Norman Finkelstein’s latest book, titled "’This Time We Went Too Far’: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion," was released recently, and has been garnering a lot of praise in publications that reviewed the book. Below is an excerpt from a review of the book I wrote in the Indypendent, a New York-based free newspaper. You can read the whole review here.
In his prolific and rigorous writings, Finkelstein has waged incisive academic assaults against Israel’s defenders, most notably Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer and Harvard professor. Finkelstein’s latest, ‘This Time We Went Too Far’: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, is no exception. The book takes aim at (among others) Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst for ABC News and the author of a number of books on the Middle East, for absolving Israel of war crimes in a “strategic analysis” of Operation Cast Lead he published with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman’s analysis, Finkelstein writes, “synthesizes Israel’s makeshift rebuttals to criticism of the invasion.”
The hot core of the polemic against Cordesman — and the defense of Israeli conduct he represents — is Finkelstein’s masterful command of international human rights law and a sharp exegesis of the United Nations report on the Israeli assault. Much more accessible than Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995) or The Holocaust Industry (2000), ‘This Time We Went Too Far’ spares readers the usual thicket of research from the annals of war documentation. Finkelstein’s work is clear, concise, well documented and burning with righteous anger, and he still devotes enough pages to developing a solid framework of historical context and critical analysis to give newcomers to this complex subject a working knowledge of the conflict’s dimensions.
When it comes to Israel, the political is always personal for Finkelstein, and facts and figures that anchor his research are humanized by accounts of his experience on the ground. In a moving passage, he describes visiting Gaza as part of a CODEPINK delegation in the aftermath of the Israeli assault, recalling an 11-year-old Palestinian girl lingering beside the demolished American International School. I visited Gaza and observed that very spot; the American International School remained in ruin, with only rubble left over.
‘This Time We Went Too Far’ is hardly light fare, though. Finkelstein saves an important commentary on the much-maligned Goldstone Report for the epilogue. Richard Goldstone, a highly respected South African jurist, has been demonized by the Israel lobby for his charge that Israel committed “war crimes,” in a report on the Gaza invasion commissioned by the U.N. His devastating indictment has earned him opponents across the political spectrum. (Alan Dershowitz, once a friend, made headlines when he called Goldstone an “evil, evil man” for his “despicable” report and he was a “traitor” to the Jewish people.)
Finkelstein argues that the publication of the report marks the “end of an apologetic Jewish liberalism that denies or extenuates Israel’s crimes” and “the emergence of a new era in which the human rights dimension of the Israel-Palestine conflict move[s] center-stage.” This point reflects one of the book’s central messages: “This book … sets forth grounds for hope. The bloodletting in Gaza has roused the world’s conscience. The prospects have never been more propitious for galvanizing the public not just to mourn but also to act.”
What’s missing from ‘This Time’ is the voice of the Palestinian people. Finkelstein’s arguments would have benefitted from the powerful testimony Palestinians gave before the Goldstone mission. Also absent in is an adequate discussion of the growing “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement against Israeli policy, a perfect example of the shift in discourse surrounding Israel/Palestine. Post-Gaza, the BDS movement has grown and received more international attention than ever before — an affirmation of Finkelstein’s view that the world’s perception of the Israel/Palestine conflict is undergoing a sea change.