Thursday, March 26, 2009
Norman Finklestein Posting on a Terror Attack in Israel
Of all the controversial professors who infest American universities, few can match ex-DePaul University Professor of Middle East Studies Norman Finklestein. I say ex-professor because Finklestein lost his position at DePaul (after a nasty fight)when they refused to give him tenure. He is one of those many professors who detest the state of Israel and deny its right to exist. Since losing his job at DePaul, Finklestein, now going under the label "independent scholar", has joined the lecture circuit traveling around the country and appearing at one university after another where he accuses the Israelis of every crime imaginable while also pouring insults on his own country-especially the previous administration. Finklestein's main thesis is that the Jews and Israel are using the Holocaust to drive their own agenda in favor of the Jewish state at the expense of the Palestinians. Interestingly, he is the son of Jewish Holocaust survivors. Whatever his motives, Finklestein is one of many Jewish academics who allow themselves to be used as "Jewish voices" in opposition to Israel.
As we speak, more universities around the nation are extending invitations for this character to speak:
4/04/09 – Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis
4/07/09 - University of Connecticut
4/08/09 – University of Maryland
4/09/09 – University of Massachusettes, Lowell
4/13/09 - California State Universty, Chico (Political Science
Department, Middle East Studies Program)
In at least one(California State University at Chico), his appearances are being sponsored by academic departments, a testament to their "dedication" to bringing a fair debate to the issues for the benefit of their students.
On January 31, I attended a completely one-sided forum on Israel/Palestine at UC Irvine. Finklestein was one of several left-wing academics who sat on a couple of panels and poured abuse on the Jewish state. According to Finklestein et al, Israel committed a massacre in the recent fighting in Gaza, deliberately targeting innocent Palestinians and using bombs given by dear old Uncle Sam. According to Finklestein, the reason Israel has fought virtually all of its wars was to instill fear in the Arab world and put a halt to any peace efforts when cute little groups like Hamas got too "moderate" and desirous of peace. These are all statements that Finklestein made in my presence and are included in the two reports I wrote both for Campus Watch/Frontpage and my own blog.
Finklestein is a character who oozes arrogance and condescension. In a previous appearance at UCI, he angrily berated a young student who had the temerity to ask him about his invitation to attend a Holocaust denial conference in Iran. Once he has the podium, you need to send in the Army to get him to relinquish it. The man can literally drone on forever. Yet, college audiences love him-especially at UC Irvine where deans and above gather at his feet, laugh at his nasty quips and applaud his insulting statements. Finklestein has few words of praise for anyone and plenty of insults for those he doesn't like-which is just about everybody. At UCI in the space of a few hours, he called Israeli historian Benny Morris, who has produced many works on the Middle East conflict, a "part-time historian and full-time propagandist", George W Bush "an idiot" and Dick Cheney a "thug and a murderer".
At that same event, I sent up a written question to the panel which was selected and directed to Finklestein. I asked if he and his colleagues would condemn recent comments and chants heard at anti-Israel rallies around North America in the wake of the Gaza fighting, such as "Long live Hitler", "Jews go back to the ovens", etc (all of which are readily available on YouTube and can be seen on this blog). Finklestein's answer was that he had not heard of such statements, suspected they were wildly exaggerated, made up, or committed by "Zionists" masquerading as Jews. (That answer caused the audience to erupt in cheers when he closed by making a reference to people who should pull themselves out of their navels.)
This, ladies and gentleman, is an academic-a professor!! This is what I want to be when I grow up.
Enough of the background on Finklestein. I would like to make a comment here about something that has appeared on his website (normanfinklestein.com):
On March 6, 2008, an Israeli-Arab terrorist entered a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem (Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav) and opened fire on the occupants. By the time it was over, eight Jewish students, seven of whom were teenagers, were dead, senselessly murdered for no other reason than they were Jewish.
Victims of the terror attack at Yeshiva Mercaz HaRov
While the reaction in Israel was one of shock and horror, many Palestinians in Gaza, Lebanon and other places took to the streets to celebrate in joy. Some imams in mosques praised the killer as a hero. Below are photos of Palestinians celebrating this incident.
Finkelstein's website features a statement written by the board of the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) in March 2008 condemning the horrific terrorist attack. The statement is posted without comment but appears under the title (apparently added by Finklestein): NAZI PHDs FOR PEAXE mourn death of ubermenschen.
Uebermenschen is a term originally associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, which is roughly translated as "superman" or "overman" and later became related to the old Nazi term Untermenschen-"sub-humans", which was used to refer to Jews and other groups not deemed worthy by the Nazis.
First of all, let me state that the SPME is a national organization made up largely of Jewish professors, current or retired. They support Israel and are concerned about the situation on US campuses where anti-Israel voices have made many campuses unpleasant for Jewish students. For Finklestein to label this organization as Nazi is outrageous. They are not anti-Muslim or anti-anything else. What Finklestein has done is take a moderate organization that defends Israel and label it as made up of Nazis. Also, why does Finklestein label the innocent, young, Jewish victims as "Uebermenschen? What kind of hateful message is he trying to send by implying a Nazi connection here? He should be ashamed of himself, but I suspect Mr Finklestein is beyond shame.
I don't know what drives this man, nor do I particularly care. Perhaps, he is just a product of the 1960s college generation (that I survived). What I do believe is that Norman Finklestein-along with others such as Ward Churchill-represent the very worst in American academia. Finklestein has the constitutional right to spout his venom and twisted version of history, but we have the same right to comment on it and shine the public spotlight on the ravings of this character.
He should take great care before he goes around calling people Nazis. (I have just recently called certain people Nazis, but I am prepared to back that up.) He should especially remember that it was the very people he champions who cheered and celebrated the massacre of March 2008.