Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Norman Finkelstein--Kookball Extraordinaire

I had heard only faint rumblings about a professor denied tenure at DePaul last summer/fall. I paid little attention and hadn't wittingly ever heard of Norman Finkelstein until his name came up on Little Green Footballs a couple of months back. (I'm not going to do the search just now to find the link.) Couldn't quite figure the whole thing out. LGF and others call him a Holocaust denier, which could be true for all I know, but maybe he's a "minimizer" instead, given that apparently his mother was a Holocaust survivor. "Minimizers," I gather, come in various shapes and forms, though they are odious enough.

I couldn't quite figure out exactly why he was denied tenure from an academic point of view. I mean, consider all the people who do have tenure. How did they find a way to deny this guy? On the other hand, he's apparently a sort of sycophantic attack-dog for his dear friend Noam Chomsky, which is probably enough to lower the quality of anyone's academic work. And no, I don't mean in linguistics.

As it happens, I have a friend who is on staff at DePaul who tells me that the word on the staff side is that you were lucky if you never had to deal with Norm, because he's a jerk. I put a lot of weight on this, by the way. In my opinion, staff at a large university pretty much keep the place running, sometimes nearly single-handed, and they probably deserve to get paid a lot more than they do get paid. If the staff think a faculty member is a jerk, odds are high that he is a jerk.

I'm not planning to run out and read Finkelstein's infamous Holocaust book, so I basically just went on not knowing very much about the guy but assuming he was bad news in general terms. Until the other day.

Watch this video clip only if you have a strong stomach. Because now I know in more detail that Norman Finkelstein is a scary and completely, ideologically crazy person.

In case you don't want to put your stomach to the test, here's a brief version. The linked video is an interview Finkelstein gave to Lebanese TV on a recent visit. In it he lauds Hezbollah to the skies and pours scorn upon those Lebanese people, including the female interviewer talking to him, who don't support Hezbollah. He calls Lebanese Hezbollah opponents "slaves"--to Israel and the U.S., of course. He calls the raining of rockets upon northern Israel in the summer of 2006 a mere "pretext" for Israel to attack. Because they just want the Lebanese people to be their slaves, apparently out of sheer sadism. George W. Bush, he says, "destroyed your entire country" that summer. (Really? The whole country? And Bush did that?) Norm is infuriated that Bush was received in Lebanon recently on a visit at all. He says that the French resistance against the Nazis in WWII (all of them?) were Communists and were harsh and brutal, but that we admire them--and he clearly thinks we should admire them--because they resisted the enslavement of their country by the Nazis. Hezbollah, he says, is like that. He says that war against Israel is the only way for Lebanon not to be slaves. (Guess that means more rockets fired on northern Israel then. They'd better get cracking. This guy must just love Hamas in Gaza.) Oh, and perhaps the wildest line: He says he wishes there were some other way than war and that probably Hitler, too, would have preferred if "his goals" could have been accomplished in some way other than by war.

A nut. A complete and bizarro nut.

So now I know all I need to know about Norman Finkelstein.

HT Israel Matzav


Yaacov said...

When his book about the "Holocaust Industry" came out in Germany, a few years back, it was quite a bestseller. It seems there's a market for kooks of his ilk.

Lydia McGrew said...

Too true. So is my impression about right, and he's one of these who says, "The Holocaust really wasn't as big as we're taught. 6 million is too high, etc."?

Sarah Geis said...

That is just sick on so many levels. He was on complete autopilot during that interview, too.

LanceThruster said...

You wear your ignorance like a badge of honor. Dr. Finkelstein is a truth-teller and it probably helps you maintain ego protection to decline to do your own research in depth.

Regardless of your alleged associate characterizing him as a "jerk", his students thought very highly of him and fought to keep him as part of the DePaul faculty. DePaul themsleves stated that he is a fine scholar.

Zionists do not like it when anybody takes the side of someone fighting against Israeli thuggery. Zionism requires the official narrative that the theft of Palestinian land is justified because people other than the Palestinians murdered and brutalized Jews in Europe.

He knows quite intimately the horrors of the Holocaust as he lost scores of family members. That he would speak out against Holocaust hucksterism and Israeli abuses of the residents of the region is a testament to his character. More and more people are seeing that the reporting of the Middle East conflict is almost entirely one-sided.

One other thing, Holocaust "revisionism" is done all the time for the sake of historical accuracy. The plaque at Auschwitz was changed to reflect the revised number of victims yet the 6 million number must remain sacrosanct, accurate or not. Dr. Finkelstein acknowledges that the number of victims was horrific, but as a scholar is dedicated to the truth.

Lydia McGrew said...

Sarah, I suppose the most fair thing I can sayis that he talked in that funny way to give time for his statements to be translated into Arabic. But, yes, the content of what he said is sick on so many levels.

Lance Thruster, this is my personal blog, and on it I have a lower tolerance for dissent (especially rude dissent) than I do on the group blog I belong to, where I'm actually the one arguing against deletions and bannings most of the time. So I'm not going to let any discussion with you go on for a very long time: But please note that I base my present evaluation of Finkelstein most strongly on his own words in that disgusting pro-Hezbollah clip, _not_ on what he has said or hasn't said about the Holocaust. I "wear my ignorance" as a sign that, since I haven't looked into what he's actually said on that topic, I kept my opinion on that relatively reserved. But on the video, he's condemned out of his own mouth.

LanceThruster said...

Fair enough, Lydia. It should be noted that Hezbollah's actions were defensive (which is why they prevailed) and that it was Israel's incursion into Lebanon that prompted the hostilities.

You would do well to check out some of the information on Dr. Finkelstein's web site itself ( ).

Regarding your concern with rudeness, how would you respond when one of your friends or acquaintances was attacked with ad hominem smears (i.e. kookball extraordinaire)? I'm sure if you attempted it, you could find many inflamatory and hate-filled statements by Zionists that are beyond the pale, and as such could be considered as condoned by "moderate" Zionists by their lack of condemnation.

While I do not always agree with every position taken by Dr. Finkelstein, I know him to be a man of character and integrity that does not pull any punches when standing up for those who defend themselves against barbarous aggression.

The misrepresentations of his positions and those of other pro-Palestinian activists are relentless as pro-Zionists and their proxies control the discussion. Possibly their biggest mistake was working to deny Dr. Finkelstein tenure, as he has been quite active now in regards to deconstructing the issues involved in Middle East. Yes it is your blog, but it would not say much about the courage of your convictions if all you wanted to hear were voices in agreement.

Thank you for allowing me my say. I was once undeniably pro-Israel, but from researching the issue post 9/11 (I wanted to see what factors were involved in the conflict), I discovered the story to be extremely biased; with almost every bit of coverage and emphasis based on only one side's perspective.

Regardless of your ultimate conclusions on the issue, it still behooves you to approach the conflict in a fair and open manner. As an atheist, I reject Islam along with every else's mythology (from my perspective of course), but that does not mean that I must ignore those areas where Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims are not given a fair shake. That is the essence of humanist universalism; that all people are equally desrving of justice.

Lydia McGrew said...

Mrs. Zionist, that's me. I've no problem with the label.

Hezbollah's actions most certainly were not defensive. That, though, is obviously how Finkelstein looks at it. Nor are those of Hamas.

Actually, Lance, I don't usually bother to go around to other people's blogs defending my friends, unles they ask me to. I'm sure that on many subjects my friends and even I--sometimes by description, sometimes by name--are getting bashed in far nastier terms than those I've used for Finkelstein. In fact, somebody just sent me a link to one of those the other day. You could spend your whole life doing that if you once get started.

LanceThruster said...

I don't think I labeled *you* a Zionist, I just noted the type of (non)argument they put forth. I only came across your blog because I have Dr. Finkelstein's name on "Google Alert." Time and again I find that sites that examine his positions fairly have credibility and those that don't...don't.

I am less interested in what defense you do or do not provide for friends, than in having an opportunity to respond to your post. Look up the definition of terrorism/terrorist and it can be seen that Israel and the US use the very tactics of the people they condemn. Asymetrical warfare is such that the side at the disadvantage in weaponry uses whatever tactics are at their disposal. Israel is at a numerical disadvantage and must therefore operate in the manner of a colonial power.

At some point they will need to get more brutal on an individual scale, or impliment their "Samason Option" (i.e. total destruction via WMD's - nuclear, chemical, biological). The most likely candidate will be a genetic bug bomb as they have been quite involved in gene mapping. This will be their solution by making the problem literally "go away."

Unless you respond with something of a little more substance, I'll not darken your doorstep any further as you appear to seek nothing more than preaching to the choir.

Lydia McGrew said...

That's okay, Lance. I was saying it would *be okay* with me if you wanted to label me a Zionist.

See, I have absolutely no sympathy with the anti-Israel side. Zero. None.

I think that people are crazy who think that Israel is going to start wiping out whole people's using biological weapons. To say such a thing is to ignore mountains of evidence. If anything Israel does not do enough to defend itself and its citizens--such as those in Sderot. The same is true--that to say it one must ignore mountains of evidence--of saying that the terrorist organization Hezbollah is acting in self-defense.

I'm quite familiar with anti-Israel rhetoric. I think people like yourself and Finkelstein are irrational, and irrational in a particular way having to do with the ability to recognize morally relevant facts--such as the actual behavior of terrorists and of those who are raining down rockets on Israeli cities even now.

I realize that may not count as a response of substance. I don't particularly intend it to. Anti-Israel zealots are not the sort of people one can reason with, in my opinion. If you prefer not to darken the door again, that's just fine.

Preaching to the choir, particularly on one's own blog, is actually rather fun. I prefer to think of it as "chatting" and "informing," though. After all, some of my readers might not have seen that video clip. So now they know more about Finkelstein than they did before, which might prove useful to them if they should, for example, encounter one of his supporters.

William Luse said...

Sing it, sister.

a member of the choir.

LanceThruster said...

You even use the memes of the official narrative in that a pro-justice or pro-Palestinian/Arab/Lebanese position is rendered as "anti-Israel."

( )

Many Israelis themselves take the position that such extreme brutality and aggression bu their government is most definitely not "pro-Israel" and could indeed lead to their eventual downfall.

Lydia said: "I think that people are crazy who think that Israel is going to start wiping out whole people's using biological weapons. To say such a thing is to ignore mountains of evidence."

I reiterate that you were your ignorance like a badge of honor. Notice the references from Israeli sources of the thing you declare is just not possible. Enjoy your blinders. I pity those you would home school with such cluelessness.

(from: )

[begin excerpt]

Israel’s Anti-Civilian Toxins

That 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from over 400
towns and villages in 1948 is now well documented. Less
well known is how Zionists made sure these Palestinians
never returned home: they poisoned their wells with typhus
and dysentery bacteria.

Bacteriological agents also were used in the assault
on the coastal town of Acre. Because of its natural defenses,
the Zionist forces could not overrun Acre as easily
as they did other villages. So they put bacteria into a
spring that fed the town. The spring, called Capri, ran from
the north near a Jewish farming collective. Once the people
of Acre began to get sick, Jewish forces occupied the

This worked so well in Acre that the Zionists sent a
Haganah division dressed as Arabs into Gaza, where
Egyptian forces were positioned. The Egyptians, however,
caught them in the act of putting two cans of bacteria, typhus
and dysentery, into the civilian water supply. One of
the captured saboteurs was quoted as saying, “In war,
there is no sentiment.”

How do we know all this? From the Hebrew press. In
an article published 13 August 1993 in the Israeli daily Hadashot,
writer Sarah Laybobis-Dar interviewed a number
of Israelis who knew of the use of bacteriological weapons
in 1948. One of those interviewed, Uri Mileshtin, an official
historian for the Israeli Defense Forces, said that bacteria
was used to poison the wells of every village emptied of its
Arab inhabitants. According to Mileshtin, it was former Israeli
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan who gave the order
in 1948 to remove Arabs from their villages, bulldoze their
homes, and render their water wells unusable with typhus
and dysentery bacteria.

We also know of this anti-civilian warfare from a former
Zionist, Naeim Giladi. Writing in the April-May 1998
issue of The Link, Giladi tells of a conversation he had in
the early 1950s with a technician with Mekorot, the Israeli
Water Authority. The technician was testing a well near a
construction site where Giladi was working. Giladi asked
him what he was doing. Thinking Giladi had fought in
1948, the technician replied: “Don’t you remember? We
used bacteria in many places. Every village we occupied
we put bacteria in the wells. Now we keep testing them to
keep track of when it is safe to use them again.”

The subject of Israel’s use of poison gained worldwide
headlines in November 1999, when Suha Arafat, wife of
Yassir Arafat, made the accusation at the opening of a
U.S.-sponsored health project for Palestinian women in
Ramallah, at which First Lady Hillary Clinton was present.
At one point Mrs. Arafat said: “Our people have been submitted
to the daily and intensive use of poisonous gas by
the Israeli forces which has led to an increase in cancer
cases among women and children.”

The U.S. media denounced Mrs. Clinton for not immediately
registering her dissent to what some columnists
called a blood libel against the Jewish people. Few, if any,
examined the allegations.

[end excerpt]

You and your "choir" are very ignorant indeed.