Norman Finkelstien is called an ‘American Radical’, but I believe a far more appropriate term for him, and those who share his views is ‘American Liberal’. No doubt Finkelstein has gone to great lengths to research, document and disseminate the ongoing atrocities and war crimes committed by Israel, and is a highly effective and powerful advocate for Palestine. His thorough, meticulous approach is unparalleled (except by Noam Chomsky who also takes almost identical positions) and he has done so at great personal cost to his professional career as his advocacy caused him to lose tenure at DePaul University.
With great power, comes great responsibility
What is severely missing is a strong, principled stand. It is with this in mind and international solidarity with the Palestinian people day, in which I make the following remarks. It is my hope that the thousands of activists who idealize his work, and eagerly invite him him to speak will begin to challenge him on his many problematic contradictions.
In theory Finkelstein is said to believe in the one-state solution as an ideal. However he has always been an outspoken advocate for the two state solution, while not taking a strong, prinicipled stand on the right of Palestinians to return to their homelands, and is against boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). He takes these positions, which incidentally are the most commonly held liberal Zionist positions, but are most importantly, in direct opposition to Palestinian solidarity calls: http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro.
He has made these suggestions for many years now and believes, like so many liberals, that we take a more “practical” or “realistic” approach and adjust our language to fit international consensus. He also asserts that we should place our hope in international bodies such as the UN and the ICJ, despite their historic inability and/or political unwillingness to uphold their own laws, as they relate to Palestine. Not withstanding the irony, that under international law and in UN resolutions clearly state the right of return of all refugees displaced by war.
In this time the realm of people power having clearly seen we can not depend on governmental or int’l bodies to correct injustice as the people of the world are rising up and taking matters into our own hands, it is difficult for anyone to predict what is ‘possible’ or not. He also goes on to illustrate how it is the US and Israel who hold all the power in these organizations, yet provides no such recommendations as to how if or why they would change their position.
Among another one of his other bizarre and shocking suggestions is that, rather than educate international community about the racist ideology of Zionism, he says we’re going to turn people off if we talk about it! Would the civil rights, women’s rights or any other movement in the USA have succeeded if they backed down because they didn’t have popular support?? He also uses the logic that India has a prevailing caste system and gives the example of so many of the other countries such as China and Saudi Arabia which are unjust. Neither of which is a recipient, much less the largest recipient of US tax dollars – without which (plus US arms) they would never have had so much power.
Just as we don’t want a state based on religious purity, we also don’t want to be ideological purists. We have gone too long and come too far, to compromise on our most basic rights now and there are certain things that are compromiseable, and others which simply, are not. I understand wanting to be practical to achieve political gains. However, Palestinians have already been down that road and in the process, given up so much and have received less and less in the process. We should learn these very important lessons from history, and is why we must only support advocates that are based in solidarity, rather than compromising and paternalistic; no matter how well intentioned.
During this most historic time in the the world, the Palestinian cause must join the movements all over the world rising for justice, who are truly creating and redefining what is possible. It s incumbent for any advocate of Palestinian rights to continue to work to bring these solidarity struggle together, in strategic ways. Movements such as the international solidarity movement (ISM-www.palsolidarity.org), the Flotillas (http://www.freegaza.org/) and the Global March to Jerusalem (http://www.globalmarchtojerusalem.org/gmtj/?page_id=34) are perfect examples of those who to take such principled positions and actions and act as true allies to the Palestinian people.
Salam, justice and solidarity.
*The definition of Zionism is the belief in the right of a Jewish state to exist, which itself is an inherent contradiction. It is impossible to reconcile democracy, equality and justice with separate laws for non-Jews. The definition of apartheid is ‘separate’ laws for non-Jews.
Norman Finkelstein: American Radical – http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/2011/04/2011412103819678591.htmlI