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Interview with Norman Finkelstein-Sept 2007-by Frank Barat

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ITV with Norman Finkelstein-Sept 2007. By Frank Barat

In a recent interview, Noam Chomsky said "Dershowitz has been repeatedly exposed as a dedicated liar, charlatan, and opponent of elementary civil rights, and he is, uncontroversially, an extreme apologist for the crimes and violence of the State of Israel."- Most serious historians and scholars will agree with this. However, he is still considered as prestigious by the corporate media, his books treated with reverence and his op-eds often picked by various newspapers, while the same newspapers even refuse to review your carefully documented work. How do you explain that?

Some people become fixtures on the cultural landscape of society and it then makes no difference what they say or do. Dershowitz resembles this character named Al Shaprton, an African-American political activist who has a long record of lying and opportunism.  But no one seems to care, just like Dershowitz.  He's a character in the theater.

Your research on "From time immemorial"- caused a delay in earning your PHD from Princeton, and you have now been denied tenure at De Paul  University. Does it mean that the Israel lobby in the U.S.A is so powerful that any criticism of Israel and its policies will be severely punished,   even forcing Universities to break their own rules?

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Professors are among the most spineless creatures on earth.  It comes with the territory. To get tenure one has to go through this protracted process of being the sycophant to one's advisor and then one's department.  By the end, you've been completely neutered.  There's also this resentment against those who don't play by the rules:  If I had to sell my soul, so does he!  So, part of the answer is the fear inspired by the Israel Lobby, but part of it is also the cowardice of professors generally.

Your doctoral thesis was on Zionism, therefore could you give us your views on the way this movement has evolved from its creation as a political movement in the late 19th century to the present day? Who are its main leaders now and do they have the same ambitions as past ones such as David Ben Gurion?

The original Zionists were truly committed to the idea.  Whether you agree with it or not, it's hard not to respect the level of commitment and integrity of the Ben-Gurion generation.  They led austere lives and passed up many conventional opportunities for their ideals (cf. Abba Eban).  Once the Zionists came to power, however, they succumbed to the usual corruptions of commanding a state.  In Israel's case, the corruptions were of a higher order because of the special nature of the state: it required the expulsion of the indigenous population, the alienation of the region, and the support of a Great Power.  By now the leadership of Israel is Zionist as I am.  They are mostly a gang of relatively incompetent thugs.  Ben-Gurion was surely capable of ruthlessness and thuggery but there was yet more to him than that. 

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Still, can we really respect someone's ideals when the first step to reach them is the ethnic cleansing of an indigenous population (as it was the case in 1948, with Plan Dalet, a plan Ben Gurion was one of the architects of)?

Aristotle defended slavery; George Washington was nicknamed "Town Destroyer" by the Iroquois; Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner.

Also, do we have any idea (polls, interviews) of how mainstream Jews regard Zionism?

I was surprised to read recently how few American Jews classify themselves as Zionist.  I'd have to look around but the percentage was remarkably low.

What about their vision of a Greater Israel, from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean?

Nearly all the original Zionists shared this vision, and continued to do so until after the June 1967 war. Things changed somewhat because of the inability to expel the indigenous population in the West Bank and Gaza. The consensus of the Zionist leadership now is that, barring an ethnic cleansing, Israel should control the whole of historic Palestine but annex only those areas which aren't densely populated by Palestinians.

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We have recently seen the rise of the extreme right in Israel (Avidgor Lieberman) and the return to power of Ehud Barak. Where are the politicians really committed to peace and a two state solution?

No one in the Israeli leadership has ever been committed to a two-state settlement along the lines defined by the international community: return to the June 1967 borders, with minor and mutual border swaps.  In this particular respect, there's no difference between Lieberman and Barak.

John Mc Cain said during a live interview accorded to the hugely popular "The daily show with Jon Stewart"- that "the U.S should emulate Israel which does not torture people,"- leading viewers into believing that Israel's human rights records were good. Is that so?

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I am a member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign ( and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. ( I am on the organizing committee of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (more...)
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