The last JTNews featured an article about Norman Finkelstein’s participation in local “Naqba” observances. While discussing his remarks at length, the article omitted pertinent facts about Finkelstein himself and the origin of “Naqba” day.
Although described as an “academic lecturer,” Finkelstein is not tenured at any university, and was essentially forced out at De Paul University for numerous reasons, including inadequate academic diligence and the controversial conduct discussed below.
Finkelstein’s views are typical of extremist and intrinsically anti-Israel factions that can be found on many American campuses. More disturbing is Finkelstein’s penchant for bizarre and outlandish conduct and writings. He has engaged in outrageous ad hominem attacks against individuals he personally disagrees with — for example, he has called the outspoken Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel a “clown,” “ridiculous,” and a “wimp.” He called Professor Alan Dershowitz a Nazi and apparently agreed (or arranged?) to have his anti-Dershowitz comments published with a disgustingly offensive cartoon. He preserves these zany antics for posterity on his Web site, www.normanfinkelstein.com
As for the Israel-Arab conflict, his views are likewise bizarre and detached from reality. For example, on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” radio program, he characterized the 1988 intifada as “non-violent” civil protest (the families of dozens of murdered Israeli soldiers and civilians, or the thousands injured during that time may disagree), and claimed that Israel was the only country in the world that “legalized torture.” Many citizens of places like Myanmar and Uganda would be surprised to learn that “fact.”
Others of his views, as expressed in the JTNews, are no less controversial and outlandish. The article devotes considerable discussion to the International Court of Justice Opinion regarding Israel’s barrier wall. Setting aside the fact that the opinion was merely advisory, and that many ICJ judges came from countries hostile to Israel, the opinion is flawed at many levels.
Roslyn Higgins, a renowned international legal scholar and one of the judges, wrote a separate opinion, wherein, although she concurred in the final result, she scathingly criticized the poor reasoning of the opinion and its obvious anti-Israel bias. (The opinion was authored by Shi Jiuyong, a former representative of communist China — the same country that conquered and occupied Tibet).
In yet another misrepresentation, Finkelstein remarked on Goodman’s radio show that the ICJ opinion superceded UN Security Council Resolution 242. (The UN Security Council passed Res. 242 immediately after the Six Day War. It calls on Israel to withdraw from some of the territory it captured, while at the same time calling on the Arab States to recognize Israel within secure borders, (but it does not reference a Palestinian Arab state)). Any international legal scholar knows such a statement is nonsense; the ICJ does not trump or bind the UN Security Council, and certainly not in an advisory opinion!
His accusation that Israel committed “ethnic cleansing” in 1948 is likewise biased and wrong. The term “ethnic cleansing” is a Serbian euphemism to describe their mini-genocide against Bosnian Muslims during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Israel’s war of independence bears no similarity. In 1947, Arabs launched a naked war of aggression without any legal or moral justification while the Jews defended themselves and fought for their very lives. To be sure, It was an ugly war fought between poorly trained civilians, with human rights abuses occurring on both sides. The conflict caused large numbers of Jewish and Arab refugees, not just in Palestine but in other countries as well.
Finkelstein blames the Jews alone, and ignores the numerous Arab war crimes, which include starting the war to begin with. So much for academic objectivity.
Which brings us to “Naqba” day itself. The very concept, (“Naqba” is Arabic for “disaster” or “catastrophe,” and refers to Israel’s founding in 1948), is a classic example of Orwellian double-speak. The Arabs started an unjustified war. They lost. So of course it was a “Naqba” for them. But it was a “Naqba” also for the Jews who suffered. Entire villages were destroyed, and thousands of civilians and soldiers, some of whom had survived the recent Nazi Holocaust, were killed or wounded. Jews lost access to their holiest sites and most ancient habitations, which fell under Arab control. By way of example, World War II resulted in a “naqba” for the peoples of Russia and Germany (among other nations). But is there any doubt that only Hitler and his Nazis were morally responsible for the suffering of the German people? Wars cause suffering, and people who start them cannot later pretend to be innocent victims.
Finkelstein’s strong anti-Israel bias and inaccurate and bizarre pronouncements undermine his credibility.
Finkelstein distorts the historical record. The “Naqba” is a distortion of the historical record. Both should be exposed for what they truly are.