BDS interview fallout: Finkelstein ‘showed his own fear of the paradigm shift in discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
on 96 Comments

Here are three smart reactions to the Norman Finkelstein BDS interview. The first is from Maath Musleh, a Palestinian student in London, the second is former CPT volunteer Sean O’Neill writing for +972 and last is David Samel from the Mondo comment section.

There have actually been so many interesting responses to the piece I should really post more than these three. If you’ve read others please post them below in the comments section, especially if you’ve seen something supporting Finkelstein’s position. I know there was a heated discussion in our comment section, and on Twitter, but haven’t seen a piece picking up his argument. 

First is Maath Musleh writing on the palestineyouthvoice blog:

In a lecture in University of London last year, he gave a lecture advocating for a 2-states solution, claiming it has a Palestinian consensus. I have no clue how did he decide that. Nonetheless, in the Q & A I asked him a clear question: since there is no consensus on a 2-state solution or a 1 state solution, isn’t it just fair to advocate for what holds a consensus; namely, the right of return? He didn’t answer my question, and went on talking about a 1state and 2states solutions. He has marginalized the right of return in his lecture.

In his interview in February 9, Mr. Finkelstein have continued marginalizing the right of return. He said: “If you are serious about building a mass movement, you cannot go beyond what the public is ready to accept.” Which public does he mean? The Palestinian public? Well we are not ready to accept a solution that undermines our rights. The international community? well they accepted the massacre in Gaza, on flotilla, hundreds of thousands of arrests, oppression, dozens of massacres in the past 64 years. Not doing anything about it is accepting it. Also, they are not part of the conflict. They do not get a vote in this. It does not affect every aspect of their lives. It’s our dreams, hopes, lives on stake here.  Or is it the Israeli public? The Israeli public that accepted Gaza massacre, dozens of massacre in the past years, displacement of Palestinians, building of settlements, and many more oppression.

Mr. Finkelstein criticized BDS movement of being picky about the law. He says that the law is clear. “It is also correct that Israel is a state,” he said. “If you want to use the law as a weapon to reach the public opinion you cannot be selective about the law.” UN Resolution 273 (III) admission of Israel to membership in the United Nations recalls “its resolutions of 29 November 1947 and 11 December 1948” as the basis of accepting Israel as a state. The membership of the State of Israel in the UN is dependent on their respect to resolution 194 and the right of return. UN Resolution 194 (III) article 11 states that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes…should be permitted to do so”. This is also part of the law that you wish to be selective about. He criticizes the BDS movement of being selective about the law for calling for the implementation of a UN resolution! Unfortunately, he joined the new trend of using the expression of “a just resolution for the refugee question based on resolution 194″. This is a deceiving expression. The just resolution is to implement resolution 194. There is already an international consensus, expressed in resolution 194, on how should the refugee question be solved.

From O’Neill’s post “In flinching move, Finkelstein slams boycott movement“:

I recently witnessed BDS’s growing clout at a meeting I attended with a woman working with an Israeli artist helping set up a series of salons in New York to explore and question the Birthright Israel programs, and the idea of a “birthright” in general. The project sounds very interesting, but the woman was visibly frustrated at their inability to find people willing to work with them in the city. They are partially funded by the Israeli Consulate, and as a result have had the proverbial door shut on them by activists, artists, and professors, Arab and Jew alike. This would have been incomprehensible five years ago, when I first heard of the BDS movement at the annual Bil’in conference and it was, at that point, divisive even among conference attendees.

Here is where things stand now. There is a paradigm shift in the works in how the Israel/Palestine conflict is understood and approached. There is an increasing consensus among Israel’s critics to see the issue as one of civil rights, rather than a conflict between two nations. Indeed, some BDS activists harbor a desire to see the end of the Jewish state, and others believe this is the inevitable outcome of a civil rights movement, whether they desire it or not. But many others, I would argue most Palestinians among them, simply don’t care about this abstract One State v. Two State argument. They just don’t think civil rights – indeed human rights – can be trumped by someone’s nationalist claims.

Finkelstein’s sudden hostility to the solidarity movement is a symptom of this paradigm shift. It is easy to rail against Israel when the existence of a Jewish nation-state seems guaranteed in perpetuity. But that guarantee seems to have eroded a bit. For some this will be scary. But then change always is. It was scary in South Africa. It was scary in the Jim Crow American South. For others it is liberating, and you can count among these an increasing number of Israelis who see coexistence – real coexistence, not the tenuous kind that reigns in Jaffa, among other places – as a more attractive guarantee to their security than the ethnocratic state. As the ground continues to shift, some of those who are afraid will flinch, and retreat to safer, more moderate arguments. Finkelstein flinched.

And here’s Samel:

What a terribly disappointing interview. While Finkelstein deserves enormous respect for the courageous things he has done very well, he is most unimpressive here. Several points, in no particular order (other than disorganized rambling):

1) Finkelstein, while accusing BDS proponents of being disingenuous in refusing to acknowledge their ultimate aim is to destroy Israel, is clearly being disingenuous himself. He talks about Israel’s right to exist as a state, and the need for Palestinians to recognize same, but sidesteps the critical issue of Israel as a Jewish State. There surely is no international legal consensus on recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. Yet Israel as a Jewish State is precisely what Finkelstein is defending. Either Finkelstein refuses to recognize that there is an inherent contradiction between a Jewish State and a state of equal rights, or he is stating his preference for a Jewish State over the principle of equality. Neither of these positions is defensible, and he doesn’t choose one and defend it.

2) NF does not talk about the feasibility of the two-state solution. I suppose he might do so elsewhere. I believe his prescription for emptying enough of the settlements in order to make Palestine a geographically viable state is giving settlers a deadline to return within the green line after which they will not be protected by IDF. That’s Chomsky’s solution anyway, and it makes no sense to me. Of the 6 or 7 hundred thousand settlers, even if there are genuinely fair land swaps, there will be tens of thousands of well-armed fanatical settlers who will refuse to cede what God has promised the Jewish people. They will not only refuse to budge but refuse to accept the jurisdiction of a Palestinian government over them. It seems to me that if these settlers are deemed citizens of Palestine, armed conflict between that government and these fanatics would be inevitable, and of course Israel could not sit on the sidelines. Israel’s illegal settlement of hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens has made the reality of Palestine impossible.

Then there is Israel’s dependence on West Bank water. It will surely insist on keeping access to what should be a Palestinian resource. Even the notion of mutually agreed upon swaps of land has the fatal flaw of requiring Israel’s agreement. All Israel has to do is refuse reasonable plans, propose unreasonable ones, blame Palestinians for refusing these unreasonable plans, and the occupation continues for many more years. There is a reason that the two-state solution, so overwhelmingly backed by the “international consensus,” not only has not been achieved despite this formidable backing, but seems farther away than ever. Israel has unilaterally taken steps to make it more and more difficult, and have probably made it impossible.

3) Finkelstein sounds curiously like his nemesis Dershowitz when he claims that misplaced concern for discrimination against Israel’s minority citizens would raise troubling questions about minorities in other countries, such as India. Let’s put aside the difference that the Indian Government does not, overtly at least, enforce, favor, or sanction the caste system, while the Israeli Government surely grants special rights and privileges to its Jewish citizens. If Finkelstein is so concerned with India’s downtrodden, why doesn’t he take up their cause rather than defending Israel’s blatant ethno-religious preferences that he finds more tolerable than India’s. If he realizes that this Dershowitzian “what about other countries” argument is bullshit, but fears that it will resonate in the larger community, why not oppose the tide and painstakingly try to convince people otherwise? For that matter, if he’s worried about floating ideas that won’t fly, thereby leaving oneself open to counter-attack, why does he repeatedly compare Israel to Nazis? Does he think that will get traction?

4) Finkelstein buys into the “destroy” Israel language, actually using that word several times. One-staters want a peaceful transformation of Israel from a country that favors one ethno-religious group to one that guarantees full equality for all. The use of words like “destruction,” with the implication of violence and killing, to describe this process is dishonest. As many others have pointed out, South Africa was not “destroyed” when apartheid was abandoned. Yes indeed, Israel might cease to exist as a Jewish State that offers some citizens superior rights based on ethnic privilege. Not only that, Israel offers these privileges to Diaspora Jews like Finkelstein and myself. Isn’t it unseemly for him to defend that system, even if he would never avail himself of the undeserved opportunity to supplant Palestinians on their home turf? Opposition to this system cannot fairly be categorized as “destruction.”

5) Finkesltein revels in the near-unanimous “two state consensus”, but that consensus was achieved decades ago, and the reality not only hasn’t been achieved, but is further away than ever. BDS proponents are trying something different. Even if he thinks their efforts are not likely to be fruitful, and that they are better spent in other pursuits, why does he disparage them as a cult? They are trying a similar tactic to one that was at least partially responsible for the end of apartheid. Finkelstein’s comparison of BDS to his own youthful flirtation with Maoism isn’t simply insulting, it’s just plain stupid.

6) Finkelstein worries that the international community simply will not accept the end of Israel, but refuses to talk about the end of Israel as a Jewish State. But if full equality of all citizens inconsistent with the Jewish State, isn’t that a problem with the concept of a state defined by an ethno-religious privilege, rather than a problem with the concept of equality? Does he really think the world will not be receptive to a focus on equality that almost all countries at least subscribe to, even if some might be less than genuine? Does he really want to label those who lobby for equality a cult? The cult of equality? What’s next? The cult of freedom, justice and fairness?

7) Finkelstein’s analogy of having to accept red lights as well as green lights is strained. There is no contradiction in demanding what Palestinians are entitled to as a matter of international law, and demanding what they are entitled to under moral and ethical precepts. There is no consensus of international law recognizing the Jewish nature of Israel, and advocating for truly equal citizenship violates no legal principles, even if equality would spell the end of the Jewish State as we know it. I’m not certain, but I doubt if there was any international consensus on the legality of apartheid, especially in the early years. Did that make opposition to apartheid somehow a flaunting of principles of international law? Of course not. Even if opposition to apartheid was based totally on moral rather than legal considerations, it was principled and worthy of respect.

8) Assuming Finkelstein is correct that BDS proponents are overly optimistic about their achievements, is that really such a big deal? He should advise them to tone down unrealistic expectations, but instead he’s throwing out the baby with the bath water.

9) The situation has changed drastically since Norman started advocating for the two-state solution. It has changed drastically over the past 15-20 years. Shouldn’t Israel face consequences for refusing to adopt the international consensus, and in fact making it more difficult to the point of impossibility to obtain?

10) I can completely understand Finkelstein’s greater concern for the 4 million Palestinians living under a foreign military dictatorship than for the 1.4 million or so citizens who are “merely” discriminated against in ways we in the US would find intolerable, but he should ask himself whether demands for equality under the law regardless of ethno-religious heritage can ever be considered extreme, or quixotic, or counterproductive. Why should it be so hard to convince people that discrimination against citizens based on ethnicity is morally indefensible in the 21st century. He doesn’t even try to demonstrate that concern for simple equality among citizens somehow retards progress toward ending the occupation and the more dire circumstances faced by more people. Finally, I thought Norman treated this earnest interviewer with arrogance. Frank asked excellent questions, and if anything, can only be faulted for not being combative enough. Finkelstein dismissed him with the obnoxious attitude that he was once young and foolish too, but has now grown up. Yuck.

Update: Norman Finkelstein’s response to David Samel’s questions have been taken down because we did not have permission to publish them. The editors sincerely apologize for the mistake.

96 Responses

  1. Cliff
    February 16, 2012, 11:35 am

    David’s rebuttal was excellent. Glad it got recognized.

  2. yourstruly
    February 16, 2012, 11:36 am

    I see a two-pronged struggle (BDS + severance of the Israel-U.S. special relationship) leading to the Zionist entity’s abandonment of the ethnic state concept, with its agreeing, instead, to sit down with Palestinian leaders for the purpose of creating a society based on equality with liberty and justice for all. Better yet, this is the year!

    • seafoid
      February 16, 2012, 4:12 pm

      It’s going to go all the way to Masada. YESHA is the glue that holds Israeli society together. The Haredim and the settlers cost way too much but as long as the average Israeli schmuck is worried about the world outside they make out like bandits. Take away YESHA and the Haredim will have to pay for their housing. It is like the US pre Lehman Bros. There is a big correction coming. Income does not match outgo and the balance sheet has to be brought back to equilibrium.

      When it is all over and in bits Israelis will look back on Ben Gurion’s 4 colossal mistakes :

      1 Granting the Haredim exemption from working
      2 Not doing a deal with the Palestinian refugees
      3 Saying it doesn’t matter what the goys think
      4. Choosing Palestine over Argentina

  3. pabelmont
    February 16, 2012, 11:49 am

    My attempt to decode NF’s views — possibly correct: he urges BDS to give up its call for these: “return of 1948 exiles” and “full democracy within Israel”. WHY? It appears that he worries that [1] if lots of exiles return to (e.g., pre-1967) Israel AND there is full democracy, then the existing Palestinians and the returning exiles can all VOTE and will take the place over politically, destroying Israel as a Jewish-run place, and [2] lots of people (world opinion? Israeli opinion? USA’s evangelical communities?) wants to preserve Israel as a Jewish State and would view this as DESTROYING ISRAEL.

    This is not my view. But if you believe that there is a widespread “public” (you know, someone other than AIPAC and its minions) supporting Israel as a Jewish State and also and necessarily supporting continued ethnic cleansing (exclusion of the 1948 exiles), then I guess you would agree with NF! (This is a question of FACT, and he nowhere says where he gets his “facts” from.)

    I think NF (whom I pretty much revere on other grounds!) is wrong on this point. South Africa was not destroyed by democritization and nor was white economic privilege, altho white economic privilege was reduced and white political power much reduced. Anti-Apartheid was right then adn BDS is right today.

    I myself believe that Israel should be made/forced to accept the demography which WOULD HAVE PREVAILED had there been no exile in 1948, taking careful note that Balfour and the Mandate and UNGA-181 all spoke of protecting Palestinian Arab (and Jewish) rights, and cannot any of them be read as legitimating massive exile.

    Thus I believe that the 750,000 Palestinian exiles and their progeny should be readmitted to pre-1967 Israeli territory (actually, to the territory of their former homes, because there might be a territorial swap which transferred some of the latter to the new Palestine in the event of 2SS).

    Israel has had ample opportunity to secure massive Jewish (and also “Jewish”) immigration to Israel and to have high birth rates. If it has not filled the territory up with sufficient people to outnumber others who have a right to live there, then by now it is too late to demand more time (or to demand the non-return of the exiles).

  4. bindup
    February 16, 2012, 12:34 pm

    These responses pretty much dispose of NF’s arguments against BDS, and without the arrogant impatience (noted by Samel) with which he treated his interviewer.

    “Picking up his argument” would be pretty tough, I think, for the simple reason that it’s indefensible. Maybe we should be asking instead why Finkelstein proposed it in the first place, and with the anger (and yes, fear) that seems so evident.

    My guess is that as demands for universal rights inevitably lead to a re- examination of the very idea of ethnocracy, we’re going to be forced to reexamine what really makes us safe, and that’s a big challenge. The idea that a racist state especially designed to privilege the victims of racism is any sort of “existential” protection for those victims is monstrous. But are we really prepared to argue that justice is our surest shield? I think we have to be. But it’s a tough sell to people who have suffered so much in a world where the powerful deny their crimes (and tend to repeat them) as a matter of course.

  5. Les
    February 16, 2012, 12:43 pm

    One state versus two state solution is a question for Palestinians to debate and decide. Outsiders may join in the debate and discussion but this remains an issue for Palestinians to decide. Supporters of Palestinian rights don’t always keep that in mind which does nothing to keep the focus on the ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing. If anything, the one state – two state debate distracts us from that focus, possibly intentionally.

    • anonymouscomments
      February 16, 2012, 8:59 pm

      For the Palestinians to decide? They are fairly split on this, but if anyone showed me a practical path by which we could compel the nuclear armed, racist, and recognized state of Israel to EVER accept a just one state, then maybe I’d think it was feasible.

      As impossible as the long envisioned 2 state solution seems, I find arriving at the single state much more difficult, if not impossible given realpolitik (in my lifetime). And if we do end up with a single state, I’d bet money that it looks like WW2 Germany and involves a repeat of 1948. Not my idea of a single state, but many settlers and Lieberman might be very fond of this calamity.

  6. Boycott Israel on Campus
    February 16, 2012, 1:01 pm

    Where is this BDS “movement”?

    Even at Penn, nobody is actually calling for any kind of BDS resolution.

  7. teta mother me
    February 16, 2012, 1:39 pm

    Netanyahu wants to be the hero who claims Jerusalem as the ‘capitol’ of the Jewish people from all over the world.

    Jerusalem is 48 square miles.

    The Vatican is the ‘capitol’ of worldwide Catholicism.
    The Vatican is about 110 acres.

    So how about this: Give Jerusalem to the Jews as their capitol, WITH serious reparations to Palestinians who were dispossessed — I mean serious reparations — as serious as if Edgar Bronfman had negotiated for the Palestinians: every book stolen, every home taken or destroyed, every business, with earnings projected forward, every picture on the wall, EVERYTHING compensated for.

    The rest of Israel is one state for all its residents, and all its residents are ‘equal citizens under law’ with inalienable rights granted NOT by UN or Israel or US guarantees or international agreements but inalienably granted just like US Constitution says — by the creator (who is, by the way, not necessarily identical with Yahweh).

    The walls come down.
    completely.

    the checkpoints get bulldozed with Caterpillars.

    Israel’s nukes are submitted to rigorous, intrusive inspection: recall that Haman had a scaffold erected to hang Mordecai but that thru the intercession of Esther, Haman was executed on the scaffold instead? Well — everything Israel demands to be done to Iran should be done to Israel to get its nukes under control. The international community must be rallied to completely shut out Israel from all and every form of trade, commerce, ability to travel freely to other nations, ability to attend colleges in other nations, especially US, UNTIL — the walls come down, the reparations are paid IN FULL, the IAEA has eyes on every inch of Dimona.

    Israel should be forced to de-militarize just as Germany was. If Israel is smart it will demilitarize without suffering the destruction of Israel’s “Dresden.” If not, best pick out a souvenir of TelAviv now before it’s dust.

    • seafoid
      February 16, 2012, 4:02 pm

      I was thinking about Dimona the other day. It was built in the 60s and it’s above ground. It’s like those old motorways that got superceded by modern infrastructure . If Israel attacks Iran I imagine Dimona will have a few missiles headed its way.

      Israel- the trailer park of terror

  8. American
    February 16, 2012, 1:46 pm

    I don’t care about what Norman says, or is or isn’t for regarding one or two states or BDS.
    All I want from the One or Two Staters is for them tell me how they are going to acheive either of those.

    For example:

    “in the Q & A I asked him a clear question: since there is no consensus on a 2-state solution or a 1 state solution, isn’t it just fair to advocate for what holds a consensus; namely, the right of return? ”

    My question is this…why do they keep putting the cart before the horse?
    Why are the movement for Palestine orgs advocating for things that can only come AFTER some renewed legal mechanism to uphold the original right of return in UN Res 191 and a ENFORCEMENT group is created to implement them?

    Israel is not going to ‘give’ a right of return, not going to “agree” to two states, not going to give equal rights in a One state solution. Israel is not going to ‘give’ or ‘agree’ to anything.

    Why is everyone expending all this energy on “advocating” and then internally arguing over their preference of one or two states or right of return when none of them have any way to implement them anyway?
    So what if everyone in the movements and the citizen world agreed on One State…who you gonna get to enforce it on Israel?
    That’s all I want to know…How are you going to use BDS and other movements to get the people and powers that could do these things for Palestine to do them?

  9. seafoid
    February 16, 2012, 1:49 pm

    “It is for this reason that the status of the Palestinians in Israel will almost certainly not be part of a final settlement–no state in the international community will endorse it.”

    I think Israel has gone past the point where its 1967 borders can be guaranteed.
    Gaza is simply unsustainable and frankly Israel doesn’t need 78% of Palestine. Most Jews live between Ashkelon and Haifa anyway. Only losers live outside that area.

  10. Donald
    February 16, 2012, 4:25 pm

    I’d be curious to know where Norman thinks he addressed David Samel’s point 4. I thought Finkelstein could have made his case for a 2ss as strongly as he wanted without stooping to the language he chose to use (“destruction of Israel”) to characterize the aims of people who support a 1ss.

    • lareineblanche
      February 16, 2012, 6:01 pm

      I didn’t post the whole conversation, as I didn’t ask his permission, I just wanted to get his responses to David’s main points. I posted it here because I know he doesn’t, and because it just re-iterates much of what he’s already said.
      On this point he may be referring to his response to my own statement which treated this question in my email :

      Briefly, the main disagreement, or crux of the debate, seems to me to be a disagreement on the definitions of certain words :
      1) “Israel”
      2) “destruction”
      That is to say that that some activists don’t understand that for most Zionists, “Israel” = Jewish numerical majority over a certain geographical area – and obviously this definition makes some sense, otherwise, how could one call it the “Jewish state”? That is if you are calling for an end to this idea (which would be the logical outcome of a return of all the refugees – provided the majority in fact don’t prefer to be compensated instead of returning), you are indeed calling for an end to a certain conception of the state of Israel. For them, “Israel” IS Zionism, and if you are calling for an end to Zionism, you are simultaneously calling for and end to Israel, as they are one and the same. Activists must take this argument to its logical conclusion, and come out and be honest enough to say it – whether the world is ready for anti/post-Zionism or not is another question.
      The second misunderstanding stems from a vague use of the word “destruction”, where “transformation” would be a more appropriate term. Calling for an end to a certain conception of society CAN be understood to be in a certain sense a “destruction”, yes, but it does not mean the destruction of a society, or of a state. After all a transformation of anything can be perceived as a kind of “destruction”, if broadly interpreted, as the older form or forms no longer exist to make way for the new.

      To which he responded :

      I agree with most of this. Except that, in the case of South Africa, it was a clear case of wanting to transform–i.e., democratize–a state, whereas in the case of the BDS one-staters, they are clearly not saying, “We want to transform (democratize) Israel,” because they won’t even mention Israel. So, it must mean that in some sense, however you want to interpret it, they want to eliminate Israel. I am not aware of any movement for self-determination in the post-WWII era that successfully achieved its independence and statehood by eliminating or at the expense of another state, and I don’t believe it’s possible–leaving aside questions of morality, which are not trivial–that you can win a broad public to such an agenda.

      Let me just say that I understand his thinking, and I think that it’s being somewhat misinterpreted, and that’s why I forwarded this to him in the first place, so as to get a response. He’s not saying that elimination of Zionism is or is not a good/moral position to have, or even if it’s HIS position – that’s all irrelevant. He clearly seems to think that 1-state advocates are not proposing a rights-based approach within Israel, but that they are being rather vague in spreading it over the entire territory. He seems to think :
      1) If you’re going to invoke the law, you have to accept all of the law, otherwise there’s no point.
      2) This rights-based position will not gain traction with the general public if you don’t acknowledge Israel (one can agree or disagree with that), and therefore will ultimately not be successful.
      3) If you tack on the demand for equal rights in Israel proper, you will kill any pro-Palestinian motion in any international venue (like the UN), as most nation-states abuse certain ethnic minorities of their own (think Turkey and the Kurdish population) and will not want to support this plan of action, as it will force them to confront their own internal problems, which they will refuse to do – so, it will be dead in the water.
      4) You have to separate “Palestine” from “Israel” in terms of international law if you want public support, because that’s what the law says (that Israel exists, right or wrong) – and if you’re going to advocate for a rights based solution, having a Palestinian state would not preclude this rights-based approach being applied to Israel itself at the same time. They’re just two different questions.

      It seems to me that either you decide to go outside the law and simply appeal to the morality of the general public with a grass roots movement (which I don’t think Finkelstein objects to at all), OR you push to apply already existing law, in which case you have to accept the bad with the good. The whole thing seems like a debate on tactics to me ; I don’t know what to think about all that, and I’m not endorsing all his views, but I do think it’s important to understand what he’s saying, and what he’s not saying.

      • tree
        February 16, 2012, 7:17 pm

        Interesting….

        From Finkelstein’s email:

        I am not aware of any movement for self-determination in the post-WWII era that successfully achieved its independence and statehood by eliminating or at the expense of another state…

        Israel comes immediately to mind as a state that did just that.

        Not suggesting, of course, that it should ever be emulated.

      • Pixel
        February 16, 2012, 9:14 pm

        Beautiful, tree.

      • lareineblanche
        February 17, 2012, 6:30 am

        tree :

        “Israel comes immediately to mind as a state that did just that. Not suggesting, of course, that it should ever be emulated.”

        True!

      • kamanja
        February 18, 2012, 3:36 am

        Untrue. The other state did not exist at the time Israel became a state and in a sense turned down its opportunity to become a state at the time, thanks in part to some bad counsel from those who promised to fight on its behalf. No need to tell me why, but those are the bald facts.

      • Shingo
        February 18, 2012, 6:39 am

        The other state did not exist at the time Israel became a state and in a sense turned down its opportunity to become a state at the time, thanks in part to some bad counsel from those who promised to fight on its behalf.

        What the hell are you talking about? The state of Israel would never have become a reality without the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians. The expulsion took place the day after 181 was passed.

        As for 181 itself, it was passed without conulting either party, so acceptance or otherwise was of no consequence. The states would have been created regardless.

      • Hostage
        February 18, 2012, 7:21 am

        Untrue. The other state did not exist at the time Israel became a state and in a sense turned down its opportunity to become a state at the time, thanks in part to some bad counsel from those who promised to fight on its behalf.

        The only bad advice was buying into hasbara myths. The US granted de jure recognition to Israel and the new state of Jordan on the very same day.

        The other state was formed by a union between the Arab territories of the former Palestine mandate, Arab Palestine and Transjordan after they had gained their independence. The new entity, Jordan, was recognized by many countries before it became a full member state of the United Nations. The union between Palestine and Jordan was dissolved by mutual consent in 1988 when Palestine declared its independence from the Hashemite Kingdom.

        You can read the full details about US recognition of Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank and recognition by France, the UK, and the Soviet Union in the comment here: link to mondoweiss.net

      • kamanja
        February 20, 2012, 2:39 am

        Hasbara myths notwithstanding, the other state, i.e. Palestine, did not exist at the time Israel became a state. One of my sources for this not very controversial contention was Rashid Khalidi’s The Iron Cage chapters “A Failure of Leadership” and “The Revolt, 1948 and Afterwards”.

      • Hostage
        February 20, 2012, 9:07 pm

        Rashid Khalidi’s The Iron Cage chapters “A Failure of Leadership” and “The Revolt, 1948 and Afterwards”.

        If he doesn’t mention de jure recognition of the union between Arab Palestine and Transjordan by the US, UK, France, the USSR, and other UN member states, then who cares?

        King Abdullah had received hundreds of petitions from Palestinian notables requesting protection upon the withdrawal of the British forces. Eugene Rogan says that those petitions, from nearly every town and village in Palestine, are preserved in “The Hashemite Documents: The Papers of Abdullah bin al-Husayn, volume V: Palestine 1948 (Amman 1995)”. See Chapter 5, Jordan and 1948, in “The war for Palestine: rewriting the history of 1948″, By Eugene L. Rogan, and Avi Shlaim, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

        The fact is that the majority of Palestinians preferred to have Abdullah as their head of state over either Ben Gurion or the Mufti. They formally preserved their rights to their own state under any final settlement of the Palestine question in the text of the Act of Union and in the Arab League compromise on the issue. Half the seats in the lower house of the Jordanian Parliament were reserved for Palestinians.

        Do you know how stupid it sounds when you say there was no Arab State established in Palestine? That’s exactly what the Jericho Congress was convened to accomplish. It declared Abdullah King of Arab Palestine and he certainly wasn’t French. Transjordan was turned down for membership in the UN in 1946 because some members of the Security Council said it was still part of the Palestine Mandate, which had not been legally terminated. The General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee entertained requests to include some of Transjordan’s territory in the Jewish state. Despite those facts, many commentators pretend that Abdullah was strictly a foreigner interloper with no vested interest in the Palestine mandate.

        Electronic Intifada founder, Ali Abunimah’s own father was a member of the Jordaian UN delegation. So we need to drop the nonsensical B.S. about betrayal and bad advice. The Palestinians had their own elected representatives, held appointed public offices, and helped establish and govern the state which controlled the vast majority of the territory of the former mandate on both sides of the Jordan river.

      • kamanja
        February 21, 2012, 9:35 am

        “Do you know how stupid it sounds when you say there was no Arab State established in Palestine? ”
        Being stupid doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother you, Hostage. I didn’t say no Arab state was established I said the other state was not established, take a look. I meant a state called Palestine (that would, naturally, defend the interests of the Palestinians). I’d be a lot cleverer if people who presumed to enlighten me didn’t use fools to piggy-back their pet tirades on. And you must be making the Jordan-is-Palestine brigade mighty happy. In that case, now please explain why Hussein relinquished his claim on the West Bank and its population.

      • Hostage
        February 21, 2012, 1:31 pm

        I didn’t say no Arab state was established I said the other state was not established, take a look. I meant a state called Palestine

        The UN resolution didn’t prescribe the names of the proposed states. It simply referred to them as the Arab state and the Jewish state.

        FYI, Abdullah was already the King of one state, Transjordan, when the Jericho Congress named him the King of Arab Palestine (as well). That was in December of 1948. See for example the Palestine Post 14 December 1948 page 1 link to jpress.org.il

        The King installed a civil administration and issued a proclamation which provided for the continued application of the laws that were applicable in Palestine on the eve of the termination of the Mandate. King Abdullah was vested with all the powers that were enjoyed by the King of England, his ministers and the High Commissioner of Palestine by the Palestine Order-in-Council, 1922. See Raja Shehadeh, “From Occupation to Interim Accords”, Kluwer Law International, 1997, pp. 77–78. The Order-in-Council and many of the ordinances referred to the state as Palestine and dealt with subjects of nationality, state lands, & etc.

        The joint Kingdom was established and renamed to reflect the new official status on 24 January 1949. See the entry for Transjordan in the Encyclopedia of the United Nations and international agreements, Volume 4 link to books.google.com

        BTW, Palestine and Transjordan had both been officially recognized as states under the terms of the post-WWI treaties and the final decisions that had been handed down in a pair of international court cases in 1925. They were also recognized as state parties in several international treaties deposited with the Secretary of the League of Nations. When the UN refused to implement its partition plan by force, Israel was formed by its own unilateral act of secession. The government of Israel said that it was in no sense a successor of the former government of Palestine. See D.P. O’Connell author “The Law of State Succession”, Volume V of the Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law, 1956, Hersh Lauterpacht editor, pages 10-11, and 178; and CApp 41/49 Simshon Palestine Portland Cement Factory LTD. v. Attorney-General (1950)
        link to elyon1.court.gov.il

        A request for recognition, that was submitted to the United States, said that Israel had been established as an independent republic within the boundaries of the UN resolution of 29 November 1947. So it was not the formal successor and did not occupy all of the territory of Palestine.

        Ernest A. Gross, a senior U.S. State Department legal adviser, authored a memorandum for Under Secretary of State Lovett at the request of the President’s Counsel, Clark Clifford and the representative of the Provisional Government of Israel, Elihu Epstein. See for example John Snetsinger, “Truman, the Jewish vote, and the creation of Israel”, Hoover Press, 1974 & Richard Holbrooke and Clark Clifford, President Truman’s Decision to Recognize Israel via the JCPA website. The memo was titled ”Recognition of New States and Governments in Palestine”, dated 11 May 1948. Gross said that:

        “The law of nations recognizes an inherent right of people lacking the agencies and institutions of social and political control to organize a state and operate a government.”

        The memo is contained in the Foreign Relations of the United States 1948, volume 5, part 2, and starts on page 960. It is cited by Stefan Talmon, in “Recognition of Governments in International Law”, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998, page 36

        Israel recognized the legal competence of the new joint entity, Jordan, to negotiate the final borders when it signed the Armistice Agreement on 3 April 1949.

      • Shingo
        February 17, 2012, 1:22 am

        He clearly seems to think that 1-state advocates are not proposing a rights-based approach within Israel, but that they are being rather vague in spreading it over the entire territory.

        Sorry, but I don’t buy it. This is BS.

        1. A 1ss would obviously emcompass the entire terrirtory
        2. The BDS mandate states that it’s goal is to ensure rights for all in the occupied territories. If that there is to be a single state, then that woudl also apply.

        1) If you’re going to invoke the law, you have to accept all of the law, otherwise there’s no point.

        I don’t know any BDS advocates who have suggested any aspect fo the law should be ignored. He’s being dishonest. In fact, one would almost think he’s given up demanding Israel observe the law and placed the burden on BDS advocates.

        2) This rights-based position will not gain traction with the general public if you don’t acknowledge Israel (one can agree or disagree with that), and therefore will ultimately not be successful.

        Again, he’s being rather vague by the term “general public”. As David pointed out, if the case was made that human rights were coming second place to Israel’s desire to maintain a Jewish majority, one woudl assume the general public would chose human rights.

        3) If you tack on the demand for equal rights in Israel proper, you will kill any pro-Palestinian motion in any international venue

        Why? If Israel insists tha it is the only democracy in the ME, then surely this would be paramount.

        4) You have to separate “Palestine” from “Israel” in terms of international law if you want public support

        Again, which public is he referring to?

        I think David did an excellent job pointing out the disaprities in NF’s comments and I, like others, are not convinced he has addressed all of David’s point adequately. In fact, he sounds like he’s being rather evasive and indignant.

    • Shingo
      February 17, 2012, 1:10 am

      It’s great to see you again Donald! Excellent point

      • Donald
        February 17, 2012, 10:57 am

        Thanks Shingo. I’m trying to participate in a limited way with occasional comments making some specific point. With RW apparently gone this should be easy.

        I think part of the underlying problem with the NF interview is just his personality type. He goes for the jugular. That might be okay when the opponent deserves it, but it doesn’t seem appropriate when it’s a difference of opinion on the best way to reach a solution that respects everyone’s human rights. To make his case for the 2ss over the 1ss I don’t think he had to use the sort of rhetoric (“the destruction of Israel”) that you’d expect from Jonah Goldberg. Does he really want to say that about Palestinians who want to exercise their right to live in their own homeland? And maybe he realizes that in retrospect and (I’m guessing) that’s why he wanted the interview pulled.

      • David Samel
        February 17, 2012, 12:00 pm

        Donald – I haven’t been paying attention. Have you been deliberately staying away? Sometimes I have much less time to visit MW because of other demands, but is this a conscious decision on your part? I know you took it on the chin a bit a few weeks ago, but I would hate to see less of you here for that or any other reason.

  11. Kathleen
    February 16, 2012, 5:13 pm

    “Does he really want to label those who lobby for equality a cult? The cult of equality? What’s next? The cult of freedom, justice and fairness?”

    He really did go overboard on this. Drawing parallels between his experience in his Maoist group to what is going on with BDS. Think it is interesting that NF was getting into Mao (Jesus Mary and Joseph how many people did Mao kill?) when many of us around NF and older were trying to follow the path of non violence that Gandhi, MLK, Mandela etc were carving out. Using those methods in the civil rights movement, anti Vietnam, Anti apartheid in SA and on and on and on.

    I just think the man is exasperated.

    • American
      February 16, 2012, 6:01 pm

      “I just think the man is exasperated”..kathleen

      I think that is most of it….he’s plain out of patience, as most people are with this.
      63 years, no improvement, everything Palestine does is deep sixed by the US.
      Anyone who wants to help Palestine(and the US) should aim their guns at supporting their bid for statehood at the UN.
      Don’t know if it did any good but when the World Bank was considering whether to ditch Wolfowitz I sent 103 mails to the executives of the WB and all it country’s member representatives and staff urging them to fire him as an embarrassment to the US and the WB…took me hours and hours to collect all their email addresses but I got replies from almost everyone of them. Conversely I have mailed the f***** US UN Susan Rice and never even gotten an automated drop dead reply.
      Americans should start blitzing the internationals, the UN members, the EU heads and offices with our opinions to show them where the American “public” stands. Can’t hurt might help. If they are undulated with where the US masses stand on Israel I/P as opposed to the 500 Israel firsters in congress might make them bolder on I/P settlement.
      If AIPAC can blitz our congress we can blitz the other world powers…if we want to.
      All these orgs. should start an American World Political Action Committee Lobby, AWPAC.

      • teta mother me
        February 16, 2012, 9:28 pm

        um, “inundated.”
        “undulated” suggests spineless, which they already are.

      • American
        February 16, 2012, 10:28 pm

        Tnaks fporn correction teta , too toired to spell.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 16, 2012, 6:19 pm

      i think he is probably exasperated too. i bet something positive will come out of all of this. i hope so anyway.

  12. Kathleen
    February 16, 2012, 5:14 pm

    “Finkelstein’s comparison of BDS to his own youthful flirtation with Maoism isn’t simply insulting, it’s just plain stupid.” I have never heard NF say something so “stupid”

  13. Kathleen
    February 16, 2012, 5:16 pm

    Such great points above “Shouldn’t Israel face consequences for refusing to adopt the international consensus, and in fact making it more difficult to the point of impossibility to obtain?” Yes..but they have not at all. But I believe they are doing themselves great harm

  14. Justice Please
    February 16, 2012, 5:32 pm

    Now this is an interesting discussion. Thanks for posting the various views. And Adam, in general I think it’s a great idea to give exceptionally thoughtful and interesting contributions from the comments section a deserved spotlight, like you did with David Samel in the above post.

    On to my thoughts on topic:

    First, since Maath Musleh mentioned the various resolutions concerning Israeli statehood. I think it was a mistake from the UN to accept Israel as a member state BEFORE it ACTUALLY IMPLEMENTED the resolutions which were already established, including the demand for a return of the refugees.
    Simply taking Israels word that it will at some future date implement them, was foolish to say the least.

    Second, from an international viewpoint (like mine from Germany), I think we have three issues at hand:

    One is the settlement of ongoing conflict inter nationes. Foremost the conflict between current Israel and current Palestine, which basically means ending the occupation and the Vichy regime assisting it. This point also includes the conflict between current Israel and current Syria, with the aim that Israel gives back the occupied Golan Heights.

    The second issue is making amends for past crimes. Foremost, Israel has to accept the refugees back into its borders, and pay reparations. This may also include some of the neighboring countries paying reparations for damage to Israel and Israelis, although everyone here knows that this is not a question of even shared guilt. The main guilty party is Israel.

    The third issue is transforming Israel from a de facto racist theocracy to a de jure and de facto state of all its citizens.

    International recognition and support for Israel should be completely withheld until all three issues above are resolved. In what order those issues can be resolved, I don’t know. But I certainly won’t condemn any Palestinian, who has to endure Israeli Naziesque terror every day, if he tries to directly go to the issue of transforming Israel into a citizen-state.

    A forth, more diffuse issue is the slow but sure transformation of the false idea of a “Jewish people”, as in “heirs to biblical Hebrews”, to the more rational idea of, on the one hand, a “Israeli citizen-people”, some of them Jews, and on the other hand, the sum of all Jewish indiviuals, coming from different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures, who don’t share an inherent political bond and interest.

    • Pixel
      February 16, 2012, 9:27 pm

      “And Adam, in general I think it’s a great idea to give exceptionally thoughtful and interesting contributions from the comments section a deserved spotlight, like you did with David Samel in the above post.”

      Agreed.

    • Thomson Rutherford
      February 19, 2012, 6:38 pm

      Justice Please,

      Thanks for this clear and cogent statement of principles.

      How about if we simply discredit, if not abolish, Zionism as an acceptable political ideology – much as the Western world has done with communism and fascism?

      • Justice Please
        February 21, 2012, 8:52 am

        Thomson,

        I thank you.

        I would say that, despite the constant guilt-tripping, Zionism is already discredited in big parts of society. The young, intelligent, cosmopolitan people. But Zionism is still commanding where it matters: Centers of power, government, media.

        Those regular people who still support Zionism (in theory or simply de facto by passively supporting the Israeli government) will not be convinced of the wrongness of political Zionism until the idea of a “Jewish people” is openly shown to be false.

        The day that all people realize that modern day Jews are a diverse group of people from vastly different backgrounds and NOT the uniform heirs to the biblical Hebrews, the prime emotional support for political Zionism will cease.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 19, 2012, 7:16 pm

      just thought i would mention we’ve pulled comments for front page material before. here’s another example:
      link to mondoweiss.net

      also, if you read something from the comments you want front paged please mention it in the comments or send us a note in an email.

  15. David Samel
    February 16, 2012, 5:55 pm

    Thanks to lareineblanche for contacting Norman and getting a response to my comment. I have greatly admired him for many years.

    I think his response remains unsatisfactory. He is unwilling or unable to grapple with the question of Israel as a Jewish State. He acknowledges Israel’s existence as a state, then contests that Israel has a “right to exist” as a Jewish State, but then again insists that Israel’s existence would be “destroyed” by the return of millions of non-Jewish refugees (a very unlikely prospect even if full right of return were offered). But how would Israel be “destroyed”? Only as a Jewish State. By making this argument, Norman is clearly assuming and even trying to protect Israel’s existence as a Jewish State, though he won’t say it. To further elaborate, consider the idiotic oft-repeated suggestion that the Palestinians have a state – Jordan – and they should move there right away. No one suggests that Jordan would be “destroyed” by this sudden influx of millions of Palestinians, because Jordan has no demographic ethnic advantage it must maintain in order to remain “Jordan.” By contrast, Israel must maintain a substantial Jewish majority in order to remain a “Jewish State,” and it is only that existence as a Jewish State that would be threatened with “destruction” by return of refugees or guarantees of equality to non-Jewish citizens.

    Norman says, “I also fully recognize that there is an inherent contradiction between a Jewish State and a state of equal rights.” Good, but which concept does he choose to prevail over the other? A “state of equal rights” would not be threatened with “destruction” in the unlikely event that millions of Palestinians opted to exercise ROR; only a Jewish State would. A state of equal rights would merely undergo a significant change in demographics. I don’t mean to underestimate the seismic nature of this change, but it certainly would not amount to destruction of anything but the concept of a Jewish State. Norman’s argument surely implies that he considers Israel to be a Jewish State and that it should remain so, even at the expense of full equality for all citizens. Given his incontrovertible commitment to Palestinian rights, I find his position confusing and muddled rather than dishonest, but for someone of his intellect and energy, it’s disappointing. (And Donald is surely correct that Norman did not address the question of language and misleading use of the word “destroy”).

    This problem is compounded by Norman’s discussion regarding the absence from the international agenda of equal rights for Palestinian/Israeli citizens. He goes so far as to suggest that this equal rights issue may be a newfangled artifice intended to torpedo any settlement. Seriously? And why does he disparage this concern with minority rights in Israel? To me, it is central to the question of Israel’s existence as a Jewish State. China can and should provide equal treatment to its minorities, and Canada does not bill itself as an “Anglo State.” Israel’s official government-sanctioned discrimination against its non-Jewish citizens is awful and getting worse, and is of a different character than most other countries’ minority relations. Even theoretically, Israel’s discrimination cannot be remedied. As a Jewish State, Israel’s non-Jewish citizens would be relegated to second-class citizenship, even if the country did a sudden about-face and did its best to minimize the discrimination. No sane American would tolerate the US being considered a state defined by a special allegiance to some citizens based on ethnic background. Why should it be more tolerable there? Does he really have a moral basis to advise victims of such discrimination to delay their complaints until a more appropriate time?

    And, if Norman wants to back-burner this issue until the two-state solution is realized, what about afterward? Will it suddenly become a legitimate concern? Assuming South Africa’s treatment of its black citizens was legitimately on the international agenda, why is this any different? Because it’s not as bad, only apartheid lite? Was South Africa able to defend its racial discrimination by pointing to China and Canada? And if we want to advocate for a Jewish State and a Palestinian State side by side, there’s another problem. It would be necessary for Jewish citizens of the Palestinian State to be treated as equal citizens, as Palestinian Jews, but non-Jewish citizens of the Jewish State cannot be treated as equals. The demand for equality of Palestinian Jews would focus attention on the fact that such equality is impossible in the Jewish State. The problem of discrimination within Israel could not really be postponed until after two states are realized, even if Norman thinks such delay would be advisable.

    As for my “immaculate ignorance” regarding the feasibility of the 2ss despite the illegal settlements, I will try to educate myself by viewing one of his lectures. But even assuming that I find him totally convincing about how 2ss can be accomplished, it hasn’t materialized despite the passage of decades of “international consensus”, and I don’t think there is reasonable cause for optimism today. Norman puts the blame where it belongs, but unless and until Israel is forced to budge from its intransigence, Palestinians, both citizens and not, will continue to suffer. Few outside the Palestinian community have shown as much concern, sympathy and anger about that suffering as Norman has. The international consensus hasn’t been able to achieve anything, and the BDS movement offers at least some hope.

    To repeat, Norman has devoted much of his life (and much much more than I have) to exposing the misery Israel has heaped on the Palestinians. But this interview displays a certain arrogance and mistaken self-confidence that does nothing to advance progress on this issue. I think he’s become too entrenched in his positions to consider moving and adapting. He makes the mistake of belittling people who share the same goals but differ on how to get there. Needless to say, no one should make the same mistake of belittling him.

    • Shingo
      February 17, 2012, 5:53 am

      Excellent post David and superb analysis.

      Listening to this interview, I couldn’t help but be reminded of responses Chomsky has given to BDS. When he’s been asked about it, his replies have been euqally convoluted, vague and perplexing. On so many issues regarding the IP issue, these two men are on exactly the same page, which leads me to wonder if what they share is the same blind spot rather than the same level of enlightenment.

      I have listened to a number of NF’s lectures on the 2ss, and I share your degree of immaculate ignorance. I do not believe I have heard NF prescribe a clear and convincing formula for securing such an outcome.

      AS for the “destruction of Israel” allegation, I was dunfounded by the sheer stupidity of his remark. As you have pointed out, the only way in which Israel could be destroyed as a state would be as a Jewish state, and inquiring minds want to know if NF is, or has become an advocate for a Jewish state as opposed to a secular state.

    • Kathleen
      February 24, 2012, 9:58 am

      “He acknowledges Israel’s existence as a state, then contests that Israel has a “right to exist” as a Jewish State, but then again insists that Israel’s existence would be “destroyed” by the return of millions of non-Jewish refugees (a very unlikely prospect even if full right of return were offered). But how would Israel be “destroyed”? Only as a Jewish State. By making this argument, Norman is clearly assuming and even trying to protect Israel’s existence as a Jewish State, though he won’t say it. ”

      Agree. Round and round. During that conversation (more like a lecture) by Finkelstein many contradictions. More than I have ever heard out of him. Although has for a very long time argued that the international agreements, UN resolutions etc should be focused on. Arguments that are “defensible”

  16. RoHa
    February 16, 2012, 7:29 pm

    Do we expect Finkelstein to be absolutely right about everything and totally immune to any sort of criticism whatsoever? That’s a tough standard. (Even I sometimes have difficulty meeting it.)

    We can recognize the value of what he has done without demanding perfection from him.

  17. Henry Norr
    February 16, 2012, 8:06 pm

    I just want to thank Adam, lareineblanche, the other commenters, and above all David Samel – this is a superb discussion. And, yes, Norman Finkelstein, too, for sparking it, even though I find much of his argument infuriating.

    Special appreciation to David for noting Finkelstein’s condescension toward Frank Barat. Not as weighty as the other issues, of course, but that kind of arrogance needs to be called out.

  18. justsayin
    February 16, 2012, 8:40 pm

    After hearing all the above and seeing the facts as they maybe, it has puzzled me at the depth of ignorance in the truth, that will inevitably bite the zionists & supporters of their way of existance as a people or bactrium that had escaped the lab so long ago to plague all of mankind. I surely hope those of you that are immune to this type can use infusions of your blood to cure the zionists of their soulessness . I thought they topped it when they had thier children write on bombs. “to the children of Gaza”, but the zionist never stop at missing a change to be shown as inhumane,

  19. Pixel
    February 16, 2012, 9:37 pm

    A large part of the problem for me isn’t what NF said (ok, some of what he said) but the way that he said it.

    • Charon
      February 17, 2012, 2:05 am

      Hmmm… Maybe. I’m sensing something uncomfortable though. A natural human response and a maybe not entirely rational reaction.

      When a human being commits themselves to an idea, they naturally get upset when somebody opposes it. I am hoping it is okay and rational for most to ‘agree to disagree’ with people. And maybe I am wrong, but I am sensing some borderline hate for NF that may not be entirely justified.

      It’s okay to disagree with the guy’s opinion. But he’s been pretty spot on with many other things. His rebuttal to the feedback regarding his initial stance has hardly been mentioned.

      I could be very wrong, but I don’t think people are processing this the right way. The thing is that NF often reminds people that from an international law standpoint, the Palestinians have their two state cards to play with. Now Palestinians see the two state thing and some of them get offended without processing it. The thing is if they actually had leaders that played along with the establishment ‘game theory’ and used the two state thing, committed to it, and even pissed over the intent of the verbiage in return for a manipulative interpretation (which is what Israel has been doing for decades), things would be a bit different. I think.

      The fact is Israel will never concede to the two state solution or a solution to the refugees as required under UN resolutions and international law. And if they did, it could be used against them to demographically defeat Israel. They know this. That’s why it won’t happen. To be fair, Abbas to some degree has played along with the quartet since the statehood bid, but Israel has not and the time has expired. I don’t think Palestinian leadership is weak at all, but I do think there is an element of pride getting in the way of rationalizing and using what they have against the Israelis in order to force their hand.

      The thing is no matter what, one state is inevitable. From an international standpoint they should play the 2 state cards knowing Israel will not concede. With 100% certainty, Israel will never concede to a 2SS which the world would consider meaningful. As much as possible the Palestinians could use this as an advantage and play dumb. I think that is sort of what NF is trying to say. But maybe I’m very wrong. What do I know anyways?

      • Thomson Rutherford
        February 19, 2012, 8:11 pm

        @Charon:

        The thing is no matter what, one state is inevitable. From an international standpoint they should play the 2 state cards knowing Israel will not concede. With 100% certainty, Israel will never concede to a 2SS which the world would consider meaningful. As much as possible the Palestinians could use this as an advantage and play dumb. I think that is sort of what NF is trying to say.

        I don’t know if Finkelstein has been trying to say this (he’s getting squishy under duress), but you are right in saying it: This is a hard truth.

        In its massive colonization of the West Bank, E.J., and the Golan, Israel has performed a de facto annexation of territory and water resources, enabled by totally unlawful military conquest and oppression. A 1ss is the only humane option left.

        In this imperfect reality, there are two things that the BDS movement, the anti-Zionism movement, and the world at large must fight for: (1) equal rights for Palestinians/non-Jews in the one-state, and (2) prevention of further ethnic cleansing by the Israeli government and military. This will require many confrontations, large and small. Time to get to it!

        Israel as a Jewish State is dead, later if not sooner. Long live Israel as a normal state!

      • Annie Robbins
        February 19, 2012, 10:28 pm

        thanks for highlighting that blockquote thomson, i missed it before. i completely agree with this (sans if that was norm’s pt). i expressed this sentiment here a couple years ago:

        Aref, I agree with you as a matter of principle the one state solution is preferable. However I support the two state solution for two reasons. The first being it conceivably would be easier to attain and bring immediate relief and opportunity to more people and there is an alleged general consensus within Israel, Palestine and the US that doesn’t exist for a one state solution.

        The second reason I support a two state solution is I think one state will likely emerge from the failure of a genuine concerted effort for two states, an effort that becomes transparently clear to everyone has failed because Israel won’t allow it. I think Israel is engaged in charade and extreme factions obviously wants no part in two states because they want all of the West Bank. I would love to be proven wrong. I think the path to one state or two is identical at this juncture. The only entity preventing the establishment of two states is Israel and that will become clearer in the near future. It makes more sense to me to take the path of least resistance to peace. Right now, the path is the same.

        link to mondoweiss.net

        and i recommend reading aref’s full response (and the main post that instigated the conversation and his initial reply) but here is part of it:

        Like you say the path is the same and in my opinion it is the struggle for human rights and self determination. This charade of “peace process” which is more about process than about peace is designed to split the Palestinians into “good” and “bad” Palestinians and to divert the struggle into in-fighting between those who are ready to accept and work within the Israeli imposed perimeter and those who don’t instead of unifying together in the fundamental struggle for human rights.
        Neither a TS nor a ODS will come to light anytime soon but what we will see emerging will be more resembling Apartheid than anything else–not that we are not there already.
        IMHO, what we should all be saying is End the Occupation–which is an affirmation of the human rights and the right to self determination nature of the struggle.

        notice the focus on “fundamental struggle for human rights”? this is what bds is. also note, in the main post..the accusation….

        also, the part about “designed to split the Palestinians into “good” and “bad” Palestinians and to divert the struggle into in-fighting between those who are ready to accept and work within the Israeli imposed perimeter and those who don’t instead of unifying together in the fundamental struggle for human rights.”

        well, it’s not just splitting the palestinians into good and bad, it’s designed to split their supporters too. so we need to keep our eyes on the prize, which is rights based.

        and thanks charon!!

  20. Mayhem
    February 17, 2012, 2:30 am

    This furphy again that UN Resolution 194 holds the key to the refugee issue. Resolution 194 does not mention Israel per se. Resolution 194 refers to ALL refugees created by the conflict. Resolution 194 only has one solitary clause about refugees – what it states cannot be taken out of the context of the whole resolution. To claim that resolution 194 justifies in law the Arab right of return is just wishful thinking.

    • Chaos4700
      February 17, 2012, 10:01 pm

      What’s wishful thinking is assuming that European Jews like yourself have a right to murder and steal property and keep it from the people they stole it from.

      What an apt screen name you have, by the way.

  21. kalithea
    February 17, 2012, 3:14 am

    All Zionists want to have their cake and eat it too. There is no way out of Zionism; it’s a moral dilema; a trap. Zionism is the dead end; it IS the end. Finkelstein reached the end of his moral quest and hit a brick wall of immorality with his position on BDS.

    I always say, if God wanted Zionists to have their way on this issue of a Jewish homeland; he wouldn’t have thrown the Palestinians in their path.

    • Mayhem
      February 17, 2012, 9:58 pm

      Throughout over 3000 years of Jewish history there have been many obstacles put in the way of the Jewish people.
      @kalithea: This suggestion that if God supported the Zionists then he wouldn’t have put the Palestinians in the way is simplistic and naive thinking.

      • Shingo
        February 17, 2012, 11:52 pm

        Throughout over 3000 years of Jewish history there have been many obstacles put in the way of the Jewish people

        Wow, talk about serious narciism. For eveyone else, obstacles are fete, but for the Jewish people, the obstacles were put there intentionally to thwart them, as though part fo a master plan. Pure lunacy.

      • Chaos4700
        February 18, 2012, 12:02 am

        And no challenge has been worse for the Jewish people than the one that is making them act like… well, I’ll let the esteemed Sir Gerald Kaufman field that one.

        So is God commanding you to bomb schools in Gaza, Mayhem? God, your screen name gets more and more apropos.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 18, 2012, 12:58 am

        that’s such an awesome speech. thanks for posting it chaos. again and again i could watch it. i think i will in fact, again right now.

  22. Justice Please
    February 17, 2012, 3:26 am

    Doesn’t it all come down to the question whether we regard Jews as a people? I wish Norman Finkelstein (and yes, I also greatly appreciate his efforts. Not just vis a vis Israel and Dershowitz, but also the Holocaust Industry) would adress that. Maybe he already did and I don’t know about?

    One State, and indeed many justice driven movements about I/P, is partially driven by the realization that Jews are not a people, but a group of individuals from different nations, ethnicities and cultures. And because of that, the notion of a “Jewish people” who has an inherent right to that part of the Middle East is wrong. And if you realize that, the question arises: Why exactly do we have Israel again? This puts Israel, one of the proposed two states, in question as a concept, so supporters of the 2SS have to adress it. They need to state clearly whether they think Jews are a people who have a right to some land, and why.

    The only people who have a diffuse right to the land are the descendents of a) the people the Hebrews drove off when they came from Egypt, b) the Hebrews, and c) Palestinian Arabs, Christians, Jews and Spaghetti-believers who lived there after the Hebrews.

    • Shmuel
      February 17, 2012, 3:42 am

      Justice Please,

      I see the argument regarding Jewish peoplehood as unwinnable, detrimental, and ultimately irrelevant. A state that behaves as a Jewish ethnocracy is unacceptable, whether Jews constitute an “ethnos” or not.

      • Justice Please
        February 19, 2012, 5:14 pm

        Shmuel,

        thanks for the reply. First off, you are definitely right that “A state that behaves as a Jewish ethnocracy is unacceptable, whether Jews constitute an ‘ethnos’ or not.” So one can achieve justive in the Middle East without taking up the Jews as a people-argument.

        And it may also be true that the argument is detrimental. But it is so not irrelevant. When it comes to western citizens, a large part of their support for Israel, the unwillingness to look more closely into its crimes, comes from the highly emotional concept of “Jews are a people, their state is Israel, and those living there are the same people who were gassed by the Nazis and exiled by the Romans”.

        To break this simplistic thinking is highly relevant to moving closer to peace in I/P, regardless of One State or Two States.

        Without the false notion of Jews as a people, how would Obama, Merkel et al justify an inherent “Israels right to exist” and the “sacrosanct duty to protect it”?

  23. anonymouscomments
    February 17, 2012, 4:01 am

    a number of people here so easily bury the 2SS saying israel will never accept a real 1967 (or ~1967), viable 2SS. but at the same time they think that this will end in a 1SS inevitably… perhaps painfully and a long bloody time from now, but we will get there.

    i think this is absurdly optimistic thinking, and ignores that israel is a veritable force in all things political, and when things get tough they aren’t going to stop playing their cards well (and in a RUTHLESS manner; nothing is ever off the table, including terrorism, false-flags, and wars). they are not going to overplay their hand and get left loosing their jewish majority state from some concerted international pressure (which does not exist at all to force such; but pressure for a 2SS does exist). it just is NOT going to happen.

    israel would CLEARLY ditch hebron and east jerusalem, and take a 2SS, if the only other option was a path whereby they would be stuck with a 1SS where the zionists leaders of israel essentially LOOSE their jewish majority (the end of israel as we know it, and the end of israel as they DEMAND it- jewish majority). they would, if forced, take a 2SS and let the people complain about the ’48 refugees (and ignore them).

    revisionist zionists, likud and many zionist ideologues have been very methodically working to kill the 2SS, and continue to try to kill it. >500,000 settlers are the testament to this effort.

    if we all want to deem it dead, they accomplished their goal. what great company to agree with.

    and they did not fail think about what they will do next after killing the 2SS. a global awakening and the growth of the movement for palestinian rights should not delude us into thinking we have more power and leverage than we ACTUALLY have, or ever WILL have. the balance of power on the ground, and in the global community is not so justice minded…. they have long been appeased with the idea of a 2SS, including many palestinians and palestinian leaders.

    i do not agree with what NF says, but i do think this issue needs to be teased out into 2 fundamentally different injustices, sadly with *different* hopes for amelioration-
    1) the ethnic cleansing of ’48
    2) the occupation and israeli expansionism

    some people almost seem eager to bury the 2SS because they think that such will, in time, spell the end of the ethnocentric jewish state. i just don’t see it, and i think if the *majority* of the movement becomes intransigent on the right of return, and shifts to a 1SS, we are doing exactly what they want…. and they will spin it. oh will they spin it.

    ////
    am i throwing the refugees under the bus? YES. but i want a token right of return and generous compensation. of course i *want* full right of return, but i’m a big fan of realpolitik. accepting an historic injustice in order to end another injustice. if the refugees do not get thrown under the bus, palestine will be thrown under the bus in time.

    this does not mean i disagree with refugees and activists and BDS calling for a full right of return. i would not denigrate or slander these people at all, as NF did. i often join in making those “demands”. but if this becomes a central and implacable demand, we won’t be seeing any palestinian state any time soon. if it is a bargaining chip to be used in order to help force israel’s hand, and allow an israeli leader to implement the 2SS? then it is pragmatic.

    i love it…. the 2SS is stridently deemed politically and practically dead, but zionists ending their ENTIRE ideological jewish state thing seems like the next logical option and more feasible? laughable.

  24. marcynewman
    February 17, 2012, 7:46 am

    One of the best critiques of this video comes from As’ad Abukhalil’s weekly column in Al Akhbar:

  25. marcynewman
    February 17, 2012, 7:48 am

    I think the link didn’t show up above: link to english.al-akhbar.com

  26. thankgodimatheist
    February 17, 2012, 10:13 am

    A critique of Norman’s interview in Zcommunications by Chris Green:

    “I am a great admirer of Finkelstein’s intellect but his imperious manner in his debate with Barat seems to cloud the effectiveness of his arguments. This, possibly, is why Finkelstein apparently requested that Barat remove the video of the interview from Barat’s website. Apparently Finkelstein recognized that the interview was ineffective.”
    link to zcommunications.org

    • Hostage
      February 17, 2012, 10:50 am

      Chris Green goes on to offer a good critique of the BDS movement by calling attention to the things NF tried to highlight in the interview.

  27. Annie Robbins
    February 17, 2012, 10:53 am

    here’s a good critique:
    link to leninology.blogspot.com

  28. David Samel
    February 17, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Re use of the word “destruction”: Here’s Jeffrey Goldberg on one of Jodi Rudoren’s many sins: “She shmoozed-up Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian activist who argues for Israel’s destruction.” link to theatlantic.com

    You all remember Ali’s blood-curdling screams for nuclear attack on Israeli kindergartens, don’t you?

  29. anonymouscomments
    February 17, 2012, 2:14 pm

    Also, maybe someone can help me with some historical context. Is there an instance where a sovereign nation was forced to readmit refugees they created through ethnic cleansing? Further, has this ever occurred with a significant population of refugees relative to the nation’s population and/or >50 years after the dispossession?

    This is what we are asking for. I want it to happen, but not only do I think there is little precedence, I also think it is politically not something we could impose on Israel. I’m not fully comfortable allowing nations to get away with such injustice, but I am also not comfortable making this something we never budge on, if it is not reasonably possible to achieve success. People are living and dying as refugees or as offspring as refugees…. but people also are living and dying under stateless occupation and violent colonization (many of them refugees). I tend to think the latter is a more pressing “where the rubber meets the road” issue, and many Palestinians I know agree with me. And if intransigence on the former actually delays or prevents resolution of the latter, I think reluctant acceptance of a historical injustice might be a pragmatic choice.

    • anonymouscomments
      February 17, 2012, 2:24 pm

      I also think the Israeli right wing loves when people push the return issue. It genuinely freaks out the majority of Israelis (not that I in any way agree with their racist fears), and allows them the ability to ignore the occupation and make false claims that there is no partner for peace, and we want their “destruction”.

      The worst thing for Israel would be a united Palestinian gov that insists on international law regarding the borders of their future state, and an explicit willingness to work out some resolution to the refugee issue that is acceptable to the majority of Israelis (meaning a cap on the number who are allowed return, but generous compensation to hopefully ensure that nobody is actually denied the right of return, should they want it…. There are studies that indicate that not so many refugees would necessarily exercise the right of return).

  30. lareineblanche
    February 18, 2012, 7:01 am

    Well, sorry for my oversight, posting comments from an email which were not cleared for public presentation, that’s my fault, just didn’t think it was that much of a problem…

    Here is another comment by “Evildoer” at the JSF site, which in my opinion makes the most sense of anything I’ve read about this :

    …Because BDS demands a solution to the refugees in line with international law, people who think like NF can participate in BDS without compromising their position. There is nothing preventing them from saying “I agree that Israel’s behavior is intolerable, and I will boycott Israel in conformity to MY INTERPRETATION of IL, but I will end my boycott even if the refugees are denied the right of physical return, provided they are accommodated within a comprehensive agreement sanctioned by international law.” Obviously, if the majority of BDS supporters holds NF’s position, than that is as far as BDS will go, regardless of what the initiators of BDS believe or wish. Furthermore, by using the language of IL, the framers of the call have intentionally opened the movement to people who may disagree with them of matters of substance. Thus, Finkelstein accuses the framers of BDS of being sectarian when it is he himself who is the sectarian here. He is conditioning his participation on everyone accepting his interpretation of IL, exactly the opposite of what the BDS call does.

    2. Since ND’s claim that the public will see BDS activists as hypocrites is based on his argument that they ARE in fact hypocrites, and they aren’t, then his “practical” argument falls flat. I don’t see the difficulty of getting support form regular, non-political people for positions that are quite simple and in line with most people’s moral intuitions. The problems that we are facing are 1. actually getting in hearing distance from people. 2. overcoming prejudice and racist attitudes that are ingrained in the culture, and 3. mobilizing passive support into effective power.

    NF’s recommendation addresses only problem number one. To the extent that access to the media is decided by people who strongly reject equality for Palestinians, not explicitly adopting a 2ss framework IS a liability. But that has nothing to do with an imaginary public seeing through our alleged hypocrisy. It has to do with power. We can argue about how much of our platform should be directed by the need to placate Wolf Blitzer. And that can even be a serious argument worth having. There are certainly organizations such as the Palestine Task Force and J-Street that seek to influence politics strictly by lobbying the powerful, and if that is your idea of political work than of course you have to accept that adopting certain positions is the condition of access. But to pretend that the “public” will dismiss us unless we fit into Blitzer’s mould is disingenuous….

    link to jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com

  31. Hostage
    February 18, 2012, 9:33 am

    Since ND’s claim that the public will see BDS activists as hypocrites is based on his argument that they ARE in fact hypocrites, and they aren’t, then his “practical” argument falls flat.

    No, Finkelstein is not only telling you that the Israeli public views the goals of the BDS movement as hypocritical, but that even if international law guaranteed the right of return for 6 million refugees and their descendants, there’s no public or international support for a population transfer that large ever happening.

    FYI, the General Assembly simply delegated responsibility for identifying and registering the Palestine and other refugees to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), or the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Those organs made the determination that all refugee communities have their refugee status passed through the generations while their plight remains unresolved. That determination is not grounded on any requirement of international law. In all likelihood Israel would challenge that in the ICJ as ultra vires to the powers and functions of the General Assembly if Palestinians ever attempted to enforce the right of return.

    Furthermore, by using the language of IL, the framers of the call have intentionally opened the movement to people who may disagree with them of matters of substance.

    International law doesn’t matter if the courts dismiss your case and refuse to grant you a remedy. The European Court of Human Rights adopted decisions striking down claims based upon the right of return to occupied areas of northern Cyprus due to the passage of time and the arrival of new generations. The Court instructed the victims to present their claims to the compensation commissions of the illegal occupying power. The ruling was grounded in the ipse dixit of the court, not in the language of international law. The Greek Cypriot victims did not have anything analogous to UN General Assembly resolutions 181(II) and 194(III) by way of support, but they did have the Geneva Conventions (which the ECHR ignored). The decision is final and can’t be appealed. See the discussions on Demopoulos and Others v. Turkey et al, decision of 1 March 2010, — ECHR 2010 here:
    *http://humanrightsdoctorate.blogspot.com/2010/03/property-tribunal-in-northern-cyprus-is.html
    *http://korbelsecurity.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/european-court-of-human-rights-on-right-of-return-for-refugees/

    Finkelstein is telling you that he is no longer willing to waste his time on left wing silliness that isn’t ever going to happen. If the poor Palestinians have to sit around somewhere “Waiting for Godot”, then they really ought to be enjoying the hospitality of their own new Palestinian State. International law doesn’t require the neighboring states to grant the UN or Israel an unconditional right to violate their territorial integrity in order to operate a bunch of large refugee camps.

    • lareineblanche
      February 18, 2012, 2:04 pm

      “No, Finkelstein is not only telling you that the Israeli public views the goals of the BDS movement as hypocritical”

      No, he explicitly states in one of his lectures, possibly this one :
      link to normanfinkelstein.com
      that there is a case for labeling those who only concentrate on Israel crimes can be seen as hypocritical – and I think there’s some truth to it as well. The problem with the charge of hypocrisy is that it can almost always be leveled, no matter what your concern is, as there are invariably comparable cases of suffering elsewhere – this is a constant, and that is why the charge of hypocrisy is simply a weak one. If one is worried about being labeled a hypocrite, it pretty much precludes advocating for any cause at all – see discussion of R2P, foreign intervention, etc. That is, if you take this to its logical conclusion, either you advocate for suffering everywhere, or nowhere at all.

      The basic principle is that one should concentrate on those issues which one has the most possibility of affecting. This, however, brings up the question of : who exactly is it whose behavior you wish to modify? Those in power, or the broader general public? This is one of the questions Gabriel (Evildoer) raises, and it’s a relevant one – that is, this “public” is very ill-defined. Who is it? The American public? It certainly doesn’t mean : every person on Earth. Some matter more than others. According to this principle, Americans, Jews and Israelis are well-situated to force change and modify the behavior of those in power, as they are most directly implicated, and have more of a chance of gaining the ears of those guiding policy. Up until now, the fact of the matter is that nobody cared what Palestinians think, and Finkelstein and others believe that now we have entered a sort of sea change in public opinion which will enable an environment in which Palestinian voices are deemed to be of some importance, and therefore relevant, and therefore powerful. This remains to be seen, in my opinion, but there are some signs. But this sidesteps the more fundamental question Gabriel seems to be asking, which is not specifically about the Palestinians or Israel : Should we be modifying our demands to fit the realm of acceptability for those in power? This is not such an obvious statement.

      The RoR :
      The crux of the argument here is that, even if it should be affirmed as a matter of principle, one shouldn’t insist on actually implementing it, as there would be too much opposition, and Israel would take it to the ICJ in order to block it (as it would basically reverse Zionism as we know it). But this is an argument of power, and not of strict adherence to legal principles – which beings up the still broader issue of how much the law is to be seen as some perfect machine which acts as a kind of codification of moral principles into which we can input certain situations or conflicts, and which will output a perfect solution – obviously this is not what the law is. It seems to me to be rather an extremely messy, complicated and contradictory collection of principles and precedents with no claim on some sort of absolute reality or truth. It is more like a tool, which can be used retroactively to serve best those who can manipulate it most to their advantage and have the might to enforce it. Finkelstein even concedes this point at the end of the Q and Q session during the Edinburgh lecture.

      “Those organs made the determination that all refugee communities have their refugee status passed through the generations while their plight remains unresolved. That determination is not grounded on any requirement of international law. In all likelihood Israel would challenge that in the ICJ as ultra vires to the powers and functions of the General Assembly if Palestinians ever attempted to enforce the right of return.”

      Now you’re confusing me. Are you saying that UNSC res 194 and 242, or any other requirement of IL are not necessarily to be construed as applying the RoR to descendants of the refugees, and only to the refugees themselves? Has this issue ever been clarified?
      Here’s Mouin Rabbani addressing this issue, in the first video, starting at around 1:27:00 :
      link to normanfinkelstein.com

      “The Court instructed the victims to present their claims to the compensation commissions of the illegal occupying power. The ruling was grounded in the ipse dixit of the court, not in the language of international law. The Greek Cypriot victims did not have anything analogous to UN General Assembly resolutions 181(II) and 194(III) by way of support, but they did have the Geneva Conventions (which the ECHR ignored)”

      Part of the ECHR decision here :

      The issue arises to what extent the notion of legal title, and the expectation of enjoying the full benefits of that title, is realistic in practice. The losses thus claimed become increasingly speculative and hypothetical. There has, it may be recalled, always been a strong legal and factual link between ownership and possession… This is not to say that the applicants in these cases have lost their ownership in any formal sense; the Court would eschew any notion that military occupation should be regarded as a form of adverse possession by which title can be legally transferred to the invading power. Yet it would be unrealistic to expect that as a result of these cases the Court should, or could, directly order the Turkish Government to ensure that these applicants obtain access to, and full possession of, their properties, irrespective of who is now living there or whether the property is allegedly in a militarily sensitive zone or used for vital public purposes.

      The court seemed to believe that “it is still necessary to ensure that the redress applied to those old injuries does not create disproportionate new wrongs. ” I can see how this could apply to I/P. In this case, the ECHR sees itself not as qualified to apply some ultimate justice stemming from moral principles, but rather as applying the least bad solution for all.

      Two observations :
      It seems to me that the overriding problems Finkelstein and others see in the BDS movement are that :
      1) It has not clearly enough articulated its goals as far as a final status.
      2) By not clearly enough articulating its goals, it is wasting precious time to come to some sort of least bad settlement and at least provide some comfort and alleviation of suffering.

      • Hostage
        February 20, 2012, 11:01 pm

        If one is worried about being labeled a hypocrite, it pretty much precludes advocating for any cause at all – see discussion of R2P, foreign intervention, etc.

        There haven’t been any really good examples of R2P to date, especially in the context of R2P Palestine. Frank Barat, who interviewed NF, edited and co-authored a book with Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky, Gaza in Crisis. Chomsky wrote a chapter which contains an appropriate illustration of the doubtful pedigree of R2P:

        Gareth Evans signed a treaty with his Indonesian counterpart Ali Alatas granting Australia rights to the substantial oil reserves in “the Indonesian Province of East Timor.” The Indonesia-Australia Timor Gap Treaty, which offered not a crumb to the people whose oil was being stolen, “is the only legal agreement anywhere in the world that effectively recognises Indonesia’s right to rule East Timor,” the Australian press reported. Asked about his willingness to recognize the Indonesian conquest and to rob the sole resource of the conquered territory, which had been subjected to near-genocidal slaughter by the Indonesian invader with the strong support of Australia (along with the United States, the United Kingdom, and some others), Evans explained that “there is no binding legal obligation not to recognise the acquisition of territory that was acquired by force,” adding that “the world is a pretty unfair place, littered with examples of acquisition by force.” It should, then, be unproblematic for Israel to follow suit in Gaza. A few years later, Evans became the leading figure in the campaign to introduce the concept “responsibility to protect”—known as R2P—into international law. R2P is intended to establish an international obligation to protect populations from grave crimes. Evans is the author of a major book on the subject and was co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which issued what is considered the basic document on R2P.

        — ibid pages 208-209

        Here’s Mouin Rabbani addressing this issue, in the first video, starting at around 1:27:00 :
        Rabbani says the core of any resolution has to be unambiguous Israeli recognition of the right of return and acknowledgment of its role in causing and perpetuating the refugee problem. Only then, he goes on to say, can there be a negotiated settlement of the refugee question that even the refugees can accept. So if I’m hearing him correctly, he wants Israel to acknowledge the moral principle underlying the universal right of return, while negotiating something less than that, i.e. a mea culpa + an agreed-upon negotiated settlement.

        Now you’re confusing me. Are you saying that UNSC res 194 and 242, or any other requirement of IL are not necessarily to be construed as applying the RoR to descendants of the refugees, and only to the refugees themselves? Has this issue ever been clarified?

        No. Israel played a role in adopting the principle that refugee status was passed to the descendants of Jewish refugees until their plight was resolved. It has always preferred to treat the legal issues related to Palestinian refugees as if they are merely political questions. That tactic has been successful, so Israel has no interest in challenging the status quo in international court. OTOH, the Palestinians haven’t had access to the international court and a decision like the one in the ECHR case would be a disaster for them. The Geneva Convention and resolution 194(III) didn’t envision a long-term occupation or conflict. So, the status of descendants were not specifically mentioned. The passage of time and the arrival of new generations does not work in favor of the Palestinians. So yes, there is a window of opportunity that is closing.

        One of the roles of the General Assembly is to promote the progressive codification of international law. The UN doesn’t make international law, but it can state the consensus position of experts on a particular subject in a draft treaty and open it for signature. That makes it a matter of conventional law that is only binding on the parties to the agreement. When a treaty has been universally ratified, or there is no significant evidence of contrary state practice, then the UN can declare that the convention reflects customary practice that it considers binding upon non-signatories and signatories alike.

        The draft UN Refugee Convention of 1950 was the work of an Ad Hoc Committee on displaced or stateless persons and refugees. The Committee was comprised of representatives of Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Israel, Poland, Turkey, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela. The Committee agreed that children and the immediate family of a refugee should also be considered as refugees. See pdf page 40 of 66 link to un.org

        The consensus position on the “Principle of unity of the family” was incorporated in the UN Convention and applies to all refugee programs operated under UN auspices. The treaty entered into force with 19 signatories and there were eventually 145 state parties including Israel. Needless to say there is little or no evidence of contrary state practice.

      • lareineblanche
        February 21, 2012, 7:39 am

        Thanks for clarifying, Hostage.

    • Shingo
      February 18, 2012, 6:09 pm

      No, Finkelstein is not only telling you that the Israeli public views the goals of the BDS movement as hypocritical, but that even if international law guaranteed the right of return for 6 million refugees and their descendants, there’s no public or international support for a population transfer that large ever happening.

      This is whre I don’t follow NF and I find him incoherent. On one hand he insists that the BDS monvement stick to the law, and that the law is all ecompassing, while then admitting that the law comes second to public opinion.

      International law doesn’t matter if the courts dismiss your case and refuse to grant you a remedy.

      Which only reinforce the idea that placing one’s faith in international law is futile, which again undermines NF’s argument.

      Finkelstein is telling you that he is no longer willing to waste his time on left wing silliness that isn’t ever going to happen.

      So the left wing is silly for not sticknig religiously to the law, but just as silly for limiting it’s position to the law.

      • lareineblanche
        February 19, 2012, 6:50 am

        “Which only reinforce the idea that placing one’s faith in international law is futile, which again undermines NF’s argument.”

        I don’t think his argument is so much that one should place one’s faith in IL, but rather that arguing from that point of view will resonate more with the rest of the world community (whoever that is), and therefore have more of an immediate effect.

      • Hostage
        February 21, 2012, 12:58 am

        This is whre I don’t follow NF and I find him incoherent.

        So what? I find Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti incoherent. I still number them among the goods guys and simply agree to disagree with them on many issues. NF is saying that enforcing international law will result in a better outcome than sticking with the status quo of relying on political negotiations, Israeli Apartheid week, and BDS. There is no strong public opposition to enforcing international law.

        Which only reinforce the idea that placing one’s faith in international law is futile, which again undermines NF’s argument.

        Some of the Palestinian population groups have their own unique status under various international conventions on armed conflicts or refugees. For example, the humanitarian provisions of the Geneva Conventions may not apply to many of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jordan, or some of the refugees living outside the occupied territories. For 60 years Palestinians have been placing their faith in force majure, armed resistance, terrorism, and non-violent resistance. During that time, the Palestinians acquiesced in the deliberate strategy of keeping them and their case out of the international courts. It has been the strategy of waiting for a negotiated political settlement, without the added leverage of enforcing the existing international laws, that has proven to be futile.

        So the left wing is silly for not sticknig religiously to the law, but just as silly for limiting it’s position to the law.

        If you’re going to utilize pilpul then it would be more accurate to describe NF as saying that a) the left is silly for saying that the 2ss is dead, because it will require the disruption and expense of resettling 600,000 Jewish settlers; while b) the 1ss will occur naturally, because it only entails the expense and disruption caused by resettling 6,000,000 Palestinian refugees; and c) the Jewish settlers have the option of pulling-up stakes and moving to Israel when the IDF leaves, but the Palestinian refugees still need the consent of the Israeli public and that’s not ever going to happen.

        FYI, NF said he supports both the enforcement of international law and a BDS movement – based upon clearly defined and realistic goals.

        I disagree with some of NF’s positions, e.g. with respect to equating political Zionism with racism., i.e. link to normanfinkelstein.com

        I think that political Zionism is a form of racism. At the same time, I agree with NF’s, criticism that Syria, Saudi Arabia, et al are in no position to co-sponsor UN resolutions on the subject without inviting charges of hypocrisy over their role in prolonging the conflict for reasons that mirror those of political Zionism. He is correct when he describes the problem of IAW and BDS rhetoric which:

        is left open enough to incorporate: (1) critics of Israel who still support a two-state solution; (2) those who support the dismantling of the current Jewish State and its replacement with a single (highly theoretical) secular democratic state; and (3) those who support the destruction of Israel by any means necessary. All three camps are included amongst supporters of IAW and the BDS campaign, and therefore the lines are often blurred between harsh criticism of the state of Israel, outright condemnation of its continued existence, and calls for its eradication. This is a serious problem, and one that appears to be designed quite consciously by IAW and the BDS movement.

        The answer is to point-out their shortcomings too, not to avoid the subject altogether. Many of us do support organizations, like AI, HRW, & others with a view to addressing global human rights issues and criticize the positions taken by the BDS leadership.

      • lareineblanche
        February 21, 2012, 10:30 am

        I disagree with some of NF’s positions, e.g. with respect to equating political Zionism with racism

        Hostage, I believe the headline here was sarcastic (Soviet archives show Stalin behind Israel Apartheid Week), he does have a tendency to use parody when criticizing the hardcore ideologues.

      • Hostage
        February 21, 2012, 2:59 pm

        Hostage, I believe the headline here was sarcastic (Soviet archives show Stalin behind Israel Apartheid Week), he does have a tendency to use parody when criticizing the hardcore ideologues.

        I understand that NF was being sarcastic, but the headline he substituted for the original one, really only pokes fun at the supposed chain of direct historical and political connections that were outlined by Catherine Chatterley. The views I’m talking about are usually expressed with a great deal of subtlety. For example, by labeling the situation in the occupied territories apartheid, while denying that the situation in Israel constitutes apartheid too. That was implicit in the claims he made in the Barat interview. NF punted on the issue of apartheid or prohibited forms of segregation within the borders of the State of Israel and the possibility of enforcing the existing international laws and treaties on that particular subject. In the interview, he went so far as to claim that international law doesn’t apply to minority rights in Israel.

        Israel will never recognize the establishment and maintenance of Jewish-only communities; the forced displacement of the Bedouins; and overt discrimination in the areas of land, housing, education, and family unification as human rights abuses if the solidarity movement and human rights organizations were to adopt NF’s approach to the treatment of minorities within the state’s recognized boundaries.

        Keep in mind that Judge Goldstone described the illegal discrimination in the occupied territories as a direct result of the application of Israel’s two-tiered municipal legal system which provides superior rights and privileges to persons of Jewish descendancy.

      • lareineblanche
        February 21, 2012, 8:55 pm

        For example, by labeling the situation in the occupied territories apartheid, while denying that the situation in Israel constitutes apartheid too.

        I’ve found this article by Ran Greenstein to be particularly useful :
        Israel/Palestine and the Apartheid Analogy:
        Critics, Apologists and Strategic lessons (Part 1) :
        link to mrzine.monthlyreview.org
        Israel/Palestine and the Apartheid Analogy:
        Critics, Apologists and Strategic Lessons (Part 2)
        link to mrzine.monthlyreview.org

  32. MHughes976
    February 18, 2012, 4:28 pm

    It is not true that by concerning ourselves with one topic we show lack of concern with others. We show lack of concentration on those other things, but no one can concentrate on everything or should be asked to do that.
    To notice that something is wrong is quite enough reason, in any normal circumstance, to draw attention to it. If you stopped to consider everything else that is right or wrong you would never say anything about anything.
    The claim that ‘something’s wrong here’ is not weakened, indeed is confirmed, by the claim ‘something’s wrong there too’.
    There is no special reason, none at all, why those who think the present situation wrong should hesitate to say so until they can all agree about what should replace it. The main waste of time is leaving the status quo unchallenged while we debate something else.

  33. thankgodimatheist
    February 18, 2012, 11:54 pm

    Tony Greenstein:
    The Tragedy of Norman Finkelstein – Time to Say Goodbye
    link to azvsas.blogspot.in
    “As Finkelstein says, ‘I’m 58 years old, I gave my life to the cause and I’m not going to be anyone’s fool. I’ve lost patience with it.’ It is a fact that people, even Norman Finkelstein, can get burnt out and become lost to the movement. Norman Finkelstein’s present position is that of a historical curiosity, a relic of past battles. His books relevant for what Finkelstein used to believe in rather than what we currently preaches. Norman Finkelstein today is a performing bear, dancing to imperialism’s melodies whilst the older lyrics remain unsung.”

    • Annie Robbins
      February 19, 2012, 12:25 am

      that’s horrid. i do not believe that. i believe he has hit a massive log in the road. i’m not saying goodbye to norm finkelstein. he’s given his life over to this and he has integrity and honor. he’s exasperated and he faces these issues day in and day out. i don’t agree with what he said, i definitely do not think we are a cult but i cannot stand by and listen to everyone throw him out like old bathwater. he’s a massive person at a very weak moment in history. collectively his contribution has been huge. perhaps not to the middleeastern mind but in terms of where we are today..huge. seriously, i don’t bail on people, especially not when we know he wanted to pull the tape. just chill people.let the man mend.

      • MHughes976
        February 19, 2012, 3:53 pm

        Absolutely right. We’ll have some further interesting and valid contributions from NF in time.

    • Shingo
      February 19, 2012, 2:26 am

      Greenstein’s response is outstanding, but like Annie, I believe NF is too valuable and has contributed far too much to be cast aside.

    • lareineblanche
      February 19, 2012, 7:11 am

      I agree with Annie, Greenstein makes a lot of excellent points in his article which I agree with, but he is overly dramatic in announcing the “Demise of Norman Finkelstein”, it’s too categorical.
      NF wants to implement a concrete solution which will benefit many Palestinians in the here and now rather than have everybody wrestle with the deeper ideological problems of Zionism and ethnic nationalism, and thinks a compromise is the only way to do it. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think he’s expressing himself in a way that people are understanding.
      At the same time, this follows a pattern, we saw his same concern for pragmatics during the Gaza freedom march several years ago in which he stated that tackling Zionism was needlessly divisive and weakened the overall impact of the movement in achieving its narrow goal. It seems to me to be an argument about strategy, not principles.

      Now, he may be WRONG about this strategy, as it’s more of a short term solution rather than a long term one (the problem of Zionism will still have to be tackled down the road)…

      • tony greenstein
        February 20, 2012, 10:05 pm

        Thank you for your kind comments. However you believe I’ve been too categorical in my criticism of Norman Finkelstein. Let me explain why I disagree.

        Firstly we need to identify what the problem is in Israel/Palestine. According to the most dishonest Labour Zionists, best represented by the Union of Jewish Students and Peace Now, the problem is a psycho-personal one. Jews and Arabs just don’t get on hence why they must separate. And two states provides the answer.

        The right-wing Zionists were always more honest. A Jewish state means expelling the Arabs or confining them beyond the Iron Wall. That this logic is now suffusing through the mainstream of Zionism is exemplified by this posting on the Jewish Chronicle blog today.

        link to thejc.com

        The two state solution, a solution that only imperialism can create, in reality a state and a reservation policy, because no one imagines a Palestinian state will be independent in anything but name, will provide the ideal opportunity for people like Clive Wolman to implement another ‘transfer’ – this time of the bulk of Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens. And sooner or later there will be another ‘transfer’ – this time across the Jordan when circumstances and a war permit.

        Partition in Ireland, also seen as a practical solution at the time by Republican leaders like Michael Collins, in retrospect paved the way for a coercive confessional state in the South and a police statelet in the North for 50 years and a war for nearly 30 years after ‘the troubles’ in 1969. And in Ireland, the Unionists power had already started to wane. Not because of a demographic time bomb as Wolman states, but because of the diminishing importance of the Loyalists of the North of Ireland to Britain’s geo-strategic and economic interests.

        By way of contrast the Palestinians are weak and Israel is strong, hence why a 2 State solution is unattainable, except in the most abstract of forms. Yet now is the time that NF devotes his lecture tours to arguing the case for 2 States, using maps that are ludicrous as his stage props, simply ignoring that the settlers control 60% of the West Bank and are not going to be dislodged. And as part of this act, NF belabours and attacks the movement for BDS – much to the delight of last week’s Jewish Chronicle amongst others.

        Ireland and Palestine have followed a very similar path. The first Military Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs, in his auto-biography ‘Orientations’ called Jewish Palestine ‘a little loyal Ulster amidst a sea of hostile pan Arabism.’ Churchill was the Colonial Secretary who presided over Partition and the rise of the Mandate.

        If a United Ireland is a precondition for peace in Ireland, as opposed to the sticking plaster of the Good Friday Agreement, then that is doubly true in Palestine. Without dealing with the cause, the ethno-Jewish nature of the Israeli state, with all the consequences of apartheid, discrimination etc. which follow, then all ‘solutions’ are mere palliatives.

        Indeed I would go further. 2 States is not on the horizon nor will it be. But even if it were I would be opposed. It would create a yet more racist Zionist state on one side and an even more repressive Palestinian statelet than the current junta in Ramallah presides over. There would no justice for any Palestinian beyond the current business mafia. Torture would continue to be the norm in the jails of the PA. There would certainly be no liberation. That was the false dawn of Oslo and it should not be repeated because that led to the Palestinians policing themselves at israel’s behest, which is exactly what I predicted nearly 20 years ago now.

        NF may be a brilliant scholar but he disregards the importance of Zionism, as the founding ideology of the Israeli state. Whereas the nationalism of the 19th century at its most progressive was integrative – to the Jews as individuals everything, to the Jews as a nation, nothing (Conte de Clermont-Tonnerre), nationalist political movements, Volkish and racist, grew up whose goals were an ethnic-nationalism. Just as Edouard Drumont conflated Catholicism with French nationalism, so others saw ‘race’ and nation as indistinguishable. Zionism was of this ilk and today Jews are defined by the rabbis as a race with the consequent privileges.

        To NF, none of this matters. Pragmatism is all. But the price for NF’s pragmatism will be paid by the Palestinians as NF makes it clear that he is growing old and weary and impatient.

      • lareineblanche
        February 21, 2012, 8:59 pm

        [A Palestinian state] will provide the ideal opportunity for people like Clive Wolman to implement another ‘transfer’– this time of the bulk of Israel’s 1.5 million Arab citizens

        This is possible, and I think it’s part of Illan Pappé’s argument too.

  34. yourstruly
    February 19, 2012, 11:24 am

    as for NF wanting to implement a concrete solution which will benefit many Palestinians in the here and now -

    at a time when a U.S. &/or U.S.-backed Israeli war upon Iran is imminent, isn’t talking about the here and now for the Palestinians at best a distraction?

    because once such a war breaks out, won’t it be rally-round-the-flags (the star of david alongside the red, white & blue), with anything Palestinian completely off the msm radar?

    & unhindered now by concerns that the u.s. might raise objections, won’t the zionist entity waste no time in taking over the rest of palestine, ethnic cleansing along the way as it deems necessary without a word of protest from its u.s. ally?

    so if it’s what will benefit Palestinians in the here and now that’s the main concern, for the moment, at least, shouldn’t we focus on preventing an Iran war, since if we don’t the Zionist entity is likely to come up with and implement its final solution to its “Palestinian Problem?”

    of course trying to prevent an iran war without taking on israel firsters would be like, in basketball, trying to score with one’s dominant hand tied behind one’s back.

    • lareineblanche
      February 19, 2012, 12:33 pm

      yourstruly,
      It’s my understanding of events that the hardliners in Israel are ginning up the threat of overt war with Iran in part to do just that –
      1) Divert the public’s attention from crimes against Palestinians and settlement building by focusing on the “nemesis” – remember, these declarations of belligerent intent towards Iran and propaganda over the nuclear program are part of a narrative which has gone on for over a decade.
      2) If overt war breaks out (as opposed to the covert one), Bibi and co. will want to use the unrest and chaos in the region as a pretext and a cover to enact another ethnic cleansing program. It sounds outrageous, but anything is possible.
      link to israeli-occupation.org

      It goes without saying that opposing a war with Iran is a good idea, whatever the motivations.

    • Keith
      February 19, 2012, 7:15 pm

      YOUSTRULY- The situation with Iran is absolutely crucial to how the Israel/Palestine question resolves itself. The empire has a small window of opportunity to preempt the formation of an Iran/Russia/China counter hegemonic block. My intuitive best guess is that US/Israel will initiate a decisive confrontation with Iran later this year or early next, or not at all. If US/Israel is successful in causing regime change in Iran, Russia and China will back off and the empire will proceed to morph into a corporate/financial matrix of control. If unsuccessful, there will be extreme turbulence particularly in the Middle East. In any event, I view the situation as extremely volatile, predictions basically guesses.

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