[Marxism] Report on Norman Finkelstein meeting

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 9 07:24:22 MST 2006

Finkelstein Rethinks Israel-Palestine
Speaker Addresses Packed Roone Arledge Auditorium

By Lisa Hirschmann
Spectator Senior Writer

March 09, 2006

DePaul University professor Norman Finkelstein addressed Columbians in 
Roone Arledge Auditorium Wednesday night on what he deemed a "contrived and 
fabricated controversy" surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hundreds of students, professors, administrators, and non-affiliates poured 
into the auditorium to hear the controversial author's speech, titled 
"Israel and Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History." The 
event was sponsored by a coalition of student groups led by the Muslim 
Students Association.

Finkelstein criticized Israel's human rights record and concluded that 
"regardless of intent, Israel is in effect guilty of state terrorism," 
exacting applause from sections of the auditorium. Finkelstein further 
alleged that the "only difference between Israel terrorism and Hamas 
terrorism is that Israeli terrorism is three times as lethal."

The speech marked a period of rising tensions on campus, which has become 
manifest through the proliferation of fliers and the publication of 
conflicting student opinions in Spectator.

According to MSA president emeritus and event coordinator Sakib Khan, SEAS 
'07, the group wanted "to create honest open dialogue on the 
Israel-Palestine issue," especially in the wake of last year's controversy 
concerning the Middle East and Asian languages and cultures department.

Allegations of anti-Israel intimidation of students in the MEALAC 
department emerged in October 2004, leading to the creation of an ad hoc 
committee to investigate the claims and months of mounted tensions and 
taboos surrounding discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus.

While discussing tactics employed by fabricators of controversy—such as 
discouraging comparison of Israel's treatment of Palestinians with South 
African apartheid—Finkelstein criticized University President Lee C. 
Bollinger's statements in response to a 2002 faculty petition calling 
for  the University's divestment from firms dealings with the Israeli 

"As president of Columbia ... I want to state clearly that I will not lend 
any support to this proposal. The petition alleges human rights abuses and 
compares Israel to South Africa at the time of apartheid, an analogy I 
believe is both grotesque and offensive," Bollinger wrote.

In response to Bollinger's remarks, Finkelstein declared, "I think it's a 
sorry truth when the president of... [Columbia] subordinates the pursuit of 
truth to the pursuit of fundraising."

Additionally, Finkelstein labeled Bollinger's denunciation of the apartheid 
analogy "intellectual terrorism."

Finkelstein also voiced his belief that claims about a "new anti-Semitism" 
are little more than attempts to silence criticism of Israel.

He also criticized the scholarship of his academic rival Havard Law School 
professor Alan Dershowitz, alleging that Dershowitz plagiarized large 
portions of his book The Case for Israel from Joan Peters' 1984 work From 
Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over 
Palestine.  Earlier in the evening, Finkelstein alleged that as a Princeton 
graduate student writing his doctoral thesis, he had thoroughly examined 
Peters' footnotes and discovered she forged statistics to support her 

Audience reaction to the address was mixed. Loudly cheered in some parts of 
the crowd, Finkelstein was met only by silence and shaking heads in other 
sections. Members of student groups such as LionPac and Pro-Israel 
Progressives wore signs into the auditorium reading, "Norman Finkelstein, 
your hate is not welcome on our campus." Students also held up denunciatory 
signs periodically throughout the speech, despite repeated written warnings 
in the days before the event that signs would not be allowed.

Finkelstein is best known for his writings about the Israeli-Palestinian 
conflict and what he alleges is the exploitation of the Holocaust by 
certain European groups. In 2000, he published The Holocaust Industry, in 
which he refers to efforts by Jewish elites to obtain financial reparations 
for the Holocaust in Europe as an "outright extortion racket." Finkelstein 
is the son of two Holocaust survivors.



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