Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Exposing The Lies of Norman Finkelstein

(For those you not familiar with the activities of Norman Finkelstein, he is one of the darlings of JVP and other anti-Israel "Jewish" groups. A (non-tenured) political science professor at DePaul University, he has made a name for himself by going on the anti-Israel lecture circuit with supposed credibility added by being the child of Holocaust survivors. An extensive summary of Finkelstein, his shoddy scholarship, and his slurs not only of Jewish leaders but of respected world figures like Elie Wiesel can be found on CAMERA's website at

This is an abridged transcript of a talk given by the anti-Zionist activist Norman Finkelstein at Stanford University on January 25, 2007, entitled “Reflections on the misuse of anti-Semitism and the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering.” Why do we present the words of this extremist? We want to expose the misuse of history, the sloppy “research”, and the outright lies that go into talks by the likes of Finkelstein. It should come as no surprise that Finkelstein is one of the intellectual heroes of Jewish Voice for Peace and similar anti-Israel groups. His brochure for this talk stated “Finkelstein will discuss how the concept of anti-Semitism has been distorted to include any criticism of the state of Israel and silence all legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy.”
Once again he follows a theme we hear ONLY (and constantly) from anti-Israel activists: that “any” criticism of Israel is considered anti-Semitic. Of course, one can also ask whether criticism of Israel from those who don’t recognize its legitimacy and seek to destroy it can be considered “legitimate”. (We ask that one all the time, since too many people have never even thought about it!). One can also ask why someone who is so “silenced” can be given at platform at an elite university like Stanford.

My comments are underlined. Please feel free to use this information if you get the opportunity to challenge Finkelstein.

(Finkelstein) …How do you account for the fact that so much controversy swirls around this conflict when if you look at the documentary record, the factual record, it really isn’t very controversial or complicated…. And the thesis I’m going to argue this evening is that most of the controversy, the preponderance of the controversy that swirls around the Palestine Israel conflict is contrived. It’s fabricated. It’s concocted. And the purpose of this artificial controversy is to divert attention from the documentary record and to sow confusion about what that record actually shows.

…It’s (the ICJ) findings were as follows…It’s clear under international law that it’s inadmissible to acquire territory by war. That principal is anchored in Article 2 of the United Nations charter. And therefore, Israel has no title to any of the territory it conquered in the West Bank or Gaza during the June 1967 war. That is to say, to use the language of the World Court, those are occupied Palestinian territories… For our purposes that means, contrary to what you routinely read or hear in the United States – those are NOT disputed territories. Those are occupied Palestinian territories, full stop.

For your reference, here is Article 2 of the UN Charter:

Article 2
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.
The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.

Nothing in there about the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by force. Interesting that there IS a requirement to refrain “from the threat or use of force” against other countries. Not that Arab-launched wars in 1948, 1956 or 1973 have any relevance to Finkelstein.

In fact it illustrates, this is from another direction, how uncontroversial the supposedly controversial conclusions of Jimmy Carter’s recent book, “Palestine, Peace not Apartheid” how uncontroversial his conclusions are. His main conclusions are 1) Israel must withdraw to the June 1967 borders and 2) that the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East is Israel’s unwillingness to comply with international law. As you’ll see in a moment, that’s absolutely uncontroversial, even though his book is called very controversial.

….the factual controversy has always been the one of how did the Palestinians become refugees in 1948… The standard response… was that in 1948 the Arab armies poised to attack the newly born state of Israel, transmitted orders to the Arabs of Palestine to flee from their homes and after the victories of the armies they would win. It would clear the fields for the Arab armies. And most mainstream scholarship of that interpretation, it was the standard one. There was a group on the periphery who said it wasn’t true but they had relatively little influence in academic, let alone, media life. Come the late 1980’s, Israeli scholars pre-eminently, but others as well, go through the Israeli archives and they reached the conclusion to quote the most pre-eminent of those scholars, a fellow named Benny Morris, he says that all the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1948… There is debate. But the debate is very narrow.

“All the Palestinians”, that is, except for the 160,000 that remained and became citizens of the state of Israel.

Was this ethnic cleansing pre-meditated or was it born of the war? In Benny Morris’s famous phrase, the Palestinians became refugees ‘it was born of war, not of desire.’ Others say ‘not true’. It was pre-meditated.

Shlomo Ben-Ami, the former Prime Minister, he says it’s true. For sure, Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1948. But he says, “I disagree with Benny Morris. I think it was pre-meditated. I think it was anchored in Zionist ideology… ”

Now of course any student of the history of the area knows that Shlomo Ben-Ami was never Prime Minister of Israel. He is, however, an Israeli diplomat who was involved at the Camp David and Taba talks in 2000 and 2001 (the latter while serving as Foreign Minister in the waning days of the Barak government). Here’s a very revealing quote from Mr. Ben-Ami who appeared on a radio show with Finkelstein (italics mine):

“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.”

Of course, to make it clear that the “blame Israel” crowd is completely wrong as to why Israel couldn’t make peace with Arafat, Ben Ami also adds: “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.”

So, let’s see what those human rights organizations have to say on this question. If you look at the statistics of the numbers killed during the second intifada. I checked last night and the latest figures are 4,446 Palestinians killed, 1,017 Israelis killed. A ratio of almost exactly 4-1. In fact, more Palestinian children have been killed – then the total number of Israeli civilians killed – …Now most people won’t dispute these numbers – not very controversial – there’s a range for sure. I’m using the B’tselem figures. But the argument is usually made that there is a difference between Palestinian killings which target Israeli civilians and Israeli killings, although 4 times as many but which don’t target Palestinians. They are as it were collateral damage. What do the human rights organizations say? They all agree Israel’s use of live ammunition is excessive, indiscriminate and on many occasions deliberately targeting civilians…. According to human rights law – there is a basic legal principal that the doer of any act must be taken to have intended its natural and foreseeable consequence. So, if you indiscriminately fire into a crowd then it’s taken that you intentionally killed those who died in the course of the indiscriminate firing…

This argument resorts to the “body count” method of determining who is right and who is wrong. If you have fewer casualties, then you are (by this equation) obviously in the wrong. Of course, this ignores the fact that most of the Arab “children” are teenage boys—sometimes armed, sometimes sent to try to infiltrate across the border with Gaza, sometimes in the front lines of a crowd while gunmen shoot from the back. There’s also the issue that Israel tries to shield its civilian population from terrorism, while the Palestinians use their children as human shields.

Let’s turn to the 3rd aspect. …As Mr. Barhoum mentioned in the introductory remarks, for the past 30 years, there has been international consensus for resolving the conflict…. It’s called the 2 state settlement. A full Israeli withdrawal from the territories it occupied in June 1967… a full Israeli withdrawal on the one side and recognition of Israel’s right to live in peace with its neighbors on the other side. Again, it’s remarkable how uncontroversial it is…. 1989, when the General Assembly voted on a 2 state settlement, the vote was 151 to 3 with 1 abstention. The negative votes – United States, Israel and the island state of Dominica.

What Finkelstein conveniently leaves out is that this resolution (General Assembly resolution 44/42) also included a call for an international conference including the PLO, which at that time had continued to publicly call for the eradication of the state of Israel. Therefore it was not acceptable to either the US or Israel.

The first condition put on Hamas that was the elected Palestinian government in January 2006…. They had to renounce terrorism. And the second condition was - they must recognize the state of Israel. To my thinking - perfectly legitimate and not very controversial. Israel is a member state of the United Nations and like every other member state would like to live in peace with its neighbors. The problem is… if you make the demand on every party in the conflict, it’s a moral, ethical principal. If you make it on one side its hypocrisy. No Israeli government, no Israeli political party, no Israeli public official has every recognized the Palestinian state within the borders affirmed by countless UN resolutions and the World Court decisions….

This is a deliberate attempt at avoiding the issue. Israel has endorsed the idea that a Palestinian state should exist. Hamas rejects the idea that a Jewish state should exist anywhere within the Middle East.

As the world demands that Hamas recognize Israel, the current Israeli government is building a wall that annexes about 10% of the West Bank, illegally and East Jerusalem, illegally; effectively tri-sects the West Bank into 3 parts. In addition, Israel is separating the West Bank from Gaza, ethnically cleansing the Jordan Valley, and has defacto annexed the Jordan Valley.

Of course, the fence can be moved once the Palestinians dismantle the terror infrastructure. Israel has not annexed any additional land to build the fence. The West Bank has always been separate from Gaza. Jericho seems to be doing just fine—no mass exodus of citizens from the heart of the Jordan Valley.

What are the Palestinians being offered? Palestinians are being asked to choose between a Swiss cheese state comprised of most of the West Bank but riddled with settlements and Israel pulling out from about 40-50% of the West Bank unilaterally while keeping most of its settlements. But no demand is put on Israel – only on Hamas.

The differences between Israel and Hamas are first although Hamas has been ambiguous on its willingness to recognize Israel on the pre-June 1967 borders, it goes hot and cold…Hamas’s stance has been ambiguous. But Israel’s stance hasn’t been ambiguous at all. It has always opposed a Palestinian state on the June 1967 borders. And secondly, the only other difference as far as I can tell, is that while Hamas sometimes speaks, about destroying the Jewish state, Israel is in practice dismembering the Palestinian state. (Audience applause).

It’s interesting how Finkelstein apparently believes that peace doesn’t require two sides who agree to live together in peace. As the Hamas charter says (unambiguously): "The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "
"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

That is as far as I can tell, I’m always happy to be corrected, the documentary record. Pretty straight forward, uncomplicated and doesn’t cast Israel in the best of lights. And it’s because it doesn’t cast Israel in the best of lights, that so much controversy is fabricated in order to distract attention from and sow confusion about that uncomplicated documentary record.

He keeps repeating his mantra about how straightforward it is, hoping that will make it so.

Take the case of that historian I mentioned earlier, Benny Morris. He acknowledges that Israel made an ethnic cleansing in 1948. But he said, I think that ethnic cleansings can be good things. I don’t think they’re always bad things. He said take North America, now I’m using his words, had it not been for the annihilation of the native population, you couldn’t have had that great American republic. So, the annihilation was a good thing. In the case of the Israel Palestine conflict, he says that Ben Gurion’s main error in 1948, the Israeli Prime Minister… was that he didn’t cleanse Palestine of every last Arab….

Let’s look at what Benny Morris actually says; decontextualizing his statements can be very misleading, which of course is Finkelstein’s modus operandi. Morris takes a forthright and brave position: “yes, bad things happened to the Palestinians in 1948, but this was because the alternative was another genocide against the Jews, deal with it.”

From Wikipedia

Morris takes Ben-Gurion to task for not doing the job more thoroughly:
I think he made a serious historical mistake in 1948. Even though he understood the demographic issue and the need to establish a Jewish state without a large Arab minority, he got cold feet during the war. In the end, he faltered. If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job. [...] my feeling is that this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country -- the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. If he had carried out a full expulsion -- rather than a partial one -- he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations."
There is no question in his mind of the legitimacy of the Zionist project:
The desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice. It was impossible to leave a large fifth column in the country. [...] Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history.
You have to put things in proportion. These are small war crimes. All told, if we take all the massacres and all the executions of 1948, we come to about 800 who were killed. In comparison to the massacres that were perpetrated in Bosnia, that’s peanuts. In comparison to the massacres the Russians perpetrated against the Germans at Stalingrad, that’s chicken feed. When you take into account that there was a bloody civil war here and that we lost an entire 1 percent of the population, you find that we behaved very well.
Regarding the suffering and condition of the Palestinians, he writes:
I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy. I feel sympathy for the refugees themselves. But if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice. It was impossible to leave a large fifth column in the country. From the moment the Yishuv [pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine] was attacked by the Palestinians and afterward by the Arab states, there was no choice but to expel the Palestinian population. To uproot it in the course of war.
Remember another thing: the Arab people gained a large slice of the planet. Not thanks to its skills or its great virtues, but because it conquered and murdered and forced those it conquered to convert during many generations. But in the end the Arabs have 22 states. The Jewish people did not have even one state. There was no reason in the world why it should not have one state. Therefore, from my point of view, the need to establish this state in this place overcame the injustice that was done to the Palestinians by uprooting them.

Let’s see those refugees again. You can agree that factually they were ethnically cleansed in 1948. You can agree that morally it’s an abomination. You can agree that legally they have the right of return. But, you can say politically as Professor Chomsky does, I don’t think its going to happen. And he says, it’s not a realistic possibility then to give people hope when there’s no ground for hope is itself immoral…And I think honest people can agree to disagree on that question… If on the other hand you think it is feasible then of course you should fight for it…There is no disagreement on the legal question, that is to say, there is simply no dispute that under international law, Palestinians have the right of return. The vote in the General Assembly in 2002 on the right of return 158-1. The vote in 2003 on the right of return 167-1. Human rights organizations, let’s take mainstream ones – not controversial ones. Human Rights Watch – 2000 it urges Israel to recognize the right of return. I’m quoting them. Amnesty International – 2001 it calls the Palestinians to be able, I’m quoting them, to exercise the right of return. It’s not controversial at all. Nonetheless, I do think, as I said, there are areas on the question of its practical implementation where honest people can disagree.

Once again, he resorts to “it’s not controversial at all”… of course it’s also not controversial that the only Palestinian refugees to which a right of return could conceivably apply are the individuals displaced in 1948, NOT their 4th and 5th generation descendants. Also the original UN resolution (GA 194) referring to return of refugees specifies a right for those refugees “wishing to live in peace with their neighbors”; was there any willingness ever expressed in the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s or 1980’s for Palestinian Arabs to “live in peace” within a Jewish state? Is there now? Finkelstein’s reliance on the UN General Assembly as the arbiter of international law is laughable; this was, of course, the same body that declared in 1975 that Zionism was a form of racism.
Could there be some mechanism to compensate families who were displaced in 1948? Sure, why not—as long as we include the 950,000 Jews who were forcibly expelled and/or fled from Arab countries in the wake of the 1948 war.

What I want to turn to now is that much larger area on the Israel Palestine conflict where I don’t think the differences of the controversies are legitimate at all. They’re simply fabricated and concocted. They have no bearing on the real world. They’re fabricated and concocted in order to divert attention and sow confusion.

First, is this attempt to mystify the conflict. To claim that it is so complicated, so intricate, that it requires the equivalent of science to penetrate its mysteries. Its about primordial irreconcilable wars, its about the cosmic clash of religions and civilizations…The first purpose of it is to convince the observer that he or she should suspend his or her ordinary ethical, legal judgments. Because the conflict is too complicated. A typical example. There’s a fellow, Robert Malley – a very decent guy who was one of the American negotiators at Camp David, no it wasn’t at Taba, it was Camp David, in 2000, and in a public forum about a year ago he was asked, ‘Why is it that U.S. aid into Israel continues to flow despite Israel’s egregious human rights record.” And he said, ‘Well, this is a really and truly unique conflict. And the fact that it’s really and truly unique somehow means we apply a different moral standard to it.”…We’re always told, don’t compare because this conflict is so different, so much more complicated…The reason is obvious because whenever you compare the Israel Palestine conflict with other obvious cases, Israel always comes out on the wrong side. So don’t compare.

Historically, you can make a reasonable analogy between the fate of native Americans in North America and the fate of Palestinians in the course of the Zionist conquest of Palestine. In fact as I mentioned ago it wasn’t a coincidence that was the exact group that Benny Morris immediately led up to. There’s an obvious analogy there. Not perfect but still obvious. The problem is Israel comes out on the wrong side of the analogy. So don’t compare. The Israel Palestine conflict is unique.

Of course, Finkelstein acts as if there was no historical presence of Jews in Palestine and Arabs had been there from time immemorial; of course, Arabs came from the Arabian peninsula in the 8th century while Jews had already been there for 1800 years and continued to be there since. And the Native Americans would have probably been delighted (compared to what they ended up with!) to get an independent state on half the American West.

Or take, not historically, but currently the obvious analogy is this one. The one with Apartheid in South Africa. Now no aspect of Carter’s book… has invoked more outrage then its identification of Israeli policy in the occupied territories with Apartheid. The Washington Post called it, the Apartheid analogy ‘foolish and unfair’. The Boston Globe called it ‘irresponsibly provocative’. The New York Times said it was ‘dangerous and ant-Semitic’. (audience laughter) But in the real world it’s not even controversial. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization – in 2002 it produces a major study on Israeli settlement practices in the occupied territories. This is how it was ? – quote “Israel has created in the occupied territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applies two different systems of law in the same area, and bases the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa.” (Audience applause) 2005- B’Tselem produces another hefty report called ‘Forbidden Roads’. In Israel they call it Israel’s road regime in the occupied territories… what does it conclude? It bares striking similarities to the racist Apartheid regime and even entails a greater degree of arbitrariness then was the case with the regime that existed in South Africa. It’s worse. Ok. B’Tselem – those are lefties also. So, let’s take Ha’aretz. They had an editorial in September of 2006 and it says just in a passing comment, “the Apartheid regime in the territories remains intact. Millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement or a livelihood under the yoke of ongoing Israeli oppression”…They didn’t have to defend the claim. It’s perfectly obvious.

Apparently, Finkelstein’s “real world” ignores the fact that the Palestinians are not citizens of Israel, nor do they want to be. They are indeed a population under occupation. Even the road system is not based, as apartheid was, on ethnicity, but on citizenship. For safety, certain roads in the West Bank are for Israeli citizens—including Israeli Arabs. Have you noticed thus far that there’s virtually no mention of Arab terrorism that made these roads necessary? Or of the genocidal Jew-hatred taught in Palestinian schools? Finkelstein’s worldview can be so simple when he simply ignores inconvenient facts.

Shulamit Aloni – she wrote a couple of weeks ago “The U.S. Jewish establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which everyone knows. Through its army the government of Israel practices a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Everyone knows it. But in the United States,
it’s very controversial. It’s even dangerous and anti-Semitic, irresponsibly provocative, foolish and unfair. In the real world, it’s a cliché. In fact the list of those who hold to the Apartheid analogy apparently includes former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who reportedly said that the Bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict. So, it seems that he is also dangerously anti-Semitic. (laughter and applause)

Again, not apartheid based on ethnicity (or, as in every Arab country, religious affiliation) but Israel’s attempt to deal with a hostile population that is unwilling to accept living in peace alongside it.

When you look at the actual documentary record on the history of the Israel Palestine conflict is how uncontroversial it was seen to be at the time….

…during the British Mandate period…roughly between 1920-1948, there were many clashes, many conflicts, between the indigenous population and the Zionist settlers. And every time there was a major clash the British would send a parliamentary team…to figure out why are the natives so restless. And, they put together beautiful reports written in the most eloquent English, replete with solid factual information… They keep saying in the reports, obviously, obviously, obviously, obviously… all the other states in the region either have or are on their way to independence. The only ones that are being denied that are the Palestinians since they called them the Arabs of Palestine. And two, it said, the Arabs of Palestine are worried because they’re afraid that when the Jews become the majority and declare a state, they’re worried about what they’re fate is going to be in that state. So, the British conclude, it’s obvious… the solution is complicated…

Which is why the British proposed partition as early as the Peel Commission in the 1930’s, which would have given the Jews of Palestine about 15% of the land and created an Arab state in most of the rest of the Mandate. The Arabs rejected the plan.

Take the case of North America. Now, the Native American resistance to Euro-American encroachment was very bloody. It was not for no reason at all that the Native Americans were called savages. It was a brutal resistance. They killed men, they killed women, they killed children. Not to say the settlers didn’t do the same. They did….They were yesterday’s terrorists and suicide bombers. What would any rational person say if looking at that resistance and asked to explain it, were told, you see, the Native Americans they were resisting because of Anti-Europeanism, (Hearty audience laughter) or Anti-Christianism, or Anti-Whiteism. (laughter) Just like you’re laughing. But the same exotic explanation about the Muslim incapacity to tolerate a successful minority amidst them….It happens to be the simple explanation, is also quite a sufficient one. You don’t need to conjure up a complicated explanation.

Finkelstein ignores the long history of minorities within Muslim countries and their status as “dhimmis”: tolerated at best, but the victims of periodic pogroms at worst. If you want to use the analogy of the Native Americans, ask what happened to the native cultures and indigenous peoples of the areas that were the subject of the great Arab conquests of the Middle East.

A second kind of illegitimate controversy is the plague of the Holocaust card – the dragging in of the Nazi Holocaust in order to justify Israel’s violations of international law in the occupied territories…. The Holocaust industry emerges after the June 1967 war. Its main purpose was to immunize Israel from criticism. Its main contribution, familiar to everyone in this room, is the claim of the Holocausts’ uniqueness. No people in the history of humanity, has ever suffered like the Jews suffered. In fact, the doctrine of uniqueness is vacuous and morally, this ranking of human suffering is an abomination. But, its purpose is pretty straight forward, namely, that if you can claim that Jews uniquely suffered during the Nazi Holocaust, then you can claim that they shouldn’t be held to ordinary notions of right and justice. You shouldn’t apply to Israel the status you’d apply to any one else because the suffering of the Jews was unique. The way this played out historically is …that Palestinians and Arabs generally have been held directly culpable, responsible for the Nazi Holocaust or seen as lineal descendants of its perpetrators. So, at the time of the 1948 war, David Ben-Gurion called the Palestinian Arabs disciples and even teachers of Hitler. During the Eichmann trial, in 1961, the Arabs were labeled… as among the biggest Nazi war criminals and it was said the Mufti even masterminded the final solution. Ben-Gurion said the Mufti was “one of Hitler’s closest associates in this genocide.” Without going into it, this was sheer fantasy.

Of course Finkelstein doesn’t want to go into it! The Mufti, al-Hajj Amin Husseini, the uncle of Yasser Arafat, organized the “Nazi Scouts” among Arab youth, was visited in Palestine by Eichmann before the outbreak of the war, received funding from Himmler (and later toured Auschwitz with him), and spent the war years in Berlin. He wrote in his memoirs “I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews.”

In 1967 during Israel’s attack on Egypt, Israel said that Abdul Nasser represented the new Hitler. And more recently, as most of you know, Israel’s apologists equated Saddam Hussein with Hitler, equating all opposition with Israel’s illegal war against Iraq with appeasement of Hitler and now it’s the turn, if you look at the current journals and magazines, now it’s the turn of Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran, all of them being called newer reincarnations of Hitler and the Nazis…. It’s hard to know what’s more laughable – the extraordinary coincidence that each new Arab leader allegedly threatened Israel is Hitler incarnate or that the threat posed to Israel is routinely compared to the Holocaust. While we are told simultaneously that the Holocaust was unique and any comparison between it and other crimes is a form of Holocaust denial. (Audience applause)

Yet Nasser himself said in 1967, “The objective will be Israel’s destruction.” Hafez al-Assad of Syria said it would be “a battle of annihilation”. Unfortunately, the Jewish people have learned to take threats of annihilation seriously.

The most recent form of this playing the Holocaust card is what’s called the new Anti-Semitism. And there are two things to be said about the new Anti-Semitism – number 1 it’s not new (laughter) and number two it has nothing to do with Anti-Semitism. Every time Israel faces a public relations debacle or international pressure is put on Israel to resolve the conflict diplomatically, in accordance with international law, Israel’s apologists orchestrate this new Anti-Semitism extravaganza. This is a good school with an excellent library… go look for your self.

Let’s take the case of Europe. We’re told that Europe is rife with Anti-Semitism. Not on the fringes – but we’re told in the heart of Europe. BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, somewhere down the line – they’re all Anti-Semitic…. How true is that? I recently picked up a decent book called “Great Shakes” by Walter L’Coure (?)… who can hardly be described as Anti-Israel, he’s one of its chief apologists. Walter L’Coure puts out a book entitled “The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism”. What does he say? “The Anti-Semitism in Europe is predominantly Muslim character”. The popular attitudes towards Jews, he says, were better in 2002 than they were in 1991….there is less Anti-Semitism than ever before…. If you listen to Abraham Foxman, he says “The condition of Jews now, is worse than at any time since the late 30’s in Nazi Germany.” What does Walter L’Coure say?..... “It goes without saying that Anti-Semitism today is in no way comparable to the persecution of Jews of the 1930’s and 1940’s.”…. It goes without saying among the rational people, but not among those who orchestrate hysterias about the new Anti-Semitism, to shield Israel from criticism…. A few years ago, if you said that the main animus towards Jews and hostility to Jews was due to Israel’s ruthless policies in the occupied territories and the best remedy was for Israel to end the occupation, it was said that you were an Anti-Semite. You were blaming the Jews for Anti-Semitism…. You are claiming it’s the policies of the Jewish State which are creating Anti-Semitism. Now if you open up Ha’aretz, they’re marking the 58th anniversary of Israel’s founding, they invite Tony Judt, the American professor at NYU, to write about Israel’s founding on its 58th anniversary. And what does Tony Judt write? He says, “Israel’s reckless behavior and insistent identification of all criticism with Anti-Semitism is now the leading source of Anti-Jewish sentiment in Western Europe and much of Asia. One way to take the sting out of rising Anti-Semitism would be for Israel to give the Palestinians back their land.” (applause and whistles) A perfectly sensible, rational statement, in the pages of Israel’s most influential newspaper, published on Israel’s most important day, its 58th anniversary. But in the United States, that’s called Anti-Semitism. Blaming the Jews, blaming the victims for the hostility directed against them. The purpose of this capricious, promiscuous use of the label Anti-Semitism, it’s pretty straight forward to turn the perpetrator, Israel’s apologists, into the victim – focusing on the immense suffering of Jews rather than the very real suffering of Palestinians. And secondly, to discredit all criticism of Israel as being motivated by Anti-Semitism. One might add, it’s an important point and an important topic …that, that era of hurling these filthy epithets at anybody who dares to criticize Israel. I think that that era is coming to an end (applause). In the last couple of years, Israel has now suffered from the disaffection, of no longer just marginal Jews, but Jews at the center of intellectual and political (?) life in the United States. And when that label was used against them, they have power, and it didn’t work. They used it against Tony Judt, then non-Jews – they tried to use it against Steve Walt and John Meirsheimer and then they tried to use it against Jimmy Carter. And I think it’s fair to say it fell flat….

Here’s the core mantra of Finkelstein and the other apologists for hatred such as “Jewish Voice for Peace”: anytime they are challenged on all the lies and distortions they purvey, they resort to the charge that they’re just being called “anti-Semitic” to distract from the substance of the challenge. Get it straight, Norman: not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. But criticism that is one-sided, full of lies, and has at its core the goal of the destruction of the state of Israel IS anti-Semitic.

…the last topic – namely, the last kind of contrived controversy which has sowed confusion about the Israel Palestine conflict and in many ways, the most dispiriting. When I listened to Professor Barhoum’s introduction and he quoted me as saying, I loathe lies, and it’s true that lies do energize me. I feel sometimes like I am academia’s garbage man…First I have to identify the garbage and then I have to pick it up and throw it away. And in the case of the Israel Palestine conflict it has to be said that there are large amounts of garbage, littering not the periphery and the crackpot ends of the spectrum but regrettably at the heart of academic life in the United States…. But it’s very different on the Israel Palestine conflict because the lunacy is right at the heart of our academic life and it’s validated by our mainstream media and our public?... As everyone here knows, academia has methods of quality control….

Is that why Finkelstein has been denied tenure at 4 different universities so far?

(Some Q&A did follow the speech)

How do both Fatah and Hamas carry out terrorist acts? Why favor Fatah to divide the Palestinian people at this point?

…I don’t favor any side in this particular conflict. I devoted the evening to try to convey what the documentary record says on these questions. And I said that the documentary record show that there is a broad consensus including virtually every country in the world apart from Palou, and Tuvalu…supporting the two state settlement. So, I don’t think it’s a question of favoring one of the factions of Palestine over another…It’s none of my business. They vote for who they vote for. That’s their right not mine. I’m not choosing. All I’m saying is two things. Every side to the conflict should be held to the same principals of international law. And you can’t demand of Hamas to renounce what’s properly called terrorism but not make the same demand of Israel. And you certainly can’t demand of Hamas, that it recognize Israel unless you also demand of Israel they recognize a Palestinian state within the June 1967 borders. (Applause). …. Hamas is the legally elected government of the Palestinians and that’s their right.

Finkelstein obviously thinks of himself as an expert in international law. He should know, therefore, that the June 4 1967 lines were never internationally recognized “borders”; they were armistice lines from 1949. Certainly those countries bordering Israel (Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria) never recognized their legitimacy at the time. Again he dodges the core issue—that Hamas refuses to accept the existence of Israel within ANY borders whatsoever.

What “crime” is there that protects Israel’s existence as a “Jewish State”?

I don’t think there is any right that protects any state’s existence and any particular form. Those are separate issue. I think before 1965, the United States, had, to use the current language, the right to live in peace with its neighbors. That does not mean I support the right of the United States to be a slave state. I think those are separate issues. Israel, as a member state of the United Nations, has a right to live in peace with its neighbors… but I don’t think the right exceeds that. Nobody has an obligation to recognize Israel’s right to be a Jewish state anymore than anyone has the obligation to recognize South Africa’s right to be a white state and I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to claim United States has a right to be a Christian state. But that’s separate from the question about whether it has the right to exist in peace with its neighbors. Incidentally, this whole phrase ‘right to exist’ is a bastardization of what it originally meant. If you go back and look at the record, and I’ve examined it, it was a short form for ‘right to exist in peace with its neighbors. There’s no right to exist. And nobody’s obliged to acknowledge a right to exist, let alone a right to exist as a Jewish state. I think those are separate issues.

Yet of course 57 or so countries insist on THEIR right to exist as Islamic states.

Given that Arab terrorism, against the state of Israel began as soon as the 1948 war ended, what evidence do you have that Palestinian Arab terrorism will stop if Israel ends their “occupation” and withdraws back to the pre-1967 war (border)? (slight applause from the good guys)

…. That argument can be used with equally compelling force against first, the Zionists and then against the state of Israel. Let me explain. We’re often told… that the PLO had a stages strategy for conquering Palestine. That is to say, in 1974, they were beginning to talk about a state in the occupied territories and that was going to be a stage towards the eventual conquest of all of Palestine and the elimination of Israel. And the argument was that we can’t recognize the right of the Palestinians to a state in the West Bank and Gaza because they harbor a secret aim or desire, aspiration to the whole of Palestine. Ok, for argument’s sake, let’s say that’s true. That the secret ambition delegitimizes the Palestinian right to the West Bank and Gaza. But where did this strategy of stages come from?.... You go back to 1937 -1938 at the time that was called the Peel Commission offered the Zionist movement a tiny state in about 10% of Palestine. And David Ben-Gurion and others including Chaim Weitzmann said, ‘Let’s take it. It’ll be a stage towards the conquest of all of Palestine. In 1946-47, when the partition idea was being brooded about, Mr. Ben-Gurion and others said the same thing, ‘We’ll take what they give us and it will be a stage towards the conquest of all of Palestine.’ They said it over and over again. In fact, they harbored those same desires…. through the 1956 invasion of Sinai. In 1967, that stages approach was realized. So if we used the argument that was just told that would mean that the UN in 1947 should not have proposed the partition resolution, because the Jews were going to use it towards a staged conquest of all of Palestine. Well, that then deligitimizes Israel’s right to be a state. If that’s the argument you want to use then that deligitimizes Israel’s right because it not only too had a stages program, it acted on it. That’s why it controls all of the West Bank and Gaza - all of Palestine. So, if that’s the argument that you’re going to use, I think you’ve undermine your own case. (Applause from the idiots who failed to notice he didn’t answer the question)

(from the questioner) Well, that wasn’t my question.

No surprise here. Finkelstein ignores the fact that Israel did not attack the West Bank in 1956, despite Jordan’s illegal acts in preventing Jewish access to the Western Wall and in demolishing centuries-old synagogues. Nor was the PLO “stages” plan a secret—it was openly trumpeted by Arafat in speeches to Arab audiences.

As a non-Mexican American or Native American am I morally obliged to leave Californian? After all, wasn’t this land acquired by force of arms?

That’s a fair question and I can only tell you what I said earlier – namely, international law has evolved. That’s why slavery is now illegal; that’s why women have equal rights, legally to men. Law changes. By that kind of argument you want to say it was admissible back then to conquer territory by war. Why isn’t it admissible now? By that kind of logic, you should also be able to say it was admissible to enslave black people in 1865, why can’t I enslave my maid now? That’s the same kind of logic. The law changed. What was legally permissible no longer is….. And I put this in the same category. The Palestinian people live in Palestine. They have the same right to self determination and sovereignty as any other people born on their land. I just don’t think it’s complicated. (Applause and whistles) When my late mother was still alive, we used to occasionally lecture together. She spoke on her experiences under the Nazi regime and I spoke on the Israel Palestine conflict. And we spoke before mostly Jewish audiences, in Brooklyn area, in New York City area – and as you can imagine, people were enraptured by my late mother and absolutely appalled by me. It was good cop, bad cop, with a vengeance. Once, a member of the audience summoned up the courage… to challenge the Jewish mother about her son. And he raised his hand and he said, ‘What do you think of what your son is saying?’ And she thought for a few moments and she said, ‘To my mind, the only crime the Palestinian people committed was to be born in Palestine. And I don’t think that’s a crime.”

So to close it out, he ignores all the history of Arab pogroms, Nazi sympathies, terrorism, and refusal to accept living in peace alongside Israel. At least he’s consistent.

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