Tag Archives: Holocaust

Norman Finkelstein booted, again

Norman Finkelstein may be a curmudgeon who can barely contain his contempt for institutions he feels have violated the public trust. But look past the attitude and sometimes poor choices (which, after all, Finkelstein’s nemesis Dershowitz has in spades) and he’s an excellent, even obsessively detailed scholar, and certainly no anti-Semite. And he’s fundamentally morally right. We Jews especially should be outraged.

Finkelstein is someone possessed with the intense and justified anger of a son of concentration camp survivors who saw his parents’ devastating experiences exploited while they received little support. He rails against not just the financial but also the ideological exploitation of the Holocaust. And I think he has the rage of disappointment of the loyal Jewish son who believed all the words about all Jews working to stop injustice, and discovered they weren’t true.

(Many of his charges are by now well-documented by numerous scholars and accounts, but it goes so far against the  cinematic swelling violin background music of our favorite Holocaust narratives, that we still can’t even imagine elderly Israeli Holocaust survivors and their families protesting in the streets because they are living in poverty, while prominent lawyers and various advocacy organizations pocket millions and Israel continues to take Palestinian land while crying anti-Semitism every time someone says “No!”. And so Finkelstein becomes the target of our collective discomfort. He’s essentially a whisteblower for corrupt Jewish organizations and it’s no wonder that many of us, in the Jewish community and beyond, don’t want to listen. To be fair, it’s also true that he doesn’t seem concerned about getting more people to listen.)

Finkelstein lost tenure at DePaul. He most recently got disinvited by the Greens in Germany. And this morning, word that the global shunning continues in Chicago, where event organizers report that since he’s not allowed to speak at DePaul (part of his severance agreement-amazingly), they found, and then just lost, an alternative venue:

I’ve been very involved in organizing Norman Finkelstein’s April midwest tour, which will include Purdue, Beloit, Michigan State, and Chicago events (DePaul, Northwestern, UofC). Unfortunately, today I received this news from our friends and partners at DePaul:

As you know, former professor and academic Norman G. Finkelstein is scheduled to speak in Chicago on Friday, April 16th. SJP DePaul and friends have been working diligently for this event, from securing a venue, booking his flight and hotel, and fundraising from scratch to make this event happen successfully. Everything was finally coming together, and we were all excited. Unfortunately, today we received horrible news. The event coordinator received the following email from the venue we had secured for the event:

“Good morning Shirien,

We had a Parish council meeting this past week, I notify everyone on the up coming events that are held at our church, and of course, your event was one of the topics

A few of our board members are attorneys and they are the ones that look into almost everything from the individuals that rent the gym out and if they are covered insurance wise.

they looked deeper into the Professor that will be speaking at our church and they insisted that we couldn’t be affiliated with the ideologies of Mr. Norman Finkelstein so I am sorry to say that the church is going to have to cancel and will not be able to rent the gym the night of April the 16th 2010

Please again I am very sorry for the inconvenience.”

Write a nice note to St. George Greek Orthodox Church to let them know Finkelstein should speak:

Deno Diamantakos
DDiamantakos@tempel.com

And if you have an alternative venue idea for April 16 in Chicago, contact organizer shiriendamra@gmail.com

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I can call someone Hitler or a Nazi, but you can’t.

Fresh from witnessing a neoconservative Hudson Institute-sponsored Alan Dershowitz/Jon Voight et al tirade smearing everyone from Hamas and Hezbollah to Ahmadinejad and, well, most Palestinians, as Nazis and Hitlers, it should come as no surprise that a {Jewish] professor is now actually being investigated by the Anti-Defamation League and his employers for suggesting a comparison between Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto. With breath-taking hypocrisy, the Hudson Institute’s Ron Radosh even goes for the jugular, because, well, it’s not OK when the other side does it.

I can’t even keep track anymore of the number of people- Netanyahu, Hageee, Horowitz, who else?- who have compared Ahmadinejad to Hitler. Signs at pro-Israeli rallies regularly invoke Nazis (one sign in Geneva= UNazi). Glenn Greenwald wrote at length about the frequent, and un-challenged use of Nazi epithets against liberals on right-wing Fox TV. But if someone critical of Israel dares to invoke Nazis or Hitler, the thought police arrive in seconds. It’s an appalling double-standard, illustrating how selective outrage about the Holocaust is used for purely cynical purposes. This is a phenomenon that all of us, especially Jews, should oppose vehemently. If it were up to me, Holocaust comparisons would not be declared off limits, nor would they be used so casually.

According to Simon Wiesenthal Center’s video called “Jewish Students [are] Under Siege from Professor at UC Santa Barbara.” [Editor's Note: likely in response to complaints, they just changed the title to "Jewish Students Shocked by UCSB Professor's Demonizing Email"]

Yes, Sociology professor William I. Robinson, who is Jewish, is apparently the new front line for the all out attack on Jewish students on campuses.

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First Employee at Yad Vashem fired for voicing the wrong kind of political views.

Former Israeli combatant Itamar Shapira was recently fired for mentioning the 1948 massacre in the village of Deir Yassin, the ruins of which are visible from Israel’s official Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem talks about the Holocaust survivors’ arrival in Israel and about creating a refuge here for the world’s Jews. I said there were people who lived on this land and mentioned that there are other traumas that provide other nations with motivation ….

The Holocaust moved us to establish a Jewish state and the Palestinian nation’s trauma is moving it to seek self-determination, identity, land and dignity, just as Zionism sought these things

A Yad Vashem official astonishingly claimed that the institution “objects” to any political use of the Holocaust. If I may be so bold, I could reframe this to say that Yad Vashem objects to any political use that is not in service to the interests of the state of Israel. (Please refer to the stream of  foreign dignitaries that flow through  Yad Vashem in a “must do” ceremony that is designed to represent the absolute evil that was done in the Holocaust [no argument here], and the absolute incomparability of this terrible event to anything else in history). Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors, has written extensively and controversially (a good thing) about this in his book. The Holocaust Industry: reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering”.

In this vein, Shapira said that:

Yad Vashem chooses to examine only some of the events that took place in the War of Indpendence. “It is being hypocritical. I only tried to expose the visitors to the facts, not to political conclusions. If Yad Vashem chooses to ignore the facts, for example the massacre at Dir Yassin, or the Nakba… it means that it’s afraid of something and that its historic approach is flawed.

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Countering Palestinian/Nazi analogy and Never again, for all

A must-read for fighting back- Moshe Yaroni watched Alan Dershowitz’s shameful association of Palestinians with Nazis and deconstructs the arguments:

Let’s be clear about Hajj Amin: he was a venomous anti-Semite, and his hatred eclipsed the bounds of the Palestinian national struggle. There is no disputing that he worked with the Nazis and that he espoused murderous hatred of Jews, not just Zionism. But such diverse scholars as Zvi Elpeleg, Idith Zertal and Peter Novick have all concluded that his actual role in Nazi plans was insiginificant and that, as Zertal put it, “…in more correct proportions, [he should be pictured] as a fanatic nationalist-religious Palestinian leader.”

Meanwhile, Sol Salbe’s Middle East News Service has translated from its original Hebrew this article about Jewish suffering and the Holocaust. Salbe writes as a preface:

Yediot Acharonot columnist Ariana Melamed’s comments are not particularly original. Others have observed the Israeli attitude to other peoples’ suffering summed up in the saying “after what they have done to us…”. But not only does Melamed puts it better than anyone else that I have read, she does bring it up to date. As the UN Conference on Racism is about to wind down, it is important to remember that the “never again” lesson need to be applied universally and that the ethos of victimhood exempts no one from doing the right thing.

Hebrew original: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3703925,00.html

As victims, we’re allowed

Ariana Melamed

Mistakenly, we continue to believe that being historical victims completely frees us of the need to develop solidarity with humanity and of the duty to consecrate the living, not only the dead.

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Ahmadinejad’s speech: Why it was a disaster.

I was at Ahmadinejād’s speech yesterday, and I have the crappy photos from the media area to prove it. It was dramatic, to say the least. Counter-protesters yelled (and were removed) throughout; applause lines invariably left half the room silent; there was obviously over exuberant applause from the Iranian delegates which made you wonder, and at a dramatic but expected moment at the beginning, the European delegates walked out.

I’ll quote from Human Rights Watch’s statement and the NYT, because, with one major exception regarding the Times, they roughly match my response to the speech. But I’ll add that somewhere in the middle of his talk, I suddenly felt anxiety coursing through my body and actually thought, “I wonder if this is how wars get started?” It was just a feeling, and may have no basis in reality, but it should be absolutely clear that- at times soaring rhetoric aside- this man has absolutely no interest in authentic peace and justice. And I do not trust either my own government or Israel to not start bombing.

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Taboo-breaking books look at Israeli occupation and the Holocaust

A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity is a must-read new book featuring thought-provoking essays on a range of topics.

In “The ‘Arab Nazi’ and the ‘Nazi Jew’”, British sociologist Anne Karpf has written a nuanced exploration and condemnation of the ways in which the terms “The Holocaust” and “Nazis” have been nearly emptied of meaning through their political exploitation in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Glenn Greewald has written about the freewheeling use of these images on Fox News to condemn liberals.) While Karpf documents the myriad ways in which Jewish and Israeli leaders have invoked this imagery to characterize Arabs and Palestinians, Karpf also looks at how Arab and Muslim leaders have characterized Israelis as Nazis and Palestinians as Jews, wondering how this comports with a policy Holocaust denial.

While Karpf largely considers the issue of name-calling and explosive imagery, we should also ask if there is a place for a thoughtful historical, political and even personal consideration of the relationship between the dehumanization practiced by the National Socialists, and that which is practiced by the Israeli military? In this country, self appointed thought police like the Anti-Defamation League would say no.

Hajo Meyer, a Dutch physicist from Germany who survived 10 months in Auschwitz in 1944, has answered this question with a resounding YES in his absolutely captivating memoir: The End of Judaism. An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. With tremendous love for the Jewish tradition he knew as a child, Meyer’s morally challenging and well documented book is not the kind that makes hyperbolic charges of equivalency between the gas chambers and Israel’s occupation that we have come to expect from the fringes. Far from it.

Rather, he poignantly describes the many years, prior to the mass murder of some 6 million Jews and 5 million others, of his own family’s experiences of dehumanization and humiliation at the hands of other Germans. He is fearless about making the connection to the callousness he sees displayed by many Israeli soldiers in the territories:

We are all too familiar with photographs of Germans in their immaculate uniforms making fun of destitute and frightened Jews. Jews in Germany could count on such humiliation at the hands of the authorities and their fellow citizens. The intimidation and harassment at Israeli checkpoints is not much different from what I experienced in my youth. I will never forget what I went through in this regard, even though it is no longer particularly painful. What I do find painful, however, is the knowledge that the Jews, who are my own people, are involved in similar humiliation of Palestinians.

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