Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage to Speak the Truth When No One Else is Out There" --

-- World-Renowned Holocaust, Israel Scholars Defend DePaul Professor Norman Finkelstein as He Fights for Tenure

Democracy Now
With Amy Goodman

"The battle over political science professor Norman Finkelstein to receive tenure at DePaul University is heating up. Finkelstein - one of the country’s foremost critics of Israeli policy - has taught at DePaul for the past six years. Finkelstein’s two main topics of focus over his career have been the Holocaust and Israeli policy. We speak to two world-renowned scholars in these fields: Raul Hilberg, considered the founder of Holocaust studies, and Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford University and an expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Shlaim calls Finkelstein a “very impressive, learned and careful scholar”, while Hilberg praises Finkelstein’s “acuity of vision and analytical power.” Hilberg says: "It takes an enormous amount of courage to speak the truth when no one else is out there to support him."..........

AVI SHLAIM: I am. I was born in Baghdad. I grew up in Israel. I served in IDF. And for the last forty years, I have lived in Britain, and I teach at Oxford. My academic discipline is international relations, and I am a specialist in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

And I think that there is no -- that we must be very careful to separate questions of anti-Semitism from critique of Israel. I am critical of Israel as a scholar, and anti-Semitism just doesn't come into it. My view is that the blind supporters of Israel -- and there are many of them in America, in particular -- use the charge of anti-Semitism to try and silence legitimate criticism of Israeli practices. I regard this as moral blackmail. Israel has no immunity to criticism, moral immunity to criticism, because of the Holocaust. Israel is a sovereign nation-state, and it should be judged by the same standards as any other state. And Norman Finkelstein is a very serious critic and a very well-informed critic and hard-hitting critic of Israeli practices in the occupation and dispossession of the Palestinians.

His last book, Beyond Chutzpah, is based on an amazing amount of research. He seems to have read everything. He has gone through the reports of Israeli groups, of human rights groups, Human Rights Watch and Peace Now and B’Tselem, all of the reports of Amnesty International. And he deploys all this evidence from Israeli and other sources in order to sustain his critique of Israeli practices, Israeli violations of human rights of the Palestinians, Israeli house demolitions, the targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants, the cutting down of trees, the building of the wall -- the security barrier on the West Bank, which is illegal -- the restrictions imposed on the Palestinians in the West Bank, and so on and so forth. I find his critique extremely detailed, well-documented and accurate......."

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