Norman Finkelstein

1953- American political scientist, historian, writer, university teacher, and human rights activist

Norman Gary Finkelstein (born December 8, 1953) is an American political scientist, activist, former professor, and author. His primary fields of research are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust. He is a graduate of Binghamton University and received his Ph.D. in political science at Princeton University. He has held faculty positions at Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Hunter College, New York University, and DePaul University, where he was an assistant professor from 2001 to 2007.

Norman Finkelstein in 2008

Quotes edit

  • Since the mid-1970s, there's been an international consensus for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. [...] It's called a two-state settlement, and a two-state settlement is pretty straightforward, uncomplicated. Israel has to fully withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem, in accordance with the fundamental principle of international law, [...] that it's inadmissible to acquire territory by war. The West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, having been acquired by war, it's inadmissible for Israel to keep them. They have to be returned. On the Palestinian side and also the side of the neighboring Arab states, they have to recognize Israel's right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. That was the quid pro quo: recognition of Israel, Palestinian right to self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem. That's the international consensus. It's not complicated. It's also not controversial.
  • There are a large number of claims circulating about rampant anti-Semitism on college campuses. When you go actually go through the records, talk to the schools, speak to the deans and so forth, all of these claims turn out to be fraudulent. There’s just no record of this so-called rampant anti-Semitism on college campuses. The most striking example is Columbia University where [...] pro-Israel outsiders were disrupting the classrooms of these professors [falsely accued of anti-Semitism], secretly video-taping their lectures and being turned, as the Columbia Report put it, into informers for the pro-Israel lobby. The real story was the harassment of professors who were critical of Israeli policy.
  • To my thinking the honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah as the US and Israel target it for liquidation. Indeed, looking back my chief regret is that I wasn’t even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack.
  • Frankly, part of me says…"you know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things Bin Laden says are true". One of the things he said on that last tape was that "until we live in security, you’re not going to live in security", and there is a certain amount of rightness in that.
    • “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: A Conversation with Professor Norman Finkelstein,” CounterPunch (December 13, 2001) by Don Atapattu
  • Articulating the key Holocaust dogmas, much of the literature on Hitler's Final solution is worthless as scholarship. Indeed, the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud.
  • ‘If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one,’ my mother used to exclaim, ‘who did Hitler kill then?’
    • The Holocaust Industry, p. 81
  • My parents -- we lived in Brooklyn, NY, we owned a house -- my parents were difficult people, they didn't get along with anyone. Actually, they didn't even get along with each other. So, on the one side were the Golds and on the other side were the Kasslers and they did not get along with the Golds and they did not get along with the Kasslers, so they built a fence. And it was within their right to build a fence. But, as everybody knows, when you build at fence, at any rate in New York, you first have to hire a surveyor. That's a fact, I'm not joking. You have to hire a surveyor and you have to make sure that fence is right down the line on your property because if that fence is literally one quarter of an inch on the Golds' side or on the Kasslers' side, they have the right to tear it down. Under law, that's it. Now, let's take Israel's wall. What happens if my parents decide to build a fence that's not only on the Kasslers' side but goes right around their swimming pool? Well, some people will begin to wonder "are Mary and Harry Finkelstein trying to protect their property? Or are they trying to steal the Kasslers' swimming pool?"
  • Since completing this memoir in 1995 I've returned to Palestine every year. In fact, apart from traveling abroad to lecture, Palestine is the only place I've been since I first journeyed there 15 years ago. I sometimes fantasize vacationing in Greece or Italy but never do. If I have time and cost isn't prohibitive, I always return to Palestine. I do so mostly from a sense of duty - do I have a right to be elsewhere? - relieved by the authentic affection I've developed for friends. I cannot say I enjoy going back. From the moment I arrive, even before arriving, I count the minutes left before I depart. The eminent Hebrew University sociologist Baruch Kimmerling has described Gaza as "the largest concentration camp ever to exist." The West Bank ranks only a mite less awful. Once the Israeli wall currently under construction is finished, the West Bank will replace Gaza with top honors. Bordered on both sides by four meter deep trenches, fortified with guard towers at regular intervals, and topped with barbed wire, this massive barricade will stretch across fully 347 kilometers - twice the size of the Berlin Wall.
    • Postscript to German edition of The Rise and Fall of Palestine
  • Whenever Israel faces a public relations debacle such as the Intifada or international pressure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, American Jewish organizations orchestrate this extravaganza called the 'new anti-Semitism.' The purpose is several-fold. First, it is to discredit any charges by claiming the person is an anti-Semite. It's to turn Jews into the victims, so that the victims are not the Palestinians any longer. As people like Abraham Foxman of the ADL put it, the Jews are being threatened by a new holocaust. It's a role reversal – the Jews are now the victims, not the Palestinians. So it serves the function of discrediting the people leveling the charge. It's no longer Israel that needs to leave the Occupied Territories; it's the Arabs who need to free themselves of the anti-Semitism.

About Norman Finkelstein edit

  • I'm delighted to hear that I'll be followed shortly by Norman Finkelstein and would very strongly advise you to come listen to him. Not only [is he] an old personal friend but a person who can speak with more authority and insight on these topics than anyone I can think of. So that should be a memorable occasion and I urge that you not miss the opportunity.
    • Noam Chomsky. Source: Public Forum at the Vancouver Public Library, 15 May 2004 [1]
  • [I]t is striking to hear someone who appears to have nothing but contempt for his own people. He issues the same call sent out by David Irving in the high court this year - that Jews should not simply condemn anti-semitism, but examine their own role in provoking it. Like Irving, Finkelstein sees Jews as the authors of their own suffering. He claims that Jews have made up stories of persecution and that there are too many survivors to be true - another Irving favourite.
  • Finkelstein sees the Jews as either villains or victims - and that, I fear, takes him closer to the people who created the Holocaust than to those who suffered in it.
  • Finkelstein's work is, from beginning to end, a tendentious series of inventions. …[T]he examples from his article that are deemed to be the strongest are thoroughly misleading and without merit. Finkelstein’s writing is the sort of transparent political polemic that—had others not cynically propped him up as an expert and a champion of truth—would not even merit a response. This is a man who has made a career of attacking Israel’s legitimacy... His documented inventions about my book, it is worth noting that Finkelstein has never before written anything on the Holocaust or German history and cannot read German ... which means that he cannot read many of the sources on which he is passing his 'expert' opinion ... [A] man who has arrived overnight to a scholarly field made up of massive scholarly literature, not to mention all the documents, who, to boot, cannot read most of the sources because they are in German.
  • When I read Finkelstein's book, The Holocaust Industry, at the time of its appearance, I was in the middle of my own investigations of these matters, and I came to the conclusion that he was on the right track. I refer now to the part of the book that deals with the claims against the Swiss banks, and the other claims pertaining to forced labor. I would now say in retrospect that he was actually conservative, moderate and that his conclusions are trustworthy. He is a well-trained political scientist, has the ability to do the research, did it carefully, and has come up with the right results. I am by no means the only one who, in the coming months or years, will totally agree with Finkelstein's breakthrough.
    • Raul Hilberg comments on the first edition of The Holocaust Industry
  • It takes an enormous amount of academic courage to speak the truth when no one else is out there to support him. And so, I think that given this acuity of vision and analytical power, demonstrating that the Swiss banks did not owe the money, that even though survivors were beneficiaries of the funds that were distributed, they came, when all is said and done, from places that were not obligated to pay that money. That takes a great amount of courage in and of itself. So I would say that his place in the whole history of writing history is assured, and that those who in the end are proven right triumph, and he will be among those who will have triumphed, albeit, it so seems, at great cost.
  • [A] simplistic lumper who refuses to make the most elementary analytical distinctions, believing that the concept of new antisemitism hasn't anything to do with fighting bigotry – and everything to do with stifling criticism of Israel; a polemicist with an ugly and sectarian mode of argument and a prose style that is a parody of a once-flourishing antisemitic literature; a lover of the ad hominem attack which leaves the substance of the question unaddressed, preferring to parade before the readers his collection of ... "antisemitism mongers" who should "crawl back into their sewers"; a tendentious joker trading in the indirect expressions of hostility or obscenity; a conspiracy theorist who reduces the history of Holocaust memory to the machinations of the Zionist propaganda machine, and contemporary forms of antisemitism to a public relations exercise; a crude reductionist who prefers a caricatural simplification of the historical process to a careful reconstruction of the dynamics of either collective memory or protean hatreds; a man who normalises antisemitism by telling his audiences that most Jews believe in their group's superiority, talk too much about the Holocaust, are over-represented in the media and use that over-representation for Jewish ends, are tapped into the networks of power and privilege, and who should stop complaining about antisemitism.

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