used as a political weapon in order to silence criticism of Israeli policies in the occupied territories.
There are also other reasons for writing the book. Obviously, there was a personal reason – namely, my parents passed through the Nazi Holocaust. Every member of their families was exterminated during the war, and I felt it was important to accurately represent what happened to them during the Nazi Holocaust.
My book is mostly about the misuse or exploitation of the Nazi Holocaust for political purposes. The main claims I make in the book are, first of all, that this notion of Holocaust uniqueness – that is, no group of people in the history of human kind has suffered the way Jews have suffered.
This notion of Holocaust uniqueness has no basis in historical fact and is an immoral doctrine, because it ranks human suffering, saying some suffering is better and some suffering is worse. The main purpose of this claim of Holocaust uniqueness is to immunize Israel, protect Israel, from criticism.
Well, one of the points I tried to make in the book is that there has been a gross inflation of the number of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. In fact, as all the historians have shown, Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was very efficient. It was like a factory, an assembly line. Jews were processed to be murdered. When you have such an efficient system there can’t be very many survivors. In fact, the best estimates show that by May 1945, that is, at the end of World War II, about 100,000 Jews had survived the death camps, the ghettos, and the labor camps. If 100,000 Jews survived the camps and ghettos in 1945, then 60 years later – that is, roughly around now – there can’t be more than a few thousands survivors still alive.
But the Holocaust industry wanted to blackmail Europe in order to get compensation moneys. And in order to blackmail Europe they said there were hundreds of thousands of needy Holocaust victims who were still alive, and they started to inflate the number of survivors in order to blackmail Europe.
I do not believe that the Nazi Holocaust is unique, and I do not believe that the suffering of Jews is unique. I think there is no basis in the historical argument for the uniqueness of the Nazi Holocaust. There are aspects, features, of the Nazi Holocaust which are unique, just as there are aspects and features of other genocides that are unique, but that does not mean that the Nazi Holocaust belongs in another category, apart from all the other sufferings in the history of humankind. I do not agree with that.
On a moral level, it’s simply an abomination to rank suffering, and say one people has suffered more than another. How can you say it is more painful to die in a gas chamber than it is to die when your flesh is incinerated by Napalm? Who is to decide which is a more painful suffering? That, I think, is absurd.
And there is something wrong when the United States has a museum devoted to what Germany did to the Jews, but it does not have a museum devoted to what America did to its native population – the expulsion and extermination of the native Americans. It does not have a museum devoted to what was done to Africans brought over here as slaves, yet it has a museum about what happened in Europe. What would Americans think if Germany, in its capital, were to create a museum commemorating slavery in the United States, commemorating the extermination of native Americans, but no museum devoted to the Nazi Holocaust? Of course, Americans would say that’s pure hypocrisy. Well, we are now guilty of the same hypocrisy.
There is no evidence at all that Swiss banks ever kept billions of dollars that belonged to Jews during World War II or before World War II. The basic facts are as follows: Number one, most Jews before World War II were very very poor. They lived in little villages in Eastern Europe. The villages were called shtetls. They were little villages in Russia and in Poland. Most Jews were poor.
Number two, beginning in the early 1930’s, there was a worldwide depression, which means even if you had money, you lost it during the depression.
And number three, if you had the money, and you were… and you kept the money, then you managed to escape during the Nazi Holocaust. That’s one of the advantages to being rich. You have enough money to buy your way out.
So those Jews who had money and kept it after the depression – they used the money to get out, and then they withdrew their money from the banks after the war.
Video | Mp3 | more options>
We host a debate on the situation in Gaza with Norman Finkelstein, a professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago and author of “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History” and Josh Block, the Director of Media Affairs for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). [includes rush transcript]
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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AMY GOODMAN: As we continue our coverage, we’re joined now by two guests. Here in our Firehouse studio, Norman Finkelstein, 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. And on the telephone, we’re joined by Josh Block, Director of Media Affairs for AIPAC — that’s the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — speaking to us on the line from Connecticut. Josh Block, let’s begin with you. Your response and the latest, the last thing that Chris McGreal said, saying human rights groups, the Palestinian leadership, Mahmoud Abbas talking about this as collective punishment and a crime against humanity.
JOSH BLOCK: Well, clearly the concern is the reaction from those same folks when it comes to the murder and kidnap of Israeli citizens. From many perspective, American or otherwise, an attack inside Israel, unprovoked, that resulted in the murder of two Israelis and not the capture, Amy, but the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier is, in and of itself, an act of war.
And clearly the Israelis tried for several days, 48 hours, 36 hours, of intense diplomacy with the aid of the United States, the French — and I should add that this young man who has been kidnapped is also a French citizen — to secure the release from Hamas, the terrorist group that has him. And by the way, in high irony, the government of the Palestinian Authority, run by the same terrorist group, so a government that’s charged with fighting terrorism is itself a terrorist group that’s responsible for his kidnapping. So after 48 hours and 36 hours of difficult and unproductive diplomacy, clearly the Israelis felt that they needed to act in their own defense.
And I think the question is what is the reaction from these same human rights groups when it comes to the condemnation of terrorism or other acts? And clearly — and I don’t speak for the Israelis, but they must have felt that this was an important thing to do to help isolate and prevent the movement of this terrorist groups from moving the captive or kidnapped Israeli soldier around the Gaza Strip.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Finkelstein?
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I think it is useful to begin with what the human rights groups have to say about this. Let’s leave aside the background for a moment and look narrowly at the incident that triggered the Israeli invasion. Let’s see what Hamas did not do, what the Palestinian militants did not do. Number one, they did not liquidate the corporal, which Israel routinely does, namely its political assassinations. That’s a war crime under international law. Israel routinely does that. Hamas did not do that to the corporal.
Number two, they didn’t kill the corporal while trying to arrest him. Israel routinely does that. If you look at July 2005, B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, they put out a very hefty report entitled “Take No Prisoners.” And the report shows Israel routinely, during so-called arrest operations, kills Palestinians, documents a case of a Palestinian who was wounded, on the ground, no weapon. Israel killed him. Hamas didn’t do that to the corporal.
It said by this – by [inaudible], it said that they took him hostage, they kidnapped him. Okay. Israel routinely takes Palestinians, Lebanese hostage. In fact, Israel was the only country in the world, in 1997, which legalized hostage-taking. The liberal head of the Israeli High Court, Aharon Barak, he said it’s legal, legitimate, under international law to take what he called bargaining chips in order to get prisoners, Israeli prisoners being held by the Lebanese. The decision was reversed in 2000, but Israel continued to hold Lebanese hostages until 2004. So, at worst, Hamas is being accused of what Israel legalized and routinely does.
And finally, let’s talk about those 9,000 Palestinians who are effectively hostages being held by Israel. 1,000 of them are administrative detainees.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about prisoners.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yes. Administrative detainees who are being held without any charges or trial. And the other 8,000 are being held after military courts have convicted them, almost always on the basis of confessions which were extracted by torture. So if we’re going to look simply at the numbers, we have one hostage on the Palestinian side, and effectively we have about 9,000 on the Israeli side.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and then we’ll get a response from Josh Block of AIPAC. Dr. Norman Finkelstein is Professor at DePaul University in Chicago.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about the siege in Gaza. Our guests are Josh Block, a spokesperson for AIPAC, which is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, speaking to us from Connecticut; and Professor Norman Finkelstein, teaches political science at DePaul University in Chicago, is in our Firehouse studio. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ:Josh Block, before break, Norman Finkelstein was talking about the lack of proportionality in looking at the issue of prisoners and hostages on both sides. Your response to that?
JOSH BLOCK: Well, I think the first thing that he said was that we should ignore the context in which this attack took place, and I think that’s a major flaw with his commentary over time. I’m not surprised to hear him talk about things in those terms, considering he’s called Hezbollah, which is the number one killer of Americans outside of al-Qaeda, a heroic organization.
You know, ultimately, the question for Israel is, what is its responsibility as a government? And any government, whether it’s our or theirs, has the duty to protect its citizens. Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, other terrorists groups, have been conducting an unremitting campaign of terrorism against Israeli citizens. Hamas is an organization that fundamentally believes, deep in its core, that Israel does not have the right to exist. When they talk about an occupation, they’re talking about Tel Aviv. That’s why when this terrorist attack took place, it took place not in the Gaza Strip or in the West Bank, but inside Israel itself.
They infiltrated Israel, digging a tunnel from underneath a home into the country of Israel, where they attacked soldiers who were not engaged in an offensive operation against any Palestinian. They murdered two of them, and they kidnapped one of them. And they’re holding him captive, hostage. That is an act of war. It’s a provocation. And it comes as a culmination of months and months of terrorist attacks and rocket attacks against Israeli citizens, who were not engaged in any offensive effort, who are simply going ahead and living their lives. And that kind of terrorism is unacceptable, and forces a response from any responsible government.
The Palestinian Authority has the responsibility to secure the release of this individual, this soldier. And failing that, the international community has to continue to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to fulfill those obligations. Again, Hamas is the government of the Palestinian Authority, and it is sanctioning and conducting terrorism. That’s not an acceptable situation, and it cuts against the entire grain of fundamental international conduct.
AMY GOODMAN: Norman Finkelstein, I’d like to you respond to that and also the timing of this operation, coming hours after Fatah and Hamas announced that they had agreed on a document that implicitly recognized Israel within its 1967 borders.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I want to first take note that Josh didn’t respond to any of my claims about Israel taking hostages, about 9,000 –
JOSH BLOCK: That’s because they’re ludicrous claims. They don’t merit a response.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I respected your time, Josh. I respected your time. Please do the same for me. He didn’t respond to any of my claims about Israel taking hostages, routinely killing Palestinians taken prisoner, and so on and so forth.
So let’s turn to the issue that Josh wants to address, namely the context. I’m very happy to do so. Let’s look at the context. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in September 2005 ’til today, the estimates run between 7,000 and 9,000 heavy artillery shells have been shot and fired into Gaza. On the Palestinian side, the estimates are approximately 1,000 Kassam missiles, crude missiles, have been fired into Israel. So we have a ratio of between seven and nine to one.
Let’s look at casualties. In the last six months, approximately 80 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza due to Israel artillery firing. Now, on the Israeli side, we hear all of these terrible things about these Kassams. Even Shlomo Ben-Ami, yesterday on your program, who I respect, he said what’s Israel to do about these Kassams? What does the record show? I mentioned a moment ago, 80 Palestinians killed in six months. There have been exactly eight Israelis killed in the last five years from the Kassam missiles. Again, we have a huge disproportion, a huge discrepancy.
Now, Josh says Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens. I totally agree with that. But Hamas is the elected government of the Palestinians. They have a responsibility to protect their citizens. They have a responsibility to get back their 9,000 hostages. They have a responsibility to protect their Palestinian civilians, who are being daily attacked by Israel. Josh says that the —
JOSH BLOCK: If I might, Amy, I’m ready to respond to that.
AMY GOODMAN: Josh Block of AIPAC.
JOSH BLOCK: Yeah, first of all, the folks that have been arrested for participating in terrorist activity against innocent Israeli civilians have been arrested for criminal activity. They were not kidnapped because they were doing their responsible civic duty and no offensive position against the Palestinians. In fact, those who, again, are in Israeli jail are there for conducting terrorist activity. Among the people that he mentions that have been killed, were killed because they were participating in terrorist activity, shooting missiles, planning terrorist attacks against Israel. Those folks were not innocent civilians who were killed in suicide bus bombings or have had missiles fall on their kindergartens. There’s a moral equivalency that your guest is drawing that is fundamentally out of proportion.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: May I ask Josh a question?
JOSH BLOCK: It’s totally disproportionate and fundamentally incorrect.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: May I ask Josh — I’d like to ask you a question, Josh. 1,000 of those Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel, according to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, 1,000 of them are administrative detainees. That is, there have been no charges leveled against them. How do you know what they’re being held for?
JOSH BLOCK: Fundamentally —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: No, answer that question. There have been no charges and no trials.
JOSH BLOCK: I’m about to, if you would give me a second to answer —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: How do you know what they’re being held for?
JOSH BLOCK: But instead you’re trying to filibuster the question. Fundamentally, the Israeli army and the Israeli government arrest Palestinians who are engaged in terrorist activity. That’s a proven fact.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: No, I don’t think that’s a proven fact. It would be a proven fact if there were court trials.
JOSH BLOCK: It is. It is a proven fact.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: How do you know what administrative detainees are being held for? Israel doesn’t say, so how do you know?
JOSH BLOCK: I fundamentally understand the facts, which clearly you do not, which are that Israel takes fundamental legal action to arrest individuals who are engaged in terrorist activity directed against its citizens. There is no moral equivalency to be drawn between a country acting in defense of its citizens and those engaging in terrorist activity in an effort to stabilize and destroy that free and peaceful society.
Look, Amy and Juan, as a Liberal Democrat who is a long-time listener of this program, I fundamentally believe that the audience and you are in a position to understand that liberal fundamental values, which are celebrated in Israel — freedom of the press, women’s rights, gay rights, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion — are denied to those living in Palestinian areas and throughout the rest of the Arab world. There’s an asymmetry that’s involved in the Middle East, which is a country of Israel that is based on fundamental free values, that is not replicated in the Arab world, where education systems inculcate children with hatred and teach them that martyrdom and death is preferred over science and math and education.
And fundamentally, after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza less than a year ago, when the Palestinian people and the Authority that leads them had the chance to build a better life for their citizens, they chose not to do that. They destroyed the greenhouses, the economic infrastructure that was provided. They then took the opportunity not to fight terrorism and to provide security for their people and went the other direction. That’s why when these attacks take place through the very arteries, the crossing points and the cargo points that benefit the Palestinian people, Hamas is intentionally harming their own society. That is the fundamental dynamic, none of the other speciousness that we’re hearing from our other guest today.
JUAN GONZALEZ:But, Josh Block, I’d like to ask you, on the targeted assassinations that Israel has often participated, has often executed in Palestinian territories, we hear repeatedly of innocent civilians. Putting aside the fact whether the people who were targeted were actually terrorists or not, because we have Israel’s reporting that they are, but the innocent civilians that are inevitably killed in these missile attacks, how is that justified as not terrorism against a civilian population?
JOSH BLOCK: You’re absolutely right. Those incidents are deeply regrettable. I think any one of us would say that. And I think any American, any Israeli, would say that innocent people who are killed as a result of a military action unintentionally, that’s a tragedy. But there’s, again, a moral difference between an army — Israel’s military goes to great lengths to prevent those kinds of incidents, and if you look at the number of preventative attacks that Israel has carried out with the number of those who have been incidentally and unfortunately killed in those incidents, there’s a tremendous preponderance of occasions when, in fact, Israel has gone to great lengths not to harm innocent civilians.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute. We gave Josh Block the first word. Professor Norman Finkelstein, the last.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, the question is whether or not there is a significant difference between what Israel does and what the Palestinians do, apart from the fact that Israel does it in a much higher proportion than Palestinians. If you indiscriminately fire on a civilian population, which Israel routinely does, under international law — and here I can quote the president of Tel Aviv University, Yoram Dinstein, who’s one of the leading international experts on these matters; he says, “There’s no difference whatsoever between intentionally targeting civilians and indiscriminately firing into a civilian crowd.”
JOSH BLOCK: Fair enough.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: He says both of them are terrorism. So if Hamas —
JOSH BLOCK: If terrorist were attacking —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: So if Hamas blows up a bus, as it used to do in Tel Aviv, that’s terrorism. If Hamas were to say, “We didn’t intend to kill the civilians. We intended to blow up the bus,” people would laugh. But if Israel drops —
JOSH BLOCK: If terrorists attack —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Allow me to finish. Allow me to finish. If Israel drops a one-ton bomb on a densely populated neighborhood in Gaza, as it did in July 2002, and it said, “Oh, we didn’t intend to kill the civilians. We can just intended to kill a Palestinian terrorist —
JOSH BLOCK: And later apologized for the incident.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: It would be considered as preposterous as if Hamas said “We only intended to blow up the bus.”
JOSH BLOCK: I’m sorry. First of all, there has been no apology from Hamas for those incidents. Israel apologizes when things like that happen.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Israel didn’t apologize. As a matter of fact, Ariel Sharon hailed the bombing of Gaza City —
JOSH BLOCK: That’s another specious lie.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: — that time as one of the greatest acts in Israeli history.
JOSH BLOCK: Again, a lie.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you, Josh Block, for joining us, spokesperson for AIPAC, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in Connecticut; and Professor Norm Finkelstein, here in New York, teaches at DePaul University in Chicago. His book is called Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.
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In German with Finkelstien’s responses in English audible below the German interpreter’s voice.
7 February 2001 panel discussion on The Holocaust Industry with live audience of 1,000 at Urania, Berlin.
Discussion included audience members shouting out their points, young protesters holding banners, and a couple of Nazis chanting slogans. The Nazis were immediately kicked out by a handful of activists, and shouted down by the audience who told them to get out (chanting “Nazis raus! Nazis raus!”).
– Dr. Johannes Willms, presenter (Süddeutsche Zeitung journalist)
– Stan Nadolny (author and historian)
– Dr. Rafael Seligmann (historian)
– Prof. Dr. Peter Steinbach (historian, Freie Universität Berlin)
– Dr. Norman G. Finkelstein (author of The Holocaust Industry)
The screen caption throughout the program reads:
“Berlin Diskussionsrunde zum umstrittenen Buch Die Holocaust-Industrie” (“Berlin discussion round on the controversial book, The Holocaust Industry”)
CSU Pomona talk filmed on January 25, 2005 in Pomona, CA.
Topic: “Why is there so much controversy about a topic on which, if you look at the actual record, there’s very little controversy at all?”
Video of Columbia talk, parts 1 & 3 (03.09.2006)
* LionPAC / Hillel email to the “600” protesters [Daily News]
* Finkelstein Rethinks Israel-Palestine, Columbia Spectator (03.09.2006)
* Students protest scholar’s speech, JTA (03.09.2006)
* Protest at Columbia, NY Daily News (03.09.2006)
* Manhattan: Protests at Columbia Lecture, New York Times (03.09.2006)
* Columbia students to protest speech by controversial professor
, NY Newsday (03.08.2006)
* Debasing the Debate, Columbia Spectator (03.08.2006).
* Norman Finkelstein Speaks, Columbia Spectator (03.08.2006).
* ‘Hate’ Storm Looms, NY Post (03.07.2006)
* In Defense of Professor Finkelstein, Columbia Spectator (03.06.2006).
* Reader letters
* Ann-Coulter-Robert-Novack fans’ article below (03.02.2006).
* Hate Comes to Columbia, Columbia Spectator (03.01.2006)
Video of March 8 Columbia talk
Part 1: first 40 minutes of talk
Google video page for this video for more download/viewing options.
Noam Chomsky on Finkelstein & his exposure of Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial. See also Finkelstein’s
“Disinformation and the Palestine Question: The Not-So-Strange Case of Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial” in Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question.
Part 2: next 53 minutes of talk
Google video page for Part 2 for more download/viewing options.
Part 3: end of talk (26 minutes) & Q&A session (36 minutes)
Google video page for Part 3 with more viewing options, including download.
– Windows Media video (320×240; 131MB)
* Feel free to review the following articles by Chris Kulawik in the Columbia Spectator in addition to the one below (“Hate Comes to Columbia”):
In Defense of McCarthy, By Chris Kulawik, April 07, 2005
Black Militants, Communists, and 106 Hartley Hall, By Chris Kulawik, November 02, 2005
Letter to the Editor, By Chris Kulawik, November 03, 2005
The Cult of Sachs, By Chris Kulawik, October 19, 2005
Letter to the Editor, By Chris Kulawik, November 9, 2005
Hate Comes to Columbia
By Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky
March 01, 2006
Few things could bring the president of the College Conservatives and the membership director of the College Democrats together in concord. But major issues—those which transcend party and ideology—do, in fact, make strange bedfellows. We write today to voice strident opposition to one Norman Finkelstein, an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-America Holocaust revisionist and terrorist sympathizer.
Let it be known that as representatives of free speech, we do not wish to censor him. His asinine comments are sure to embarrass and humiliate far beyond our capacity to do so. Rather, we seek to inform the Columbia community of this blatant hate-mongering.
A Facebook page, organized by those bringing Finkelstein to Columbia, was a self-described “invisible group.” “Make sure,” it read, “not to invite anyone who might tip those opposed to Finky. He’s pretty controversial.” That, by any standard, is an understatement. The comments have since been removed; screenshots, however, last.
Those who assume that Finkelstein is just another “controversial” speaker, one of many in Columbia’s recent past, fail to grasp the absurdity that is Finkelstein. Taking a job at DePaul University after being fired by New York University for his ludicrous and factually inaccurate book, The Holocaust Industry, this “scholar” makes his living off of absurd statements that garner comfortable speaking engagements. At a recent speech delivered at Yale University, Finkelstein equated the Jewish concern over Holocaust denial with a “level of mental hysteria.” Clearly, we must first question his very “professorship.” Anyone who so blatantly disregards facts and vehemently supports the murder of innocent children is worthy neither of academia nor of the title of professor.
Well, what precisely is Mr. Finkelstein’s crime? It is not that he is a Holocaust revisionist. It is not that he denies the right of the Jewish state to exist. It is not that he cheapened the lives of the millions of innocents lost to the concentration camps by equating their systematic murder to any other large disaster. No, his crime both includes and transcends these radical, depraved stances. Only months after Sept. 11, 2001, Finkelstein asserted his support of terrorism. In that 2001 interview, Finkelstein exclaimed, “Frankly, part of me says—even though everything since Sept. 11 has been a nightmare—’You know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things [Osama] bin Laden says are true.'”
It is this sentiment that forces students to take a stand against Finkelstein’s unique blend of pure idiocy and potent evil. Columbia attempts to teach its students to respect all opinions, listen to all viewpoints, and embrace the free exchange of ideas. We will listen, but we will not let a petty ploy to incite tension and turmoil go unnoticed.
Current cosponsoring groups include Safa’a, Turath, Qanun, United Students of Color Council, Arab Students Association (SIPA), Organization of Pakistani Students, Columbia Student Solidarity Network, and Students Promoting Empowerment and Knowledge. It is our sincere hope that these groups will either revoke their sponsorship of the event or continue on with full recognition of the hate this pathetic individual spews. The co-sponsors must make every effort to renounce the radical anti-semitism and anti-Americanism of this speaker, lest we assume these groups share his values.
We must also insist that the event’s leadership detail the monetary support provided by the University for this lunatic, fringe speaker. To advance a question posed by the Yale Daily News, would the University “sponsor a speaker who criticized the African-American community for ‘exploiting’ slavery and segregation?” No—of course not—and rightly so. The same should apply to an individual who claims that the Holocaust should be looked on favorably by Jews, as it “was the negative version of their vaunted worldly success: it served to validate Jewish chosenness.”
If these groups want to bring a speaker to campus, we support their decision, but we question the use of our tuition to fund an individual so beyond the pale that academia, left and right, condemns him. It would be just as egregious a moral error if we, the student body, did not show up on Wednesday, March 8 to let this facilitator of hatred, fear, and lies understand just how passionately the students oppose his radicalism. Columbia will never stand for such petty antagonism.
Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky are Columbia College sophomores.
Hate Speech at Columbia
HumanEventsOnline.com | Mar 01, 2006
by Christopher Flickinger
College conservatives and Democrats are joining forces at Columbia University to oppose a controversial speaker.
In a joint letter to the Columbia Spectator the the president of the College Conservatives and the membership director of the College Democrats voice their opposition to an upcoming speech by Norman Finkelstein — a man they refer to as “an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-America Holocaust revisionist and terrorist sympathizer.”
Finkelstein, who was invited to Columbia by the school’s Muslim Students Association, will speak on “Israel and Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History” next week.
Within their letter, Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky say they do not wish to censor Finkelstein but rather inform the community of “this blatant hate-mongering.”
“Well, what precisely is Mr. Finkelstein’s crime? It is not that he is a Holocaust revisionist. It is not that he denies the right of the Jewish state to exist. It is not that he cheapened the lives of the millions of innocents lost to the concentration camps by equating their systematic murder to any other large disaster. No, his crime both includes and transcends these radical, depraved stances. Only months after Sept. 11, 2001, Finkelstein asserted his support of terrorism. In that 2001 interview, Finkelstein exclaimed, ‘Frankly, part of me says — even though everything since Sept. 11 has been a nightmare — You know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things [Osama] bin Laden says are true.'”
According to advertisment posted on Columbia University’s Muslim Students Association website a variety of groups are co-sponsoring Finkelstein’s speech. Some of those mentioned include: United Students of Color Council, Arab Students Association, Organization of Pakistani Students and the International Socialists Organization.
Kulawik and Lipsky go to say in their letter, “If these groups want to bring a speaker to campus, we support their decision, but we question the use of our tuition to fund an individual so beyond the pale that academia, left and right, condemns him.”
They also encourage the student body to “show up” next week “to let this facilitator of hatred, fear, and lies understand just how passionately the students oppose his radicalism.”
Human Events U will keep you posted on any developments.
In Defense of Professor Finkelstein
By Maryum Saifee and Athar Abdul-Quader
March 06, 2006
It is with bittersweet irony that Norman Finkelstein critics at Columbia would viciously attack Finkelstein, a noted Jewish professor and human rights activist, not to mention son of Holocaust survivors, as a “terrorist sympathizing, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, Holocaust revisionist,” given his latest book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Indeed, these types of abusive charges against Finkelstein lend increased credibility to the book’s central thesis on the misuse of anti-Semitism and abuse of the Holocaust’s legacy to stifle any critical analysis of Israeli policies. With this in mind, we seek to debunk certain vicious inaccuracies in arguments made by Finkelstein critics, so as to render this debate slightly more civil and decent, and in order that a dignified guest of Columbia might not be met by hordes of hostile victims of this kind of misinformation.
On the issue of academic integrity, which Finkelstein critics accuse him of lacking, we might note that apart from a Princeton Ph.D., our guest has the enthusiastic support of myriad highly reputable scholars in the field, albeit mostly those who are already critical of Israeli policy. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University commented, “Finkelstein does a great service for those who long for a better Israel, with the conclusion that the only way of putting an end to the violations of Palestinian rights is by ending the occupation.” MIT linguist and liberal icon Noam Chomsky, on the same topic notes that “Norman Finkelstein provides extensive details and analysis, with considerable historical depth and expert research, of a wide range of issues concerning Israel, the Palestinians, and the U.S.”
Like other common attacks made by Finkelstein critics, charging Finkelstein as a “terrorist sympathizer” is not simply inaccurate but irresponsible and tantamount to libel. On the topic of terrorism, Finkelstein unambiguously denounces terrorism as “morally unacceptable.” He does argue that Palestinians possess “the right to use force against occupation” under international law. His support for the Palestinian right to self-determination and to resist occupation could in no way be construed as an endorsement of terrorism. Nor does he assent to the principles of Osama bin Laden as is gestured toward in the “Hate Comes to Columbia” (March 1) op-ed piece that was published in Spectator. The full quote continues, “One of the things that [bin Laden] said on that last tape was that ‘until [Muslims and Arabs] live in security, you’re not going to live in security,’ and there is a certain amount of rightness in that.” Finkelstein’s point of agreement with bin Laden — that Americans should look toward understanding root causes for the poverty and instability in Muslim countries — is actually shared by the Bush administration with all of its recent initiatives to promote a better understanding of the region as a means to promote international security.
Finkelstein’s critics, most notably Alan Dershowitz, charge Finkelstein with anti-Semitism precisely because of his criticism of Zionism, i.e. criticism of the Israeli occupation and Israeli state-sponsored human rights abuses committed against Palestinians. This isn’t the first time that a reputable scholar has been typecast as anti-Semitic for critical views against Israeli policies (see David Horowitz’s The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America). Undoubtedly, anti-Semitism is an ugly, appalling form of bigotry that deserves universal condemnation. However, Zionism is a political ideology and must never be confused with the Jewish religion, culture, or population. Contrary to the anti-American label commonly placed on Finkelstein, his critique of political Zionism is precisely the type of controversial political discourse that is characteristically American and is analogous to the College Democrats’ stimulating debate on the Bush administration.
Finkelstein is often met with accusations of Holocaust revisionism, generally associated with Holocaust denial. Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry is actually a critique of Holocaust revisionist arguments that privilege the Holocaust as exceptional in the historiography of genocide. Far from the Anti-Defamation League’s claims that Finkelstein is a Holocaust denier, his proof is an unambiguous affirmation that the Holocaust did occur — his parents are living proof of its horrors! — noting that the tragedy of the Holocaust has since been ruthlessly exploited and commercialized into what Finkelstein outlines as an industry to promote Zionist interests.
We wish to set the record straight and publicly condemn these flagrantly false claims against Finkelstein, and to underscore the danger of misusing the label of anti-Semitism and abusing the Holocaust legacy to stifle critical debate on Israeli policies. For the sake of free speech, hopefully a value which those who accuse Finkelstein of bringing “hate” to campus can join us in upholding, Columbia students will welcome rather than denigrate visitors like Finkelstein, upon whom we can rely upon to challenge our understanding of the relationship between anti-Semitism and Zionism and, at the very least, stimulate lively debate and critical inquiry on campus.
Maryum Saifee is a Master of International Affairs candidate at the School of International and Public Affairs. Athar Abdul-Quader is a Columbia College sophomore.
Norman Finkelstein Speaks
By Nell Geiser
March 08, 2006
As a Jewish student who is looking forward to Norman Finkelstein’s speech on campus tonight, titled “Israel & Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History,” I am disappointed there’s been such misinformed debate about his visit. Maryum Saifee and Athar Abdul-Quader explained Monday on this page (“In Defense of Professor Finkelstein,” March 6) that inaccurate accusations hurled at Finkelstein only stifle productive dialogue. Since many of the charges levied against him seemed to be based on emotional appeals and not on facts, I decided to talk to professor Finkelstein myself to clarify his argument in his new book Beyond Chutzpah.
I asked Finkelstein to talk about the misuses of anti-Semitism in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He explained, “If you look at the historical record on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the past, if you look at the human rights record, the present, or if you look at the diplomatic record, the future, on how to resolve the conflict—if you look at those three records, it’s quite striking how broad is the consensus and how uncontroversial the record is. … In fact, it’s hard to think of another, as it were, trouble spot in the world where the record is so unambiguous and so straightforward.”
“An obvious question arises—namely, how do you account for so much controversy, which, once you enter the public arena, swirls around the conflict that, if you look at the actual documentary record, is not controversial at all. And that’s the question I pose in the introduction to my book. And the answer I suggest is that most of the controversy surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict is fabricated, contrived. And the purpose of that fabrication and contrivance is to divert attention from the actual factual record and to sow confusion about the real record.”
“Let’s look at the issue of the New Anti-Semitism. That’s been a term that’s been bandied about since roughly 2000, and there are two things to say about that New Anti-Semitism. Number one, it’s not new. Every time Israel faces a public relations debacle or comes under pressure from the international community to resolve the conflict, it orchestrates this extravaganza called ‘The New Anti-Semitism.’ It’s very easy to demonstrate. Any Columbia student, all that he or she has to do, is go to Butler Library and look for a book that came out in 1974 by the same organization that’s orchestrating the hysteria now, namely the Anti-Defamation League, and they’ll find a book called The New Anti-Semitism. And they’ll find similar publications being putting periodically by the ADL and kindred organizations. There’s nothing new about the New Anti-Semitism. That hysteria is whipped up periodically in the U.S. The problem is that people have short memories. They forget.”
“Number two, it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. There’s no evidence whatsoever of a New Anti-Semitism in the United States or in Europe. … The purpose of the New Anti-Semitism is basically twofold: number one, and most obviously, it’s to turn the perpetrators and their apologists … into the victims. So instead of focusing attention on the cruel occupation, our attention is supposed to be focused on the suffering of those who are perpetrating the occupation: the victims of this alleged New Anti-Semitism. And the second purpose is to discredit any criticism of Israel as being motivated by anti-Semitism. The claim of the New Anti-Semitism is that, whereas in the past it was aimed at Jews individually, it’s now being directed at the collective Jew—Israel. And therefore, anyone who criticizes Israel is guilty of anti-Semitism. So the purpose is to exploit the very real suffering that Jews endured in the past in order to discredit any of Israel’s critics as being, in fact, motivated by anti-Semitism, and to discredit any criticism of Israel as being anti-Semitic. That’s its purpose; there’s no basis for the claim in reality.”
I also asked Finkelstein what he would like to see discussed in a productive conversation about Israel-Palestine.
“I think the right answer is to steer away from slogan, steer away from ideological obfuscations, steer away from hot-button issues, and stick to the facts. In my opinion, what we now ought to be discussing has nothing to do with your position on Zionism. I don’t care if you’re a Zionist or not a Zionist, that’s not the issue. The issue is fairly straightforward. It’s as uncomplicated as an issue can be. Where do you stand on international law? Where do you stand on human rights law?”
“This is what the record shows: Israel has no right to any of the territory it occupied in the June 1967 war. The settlements Israel has built in the occupied territories are illegal under international law. Under international law, Israel has to fully withdraw. Israel’s human rights record in the occupied territories is an abomination. Each statement I just uttered to you is completely uncontroversial. Every mainstream source, bar none, every one, will validate each of the statements I just made to you. And then the question to be put to a rational, sane human being is, ‘Where do you stand on that?’ ‘Do you support the violations or do you oppose them?’ ‘Do you support international law or do you oppose it?’ And everything else is beside the point.”
I, too, hope that Columbia students can discuss the issues at hand rather than avoiding them through false accusations. Given that the General Assembly of the United Nations has voted time after time in overwhelming support of Palestinian self-determination and withdrawal of all Israeli settlements from the territories occupied in 1967, my stance is that Israel should abide by international consensus and international law. Finkelstein is doing a service by cutting away the obfuscating layers and making clear what constitutes the real issues in this debate.
Nell Geiser is a Columbia College senior majoring in anthropology and comparative ethnic studies. Active Subject runs alternate Wednesdays.
Debasing the Debate
By Andrew Tucker Avorn
March 08, 2006
Freedom of speech is one of the most important civil rights in a university because it allows for open debates on important issues. Columbia’s Muslim Students Association has every right to host Norman Finkelstein, but I have to wonder: what are they are trying to accomplish by having him speak? Instead of sparking a productive debate, he will end up creating the same kind of divisive controversy that swept the campus last year in the wake of the firestorm concerning the Middle East and Asian languages and cultures department—and will end up being every bit as ineffective in creating dialogue or progress.
Last week, Spectator published an op-ed submission (“Hate Comes to Columbia,” March 1) in which the authors, Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky, referred to Finkelstein as a “Holocaust revisionist.” Two years ago, Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher used the same term to describe Finkelstein. In response, Finkelstein threatened to sue the Washington Post. Fisher’s next column included the following: “In Tuesday’s column about academic freedom, I mentioned writer Norman Finkelstein, who lectured recently at Georgetown University. Although neo-Nazi groups have cited his work in support of their theories, Finkelstein has never denied the existence of the Holocaust, and I did not intend to suggest that.”
Finkelstein took similar offense to the term used in the Spectator op-ed piece. Two days later, its editors ran a clarification akin to the one in the Washington Post. But Finkelstein is infamous for comments such as the one that appeared in his book The Holocaust Industry, “If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one,’ my mother used to exclaim, ‘who did Hitler kill then?'” Many of those who call Finkelstein a “Holocaust revisionist” use this and similar survivor-bashing comments as justifications for their claim.
As someone who is supposedly concerned with being able to speak his mind without being silenced or labeled, Finkelstein certainly seems hypocritical in trying to intimidate students for expressing their views.
Finkelstein is also infamous for having said, “The honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah as the U.S. and Israel target it for liquidation.” Hezbollah murdered 241 American Marines in Beirut and is designated as a terrorist group by the State Department. That sounds like terrorist sympathy to me.
Contrary to what another Spectator op-ed submission (“In Defense of Professor Finkelstein,” March 6) said, calling Finkelstein anti-Semitic does not “lend increased credibility to … [his] book’s central thesis on the misuse of anti-Semitism and abuse of the Holocaust’s legacy to stifle any critical analysis of Israeli policies.” The claim that Finkelstein is anti-Semitic is not based on his criticism of Israeli policies, but on his perpetuation of outrageous conspiracy theories that have plagued Jews for millennia. He once said “All opinion-leaders, from the left to the right, are Jews. … The Silence around my book in the U.S.—if this is not a conspiracy, then what is one?”
Finkelstein’s appearance will represent the polar opposite of the respectful and productive debate that Columbia needs and that the pro-Israel community on campus has tried to foster. The last thing I want is to stifle criticism an open debate about the Arab-Israeli conflict or of Israel’s policies. I simply want to speak respectfully and academically. It seems to me that Norman Finkelstein was not invited to call attention to an important issue, but to divide and polarize the campus with his attention-grabbing hate speech. The next time there is an opportunity to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict, I hope to see more civility and integrity.
The author is a Columbia College sophomore. He is the president and founder of Pro-Israel Progressives.
Finkelstein to Address Columbia
Professor Will Speak Tonight in Lerner About ‘Misuse of Anti-Semitism’
By Lisa Hirschmann
Spectator Senior Writer
March 08, 2006
Controversial best-selling author and DePaul University professor Norman Finkelstein will address students Wednesday night in Roone Arledge Auditorium on “Israel and Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History.”
The event will be hosted by the Muslim Students Association in conjunction with several other student organizations.
Finkelstein is best known for his writings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what he alleges is the exploitation of the Holocaust by certain European groups. In 2000, he published The Holocaust Industry, in which he refers to efforts by Jewish elites to obtain financial reparations for the Holocaust in Europe as an “outright extortion racket.” Finkelstein is the son of two Holocaust survivors.
Danielle Slutzky, CC ’08, a Spectator senior writer and president of LionPAC, a pro-Israel student group, told the New York Post in an article published Tuesday that she was “distressed that, after so much effort toward dialogue on this campus, these groups are bringing a divisive anti-Semite to Columbia.”
Vice President of Policy for LionPAC Avery Katz, CC ’06, said “Our hope is that Wednesday night, we can show Norman Finkelstein that his hate is not welcome at Columbia.” Avery declined to give specifics of what the group plans to do.
The Muslim Students Association did not respond to Spectator’s repeated requests for comment.
The best line from “Hate Comes to Columbia”?:
‘Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky are Columbia College sophomores.’ It is not my intention to impugn all Sophomores. I was one once. But theese two do a good job of demonstrating sophomoric writing/behavior.
Nice threat too!: “The co-sponsors must make every effort to renounce the radical anti-semitism and anti-Americanism of this speaker, lest we assume these groups(co-sponsors)share his values.” oooooooooooh! Damn! ‘We’ wouldn’t want two Columbia sophomores to “assume” anyone is anti-American or anti-semitic. Did these guys borrow examples of the misuse of anti-semitism for their own purposes? Or was that a mistake?
Looking forward to hearing you speak next wed.,
Editor’s note: See Finkelstein’s comment on the debate & juxtaposition of Ben-ami’s Scars of War, Wounds of Peace and Image & Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict:
In Beyond Chutzpah I argued that across the political spectrum historians have now reached a broad consensus on the Israel-Palestine conflict’s origins. A recent study strikingly confirms this thesis. Shlomo Ben-Ami was Israel’s Foreign Minister and key Israeli negotiator at the Camp David and Taba meetings in 2000-1. In his new book, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy (Oxford: 2006), Ben-Ami covers a lot of the same ground as my own Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Verso: 2003). From the excerpts below readers will note that, although describing himself as “a Zionist, and an ardent one at that” (p. xii), Ben-Ami echoes many of my arguments, even citing the identical evidence…. more >>
“What happens when a former Israeli Foreign Minister debates a scholar known as one of the world’s foremost critics of Israeli policy? The answer is not what you may expect… We discussed the origins of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, to the Oslo Peace Process, right up to the present.”
Fmr. Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami Debates Outspoken Professor Norman Finkelstein on Israel and the Palestinians
Norman Finkelstein & Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami Debate
(Download MP3 audio)
|AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to one of the longest running and most bitter conflicts in modern history: Israel and the Palestinians. Well over a decade has passed since the historic Oslo Accords that brought hopes for a lasting peace. Today, relations between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority are virtually nonexistent. Israel and the P.A. have not held final status peace talks in over five years. With the recent election of Hamas, Israel says it will cut off all ties to any Palestinian government that includes the group. After the election Israel withheld tax funds it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. It finally transferred the funds but says any Hamas-led Palestinian government will get, quote, “not even one shekel.” That’s, well, a dime in the United States.|
The Palestinian Authority is on the brink of financial disaster. This week, the P.A. announced it will be unable to issue paychecks to its more than 130,000 employees. It’s the largest employer in the Occupied Territories. Hamas’s victory is seen as, in part, as a reaction to what many Palestinians see as the corruption of the old guard. An internal Palestinian inquiry has found at least $700 million has been stolen from Palestinian public funds due to corruption in the last few years. The total figure could be billions more.
Meanwhile, the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank continue to expand. The Israeli group Peace Now reported 12,000 new residents moved into West Bank settlements in 2005, 3,000 more than the total number removed as part of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and construction continues in settlements located both inside and outside the route of Israel’s separation barrier.
Today, we bring you a discussion with two of the world’s leading experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both of them have new books on the subject. We’re joined by Shlomo Ben-Ami, both an insider and a scholar. As Foreign Minister under Ehud Barak, he was a key participant in years of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, including the Camp David and Taba talks in 2000 and 2001. An Oxford-trained historian, he is currently Vice President of the Toledo Peace Centre in Madrid. His new book is called Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. President Bill Clinton says, quote, “Shlomo Ben-Ami worked tirelessly and courageously for peace. His account of what he did and failed to do and where we go from here should be read by everyone who wants a just and lasting resolution.
We’re also joined by Norman Finkelstein. He’s a professor of political science at DePaul University. His books include A Nation on Trial, which he coauthored with Ruth Bettina Birn, named as a New York Times notable book for 1998. He’s also the author of Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict and The Holocaust Industry. His latest book is Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. His website is NormanFinkelstein.com. Avi Shlaim of Oxford University calls Beyond Chutzpah “Brilliantly illuminating… On display are all the sterling qualities for which Finkelstein has become famous: erudition, originality, spark, meticulous attention to detail, intellectual integrity, courage, and formidable forensic skills.”
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! It’s very good to have you with us. Well, I want to start going back to the establishment of the state of Israel, and I’d like to begin with Israel’s former Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami. Can you talk about how it began? I think you have a very interesting discussion in this book that is rarely seen in this country of how the state of Israel was established. Can you describe the circumstances?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, for all practical purposes, a state existed before it was officially created in 1948. The uniqueness of the Zionist experience, as it were, was in that the Zionists were able, under the protection of the mandate, of the British mandate, to set up the essentials of a state — the institutions of a state, political parties, a health system, running democracy for Jews, obviously — before the state was created, so the transition to statehood was a declaration, basically, and it came about in the middle of two stages of war, a civil war between the Israelis and the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine and then an invasion by the Arab armies. The point that I made with regard to the war is that the country, to the mythology that existed and exists, continues to exist mainly among Israelis and Jews, is that Israel was not in a military disadvantage when the war took place. The Arab armies were disoriented and confused, and they did not put in the battlefield the necessary forces.
So, in 1948, what was born was a state, but also original superpower in many ways. We have prevailed over the invading Arab armies and the local population, which was practically evicted from Palestine, from the state of Israel, from what became the state of Israel, and this is how the refugee problem was born. Interestingly, the Arabs in 1948 lost a war that was, as far as they were concerned, lost already in 1936-1939, because they have fought against the British mandate and the Israeli or the Jewish Yishuv, the Jewish pre-state, and they were defeated then, so they came to the hour of trial in 1948 already as a defeated nation. That is, the War of 1948 was won already in 1936, and they had no chance to win the war in 1948. They were already a defeated nation when they faced the Israeli superpower that was emerging in that year.
AMY GOODMAN: You have some very strong quotes in your book, of your own and quoting others, like Berl Katznelson, who is the main ideologue of the Labor movement, acknowledging that in the wake of the 1929 Arab riots, the Zionist enterprise as an enterprise of conquest. You also say, “The reality on the ground was that of an Arab community in a state of terror facing a ruthless Israeli army whose path to victory was paved not only by its exploits against the regular Arab armies, but also by the intimidation and at times atrocities and massacres it perpetrated against the civilian Arab community. A panic-stricken Arab community was uprooted under the impact of massacres that would be carved into the Arabs’ monument of grief and hatred.” Explain that further.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, you see, there is a whole range of new historians that have gone into the sources of — the origins of the state of Israel, among them you mentioned Avi Shlaim, but there are many, many others that have exposed this evidence of what really went on on the ground. And I must from the very beginning say that the main difference between what they say and my vision of things is not the facts. The facts, they are absolutely correct in mentioning the facts and putting the record straight.
My view is that, but for Jesus Christ, everybody was born in sin, including nations. And the moral perspective of it is there, but at the same time it does not undermine, in my view, in my very modest view, the justification for the creation of a Jewish state, however tough the conditions and however immoral the consequences were for the Palestinians. You see, it is there that I tend to differ from the interpretation of the new historians. They have made an incredible contribution, a very, very important contribution to our understanding of the origins of the state of Israel, but at the same time, my view is that this is how — unfortunately, tragically, sadly — nations were born throughout history.
And our role, the role of this generation — this is why I came into politics and why I try to make my very modest contribution to the peace process — is that we need to bring an end to this injustice that has been done to the Palestinians. We need to draw a line between an Israeli state, a sovereign Palestinian state, and solve the best way we can the problem, by giving the necessary compensation to the refugees, by bringing back the refugees to the Palestinian state, no way to the state of Israel, not because it is immoral, but because it is not feasible, it is not possible. We need to act in a realistic way and see what are the conditions for a final peace deal. I believe that we came very, very close to that final peace deal. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it. But we came very close in the year 2001.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we get to that peace deal, another thing that you have said. “Israel, as a society, also suppressed the memory of its war against the local Palestinians, because it couldn’t really come to terms with the fact that it expelled Arabs, committed atrocities against them, dispossessed them. This was like admitting that the noble Jewish dream of statehood was stained forever by a major injustice committed against the Palestinians and that the Jewish state was born in sin.” I think a lot of people would be surprised to hear that the author of these words is the former Foreign Minister of Israel.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yes, while, at the same time, a historian. I am trying to be as fair as possible when I read the past, but it’s a very interesting point, the one that you make here, about us trying to obliterate the memory of our war against the Palestinians, and the whole Israeli 1948 mythology is based on our war against the invading Arab armies, less so against the Palestinians, who were the weaker side in that confrontation, because it didn’t serve the myth of the creation of the state and of the nation. So we need to correct that. There is no way — there is no way we can fully compensate the refugees and the Palestinians, but we need to do our very, very best to find a way to minimize the harm that was done to this nation.
AMY GOODMAN: And Shlomo Ben-Ami, your response to those who continue to say that at that time, at the time of the establishment of the state of Israel and before, that it really was empty, that Jews came to a place that was not populated.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Of course, it is nonsense. I mean, it was populated. Obviously, it was populated. I mean, the notion that existed, I think it was Israel Zangwill, the first to say that we are — we came a nation without a land to a land without a people. Obviously, it was not true, but again, part of the tragedy was that the Palestinians, as such, did not have — the Palestinian peasants did not have the full control of their own destiny. Part of that land was bought by the Zionist organizations from Affendis, landowners living in Turkey or anywhere else throughout the Ottoman Empire, and these people were inevitably evicted by these kind of transactions. But as a whole, I think that not more than 6 or 7% of the entire surface of the state of Israel was bought. The rest of it was either taken over or won during the war.
AMY GOODMAN: Norman Finkelstein, you’re author of the book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Do you share the same narrative? Do you agree with what Shlomo Ben-Ami has put forward, the former Israeli Foreign Minister?
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I agree with the statement that there is very little dispute nowadays amongst serious historians and rational people about the facts. There is pretty much a consensus on what happened during what you can call the foundational period, from the first Zionist settlements at the end of the 19th century ’til 1948. There, there is pretty much of a consensus. And I think Mr. Ben-Ami, in his first 50 pages, accurately renders what that consensus is.
I would just add a couple of points he makes, but just to round out the picture. He starts out by saying that the central Zionist dilemma was they wanted to create a predominantly Jewish state in an area which was overwhelmingly not Jewish, and he cites the figure, I think 1906 there were 700,000 Arabs, 55,000 Jews, and even of those 55,000 Jews, only a handful were Zionists. So that’s the dilemma. How do you create a Jewish state in area which is overwhelmingly not Jewish?
Now, the Israeli historian Benny Morris, at one point, he said there are only two ways you can resolve this dilemma. One, you can create what he called the South African way, that is, create a Jewish state and disenfranchise the indigenous population. That’s one way. The second way is what he calls the way of transfer. That is, you kick the indigenous population out, basically what we did in North America.
Now, as Mr. Ben-Ami correctly points out, by the 1930s the Zionist movement had reached a consensus that the way to resolve the dilemma is the way of transfer. You throw the Palestinians out. You can’t do that anytime, because there are moral problems and international problems. You have to wait for the right moment. And the right moment comes in 1948. Under the cover of war, you have the opportunity to expel the indigenous population.
I was kind of surprised that Mr. Ben-Ami goes beyond what many Israeli historians acknowledge. Someone like Benny Morris will say, “Yes, Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1948.” That’s Benny Morris’s expression. But he says it was an accident of war. There are wars, people get dispossessed. Mr. Ben-Ami, no, he will go further. He said you can see pretty clearly that they intended to expel the Palestinians. The opportunity came along, and they did so. Now, those are the facts.
So where do we disagree? I think where we disagree is on responsibility. It’s not just a question of moral responsibility. It’s not simply a question of tragedy or sadness. It’s a question of law, international law. What are your obligations if you are a member state of the United Nations, for example? Now, under international law, refugees are entitled to return to their homes once the battlefield conflict has died down. And Mr. Ben-Ami was absolutely correct. He said the key moment comes in the Israel-Palestine conflict, not when the Palestinians are expelled, but when, after the war, Israel refused to allow the Palestinians back.
At that point, he says, here is a problem, or a problem arises, and the way he puts the problem is we have two conflicting issues. On the one hand, there is what he calls the Zionist ethos. They want a Jewish state. On the other hand, you have the Palestinian refugees, who have a right to return. And for Mr. Ben-Ami, this is an intractable conflict: the Zionist ethos versus the refugees.
But there is a third factor. The factor is international law. And under international law, the Palestinians have the right to return. Now, I am not arguing now for a right of return. I acknowledge it’s a complicated problem. But we have to be honest about the rights and the wrongs and the question of rights and wrongs. It was a wrong inflicted on the Palestinians, and it was their right, their right. This is not a tragedy, and this is not about morals. It’s about legal rights. Their right to return was denied. How do you resolve that problem? I admit, it’s difficult. But we have to be clear about rights and wrongs, because that’s going to become, in my opinion, the main problem when we come to Camp David. Whose rights were being denied during the Camp David/Taba negotiations?
AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Shlomo Ben-Ami.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, I think that the difference here might not be that huge between what Dr. Finkelstein says and my argument. I mean, either right or morality, the bottom line is that he assumes that the practical solution to the problem is not there, and it’s not really feasible to recognize, on the one hand, the existence of the state of Israel and to say that the right of five, six, or what-have-you million Palestinians to return to the state of Israel is something that can be reconciled with the existence of a Jewish state.
So, we need to find a way, and the way was, I believe, rightly found in Bill Clinton’s peace parameters, that say the following. It says that the Palestinian refugees have the inherent right to return to Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza being Palestine, being part of Palestine. There is an element in the parameters, that I have to say that was my personal contribution to the peace parameters, that says the following. It says that in the context of land swaps that were discussed between us and the Palestinians, the Palestinians were about to get some percentages of what is now the state of Israel. And the peace parameters of the President say that they can bring to those parts of the state of Israel, that will be transferred to the Palestinians, as many refugees as they wish. That is, that the return will be to the Palestinian state, plus to those parcels of the state of Israel that will be referred to Palestinian sovereignty, plus huge sums of money for compensation and rehabilitation. It seems to me that this is the most that can be done within the context, as it exists today, and we came very close to the solution.
By the way, Arafat was never very interested in the refugees problem. He was much more concentrated on Jerusalem. I saw him once saying to the current president of the Palestinian Authority, “Leave me alone with your refugees. What we need is Jerusalem.” See, he was not very keen on making much of a progress in the question of refugees. Arafat was, and remained until his last day, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a deeply religious man, a Koranic man that saw Jerusalem as the core dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He was not very interested in the territorial question either. I saw him, for example, in Camp David, saying to President Clinton, “I am ready to give away 8% of the West Bank for the sake of the Israeli blocks of settlement, so long as you give me a solution on Jerusalem.” So he was that kind of leader. The refugee problem was not so central in his mind.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to give you a chance to respond, Norman Finkelstein, but I did want you to step back, Shlomo Ben-Ami, and give us an overview of the whole peace process, of which you were a part, a critical player in this, the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993. Can you talk about what they entailed, why they failed?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, the Oslo peace process was an agreement — it started as an agreement between two unequal partners. Arafat conceived Oslo as a way, not necessarily to reach a settlement, but more importantly to him at that particular moment, in order to come back to the territories and control the politics of the Palestinian family. Don’t forget that the Intifada, to which Oslo brought an end, started independently of the P.L.O. leadership, and he saw how he was losing control of the destiny of the Palestinians. His only way to get back to the territories was through an agreement with Israel. So in Oslo, he made enormous concessions.
In fact, when he was negotiating in Oslo with us, an official Palestinian delegation was negotiating with an official Israeli delegation in Washington, and the official Palestinian delegation was asking the right things from the viewpoint of the Palestinians — self-determination, right of return, end of occupation, all the necessary arguments — whereas Arafat in Oslo reached an agreement that didn’t even mention the right of self-determination for the Palestinians, doesn’t even mention the need of the Israelis to put an end to settlements. If the Israelis, after Oslo, continued expansion of settlements, they were violating the spirit of Oslo, not the letter of Oslo. There is nothing in the Oslo agreement that says that Israelis cannot build settlements. So this was the cheap agreement that Arafat sold, precisely because he wanted to come back to the territories and control the politics of Palestine.
Now, the thing is that a major problem with Oslo, on top of it, was that it solved very minor issues, such as Gaza, and even people on the far Israeli right were ready to give away Gaza, but it left open the future. The future was unknown. The two sides, the two parties started to embark on a process, when they had diametrically opposed views as to the final objective. There was nothing as to what will happen about Jerusalem. It was only said that we will negotiate Jerusalem. What about refugees? Nothing clear was said, just that we will negotiate the refugees. So the thing that — the fact that the future was left so wide open was a standing invitation for the parties to dictate — to try and dictate — the nature of the final agreement through unilateral acts: the Israelis, by expanding settlements, and the Palestinians, by responding with terrorism. So this symmetry that was created in Oslo persists to this very day, so Oslo could not usher in a final agreement because of the different expectations that the parties had. It was an exercise in make-believe.
The Palestinians didn’t even mention self-determination so a leader like Rabin could have thought that, okay, we will have an agreement that will create something which is a state-minus. This was Rabin’s expression. He never thought this will end in a full-fledged Palestinian state. There was a lot of ambiguity, constructive ambiguity might Kissinger say, but I think it was destructive ambiguity. It helped — this destructive ambiguity helped in clinching the Oslo Agreement, but it was a minefield for those who went to Camp David and later on to Taba to try and solve all the pending issues.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Norman Finkelstein.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I’m going to try to focus on the key points or issues about the refugees in Jerusalem, which for now I can’t get into, but I will be happy to return to them later when we discuss what was the impasse at Oslo — excuse me, the impasse at Camp David and Taba, but I want to set the context, and I don’t think — I agree in part with the context that Dr. Ben-Ami set out, but not fully.
The main context, in my opinion, is as follows. Since the mid-1970s, there’s been an international consensus for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Most of your listeners will be familiar with it. It’s called a two-state settlement, and a two-state settlement is pretty straightforward, uncomplicated. Israel has to fully withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem, in accordance with the fundamental principle of international law, cited three times by Mr. Ben-Ami in the book, his book, that it’s inadmissible to acquire territory by war. The West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, having been acquired by war, it’s inadmissible for Israel to keep them. They have to be returned. On the Palestinian side and also the side of the neighboring Arab states, they have to recognize Israel’s right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. That was the quid pro quo: recognition of Israel, Palestinian right to self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem. That’s the international consensus.
It’s not complicated. It’s also not controversial. You see it voted on every year in the United Nations. The votes typically something like 160 nations on one side, the United States, Israel and Naru, Palau, Tuvalu, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands on the other side. That’s it. Now, the Israeli government was fully aware that this was the international consensus, but they were opposed (a) to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem, of course, and (2) they were opposed to creating a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories.
Come 1981, as pressure builds on Israel to reach a diplomatic settlement in the Israel-Palestine conflict, they decide to invade Lebanon in order to crush the P.L.O., because the P.L.O. was on record supporting a two-state settlement. As Dr. Ben-Ami’s colleague, Avner Yaniv, put it in a very excellent book, Dilemmas of Security, he said, “The main problem for Israel was,” and now I’m quoting him, “the P.L.O.’s peace offensive. They wanted a two-state settlement. Israel did not.” And so Israel decides to crush the P.L.O. in Lebanon. It successfully did so. The P.L.O. goes into exile.
Come 1987, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories despair of any possibility of international intervention, and they enter into a revolt — the Palestinian Intifada — basically nonviolent civilian revolt by the Palestinians. And the revolt proves to be remarkably successful for maybe the first couple of years. Come 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait. The P.L.O. supports, ambiguously, but I think we fairly can say, and I agree with Dr. Ben-Ami on this, they lend support to Iraq. The war ends, Iraq defeated, and all the Gulf states cut off all of their money to the P.L.O. The P.L.O. Is going down the tubes.
Along comes Israel with a clever idea. Mr. Rabin says, ‘Let’s throw Arafat a life preserver, but on condition.’ And Dr. Ben-Ami puts it excellently, that “the P.L.O. will be Israel’s subcontractor and collaborator in the Occupied Territories,” and I’m quoting Dr. Ben-Ami, “in order to suppress the genuinely democratic tendencies of the Palestinians.” Now, it’s true, exactly as Dr. Ben-Ami said, that Israel had two options after the Iraq war. It could have negotiated with the real representatives of the Palestinians who wanted that full two-state settlement in accordance with the international consensus, or it can negotiate with Arafat in the hope that he’s so desperate that he’s going to serve as their collaborator and subcontractor in order to deny the Palestinians what they’re entitled to under international law. The Israelis chose Arafat, not only because Arafat himself was desperate. They chose him because they thought he would deny them what they were entitled to. He would suppress all resistance to the occupation. And then, finally, the day of reckoning came with the Camp David talks. It turned out Arafat was not willing to make those concessions to deny Palestinians what their rights were under international law, and I think that’s where the impasse occurred at Camp David and at Taba.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s turn to the former Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: If I may, with regard to international law and 242, one needs to analyze the 242 Security Council Resolution in a different way than one analyzes, say, Resolution 425, that says that Israel needs to pull out from Lebanon, or the resolution — I forgot the number — that says that Iraq needs to pull out from Kuwait. The difference is that in the Lebanese case and in the Iraqi case, there is no negotiation at all. The only thing that is asked by the international community is that Israel pulls out unconditionally from Lebanon and that Iraq pulls out unconditionally from Kuwait.
This is a different case with 242. 242 is an invitation to the parties to negotiate the secure and recognized boundaries between the two entities. It doesn’t say anything, by the way, on a Palestinian state. It doesn’t say anything on refugees, anything of Jerusalem, which is, by the way, the reason that the P.L.O. rejected 242, didn’t accept the resolution, because it addresses the Palestinian question only in terms of a refugee problem. This is what 242 does. So I think that 242, as a framework for a peace agreement was inadmissible from the viewpoint of the Palestinians, and the Israelis accepted it, because it spoke about, according to one interpretation, not full withdrawal from the territories, and it didn’t mention a Palestinian state and the rest of it.
As far as the second part of Dr. Finkelstein’s presentation is concerned, I agree. It is based on what I say, and the only thing I would add to it is that international law was the last — or the least of Arafat’s concern. He didn’t give a damn about international law. It was not whether or not the agreement was based on international law or not that concerned Arafat. In my view, this is my interpretation of a man I met many, many times. I might be wrong, obviously, but this is my firsthand interpretation of this man. He was morally, psychologically, physically incapable of accepting the moral legitimacy of a Jewish state, regardless of its borders or whatever. Arafat was incapable of closing or locking the door of his endless conflict between us and the Palestinians. And this is the bottom line.
I mean, in Taba, it had nothing to do with international law. In Taba, what happened was that Arafat really believed that Bush son is a replica of Bush father, and Bush father was known in the Arab world as more friendly, or at least partially deaf to Jewish concerns. This was his image in the Arab world. I remember a visit I made to President Mubarak. After we left office, I said “Everybody speaks about military intelligence, Mr. President, but we all failed in our political intelligence. You wanted the election of President Bush. We wanted the election of Al Gore, and then we ended up with the most friendly president to the state of Israel ever in the White House.” So this was the conviction of Arafat, that he can still get a better deal from President Bush. His concerns were of a political nature more than anything else, and this is where he failed again, because Arafat had always a sense of somebody who knows everything. I mean, he thought of himself as a great strategist, and this is where he failed time and again, and he betrayed the cause of his own people, because at the end of the day, today, the Palestinians are becoming the second Kurds of the Middle East, a nation that is moving away from the chances of having a state.
There is never going to be an ideal solution. A leader needs to take a decision in moments of trial, because if you look for a consensus among your people for a solution, you might never have that kind of consensus. Peace is a divisive enterprise, and a peace that is accepted by Hamas will not be accepted by the Israelis, just as a peace that is accepted by the Israeli far right, Mutatis Mutandis, is not going to be accepted by the Palestinians. You need to divide your society, and the peace agreement will not be in full coincidence with the requirements of international law. It will be in coincidence with the feasibility, with a political possibility of reaching a precarious line of equilibrium between the positions of the parties. This is how peace is made throughout history, and I believe that we lost that opportunity, sadly enough, and we need to go back to it. When it comes to the new situation in the Palestinian Authority today, I am less pessimistic than many others. I don’t think that we need automatically to rule out the new rulers in Ramallah and Gaza as peace partners. There are things that need to be done.
AMY GOODMAN: Hamas, you mean.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yes, Hamas. I think that in my view there is almost sort of poetic justice with this victory of Hamas. After all, what is the reason for this nostalgia for Arafat and for the P.L.O.? Did they run the affairs of the Palestinians in a clean way? You mentioned the corruption, the inefficiency. Of course, Israel has contributed a lot to the disintegration of the Palestinian system, no doubt about it, but their leaders failed them. Their leaders betrayed them, and the victory of Hamas is justice being made in many ways. So we cannot preach democracy and then say that those who won are not accepted by us. Either there is democracy or there is no democracy.
And with these people, I think they are much more pragmatic than is normally perceived. In the 1990s, they invented the concept of a temporary settlement with Israel. 1990s was the first time that Hamas spoke about a temporary settlement with Israel. In 2003, they declared unilaterally a truce, and the reason they declared the truce is this, that with Arafat, whose the system of government was one of divide and rule, they were discarded from the political system. Mahmoud Abbas has integrated them into the political system, and this is what brought them to the truce. They are interested in politicizing themselves, in becoming a politic entity. And we need to try and see ways where we can work with them.
Now, everybody says they need first to recognize the state of Israel and end terrorism. Believe me, I would like them to do so today, but they are not going to do that. They are eventually going to do that in the future, but only as part of a quid pro quo, just as the P.L.O. did it. The P.L.O., when Rabin came to negotiate with them, also didn’t recognize the state of Israel, and they engaged in all kind of nasty practices. And therefore, we need to be much more realistic and abandon worn-out cliches and see whether we can reach something with these people. I believe that a long-term interim agreement between Israel and Hamas, even if it is not directly negotiated between the parties, but through a third party, is feasible and possible.
AMY GOODMAN: Shlomo Ben-Ami is the former Foreign Minister of Israel, and Norman Finkelstein is a professor at DePaul University. They have both written books on Israel. Shlomo Ben-Ami’s is Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, Norman Finkelstein’s is Beyond Chutzpah: The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Your response to the former Foreign Minister of Israel.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I want to put aside for a moment the question of Hamas and just return to the previous point, namely, the relevance or not of international law. It’s not an abstract question, and it’s not a question fortunately only to be left to lawyers. It’s a question which bears on the last third of Dr. Ben-Ami’s book, namely, who is responsible for the collapse of or the impasse in the negotiations at Camp David and Taba? Whereas, in my view, when Dr. Ben-Ami wears his historian’s hat, he gets everything right; when he puts on the diplomat’s hat, he starts getting things, in my opinion, wrong, and it’s that last third of the book where I think things go seriously awry.
Now, I can’t look into Mr. Arafat’s heart, and I don’t know what he did or didn’t believe, and frankly I have no interest in it. My concern is let’s look at the diplomatic record, the factual record. What were the offers being made on each side of the Camp David and in the Taba talks? And the standard interpretation, which comes — which is — you can call it the Dennis Ross interpretation, which, I think, unfortunately Dr. Ben-Ami echoes, is that Israel made huge concessions at Camp David and Taba; Palestinians refused to make any concessions, because of what Dr. Ben-Ami repeatedly calls Arafat’s unyielding positions; and that Arafat missed a huge opportunity. Now, it is correct to say that if you frame everything in terms of what Israel wanted, it made huge concessions. However, if you frame things in terms of what Israel was legally entitled to under international law, then Israel made precisely and exactly zero concessions. All the concessions were made by the Palestinians.
Briefly, because we don’t have time, there were four key issues at Camp David and at Taba. Number one, settlements. Number two, borders. Number three, Jerusalem. Number four, refugees. Let’s start with settlements. Under international law, there is no dispute, no controversy. Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, it’s illegal for any occupying country to transfer its population to Occupied Territories. All of the settlements, all of the settlements are illegal under international law. No dispute. The World Court in July 2004 ruled that all the settlements are illegal. The Palestinians were willing to concede 50% — 50% of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That was a monumental concession, going well beyond anything that was demanded of them under international law.
Borders. The principle is clear. I don’t want to get into it now, because I was very glad to see that Dr. Ben-Ami quoted it three times in his book. It is inadmissible to acquire territory by war. Under international law, Israel had to withdraw from all of the West Bank and all of Gaza. As the World Court put it in July 2004, those are, quote, “occupied Palestinian territories.” Now, however you want to argue over percentages, there is no question, and I know Dr. Ben-Ami won’t dispute it, the Palestinians were willing to make concessions on the borders. What percentage? There’s differences. But there is no question they were willing to make concessions.
Jerusalem. Jerusalem is an interesting case, because if you read Dr. Ben-Ami or the standard mainstream accounts in the United States, everyone talks about the huge concessions that Barak was willing to make on Jerusalem. But under international law Israel has not one atom of sovereignty over any of Jerusalem. Read the World Court decision. The World Court decision said Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory. Now, the Palestinians were willing, the exact lines I’m not going to get into now — they are complicated, but I’m sure Dr. Ben-Ami will not dispute they were willing to divide Jerusalem roughly in half, the Jewish side to Israel, the Arab side to the Palestinians.
And number four, refugees. On the question of refugees, it’s not a dispute under international law. Remarkably, even fairly conservative human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, in 2000, during the Camp David talks, they issued statements on the question of the right of return. And they stated categorically, under international law every Palestinian, roughly five to six million, has the right to return, not to some little parcels, 1% of Israel, which Israel is about — which Israel would swap, return to their homes or the environs of their homes in Israel. That’s the law. Now, Dr. Ben-Ami will surely agree that the Palestinians were not demanding and never demanded the full return of six million refugees. He gives a figure of 4-800,000. In fact — I’m not going to get into the numbers, because it’s very hard to pin it down — other authors have given figures of the tens of thousands to 200,000 refugees returning. That’s well short of six million.
On every single issue, all the concessions came from the Palestinians. The problem is, everyone, including Dr. Ben-Ami in his book — he begins with what Israel wants and how much of its wants it’s willing to give up. But that’s not the relevant framework. The only relevant framework is under international law what you are entitled to, and when you use that framework it’s a very, very different picture.
AMY GOODMAN: If you can bear to make this response brief, Dr. Shlomo Ben-Ami.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yes, yes. Okay, the last third part of the book, as Dr. Finkelstein says, there is the diplomat, and this same diplomat still behaves in a way as a historian when he says in this book that Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well. This is something I put in the book. But Taba is the problem. The Clinton parameters are the problem, because the Clinton parameters, in my view —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Maybe you could explain to them what that is. I don’t think most people will know the Clinton parameters.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, the Clinton parameters say the following. They say that on the territorial issue, the Palestinians will get 100% of Gaza, 97% of the West Bank, plus safe passage from Gaza to the West Bank to make the state viable. There will be a land swap. The 97%, which I mentioned, takes into account the land swap, where they will get 3% on this side, within the state of Israel, so we will have the blocks of settlements and they will be able to settle refugees on this side of the border.
About Jerusalem, it says what is Jewish is Israeli, and what is Palestinian is — sorry, and what is Arab is Palestinian. It includes full-fledged sovereignty for the Palestinians on Temple Mount, on the Haram al-Sharif, no sovereignty, no Jewish sovereignty on the Haram al-Sharif, which was at the time and continues to be a major, major problem for Israelis and Jews, that these things mean to them a lot. And then, with the question of refugees, it says that the refugees will return to historic Palestine, to historical Palestine, and that Israel will maintain its sovereign right of admission. That is, it will have to absorb a number of refugees but with restrictions that need to be negotiated between the parties. But the bulk of the refugees will be allowed to return to the state of Palestine. This is the essence of the Clinton parameters.
What Dr. Finkelstein said here about international law, I want to make it clear, it is important, it is vital for a civilized community of nations to have an axis of principles based on international law, around which to run the affairs of our chaotic world. It is very important. It is vital, etc. But at the same time, when you go into political issues, and you need to settle differences, historical differences, differences that have to do with political rights, security concerns, historical memories, etc., it is almost impossible to do things on the basis of international law, but rather, on something that is as close as possible to the requirements of international law. The very fact that, as Dr. Finkelstein rightly says, the Palestinians were ready to make this or that concession is the reflection of them understanding that there is no viability, there is no possibility really to reach an agreement that says let us apply automatically and rigidly the requirements of international law.
So we need to find a way. I believe, I really believe, that at Camp David, we failed to find that way. I say it very clearly in the book. It is my conviction that through the Clinton parameters, that were not the sudden whim of a lame-duck president — they were the point of equilibrium between the negotiating positions of the parties at that particular moment, and the President sort of looked for a way between the two positions and presented these parameters. They could be fine-tuned, obviously. We tried to fine tune them in Taba. We made some progress. But eventually, because of a number of reasons, among them the political qualitative time that was missing, both for the Americans and for the Israelis, and because of the consideration of Arafat that he really believed that he can get a better deal. I think that he will not get a better deal. The conditions are not there. I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future. So he lost the opportunity of having a deal that is imperfect, inevitably imperfect, will always be imperfect, because this is the way peace processes are done all over, and he sent his nation into the wilderness of war and back in the time machine to the core of the conflict. This is what we face today.
AMY GOODMAN: Norman Finkelstein, a quick response, and then I want to ask you about your — one of the main theses in your book, and that has to do with the issue of anti-Semitism.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, just for the sake of your audience —
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: If I may, just brief —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: — because I do mention, obviously, the inadmissibility of acquiring — or the acquisition of land by force, but this is not my invention. This is what 242 says.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Exactly.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: This is what 242 says, but, again, let us look at the nuance. When the Israelis accept 242, they accept it because this expression of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of land by force is tempered by the concept — through the concept of borders that are defensible and recognized, and the security borders. That’s the equilibrium, which is not international law, but it is give and take in a negotiation.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Finkelstein.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I don’t want to get now into the interminable question of what 242 meant. I will simply state the International Court of Justice in July 2004 ruled on that question. It stated Israel has to fully withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza, including Jerusalem. To my mind, it’s no longer a matter of dispute, however you want to interpret 242.
Let’s now turn to, just quickly, the last issue. It’s going to be hard for a lot of your listeners, because even though I have read two dozen books on the topic, I keep getting things confused. Camp David accord talks are in July 2000. Clinton parameters are roughly December 23rd, 2000. Taba, in January 2001. Now, Dr. Ben-Ami says Camp David, I can understand why the Palestinians turned down. Unfortunately, in his book he keeps referring to Arafat’s unyielding positions, even though now he acknowledges Palestinians made concessions at Camp David. In fact, as I said, all the concessions, within the framework of international law, came from the Palestinians.
Let’s now turn to those Clinton parameters. Dr. Ben-Ami accurately renders their content. I don’t think he accurately renders in the book what happened. He states in the book that at Taba, Israelis accept — excuse me, at the time of the Clinton parameters, the Israelis accepted the Clinton parameters. Arafat didn’t really accept the Clinton parameters. He said he did, but he didn’t. What actually happened? What actually happened was exactly as what was announced by the White House spokesman on January 3rd, 2001, the official statement was both the Israelis and the Palestinians have accepted the Clinton parameters with some reservations. Both sides entered reservations on the Clinton parameters. Dr. Ben-Ami leaves out in the book both sides. He only mentions the reservations by the Palestinians.
Number two, I was surprised to notice one of the books Dr. Ben-Ami recommends is the book by Clayton Swisher called The Truth at Camp David. I looked in the book. On page 402 of Clayton Swisher’s book, when he’s discussing the issue of entering reservations to Clinton’s parameters, he quotes none other than Shlomo Ben-Ami. You acknowledged — you call them relatively minor, but you acknowledged that Barak entered — you called it several pages of reservations. In fact, Barak sent a ten-page letter of reservations to the Clinton parameters. It was exactly symmetrical. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to the Clinton parameters with some reservations.
Wait, one last point. One last point. Dr. Ben-Ami left out another crucial point in his account. He doesn’t tell us why Taba ended. It ended officially when Barak withdrew his negotiators. It wasn’t the Palestinians who walked out of Taba. It ended with the Israelis walking out of Taba, a matter of historical record, not even controversial.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Ben-Ami.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, well. You see, as somebody who was a part of those who prepared the Israeli document that was submitted to President Clinton, I can say that the bulk of the document was an expression of our — the comparison that we made between our initial positions and what was reflected in the Clinton parameters. It was not a series of reservations. It was basically a mention of the difference, the way that we have gone. This was an attempt to impress the President, more than an attempt to say that these are reservations, sine qua nons. There were no real reservations in our document, whereas in the Palestinian document, there were plenty of them, with the refugees, with the Haram al-Sharif, with what have you. I mean, it was full of reservations from beginning to end. Ours was not a document about reservations, it was a statement, basically, that said these were our positions, this is where we stand today. we have gone a very long way, we cannot go beyond that. This was essentially what we sent.
Now, with regard to Taba, you see, we were a government committing suicide, practically. Two weeks before general elections, the chief of staff, General Mofaz, who is now the Minister of Defense, comes and in a — I say that in the book — in something that is tantamount to a coup d’etat, comes and says publicly that we are putting at risk the future of the state of Israel by assuming the Clinton parameters, and we accept them, we assume them. And then I go to Cairo and I meet President Mubarak, and President Mubarak invites Arafat to see me in Cairo, and I say to Arafat, “We are going to fine tune this in a meeting in Taba, if you wish.” And then we go to Taba, and we negotiate in Taba. And in Taba, Prime Minister Barak instructs me to conduct secret negotiations with Abu Alla. Within the negotiations, we had the second track trying to reach an agreement, and he even agrees to all kind of things that he was not very open to before that.
Now, this was the end. We saw that we are not reaching an agreement, and we need to go back, even if for the electoral campaign. I mean, we were a week before the elections. I mean, we were practically nonexistent. Our legitimacy as a government to negotiate such central issues as Jerusalem, as Temple Mount, the temple, etc., was being questioned, not only by the right that was making political capital out of it, but by the left, people from our own government. “Shlomo Ben-Ami is ready to sell out the country for the sake of a Nobel Prize.” This is what Haim Ramon said, one of the labor ministers, so it was unsustainable. We could not go any longer. So, to say that we — now the whole thing collapsed because we put a helicopter at the disposal of the Palestinians to go and see if we can rubricate some basic peace parameters on the basis of our negotiations, that they didn’t want it, Arafat didn’t want it.
Anyway, the thing is that we need to understand that with all — frankly, with all due respect for the requirements of international law, at the end of the day, at the end of the day, a peace process is a political enterprise. And there are things that governments can do and things that they cannot do, because if you do things that leave you without political support, then you can do nothing. You can write poetry, not make peace. And we have been writing poetry ever since, because we are not in office. We have been advancing all kind of peace dreams. It is only when you are in office and you have a political support that you can move ahead. This is the only way that peace is done. We have done our very best. We went to the outer limits of our capacity for compromise without disintegrating entirely our home front, and this is an exercise that Sharon decided not to make, precisely because he learned from our experience. He said, “Listen, we are not going to do that. I am going to be unilateral. I don’t believe in negotiations.” It’s very bad, but this is the lesson that he learned from the sad experience of the collapse of the peace process in the last year of Clinton’s presidency.
AMY GOODMAN: We don’t have very much time, and I wanted to ask you, Professor Finkelstein, about your thesis, the “not-so-new new anti-Semitism.” What does that mean?
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, actually, I think it’s useful to connect it with the conversation we’ve just had. Namely, I think when honest and reasonable people enter into a discussion about this topic, you will have large areas of agreement, some area of disagreement, and frankly — and I’m not saying it to flatter; I say it because I believe it; I don’t flatter by nature — I’m quite certain that if Palestinians — if representatives of the Palestinians were to sit down with Shlomo Ben-Ami in a room, weren’t subjected to the sorts of political pressures that Dr. Ben-Ami describes from Israel, I think a reasonable settlement could be reached, and I think he’s reasonable, in my opinion. We can disagree on some issues, but he’s reasonable.
The problem is when you get to the United States. In the United States among those people who call themselves supporters of Israel, we enter the area of unreason. We enter a twilight zone. American Jewish organizations, they’re not only not up to speed yet with Steven Spielberg, they’re still in the Leon Uris exodus version of history: the “this land is mine, God gave this land to me,” and anybody who dissents from this, you can call it, lunatic version of history is then immediately branded an anti-Semite, and whenever Israel comes under international pressure to settle the conflict diplomatically, or when it is subjected to a public relations debacle, such as it was with the Second Intifada, a campaign is launched claiming there is a new anti-Semitism afoot in the world.
There is no evidence of a new anti-Semitism. If you go through all the literature, as I have, the evidence is actually in Europe, which is Dr. Ben-Ami’s half-home ground, Spain, but throughout Europe, the evidence is, if you look at like the Pew Charitable Trust surveys, anti-Semitism has actually declined since the last time they did the surveys. They did it in 1991 and 2002. They said the evidence is that it’s declined. And the same thing in the United States. What’s called the “new anti-Semitism” is anyone who criticizes any official Israeli policies. In fact, my guess is had people not known who wrote Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, that book would immediately be put on the A.D.L.’s list of verboten books, an example of anti-Semitism, because he says things like the Zionists wanted to transfer the Arabs out. That’s anti-Semitism. It has nothing to do with the real world. It’s a public relations extravaganza production to deflect attention from the facts, from the realities, and I think this afternoon in our exchange, there were some areas of disagreement for sure, but I think a lot of what Dr. Ben-Ami said would not go down well with most of American Jewry, and that’s when they’ll soon be charging him with being an anti-Semite.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Dr. Ben-Ami? And do you see a difference in the dialogue in Israel than you do right here?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: On questions of anti-Semitism? Well, Israel is the result of the Jewish catastrophe. There is no doubt about it. If there were no Jewish catastrophe, there would not be a state of Israel. And I think that during the first years of — or before the creation of the state, especially for the figure of Ben-Gurion, the Jewish catastrophe needed to be enlisted for the cause of the creation of the state. You see, Ben-Gurion was a Leninist in some way. He was a Lenin-type. By this, I mean that he had only one central idea in his mind, and that is the creation of the state of Israel. All the other considerations were subservient to that goal, which is the reason why he rushed to reconcile the Jewish people or the state of Israel with Germany, because this was vital for the state of Israel. He was a revolutionary in that sense with — all the other issues were instrumental to that. I think that the Shoah has become not only a defining event for the Jewish people —
AMY GOODMAN: Shoah, you mean Holocaust.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: The Holocaust has become not only a defining issue — event for the Jewish people, but something that Israel has — not Israel, but perhaps some politicians in Israel have abused. Begin used to compare Arafat to Hitler. He must have been probably a very nasty guy, but certainly not Hitler, just as I don’t think that Saddam Hussein was Hitler. I think that President Bush father likened him to Hitler. We are — we go very lightly with these things. I mean, we do these kind of comparisons unnecessarily. The capture of Eichmann, for example, was very important to David Ben-Gurion, because he wanted a sort of pedagogical exercise for the young generation.
I explain this in the book, why he needed to reconcile himself with the Shoah, which didn’t interest him very much at the beginning. He was much more concerned with other issues. He suddenly discovered that through the ethos of the new Israel, of the Sabra, you cannot build a cohesive nation, because people were coming from different parts of the world, so you needed to resort to Jewish memory, to Jewish values, to Jewish catastrophe, as a way to unite the newborn nation.
Today, it seems to me that the problem of anti-Semitism, when it happens, for example, in France, and synagogues are being attacked, etc., if this happens through the hands of Muslim youngsters in the suburbs of Paris, for me it is very difficult to define this as anti-Semitism. I can define it as hooliganism and manipulation of the conflict in the Middle East in order to perpetrate all kind of nasty acts against Jewish holy places, but this is not what we understand as anti-Semitism, which is a European malady, as it were. I think it was there always. It will continue to be there, but I am not in the business of counting how many incidents happen, because there is an institute in Tel Aviv University that will tell you how many incidents happen every year. I don’t believe also that the number of incidents, as such, is the reflection of whether or not anti-Semitism is growing. I believe that it is there, I believe it will stay there as a sub-cultural current in many European societies, but I’m not scandalized by anti-Semitism today.
I can see more xenophobia against North Africans, against foreigners throughout Europe. And in a way, in a way, I can even see a reconciliation of Europe with its Jewish past. There is hardly a European country where you will not find today a museum of Jewish history. Not in only Germany, you will find it in Poland, in France, all over the place. So, Judaism is being endorsed more and more, or the Jewish history, as part of the whole European legacy. The problem today is, in my view, much more that of the Arab, the Muslim immigrants from North Africa, from the Middle East and other parts.
AMY GOODMAN: Being discriminated against.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yeah, absolutely.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Totally agree. No disagreement at all.
AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of language, terrorism — Arafat called terrorist, Hamas called terrorist — how will you describe the Israeli state when it attacks civilians in the Occupied Territories? Or how would you describe Ariel Sharon?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, let me tell you what is my description of terrorism. Terrorism, in my view, is an indiscriminate attack against civilian population. If I, personally, or my son, God forbid, is being attacked, being in uniform in Palestinian territories, by a Hamas call, I would not define this as terrorism. I will define as terrorism if they go into a kindergarten or a mall, explode themselves and cause injuries and death among civilian population. This to me is —
Now, the problem of the response of a state is much more difficult to define, because a state needs to go not against the civilian population. It needs to go against military targets, ticking bombs. This is what states can do and should do. The problem is that when you have a fight, not against armies, which is the case of Syria, Egypt, we never spoke about terrorism, state — Israeli state terrorism against the Egyptians. We spoke about wars between two military sides. This is very difficult in the conditions prevailing in places like Gaza or the West Bank, where you have militias, you have arsenals of weapons, etc., and the army attacks them and there is collateral damage to civilian population. To me, this is very difficult to define as state terrorism. It is attacking military objectives or sort of military objectives, an army which is not a real army but can cause damage and you need to fight back and defend your population, and it is very, very unfortunate that civilians are hit. But if Israel targets intentionally civilians, this is a different matter. This can be defined as terrorism. I don’t believe that we have done it. Normally, the practice is that things happened collaterally.
AMY GOODMAN: I would like to get your response, Professor Finkelstein, and also if you could include in that, you have a chapter in Beyond Chutzpah called “Israel’s Abu Ghraib.”
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, on the issue of terrorism, I agree with Dr. Ben-Ami’s definition. It’s the indiscriminate targeting of civilians to achieve political ends. That’s a capsule definition, but I think for our purposes it suffices. What does the record show? Let’s limit ourselves to just the Second Intifada, from September 28 to the present. The period for that period, the record shows approximately 3,000 Palestinians have been killed, approximately 900 Israelis have been killed. On the Palestinian side and the Israeli side — I’m now using the figures of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories — on the Palestinian and the Israeli side roughly one-half to two-thirds of the total number were civilians or bystanders. And if you look at the findings of the human rights supports — B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, and so forth — they all say that Israel uses reckless indiscriminate fire against Palestinians, and B’Tselem says when you have so many civilian casualties, you have, you know, 600 Palestinian children who have been killed, which is the total number of Israeli civilians killed. 600 Palestinian children killed.
They said when you have so much, so many civilians killed — I don’t particularly like the phrase “collateral damage” — when you have so many civilians killed, B’Tselem says it hardly makes a difference whether you are purposely targeting them or not, the state has responsibility. So, you could say Israel — using numbers, now — is responsible for three times as much terrorism in the Occupied Territories as Palestinians against Israel. That’s the question of terrorism.
Let’s turn to an ancillary issue: the issue of torture. Now, the estimates are, up to 1994-1995, that Israel tortured — and I’m using the language of Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem — Israel has tortured tens of thousands of Palestinian detainees. Israel was the only country in the world, the only one, which had legalized torture from 1987 to 1999. The record on torture, on house demolitions and on targeted —
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: 1999 is when we came to office.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I wish that were — I wish that were the saving grace, but the fact of the matter is, being faithful to historical record, the record of Labour has been much worse on human rights violations than the record of Likud. It’s a fact that the only Israeli government during the period from 1967 to the present which temporarily suspended torture was Begin from 1979 to 1981. On the record of house demolitions, Mr. Rabin used to boast that he had demolished many more homes than any Likud government. Even on the record of settlements, as Dr. Ben-Ami well knows, the record of Rabin was worse in terms of settlement expansion than the record of Yitzhak Shamir, and a fact he leaves out in the book, the record of Barak on housing startups in the Occupied Territories —
AMY GOODMAN: Building more houses?
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah — was worse than the record of Netanyahu. It’s a paradox for, I’m sure, American listeners, but the record on human rights, an abysmal record in general, an abysmal record in general, and in particular, the worst record is the record of Labour, not Likud.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Ben-Ami?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, he’s — Dr. Finkelstein already said what needs to be said about the end of the practices or the legal status of tortures in 1999. When it comes to the difference between Labour and Likud, I make this point in a different way in the book, and that is that Labour was always much more keen to advance the defining ethos of Labour, which is settling the land. This was never the ethos of the right. The right dreamt about greater Eretz Yisrael, but did nothing to implement it. You know, in the Camp David — first Camp David agreement, that is with Sadat, the right that was in office dismantled the settlements of Yamit in northern Sinai. The left, that was in opposition, couldn’t swallow that collapse of the ethos of settling the land. The right was more biblical, was more sort of religious, less practical in its attitude to the territories, so it was always the case, and this is the point that I make in the book, that the settlements were, in fact, started by Shimon Peres when he was the Defense Minister of Yitzhak Rabin. But you see —
AMY GOODMAN: Of Labour.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Of Labour, obviously. Now, but one circumstance that needs to be emphasized, however, is this, that at least as from 1988, I make the point in the book that, surprisingly, until 1988 there was hardly any difference in the political attitude of Labour and Likud. You couldn’t really discern any difference in the attitude.
Things start to change in 1988, and I do give credit to Arafat here, contrary to what I do, according to Dr. Finkelstein in the last chapter. Arafat was the pioneer in many senses. He invented the peace process, what we call the peace process, by his declaration of 1988, and it is from that moment that those in Labour who continue to settle are the very people that think that, okay, at the end of the day we will have to find some sort of agreement with the Palestinians, where we might even have to dismantle these settlements, which is in itself an interesting march of folly, that is, that you create settlements knowing that at some point you might have to compromise.
The difference between the settlements created by Sharon and those created by Rabin is this, that Sharon created settlements in order to torpedo a future agreement, whereas Rabin drew a distinction between what he called — I agree, it was an internal Israeli game — but he drew the distinction between political settlements, that is, settlements that were created in order to derail the possibility of an agreement, and other kind of settlements that might become part of the state of Israel in the context of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. So, this is a very vital difference that, at the end of the day, was accepted by the Palestinians. The fact that, as you yourself say, that in Camp David and elsewhere they accepted the concept — they assumed the concept of blocks of settlements, it only vindicates the position of those Labourites that said, ‘Okay, building settlements in areas that make sense will become in the future part of the state of Israel.’
AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of torture of tens of thousands of Palestinians by Israel?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: To tell you the truth, I don’t know about the numbers, and we have seen different governments in — the British have done it. What the British did in Palestine in the ’30s, there is nothing new in what we did that the British didn’t do before us, and the Americans now in Iraq and elsewhere — what I find very, very uncomfortable is really this singling out Israel that lives in a very unique sort of situation in comparison with other countries, but —
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Norman Finkelstein makes the point, “Israel’s Abu Ghraib,” so that’s making reference to what America did in Iraq.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, okay. But if you — if you would come from another planet and examine the resolutions of the U.N., the Security Council, you might reach the conclusion there is only one sinner in this planet, and it’s the state of Israel, and not anybody else.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But I am quoting your own human rights organizations. You know, B’Tselem is not the United Nations.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, that’s okay. I mean, I’m not — but it speaks in favor of Israel that we have human rights, we have B’Tselem, and we criticize ourselves.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Right.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: And we want to change things, but the solution —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I will agree with that, but then you have to say it doesn’t speak too much in Israel’s favor that it’s the only country in the world that legalized torture. It was also the only country in the world that legalized hostage taking. It was also the only country in the —
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: It wasn’t legalized —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, yes. As your chief justice called it, “keeping Lebanese as bargaining chips.” Israel was the only country in the world that’s legalized house demolitions as a form of punishment. Those things have to also be included in the record.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Ben-Ami.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: In addition to — I totally agree with you, it’s to Israel’s credit that it has a B’Tselem, an organization for which I have the highest regard and esteem. I agree with that.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, but the thing is that the conditions where Israel has to operate, this is — we do not have a Sweden and Denmark as neighbors, and we have neighbors that have taken hostages, and have taken hostages that forced us to exchange things that were not very popular. Rabin himself gave away 1,500 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers, and Sharon gave away 400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for four bodies of Israeli soldiers. So we are living in that kind of place.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But that may tell you that’s because they take so many people prisoner that they have a lot to give back. Right now, as we speak, there are 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israel.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: This is because we live in the conditions that we live. We are not, as I said — this is not Scandinavia.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But, Dr. Ben-Ami, you know, as well as I do, international law does not apply to some countries and not to others and some continents and not to others. Either it applies to everybody, or it applies to nobody. So to use the excuse, “Well, in our neighborhood we don’t have to recognize international law,” is simply a repudiation of international law.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: No, I’m not saying — No, no, I’m not saying that we do not have to recognize international law. I say that the conditions —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, then, it applies —
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: No, no. I mean, there are conditions where you cannot apply these lofty principles, which are very important, but you cannot apply them. And the British — and the British —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The British is an interesting example.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, it’s an interesting example. They didn’t —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: B’Tselem did a comparison —
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: They did it in Gibraltar —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The British — that’s right.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: They did it in the Falklands. They did — anywhere —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: B’Tselem did an interesting comparison. It compared the British policies of torture in Northern Ireland with Israeli policies of torture. In the 1970s, there were thousands of terrorist attacks by the I.R.A., and B’Tselem’s comparison showed that the Israeli record is much worse than the British on the question of torture. That’s the facts.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yeah. You face now in this country a challenge of terrorism, so you go to PATRIOT Act and you go to —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But you won’t find me justifying torture.
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: These are the conditions that can be very dire, very difficult —
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: No conditions justify torture.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask Dr. Ben-Ami, on the issue of the United States, as you look here, coming here for a few days, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, do you feel there are problems with the detention of the hundreds of men that are being held at Guantanamo without charge and what happened at Abu Ghraib?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, I cannot condone that. I mean, I think that, obviously, it is a violation of international norms. There is no doubt about it. But I don’t follow the internal American debate. I don’t know if this society is scandalized by what happens and what is the degree of civil opposition, civic opposition, and if you have here organizations like not only B’Tselem, even Shalom Achshav, which is a centrist — it’s not a leftwing — organization that exposes the seams of your own government, I don’t know. Maybe yes.
I think we are a society in the middle of a very complicated conflict. As I do admit, in this conflict many atrocities were committed by both sides, however, but I do recognize our own shortcomings, blunders and things. And the only solution to this situation — the only, the only solution — is to try and reach a final settlement between us and the Palestinians. There is no other way. There is no other way: to split the land into two states, two capitals, trying to find the best way to end this conflict, because much of the instability of the Middle East has to do with our condition. You don’t need to be a bin Laden or a Saddam Hussein, who tried to put on themselves the mantle of the vindicators of the Palestinian cause in order to say that the Palestinian issue is a platform of instability in the region that needs to be solved.
But even when it is solved, let us not fool ourselves. Many of the problems that the West is facing today with the Arab world will persist. The Palestinian issue has been used frequently by many Arab rulers as a pretext for not doing things that need to be done in their own societies. But for the sake of the Israelis, I am not — I am not — when I say that we need to make concessions, it is not because I am concerned with the future of the Palestinians or because I am concerned with international law. I want to say it very clearly, it is because I define myself as an ardent Zionist that thinks that the best for the Jews in Israel is that we abandon the territories and we dismantle settlements and we try to reach a reasonable settlement with our Palestinian partners. It’s not because I am concerned with the Palestinians. I want to be very clear about it. My interpretation, my approach is not moralistic. It’s strictly political. And this is what I’m trying to explain in the book.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for being with us. Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister, author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy, and Dr. Norman Finkelstein, professor at DePaul University, author of Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, thank you both for joining us.
Editor’s note: Short clips of talk from CSU Fullerton with text screens added in-between by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein (Hillel campus Rabbi, Long Beach & Orange County; (562)985-7068; IsraelAction[at]BeachHillel.com ).
Video available online at
Professor With a Cause: Norman Finkelstein.
SoCal Jewish Student Services | 4 min 16 sec – Feb 5, 2005
The google.com entry says the following:
“This documentary video, in an event sponsored by the CSU Fullerton Dept. of Political Science, portrays the ‘unbiased and scientific’ mind of a DePaul University college professor. ”
From: “John McGlynn” jmcgl[at]gol.com
Subject: Google Video of Norman Finkelstein
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 23:41:06 +0900
Dear Israel Action:
Thank you for somehow arranging to provide the short Google clip of Professor Finkelstein speaking at CSU. The collection of outtakes appears to present excellent summations of some of his chief views. Furthermore, his methodical presentation style contrasts vividly with the rude outbursts that can be heard in the background.
I assume showing Prof. Finkelstein in a favorable light as a man of reason (as demonstrated, for example, by his reference to the work of historian Benny Morris to buttress his analysis and to the principle of truth serving justice) was your intent, right? However, I don’t fully understand the ‘”unbiased and scientific” mind’ comment to the right of the viewing screen. Are you trying to be ironical with respect to people who claim he doesn’t have an unbiased and scientific mind?
Anyway, you should be congratulated for helping to expand the debate on the political situation in the Middle East. Do you have a full-length video version of Prof. Finkelstein’s talk?
Subject: Yitzhak Shamir’s attempt to collaborate with Nazis
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 10:56:38 -0800
Dear Outraged Lady from CSU Fullerton Video,
To anyone who may deny what Finkelstein mentions in the video about Right Wing Zionist or Yitzhak Shamir’s attempts at collaboration with the Nazis: take a look at the historical documents.
Here’s a photo of a letter from a Nazi officer about “a proposal of the National Military Organisation [Lehi] in Palestine regarding the solution of the Jewish question in Europe”: SternGang-Doc-Nazi-Collaboration.jpg. Here’s a short description of the events from Wikipedia:
“In 1940 and 1941, Lehi proposed intervening in the Second World War on the side of Nazi Germany to attain their help in expelling Britain from Mandate Palestine and to offer their assistance in “evacuating” the Jews of Europe arguing that “common interests could exist between the establishment of a new order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO (Lehi).” Late in 1940, Lehi representative Naftali Lubenchik was sent to Beirut where he met the German official Werner Otto von Hentig and delivered a letter from Lehi offering to “actively take part in the war on Germany’s side” in return for German support for “the establishment of the historic Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, bound by a treaty with the German Reich”. Von Hentig forwarded the letter to the German embassy in Ankara, but there is no record of any official response. Lehi tried to establish contact with the Germans again in December 1941, also apparently without success.”
In book form, the documents have been published — unedited — by Lenni Brenner in a book called 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis (amazon.com).
As a leftist, I’m not going to sit here and deny atrocities committed by the Communist governments of the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cambodia or the torture of Fascist/Nationalist/Catholic prisoners (and potentially rival leftists) by Anarchist militia members during the Spanish Civil War and Revolution (http://www.guardian.co.uk/spain). Persons of other political persuasions, if they wish to be taken seriously, would do well to be equally honest about such things.
Editor’s note: Discussion of Hamas election victory and the current situation.
Finkelstein on The Muslim American Public Affairs Council’s tv show MAPAC-Live TV! is available online at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=148072379757729924
MAPAC-Live TV Crew:
Hosts: Omar Askar and Khalilah Sabra
Audio: Sarah Baddour
Character Generator:Hagar Abdel-Baky
Director: Waleed Elhentaty
Cameras: Saja Hindi, Hanna Zaghloul and Ahmed Radwan
Producer: Israa Dorgham
Roomor has it… C-SPAN 2’s Book TV coverage of Finkelstein’s talk on the Israel-Palestine conflict at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from March 18, 2004 is available on the eDonkey network.
Editor’s note: video by The Arabic Hour, an Arab-American community TV program .
Talk moderated by Sara Roy.
– Part 1
Windows Media video
– Part 2
Windows Media video
Editor’s note: Questions in Arabic; answers in audible English with simultaneous Arabic translation. See also: viewers’ letters (in English).
– Windows Media video version (34 MB)
– Mp3 audio version (19 MB)
– Aljazeera.net transcript (in Arabic)
Read the Arabic transcript online: AlJazeera.net
PROGRAM: Without Frontiers
PLACE: Al Jazeera, Westminster Towers, Lambeth Bridge, London
Watch the video of the interview
Arabic text support instructions
Dear Professor Finkelstein,
Arabs on the whole did not know Norman Finklestein, but after the Jazeera interview, I assure you, your name will spread far and wide. Jazeera is watched and trusted by millions of Arabic-speaking people, the world over, and your words in the interview with Ahmad Mansour will have been received with respect and gratitude. Though so many of us are poor and uneducated, but now we are also very aware of what is going on, and deeply resentful of the bias against us, the lies spread about us , the very negative image we are given, and the unbalanced reporting by the Western media. All Arabs and Muslims are terrorists, and all are violent fundamentalists. Islam is a religion of strife and it is not possible to have a dialogue with Islamic countries.This bias is one reason for the popularity of Jazeera, because Jazeera can teach a lesson or two in objectivity to many of the Western media. Ask Mr. Bush why he wants it bombed!! The other reason, of course, is the highly professional performance of that channel.
We, in the Middle-East, knew little of what was going on in Europe before and during WW II. There was no television, no satellite channels, no Internet, and the man in the street was not very well informed. We did know, however, that hundreds of thousands of Jews lived in our countries, very peacefully, and in excellent harmony with the people of other religions. We all had Jewish friends, who were our neigbours, went to the same schools, the same clubs, owned many of the stores in the cities, which incidentally, are still called Shemla and Ben Zion(!!), and there was absolutely no feeling of exclusion towards the Jews, and the many other foreign communities that were thriving in Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, Bagda, and others. Though I was very young then, I look back with great nostalgia to the pre-60s era. Perhaps that is why Middle-Easterners are so bitter about what has happened to them in Palestine. But, I am digressing!
I want to congratulate you for the marvelous job you are doing. This is not the first time I watch you and listen to you, on TV, and I have followed your writings closely on the Internet. I have your first book, The Holocaust Industry, and learned much from it, and I have ordered Beyond Chutzpah. I am shocked that any man, be he a simple man or a scholar, should be penalised. even indicted, for even discussing the holocaust, the conditions surrounding it, the historical and social consequences. Voltaire once said: ” I may not agree with what he said, but I will fight to the finish to let him say it”. I cannot understand how people, in the countries of the West, fall for such fraudulent arguments. You are a man of courage, and I really raise my hat high to you and say thank you for risking so much to have the truth come out. My best regards.
From: Cherifa Sirry
To: norman finkelstein
Sent: Thursday, December 01, 2005 8:26 PM
Subject: a comment from Egypt
Dear Professor Finkelstein,
I have watched your program today on Al Jazeera TV and I would just like to take this opportunity to express my deep admiration for you and for your courage in speaking out… and in speaking the Truth. It is not the first time I hear you and I do try to keep up with your excellent books, writings and interviews. As an Arab, I am very happy that you have spoken on Al Jazeera TV because millions and millions of Arabs needed to listen to what you had to say. They also need to know that people of integrity like you, still do exist. The Arab “moral” if I may say, is very very low due to the present situation the Arab world finds itself in. As far as I personally am concerned, hearing you speak today…, did my moral quite some good.
Again, I thank you for your courage and I also thank you for just being who you are and for sharing your thoughts with us Arabs.
I wish you all the best,
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2005 2:08 PM
Subject: Regarding your interview with Al-Jazeera
I wanted to commend you on your brilliant interview with Al-Jazeera. Lately (actually, for a while) I have been sickened by the lack of disregard our government has regarding foreign policies and many other issues. Last nights interview gave me hope that more people like yourself will have enough courage to come forward and admit the awful atrocities that many people in this country commit in our name. You were right on with all the issues. My husband saw the previews for your interview a few days ago on Al-Jazeera and was very excited to watch the complete interview. I was fortunate enough to hear your responses, due to the fact that Al-Jazeera still allowed your voice to be hear while translating in Arabic.
Once again, thank you for being so brave and taking a stand. I want you to know that you have the support of many people and not all of us believe everything that is published in the media and in other document regarding your character. I will do my best to pass along your information to others who are as open minded as you and I.
From: Ayed Shideda hew_up[at]yahoo.com
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 05:13:21 -0800 (PST)
i did not know any thing about you before, you are a great man.
now i know about you and thats because of the arabic channel news Al Jazeera.
well i wish you luck and keep going to teach people about the truth, thats what we people in this earth need for this time.
Editor’s note: Finkelstein’s opening statement in English. Questions in German. Answers in English (uninterrupted), repeated by a German interpreter after the English version for each question.
– Part 1
– Part 2
– Part 3