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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 8, 2013 1

Anti-Israel Activity Reached Fever Pitch This Week

Anti-Israel activists took a multi-faceted approach to attack­ing Israel in the pub­lic sphere this week. In the span of 7 days, divest­ment res­o­lu­tions were con­sid­ered at three col­lege cam­puses, ten anti-Israel bill­boards were put up in Atlanta, over 30 col­lege cam­puses hosted Israeli Apartheid Week pro­grams and two day­long BDS con­fer­ences were scheduled.

These ini­tia­tives are for­mally or infor­mally part of a global effort to advance the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment against Israel. They demon­strate the anti-Israel movement’s com­mit­ment to employ­ing mul­ti­ple tac­tics and cam­paigns to attract sup­port for its positions.

A flyer adver­tis­ing the first pub­lic dis­cus­sion on the divest­ment res­o­lu­tion at UCSD

Here’s a closer look at what’s taken place this week:

  • Cam­pus Divest­ment Res­o­lu­tions: Stu­dent gov­ern­ments at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia (UC), River­side, and UC San Diego con­sid­ered divest­ment res­o­lu­tions tar­get­ing multi­na­tional com­pa­nies that work with Israel like Cater­pil­lar, Gen­eral Elec­tric and Northrup Grum­man. The results were mixed: the res­o­lu­tion at Stan­ford was voted down; UC San Diego did not vote on its res­o­lu­tion (after a dis­cus­sion that lasted until 2am) and will resume dis­cussing it next week, while UC River­side passed its res­o­lu­tion in a stealth man­ner rem­i­nis­cent of the recent res­o­lu­tion at UC Irvine. The divest­ment res­o­lu­tion at River­side was intro­duced with­out advance notice and seems to be part of an effort to ensure that pro-Israel stu­dents are left in the dark and are there­fore not present at the pub­lic dis­cus­sion to voice their per­spec­tive and advo­cate against the bill.
  • Israeli Apartheid Week: At least 35 col­lege cam­puses in the U.S. are par­tic­i­pat­ing in IAW this year, the ninth con­sec­u­tive year that the pro­gram has been held in cities around the world. Most of the events in the U.S. were for­mally sched­uled to take place March 4–8 but some are stretch­ing into next week as well (due to var­i­ous university-related sched­ul­ing con­flicts). IAW events this year have pri­mar­ily included anti-Israel speak­ers, mock “apartheid walls” and check­point dis­plays on cam­pus, and screen­ings of two crit­i­cal of Israel films,  the Oscar award-nominated “5 Bro­ken Cam­eras” and a more extreme film called “Roadmap to Apartheid.” “Roadmap to Apartheid” is nar­rated by The Color Pur­ple author Alice Walker and analo­gizes Pales­tin­ian refugees to Jews in the War­saw Ghetto and par­tially con­dones ter­ror­ism as a “symp­tom” of the conflict.
  • BDS Con­fer­ences: This past Sat­ur­day the Uni­ver­sity of Texas, Austin, hosted a day­long “BDS Con­fer­ence” that fea­tured extreme speeches by Nada Elia, a fac­ulty mem­ber at Anti­och Uni­ver­sity in Seat­tle, and Sherry Wolf, a Jew­ish social­ist and activist. Elia avowed that she would not reject Pales­tin­ian extrem­ism because Pales­tini­ans “have a right to resist” and com­pared Israelis to Amer­i­can slave-owners. Wolf used the plat­form to claim that the notion that Israel is the Jew­ish people’s home­land is “bulls–t” and accused Israel of “ter­ror­ism” and insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism against the Pales­tini­ans. She fur­ther described Zion­ist Jews as “white suprema­cist racist[s].” On Sat­ur­day, March 9, a sim­i­lar con­fer­ence will take place on the Auraria cam­pus in Den­ver. Par­tic­i­pants will “learn about the his­tory of both Pales­tine and the global BDS move­ment, hear what coali­tion groups are work­ing on, and par­tic­i­pate in BDS and coalition-building train­ing,” accord­ing to the event flier.
  • Anti-Israel Bill­boards: The Coun­cil for the National Inter­est, an anti-U.S. aid to Israel group based in DC, recently started a cam­paign called “Stop the Blank Check to Israel” which hopes to place bill­boards in cities across the coun­try. Ten such ads, which read, “$8 Mil­lion a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense! STOP The Blank Check.org,” have recently been erected in Atlanta. Ads with sim­i­lar mes­sages have appeared in the past year in Den­ver, Detroit, Los Ange­les, Chapel Hill and New York.

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December 21, 2012 1

Violent Resistance” Makes Comeback in Wake of Pillar of Defense

Through­out Oper­a­tion Pil­lar of Defense, the recent clash between Israel and Hamas oper­a­tives in Gaza that came to an end almost a month ago, anti-Israel activists expressed sup­port for Hamas and vio­lent resis­tance against Israel. Ral­lies across the U.S. included chants of “intifada, intifada” and hos­tile mes­sages posted on Face­book and other social media plat­forms also sided with Hamas and joy­fully announced that the “resis­tance has reached Tel Aviv!”

Inter­est­ingly, this sort of extreme rhetoric has not fully ebbed since the lat­est oper­a­tion came to a close. At an event on Wednes­day called “Resis­tance and Rev­o­lu­tion: Gaza, the Arab Spring, and the new Mid­dle East,” which was held in down­town Brook­lyn, sev­eral pan­elists acknowl­edged that vio­lence is a nec­es­sary part of the “rev­o­lu­tion” against Israel.

Lamis Deek, a founder of Al-Awda, even crit­i­cized the Mus­lim Brotherhood’s lead­er­ship in Egypt for seiz­ing and con­fis­cat­ing an arms ship­ment en route to Gaza from Libya, using it as an exam­ple of Egypt’s exces­sive “pro-Israel” posi­tion. She also included in her remarks, which were titled “Pales­tine and the Right of Resis­tance,” praise for the lan­guage of the cease­fire agree­ment between Israel and Hamas pre­cisely because the text did not include a call for the recog­ni­tion of the state of Israel.

Sherry Wolf, an activist with the Inter­na­tional Social­ist Orga­ni­za­tion and the event’s spon­sor, sim­i­larly claimed that out­siders “can’t dic­tate the type of resis­tance” used by Pales­tini­ans and that there should be no expec­ta­tion of a “resis­tance ‘Dream Team.’” Wolf has pre­vi­ously advo­cated an explic­itly pro-terrorist posi­tion. On Novem­ber 20, a day before the cease­fire was declared, Wolf pub­lished an arti­cle on the Social­ist Worker’s web­site titled, “Gaza’s Right to Resist Israeli Ter­ror.” In the arti­cle, she called “Hamas’ mil­i­tary resis­tance” a “source of tremen­dous pride” and said that those who stand with the oppressed ought to defend the “right of Pales­tini­ans to resist the ter­ror of the Israeli mil­i­tary machine.”

Wolf has been invited to speak on sev­eral col­lege cam­puses in recent weeks, includ­ing at New York Uni­ver­sity and Williams Col­lege in Mass­a­chu­setts. Her appear­ances are gen­er­ally spon­sored by social­ist stu­dent groups and Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine.

There is also evi­dence of increased sup­port for Pales­tin­ian resis­tance beyond the U.S. At the Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don tomor­row, an event called “Gaza: Refo­cus­ing Resis­tance, How the resis­tance in Gaza has refo­cused the Arab Spring” will take place. Speak­ers sched­uled to appear at the event include Roshan Muhammed Salih, a cor­re­spon­dent for Iran’s government-run Eng­lish lan­guage news net­work PressTV, and Sukant Chan­dan, a London-based activist who sup­ports Hezbol­lah and praised the sec­ond intifada dur­ing his speech at an Al Quds Day rally in Lon­don last August.

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