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Norman Finkelstein Workshop: How you can help the Palestinian cause
28 January 2008
Norman Finkelstein was invited to Birkbeck College, University of London, on 23th January by FOSIS (Federation of Student Islamic Societies) as part of his UK Speaking Tour. His talk departed from the advertised title of "Today's Palestine: The Product of Zionism" to a more interesting title "How UK Residents can help the Palestinian cause" and was conducted in the form of a workshop. The programme lasted two and a half hours and was split in to two segments - the initial remarks and question-answer session(1h) followed by the workshop(1h30m). Courtesy of Indymedia the mp3 audio of both sections are provided below (recorded by activists from the group which successfully hoisted the Palestinian flag over the Israeli state-owned produce importer Agrexco Carmel in Hayes).
Norman Finkelstein is perhaps best known for his seminal work on the "Holocaust Industry" (how Israel has callously used the genocide of the Jews in furthering its zionist cause), and for his demolition of Dershowitz's "case for Israel" and with it Dershowitz reputation as an academic. Such accomplishments have not gone unnoticed and he is constantly in the cross-hairs of the guns of the Israel lobby and has made great personal sacrifices for his stance against Israel. He commands the respect of all pro-justice activists.
Having said that, Norman Finkelstein along with Uri Avnery is one of the key proponents, on our side, of the bankrupt two-state solution. Many other prominent Jews on the Palestinian side, from secularists like Ilan Pappe to religious Jews like the Neturei Karta, acknowledge that the two-state solution is unjust and unfeasible and point to a single-state solution where Arabs and Jews would live together in peace in a racist-free democratic state. For us who identify Zionism as a racist ideology, a solution that leaves a zionist racist state in place is not a solution but a prevailing problem in need of solution - its like suggesting that rather than ending apartheid in South Africa it should have been split in to two states, one of which should be left to continue practicing racist apartheid! Imam Achmad Cassiem, a veteran of the armed struggle against apartheid in South Africa, put it more eloquently when he said "even if the Zionist State is the size of a postage stamp it has no right to exist". Racism has no right to exist.
In all fairness Finkelstein never claims that the two-state solution is just, he chooses his words carefully and suggests its a "more effective" solution to "lessening the suffering of the Palestinian people, to bring a little sunshine to otherwise very grey life for 40 years and more". "More effective" because the "international community" will not accept a one-state solution and hence "if you are seriously committed to resolve the conflict" a one-state solution is not worth considering - its a "dead end strategy". Many will recognise "international community" always refers to the USA and its foreign policy in the region is determined by Israel via its lobby. Avnery in his debate with Ilan Pappe is more forthcoming in stating that the real problem with the one-state solution is that Israeli Jews will never accept a democracy where they become a minority and will always insist on the "Jewishness" of the state ("Jewishness" meaning racially Jewish not religiously Jewish - ie they will insist on the racial superiority of Jews).
Finkelstein suggests to activists in his workshop that they can only utilise the verdicts of the International Court of Justice and the Israeli breaches of the Geneva Convention to support the Palestinian cause, if they first accept the two-state solution (ie accept that only the West Bank and Gaza belong to Palestine). Whilst its true that due to Arafats capitulation at Oslo, and his recognition of pre-67 borders, that international law and community has followed suite so today the illegality, under international law, of a zionist settlement built on Palestinian villages ethnically cleansed in 1948 (like the Intel Plant built on land Israel confiscated from the Palestinian villages of Iraq al Manshiya) is weaker than the illegality of a settlement built on post-67 borders (ie in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights). But this does not in anyway mean that you cannot support a one-state solution whilst pointing to Israels flagrant violations today of international law on the West Bank and Gaza, and simultaneously pointing to Israels historic crimes of ethnic cleaning and slaughter of Palestinians in historic Palestine and championing the right of return for those refugees and their families, expelled from their land in 1948, to return to their homes in historic Palestine.
Unfortunately Finkelstein brushes past, with only a brief mention, the issue of the right of return which is enshrined in todays international law. Clearly a return of the refugees would tip the demographic equation resulting in both states in a two-state solution having Palestinian majorities making it unacceptable to zionists who insist on Jewish numerical supremacy. Their zionist vision of a two-state solution includes further ethnic cleansing to forcefully rid what is Israel today of its existing Palestinian population and to reject the right of return to historic Palestine, forcing the returning refugees and the newly ethnically cleansed Palestinians to live in whats left of the West Bank and Gaza along with its existing Palestinian population and call that dispersed and surrounded bit of land, that Bantustan consisting of less than 20% of historic Palestine, their new "Palestinian State" where they can enjoy their little bit of sunshine.
Even with these caveats in mind, there is still so much to gain and learn by listening to Finkelsteins workshop. Activists should heed his advise on how to argue the Palestinian case, what sources to quote, etc. The strength of his approach is practically demonstrated at the end of the workshop when a zionist challenges him - a perfect ending to the workshop.
We also suggest that if you have any doubts as to why a two-state solution is immoral, unacceptable, and unfeasible please see the debate "One State or Two States - Pappe vs Avnery debate".
What they did last night was more important than 10,000 peace conferences - they just blew up the wall![ To listen to audio need the Flash Player ]
I think what they did last night [Hamas smashing the wall between Gaza and Egypt] was more important than those 10,000 peace conferences and meetings and everything else.. they just blew up the wall and that's absolutely right! We are not going to be rats trapped in this hole, you are not going to treat us like garbage. No water, no fuel, no light, no food, and the whole world is just going to stand there and do nothing? No, they blew up the wall, we're going to Egypt - that's right, let my people go! And that was exactly the right thing to do..
And its the same principal with the West Bank, they have an International Court decision that says 'that wall is illegal' and if they had any leadership they would have taken one million Palestinians, armed them with picks and hammers, and each of them carries that World Court decision and go to the wall and say that decision says the wall has to be dismantled. That's what it says - we're dismantling it. we are doing what the highest judicial body in the world told us to do. I don't think Israel could have answered that. Yes, at the beginning it would have shot Palestinians, but remember 4600 Palestinians have already died since September 2000.. yes they may have shot 20, and they may have shot 30, but they would have had a huge problem because then people will say 'but wait, that's what the world court said'. The world court said 'the wall has to be dismantled' and then we could have gone to the world court and said 'world court didn't you tell them to do that? You said the international community had an obligation - exactly what you said the high contracting parties had an obligation to tear down the wall - that's what you said so we're just doing what the court told us to do'. It would have been a catastrophe for Israel and it could have been a real victory, just like last night was a huge victory.[ To listen to audio need the Flash Player ]
During the workshop, Norman Finkelstein recommends 4 books as good introductory texts to the conflict. They are:
1) Noam Chomsky - Fateful Triangle
2) Robert Fisk - Pity the Nation
3) Benny Morris - Righteous Victims. ("good up until 1956")
4) Zeev Maoz - Defending the Holyland
Link to the Hebron report referred to by Finkelstein:
Also Of Interest
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