Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Don't fink on Finkelstein. Or do, just not so shrilly.

I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Columbia Spectator in response to today's awful opinion piece, "Hate Comes to Columbia", which slanders the easily-slandered Norman Finkelstein.

March 1, 2006

To the editor,

I agree with Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky ("Hate Comes to Columbia", March 1st) that invited speaker Norman Finkelstein is often offensive, crass, and plain wrong. But anyone who gets called a "facilitator of hatred, fear, and lies" who blends "pure idiocy and potent evil", as Kulawik and Lipsky call Finkelstein, deserves a fair shake in his own words.

The authors call Finkelstein a "terrorist sympathizer" and provide a fragment of a sentence by Finkelstein about Osama bin Laden being partially right. The rest of Finkelstein's comments continue: "Why should Americans go on with their lives as normal, worrying about calories and hair loss, while other people are worrying about where they are going to get their next piece of bread? Why should we go on merrily with our lives while so much of the world is suffering, and suffering incidentally not with us merely as bystanders, but with us as the indirect and direct perpetrators?" This is a view that deserves engagement, not derision.

The authors also call Finkelstein a "Holocaust revisionist" and cite his book, The Holocaust Industry. In the introduction to that book, Finkelstein writes: "Both my father and mother were survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi concentration camps. Apart from my parents, every family member on both sides was exterminated by the Nazis." He concludes the introduction with the words: "The time is long past to open our hearts to the rest of humanity's sufferings. This was the main lesson my mother imparted. I never once heard her say: Do not compare. My mother always compared. No doubt historical distinctions must be made. But to make out moral distinctions between 'our' suffering and 'theirs' is itself a moral travesty. 'You can't compare any two miserable people,' Plato humanely observed, 'and say that one is happier than the other.' In the face of the sufferings of African-Americans, Vietnamese and Palestinians, my mother's credo always was: We are all holocaust victims.'"

After the particular sentence the authors excerpt in Finkelstein's book, his next sentences are: "By the 1970s, anti-Semitism was no longer a salient feature of American life. Nonetheless, Jewish leaders started sounding alarm bells that American Jewry was threatened by a virulent 'new anti-Semitism.'" Kulawik and Lipsky are similarly falsely sounding alarm bells when they accuse Finkelstein, twice, of "anti-Semitism".

Once again, let's be clear: one can support the rights of Palestinians and criticize Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic. One can even examine the Holocaust critically. Anti-Semitism does still exist and must be opposed; Finkelstein is wrong about that. But Kulawik and Lipsky are also wrong to shrilly dismiss Finkelstein's speaking as “a petty ploy to incite tension and turmoil” rather than an opportunity to respond to his ideas seriously.

-Ben Wheeler, CC '02
Anonymous Fern Sidman on Thu Mar 09, 02:29:00 AM:
ANTI-SEMITIC JEW SPEAKS AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

BY: FERN SIDMAN

Columbia University students including the College Conservatives and campus Democrats plan to protest a speech Wednesday by a professor who has written that Jewish organizations exploit the Holocaust to deflect criticism of Israel and to extort European banks and governments for compensation.

Norman Finkelstein, an assistant professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago, wrote in his 2000 book "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" that some Jews have used the Holocaust as an "extortion racket" to get compensation payments, and he has referred to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as the "resident clown" of the "Holocaust circus."

His most recent book, "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History," is largely an attack on lawyer Alan Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel." In it he argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a bully weapon to stifle criticism.

In an editorial in Columbia University's student newspaper, The Columbia Spectator, Columbia sophomores, Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky write the following: "Those who assume that Finkelstein is just another "controversial" speaker, one of many in Columbia's recent past, fail to grasp the absurdity that is Finkelstein. Taking a job at DePaul University after being fired by New York University for his ludicrous and factually inaccurate book, The Holocaust Industry, this "scholar" makes his living off of absurd statements that garner comfortable speaking engagements. At a recent speech delivered at Yale University, Finkelstein equated the Jewish concern over Holocaust denial with a "level of mental hysteria." Clearly, we must first question his very "professorship." Anyone who so blatantly disregards facts and vehemently supports the murder of innocent children is worthy neither of academia nor of the title of professor.

Well, what precisely is Mr. Finkelstein's crime? It is not that he is a Holocaust revisionist. It is not that he denies the right of the Jewish state to exist. It is not that he cheapened the lives of the millions of innocents lost to the concentration camps by equating their systematic murder to any other large disaster. No, his crime both includes and transcends these radical, depraved stances. Only months after Sept. 11, 2001, Finkelstein asserted his support of terrorism. In that 2001 interview, Finkelstein exclaimed, "Frankly, part of me says—even though everything since Sept. 11 has been a nightmare—'You know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things [Osama] bin Laden says are true.'"

It is this sentiment that forces students to take a stand against Finkelstein's unique blend of pure idiocy and potent evil. Columbia attempts to teach its students to respect all opinions, listen to all viewpoints, and embrace the free exchange of ideas. We will listen, but we will not let a petty ploy to incite tension and turmoil go unnoticed."

In defense of Professor Finkelstein, the Columbia Spectator also published the views of Arab students. Maryum Saifee and Athar Abdul-Quader who write, "Finkelstein's critics, most notably Alan Dershowitz, charge Finkelstein with anti-Semitism precisely because of his criticism of Zionism, i.e. criticism of the Israeli occupation and Israeli state-sponsored human rights abuses committed against Palestinians. This isn't the first time that a reputable scholar has been typecast as anti-Semitic for critical views against Israeli policies (see David Horowitz's The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America). Undoubtedly, anti-Semitism is an ugly, appalling form of bigotry that deserves universal condemnation. However, Zionism is a political ideology and must never be confused with the Jewish religion, culture, or population. Contrary to the anti-American label commonly placed on Finkelstein, his critique of political Zionism is precisely the type of controversial political discourse that is characteristically American and is analogous to the College Democrats' stimulating debate on the Bush administration.

Finkelstein is often met with accusations of Holocaust revisionism, generally associated with Holocaust denial. Finkelstein's book The Holocaust Industry is actually a critique of Holocaust revisionist arguments that privilege the Holocaust as exceptional in the historiography of genocide. Far from the Anti-Defamation League's claims that Finkelstein is a Holocaust denier, his proof is an unambiguous affirmation that the Holocaust did occur -- his parents are living proof of its horrors! -- noting that the tragedy of the Holocaust has since been ruthlessly exploited and commercialized into what Finkelstein outlines as an industry to promote Zionist interests."

In Norman Finkelstein's own words, he states, "The problem is when you get to the United States. In the United States among those people who call themselves supporters of Israel, we enter the area of unreason. We enter a twilight zone. American Jewish organizations, they’re not only not up to speed yet with Steven Spielberg, they're still in the Leon Uris exodus version of history: the “this land is mine, God gave this land to me," and anybody who dissents from this, you can call it, lunatic version of history is then immediately branded an anti-Semite, and whenever Israel comes under international pressure to settle the conflict diplomatically, or when it is subjected to a public relations debacle, such as it was with the Second Intifada, a campaign is launched claiming there is a new anti-Semitism afoot in the world."

There is no question that Professor Norman G. Finkelstein is a self hating, viciously anti-Semitic Jew. One of his biggest supporters is David Irving, the Holocaust denier who was recently sentenced to three years in prison by an Austrian court for statements he made denying the veracity of the Holocaust. Despite the fact that Finkelstein in the son of Holocaust survivors, his vituperative and twisted and patently distorted logic is being embraced the world over by legions of devoted Jew haters.

We are told that a person can be honest, decent, moral and ethical without belief in G-d. We know that at the beginning of the 20th century, the false gods of education and culture began to replace the One true G-d of Israel. Jews began to believe that a moral and ethical person was one who was highly educated, one who attended the best of most prestigious universities and institutions of higher learning. We believed that an educated and cultured person was a moral person, who would never even entertain the notion of murder, of dishonesty and engaging in unethical practices.

At the beginning of World War II, that fallacy fell apart at the seams. For it was highly educated and extremely cultured German scientists who invented the gas chambers, who invented techniques to transform Jewish fat into soap and who discovered ways of making Jewish skin into lampshades. It was highly educated and cultured lawyers who devised and created laws that developed a society predicated on racism, fascism and xenophobia.

Let us never be fooled. "Reishis Chochma Yiras AdoShem". The beginning of wisdom is the fear and knowledge of G-d. Without that we have nothing. Without that, even highly educated and cultured people can and do engage in immorality, unethical conduct and become purveyors of lies, hatred, distortions, bigotry and Jew hatred. Professor Finkelstein is the personification of such evil.
 
Blogger Ben on Thu Mar 09, 07:33:00 AM:
It doesn't bother me that many people feel Norman Finkelstein is an asshole. He is an asshole. He doesn't mince words, and when you're talking about Holocaust survivors, directly or indirectly, you should show some respect. I wouldn't invite him over for dinner, and I wouldn't want his blurb on the back of my (nonexistant) book.

What bothers me is how little it takes to earn opprobrium from Zionists. From Fern Sidman's piece against Finkelstein:

In Norman Finkelstein's own words, he states, "The problem is when you get to the United States. In the United States among those people who call themselves supporters of Israel, we enter the area of unreason. We enter a twilight zone. American Jewish organizations, they’re not only not up to speed yet with Steven Spielberg, they're still in the Leon Uris exodus version of history: the “this land is mine, God gave this land to me," and anybody who dissents from this, you can call it, lunatic version of history is then immediately branded an anti-Semite, and whenever Israel comes under international pressure to settle the conflict diplomatically, or when it is subjected to a public relations debacle, such as it was with the Second Intifada, a campaign is launched claiming there is a new anti-Semitism afoot in the world."

There is no question that Professor Norman G. Finkelstein is a self hating, viciously anti-Semitic Jew.


Does that not seem like a bit of a non sequiter? What in Finkelstein's statement show a hatred for Jews? He hates political manipulation and he hates Zionism. Are there really still people who can't understand that that is not the same as hating Jews?

Besides, Finkelstein is right. American Jews are often behind even Israeli Jews in accepting basic historical truths like the fact that many Palestinians were evicted from their land at gunpoint in 1948. That's really no longer a seriously debated point of history in Israel, and you'll find it in just about every work of national history by Israelis, no matter what their political stripe.

As for Sidman's assertion that it is impossible for "a person can be honest, decent, moral and ethical without belief in G-d", I can only point him to Isaac Asimov, a Jew who was honest, decent, moral and ethical and who firmly did not believe in God, and to Meir Kahane, a Jew who was indecent, immoral and unethical (though honest) who firmly did believe in God, not to mention the right of Jews to control the land of Israel absolutely, without any regard to the lives or rights of others. Which man had more in common with the Nazis Sidman compares athiests to?