Just been to what was supposed to be a debate with Norman Finkelstein. «Supposed» because there was an academic boycott of him. Nobody dared to meet him in debate, so it ended up with a professor questioning him, and then the public. Probably turned out better anyway, but quite appauling. Shame on Norwegian «intellectuals»!
Norman Finkelstein has written books on the Holocaust industry: meaning the industry that are using the holocaust to the advantage of Zionism, and Israel’s expansion policy in the Occupied Territories. This started in the 1970s according to him. Before that, there was little to no debate about the holocaust in the US, because their number one ally in Europe was West-Germany, and they were controlled by former Nazis. Then Israel started its expansion policy with the 1967 War, and the picture slowly changed. Israel became «an offshore US military base» – to borrow Chomsky’s term – so it was in US’ interests to use the holocaust to gain ground politically. Now we see this very clearly. If you are criticising Israel there are basically two outcomes: (1) if you are Jewish you will be called a «self-hating Jew»; (2) if you are non-Jewish you will be called an «anti-semite». This is because of what Finkelstein calls the «Holocaust industry», with capital H.
He has also ripped apart two books that was outright lying about the situation in Israel/Palestine. The first one from a guy named Peters (if I remember right), painted the picture of Palestine as empty when Israel was founded, and Arabs moving in after Israel was founded because of economic opportunities, and then called themselves indigeneous. Ridiculous of course, but this sadly passed in the US, and the book got good reviews and became a bestseller.
He then ripped apart «The Case for Israel» by Derschowitz. He didn’t go into details about what that book is about (and I haven’t checked it up yet), but apparently Derschowitz (spelling is probably way off) said «Israel has a superb human rights record». This is a quote from the book, cited by Finkelstein. This book also got great reviews from for instance New York Times, and became a bestseller.
I found the «debate» to be very interesting. The guy talked quite slowly, but he was obviously intelligent. A very good speaker with an important message, and actually quite funny. A rare quality among «intellectuals».
There is coming out an article in London Review of Books by two high-respected professors in a few days (apparently it should be available online now), about the the Jewish lobby in Washington and the neo-conservatives.
He also had some interesting points on the Israel/Palestine conflict and nationstates. He thought a two-state solution was the best practical solution given today’s situation, but emphasized that this wasn’t the best solution. The best solution (but hard to imagine today) would be a one-state settlement. Not just in Israel/Palestine, but the entire world. If I remember correct Chomsky agrees on this, as do I. Abolition of nationstates would be a great step. Reasons to go to war would take a nosedive, and there would be increased solidary between peoples across the globe. There are obviously also difficulties with such a solution, for instance a world government ruled by military hawks such as Bush and his cronies, but it would be a lot harder for them to remain in power. I think the pros outweigh the cons, but won’t go into details here.
Update: The article mentioned above is called The Israel Lobby. It’s written by John Mearsheimer (Professor of Political Science, Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Professor of International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard).
It will be available in London Review of Books Vol. 28 No. 6, and comes out March 23, 2006, but is available online. Printed out it’s 21 pages, but the original Working Paper was some 80 pages.