COMMENTS ON NORMAN FINKLESTEIN’S NEW BOOK – “BEYOND CHUTZPAH” – by Stephen Lendman
Professor Norman Finklestein of DePaul University in Chicago and an expert on zionism (the subject of his doctoral dissertation), Jewish and Israeli history and the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict has just completed a very important book. It’s called “Beyond Chutzpah” and it’s about Israel’s and its supporters’ “misuse of anti-semitism and abuse of history.” The book is extremely well written and reflects Dr. Finklestein’s brilliant scholarship, keen analysis and scrupulous integrity. In style, the book is powerful and elegant and will greatly impact all those who read it.
Dr. Finklestein showed great courage tackling a subject as sensitive and vitally important as Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity and how they’re able to deflect them from public view, especially in the U.S., by creating or resurrecting the myth of a virulent and pervasive “new anti-semitism” as well as exploit “The Holocaust” as a “unique” event in history only affecting the Jews under the Nazis.
Dr. Finklestein knew full well because of his great credibility, integrity and reputation for meticulous scholarship he would have to brace for the inevitable assault against him after or even before publication. It certainly came and quite viciously – cancelled scheduled appearances to discuss his book, an effort to keep it from being published and more. If he were unimportant, unknown or produced mediocre work, he probably would have been ignored. But by attacking him, his critics (with no credible evidence to support them) acknowledged just the opposite, and by doing it by relying on little more than hollow ad hominems, they showed themselves to be on the defensive and had no other recourse. Using a familiar metaphor, you could say when the (Israeli) emperor was shorn of its protective clothes, its defense was to deflect attention elsewhere, blame its victims to justify its own abuses and attack all adversaries as anti-semites, liars, terrorists or their supporters or whatever else they thought might work for them.
Professor Finklestein documents in great and impressive detail what this reviewer has known for a considerable time from my own extensive reading and following events in the “occupied territories.” For many years I’ve occasionally discussed Israel’s shocking and callous treatment of the Palestinians with friends and acquaintances. At times I’ve stunned and disturbed them when I explained that beginning with the deliberate “ethnic cleansing” in 1948 to the present, Israel created a racist, apartheid state even worse than in South Africa and went on to treat the Palestinians as brutally as the Nazis treated them, except for the death camps – especially after 1967. And after that crucial year, these policies were supported and financed by all U.S. governments. Israel’s overwhelming victory in their “six day war” when the U.S. was beginning to be bogged down in Vietnam clearly showed the Johnson administration how important a strategic ally this nation was and how it could be used in that vital region as “our cop on the beat” (using Noam Chomsky’s characterization) along with Iran (under the Shah).
Dr. Finklestein spends much time documenting Israel’s record of abuse. It’s vast and disturbing and includes systematic and routine extrajudicial murder (sanctioned by Israel’s High Court), theft of land, bulldozing of homes (at times with occupants still inside and almost always in the middle of the night and with very little time to leave and never any right to appeal), denial of all or most civil liberties and basic needs like enough water and freedom and access of movement, the routine use of torture (at times prolonged and severe – Israel had its Abu Graibs long before the U.S. did in Iraq), the construction of the “apartheid” wall ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice (to seize Palestinian land and as another act of repression), and the unending military occupation including in Gaza even after the recent sham withdrawal with the IDF not leaving but just redeploying. Today Gaza and the West Bank are the world’s two largest “open air” prisons.
I’m struck by the similarity between the ploy used to justify the so-called “war on terrorism” and the tactic used by Israelis and their supporters to create the myth of “unique Jewish suffering” to justify their criminal acts. Our government’s gross exaggeration of a terror threat was and is being used as cover to justify waging illegal wars against Afghanistan and Iraq and be able to declare a permanent state of war against any nation designated a threat to our security — translation: any nation not subservient to the U.S. or whose policies don’t serve our interests. It’s also enabled it to establish a near lockdown police state at home (and, in fact, has done that in New Orleans as it’s “ethnically cleansed” the city of its poor and especially black population to steal those neighborhoods to redevelop them for profit), desecrating our civil liberties with little opposition mounted to stop it or explain the grave danger of allowing it.
The Israelis have achieved their goals by turning the Nazi myth of “the eternal Jew” on its head and created in its place “the eternal Jewish victim” and uniqueness of Jewish suffering. That accomplished, they’ve been able to subvert and ignore international law and sacred Geneva Conventions, countless UN resolutions unfavorable to them, and all condemnation of their crimes against the Palestinians – one of the most defenseless and oppressed people on earth. Using Nazi terminology, the Palestinians are Israel’s “untermenschen” or subhumans.
There’s one other war deserving mention as well which is the most important one of all, I believe. It’s the “war on truth”, and it’s the most dangerous and damaging of all the so-called “wars.” We know truth is the first casualty of war, but the “war on truth” is much more than than that. When waged effectively, it can justify almost anything no matter how egregious.
Since WWI in this country, the art of creating myth out of whole cloth has been refined and perfected to a degree that would impress even Goebbels and probably leave him in awe. Through the all-pervasive corporate media, right wing think tanks, our entire educational system from pre-school through the doctoral level (with only rare exceptions like Professor Finklestein, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Edward Herman, Michael Parenti, Doug Dowd), and even the clergy, only or mostly acceptable doctrine is disseminated and taught. The alternative media and internet violate this rule, but their reach and influence are limited. As long as real information and truth are suppressed and sanitized, a slumbering public can be convinced through brainwashing of almost anything. What better example of this than the October 30,1938 on-air presentation of the H.G. Wells science fiction drama “War of the Worlds” narrated by Orsen Wells. The story was about a fictional attack by aliens against the U.S. and apparently seemed so real that a great many listeners actually believed it and panicked. If that story was believable, it’s easy to see that the public could be convinced that threats of weapons of mass destruction and future terrorist attacks were real.
Professor Finklestein does a superb job exposing and debunking the chicanery and mendacity of apologists and fraudsters like Alan Dershowitz especially in his discredited 2003 book “The Case for Israel” which is replete with egregious lies and outright plagiarism, a book that was heavily promoted and became a national best seller. In other books Finklestein has written and again in “Beyond Chutzpah” he also exposes Joan Peter’s 1984 book “From Time Immemorial” which he proves through extensive documentation was a complete hoax. Not at all done, Dr. Finklestein presents substantial evidence to expose convincingly the duplicity and shamelessness of such noted figures as Elie Wiesel, Kofi Annan, Martin Peretz and many others. All these individuals deserve the harshest condemnation, and Professor Finklestein has delivered it very effectively and conclusively in his book.
This writer would like to add his own comment about Elie Wiesel, who along with Alan Dershowitz warrants special rebuke in my mind. Mr. Wiesel has and continues shamelessly to exploit his status as a “Holocaust” survivor and most undeserving stature as a nobel laureate. The way he’s abused his world prominence for personal gain spreading lies and acting as an agent for Israel and its crimes has desecrated the spirit and memory of all those who suffered and perished during the Nazi holocaust (including all Professor Finklestein’s family members on both sides) or those who suffered as he did – including the now departed beloved parents of Professor Finklestein who, as he explained, survived the Warsaw ghetto and years in concentration camps including time at Auschwitz.
I’d like to end with a comment from the moving and wonderful last paragraph from the forward to the first paperback edition of one of Dr. Finklestein’s other important books (that should be read and that deserves far more comment than can be made here) – “The Holocaust Industry.” Professor Finklestein quoted a piece of wisdom taught him by his late mother: that “it’s not an accident that Jews invented the word “chutzpah.” That was followed by his praise for Raul Hilberg as the “undisputed dean of holocaust scholars” that “perhaps it’s not an accident that Jews also invented the word “mensch.” For those unfamiliar with this special Yiddish word, it means a person of special integrity and honor. It’s a word of great praise that’s used very sparingly or should be. In carefully researching and writing “Beyond Chutzpah” and having the courage to defend it in the face of relentless attacks on his scholarship and integrity, Professor Finklestein, like Raul Hilberg, is indeed a “mensch.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org