The Finkelstein Debate

Norman Finkelstein has been the subject of severe criticism by people such as Alan Dershowitz who claim the DePaul professor is anti-semitic. Finkelstein has criticized Israel policies toward Palestinians and charged they violate human rights. As a result, the son of Holocaust survivors stands accused of fostering anti-semitism and castigating Israel in unfair and anti-intellectual ways.

In recent months, Jimmy Carter has been attacked for his anti-semitism because he disagrees with Israel policies toward Palestinians. I don’t always agree with Carter, and believe he underestimates the impact of failed Palestinian leadership upon the peace process, but how can he be called anti-semitic? There is a difference between hating Jews and disagreeing with Israel policies. Anti-semitism is based on the assumption Jewish people are racially different and have engaged in secret policies aimed at gaining control over societies. Anti-semitism is predicated on the assumption Jews differ morally from other peoples. Neither Finkelstein or Carter have any such thoughts, they simply disagree with Israeli policies.

Part of the failure to confront Bush’s failed policies is fear by some critics they will be labeled anti-Jewish because Bush has intertwined his policies with the notion they are integral to the survival of Israel. All Bush has done is threaten the survival of Israel. Who in their right mind would say Israel today is better off than it was in 2003?

I suspect I will be charged with being anti-semitic because these comments contain a link to the Tehran Times which printed an interesting defense of Finkelstein. I read newspapers and magazines from throughout the world and keep my mind open for interesting comments regardless of their origin. I have argued for years that Israel must evacuate the West Bank, and work with Palestinian organizations, even those which openly express hatred of Jews. The issue is not whether or not a group hates Israel, but can conditions be created which compel that group to work peacefully with Israel? Protestant and Catholic Irish people hated one another for hundreds of years and engaged in violence. Today, they are attempting to create conditions for a peaceful Ireland. Surely, a similar process can be set in motion in the Middle East. One way to get this idea moving is ceasing to attack people as anti-semitic because they disagree with Israel policies. Unfortunately, there is a great deal to dislike, just as there is with Palestinian policies.