NORMAN FINKELSTEIN PULLS NO PUNCHES

sent in by A. Wilson

Good Morning from the Zundelsite:

The interview below, slightly shortened, was sent to me from an Arab source; unfortunately, a reference was not given. Because of the extraordinary content of this interview, I am sending it to my readers in the hope that someone knows who Samia Nassar Melki is and where this interview was done.

Read and savor this one!

[START]

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN PULLS NO PUNCHES

Samia Nassar Melki speaks with outspoken author

Norman G. Finkelstein teaches international relations and political theory at the City University of New York. He is a political science graduate from Princeton University, with a doctorate in Zionism. He is the author of several books: Image and reality of the Israel?Palestine conflict, The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years, and A Nation on Trial, which he co-wrote with Ruth Bettina Birn. His latest and most controversial publication, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, is currently No. 1 on the bestseller lists across Europe, but has received the silent treatment in the United States. In this interview, conducted at his home in New York, Samia Nassar Melki spoke with the author about his book, its repercussions and the Middle East.

Samia:

How are you coping with all of this controversy?

Finkelstein:

This controversy exists in an alien space for me because in the United States there is nothing! A former co-worker of mine called me yesterday from Belgium, she said that she walked into a bookstore there and found the book prominently featured. Here in the United States, you can't find it. So the fuss is going on in an alien space. I don't feel like a celebrity here, it doesn't exist.

Samia:

America is like this wall of silence. How do you stay connected to the Middle East, to the controversy that your book is creating in Europe and to what the industry is up to?

Finkelstein:

Basically through the internet, e-mail, correspondence. The US is the corporate headquarters of the Holocaust industry; everyday there is something. There is literally at this point not a single issue of The New York Times, which doesn't have an article on the Nazi Holocaust. The only topic that receives more coverage is the weather! It's true. There isn't a single issue of the Sunday Book Review that doesn't have a book on the Holocaust. The main way of getting published today is if you write about the Holocaust.

Samia:

You say in The Holocaust Industry that American Jewry used the Holocaust and Israel to get to a prominent position in society. Now they are on top, so what's next?

Finkelstein:

It serves very useful purposes. American Jews are in this really phenomenal position of being the most economically prosperous ethnic group in the US, and ... gets to go around claiming it is a victim. So it uses this to immunize itself from any kind of criticism. It is exactly what Israel does. Israel is the fourth or fifth most powerful military in the world and it goes around saying "poor me, I am under attack." It is a marvelous ideological weapon and they are not going to let it go.

Samia:

But if the Holocaust is a means to an end and they have reached that end, what's going to happen now?

Finkelstein:

Right, but they (American Jewry) are so economically and politically powerful, you still need the Holocaust to deflect criticism, and otherwise criticism would be quite substantial.

Samia:

Do you think the criticism would be valid?

Finkelstein:

Yes, in some cases of course! The positions that the American Jewish elite has taken on all sorts of issues ranging from affirmative action, to uncritical support of Israel, to the demilitarization of the Palestinians. Of course criticism would be valid and it ought to be articulated.

Samia:

What do you think real anti-Semitism is about?

Finkelstein:

I have given it a lot of thought and I don't think that there is a simple answer. What I object to, though, is the standard Holocaust formulation that all anti-Semitism is irrational, it's just this Gentile hatred of the Jews, it is completely irrational, and Jews could never bear any responsibility for the animus that is directed at them. That formulation I think is completely self-serving and ideological. I think it is preposterous. Even in practical application, can anyone seriously argue that the hatred that many Palestinians or, for that matter, the Lebanese, bear toward Jews has nothing to do with anything the Jews have done?

That is the purpose of the Holocaust ideology, because a central feature of the whole Holocaust ideology is that the extermination of the Jews was completely irrational. They always say that every genocide, every other killing has a rational motive: land, property, wealth. There is always a reason, whereas this one is unique because it is irrational. So the second step of this argument is to say that the Holocaust is the culmination of all Gentile anti-Semitism and therefore the conclusion is all anti-Semitism is completely irrational. That is a very useful dodge.

Samia:

I think your book is actually a very pro-Jewish book. It is at least a genuine one telling Jews to watch out.

Finkelstein:

I agree. I did say by the end of the book that American Jewry and Israel have a structural symmetry. By arrogance, by the throwing around of their political and economic weight, they are now boxed into a corner where they rely entirely on the US ruling elite for their survival. I don't think that is a good strategy for people who are numerically weak, I think it is crazy. Well, you can't predict, but the chicken will come home to roost. Who can Israel depend on now? No one. Everyone loathes Israel, they may pretend otherwise, but we know what they are really thinking, not because they are irrational anti-Semites but because the truth is that Israel had acquired a lot of good will at its birth because of the Nazi Holocaust and has squandered it.

Samia:

It is my impression that for American Jews, the US is very much home, Israel is like this foreign project. They do not seem to realize that they are denying another people a homeland.

Finkelstein:

I don't think they care really. Racism runs pretty deep now amongst American Jews.

Samia:

Racism toward the Arabs?

Finkelstein:

Toward Arabs, toward blacks, frankly toward everyone. "Everybody wants to kill the Jews. Everybody is envious because we are so much better."

Samia:

And now you have a new generation of Jews whose identity is this victimization.

Finkelstein:

The Jews' claim to victimization is very peculiar. It is a very specific kind of "victim." It is not like "we are victims, we are suffering." There is some of that because Jews like to think they are always suffering, but it is sort of "we are victims, so why are you attacking us?" or "we are victims because they are attacking us, they are attacking us because we are so much better."

There are other groups that can be qualified as victims; but Jews are not victims, they are the most prosperous group in the US. That is the aberration. Why would the most successful group call itself a victim?

If they were truly victims, they wouldn't be complaining as in a recent article in The New York Times that the undergraduate population of Princeton University is only 40 percent Jewish! Jews constitute 1.5 percent of the American population! That is the issue that needs to be explored.

Samia:

Do the Americans realize what is going on?

Finkelstein:

The American Jews have no conception. Non-Jews, yes they do. If you talk to a non-Jew, he will eventually say something like "don't you think there are a few too many Holocaust museums?" This chauvinism, this excessive support for everything Jewish, is blinding and I think it is a problem.

Samia:

Yes, but this chauvinism for everything Jewish is transcribing itself into a lot of deaths in the Middle East.

Finkelstein:

They couldn't care less. The only people who got their attention were Hizbullah. Hizbullah did one thing right: Never negotiate, don't waste your time negotiating. There is only one thing to negotiate: when you leave. Talk after the withdrawal; before that there is nothing to talk about. That is the right way. That is the only thing they understand.

Samia:

Do you think there is an end in sight for the Palestinians?

Finkelstein:

No. I think the Palestinians could defeat the Israelis, I do. The term intifada means "shaking off," like a dog shaking off his fleas, but the shaking off so far has been pretty superficial. They need a new leadership that is really committed, that is clever. The Palestinians could give Israel a run for its money. They did the first two years, in '88 and '89, Israel was having a very hard time with them, but once the old team moved in (Yaser Arafat), it was hopeless.

Samia:

So for the foreseeable future, it is going to be like this.

Finkelstein:

It is going to be worse. Israel is going to bludgeon the Palestinians into submission. I am not optimistic at all. Revolts are born strictly out of frustration; it can last just so long. When there is no strategic vision, no tactical vision, no sense of when to rein in, and when to let loose, there is none of that. It won't last; people give up, so I'm very pessimistic. The Palestinian so-called leadership has no vision.

Samia:

What is Sharon's strategy?

Finkelstein:

Basically it was a carrot-and-stick strategy. Barak had the carrot strategy, meaning he gave them what he called concessions, thinking they would accept because they look good on paper and Arafat is only looking for paper concessions. They thought that would work, but when it didn't, they brought in Sharon. But remember, it is not Sharon, it is Sharon-Peres, it's the same leadership, so they brought in Sharon as the figure, but Peres is still there beside him and now they are trying the stick to bludgeon them into accepting Israeli terms.

Samia:

Yes, but Israel cannot be living in denial about the 4.5 million Palestinians.

Finkelstein:

Well, their idea is just a South African one, to create Bantustans and give them independence within these Bantustans.

Samia:

What do Israelis want?

Finkelstein:

They want what they have always wanted. They want to dominate the Middle East and they want to consolidate as much of their own physical power and resources as they can and that means taking everything they can from the area, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, and then project sheer terror on the rest of the region to keep it in line.

[END]

Thought for the Day:

"If I work incessantly to the last, nature owes me another
form of existence when the present one collapses."
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)


The Holocaust Industry:
Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering
by Norman G. Finkelstein


In an iconoclastic and controversial new study, Norman G. Finkelstein interrogates the conventional accounts of the place the Holocaust has come to occupy in American culture.



Related Material:

The Last Days of Israel

By Barry Chamish





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