“Is Israel Unfairly Held to a Higher Standard?” by Norman Finkelstein on Reality Asserts Itself

Norman Finkelstein and Paul Jay discuss on The Real News Network, a full-page ad in the NYT that says Israel is condemned by liberals for human rights violations. BUT BUT Israel defends gay rights — Isn’t that enough? – December 24, 2014

Click for Source Interview and Text of Norman Finkelstein by Paul Jay on The Real News Network

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: On Tuesday NYT full-page ad said, “Hamas, ISIS and Iran kill gays like me” — detailing persecution of gay – then says: “To those who scapegoat Israel while pretending to care about human rights yet remain silent about the oppression and violence Hamas, Iran and other Middle East countries inflict on the gay community: “Shame on you. You are letting them murder us, literally.”

Norman Finkelstein is a man who’s very well known for his writings and research and his scholarship on Israel and Palestine. Norman has written about a dozen books and is an award-winner for his documentary “American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein.” His latest book is “Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel’s Assaults on Gaza.”

The NYT ad is inflammatory — who’s behind this ad? It’s paid for by StandWithUs, This World: The Values Network, and Rabbi Shmuley–America’s rabbi funded partly by Sheldon Adelson and Susan Wexner, Adelson’s retail marketing company with some other American Israeli Billionaires who often do these full-page ads costing $75,000 to $100,000.

POINT OF AD = Poor Israel is held up to a unfair standard on its Mass Murders of 2,200 Palestinians and OVERWHELMING VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION. And IRAN and ISIS(L) isn’t getting critiqued in USA MSM.

Do you think there’s any legitimacy to the critique, to the question they’re raising?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, ACTIVIST, AND AUTHOR: There’s hardly a lack of criticism of Iran in the USA and EU MSM, so we can set that aside.

JAY: Those Billionaires are talking about people that critique Israel. Defending Israel is official American propaganda, government position, mainstream media. USA Media is not reluctant to critique human rights violations in Iran, but they don’t do it in Israel. So this ad is talking about people who critique Israel but are quiet about Iran or Hamas or something.

FINKELSTEIN: I’m not really sure who those people are. Most people who are critical of Israeli policy are also quite critical of aspects of Iranian policy. You don’t have to critique everything about Iran, for example. If you want to criticize Iran for acquiring nuclear weapons, then you ought to also be criticizing Israel for already having acquired nuclear weapons. If you want to criticize Iran for not having abided by the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT, from 1968, then you’d have to criticize Israel for having never signed it.

FINKELSTEIN: Incidentally, the major violator of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty is plainly not Iran. The major violator are the five nuclear power states, namely the U.S., the U.K., France, China, and Russia, because under Article 6 of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, they were supposed to disarm, rid themselves of the nuclear weapons. The Obama-USA plans are to upgrade our nuclear arsenal with $1 Billion — a quite large sum which is in clear violation of the NPT.

FINKELSTEIN: There are aspects of Iranian society that ought to be criticized, and they generally are criticized by people on the left sometimes too harshly.

JAY: The Israeli Billionaires are saying there is a (ODD) form of democracy in Israel (for Jews) that doesn’t exist in the places they mention, but oddly Saudi Arabia is not on their list — only talk about nations that are not USA allies. We know about the kind of collaboration between Israel and the Saudis now, but Saudis are not on their list.

JAY: So the only point they’re raising is gay Jews have rights in Israel — nothing more. So they say Israel’s held to a higher standard. That’s their argument.

FINKELSTEIN: Israel has accumulated a quite ugly record if you even compare it to its neighbors. Israel has conducted, in the last six years, three major operations against the people of Gaza — MASS MURDERS AND OVERWHELMING VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION. By any reckoning, the Israeli policy towards Gaza is just so abominably criminal that I don’t see how any circumstance can mitigate that fact.

FINKELSTEIN: It’s true that gays are treated awfully in Gaza and Iran and ESPECIALLY Saudi Arabia. But how does that mitigate the fact that Israel has DONE MASS MURDERS launching these operations against, basically, a defenseless and impoverished population in a sadistic fashion.

FINKELSTEIN: A new book by Jean-Pierre Filiu called “Gaza: A History” basically a political history of Gaza that astonished me at just how many massacres, how many bloodlettings those people have endured at the hands of the Israelis over the last 14 years — 10+ major MASS MURDER massacres or slaughters by Israel. = Crazy names–Operation Summer Rains, Operation Fall This, Winter….

FINKELSTEIN: I don’t see how any kind of comparative perspective is going to mitigate the magnitude of the Israeli criminality.

FINKELSTEIN: I am reading the USA Senate’s torture report that came out that focused on only 119 cases (while Israelis have done 20,000 to 30,000 tortures between 1987 to 1993 — Human Rights Watch) — Describes the repertoire of tortures that are pretty much what Israel inflicts on Palestinian detainees = Loud noise + Sleep deprivation + HANGING people from the ceiling + Putting people in the refrigerator box or coffin. Very few things in the torture report have NOT been done by Israel. Perhaps they didn’t strip people naked or practiced waterboarding. In general the torturers were quite close to each other. So Israeli torture is a completely different order of magnitude compared to USA — basically the same torturers but we’re talking about an order of magnitude of 119 verses 20-30,000.

JAY: Go back to the ad. Why do you think they feel the need to take out a full-page ad right now like this?

FINKELSTEIN: Israel’s stock has dropped precipitously in the West in general, in particular in Europe. But it’s also suffering in the USA after three successive massacres. The Exodus image of Israel has now worn very thin. It’s threadbare. There is a lot of disaffection especially among American Jews. NYT’s Jewish articles are #1 most emailed so when an ad like that is taken out in The Times, it’s also targeting American Jews, because there’s a certain amount of discomfort, disaffection, alienation setting in among American Jews with the way Israel carries on. Tere are limits on this alienation — If Israel’s physical survival were actually threatened, then people would rally around their landsmen.

FINKELSTEIN: American Jews, they have a lot of trouble with someone like Netanyahu who acts like somebody from the USA Christian right — The way he talks and acts = Obnoxious, arrogant, racist = Netanyahu would never carry on that way were Bush (or Romney or Clinton) in power — Because Netanyahu’s just a racist against a black president.

JAY: You talk about the outrage here over 119 TORTURE cases. Why do you think there’s been next to no outrage in Israel about tens of Thousands of TORTURE CASES?

FINKELSTEIN: Israelis believe the propaganda that the IDF is the most moral army in the world — NO dent in that attitude because of the intense propaganda. So Israelis don’t believe these sorts of things are done by their army — there’s a lot of denial and self-deception due also to fact Israel is a citizen army. During the First Intifada there was a mass mobilization among the Palestinians, and then there had to be a mass mobilization among Israelis calling up all of their reserves including people 60, 65 years old wearing fatigues. So the torture and all of that brutality, it was being carried out by the Israelis — Citizens were the actual executioners of policy yet a lot of them still believe Israel doesn’t do those things — We all know human beings have a limitless capacity for self-deception. So they can do it and say it’s not civilian executioners.

JAY: You’ve been more than ostracized from most of the Jewish academic community in the USA, but certainly not all. Are you feeling a change in attitude amongst Jewish North Americans towards Israel?

FINKELSTEIN: Yes! There’s no question American Jewish attitudes have changed substantially. I first got involved the day Israel invaded Lebanon, on June 6, 1982, more than three decades ago. So there’s been a change in attitude over a fairly substantial period of time, three decades. Back then you had to argue to prove the Palestinians physically existed. In 1984, the big bestseller was Joan Peters’s “From Time Immemorial,” with the main thesis that Palestine was empty when the Jews came and the Jews made the desert bloom, and then all these Arabs from neighboring states surreptitiously entered Palestine and pretended to be indigenous to the region. And then those who acknowledged that Palestinians physically existed said their homeland is in Jordan. That was the Jordan is Palestine thing. So we’re so far past all of those lies.

FINKELSTEIN: My PhD thesis was on the theory of Zionism. The Peters book came along just as I was completing the research phase of my thesis. And I stumbled on the book in a bookstore. The blurbs were glowing saying it would completely change our understanding of the conflict. So, obviously, it piqued my interest. It of course worried me, because if what she were saying were true, it would mean that I was hoodwinked, and I knew I had not been hoodwinked.

JAY: The Peters book said that the narrative that this is the homeland of Palestinians was wrong. She was saying essentially that Arab immigrants that had come to the area. So Jews had as much claim on the land or more. That conflicted with your thesis. But you then wrote a book critiquing the Peters book, right?

FINKELSTEIN: Yes! I didn’t write a book — I sat down and applied myself to seeing whether or not what she was saying was true — I did a technical demographic study, and then did the historical research. I plunged into the demographic study in a pretty tough neighborhood in New York every night (before computers) I would lie down on my bed and doing all the calculations, trying to figure out these numbers in the back of her book — checking, checking, checking, checking, checking and then at 1:00 AM one night I got the chills in my spine and I was thunderstruck when I discovered her key number was a fake — it was a unique moment.

JAY: What was the Fake?

FINKELSTEIN: In this context it would be impossible to explain the technical fake, but she had it verified by Philip Hauser, then head of population studies at the University of Chicago in a letter appended to the charts at the back confirming her findings — So people assumed it’s got to be correct.

FINKELSTEIN: I remember jumping out of my bed and pacing up and down my studio in Washington Heights, and I said, I did it, I did it, I did it. I didn’t know who to call at that hour, but I ended up calling my mother, and I said, “Mom, I did it, I did, I did it.” “I’m very happy for you. What did you do?” I said, “I discovered a fraud.”

I was at that point in life a disciple or protege of Paul Sweezy, the eminent American Marxist economist. He said to me that discovering a fraud is every scholar’s eureka. And that was my eureka moment. But it was also a relief, because I was once secure in my foundations that the cause to which I devoted and dedicated and invested myself, was on solid intellectual foundations.


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