Norman Finkelstein’s Conspiratorial Universe

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Staying the course of an apologist, Finkelstein pronounced that:

It’s easy enough to condemn the Hamas rocket and mortar attacks on Israel . . . but it seems to me if you want to condemn them, you still have an obligation to show what other options they had; if you don’t show what other options they had, you’re, in effect, saying that the people of Gaza had a legal and moral responsibility, an obligation, to lie still and die.

Finkelstein’s double standard is glaring. Israeli counterstrikes to stop rocket attacks into its territory are acts of self-defense, not of aggression. Moreover, the Israeli military takes great pains to avoid civilian casualties in its strikes, even to the point of avoiding some targets cynically placed in civilian areas by Hamas. Yet he was more than ready to accept casualties among Israelis on the receiving end of those rocket attacks.

When discussing the Gaza flotilla incident in May 2010, Finkelstein asserted that the Israeli navy had many options short of the one they chose–boarding the ship:

They could have disabled the propeller on the flagship boat the Mavi Marmara; they could have disabled the rudder, the engine, and towed the boat to Ashdod, the Israeli boat; they could have blocked the vessel.

Yet he brought up no potential options for Hamas to have avoided a blockade in the first place, such as halting rocket fire and abiding by the 2008 Egypt-brokered cease fire with Israel.

In describing the finding of the Turkel Commission—Israel’s government-commissioned committee that investigated the maritime incident—that certain “activists” on the ship prevented others from harming Israeli soldiers, Finkelstein remarked sarcastically:

That’s perfectly reasonable. You know, on the boat there were some grandmas, ‘Grannies for Peace’ with their Birkenstock sandals, and they prevented the heavy, muscular, crazed ‘Allah Akbar’ sounding Turks . . . from killing the Israeli soldiers. That’s perfectly reasonable.

During the question and answer session, an audience member pointed out the inconsistency between Israel’s effort to avoid civilian casualties in the 2008-2009 Gaza war by dropping leaflets and other means, and Finkelstein’s claim that Israel had the sole intention of harming civilians to restore its “deterrence capacity” in the Arab and Muslim world. Finkelstein retorted, “It’s true Israel dropped lots of leaflets saying flee for your life. Not only that . . . according to Israel, they made 250,000 phone calls” imploring civilians to flee from upcoming attacks. If such Israeli claims were true, he continued, “[they] called every single home in Gaza because there are only 250,000 households in Gaza and it told them all to flee . . . except flee where?”

The contention that Gazans could not avoid Israeli bombardment by fleeing from areas where leaflets had been dropped or phone calls made warning of imminent attack ignores the fact that not all bombardments occurred at exactly the same time; to the contrary, the Gaza War lasted 22 days. Finkelstein simply ignored the passage of time.

For all of his assertions of war machinations fueled by untamed Israeli aggression, Finkelstein provided very little in the way of factual evidence. His lecture—which rested upon fallacious logic, glaring omissions of fact, dishonest double standards, and fabricated conspiracy theories—epitomized the type of fraudulent agitprop that precludes serious, factual discussion of the issues.

Penn could help advance a productive dialogue on the Arab-Israeli conflict if it stopped hosting speakers recognized for producing scholarship that, as DePaul University accurately put it, is “provocative more for inflammatory effect than to carefully critique or challenge accepted assumptions.”

Gideon Spitzer is a political science and history major at the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote this article for Campus Watch, a program of the Middle East Forum.

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  • larry

    Norm Finkelstein is nothing but an ass hole. He makes his living knocking Israel. With all the anti-semites in this world he has no trouble finding an audience.

  • Amos

    Ian Lustick's role in bringing the pathetic little Neonazi to campus?

  • Amos

    Maybe Finkie can start a new gay Neo-Nazi fashion house together with John Galliano.

    Just what is Finkie living on now that he is unemployed? Subsidies from Iran?

    • Ploni

      He is living off his speaking fees and book sales which has brought him more income than a professors salary for many years.

      • Amos

        Yeah? Who told you that? You believe him?

  • Allyson Rowen Taylor

    Norm suffers from Israel dreangement syndrome he is the product of a very perverted sense of good and evil. Like a pyschopath he is unable to fully comprehend what a pathetic excuse for an academic he is. He should be shunned and put out to pasture….in gaza

  • walt kovacs

    when did finkelstein get a phd in how to stop a ship?

    disable the propeller? rofl

    they attempted the block the flotilla…it refused to stop

    the idf boarded every boat that was part of the flotilla…the only serious injuries and deaths that occurred were on the mavi marmara…which was manned by the terrorists of the ihh

  • J. Levin

    <<He claimed, without citing any sources or quoting any military officials, that the “Israelis were very upset by this “defeat” and were “determined to undo [it].” >>
    Is this a joke? What is this article…where did this author get his journalism degree or any degree for that matter..yes the Israelis where upset with the defeat and had in mind a second, 3rd an d4th rounds…You do not need a quote for this.

    • Supreme_Galooty


    • Antonio Singh

      Please include citations for your assertions. "yes the Israelis where upset with the defeat and had in mind a second, 3rd an d4th rounds." I don't agree with your assertion. Back it up with a citation or two. Also, please use spellcheck in the future. Or else just STFU, moron.

  • josh

    funny that a magazine which claims to be concerned about anti semitism advertizes
    books by glen beck a known anti semite.
    the world is upside down

    • ziontruth

      "glen beck a known anti semite"

      A fish doesn't know it's surrounded by water, and the Left can't see Jew-haters except outside their own tank, which is swarming with them.

    • Antonio Singh

      Again, back up your assertions with some reliable citations. As I tell freshman comp students, you need reliable sources to back up your claims. Exactly when has Glen Beck been an anti semite? Also, use spellcheck to hide your ignorance. Just a suggestion.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    The Supreme Galooty has determined that should He ever choose to return to Earth He will change His Name from Finkelstein to Fink. Yup, Margaret. THAT should do it!

  • Amos

    Wouldn't a better way to stop a terrorist ship be to chain Norman Finkelstein to his mentor Holocaust Denier David Irving, attach explosives belts to both, and then toss them out onto the ship from a chopper?

  • Lady_dr

    What the world really needs is a dose of reality. It is SO much easier to hate than to love, or be reasonable. The problem anti-semites have is jealousy. They are angry because they aren't "chosen" like the Chosen People, they think Jews have more money than they do, etc., etc. Funny thing is that they never think to imitate the Jews – you know -work, hard work, study, study, study – make something of yourself. Make wise decisions, etc. It is so much easier to act like a petulant spoiled brat. Don't know what Finkelstein's problem is but all the Jews I know are deeply ashamed that such a Jew exist. This is one sick, self-loathing man who ought not to be listened to. But if you read Frontpagemag you probably know that.

  • BS77

    Norm Frankenstein's audiences continue to shrink. It's unfortunate this pile of garbage still gets so much attention. The less said about him the better.

  • tyson

    Norman Finkelstein has stated on numerous occasions that he is not "anti-israel", and that he not even "anti-zionist", he is, however, in favour of a just and lasting peace that is based on principles of justice, namely, international law- in which there is a long diplomatic record. It is not in Israel's favour to continue with these criminal polices- the political and military elite and jeopardizing the safety of Israeli citizens by acting this way. "People who call themselves supporters of Israel are in fact supporters of it's moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction"- noam chomsky