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The PRIMER Blog

Yale Speech Promotes Hatred of Israel

By Alan Stein

Finkelstein
Norman Finkelstein chats and signs books prior to his speech.
Yale University is one of America's premier educational institutions, but the students there are not immune from being misled by demagogues who deliver distorted messages.

A group of anti-Israel organizations, including Yale Council on the Middle East, the Middle East Crisis Committee, the Arab Students' Association of Yale College, Al-Awda-CT and Palestinian American Congress-CT, sponsored a speech by Norman Finkelstein, who has made his career out of bashing Israel and attacking the integrity of its supporters. Ironically, this event was held on October 20 just hours after Irving Abella, professor of history from York University, Toronto, spoke on "Old Wine in New Bottles: Old and New Anti-Semitism in Canada" at Yale's Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy's Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective seminar series. In a room capacity almost filled to its capacity of 200, the majority of the attendees were clearly already strongly anti-Israel. They were not disappointed by Finkelstein's outpouring of anti-Israel propaganda, which was not only biased and misleading, but in large measure both factually incorrect and often self-contradictory.

For example, trying to bolster his claim that the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza were "occupied" rather than "disputed," he said "Israel has no title to the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem" and the "status of east Jerusalem is exactly the same as the West Bank and Gaza."

Given that under the UN Partition Plan, the basis of any claim that any of the territory is "Palestinian" rather than simply disputed, Jerusalem was to be internationalized, his assertion is logically inconsistent. Of course, the Arabs rejected the Partition Plan itself, making it caduq.

Finkelstein also insisted that, Israel's disengagement leaving Gaza totally under the Palestinian Authority's administration notwithstanding, "Gaza remains occupied territory."

The basis for that assertion was his insistence that Israel totally controlled the "borders." As is the case with many Israel-bashers, he was undeterred by truth, in this case, the fact that Israel has no presence on the border between Gaza and Egypt. When it was pointed out that thousands of people and large amounts of weaponry had streamed across that border immediately after the disengagement, he simply denied that had happened.

Finkelstein made it quite clear that, for him, the very existence of Israel was an obscenity, albeit one he said was today a state that had the same right to exist as others. Among the sponsors of his speech, the core of Al-Awda's mission is the elimination of Israel.

During a question and answer period following his speech, he was asked about the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving. Finkelstein straddled the fence, but spent a considerable effort arguing "people like David Irving serve a good function in society."

It may be that people like Finkelstein serve a useful function, by serving as reminders that the opposition to Israel generally has nothing to do with anything Israel has done but is simply one new manifestation of anti-Semitism.



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