Norman Finkelstein on Sanders, the first intifada, BDS, and ten years of unemployment

US Politics

We interviewed Norman Finkelstein, the noted scholar of the Israel/Palestine conflict, in Brooklyn on April 8 and followed up with email exchanges. The following text contains both oral and written responses to our questions.

PART 1: SANDERS

Q. You’ve been canvassing for Bernie Sanders. Tell us why you’re so excited.

I’ve witnessed three great social movements in my lifetime, the Civil Rights Movement, the Antiwar Movement and this is the third. Bernie’s campaign took the Occupy movement, which was localized, and he elevated it to the national level. I don’t know what will come next. I doubt anyone knows. But it’s exhilarating to be part of it.

If you asked me one year ago whether young people would come out in these numbers, I would have laughed. My impression was that they were hooked on internet chatter and antidepressants. But the young folks in the campaign are so serious, so intelligent; they remind me of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) folks from the early 1960s. I went on a bus ride to Massachusetts to campaign for Bernie. I was one of five in the alte kaker brigade. The rest were young people. It struck me that on the way home, there were no drugs, no one smoking marijuana, no alcohol. We got home at midnight or 1 am. It was a kind of moral austerity. Like, this is serious stuff, we’re not going to diminish it.

I have to say, it made me feel proud, for once, to be an American. On the other hand, these young people have good reason to be serious. They’re struggling for their future. If nothing comes of this, it’s really a black hole for them, a futureless future. They’re attending colleges with astronomical tuitions, coming out strapped with astronomical debt, then they have to pay astronomical interest rates, and—the worst is—there are no jobs out there. So they have a real (as we used to say) material interest in the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Q. If Bernie loses, something could still come of this?

Hopefully, the young folks will figure out the next step. It’s telling how easily and intelligently they made the transition from the Occupy movement. Occupy had a lot of cultist elements. That open mic thing—I felt as if I was at a Moonie wedding. And the consensus politics, it just didn’t work. When Bernie keeps being asked, reasonably, how do you expect to push a radical program through Congress, he keeps saying the same thing, I can’t do anything on my own, there’s got to be millions of people in the streets. He never says, organize within the Democratic Party. He just says, organize, organize, organize. How can anyone calling themselves radical disagree with this message?

This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Bernie has a national platform. Day in and day out, he’s hammering away at Wall Street, he’s naming Goldman Sachs, he’s indicting the Walton family—one family—for hoarding more wealth than 40 percent of our society. He says it over and over again. To the point that even his supporters are complaining. But Bernie grasps that he must keep repeating the message if it’s going to get traction. His devout supporters might have heard his stump speech a thousand times already, but most people hear it just once. For them, it’s not tedious, it’s a revelation. Still, you’d never know what he’s saying from the mainstream media. You wouldn’t know that he’s saying that one tenth of one percent owns more wealth than 90 percent. That’s a simple statement, he keeps repeating it. But the New York Times never reports it. However, it also never disputes it. It’s just whited out. Instead, when Sanders started campaigning in New York, the Times ran a puff piece on Goldman Sachs, saying how cool and hip the place was because its chief information officer was a gay Latino. For all anyone knows, so was Dracula; but he’s still a vampire.

Hillary keeps saying, “We have to build on Obama.” But what did Obama actually do that we are supposed to build on? Did he reduce college tuition or student debt? Did he create real 9 to 5, 40-hour-per-week jobs at a decent wage? Did he reduce income inequality? If his term of office was such a resounding success—which power-hungry grovelers like Paul Krugman now proclaim—can you tell me why so many people are rallying behind Trump and Sanders? Have you ever in your lifetime seen such mass disaffection from the political establishment and the system it represents?

Q. Do you see real economic reform flowing from the campaign?

Not in the short term. The one percent is tenacious; a lot is at stake for them. Former NYC mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg might be reduced to owning only ten homes. Even if Bernie did win the nomination, the political establishment, and the billionaires who control it, will try to destroy him. The “deep state” (as Egyptians call it) will do everything they can to wreck him, so as to teach the people a lesson, Don’t mess with the system. The Republican establishment would prefer Hillary to win if Trump is nominated and the Democratic establishment would prefer Trump to win if Sanders is nominated. The apparatchiks in both parties are trembling because power is slipping from them. “How did this happen?” To them, the party has been hijacked. Their vehicle to power has been hijacked. The serfs are stealing their fiefdom from under their feet. The whole top is united because the whole bottom is shaking the rafters. Each party would rather lose one election than lose control of their respective apparatus.

Q. Isn’t it possible the Democratic Party will blow up just like the Republicans?

A lot depends on Sanders. A pivotal moment in my own generation’s political memory is the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Hubert Humphrey was the nominee, he was Lyndon Johnson’s vice-president. A lot of people blamed the antiwar protests and so-called riots outside the convention, and the ensuing disaffection from the Democratic Party, for causing Humphrey’s defeat and ushering Richard Nixon into power. Now, there’s a real question: if Sanders were to say, we want one million people outside the Democratic convention making their feelings felt, that could be quite dramatic. But he’s going to be under a lot of pressure not to repeat the ‘68 convention.

Q. Can you imagine Bernie campaigning for Hillary Clinton?

Yeah, it’s hard to conceive. Noam Chomsky has said that of course he’ll vote for Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee. Because, although the policy differences between the candidates might be tiny, when you wield so much power, even a tiny difference translates into life and death for many people. That’s a compelling argument. Trump has also released ugly latent impulses that, even as they exist in many if not all of us, should be kept bottled up, and he’s legitimized street violence and hooliganism. Will these arguments persuade me? I can’t yet say. But I doubt they’ll persuade most young people. They don’t feel a stake in a Clinton victory; it just represents more of the same.

Q. You mention Occupy. What about Black Lives Matter as a factor?

The African-American vote has been the bulwark of reaction in this election. It’s sinking Bernie and buoying Hillary. However inspiring their courage and conviction, and however successful they’ve been in raising public consciousness, I can’t agree with Black Lives Matter activists who say that they’re above or beyond electoral politics. It’s radical posturing, posing and preening. They say that Sanders doesn’t speak to—the new buzzword is intersectionality. Tell me, which is the group of people in America today that stand to benefit most from a jobs program, universal health care and free college education? The buzzword obscures the basic fact that African-Americans are suffering most from our economic system and would benefit most if the Sanders platform were implemented. I was a radical in my youth, and I emphatically remain one. But I have come to see that I was wrong about many things. It’s a regrettable aspect not only of mainstream but also radical history that it focuses on the glamorous, chic, photogenic personalities who are often not the ones who effected real, concrete change. You take the case of the different phases of the Civil Rights Movement. The phase that really changed the face of America wasn’t the Black Power movement. It was the early phase of SNCC, the freedom rides, sit-ins, and voter registration drives, the period from the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott to the passage of the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts. If you look at who were the grassroots heroes, people who were just breathtaking in their courage, intelligence, maturity and earnestness—Bob Moses, Diane Nash, James Forman, James Bevel, Fanny Lou Hamer—most of them nobody has heard of. But everyone knows Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Huey Newton and Angela Davis. (Though I don’t want to be hard on Angela, she’s a uniquely impressive figure.) Everyone knows the Panthers, but who knows SNCC? The Civil Rights Movement was perhaps the most inspirational chapter in American history. But today’s activists are focusing on the wrong phase of it. Like myself, they’ve been seduced by style at the expense of substance.

Q. What about the courage you’ve seen in Palestine?

I personally witnessed a lot of courage during the first intifada. It was a kind of cognitive dissonance. These were nondescript, ordinary people, and yet at the same time each of them in his or her own way was displaying a kind of heroism that I was totally incapable of. I remember sitting in the kitchen of the house where I lived. It had a picture window. Every time a shot was fired outside, I wanted to dive for cover. But everyone else just went about their business as if nothing was happening. Everyone was involved, everyone showed awe-inspiring bravery. A grandmother—if a soldier started abusing a kid—she confronted the soldier, she was not afraid. She would go right up to the soldier and say, God is stronger than you.

The first intifada was not unlike the Civil Rights Movement. The most obvious question when you’re using nonviolence is, Who are you trying to reach with this tactic? That’s actually a complex question. Are you trying to convert the white Southerners, are you trying to reach white Northerners, are you trying to get the Federal government to act? It was quite clear from early on, the Movement realized, white Southerners? Forget it, they’re not going to be shaken by pictures of black (or white) people getting beaten. That’s not going to touch them. They were like the overwhelming majority of Israelis today, who are dug in, morally brutalized. They won’t be moved by pity. There’s no possibility that you’re going to reach Israelis by scenes of Palestinian suffering; on the contrary, they seem to relish it. So, if you choose as your audience, so to speak, the wrong target, you could be wasting your time. But the Civil Rights Movement understood early on, Our target is not white Southerners, our target is Northern whites, liberals and the Federal government. They carry on pretending to be a democracy, so we’re going to embarrass them into doing something about voter disenfranchisement and segregation.

These sorts of questions were not clearly sorted out when it came to the first intifada. It was too short-lived. It’s usually dated from December 1987 to Oslo in September 1993, but the first intifada was already over by 1990. Which was why the Palestinians cheered Saddam Hussein and the Scud missiles he fired at Israel. They were back trying to be liberated by someone from above or outside them. The whole idea of the first intifada was, We’re going to emancipate ourselves. But it was already over by the time of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when they were looking to him as a savior.

Q. What about Sanders’s stance on Israel/Palestine?

Initially I avoided reading his statements. I knew they would make me cringe. I don’t think even he believed a lot of what he was saying. His brother Larry is in the Green Party in the UK, he supports BDS. Bernie must know what’s going on is egregiously wrong. And actually, his recent statements have not been terrible. The formal policy statement he issued at the time of the AIPAC convention (which he didn’t attend) wasn’t bad. He explicitly called for lifting the blockade of Gaza. If Gazans organized a mass, nonviolent demonstration to breach the blockade, they could have Bernie on their side. The UN Human Rights Council report on Operation Protective Edge (2014) was horrible, it was a disgrace, but there was one redeeming paragraph. It did call for lifting the blockade immediately and unconditionally. That’s now been joined by Bernie’s unequivocal endorsement. It signals that the possibility exists of winning over him and his mass constituency, as well as large swaths of international public opinion, to end the illegal and inhuman blockade. His call during the New York debate with Hillary for an evenhanded US policy that recognized Palestinian humanity was unprecedented in a Democratic primary. Despite all the local pressures, and everything that was riding on the New York primary, he didn’t back down. Incidentally, the 74-year-old Jew from Brooklyn lost the Jewish vote in the primary, but everywhere he’s been sweeping the Muslim vote. Who could have predicted that?! It has to touch you—I am Jewish—when Bernie keeps winning the Muslim vote. Ask yourself, Would American Jews in their majority vote for a Muslim? Never. Impossible. But Muslim Americans are rallying behind Sanders, even as he supports recognition of Israel and its right to live in peace. Why? Because he comes across as a fair and decent guy. That’s so moving, so wonderful, so inspiring. It gives hope that a better world is possible.

PART 2: PALESTINE

Q. What wouldn’t you have predicted about where we’re at today in the conflict, ten years ago?

There are multiple dimensions to this question, each of which has witnessed significant shifts: the Palestinians, the region, the international community, and the Jewish diaspora. Some of these changes could have been anticipated, others came as a complete surprise.

On the Palestinian front, the salient development has been the successful conversion of the West Bank into a mini-Jordan. The Israelis made a calculation in 1993. Why can’t we create a little Jordan in the occupied Palestinian territories? We’ll just pay off enough VIPs in the PLO, and the US or Jordan will train the security services. The PLO will then do all the torture, they’ll do all the dirty work, and we’ll be relieved of the two biggest headaches inflicted on us by the first intifada: the public relations catastrophe, caused by media images of soldiers with Uzis beating children with stones, and the burden of having to mobilise the reserves to suppress a mass uprising.

The Oslo accord was designed to rid Israel of these two headaches. Number one, we’ll let Palestinians do all the dirty work. These liberals and human rights groups won’t be on our backs anymore because we won’t be doing the torture. It worked. I can’t think of a single report in the past decade by a major human rights organization, such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch (HRW), on the West Bank. Occasionally, local Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations issue reports. But, however valuable, they’re not high-profile; they don’t garner media attention. It’s Arabs torturing Arabs, so who cares? And now, when there’s an Israeli massacre in Gaza, the PA represses demonstrations in the West Bank, so far fewer Israeli soldiers are required, and they don’t need to call up the reservists. The PA protects Israel’s rear. It’s the same right now with the so-called third intifada. It’s the PA that’s repressing the rebellion at Israel’s bidding.

Here’s another telling detail. The magnitude of the devastation Israel wreaked in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge beggars the imagination. In Operation Cast Lead (2008-9), 6,300 homes were destroyed. But, do you know how many homes were destroyed in Protective Edge? 19,000. 350 kids were killed in Cast Lead, 550 in Protective Edge. But here’s the thing. As many as 300 human rights reports were issued after Cast Lead, documenting Israel’s carnage. But after Protective Edge, there was dead silence. The only major human rights organization that published reports on Protective Edge was Amnesty, and Amnesty’s reports were horrible. The silence was partly because nothing came of the human rights reports after Cast Lead. The US, acting in cahoots with the PA, impeded any action. The reports just collected dust, so the organizations ceased caring. It was also because the international community has grown inured to Israeli atrocities and Israel’s lunatic prime minister. But the biggest reason was the cowardice—or, if you prefer, prudence—of the human rights community after Richard Goldstone’s crucifixion. I can’t prove it, I want to emphasize that, but in my opinion, based on a lot of circumstantial evidence, Israel dug up dirt on Goldstone and forced him to capitulate. So, first it was Goldstone. The next victim was Christian Tomuschat, a German jurist. He got kicked off one of the Human Rights Council follow-up committees on Cast Lead by the Israel lobby. Then it was William Schabas, a prominent fixture in the human rights community. He got ousted from the UN Human Rights Council investigation into Protective Edge by the Israel lobby. It was obvious that you’d better not have any skeletons in your closet if you go after Israel. Human Rights Watch published five substantial reports after Cast Lead, some of them quite good—such as Rain of Fire, on the white phosphorus. But it said practically nothing on Protective Edge, even as that operation was by far the most destructive. The human rights organizations, they just sat it out or, in the case of Amnesty, regressed to churning out apologetics. The UN Human Rights Council was an even bigger disaster. Mary McGowan Davis, this New York state judge who replaced Schabas, was a veritable horror story.

The only chink in Israel’s armor after Protective Edge was Breaking the Silence. Otherwise, Israel had intimidated everyone into passivity. There was nothing you could quote against the official Israeli—I know it’s called narrative, I call it propaganda. I couldn’t cite anything. Human rights organizations are still scrupulously correct in the collection of facts. Where all the distortion sets in is the legal interpretation of the facts. That’s where you see the hand of people like HRW’s Ken Roth. He used to—I don’t know if it’s true anymore—personally edit the HRW reports on Israel/Palestine—they were the only ones he personally edited—because that’s when you get into the law. You are allowed to describe ghastly things, but then in the legal section, maybe you can say that it was indiscriminate, maybe you can say that it was disproportionate, but the one thing you stay away from, is saying that an attack was deliberate, as in the deliberate targeting of civilians. So, in the Human Rights Council report, they’re describing over and over and over again deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, but you’ll never see that in the legal conclusion. That’s where Mary McGowan Davis entered the picture. She shamelessly whitewashed Israeli atrocities, just as HRW’s legal expert did back in 2006, in its reports on Israel’s use of cluster submunitions in south Lebanon.

Except for pointing up the discrepancy between the factual findings and the legal interpretations in the Human Rights Council and Amnesty reports, there wasn’t much I could say about Israeli atrocities during Protective Edge. There was no documentation from “neutral” human rights organizations that I could cite. I could quote Palestinian human rights organizations, which are, of course, reputable and reliable but, unfortunately and unfairly, they lack credibility among the broad public. The only thing I had left and what I constantly resorted to in a new book I’m writing on Gaza, was Breaking the Silence. It’s an unimpeachable source and its eyewitness testimonies demolished the official propaganda. If Israel can silence Breaking the Silence, if Israel can break Breaking the Silence, then the next time it’s just going to be Israel’s word against the Palestinians. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. I notice some “radical” Palestinians in the West have been given to disparaging Breaking the Silence. That’s unfathomable idiocy.

So, Israel’s calculation in 1993 turned out to be more successful than anyone could have conceived. The PA security services started out as a rinky-dink operation. Now, they’re a very professional organization, trained by the CIA and by Jordan. Maybe, if a mass Palestinian uprising erupted, the PA security services would collapse. But, for now, they have proven very effective. This level of collaboration and cooperation between the PA and Israel—would I have predicted it? No. The PA sabotaged the Goldstone report, it prayed for Israel’s victory in Protective Edge, it has acted as a conveyor belt for Israel’s torture regime.

The next dimension is the regional one. I would not have predicted that, while Israel was massacring Gazans during Protective Edge, Egypt would openly support Israel, Saudi Arabia would openly support Israel, the Arab League would openly support Israel. The Arab League met once during Protective Edge, and it supported el-Sisi’s cynical cease-fire proposal. If Israel was able to carry out an unprecedented massacre in Gaza, it was partly because it had not just the tacit but the vocal backing of so many Arab states. As for Western public opinion, the Holocaust blackmail still works at the state level but not among ordinary people. Fully seven decades have elapsed since the end of World War 2, while the Holocaust has been used like a shmatte—a multipurpose rag. It’s been drained of its emotional resonance; it no longer has the capacity to silence Europeans, at any rate, the younger generation.

On the other hand, I was perhaps the first one to take notice of the shifting currents among American Jewry. I used to lecture at about 40 colleges a year. It became clear from speaking to these audiences that Israel was losing the battle for public opinion. In 2007, I gave a public lecture on this topic at the Judson Memorial Church near NYU. I said that young American Jews are not going to defend Israel’s criminal conduct. Israel dropped as many as four million cluster submunitions on south Lebanon in 2006 in the last 72 hours of the war, when it was already over. It dropped white phosphorus, which reaches a temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, on hospitals and a school during Cast Lead. If you’re a young American Jew, you’re probably liberal and idealistic, you’re not going to defend that sort of stuff. You may not come out swinging against Israel, but you’re going to lower your head in embarrassment and shame. I was slowly registering this metamorphosis. Something’s happening here. Younger Jews are changing. Some older Jews too—but not the majority.

Q. What about the intifada of knives?

It’s a misnomer to call it an intifada. When the first intifada was expiring, there were all these stabbings, in Jerusalem and elsewhere. They were not a sign of hope, but a manifestation of despair. This so-called third intifada, it began with stabbings; it began on a note of hopelessness, which is what an impulsive, random stabbing is. The first intifada began spontaneously, but within days all the mass organizations got involved, they formed the Unified National Command of all the political parties (except Hamas at the beginning). They were distributing leaflets every week. It was professionally done. There were bulletins telling you what to do. This day’s a strike day, this day we should be doing this, this day we should be doing that. It may have begun spontaneously. But there was a network of mass organizations ready to jump in. There is no organization now.

That points to one of the myths propagated by the BDS leadership. It claims to represent nearly 200 Palestinian civil-society organizations. If there were 20—forget about 200, just 20—such organizations with a real constituency in Palestine, would the third intifada eight months later still have no organizational form? If the organizations BDS claims to represent actually exist, they would have jumped into the void, just as the mass organizations did in the first intifada. And in the first intifada, everyone deferred to them, because they belonged to them. That’s civil society. In fact, the salient feature of this so-called third intifada is that it is organization-less. Have you ever heard of a genuine people’s uprising that consisted entirely of random knifings and running down people in the street? The truth is,“Palestinian civil society” is an illusion. It’s just foreign-financed NGOs—one or two-person outfits—dotting Ramallah’s privileged landscape.

In general, there’s a lot of romanticizing of “oppressed people.” We see it here in the US. Who would have predicted that African-Americans would sink the most radical presidential candidate in living memory? In my youth, black people were said to be the “Vanguard of The Revolution,” but in this election cycle they turned out to be the vanguard of reaction. Look at John Lewis. He was a genuine hero of the Civil Rights Movement, no question about it. But now he’s a pathetic flunkey for the racist Clinton machine. He grotesquely maligned Bernie’s record in the Civil Rights Movement and delivered up a clean bill of health for the Clintons. Likewise, because the Palestinians have been romanticized, it hasn’t sunk in that at this moment—I’m not going to predict tomorrow, I learned that from the Sanders campaign—Palestinians are a defeated people. The causes and symptoms of this include a cynicism about politics after so much sacrifice and hope yielded the bitter fruits of continued occupation and more settlements; a collaborationist leadership; the daily struggle for survival; the rejection of collective struggle in favor of every man for himself; the absence of popular organizations. I don’t know who in the West dreamt it up, but one clever tactic was to take any Palestinian who had talent, any Palestinian who was articulate, any Palestinian who might be radicalized, and give them an NGO in Ramallah, give them a computer terminal and give them an office, double or triple their salary, and then make it plain that if you get too far out of line, you’ll be out in the cold. It worked like a charm. The types of folks who once staffed the mass, popular organizations now sit in a Ramallah office writing quarterly reports on the Palestinian economy, even as the Palestinian economy is non-existent. This critical sector of future leaders has been pacified.

Q. But maybe, if Palestinians in the occupied territories are a defeated people, BDS is something that’s happening in the diaspora, which is undefeated.

Defeated people, for the moment. I don’t know what will come next. Look how wrong I was about young people in the US! The ruling elite in the West is very smart. It makes errors, obviously, but one shouldn’t underestimate its cleverness. One reason white South Africa abolished Apartheid was because it looked at the United States in the post-Civil Rights era and it dawned on them that you can get rid of the formal, legal discrimination and still control the economy. That was what happened here in the US. There was no redistribution of wealth between blacks and whites, except the creation of a new, post-Civil Rights era black bourgeoisie. Palestine is a tiny place. It was overwhelmed by the big powers that calculated and conspired how to neutralize it. The Europeans supply the largesse to keep the PA afloat while the CIA torturers train the security services. It would have taken superhuman fortitude to resist the temptation and the torture. I can’t say I’m shocked at the defeat that was inflicted. But we should be honest that the situation is hopeless, for now. It doesn’t mean we should give up. I’m not giving up. But we also shouldn’t nurture illusions. When the bubble bursts, it just breeds yet more despondency and despair.

PART 3: POLITICS

Q. You said that Breaking the Silence is effective, and sure enough, all the Israeli leaders at the New Israel Fund conference last December were attacking Breaking the Silence. But the same is happening with BDS. You cannot go to a speech by a leader on this issue without them attacking BDS. They’re not wasting their words. And so people of conscience hear that and say, Go BDS.

In fact, BDS has proven to be a bonanza for Israel. First, if you look at the genesis of Israel’s current BDS hysteria, it’s illuminating to pinpoint exactly when it began. It started right after Netanyahu was defeated on the Iran issue. Netanyahu and his cronies thrive on conjuring up enemies who allegedly want to destroy Israel. So they manufactured this hysteria about Iran, but it didn’t work because the West wanted to cut a deal. I wasn’t surprised it didn’t work. I’ve said many times, when it comes to critical US foreign policy interests, the Israel lobby is impotent. On Iran, the lobby couldn’t even count on the African-American senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker, who was a darling of the lobby and one of the founders of Yale’s Jewish society. When Iran was off the agenda, Netanyahu needed a new Great Satan that was bent on Israel’s destruction. So he grasped at BDS. It became the new pretext for Israel to play victim.

Second, Israel was getting nervous as international public opinion turned against it. What did it do? It claimed that all criticism of Israel was at heart BDS, and that BDS was about destroying Israel. By inflating the threat posed by BDS; and by redefining BDS to encompass all opposition to it, including European Union and church initiatives wholly divorced from BDS; and by subsuming under the rubric of BDS the campaigns in the West that only targeted the settlements and the occupation—by exaggerating the reach and potency of BDS, Israel could delegitimize even its most tepid but also most ominous critics. It could now allege that even they were really, whatever they might avow, seeking Israel’s destruction. The irony is, while Netanyahu wails that BDS wants to delegitimize Israel, in fact, he is manipulating BDS to delegitimize principled criticism of the occupation and settlements.

Third, once Israel began to lose Western public opinion, it had one strategy: change the subject. If it talked about human rights, it couldn’t win. It’s not going to win on human rights, it’s not going to win on the occupation. So, whenever you talk about human rights, Israel wants to talk about anti-Semitism. Whenever you talk about the occupation, it wants to talk about double standards—What about Darfur, What about Syria? Keep changing the subject. That’s its strategy. Now with BDS, it’s been really brilliant. You have to give credit where credit is due. Nobody talks about the blockade of Gaza anymore, it’s all about BDS: Is BDS anti-Semitic? Does BDS want to destroy Israel? It gets to play the victim card again. It has succeeded in changing the subject. But it must also be said that BDS made it very easy for Israel, by refusing to recognize its legality as a state within the pre-June 1967 borders. BDS enabled Israel to wrap itself in the cloak of victimhood. When the New York Times opens its columns to debates on Zionism, Mondoweiss says it’s a historic breakthrough. But the Israelis actually relish it. Let’s talk about Zionism. Let’s talk about BDS. Let’s talk about everything, everything—except what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.

Q. Wait. In October 2012, you asserted we can’t discuss Zionism because for Americans it might as well be a hairspray. But that’s exactly what we’re discussing now.

You’re confusing an intra-Jewish debate with broad public opinion. If there’s a new recipe for knishes in Sao Paulo, it’s a front-page story in the New York Times.

Q. But you were the one who said American Jews are a critical constituency. So this is a conversation inside the Jewish community about Zionism, and about time.

If you want to reach a broad public, you have to focus on things like Israel’s human rights record, the occupation, the settlements and the blockade, which a lot of liberal Jewish opinion also opposes. But if you switch the conversation to Zionism and anti-Zionism, a lot of Jews get queasy. What exactly does anti-Zionism mean? If it denotes the dissolution of Israel, it’s a nonstarter for the vast majority of Jews, and public opinion generally. Such a conversation also doesn’t go anywhere. The difference between Zionism and Apartheid—which clearly became a term of opprobrium—is that there was never a quarrel about what Apartheid signified. Everyone understood it meant separate and effectively unequal development. It had a clear, unambiguous meaning. So the debate was not subtle. It was actually pretty straightforward, and in the West no one tried to defend Apartheid on ideological grounds, because it was so antithetical to the dominant ethos of the post-Civil Rights era, which had just repudiated the separate-and-unequal doctrine. But Zionism doesn’t have a clear-cut definition, that’s why both Chomsky and Netanyahu can call themselves Zionists. It’s a much more elastic term. Historically, it contained within it many competing currents, some of which were not awful, although the dominant tendency, which won out, was obviously noxious. So, once you get into a conversation about Zionism, you’re talking about an elusive phenomenon, which might be useful to parse in a graduate school seminar, but I don’t think it has much to do with politics. It’s just a distraction, which is why Israel loves to talk about it.

Q. You spoke about a world consensus supporting the two-state solution, back in 2012. Well, there’s been a shift in that consensus. Tom Friedman even says, get ready for the era of one state.

The global consensus has not weakened a jot. Look at the critical venues, the UN General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, human rights organizations—what might be called the political horizon of progressive public opinion. If you look at all these venues, there’s no indication of a crack in the consensus. The only venue where one state is taken seriously is the humanities faculty of academia, among tenured radicals. When they’re not convening conferences on “The Black Body” and “Transgressing Transgenders” (or is it “Transgendered Transgressions”?), they circulate petitions supporting one state in Palestine. (God forbid any of them should get involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign; he’s so passé.) I also can’t attach significance to what Tom Friedman says. His pronouncements are politically inconsequential. He just says it and moves on. That’s not serious politics. We are involved in a protracted, uphill battle, we don’t tweet or write a disposable column and then it’s on to something else. That’s not serious, it’s not serious. We have to think through what we’re saying, what are the consequences, implications, repercussions, ramifications. Thomas Friedman just gets up in the morning, he sits in front of the computer screen, and the first question that pops into his head is, How do I get the buzz going about me? He’s hooked on “like” and “share.” That’s his raison d’etre.

Q. Secretary of State John Kerry and US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, also said we want to avoid the one-state reality.

Tzipi Livni also says it: If we don’t solve the conflict, we’ll have to deal with BDS/one state. They use BDS/one state as scare tactics to get Netanyahu to withdraw to the Wall. If you don’t withdraw now, we’ll have to deal with BDS/one state later. Incidentally, I was clearly wrong about the Kerry peace process. I thought the US was going to exert enough pressure on Israel to get a deal. No, the Israelis are very dug in, I was mistaken. The self-styled radical intellectual, Perry Anderson—he’s the leading Bolshevik in UCLA’s faculty cafeteria—speaks highly of BDS. He says it’s “the one campaign against the status quo with a real edge.” But Anderson also concedes, “after a decade of actions, its practical impact has been close to zero.” Facts are stubborn things, as Lenin used to say. “Close to zero.” When I read a posting on Mondoweiss by a BDS leader that said Israel is facing “imminent collapse” due to BDS, I had to wonder about his grip on reality. Israel is exploiting BDS. It’s doing with BDS exactly what it does with Hamas “missiles.” There are no Hamas missiles. It’s a complete fabrication. They’re enhanced fireworks. According to UN figures, Hamas fired 5000 missiles and 2000 mortar shells during Protective Edge. Israel’s official number is that Iron Dome deflected 740 of the Hamas missiles. That still leaves 4200 missiles that weren’t disabled. But, according to Israeli reports, only one Israeli house was destroyed during Protective Edge. You can perhaps argue that so few Israeli civilians were killed because Israel has a sophisticated early warning/shelter system. But houses don’t take cover in shelters. How can it be that only one house was destroyed? Because they weren’t missiles, they’re enhanced fireworks or, as one expert put it, “bottle rockets.” And Israel is not the only party that perpetuates this fiction. Hamas also perpetuates it. It said, You see, armed resistance does work, look at how afraid they are of our missiles. Now, both Israeli leaders and BDS leaders pretend that Israel is facing an imminent catastrophe because of BDS. It’s a mutually convenient fiction.

I’m right now writing a history of Israel’s massacres in Gaza. The biggest personal revelation while doing the research has been, everything we’re told about the conflict is a fantasy. There are no Hamas missiles. Iron Dome is also a fantasy; it probably saved zero lives. MIT missile specialist Theodore Postol put its effectiveness at five percent. That means it successfully intercepted all of 40 Hamas rockets. “Terror tunnels” is also a fantasy. The UN Human Rights Council report pointed out that, although Hamas militants did cross into Israel via the tunnels, they never once targeted Israeli civilians, only IDF combatants. In fact, Israelis themselves have conceded this. It finally sunk in on Hamas: Israel only cares if you kill or capture combatants. Israel’s a Sparta-like society, which mourns first and foremost the death of its fallen soldiers. I know BDS activists won’t like me for saying it, but in my opinion BDS is just one more of those hasbara contrivances, like the Iranian “existential” threat, Hamas missiles, terror tunnels and Iron Dome.

Q. What are the eventualities in your view?

Next year, 2017, marks a double anniversary. It’s the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and it’s the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war and ensuing occupation. Which anniversary activists hone in on will be indicative of their politics. If you hone in on Balfour, then you want to undo Israel. The Balfour Declaration culminated in Israel’s creation. If you hone in on the 50th anniversary, then you want to undo the occupation, and find some kind of—as the current terminology has it—“just” solution of the refugee question. You have to choose: which anniversary are you going to focus on?

I’m focusing on the 50th anniversary. Why? Well, in 50 years, Palestinians haven’t been able to force an Israeli withdrawal from one square inch of the occupied territories, even as the whole international community considers the occupation illegal. That’s a mantra: The settlements are illegal, or in the US terminology, “unhelpful.” (Where they dreamt up that locution, only God knows. Someone in the State Department must have taught kindergarten. “That’s very unhelpful, Johnny.”) So they haven’t been able to “liberate” a square inch of Palestine even though all of international opinion formally stands behind them. How, then, can Palestinians hope to undo a reality that’s been entrenched not for a half-century but a full century, and commands complete international legitimacy? It doesn’t make logical sense. How can you hope to turn back the clock a full century and undo Israel, if you can’t undo a reality that’s endured for half as long and enjoys zero legitimacy?

Or, to put it in current terms, I earlier used the expression, the political horizon of progressive public opinion. At this moment in time in the US, this horizon is represented by the Sanders campaign. It represents the political limit, beyond which you fall off the cliff and into a cult. If you read Bernie’s statements, he always begins by insisting on Israel’s recognition. He then goes on to say that the Gaza blockade must be lifted, the occupation is illegal, the settlements must go. Do you want to win Bernie Sanders and the constituency he represents to our campaign? I do. I want him to be part of our movement, I think it would be a huge boon to have someone of his current stature as part of our movement. But if you’re going to equivocate on the question of Israel, then you’re going to lose him. Then we’re back in the ghetto. We have a chance to reach broad public opinion. I don’t want to go back to where I was 40 years ago. But I see that happening all the time now. In the 1970s, we used to chant, From the river to the sea,/Palestine will be free. That mindlessness and idiocy has now resurfaced. We’re starting all over again. Some people call it progress. But it’s regress. You think the idea of a secular democratic state came out of nowhere? It was the PLO platform in the 1970s. From the river to the sea,/Palestine will be free. We’re going backwards—and most definitely not into the future.

Q. So you’re being pragmatic?

I’m a political person. I can’t breathe on ideas alone. I want to make the world a better place. That’s what radical politics is about. I want to achieve something before I pass into the non-next world. One of the oddest questions I’ve ever heard is, Are you for one state or two states?, as if it’s a personal preference, like I’ll take one from Column A and one from Column B on a Chinese menu. What, pray tell, does that have to do with politics? I remain a communist: the free development of each is the precondition for the free development of all; from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. Obviously, these ideals are not now on the historical agenda. So you proceed on the basis not of what you desire, but on the basis of what’s possible, while not contradicting your ultimate ideal. You have to soberly assess and weigh up the current balance of political forces, seek out realistic possibilities, and then effectively and creatively exploit them. Of course, you don’t only look at the surface. You also assess the subterranean, incipient forces at play. But I don’t see a consequential subterranean, incipient force calling for Israel’s elimination. I scrutinize what Sanders says. He keeps saying that recognition of Israel is a prerequisite. There was some regression in his New York Daily News interview. He was asked whether Israel had to be recognized as a Jewish state? He replied a little evasively—“of course…that’s the status quo”—as if to say, Yes, although it’s not necessarily my conviction. That was regrettable. But if you pressed Sanders, it’s doubtful he’d sanction a state in which Arabs were discriminated against. How do you reconcile that with a Jewish state? Well, that’s a conundrum for him—and everyone else who supports a “Jewish, democratic” state. By the way, we’re in fact heading towards a third anniversary. 2017 will also mark the 10th anniversary of the Gaza siege. On that, Bernie’s already on board. Ending the blockade is a winnable goal, if we get our act together. Ending the occupation is a winnable goal in the medium term. Ending Israel as a state with a Jewish majority is not. The advocacy of such a goal just makes an already arduous struggle harder. It’s as if, in the middle of a struggle to organize a trade union in a reactionary company town, you put out leaflets calling for Communist Revolution. That’s what provocateurs do, to wreck the struggle. Do I want to lose Bernie? Do I want to get into an argument with him about Zionism? I’m not going there. It’s self-defeating, pointless and stupid.

Q. If I [Scott Roth] were to distil my disagreement, it’s, How do you know what reality is today? Isn’t it always in flux now?

That’s wishful thinking. The consensus is actually now stronger than ever before. Where do you see flux on Israel’s existence as a state, except among self-styled radical academics? In fact, as a political matter, it hardly makes a difference what BDS says, because there’s no leadership in Palestine and in the absence of a movement there, we’re in a holding pattern. The notion that BDS can liberate Palestine from the outside, it’s also a fantasy. Could the anti-Apartheid sanctions movement have ended Apartheid in the absence of a mass movement inside South Africa? It has to begin there, and right now, there’s nothing. If and when a movement emerges there, it’s going to call for two states. How do I know? Look at the history. The PLO called for one state, that’s the Palestine National Charter. However, the precondition for Arafat speaking at the UN in 1974—the “gun and olive branch” speech—was, he had to support two states. Hamas also wanted to liberate all of Palestine. But when it won the elections in 2006, it was no longer accountable only to its constituency in Palestine. It was now operating on the world stage. So, Hamas started issuing statements effectively calling for two states. The moment Palestinian leaders start acting in the arena of international politics, the exigencies of that reality make themselves felt. If and when a new leadership emerges in Palestine, it will call for two states. The BDS platform will become a historical artifact. I was in the West Bank when Arafat called for two states in 1988 in Algiers. It was a heart-wrenching moment for Palestinians, to relinquish their claim to the whole of Palestine. But they understood, this is what’s on the table. The question was not what they as Palestinians desired, but what was politically feasible.

If I had my way, I would abolish all states. At this point in time, states are totally irrational. The world is a grain of sand spinning on its axis in an infinite universe. All the major challenges currently confronting humanity—climate change, economic inequality and dysfunction—can only be solved on a global level. But how many people support the abolition of states? The fact that it’s a rational solution doesn’t necessarily make it a politically feasible one. But would I support a Palestinian state where Israel keeps the major settlement blocs and everything else (including the crucial water resources) behind the Wall? No. A better settlement can still be won. A consensus has not yet hardened according to which Israel gets to keep everything it wants in the West Bank, leaving Palestinians the junk.

Q. But those in Israeli society who oppose two states don’t care about the international consensus, and their dreams have become real.

But they still face the obstacle, which thus far remains insuperable, of lacking international legitimacy. The international community still does not accept the settlements or the occupation. Have they done much about it? Of course not. I am perfectly aware of that. But it’s a potential weapon. It’s like the US Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. By 1960, only about 5 percent of schools were desegregated; it had barely any impact on the ground. But it was a weapon. The Civil Rights Movement latched onto that decision and the 14th “equal protection” amendment to the Constitution. The Movement said, All we want is that the Federal and state governments implement the law of the land. They exploited the latent power of the law as a political weapon. The fact that the occupation still lacks legitimacy signals that a Palestinian-led mass, nonviolent movement can use international law as a weapon. Israel has always been very smart about this. Why does anyone remember the Balfour Declaration or the Partition Resolution? Because the Zionists and then Israel made sure they weren’t forgotten. As Abba Eban said, the Partition Resolution was Israel’s birth certificate, its certificate of legitimacy. It certified that Israel was not a bastard child of the international system, but a legitimate offspring. The Zionists understood the power of public opinion and how important the Balfour Declaration, then the Partition Resolution, could be in mobilizing public opinion.

Q. Balfour was the product of colonial edifices.

Yes. So was the partition of Africa into states. Does that mean all the African states can or should be dismantled?

Q. Would you agree that if the partition plan was voted on in the modern UN—

It would never have passed in today’s United Nations. But I don’t see any evidence of a concerted, even nascent, commitment to undoing partition. You can say, justifiably, that the Israelis cynically exploited the Nazi holocaust in order to justify Israel’s existence as a refuge or safe haven for Jews. But, still, the exploitation succeeded. It has entrenched the legitimacy of a post-Holocaust Jewish state.

Q. Forget the positive action of eliminating or undoing, what about something different, if Israel implodes?

Yes, and if grandma had wheels, she’d be a baby carriage. I don’t see any evidence for your if. To quote Perry Anderson, Israel “has posted growth rates consistently higher than comparators in the OECD. After the longest sustained expansion in the country’s history, from 2003 to 2007, Israel has weathered the financial crisis of 2008 better than any of the economies of Western Europe and North America, and has continued to outperform them since.” Does that sound like a country on the verge of implosion?

Q. There’s a lot of internal contradictions in that society, I [Roth] don’t think it’s a recipe for success.

Every society is riven by internal conflicts. True, Israel has huge inequalities in the distribution of wealth, but the inequality is more acute in the US, and the US isn’t about to implode. Of course, Israel also fabricates Great Satans to mute its internal conflicts.

Q. It could take 30 years.

It’s not possible to predict what will happen 30 years from now. If you said in 1988 that the Soviet empire was going to disintegrate in a year’s time, you’d have been written off as a madman. Syria was for a long time the most robust state in the Middle East. It appeared to be a rock under Hafez el-Assad. If you had said even five years ago, Syria would soon implode, people would have laughed. It’s pointless to predict what will happen three decades from now.

I can’t counsel Palestinians, Hang in there, things might look up in 30 years’ time. I just got this email from the son of an old Palestinian friend: “I am now in the process of searching for a short-term opportunity to travel. I would like to try the feeling of riding a plane and see the sea up close. I became 24 years old and did not see the sea yet because I am forbidden from visiting the Palestinian cities of the coast.” What should I tell him—that he might get to see the ocean when he’s 55? Isn’t it more sensible, isn’t it more humane, to try to end the occupation, so that he can experience a little of life’s offerings before he’s an old man, if even then?

Q. I’m speaking hypothetically.

I have no stake in being dogmatic. What do I gain from it? You, of course, know that I’ve taken political positions in recent years that, on a personal level, have been somewhat costly. I used to live for my teaching. I loved to be in a classroom. Since being denied tenure a decade ago, I’ve been unemployed, except for a nine-month teaching stint in Turkey. Ten years of unemployment, out of a classroom, without a paycheck—it’s not been terrific. But that’s honestly not the part that bothers me the most. If you put a polygraph to my wrist it wouldn’t skip a beat. What bothers me is, I’ve invested about 35 years, my entire adult life, to this cause. It’s pretty much all I read about, it’s a very boring life. I know a lot—I’d better after so many years. But because of political differences, I’m locked out. I’m no longer asked to speak. Even Democracy Now! no longer has me on. A month ago, Mehdi Hasan’s program Up Front contacted me. They wanted me to join a debate on BDS. But the BDS leaders refused to appear on the program. It’s happened more times than I care to remember. One BDS leader told Democracy Now!, “Why debate Finkelstein? He’s not important. We should debate important people.” I used to give 40 talks a year. Now I give maybe four. I know the number because of those 1099 slips I have to submit to my accountant. Three years ago, before the BDS thing exploded, I gave him 40 slips. Last year I gave him four. He said to me, I think there’s a mistake here, how can it be only four? Now I’m debating in my head, Am I going to explain BDS to this accountant? No, forget it. So, I told him, well, you know, I’m getting old and people like fresh faces on the lecture circuit.

It’s frustrating. I no longer have an audience. I basically write for History. So my accumulated knowledge is, politically, going to waste. Gazans themselves don’t need me. They know the truth from real life. They call Hamas rockets “belly dancers,” because they swivel in their trajectory when they go up in the air. Everyone there knows they are a joke. The notion of armed resistance is just a fantasy. Hamas has had three major armed confrontations with Israel during the past eight years: Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense, Protective Edge. Each time Hamas fought with one goal in mind: to lift the blockade. Each operation ended with an Israeli promise to end the siege. But the blockade continues. Armed resistance is just not working. It’s not a question of whether or not Hamas has the right to use violent force. Of course, it has that right. But there’s a difference between whether you have the right—which they do—and whether it’s a politically prudent tactic. If it’s not producing results, then, shouldn’t you reconsider your strategy? But they’re so obstinate. The fixation on armed resistance is a regrettable feature of their political culture. Hamas can’t conceive the idea of nonviolent resistance, even though their own intifada was so successful. It’s strange. That whole glorious period has been effaced from memory. Everyone reckons it a failure, because it culminated in Oslo. It wasn’t a failure, it was a remarkable success.

It’s a tragedy, really, how the most extraordinary chapter in the history of the Palestinian struggle has been forgotten, or dismissed as a failure.

 

About Scott Roth and Phil Weiss

The authors are publisher and co-editor of this website

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126 Responses

  1. Mooser
    April 27, 2016, 1:09 pm

    “The following text contains both oral and written responses to our questions.”

    Which had to be edited and transcribed into an article, which I feel you did very well. Good work. Thanks.

  2. Theo
    April 27, 2016, 1:17 pm

    Norman

    You probably heard the following: old soldiers do not die, they just fade away.
    You left your mark on history during the past 30 years or so, your books will be in the libraries and on bookshelves in many homes, and people will remember you when you one day just fade away. That is more than most of us can ask for, so be proud of your contribution to the cause.

    • Kathleen
      April 27, 2016, 10:26 pm

      Huge contribution.

    • Pixel
      April 28, 2016, 1:34 pm

      @ Theo
      .
      I could not agree more. I also find him hysterically irreverent, “the leading Bolshevik in UCLA’s faculty cafeteria…” Hahahahaha.
      .
      …but/and something seemed to have gotten stuck for him on BDS from the very moment it began gaining traction.
      .
      At first, angry, indignant, and dismissive, it seems to have morphed into calm, measured, and dismissive.
      .
      Sadly, his concern/s… his fear/s… cloud his otherwise incisive analyses.
      .
      I think he’s wrong about it.

  3. Mooser
    April 27, 2016, 1:39 pm

    “Where do you see flux on Israel’s existence as a state, except among self-styled radical academics? “

    Don’t count that “flux” out. After all, Israel seems to be very dissatisfied with its existence as legally constituted and never could live with it. And opinion on that has only hardened in Israel, there seem to be many, many people who believe Israel, as legally constituted, cannot exist.

  4. ritzl
    April 27, 2016, 4:21 pm

    OK. Last time. Promise.

    It’s OCCUPIED PALESTINE goddammit. Or better, as Annie said a few days ago, Israeli-occupied Palestine.

    The reason that there are no popular organizations to collectivize the Palestinian struggle is because people like the authors of this article do their small bit to completely negate Palestinian identity by using the terminology: “the occupied territories.”

    That is Israeli terminology DESIGNED to have the effect Finkelstein describes. It is DESIGNED to obliterate the existence of Palestine, DESIGNED to obscure the legitimate grievances of the people of Palestine – the Palestinians, DESIGNED to deny their collective agency by portraying them as random, unfocused “disputers” as opposed to A PEOPLE [collectively] fighting so desperately to preserve its COUNTRY that is being absorbed by Israel. Palestinians will not be taken seriously if the legitimacy of their grievances and efforts is diminished by even a little bit.

    How can people who ostensibly seek to help Palestinians in one breath so complete refute themselves and deny the existence of Palestine and diminish the Palestinian cause in the very next breath?

    This is important because relatively few people, other than insiders (who are NOT the target audience btw), know what territories are being occupied and by whom. More than half of the people in the US believe the Palestinians are occupying Israeli “territories.” Israel’s Plan A. So by all means, perpetuate that ignorance. Or maybe better in question form, why is it editorial policy here to perpetuate that ignorance?

    http://original.antiwar.com/smith-grant/2016/03/24/most-americans-believe-palestinians-occupy-israeli-land/

    At this point I have to conclude that seemingly informed people who use the phrasing “the occupied territories” uses it intentionally to be dismissive of Palestine and Palestinians. They have some priority OTHER THAN justice for the people living in the country they can’t seem to bring themselves to name (eg. to preserve the insider nature of the discussion… Who knows.).

    It’s incomprehensible to me how people who seek big changes in others cannot make small changes in themselves. Palestinians are poorly served if their ostensible allies cannot even bring themselves to name the country of origin of the people they say they are trying to help.

    Oh well.

    Peace. Love. Ambiguation.

    Cheers.

    • MHughes976
      April 27, 2016, 5:13 pm

      You’re right, of.course, that Palestine is what we’re talking about – but ‘occupation’ to me is a weak and misleading term. This is not a lawful occupation but an attempted and ongoing conquest and violation.

  5. Kay24
    April 27, 2016, 4:35 pm

    So despite Trump and other republicans crying about Obama not getting along with the “only democracy”in the Middle East, the zionists have whined and cajoled American suckers into giving EVEN MORE AID. After all the disrespect shown towards him, Obama is a very disappointing man, to give in to the parasites.

    “White House official indicated on Monday that the Obama administration was ready to offer Israel the largest military aid package offered to any country over the course of US history.

    Amid a push by a large majority of senators to increase foreign aid to Israel, a White House official told Reuters: “We are prepared to sign an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with Israel that would constitute the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.”

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/white-house-ready-to-offer-israel-largest-aid-package-in-us-history/

  6. ahadhaadam
    April 27, 2016, 5:01 pm

    At the end of the day, both Chomsky and Finkelstein’s overarching consideration and sensibilities lay with fellow Jews, hence the liberal zionist undertone, albeit being more nuanced than NYT. This is understandable and one should not speak badly of either when they inevitably expose their soft Zionist spots. Their important contribution is in exposing Israel’s atrocities, lies and intransigence and breaking Jewish monolithic support for Israel, but nobody should consider them as leaders of the solidarity movement or directing Palestinian resistance. That we should leave to Palestinians themselves.

    • pabelmont
      April 27, 2016, 8:02 pm

      In a way, many of Israel’s war-crimes have already been exposed and ho-hummed by the MSM and POLs. A consequence of Zionism-in-action. But the result is that they are not hammered to the American public. USA scarcely even pretends, any more, to a human rights agenda. While we’re bombing Arabs, how excited can we get about Israel killing, stealing from, exploiting, oppressing Palestinians — who have often been associated with or called “terrorists”?

      Exposing Israel for what it is is a job of ours, of BDS, etc. Governments are not going to take on that job and are going to oppose it when anyone tries to do it. They know which side their bread is buttered on. (Money in Politics 101.)

      Thus, one example of the importance of the Sanders (or “Occupy” or Revolutionary) movement to oppose big money control of government (and — one should add — to oppose big money owning or otherwise controlling big media. MSM) is he possibility of generating American human-rights action on the side of Palestinians.

      Quixotic remark: I don’t see how to take forward the Revolution while MSM can be owned or controlled by Big Money. If “freedom of speech and press” is taken to mean that big money is allowed to own or control MSM, then what help is it to remove Big Money. somewhat, from direct political control? Of course, I’m an old fuddy-duddy who doesn’t understand all the so-called social-media — maybe there is an un-moneyed end-run around MSM.

      • Mooser
        April 27, 2016, 11:24 pm

        “I don’t see how to take forward the Revolution while MSM can be owned or controlled by Big Money.”

        Yes, we still don’t know if the Revolution will be televised.

  7. niass2
    April 27, 2016, 6:09 pm

    I approve of this message. I can relate to this better than the story, however wonderful, about the guy that figured out he was anti apartheid and wasn’t into Israeli foreign policy at a Camp in 1971. Its good to be getting old. I agree this is a new wave. I am not worried about November, because this isn’t about November. I already informed Ed Markey’s (Senator from Mass) that we are taking the party back from whoever. We must, or else we stand for nothing. and in our time we will see the birth of a new nation state, the overdue one, Palestine. And then we can go and visit, and tell everyone that we are from somewhere where someone did care. We will see how it feels in the end.

    It is still hard to explain to my SNCC involved (was) mom that Reform Judaism is bunk and isn’t about actual Judaism, but she gets it. She and my dad reflexively picked Bernie and Peace, it wasn’t a choice, but a foregone conclusion. And this is why the hope remains that the fake peace process will end and the nation state will arise. I can see it from my backyard, actually, it has trees there. And free Olive Oil for all.

  8. VoiceOfTheVoiceless
    April 27, 2016, 6:19 pm

    Excellent to hear from Dr Finkelstein again after what feels like such a long time. More of this please.

  9. Keith
    April 27, 2016, 6:32 pm

    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN- “If I had my way, I would abolish all states.”

    So would the corporations who are working in that direction. Thanks to all of these “trade” agreements, national sovereignty is a thing of the past, at least for the global financial system and other instruments of soft power. Norman, why are you clinging to the rotted cadaver of Marxism rather than trying to understand contemporary political economy?

    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN- “At this point in time, states are totally irrational.”

    Wrong! At this point in time, for better or worse, states are our only protection against total corporate/financial control. The emphasis needs to be on local autonomy. It is essential for nations to break free from the neoliberal matrix of control. Globalization could very well be the death knell for humanity.

    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN- “All the major challenges currently confronting humanity—climate change, economic inequality and dysfunction—can only be solved on a global level.”

    Yes, but not by those in charge of the global empire. Any solution inevitably requires significant local autonomy to break free of global financial control. How many of the problems you mentioned are the consequence of transnational corporate actions? Will eliminating nations and their political system work to reign in these corporations, or to empower corporate rule? Do you want the IMF and a tribunal of corporate lawyers to decide these issues? That is where we are headed. A major problem with you Marxists is that you have a centralized, bureaucratic mindset, therefore, incapable of understanding contemporary political economy. We are at the end of an era and indications are that we are headed to a form of neofeudal corporate control. You prefer corporate control to state control? Be careful what you wish for!

    • pabelmont
      April 27, 2016, 8:16 pm

      Keith: See my comment above on getting Money out of Politics. Your remarks are exactly correct. The “Big Money” that controls the USA’s POLs and MSM is increasingly controlled by and spent by the CEOs of major international corporations who are promoting and then profiting hugely from the Investor-Protection-Treaties (called Free-Trade Treaties) such as NAFTA (done deal) and TPP and TIPP (proposed). Nations are being demoted to the state of (powerless) feudal baronies while the corporations become the kings (actually emperors) of the whole world. so, in this sense, “nation states” are somewhat obsolete. But if the power were ever to be exercised to undo the NAFTA,TPP matrix of control (and long-lasting pharmaceutical patents and much else), that power would likely be exercised by nation states.

    • Donald
      April 27, 2016, 11:45 pm

      I’m sure he’d be against corporate control as well– he is a pal of Chomsky. He wasn’t giving his full view on political philosophy, just making his ” I’m a pragmatist” pitch by pointing out that his ideal world is very far away from current reality.

      Not disagreeing with what you said here– I just don’t think Finkelstein would disagree either.

      This was a reply to Keith, but I think I stuck it in the wrong spot.

      • Keith
        April 28, 2016, 12:24 am

        DONALD- “Not disagreeing with what you said here– I just don’t think Finkelstein would disagree either.”

        Just because Finkelstein is a friend of Chomsky doesn’t mean that they are ideological soul mates. Finkelstein is an unrepentant Marxist, whereas, Chomsky never was one. But Finkelstein is honest, hence, I take him at his words which I have quoted. As such, I would be astonished if he would agree with what I have said. He has focussed his entire life and career on Israel/Palestine, global political economy unexamined, his youthful Marxism exerting a continuing pull (an alternate form of secular Judaism?). Hey, I like both Norman and Noam, and have acquired a lot of their books (particularly Noam). But they are scholars which I utilize, not gurus I follow.

      • LeaNder
        April 28, 2016, 7:41 pm

        Keith,

        at that point he may simply have returned to the subject of his thesis:

        From the Jewish question to the Jewish state : an essay on the theory of Zionism, Finkelstein, Norman G., Princeton Univ., thesis, 1987

        where he looks into theories of the state.

        *****
        Good interview, good man

    • Stephen Shenfield
      April 28, 2016, 5:47 am

      Keith: We (humanity) are caught between two proven evils — corporate globalization and the system of rival states. What you say about corporate globalization is true, but the process is far from complete and may never be completed because at the same time the system of rival states is still very much alive and still presents a major danger for humanity. Look at East Asia, the South China Sea for instance. States can provide some protection against the ravages of corporate globalization, but what we really need is a world state. Rather than return to the perilous pre-globalization system by bringing the economy into line with the states system, we need to create a counterweight and eventually substitute for corporate globalization at the world level.

      • MRW
        April 28, 2016, 6:47 am

        Rather than return to the perilous pre-globalization system by bringing the economy into line with the states system, we need to create a counterweight and eventually substitute for corporate globalization at the world level.

        Why?

        Nation states are nothing more than a community of people who agree to live together according to their definition of rules and regs, and their willingness to accept a communal social contract. What’s wrong with that?

        They’re no different than neighborhoods writ large. Some people want to live ‘with their own kind’. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to? Whether they can manage it economically is up to them. We, as Americans, preferred that social contract to be governed by a system of laws in which all are assumed to be equal (yeah, I know . . .).

        Consciousness can be global, but global governance is a pipedream and foolish. Not to mention dangerous and enslaving; it makes a mockery of a decisive vote and participatory citizenship. The only counterweight worth developing is spiritual awareness of others’ differentness and the tolerance to adjust to it.

      • Keith
        April 28, 2016, 12:28 pm

        STEPHEN SHENFIELD- “Keith: We (humanity) are caught between two proven evils — corporate globalization and the system of rival states.”

        You appear to be confusing organizational structure with the underlying cause of the problem, namely, the concentration of power which, in advanced capitalism, usually takes the form of concentrated money-power. Not all nation-states are warmongers and one can envision a nation at least somewhat responsive to the will of the citizenry and to the protection of civil rights and liberties. On the other hand, corporate globalization represents the ultimate concentration of power, a matrix of control utilizing both hard and soft power (Hillary’s smart power) to render escape from imperial domination virtually impossible. The heart and soul of the system is the global financial system which ties together the various national interdependencies such that the various nation states lack the means of survival outside the system. This is one reason the Egyptian Arab Spring was doomed from the start. Since Egypt needed an IMF loan to buy food on the global market, its options were very limited right from the get-go. Furthermore, a collapse of the global financial system would cause massive social disruption which, in fact, it was designed to do to preclude attempts at breakaway. And no, Stephen, we don’t need a world state. Rather, we need to emphasize local autonomy and local survivability in order to put an end to the ongoing global conflict over the control of resources. A critical element to all of this is to restructure the private global financial system of debt money which is the driving force behind much of what is happening.

    • MRW
      April 28, 2016, 6:19 am

      I agree, Keith.

      Finkelstein:

      “If I had my way, I would abolish all states.”

      “At this point in time, states are totally irrational.”

      “All the major challenges currently confronting humanity […] can only be solved on a global level.”

      Finkelstein isn’t the only one spouting this arrogance. Listen to Douglas Rushkoff say the same thing in 2009 in one of the most obnoxious and revealing off-hand comments that takes your breath away. The thing that makes judaism dangerous: Douglas Rushkoff.

      “The thing that makes Judaism dangerous to everybody, to every race, to every nation, to every idea is that we smash things that aren’t true. We don’t believe in the boundaries of nation-state, we don’t believe in the idea of these individual god’s that protect individual groups of people.

      This are all artificial constructions and Judaism really teaches us how to see that. In a sense our detractors have us right in that we are a corrosive force, that we are breaking down the false god’s of all nations and all people because they are not real. And that is very upsetting to people.”

      Riight. Jews wants to destroy other people’s states and gods and traditions, but God forbid anyone try to destroy the state of Israel; that’s a world catastrophe. Moreover, it’s the justification for destroying another people, killing their children, and robbing their land.

      ”… breaking down the false god’s of all nations and all people because they are not real”? But Judaism’s is?

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 7:52 am

        MRW: Jews wants to destroy other people’s states and gods and traditions
        —————-

        Great. Douglas Rushkoff speaks for Jews and Judaism

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Rushkof

        snippet provided by a “podblanc.com white now”- labeled video.

        WTF?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craig_Cobb

        Paul Craig Cobb (born circa 1951),[2] better known as Craig Cobb, is an American-Canadian[1] white nationalist, white separatist, Neo-Nazi, antisemite, and Holocaust denier who operates the video sharing website Podblanc. He claims “my race is my religion,”[3] and advocates “racial holy war” in accordance with the tenets of the Creativity religion.[4] Cobb gained notoriety within anti-racist and anti-fascist movements, and legal advocacy organizations that investigate hate speech and hate crimes, for his “celebration of violence and murder committed against minorities,”[5] as documented in his video recordings, online activities, and disruptions at public events

        —————

        Confirmation needed.

      • eljay
        April 28, 2016, 8:37 am

        || MRW: … Douglas Rushkoff.

        “The thing that makes Judaism dangerous to everybody, to every race, to every nation, to every idea is that we smash things that aren’t true. We don’t believe in the boundaries of nation-state, we don’t believe in the idea of these individual god’s that protect individual groups of people. This are all artificial constructions and Judaism really teaches us how to see that. In a sense our detractors have us right in that we are a corrosive force, that we are breaking down the false god’s of all nations and all people because they are not real. And that is very upsetting to people.”

        ||

        So…according to this guy, Judaism is dangerous to:
        – the “Jewish people”;
        – the “Jewish nation”;
        – the “Jewish State”; and
        – the Jewish god.

        I guess Judaism is self-loathing. Or maybe it’s just anti-Semitic.

      • MRW
        April 28, 2016, 4:10 pm

        Sibiriak,

        Oh spare me the bash-me-for-the-messenger bs with the white supremacist shit. I searched for a copy on youtube in a hurry this AM. I had downloaded the original vid in 2009, of which this was a small part. But I didn’t have a link. I keep original links now, not then. The original vid was about the singer Matisyahu, the Jewish orthodox reggae singer, and a concert somewhere in Brooklyn. Rushkoff’s bit was at the beginning of it. (My niece was designing the poster for one of Matisyahu’s concerts.)

        I have no clue what “podblanc.com white now” is, nor do I care; moreover, it’s unimportant. White supremacists have a new enemy in my neck of the woods: Muslims.

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 4:39 pm

        MRW: I searched for a copy on youtube in a hurry this AM.
        —————-

        Why were you hurriedly searching for this nutty Rushkoff vid???

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 5:01 pm

        MRW: I had downloaded the original vid in 2009
        —————–

        And you’ve been mentally clinging to it ever since?

        Why would anyone give a FF about some little snippet of a nutty rant by some guy ” best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture”, who “spent several years exploring Judaism as a primer for media literacy, going so far as to publish a book inviting Jews to restore the religion to its “open source” roots”, who “founded a movement for progressive Judaism called Reboot, but subsequently left when he felt its funders had become more concerned with marketing and publicity of Judaism than its actual improvement and evolution” and who became “disillusioned by the failure of the open source model to challenge entrenched and institutional hierarchies from religion to finance.”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Rushkoff

        I mean, is this Rushkoff character your go-to-guy when it comes to deep insights into Judaism??

      • MRW
        April 28, 2016, 6:39 pm

        @Sibiriak,

        Why were you hurriedly searching for this nutty Rushkoff vid???

        (1) Are your serious? We source things around here.

        (2) Because Finkelstein’s comments on nation states are as loony and elitist, not to mention as disturbing and mean, as Rushkoff’s. And I never forgot Rushkoff’s comments.

      • MRW
        April 28, 2016, 6:43 pm

        I mean, is this Rushkoff character your go-to-guy when it comes to deep insights into Judaism??

        Get off your horsie and take off your spurs. Put the bag of quarters down. The diversion ain’t workin’.

    • Danaa
      April 29, 2016, 3:10 pm

      Keith, agreeing with much of what you say but adding a caveat. There is another force on the global stage which is obviously fighting back against the globalist, corporate-controlled anglo-zionist Empire (I am using the Saker’s terminology here, so you know where i am going with this). With the exception of a few bloggers in the west, not much attention is being paid to the Russian resistance and its newly minted alliance with China. This I see as the harbinger of a pro-national movement that aims to maintain and restore the state as a representative pf the public good in the long run (I am not saying russia is ‘good” and I don’t want to confuse pro-nation state with nationalism which has come to have negative connotations). I know that there is a campaign to villify Putin as the embodiment of all things bad in our controlled suppine press, but that’s just propaganda, meant to obscure what’s really going on.

      What i am saying is that the entity of Russia has embarked on an effort to remain separate from the global corporatocracy, which is the real reason it is being so condemned by the PTBs. Good or bad, Russia gave every indication of wanting to plot its own way rather than jump on the bandwagon of a dollarized, neoliberal, corporate train, where national, individual and ethnic differences can be all erased in favor of maintaing the profits of the top 0.01% (while spewing hymns to democracy and freedom – all the way to hell). Russia knows of course that ultimately this means finding a way to disengage from the dollar as the coin for all transactions, which means carving alternative financial systems – not an easy task by any means. To accomplish this they made an alliance with the Chinese, slowly integrating their corporate and financial infrastructures (just the other day, the Chinese acquired a 10% stake in Rosneft – part of the integration effort, clearly). In time the Russians and Chinese will seek to bring in Iran, India and what’s left of the Latin American brics (after the damage being wrecked upon them now is done – hence the small ‘b’).

      When i look at these events of the geopolitical level, I find reason for hope that ultimately, a multi-polar world may emerge that might clip the wings of the global corporate elite structure. Wish Europe would join in but for whatever reason they are too weak to stand up to the Empire.

      The cynic in me sees of course the potential for the alternative Euroasian empire to turn into, well, just another global empire. one that’s ruled by different corporations, but with the exploitive financialization forces intact. I am hardly blind to the rise of the oligarchies in China or to its rather mercantile nature. Still, in a multi-polar world, despite the danger of conflicts getting out of control, space may be created for alternative groupings of nation-states where they get to keep their traditions, values and individualities, and perhaps be allowed to have their own approach to serve the public rather than the private good.

      See how deep my opsimism goes? always looking for that sliver of a silver lining…..also, sorry if i am waxing about things you already know.

      • Keith
        April 29, 2016, 5:26 pm

        DANAA- “(I am using the Saker’s terminology here, so you know where i am going with this)”

        Indeed I do, and to a degree I agree. Unfortunately, my prognosis is that these efforts are too little too late. Russia has internal political problems (Atlanticists versus Nationalists) and the Chinese don’t appear to have their heart into it. At least some Russians see the need to defeat the imperial project, yet Russia lacks the ability to do so. China may have the ability to collapse the global economy ending empire, yet seems more concerned with increasing their influence within empire rather than destroying it. The New Silk Road is a pipe dream which will never be completed and which probably shouldn’t be. The problem with these ex-communist countries is that they take both Marx and Western economists seriously, hence, don’t really understand capitalism or empire. As long as these countries are trade dependent, they will continue to be hostage to the global financial system and under threat of destabilization by the US controlled internet and social media which make possible color revolutions and hybrid war. We are at the end of an era and things are coming to a head. The future looks bleak, silver linings increasingly rare and valuable. Silver lining? Has there ever been a better time for gallows humor? And, of course, being one-half of the Cassandra Duo is always a pleasure.

      • MRW
        May 1, 2016, 7:00 am

        @Keith,

        The New Silk Road is a pipe dream which will never be completed and which probably shouldn’t be.

        Don’t count on it.

        @Danaa,

        Are you listening to Stephen Cohen’s reports on the John Batchelor Show? It’s http://johnbatchelorshow.com. (He usually appears for an hour every Tuesday night, although he’s been MIA for the past two weeks.)

        You should. Enlightening. There is a fabulous archive that you can listen to while feeding the cats or cleaning up.

        EDIT: Here’s a page of past broadcasts. Search for Stephen Cohen’s name here:
        https://audioboom.com/channel/johnbatchelor

      • MRW
        May 1, 2016, 7:11 am
  10. Intemperate
    April 27, 2016, 8:18 pm

    “Noam Chomsky has said that of course he’ll vote for Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee.”

    Of course. As always, Chomsky’s the Augustinian anarchist.

    https://c4ss.org/content/1659

    • Keith
      April 28, 2016, 12:04 am

      INTEMPORATE- “As always, Chomsky’s the Augustinian anarchist..”

      From your link: “Chomsky’s reason for the “not yet” is that a powerful central government is currently necessary as a bulwark against the power of the corporate elite; thus it will not be safe to abolish or even scale back the state until we first use the state to break the power of the corporate elite:” https://c4ss.org/content/1659

      Chomsky’s decision to vote for Clinton has nothing to do with anarchism, rather, it involves the ludicrous lesser of two evils logical fallacy. Voting for one of the corporate candidates essentially legitimizes imperial policies insofar as the people will have voted for a candidate who will obviously pursue imperial policies. As for anarchism deferred, Chomsky’s error is not that he correctly sees that anarchism is currently unworkable, but rather that he has deluded himself that anarchism will ever be workable or desirable. Complex, interdependent societies such as ours need to be organized to function, else they disintegrate. Anarchism is so out of touch with historical and current political economy that there are no functioning examples of this type of social organization, except perhaps small communes. It exists only as an ideological fantasy in the minds of its cult-like followers.

  11. Stephen Shenfield
    April 27, 2016, 8:35 pm

    One of Norman’s themes seems to me very relevant — the Zionist trick of “changing the subject” and the way we inadvertently fall for it.

    I was looking at an attack on Mondoweiss on a Zionist website and was struck by the fact that it focused exclusively on Mondoweiss discussions of the role of Jews in American society today, which make up perhaps 5% of the site’s content, completely ignoring the 95% that focuses on the Palestinian plight. The temptation that must be resisted is to respond to the Zionist attack on the 5% and get drawn into a dissection of its distortions and misinterpretations. Our response should home in on the main distortion, which is the refusal to acknowledge and talk about the 95%. And perhaps it would be better to drop the non-essential 5% that gives the Zionists their chance to change the subject.

    I am not sure whether discussions of Zionism are also a case of “changing the subject.” It rather depends on what those discussions focus on. If the focus is on Jewish identity then perhaps Norman is right. But if the focus is on the historical and ongoing Nakba then he is surely wrong by his own criterion. Because in order to understand what Zionism is doing to the Palestinians now you need to know what it has done to them in the past — the big historical picture.

    • Caruthers
      April 27, 2016, 9:41 pm

      Activist scholars like Ilan Pappe make a strong case that
      (a): what has long been the politically dominant form of Zionism is an ideology of supremacist racism; and
      (b): this ideology is and has always been the driving force behind the dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and subjugation of Palestinians.
      This odious ideology and its role should not be ignored simply because some people like Noam Chomsky have used the same word (“Zionist”) to refer to more benign goals.

      • talknic
        April 28, 2016, 3:53 am

        Caruthers April 27, 2016, 9:41 pm

        “Activist scholars like Ilan Pappe make a strong case that
        (a): what has long been the politically dominant form of Zionism is an ideology of supremacist racism; and
        (b): this ideology is and has always been the driving force behind the dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and subjugation of Palestinians”

        They’re only symptoms. It has been and still is a vile pyramid scheme started in 1897 by the Zionist Federation that depends on the colonization of more and more territory in order to loan more and more Jews more and more money in order to collect more and more interest, have them pay more rates and taxes on the land they buy and to entice more and more wealthy investors in cancerous infrastructure and settlement scheme, endangering more and more Israelis in non-Israeli territories under Israeli occupation.

        Now Israel has long passed the point of being able to afford to adhere to International Law and the UN Charter, it would be A) sent bankrupt paying reparations and resettling Israelis back in Israel and B) explode into civil war predominantly in non -Israeli territories as it tried to repatriate hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Israelis back to Israeli territory.

        The Zionist Federation and its many arms have not only screwed over the Palestinians, they’ve turned Israel into a rogue state, lied to and ripped off hundreds of thousands of brainwashed Israelis and diaspora Jews and made a mockery of the UN, the US and everyone else they’ve used and abused

      • Mooser
        April 28, 2016, 4:41 pm

        “It has been and still is a vile pyramid scheme started…”

        No, that can’t be right. Such a thing would be the ultimate offense against tribal unity. Besides, it’s a “State”.

    • Mooser
      April 27, 2016, 11:14 pm

      “And perhaps it would be better to drop the non-essential 5% that gives the Zionists their chance to change the subject.”

      Gee, why not just let the editors of Commentary set editorial policy for Mondoweiss? I’m not gonna go through life letting Zionists tell me what I or anybody else can or can’t talk about.

      ” the Zionist trick of “changing the subject” and the way we inadvertently fall for it.”

      Yeah, somebody just did.

    • Donald
      April 28, 2016, 12:13 am

      I can understand part of what Norman is arguing within an American context. I don’t think Palestinians need pay any attention to what Americans will be comfortable with regarding 1ss vs 2ss. But I suspect he is right that many (most?) Americans probably think a 2ss is fair. A friend of mine ,not a close one so I didn’t know he was interested in this issue, was angrily denouncing the shooting of the wounded Palestinian–this was in a conversation a few weeks ago. He brought it up. He also despised Hillary’s AIPAC speech. But he clearly supported a 2ss, so for people like him Norman might be right.

      OTOH, Norman’s claim that we shouldn’t emphasize the longer history seems wrong to me. You pretty much have to or it is used against Palestinians. I have repeatedly seen pro Israel types online claim that Palestinian hostility is caused by antisemitism and not by the occupation because the hostility and terrorist attacks occurred before 67. It is hard to believe that the people making these claims are this ignorant, but I think they are. I also know someone who thought herself well-informed who knew about the killings of Jews by Palestinians in the 20’s, but clearly knew nothing about any Jewish massacre of Palestinians in the 40’s besides Deir Yassin. So if you don’t talk about the older history a lot of pro Israel half truths will be believed as whole truths.

  12. yonah fredman
    April 27, 2016, 10:11 pm

    I’ve witnessed three great social movements in my lifetime, the Civil Rights Movement, the Antiwar Movement and this is the third. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/norman-finkelstein-on-sanders-the-first-intifada-bds-and-ten-years-of-unemployment/#sthash.YxfJdWU9.dpuf
    whereas the first two are widely accepted as great social movements, the current movement’s vitality is still to be proven. the civil rights movement was a long time coming and the anti vietnam war movement was a passing phase, particularly given the shift to a volunteer army. (although unquestionably the preference for short wars was reflected by attitudes of presidents, congressmen and generals.)
    this current movement has what goals: punishing wall street? redistributing wealth? overthrowing the oligarchy? these are not achievable goals. though the movement could influence the democratic party, currently it sounds like a fad, a passing whim, something without staying power.
    pro civil rights congressmen were not the key to the overthrow of jim crow in the 60’s. it was the singular personality of lbj and the tenor of the times. jfk was dragged kicking and screaming until he finally delivered his “this is an issue as old as the scriptures and as clear as the constitution.” so there was the movement and the audience/power holders pressured by the movement.
    it is not clear what the goals of this movement are and who their audience is. what congressional moves are anticipated by this movement, because eventually it was congress that forced nixon to withdraw from vietnam and it was lbj pressuring congress to change the law of the land that were the successes of the first two movements that finkelstein mentioned.

    • bryan
      April 28, 2016, 8:42 am

      “this current movement has what goals: punishing wall street? redistributing wealth? overthrowing the oligarchy? these are not achievable goals”

      Eminent common sense, yonah. We should just listen to the legacy of our forefathers’ wisdom and understand that trying to change the natural order of things is inevitably fruitless and self-indulgent wishful thinking. Heck if we couldn’t undermine the political and social power of the priesthood, contradict the legitimacy of divine right monarchy, destroy the political monopoly of the landed aristocracy. liberate peasants from feudal servitude, free the slaves, give the vote to women, end colonialism in all but one country, develop concepts of the social contract and the welfare state, or provide rational and scientific explanations for life and the universe – then how the hell can we possibly introduce a few elementary disciplines to restrain the exuberance of investment bankers, bring in some basic controls against political corruption, or require the 1% to contribute their fair whack towards social well-being?.

      It might be different of course if the existence of an internet and social media could fuel popular activism or if presidential campaigns could reveal the deep reservoirs of popular hostility to a system that is hopelessly broken. But no – it is inevitable that those same Congress critters will continue to turn up and conspire to steadily reinforce the power and privileges of the elite. We’ll all go back to watching day-time TV and tending our roses.

      • yonah fredman
        April 28, 2016, 2:54 pm

        Bryan, I am not trying to discourage the pursuit of these goals, I have overstated my case in that direction, but that is not my purpose. My purpose is to expose the tendency towards cheerleading and away from historical analysis in finkelstein’s spiel.

        The two first movements that finkelstein refers to involved imitating the world: in fact though racism was (is) a problem throughout the US at the time the legacy of the civil war had been put on hold and the momentum of the Movement proved unstoppable. Opposition to a war at the least has a very concrete and immediate goal.

        Redistribution of wealth is a serious issue and no cause for apathy and activism in this direction is historic and probably important, but to pretend this is an issue that has momentum on the side of the Movement is to misread reality and teach us to fool ourselves rather than to face up to facts. How many congressmen do you have on your side, how many state reps or mayors believe in your movement. Mayor Daley turned against the war in vietnam in his heart when all the flag draped coffins were coming home to his neighborhood, what similarity is there between today’s movement and the Vietnam movement.

        The collapse of the economy in 2008 is being blamed on fraudulent practices by wall Street and time behind bars seems appropriate to such damaging irresponsible greed and illegal acts. Fine. Go for it. But it ain’t the two movements that finkelstein referenced, it has an entirely different dynamic and politics and place at this moment. This moment is Trump’s moment and not bernie Sanders moment and this “I’ve seen the future and it works” wide eyed optimism is surely in the category of a cheerleader and not a political analysis.

      • Mooser
        April 28, 2016, 5:40 pm

        “Yonah” have you thought about getting a new set of tires? You are getting no traction.

      • Mooser
        April 28, 2016, 6:44 pm

        “Yonah” What’s with you and “cheerleaders”?

        Are they lascivious or something?

  13. Henry Norr
    April 28, 2016, 12:58 am

    >>Noam Chomsky has said that of course he’ll vote for Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee.

    That’s seriously misleading. In fact, it’s wrong. What Chomsky said, at least in all the interviews with him that I’ve seen, is that he’d vote for Clintion if he lived in a swing state. Since he doesn’t live in a swing state – Massachusetts is overwhelmingly Democratic in presidential elections – I think it’s fair to infer that he’s probably not going to vote for her. I’m actually hoping that if Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, he’ll urge people in non-swing state to vote for Jill Stein

    Whatever one thinks of the suggestion that people in swing states should vote for Clinton, you have to admit that that’s quite a different position from saying everyone should vote for her.

    It’s surprising to me that Finkelstein got such an important point wrong, since he’s always said to be very tight with Chomsky.

  14. Jackdaw
    April 28, 2016, 1:48 am

    A smart guy, mired in the past.

    • bryan
      April 28, 2016, 7:39 am

      Eloquent Jack: that could be the appropriate epitaph for an entire people.

      • Jackdaw
        April 29, 2016, 12:05 pm

        @bryan

        Who’s that, the Palestinians?

      • bryan
        April 29, 2016, 7:18 pm

        Jack – that is the first time I’ve heard a Zionist apologist claim that the Jews, who lived for so many years in harmony with their Christian and Moslem neighbours (before the onset of the Zionist malaise) were actually Palestinians. So at last we learn that there is a Palestinian people, even if most of those people were actually the descendants of ancient Hebrews, who later converted to Christianity, and then Islam. So what the hell is this silly “conflict” about then?

    • MRW
      April 28, 2016, 7:16 pm

      A smart guy, mired in the past.

      A smart guy who deserved far, far, far better than he got at dePaul. He was robbed of his reputation and his future by gutless wonder fellow academics with the nobility and character of gnats. He was denuded of something he loved and he was great at: teaching. Finkelstein was wronged on so many levels. He was destroyed by that immoral and despicable (to me) asshole-pig Dershowitz.

      He isn’t mired in the past. He was strapped onto a backward-thinking rocket and propelled in it. And unforgivable.

      Tell me the prominent Jews who came to his defense. None.

      EDIT: I have my intellectual differences with Finkelstein, but the immorality of happened to him is indisputable.

      • Jackdaw
        April 29, 2016, 2:00 am

        If Finkelstein was badly treated at dePaul by academics, he was treated equally badly by the Students for Justice in Palestine, who halted Finkelstein’s speaking engagements on college campuses. Finkelstein dared to challenge BDS and was excommunicated by the SJP apparatchiks.

        At DePaul, Finkelstein taught in single classrooms. On the college circuit he taught thousands in packed auditoriums.

      • MRW
        May 1, 2016, 6:50 am

        False equivalency.

  15. Jackdaw
    April 28, 2016, 2:02 am

    Another difference between Protective Edge and Cast Lead is that Hamas started the more recent conflict, consistently targeted civilians with their rockets, and wouldn’t stand down and agree to a ceasefire.

    Uh duh!!

    • talknic
      April 28, 2016, 2:36 am

      @ Jackdaw “Another difference between Protective Edge and Cast Lead is that Hamas started the more recent conflict”

      What ‘recent’ conflict. It’s the same conflict started in 1897 by the Zionist’s vile financial scheme to colonize Palestine.

      “consistently targeted civilians with their rockets”

      Targeting with unguided rockets is an interesting theory… Strange that the IDF memorial site shows that more military have been targeted, injured and killed than have Israeli civilians

      ” and wouldn’t stand down and agree to a ceasefire”

      When has Israel ever stopped slaughtering non-Jews in territory the Zionists covet?

    • Bumblebye
      April 28, 2016, 3:46 am

      @ Crapdaw

      B*llox!

      Re “Protective Edge, Israeli government itself admitted that Hamas fired no rockets until *after* one of their airstrikes took out a number of Hamas operatives.

      • Bumblebye
        April 28, 2016, 3:43 pm

        @Jokedaw

        another fail. Not one of those articles claims Hamas fired those rockets because they didn’t. Hamas fired NO rockets until after the israeli airstrike that killed its personnel.

      • Bumblebye
        April 29, 2016, 3:45 am

        Nope. Again, the article does NOT say the rocket was fired by Hamas, describes the victim of the Israeli airstrike as a Jihadist employed as a policeman – all info gleaned from Israeli sources. Had it been an official Hamas rocket the NYT would certainly have clearly said so. Since it wasn’t, they prefer to leave the undiscerning reader, who lacks critical thinking faculties, with the impression that it was by using weasel words.

      • Jackdaw
        April 29, 2016, 8:20 am

        @bummer

        Someone shoots a rocket into Israel on June 10, and Israel retaliates and kills motorcycle guy, who may or may not be Hamas. Afterwards, Hamas begins rocket attacks in earnest until Israel begins Protective Edge on July 8.

        So if Israel killed a ‘not Hamas’ guy, (after a rocket attack on Israel), than why does Hamas retaliate with rocket fire? Why would Hamas escalate if Israel kills a rogue rocketeer?

        Uh duh.

      • Jackdaw
        April 29, 2016, 8:24 am

        @discerning reader Bumble

        “…the victim of the Israeli airstrike as a Jihadist employed as a policeman”

        That’s, ‘jihadist employed as a Hamas policeman’.

      • eljay
        April 29, 2016, 9:18 am

        || Jackdaw: @discerning reader Bumble “…the victim of the Israeli airstrike as a Jihadist employed as a policeman” That’s, ‘jihadist employed as a Hamas policeman’. ||

        The article doesn’t say whether Awwar was acting under orders from Hamas when he fired the rocket. But if Awwar’s action nevertheless constitutes Hamas fired a rocket, the action of the “Jewish State” soldier who – under orders from his “Jewish State” superior – executed a wounded and immobilized non-Jewish man unquestionably constitutes “Jewish State” executes a non-Jew.

      • ritzl
        April 29, 2016, 9:59 am

        @Jackdaw Yup. Yet another classic example of the Israeli “terror clock” always starts a microsecond before a Palestinian does something.

        Israel was killing Palestinians (14+/-, iirc) who had absolutely nothing to do with the kidnapping and murder of those kids (who the GoI knew were dead, therefore making those 14 dead simply murdered for sport) for about a month before a single rocket was fired. With its month-long murder spree, Israel was provoking a response and they would have kept killing innocent West Bank Palestinians until they got the response they needed to then satisfy their orgasmic bloodlust by slaughtering themselves a few hundred kids.

        Sick.

      • Jackdaw
        April 29, 2016, 12:04 pm

        @ritzl

        Those kids were murdered as part of a carefully planned operation committed by ‘Hamas/West Bank’ that was ordered by ‘Hamas/Turkey’ and paid for with monies smuggled in from ‘Hamas /Gaza’.

        To wit, the ‘Hamas/West Bank’ cells were fair game. Hard cheese.

        Of course you are incapable of seeing it this way. Not even for a second.

      • ritzl
        April 29, 2016, 1:04 pm

        @Jackdaw Nope. Not Hamas. But “only” five innocents killed, er, executed. My bad.

        Not Hamas: “According to J. J. Goldberg, the military indictment contains no evidence of orders from Hamas itself and strengthens the thesis that the incident was organized by the Qawasmeh family alone from start to finish.[47]”

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_kidnapping_and_murder_of_Israeli_teenagers

        Five Palestinians killed, including at least one child: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/26/hunt-missing-israeli-boys-recriminations

        —-

        But by being so completely wrong you inadvertently highlight yet another sick Israeli occupation credo: Let the punishment define the crime. IOW, “We killed them so they had to have been Hamas terrorists (by definition).”

        Karma’s a bitch.

    • eljay
      April 28, 2016, 7:53 am

      || Jackdaw: Another difference between Protective Edge and Cast Lead is that Hamas started the more recent conflict, consistently targeted civilians with their rockets, and wouldn’t stand down and agree to a ceasefire.

      Uh duh!! ||

      The main similarity between Protective Edge and Cast Lead is that both are (war) crimes committed against a captive population by an unjust, immoral and religion-supremacist state that for almost 70 years and with impunity has been stealing, occupying and colonizing territory outside of its / Partition borders; oppressing, torturing and murdering civilians under the control of its Occupation Forces; and refusing to honour its obligations under international law.

      Uh duh!!

    • Marnie
      April 28, 2016, 8:01 am

      FAIL. Netanyahoo started the latest (2014) war on Gaza’s civilian population because Hamas and Abaas were getting too chummy. Those 3 yeshiva students getting kidnapped and murdered still seems like a false flag operation to me, but immediately the arrests, incitement, kidnapping, murder and full scale IOF war on civilians. Yeah, right, Hamas started it. Netanyahoo has 3 invasions of Gaza under his rather wide belt – he loves war as much as HRC.

    • lonely rico
      April 28, 2016, 7:59 pm

      >Jackdaw

      Protective Edge … that Hamas started …

      Uh ?

      June 30, 2014 article in Times of Israel by Avi Issacharoff, headlined –

      Hamas fires rockets for first time since 2012, Israeli officials say

      The article goes on to say –

      “The security sources … assessed that Hamas had probably launched the barrage IN REVENGE for an Israeli airstrike several hours earlier which killed one person and injured three more.”

      You gotta stop lying Mr. Jackdaw.

      • Jackdaw
        April 29, 2016, 3:39 pm

        You’ve got to go back and read my exchange with ritzl.

        Go back and read it NOW, like a good boy.

        Hint, in case you need it, June 10, 2014.

      • oldgeezer
        April 29, 2016, 6:07 pm

        @jackdaw

        The date doesn’t change the facts jackie boy.

        Israeli security officials admitted that they initiated the killing spree. It was a boon to the bloodthirsty racists in the GoI. I think that the detent between the PA and Hamas was a factor and a desire to gain creds for the upcoming elections an added bonus.

        Spin all you want. The actual facts speak for themselves.

        http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-fired-rockets-for-first-time-since-2012-israeli-officials-say/

        http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-arrests-20-in-push-to-curb-rocket-fire-from-gaza/

        A truly barbarous murderous gang of thieves. The goi continues to deligitimize itself in the eyes of decent people everywhere.

        They not only admitted they fired first but also it has been reported that Hamas was clamping down on other groups that dared to fire rockets at Israel.

      • Jackdaw
        April 30, 2016, 2:57 am

        @old geezer

        You need to read your cites a little more carefully.

        “Hamas operatives were behind a large volley of rockets which slammed into Israel Monday morning, the first time in years the Islamist group has directly challenged the Jewish state, according to raeli defense officials.”

        “Early Sunday morning, air force planes struck in Gaza in response to rockets fired over the weekend. Two rockets hit the town of Sderot, close to the border with Gaza, late Saturday, causing a massive fire that destroyed a paint factory ”

        That’s, “..in response to rockets fired over the weekend”.

        I’m done with you jokers. Eat crow.

      • Mooser
        April 30, 2016, 11:56 am

        “I’m done with you jokers. “

        Promise? It is the right thing to do.
        If you want to make the most powerful statement you can possibly make in support of Zionism and Israel, you will stop posting.

  16. HarryLaw
    April 28, 2016, 5:49 am

    This was Professor Finkelstein at his best, brutally honest and trying to influence people on what is possible in politics rather than the wishful thinking engaged in by so many so called progressives. I agree with most things he had to say particularly his views on Zionism ” once you get into a conversation about Zionism, you’re talking about an elusive phenomenon” quite true, and since it could be argued that all states at the UN and most people in the world agree that the Israeli State is legitimate within the terms of the Balfour declaration and the 1948 UNGA resolution, here is the Balfour declaration…
    “His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non ­Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.
    Even Iran and Hezbollah as well as the Arab League [no don’t laugh] have said they will accept any solution the Palestinians would be content with, i. e. a ‘two state’ solution broadly along the 67 borders. Does that make two state advocates like Professor Finkelstein and myself, Zionists? I think it does, at least as believers in International law which designated the Israeli State borders as outlined in the UN General Assembly resolution in 1948, most importantly those borders were agreed to by the Israeli Government.
    I also agree with his views on Palestinian resistance and how desperate it is, throwing rocks and stabbing attacks are understandable frustration unfortunately they are, in effect, acts of suicide. Similarly the Hamas rockets were totally ineffective, to make it worse that fact was known to the Hamas leadership at the time, they knew the rockets would cause little damage, but fired them anyway. At the time I likened that 7.000 rocket and mortar barrage to an imaginary 7,000 bomber raid on Germany in WW2 when the UK War cabinet ordered the mission in the knowledge that the bombers did not have enough fuel nor navigation aids to reach Germany, and as a consequence had to drop their bombs in the North Sea. As a reprisal the Germans wiped out a quarter of the UK. I suspect that war cabinet would all have been hung.
    Professor Finkelstein referred to the collusion between the GCC states and Egypt, I would include Turkey at this stage since they are also making overtures to Israel, this is shameful, particularly when these countries are operating on a purely sectarian basis in countering the only true friends the Palestinians have in the region the ‘Arc of resistance’ Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah now backed by Russia and to a lesser extent China. Here is the only outside help the Palestinians can rely on [the Saudi satraps would sell their own Grandmothers to stay in power] In my opinion Assad will prevail in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah will grow stronger because of that, and Iran’s economic and home grown military accomplishments will make them the new hegemon in the region. That is why the inevitable growth and power of the arc of the resistance is feared by Israel and its patrons in the west.

  17. HarryLaw
    April 28, 2016, 5:57 am

    In his Memoirs, published in 1939, Lloyd George further elucidated his position:

    The Balfour Declaration represented the convinced policy of all parties in our country and also in America, but the launching of it in 1917 was due, as I have said, to propagandist reasons…. The Zionist Movement was exceptionally strong in Russia and America…. It was believed, also, that such a declaration would have a potent influence upon world Jewry outside Russia, and secure for the Entente the aid of Jewish financial interests. In America, their aid in this respect would have a special value when the Allies had almost exhausted the gold and marketable securities available for American purchases. Such were the chief considerations which, in 1917, impelled the British Government towards making a contract with Jewry.
    Meanwhile the British government continues to ignore the very explicit safeguards that were contained within the said Declaration, which is accepted to be the foundation block that led to the subsequent establishment of the Israeli state in 1948 at the expense of the indigenous population that had been in continuous occupation of the land for over a thousand years. http://www.globalresearch.ca/palestine-the-1917-balfour-declaration-and-the-establishment-of-the-state-of-israel-in-1948/5522094

  18. geokat62
    April 28, 2016, 8:56 am

    “Q. But those in Israeli society who oppose two states don’t care about the international consensus, and their dreams have become real.”

    I had the pleasure of attending a conference that took place a few years ago in which Prof. Finkelstein was the guest speaker. The conference was entitled Gaza and Egypt Intertwined and since the audience was permitted to ask questions at the end of the conference, I put the following question to Prof. Finkelstein:

    I just wanted to get a better understanding about your refusal to support the BDS movement. I believe it all turns on which solution is more viable – the 2SS or 1SS. At a recent book tour you indicated that the 2SS is twice as dead as the 1SS. My question is a simple one: How many more cycles of violence (commonly referred to as “mowing the lawn”) must the Palestinians endure before you are prepared to embrace BDS. What the Palestinians need more of is people of your stature and influence to breathe life into the BDS movement, which will finally lead to a liberated Palestine.

    Here is how Prof. Finkelstein responded (it is not verbatim):

    But what’s your (BDS movement) stance on Israel? They say they don’t take a stance on Israel…
    So if you say you want the enforcement of international law, you can’t then say we take no position on Israel. That’s the law, Israel is a state. If there’s an answer to that, I’m curious to hear it.. but I have not heard it so far…

    But when I hear people from BDS, there’s no discussion about the politics, it’s just: This is what we want! It’s like a child having a rattle and the rattle says “One State.” And you keep shaking the rattle. Where is the political force supporting One State? There are 195 countries or so now in the UN. Is there one state in the world that currently supports One State in Palestine? They all support two states. Is there a single human rights organization that supports One State? There’s no political support for it in the world! So even if it is in principle correct, … that is not what political people do. They don’t hold to political principles at the expense of assessing political forces – what’s possible, what’s not possible. Because at the end of the day, isn’t the goal to improve people’s lives, to make the situation better… or do you want to just sit here in the comfort of the West and hug your political principles while the suffering continues over there? That doesn’t make sense to me… and that’s my problem with the BDS. (emphasis added)

    I didn’t get the opportunity to respond to his response but if I had, I would have simply said that your response sounded like a paean to political expediency! While it’s true there is little support for the 1SS today, this doesn’t mean it will always remain so. How politically viable did a liberated South Africa, an independent America, the abolition of slavery, or even a Jewish Homeland for that matter, appear in the early stages of their development?

    But what you fail to recognize is something the great Nelson Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible until its done.”

    That’s why I still call upon you to do the right thing and endorse BDS.

    • eljay
      April 28, 2016, 9:31 am

      IMO, a two-state solution – with two secular and democratic states of and for all of their respective citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees (CIERs), equally – is the first step.

      The next, eventual step is real and democratic self-determination (not the fake Zio-supremacist kind) by the people of both states to unite into a single secular and democratic state of and for all of the CIERs of the new, single-state entity.

      • eljay
        April 28, 2016, 9:46 am

        || eljay: … The next, eventual step is real and democratic self-determination … ||

        Correction: Should they choose to pursue it, the next step would be real and democratic self-determination …

  19. Shmuel
    April 28, 2016, 9:54 am

    I really don’t see Finkelstein’s pragmatism — apart from declaring he’s got it and those he disagrees with don’t.

    A 2ss is pragmatic? Why? Because an agreement seemed close at some point (except for some minor details like refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, etc.)? That agreement never actually materialised, and the combination of factors (e.g. coordinated violence, economic opportunity, strong leadership) that brought even that about are highly unlikely to recur.

    That something vaguely resembling that vague idea has become “international consensus” (primarily because it means everything and nothing at the same time) is hardly a solid basis for a political plan. So, in the end, it’s just another flavour of pie-in-the-sky.

    Of course the BDS end-game is unrealistic, but BDS has at least 2 things going for it that I fail to see in Finkelstein’s pragmatism: 1) Rights-based means not waiting for a political solution to make things better: 2) It is a concrete plan to bring some kind of pressure to bear on Israel and, as every pragmatist knows, no pressure no change.

    • just
      April 28, 2016, 10:09 am

      Great comment, Shmuel. Thank you.

      (thanks for this extensive interview, MW and Professor Finkelstein.)

    • Sibiriak
      April 28, 2016, 10:33 am

      Shmuel: 1) Rights-based means not waiting for a political solution to make things better
      ————

      The only problem with that idea is that stateless persons’ effective rights will be severely llimited as long as they remain stateless, and ending statelessness requires a political solution.

      I would also disagree that the international two-state consensus is vague. What’s vague about it? Two states; pre-1967 borders; mutually agreed land swaps; West/East Jerusalem the capitals; limited implementation of right of return w/ compensation etc. Sure, there are details, but the basic framework is clear as day.

      The real objection, imo, is not that such proposals are vague, it’s that they are manifestly unjust.

      I do agree entirely that BDS (which doesn’t rule out two states) is essential to put pressure on Israel. Finkelstein appears to be allowing personal bitterness to cloud his moral-pragmatic vision in that regard.

      • Shmuel
        April 28, 2016, 10:55 am

        The only problem with that idea is that stateless persons’ effective rights will be severely llimited as long as they remain stateless, and ending statelessness requires a political solution.

        Agreed, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be improved significantly until such time as a political solution becomes feasible, or that their rights even after statehood will not be severely limited. To borrow Finkelstein’s argument, focusing on a political solution of any kind is, at present, not practical. Focusing on specific violations of human rights and international law (collective punishment, settlement construction, administrative detention, abuse of minors, etc.), on the other hand, on the basis of broader issues such as occupation, equality and the rights of refugees (the principles of BDS), may stand a chance of being at least partially successful (if only because it is not an all-or-nothing proposition).

        I would also disagree with the notion that the international consensus is vague. What’s vague about it? Two states; pre-1967 borders; mutually agreed land swaps; West/East Jerusalem the capitals; limited implementation of right of return w/ compensation etc.

        The last three articles are indeed vague, and the second and third (and to some extent the fourth) make the first vague as well. There is no consensus on the details of such a plan (everything and nothing) or what it means in political terms to support those basic guidelines (well maybe there is a sort of consensus on that: it means virtually nothing).

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 11:08 am

        Shmuel: The last three articles are indeed vague
        ———-

        If you say so. They seem perfectly clear to me. Absolutely clear: no effective right of return, (perhaps a symbolic number) +compensation. Absolutely clear: large settlement blocs annexed to Israel. Absolutely clear: East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine. We are talking about a framework for a settlement, not a final text of a settlement.

      • Shmuel
        April 28, 2016, 11:22 am

        If you say so. They seem perfectly clear to me. Absolutely clear: no effective right of return, (perhaps a symbolic number) +compensation. Absolutely clear: large settlement blocs annexed to Israel. Absolutely clear: East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine. We are talking about a framework for a settlement, not a final text of a settlement.

        What is a symbolic number? Is there a consensus on compensation? Mutually-agreed just means the sides will work it out, not that anyone actually has a position. Is there a consensus on what constitutes a settlement bloc? How many are there? What is East Jerusalem and how will it be the capital of Palestine if the Jewish neighbourhoods in and around East Jerusalem are to be annexed to Israel? Is there a consensus on the holy places? Even a framework needs to have some clarity – especially if one is arguing that it is supported be a broad consensus and is therefore a practical basis for a solution. A consensus that cannot get beyond or cannot be counted on to get beyond this very rough outline is hardly a consensus at all, in pragmatic terms.

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 11:26 am

        Shmuel: at doesn’t mean that they cannot be improved significantly until such time as a political solution becomes feasible
        ————-

        Slightly better, maybe. How can thing be made significantly better without a political solution to Palestinian statelessness and Israeli occupation?

        They most likely will continue to get worse without a political solution. At best, their can be a period of temporary “calm”, as the dispossession continues. Not only can there be no realization of Palestinian civil and human rights without a political solution; there can be no economic development as well.

        Finkelstein wrote:

        What should I tell him—that he might get to see the ocean when he’s 55? Isn’t it more sensible, isn’t it more humane, to try to end the occupation , so that he can experience a little of life’s offerings before he’s an old man, if even then? [emphasis added]

        “Ending the occupation” requires a political solution. In fact, ending the occupation effectively means two states: Palestine already exists de jure; without the occupation it would exist de facto.

      • Shmuel
        April 28, 2016, 11:37 am

        “Ending the occupation” requires a political solution.

        No doubt. Good for Finkelstein that he considers ending the occupation a pragmatic goal.

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 11:40 am

        @Shmuel

        I have claimed that there is an international consensus on the general framework for a settlement.

        You point out that there is no consensus on every single detail of a settlement.

        That’s true, as well.

        A general framework by definition leaves out many details. On the other hand, it sets clear parameters within which the variation in details is confined.

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 11:47 am

        Shmuel: “Ending the occupation” requires a political solution.

        No doubt. Good for Finkelstein that he considers ending the occupation a pragmatic goal.

        ———————-

        Good for Shmuel that he considers a political solution a pragmatic goal.

      • Shmuel
        April 28, 2016, 11:58 am

        Good for Shmuel that he considers a political solution a pragmatic goal.

        Except that I don’t (nor do I consider ending the occupation a pragmatic goal). It is worth striving for, but it is no more pragmatic than BDS. Finkelstein’s entire argument is based on the fact that he’s a hard-nosed realist and everyone else is chasing dreams and thereby prolonging Palestinian suffering. I disagree. He’s no less of a dreamer if he thinks that a political solution of any kind is somehow reasonable or practical.

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 12:23 pm

        Shmuel: Except that I don’t [consider a political solution a pragmatic goal (nor do I consider ending the occupation a pragmatic goal). It is worth striving for, but it is no more pragmatic than BDS.
        ——————————————–

        **The first stated goal of the BDS movement is to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory occupied in 1967.

        **Ending the occupation requires a political solution.

        **Therefore, a political solution is inherent in the first goal of BDS.

        That fact is the heart of the contradiction that Finkelstein identifies in the BDS movement. It’s goals demand a political solution, but BDS claims to be “agnostic” in that regard.

        [Finkelstein is] no less of a dreamer if he thinks that a political solution of any kind is somehow reasonable or practical.

        Political solutions are inherent in both Finkelstein’s and BDS’s agenda. None of the BDS goals can be achieved without political solutions. Finkelstein is open about that, and he claims a two state solution is the only realistically achievable one. BDS tries to avoid the issue for strategic reasons. That avoidance strategy has its pluses and minuses.

      • Shmuel
        April 28, 2016, 12:39 pm

        Finkelstein is open about that, and he claims a two state solution is the only realistic one

        And that is precisely where I disagree. I don’t think Finkelstein’s strategy is any more realistic than BDS’.

        — End goals will require a political solution.
        — Political solutions are, at present, not realistic.
        — End goals are not realistic.

        — Let’s shift focus and try to accomplish other, more realistic things and, hopefully lay the groundwork for a viable solution in the future (which could, indeed, take many different forms).

        There my be a tactical element to the “agnosticism” but, for the most part, it’s simply not a relevant question at this point in time. Finkelstein thinks he has a realistic plan, but what if it’s no more realistic than any other political solution (i.e. wholly unrealistic)?

      • Sibiriak
        April 28, 2016, 1:34 pm

        Shmuel: that is precisely where I disagree.

        ——————-
        Yep. I agree that’s your point of disagreement.

        Political solutions are, at present, not realistic.

        At present, no. For the future, yes. Finkelstein argues that Israel can be pressured into accepting a settlement based on the international consensus. I think that’s a realistic goal. Nothing guaranteed, of course. But realistic enough.

        Let’s shift focus and try to accomplish other, more realistic things

        Like what???

        Ending the occupation– requires a political agreement.
        RoR and /or compensation– requires a political agreement.
        Full equality for all Israeli citizens– requires political changes within Israel.

        So, outside of BDS’s three stated goals, all of which require political solutions, what goals are you suggesting?

        nor do I consider ending the occupation a pragmatic goal

        What significant improvements in Palestinian life can be made without, at a minimum, ending the occupation? Do you mean BDS /the Palestinian solidarity movement should aim for something less? Aim for a “kindler, gentler occupation” not an end to it?

      • Mooser
        April 28, 2016, 6:05 pm

        “Aim for a “kindler, gentler occupation” not an end to it?”

        If anybody could negotiate that arrangement, “Shmuel” could. I believe that if it were up to him, it would be a beneficial occupation.

      • Shmuel
        April 29, 2016, 2:27 am

        At present, no. For the future, yes. Finkelstein argues that Israel can be pressured into accepting a settlement based on the international consensus. I think that’s a realistic goal. Nothing guaranteed, of course. But realistic enough.

        At present, for the future, obviously. I know what Finkelstein argues, and I disagree. I think it is not a realistic goal, and if it is not, there is no reason to adhere to a consensus that is, in itself unjust (as you have mentioned) and insufficient. Realistic enough is an assessment, not gospel.

        Ending the occupation– requires a political agreement. RoR and /or compensation– requires a political agreement. Full equality for all Israeli citizens– requires political changes within Israel. So, outside of BDS’s three stated goals, all of which require political solutions, what goals are you suggesting?

        I am suggesting treating the goals as just goals that are at present and for the foreseeable future, unrealistic; something to strive for, principles for a political solution and for any interim shift in that direction. I am not the one claiming pragmatic end-goals, Finkelstein is.

        What significant improvements in Palestinian life can be made without, at a minimum, ending the occupation? Do you mean BDS /the Palestinian solidarity movement should aim for something less? Aim for a “kindler, gentler occupation” not an end to it?

        BDS should strive to achieve its goals, including of course ending the occupation. The pressure it brings to bear on Israel, the tactical focus on the occupation (on which there is also an international consensus), the focus on the rights that are violated by the occupation, lack of equality, the siege, etc., may (remember, no guarantees) push Israel to take different decisions in the present, regarding settlement construction, treatment of minors, freedom of movement, house demolitions, the siege on Gaza, and so forth. If there is a perceived price, things like the siege and demolitions will be the first to go, as they are primarily a matter of satisfying Jewish-Israeli public opinion anyway. In any event, this is what a shift toward willingness to accept “the minimum requirements for dignity, humanity and self-determination” (as suggested e.g. by Magnes Zionist) for the Palestinians will look like. Small steps toward recognising their humanity and treating them as equal negotiating partners, not Palestinians choosing which unrealistic political solution Abbas or his successor will discuss at non-existent talks with Israeli leaders with no will or reason to reach a solution of any kind.

        You can dismiss it as a “kinder, gentler occupation”, but the alternative, speaking realistically, is not an independent Palestinian state with rights and protection for all. The alternative is nothing.

    • silamcuz
      April 28, 2016, 10:41 am

      BDS is pragmatic in the sense that it puts the ball firmly in the Israeli and its allies (USA and Western Europe) court to practice what it preaches. Force them to cash the extraordinary cheques their mouth writes across the mainstream media.

      Every day they object and fight BDS, they are undressing themselves to the let’s assume neutral world. The more they fight, the more they themselves convince the neutrals and Israel’s allies of the real face of the state. With its facade broken, Israel will wither away without putting up a fight. The goal of BDS is first and foremost, destroy this illusion of Israeli exceptionalism in the god-forsaken desert of Middle East.

      An Israel without its myth is just a pathetic bunch of unloved, unbalanced individuals with bombs and guns.

      • JustJessetr
        April 28, 2016, 6:26 pm

        @silamcuz: “The goal of BDS is first and foremost, destroy this illusion of Israeli exceptionalism in the god-forsaken desert of Middle East.”

        Thank you for admitting that openly, instead of pretending it has even the slightest bit to do with Palestinian rights. BDS is nothing but a front for bashing Israel, hence 95% of the articles on MW are about that evil “entity”.

      • Mooser
        April 28, 2016, 7:12 pm

        “Thank you for admitting that openly…”

        God forbid anything should disturb Israeli exceptionalism! Why, if BDS attacks Israeli exceptionalism, it might lead to Israelis being unexceptional. And who wants that?

    • HarryLaw
      April 28, 2016, 1:08 pm

      Shmuel, “A 2ss is pragmatic? Why? I think Professor Finkelstein is referring to every State at the UN, including Palestine recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli state within the borders set by the UNGA partition resolution in 1948, the Palestinians now want the borders to be based on the 1967 border with mutually agreed land swaps. It is pragmatic because all states at the UN including Iran and the GCC states will recognize any solution with which the Palestinians themselves would be happy with. There is no UN state, UN agency or political party anywhere in the world which puts forward a one state position. In order to invoke International law as the Palestinians are now doing at the ICC, it is a prerequisite ipso facto pragmatic to recognize that irrefutable fact.

      • Misterioso
        April 28, 2016, 1:59 pm

        While it may be preceded by two states, in the long run, as the Zionist zealots die off and peace reigns, both peoples will see the wisdom of one state as it will best serve their common interests.

    • LeaNder
      April 29, 2016, 11:39 am

      Shmuel, if I may use a weak attempt at humor, without Mooser’s talent.

      To the extend I can, I follow BDS, my latest laptop does not contain any Intel chip but AMD. You know who guided me in this decision, forget his name by now. Oh, it popped up: Richard Witty. Among other crazy things he had suggested was that we all ultimately rely on Israel in our communications. Since after all Israel produced Intel Chips. … Never mind how silly I found his argument.

      One of the top items around here was Sodastream. Now did it get in trouble share-wise because of BDS or possibly more due to the fact that it may not be such a sensational product everyone of us needs?

      Other related perspectives where no doubt more interesting.

      *******
      I may well struggle at times with Norman’s position, occasionally. I too may have problems with the simple wisdom that life isn’t fair. But it is rather obvious that at that point in times the Yeshiva had a more general advantage due to the larger temporal context.

      I do understand your concerns about Jerusalem and what has been happening there, I really do. But isn’t there a larger legal context too?

      Beyond that, no matter to what extend I struggle with the larger context, no doubt attracted to earlier times and studies in the field where “the world” including me, obviously did not pay attention. No matter, how much I would prefer a one state solution, would it rid us of the larger problems? Would it automatically result in real versus fictive equality?

      Whatever you wish for now, may have consequences you should consider. Didn’t the Zionists have a strong wish for their own state too and accomplished it? How successful would a one state ‘solution’ in Israel be at this point in time? Isn’t it one way or another related to the dream to democratize the ME? Which without any doubt seriously failed.

      • Shmuel
        April 29, 2016, 12:07 pm

        Hi LeaNder,

        Good to see you again. I hope all is well.

        Funny you should mention yeshivah. That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about Finkelstein. He reminds me of a few of my old yeshivah mates (OK, including me), who were extremely textual and painfully consistent. I think he makes far too much of the BDS document, and far too little of the actual movement, what it has accomplished and where it is going. To cite another, sort of reverse analogy, a nephew of mine is a Lubavitcher rabbi, and he belongs to the group that believes the old Rebbe is still alive (long story, near split within the movement). He explained that he doesn’t actually believe the Rebbe is alive, but the group that does is the most dynamic, vital and effective within the movement, so that’s where he wants to be.

        I am not a 1-stater (or a 2-stater for that matter). I think the minimum requirements for a reasonable settlement can be achieved through either modality, once Israel decides to take the Palestinians seriously.

      • LeaNder
        April 29, 2016, 2:10 pm

        Pleased to see you are still around too, Shmuel.

        “That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about Finkelstein”

        I think I understand your line of thought. Without descending too deeply into it.

        ******
        Let me tell you what I found the most important matter in this interview. From a more personal position, no doubt.

        In a way it triggered an earlier private exchange I had with him, years and years ago. At the time a campaign against him in an academic field had caught my attention. No doubt with many non-academic highly emotionally concerned citizens around that wouldn’t be very easy to connect to “the lobby”, if you ask me, and as I realized looking more closely into matters, not the first campaign against him either.

        What I find deeply ironic, cutting matters short here, is, that now the opposite camp has fulfilled the ultimately desire driving the campaign/campaigns: push him outside public discoursee. Apart, hopefully, academia.

        I am pleased he hasn’t lost his humor. Concerning the specific passages: They are well chosen. I surely hope too, that his books find many readers ideally outside academia too.

        Another from the top of my head issue which caught my attention. There was a point in time his critique of Human Right Groups caught my attention. It was a more general statement on Democracy Now. I recall Amy’s puzzlement concerning this statement. If I recall correctly he had to elaborate. If you take a look at the larger ME, to the extend I follow it. Matters have turned out much more difficult, then I was aware of at the time. And yes, I highly appreciated he picked it up again.

        I am not going to carefully proofread this, in spite of the appreciated edit option. ;)

      • Mooser
        April 29, 2016, 4:13 pm

        “a reasonable settlement can be achieved through either modality, once Israel decides to take the Palestinians seriously.”

        “Take the Palestinians seriously”? Why, of course Israel will do that, and in a hurry, too. The day after they decide they aren’t subhuman.

        And of course, there’s no practical objection involved. Once Israel does “take the Palestinians seriously” they have all the resources necessary for reparations, compensating the settlers, all that, right?

  20. Boo
    April 28, 2016, 10:30 am

    It strikes me that Finkelstein’s a bit full of himself. He’s delighted that young people are involved in politics this year — but only when it’s on his terms. “No drugs”, none of that “Moonie-style” open mic malarkey or BLM-style “radical posturing, posing and preening.” And “intersectionalism” … these kids these days and their jargon!

    I’m an “alte kocker” myself, a Yippie back in the day, veteran of many a protest and with the scars to show for it. But just because I’ve paid my dues doesn’t give me the right to get all sanctimonious and judgmental when today’s young people chart a course that isn’t entirely congruous with my generation’s. After all, look how much work we’ve left undone.

    Finkelstein makes some good points, but his attitude casts a shadow on his words.

  21. Misterioso
    April 28, 2016, 10:59 am

    To quote Dr. Finkelstein:

    “In 2007, I gave a public lecture on this topic at the Judson Memorial Church near NYU. I said that young American Jews are not going to defend Israel’s criminal conduct…”

    “If you’re a young American Jew, you’re probably liberal and idealistic, you’re not going to defend that sort of stuff. You may not come out swinging against Israel, but you’re going to lower your head in embarrassment and shame. I was slowly registering this metamorphosis. Something’s happening here. Younger Jews are changing. Some older Jews too—but not the majority.”

    His comments brought to mind the following observations by Alon Ben-Meir:

    “Dear Netanyahu: Radical Zionists Like You Cannot Survive”
    Huffington Post, Feb. 24/16, by Alon Ben-Meir, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Affairs, NYU

    “A Plea For Reason: An Open Letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu”

    EXCERPT:
    “Demographically, the country is facing a grave danger. The number of Israelis emigrating from Israel is roughly equal to the number of those who immigrate to Israel. Nearly one million Israelis, representing 13 percent of the population, emigrated from Israel in the past 20 years. Several polls consistently show that given the opportunity, 30 percent of Israelis would consider leaving the country, mainly for economic reasons and the lack of a prospect of ending the debilitating conflict with the Palestinians.

    “In particular, the immigration of young American and European Jews to Israel is consistently trending downward.”

  22. Misterioso
    April 28, 2016, 11:10 am

    To quote Dr. Finkelstein:

    “In 2007, I gave a public lecture on this topic at the Judson Memorial Church near NYU. I said that young American Jews are not going to defend Israel’s criminal conduct…”

    “If you’re a young American Jew, you’re probably liberal and idealistic, you’re not going to defend that sort of stuff. You may not come out swinging against Israel, but you’re going to lower your head in embarrassment and shame. I was slowly registering this metamorphosis. Something’s happening here. Younger Jews are changing. Some older Jews too—but not the majority.”

    His comments bring to mind the following observations by Alon Ben-Meir:

    “Dear Netanyahu: Radical Zionists Like You Cannot Survive”
    Huffington Post, Feb. 24/16, by Alon Ben-Meir, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Affairs, NYU

    “A Plea For Reason: An Open Letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu”

    EXCERPT:
    “Demographically, the country is facing a grave danger. The number of Israelis emigrating from Israel is roughly equal to the number of those who immigrate to Israel. Nearly one million Israelis, representing 13 percent of the population, emigrated from Israel in the past 20 years. Several polls consistently show that given the opportunity, 30 percent of Israelis would consider leaving the country, mainly for economic reasons and the lack of a prospect of ending the debilitating conflict with the Palestinians.

    “In particular, the immigration of young American and European Jews to Israel is consistently trending downward.”

  23. Sycamores
    April 28, 2016, 12:44 pm

    armed/violent resistance is a prerequisite to ridding oneself of an occupying force. even Nelson Mandela the Nobel peace laureate was the co-founder of the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC.

    however in the end it was a non-violent mass movement along with sanctions that finish apartheid in South Africa.

    so it’s unreasonable to expect Hamas who are only in control of Gaza to create a non-violent mass movement, even if they wanted to they couldn’t. until there is an unity government for the Palestinians this non-violent mass movement is not a option.

    as Norman Finkelstein pointed out Hamas can change

    It was now operating on the world stage. So, Hamas started issuing statements effectively calling for two states. The moment Palestinian leaders start acting in the arena of international politics, the exigencies of that reality make themselves felt

    the collaboration between Fatah and the Israeli government is the major source to this problem. the answer is simple: Fatah needs to relinquish its control.

    The BDS platform will become a historical artifact. I was in the West Bank when Arafat called for two states in 1988 in Algiers. It was a heart-wrenching moment for Palestinians, to relinquish their claim to the whole of Palestine.

    i don’t get the point that Norman Finkelstein is trying to make here. the BDS has no say in the 1ss or 2ss.

    the BDS for all it faults (according to Norman Finkelstein there’s many) can be absorb into a possible future Palestinian non-violent mass movement/Intifada.

    deepest respect to Professor Norman Finkelstein and i wish him a better and brighter Future.

  24. Danaa
    April 28, 2016, 2:52 pm

    I was struck again by the sadness that permeated this interview with Finkelstein. I still think of him as an old prophet/new scholar who can’t find a home in any group. The sad ness I see in Finkelstein’s fate is of disconnectedness on two different levels:

    (1) he seems to accept that a scholar who plots a collision path with mainstream academia is bound to suffer from the notorious cowardice and funding dependence inherent in the academic structure. But in his acceptance he still does not fully grasp just how far and deep academic subservience to power goes. Or he may grasp it (by now, he might well) but cannot yet imagine the truly kafkaesque dimensions of academic life (at least for the liberal/ arts/political/economic/legal departments)

    (2) While he has certainly plowed deeply into israel’s misdeeds over the years, he still does not comprehend the israeli psyche on both a collective and individual level. AS a result, he still thinks in rational terms about a group of people who some time ago have been brain-washed into more of a cult-like mentality. Finkelstein cannot understand the israeli paranoia for example, because it is not a rational symptom. Neither does he understand the toxic combination of superiority complex and a fear of persecution, the two being flip sides of each other, but co-existing in a state of perpetual disharmony. It’s the kind of conditions psychologists like Avigail Abarbanel recognize, but scholars like Finkelstein dismiss – as if it could be waved away with a slight of hand. “Surely, reason must prevail in the end’ says the scholar, even as the psychologist reaches frantically for some behavior-modifying pills.

    While the first disconnect prevents Finkelstein – a fine scholar by all account – from bagging an academic position for which his skills are well suited, the second disconnect causes him to hang on to the 2ss dream as if it could ever be a reality, while dissing BDS as unrealistic, and thereby making himself not so grata along the Palestinian solidarity lecture as well. A truly sad predicament. The Israelis, collectively (by a decided majority0 basically want to hang on to the west bank. Whether they all admit it, whether some are willing to relinquish some of it, whether some very few keep saying they’ll happily give it all up doesn’t matter. The reality is that for the most part they want to keep it and believe that ultimately they will, which means that, on a sub-conscious as well as conscious lever, they judged the costs to such filly to be acceptable.

    • Danaa
      April 28, 2016, 3:12 pm

      Note added re BDS (my reading):

      The psychologically damaged mindset of the Israeli gestalt (viewed as a whole – give or take a few 10’s of 1000’s excellent souls – bless their hearts) is what makes the BDS movement the only possible counterweight. In an important respect BDS represents a tacit recognition that the israeli psyche is, in fact, bound tightly with an irrational quest to hold on to the west bank (at least most of it), while believing they can thrive anyways. Since it seems impossible to entice israelis with the BENEFITS of relinquishing their unjust rule over Palestine (as evidenced by the failure of countless “peace” overtures and farce negotiations), the only counter-approach is to address the issue of COST. That in the hope that some day, the cost-benefit equation will become skewed enough to where the patient – the israeli gestalt in this case – will undergo an existential crisis that will allow it to deal on a rational level. It’s a long shot, of course, and will be fought tooth and nail by powerful forces, but as any good psychologist knows, sometimes it’s necessary to use “alternative” techniques of persuasion to help the sleepwalker come to terms with their condition.

      Norman Finkelstein is, perhaps unfortunate for being a rational man to the core. So rational, in fact, that his visionary ideas, cannot fully encompass the irrational elements of the Israel/Palestine dilemma. And because he still thinks of israel (and, of course its many supporter Jews around the world) as a basically rational entity that is amenable to conventional forms of persuasion, he cannot fully grasp just how unlikely it is for the 2SS to become a reality. More unfortunately, just as we all know (from personal experience), it is difficult to persuade rational people to recognize the irrational element in certain harmful individuals, I doubt debates with Finkelstein, no matter how calm and scholarly, will convince him to view BDS as a useful tactic that can achieve strategic goals.

      This is all the more regrettable, because Finkelstein is so very smart, and we would all benefit from him having a proper platform so he could continue to challenge all and sundry. For myself, I know that while i disagree strenuously with his views on 1ss vs 2SS and BDS as a tactic, reading and hearing him made me examine my own convictions more deeply.

      • just
        April 28, 2016, 3:41 pm

        I actually read your second post first and thought immediately :

        1) So grateful to see you here~ spreading your insight, your experience- based intelligence, and your critical thinking.

        2) Echoes of Avigail Abarbanal…

        Then I read the first and the second again, and I had to literally stand up and shout ‘Yeah’!!!

      • Dan
        April 28, 2016, 9:35 pm

        “I doubt debates with Finkelstein, no matter how calm and scholarly, will convince him to view BDS as a useful tactic that can achieve strategic goals.”

        Actually, although he doesn’t make it clear here, NF has said in other interviews that he supports BDS as a tactic. He has supported that tactic (lower case bds) for years. He has also said that Israel will never change, without bds, because the occupation is the first cost free occupation in history.
        The distinction he makes is between a tactic and a goal. His criticism is with the leadership of the BDS (upper case), movement. He thinks that by remaining agnostic on Israel, they are being hypocritical, preventing the movement from reaching a broad public.

        If you are interested, watch the interview with Mehdi Hassan on Al Jazeera “Head to Head” and you will see what I am referring to.

      • Danaa
        April 29, 2016, 3:33 pm

        dan, as you said, Finkelstein definitely does not state in this interview that BDS as a tactic is something he agrees with. Instead choosing to take issue with the larger aim of BDS as well as the position, and indeed the existence of those “illusory” palestinian civil groups.

        Whatever he may have said in the past, his positions now, as reflected in this interview, have hardened. he goes as far as to maintain that BDS plays into the hands of the hasbara. Plus he goes on at several points about the importance of the palestinians recognizing israel as a “jewish” or at least “majority jewish” state. To me this looks like a regression in his positions. Being ostracized by many palestinian solidarity groups on account of his opposition to BDS probably got to him – can’t have been pleasant and he said, his invitations for the lecture circuit have dwindled to a trickle.

        The truth is that what he really takes exception to is that ‘agnostic’ position on Israel upheld by the movement’s leaders and most of its rank and file. In other words, the ideal one state for all its citizens as something to strive for is what’s really bothering him. partly i conceded for this not looking as an overly realistic position at this point. but partly, i think it’s that tribal tug on his soul of souls. He actually wants a jewish state and thinks that such a state can be a rational actor on the world stage if peace were to break out through the ushering in of a palestinian state. most of us differ on that point of “realism” as a 2SS may indeed be something simpler to conceive, but in practice israel will resist it tooth and nail, till kingdom come. Also, many of us are just not so committed to the idea of an “all-jewish” state. many of us think that’s actually not a good thing even in theory because of the “collateral” unavoidable damage. And some of us – like me – simply believe that jews do much better when they are mixed with others, but that’s another story.

    • MRW
      April 28, 2016, 4:58 pm

      @Danaa,

      (2) While he has certainly plowed deeply into israel’s misdeeds over the years, he still does not comprehend the israeli psyche on both a collective and individual level. . . .even as the psychologist reaches frantically for some behavior-modifying pills.

      The core of it. Until this is understood–and accepted–there is no rational way to resolve anything. Yeah, yeah, I recognize there are “give or take a few 10’s of 1000’s” who don’t fit the mold.

      But Americans are in lah-lah land. They tell themselves tales straight out of Mother Goose to justify what they’re refusing to see misbehaving right in front of their eyes. (Roll in all the usual suspects of demonizing labels they fear will attach to themselves if they tell it like it is, Pretzel Psychology.)

    • Keith
      April 28, 2016, 5:44 pm

      DANAA- “AS a result, he still thinks in rational terms about a group of people who some time ago have been brain-washed into more of a cult-like mentality.”

      Spot on! This is a characteristic he shares with Noam Chomsky in which they assume that the bulk of humanity is more or less rational like them. As a consequence, they can do a superb job of analyzing a situation, yet, when it comes to what to do about a problem, they propose a solution that would work splendidly for rational folks like them. The harsh reality is that the bulk of humanity is frequently irrational, more likely to exhibit solidarity to irrational group ideology than to be swayed by empirical data. This group solidarity is considered a requirement of group membership which, in turn, is considered more important to individual well-being than pure rationality. I refer to this phenomenon as the logic of irrationality. We all take much of what we believe “on faith” in order to fit in. And the more extreme the ideology, the more irrational the true believers become, particularly when they have been led to believe that the group is under threat.

  25. xanadou
    April 28, 2016, 3:53 pm

    Palestinians have no discernible history of self-determination, a seemingly nebulous understanding of what it entails, how to go about achieving it, while remaining steeped in persistent patriarchy and almost no effective ability to organise into an effective opposition/resistance to the Israeli occupation.

    Do they view the world as a present day incarnation of the Ottoman empire? The world will not at any time step in to do anything for Palestine unless and until the Palestinians figure out what actually works for them while under occupation and what may serve them in the early days of a free Palestine.

    What’s the point of throwing stones at tanks? Or lobbing glorified firecrackers at one of the best equipped armies, even if the latter suck as a fighting force against their equals? The immoral army has had almost 70 years to learn how to slaughter children, women and the elderly with impunity, effectively ignoring the world’s impotent criticism and hoping that the Palestinians will never learn that staying away from israeli crosshairs, getting an education, getting rid of Israel’s Fifth Column, i.e., the quislings known as the PLO, and organise their society into coherent and efficient self-help units with a democratically elected leadership capable of managing their own affairs at home and making a forceful and eloquent presence on the world stage.

    The slaughtered children and young women and men are not martyrs, they are the unconscionable victims also of their own society unable to come together in modern resistance to the present day Moloch whose appetite for Palestinian lives and land can never be satisfied.

    If the Palestinians wish to survive as a viable people with their own, free, country, now is the time to learn to fight without the pointless daily loss of lives.

    • diasp0ra
      April 28, 2016, 4:15 pm

      What pointless, condescending reductive and ignorant pile of tripe.
      Check your savior complex at the door.

      • just
        April 28, 2016, 4:19 pm

        Thanks, diasp0ra~ I was trying to conjure a response. Yours is eloquent.

      • JustJessetr
        April 28, 2016, 6:31 pm

        @diaspora,

        Which part is the tripe? The part where Palestinians should learn to fight without the pointless daily loss of lives?

    • Mooser
      April 28, 2016, 6:18 pm

      Thanks “diasp0ra”.

    • Kathleen
      April 29, 2016, 12:45 pm

      That “immoral army” has had the wall of silence kept intact for decades by a complicit and powerful media in the U.S. Along with an organization who should be required to register under FARA… Aipac who has bought and paid for the U.S. congress to not only make sure that “immoral army” and government can operate an apartheid government full speed ahead and never pay any price for it.

  26. yourstruly
    April 29, 2016, 2:41 am

    “Palestinians are a defeated people.” – Norman Finkelstein

    Except Haitians too seemed to be a defeated people in 1967 when I visited them, but by the mid-eighties they had awakened to the drumbeat of a liberation movement led by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who not long thereafter in a landslide election became their president.

    Similarly Algerians appeared to be a defeated people after “The Battle of Algiers” but a few years later they rose up and tossed out the French occupiers.

    Same goes for Palestinians. Sure, a “snapshot” taken of them right now might reveal what looks like a defeated people,
    but continuous filming could just as well reveal a revolution in the making. Suggesting that seems to be, appears to be and looks like are not equivalents of actually are.

    What does the “snapshot” miss? Only the ongoing history of people engaged in continuous liberation struggles, Haitians for over two centuries, Algerians for eight years and Palestinians for about a century.

    Come on Norman, you may feel defeated and are giving up on the struggle, but the Palestinians, although undoubtedly discouraged, rest assured that when the right moment arrives, they’ll be ready.

  27. yourstruly
    April 29, 2016, 6:12 am

    As for Israel’s using BDS so as to enhance its mantra of victimhood, despite this deceit, judging by the growth in the number of individuals and organizations committing to its goals, BDS continues to expand, not to mention the increasing public awareness that the underlying cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict is Jewish settler colonialism. Slowly, yet inexorably, we shall overcome.

  28. Kathleen
    April 29, 2016, 12:36 pm

    Reading a second time.. Have to respond to this one now. Finkelstein you nail it once again “Who would have predicted that African Americans would sink the most radical Presidential candidate in living memory?”

    Yes indeed however let’s not forget that millions of so called white progressives have also helped sink Sanders. We should not forget our so called white allegedly progressive friends who have gone with proven war hawk Hillary from the very beginning repeatedly saying things like “oh I like Bernie but he just can’t make it.” So disgusted by how many times I heard things like this.

    Sure would like to hear Norman zoom in on this phenomena. When has such a proven war hawk like Hillary moved so far so fast as a Dem candidate. And why would Chomsky and sounds as if you may too Norman roll over and vote for Hillary if a miracle does not happen for us and Sanders.

    Would so have been on those work buses for Sanders if I were not caught between taking care of grandchildren and an 88 year old mother. Had about six years off between getting youngest into and through college and doing what I wanted (working tirelessly on campaigns). Have done would I can for Sanders in Colorado and Ohio. Know I will not see such an honorable and decent candidate with such integrity, humanitarian record as Sanders in my lifetime. The young people and older folks too that I met in Denver at the rally and on his campaign here in Colorado were as Norman said well thought out, informed and inspired… as Bernie has for so many of us

    So is it through Israeli data mining, companies Amdocs, Comverse Infosys and forensic software companies like Cellirbite that Israel is able to bring down people who report facts like Goldstone?

  29. Kathleen
    April 30, 2016, 7:03 pm

    Finkelstein: ” Noam Chomsky has said that of course he’ll vote for Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee. Because, although the policy differences between the candidates might be tiny, when you wield so much power, even a tiny difference translates into life and death for many people. That’s a compelling argument.”

    Just do not understand how Chomsky and possibly Finkelstein could vote for such a proven and bloody war hawk like Hillary. I mean you don’t have to wonder what she would do with power she has all ready demonstrated her willingness to promote horrific “regime change” no matter how many people die, are injured or displaced. Just do not understand how either one of you could support such a die hard neocon?

    Hillary Is the Candidate of the War Machine
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-sachs/hillary-is-the-candidate_b_9168938.html

    Parsing Hillary Clinton’s Disingenuous Foreign Policy Record
    02/12/2016 04:27 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 20
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-ritter/hillary-clinton-foreign-policy-record_b_9221284.html

    Hillary Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath
    02/14/2016 08:41 am ET | Updated Feb 15, 2016 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-sachs/hillary-clinton-and-the-s_b_9231190.html

  30. donnasaggia
    May 1, 2016, 9:49 am

    Norman is one of the greatest and most articulate voices today. The fact that Democracy Now hasn’t the courage or sense to have him on says more about Amy’s lack of perspective — and this wouldn’t be the only example. If there is any scholar worth reading today, it’s Finkelstein. Never give up Norman!

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