NORMAN FINKELSTEIN STABS US IN THE BACK

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We were there for Norman Finkelstein when he was denied tenure at DePaul University…
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We were there when he was deported from Israel and banned for ten years for holding opinions such as these…
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Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff … (click on image to enlarge)
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We were there supporting every speech he presented at university campuses…
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We were behind him every step he took as he was a friend of our cause in every sense of the word… with positions like the following, how could we not support him?
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Yet, almost two years ago he turned his back on many of us when he took the following position;

“Why I resigned from the Gaza Freedom March coalition”

I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza. In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal. His entire post can be found HERE*

Because of his ‘track record’, most of us left room for his opinions and disagreements and continued to support him wherever necessary.

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BUT…

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He literally put a knife in our backs this past week when he slammed the entire BDS Movement. At a time when the Israeli government is doing everything in its power to destroy that movement, including legislation outlawing it, the last thing we needed was a ‘friend’ coming out against it publicly. In the US, the Movement is going mainstream, yet Finkelstein refers to it as a ‘cult’. To quote from Mark Twain; The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right. That was found in his notebook, written in 1898. And we thought Norman Finkelstein was a friend…  He is being accused of sounding like Dershowitz. Read on to see why…*

The following was originally written FOR*

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In flinching move, Finkelstein slams boycott movement

American political scientist and author of the “Holocaust Industry,” Norman Finkelstein – known for his outspoken criticism of Israel and advocacy of Palestinian rights – showed his own fear of the paradigm shift  in discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he called the BDS movement a ‘cult’ last week

By Sean O’Neill*

The interview with Norman Finkelstein that circulated all over the web on Wednesday, in which he calls the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel a “cult” and compares it to Maoism is, I think, a milestone of sorts.  Or, more accurately, the symptom of a milestone – a sign that the ground is shifting on Israel/Palestine issues.

Normal Finkelstein has made a career out of being the son of holocaust survivors  who doesn’t shy away from picking a fight with Israel’s backers, and who unabashedly defends the rights of Palestinians.  At times his controversial positions have set his career back, as when he was denied tenure at DePaul University.  However, on balance he has certainly benefited, as a less combative scholar would today likely be simply one of thousands of obscure political science professors.

Everything about the interview is classic Finkelstein: his demeanor, his tendency to raise his voice, his adversarial, passionate approach, everything, that is, except for the things he’s saying.  In a bizarre turn of events, he comes off as a Zionist bully, or for that matter, any other angry right wing pundit.  He accuses activists for Palestinian civil rights of having a secret agenda, that of destroying Israel.  He seems obsessed with some overarching concept of the Law as final arbiter in all matters, as though in this case we weren’t talking about a variety of laws, many of which at times contradict each other, and as though there isn’t a history of the law being written, enforced, and misinterpreted by political actors at the expense of the weak.  His complaint that solidarity movement activists want to cherry pick which laws they respect is reminiscent of the claims made by white religious leaders that Dr. Martin Luther King so famously refuted in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Moreover, Finkelstein conveniently ignores the fact that international law recognizes refugees as having a right to return to their homeland.  When the law is inconvenient, Finkelstein employs another classic conservative tactic, insisting that the public simply won’t accept the demands of the activists, that they need to be more pragmatic.  Again, see “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” for an eloquent refutation of such logic.

Finkelstein even resorts to the desperate tactic of denial.  When the interviewer puts forth his contention that the BDS movement is growing in popularity, Finkelstein rejects the idea out of hand, comparing the movement to some Maoist group he apparently was affiliated with at some point in his more idealistic youth.

I recently witnessed BDS’s growing clout at  a meeting I attended with a woman working with an Israeli artist helping set up a series of salons in New York to explore and question the Birthright Israel programs, and the idea of a “birthright” in general.  The project sounds very interesting, but the woman was visibly frustrated at their inability to find people willing to work with them in the city.  They are partially funded by the Israeli Consulate, and as a result have had the proverbial door shut on them by activists, artists, and professors, Arab and Jew alike.  This would have been incomprehensible five years ago, when I first heard of the BDS movement at the annual Bil’in conference and it was, at that point, divisive even among conference attendees.

Here is where things stand now.  There is a paradigm shift in the works in how the Israel/Palestine conflict is understood and approached.  There is an increasing consensus among Israel’s critics to see the issue as one of civil rights, rather than a conflict between two nations.  Indeed, some BDS activists harbor a desire to see the end of the Jewish state, and others believe this is the inevitable outcome of a civil rights movement, whether they desire it or not.  But many others, I would argue most Palestinians among them, simply don’t care about this abstract One State v. Two State argument.  They just don’t think civil rights –  indeed human rights –  can be trumped by someone’s nationalist claims.

Finkelstein’s sudden hostility to the solidarity movement is a symptom of this paradigm shift.  It is easy to rail against Israel when the existence of a Jewish nation-state seems guaranteed in perpetuity.  But that guarantee seems to have eroded a bit.  For some this will be scary.  But then change always is.  It was scary in South Africa.  It was scary in the Jim Crow American South.  For others it is liberating, and you can count among these an increasing number of Israelis who see coexistence – real coexistence, not the tenuous kind that reigns in Jaffa, among other places – as a more attractive guarantee to their security than the ethnocratic state.  As the ground continues to shift, some of those who are afraid will flinch, and retreat to safer, more moderate arguments.  Finkelstein flinched.

*Sean O’Neill worked for Christian Peacemaker Teams from 2006-2009 in the South Hebron Hills supporting Palestinian-led nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation and continued settlement expansion.  He is currently an MA candidate at New York University in Near Eastern Studies and Journalism. 


15 Comments

  1. CLJ said,

    February 18, 2012 at 18:27

    Glad I saw this.

  2. gnuyocir said,

    February 18, 2012 at 18:54

    WTF. Bought, threatened, or just plain moronic?

  3. a650143 said,

    February 18, 2012 at 19:21

    I’ve said that least 650143 times. SCK was here

  4. Alex said,

    February 18, 2012 at 19:35

    Norman Finkelstein has always argued for a two-state solution and a JUST peace. If the paradigm has now changed, that is a shifting zeitgeist. If he does not choose to let himself be carried along in this flow, that is his right. Without him, the Israeli propaganda machine would be far more powerful. He has changed so much in this debate. I think we can forgive him and respect him for doing no more than being consistent.

  5. Ladybat2 said,

    February 18, 2012 at 19:58

    I have always said that the real test for any one in this movement is where they stand on Right of Return. Any one who is not totally behind right of return for Palestinian people is not on our side. There is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant. And there is no such thing as being only part Pro Palestinian rights. You either are for it or you are not. BDS is for Right of Return. Norman is not.
    Justice for Palestinian people means giving them back their homes.

  6. Dr. T. Rajan said,

    February 18, 2012 at 21:07

    Friends,
    I trust and believe in Norman Finkelstein’s scholarship and his REAL support for the helpless and subjugated Palestinians. Dr. Finkelstein fully understands the psyche and interpretations of the pro-Zionist MSM / mainstream-media. Hence Finkelstein sees his narration through his own prism. He does not shed crocodile tears to get support and praise such as the Saudi and Qatari ruling class gangsters. Please do not KILL a noble and honest messenger. Peace.

  7. February 18, 2012 at 22:37

    […] NORMAN FINKELSTEIN STABS US IN THE BACK […]

  8. mikael said,

    February 18, 2012 at 23:01

    I dont even care what he says or does, at all.
    Why I dont care less about, he dont alter anything.
    The fact is that people in general are to afraid to speak, a covardness that people like N.F is a “spokes” person for, personaly I have linked wery litle from Him, during all this years.
    Its NOT nesesery.
    Israel and their “freinds” does that by them selfs, they are the onse that is loosing, but the fact is that some of us is hoplesly alone.

    Just say the words, Hamas, and the all runn and hide, what N.F. has done is simply talking about actual fu… rigts and the recognision of the Palestinians people and land, thats it.
    I dont even bother to explain other that the Goverment of Palestina is legitimit and have all the rights to defend their land, in every consiavble way when regarding international rules and laws.
    Why is nobody talking about THAT.

    I am afraid the covardness and forged history will rule.
    And nothing happens.
    Israel wil have its Eretz Israeli, and in a decade the Palestinians wil slide into the darkness of history, I know, I am expiriencing the same.

    Thats the future, with or without N.F.
    Because nobody cared, not even their closes brothers and sister.

    peace

  9. Blake said,

    February 19, 2012 at 08:16

    Its just his true colors showing through. Never trusted that man. Justice can only be done when Palestinians are returned to their land.

  10. Michael said,

    February 19, 2012 at 10:51

    This is not the first time Finkelstein has shown that he has been compromised. He also quite strongly opposes a re-investigation of 9/11, saying that we would be “squandering energy on conspiracy theories” by working for such a re-investigation. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMwAifRQOU4. He’s another Chomsky, who said about 9/11, “Who cares?” (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzGd0t8v-d4 & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoDqDvbgeXM&feature=related.)

  11. benny hill said,

    February 19, 2012 at 13:48

    N..F. is right, faith for justice and freeedom has to continue ….Opposers to his view are also right, time will show to all, that this colonial project- this shortcut to promised land based on lies called /brutal/ Zionism is selfdestructive and will fail… Palestine people and supporters may suffer a little longer, but this /for humanity/ embarising project of brutal colonization exposing truth nature of Zionists will bring People of the World togheter against this truly “satanic ideology” endangering World Peace. Day is comming when Palestine issue will be solved and Israel will suffer defeat and may really desapear from world map for benefit of whole humanity. But their “Nuclear blackmail and satanic nature to use their undeclared WMD” is 60 milion dollars question
    Movenments for support, for liberation of Palestine may experience some differencies, but we need people like Norman……I trust him, he is right. now Israel “is” – what happened after its defeated and does not pose danger to World anymore , is for all to see….Maybe whole mankind will uniletary support destruction of Zionist regime and its atheistic supporters hiding behind Judaism..Nazi Germany also existed till moment it did not pose danger to anybody, only then could be curved into “zones”. With Zionism is to same … colapse of dollar and colaps of Israel will come togheter, it will be “battle of Humanity against Evil”.

  12. Arthur Askey said,

    February 19, 2012 at 16:29

    I have often read on comments that Finklestein was a gatekeeper. Apparently they are positioned to hold the ground of dissent against Israel and occupy the media debate thereby limiting the damage. Chomsky, for example, will not refute the official version of 911, despite the ease with which this can be done.

  13. maria said,

    February 19, 2012 at 22:36

    It is just how to explain that he cannot stand with a position that is also supported by Hamas, and anyone that have lost everything. So, palestinians cannot return because there are too many, so what?, they have their right to recover their land, and if israelies cannot live in a country massify by arabs, is THEIR PROBLEM, they occupied the whole territory. Coming back to the 1947 resolution , it never pass the security council, only it was pass in the General Asambly (as many resolutions in favour of palestinians and cuba, for example), but it not compulsory to accomplish it becasuse did not pass the security council. So, it is time for a new framework, and the most important issue is to denominate the relation between israel and palestine as it is, and it is NOT A CONFLICT, but a VIOLENCE or even genocide. So, this conflict does not have a solution because is not a conflict, so, support the victims, dennounce the aggresor, and take measures to stop them.

  14. ricorocha said,

    February 21, 2012 at 18:29

    tony greenstein says http://www.azvsas.blogspot.com/2012/02/tragedy-of-norman-finkelstein-time-to.html

  15. February 22, 2012 at 17:56

    probably frightened of ”assassination ”like the Iranian Scientists..


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