Beyond Chutzpah

Gideon Levy On Waltzing Lies

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz Correspondent

Everyone now has his fingers crossed for Ari Folman and all the creative artists behind “Waltz with Bashir” to win the Oscar on Sunday. A first Israeli Oscar? Why not?

However, it must also be noted that the film is infuriating, disturbing, outrageous and deceptive. It deserves an Oscar for the illustrations and animation – but a badge of shame for its message. It was not by accident that when he won the Golden Globe, Folman didn’t even mention the war in Gaza, which was raging as he accepted the prestigious award. The images coming out of Gaza that day looked remarkably like those in Folman’s film. But he was silent. So before we sing Folman’s praises, which will of course be praise for us all, we would do well to remember that this is not an antiwar film, nor even a critical work about Israel as militarist and occupier. It is an act of fraud and deceit, intended to allow us to pat ourselves on the back, to tell us and the world how lovely we are.

Hollywood will be enraptured, Europe will cheer and the Israeli Foreign Ministry will send the movie and its makers around the world to show off the country’s good side. But the truth is that it is propaganda. Stylish, sophisticated, gifted and tasteful – but propaganda. A new ambassador of culture will now join Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, and he too will be considered fabulously enlightened – so different from the bloodthirsty soldiers at the checkpoints, the pilots who bomb residential neighborhoods, the artillerymen who shell women and children, and the combat engineers who rip up streets. Here, instead, is the opposite picture. Animated, too. Of enlightened, beautiful Israel, anguished and self-righteous, dancing a waltz, with and without Bashir. Why do we need propagandists, officers, commentators and spokespersons who will convey “information”? We have this waltz.

The waltz rests on two ideological foundations. One is the “we shot and we cried” syndrome: Oh, how we wept, yet our hands did not spill this blood. Add to this a pinch of Holocaust memories, without which there is no proper Israeli self-preoccupation. And a dash of victimization – another absolutely essential ingredient in public discourse here – and voila! You have the deceptive portrait of Israel 2008, in words and pictures.

Folman took part in the Lebanon war of 1982, and two dozen years later remembered to make a movie about it. He is tormented. He goes back to his comrades-in-arms, gulps down shots of whiskey at a bar with one, smokes joints in Holland with another, wakes his therapist pal at first light and goes for another session to his shrink – all to free himself at long last from the nightmare that haunts him. And the nightmare is always ours, ours alone.

It is very convenient to make a film about the first, and now remote, Lebanon war: We already sent one of those, “Beaufort,” to the Oscar competition. And it’s even more convenient to focus specifically on Sabra and Chatila, the Beirut refugee camps.

Even way back, after the huge protest against the massacre perpetrated in those camps, there was always the declaration that, despite everything – including the green light given to our lackey, the Phalange, to execute the slaughter, and the fact that it all took place in Israeli-occupied territory – the cruel and brutal hands that shed blood are not our hands. Let us lift our voices in protest against all the savage Bashir-types we have known. And yes, a little against ourselves, too, for shutting our eyes, perhaps even showing encouragement. But no: That blood, that’s not us. It’s them, not us.

We have not yet made a movie about the other blood, which we have spilled and continue to allow to flow, from Jenin to Rafah – certainly not a movie that will get to the Oscars. And not by chance.

In “Waltz with Bashir” the soldiers of the world’s most moral army sing out something like: “Lebanon, good morning. May you know no more grief. Let your dreams come true, your nightmares evaporate, your whole life be a blessing.”

Nice, right? What other army has a song like this, and in the middle of a war, yet? Afterward they go on to sing that Lebanon is the “love of my life, the short life.” And then the tank, from inside of which this lofty and enlightened singing emanates, crushes a car for starters, turning it into a smashed tin can, then pounds a residential building, threatening to topple it. That’s how we are. Singing and wrecking. Where else will you find sensitive soldiers like these? It would really be preferable for them to shout with hoarse voices: Death to the Arabs!

I saw the “Waltz” twice. The first time was in a movie theater, and I was bowled over by the artistry. What style, what talent. The illustrations are perfect, the voices are authentic, the music adds so much. Even Ron Ben Yishai’s half-missing finger is accurate. No detail is missed, no nuance blurred. All the heroes are heroes, superbly stylish, like Folman himself: articulate, trendy, up-to-date, left-wingers – so sensitive and intelligent.

Then I watched it again, at home, a few weeks later. This time I listened to the dialogue and grasped the message that emerges from behind the talent. I became more outraged from one minute to the next. This is an extraordinarily infuriating film precisely because it is done with so much talent. Art has been recruited here for an operation of deceit. The war has been painted with soft, caressing colors – as in comic books, you know. Even the blood is amazingly aesthetic, and suffering is not really suffering when it is drawn in lines. The soundtrack plays in the background, behind the drinks and the joints and the bars. The war’s fomenters were mobilized for active service of self-astonishment and self-torment.

Boaz is devastated at having shot 26 stray dogs, and he remembers each of them. Now he is looking for “a therapist, a shrink, shiatsu, something.” Poor Boaz. And poor Folman, too: He is devilishly unable to remember what happened during the massacre. “Movies are also psychotherapy” – that’s the bit of free advice he gets. Sabra and Chatila? “To tell you the truth? It’s not in my system.” All in such up-to-the-minute Hebrew you could cry. After the actual encounter with Boaz in 2006, 24 years later, the “flash” arrives, the great flash that engendered the great movie.

One fellow comes to the war on the Love Boat, another flees it by swimming away. One sprinkles patchouli on himself, another eats a Spam omelet. The filmmaker-hero of “Waltz” remembers that summer with great sadness: It was exactly then that Yaeli dumped him. Between one thing and the other, they killed and destroyed indiscriminately. The commander watches porn videos in a Beirut villa, and even Ben Yishai has a place in Ba’abda, where one evening he downs half a glass of whiskey and phones Arik Sharon at the ranch and tells him about the massacre. And no one asks who these looted and plundered apartments belong to, damn it, or where their owners are and what our forces are doing in them in the first place. That is not part of the nightmare.

What’s left is hallucination, a sea of fears, the hero confesses on the way to his therapist, who is quick to calm him and explains that the hero’s interest in the massacre at the camps derives from a different massacre: from the camps from which his parents came. Bingo! How could we have missed it? It’s not us at all, it’s the Nazis, may their name and memory be obliterated. It’s because of them that we are the way we are. “You have been cast in the role of the Nazi against your will,” a different therapist says reassuringly, as though evoking Golda Meir’s remark that we will never forgive the Arabs for making us what we are. What we are? The therapist says that we shone the lights, but “did not perpetrate the massacre.” What a relief. Our clean hands are not part of the dirty work, no way.

And besides that, it wasn’t us at all: How pleasant to see the cruelty of the other. The amputated limbs that the Phalange, may their name be obliterated, stuff into the formaldehyde bottles; the executions they perpetrate; the symbols they slash into the bodies of their victims. Look at them and look at us: We never do things like that.

When Ben Yishai enters the Beirut camps, he recalls scenes of the Warsaw ghetto. Suddenly he sees through the rubble a small hand and a curly-haired head, just like that of his daughter. “Stop the shooting, everybody go home,” the commander, Amos, calls out through a megaphone in English. The massacre comes to an abrupt end. Cut.

Then, suddenly, the illustrations give way to the real shots of the horror of the women keening amid the ruins and the bodies. For the first time in the movie, we not only see real footage, but also the real victims. Not the ones who need a shrink and a drink to get over their experience, but those who remain bereaved for all time, homeless, limbless and crippled. No drink and no shrink can help them. And that is the first (and last) moment of truth and pain in “Waltz with Bashir.”

Bruce Lee

* Part 1: “You say you had some input into UN Resolution 242…”

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  • UN Resolution 242: Lord WHO?
  • Internal investigations of the IDF
    human rights organizations
  • “the Extremist” and his evidence
  • “the kind of” two-state settlement
  • the debate on UN 242:
    3 volumes

    1 Orlando Sentinel editorial from yr. 2000

* Part 2: “Listen to his source — this is a scholar…”

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  • high school syllabus
    — serious sources?
  • Dershowitz:
    “George Orwell’s turnspeak”

    Orwell’s “newspeak”

See also: Harvard undergrad sacked for pulling a Dersh
(The Harvard Crimson: “Crimson Cuts Columnist for Lifting Material,” 10.27.2006)

* Full Finkelstein/Dershowitz debate, parts 1 and 2

* The Dershowitz Hoax


New Ha'aretz "funnies" section

By Abraham H. Foxman

Recent events in the Middle East – the war in Lebanon, the emergence of Hamas among the Palestinians, the threat of a nuclear Iran – are often cited as evidence that Israel’s policies and behavior play into the hands of Islamic extremists. I would argue, however, that two other conclusions are far more appropriate.

First, it should be clearer than ever that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than being a catalyst for Islamic extremism, is a reflection of the pervasiveness of attitudes on the Islamic side that characterize a religious fanaticism that threatens everyone. The unwillingness to compromise, the belief that the future is theirs and theirs alone, the denial of the legitimacy of the other’s narrative, and the determination to pursue one’s ideology even at the expense of one’s own people, are characteristics that have made resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible. And these characteristics are at the heart of the Islamic extremist assault on the West.

This is not to say that Israel doesn’t always have to consider what more it can do to further peace. It must. But the concomitance of Israeli initiatives – Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David, Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and the election of Ehud Olmert on the basis of a commitment to a withdrawal from the West Bank – with the deepening extremism among the Palestinians manifest in the election of Hamas – highlights the gap between Israel’s intentions and the reality of extremism on the other side. It cannot be said often enough: It is not Israel that is the obstacle to peace or the cause of continued Palestinian suffering.

The point is that the unending Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far less a cause of Islamic extremism’s rise, and far more a product of its ideology and its power. Reduce the impact of this ideology, and not only will relations between the Islamic world and the West improve, but the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can be resolved.

Second, the war in Lebanon and the growing threat from Iran not only present challenges, but opportunities as well. They can be the occasion for the possible renewal of an unofficial strategic sharing of interests of moderate parties in the region.

We should recall that in the Cold War era, Henry Kissinger articulated the strategic basis for U.S. support for Israel. He argued that when Israel faced combat with the Soviet-backed radical states, Iraq and Syria, it was vital that America make sure Israel would emerge victorious, because the moderate Arab states would be watching closely to see in which direction the wind was blowing. An Israeli victory would bring the moderates to the U.S. side; with a radical win, they would move to the Soviet sphere.

Now there is an updated version of that equation. The Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians and Gulf states are terrified of radical Islam, particularly what is emanating from Shi’ite Iran. Nothing illustrated this better than the remarkably candid comments by the Saudi foreign minister on the third day of the Lebanon war, when he strongly condemned Hezbollah, not Israel, for the bloodshed.

Stopping Hezbollah from regaining an autonomous mini-state in southern Lebanon, finding a way to move the Palestinians away from support of Hamas, and, most of all, halting Iran’s nuclear development are goals shared by the moderate Arabs, Israel, and the U.S.

We need to keep our eye on the ball: resisting Islamic extremism as we resisted its totalitarian predecessors, Nazism and Communism. We must not allow ourselves to be diverted by efforts to blame Israel or Jews or America for the problem. Of course, we need to examine our own policies to see if they are wise and effective. And we should always seek to reduce resentment of Israel by emphasizing Israel’s desire for peace and the concrete steps it has taken to that end. But never should we lose sight of the cause of the problem – extremism itself.

Defeating Islamic extremism and bringing the Islamic world to peace with Israel are parts of the same problem. They require strength and resolve, and action, not merely words – most notably with regard to Iran and the nuclear threat. They require convincing moderate Arabs that they need to be more explicit in stating their interests and not limit their comments to private conversations. They require neither condescension nor weakness in addressing Muslims about their role in the world.

In the 1930s the West failed to act in time to protect its own interests. It paid a terrible price, but the Jews paid even more. This time around, we must do better. If not, a price will again be paid, but now the Jews are not powerless.

Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League and author of “Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism.”

It seems his crowds are getting smaller and smaller

UCLA International Studies comment
By Jennifer Mishory, Daily Bruin reporter,

In talk co-sponsored by CNES, the Harvard professor and author argues “obsessive” focus on Israel takes time and energy away from the protest of other more serious human rights violations perpetrated by other countries.

I condemn Israel for its use of cluster bombs in the last days of the [Lebanese-Israeli war].

This article was first published in The Daily Bruin. The online Bruin article is accompanied by a Daily Bruin Video report on the event.

WELL OVER 100 students gathered on campus Wednesday to see Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor well known for his strong support of Israel and work on the defense teams of several famous clients.

Dershowitz spoke on campus Wednesday about world condemnation of human rights violations perpetrated by Israel, saying that such “obsessive” focus on Israel takes time and energy away from the protest of other more serious human rights violations perpetrated by other countries.

It is rare to see students protesting any human rights issue outside of issues surrounding Israel, he said.

“College students ought to look at human rights priority-wise,” he said. “Campuses ignore first-grade human rights violations.”

Dershowitz used places such as Sudan and China as examples – there are far fewer demonstrations against the Chinese for their actions toward Tibet, for example, although the violations are far greater, he said.

“It is being treated as the Jew among nations,” Dershowitz said.

At the beginning of the event, UCLA law professor and moderator Jonathan Zasloff questioned Dershowitz based on the title of his lecture, “How the World’s Obsessive Focus on Israel’s Imperfection Takes Away from Real Genocide.”

Zasloff opened the discussion by asking if not being as bad as others is good enough.

Dershowitz responded that there is “disporportionate energy” given to condemning Israeli actions, and that “comparative criticism” should be given.

Later, Zasloff brought up another question, implying that as a liberal democracy, Israel is held to a higher moral standard than the countries used in Dershowitz’s earlier comparisons.

But because Israel is a democracy, Dershowitz responded, they have an extensive court system and free press that already allows internal criticism.

No other country faced with the same threats have acted with such restraint, he added.

Dershowitz did not, however, voice support for all Israeli policy.

“I condemn Israel for its use of cluster bombs in the last days of the (Lebanese-Israeli war),” he said.

Dershowitz published controversial articles after the Lebanese-Israel war last summer, discussing the need to change the definition of combatants or civilians during a war.

When combatants no longer wear uniforms, or women volunteer to be human shields, the old distinctions are no longer applicable, he said.

Bruins for Israel President Leeron Morad agreed with Dershowitz.

“Israel isn’t perfect, but it’s done an amazing job given its situation,” he said.

Though the majority of the crowd was vocal in their support for what Dershowitz had to say, several students expressed dissatisfaction with Dershowitz’s views during the question-and-answer period at the end of the event.

Norah Sarsour, a member of the Muslim Student Association, called Dershowitz’s book, “The Case for Israel,” fiction. She cited charges of plagiarism made by DePaul political science Professor Norman Finkelstein

Dershowitz responded by saying that all charges of plagiarism made by Finkelstein were cleared by Harvard University.

But Sabiha Ameen, president of the Muslim Student Association, was not convinced.

“He still didn’t discredit Norman Finkelstein’s sources,” she said.

Some students also voiced discontent with Dershowitz’s prioritization of other violations.

Sarsour said that by reducing the priority placed on the lives of Palestinians, “he doesn’t value human life.”

Center for Near Eastern Studies

Date Posted: 11/9/2006

"Israel is the only country in the Middle East to have abolished any kind of torture, in fact as well as in law" – Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel, p. 206.

By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent

Twenty-four hours before the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit, Israel Defense Forces soldiers broke into the home of Mustafa Abu Ma’amar in Rafah. Special forces soldiers arrested him and his brother in their respective homes.

A few weeks later, Abu Ma’amar told an attorney for the Public Committee Against Torture: “One or two days later (I discovered afterward that it was the same morning the soldier had been kidnapped), three interrogators came to where I was held at 6 A.M. [approx. one hour after the abduction - N.H.]. They didn’t ask me anything, just started kicking and hitting me while an interrogator named Moti grabbed me by the neck and throttled me until I thought I was going to die. The other two grabbed me and forcibly removed me.”

The interrogators later used the “exercise technique,” as Abu Ma’amar calls it. “They forced me to hold my legs to the chair legs, with the back of the chair to my right and nothing supporting my back. They pushed my back backwards and told me to ‘exercise.’ It made my stomach muscles cramp up and caused unbearable pain,” Abu Ma’amar explained.

The interrogators asked about the tunnels that he had helped dig, “while cursing me and my mother and father and threatening to demolish my house if I didn’t cooperate. They also told me they had arrested my brother and were torturing him.”

The Shin Bet interrogators them told him to stand on his toes and then “bend my legs and bring the lower part of my body downward …. It’s very difficult and painful. They forced me to stand like that for hours on end, and each time I brought my foot to the floor or moved up or down I got hit,” Abu Ma’amar wrote in his statement.

Abu Ma’amar’s statement is one of many complaints of torture made by Palestinian detainees against Shin Bet agents. The PCAT claims the security agency’s techniques are creeping back toward those used before 1999, when the High Court of Justice banned torture.

In Abu Ma’amar’s case, the Shin Bet might be able to claim that he was a clear case of a “ticking bomb,” since according to his indictment he had a (very small) part in planning the abduction, and his interrogation might have helpful for locating Shalit. Abu Ma’amar claims his torture began before the abduction and continued after it was obvious he had no information about Shalit’s location.

According to attorney Leah Tsemel, whose clients include Abu Ma’amar, Shin Bet agents use torture in about 20 percent of their cases. In the remainder, more sophisticated interrogation techniques are employed, involving use of stool pigeons, rewards and threats.

In the past year alone, about 40 allegations of serious torture of Palestinians have been submitted to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. The Executive Director of PCAT, Hannah Friedman, stresses that the organization thoroughly examines the credibility of each complaint, often interviewing the detainees three times. Mazuz has not deemed any of the complaints as warranting a criminal investigation against the interrogators.

Each complaint is handled the same way. It is passed on to a Shin Bet employee who works in concert with the State Prosecutor’s Office, and who eventually issues a letter stating that he met with both the detainee and the interrogators. After that, one of two possible responses to the complaint are issued.

The first is that the complaint was shown to be unsubstantiated. The second does not deny the facts of the case but justifies the actions with a standard formula: “An examination showed that Mr. … was detained for questioning due to a serious suspicion, based on credible information, that he was ostensibly involved in or was an accessory to carrying out major terror activities that were liable to have been carried out in a very short time frame and which could have hurt or threatened human life.” In plain English, a “ticking bomb.”

PCAT officials say the Shin Bet should emulate the police and make the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department (PID) responsible for investigating its conduct, and are considering a High Court petition on the matter.

The Shin Bet confirmed that no criminal investigation has been launched against one of its agents for 18 months, but officials say that the complaints have resulted in disciplinary action against a number of agents.

Among the interrogation techniques described by recent detainees are being forced to maintain painful, cramped positions for long periods of time, positions whose regular use prior to 1999 earned them nicknames such as the “banana,” “half-banana” and “frog.” Detainees also complained about the use of painful wrist restraints, sleep deprivation and severe shaking as well as of being slapped and punched.

In one extreme case, a detainee claimed that an interrogator known to him as Captain Daniel used various objects to rape him anally while the detainee was in restraints.

The Shin Bet issued the following response, in part: “It is regrettable that the Public Committee Against Torture misses no opportunity to attack the Shin Bet’s investigators, who work day and night to prevent terror and save lives, using claims that in most cases are baseless. Every complaint related to terror investigations is examined and checked thoroughly under the supervision of the State Prosecutor. In more than a few cases, the complaints submitted via the committee were not confirmed by those in whose names they were ostensibly submitted.”

The attorney general’s office responded as follows: “All complaints are examined very thoroughly by the [Shin Bet complaint handler] before being submitted, with no exceptions, to a thorough examination on the part of the senior prosecutor who is in charge of that handler. Some of the complaints are found to be baseless and others refer to events covered by the necessity defense. In certain cases, the examination leads to a change in procedures. In a few cases, when it is determined that a violation of procedures has taken place, a decision is taken to initiate a disciplinary or criminal procedure.”

The Felix Frankfurter Chair at Harvard Law School Lying? Pray tell me it ain't so

Editor’s note: Below is Gordon’s respone to Dershowitz’ latest in The Jerusalem Post

Anti-Semitism? You Just Don’t Like What I Say!


Alan Dershowitz, Harvard’s Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, has
decided to attack me personally, thinking that if he undermines my
reputation he can save his own. Paradoxically, he manages to prove
one thing in his recent diatribe in the Jerusalem Post: that he is
a consistent man.

As in his book The Case for Israel, here too, he relentlessly
passes fiction for fact.

Despite Dershowitz’s claims, I never compared Israelis to Nazis,
and I certainly am not a neo-Nazi or anti-Israeli. Like Dershowitz,
I am an American citizen, yet unlike him I have chosen to live in
Israel and invest a large portion of my time struggling for social
justice. I served in the Israeli paratroopers and was critically
wounded defending the northern border.

Following the great Jewish tradition, I try, however modestly, to
be critical of Israel whenever its policies violate principles of
justice or human rights.

Ironically, about two years ago Dershowitz invited me to contribute
a chapter to a book he was editing called What Israel Means to Me.
At that time he was not questioning my commitment to Israel. What,
then, has led him to change his mind?

Dershowitz’s assault began following my review of Norman
Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah. This book, which was published by
University of California Press, provides clear evidence that in The
Case for Israel Dershowitz “lifted” information and ideas from Joan
Peters’s From Time Immemorial. My review maintained that Harvard
University’s own definition of plagiarism – “passing off a source’s
information, ideas, or words as your own by omitting to cite them”
- would, indeed, convict Dershowitz.

It was this that triggered Dershowitz’s animus.

DERSHOWITZ avers that he never tried to stop UC Press from
publishing Beyond Chutzpah and seems to think that if he repeats
this often enough it will eventually become true. This is a
well-known demagogic strategy.

Unfortunately for him, UC Press has correspondence on file in which
he and the prestigious law firm he hired demand that the Press
sever all contact with Finkelstein. A typical letter from
Dershowitz’s attorney, Rory Millson of Cravath, Swaine & Moore,
describes “the press’s decision to publish this book” as “wholly
illegitimate” and concludes that: “The only way to extricate
yourself is immediately to terminate all professional contact with
this full-time malicious defamer.”

When the Press’s director Lynne Withey replied that she was
committed to academic freedom and would therefore go ahead with the
book, Dershowitz wrote to the university’s board of trustees and
even to California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, asking them
to intervene on his behalf. They declined.

DERSHOWITZ’S inability to refute the evidence led to his vicious
personal attack against me. However, Dershowitz also makes a
political claim when he contends that my successful suit against
Prof. Steven Plaut was, in effect, an attempt to undermine freedom
of speech. Again he distorts the truth to suit his own purpose.

I filed a libel suit against Plaut when he began publishing a
series of slanderous articles in which he calls me a “fanatic
anti-Semite,” “a Judenrat wannabe,” “a promoter of Hitler,” and “a
groupie of the world’s leading Holocaust denier.” He went on to
compare me to the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving.

In various places he claimed that I have called on Arabs to use
violence against Israel; he published an article on the racist
Kahane Web site, asking his readers to harass me – some obediently
complied; he also disseminated the falsehood that my academic
ability is poor, and even initiated an international campaign to
have me fired.

Make no mistake, my suit against Plaut is about slander and not
about our opposing political views.

YES, I AM a severe critic of the Israeli government’s policies, but
just as I want my opinions to be heard, I believe in freedom of
expression and am not interested in censoring other people’s
opinions, including those of Dershowitz or Plaut. If anyone
disagrees with my views, he or she has the right to try and refute
my position. Notice, that throughout his article Dershowitz does
not engage my political arguments. Instead, he picks up the cudgels
of defamation and vilification.

In fact, both Plaut and Dershowitz are the ones who aim to silence
their political rivals. In order to accomplish their goals they
exploit the Holocaust, thus undermining the significance of this
uniquely catastrophic historical event.

Their attack against me illustrates this point. Despite the fact
that most of Plaut’s criticism is related to my positions vis- -vis
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he characterizes me as an
anti-Semite, Judenrat wannabe, and promoter of Hitler. The use of
Holocaust vocabulary is intentional and emotive, designed to
destroy my credibility in the political arena. The sad irony is that
in order to advance his political goals Plaut ends up trivializing
the Holocaust.

Despite the ruthless efforts to ruin my good name, the Israeli
court has had its say. It found Plaut guilty of libel. Now, in the
aftermath of this case, allowing his personal vendetta to blur his
legal judgment, Dershowitz shamelessly attacks the judge’s verdict.
This lack of judgment is apparent when the Harvard professor calls
me names and concludes with a cheap dare that I sue him, instead of
rising to the academic challenge of proving that he did not “lift”
information from others.

Unlike Dershowitz, however, when choosing between truth or dare I
always side with truth.

Neve Gordon teaches human rights at Ben-Gurion University in Israel
and is the editor of From the Margins of Globalization: Critical
Perspectives on Human Rights. He Can be reached at

Dershowitz again

Editor’s note: Neve Gordon’s response.

See also Harvard undergrad sacked for pulling a Dersh,
Little Prissy Al and Does this bore get paid per word?

BY Alan Dershowitz,

It’s ironic that those who shout loudest about freedom of speech for themselves and their friends are often the first to try to silence those with whom they disagree.

A case in point is Dr. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University, who has defamed so many people, as well as the nation of Israel. He also recently defamed me by saying that I had tried to prevent the publication of Norman Finkelstein’s latest anti-Zionist screed, Beyond Chutzpah. In fact, as I specifically wrote in my letters to Finkelstein’s publishers – as Gordon knew, because I released the letters – “I have no interest in censoring or suppressing Finkelstein’s freedom of expression.”

Gordon’s lie came straight from Finkelstein, who has a history of claiming that prominent Jews are trying to silence him, prevent publication of his books and keep them from being reviewed: “All opinion-leaders, from the left to the right, are Jews… The Silence around my book in the US – if this is not a conspiracy, then what is one?”

What’s ironic about Gordon’s article, though, is that just as he was falsely accusing me of trying to silence Finkelstein, he was trying to silence Prof. Steven Plaut of Haifa University.

THE GENESIS OF Gordon’s notorious lawsuit against Plaut was a fawning book review Gordon wrote of Beyond Chutzpah for Haaretz. In response, Plaut wrote an Internet posting entitled “Haaretz Promotes the ‘Jews for Hitler.’” Plaut subsequently wrote that Yasser Arafat was Gordon’s “guru” and compared Gordon to members of Judenrats after Gordon illegally entered Arafat’s compound in solidarity with the terrorist leader.

For exercising his freedom of speech in this way, Plaut was found liable for slander and fined NIS 80,000, by a Nazareth judge, Reem Naddaf, who went out of her way in her opinion’s dicta to justify Holocaust revisionism, which of course often goes over the line into something far darker, as it does when Finkelstein espouses it to mock survivors and condemn those seeking justice.

The verdict against Prof. Plaut was wrong, as I will explain by discussing both substantive and legal aspects of Plaut’s accusations.

First, as to substance: Gordon argued, dubiously, that Plaut meant to include him (Gordon) when he wrote “Jews for Hitler,” rather than Finkelstein and his fellow-travelers such as Noam Chomsky, who have openly endorsed Holocaust deniers and revisionists.

Even so, is there a factual basis behind the claim that Gordon supports genocidal anti-Semites, considering his admiration for Norman Finkelstein?

Finkelstein himself isn’t an outright Holocaust denier (though neither was Hitler, of course), because he acknowledges the basic facts of the Holocaust, while minimizing the number of victims. But Finkelstein is, in many ways, worse than an outright denier. He denies the reality of survivors, calling them “hoaxes” and “hucksters” and accuses Elie Wiesel of lying about his past.

The major theme of the Finkelstein book that Gordon was extolling is that Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism. “Alongside Israel, [American Jewish elites] are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today. They must be stopped.”

FINKELSTEIN’S and Gordon’s articles are featured on Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi Web sites, such as that of the Hitler-loving Ernst Zundel, who said of Finkelstein that “[h]e is making three-fourths of our argument – and making it effectively.”

So if Finkelstein and Gordon aren’t themselves explicitly neo-Nazi, they’re at least very highly regarded by those who are – and for good reason.

It’s no wonder Gordon is so attracted to Finkelstein. As I have previously written: “Considered one of the world’s most extreme anti-Israel academics, [Gordon] belongs to the class of rabidly anti-Israel far-left professors whose trademark is the delight they take in comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.”

The bulk of his writing consists of anti-Israel propaganda designed to “prove” that the Jewish State is fascist. Consider the irony: Gordon, who has no qualms about comparing Israelis to Nazis, has taken legal umbrage at being compared – at least as he sees it – to these same Nazis.

Talk about chutzpah! It’s absurd that Gordon is allowed to call people Nazis, but Plaut isn’t (especially given that Plaut’s characterization is far closer to the truth). I personally wish everyone would stop using the term Nazi, except when referring to Hitler and his followers.

AS FOR the legal and civil liberties aspect of the case, it seems clear that what Plaut said – about a public figure, no less – falls squarely within the realm of (well-supported) opinion, and it should be protected in any free society. Finkelstein and Gordon have dragged the debate over the Holocaust and the Middle East into the gutter, and now they are trying to enhance their own statures through a forum-shopped lawsuit.

Gordon is apparently afraid of the open marketplace of ideas and so he has gone whining to a friendly judge to protect his “reputation.” It’s an undemocratic ploy, violative of principles of free speech and fairness.

So here is my challenge to Neve Gordon: I visit Israel frequently, and am easily available for service of process. I invite Gordon to sue me for essentially restating in my own words what Prof. Plaut has said: It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli.

The writer is a professor of law at Harvard. His most recent book is Preemption: A Knife that Cuts Both Ways.

Harvard undergrad sacked for pulling a Dersh

Editor’s note: See What if a Harvard student did this? for Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz’s failure to acknowledge his reliance on second sources.

By ANTON S. TROIANOVSKI, Crimson Staff Writer

The Crimson last night retracted an Oct. 16 column published on its editorial page after determining that the writer had failed to attribute the source of several quotations in her piece, which appear to have been lifted from a blog and an online magazine.

In an editors’ note posted on its website last night, The Crimson also said it was discontinuing the biweekly series “On Our Language,” by Victoria B. Ilyinsky ’07. Her Oct. 16 piece on the usage of the word “literally” contained quotations from Louisa May Alcott and F. Scott Fitzgerald that were cited in a Nov. 1, 2005, article entitled, “The Word We Love to Hate.

In addition, Ilyinsky’s Oct. 16 column, “This Word Is Killing Me, Literally,” used a quotation from a televised football game that also appeared in a blog linked from the Slate article. The editors’ note said that Ilyinsky’s piece “implies that the author heard the commentary herself. In fact, she learned of the account by reading about it on the web log, ‘Literally, A Web Log.’

It was the first time since 2001 that The Crimson has formally retracted an opinion column, according to its archives. And Crimson President William C. Marra ’07 said that the newspaper would review Ilyinsky’s past columns.

Julia Turner, Slate’s senior online editor, wrote in an e-mail that the magazine was not planning to take any action in response to Ilyinsky’s column.

The Slate piece was authored by Jesse Sheidlower, the North American editor-at-large for the Oxford English Dictionary. In an e-mail last night, Sheidlower said he had learned about the matter on the blog IvyGate, which first covered the story on Oct. 24—a day after The Crimson first published a two-sentence note on its editorial page alerting readers to some of the similarities.

The thrust of Ilyinsky’s piece, which called for more moderate use of “literally,” was different from the point of the Slate article, which deconstructed criticism of the word’s usage. But what appeared to be a repeated failure to cite sources led Marra and the editorial chairs to retract the column.

It was deleted from The Crimson’s website early this morning.

The Crimson was first alerted to the similarities between the Alcott and Fitzgerald quotations in an Oct. 16 e-mail from a longtime reader, according to a copy of the correspondence obtained by this reporter. The similarities between Ilyinsky’s column and the blog were first identified by a Crimson news reporter this past Tuesday.

The Ilyinsky case has been handled by Marra and the editorial board, and the news staff was not included in the decision-making process.

The president and editorial board members did not see this article before publication.

Ilyinsky, who declined to comment for this article, has written eight opinion pieces for The Crimson since last October.

A press critic and an English professor said that Ilyinsky’s apparent transgressions fell short of plagiarism.

“There’s nothing wrong with picking up good examples someone else has used,” Professor of English Gordon Teskey wrote in an e-mail. “Should the writer painstakingly seek out different examples? Would these examples be better? As a writer, I would not want to be credited by someone just for my examples. I’d rather they just took the examples.”

Craig Silverman, a freelance writer and press critic who runs the popular site, said in a phone interview last night that Ilyinsky’s failures of attribution were serious, but did not constitute plagiarism.

“It’s very clear that this Slate article had a huge effect on her writing of this piece,” Silverman said, after being e-mailed the similarities between Ilyinsky’s column, the Slate article, and the blog.

“Whether it was what inspired her to write it is tough to know or not—in a technical sense it’s not actual plagiarism, but there is certainly an element of misrepresentation and perhaps a theft of idea or concept,” Silverman said.

The “Writing With Sources” guide published by Harvard’s Expository Writing Program states in its section on plagiarism that “your citation must accurately reflect your process.” The guide instructs students to cite the document where they found information or quotations—even if that document in turn cites a separate source. To students who disobey this rule, the guide warns, “you are misleading your reader and possibly embarrassing yourself.

Crimson Editorial Chairs Michael B. Broukhim ’07 and Matthew S. Meisel ’07 initially published a brief editors’ note on Monday, which said that Ilyinsky’s column should have cited Slate as a source for its quotations from “The Great Gatsby” and “Little Women.” But during the week, more questions about the column surfaced—in particular, allegations that Ilyinsky had not actually watched the football game from which she quoted—leading to the second editors’ note yesterday and the retraction.

Word of the similarities between Ilyinsky’s article and the Slate piece was quickly picked up by Harvard-watching bloggers, who immediately recalled Kaavya Viswanathan ’08. The author’s debut novel was pulled from bookshelves last year after The Crimson found similarities between Viswanathan’s novel and several other books.

“After pummeling Kaavya Viswanathan last year for plagiarism, the Crimson doesn’t want to be seen protecting someone even remotely tainted by the p-word, even if it’s a small infraction,” the anonymously written IvyGate said early this morning.

Ivy Gate cached Ilyinsky’s column after the Boston Globe reported last night that The Crimson would delete the column from its website.

The charges against Viswanathan­—that she lifted lines from other authors and passed them off as her own—differ from the allegations against Ilyinsky, who marked the passages as quotations but appears not to have credited the sources where she found them.

Her Oct. 16 column, Ilyinsky wrote that the quote “the land literally flowed with milk and honey,” which she cites twice, “comes straight from Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel ‘Little Women.’”

“And,” she went on, “who doesn’t remember Fitzgerald’s description of Jay Gatsby: ‘He literally glowed?’ But neither was the town of Plumfield overrun with food-stuffs nor our favorite social climber actually luminescent.”

The Slate article said: “The ground was not especially sticky in Little Women when Louisa May Alcott wrote that ‘the land literally flowed with milk and honey,’ nor was Tom Sawyer turning somersaults on piles of money when Twain described him as ‘literally rolling in wealth,’ nor was Jay Gatsby shining when Fitzgerald wrote that ‘he literally glowed’ [...].”

Ilyinsky’s column also described an announcer’s use of the word “literally” during a televised football game—a quotation that also made it into a blog, linked from the Slate article, that tracks the use and misuse of the word.

A Sept. 18 entry on the blog,, said: “I was watching the NFL network yesterday (9/17) and the announcer (unfortunately, I don’t know his name), in talking about the Giants comeback victory over the Eagles, mentioned that the Giants had ‘literally put a bullet in the heads of the Eagles’. Well, no wonder they won!”

Ilyinsky wrote: “And when an NFL sportscaster said last month, talking about the Giants’ comeback victory over the Eagles, that the winners ‘had literally put a bullet’ in coach Andy Reid’s head, I had a feeling that there wasn’t much shooting going on. He did, however, manage to catch my attention. Considering I thought the Eagles were merely a 1970s rock band, it’s clear that the sportscaster’s sensationalism actually worked.”

In a fourth similarity pointed out by the editors’ note, Ilyinsky’s piece and the Slate article both contain a paragraph of “Janus words”—words that can have opposite usages.

“Both articles discuss Janus words, and provide three different examples of them. While the examples are different in each column, their presentation is very similar,” the note said.

Silverman of said that failures of attribution, such as citing quotations but not referencing where they were found, were relatively common in the mainstream media.

“I would say that unfortunately in journalism it’s quite frequent that people will cite something and not give the proper attribution,” he said. “It happens a lot these days when mainstream media takes something from a blog.”

—Staff writer Anton S. Troianovski can be reached at

That "guy"


As the editor of the world’s largest circulation liberal Jewish magazine, Tikkun, I was not surprised to see myself being denounced in the pages of The Jerusalem Post. Having articulated in Tikkun a progressive middle path that is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine – insisting that both sides have been insensitive to the humanity of the other, and that both sides can only achieve lasting security when they act in a spirit of openheartedness and non-violence to the other, I get death threats and denunciations from both sides.

Every day I get letters from leftists in the US denouncing me because I will not support a general program of disinvestment against Israel unless they include disinvestment from the much greater human rights violators in the world that include Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Egypt and of course the US in Iraq.

I was banned from speaking at the largest anti-war demonstration in 2003 after I denounced one of the organizing groups, International Answer, as anti-Semitic for the way that it unfairly criticized Israel. At the same time, I get letters from right-wingers telling me that my criticisms of Israeli policies make me a self-hating Jew or an ally of the enemy.

Alan Dershowitz is not new to the list of people who denounce me and Tikkun. Ever since I criticized him for succeeding in freeing the famous African American football sports hero O.J. Simpson after Simpson, a wife batterer, had murdered his white wife and then claimed that the prosecution was motivated by racism, Dershowitz has waged a personal vendetta against me.

So now Alan Dershowitz is at it again, twisting the truth, claiming that I’ve “gotten into bed with Hizbullah supporters.”

And for what? Did I support their attack this summer? No. Did I tell people we ought to understand Hizbullah? No. They are our enemies, but my stand is to always negotiate with one’s enemies.

I criticized Israel’s decision to conduct the war, predicting that it would neither free its captured soldiers nor enhance Israeli security. Today, months later, most Israelis agree with me.

FOR DERSHOWITZ my sin was that I sent out an e-mail that had many different articles in it, including one by a guy who argued that Dershowitz’ own arguments in favor of targeted assassinations might someday be used to justify (wrongly in the view of that author and in my view as well) assassination of the pro-violence lawyer.

Dershowitz called me an anti-Semitic rabbi in one of his books, and now claims that because of this, I’m “anti-Israel.”

How predictable. Yet Dershowitz’s newest book What Israel Means to Me contains an essay he solicited by, guess who, yes me, this allegedly anti-Semitic rabbi. Probably because someplace deep in his heart, Dershowitz knows that I am an honest person who loves Israel but disagrees with him on how best to keep it strong.

What Dershowitz didn’t tell Jerusalem Post readers is that I included in my e-mail transmission an explicit note reminding readers that we at Tikkun send out and print many articles with which we do not agree, warning our readership that our goal is to bring to their attention a range of views that they might not otherwise hear without claiming that these represent our perspectives.

In fact, I specifically disavowed any support for the perspective being sent out. Of course, had Dershowitz told you that, he couldn’t have succeeded in demeaning me in the way he sought to do.

That kind of fairness would have been a refreshing change for a writer who was once a champion of civil liberties but who has become one of the most detested figures in liberal American circles today because of his Bush-era writings justifying torture and assassination.

I’m happy to report that most of us, including the majority of American Jewish rabbis, reject Dershowitz’ arguments for such endeavors because they find them to be antithetical to the teachings of our tradition.

So perhaps, by including an essay of mine in What Israel Means to Me, Dershowitz wanted to show that he was coming back to his liberal roots by printing someone with whom he disagreed, recognizing that the Democrats may soon reassume power in the US and that the winds of political opportunism might, in the post-Bush era, make it disadvantageous to be identified with the most extreme positions of the Right.

I PLEAD with Alan: Let’s stop attacking each other in public. I did it in this selfdefensive letter here, responding to your similar attack on me last week, and I’d like to ask that we never attack each other personally again.

Argue against positions we hold, sure. Let’s agree to fairly represent what the other really thinks, avoid caricatures and criticize each other’s ideas rather than the intentions or decency of the other or impugn how loyal each other is to Judaism, Israel, the Jewish people or American ideals of decency.

We both have very large international constituencies and represent very opposite perspectives on many important issues. Let’s focus on our main task: not to delegitimize the other, but to argue for our own worldviews and our own vision of how best to serve God, Torah, Israel, the Jewish people, social justice and world peace.

The writer is editor of Tikkun magazine and author of The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right.

w/ Transcript: Q&A & end of talk , (Santa Cruz, CA)

Editor’s note: Transcript below video.

add video to your blog

Transcript: Question and Answer section

RUSH transcript

Questioner: …inaudible..(auditorium echo)

Finkelstien: I think there are 2 separate issues on the question of Arafat. Namely, number 1, as a leader of the Palestinian people, and that’s a responsibility for Palestinians to judge and not myself, and the second issue is whether he was an obstacle to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. The second issue, it seems to me, we can look at the documentary record and come to a fairly clear conclusion. The PLO, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, from the mid-1970s supported the two state settlement and supported the international consensus for resolving the conflict. That’s not controvercial at all because they were voting for it and supporting it in many different fora, the United Nations and elsewhere. So on the question of whether Arafat was, as we’re constantly told, the main obstacle to resolving the conflict, that Arafat blocked a resolution in the year 2000 during the Camp David and later Taba negotiations, I think the scholarly, the diplomatic record is very clear there and the answer is a resounding No.

00:27:22, Disk Two

Questioner: [poor audio quality] Another question reads “What is the real hidden agenda that dominates US policy regarding Israel? Why is there supression of information regarding the truth
[on the issue] in this country?

Finkelstien: I think there’s no possibility of resolving that question here and I don’t think there’s been any definite resolution of the question in the scholarly literature. There are basically two camps, everybody in this room is familiar with these two camps. One camp says that Israel serves US strategic interests in the Middle East and is basically a garisson state or a watch dog of US interests in the Middle East and the other claim is [that] there’s a powerful Jewish — sometimes it’s called Jewish, sometimes Zionist, sometimes Israeli — Lobby, which is shaping and determining US policy when it comes to the Middle East. That’s one of those questions where, I think, people can legitimately disagree. It’s a question for which I’ve not seen any definite responses which are absolutely convincing. I think you can find examples where the Israel lobby, or Jewish lobby, or Zionist lobby proved to be very powerful and then there are instances where the US government decided “this is not in our interest” and put Israel in its place. You can find exmaples on both sides and I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer to that question. And some people may argue, and I think there’s some truth to it, the question has become moot nowadays because Israel and the United States have become so interlocked that to speak of Israel on one side and the US on the other, it’s kind of an artificial separation. It’s like asking the question “Does President Bush serve Texan interest or American interests?” Nobody raises that sort of question, some people think it’s Texas, [laughs] ok… but most rational people don’t think it’s a significant question and it may no longer be a significant question between Israel and the US.


Questioner: Next question is “you spoke of the wall Israel is constructing in the West Bank, the majority of Israeli citizens support the wall, doesn’t the Israeli government have the right and the obligation to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks by Palestinians? Proponents of this wall argue that [poor audio quality] [..when...] you reduce terrorism there will be no need for this wall, if Palestinian leaders would reign in Palestinian extremists.”

Finkelstien: Well, let’s be clear about basic matters, Israel has every right to build a wall, as any sovereign state has the right to build a wall. It has a right to build a wall on its property but it doesn’t have the right to build the wall on another people’s property. That’s the only issue. That was the only issue that came up in the World Court decision. It’s not a complicated question for Americans. My parents — we lived in Brooklyn, NY, we owned a house — my parents were difficult people, they didn’t get along with anyone [audience laughter]. Actually, they didn’t even get along with each other [audience laughter]. So, on the other side were the Golds and on the other side were the Kasslers and they did not get along with the Golds and they did not get along with the Kasslers, so they built a fence. And it was within their right to build a fence but, as everybody knows, when you build at fence, at any rate in New York, you first have to hire a surveyor. That’s a fact, I’m not joking. You have to hire a surveyor and you have to make sure that fence is right down the line on your property because if that fence is literally one quarter of an inch on the Golds’ side or on the Kasslers’ side, they have the right to tear it down. Under law, that’s it. Now, let’s take Israel’s wall. What happens if my parents decide to build a fence that’s not only on the Kasslers’ side but goes right around their swimming pool? [audience laughter] Well… some people will begin to wonder “are Mary and Harry Finkelstein trying to protect their property? Or are they trying to steal the Kasslers’ swimming pool?” [audience laughter] Now, it happens…[audience applause] it happens that the Israel fence takes in the most productive water and land resources on the West Bank. So you begin to wonder whether it’s about terrorism or it’s about theft. Now, what happens if my parents’ fence went not only right around the swimming pool but went straight through the living room? Well, then you’ll begin to wonder whether my parents are trying to get rid of the Kasslers. Now, it happens that Israel’s fence is cutting the West Bank in half and making any possibility of a Palestinian State null and void. That’s all the human rights organizations are saying. If you divide the West Bank in half and you annex Jerusalem, which accounts for 1/2 to 2/3′s of the whole Palestinian GNP, there’s no Palestinian State, it’s over. That’s the issue. There’s no question about Israel’s right to build a wall. A wall on its border and that’s the only question [audience applause].


Questioner: The next question touches upon a very interesting…[inaudible] debate… “since a Bantustan is the only type of entity Israel grants the Palestinians, why don’t the Palestinians give up the two state idea and expand it instead to ….[inaudible]

Finkelstien: Well, you know that question constantly comes up and I don’t want to give a glib answer to it because I happen to think that’s another area where honest people can disagree. I’ll just give you my opinion on the topic. The prospects of a one-State solution are very far off in the distant future and people have to be honest about that. It’s not a snap solution. And you have to ask yourself a question — and it’s a serious moral question, it’s about moral responsibility — when you start advocating a one state settlement you’re confining the Palestinians who are not living under a misserable occupation, you’re consigning them to perhaps another century of misery… because that’s what we’re talking about, if we’re arguing for a
one-State settlment. Now some people may argue, “well, there’s no other alternative because the two-State settlement is dead.” I’d say there’s an argument there, I’m not going to dispute it, but I think a morally responsible position is — if there’s even a 5% possibility of a two-State settlement and ending the Israeli occupation within our lifetime, then that’s the position we should be fighting for. As a general rule, I don’t think it’s a complicated question. You know, people say, one State, two States, well, I’m of the old school of thought. I think the world would be a very nice place with no States… so it’s not just, you know, Palestine-Israel, [audience applause] it’s the whole world. But… I don’t have to bear the consequences for making that statement, because I’m very secure in my United States, or at least upto now [audience laughter]… with my American citizenship and my American passport, I’m not living under occupation. But when you start advocating that for Palestinians you have to be very careful about what you’re doing, because you’re in effect saying “from now through a very long period into the future they’re going to have to live with that occupation” and you have to be very morally responsible before you condemn people to that fate.


Questioner: Professor Finkelstein you have been criticized for saying you support Hezbollah. Can you explain your thoughts on this claim, if there’s any basis for it?

Finkelstien: Well, there’s excellent basis for it. At Columbia University [March 9, 2006] they [protesting students] held up signs saying I love Hezbollah, I happen to think that was over stating it, I like it a lot [audience laughter]… I don’t think the Hizbullah question is particularly complicated. We have, with all due respect, we have oldsters in the room. And I think a lot of the oldsters, in particular if they’re of Jewish descent, they were 100% behind the Red Army’s victory over the Fascist occupation. And they were thrilled when the Red Army smashed the Nazi war machine. And I’m sure a lot of the oldsters in this room were thrilled at the communist and socialist resistances in many of the countries of Western Europe to the Nazi occupation. Now, Stalin’s record on human rights was NOT exactly what you would call stellar [audience laughter]… And neither was the record of the Communist Parties… but we all recognize the right of any people to resist a foreign occupation of their land. And the Hezbollah resisted the brutal Israeli occupation of Lebanon and dealt them a swift blow and defeat. I, for one, am very glad about that [audience applause]… I think a foreign occupier should be thrown out of countries [audience applause]… And I personally would be the very worst hypocrite in the world were I to condemn the Hezbollah for it’s defeat of the Israeli occupation, whereas ’till this day I still celebrated the Red Army’s defeat of the Nazi occupation of Europe. I refuse to be a hypocrite. They had a right to expell the foreign occupiers, so does Hezbollah. It was a splendid victory [audience applause]…


Questioner: Considering the cost of [poor audio quality] war/wall, the settlements must be the most expensive [poor audio quality] real estate in the world …[poor audio quality]… [Finkelstein:] why are they investing in the settlements?

Finkelstien: That’s a good question — “what is the rational behind the settlements?” — and actually the book that I mentioned earlier in my talk, The Accidental Empire, is supposedly an analysis of that question, “how Israel came to build the settlments in the occupied territories.” I don’t agree with his argument at all. His basic argument is that the religious crazies took over organizations like Gush Emunim and so forth, and the government was unable to reign them in. I don’t think that’s really what happened. Israel from early on had a conception of what the Israeli State should look like. Come 1947 there was a partition of Palestine, they never really accepted those partition borders ’cause they felt that they should have more of Palestine, that they should have really the whole of Palestine, which included for them, depending upon whom you’re talking about, Jordan, parts of Lebanon, the Sinai and so forth. In 1948 during he war they expand beyond the Partition borders and they now have 77-78% of Palestine. 1956 — they invade Egypt along with the French and the Brittish, they conquer Gaza, they conquer Sinai, unfortunately for them, the Americans at that point said to get out, and they always had a fairly large conception of their view of what their State should be. Their main problem, come 1967, is a very basic problem. They want the land but all those Arabs, and they still want a Jewish State. So how do you preserve a Jewish State with all those Arabs? In 1948 they solved that problem by expelling the Arabs. But in 1967, for various reasons, not least of which the war was so short, they only managed to expell about 250,000 – 300,000 Arabs. After the war they have all these ideas, Levi Eshko, who was the Prime Minister, he says “let’s take those Gazan refugees and settle them in Iraq” and they were trying to settle them in Iraq. They got rid of around 100,000 that way but in the end it didn’t pan out. So, they want the land but a problem of the people and the way they tried to resolve that problem is basically the South Africa style, namely create Bastustans, stuff the Arabs in as dense an area as possible and then keep the rest for yourself. There’s an interesting quote I came across, a remark I came across yesterday. Mr. Sharon is still convinced that can work because he said the problem in South Africa was there were many more Blacks than Whites and the ratio was such that the Bantustans couldn’t work. But he remains confident that because of the population, the ratio’s pretty even in Israel-Palestine, the Bantustan policy can work. They’ll have all these little enclaves where they’ll stick the Arabs, sort of like our Native American reservations and they’ll have it encircled by White settlements and they think it can work. It’s an interesting question because it’s one where I think ideology is more significant than rational interest. They remain, at some level, Zionists and they have a conception of what their State should look like. They’re sticking hard and fast to that ideology and then trying to accomodate the reality of all those Arabs and what to do with them.


Questioner: Outside earlier some people were handing out, may be some people’ve see them… I read one of those quotes that was attributed to Finkelstein. It says “Finkelstein accuses Jewish leaders of being ‘…Jew liars who [ ] huckster their dead,’ on p. 127 of his book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. When I actually go to that page it says “anti-Semites gleefully mock the ‘Jew liars’ who even ‘huckster’ their dead” [audience laughter]. In fact he Finkelstein was quoting anti-Semites but they attribute this quote to him [audience laughter]… [poor audio quality]… [Finkelstien:] I want to be clear about that…

Finkelstien: I wanna be faithful to the record. I don’t shy away from a laugh and I don’t shy away from undiplomatic language but I’m deadly serious about what I write and I’m very careful about what I say. They are acting like hucksters and they are huckstering the dead. And that’s what’s so godly awful about the whole thing. That they have turned, these people have turned the Nazi holocaust into a racket. It’s not me that originated this brilliant idea. Take the most authoritative scholar on the Nazi holocaust in the world, Raul Hilberg. For any of you who study the subject you know Rual Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews, his three volume study is the standard one on the topic and nobody disputes he is the dean of Nazi holocaust historians. It was Raul Hilberg, not Norman Finkelstein, who in 1999 said that Jews are, I’m quoting him literally, “Jews are, for the first time in history, they’re making use of the blackmail weapon.” They are blackmailing, this is my part now, they are blackmailing the Swiss banks, the German industrialists to extract what they call holocuast compensation for needy holocaust victims. That was all sheer fakery. It was a fraud. It was a disgusting fraud for several reasons. Number 1, it was exploiting the most collosal chapter in Jewish suffering and turning it into a blackmail racket. Number 2, the claims that were being made against the Swiss banks and the German industrialists were simply not true. Number 3, when they got the money, which they extracted in the name of, quote on quote, needy holocaust victims, the needy holocaust victims never saw any of the money. The money went into the pockets of these Jewish organizations and of the settlement class action lawyers. It was, exactly as I say in the book, it was a double shakedown. Now, there are a couple of things that are worth noticing. Number 1, not only were they turning the Nazi holocaust into a shakedown racket, not only were they huckstering the Nazi holocaust, acting exactly like stereotypes straight out of Der Stürmer but what’s worse was — and it’s one of those weird ironies when you study the record — they were turning into the world’s leading holocaust deniers. Well, how can that be? It’s not so complicated. In order to extract the monies from the Swiss and the Germans they had to claim there were all of these needy holocaust [survivor] victims out there. Well, they started to escalate the number of survivors. And each year, if you read the publications, and I document it, each year the numbers of survivors start to increase. So you now had claims, for example, they claim that in the year 2025 “tens of thousands” of Nazi holocaust survivors will still be alive, in the year 2025. 90 years after the end of World War 2 “tens of thousands” of holocaust survivors are going to be alive. Well, if you start increasing the numbers of survivors and you have an absolute number population you end up decreasing the number of victims. As my late mother used to say… and they get so enraged when I quote her. I don’t like to bring in personal biography, it’s relevant now, I will — my late mother, my late father were survivors of the Nazi holocaust, both of them survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, after the Ghetto my mother was in Maidanek concentration camp and two slave labor camps, my father was in the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Auschwitz death march. And my mother used to go around saying “if everyone who claims to be a holocaust survivor actually is one, who did Hitler kill?!” [audience laughter] Everyone’s a survivor! And that’s what they were doing, they were turning… so, some of you know this fellow, David Irving, the so called holocaust denier. David Irving would go around saying, one of his famous quips was, “an Auschwitz survivor is born every day.” Wel, you know what the problem was? The problem was, according to the Holocaust industry, it was true, an Auschwitz survivor was being born every day because they were increasing the numbers to justify extracting more compensation monies from the Europeans. There was no basis for these numbers. You take the fellow who just passed away a few weeks ago Simon Wiesenthal, some of you know him as the famed Nazi hunter. I don’t particularly go for the fellow BUT he was in the camps. They asked him last year “how many survivors are still around?” His figure — he said ten or fifteen thousands, at most. But you read these people [lawyers and Jewish organizations] and “tens of thousands” would be “alive in 2025 or 2035!” You know what’s funny? I burried my parents in 1995. According to actuarial charts, I won’t be alive in 2035! I won’t but they’re saying “tens of thousands” will still be alive.


Questioner: … why you felt it important enough to write this book?

Finkelstien: There are three reasons to write The Holocaust Industry. Number 1, I was involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict and it was quite clear that the Nazi holocaust was being used as a bludgeon to silence criticism of Israel. That was the political motive. And then there was a personal motive. I honestly belive and here I have to again go into the area of personal biography… I was very close to my late parents and I was as sensitive as anyone could be to their suffering and I thought they deserved better. I didn’t think that the Nazi holocaust should be reduced to the moral stature of a Monte Carlo casino and that’s what was being done. Finally, because I think as a historical phenomenon it [the Nazi holocaust] is significant. I’m not saying it’s the most significant and I’m not saying it’s unique but I think there’s an enormous amount you can learn from it. And when I read the memoirs, in particular the ones from right after World War 2, the wonderful one which is very hard to get now by Ella Lingens-Reiner called Prisoners of Fear. Some of you know Alex Cockburn, he was recently writing on the topic and I asked him please please read Ella Lingens-Reiner’s Prisoners of Fear and he wrote me the other and he said “I picked it up and, you know, I couldn’t put it down.” There’s a lot of stuff, a lot’s been written, which really moves, which has depth, which has profundity, and you can learn a lot from it. The problem is you can’t learn anything from the topic now because the Nazi holocaust has been hijacked by a gang of hucksters and that’s a real problem. I thought they need to be exposed and that was the purpose of the book. And I have no appologies for it, in fact, one of the weird things is, things I couldn’t possibly have imagined, you know, I was just skimming the surface when I wrote the book… Who would’ve imagined that Dr. Israel Singer, the head of the World Jewish Congress, who was attacking the Swiss bankers because of those secret Jewish bank accounts, who would’ve imagined that this past year Dr. Israel Singer, it turns out, he took out a secret Swiss bank account where he was throwing in World Jewish Congress money? That’s funny. Or who would’ve imagined the lead council for the holocaust victims, this fellow named Burt Neuborne at New York University, who went around saying “I’m doing it pro bono, I’m doing it pro bono” — and I used to call him the “pro bono holocaust huckster” [audience laughter]… Who would’ve imagined that Burt Neuborne, who was doing it pro bono, he said “I’m doing it for my daughter, she was a Rabinical student, died prematurely from a heart attack, I’m doing it for her…” Who would’ve imagined that Burt Neuborne, the pro bono holocaust huckster, took five million dollars [$4.4 plus expenses] from the German settlement? And then, this past month, he put in the bill for $4.1 million dollars in the Swiss settlement. That’s the pro bono holocaust huckster. “I’m doing it for free” he said. It’s all a bad joke. And, if I could say finally in my own defense, let them say what they want… but the world’s leading authority on the Nazi holocaust bar none is Raul Hilberg and Hilberg wrote, I’ll ask you to just read the back of the book [turns to panelist]… [Questioner:] Raul Hilberg on the first edition of The Holocaust Industry: “When I read Finkelstein’s book, The Holocaust Industry , at the time of its appearance, I was in the middle of my own investigations of these matters, and I came to the conclusion that he was on the right track. I refer now to the part of the book that deals with the claims against the Swiss banks, and the other claims pertaining to forced labor. I would now say in retrospect that he was actually conservative, moderate and that his conclusions are trustworthy. He is a well-trained political scientist, has the ability to do the research, did it carefully, and has come up with the right results. I am by no means the only one who, in the coming months or years, will totally agree with Finkelstein’s breakthrough.” [Finkelstein:] Not bad. [audience laughter & applause]… Just as a matter of the factual record, Hilberg is a Conservative Republican — I’m at the other end of the spectrum, certainly… but we both have one quality in common: we respect facts, we respect truth and it was a meeting ground for us. He told me, I met him subsequently, he said he was getting calls literally every week from Ellie Wiesel and from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, begging him to remove his endorsement from my book… And he said he wouldn’t because what I wrote was true. And I think that’s an insightful episode. It tells you that however much people differ on ideologies, if you’re respectful of facts and truth, there’s a lot more common ground than you would imagine. A month ago I debated Israel’s former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami on Amy Goodman’s program Democracy Now!. You’d be very surprised, there was no rancor, hardly any disagreement, except at the very end. Why? Because Shlomo Ben-Ami is firstly, professionally, he’s a historian. His field of expertise is the Spanish Civil War. And he’s secondly a diplomat. He respected facts. He respected truth. For those of you who’ve watched the tape… how many of you’ve watched it, just out of curiosity?… Notice, not one time did he say “you’re lying, that’s not true.” He never said it. He never even brought up issues like “anti-Semite,” “Holocaust Denier…” He’s serious. He was serious about facts. And that’s a validation of the main thesis of my remarks this evening: among serious people, among honest people, among peopel who studied the record, whether you’re a conservative Republican or you’re on the far left like myself, there’s very little controversy. There really is very little disagreement. It’s only when you drag in all of this nonsense about “holocaust deniers” and the other one… it’s kind of funny… I’m charged with two things, the same two things all the time… “I’m either exploiting the fact that my parents passed through the Nazi holocaust” or I’m accused of being “a Holocaust Denier.” Now, how can you be both? [audience laughter]. People say “oh Finkelstein always brings up the fact that his family was exterminated by the Nazis,” yes I do. But then they say “Finkelstein, he’s a Holocaust Denier!” How can it be both? Because none of these labels mean anything anymore. They’ve been turned into the verbal equivalent of spittle. [audience laughter] There’s only a matter of time before “Holocaust Denier” enters the Dictionary of American Slang as an equivalent of the F-word. So probably in around ten words people will be saying “Holocaust you!” [audience laughter]… Or “Mother Holocauster…” It doesn’t mean anything! [audience laughter]…

Questioner: [poor audio quality] out of time… thanky you…[audience applause]