I am Norman Finkelstein, scholar of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and critic of Israeli policy. I have published a number of books on the subject, most recently Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom. Ask me anything!

EDIT: Hi, I was just informed that I should answer “TOP” questions now, even if others were chronically earlier in the queue. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone. I am just following orders.

Final Edit: Time to prepare for my class tonight. Everyone's welcome. Grand Army Plaza library at 7:00 pm. We're doing the Supreme Court decision on sodomy today. Thank you everyone for your questions!

Proof: https://twitter.com/normfinkelstein/status/998643352361951237?s=21

Comments: 6366 • Responses: 27  • Date: 

InfoActionRatio11003 karma

Australia (alongside the US) voted against the UN Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into the killings in Gaza. The reasoning behind this according to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was that the UNHRC resolution “prejudged the outcome” of the inquiry and failed to acknowledge the role of Hamas in inciting the protests. What is your response to such allegations by the Australian government?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA718 karma

I am unaware of how UNHRC resolution prejudged the outcome except insofar as the resolution was prompted by a mass slaughter on May 14. Is there grounds to doubt that it happened? Hamas is currently the governing authority in Gaza. It has been urged upon Hamas that it renounce violence and adopt nonviolent mass resistance. It is passing strange that when Hamas does as it was exhorted to do, it's then condemned for "inciting the protests."

PanachelessNihilist461 karma

~~~ Note that Norman Finkelstein has responded, below. ~~~

Mr. Finkelstein,

You have defended Hamas, its actions in Gaza, and its right to exist and to perpetuate armed violence against the Israeli people, including attacks on civilians as justified by Israeli policy, stating, of Hamas's policy of rocket attacks against Israeli civilian population centers, that "the scales of morality weigh in its favor." You assert that Israel is the greatest impediment against a peace deal and a two-state solution.

How do you reconcile that with the fact that in Hamas' own charter, "peaceful solutions" are explicitly rejected in favor of murder of Jews to reclaim the whole of Israel?

Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. "Allah will be prominent, but most people do not know."

Indeed, how can you profess to have sympathy or support for a group that explicitly calls for your murder as a Jewish-American?

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

Similarly, you have decried the "Holocaust industry" as co-opting the suffering of your parents, both Holocaust survivors, to perpetuate pro-Israel policies. Yet last month, Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Jews in Europe brought the Holocaust upon themselves:

They say hatred against Jews was not because of their religion, it was because of their social profession. So the Jewish issue that had spread against the Jews across Europe was not because of their religion, it was because of usury and banks.

In fact, Abbas's entire doctoral thesis alleged a connection between early Zionists and Adolf Hitler to drive the Jews into Israel, and that Zionists created the "fantastic lie" that 6 million Jews had died. See generally here.

First, given how much your parents suffered - and rising anti-Semitism and violence against Jews throughout the Western world - do you agree that there is a need for a Jewish state?

Second, given that so much of your academic work alleges that the lessons of the Holocaust have been distorted, why have you aligned yourself with outright Holocaust deniers and apologists like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Abbas? At its core, the policies of Likud aside, why is it reasonable for any Jewish Israeli - especially those on the center and left - to expect to find common ground and peace with Palestinian leadership that either was elected on a platform of destroying Israel and the Jewish people, or at best decries the Holocaust as a pernicious lie and pretense to steal land and engages in ludicrous anti-Semitic conspiracy theories? Why should Israelis believe that after ending the blockade of Gaza, unilateral disengagement from the West Bank, land swaps to approximate pre-1967 borders, and taking any of a number of other actions, they could live in peace with an independent Palestine, especially when unilateral disengagement of Gaza brought only the election of Hamas a year later?

Finally, you have called for the 1967 borders as a starting point for an independent Palestinian state. Do you believe that the state of Israel should not include the Western Wall, the holiest place in the Jewish religion, which sits on what would otherwise be the Palestinian side of that border?

All quotes from the Hamas Charter, indexed here

NormanFinkelsteinAMA477 karma

You have asked many questions, and time does not allow me to answer all of them. I hope you understand this is not an evasion. It's simply being respectful of others. I will respond in telegraphic form, although I could elaborate if the occasion allowed: (1) Hamas has repeatedly stated that it is open to a protracted "hudna" (more or less ceasefire) of as long as 30 years if the criminal blockade is lifted. Israeli media have reported this offer during the past several weeks, while noting that Israel has ignored all these proposals. (2) I do not support Hezbollah or Hamas. I support their objectives so long as they conform to uncontroversial principles. Thus I supported Hezbollah's right to resist foreign aggressors, and I support Hamas's resistance to Israeli barbarism. (3) If you don't believe that Palestinians can be trusted under any circumstances and whatever concessions they make; and if it's unlikely that Palestinians will acquiesce in their eternal servitude; then it would seem to follow that, in your opinion, the only solution would be to exterminate them.

jcargile242368 karma

Obvious question here, but how large of a role has the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem played in inciting the latest round of protests and killings of Palestinian protestors? Also, will the announcements by other countries that they are following the US in moving their embassies to Jerusalem further inflame an already fraught situation?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA1121 karma

I do not believe that moving the embassy to Jerusalem played a critical role in sparking the protests. The proximate cause of the current round of mass nonviolent resistance is not difficult to discern: Gaza has become unlivable. The people of Gaza are dying a slow but certain death. It is not different than the decision of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto to adopt armed resistance in 1943 when death loomed on the horizon of the Jews in the ghetto. The horizon might be slightly more removed in Gaza, but that's where the difference ends.

-_-_-_-otalp-_-_-_-286 karma

1)Recently you called Gaza "the world's largest concentration camp" which many people found outrageous. What are your reason for calling it so?

2)Is there hope for a resolution of the crisis or is this current status quo going to remain? Would Israel ever accept a two state solution without some dramatic shift in the political landscape?


3)You were very confident that Hamas was not involved and showed "great restraint" during the recent massacre of the Gazans by Israel. What sources do you use that allows you to know this? What are good sources in general on the issue?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA822 karma

1) It is not me who called Gaza "the biggest concentration camp ever." I was quoting Professor Baruch Kimmerling from Hebrew University, in his book POLITICIDE. I would want to stress that Kimmerling already reached this conclusion BEFORE Israel imposed the merciless blockade on Gaza in 2006. 2) I don't think a "solution" is on the historical agenda right now. We need to focus on concrete, achievable goals, above all, ending the blockade. 3) I am in close contact with people in Gaza from across the political spectrum. I have also followed the reports of respected human rights organizations based in Gaza such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The consensus is that the demonstrations have been overwhelmingly nonviolent.

Languidleo240 karma

Do you believe the recent statement made by a Hamas leader, that roughly 50 of the massacred protestors were members of Hamas, is accurate? If not, why was such a statement made?

Clarification: I’m not trying to imply that if some of the people murdered were members of Hamas, that the killing was justified. Even if all the people protesting were Hamas members the actions of the Israelis would be unjustified.

NormanFinkelsteinAMA303 karma

The best treatment of this topic was an article by Amira Hass a few days ago in Haaretz. To put things simply: (1) Hamas inflated the number of martyrs who were affiliated with its organization for political reasons; (2) Even if Hamas members did predominate among those killed, what does this prove? Wasn't Hamas counseled to switch to nonviolent tactics? If Hamas members do as advised, does that mean that are still targets for death--but then, why pray tell should they put down their arms, to make Israel's job easier?

Dr_Cimarron183 karma

Even if a two state solution isn't an option why not allowing the Palestinians to actually join in the world market and be able to exploit their access to the sea not one? Taiwan has not been able to declare itself independent from China but that does not mean they are excluded from the international market.

NormanFinkelsteinAMA349 karma

Gaza has always relied on trade for its economic sustenance. In the face of the blockade, it was inevitable that it would sink into economic paralysis.

Lpreddit150 karma

You compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto. In your analogy, how does the 12km land border with Egypt fit? Thanks

NormanFinkelsteinAMA245 karma

Egypt is to Israel what Italy was to Germany.

potatoeatingmonster137 karma

What are some of the most effective, serious things we can do in the West besides tweeting about it? What should we be organizing around, and what tactics do you personally believe would be/are most effective?

I’m talking about the step after education and agitation, and more about tactics.

NormanFinkelsteinAMA204 karma

There were all sorts of things that could have been done in the six weeks leading up to May 14, from vigils to sit-ins to hunger strikes to demonstrations. In my opinion, the progressive Jewish organization IF NOT NOW has been courageous and creative. But everyone else in the so-called solidarity movement was missing in action. Amazingly, some people thought this was the right moment to renew the push for One State. It's sort of like when I was a young man, at any given occasion (say a workers' strike) we would call for the DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT.

oroborus_kpm135 karma

What do you think is a single key piece of information about the conflict that might prompt someone who only has a western-propaganda-level understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict to look deeper into the issue?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA291 karma

The fact that Israel has encaged a population consisting mostly of children in an unlivable space.

PNDMike106 karma

Outside of moving the embassy, what differences have you noticed between the Obama Presidency and the Trump Presidency in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the effect it has had on the people in Gaza?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA223 karma

Obama publicly gave Israel a free hand during Operation Protective Edge (2014), which was by far the worst massacre Israel inflicted on Gaza. But behind the scenes his administration was probably a tiny moderating force. Those minimal restraints have now been removed.

TissueBoxesOfFun103 karma

  1. Can you expand on why Palestinians have a guaranteed right to use violence (ie armed opposition) against their occupiers, and how this works under international law?

  2. What books would you recommend to learn about the history of Zionism?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA265 karma

International law does not prohibit a people struggling for self-determination or against alien occupation from using violent force to achieve their objectives. It does however prohibit a colonial power or a power carrying out an alien occupation from using force. I cite the relevant sources in my recently published book on Gaza. For an authoritative discussion, you might want to consult James Crawford's monumental volume, THE CREATION OF STATES IN INTERNATIONAL LAW. Benny Morris's RIGHTEOUS VICTIMS is quite good on the history up until the 1967 war, when it becomes Israeli propaganda.

BZIV92 karma

Good Day Dr. Finkelstein. With "Knowing Too Much" and its related lectures you discussed data showing that U.S. Jewish support of Israel was waning. Since then, would you say the trend has continued? Further, I know it is probably too soon for hard data collection, but based on general observation, would you say the response to the most recent Gaza massacre is still fitting that pattern?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA286 karma

The long-term trend of alienation from Israel is clear, but it occurs at an incremental pace, like climate change. My own impression is, fewer and fewer Jews are willing to openly defend Israeli actions, and more and more Jews are finding Israel an embarrassment. This is not to say that they won't support Israel if it faces an existential threat: they will. But so long as Israel continues to oppress the Palestinians and periodically commit large-scale massacres, it will continue to lose support among Jews.

Intranetusa86 karma

I've heard that you have a lot of pro-Hezbollah and pro-Hamas views. Is it true that you stated that:

1) the terrorist organization Hezbollah has the right to target Israeli civilians, and

2) you stated Hamas purposely killing civilians was morally the same as Israel accidentally or unintentionally killing civilians in collateral damage?

If these are true, can you explain these beliefs or provide context for them? If they are not true, were you misquoted?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA86 karma

What's called "belligerent reprisals"--the targeting of a belligerent's civilians until and unless they cease targeting your civilians--are not illegal under international law. So long as Israel was targeting Lebanese civilians during its murderous 2016 murderous attacks, Hezbollah had the right to target Israeli civilians. 2) Your statement is incorrect. What I said was, under international law, indiscriminate attacks do not differ from targeted killings--such is the expert opinion of Yoram Dinstein, Israel's leading authority on the laws of war.

Phantasm197551 karma

Is it true that Hamas staged these protests with the intent of getting the bloodshed televised?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA293 karma

Let's say that's true. Israel could easily have foiled Hamas's diabolical plot by not killing unarmed protesters. Or, better still, Israel could have lifted the infernal blockade, so Gazans would have been busy at their jobs, and wouldn't have time to demonstrate.

CasualAppUser48 karma

Why did Israel start to move into the West Bank and gaza - ie expanding beyond their original borders?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA125 karma

From its establishment in 1948, Israel conceived Gaza and West Bank as "unfinished business," to be occupied when the next occasion arose. It planned to annex these territories in 1956, but due to US intervention, it was unable. In 1967, a new occasion arose and the rest is history.

JohnJacobAdolf45 karma

I Professor, thank you very much for doing this. I wanted to know what are your thoughts on the Druze people and their role in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Also, do you think Palestinian activists like As’ad Abukhalil are helpful to the movement or tdo they make it more difficult to find workable solutions?

Thank you so much!

NormanFinkelsteinAMA96 karma

I have not in recent years studied the situation of the Druze in Israel so I cannot comment on this. As'ad Abukhalil is well informed, so its always useful to listen to what he has to say. In my opinion, if a genuine mass movement unfolds, then it's one's responsibility to be attentive to its demands, and not impose one's own ideology on those who are suffering and dying. Of course, one is free to disagree. I did not think it was prudent for the Gaza leadership to state as their objective the return of the refugees. We debated this point a lot, but even as I questioned the wisdom of the announced objective, I continued to work 24/7 in support of the people of Gaza. As it happens, the leadership has now come around to my opinion, so the announced objective in recent weeks has been to lift the siege.

state_violence35 karma

What is some of your favorite fiction literature?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA157 karma

To my dismay and embarrassment I don't read much fiction anymore except on airplanes en route to a faraway place. I usually pick up a Philip Roth novel, often one that I've already read. Roth is a brilliant stylist, although he really has nothing to say. Stay away from AMERICAN PASTORAL! Awful beyond words, because Roth convinced himself that he did have something to say.

ZanTarr30 karma

NF: The Azaria case was a watershed case for me in the states. It was so blatantly obvious that he was a total psychopath who committed cold blooded murder on camera, yet it appeared the entire state of Israel celebrated him.

I often find myself debating in the comments section of Frontpagemag and it just seems like these right wingers literally celebrate the murder of Gazans, children. it doesnt even seem possible that these people exist. this is all terrifyingly psychopathic. If you could guesstimate a percentage, what portion of the Israel jewish public, and what portion of the western (american/euro) jewish community feels like I do...that something terrifying is happening? Is the voice of reason and sanity in the wilderness inaudible in Israel? how audible is it? what influence does it have?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA99 karma

To grasp the mentality of Israelis, you need only look at Whites in the American South on the eve of and during the Civil Rights movement. These were MEAN people, wholly convinced that segregation and its attendant gross material inequalities were just. It's squandering time and resources to try to "enlighten" them. Just as in the Civil Rights movement, only courage and commitment from within (the African-American grassroots movement), coupled with external pressure (the Federal government's intervention) can break down this infernal system. As Israeli dissidents have pointed out, the population at this point will acquiesce in whatever magnitude of criminality the State inflicts.

RexUmbra14 karma

To what extent are Israelis aware of the harm get are doing to the Palestinians and how much does that awareness affect their current position on the measures taken against the Palestinians? Were they more likely to sympathize, or did they not care either way? How much does national identity play into the Israeli perception of how things are being handled?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA81 karma

People know as much as they want to know. During the War in Vietnam, there were many Americans who were absolutely convinced that we weren't committing any crimes in Vietnam.

240to1805 karma

Hi Dr. Finkelstein. Thanks very much for doing this AMA. My question is a simple but important one. What, if anything, can an average citizen do to help dismantle AIPAC as one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA4 karma

Help build a lobby based on people power that can act as a counterweight to the AIPAC lobby built primarily (but not exclusively) on financial blackmail.

zMack943 karma

With the clashes along the border, how much blame would you put on the IDF and on the protesters?

It’s seems here at least in America, we have seen so many times peaceful protesters delve into looting and acts of violence due to the few in it there to start violence which then brings into people just calling peaceful protesters, looters.

Also would you agree that there’s a lot of never taking any responsibility for what’s happening to innocent civilians on either side? Seems both sides are always put 100% blame on the other

NormanFinkelsteinAMA12 karma

I am unaware of any "clashes" along the concentration camp fence. After six weeks of killing and inflicting permanent injuries on unarmed demonstrators, on May 14 one Israeli incurred a scratch. The Gaza leadership cannot take responsibility for what's happening to innocent Israeli civilians, because nothing has happened to innocent Israel civilians.

dezgavoo3 karma

Sir let me start off by saying that i follow your work for many many years and that i think that your legendary debate with Derschowitz is one of the best debates of all time. Thank you for your important work.

My question:

Do you think that the expansion of settlements is irreversible and consequently a two state solution is not possible anymore?

And given the fact that a one state solution is out of the question for the fascist Israeli government what hope for the future is left?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA2 karma

The best discussion of the settlements question can be found in the volume edited by Jamie Stern-Weiner entitled MOMENT OF TRUTH. You will discover that much that has been written about the settlements is just untrue. For example, the settlements physically occupy less than 5% of the West Bank. It's no doubt difficult to undo them, but then you must ask yourself this question: Which is more likely to happen--Israelis abandoning the Jewish settlements or the Jewish state?

kittenbomber1 karma

As someone who doesn’t know that much about the conflict and doesn’t follow it, my naive impression is that the issues have been pretty intractable, and a big change in environment like Trump has the potential to break the stalemate and lead to greater progress long term. Does that seem possible to you, even if it could lead to an outcome you find less desirable (such as Israel holding Jerusalem)?

NormanFinkelsteinAMA4 karma

The only intractable element in the conflict is the rejectionism of Israel backed by the United. Otherwise, the international community as well as the various Palestinian factions pretty much agree on how a final settlement will look. So far as a RESOLUTION of the conflict is concerned, Trump is well in line with previous US policy. Not much distinguishes his from Obama's administration.