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Despite international pressure, Finkelstein gives talk on Gaza’s ‘martyrdom’ at German institute

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Norman Finkelstein has been the focus of an international campaign to — once again — stop him from teaching. It didn’t work, so far anyway. Today he gave a lecture titled “Gaza; an inquest into its martyrdom” at the Max Planck Institute in Halle, Germany, during a two-week residency there. This afternoon, Finkelstein reported:

It’s over.  The workshop lasted five hours.  It was normal, just as if I were anywhere else in the world.  Hopefully, it will herald the new normal in Germany, which would be good for Truth, good for Justice, and good for Palestine.

The Jerusalem Post describes pressure on the Max Planck Institute to withdraw the invitation, including from Florida Senator Marco Rubio:

“It’s shameful that the Max Planck Institute will give a platform to the anti-Israel author Norman Finkelstein, a supporter of the terrorist group Hezbollah,” Senator Rubio (R-FL) told The Jerusalem Post.

Israel lobbyists have been focused on pressuring the Institute by threatening funds to a Florida neurological branch, per the Jerusalem Post:

Max Planck has an institute based in Jupiter, Florida. [Palm Beach County commissioner Steven] Abrams said: “In 2008, Palm Beach County approved the allocation of $86.9 million to the Max Planck Florida Institute to build and operate a 100,000 sq. ft. biomedical research facility on the campus of Florida Atlantic University. The county has paid all but the last payment of $5.3 million, which is due November 2017.”

Audrey Goff, a spokeswoman for the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in Jupiter, told the Post: “The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI) focuses on neuroscience research and does not work in the field of anthropology… MPFI leadership is only responsible for decisions on the speakers we host locally, and is not involved with whom other Max Planck Institutes host.” According to the MPI,“The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience was awarded $522,500 over two years in funding from the National Eye Institute, one of 27 institutes and centers of the US National Institutes of Health.”

It is unclear if the Monday talk by Finkelstein will affect Max Planck’s funding streams in the US

The Max Planck Institute has released a long statement justifying the invitation to Finkelstein, noting that his work about “oppression, marginalization, treatment of minorities… [has given] him the reputation of a thoroughly controversial intellectual.” And that’s OK. More:


Some groups have criticized Finkelstein’s invitation to Halle. As a scientific institution which is primarily dedicated to basic research, we will enter into a dialogue with Finkelstein about his work. In doing so, controversy cannot be ruled out; it is indispensable in academic discourse. Controversy is, in fact, a trait of academic work; and it is one of our tasks to introduce our young scientists to controversial academic discourse: Our concern is that our PhD students should learn to listen carefully to an argument, take it on its own merits, and address it in a measured, respectful, professional manner – even and maybe the more so, if that argument goes against their own profound convictions. This, we feel, is one of the most important skills we can instil in our PhD students and early-career academics – especially in a time when social media permits expressions of prejudice and recourse to anonymous insults is almost socially acceptable, and objective exchange of arguments seems to fall more and more behind.

The Institute is very sensitive about the Holocaust (as Finkelstein indicates in his own comment, above):

Today, scientists from more than 100 nations work at the Max Planck Society as well as at our institute, the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle. 70 years after the Holocaust, employees with a Jewish background are now active at Max Planck, too. It is a place where people of different religions, nations, sex and skin colour work together on key issues relevant to our society and our future.

The Institute is particularly defensive about the Gaza focus of Finkelstein’s talk:

Addendum: The internal Workshop was announced within the MPI for Social Anthropology as a closed group event. The chosen title relates to the working title of a forthcoming publication of Dr. Finkelstein (“Gaza: an inquest into its martyrdom”), since the main focus of the workshop will be the discussion of this manuscript. The topic “Justification of the use of force by the state” will be discussed on the basis of this example. This is one of the fundamental questions in legal research and it is also relevant to the Gaza conflict.

At his own site, Finkelstein has posted the Jerusalem Post news with the headline, Finkelstein Under Attack!

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29 Responses

  1. amigo
    amigo on January 23, 2017, 6:47 pm

    Excuse me but doesn,t Rubio oppose BDS.

    Just saying.

  2. JWalters
    JWalters on January 23, 2017, 9:46 pm

    It must be challenging for irrational, fact-suppressing, bigots to have a debate with a group of objective scientists. Don’t they have some “donors” who can threaten the Institute?

    • annie
      annie on January 23, 2017, 10:39 pm

      Don’t they have some “donors” who can threaten the Institute?

      my thoughts exactly. I wonder if they’ll go after the affiliate in Florida.

      • inbound39
        inbound39 on January 23, 2017, 11:47 pm

        It shows that though Rubio is on the other side of the World the lobby has a long reach. It was probably a long shot on the lobby’s behalf to think they could get traction in Europe but it goes to show how far they can reach and how panicked they are when someone speaks the truth about Israel.

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson on January 24, 2017, 12:02 am

        Raul Hilberg and Israeli Avi Shlaim on Norman Finkelstein – Democracy Now!

        P.S. God, I wish I had a nice, cold glass of pink champagne!
        Arnon! ! !

  3. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw on January 24, 2017, 4:56 am

    Max Planck Institute.. “and it is one of our tasks to introduce our young scientists to controversial academic discourse”: Its not really controversial, reports from various United Nations investigations into the massacres in Gaza have indicated that war crimes have been committed by Israel. Also that because Israel controls Gaza it is still occupied territory. Because occupation should only be temporary, an occupation lasting 50 years is illegal. These issues are so “controversial” that almost every state at the UN accepts them as facts, only Israel disputes them. Where’s the controversy?

  4. Ossinev
    Ossinev on January 24, 2017, 7:06 am

    This the same ” little” Marco Rubio :

    An intellectual minnow trashing an intellectual giant. “Little” Marco would be shredded to pieces in any discussion with Norman. If he is so offended by Norman and the invitation perhaps he should challenge him to discuss it on TV – don`t hold your breath .As I say he would be shredded but hey it wouldn`t be as terrifying as his experience with America`s minnow in chief:

  5. diasp0ra
    diasp0ra on January 24, 2017, 8:04 am

    Talking frankly about Israeli colonialism in Germany is quite a tough thing, in my experience. I finished my Masters there a few months ago, and established, non-controversial statements such as “Israel needed to pursue ethnic cleansing to achieve a Jewish majority” would yield shocked expressions among the students.

    I found that the Israeli narrative is very well established as “The “history of the “conflict”. Although it has become much more acceptable to criticize Israel, especially after Gaza and its rampant expansionism in the West Bank, talking about the origins of Israel is something professors seek to avoid.

    I hope that more of these debates are encouraged in Germany. They are probably not that groundbreaking in content, but at the very least they normalize talking about Israel critically which is desperately needed in German society.

    • MHughes976
      MHughes976 on January 24, 2017, 9:43 am

      What is obviously true is not necessarily uncontroversial if some are determined to controvert it. I had a rather shocking experience with a German, now risen to dizzy heights in UK academia, who was saying how terrible nationalism is. I asked how those remarks applied to Z. The reply was ‘As a German, I can’t say anything about that’. I said that that was inverse racism, which was perhaps unduly fighting talk for a social occasion. It just slipped out. Within seconds I was being accused by a young graduate student of picking on Germans and picking on Jews. Uncomfortable. A reminder of how dufficult it can be to keep within normal discourse and speak of Z in a sceptical tone. I still think it’s inverse racism if you treat members of a certain race as beyond critique.

    • Mooser
      Mooser on January 24, 2017, 12:24 pm

      Hello “diasp0ra”!! It’s great to hear from you again.

    • annie
      annie on January 24, 2017, 12:31 pm


    • rhkroell
      rhkroell on January 24, 2017, 5:13 pm

      Thank you diasp0ra. I was going to comment that allowing Norman Finkelstein to speak in Germany is a big step forward. This could not have taken place in Germany just a few years ago. The BDS movement, and publications like Mondoweiss, are making it possible for scholars like Finkelstein to debate the Palestine/Israel conflict — even in Germany. This is, for me, progress. The word is getting out. Despite the efforts of Bibi, and public intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Lévy, Germans are beginning to rethink their uncompromising policy of: “Never challenge Israel — right or wrong. Our Nazi past prohibits any and all criticism of Israeli. That’s just the way it is. We have to hold our tongues. We can never criticize Israel.”

    • diasp0ra
      diasp0ra on January 25, 2017, 3:06 am

      @Mooser @Annie

      Hello friends!

      Sorry I have been away for so long, but I was drowning in my thesis and was also preparing to relocate back to Palestine. I have been a bit more active on Twitter though!

      I hope you have all been well.

  6. punterweger
    punterweger on January 24, 2017, 9:38 am

    It is wonderful that Finkelstein was invited (Max Planck is one of the most prestigious German Scientific Institutions) and that he succeeded in making his presentation. Usually, the Zionist lobbies succeed in manipulating German guilt to prevent open discussion of Israel/Palestine related issues by people they have identified as enemies. Their undemocratic methods including: denying meeting spaces, closing bank accounts, etc.

    As in this case, the principals are often the same: the so-called journalist, Benjamin Weinthal, of the Jerusalem Post, support from the official Jewish Community, so-called anti-fascist (Antifa) movements (particularly a group called “Die Anti-Deutschen”, i.e. the anti-Germans), and the right wing Media, all helped along by the cowardice of German intellectuals who fail to speak up for freedom of expression.

    Fortunately, this time, the news of Finkelstein’s appearance seems to have surprised them, and no extensive campaign ever took off. The only media notice was from WeltN24, a subsidiary of the right-wing Springer Media empire. It’s headline is typical “Max Planck Institute Offers Israel-Hater a Podium”. But aside from this there was a few mentions in the local press and blogs. About 30 Antifas demonstrated before one of the lecture venues.

  7. German Lefty
    German Lefty on January 24, 2017, 10:38 am

    I am so glad that Norman could give his talk. I just looked at a few German articles. This one is particularly disgusting:
    It says that Finkelstein is an “Israel-hater”, that his opinion is based on “fake news”, that his choice of words is “unscientific”, and that he spreads “unscientific propaganda that is driven by hatred”.
    The director of the Max Planck Institute is from Belgium, which probably explains why she was “brave” enough to invite Finkelstein at all. The article also mentions that Volker Beck complained about Finkelstein’s invitation. Beck is a politician from the Green Party and a total Zionist. He also opposed Max Blumenthal’s talk in Germany a few years ago.
    The following article is accompanied by a photo of an anti-Finkelstein protest:
    The yellow banner says, “Fighting anti-Semitism means solidarity with Israel”.
    The black banner says, “No peace with the enemies of Israel”.
    The following article shows that someone defaced a wall in front of the Max Planck Institute by spraying, “No platform for anti-Semites”.

  8. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw on January 24, 2017, 11:08 am

    Professor Finkelsteins political opinions are based on facts, logic and International law, things Zionists are afraid of. I watched him debate with a particularly ignorant Zionist on Press TV some time ago and he likened the debate as between an Astrophysicist and a member of the flat earth society. Very apt.

  9. German Lefty
    German Lefty on January 24, 2017, 11:14 am

    The Jerusalem Post article was written by Benjamin Weinthal. He’s a notorious Zionist living in Germany. He was also behind the smear campaign against Max Blumenthal. He probably alerts German politicians and other influential Zionists every time a famous Israel critic is about to give a talk in Germany.

    • Lillian Rosengarten
      Lillian Rosengarten on January 24, 2017, 12:35 pm

      Bravo Norman!! Yes Weinthal is a rabid Zionist who also attempted to obstruct my talks is Germany (Judin Gegen Zionismus) and I was also vilified in the J Post, called an anti-Semite, etc etc., as well as M Blumenthal . We Must RESIST!!!
      Hope to be back to speak in Germany in July .

      • DavidDaoud
        DavidDaoud on January 24, 2017, 4:43 pm

        Hi Lillian, I wish you best of health for 2017!

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty on January 25, 2017, 5:26 am

        Hi Lillian, I didn’t know that this happened to you, too. If even Jews are vilified for speaking out against Israel’s crimes, then how are Germans supposed to have the courage to do so.
        I hope that some of your talks will take place in the eastern part of Germany. In North Thuringia would be great. Then I can attend, too.

  10. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block on January 24, 2017, 3:53 pm

    You sort of have to feel sorry for non-Jews – they are under so much pressure, from outside and from inside their own heads and hearts, not to seem, or to be!, anti-Semitic. We Jews are privileged. And Jews like Finkelstein can empower non-Jews.

    • NorthCascadian
      NorthCascadian on January 24, 2017, 9:51 pm

      I consider myself an ex-Jew. It feels very liberating and allows critique of the cult that holds up Israel. The German people deserve better than what they are getting.

  11. Kay24
    Kay24 on January 24, 2017, 4:52 pm

    More crimes by those filthy occupiers. I guess with US and Saudi money now pouring in, they can continue their thieving.

    “Israel Approves Construction and Planning of 2,500 Settler Homes in West Bank
    Announcement criticized by top settler body, which calls it a ‘disappointment.’ EU calls Israeli construction plans ‘regrettable,’ Palestinians term them a ‘deliberate provocation.’

    read more:

    • inbound39
      inbound39 on January 24, 2017, 8:09 pm

      If ever there was a justification for imposing sanctions against Israel then we have 2500 valid reasons for doing so now.

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on January 25, 2017, 7:29 am

        There are so many reasons why the world should impose sanctions on Israel, but the US and the EU, don’t even allow anyone to suggest it, or mention BDS.

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