Vanguard Demystifies Israel-Palestine Conflict
Vanguard Demystifies Israel-Palestine Conflict
By Sonia Nettnin
Norman G. Finkelstein spoke about the Israel-Palestine conflict in Oak Park, IL.
He was the final speaker in “Voices of Conscience and Dissent: Important Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” a community education and dialog series. The event was sponsored by the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine.
Finkelstein is the author of Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, The Rise and Fall of Palestine, A Nation on Trail: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth, and The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. He teaches political science at DePaul University in Chicago.
“The basic moral and historical facts are not complicated,” he said. “Consensus has been reached on the facts and history.”
Controversial disagreements about the conflict fall into one of two categories: one kind is factual and the other kind is fabrication. Perspectives and questions about the basic moral, historical, legal, political, and factual aspects of the conflict are based on reality, therefore legitimate. These valid disagreements can have differences about the solution.
An example given is the political disagreement about the Palestinian peoples’ right to return (Al-Awda in Arabic). Within the UN General Assembly, the majority votes for a two-state solution. Yet the balance of power between the majority of the world and the dissenting vote (U.S., Israel and a handful of small countries), determines the end result.
According to Finkelstein, one school of thought states that sewing an illusion for people is wrong because they are suffering. What is realistic is a question for discussion.
Within scholarly literature and media publications, disagreements about the conflict are confected (made up) also. Finkelstein separates them into three realms.
The first dimension is “an effort to envelope the conflict into a mystical, cosmic, ideological cloud,” which contains “Biblical indemnities and ancient clashes.” These arguments state that the conflict is not comparable to anything else. However, these reasons do not suffice for Finkelstein, so the root of the conflict requires further investigation.
In Image and Reality in the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Finkelstein explores the academic work of Benny Morris in a chapter called “‘Born of War, Not by Design’ Benny Morris’s ‘Happy Median’ Image.” He examines Morris’s past publications and contends “…that Morris’s own evidence points to the conclusion that Palestine’s Arabs were expelled systematically and with premeditation” and that Morris “….obscures the ideological motivations behind Israel’s decision to expel Palestine’s Arabs.” (p. 53). He concludes that Morris should heed his own advice when “he prepared the results of his research for publication” (87).
In January, Morris was interviewed by Ari Shavit for the Ha’aertz. Morris referred to the Palestinians as barbarians. In 2003, the LA Times published an op-ed by Morris, which sparked numerous letters and phone calls.
The second dimension of concocted disagreements “plays the holocaust card to justify what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.” The explanation for its use is what happened to the Jewish people is unique, so these standards are not applicable. Despite the consensus among mainstream, human rights organizations (Amnesty International, B’tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights) about the human rights violations of the Palestinians, accountability for these injustices does not exist in this rationalization. Finkelstein made reference to the 30,000 Palestinians tortured in the first, two years of the first intifada.
Furthermore, Finkelstein sees the new anti-Semitism literature on the market as an extension of this reasoning. He does not see evidence of this anti-Semitism and describes it as “a complete and total fraud.” He cited recent PEW research center surveys, which asked Europeans questions about attitudes toward Jewish people. Overall, findings conclude that attitudes toward Jews in Europe are more favorable than they were eleven years ago.
In France, there have been a few incidences of arson and a few injuries. Nevertheless, 85 per cent of youth gave positive answers about Jewish people and around 80 per cent of North African Muslims gave positive answers about Jewish people. Through Finkelstein’s eyes, criticism of Israel is classified as anti-Semitism.
The final dimension concerns the claims of unleashed aggression toward Jewish people. Finkelstein stated that the self-identified, Jewish state has committed loathsome, heinous policies. So why is it a surprise that it creates a resentful sentiment?
Moreover, whenever Israel comes under attack, the new anti-Semitism has the spotlight. He believes these strategies serve a political purpose and a vast proliferation of fraud exists on the topic. In academia, the “quality control” for publication has answers to these questions: who published the book; who reviewed the book; and who wrote excerpts for the back cover of the book.
According to Finkelstein, the problem with the Israel-Palestine conflict is a book can have a well-known publisher, tremendous reviews by scholars in the field and still contain fraud. He gave the example of From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters, which he describes as a “colossal hoax” plagued with plagiarism. Exactly twenty years ago this month, a reading of Peter’s book initiated the fountainhead of Finkelstein’s academic fraud investigations.
“You can write whatever you want and be guaranteed excellent reviews and reception…the truth means nothing,” he said.
Finkelstein should launch a nationwide academic-fraud-committee where people are held accountable for their words.
When asked about a one-state solution, Finkelstein said that it is far in the future (although he does not believe in borders). He said our first moral responsibility is to diminish the real suffering.
If the kibbutz communities (where groups of people live equally) do not include the Palestinian people, then what is fair and equal? Within history is the Diaspora (Hatfutsot) and the Palestinian Diaspora - the catastrophe (Al-Nakba) of 1948 is an outstanding action item for serious address.
The members of academia should be more like vanguard Finkelstein and expose the truth, so people can live in freedom.