Beyond Chutzpah

A NY Post story that’s NOT lunatic


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A professor who has drawn widespread criticism for declaring that some Jews use the memory of the Holocaust an “extortion racket” has ignited an outcry at Columbia University, where he was invited to speak by several student groups.

Norman Finkelstein was slated to speak at the university’s largest lecture hall tomorrow night on the topic “Israel and Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History.”

The appearance of Finkelstein, a DePaul University political-science professor, comes as Columbia is still licking its wounds over charges last year that pro-Palestinian professors had intimidated Jewish students.

A university panel cleared the professors, but the controversy ignited debates on academic freedom that still burn today.

Last week, student leaders from the College Conservatives and the College Democrats denounced Finkelstein’s visit in a fiery opinion piece titled “Hate Comes to Columbia,” in the student newspaper.

Yesterday, two Muslim students defended his appearance, noting in the newspaper that Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors whose work has been hailed by numerous authorities on the subject.

“I am distressed that after so much effort toward dialogue on this campus, these groups are bringing a divisive anti-Semite to Columbia,” said Danielle Slutzky, president of LionPAC, a pro-Israel student group.

An e-mail sent from The Post to the Muslim Students Association at Columbia, the prime sponsor of Finkelstein’s speech, was not immediately returned.

Finkelstein caused a stir in 2000 when he wrote in his book, “The Holocaust Industry,” that the Holocaust is being used as “an extortion racket” by some Jews who “shake down” owners of looted Jewish property while paying lip service to Holocaust survivors.

He also called Nobel Prize-winning Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel the “resident clown” of the “Holocaust circus.”

In an interview with The Post, Finkelstein stood by his work, saying, “I do not run away from my statements. On the other hand, I have real problems when people try to stick labels on me that are not only libelous, but filthy lies.”

“Among serious scholars, my views are not lunatic or kooky,” he continued. “I am, rather, appropriating what serious scholars have said on the topic.”

From the Arab press on Beyond Chutzpah

Editor’s note: more book reviews here.

By Jihad el Khazen

The most brazen of all retains me one more day, and again I say: they will drive me insane, quoting Fouad al Muhandis’ line in an old radio show.

This week, a book by the lawyer Alan Dershowitz, “Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways”, will come out in the United States. I will not read this work, because as we say in these lands “the title sums the content”.

I had read the title on an advertisement for the book, and I presumed then that this radical Likudnik author is trying to build up a new legal theory that justifies preemptive wars. Then I found an exposé of the book that confirmed my initial assumption, since it quotes the writer’s introduction of the book: “The shift from responding to past events to preventing future harms is part of one of the most significant but unnoticed trends in the world today.”

The problem is that it is radicals such as Dershowitz who define this “future harm” that calls for a preemptive war. We have had a taste of the “harm” attributed to Saddam Hussein’s regime. It turned out that neither did he possess weapons of mass destruction nor did he have dealings with Al Qaeda. Now, it is Iran’s turn, with its nuclear program, while each fib leads to a war that benefits Israel.

The book review appeared in the right-wing The Washington Times, and bore the incredulously insolent title: “All Praise Professor Dershowitz”. In the first paragraph of the presentation, Dershowitz was introduced as a so-called Liberal, although he is in fact a rightist, or at Ariel Sharon’s right in any case, and his new book is as extremist as he is.

As I stated earlier, I will not read this book and I call upon readers to do the same. The author has lost his academic credence after Norman Finkelstein destroyed his previous book “The Case for Israel”, when he commented on it in the pages 87 to 317 of his own book “Beyond Chutzpah”. Dershowitz had tried, and failed, to prevent the publication of Finkelstein’s work by pressuring the University of California and the University Press to abort the process. Later, he blatantly denied his efforts, as would be expected of him.

I have already spoken of Finkelstein’s book in general terms after its publication. However, I wish to discuss his critique of Dershowitz and the latter’s book once more today. I remind the reader that Finkelstein is the author of “The Holocaust Industry”, a book that exposed the exploitation of the Jewish victims of Nazism; he wrote a new book that exposes the insolence of Israel’s advocates.

Finkelstein quotes the following statement by Dershowitz: “Almost all criminal defendants- including most of my clients- are factually guilty of the crimes they have been charged with. The criminal lawyer’s job, for the most part, is to represent the guilty, and- if possible- to get them off”.

In “The Case for Israel”, Dershowitz sought to innocent Israel of confirmed crimes. Finkelstein countered Dershowitz’ claims, and exposed his apparent lies, prejudice, plagiarism and ignorance in a well-documented way.

Dershowitz also claimed that what incited him to defend Israel was that despite the danger to its existence it abided by the law and faced the biggest misunderstanding in world history.

Finkelstein disputed this claim by saying that Israel was denounced both internally and in outer circles, citing “B’tselem”, the Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations General Assembly with its specialized agencies, that all denounced Israel’s violations and crimes in the occupied territories.

Claiming to know more than all these agencies put together, Dershowitz continues manipulating numbers that do not lie. But Finkelstein is ever-vigilant. In short, Dershowitz uses the body count on both ends between the years 2000 and 2003, and applies a racist analysis to them. The numbers on record show that there were 2316 casualty among Palestinians, compared with 827 among Israelis. In other words, Israel bears guilt three times more than the Palestinians do. I know of other numbers of purely civilian victims, which are a lot worse. Dershowitz says however, that Palestinians have tried to kill thousands of other Palestinians, that some of those killed were targeted with Palestinian bullets for collaboration with the enemy and that Palestinians use pregnant women as human shields. His main point is that all Israeli killings are unintentional. Dershowitz resorted to this same insolence to recount the assassination of the resistant Salah Shehade. According to him, the Israeli army planned to kill him several times, but allegedly refrained because his family was present with him. However, the Israeli army did not decide to kill him while he was in a car, with one or two bodyguards. A fighter plane dropped a one-ton bomb over his apartment, killing him and 14 other Palestinians, including nine children.
Dershowitz is among the most insolent of all writers I came upon. In another spot, he says that occupation was beneficial to the Palestinians on the levels of life expectancy, healthcare and education.
However, Finkelstein retorts with reports from reputed academic figures who say that Israeli occupation has been even worse than colonialism because it works to expulse Palestinians from their land to seize it.

A Harvard University Professor, Dershowitz put all his knowledge at the service of Israel’s defense. Finkelstein nonetheless unveils his extremism, and proves in a confrontation that joined them both that Dershowitz ignores the subject of his own book, as if he did not write it, or relied on researchers’ findings without bothering to review them even.

I hope Finkelstein responds to Dershowitz’ new book, as I believe he would. According to the exposé I read, the author still deters excuses for the war on Iraq, and justifies any preemptive strike against Iran. War on terror means diminishing civil rights that Americans campaigned throughout two centuries to gain. This however, is of no importance to the likes of Dershowitz so long as war benefits Israel.

The new book was discussed in an expose in the right-wing The Washington Times, written by Tony Blankley. Blankley represented Dershowitz as a leftist liberal, when, being a pro-Israeli extremist who lies as he breathes to defend Israel, he has nothing to do with any liberal or leftist thought. This fact annuls his academic credence front, for by simply defending Israel means that it is factually as criminal as all the criminals he has previously defended while being certain of their guilt.

Interested Readers Might Want to Respond

To: normangf[at]
Subject: Your Mother.
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2006 17:30:21 EST

I read your little polemic about Dershowitz and your mother. But the question remains, how do we know your mother wasn’t a collaborator of some sort. Perhaps has a whore for the German soldiers. What proof do you have that she was actually in a camp. What was her tattoo number for example?

Bill Pearlman

Reader letters

Dear Norman,

This Bill Pearlman is up to the old lawyer’s trick of trying to make fools
of his adversaries by enticing them to “prove” negative statements. One
could challenge him to answer the same kinds of dumb insulting questions:
“Pearlman, what evidence do you have that your father was not a practicing
pedophile?” But we are not going to learn anything useful from replicating
his tactics. Making fun of his name only insults many accomplished “Bill
Pearlmans” – several educators, a renowned jewelry designer, an electronics
engineer, a prize-winning poet, or even the local pharmacist – whose
integrity he has put under suspicion that any one of them might be the
writer of his sick letter.

As Pearlman’s vicious insults and responses to earlier letters posted here
indicate, it is impossible to have a rational discussion with him because he
apparently lacks the ability to reason. Such people invariably resort to ad
hominem attacks rather than critique substantive issues. In fact, virtually
all of the negative letters you have posted on your website over the past
five years resort to ad hominem attacks and seldom ever express any
disagreement with the substance of your research.

Since Pearlman has offered no criticism of your academic positions, yet
spews the rhetoric and anger of an outraged fundamentalist, his goal seems
only to inflict distress on his target. Pearlman’s behavior made me very
curious to know just what he stands for. So I’m going to focus on an
analysis of what facts we do know about him, and then try to develop an
hypothesis to explain his sordid behavior. For this we need to study his
existing public record, including his email to you.

Even though Pearlman’s email contains hateful rhetoric in the form of
negative questions, as “projective” behavior, such writing can be useful in
analyzing the personality and hidden motives of the writer. The words chosen
by Pearlman tell us something about the cognitive structure of the his mind
– even when his statements are patently false. From what he writes to you,
he reveals guilty feelings about “betrayal,” and he tries to hide these
personal deficiencies by constructing hurtful attacks on others.

Pearlman displays a deep seated hatred toward women, especially mothers,
>whom he characterizes as prostitutes. His letter to you is but one example.
n a recent disagreement with a fellow poster on a Ha’aretz “Talk Back,” he
lashes out with, “Evidently your mother the courtesan had an extremely
mentally challenged list of clients” (1), instead of expressing the
substance of his concern. One can only guess what he thinks of his own

Politically, Pearlman characterizes himself as “an extremely right wing
guy.” Not a “conservative,” not a “right wing” person, but rather “an
EXTREMELY right wing guy” (my emphasis) (2). Maybe in today’s parlance he
would be labeled a “neocon”; but in more academic political science
terminology, this is a clear admission that he is a fascist. Further
evidence that Pearlman is a fascist is his declared support of French
neofascist Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the right-wing Front National. When
the FN was created in 1972, the “Leadership Team” of Le Pen’s new political
movement included convicted war criminal Pierre Bousquet, former Vichy
militia member Francois Brigneau, and Jean Castrillo who had served with the
Waffen SS (3). In 1990, Le Pen was convicted of casting doubt on the
persecution of Jews by the Nazis and of making jokes belittling Auschwitz
and the gas chambers (4). A recent article in the New York Sun refers to Le
Pen’s Front National as a “coalition of Neofascists and Christian
right-wingers” (5). This is Pearlman’s preferred candidate for president of
France (6).

Now that we know he’s a fascist, we may consider where his fascist leanings
might have originated. In Pearlman’s case, it’s unlikely that just being a
Jew living in Chicago inspired his embracing fascism. We need to look into
the possibility that persons in his background were fascist, perhaps even
Nazi sympathizers. Possibly his family took on Jewish identity to escape
post-WWII reprisals. Again, my first inclination to look for a Nazi past
(rather than, e.g., to something in his education) is his attempt to
manipulate the reality of the Holocaust in his email to you, as well as his
support of Holocaust denigrator Jean-Marie Le Pen.

If one re-reads Pearlman’s email in the context of a fascist projecting his
own thought structure, the theme “denial” stands out: was your mother
“actually in a camp” at all? If that’s a possibility in Pearlman’s mind, he
has doubts that there were camps in the first place. If Pearlman sees truth
in this, for him, the entire Holocaust becomes a myth. Isn’t that just what
one might expect a Le Pen fascist to think, even if his primary and overt
intent is just to be insulting? In spite of some statements to the contrary,
is Pearlman a closet Holocaust denier?

What does seem a bit odd is that Pearlman’s internet posts are mostly in
response to articles in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Given his “extremely
right-wing” views, it would seem that he would feel more at home among
readers who post on the more conservative media such as J-Post or
israelinsider. But you won’t find him posting there among his fellow
right-wingers. Maybe this is because Ha’aretz readers are more tolerant of
diverse viewpoints compared to those who read and post comments on J-Post or israelinsider. There, even the conservatives would likely flame some of
Pearlman’s more radical comments.

(1) Response to article by Barkat, Ha’aretz, 25 Feb 06
(2) Response to article by Burston, Ha’aretz, 03 Feb 2006
(3) ADL report, A right-wing extremist and his party, Apr 1997; p.2
(4) ADL report, A right-wing extremist and his party, Apr 1997; p.3
(5) New York Sun, 17 Feb 2006
(6) Response to article by Barkat, Ha’aretz, 03 Jan 2006


From: jamesbo[at]
To: WPearlman[at]
CC: normangf[at]
Subject: Re.: Your Mother
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 22:32:32 -0500 (EST)

You should be ashamed of yourself for asking such a question, and phrasing it in such a repulsive way. The only thing appropriate about your e-mail to Prof. Finkelstein’s website, sir, is your last name: a Pearl is made up of a kind of hardened mucus.

J. Owen
Vancouver, Canada


Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2006 15:45:46 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Mr Finkelstein’s mom

Mr Pearlman, I read your letter to Mr Finkelstein and felt that I should reply – not to make you understand but in order to defend a courageous and brave human being and his family (may he have every success and happiness in the world).

Those who attack Mr Finkelstein and his family increase my belief (and I’m sure those of others) that he is on the truth and that you and others have to resort to attacking his mom. This is really desperate. You can’t criticise his work so you resort to attacking him as a person. When that doesn’t work or isn’t enough, you
guys resort to attacking his mom.

I know which side I am on.


Mister or Miss,

I trust, this is NOT that philosophy “there is too much space
between atoms”, which is a funny discussion sometimes. And YOU do
also not doubt your senses, as many survivors of violence do.
So this email to Professor Finkelstein was planned to hurt – and
you, WP, must be told that you are nothing but scum. I do so.

Rune C. Olwen


From: “Maren Hackmann”
To: WPearlman[at]
CC: normangf[at]
Subject: Your email to Norman Finkelstein
Date: Sat, 04 Mar 2006

Feeling brave that you dare defame a survivor of the Nazi holocaust after her death, in a letter to her grieving son? How very brave indeed. Like Dersh, you’re not only extremely disgusting and cowardly, but also extremely stupid. Trying desperately to be smart, but failing miserably. In the future, keep your filth to yourself, unless you want to provide further illustration of how low a man can sink.

Maren Hackmann

BP: How do we know she was a holocaust survivor, how do we know he is a grieving son? Do you have any proof of that. History is replete with people who make up stories to use to their own advantage. Norman Finklestein gets a lot of mileage out of being the son of holocaust survivors. He casts doubt on other people but we should accept his story on face value. I don’t think so.

Bill Pearlman

MH: It seems you’re not only disgusting, cowardly, and stupid, but also beyond cure.

BP: Come on Maren my friend. If his name was Hoess, Muller, Dietrich, or the king of them all Hitler. He would be just another nazi walking around ranting about the international Zionist conspiracy. But, because he says his name is Finklestein and his parents were holocaust survivors it’s a man bites dog thing. Now personally I don’t figure him for a regular synagogue attendee but how do you know any of this is true. Any of it. Just because he says it is. Where is the proof?

Bill Pearlman

PS Take a valium

MH: I’m not your “friend.” And I have better things to do than correspond with you, Sir.


Mr. Bill Pearlman,

A person shows his depth, his maturity, his character and his moral standards
through his thoughts, his outlook on life, his words, his actions and what he believes in. All this reflects on how he was nurtured through out course of his life time and what he gained from various experiences life has to offer.

Your letter to Dr. Finkelstein reflects so much on your character, your personality and your psyche. If your parents didn’t teach you anything then they are partly to be blamed, but if that is not the case then I am sure they are not proud of you, rather they must be ashamed of you; and same holds for your friends and various learning institutions that you attended (unless of course you were under the care of Mr. Dershowitz).

Mothers are best of God’s creations, and we must respect them above all. And what you said about Dr. Finkelstein’s mother, would disgust any one with any conscience. I pity you for having no character and I feel sorry for your children, because you will only instill filth in their minds and hearts.

As for Dr. Finkelstein I salute his courage and his high moral standards. When people know they can not fight with facts they just throw dirt, without realizing that they get their hands dirty first.

May God knock some sense into you.

(Toronto, Canada)

Jewish Forward admits: Not a word Dershowitz says is true!

By kathleen peratis

Al-Fatiha — which calls itself the principal
international organization promoting the rights
of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arabs —
is located not in Beirut or Cairo, but in
Washington, D.C. And no wonder: The international
movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people hardly exists inside the
Muslim world.

Arab human rights organizations sometimes
advocate for gay rights, but they do so sotto
In fact, the only country in the Middle
East in which gay people may safely leave the
closet is Israel. Which is why, for gay
Palestinians, Tel Aviv is Mecca.

Gay Palestinian men flee to Israel because they
are not safe in the West Bank and Gaza. They also
have no place else to go.

“Israel is close and far at the same time,” says
Haneen Maikey, a gay rights activist with
Jerusalem Open House, one of the principal gay
rights organizations in Israel. If the sexuality
of a gay man in Palestine is exposed, his family
might torture or kill him and the police will
turn a blind eye.

Because they are so vulnerable to blackmail, it
is assumed by the families and neighbors of gay
Palestinian men — sometimes correctly — that they
have been blackmailed into becoming informers,
either for Israeli intelligence or for opposition
Palestinian factions. So when they meet a violent
end, the motivation of the killers is not
entirely clear.

And in Israel? Misinformation abounds. In a 2004
speech at the University of California, Berkeley,
Alan Dershowitz said: “I support Israel because I
support gay rights. Recently, a progressive
congressman, Barney Frank from Massachusetts,
worked with me and Israel to grant asylum for 40
Palestinian gays.”

Alas, not a word of this is true.

When gay Palestinian men run for their lives into
Israel, they do not seek — and they cannot get —
“asylum,” which is a special status under
international law available to those who can
establish a “well founded fear of persecution” in
the country of their nationality or “place of
habitual residence.” Israel has never granted
asylum to Palestinians, gay or not, says Anat
Ben-Dor of the Refugee Rights Clinic at the Tel
Aviv University Law Faculty — even those who can
credibly claim they will be killed if they are
sent back to the West Bank or Gaza. This is
because Israel interprets international asylum
law — the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status
of Refugees, which Israel has signed — as
inapplicable to Palestinian nationals.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
in Jerusalem advises any Palestinian seeking
asylum in Israel that he or she is ineligible to
apply. Nevertheless, in years past, West Bank
Palestinians were sometimes allowed official or
unofficial residence in Israel on any one of a
number of humanitarian grounds. These included
family reunification, medical treatment, fear of
persecution or because they were blessed with
high-profile friends. But not any more.

In 2002, Palestinians with Israeli identity cards
issued under family reunification laws allegedly
used that status to aid suicide bombers. The
Nationality and Entry Into Israel Law of 2003 was
quickly passed, effectively revoking the family
reunification laws and sharply limiting the
authority of even the interior minister to grant
residency permits to Palestinians.

Several petitions are pending in the Supreme
Court in Jerusalem challenging the law on
constitutional grounds, because there is no
exception for those with a well-founded fear of
persecution. (There is an exception for people
who “identify with the State of Israel and its
goals” and who “performed a material act to
advance the security” of the state — in other
words, collaborators — thus validating the common
suspicion among Palestinians.)

The new law, and the new reality, has led to a
crackdown on gay Palestinians in Israel,
according to Shaul Gonen, a former board member
of The Aguda, the largest of the Israeli lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender organizations. (The
few lesbians who flee move more easily under the
radar screen, aided by Aswat, an Israeli-Arab
organization for Palestinian lesbians.) Asylum
has always been out of the question, but now, no
official status is possible.

So gay Palestinians who make their desperate way
to Israel simply hope to disappear into the gay
subculture of Tel Aviv or Haifa. Slipping into
Israel is still not impossible, though it has
gotten harder. But with no money, no Hebrew, and
no employment, they sooner or later come to the
attention of the police, where they are arrested
or summarily expelled.

The best hope for the lucky few is unofficial and
temporary protection — weeks or a few months —
while an NGO seeks to arrange asylum in a third
country. But this is a long shot. In the three
years the Refugee Rights Clinic in Tel Aviv has
been operating, they have gotten third-country
asylum for a grand total of three gay
Palestinians, admits Ben-Dor.

Gonen estimates that since 1997, when the gay
rights organizations started counting, about 300
gay Palestinian men have come to Israel in the
hope of finding safety. Most came during the Oslo
years, and none have official residence status.
About 20, he says, are now under “house arrest”
or “area arrest,” which is “house arrest” with a
little extra latitude. The rest are either in
jail, have been summarily deported to an unknown
fate, or are still evading detection.

So what exactly was Dershowitz talking about? His
email reply to my email query was, “The reference
to working with Barney Frank is incorrect. Barney
Frank told [me] the story.”

As for Frank: He confessed to being Dershowitz’s
source, to getting things a little wrong, and to
confusing “house arrest” and “area arrest” with
“asylum” — a little like confusing slavery with
freedom. Frank did add that he intended to
address these issues with Israeli officials.

Sadly, the activists I spoke to saw no
alternative to the modest protection now afforded
by “area arrest,” and even suggested that outside
pressure might backfire. In the current climate,
Israel is not opening its doors to gay
Palestinians, period. Nothing personal. With more
sadness than outrage, the activists acknowledge
that erstwhile Palestinian asylum seekers in
Israel are simply further examples of collateral
damage in the ongoing Middle East tragedy.

Kathleen Peratis, a partner in the New York
law firm Outten & Golden, is a trustee of
Human Rights Watch.

Dublin book launch

A low quality, dial-up friendly version (Real Player) can be found here:

also published on IMC Eire at:

Video** filmed at the Teachers’ Club in Dublin.

**Video recorded and encoded by members of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Newbridge Branch

Leading Dutch newspaper praises Beyond Chutzpah.

Editor’s note: more book reviews here.

NRC Handelsblad| February 24, 2006

Download the PDF of the article (Dutch).
(156 KB )


Fighting the anti-anti-Semite

Norman Finkelstein attacks those with double moral standards concerning Israel

American Norman Finkelstein is still angry with people who try to fight anti-Semitism by saying that Jews can never do anything wrong.

Norman Finkelstein: Beyond Chutzpah.
On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.
Verso. 332 pages € 32.00

Bas Blokker

Norman Finkelstein is back. The man who in 1998 wrote a Nation on Trial, a razor-sharp polemic against Daniel Jonah Goldhagen and his Hitler’s Willing Executioners and became notorious through his attack on the ‘Holocaust Industry’ in the year 2000, is now focusing his sights on several prominent American defenders of Israel and on Israel’s Palestinian politics.

Beyond Chutzpah is not a book to read just ‘on its own’. Finkelstein discusses in great detail old works of the Anti-Defamation League and recent work published by renowned criminal lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz (The Case for Israel, 2003).

These are books that in the Netherlands elicited basically no reaction, were difficult to come by and have virtually been ignored. And yet Finkelstein’s book is interesting in a time when the Western world has surrendered its old, deeply rooted position in respect to Israel – an unconditionally positive one – without replacing it with a new one.

With his firm argumentation and conclusions that are difficult to refute on the relationship between Israel and Palestine, Finkelstein (Professor of Political Sciences at the small DePaul University in Chicago) offers at the very least interesting points for debate.

Beyond Chutzpah (which could be translated as: more than an effrontery) is first and foremost a polemic. In two of the book’s three parts Finkelstein focuses on the works of other authors. In part one, The Not-So-New New Anti-Semitism, he walks all over lobbyists for anti-racist organizations who do indeed entertain disconcerting double moral standards and paranoid ideas with respect to Israel. Like Ron Rosenbaum who in Those Who Forget the Past claims that it was not the Zionist Jews who selected Palestine as their homeland but the Europeans who wanted to get rid of the Jews and deliberately gave them an ‘untenable slice of desert in a sea of hostile people’. Rosenbaum also claims that the Europeans purposely made Israel too small for Jews and Palestinians together, so that they could not avoid hating each other.

In this part, Finkelstein returns to the key assertion of his book entitled The Holocaust Industry, namely that the more Israel needs international support the more the world is bombarded with the tragedy of the annihilation of the Jews. In Beyond Chutzpah he writes: “Each campaign against the ‘new anti-Semitism’ coincided with renewed international pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Arab areas, in exchange for Israel being officially recognized by the neighbouring Arab states.”

Beyond Chutzpah is better written than The Holocaust Industry. In that book Finkelstein was so busy treading on his adversaries that he sometimes forgot to provide his arguments. His analysis of the instrumentalization of the holocaust taboo could therefore not hold a candle to that of Peter Novick who had written The Holocaust in American Life just shortly before.

Perhaps this time Finkelstein benefits from the absurdity of his adversaries. Compared with hysterical people like psychologist Phyllis Chesler who wrote things like “It is as if Hitler’s brownshirts have arisen from the grave, but then in larger numbers, to carry out their sordid ‘Kristallnacht’ (Night of Broken Glass) work, everywhere and forever”, Finkelstein emerges as a very balanced scientist. Nevertheless here, too, his excitement gets the better of his common sense. He is so angry with those who try to fight anti-Semitism by pretending Jews cannot do anything wrong, that he claims the opposite: that anti-Semitism is a response to errors made on the part of the Jews. This is untenable from a historical perspective; one can at most claim that Israel’s politics kindles feelings of anti-Semitism in the event of excesses.

But this blunder is an exception in Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah. It seems more a matter of nonchalant phrasing, because Finkelstein does indeed see true anti-Semitism certainly in the Arab world, judging by his reasoning in his introduction: “I conclude that if, as all studies argue, today’s bias against the Jews coincides with Israel’s brutal oppression of the Palestinians, the sensible, not to mention moral conclusion must be to terminate the occupation. Israel’s total withdrawal would deprive the true anti-Semites who use Israel’s politics as a pretense to demonize the Jews – and who can doubt their existence? – of a dangerous weapon and reveal their hidden agenda.”

So there is absolutely no reason to accuse the author of anti-Semitism, as some in the United States have done. These people unwittingly prove the accuracy of Finkelstein’s statement that everyone who is critical of Israel is discredited as being an anti-Semite.

And Finkelstein is critical of Israel. In part two of his book he disguises his criticism in a polemic with Dershowitz who used his full weight as a Harvard professor and society lawyer (for instance, he assisted O.J. Simpson during his murder trial and Mia Farrow during her court case against her husband Woody Allen) to publicly defend Israel in The Case for Israel. It seems that this volume gave rise to Beyond Chutzpah. Finkelstein has been involved in a public fight with Dershowitz for more than a year now.

It all started when Finkelstein came across a suspicious number of passages in The Case for Israel that bear a resemblance to From Time Immemorial published by Joan Peters in 1984. The central thesis of that book is that hardly any Palestinians lived in Palestine, most of them only arriving when the first Zionists settled there. At first the book was received jubilantly, but later critics detected so many errors, inaccuracies and prejudices that Finkelstein can now label it as a ‘colossal fraud’.

Small wonder that Dershowitz immediately claimed he did not use Peters’ book. But with a few humiliating examples (e.g., from a travel report written by Mark Twain in Israel) Finkelstein demonstrates that Dershowitz has not read older sources himself, but literally takes them from Peters.

Criminal Lawyer
But more important – although it is always good to see the noose tighten around a swindler’s neck – is what Dershowitz wants to achieve with his book and what Finkelstein says against it. The criminal lawyer wants to prove that there is no other country in the world that, under a similar threat, has done more than Israel and succeeded equally well in reaching high-principled standards of justice. Furthermore, he believes there is no other country in the history of the world that has been condemned and criticized by the international community so frequently, so undeservedly and so hypocritically. Finkelstein factually argues the opposite. Both scientists expose a double moral standard – it must be said that Finkelstein is more conclusive here than Dershowitz.

When Dershowitz claims without crediting the source that the Israeli siege and its violent capture of Jenin (April 2002) ‘are considered by many a model for conducting urban warfare’, Finkelstein only has to refer to the report written by the Human Rights Watch which eventually received permission from the Israeli government to do on-site research. The human rights organization published a report in May 2002 in which several operations of the lsraeli army are described as being ‘serious offences of international human rights’. According to the organization some offences were so serious ‘on the face of it’ that they could be labeled war crimes.

So Finkelstein walks all over Dershowitz. Part three of his book is a set of appendices in which he shares his documentation with the reader – exhaustive, usually persuasive, occasionally unnecessarily detailed, but always verifiable. At the end of the book, Finkelstein has defeated his adversaries. The reader can then return to his introduction in which he logically reasons back to his own conclusion: “It is frequently said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that it raises such uniquely deep questions that customary analysis and conclusion are insufficient [... ] It is obvious why Israel’s supporters give this comparison a wide berth and continue to hammer away at the unique character of this conflict: in every comparable situation – Euro-American conquest of North America, the apartheid regime in South Africa – Israel would come out on the ‘wrong’ side of the comparison.”

There is no reason to accuse the author of anti-Semitism as was done in the United States.

Photo: Anti-Israel grafitti on a wall in Ramallah

Middle East Journal Enlists a Hatchet Man.

Editor’s Note: For Finkelstein’s detailed reply see below the review.

Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, by Norman G. Finkelstein.

Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. 2005. xi + 226 pages. Appends, to p. 317. Index to p. 332. $22.50.

Author: Saperstein, Marc
Source: Middle East Journal 60, no. 1 (Winter 2006): p. 183-185
ISSN: 0026-3141
Number: 985448471
Copyright: Copyright Middle East Institute Winter 2006

Norman Finkelstein, of DePaul University, devotes the first section of Beyond Chutzpah to books written by Phyllis Chesler, Gabriel Schoenfeld, and Abraham Foxman about the “New Anti-Semitism.” With considerable sarcasm and scorn (e.g., “Poor Elie [Wiesel] is shocked shocked!…” (p. 61), he dismisses these discussions of anti-Semitism as exaggerated, hysterical, paranoid, and cynically calculated to parry and taint any criticism of Israel. There is not a word in this section about the undeniably scurrilous anti-Jewish material emanating in abundance from Arabic circles in Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere in recent years, extensively documented by MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute), which Finkelstein never mentions.

Most of the book is a sustained attack on Harvard Law School’s Alan Dershowitz, focused especially on his The case for Israel.1 Finkelstein’s method is to rebut assertions favorable to Israel with long quotations from the publications of B ‘Tselem (The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. Their reports attacking Israeli policy and behavior are presented as sacred authorities that need merely be quoted to establish facts. There is no effort to analyze, to balance, or to contextualize. Not only the “facts” but the judgments in these publications are taken to be self-evidently true: Israel’s behavior in Jenin was a “war crime” because “that’s exactly how Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch portrayed it” (p. 52).

To use an analogy from the US legal system, this book is the brief of a prosecutor whose purpose is to marshal every witness and every piece of evidence useful to establish guilt, and to rebut or dismiss every claim of the defense attorney. Especially useful rhetorically is the material from Israeli sources – B’Tselem, Israel’s “New Historians,” and its left-wing columnists – although the fact that, alone in the Middle East, Israeli society tolerates and even celebrates such self-criticism remains unacknowledged and its implications unexplored.

Much time and energy appears to have gone into this enterprise, and the documentation of his sources is rigorous. Yet Finkelstein not infrequently gets carried away with his rhetoric. The material benefits that (citing the Peel Report) he concedes accrued to the Arabs from Jewish immigration “vanished, as it were, overnight when the Zionist movement ethnically cleansed Palestine in 1948″ (p. 191, my emphasis, MS). But the fact is that Palestine was not “ethnically cleansed” of Arabs in 1948; significant populations of Arabs remained on the West Bank, in Gaza, and in the newly declared State of Israel. As Amos Oz has written, the only ethnic cleansing that occurred in 1948 in Palestine was by Arabs of Jews from the West Bank and Gaza, which remained Judenrein until 1967. Finkelstein’s statement is a fine example of “the abuse of history” in his own sub-title.

Another example: Finkelstein asserts that “It is hard to make out any difference between the policy Dershowitz advocates2 and the Nazi destruction of Lidice, for which he expresses abhorrence – except that Jews, not Germans, would be implementing it” (p. 176). Here is a second difference, not too hard for most people “to make out”: the Germans killed every male over age 16 in Lidice, and sent the women and children to concentration camps, before leveling the town.

One presumably has the right to challenge in print the underlying legitimacy of a Jewish, democratic state; to compose and publish outrageous ad hominem attacks, stating that the behavior of Abraham Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, and Rabbi Israel Singer makes them “resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Stürmer” (p. 83); and to make a case – for 25 pages – that Alan Dershowitz was guilty of massive plagiarism from the work of Joan Peters (pp. 229-54), and that his book is “among the most spectacular academic frauds ever published on the Israel-Palestine conflict” (p. 17) or, more simply, “a threadbare hoax” (p. 90), “complete nonsense” (p. 17), and “rubbish” (p. 18, n.37). But why the University of California Press decided it was within its purview to publish this prolonged diatribe is puzzling.

Bottom line: if you are looking for a book that gathers for polemical purposes every anti-Israel argument in the arsenal of its opponents, and if you enjoy the rhetorical style of the arrogant academic pit bull, this may be the book for you. If you are looking for balance, fairness, context, a critical weighing of evidence on different sides of a controversial issue – the qualities that one might expect in a publication by a distinguished University Press – you will not find them here.

1. Alan M. Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003).

2. In March 2002, at the height of the terrorist attacks against Israel in the second Intifada, Dershowitz advocated as a deterrent an announcement that if another terrorist attack should occur, Israel would “destroy empty houses in a particular village that has been used as a base for terrorists”: Why Terrorism Works, p. 177.

Marc Saperstein is the Charles E. Smith Professor of Jewish History at The George Washington University

Communication for Middle East Journal

03.02.2006 |
By Norman G. Finkelstein

The Winter 2006 issue of Middle East Journal ran a scathing review by Professor Marc Saperstein of my book Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history. Saperstein alleged that my book was a “prolonged diatribe,” replete with “outrageous ad hominem attacks” and written in the “rhetorical style of the arrogant academic pit bull.”

Before directly addressing these criticisms, it merits setting the broader context of Saperstein’s review. Readers of MEJ are undoubtedly aware that my publisher, University of California Press, was subject to an unprecedented and highly public campaign by Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University, reaching up to Governor Schwarzenegger’s office, to block publication of my book. UCPress was accordingly at great pains to ensure that my book met the most stringent scholarly (and legal) standards. Numerous editors, libel lawyers and leading scholars in the field from Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States were called upon to render judgment. Having concluded after this extraordinary peer review process that Beyond Chutzpah did indeed make a significant scholarly contribution, and notwithstanding brutal external threats and pressures, UCPress courageously went ahead and published it. The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) subsequently commended UCPress for its principled stand.

Saperstein has now weighed in on Dershowitz’s side, expressing puzzlement that UCPress should have committed such an egregious blunder. This judgment in a prestigious academic journal constitutes a grave indictment not only of my own reputation but also that of a respected publisher, distinguished scholars and the main professional organization in the field. Careful and sober scrutiny of the evidence Saperstein adduces is clearly warranted. Should it prove that Saperstein’s claims lack merit, it would seem that the responsible gesture of the journal’s editors would be to retract their imprimatur from the review.

The central thesis of Beyond Chutzpah is that on crucial dimensions of the Israel-Palestine conflict little (if any) controversy remains among serious scholars and that what passes as controversy in public life is in reality a contrived discourse to deflect criticism of Israeli policy. Paradoxically Saperstein’s review, although intended to refute my thesis, lends further weight to it:

    (1) To demonstrate that I have misrepresented the conflict’s history, Saperstein cites as his one and only example my claim that Israel “ethnically cleansed Palestine in 1948.” Not only is this not true, according to Saperstein, but “the fact is…the only ethnic cleansing that occurred in 1948 in Palestine was by Arabs of Jews from the West Bank and Gaza” (his emphasis). In my book I cite the research of Ieading Israeli scholars Baruch Kimmerling, Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe. (Each has used the descriptive “ethnic cleansing” in his respective writings on the topic.) An unimpeachably mainstream figure like Shabtai Teveth, who is Ben-Gurion’s official biographer, acknowledged long ago that once the Arab armies attacked on 15 May “one may properly speak…of expulsion by Israel” of the Palestinians (“Charging Israel With Original Sin,” Commentary, September 1989). Indeed one might even cite former Israeli foreign minister and respected historian Shlomo Ben-Ami, who documents in his study Scars of War, Wounds of Peace (Oxford: 2006) that Palestinians were expelled in accordance with the Zionist “philosophy of transfer,” which framed Ben-Gurion’s “strategic-ideological” vision and “provided a legitimate environment for commanders in the field actively to encourage the eviction of the local population.”

Against this wealth of research by leading Israeli scholars across the political spectrum, Saperstein cites not a single academic authority but rather the avowal of an Israeli novelist (Amos Oz). It is, or should be, cause for wonder that such a lone reference passes muster in a serious academic journal as scholarly rebuttal, and that the remarkable claim that no Palestinians – none – were expelled in 1948 passed editorial scrutiny. Will the editors now approve quotation of Leon Uris as a scholarly source? Saperstein can perhaps be excused since his area of expertise is ancient Jewish texts (he’s apparently never written professionally on the Israel-Palestine conflict). But how did the explosion of scholarship on the birth of the Palestinian refugee question confuting the novelist’s statement escape the notice of MEJ‘s editors? Saperstein’s only other evidence that Palestinians weren’t ethnically cleansed is that of the 900,000 Palestinians living in the areas Israel conquered 150,000 managed to remain in situ at war’s end. Yet, apart from Holocaust deniers who would argue that Jews weren’t subject to a genocide because of the 7,000,000 Jews living in the areas conquered by the Nazis 1,000,000 managed to survive at war’s end? (For charity’s sake I ignore Saperstein’s argument that Israel couldn’t have expelled Palestinians from the areas of Palestine it conquered in 1948 because they continued to live in areas of Palestine that Israel didn’t conquer.)

    (2) To demonstrate that I have grossly misrepresented Israel’s human rights record in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Saperstein takes me to task for relying on mainstream human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and – what’s yet more sinister in his view – Israeli human rights organizations like B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), which he derides as “useful rhetorically.” He further impugns the documentation I cite from these organizations as “facts” (his scare quotes) and waxes indignant that I didn’t cast doubt on their judgments.

In researching Beyond Chutzpah I perused thousands of pages of mainstream human rights reports. One surprising conclusion I reached was how uncontroversial Israel’s human rights record was. Although each of these human rights organizations has a fiercely independent research, legal and field staff, I came across only one instance over a 15-year period where two human rights organizations differed on a (tiny) point of fact. I then compared the uniform findings of these organizations with the claims of Professor Alan Dershowitz in his book The Case for Israel. More often than not Dershowitz either cites no source whatsoever or, as I document, fabricates a source out of whole cloth.

Consider torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees. In Beyond Chutzpah I cite the annual findings of Amnesty International over a ten-year period that “Palestinians were systematically tortured or ill-treated during interrogation”; the findings of a major Human Rights Watch report that “the number of Palestinians tortured or severely ill-treated while under interrogation during the [first] intfiada is in the tens of thousands”; and the findings of B’Tselem that “[S]ome eight-five percent of persons interrogated by the GSS were interrogated by methods constituting torture.” Against these findings I juxtapose Professor Dershowitz’s unsourced counterclaim that Israel only “sometimes” employed what he calls a “modified form of non-lethal torture.” Saperstein wonders why I regard the evidence and findings of human rights reports as valid. The obvious answer would seem to be that if all mainstream human rights organizations reach identical conclusions and no contrary evidence exists, there’s no rational reason to infer that their reports are false – unless one accepts the faith-based counterclaim that Amnesty, HRW and B’Tselem are part of a vast (anti-Semitic) conspiracy to malign Israel. Saperstein appears to belong to the latter school since he characterizes my evidence, culled overwhelmingly from mainstream human rights reports, as “every anti-Israel argument in the arsenal of its opponents.” He wonders why I didn’t engage in a “critical weighing of evidence on different sides of a controversial issue.” Again, the obvious answer would seem to be that Dershowitz doesn’t supply any evidence to weigh, and there’s no controversy among mainstream human rights organizations to adjudicate. On a related matter Saperstein is appalled that I should treat as “self-evidently true” the allegation of all mainstream human rights organizations that Israel committed war crimes during its 2002 invasion of Jenin. Should I have doubted this uniform conclusion because a notorious apologist for Israel asserted without any evidence that it wasn’t so?

The remainder of Saperstein’s indictment can be more easily dispatched. He deplores that I treat with “scorn and sarcasm” the claims of New Anti-Semitism authors that “Western-based international human rights organizations,” “Jewish feminists,” Associated Press, Reuters, Time, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, BBC, NPR, CNN and ABC are all anti-Semitic; that the creation of Israel was a plot by European governments to concentrate all Jews in Palestine in order to exterminate them; that it’s only a matter of time before “a loudspeaker goes off and a voice says, ‘All Jews gather in Times Square.'” Among scholars who base their findings on evidence and conclusions on reason the obvious retort would seem to be, Why shouldn’t these ravings be treated with “scorn and sarcasm”? Saperstein wonders why I don’t consider anti-Semitism in the Arab world. Yet, although surely a significant phenomenon it’s also surely not new, while the burden of my first chapters was to analyze the so-called New Anti-Semitism that allegedly now permeates the Western world. Incidentally, Saperstein’s recommendation of MEMRI as an objective source on the Arab world is of a piece with his recommendation of an Israeli novelist for the truth on the 1948 war.

Objecting to my comparison between the Nazi destruction of Lidice and Dershowitz’s notorious policy prescription for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Saperstein states that the Nazis killed adult male inhabitants whereas Dershowitz merely advocated the destruction of “empty houses in a particular village.” In my book I juxtaposed Dershowitz’s deploring that “Hitler destroyed the entire Czech village of Lidice” with his own advocacy of the destruction of entire Palestinian villages. To dispute this comparison Saperstein introduces an element not mentioned by Dershowitz, that beyond destroying the village the Nazis also killed adult males at Lidice. However, is it even true that Dershowitz’s proposal bears merely on “empty houses in a particular village”? Although you wouldn’t know it from Saperstein’s disingenuous gloss, here’s what Dershowitz actually advocated: “[D]estruction of a small village which has been used as a base for terrorist operations. The residents would be given 24 hours to leave, and then troops will come in and bulldoze all of the buildings. The response will be automatic. The order will have been given in advance of the terrorist attacks and there will be no discretion.” Dershowitz couldn’t be clearer on the fate of residents who don’t abandon their homes: “the response will be automatic…there will be no discretion.” Saperstein also expresses perplexity that UCPress should have allowed me to document Dershowitz’s plagiarism from a notorious hoax. It’s unclear why a serious allegation of professional malfeasance shouldn’t be reported especially since Saperstein doesn’t dispute a single word of the 25 pages of evidence I assembled.

The “bottom-line” for Saperstein is that my book is the work of an “arrogant academic pit bull.” Beyond Chutzpah is the product of twenty years of sustained reflection and what all reviewers (including Saperstein) agree was prodigious research. Saperstein consented to review the book although he’s never written a single word on the main subject area. But I am the arrogant academic. Saperstein dismisses the accumulated research of Israeli historians by citing a statement of an Israeli novelist. But I am the arrogant academic. Saperstein mocks the cumulative findings of all mainstream human rights organizations as “facts” (his scare quotes). But I am the arrogant academic. In order to discredit my work Saperstein blots out existing scholarship, cites only preposterous sources, impugns the integrity of all human rights organizations and disingenuously quotes Dershowitz. But I am the pit bull. Saperstein accuses me of “getting carried away in his rhetoric” and of resorting to “outrageous ad hominems” and then labels me an “arrogant academic pit bull.” On a related note, MEJ‘s stated policy prohibits the use of “intemperate or abusive language” in its pages, which must mean that the editors don’t consider the phrase “arrogant academic pit bull” intemperate or abusive.

Saperstein wonders why University of California Press published my book. The obvious answer would seem to be that it both passed an unprecedentedly rigorous peer review process and met the press’s rigorous publication standards. In a sane intellectual culture the only questions would be: Why did MEJ commission a review from Saperstein, and why did he agree to do it? His only qualification for reviewing my book would seem to be that for many years he sat on the Board of Directors of Harvard Hillel and was a colleague of Dershowitz. Readers of MEJ would have been better served if the editors had exercised minimum professional responsibility rather than let their pages be used for a transparent – not to mention slightly ridiculous – hatchet job.

Norman G. Finkelstein

Local press on recent talks

Editor’s note: Letters to the Editor & comments on article posted below Duke article.

by Neal SenGupta

Political and historical issues that emerged in full on Duke’s campus last year during the Palestine Solidarity Movement resurfaced Wednesday night when Norman Finkelstein, an author and professor at DePaul University, spoke on West Campus.

Finkelstein is a critic of pro-Zionist and pro-Israeli sentiments.

He has written about the abuse of the memories of the Holocaust and perceived anti-semitism by Jews for propaganda purposes in his book Beyond Chutzpuh—On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.

“If you look at historical records, there is no controversy,” said Finkelstein, noting that the United Nations World Court ruled that Israel does not have the right to former Palestinian lands.

“Israel has no title to one atom of the West Bank or Gaza,” he added.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have long been areas of conflict, as both Palestinian and Israeli leaders and citizens claim rightful ownership of the lands.

Finkelstein said the two areas legally belong to the Palestinians.

He also compared what he deems the destruction of the Palestinian population to ethnic cleansing, drawing parallels to the European Settlers and Native Americans.

He said he thinks there are two types of controversy regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The first is legitimate controversy, which he said is relatively small. The second controversy is “fake and concocted and meant to diverge people from real issues,” Finkelstein said.

He accused pro-Israeli forces of attempting to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more complicated than it really is.

“To make it seem like it is so complicated you would have to have the knowledge equivalent to rocket science to know what is going on,” he said.

He also accused pro-Israeli forces of playing “the Holocaust card.”

“People conscript the Holocaust as propaganda,” Finkelstein said. “They say that because the Jews have suffered uniquely in history they should not face the same moral standards as other nations.”

His main issue with pro-Israeli ideological forces, Finkelstein noted, is the spread of misinformation.

“The most depressing example [of pro-Israeli propaganda] is the massive proliferation of sheer fakery and fraud on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Finkelstein said.

After finishing his nearly two-hour lecture—which was co-sponsored by the Duke Progressive Alliance and the cultural anthropology department, among other groups—he asked for questions, requesting that those who disagreed with him speak first.

Some members of the audience asked questions before being selected to speak.

Many people made angry comments. Others, however, said the lecture and debate afterwards were productive.

After several questions, however, audience members began arguing among one other, and Finkelstein stood quietly at the podium.

“I think it is sad people can’t hear an opposing viewpoint with any sort of respect,” said Laura Atkinson, a member of computer support personnel for Perkins Library.

The audience of more than 100 people, including many Jewish students, offered various views on Finkelstein’s lecture after the question-and-answer session.

“It was very informative. The important thing is that it raises the issue to a higher level of visibility,” said Alvaro Reyes, a fourth-year graduate student in literature.

Others were vehement in criticizing Finkelstein.

“I was, as a conservative who supports Israel, appalled by the heinous distorting that characterized his address,” said Stephen Miller, a Duke Conservative Union executive and Chronicle columnist, after the lecture.

Senior Jeff Leibach, president of the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, said he was disappointed with Finkelstein’s speech and its overall message.

“I feel the lecture lacked perspective, lacked a significant amount of truth and was based on a series of assumptions and elimination of facts,” Leibach said.

Leibach added that he was also disappointed with the fact that Finkelstein concluded his speech by saying—in reference to supporters of Israel’s policies— “they have the money, they have power, and at every level, they are ruthless.”

Leibach said such a statement represented a case of stereotyping. “When he said ‘they,’ he used stereotypes that for many years have been used to demonize the Jewish people,” Leibach said. “We [at the Freeman Center] hope to highlight the positive aspects of our culture in order to combat such stereotyping.”


Norman Finkelstein, should be regarded with some doubt. He has never had a paper published in an academic journal, nor is he considered a scholar, in terms of the Holocaust. He is a man, who has many problems, and should not be taken seriously. He should not even be sent to the campus to discuss the issues, as he is so blinded with self hatred, that his analysis of what happen is blurred by his pathos of self hate. Hopefully, DUKE, will allow a more balanced and stable speaker to come, and clean up the mess Norman left.
— Allyson Rowen Taylor, 02.02.2006

Letters to the Editor:

FEB. 3, 2006

Finkelstein’s accusations detract from debate

The Freeman Center for Jewish Life continues to explore the complexities of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict through respectful and thorough debate. Wednesday night, Norman Finkelstein did not contribute to a helpful dialogue, but rather he attacked the credibility of those with differing viewpoints. I would be interested in contradicting Mr. Finkelstein’s gross oversimplification of an intensely complex issue, his flawed and incomplete argument against Israel and pro-Israel lobbyists or his lack of evidence supporting several of his claims. However, I must respond first to his hurtful accusations that invoke negative Jewish stereotypes.

Rather than pointing out faults in their arguments, Mr. Finkelstein chose to criticize mainstream Jewish organizations that support Israel by saying “they have money, they have power, and at every level, they are ruthless.” He charged one prominent Jewish supporter of Israel with having “Nazi moral judgment.” He accused Jews of “playing the holocaust card” to support Israel. He characterized most pro-Israel arguments as “fake, fabricated, contrived and concocted.” He accused several individuals, media organizations and universities including Duke University, of contributing to what he calls “The Cause,” defined as the collaboration of individuals and organizations that propagate “despicable lies” used to support Israel. This idea of “The Cause” seems to be significantly similar to the historic charge of a “Jewish Conspiracy.” Each of these comments, as well as several others, detracts from a meaningful debate on substantial issues by attacking the character and moral fiber of Jews and supporters of Israel. There is no room for Mr. Finkelstein’s negative accusations in a respectful discussion on the issues.

I am disappointed that Hiwar, the Progressive Alliance, the Department of Cultural Anthropology and the Institute for Critical U.S. Studies legitimize Mr. Finkelstein’s spurious and incendiary claims under the guise of academic freedom. The next time these organizations and academic departments choose to host a speaker, I hope they choose someone who respectfully promotes debate. I hope they do not choose someone who supplements his faulty arguments with hurtful, negative and false accusations that prevent a fruitful and fact-based debate from taking place.

Jeff Leibach
President- Freeman Center for Jewish Life
Trinity ’06


“Finkelstein’s accusations detract from debate”

Posted 02/05/2006

Jeff Leibach, President- Freeman Center for Jewish Life, says, “there is no room for Mr. Finkelstein’s negative accusations in a respectful discussion on the issues.”

No room indeed! That is exactly right, thanks to the likes of Campus Watch and Mr. Leibach himself , who move heaven and earth to effect an embargo on criticism of Likud Israel. No room because any gentile critic is labelled an anti-semite, and any Jewish critic is accused of self-hating.

And now there is no room for Norman Finkelstein either, because he has accused the Sharonista of doing what they do every day: exploit the memory of the Holocaust to insulate themselves against criticism.

Washington DC

Israel-Palestine Conflict Analyzed
Book author speaks on campus on real factors of peace tensions
BY NOREEN TARAR | 2006-01-31

Norman Finkelstein, author of “Beyond Chutzpah,” spoke about the Israel-Palestine conflict at Ursa Minor in the Bronco Student Center on Wednesday. His speech was based on the book and what he believes to be the contrived controversy surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“The purpose of this controversy is to divert peoples attention from the actual scholarly documentary on the subject,” Finkelstein said. “The purpose is to sew confusion about what the real issues are. Its purpose is to deflect attention from the issues.”

Finkelstein believes that the Israel-Palestine problem is over-exaggerated. He said there are two types of fake controversy. The first being the attempt to mystify the Israel-Palestine conflict and the second being “the dragging in of the Nazi holocaust.”

He continued on to say that the conflict is simply not as complicated as it seems. He says that the records show that the entire international community has agreed for at least 20 years how to resolve the conflict: by the two state settlement. Support for this plan has remained consistent. He also believes the holocaust has been exploited by Israel’s apologists to confuse the issue.

Over the years Finkelstein has received a lot of criticism for his views. He has been accused of being an “anti-Semite” and a “self hating Jew.”

Finkelstein’s viewpoints sparked the interest of Cal Poly students. Amir Mertaban, a senior business and marketing student reacted to the speech.

“This speech was the best I’ve heard about American Israelis pushing this type of agenda,” he said. “It’s great to get that caliber of speaker. He is gutsy and amazing.”

The Israel-Palestine clash has been a big controversy over the course of many years. The Israeli-Palestinian struggle is not a simple two-sided conflict with all Israelis sharing one point of view and all Palestinians another.

In both communities, some individuals and groups want total territorial removal of the other community.

Others want a two state solution and some want a bi-national solution of a single secular state encompassing present day Israel, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Finkelstein currently teaches political theory at DePaul University in Chicago. He has been studying the Israel Palestine conflict for more than twenty years. “Beyond Chutzpah” is a sequel to his book “Holocaust Industry,” which is an international bestseller.

Noreen Tarar can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 869-3747.

Christianity Today reviews Beyond Chutzpah

Editor’s note: Reader letters on this review follow article below.

The author (Merkley) is an unabashed Christian Zionist, an evangelical who sees the ingathering of the Jewish people, and their miraculous ability to create a state after the massive trauma of the Holocaust, as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy…. Merkley’s own viewpoint is that of “Restorationism,” by which he means the restoring of a Jewish state to the Land of Israel. Christian Zionists (and he claims there are “tens of millions” of them) see Israel as the result of God’s action in history, foretold in the Bible millennia ago.

From a 2002 review of Merkley’s book, Christian Attitudes towards the State of Israel:

John W. Farley
Henderson NV

“These Pigs on the Face of the Earth”
Israel’s most relentless critic.
by Paul Charles Merkley |

A dedicated, manic assassin of the reputation of the Jews and of Israel, Norman Finkelstein is much admired by college student audiences for his lively platform presence and his snarling, late-night comic style. The Finkelstein method (which brings the audiences to his lectures) is to hold up to ridicule individual pro-Israel polemicists by endless nitpicking about references that go wrong or about anomalies and contradictions between and among their many published statements in many different times and places. The entire lifetime record of the published author is picked over for anomalies, contradictions, and food for tu quoque. Finkelstein brings a virtual wheelbarrow of documented errors onto the platform and pours it out, to the delight of the audience, as proof that the general truths from which his adversary draws his scholarly or political commitments have, before your very eyes, been proved to be “myths,” “frauds,” and “hoaxes.”

No serious person can deny the doggedness of Finkelstein’s pursuit down the path from footnote to footnote. The effect can be quite chilling, especially when it comes home to the vulnerable celebrity-polemicists such as Alan Dershowitz and various spokesmen for the Anti-Defamation League or the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dershowitz gets the full Finkelstein treatment in the present book; in fact, the bulk of it is a rehash of the record of Finkelstein’s several assaults on Dershowitz’s uneven polemics. The real scholars, producers of the unanswerable accounts which draw upon documents in all the relevant languages, don’t get noticed—except (for example) in a footnote about the reigning master of Middle East History, Bernard Lewis, where in the tu quoque mode, a reference appears to a remotely relevant matter (Lewis’ judgment on the historicity of the Armenian massacre). There are no references to any of my three published scholarly books on matters very germane to Finkelstein’s apologetics. But then, I am being petty.

Anyone whose familiarity with the historical record is second- or third-hand is almost bound to carry away from these lively performances the impression that he has just seen reduced to ruins the truth upon which the other side (the Jews, Israel, and the friends of both) depends—that all that massive detail about discrepancies in the references, all that gotcha, adds up to demolition of historical truth.

Let me note a few departures from reality (in order of occurrence): The opening line of Finkelstein’s book is about Joan Peters’ 1984 book, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine, which we are immediately told is now universally dismissed as “a gigantic hoax.” In fact, the first reviewers of that book noted the whiff of scissors-and-paste about it but welcomed it rightly as providing for general readers proof of the fallacy of Palestinian nationhood. Meanwhile, although other scholars have fleshed out the same theme with more accurately reported documentation, Peters’ book remains a valuable summary vindication of the observation (sustained by all the travel literature and all the governmental surveys, all the royal commissions and all the scientific demographic and topographic studies) that it was the success of the Zionist experiment in that part of the Ottoman Empire that created the basis for the development of economic life. And it was this success that drew an adequate population base (including tens of thousands of Arabs from nearby regions) to lay the foundations for partition of the region and the eventual erection on the site of two mutually respectful political entities: a Jewish State and another Arab State (Jordan, four times the size of Israel, having already been carved from the mandate).

Finkelstein shows no familiarity with the monumental scientific studies of the region conducted in the 1930s by Walter Lowdermilk, Assistant Chief of the Soil Conservation Division of the Department of Agriculture in the Roosevelt Administration, housed today in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library. These proved irrefutably that centuries of absence of adequate population had led to the degradation of the soil, and that the beginning of its restoration traces to Jewish colonization. Nor does Finkelstein make reference to any of the other scientific studies, including those commissioned by the Mandate Authority in the inter-war years, which document the same conspicuous truth. If he has heard of these studies, Finkelstein is suppressing knowledge of them; if he has not, he stands in contempt of historical record and scientific fact.

Then comes Finkelstein’s blanket denial that any substantial part of the population of the region in pre-Mandate days was other than “indigenous”—a term which he uses exactly as it is used of North American first nations. This assertion stands together with another: that what was indigenous was Arab. The reality (again borne out by all the Ottoman documents, all the Royal Commissions and other scientific studies of the time as well as the memoirs and reports of all the missionaries) is that many races besides the Arabs (Turks, Kurds, Circassians, and many descended from blocs of inhabitants transferred from other parts of the Ottoman Empire, including the Balkan peoples) lived in Palestine when the Jewish settlers arrived in the mid-19th century. In the face of all this, Finkelstein simply posits that Palestine and the Palestinians have always been exclusively Arab.

Throughout the book we find evidence that Finkelstein has bought, kit-and-kaboodle, the PLO’s fantastic anti-history: the Jews did not originate there four thousand years ago, they wandered in somewhere along the line unnoticed by History, but were thrown out by the Romans upon the destruction of the Second Temple two thousand years ago; none were to be found thereafter until after the modern Zionists, abetted by cynical British imperialists, began their usurpation of the land. The record of history and the methods of history count for nothing in this company. Everything about the past that Palestinians believe they cannot live with Finkelstein dismisses as “hoary Zionist myths,” “propaganda,” or “fairy tales.”

Then we have the assertion that “it is today conceded by all serious scholars” that the Arab radio broadcasts of 1947–1948, urging local Arabs to flee, are “a Zionist fabrication.” No, not all serious historians have conceded this point; indeed, even memoirs of Arab statesmen of the time make reference to the broadcasts. Ditto Finkelstein’s assertion of undisputed consensus for the claim “that the Palestinians had been ethnically cleansed in 1948.” All the major details of the story leading to the success of the Jewish struggle to achieve their homeland with the approval of the United Nations are tossed aside as “myths . … Zionist fabrications,” which persist, we are told, only because most people have read the book Exodus by Leon Uris, or have seen the sentimental movie based upon it.

The same “unqualified consensus,” Finkelstein assures us, maintains that “Palestinian detainees have been systematically ill treated and tortured, the total number now reaching probably tens of thousands.” Among many other difficulties with this assertion, there is no reference at all in these pages to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners imprisoned as terrorists, many of them multiple-murderers of Israeli citizens, who have been released and restored to the Palestinian Authority in the misguided hope of winning points with American and world opinion. Most of these have evidently resumed their careers as assassins.

But the epitome of chutzpah is Finkelstein’s breathtaking assertion that there is “on historical questions” an “unqualified consensus” against any part of the story about current events as told by Israel and the Jews—”or at least among those sharing normal human values.”

All of this gets us to the top of page 3. To continue at this pace would take a lifetime, for which I have better uses. What sticks to me as I put aside this noisome book is the odor of loathing for Jews everywhere—for their history, for their habits of thinking, and for their pervasive influence in the world. To achieve this unrelieved contempt for Jews, for Israel, and for the friends of Israel, Finkelstein raises the Palestinians to the unrelieved dignity of victims. There is no hint in all these pages of why Israel has had to resort to violence. There is no hint of moral distinction between violent force exercised by a state in defense of the lives of its citizens and violence exercised by suicide bombers. There is no reference to the history of Arab terrorism and no reference to the present reality of Islamic terrorism—although we are told that “the overarching purpose of the ‘war on terrorism’ [led by the U.S.] has been to deflect criticism of an unprecedented assault on international law.”

No thought at all is given to the circumstance that has forced Israel to arm itself as it has done, to rally its entire population to make the sacrifice of compulsory military service. There is no recognition that from its birth the only option given to Israel has been self-defense or liquidation—something always candidly declared by its Arab foes. Symptomatic of this technique of avoiding matters of behavior on the part of Israel’s enemies is the fact that there is not a single substantial reference to Islam in the entire book. (Present company will want to know what is said about Christians and the Church—but there are no references in the index to either. There is, however, a routine sprinkling of undeveloped asides concerning American fundamentalist tools of the Israeli right.)

No honest friend of Israel denies that Israeli soldiers and Israeli citizens have often—too often—resorted to foul means. Israel has in place legal mechanisms for detecting and punishing these aberrant acts; many Israelis languish in prison today for their unlicensed assaults against Arab civilians. There exists in the Israeli press, among Israeli scholars, and in the fray of Israeli politics a lively debate on such matters (including voices as critical of Israeli government policy as Finkelstein is).

But in the world according to Finkelstein, Israelis are sadistic oppressors—partly by conditioning, but ultimately by nature. “Of course,” he says, “with marginal exceptions, no one contests Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism; the criticism springs from its gross violation of human rights in the name of fighting terrorism.” But the “exceptions” are not “marginal”: they include the entire Muslim world, a working majority of the member-states in the General Assembly of the United Nations, and at least the left end of the political spectrum throughout the Western world.

Those of us who imagine that our loyalty to Israel follows from sincere calculation of historical rights and wrongs are mindless dupes of the Jews’ mighty propaganda machine. The Jews exploit the world’s fear of appearing anti-Semitic to command silence while they perpetrate unremitting sadistic violence upon an entirely innocent population. No one will be surprised to learn that their partner in this cosmic crime is the United States: “The brutal U.S. aggression against Vietnam and the Bush administration’s aggression against Iraq engendered a generalized anti-Americanism, just as the genocidal Nazi aggression during World War II engendered a generalized anti-Teutonism. Should it really surprise us if the cruel occupation by a self-declared Jewish state engenders a generalized antipathy to Jews? … The real wonder is that the spillover hasn’t been greater.”

Leave aside, for our purposes here, the equation of the United States with Nazi Germany. Finkelstein’s words encourage his readers and listeners to treat Israel and all Jews as outlaws. What does this lack to distinguish it from the Jew-hatred which spills out daily from the imams of Palestine as of the other Arab polities? Theological referents aside, how do these words differ from the recent message of the official imam of the Palestinian authority, Sheikh Mudeiris: “Why is there this malice [as Muhammad taught, on the part of the rocks and the trees towards the Jews]? Because there are none who love the Jews on the face of the earth: not man, not rock, and not tree, everything hates them. They destroy everything, they destroy the trees and destroy the houses. Everything wants vengeance on the Jews, on these pigs on the face of the earth, and the day of our victory, Allah willing, will come.”

This is a book that has to be read very slowly and carefully, neglecting none of the footnotes, none of the charts and graphs and none of the appendices—or not read at all. Having done the former, I recommend the latter.

Paul Charles Merkley, a retired professor of history at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, is a consultant on foreign policy. He is the author most recently of American Presidents, Religion and Israel (Praeger).

Reader letters

From: Jane & Jim demowell[at]
To: normangf[at]
CC: bceditor[at]
Subject: Paul Charles Merkley
Date: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 16:16:33 -0500

Dear Mr. Merkley,

Yesterday afternoon I read your essay about Dr. Finkelstein
and felt compelled to respond. After reading three of Dr.
Finkelstein’s books (including the latest) I believe him to be not
only scholarly but courageous to broach subjects others fear. Where
you see anti-semitism, I see honesty.

When I read essays such as yours, I imagine taking a
teacher’s red pencil to it and writing comments such as: “did you
actually read this book”, ” not enough references”, “sounds like you
are just repeating something you heard”. etc., etc.

This is not just the carelessly-written paper of a sophomore.
It seems to be nothing more than a raging character assassination
published in a major evangelical Christian magazine, by someone who
presents himself as an authority on Israel.

How ironic it is that the concept “tu quoque” is used
twice in a work of circular reasoning. We both know that ” begging
the question” ( yes, English is sufficient ) and opponents tarring
each other with similar charges are both powerful tools of

What troubles me is that much of your readership will not
know that in the very first paragraph you unjustly call Finkelstein
a “manic assassin of the reputation of the Jews and of Israel” and
misrepresent the controversy between Finkelstein and Dershowitz as
mere pedantry, thereby avoiding the substance of the book. That
first paragraph was a perfect set-up for what amounts to nothing
more than a mocking recitation of Zionist talking points. The real
issues involved are much too important for you to be writing a
Zionist tract in the guise of book review.

Judging by your tone, you are obviously concerned enough
about these issues to set the record straight. I am eager to hear
your critique of what Dr. Finkelstein actually wrote and the many
source materials to which you allude.

Jim Demarest


From: “Michael Hula” mhula[at]
To: bceditor[at]
CC: normangf[at]
Subject: “These Pigs on the Face of Earth” by Paul Charles Merkley, Jan/Feb 2006
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 02:14:34 +0100

Dear Mr Merkley,

I recently read your article “These Pigs on the Face of Earth”,
having happened upon it when visiting the homepage of Norman
Finkelstein. [I did read the original article on your website, to
make sure it was accurately represented.]

I am sorry to say that, judged by my reading of another book by Mr
Finkelstein “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict”,
your article is not corroborated by the facts.

Doing the same thing as Mr Finkelstein allegedly does (picking over
“the entire lifetime record of the published author [...] for
anomalies, cntradictions and food for tu quoque”), let us look at
the record:

“Image and Reality” (referring to 2nd German edition,
Kreuzlingen/Munich 2002) deals with Joan Peters’ book “From Time
Immemorial” in its second chapter. In your article, you accuse Mr
Finkelstein of wrongly dismissing the book as “a gigantic hoax”.

In your article, you state that:

- Mr Finkelstein has no or suppresses knowledge of scientific
studies relevant to the book’s subject, such as the ones by the
Mandate Authority.

That is plain wrong, as Mr Finkelstein looks very closely on all
relevant texts from about 1890 to about 1950, including among many
others the Peel-Commission report, the Hope-Simpson-report and ALL
relevant Mandate Authority reports. He also refers to every source
that Peters cites to establish her key arguments.

- Mr Finkelstein believes no immigrants lived in Palestine in
pre-mandate days.

I found no statement by Mr Finkelstein stating that there were no
immigrants in pre-mandate days. In fact, the issue of immigrants is
being discussed – regarding many different aspects of the topic – in
“Image and Reality”, the best example probably being the critical
examination of Peters’ demographic studay.

Ironically, Noam Chomsky’s book “Fateful Triangle” extensively
illustrates the demographics of early palestine, corroborating your
assertion in the article that several ethnic groups, among them Jews
(mostly anti-zionist. by the way), lived in Palestine by the end of
the 19th century. [Noam Chomsky encouraged Mr Finkelstein to publish
his findings about "From Time Immemorial" in the first place.]
Also, it is interesting to note that you accuse Mr Finkelstein of
denying or suppressing the fact that several “races” (your term) and
religious groups livedin Palestine, together with Arabs, prior to
the British mandate. But it is Peters herself who in her book
dismisses the existence of Arab Christians as “Arab propaganda”.
[Let alone Arab/oriental Jews - what an abomination upon the Jewish
race to even think about the existence such twisted creatures!] The
reproach regarding this issue clearly should go to Mrs Peters.

-Mr Finkelstein believes the entire population of Palestine in pre-mandate days was Arab.

-Mr Finkelstein “bought” the PLO’s “anti-history” that no Jews lived
in Palestine from after the destruction of the Second Temple until
they started to re-immigrate, encouraged and supported by the
British during the mandayte years.

In the preface of “Image and Reality” (p7), it is stated that the
main obstacle to building a Jewish state was that the majority of
“the population” was “not Jewish, but Muslim- or Christian-Arab”.
Nothing is said about the “indigenious population”. Also,
Finkelstein obviously knows that there WAS a Jewish minority in
Palestine, among a majority of Muslim and Christian Arabs.

These facts are just a superficial examination of your article and
the record of Mr Finkelstein’s writings. One could go on to examine
Benny Morris’ comments on the Arab radio broadcasts (Morris was
among the first to call them fiction, along with documenting the
ethnic cleansing of Arabs in 1948). One could also go on to look at
your comments on Un support of Israel’s policies, the human rights
record etc.

But looking at “Image and Reality” and looking at your article, I
regret to say that I do not feel it to be necessary, as Mr
Finkelstein’s thesis has shown far more credibility than have your

This is not just due to the fact that you did not back your claims
with examples and/or sources that one could check on . You also keep
referring to “the record of history”, “reality”, “monumental
scientific studies” that “irrefutably prove” your argumentation, and
doing so makes the lack of sources/examples become much more

I find controversy important. I also find consistency in standards
important. Mr Finkelstein has not, to my knowledge aplied a
double-standard when writing about Israel.

One may disagree on moral values, moral judgements, choice of
available options to solve a problem, evaluation of costs and
benefits etc. That is legitimate But I cannot agree on the thesis
that Mr Finkelstein writes to defame Israel. The reason is that I
see no evidence for tht claim in his writings, or for that matter,
your article.

Michael Hula,
Vienna, Austria


From: Tamu
To: normangf[at]
Subject: Christianty Today review
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006 08:37:04 -0800 (PST)

Dear Norm,

I’ve only read your book once and even I can already tell how full of shit this Christian idiot is and that a) he didn’t actually read your book or
b) he’s a propagandist on a mission.

“There is no reference to the history of Arab terrorism and no reference to the
present reality of Islamic terrorism”

St. Augustine’s famous quote about the pirate and the emperor comes to mind: “In his City of God, Saint Augustine tells a story about an encounter between
Alexander the Great (the last ruler successfully to garrison Afghanistan) and a pirate captain he had caught on the high seas. Ordering the pirate to heave
to, Alexander demands: “How dare you molest the seas as a pirate?” “How dare you molest the whole world?” retorts the plucky pirate. “I have a small boat,
so I am called a thief and a pirate. You have a great navy, so you are called an emperor, and can call other men pirates.” Substitute terrorist or rogue
state for pirate and the episode neatly encapsulates the morality of the new world order.” (

There is no hint of moral distinction between violent force exercised by a state in defense of the lives of its citizens and violence exercised by suicide bombers.”

State violence is moral? Seems Mr. Merkley’s other profession — Foreign Policy Consultant (end of article) — guides his judgement as a historian and reviewer. I bet this one’s been trying to send his resume to Henry Kissinger, whom even the marxist-turned-uber-Conservative Chris Hitchens has condemned, quite rightfully.
Besides Thomas Aquinas’ story about the Pirate & the Emperor, we might recall American Conservatives on Soviet State violence, the numeours uses live and “non-leathal” ammunition by the National Guard or various policing agencies against unarmed Labor demonstrators and picketers throughout US history as described by Labor historians, American & international criticisms of Russian State violence in Chechnya, international condemnation of Chinese Communist gov’t’s brutal suppression of protests, the wholesale massacres of civilians in Central America in the 1980s with military & logistical US suport by what the New Republic called “Latin style fascists” (while offering appologetics for the crimes & signing praises to the triumph of Democracy), or Colin Powel on the Sudanese State violence against Christian civilians in Darfur. Need I go on about State violence?
We hear daily about the immorality of THE terrorists, no need to waste anymore space on it.

“Ditto Finkelstein’s assertion of undisputed consensus for the claim “that the Palestinians had been ethnically cleansed in 1948.”
All the major details of the story leading to the success of the Jewish struggle … persist, we are told, only because most people have read the book Exodus by Leon
Uris, or have seen the sentimental movie based upon it.”

Once again, this character either didn’t read the book or is a propagandist on a mission. On p. 8 Finkelstein’s source is the Israeli historian
Benny Morris whose hatred of Palestinians can be observed in his writings for the Jerusalem Post, as mentioned by Finkelstein. I mean really, Merkley, at least read
the first chapter beyond page 3 (Uris reference) so that you can look as if you’ve read the book before you publish your latest PR piece.

“myths . … Zionist fabrications,” which persist… because most people have read the book Exodus by Leon
Uris, or have seen the sentimental movie based upon it.”

Finkelstein quotes Jewish American elites from the editor of Commentary Magazine to the heads of the ADL among the many purveyors of Hasbara, or public relations
Israeli-gov’t-style which more honest folks would call propaganda Israeli-gov’t-style (Chomsky, Pirates & Emperors)

“Finkelstein’s words encourage his readers and listeners to treat Israel and all Jews as outlaws.”

Finkelstein specifically refers to “Jewish elites”, NOT “all Jews”. See pp. 26-27, 84-85.

“To achieve this unrelieved contempt for Jews, for Israel, and for the friends of Israel, Finkelstein raises the Palestinians to the unrelieved dignity of victims.”

Finkelstien’s contempt is for what his mother called “the thick layer of the ruthless, greedy element” in the Jewish community (WNYC interview), not “Jews” in
general as the reviewer’s warped mind would have us believe.

“Leave aside, for our purposes here, the equation of the United States with Nazi Germany.”

One might recall the infamous incidents with the small pox blankets. Perhaps, the Jesuit priest Bartolome De Las Casas’ description of the extermination of the Arawak
by Christopher Columbus, as mentioned by Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the US), could be reviewed here. I would direct one to a De Toqueville quote mentioned by Chomsky in numerous articles about the genocide of the indigenous population of the Unitd States: “The prospective leader of “humanitarian intervention” is also notorious for its ability to maintain
a self-image of benevolence whatever it does, a trait that impressed de Tocqueville 150 years ago. Observing one of the great atrocities, he was struck that Americans
could deprive Indians of their rights and exterminate them ‘with singular felicity, tranquilly, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and without violating
a single great principle of morality in the eyes of the world.’ It was impossible to destroy people with ‘more respect for the laws of humanity,’ he wrote. So it has
always been, to this day. … Several qualifications must be added. The United States is not significantly different from others in its history of violence and
lawlessness. Rather, it is more powerful, therefore more dangerous, a danger magnified by the capacity of the elite culture to deny and evade the obvious.”

“But in the world according to Finkelstein, Israelis are sadistic oppressors—partly by conditioning, but ultimately by nature.
“Of course,” he says, “with marginal exceptions, no one contests Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism; the criticism springs from its gross violation of human rights in the name of fighting terrorism.” But the “exceptions” are not “marginal”: they include the entire Muslim world, a working majority of the member-states in the General Assembly of the United Nations, and at least the left end of the political spectrum throughout the Western world. “

Michael Desch, writing in The American Conservative, is clearly on the left end of the political spectrum. I heard he’s also training to be a Muslim cleric, you know the chic thing to do for leftists these days. On frequency of Israeli human rights violations see the numerous reports by B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and
Amnestey International available on their websites.

“What sticks to me as I put aside this noisome book is the odor of loathing for Jews everywhere—for their history, for their habits of thinking, and for their pervasive influence in the world.”

A statement on par with the BBC being accused of “the stench of anti-Semitism” and “Jews are being targeted for murder in the United States” by scandalists like the editor of Commentary magazine or the current and recent leadership of the ADL. All of this is described in Part 1 of Beyond Chutzpah. Seems like the reviewer’s adopting the right wing Israeli view of what “real” Jewish habits of thinking are. It’s kind of like when Spanish right wing supporters of Partido Popular refer to anyone who doesn’t support their “El Jefe” as “not a real Spaniard.”

“What sticks to me as I put aside this noisome book is the odor of loathing for Jews everywhere…”

Using the reviewer’s own logic, I wonder if perhaps, the reviewer’s a closeted anti-Semite himself. after all, why would a “true friend” of Israel assail an attempt by a
diligent Jewish American public intellectual to expose and harshly condemn State-sanctioned practices of torture, political killings, disposession, collective punishment
(and civilian apologetics for them) carried out by people who claim (as discussed in Beyond Chutzpah) to represent all Jews everywhere?

Let’s conclude by quoting the reviewer: “To continue at this pace would take a lifetime, for which I have better uses.”

– Tamu

Professor Ilan Pappe on Beyond Chutzpah

By Ilan Pappe

Why is the history of modern Palestine such a matter of debate? Why is it still regarded as a complex, indeed obscure, chapter in contemporary history that cannot be easily deciphered? Any abecedarian student of its past who comes to it with clean hands would immediately recognize that in fact its story is very simple. For that matter it is not vastly different from other colonialist instances or tales of national liberation. It of course has its distinctive features, but in the grand scheme of things it is the chronicle of a group of people who left their homelands because they were persecuted and went to a new land that they claimed as their own and did everything in their power to drive out the indigenous people who lived there. Like any historical narrative, this skeleton of a story can be, and has been, told in many different ways. However, the naked truth about how outsiders coveted someone else’s country is not sui generis, and the means they used to obtain their newfound land have been successfully employed in other cases of colonization and dispossession throughout history.

Generations of Israeli and pro-Israeli scholars, very much like their state’s diplomats, have hidden behind the cloak of complexity in order to fend off any criticism of their quite obviously brutal treatment of the Palestinians in 1948 and since. They were aided, and still are, by an impressive array of personalities, especially in the United States. Nobel Prize winners, members of the literati, and high-profile lawyers—not to mention virtually everyone in Hollywood, from filmmakers to actors—have repeated the Israeli message: This is a complicated issue that would be better left to the Israelis to deal with. An Orientalist perception was embedded in this polemical line: Complex matters should be handled by a civilized (namely, Western and progressive) society, which Israel allegedly was and is, and not entrusted to an uncivilized (i.e., Arab and regressive) group like the Palestinians. The advanced state will surely find the right solution for itself and its primitive foe.

When official America endorsed this Israeli position, it became the so-called Middle Eastern peace process, one that was too sophisticated to be managed by the Palestinians and hence had to be worked out between Washington, DC, and Jerusalem and then dictated to the Palestinians. The last time this approach was attempted, in the summer of 2000 at Camp David, the results were disastrous. The second intifada broke out, and it rages on as this article goes to press.

The Zionist narrative is as simple a story as the history of the conflict itself. The Jews redeemed their lost and ancient homeland after two thousand years of exile, and when they "returned" they found it derelict, arid, and practically uninhabited. There were others on the land, but they were basically nomads, the kind of people you could, as Theodor Herzl wrote in 1895, "spirit away" outside the Promised Land. Still, the empty land somehow remained populated, and not only this, but the elusive population rebelled and tried to harm the Jewish returnees. Like any other narrative, this one too can be laid out elegantly and scholarly or conveyed coarsely and simply. It can appear as a sound bite on American television when a suicide bombing is "contexualized," or it can dominate a book produced by one of the prestigious university publishing houses in the West. But however verbose or taciturn Israel’s advocates may be, the historical narrative they insist on broadcasting is a false representation of the past and present realities in the land of Palestine.

In academia, the Israeli claim of complexity and the Zionist time line as a whole have been exposed as propaganda at best. Similarly, the pendulum has swung in favor of many principal chapters in the Palestinian narrative, regarded hitherto as an Oriental fable. The emergence of critical and post-Zionist scholarship in Israel helped this process along by providing internal deconstruction of the Zionist metanarrative and accepting many historical claims made by the Palestinians, especially with regard to the events of 1948. The group of "new Israeli historians" who have focused on 1948 have endorsed the basic Palestinian argument that the native people were forcefully dispossessed in what today would be called an ethnic-cleansing operation.

But outside the universities, particularly in the United States, public figures continue to be embarrassingly and unapologetically pro-Israeli. Few have dared to challenge these self-appointed ambassadors because many of them are quite often influential journalists, highly placed lawyers, or former politicians, ex-hostages of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in its most active years. Norman G. Finkelstein is one of the few who has. In 1984 he confronted head-on Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine, which claimed that most of the Palestinians made their way into the territory only in the 1920s and ’30s—an assertion so ridiculous it made Peters’s book easy prey. Finkelstein tore her argument to shreds.

Now, in Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse
of History
, Finkelstein goes after bigger targets and challenges some of the most sacred taboos in the American public arena regarding Zionism and Israel. One such exposure involves the misuse, indeed abuse, of Holocaust memory in defense of Zionism. Any substantial criticism of Israel is immediately branded by apologists for the state as a new wave of anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League’s grotesque manipulation of the message of Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ and its purported association with the Palestinian struggle against occupation makes one wonder how intelligent people—even basically moral people—could spin such idiotic tales and arouse unwarranted, hysterical reactions with the effect of papering over Israeli atrocities on the ground. The puzzlement grows when one reads Finkelstein’s industrious, at times sarcastic book, which shows how easy it is to distinguish what happened in fact from what Israeli sources (and their American defenders) say happened. Scholarly work by historians Finkelstein does not particularly care for because of their political positions (such as Benny Morris) and self-inhibited Israeli human rights organizations such as B’Tselem show that even within their apologetic and cautious representations there are few doubts remaining on two issues: that Israel forcibly ejected the Palestinians in 1948 and that it has abused, oppressed, and humiliated those that remained ever since 1967.

I will spare most of the individuals for the purposes of this review; they are all named in the book. One after another, the most famous figures in the American Zionist establishment—and some fellow travelers, like the current president of Harvard—are all shown here to subscribe to the exact same message: Criticism of Israel feeds a new wave of anti-Semitism in the United States. Reading their declarations in a single place, one can appreciate the madness of their views, and Finkelstein has not missed a thing.

And to his further credit, he does not dismiss the possibility that anti-Jewishness has in fact risen as a result of Israeli brutality in the occupied territories. But the cry of anti-Semitism is not a response to this development; it is rather, in his words, "an ideological weapon to deflect justified criticism of Israel and, concomitantly, powerful Jewish interests."

No one co-opts intelligence in defense of a fable better than Alan Dershowitz. Finkelstein observes that, unlike Elie Wiesel, a troubled Jew who cannot apply his universal moral standards to the state of Israel and thus legitimizes all its misdeeds and crimes by default, Dershowitz comes from the realm of criminal law and has himself stated that "the criminal lawyer’s job, for the most part, is to represent the guilty, and—if possible—to get them off." Israel must be guilty in Dershowitz’s mind, as becomes apparent in The Case for Israel, which defends his client’s most obvious crime—its human rights record. It would have been a more "complex" case had he chosen to stand for Israel’s right to exist or its wish to represent world Jewry, but no: He opted to cleanse the most glaringly unpleasant feature of the Jewish state since its inception—its treatment of the Palestinians. In so doing, Dershowitz attacks everyone from Amnesty International and the United Nations to Israeli human rights organizations and Jewish peace activists, on top of course of condemning anyone who is Palestinian or pro-Palestinian. They are all part of the new anti-Semitism.

The most original aspect of Finkelstein’s book is his deconstruction of Dershowitz’s praise for the Israeli Supreme Court and his own examination of the court’s record. Finkelstein’s book is full of evidence of Israeli oppression that in itself is essential reading for those who wish to judge Dershowitz’s propagandist claims. But the Israeli Supreme Court is one of the strongest links in an otherwise very weak chain on which Dershowitz hangs his defense of Israel. It is after all a body commended throughout the world for its professionalism and impartiality. Finkelstein systematically shows how the most callous aspects of the occupation—torture centers, demolition of houses, targeted killings, and denial of medical care—were in fact legitimized a priori by the Israeli Supreme Court. The court, and the legal system as a whole, like the Israeli media and academia (neither of which is treated in the book), are essential components in the state oppression and occupation of the West Bank. Much more work needs to be done in this direction; hopefully Finkelstein will be one of many who further analyze this atrocious reality.

The concluding section of Finkelstein’s book is devoted to the historiographical aspects of Dershowitz’s work. We can only concur with Finkelstein that "next to Alan Dershowitz’s egregious falsification of Israel’s human rights record and the real suffering such falsification causes, Dershowitz’s academic derelictions seem small beer." In fact the coda is anticlimactic in such a powerful book, but to be fair it appears as an appendix and not as an integral part of the work. Morris stars as the main source for refuting Dershowitz’s historical claims; it would have been better to use Palestinian historians and oral history sources in addition to Morris. But this does not undermine the overall service Finkelstein has performed in exposing one critical layer of knowledge production concerning Palestine that for years defeated any attempt for the Palestinian plight to receive a fair hearing from the American public. The Palestinians deserved, but never received, the same empathy and support good-hearted Americans usually lend to occupied, oppressed, and persecuted people the world over—even those harassed by their own government. Shrewd advocates of the occupier and the oppressor—abusing Holocaust memory and heightening years of anti-Semitism—succeeded for a long time in stifling solidarity with the Palestinians. This book cracks the wall of deception and hypocrisy that enables the daily violation of human and civil rights in Palestine. As such, it has the potential to contribute to the removal of the real wall that shuts out those in the occupied territories.

Ilan Pappe is the author, most recently, of The Modern Middle East (Routledge, 2005).