Blogs > Cliopatria > Neve Gordon: Review of Norman Finkelstein's, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (University of California Press 2005)

Oct 12, 2005 3:36 pm


Neve Gordon: Review of Norman Finkelstein's, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (University of California Press 2005)



[Neve Gordon teaches human rights at Ben-Gurion University, Israel. He is the editor of From the Margins of Globalization: Critical Prespectives on Human Rights (2004) and can be reached at nevegordon@gmail.com .]

It is not everyday that a professor hires a prestigious law firm to threaten the University of California Press, yet for months Alan Dershowitz, Harvard's Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, tried to stop UC Press from publishing Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah. When the Press' director Lynne Withey replied that she believed in academic freedom and would therefore go ahead with the book, Dershowitz sent letters to the university's board of trustees and even to California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, asking them to intervene on his behalf. Following both the trustees' and governor's decision not to get involved, one would have thought that the struggle had ended, but now that the book is on the shelves it seems that a new campaign is underway; this time an attempt to cancel the author's reading engagements for example at Harvard Bookstore and Barnes and Noble in Chicago. So what is the controversy about?

On the face of it, the conflict stems from an allegation which Finkelstein, a professor of political science at de Paul University, makes against Dershowitz's The Case for Israel, accusing him of"lifting" information and ideas from Joan Peters's From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine. In addition to the fact that Peter's book has been, in Finkelstein's words,"dismissed as a fraud," Harvard University's own definition, ("passing off a source's information, ideas, or words as your own by omitting to cite them" would, argues Finkelstin, convict Dershowitz of plagiarism. After a careful examination of the documents Finkelstein presents in Beyond Chutzpah, it is difficult not to infer that the Harvard professor did indeed pass off someone else's information as his own.

In spite of the public furor about Dershowitz's alleged plagiarism, this plays a relatively small role in Beyond Chutzpah, thus it is no coincidence that the documentation of his use of Peter's work is relegated to three appendixes, and is not in the main body of the book. Indeed, it is worth noting that the thrust of Finkelstein's book is political, not personal. It provides a revealing analysis of the"new anti-Semitism" and a critical discussion of Israel's human rights record. Could it be that the attempt to stop the book's publication was in some way connected to what Finkelstein has to say about these two issues?

In Part One,"The Not-So-New New Anti-Semitism,'" Finkelstein makes a double move. He begins by providing a historical account of the literature discussing anti-Semitism, showing how the notion of a"new anti-Semitism" actually emerged in the mid-1970s with the publication of Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein's book The New Anti-Semitism; this was followed in the early 1980s by Nathan and Ruth Ann Perlmutter's The Real Anti-Semitism in America. Accordingly, Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman was merely repeating an established refrain when he wrote Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism in 2003, becoming just one voice in a chorus of prominent writers like Phyllis Chesler in the US (The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do about It also from 2003) and philosopher Alain Finkielkraut in France.

The crucial point, though, is not that these writers are making false claims about the resurgence of anti-Semitism, even though it is clear that many of them exaggerate the intensity and prevalence of contemporary hate crimes against Jews. Foxman, for instance maintains that"we currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s." Rather, Finkelstein's central criticism of such writers concerns who they consider the major culprits responsible for spreading anti-Semitism and what the reemergence of the new anti-Semitism aims to achieve politically.

As to the instigators, he shows how from the 1970s onward there has been a growing tendency in the literature discussing anti-Semitism to blame the left, not the right, for spreading hatred around the world. The anti-globalization movement and human rights organizations are deemed to be the major purveyors of anti-Semitism, while arch-nationalist leaders like Jean Marie Le Pen and Joerg Haider as well as fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Roberston are regarded as more or less benign.

Finkelstein's second move exposes how the rhetoric of the new anti-Semitism is used as a political tool to ward off and delegitimize all criticism of Israel. He writes:

The consequences of the calculated hysteria of a new anti-Semitism haven't been just to immunize Israel from legitimate criticism. Its overarching purpose, like that of the"war against terrorism," has been to deflect criticism of an unprecedented assault on international law.

While Finkelstein's basic claims are on the mark, he makes a couple of serious mistakes. First, the Israeli case in no way constitutes an unprecedented assault on international law. Not only has the Iraq war, which Finkelstein mentions, led to more egregious violations, particularly if one counts civilian deaths, but one could easily come up with a series of other recent assaults on international law that have produced much more horrific results. One only has to think of Chechnya, Rawanda, and Darfur.

My second concern involves a non-sequitur contained in Finkelstein's argument. Finkelstein convincingly maintains that a connection has been drawn between Israel's illegal actions in the Occupied Territories and the new Anti-Semitism. This link has a dual character. On the one hand, the literature discussing the new anti-Semitism is used to fend off all criticism of Israel, while, on the other hand, Israel's violation of the occupied Palestinians' basic rights has generated anti-Semitism. I follow Finkelstein thus far, but he then proceeds to an odd and troubling conclusion: the Jews, Finkelstein implies, are also to blame for the rise of anti-Semitism. Using Jean Paul Sartre's Anti-Semite and Jew as a reference point, Finkelstein criticizes the French philosopher in the following manner:

Sartre's point of departure is that Jewish peoplehood lacks any content except what anti-Semitism endows it with:"the anti-Semite," in his famous formulation,"makes the Jew" (his emphasis). But from this premise Sartre goes on to argue that stereotypical Jewish vices are either the invention or the fault of the anti-Semite -- which means (or can be understood to mean) that Jews possess no vices or don't bear any responsibility for them.

This, Finkelstein claims, is a mistake. But Sartre means that as an ethnic group per se Jews cannot be characterized or judged in moral terms and no Jew can be held responsible for anti-Semitism, even though individuals and their organizations should, of course, be held responsible for their actions. Neither world Jewry nor one's Jewishness can be responsible for anything, regardless of what Israel or any single Jew does. Moreover, while Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the state of Israel should be held responsible for oppressing the Palestinians, they are not responsible for anti-Semitism, and I take issue with Finkelstein who insinuates that they are to blame for fanning the flames of anti-Semitism. No one is to blame for anti-Semitism except the anti-Semites. Finkelstein in a number of places blurs this crucial point, and therefore unwittingly provides an excuse for anti-Semitism. The crux of the matter, as Sartre cogently observed, is that anti-Semitism"precedes the facts that call it forth," so that even if Israel were the most law abiding state on this planet, anti-Semitism would still exist. History has proven Sartre right.

Beyond Chutzpah's second part is its best. It is here that Finkelstein uses Dershowitz's polemic to explore crucial aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly Israel's human rights record. Dershowitz's central claim in The Case for Israel, is that"no nation in the history of the world that has faced comparable threats to its survival -- both external and internal -- has ever made greater efforts as, and has ever come closer to, achieving the high norms of the rule of law." Taking Dershowitz seriously, Finkelstein meticulously examines whether Israel's human rights record is, as Dershowitz maintains,"generally superb."

The way he goes about it is noteworthy. Finkelstein cites claim after claim made in The Case for Israel and examines their accuracy by comparing them with human rights reports published both by organizations who have a global mandate like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as local groups like B'tselem, Physicians for Human Rights and Al Haq. Dershowitz maintains, for instance that,"There is no evidence that Israeli soldiers deliberately killed even a single civilian." Finkelstein replies that according to HRW there were many civilian deaths which amounted to"unlawful and willful killings." When the Harvard professor asserts that"Israel tries to use rubber bullets and other weapons designed to reduce fatalities, and aims at the legs whenever possible," Finkelstein rejoins with a study published by PHR, which shows that nearly"half of the victims [in Gaza] were shot in the head. There were several victims shot in the back or from behind and in one instance, evidence indicates, the victim was probably on the ground when shot." And when Dershowitz contends that Israel's interrogation tactics were"nonlethal and did not involve the infliction of sustained pain," Finkelstein responds with scores of reports which document multiple deaths of Palestinians during interrogation.

Slowly, a clear picture of abuse emerges. The reader learns, for example, how many Palestinian houses were demolished and how many people were left homeless, the number of prisoners who were tortured and the methods their interrogators used, and how Palestinian medical facilities were attacked and the population's access to medical care constantly hindered. Moreover, Israel's Supreme Court, which in certain circles is highly respected, is shown in Beyond Chutzpah to be a key mechanism in the legitimization of abuse.

Two important implications can be drawn from Finkelstein's study, one political and the other academic. Politically, Beyond Chutzpah reveals how Israel has defied the rule of law in the Occupied Territories by providing a condensed and precise summation of literally thousands of pages of human rights reports. In this way, Finkelstein does a great service for those who long for a better Israel, since one is left with the conclusion that the only way of putting an end to the violations of Palestinian rights is by ending the occupation. There is no other option.

Academically, the section discussing Israel's human rights record raises serious questions about intellectual honesty and the ideological bias of our cultural institutions, since it reveals how a prominent professor holding an endowed chair at a leading university can publish a book whose major claims are false. The significant point is not simply that the claims cannot be corroborated by the facts on the ground -- anyone can make mistakes -- but that any first-year student who takes the time to read the human rights reports would quickly realize that though The Case for Israel has rhetorical style and structure, it is, for the most part, fiction passing as fact.

All of which leads me back to the question raised at the beginning: what is the controversy about? While it is in part about Dershowitz's political investments and his intellectual veracity, its intention goes much deeper than that to expose a grave cultural distortion. On the one hand, the controversy surrounding Beyond Chutzpah seems to be a reaction to Finkelstein's attempt to expose how elements in academia have played an active role in covering up Israel's abuse, and by extension, the abuse of other rogue regimes, not least the US itself. Obviously those intellectuals who do participate in this covering tactic prefer to operate in the dark. On the other hand, the heated response to his book is just another example of how the literature discussing the new anti-Semitism delegitimizes those who expose Israel's egregious violations of international law. The major irony informing this saga is that Finkelstein's book, not Dershowtiz's, constitutes the real case for Israel, that is, for a moral Israel.


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Peter Andrewson - 11/25/2008

On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History Norman Finkelstein employs his method of relentlessly sifting through the labyrinthine of citations and footnotes of his interlocutors in order to expose cases of intellectual fraud that have been mobilized to defend the policies of the state of Israel. In his latest book, Finkelstein shows how the reiteration of previously discredited scholarship.
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omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007


Reading through the comments on Gordon’s review of Finkelstein‘s book, not yet the book itself, one thing comes out clearly.
None of the pro Israel respondents, a clear majority thus far, disputes the facts underlying the validity and soundness of Finkelstein documented repudiation of Dershowitz allegations about Israel’s “superb” human rights record in the occupied territories and his corroboration of its exact opposite!
They all seem to accept Israel’s savage practices and its dismal human rights record in the occupied territories as legitimate and acceptable or, at least, as inevitable.
Herein lays a major moral basis for anti Zionism, erroneously, but profitably to Israel, known as anti Semitism, and a sound political foundation for anti Israel policies; legitimizing the illegitimate and justifying the unacceptable.
To a man these pro Israel respondents above implicitly declare:” For one NOT to be anti Semite, old or new, one has to accept and defend Israeli policies and practices what ever they happen to be.”


Sergio Ramirez - 10/28/2005

"Anybody who comes with the idea that The Guardian is "anti semitic@ (as the term is usually misunderstood, hating the jews and not opposing semtisim) or that Fox news is a pro Nazi channel, are kidding themselves and trying to fool the rest of the world. So yes, Bill is completly right to point that those who crticizes mainstream media in Europe and even Israel to be "anti semitic" are lunatics. Like you."


Thank you for sharing your fantasies with us, but where the hell did I say that?


Sergio Alejandro M?ndez - 10/27/2005

Mr Ramirez:

One thing is to claim Fox news is biased, and another is to proclaim that bias with an extremist tone. Anybody who says The Guardian is biased to the left or Fox biased to the right, is just telling the truth. Anybody who comes with the idea that The Guardian is "anti semitic@ (as the term is usually misunderstood, hating the jews and not opposing semtisim) or that Fox news is a pro Nazi channel, are kidding themselves and trying to fool the rest of the world. So yes, Bill is completly right to point that those who crticizes mainstream media in Europe and even Israel to be "anti semitic" are lunatics. Like you.


Peter Kovachev - 10/26/2005


Bill, this isn't as complicated as you've made it out to be. Obviously, Derek Bok was the acting president at the time. An ex-president would be as useless in directing an administrative investigation of an academic, no? You assumed it was Summers and essentially accused me of being a country bumpkin for not knowing that Summers is the current president of Harvard. Fine, a bumpkin I may be, but my original point, which had nothing to do with who was who and when, still stands: Harvard checked Finkelstein's charges and cleared Dershowitz (regardless of who the president was at the time, is now, or will be in the future or in any possible alternate universes). So, Finkelstein's plagiarism charge...like most of his charges...was once again totally bogus. If you're still not getting this, I'll gladly explain again in the language or the comprehension level of your choice.

I'm glad that you are having fun annoying institutes and busy professors in the midst of an academic term, but a brief perusal of the public records available online would probably bear better fruit than your unnamed source's pretty useless musings. Ha'aretz, which is in third place in popularity experienced a serious subscription cancellation crisis back in 2002. This, as Ha'aretz recognized from its own 7-part questionnaire, was due to the public's perception that it was/is biased against Israel's position. Ha'aretz' over-the-top leftist slant and a series of grossly misleading...even totally made-up...stories trashing the IDF, published right at a time when Arab terrorists were blowing-up teenagers in clubs and pizza parlours had, no doubt, something to do with that perception. If you've been checking Ha'aretz regularly, which in all fairness I don't expect you to have done, you would have noticed some very obvious attempts to "clean house" and to appeal to the mainstream. A recent article in Ha'aretz has even addressed its credibility problems and claims to be pursuing higher standarts of journalistic accountability. You can still access archival mat'l though, but you'll need to get off the phone, get high-speed connection and to surf a little.

I'm impressed that you are so well-connected with un-named people who can apparently inform you on the social lives of Raul Hilberg and Norman Finkelstein. All I ever managed was to get my copy of The Destruction of the European Jews autographed by Hilberg during a break at the Zundel trial in Toronto. Nevertheless, if you let your fingers do the walking on the keyboard rather than your phone dial, you'd notice that Finkelstein's personal website cites a number of interviews with Hilberg. To me, Hilberg's support of Finkelstein's sholarship does seem rather qualified and tentative. Hilberg is far more definite in his complaints about American Jewish organizations and reparation payments, opinions which are essentially political or personal and have little to do with his area of research.

True, Finkelstein is not a Holocaust denier in the usual sense, a la Ernst Zundel. He's an extreme revisionist in that he strives to minimize the Holocaust's importance, impact and meaning to the world and to the Jews. You are incorrect in assuming it's not his fault that his works are loved by neo-Nazis, the far-left and the jihadists. Finkelstein's "work" is appreciated by them because of his Jewish conspiracy canards and his rabid attacks on Israel. To me it seems Finkelstein is very well aware of who his unsavoury audience is. Mr. Friedman's post here provides an adequate example of why Finkelstein is not a historian. Also, the burden of proof, which you demand from the wrong parties, is on Finkelstein. Hopefully it will arrive in the form of a series of lawsuits by Jewish organizations and leaders who've been named and accused by him of thievery and treason.

Since you don't know, the more prominent "post-Zionist" historians are, apart from Avi Shlaim, Neve Gordon, Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe and Ze'ev Sternhall. I'm going from memory, so I might have missed one or two, but in any event, it's not a substantial group or a movement, as many like to imagine. Morris has "defected" and his reasons make for an intersting read, and most of them published and gained prominence outside of Israel. Essentially, they claim that Israel's "official history" is false and instead broadly accept the "Palestinian narrative" regarding Israel's creation and Israel's past and current conduct in its conflicts with the Arabs. Not a smart move, since they should have noticed that the Palestinian Arab "narratives" are hopelessly riddled with ludicrous hyperbolae and total whoppers. The "post-Zionists" made a splash in Israel among the Left for a time, but are now admired mainly in Europe among the media, academia and bureaucrats, where "anti-Zionism" is quite the fashion. In Israel the tenured "post-Zionists" are pretty marginal, since they are correctly recognized as extremist political activists and crude propagandists rather than as scholars. As a connoisseur of historiography, you should appreciate this prime example, if not a definition, of post-Zionists "historiography":

"Indeed, the struggle is about ideology not facts. Who knows what the facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers." (Ilan Pappe)

As for your comments on The Guardian issue, Mr. Ramirez has analysed your logic with his usual accuracy and brevity and I don't need to go further into it.


N. Friedman - 10/25/2005

bill,

Michael Berenbaum wrote a rather interesting review of Finkelstein's book, among others, in Midstream Magazine. The article, entitled "Is the Memory of Holocaust Being Exploited?" http://www.midstreamthf.com/200404/feature.html is well worth reading.

Among other things, according to Berenbaum:

His research is derivative. He relies upon Peter Novick, and he repeats Novick’s discoveries and builds upon them for his conclusion. Thus, we learn that there was little interest in the Holocaust until 1967. Because Novick did not follow theological controversies, there is no mention of Richard Rubenstein, whose highly controversial work, After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and the Future of Judaism, received significant attention before the Six-Day War and forced Jewish theology to consider the twin revolution of contemporary Jewish life —— the Holocaust and the rise of Israel —— well before the events of June 1967.

We learn derivatively from Finkelstein, relying on Novick, that Elie Wiesel achieved prominence only after the Six-Day War. Yet Steven Schwarzschild, one of Israel’s most severe critics, had described Wiesel a year earlier as ""the de facto high priest of our generation,"" the ""one man who speaks most tellingly of our time, of our hopes and fears, our tragedy and our protest.""8 On June 4, 1967, the day before the Six-Day-War broke out, a 38-year-old Wiesel was receiving an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary and giving its commencement address. Obviously, Wiesel had emerged long before June 1967, at least among his peers of academics, scholars, and rabbis, ranging from Steven Schwarzschild to David Hartman and from Richard Rubenstein to Louis Finkelstein and Saul Lieberman. But I suspect that Norman Finkelstein may not have heard these names or know of their standing in the Jewish community.

Finkelstein doesn’’t share Novick’’s caution as a serious historian. Novick maintains that, before the 1982 Lebanon war, ""there is little reason to believe that even without the Holocaust framework, American Jews would have seen Israel’’s situation in other than black and white terms."" And since then, while remaining on the whole supportive of Israel, increasing numbers of American Jews no longer see Israel’’s situation as good versus evil, the few against the many, the weak against the powerful. Novick asks: ""How plausible is it to believe that American policy toward Israel has been shaped by the memory of the Holocaust, not very. It was when the Holocaust was freshest in the minds of American leaders ... that the United States was least supportive of Israel.""9

Novick correctly traces the shift of the Holocaust from the margins to the center of American Jewish consciousness from the late 1960s onward. It reflected, and in turn promoted, far-reaching changes in the way American Jews came to understand themselves and their circumstances. Finkelstein writes with little such subtlety.

Finkelstein takes liberty with facts. The Washington Post is described as Jewish-owned in 1961, when Philip Graham was its editor.10 Only a cursory reading of Katherine Graham’’s impressive biography would lead one to say that The Washington Post —— unlike The New York Times —— was a Jewish-owned newspaper. If it was, it would only be in the Nuremberg definition of Jewish, that is, if we consider the religious identity of grandparents. In another example, he presumes in a footnote to document his point that the Rosenberg trial and the Arendt controversy were contemporaneous when they were almost a decade apart.11

His reasoning is glib, not reasoned. Elie Wiesel and Israel Gutman supported Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Elie Wiesel supported Jerzy Kosinski. Gutman and Goldhagen supported Wilkomirski (the author of Fragments who seems to have invented his background and imagined his childhood in the Holocaust). Connect the dots together and this is Holocaust literature. The reasoning is unworthy of comment. I may be a sentimentalist, but I believe that Primo Levi, Nelly Sachs, Jean Amery, and Paul Celan have written important and substantial work. Lawrence Langer is not alone as a brilliant literary student of the Holocaust. One would expect more substantial polemics.


I trust that is a sufficient to raise issues with Finkelstein's facts, analysis and theories. And, if you want more, read the article.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/25/2005

"If you believe that a large portion of the newspaper readership in Great Britain, America’s ally in Afghanistan and Iraq is anti-Semitic, you should give up now. The entire world truly would be against you."

What a cowardly, assinine, and intellectually dishonest statement!
I wonder how Bill would respond to this statement. "Fox news is the information source of choice for a substantial portion of the population of world's most powerful nation. If you belive they are biased, then you should give up now. The American people are against you!"


bill farrell - 10/25/2005

(I reposted this because it appeared in the comments before the last comment that it responded to.)

Peter, I clearly made one error: I assumed that you knew what you were talking about when you wrote: "he had his work examined and cleared by no lesser person than the president of Harvard." You wrote the president, not a former president of Harvard. I simply pointed out problems with Summers. Do not worry, I will never again assume that you know what you are talking about.

Beyond that, I do want to address the assertions about Haaretz made in this comment section. Frankly, they surprised me, but I felt that I had to try to check them out. I emailed someone at Haaretz, but I am still waiting for his response. I also called the Middle East Institute at Columbia University. The person I spoke to referred me to an Israeli professor in the Middle East & Asian Languages Institute, who has done work involving the Israeli press. (The name of the institute may be "Middle East & Asian Languages and Culture Institute" - I am a slow writer, so I am not sure if I got the entire name of the Institute.) The professor I spoke to did not say that I could quote him -- in fact, I did not ask his permission. However, I believe that I can report the substance of his remarks.

First, he agreed that Haaretz is still the paper of record in Israel (in the sense that the New York Times is the paper of record in the US.) He felt that Haaretz was within the Israeli mainstream, though on the left within that mainstream. He further stated that the major difference between Haaretz and Maariv was that Haaretz published the reporting of Gideon Levy and Amira Hass concerning the Occupied Territories.

We also discussed readership. Since most newspapers have lost readership due to the Internet, I asked if that could have been the cause of lost readership. I also asked if Haaretz has lost readership due to its politcal position or orientation. The professor doubted that Haaretz had lost readership due to its politics. He pointed out that the Haaretz website has a large readership. If I understand the implication of his position -- unfortunately I did not ask the question, in part because I was not able to hear as well as I would have liked -- it is that if one takes the website readership into account, Haaretz has not lost alot of its readership. Finally, he made an obvious point that I had missed: the burden of proof is on those who claim that Haaretz has lost readership due to its political position or orientation.

I will re-read this entry sometime tomorrow to make sure that I have not mis-reported the sense of this conversation. If I have, I will make another entry to correct the problem. I will also report any interesting information that I receive if and when I get a response to my email to that Haaretz employee.

Now, I want to address additional, but related problems. Finkelstein provides evidence for his case in his book. Perhaps I missed it, but I have not seen any comments from his detractors in these comments that actually acknowledge that evidence. Noone has seriously addressed his evidence.

The first Finkelstein book that Raul Hilberg supported "A Nation On Trial" was published in 1998. Finkelstein's "The Holocaust Industry" appeared in 2000. Therefore, the implied claim that Hilberg supports Finkelstein only because he (ie Hilberg) was disturbed by the survivors' legal claims against the Swiss banks does appear tenable. Furthermore, it is not clear how the endorsement was tentative. Certainly, the burden of proof for this claim is on those making it. Hilberg has not publicly repudiated Finkelstein. On Monday (ie October 24, 2005), I spoke by phone to someone who told me that Hilberg had welcomed Finkelstein into his home within the past three or four months. (This person would know.) At this point, it seems unlikely that Hilberg wants to withdraw his endorsement of Finkelstein’s work.

This leads to another point. If Holocaust deniers refer to Finkelstein’s work, that is unfortunate. However, Finkelstein has never denied the reality of the Holocaust. Both his parents were survivors of the camps. Raul Hilberg would never support someone who denies the reality of the Holocast.

Similarly, Peter describes some of Finkelstein’s supporters as “[a] handful of discredited but flamboyant far-left 'post-Zionist' academics in Israel.” Yet Peter never names those he claims have been discredited nor does he describe how they were discredited. I mentioned one Israeli scholar: Avi Shlaim. Shlaim still has his Oxford Chair: he hardly appears discredited. If anyone knows of serious academic work that discredits Shlaim, let me know. It would be worth reading.

Frankly, some commenters seem to have views that are impervious to evidence. For example, while The Guardian is a left paper, it is the left of the British mainstream. To call it anti-Semitic is lunatic and ultimately self-defeating. If you believe that a large portion of the newspaper readership in Great Britain, America’s ally in Afghanistan and Iraq is anti-Semitic, you should give up now. The entire world truly would be against you.

Peter has asked me what I meant by compatriots. It is a fair question. I was not referring to ethnicity nor to nationality. I meant compatriots in attacking Finkelstein’s work, which is a legitimate use of the term. If it had occurred to me that someone would take it that way, I might have said ideological compatriots, but frankly, it is hard to see why anyone would take it that way. In fact, I suspect that Peter asked that question as a tactic. Again, I may have missed it, but I did not see anything that identified Peter as Canadian. (Parenthetically, I consider McGill to be the equivalent of an Ivy League school.)

Simply put, much of the criticism of Finkelstein and his academic supporters appears to be ideology posing as analysis.


bill farrell - 10/25/2005

Peter, I clearly made one error: I assumed that you knew what you were talking about when you wrote: "he had his work examined and cleared by no lesser person than the president of Harvard." You wrote the president, not a former president of Harvard. I simply pointed out problems with Summers. Do not worry, I will never again assume that you know what you are talking about.

Beyond that, I do want to address the assertions about Haaretz made in this comment section. Frankly, they surprised me, but I felt that I had to try to check them out. I emailed someone at Haaretz, but I am still waiting for his response. I also called the Middle East Institute at Columbia University. The person I spoke to referred me to an Israeli professor in the Middle East & Asian Languages Institute, who has done work involving the Israeli press. (The name of the institute may be "Middle East & Asian Languages and Culture Institute" - I am a slow writer, so I am not sure if I got the entire name of the Institute.) The professor I spoke to did not say that I could quote him -- in fact, I did not ask his permission. However, I believe that I can report the substance of his remarks.

First, he agreed that Haaretz is still the paper of record in Israel (in the sense that the New York Times is the paper of record in the US.) He felt that Haaretz was within the Israeli mainstream, though on the left within that mainstream. He further stated that the major difference between Haaretz and Maariv was that Haaretz published the reporting of Gideon Levy and Amira Hass concerning the Occupied Territories.

We also discussed readership. Since most newspapers have lost readership due to the Internet, I asked if that could have been the cause of lost readership. I also asked if Haaretz has lost readership due to its politcal position or orientation. The professor doubted that Haaretz had lost readership due to its politics. He pointed out that the Haaretz website has a large readership. If I understand the implication of his position -- unfortunately I did not ask the question, in part because I was not able to hear as well as I would have liked -- it is that if one takes the website readership into account, Haaretz has not lost alot of its readership. Finally, he made an obvious point that I had missed: the burden of proof is on those who claim that Haaretz has lost readership due to its political position or orientation.

I will re-read this entry sometime tomorrow to make sure that I have not mis-reported the sense of this conversation. If I have, I will make another entry to correct the problem. I will also report any interesting information that I receive if and when I get a response to my email to that Haaretz employee.

Now, I want to address additional, but related problems. Finkelstein provides evidence for his case in his book. Perhaps I missed it, but I have not seen any comments from his detractors in these comments that actually acknowledge that evidence. Noone has seriously addressed his evidence.

The first Finkelstein book that Raul Hilberg supported "A Nation On Trial" was published in 1998. Finkelstein's "The Holocaust Industry" appeared in 2000. Therefore, the implied claim that Hilberg supports Finkelstein only because he (ie Hilberg) was disturbed by the survivors' legal claims against the Swiss banks does appear tenable. Furthermore, it is not clear how the endorsement was tentative. Certainly, the burden of proof for this claim is on those making it. Hilberg has not publicly repudiated Finkelstein. On Monday (ie October 24, 2005), I spoke by phone to someone who told me that Hilberg had welcomed Finkelstein into his home within the past three or four months. (This person would know.) At this point, it seems unlikely that Hilberg wants to withdraw his endorsement of Finkelstein’s work.

This leads to another point. If Holocaust deniers refer to Finkelstein’s work, that is unfortunate. However, Finkelstein has never denied the reality of the Holocaust. Both his parents were survivors of the camps. Raul Hilberg would never support someone who denies the reality of the Holocast.

Similarly, Peter describes some of Finkelstein’s supporters as “[a] handful of discredited but flamboyant far-left 'post-Zionist' academics in Israel.” Yet Peter never names those he claims have been discredited nor does he describe how they were discredited. I mentioned one Israeli scholar: Avi Shlaim. Shlaim still has his Oxford Chair: he hardly appears discredited. If anyone knows of serious academic work that discredits Shlaim, let me know. It would be worth reading.

Frankly, some commenters seem to have views that are impervious to evidence. For example, while The Guardian is a left paper, it is the left of the British mainstream. To call it anti-Semitic is lunatic and ultimately self-defeating. If you believe that a large portion of the newspaper readership in Great Britain, America’s ally in Afghanistan and Iraq is anti-Semitic, you should give up now. The entire world truly would be against you.

Peter has asked me what I meant by compatriots. It is a fair question. I was not referring to ethnicity nor to nationality. I meant compatriots in attacking Finkelstein’s work, which is a legitimate use of the term. If it had occurred to me that someone would take it that way, I might have said ideological compatriots, but frankly, it is hard to see why anyone would take it that way. In fact, I suspect that Peter asked that question as a tactic. Again, I may have missed it, but I did not see anything that identified Peter as Canadian. (Parenthetically, I consider McGill to be the equivalent of an Ivy League school.)

Simply put, much of the criticism of Finkelstein and his academic supporters appears to be ideology posing as analysis.




Peter Kovachev - 10/24/2005

I don't know, Bill, depends on your intent. As far as I'm concerned, it's actually rather helpful, since this wasn't a typo, but an error I'd likely repeat again and again had you not stepped in. So, thank you.

Since corrections are in the works, the Harvard pres who cleared Dershowitz wasn't Summers, as you claimed, but the chap before him; one Derek Bok. That's condescension, btw, the kind I wouldn't normally engage in had you not built a whole federal case about my not knowing who the president in question was. But look at the bright side, I'll get better at checking my spelling and you'll get to dine on crow.

Looking forward to resuming our discourse whenever your busy schedule permits.



bill farrell - 10/24/2005

Peter,

Is it condescending to point out that you misspelled condescension?

If I have time, I will write more in the future.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/24/2005

"But do I resent your condescention; I have so heard of Plato, it's that stuff kids play with, so there"

Call me crazy, but I'm starting to like this guy (even though he is always wrong.)


Peter Kovachev - 10/24/2005

Bill, you got me big time, fair and square: We're too busy up here in Canada with the beaver trapping season, so no, I haven't really been keeping up with administrative staffing changes in American universities. Not to sound too boastful or anything, but we have a university or two of our own here and they can keep us busy with their own antics.


But do I resent your condescention; I have so heard of Plato, it's that stuff kids play with, so there. Btw, I didn't "cite" Summers, I mentioned that Dershowitz's citation style was cleared by Harvard, including its president, something I had read about a while back. We post comments here, not research assignments, so don't look for footnotes below.


My evidence? It's fairly straight-forward. In the world most of us are tuned-in on, anyone who riles against American Jewish organisations as "hucksters," "gangsters" and crooks," who calls Elie Wiesel "the resident clown for the Holocaust circus" and says that "reparations claims against Germany for Nazi era slave laborers are blackmail" (right from a a summary in a friendly Counterpunch interview), is not a historian. Words like idiot, liar, lunatic, slanderer and antisemite spring to mind.


Speaking of evidence, what's yours? Your discovery of the word "historiography"? Chomsky's reputation? A hesitant and qualified nod by Hilberg who, for some strange reason, appears to have been upset at the claims against Swiss banks? A left-wing Israeli paper that has been tentatively trying to swing to the centre and to come off as "balanced" before it loses all of its readership? A handful of discredited but flamboyant far-left "post-Zionist" academics in Israel? That's fine and dandy, but if you are going to list supporters of Finkelstein, why not mention the most numerous ones? Like the far-left and far-right antisemitic founts of learning such as The Guardian, Counterpunch, the Zundelsite, dozens of neo-Nazi sites, Al Jazeera, barely comprehensible Islomafscist rage sites and what must be hundreds of rabid Holocaust deniers and other marginal nuts? What are your criteria for who gets to be mentioned in your honor-roll of Finkelstein's supporters?


Btw, when you say, "Neither you nor your compatriots cite any evidence," what do you mean by my "compatriots" ? My fellow Canadians, or have you arbitrarily assigned me with some other ethnicity on the basis of my views?


Sergio Ramirez - 10/23/2005

I'm impressed to see that Bill reads Haaretz. But that's really the the far Left of Israeli press. He should also look at Yediot Ahranot and Maariv to get a balanced perspective, being the objective historian that he is.


bill farrell - 10/23/2005

Well Peter, once again you have failed to deal with either evidence or logic. You proclaim that you did not know who Larry Summers is. In other words you are proud to be ignorant. I enjoy pointing out problems with empty sloganeering like yours. I am curious though: where did you go to school? Have you ever been published anywhere but this website? All you can do is engage in name calling, but you have no serious arguments to back it up. You cite the President of Harvard in support of your position, but you did not know who he is. You do not know anything about him. You should cite Plato, you probably have not read him either. You would still be consistent. Do you know what historiography is? Please take a guess: you should be able to figure it out from my first post (that is the one that mentioned Fritz Stern).
Do you know anything about evidence?
If you do, you have hidden it brilliantly.

Neither you nor your compatriots cite any evidence. All you do is dismiss those who can supply it. To maintain your position, you have to dismiss a large number of Israeli writers and scholars who disagree with you. Have you ever bothered to look at the Israeli press? Do you ever read Haaretz?
You do not even need to read Hebrew. It has an English language website.

In all seriousness, if you want to improve the quality of your comments, I would be happy to supply a list of the books that you should read on this topic. You have no reason to keep embarassing yourself. Help is available. After all, if you had any grasp of the subject matter, you would not have to rely upon name calling. Ask for help. There is no shame in it.


N. Friedman - 10/22/2005

Michael,

You write: "I disagree. I think that the Twain quote is used in order to show that the area in question was largely uninhabited."

With what do you disagree, Michael? Note that I said "However, the area was, by and large, pretty desolate and run down." Note that the word "desolate" means "Devoid of inhabitants; deserted: 'streets which were usually so thronged now grown desolate'” and "Barren; lifeless: the rocky, desolate surface of the moon" and "Rendered unfit for habitation or use: the desolate cities of war-torn Europe," etc.

That is an accurate description of the entire region. That, by and large, is how people use the Twain quote. But, even if that were not so, Twain's description is accurate.

Consider also:

Relatively fewew Zionists claimed that the region had no people. Instead, the early Zionist sought to make a life with the Arabs wherein each party would have a part of the rule of the country. And that was the case with the Israelis until it became rather apparent that such was basically an impossibility.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/22/2005

Mr. Friedman,

"However, the area was, by and large, pretty desolate and run down."

I disagree. I think that the Twain quote is used in order to show that the area in question was largely uninhabited.

Mr. Rameriz,

Twain is one of my favorite authors and you seem to admire the man. Perhaps you should take the time to read "A War Prayer," or to read any number of his views regarding imperialism. http://lexrex.com/informed/otherdocuments/warprayer.htm
Nonetheless, we should no more take Twain's word for how inhabitable land was in Palestine (or how many people occupied it) than we should take my word for visiting Buzios and drawing population numbers and arable land for it. Indeed, primary sources are a historian’s lifeblood, but even the most mediocre historian knows to take eyewitness accounts at face value. Anything else, as you should well know, would be bad scholarship.


Regards


Sergio Ramirez - 10/21/2005

I'm sure Twain's material was impressionistic rather than sociological. I've read Innocents Abroad--a hilarious and underread work--and there's no mistaking Twain's dislike of certain nations. The quotations chosen are designed to discredit him as a social scientist--which is a bit like criticizing Shakespeare for his poor knowledge of verterinary medicine. Humor, not suprisingly, is an unknown concept at "Palestine Remembered."
But even a humorist can be used if he is, as Twain was it seems to a fault, honest in his impressions. We historians like to quote Marc Bloch on this subject--"witnesses despite themselves"--which is applicable here. If Twain, in the course of making some shaggy dog point or extended joke, lets on that Palestine is a shit-hole sparsely populated by very violent people, we need to accept his own tendency for not distorting his impressions.
Besides, as N Friedman says, that's not out of keeping with the general scholarship.


N. Friedman - 10/21/2005

Michael,

No one I know of, including Dershowitz, says otherwise.

However, the area was, by and large, pretty desolate and run down. The material you cite gives the opposite impression by criticizing the use of Twain's material which, frankly, is a good representation of what existed for the most part in the region.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/21/2005

Sergio-
Granted the website with the information I provided no doubt has a bias, I challenge you to show me that the quotes it provides are incorrect. In fact, come Monday I will check the quotes myself and if they are taken out of context (or do not exist) then I will gladly make it known. If not, then you must accept them as fact. Fair enough?

Mr. Friedman,

"The theory that the Palestinians and their land are exceptional has no basis at all."

I did not really get this view from the reading, although I am not implying that some do not believe this. Instead, it seems to me, for whatever it's worth, what the passages suggest is that not all of the land was a run-down wasteland, and perhaps more importantly, it was not completely devoid of humans.

Regards


Frederick Thomas - 10/21/2005


People at your elevated intellectual level should be able to recognize a hit piece, which I am sure you have by now.


Peter Kovachev - 10/21/2005

Gee, Bill (now that we're on first-name basis, thanks to the familiarity-breeds-contempt principle), I had no idea you were trying out your hand at history or...here's a scary mouthful...historiography. Did I spell that right?

From my angle here, it looks like you're putzing with sloganeering and polemics. To put it gently, a Braudel you're not.

Believe it or not...no difference to me...I actually didn't know Lawrence Summers is Harvard's president. Worse; I didn't know much about him to begin with, until I quickly looked him up. I'm more ready to forgive him for unwittingly violating the increasingly bizzarre codes which the PC cadre in the peanut galleries have been generating. Busy little bees. But you're right, now that I know that Mr. Summers doesn't hesitate to call antisemites antisemites, my estimate of him has risen considerably.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/21/2005

They'll notice that he will side with anyone against Jews like Summers who have to audacity to suggest that when a campus peace organization sells Nazi propaganda at student events, there might be a problem. Standing up to Leftfascists is what got him the negative vote--so God bless him.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/21/2005

Perhaps in the future the Palestinian complaint will mature to one about high tech industry. In fact, Israel is only a leader in high tech because it stole that technology from Arab, Druze and Bedouin. Perhaps Mike will helpfully link a "palestine remembered" quotation to that effect--when they get around to it.


N. Friedman - 10/21/2005

Michael,

You do not need to be a very great historian to realize that the area in which Israel was established was rather run down prior to Israel's time. The entire region, including also Jordan, was that way. Such places are still much that way, other than Israel. The captured territories were that way - basically no different from the rest of Jordan - prior to 1967, after which time there was substantial improvement until the PA came into power.

I suggest this to you. Modern thinking properly assumes the typical, not the exceptional. That, after all, was why Ptolemy's theory is not very fruitful. It assumed that Earth was exceptional, not typical.

The theory that the Palestinians and their land are exceptional has no basis at all. Both were rather typical for the region. Which is to say, what Twain reports is consistent with everything we know about that part of the world at that time. So the effort by some people to misrepresent run down, desolate regions as an Arab land of milk and honey is politics, not history.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/21/2005

Perhaps we should all agree to end this discussion with Mr. Dershowitz's own words:

"This book and none of my writing, I don't purport to be independent historian who goes back to the Middle East and reads original documents. I am making a case. I'm doing what a lawyer would do and what lawyers do is they find sources, they check the sources, I had a research staff that obviously checked the sources."

(http://www.democracynow.org/static/dershowitzFin.shtml)

A lawyer's job is to find evidence that supports his case and ignore or suppress evidence that does not (the trial of O.J. Simpson comes to mind).

An interesting take regarding Mark Twain's travel observations that Dershowitz brings up in the debate (for whatever it's worth):

http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Articles/Story845.html


Regards,
Mike


bill farrell - 10/21/2005

That last sentence should read : No doubt that's why you like him.


bill farrell - 10/21/2005

Well, Peter, it seems you haven't challenged any of my points about history and historiography; therefore, I assume you're conceding them (or perhaps you don't know anything about the subject matter and therefore cannot answer anyway).



It should be pointed out that a number Harvard faculty have been the subject of plagiarism charges, particularly at the law school. Recently conservative commentators have led the charge against Lawrence Tribe. I do not remember you defending Tribe. Of course, Harvard has not censured him. What a shock, Harvard does not condemn its own famous scholars. You can look at the evidence in black and white, or you can point out that Harvard gave Dershowitz a prize.



It is rather odd that someone who pretends to be a gadfly (and "courageous critic") appeals to authority in this way.



Two other points: You're referring to the same president of Harvard (Lawrence Summers) whom the Arts & Sciences faculty at Harvard voted no confidence in within the past 18 months, the same president who publicly equated criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. No doubt that's why you


Peter Kovachev - 10/21/2005


Sheer poppycock, Mr. Farrell. The only thing Finkelstein has demonstated ably and over and over again, is that he is a lunatic grasping at any straws, most of them imaginary, the kind which he, along with Cockburn and Chomsky (the infamous three stooges of the "plagiarism posse"), manufacture out of rabid zeal and desperation.


Mr. Dershowitz not only countered these "charges," but after approaching Harvard over the issue, he had his work examined and cleared by no lesser person than the president of Harvard. In the spring of this year Dershowitz received a prize from Harvard for scholarship on a recent book of his. Hardly something a violator of Harvard's rules or a plagiarist would get.

What is evidently bankrupt is your own position...whatever it may be... which is obviously so devoid of substance that you have to resort to churlish pedantry over Mr. Friedman's spelling.


N. Friedman - 10/21/2005

bill,

Was Mr. Dershowitz handing a paper in to a professor or to an academic journal or the like? If not, the Harvard standard for plagiarism is irrelevant - whether or not he followed that standard -.

In fact, Dershowitz wrote a book of general interest for the general public and so the public, not academic, standard applies. The word "plagiarism" means something quite different in public discourse than in the academy.

I might add, plagiarism, in the public sense, involves an intentional act, as in passing off another person's ideas or writings as your own. It is not the same as following a rule book set down by Harvard.

The fact is that Mr. Dershowitz has written quite a good book. Little that he says is contraversial and the facts and ideas he identifies and discusses are so widely used and discussed that they are scenes a faire to the topic. Which is to say, his attribution technique is more than sufficient, whether or not he might have employed the Harvard method.

Now, making an allegation of plagiarism against someone's public, not academic, writings is a very, very serious charge that ought not be lightly made. Again, such an allegation implies an intentional passing off. Dershowitz did nothing of the sort.


bill farrell - 10/21/2005

To N. Friedman: Let us see. Finkelstein demonstrates that Dershowitz violated Harvard's rules against plagiarism that Harvard enforces against its own students. Finkelstein then logically concludes that Dershowitz is a plagiarist under Harvard's rules. Essentially, you then say that violating Harvard's rules does make Dershowitz a rule-breaker. Your position is intellectually bankrupt. By the way, learn to spell "plagiarism".


N. Friedman - 10/21/2005

To bill,

I see. Let's call a man a plagerist - effectively a cheat - for not following precisely the rules at Harvard. What tosh!!!

Plagerism is a serious charge that should not be made where the alleged errors are so slight - if there were any errors here.

I think Finkelstein made a fool of himself. I stand by that.


bill farrell - 10/21/2005

Several Points;

1) Avi Schlaim is one of these top two or three historians of modern Israel. Many consider him to be the best.

2) William Quandt has been a major figure in making US policy in the Mid-East. He is also a scholar.

If you do not know that, you do not know much about either Middle East history or scholarship.

Now to Holocaust scholarship: Raul Hilberg is generally regarded as the world's leading historian of the Holocaust, at least of the process of the Final Solution (as opposed to its ideological or psychological origins, for example). If you doubt that , look up the reviews of his three volume work "The Destruction of the European Jews" (the 1985 revised work, not the 1961 original, which is also an important work, but not as important as the 1985 revision) Hilberg is a strong supporter of Finkelstein's book "The Holocaust Industry." However, that book is about the use (and both Hilberg and Finkelstein would argue) abuse of the legacy of the Holocaust. It is not focused upon the Holocaust itself. I believe that Hilberg also supported "A Nation on Trial," ("Nation") which is a hostile critique of the Daniel Goldhagen book. Certainly, conservative Columbia University historian Fritz Stern supported the thrust of that book. Remember, Fritz Stern and Ralf Dahrendorf in separate, but complementary work established one of the two or three most important analyses of Nazi Germany. (Stern's part of that analysis could be called "the politics of cultural despair/the failure of the unpolitical German" school. Dahrendorf focused less upon the explicitly ideological and philosophical elements, producing a view that Nazizsm about due to a failure of modernization in Germany.) All that being said, "Nation" is an historiographical work, not an historical one, except in the broadest sense of history.

To N. Friedman, you clearly do not understand the Harvard rules about plagiarism -- a word that you may want to learn to spell. If a Harvard student cites information that he or she obtained from a secondary source in a manner that conveys that he (or she) obtained from a primary source, he is guilty of plagiarism. Dershowitz did precisely that, which Finkelstein demonstrated during the debate which you dismiss. Then again, life is easier when you refuse to examine any evidence that counters what you wish to believe.


N. Friedman - 10/21/2005

I read that debate long ago. Finkelstein did not remotely impress me. In fact, I thought he embarressed himself, making picyune arguments that amounted to nothing at all.

From what I can discern, Dershowitz did not plagerize by any normal understanding of the word. His book, The Case for Israel, was not intended as original research but an argument based on existing materials - most of which appear in many sources -. He quotes those materials rather well. That some of the materials might have been footnoted differently is not much of a criticism. That there may be an immaterial error or so - something that appears in every book - also matters not.

Finkelstein should grow up.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/20/2005

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=03/09/24/1730205&;mode=thread&tid=38


Sergio Ramirez - 10/20/2005

Jesus, now we're going back ten years and yet you still have recycle Chomsky quotations. Best of luck and all, but just as a friendly gesture I'll stop mentioning Pol Pot if you stop mentioning Chomsky?


N. Friedman - 10/20/2005

See this article:

http://camera.org/index.asp?x_context=8&x_nameinnews=169&x_article=985

The author of the Camera organization article appears to have uncovered some pretty bad errors by Mr. Finkestein.


Frederick Thomas - 10/20/2005

Mr. Ramirez:

You achieved a good deal of irony in this post. The humor is appreciated.

By the way, Chomsky won the recent poll over Umberto Ecco, president of the college of language at Bologna, and mega-bestselling novelist ("Name of the Rose" etc). They are both on the pink side.

Thought you may like to see some reviews of "IMAGE AND REALITY OF THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT" (1995) in which he debunks Joan Peters and others engaged in whitewashing Israel's record. Peters' fraudulent book is the one Dershowitz plagiarized, which does not show a lot of intelligence on his part.

Reviews:

"Norman Finkelstein is one of the most radical and hard-hitting critics of the official Zionist version of the Arab-Israeli conflict and of the historians who support this version. ... The book makes a major contribution to the study of the Arab-Israeli conflict and deserves to be widely read, especially in the United States."

Avi Shlaim,
St Antony's College, Oxford University


"Anyone interested in seeing justice brought to the Middle East must read 'Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict'."

Charles Glass,
former ABC News Middle East correspondent.


"...this thoroughly documented book is guaranteed to stimulate and provoke. It will be required reading in the continuing war of the historians."

William Quandt,
FOREIGN AFFAIRS


"...the most revealing study of the historical background of the conflict and the current peace agreement."

Noam Chomsky,
The GUARDIAN


"... a thought-provoking work which calls into question many of the accepted 'truths' associated with the Israel-Palestine conflict."

THE MIDDLE EAST JOURNAL


"...both an impressive analysis of Zionist ideology and a searing but scholarly indictment of Israel's treatment of the Arabs since 1948."

THE LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS


Peter Kovachev - 10/20/2005



Well, then, thanks for letting me know. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. All I can say in my defense is that Finkelstein's not on my list of must-reads.


Nevertheless, my fact-checking skills aside, the response to the book appears to be as I belatedly "predicted." The usual assortment of wing-nuts, neo-Nazis and jihadists hail it as a revelation, while mainstream opinion either ignores it or takes apart Finkelstein's trademark lack of logic, coherence and "scholarshipp." On the basis of accomplishments and credibility, I'll go with Omer Bartov's assessment in his August 6 review in the *The New York Times Book Review*:


]"Now Finkelstein is back, with a vengeance, a lone ranger with a holy mission -- to unmask an evil Judeo-Zionist conspiracy.


]...(*Beyond Chutzbah*)is filled with precisely the kind of shrill hyperbole that Finkelstein rightly deplores in much of the current media hype over the Holocaust; it is brimming with the same indifference to historical facts, inner contradictions, strident politics and dubious contextualizations; and it oozes with the same smug sense of moral and intellectual superiority."


Just out of curiosity, btw, how would you characterize my ideology?


Tamu Tram - 10/20/2005

Finkelstein's book's been out since August 28, 2005 according to Amazon.com. Your comment that states "When F's book comes out.. I can guearantee that it will be torn apart" is from October 19, 2005.

Seems you're not a big fan of checking your facts before you open your mouth to defend your Ideology.

Upon publication of the book, Finkelstein released a statement:
http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=11&;ar=50


Sergio Ramirez - 10/20/2005

It certainly is nothing new--I read the article when it came out and then watched the genius slither for the next five years to try to get out of it. Later, he got his unidicted co-conspirator Herman to go to bat for him. But of all the many lies and outbursts, my absolute favorite took place at the campus of Umass-Amherst back in the 1980s. Chomsky was yelled at a Vietnamese student who was asking him a difficult question "You're obviously not Vietnamese, you look like a
Taiwanese agent to me."


Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/20/2005

More baseless accusations. Nothing new. http://www.counterpunch.org/herman07262003.html


Sergio Ramirez - 10/20/2005

I thought I made clear how impressed I was. Chomsky won my heart when he threw his support for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and called the Cambodian Genocide a CIA lie. I've not doubted his jusgement one bit since then.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 10/20/2005

Sergio,
You asked for any scholar in any field and you got Chomsky. The man is a genius, plain and simple. You might disagree with his arguments and that is fine. Nonetheless, you cannot ignore them. That in itself says a lot.

Regards


Peter Kovachev - 10/20/2005

Finkelstein's "facts" are still unpublished, Mr. Baker. All we have to go on so far is a not-too-promising summary and the credibility of Finkelstein, a notorious revisionist fraud, not to mention that of his admirer, Gordon. And even Gordon appears to have lost some of his enthusiasm for Finkelstein.

When Finkelstein's book comes out, to the disgrace of the publisher, I can guarantee that it will be torn apart, just like his previous collection of trash, by everyone except the fascists on the Left and Right, the jihadists and the neo-Nazis.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/19/2005

Chomsky? You're kidding? This is going to cause me to change my entire assesment of Finkelstein!
As for Rabbani, he's devoted much of his career to attacking Jewish nationalism, and Boyarin, the scholar of first century homosexuality, just might be a bit out specialty.
Good job.


Frederick Thomas - 10/19/2005


Not that you really care, but here are three reviews of this (9/2005) book. NFs other books on similar themes such as "Image and Reality..." which is in its fourth edition, of course have many more plaudits. Try his web site if you really do want more.

I assume you will freak out when you see Noam Chomsky in this, but since he was named "Most Admired Academic" in the world in a recent European wide poll, over the likes of Umberto Ecco, I include him anyway.

"A very solid, important and highly informative book. Norman Finkelstein provides extensive details and analysis, with considerable historical depth and expert research, of a very wide range of issues concerning Israel, the Palestinians, and the U.S."

-- Noam Chomsky,
Institute Professor, M.I.T.

"The scholarship is simply superb. Finkelstein has clearly done his homework, and consulted and mastered a breathtaking range of material: primary sources and documents, scholarly works, reports old and new, correspondence with relevant individuals, and numerous other sources too. He has left no stone unturned."

-- Mouin Rabbani,
Contributing Editor, Middle East Report

"Accurate, well-written, and devastatingly important."

-- Daniel Boyarin,
Professor of Talmudic Culture, University of California at Berkeley


Sergio Ramirez - 10/19/2005

"it was the guy you were breathlessly agreeing with who did that. "
If you think saying "good question" qualifies as breathless agreement, you might want to have your lungs checked. Nah, on second thought, don't bother.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/19/2005

So we are agreed that Finkelstein is neither anti-Semite nor historian. Please tell me who some of these scholars (i'll not limit by discipline) are who have such respect for him? I'll remind you that Raul Hilberg called the publishers to request his out of context blurb be taken off future editions of The Holocaust Industry.


E. Simon - 10/19/2005

Of course, your deafening silence on every atrocity ever commited by any number of Arab leaders could never be construed as "a sound political foundation for anti Israel policies."


Frederick Thomas - 10/18/2005


Mr. Ramirez:

Let's keep it formal for the time being, shall we? And yes, you did not call NF the "anti" word. It was the guy you were breathlessly agreeing with who did that.

You asked "Why is Professor Finkelstein regarded with such suspicion and with such little respect by historians of the Second World War and Holocaust?"

I replied that he has never written on those subjects. What exactly do you not understand? Were the words I used too long?

And by the way, NO historians worthy of the name have expressed a lack of respect for him, which could be partly because he is a poly sci professor and his books are on current events rather than history. Are you with me so far?

The second reason is that NF is a superb painstaking researcher, and real historians respect such. Maybe you should too, Mr. Ramirez.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/18/2005

You seem to be confusing me with someone else. I never called Finkelstein, or anyone else an anti-Semite. But I wouldn't call him an historian either. I asked why historians don't take him seriously.
So, back to my question Freddy?


Frederick Thomas - 10/18/2005

Mr. Ramirez:

I hate to answer a question with a question, but why do you not ask something to do with the article or my points?

Finkelstein does not write about WWII or the holocaust, although his parents were caught up in both. (Don't you feel silly calling him an anti-semite?)

Instead he writes about Bronfman, Eagleburger, and others who line their personal pockets with extorted reparations while ignoring actual victims. He writes about flunkies like Dershowitz who carry their water for them with fraudulent defenses of the indefensible in Israeli policy, and in the money-making holocaust industry generally.

He writes about fraud, cruelty, inhumanity, and cover-up, justified by constant phony accusations of anti-semitism and historical rewrites of WW II.

He is a voice for honor and truth who cannot tolerate others beschmirching his ethnic and religious tradition by making a money maker and an Israeli propaganda machine out of a tragedy.

Perhaps it would be helpful if you were to either read his books or at least learn what their subject is.

Otherwise, thank you for your remarks.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/18/2005

wtf?


edwin s reynolds - 10/18/2005

As Ralph Cramden might say. Nothing but ad-hominem wing-nut arguements. I suppose denial is a river in Egypt in wing-nuttia.

I look foward to the day when your brains explode from the sheer pressure caused by cognative dissonance. Right-wing delusions are more frightening than simple intellectual dishonesty or sloppy scholarship. They cause death and misery.


E. Simon - 10/18/2005

"Typical" or not, I did no contesting. But what I wonder is if it would be "usual" for a certain someone to attack a question raised to another responder who apparently is. I suppose if one's conception of right or wrong hinged on reading and not contesting facts stated in a review or a book, it might behoove one to have actually done the reading. Of course, that is, after all, merely a supposition.


Mike Hodas - 10/17/2005

This so typical of the Israel can do nothing wrong mob. As usual you do not contest one fact stated in the review or in the book.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/17/2005

Good question--Mr Thomas has just argued, after all, that anti-Semitism occurs in response to things Jews do. Since it's a rational reaction to diasgreeable Jewish behavior, it should be easy enough to cure. Right, Mr Thomas?


E. Simon - 10/17/2005

Having read the article - and specifically the Sartre motif, I'm interested in what Thomas intends to convey with his estimation of Dershowitz as a "walking poster boy for real anti-Semitism."


Sergio Ramirez - 10/17/2005

Mr. Thomas:

Why, in your opinion, is Professor Finkelstein regarded with such suspicion and with such little respect by historians of the Second World War and Holocaust?


Frederick Thomas - 10/17/2005


...then Dersho-Israelgate. And of course, the "in denial gang" line up and starts throwing around the "anti: word. How utterly predictable and how totally boring. (Yawn)

The fact is that Finkelstein's book is scholarship, Dershovitz' is crap, and this review is highly accurate.

If I were one of the Dersh-defenders, I would dump the big D for the pimp that he is, and shame on Harvard.

I know that probably no respondent has read the article, but consider this clip:

"Dershowitz maintains...that "There is no evidence that Israeli soldiers deliberately killed even a single civilian." Finkelstein replies that according to HRW there were many civilian deaths which amounted to "unlawful and willful killings."

"When the Harvard professor asserts that "Israel tries to use rubber bullets and other weapons designed to reduce fatalities, and aims at the legs whenever possible," Finkelstein rejoins with a study published by PHR, which shows that nearly "half of the victims...were shot in the head. There were several victims shot in the back or from behind and in one instance, evidence indicates, the victim was probably on the ground when shot."

"And when Dershowitz contends that Israel's interrogation tactics were "nonlethal and did not involve the infliction of sustained pain," Finkelstein responds with scores of reports which document multiple deaths of Palestinians during interrogation."

If you are smart, you will dump this loser Dershovitz. He is a PR liability and a walking poster boy for real anti-Semitism.


Peter Kovachev - 10/17/2005


And what other tenured crackpot but Gordon would touch Finkelstein with anything but a footnote, the equivalent of the proverbial ten-foot pole? In any event, the two will be again getting plenty of "reviews" from their loyal admirers among the Holocaust revisionists, neo-nazis, jihadists, pseudo-humanitarians and loonie-fringers.


Peter Kovachev - 10/17/2005

An echo chamber in academia's sewer systems might be a more apt description.


Sergio Ramirez - 10/17/2005

Who in the world thought Neve Gordon could review a Norman Finkelstein book? The two men are both on the absolute fringes of Holocaust scholarship (Gordon has himself done none) and both absolute allies in a political war against the Israeli nation and international Jewry.


Stephen Rifkin - 10/17/2005

Gordon's own antisemitism as a defence of Finklestein's antisemitism. I suppose that has merit but since their opinions seem to echo one another uncritically but for the merest technical details of scholarship, it's difficult to tease out any critical meaning from it all. Yes yes you both loathe and despise Israel under the aegis of wanting 'to make it better'. Of course you do.

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