To be the most controversial figure in a debate as acrimonious as the one surrounding Israel-Palestine is some accolade.
But Norman Finkelstein surely deserves that honour – and that’s one of the few uncontentious things you can say about him. To critics of Israel, the Jewish American author – currently on a UK speaking tour – is a heroic, taboo-busting dissident.
To many of Israel’s defenders, merely to voice approval of his views is to step outside the limits of civilised debate.
A striking example of the passions Finkelstein arouses is provided by a short clip from American Radical, a 2009 documentary film about the author. After a lecture at a US campus, Finkelstein is denounced by a distressed audience member for comparing Israeli actions to those of the Nazis. His increasingly famous reply (which I urge you to watch) is worth quoting. After explaining that both his parents were Holocaust survivors, that they took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and that all his other relatives died in the Nazi camps, he says:
And it’s precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silent when Israel commits its crimes against the Palestinians. And I consider nothing more despicable than to use their suffering and their martyrdom to try to justify the torture, the brutalisation, the demolition of homes that Israel daily commits against the Palestinians. So I refuse any longer to be intimidated or brow beaten by the tears. If you had any heart in you, you would be crying for the Palestinians .Tags: Global
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This post was written by Matt Hill