Saturday, January 5, 2008

Norman Finkelstein in The Netherlands

Are American Jews Beginning to Distance Themselves from Israel?


"On the 5th and 6th of December Norman Finkelstein toured the Netherlands and gave three speeches. I attended all of them, and in the meanwhile had the opportunity to ask Finkelstein some questions. What follows is a summary of his speeches and the interview.

The topic of his first speech, in Amsterdam, was 'The coming break-up of American Zionism.'

In a surprisingly optimistic lecture he talked about the demise of the Israel-lobby, that began after the first Intifada. Ever since it has become more and more difficult to reconcile liberal values with Israel and American Jewry is forced to choose. Historians, human-rights organizations and the International Court of Justice have all rendered an overwhelmingly negative verdict on Israel's record. Now that Israel's record has caught up with it, American Jewry is slowly choosing to distance itself from Israel......

The situation in Gaza, in the meanwhile, is turning ever more horrible. Richard Falk warned of a Palestinian Holocaust, and Ilan Pappe said a genocide was taking place.

Finkelstein: "Everything doesn't have to be a Nazi Holocaust or genocide for it to be awful. There are conditions short of genocide which are also terrible. I think the Palestinians rations are being cruelly reduced to get them to repudiate Hamas. Is it the Holocaust, is it a genocide? No in my opinion it's not. Is it horrible? Yeah, I think it's horrible. I think it's better to avoid the labels and just stick to the facts. This is what's happening. This is what the human rights organizations are reporting, this is what the UN organizations are reporting. Is this right, is it just, is it collective punishment, is it terrorism, i.e., the targeting of civilians to achieve a political aim? People are intelligent enough to draw the right conclusions on their own."......

And how about the argument that with a two-state solution the Palestinians will only get 22 % of their homeland, would that just be a pragmatic question, saying, yeah but it's better than what we have now?

"Yes, I think 22 is better than zero. If it is something viable there. If it's just going to be, what they used to call Oslo, "a leopard-skin" , these patches of Palestinian territory surrounded by Israeli settlements, then it is ridiculous. I hate it when these things are personalized with me, I have no moral authority whatsoever. It has nothing to do with me. This is the international consensus. It is built on the two-state settlement. The reports of the human rights organizations, the votes in the United Nations, the World Court advisory opinion are all premised on Israel being an occupying power and the two-state settlement being the desirable resolution of the conflict. You think you can undo that consensus? You think you can reverse it? You can create one state in the face of it? I don't see from where the power to do that comes. I haven't seen the supporters of the Palestinians able to force Israel to withdraw one inch. And now you want to defy the whole international community? Fine, show me how you're going to do it, apart from in somebody's living room.""

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