Norman Finkelstein Throws Wrench In Anti-Israel Movement’s Claim To A Rights-Based Agenda » ADL Blogs
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June 21, 2013 30

Norman Finkelstein Throws Wrench In Anti-Israel Movement’s Claim To A Rights-Based Agenda

A panel dis­cus­sion held dur­ing last weekend’s Left Forum, an annual gath­er­ing of left-wing activists in New York, revealed some star­tling frac­tures and points of dis­sent within the domes­tic anti-Israel move­ment. The con­fer­ence, which typ­i­cally fea­tures a vari­ety of anti-Israel ses­sions and speak­ers, included a panel this year called “How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Con­flict: 0, 1, or 2 State Solution.”

From Left: Stephen Shalom, Lamis Deek, Sherry Wolf and Norman Finkelstein at Left Forum 2013

From Left: Stephen Shalom, Lamis Deek, Sherry Wolf and Nor­man Finkel­stein at Left Forum 2013

Three of the pan­elists expressed sup­port for a one-state solu­tion as one that is more “just.”

The most sur­pris­ing pre­sen­ta­tion, how­ever, came from Nor­man Finkel­stein, a for­mer pro­fes­sor at DePaul Uni­ver­sity and noted critic of Israeli policy.

Finkel­stein, who caused quite a stir in anti-Israel cir­cles last year when he claimed that the BDS (Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions) move­ment has char­ac­ter­is­tics of a “cult” and seeks to destroy Israel, began the dis­cus­sion by argu­ing that Israel is a state rec­og­nized under inter­na­tional law with respon­si­bil­i­ties, oblig­a­tions AND rights. He chal­lenged the latent hypocrisy within the anti-Israel move­ment (and his co-panelists), which con­stantly points to inter­na­tional law to jus­tify its agenda while ignor­ing the fact that inter­na­tional law estab­lished Israel as a Jew­ish state. “How does one pro­pose to win sup­port for the Pales­tin­ian cause based on inter­na­tional law yet not sup­port two states? That just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.

He con­tin­ued to assault com­mon objec­tives of anti-Israel activists. He specif­i­cally took issue with the BDS movement’s claim of being “rights-based” while again not rec­og­niz­ing Israel’s right to exist, say­ing, “That’s pure unadul­ter­ated hypocrisy. And, speak­ing per­son­ally, I don’t want to have any­thing to do with it. And speak­ing polit­i­cally, it won’t go anywhere.”

If Finkel­stein was a pro-Israel advo­cate, his views would per­haps come as no sur­prise. But Finkel­stein has made a career out of demo­niz­ing Israel. He has described Israel as a “satanic state,” accused Israel of caging Pales­tini­ans “into a ghetto” and exalted Hezbollah’s mil­i­tary achieve­ments against Israel as a “vic­tory of lib­erty and a vic­tory for freedom.”

Mem­bers of the audi­ence reacted hos­tilely to Finkelstein’s pre­sen­ta­tion, talk­ing and shout­ing over him and even yelling at him dur­ing the ques­tion and answer period. While he spoke, two of the other pan­elists – Lamis Deek, a founder of Al-Awda; and Sherry Wolf, an avid BDS  activist – who both later expressed sup­port for a one-state solu­tion, fre­quently rolled their eyes and put their heads down, dis­play­ing vis­i­ble dis­com­fort with his positions.

At one point, Deek and Finkel­stein engaged in a hos­tile back-and-forth exchange. After acknowl­edg­ing that she could never “rec­og­nize the right of the entity known as Israel” to exist, Finkel­stein chal­lenged Deek’s use of the term “entity,” stat­ing, “Israel is a state. It has the same rights and the same oblig­a­tions as the 190 other states.” Deek coun­tered that she has “no oblig­a­tion to oper­ate strictly under the aus­pices or within the frame­work of inter­na­tional law despite the fact that Pro­fes­sor Finkel­stein or other pro­fes­sors would like me to do so because they don’t make that require­ment of the Israeli entity.”


  • dvo­rah b

    Good may be norm is wak­ing up to his roots and the Truth. Mazel tov to him

    • Shirli­nOz

      No he isn’t, he just doesn’t believe in BDS actions. Don’t be fooled. A Leop­ard doesn’t change its spots.

    • Guest

      He has just realised, per­haps, that the BDS or Left­ist approach to destroy­ing Israel has not worked — after over sixty years. He may be sim­ply look­ing for bet­ter options. Who knows at this point. Also, he is very much a con­trar­ian and likes being in the lime­light, just like our George Gal­loway. This new posi­tion has put him in the lime­light again.… He wasn’t strictly speak­ing a ‘pro­fes­sor’, as the arti­cle says. At least he was but for a very short time. I think he has been sacked on at least two occa­sions, for being ‘un-academic’. He prefers the lime­light — which uni­ver­sity life could never give him.

  • olesker

    Even a bro­ken clock is right twice a day.

  • Guest

    I think Nor­man is real­iz­ing the hypocrisy of anrti-Israel leftists.

  • Harvela

    This should be seized upon and rammed down the throats of the fas­cist BDS brigade . Unfor­tu­nately unlike those haters , we seem only able to count on a hand­ful of social media activists for Israel . It’s high time we took the fight to the enemy and expose them for their big­otry and embed­ded anti­semitism
    ( see Alice Walker , Greta Berlin as sev­eral among many .)

  • Hugh Beau­mont

    Nobody seems capa­ble of see­ing this for what it is. Finkel­stein has always been log­i­cal and prin­ci­pled in his rea­son­ing. Just because it hap­pens to fall in Israel’s direc­tion on this point, doesn’t mean he’s changed sides. His only side is jus­tice. On the other hand, they might as well have been debat­ing over rais­ing cat­tle or sheep on Mars.

    • Sick of being Argie

      I would like to believe that, but it doesn’t fit with the whole Hezbol­lah win­ning as a “vic­tory of lib­erty and a vic­tory for free­dom”. The guy is an ex-Communist. Com­mu­nist were always pissed off that Com­mu­nism, while tout­ing itself as hav­ing the solu­tion to anti­semitism, pro­duced only total­i­tar­i­an­ism which was always anti­semite, while Zion­ists suc­ceeded in all their endeav­ors. (Indeed anti­semites still exist, but they can come talk to my friends in Golani about it).
      The Fink, like all Com­mu­nists, finally accepted the inter­na­tional state sys­tem. That is why he accepts Israel. But he is still com­pletely biased against the country.

  • abra­ham Weizfeld

    There is a lot miss­ing here; while any State would be con­trary to the inter­min­gled pop­u­la­tions it is nonethe­less evi­dent that any advances for Pales­tin­ian polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion is help­ful. A Fed­er­a­tion with National-Cultural Aton­omy would work.

  • Shirli­nOz
  • Guest

    I won­der if he also sup­ports the cre­ation of the white nation in Amer­ica or does he think that Jews have more of a right to eth­ni­cally cleanse a coun­try than oth­ers do?

  • Shlomo Ben Hungstein

    i saw this douche bag give a lec­ture at U.C. berke­ley a few years ago along with some U.N. Stooge. you can just imag­ine the sort of degen­er­ates that showed up to that event. but to my sur­prise some pro-Israel stu­dents car­ried out a dis­rup­tion it was pretty sweet. why he’s changed his tone recently i don’t know but i don’t trust him there’s no excuse for his past sins.

  • Jonathan Mans­field

    Nor­man Finkel­stein has crit­i­cized the BDS Move­ment many times in the past, this is not sur­pris­ing, He is a cham­pion of the 2 State idea, which puts him at odds with BDS Move­ment because they have no man­i­festo which accom­mo­dates the rights of Israelis in any future state. He has not “changed his spots” , “seen the light” nor is he “going back to his roots.” This is a stance he has taken for many many years, He still con­sid­ers the Zion­ist State to be evil, and is still active in the fight for the rights of Pales­tini­ans. The arti­cle appears to be writ­ten by Schaden­freudic Zion­ist gloat­ing that Finkestein is fight­ing their cor­ner. Well you are wrong! I don’t always agree with Nor­man Finkel­stein and I under­stand his con­cerns about the BDS Move­ment, but we share a com­mon loathing of an unjust apartheid state sys­tem, Of that, I am sure.

    • alexa44

      But he also tell the truth about the BDS real goal which is the destruc­tion of Israel.

    • cal­iflefty

      You miss Finkelstein’s points. He objects to BDS for 2 rea­sons: First, he per­son­ally objects to the rhetoric that BDS uses as hyp­o­crit­i­cal — this is a minor poin and Finkel­stein knows that the chance for Stal­in­ists to mod­er­ate their rhetoric is about as likely as leop­ard to change their spots. More impor­tantly he want the Pales­tin­ian cause to base it’s “moral author­ity” only on inter­na­tional law, what he calls “rights based” thus putting it on an equal foot­ing with with the legit­i­macy of Zion­ism. This is strictly for rea­sons of “realpol­i­tics”, it lends legit­i­macy to the Pales­tin­ian cause because inter­na­tional law car­ries the weight of polit­i­cal gravitas.

      Of course, Finkelstein’s dis­taste for hypoc­racy only goes so far, because if you ask him to define inter­na­tional law he will apply “fake law” — the phoney UN res­o­lu­tions since 1948 (which were rejected by the Arab states by the way) and not the only per­ti­nent legit­i­mate author­ity in effect which is the Man­date for Pales­tine, the basis for the estab­lish­ment of a Jew­ish (not Zion­ist) State. There is no estab­lish­ment clause for an Arab State in Pales­tine — that was reserved for the man­date for Syria, Iraq and Arabia.So if any­thing seems invented it is the con­cept of an Arab Pales­tine — which has no basis in the fact of a mar­ginal Arab pop­u­la­tion that only immi­grated into Israel as a response to the eco­nomic suc­cess of the Zion­ist project.

      • frisco­jimmy

        the paes­tini­ans snuck in after 1948 to get on wel­fare??

        • K.

          There were no “Pales­tini­ans” in 1948. Only a bunch of Arab suprema­cists with the help of Arab states and Nazi war crim­i­nals attack­ing Jews who wanted to return to their indige­nous home­land (the birth place of Jew­ish cul­ture) and estab­lish a Jew­ish state after years of liv­ing under per­se­cu­tion due to their minor­ity sta­tus. The “Pales­tin­ian” move­ment started in 1967 by Egypt­ian born Yasser Arafat. Unfor­tu­nately, we have been lied to for many years that the “Pales­tini­ans” are a sep­a­rate entity from the other Arab nations…Rather, it is a Pan-Arabist and Pan-Islamist front to col­o­nize the mid­dle east and eth­ni­cally cleanse peo­ple who are not Arab and even­tu­ally not Mus­lim as is going on cur­rently in Arab coun­tries across the mid­dle east.

          Do not fool your­self. The other Arab states could have absorbed the Arabs who call them­selves Pales­tini­ans many times. Rather they do not want a sin­gle Jew and prac­tic­ing Jew­ish cul­ture liv­ing in the mid­dle east. Just look at all their hate laws as a prime exam­ple and the way they treat Jews. The Jew­ish peo­ple have fought long and hard for their home­land and for these peo­ple to say that the Jew­ish peo­ple can­not have a state because of exag­ger­ated claims based on twisted facts and out­right lies is rather hyp­o­crit­i­cal as there are other states which prac­tice worse forms of human rights abuses (which, is not exag­ger­ated) and are not being called to cease to exist. In fact, it’s anti­se­mitic because by telling Jew­ish peo­ple they have no right to self deter­mi­na­tion after seri­ous per­se­cu­tion at the hands of Arab suprema­cists and Nazis and accept­ing the other side’s right to self deter­mi­na­tion, as well as actively con­demn­ing Jew­ish right to self deter­mi­na­tion with­out being crit­i­cal to other people’s right to self determination…That is Jew hatred at its best.

          Unfor­tu­nately, the Jews who sit on these anti-Israel pan­els are sell­ing their her­itage out to the Jew hat­ing left wing agenda and throw­ing their fel­low Jews under a bus (and this is not the first time as his­tory has shown lead­ing up to the pogroms under USSR).

          • steve but­ton

            Pathetic jew liar…

    • To raise the idea that Israel is an “unjust apartheid state” is not only anti­se­mitic but shows you do not really have a clue in your loathing.

      I com­mend any­one who is con­fused to read the fol­low­ing from a black South African and a Mid­dle East expert:

  • Zion­ista

    Fink is no friend of Israel. He sup­ports Hizbol­lah and prob­a­bly other ter­ror­ist groups.

  • ygalg

    why would finkel­stein sup­port “two state solu­tion” while also sup­port­ing hezbol­lah? that’s contradiction.

  • Where’s the tape?

    • steve but­ton

      Pure has­bara nonsense..

      • Well, after read­ing your com­ments, I could say like­wise about your posi­tion. You even got in the “has­bara” which indi­cates, to me, a prej­u­dice that becomes evi­dent when read­ing your words in this thread.

        • Kahana

          Nooo. He is a smart guy so what he is say­ing is lets be smart and tell the world what they want to hear and once we achieve our goal and have an Arab state we ask for more. He is smarter than Abu Nima who is using an argu­ment that will lead him no where

  • jzs­nake

    The man is men­tally dis­turbed. I almost feel sorry for him.

  • PKo­r­man

    Fin­klestein, Deek and oth­ers (Carter, Man­dela, Angelou, Saman­tha Hall, etc.) who toss around the “Apartheid Israel” meme are com­pletely silent con­cern­ing Saudi Ara­bia, Sudan, Syria, Hussein’s Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and now, Egypt, where parts of the native pop­u­la­tion are truly sec­ond class cit­i­zens and reg­u­larly abused/murdered. Israel, on the other hand, pro­vides con­sis­tent and equal rights to the pop­u­la­tion sub­ject to its reg­u­lar gov­er­nance. The Hamas Gov­ern­ment in Gaza and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood Gov­ern­ment in Egypt are pro­mot­ing or tol­er­at­ing reli­gious cleans­ing of Chris­tians, as was so suc­cess­ful in Sudan. The PA in Judea & Samaria (Jordan’s West Bank) has declared it to be a cap­i­tal offense to sell land to Jews. Their future state would be cleansed of all Jews, accord­ing to Abbas. That these peo­ple who slan­der Israel with alle­ga­tions of Apartheid are silent on real and fac­tual abuses defines them as big­ots, not prin­ci­pled voices.

  • Paul Austin Murphy

    He has just realised, per­haps, that the BDS or Left­ist approach to
    destroy­ing Israel has not worked — after over sixty years. He may be
    sim­ply look­ing for bet­ter options. Who knows at this point. Also, he is
    very much a con­trar­ian and likes being in the lime­light, just like our
    George Gal­loway. This new posi­tion has put him in the lime­light

    • steve but­ton

      Israel is destroy­ing itself. No friends except scum­bags and low-life’s.

      It’s over. Face it.

  • steve but­ton

    Finkel­stein, a Zion­ist, maybe under pres­sure from his fel­low Zion­ists to ‘cor­rect’ his past ‘errors’. It’s fair to say that the man who wrote such com­pelling and reveal­ing works like “Image and Real­ity:”, and “The Holo­caust Indus­try” has, much like his men­tor and col­league Chom­sky entered a new phase of his illus­tri­ous career.

    Com­plete irrelevancy…