Middle East studies in the News
Norman Finkelstein's world
by Isi Leibler
Historically, self-hating Jews besmirching their kinsmen have ranged from apostates in the Middle Ages to communists in Stalinist Russia. Today their successors have assumed pivotal roles in the global campaign to delegitimize Israel.
The most recent chapter in the ongoing offensive is Norman Finkelstein's book Beyond Chutzpa, which endeavors to depict Israel as one of the most evil countries in the world. The author also defames Alan Dershowitz, author of the widely acclaimed The Case for Israel. Dershowitz is particularly hated by the anti-Israeli pack because of his impeccable credentials as a champion of human rights.
Finkelstein accuses Dershowitz of plagiarizing material for his book from Joan Peters's From Time Immemorial, published over 20 years ago. The accusation is specious, because Dershowitz never used a single phrase or idea from Peters without proper citation. All Dershowitz did was to collate the evidence (including material used by Peters) and employ his professional fort to present a first-rate case for Israel. Indeed, after reviewing the charge of plagiarism, the former presidents of Harvard and Dartmouth both concluded that it was baseless.
Finkelstein also accused Dershowitz of trying to suppress his views on the grounds that he expressed surprise that a purportedly reputable publisher like University of California Press would associate itself with so unscholarly a work.
But Dershowitz was entirely justified in describing Beyond Chutzpa as a vile, unscholarly anti-Semitic tract. It employs similar techniques that Holocaust revisionists do in seizing upon tiny grains of truth to build a framework of lies, employing myriads of distorted or misleading footnotes to provide a veneer of pseudo scholarship.
Peter Novick, whose work criticizing aspects of Holocaust memorial activity was utilized by Finkelstein, described Finkelstein's "scholarship" as "a twenty-first century updating of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a piece of trash."
NEVERTHELESS Beyond Chutzpa is likely to confuse those unaware of the extent to which human rights agenda of NGOs as been hijacked and transformed into a vehicle for demonizing Israel.
Finkelstein quotes extensively from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, B'Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty, and the Public Committee against Torture which have long track records of bias and employing double standards in relation to Israel.
Finkelstein had already assumed the role of a global cult figure among anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli groups prior to the publication of Beyond Chutzpa.
In an earlier book, Finkelstein described the "holocaust industry" as "an extortion racket", a vehicle "to crush any dissent, any criticism of the State of Israel." Jewish leaders were referred to as "gangsters" and "crooks." Eli Wiesel was depicted as "the resident clown for the Holocaust circus." He challenged the authenticity of survivors, "If everyone who claimed to be a survivor is one, my mother used to say 'Who did Hitler kill then?'"
In subsequent interviews, Finkelstein attacked Leon Uris, author of Exodus alleging that "the chief character was named Ari Ben Canaan because Ari is the diminutive for Aryan." He admired Hizbullah - "The honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hizbullah as the US and Israel target it for liquidation."
Israeli demolitions of terrorist homes are equivalent to the "Nazi destruction of the village of Lidice" (in Czechoslovakia). Being compared to the Gestapo would "flatter" Israel; its human rights record "is interchangeable with that of Saddam Hussein's Iraq."
But his most bizarre comments related to Osama bin-Laden: "Regrettably it is payback time for the Americans... We deserve our problems because some things Bin Laden says are true... Bin Laden said 'until we [Moslems] live in security, you are not going to have any security' ... and there is certain rightness in that... Why should we go on merrily with our lives when so much of the world is suffering - with us as the direct and indirect perpetrators?"
IN Beyond Chutzpa Finkelstein writes: "From a combination of economic and political power [Jewish American elites] have sprung a mindset of Jewish superiority... From this lethal brew of formidable power, charismatic arrogance, feigned or marginal victimhood, and Holocaust immunity to criticism, has sprung a terrifying recklessness and ruthlessness on the part of American Jewish elites. Alongside Israel, they are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today. Coddling them is not the answer. They must be stopped."
He also claims that "like the Holocaust" anti-Semitism is an ideological weapon to deflect justified criticism of Israel and concomitantly, powerful interests. In its current usage, "anti-Semitism" alongside the "war against terrorism" serve to cloak a "massive assault on international law and human rights."
Jewish leaders "resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer" and are also "de facto agents of a foreign government" and "in service to their Holy State."
IN A sane political world one might have assumed that such trash would be relegated to the fringe. Not in todays frenzied anti-Israeli climate where Finkelstein's ravings are boosted, among others, by a long parade of academics of Jewish origin praising his lies and describing his distortions as scholarship. The blurb on the dust jacket of this appalling book includes commendations from Daniel Boyarin of the University of California, Avi Shlaim of Oxford, and of course, Noam Chomsky from MIT.
But the most outrageous paeans of praise come from Israeli academics whose universities are sponsored by the state they demonize and supported by contributions from Diaspora Zionists.
Thus Hebrew University professor of sociology, Baruch Kimmerling, describes the book as "the most comprehensive systematic and well documented work of its kind... about the daily practices of the occupation and colonization of the Palestinian territories by Israel."
In a review of Finkelstein's book in the National Catholic Reporter, Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University, who also promotes international war crime tribunals against Israeli military officers, described Beyond Chutzpa as "an attempt to expose how elements in academia have played a role in concealing Israel's abuse... the heated response to his book is just another example of how the literature discussing the new anti-Semitism delegitimizes those who expose Israel's outrageous violations of international law. The major irony in relation to this saga is that Dr. Finkelstein's book, not Dershowitz's, constitute the real case for Israel, that is, for a moral Israel."
THE INCREDIBLE damage to Israel's reputation inflicted by renegade Jews has been greatly underestimated. The distortions have already persuaded the average European that Israel represents a greater threat to world peace than Iran or North Korea. We cannot afford this to be extended to the United States.
Israel must realize that the battle of ideas is crucial to our future. There are hundreds of talented Israelis and friends of Israel throughout the world who possess the scholarship and communication skills to enable them to make a major contribution. The government should invite the best of them to join in a campaign to reverse the tide. When the poisonous ravings of people like Finkelstein gain credence in the mainstream media, it is surely time to ring the alarm bells.
The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel relations committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a veteran international Jewish leader. email@example.comNote: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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