Editor’s note: 05.09.2006, latest article on Santa Cruz talk here.
I thought you might like to see the cartoon in our “alternative” weekly newspaper, Metro Santa Cruz. DiCinzo regularly bashes our Center and me, so don’t take it too personally!
Last August, the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Alliance protested an upcoming appearance by a reggae artist named Sizzla who was booked at the Catalyst.
The singer was known for his anti-gay lyrics, and a spokesman for the GLBT reacted this way: “The Catalyst has a right to have him on stage, but they have a choice in who they bring in here.”
We don’t recall any sort of anti-gay backlash after the protest. In fact, much of the Santa Cruz community supported the gay groups, and said, essentially, that if the minority group was offended, then perhaps Sizzla shouldn’t appear.
Now, in the aftermath of Israel critic Norman Finkelstein in Santa Cruz, it’s a different story. A diverse group of Jewish community members protested his appearance, but many in the community have reacted differently.
“The fact of the Holocaust does not give Jews a carte blanche for perpetuity,” said one.
Another said: “The placards lettered with, ‘hate speech’ and ‘anti-Semitism’ are overweening, showing a level of maturity most often found with freshmen girls.”
Is this Santa Cruz’s famed sensitivity?
The issue is complex. It begins, perhaps, with some people’s confusion between Israel and Judaism. Finkelstein, who is Jewish, is a critic of Israel and its policies — as well as the support that the country receives from some American Jews.
If we understand the protesters’ point, it’s not his criticism of Israel that they are protesting. In fact, Finkelstein during his talk made some fair points — and we agree that he has every right to make them.
What they were protesting was something else. Finkelstein in his writing has also chosen words that have offended a number of people in the Jewish community. He has accused many Jews of somehow “using” the Holocaust to their own selfish ends. He did that in his book, “The Holocaust Industry.”
Some of our letter-writers have commented that Finkelstein didn’t say anything insulting about Jews, so why, then, should people have been protesting?
Here’s the issue: the protesters are offended by Finkelstein’s writings and previous speeches, and they feel that having him speak in Santa Cruz puts them in an awkward spot. Jews, like gays or other minority groups, have been the victim of horrible discrimination for centuries — long before and long after the Holocaust.
In other words, it’s not Finkelstein’s criticism of Israel that’s at issue. What is the issue is his comments that the protesters feel could elicit an increase of anti-Semitism.
We don’t take that concern lightly. But apparently some in Santa Cruz do — including the sponsors of the speech.
Last August, a Catalyst spokesman pointed out that Sizzla had performed there in 2003 and had not preached hatred of any kind. But the gay community protested anyway.
That’s what the Jewish community did at the Finkelstein speech.
At no time did the protesters say that Finkelstein didn’t have a right to speak. But they did say that his presence here offended them.
That’s no reason for them to be called overweening and immature.
Apparently, in this liberal community of Santa Cruz, it’s reasonable for minority groups to protest — with no criticism. Unless those protesters are Jews.
Clarification: Clearing up Finkelstein’s message
Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 21, 2006
A Sentinel story published March 16 about a talk by author and academic Norman Finkelstein incorrectly stated that he compared the Holocaust with apartheid in South Africa and the killing of Native Americans by European settlers.
During the speech to an audience at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Cruz, Finkelstein spoke about the treatment of Palestinians by Israelis.
Finkelstein, whose comments have been criticized by local Jewish leaders as hateful toward Jews, said staunch supporters of Israel believe the Israeli-Arab conflict is so unique, comparisons cannot be made.
But if the conflict were compared with apartheid in South Africa or the killing of Native Indians by European settlers, Finkelstein said, Israel would come out on the “wrong side.”
Finkelstein also spoke about how Jewish people have used the atrocities of the Holocaust as a way to gain current political and financial support. Though the Holocaust was horrific, he said, Jews are not the only humans who have suffered in the history of the world.
He said the idea for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict — sovereign states for each — is strongly supported by almost every nation in the world but the U.S. and Israel, which makes the ongoing controversy “illegitimate and concocted.”
Sentinel staff report
Post mortem of event organizer
We had a great event with Norman Finkelstein last night. In almost every regard, it couldn’t have been better for the Center. There was a large demonstration outside — the Sentinel said 150 people or more, holding a candlelight vigil and protest circling in front of the Vets Hall. Some good friends on that side of the line, and that was strange. But subdued without verbal confrontations. We had to ask a couple of people to quit leafleting outside and inside the doorway of the Vets Hall, to blow out their candles when entering the packed auditorium, etc.
Inside, standing room only. 400+ people. Almost as many as at the Lerner event, though we charged more for Finkelstein, while still giving away a lot of comps to volunteers, etc. The Sentinel featured the event with a front page story and color photo.
And Finkelstein was superb — articulate, friendly, self-effacing, funny, and on point with a strongly supported rationale argument for positions he took. Spoke for about an hour and a half. If you are going to take him on, you had best know your stuff. Or, better yet, just keep him from getting venues, because he offers a clear and compelling argument on those points he has studied. As for those outside and others protesting about the Center sponsoring “hate speech” — I think you’d have to be pretty hyper-perceptive to find support for that position, because the “hate” was so subtle so as to appear non-existent to most of us there. I think many outside would have been embarrassed (should have been?) for trying to stop such a
presentation from being made and heard. I expect it won’t influence those who objected — for the time being at least they’ll feel the need to rationalize their stand, regardless of what Finkelstein said or how he said it.
The ACLU had a presence and Women in Black vigilled outside and then joined the program inside. Even using the Resource Center as a unifying factor won’t prove easy over time as the splits within and among those who signed the letter are nearly as if not more profound than those between them and theCenter. And those divisions are across the board, not just on a single important issue as with RCNV.
The crowd was alert, attentive and enthusiastic, outwardly expressive in support of RCNV holding the event. One guy came up to me afterwards and said that my role in hosting Finkelstein was so great that it “almost” offset everything that he objected to that I had done on the Council. He smiled and gave me a strong hand
Just an off the head assessment for the time being.
Packed Finkelstein talk draws ‘real outrage’
March 16, 2006 | Santa Cruz Sentinel
By SHANNA McCORD, Sentinel staff writer
The suffering of Jewish people during the Holocaust is really no different than apartheid in Africa or the slaughtering of Native Americans by European settlers, Norman Finkelstein told a standing-room-only crowd at the Veterans Memorial Building on Wednesday night.
Finkelstein, the son of two Holocaust survivors who teaches political science at DePaul University in Chicago, spoke about his views of the “fabricated, concocted, illegitimate” Israeli-Arab conflict, while outside at least 150 members of the local Jewish community quietly protested the event.
They held candles and signs that read “Hate speech breeds violence” and “Say no to hate.”
“There’s real outrage in the community that the Resource Center for Nonviolence would sponsor such despicable hate speech,” Rabbi Rick Litvak of Temple Beth El said. “It’s a real stain on the Resource Center.”
Finkelstein was invited to speak in Santa Cruz by the Resource Center for Nonviolence, a 30-year-old local peace group that promotes nonviolence through social change. One aspect of the center’s work has been Middle East peace and support for a resolution to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.
Finkelstein, who cracked light-hearted jokes about his own Jewish heritage, is known for a pro-Palestinian stance and criticism of Israel.
Wednesday night he cited several Israeli scholars, including historian Benny Morris, when talking about the Palestinians getting kicked out of their homeland in 1948 by the Jews and what he says has been the “illegal” occupation of the land by Israelis.
“The Palestinians were ethnically cleansed,” Finkelstein said. “It was not an accident of war.”
Finkelstein supports a two-state solution to the ongoing Middle East conflict that would include “full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories” and Palestinians recognizing the right of Israelis to live in security and peace with their neighbors.
Finkelstein criticized Israelis for currently building a wall that would annex a majority of the West Bank, saying, “Israel is destroying Palestine.”
He’s written several books, including “The Holocaust Industry,” which explains his view of how Jewish people have exploited suffering by the Nazis during World War II for political and financial gain, and “Beyond Chutzpah — On the Misuse of anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.”
Finkelstein has drawn fiery reaction from American Jews for calling Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel the “resident clown” of the “Holocaust circus.”
Local Jewish members had called for the center to cancel Finkelstein’s talk, based on what they say is hateful and inflammatory speech.
Max Hoff of Felton came to hear Finkelstein speak in Santa Cruz because he wanted to hear a different side of the issue.
“I feel his minority views need to be heard and broadcast far and wide,” Hoff said. “He does represent a minority view that is perhaps stifled in this country.”
For years, many area Jewish leaders have criticized the Resource Center, saying it is anti-Israel, and that its stated push for peace in the Mideast is actually thinly veiled support for Palestinians.
Center backers say Finkelstein’s talk was merely a chance to hear an underrepresented viewpoint.
Contact Shanna McCord at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Protest planned at Resource Center for Nonviolence speech tonight
Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 15, 2006
The local Jewish community is expected to unite tonight at a silent, candlelight vigil during the speech of Norman Finkelstein, known for inflammatory comments of Jewish people and support for Palestinians.
Finkelstein has been invited by the Resource Center for Nonviolence to speak at 8 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building, 846 Front St.
“We do not believe that the Resource Center is serving our community and the interests of nonviolence by bringing a speaker known for his promulgation of hate,” Rabbis Rick Latvik and Paula Marcus and Gil Stein wrote in a statement.
Tonight, Finkelstein is expected to talk about his support for sovereign states for Israelis and Palestinians.
Of 400 votes in a Sentinel Readers Poll, 56 percent agreed that free speech protects Finkelstein’s right to his opinion, and 44 percent oppose his appearance in Santa Cruz.
Finkelstein expected to attract crowd
Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 14, 2006 | Coast Lines: santa cruz
Norman Finkelstein, known for inflammatory comments of Jewish people and sympathy for Palestinians, will speak Wednesday in Santa Cruz.
Hosted by the Resource Center for Nonviolence, Finkelstein is expected to talk about his support for sovereign states for Israelis and Palestinians.
Several members of the local Jewish community have expressed concern about Finkelstein’s appearance and plan to stage a “quiet protest” during Finkelstein’s speech.
The event begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Santa Cruz Veterans Memorial Building, 846 Front St.
Results from the Sentinel Readers Poll show a majority of respondents are in favor of Finkelstein’s appearance at the Resource Center for Nonviolence event. Of 400 votes cast by 4 p.m. Monday, 56 percent agreed that free speech protects Finkelstein’s right to his opinion, regardless of how inflammatory, with 44 percent of the respondents voting against his appearance.
Norman Finkelstein talk: No hate in our community
Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 12, 2006
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following opinion essay was signed by nine local rabbis, as well as nine other people from the Santa Cruz Jewish community.
Last month, Ilan Halimi, 23, was found naked and tortured in a Paris suburb after having been kidnapped for ransom because he was Jewish. He died shortly afterward. Last week, three Jews were beaten in the same neighborhood.
In the United States, we don’t often feel the same fear that Jews experience in other parts of the world. But there are times when our sense of security is destabilized and we wonder about our own environment.
This month, the Resource Center for Nonviolence is bringing an inflammatory and divisive speaker, Norman Finkelstein, to our community.
In his writings, lectures and interviews, Finkelstein has attacked Jewish leaders for their work to educate the world about the Holocaust. He has referred to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as a “clown” and a “liar,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center a human rights organization dedicated to promoting tolerance and preserving the memory of the Holocaust as “a gang of heartless and immoral crooks,” and accuses Israelis of “acting like Nazis.”
Despite the notable presence of Jews in movements for civil and human rights, and the response of Jewish organizations to world crises from the tsunami to Sudan, Finkelstein has characterized the Jewish community as callous to the suffering of anyone else, and asserts that Jews view indigenous victims of oppression as ‘savages.’ “
Outrageously, Finkelstein states that, “The honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah.” We find it the height of hypocrisy that a community-based organization with a mission of nonviolence has chosen to sponsor a speaker who supports a terrorist organization committed to violence.
While we believe that everyone has a right to free speech, the Resource Center is not serving our community by sponsoring a speaker known for the promulgation of hate.
The Resource Center dismisses our concerns as unreasonable. Their leaders claim that we are accusing Finkelstein of being anti-Semitic because of his positions on Israel. We know that criticism of the state of Israel does not necessarily equal anti-Semitism. But neither should we tolerate anti-Semitism merely because it is masked in criticism of Israel.
Criticism of Jewish leaders or the state of Israel is not the only problem. Finkelstein’s own mentor, Professor Peter Novick, characterizes Finkelstein’s work as “the hate campaign of a zealot,” and a “21st century updating” of the fraudulent 19th century anti-Semitic “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Novick states that Finkelstein distorts facts to the point of “pure invention,” and “displays a paranoid belief” in a global Jewish conspiracy.
The fact that Norman Finkelstein is a Jew does not legitimize his anti-Semitic rhetoric. The hateful nature of his message has united the full spectrum of the organized Jewish community in Santa Cruz left, right and center in its condemnation of the Resource Center’s shameful sponsorship.
Unlike the Resource Center’s event, which divides the community, the Jewish community offers real opportunities for dialogue and peace through Sulha gatherings of Jews, Christians and Muslims, for forgiveness and reconciliation in the tradition of Middle Eastern communities and through events such as the upcoming “Islam and Judaism, Common Threads,” in which Muslim leaders dedicated to peace and understanding will be guests at Temple Beth El.
Why does the Resource Center so obsessively single out issues of justice in Israel while so many other ares of the world, which deserve equal if not greater attention, go virtually ignored? If the Resource Center cannot act respectfully toward the Jewish community in Santa Cruz, how can it be a force for nonviolent change in the Middle East?
This event is entitled “Israel & Palestine: Misusing Anti-Semitism, Abusing History.” It is ironic that noted scholars in the field point out that it is Finkelstein who misuses anti-Semitism and abuses history to propagate his rage against Israel and to promote a dangerous theory of a world Jewish conspiracy.
Hosting the Finkelstein event is an indication to our local Jewish community that the Resource Center does not understand the nature of how anti-Semitism works. We look forward to a time when the Resource Center will be a force for positive dialogue and true commitment to nonviolence. When the Resource Center truly examines its motivation for bringing this speaker, and accepts responsibility for fostering fear of anti-Semitism in our community, that time will have arrived.
Those signing this essay are Rabbi Richard Litvak, Rabbi Paula Marcus, Rabbi Beth Janus and Rabbi Shifra Weiss-Penzias, all of Temple Beth El; Murray Baumgarten of UC Santa Cruz; Howie Schneider, Tikkun Community; Rabbi Eli Cohen and Rabbi Lori Klein of Chadeish Yameinu Jewish Renewal; Rabbi Shalom Bochner and Rick Zinman of Santa Cruz Hillel; Shlomo Vilozny and Ilian Benjamin of Congregation Kol Tefilah; Gil Stein, past chair, United Jewish Appeal; Rabbi Ychanan Friedman and Rabbi Shloime Chen of Chabad of Santa Cruz; Helen Bryce of Kolaynu, Progressive Jewish Voice; Liz Alpert of Hadassah and Irene Reti, a writer.
Norman Finkelstein talk: All views should be heard
by Scott Keneedy
Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 12, 2006
[SC Sentinel’s] EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a letter written by Scott Kennedy of the Resource Center for Nonviolence that was posted on the official Web site of Norman G. Finkelstein.
I have been hesitant to send this message out of concern for prematurely or unnecessarily inflaming an already difficult situation. But the situation has come to the point that I must provide you an update.
Spokespersons speaking on behalf of the Jewish community of Santa Cruz, including several and perhaps all of the rabbis of local congregations, have demanded that the Middle East Program of the Resource Center for Nonviolence cancel the March 15 presentation by Norman Finkelstein.
Those objecting to Finkelstein’s visit have referenced offensive quotes from Finkelstein’s Web site and/or that they view his work as anti-Semitic.
I have been told directly that the Resource Center will face “grave repercussions” if we provide Finkelstein a local platform to present his views.
Offers for representatives of the Resource Center to meet with those demanding cancellation of Finkelstein’s visit have gone without response.
Typically Resource Center staff is responsible for program decisions such as scheduling speakers. At this point, as coordinator of the RCNV Middle East program, I am proceeding with the program as planned.
I realize that you may be subject to some of the same pressures and demands so I want you to know what is happening.
One of my real concerns is the serious lack of reciprocity in discussion about who is invited to speak and who deserves to be heard on issues related to Israel and Palestine. The demands for “balance” and “fairness” seem to run in one direction. The same people and organizations threaten those inviting Finkelstein, wouldn’t support Rabbi Michael Lerner’s recent visit, but lend their name and support to Dennis Pragar’s talk at UCSC.
In his work, Finkelstein describes a broad consensus among historians and human rights organizations on the factual record and the international consensus in support of a Two State solution to settle the conflict.
Why is it so difficult to bring those facts before the U.S. public? Finkelstein points to a veil of “contrived controversy” that shrouds the Israel-Palestine conflict. This contrived controversy prevents rigorous debate in the United States about the nature and severity of Israel’s human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and prevents our country’s needed support for a sustainable political resolution to the conflict.
As for what Finkelstein has to say, I recommend that you listen to the “Democracy Now!” debate with Finkelstein and former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami. Audio and transcript can be found at normanfinkelstein.com. Finkelstein has written that this debate was “remarkably civil, free from rancor and vituperation, and provides, I think, grounds for hope that honest people respectful of facts can agree on many things despite political differences.”
Let’s continue to prepare for Norman Finkelstein’s visit to Santa Cruz keeping in mind that goal of honest people respectful of facts agreeing on many things despite political differences!
Should you decide to rescind your endorsement/sponsorship of the event, let me know and we will correct it on publicity, the RCNV Web site, etc.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions, concerns or suggestions.
Scott Kennedy is coordinator of the Middle East Program Resource Center for Nonviolence.
Controversial anti-Israel speaker to take stage in S.C.
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By SHANNA McCORD
Sentinel staff writer
SANTA CRUZ — A simmering debate between local Jewish leaders and a Santa Cruz peace group they say unfairly promotes Palestinian causes has reignited.
Prominent Jewish community members don’t want the Resource Center for Nonviolence to host next week’s scheduled speaking engagement by Norman Finkelstein, a hard-hitting critic of Israel they call hateful. In a letter dated March 3, nine Jewish community leaders asked the center to reconsider holding the event, calling it “offensive” and unlikely to “promote rational inquiry and responsible scholarship.”
But organizers say Finkelstein’s views should be heard and refuse to cancel the March 15 event.
The two sides have a history. For years, many area Jewish leaders have criticized the center, saying it is anti-Israel, and that its stated push for peace in the Mideast is actually thinly veiled Palestinian boosterism. Center backers say they are simply presenting an underrepresented viewpoint.
Jewish leaders in the community say inviting Finkelstein pushes the debate too far.
“If the Resource Center wants a dialogue for reconciliation or to find common ground, this is not the guy to do it. It’s like throwing a match on gasoline,” said Gil Stein, a local attorney and chair of United Jewish Appeal for Santa Cruz. “We would prefer he had never been invited because he doesn’t add much to the debate.”
Finkelstein, now a political science professor at DePaul University in Chicago, is the son of two Holocaust survivors who has sided with Palestinians and expressed support for the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah. He was relatively unknown outside pro-Palestinian circles until the release of his book “The Holocaust Industry” in 2000. Critics say the book attacks Jews as perpetual victims who have exploited abuses endured during the Holocaust, turning it into an industry to “shake down” money from Europe and justify what Finkelstein says is their illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Scott Kennedy of the Resource Center for Nonviolence said Finkelstein’s speech is a much-needed opportunity for people to hear a side of the issue that’s not often talked about.
“It’s really hard to get a fair hearing or any hearing at all on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “The conversation often gets shut off and people are not willing to have an open, frank debate.”
Too often, Kennedy says, the Jewish opinion goes unchallenged because of strong U.S. support for Israel.
The Resource Center invited Finkelstein to Santa Cruz after he spoke in the San Francisco Bay Area last summer. At the time, his latest book, “Beyond Chutzpah — on the misuse of anti-Semitism and abuse of history,” was under attack by prominent Jewish attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to stop the publication of Finkelstein’s book.
“I thought the concerted effort to deny his book to be published was a good reason to bring him here besides his message,” Kennedy said.
The 30-year-old center has sent many delegations to the Middle East, and supports a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict that includes sovereign states for both Israel and Palestine.
Local Jews say Finkelstein’s speech won’t do anything to help the two sides agree on a resolution.
“He has a very extreme point of view, and his speech is divisive,” said Shlomo Vilozny, vice president of Congregation Kol Tefilah in Santa Cruz. “The Resource Center for Nonviolence is an organization that’s not supposed to promote violence, and that’s what they’re doing by bringing a hate speaker to the city.”
Members of the Jewish community say they’ll stage a “quiet protest” outside the Veterans Memorial Building without disrupting the event.
“We’re not going to burn down an embassy,” Stein said. “We feel it’s part of our responsibility to inform the public about who they’re dealing with.”
Local Jews have protested several past events sponsored by the Resource Center. A few months ago, several Jewish people gathered outside the Nickelodeon theater on Lincoln Street in Santa Cruz to oppose the film “The Concrete Curtain,” which dealt with Israel’s construction of its so-called “security barrier.”
Contact Shanna McCord at email@example.com.
if you Go
WHAT: Norman G. Finkelstein speaks.
WHEN: 8 p.m. March 15.
WHERE: Veterans Memorial Building, 846 Front St., Santa Cruz.
DETAILS: Call 423-1626. Advance tickets recommended.
As We See It: Resource Center has right, but also responsibility
Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 9, 2006
The Santa Cruz-based Resource Center for Nonviolence has every right to bring Norman Finkelstein to speak.
Sometimes, however, having the right does not mean it’s the right thing to do.
We would suggest this is one such instance.
Finkelstein’s scheduled appearance has caused an intense reaction in the local Jewish community, one that we find understandable, if only because Finkelstein’s published thoughts and ideas are so inflammatory.
This reaction, to summarize, is that bringing such a speaker to town, while totally within the constitutional free speech rights of the Resource Center, is destructive and hateful to many Jews. They say Finkelstein’s rhetoric is anti-Semitic.
Who is Norman Finkelstein?
Well, he’s a Jew, whose parents were Holocaust survivors. He’s an academic and author, whose newest book, “Beyond Chutzpah — on the misuse of anti-Semitism and abuse of history,” raised so many calls for the book not to be published that it spurred Resource Center founder Scott Kennedy to invite Finkelstein to speak March 15.
Finkelstein is pro-Palestinian and has expressed support for the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah: “To my thinking the honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah as the U.S. and Israel target it for liquidation.”
In a previous book, “The Holocaust Industry,” he wrote that Jews have used the Holocaust as a means to exploit guilt feelings to “extort” money from Europe and to illegally occupy the West Bank and formerly Gaza.
“It is very hard to sink much lower than to turn the colossal suffering of the Jewish people during World War II into an extortion racket.”
Finkelstein has described mainstream Jewish organizations as “hucksters,” “gangsters” and “crooks,” and famed Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel as the “resident clown” for the Holocaust “circus.”
He has said Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories is much worse than apartheid in South Africa he calls it “a military occupation, and that has to end” and that the United States is the main terrorist government in the world today.
One side note, which might help explain Finkelstein’s rage against many Jewish organizations, is that he also has expressed bitterness over the paltry $3,500 compensation that his mother received as a concentration camp survivor.
Finkelstein has said his criticism of the mainstream Jewish worldwide community and Israel have made him a pariah, cost him a university job, and made him the target of insults and attacks.
Kennedy has said that allowing Finkelstein to speak will give a “fair hearing” and “open, frank debate” for another side of the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
Kennedy said Finkelstein has not been invited to speak on the Holocaust, but on the issue of how accusations of anti-Semitism have been used to silence dissenting opinions, of which the current reaction is a case in point.
Kennedy said the Jewish community has never sought the Resource Center’s advice or consent when it has presented speakers with opposing viewpoints.
Still, says Kennedy, he is “pained” by the angry opposition to the impending event; that it was not his purpose to inflame people; and that the Finkelstein speech should be looked at in context of all the work the Resource Center does.
Local Jews, including many rabbis, say there are far better ways to have such a debate than bringing in such a polarizing speaker.
Moreover, they wonder why the Resource Center, which promotes peaceful solutions, would further antagonize a community that already has had trust issues over what many Jews view as its overtly pro-Palestinian position. How, they ask, can the Resource Center be a force for nonviolent solutions when it cannot even act respectfully toward the Jewish community in Santa Cruz County?
Again, the Resource Center has every right to invite Finkelstein, just as newspapers and other publications had the right to run the cartoon satirizing the founder of Islam, Muhammad.
Yes, they have a right, but they also have a responsibility.
Just don’t be surprised if the aftermath to the Finkelstein appearance is not peace, but more discord and mistrust in an issue that feeds on both.
Subject: letter to Santa Cruz Sentinel
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2006 01:09:56 EST
I have enjoyed both Finkelstein’s books and his appearances at 2 universities in the Southland.He is a champion of the rights of the Israeli abused Palestinians. Israel has a horrible record bordering on genocide against the indigenous population of ancient Palestine. It is a shame that a country that has taken in so many Jews who have been mistreated because of bigotry and racism would use the methods used by Russia and Germany in their abuse of Christians and Muslim Arabs in Israel. Israel has wiped out much of Palestine and continues to take Palestinian land, destroy Palestinian property and kill and injure Palestinian civilians including children.
Jews like Finkelstein take risks to expose Israeli policies because Israel has powerful forces in this country that limit the truth about Palestinian suffering and cause problems for anyone like Finkelstein who speak the truth. Right now Israel has left Gaza but is keeping food and goods from entering the cities of 1.3 million people. Relief agencies are fearful of increased malnutrition and medical emergencies.
I’m glad that Santa Cruz allowed people to hear his important and scholarly work in spite of the false and outrageous accusations that accuse him of hate speech. He supports justice and peace for the region. Israel and its supporters can’t handle the truth he brings us.
Kathleen O’Connor Wang
From: “John McGlynn” jmcgl[at]gol.com
Subject: RE: As we see it: Protest backlash
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2006 10:18:45 +0900
Your “As we see it: Protest backlash?” editorial says local Jewish community members who protested Norman Finkelstein?’s talk shouldn’t be criticized for their act of protest. The protestors can criticize, but in turn cannot be criticized? When was this dividing line drawn through free speech?
Furthermore: ?”[T]he protesters feel [Finkelstein’s criticism of Israel] could elicit an increase of anti-Semitism.?” Norman Finkelstein is Jewish. Why on earth would he want to say something that would increase hatred toward himself (and his concentration camp-surviving Jewish parents, now deceased)? The idea is complete lunacy, or Finkelstein is a lunatic. Which is it? The simple way your editorial could have resolved this was to cite any passage in Finkelstein?fs writings that can be construed as inciting anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, no minimal effort was made to weigh evidence to find the truth. Your readers have been poorly served.
From: Kevin Weaver
To: mevans[at]santacruzsentinel.com, thonig[at]santacruzsentinel.com,
Subject: As I See It: Media Distortion
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 11:14:39 -0800 (PST)
Once again, the Santa Cruz Sentinel distorts facts concerning
Professor Finkelstein’s speech and the nature of those who protested his speech.
It’s easy to see why you have a letter policy that limits each
submission to only 150 characters, since the only type of letter
suitable for printing in your paper is simplistic and incapable of making a
coherent point, eerily, much the same as Professor Finkelstein’s detractors.
So, as I’m sure you’ve done before, you can ignore this letter
since it doesn’t fit your criteria.
But if you are still reading, I would like to say that as someone
who is gay, who has been the recipient of anti-gay harassment and violence,
and who lives in a world where gays are murdered and vilified as a
matter of course in every country, I find great offense that you would compare
our protests of an influential, anti-gay rapper who has made death
threats against us to the protests of the censors and book burners who
showed up outside of Professor Finkelstein’s lecture.
Professor Finkelstein, unlike this homo-hating rapper, isn’t
advocating the murder of anyone. Professor Finkelstein isn’t advocating
discrimination against anyone. Professor Finkelstein isn’t
threatening to take someone’s children away because they’re gay or lesbian.
Yet you cynically, callously, and – frankly – stupidly, compare the
appearance in Santa Cruz of someone who openly incites the murder of
gay men and lesbians to a Jewish professor and child of Holocaust
survivors who rightly criticizes other Jews for their abuse of the Holocaust for
political and financial gain.
The only thing that can be said about that is that you people are
either incompetent frauds masquerading as journalists or stark raving
Perhaps you’re both.
And I suspect that if these were Christians protesting the movie
“Brokeback Mountain” or Muslims protesting the Prophet Mohammed
cartoons, not nearly as much newsprint in the Sentinel would be devoted to
them as to Professor Finkelstein. I also suspect the coverage wouldn’t be so
kind to those protestors as it has to these.
Frankly, I would venture to say there is also a bit of internalized
homophobia at play here, because by elevating the (non)victim status
of heterosexual American Jews to that of gays and lesbians, you
minimize the fact that American Jews can freely walk hand-in-hand down any street
in the US without fear of harassment or murder, while we gays and lesbians
Unlike American Jews, we cannot marry. Unlike American Jews, we
cannot adopt children in most states. And unlike American Jews, hateful
epithets against us can be heard everywhere, on television, radio, from the
pulpit, and in every community, including the Jewish community. And finally,
the children of Jewish parents disowned from their families are not done
so because of anti-Semitism, but because they are gay or lesbian.
By comparing the supposed offending of Santa Cruz rabbis – who
support the war crimes of the Israeli Army and the theft of Holocaust
survivor money to fund anti-Arab thug settlers in the West Bank – to the
offending of gays and lesbians of an anti-gay rapper who comes from a country
where gays are routinely murdered, you show how transparent your
understanding of both issues are.
I would say “shame on you”, however I have good reason to doubt you
would understand why.
San Francisco, CA
Dorah Rosen and Norman Finkelstein 3-15-06 Santa Cruz, California
(photo by Scott Kennedy)