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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.”

 

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March 7, 2012 1

Upcoming Conferences to Promote Anti-Israel Initiatives

Two upcom­ing left-wing anti­war con­fer­ences, one tak­ing place at Pace Uni­ver­sity in New York next week­end and the sec­ond tak­ing place in Stam­ford, Con­necti­cut the week­end after that, will have a sig­nif­i­cant Israel angle. These con­fer­ences are sched­uled to include ses­sions on a one-state solu­tion, Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel, oppo­si­tion to a U.S. or Israel attack against Iran, and more.

The anti­war and anti-Israel move­ments have long sought to cre­ate com­mon cause and unite their objec­tives. In recent years, many of the larger anti-Israel ral­lies and gath­er­ings have been co-organized by local and national anti­war orga­ni­za­tions like ANSWER. In turn, anti­war events are often marked by anti-Israel slo­gans and claims that Israel is respon­si­ble for pres­sur­ing the U.S. into wars in the Mid­dle East.

The fol­low­ing are some details about the planned anti-Israel ses­sions at the two upcom­ing conferences:

Left Forum:
Every year, left-wing activists par­tic­i­pate in a major gath­er­ing called “Left Forum.” The con­fer­ence, which in the past has attracted sev­eral thou­sand atten­dees, is titled “Occupy the Sys­tem: Con­fronting Global Cap­i­tal­ism.” It will take place at Pace from March 16–18, 2012. 

The con­fer­ence appears to have an anti-Israel agenda that goes beyond Israel’s alleged role in U.S. for­eign pol­icy. It will include ses­sions on Israeli “pinkwash­ing” (the claim that Israel show­cases its pro­gres­sive record on LGBT issues to cover up its poli­cies toward Pales­tini­ans); a one-state solu­tion to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict; “resist­ing” a U.S.-Israel war against Iran; Israel as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the global 1%; and BDS as a form of “cor­po­rate resistance.”

A descrip­tion for the 1% ses­sion, titled “Israel: Strate­gic Asset to the Global 1%,” reads:

“We will ana­lyze the impact of Zion­ist strate­gies in the US includ­ing the increased vio­la­tion and ero­sion of civil rights, attacks on our move­ments, and the esca­lated tar­get­ing of Arab, South East Asian, and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of color.”

United National Anti­war Coali­tion (UNAC) Conference:
UNAC, a newly formed coali­tion com­prised of two dozen anti­war groups, will hold its first annual con­fer­ence in Stam­ford, Con­necti­cut from March 23–25.

Con­fer­ence atten­dees will vote on two major agenda items dur­ing the con­fer­ence, one of which is a pro­posal on end­ing U.S. aid to Israel. The con­fer­ence will also include a ses­sion on BDS as tool of “non­vi­o­lent resis­tance” fea­tur­ing Nancy Kri­co­rian, an activist with CODEPINK, and Ethan Heit­ner, an anti-Israel cartoonist.

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