Norm Finkelstein was paid to give a lecture at Cornell University by–get ready for it–the Department of Peace Studies and Amnesty International.
One student offers this account of Finkelstein’s speech:
His two hour lecture was filled with some of the most hateful rhetoric I have ever heard in my life.
Finkelstein began by equating Israel to Hamas, saying there was no practical difference between the liberal democracy of Israel and the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas which, over the past few months, has been murdering its own citizens on the streets of Gaza. Aside from that obvious disparity, I think it is necessary to point out that Israel’s Declaration of Independence calls upon its Muslim inhabitants to “preserve peace … on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation.”
Hamas’ charter, on the other hand, calls upon Jews to “be obliterated” and for Muslims to “solve the Palestinian question through Jihad.” Yes, both have the popular support of their citizens but to equate them, as Finkelstein did, is suspicious.
Then it got ugly. Finkelstein accused Jews of concocting fraudulent notions of anti-Semitism in Europe, overlooking the fact that just last year a Jewish Frenchman, Ilan Halimi, was tortured to death over three weeks by 21 Muslims. Imagine the outrage if a Muslim boy turned up dead with acid burns over 80 percent of his body and it came out that he had been tortured to death by Jews.
Finally, at the end of his lecture Finkelstein told his audience, “If we can’t fight with Katusha rockets then we can fight with the truth.” When asked if he meant that if he had Katusha rockets he would fire them into Israeli towns, Finkelstein replied “I could see it.”
I was most astonished not by what Finkelstein had to say, but by the response he received from his audience. As Finkelstein portrayed Israel as an apartheid practicing, racist, genocidal murdering state, those in attendance frequently clapped and laughed along to his jokes.
I asked myself, these are the people who claim to be struggling for peace? Not once in his lecture did Finkelstein mention how peace could be achieved. Instead, he insisted on dividing the conflict into “our side” and “their side” and completely ignored Israel’s many attempts at peace.
I’d just encourage Cornell to use its resources to promote peace and not encourage hate, perhaps then I will be able to hold my head up high once again.