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An interview with Norman Finkelstein

By John Passant and Emanuel Stoakes - posted Thursday, 14 April 2011

In this uncertain, dramatic hour for the Arab people it is perhaps easy to forget the Palestinians, a people whose cause is so much at the heart of middle-eastern unrest, as the attention of the world falls on brutal regimes elsewhere in the region.

With this in mind, after interviewing Professor Ilan Pappe on the prospects of peace in the holy land, Emanuel Stoakes emailed a link to the interview to the highly controversial American scholar Norman Finkelstein; a man known for his strong views on the Israel /Palestine conflict.

Finkelstein replied and Stoakes interviewed him through email exchange; asking questions about Palestine, the Palestinians and Finkelstein himself.


Finkelstein is chiefly famous amongst Palestinian sympathizers for his celebrated demolition acts when it comes to established narratives in the Israel-Palestine conflict: by the stroke of his pen, the bestselling book "From Time Immemorial" by Joan Peters was exposed as a work of popular fiction. Major scholars agreed with his verdict: Oxford Professor Avi Shlaim described Peters' publication (and its artful narrative that suggests there really is 'no such thing as Palestinians'), accurately, as 'preposterous and worthless'.

Finkelstein's more recent books have been both praised and fiercely attacked. A notable example is "The Holocaust Industry" an 'international bestseller' that documented, amongst other matters, how ostensible Jewish "charities" and other bodies have made money in Holocaust claims from Europe that have never helped actual survivors, and have instead helped the organizations themselves get rich.

Finkelstein's later title "Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-semitism and the abuses of history" was concerned with Israel's record of human rights abuses and the "deceit" of popular apologists for Israel who cite anti-semitism as the defining source of criticism for the actions of the Israeli government. The book laid out in forensic detail a persuasive account of the documented human rights record regarding Palestinian mistreatment.

One of the 'apologists' attacked was Alan M Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter professor of Law at Harvard University, by way of a furious critique of his book "The Case for Israel".

Finkelstein has been described as 'strident', 'arrogant' and 'obsessively anti-Israel', by commentators from the left and right. He remains a demonized figure: his support for Hezbollah and other groups have made him a figure of ambivalence to natural allies, and has been cited as "evidence" of pro- terrorist leanings by his detractors.

In the interview Stoakes tried not to shy away from asking direct questions concerning Finkelstein's position on many of his most controversial statements.


In true Finkelstein fashion, the responses were often terse, frank and poignant.

ES: Mr Finkelstein, looking at the present situation in Gaza and the occupied territories, what hope do you have for a realistic and 'just' peace settlement- even in the next thirty years?

NF: It all depends on whether the people in the Occupied Territories find the inner strength and courage to duplicate what's been done in neighboring Arab-Muslim states. So far Palestinians are just watching, but from conversations I've had they appear to be hopeful.

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This interview first appeared in En Passant with John Passant

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About the Authors

John Passant is a Canberra writer ( and member of Socialist Alternative.

Emanuel Stoakes writing has concentrated on issues to do with the middle east.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by John Passant
All articles by Emanuel Stoakes
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Norman Finkelstein

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