Norman Finkelstein at the Student Center on Wednesday night? Oh, you know I wouldn’t miss this. Anyone who came to Alan Dershowitz’s speech earlier this year will remember that the amused speaker held up a political cartoon that Finkelstein had allegedly commissioned. It depicted a smiling and pantsless Dershowitz masturbating to TV images of Lebanese corpses. Finkelstein also wrote “Should Dershowitz Target Himself for Assassination?” His work elicited praise from anti-Semites and Holocaust-deniers, such as David Irving and the Institute for Historical Review.
Many scholars harbor disdain for Finkelstein’s work. Professor Israel Guttman of Ha’aretz Magazine stated, “This is not research; it isn’t even political literature.” Professor Hans Momsen named Finkelstein’s “Holocaust Industry” a “trivial book, which appeals easily to aroused anti-Semitic prejudices.” Professor Omer Bartov of the New York Times Book Review described his work as “brimming with indifference to historical facts, inner contradictions, strident politics and dubious contextualization.”
This is the kind of person the Muslim Student Union and co-sponsoring groups were proud to invite to our campus. “Israel acquired [Gaza and the West Bank] in the course of a war … which the International Court of Justice has proclaimed to be inadmissible,” Finkelstein stated, referring to the Six-Day War, while completely ignoring the “uncontroversial” fact that Jordan, Egypt and Syria initiated the war against Israel by amassing troops at its borders.
He also ignored the 1964 Palestinian Liberation Organization Covenant, which states that the PLO “doesn’t exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank … or the Gaza Strip.” Israel did not capture any territory from its enemies because the PLO only amended its charter to claim these territories after Israel claimed them in 1967. The only territory Israel captured was the Sinai Peninsula, which it gave back to Egypt in 1979.
Finkelstein undermined his credibility by blatantly attacking dissenters. I would have blushed with embarrassment if a speaker I invited had made such statements. “Most peace initiatives came from the Arab world. … Arabs showed a remarkable tendency for compliance with negotiations. It was Israel that violated formal and informal agreements,” Finkelstein said. Someone sound the Bullshit Trumpet.
At last November’s Annapolis Peace Conference, Mahmoud Abbas walked out on peace negotiations without even saying “No” to the offers. Classy. And at the Camp David negotiations, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the PLO 95 percent of the West Bank, 100 percent of Gaza, a capital in Eastern Jerusalem, the removal of all Jewish settlements in those areas and $30 billion to help resettle Palestinian refugees. This was more than the PLO could ever hope for, but it refused.
“What’s the difference between Palestinians who target civilians and Israelis who unintentionally kill civilians?” Finkelstein asked. Call me crazy, but don’t cowardly Palestinian militants use civilians as human shields so that when Israel attacks the groups, it ends up killing civilians? Don’t believe me? Dr. Mounir Herzallah said, “A local sheikh explained to [him] laughing that the Jews would lose … because the rockets would either be fired at them, or if they attacked the rockets depots, they would be condemned by world opinion on account of the dead civilians.”
Finkelstein also said, “Jews did not suffer uniquely in the Holocaust.” Really? The systematic extermination of six million people doesn’t qualify as “unique suffering?” And I suppose the additional five million gypsies, gays, blacks, mentally handicapped and other people killed by the Nazis was just a simple case of first-degree murder.
One audience member was prevented from asking about the Fink’s support for Hezbollah because the students managing the microphone shut it off halfway through his question. When Finkelstein had the microphone turned back on, he replied, “I have no interest whatsoever in Hezbollah as a political organization. I have only one interest: … Do the Lebanese people or does Hezbollah have the right to resist foreign occupiers? … Every victory of Hezbollah, I celebrate.” And the audience went wild.
This event opened my eyes to just how many people are misinformed. Nearly 200 people stood and cheered for a guy who admittedly supports a terrorist organization. Hezbollah has been condemned for using human shields, “honor killings,” firing rockets on civilians in Israel and mounting operations in civilian centers and mosques. And that’s excluding their violent mindset toward anybody who isn’t a Muslim. Israel – at the very least – should have the right to defend itself against such barbarianism.
I don’t understand why people like Finkelstein are invited to our campus. The event was not a lecture but a three-hour demonization of Israel that excluded crucial facts. As Peter Novick, the professor whom Finkelstein credits for his book “Holocaust Industry,” once said, “No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate.”
AE Anteater is a second-year English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.