Wednesday, 16 November 2011

comment on: Norman Finkelstein, 'How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict'

I listened to Norman Finkelstein on Fri at London University: 'How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict'

As an aside: Finkelstein, to my mind, is a very laborious speaker. I don't really want to listen to him again, certainly not live - I could tolerate snippets on YouTube. He is stimulating to read, though; so that's what I intend restricting myself to doing with him in future. (The same applies, though to a lesser extent, with Noam Chomsky.)

Delivery aside, the *content* of his talk was interesting. He spoke for so long (two+ hours - so long that I couldn't even bear to stay to the end) that, inevitably, there is much I could comment on. But I will just highlight one aspect:

Finkelstein said that a major factor exacerbating Israel's international isolation is that its would-be supporters are Jews, so they have Jewish sensibilities. - Jewish sensibilities are a major problem (for Israel).

Jewish sensibilities are overwhelmingly liberal, meaning that Jews believe in such things as: the same rules of law should apply to the rich/powerful as to the poor/weak; conflicts should be resolved through nonviolent means, not superior firepower.

Jews in America are atypical in their voting habits, because, in America, most people vote with their wallets. So rich non-Jews typically vote Republican, and poor blacks typically vote Democrat. Given their wealth, Jews *ought* to be voting Republican, but they overwhelmingly vote Democrat - against their economic self-interest (but according to their liberal sensibilities).

Given those sensibilities, then, and especially if you're a young Jewish boy/girl on some ivy-league campus, you really don't want to be seen defending Israel when its crimes are so massive and perpetrated with such hubris and chutzpah.

For example:

In the summer of 2006, in its war with Hezbollah, Israel dropped four million cluster bomblets (illegal weapons) on South Lebanon in 72 hours; and this was even *after* the UN had passed a ceasefire resolution and the war was effectively over.

In 2008/9, during their massacre of 1400 Palestinians in Gaza, Israel dropped white phosphorous (another illegal weapon - reaches a temp of 800 Celsius, burning through human flesh like a hot knife through butter) on two Gazan hospitals.

The Goldstone Report was a disaster for Israel: Goldstone, a Jew and self-avowed Zionist, succumbed to his Jewish sensibilities in endorsing the judgement that Israel was indeed guilty of war crimes in 'Operation Cast Lead' (the euphemistic term for Gaza Massacre).

In 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara civilian vessel (part of the pro-Palestinian activist flotilla) in international Mediterranean waters (yet another contemptuous breach of international law), killing a dozen of those onboard. (Incidentally, some of the commandos were captured for a while, yet, despite relentless Israeli propaganda those onboard were terrorists, not a single commando was executed but, rather, received medical attention.)

Finkelstein said much more, but this aspect of his talk struck me as particularly interesting - the notion that the nature of Jewishness itself ('Jewish sensibilities') was a fundamental problem for Israel. That seems a real Catch-22: Israel wants to be a (the) 'Jewish State', but Jews want to distance themselves from it (due to sensibilities which are apparently inherent to the Jewish identity). Seems to me that that might be a real dilemma for the Jewish Diaspora (perhaps even for Jews in Israel): do you avow your Jewishness (Jewish sensibilities) by condemning the actions of the 'Jewish State', or by avowing your loyalty to the Jewish State (which others, including Jews, will see as complicity in war crimes)?

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