Finkelstein stands by ‘BDS cult’ accusation, says it’s ‘historically criminal’ to not support the two state solution

Israel/Palestine
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Norman Finkelstein was on Democracy Now this morning to discuss his two new books and Amy Goodman asked him the BDS movement and support for the two-state solution. The video of this portion of the interview is above.

Ali Abunimah has a strong response at Electronic Intifada that ends:

After continuing his attacks on the Palestinian-led BDS movement, Finkelstein offered this thought on the consequences of Palestinians continuing to insist on their rights, and rejecting the so-called two-state solution which Finkelstein misleading asserts is “the law”:

“That’s the law. If you want to go past that law, or ignore the Israel part, you’ll never reach a broad public. And then it’s a cult. It’s pointless in my opinion. We’re wasting time. And it’s not only a wasting of time. It becomes – and I know it’s a strong word and I hope I won’t be faulted for it – it becomes historically criminal.”

There you have it, Palestinians. If you continue to insist on rights for all Palestinians, you are committing a crime.

It’s well worth reading the whole piece.

The only comment I have to add is something I considered injecting in the discussion after Finkelstein’s interview with Frank Barat, and it concerns main error in Finkelstein’s argument against the BDS movement. It’s clear that Finkelstein supports the two-state solution and that’s his prerogative, but he insists that the BDS movement supports one state and this is factually incorrect. The BDS movement has three demands:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

These demands can be met within a one-state solution, a two-state solution or any number of any proposals. In fact, when I attended the Third National BDS Conference in Hebron this past December one attendee asked Omar Barghouti why the movement doesn’t explicitly endorse one state? He responded by saying it’s because the overwhelming number of Palestinian organizations that endorsed the BDS call support two states. While it’s true that some notable figures in the movement, like Barghouti, support one state, it should be obvious that this doesn’t reflect the movement as a whole. Does Finkelstein know this? Has he attempted to find out?

There is a finer point here that Finkelstein avoids taking on explicitly and that’s the question of the Jewish state. Whenever there is a demand to support the two-state solution, it is usually a euphemism for supporting Israel as a Jewish state, and that seems to be what Finkelstein is insisting on here — “You can’t reach a broad public if you are agnostic on the question of Israel.” My guess is that if I ask Barghouti whether those same Palestinian organizations that support two states also support a Jewish state he would laugh. And why should they? But more importantly, who is Norman Finkelstein to demand that they do?

As Abunimah points out in his post above, Finkelstein seems to deny the agency of Palestinians to determine their own liberation movement, and instead wants to take the lead from human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. I support the BDS movement because it represents the clearest consensus within Palestinian civil society of what it will take to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, I believe this is the Palestinian people’s greatest weapon in countering Israel – only the Palestinian people have to power to declare the conflict over. Finkelstein asks Palestinians to sacrifice this power for what is politically feasible at this time, regardless if it is even possible on the ground.

It’s unclear where Finkelstein is headed from here. Liberal Zionists won’t have him and at the same time he is alienating many in the Palestine solidarity movement. Finkelstein often mentions meeting at the “rendezvous of victory,” but at this point it’s uncertain who else will be there.

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