This story gets curiouser and curiouser. Based on a Jerusalem Post article, I wrote yesterday that Peace Now UK managed to get Norman Finkelstein banned from an Oxford Union debate in which he was to represent the side favoring a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It just goes to show that you should never believe anything from the Jerusalem Post until positively confirmed by other sources. It appears the Post, in this article, was attempting to credit Peace Now UK with Finkelstein’s removal when the real culprit was somewhere else.
Today, Jerry Haber pointed me to a comment by Peter Tatchell (scroll most of the way down the page) at Harry’s Place. He was meant to debate alongside Finkelstein. This throws an entirely new light on the matter and supports charges originally levelled against Dershowitz in a Guardian Comment is Free post:
This is the inside story about the Oxford Union debate from people involved in the Oxford Union, as relayed to me and rechecked by me…
I am told by the Oxford Union that the original line-up opposing the motion was Alan Dershowitz, Lord Trimble and myself.
Despite our different perspectives, we were ALL opposed to the idea that one-state is the ONLY solution. We ALL supported the idea of a two-state solution.
This would have made for a very illuminating, complex and sophisticated debate – avoiding the usual clichés.
I am told that Alan Dershowitz refused to participate unless he could write the motion and choose the speakers. If this is true, it sounds like he was trying to rig the debate.
The Oxford Union could not accept such terms. So Alan Dershowitz pulled out of the debate. He was replaced by Norman Finkelstein. Alan went beserk and attacked the Oxford Union for inviting Norman. This is a bit rich. Norman would not have been invited if Alan had not pulled out.
Under pressure from Dershowitz and pro-Israelis, the Oxford Union say they dropped Norman from the line up and replaced him with a pro-Israel speaker.
Alan and others seem to have misread the debate as a debate about Israel, when it was about a one-state versus a two-state solution. It is quite possible for pro-Israelis to support either side. A right-wing ultra Israeli could favour a one-state solution based on Israel’s control of the whole region. A left-wing (or right-wing) Israeli could favour two-states as the most likely path to peace and security.
…This debate was NOT about the pros or cons of Israeli or Palestinian policy. That debate has been done to death.
The Oxford Union has assured me that there will be a new Israel-Palestine debate in the New Year. The original supporters of the motion, such as Ghada Karmi, will be reinvited. To oppose the motion, the invitees will be Alan Dershowitz, Norman Finkelstein, Lord Trimble and myself.
Now this WILL be a very interesting, positive debate. To have Alan and Norman on the same side, both arguing for a two-state solution, is exactly the kind of breaking down of enmities, barriers and fixed positions that we need, in order to work towards a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
I hope Alan will accept the invitation and contribute to the debate.
PS: This is what I have been told by insiders at the Oxford Union. I cannot say for certain that it is the truth but I have no reason to doubt that they have given me a truthful account.
If the Oxford Union does hold true to its word and reinvite Finkelstein then I will withdraw my negative comments about them. We’ll have to see whether that happens. But the following makes me doubt the Union’s sincerity unless the president has had a change of heart.
And Jerry again comes up with the goods in this e mail he published at his blog from the Oxford Union president to Finkelstein explaining why he felt compelled to rescind the invitation:
“Many people expressed concern that the debate as it stood was imbalanced and people felt that as someone who had apparently expressed anti-zionist sentiments that you might not be appropriate for this debate. I tried to convince them otherwise but was accused of putting forward an imbalanced debate and various groups put pressure on me. I received numerous emails attacking the debate and Alan Dershowitz threatened to write an Oped attacking the Union. What is more he apparently attacked me personally in a televised lecture to Yale.
“I hope that you understand my position, this is not ideal and I would be happy to welcome you as an individual speaker to the Union in a forthcoming term. I know that the President-Elect Emily Partington would be keen to host you in Hilary. I just did not want to see the debate compromised and given the Irving Griffin Controversy I couldn’t fight a battle on all fronts.”
So Alan Dershowitz is the not-so-hidden hand behind this brouhaha and he’s mugged Norman Finkelstein yet again. But just as when he succeeded in persuading DePaul to can Finkelstein, in doing so he made himself look like an ass and Finkelstein the victim.
It is indeed delicious to read Dershowitz’s attack on the Oxford Union from Frontpagemagazine as featured at Finkelstein’s site. For every lie Dershowitz levels at him, Finkelstein provides a link that disproves it or shows Dershowitz’s utter hypocrisy. Read the text and follow the links as Finkelstein demolishes him through the fine web art of cross-linking–it’s very entertaining. And by the way, next time someone tries to tell you the Jerusalem Post is not a right-wing shmate just ask them why they republish (or should I say, regurgitate) garbage like this from Frontpagemagazine.
The same Harry’s Place comment thread provides confirmation for Jerry’s contention that Finkelstein IS a supporter of a two-state solution:
The following is a rough trancript of his Sept. 4, 2003 debate with Dershowitz on Democracy Now:
Norman Finkelstein: Mr. Dershowitz then throws in another lie. He says oh, Finkelstein, he’s an extremist, he doesn’t support the two-state settlement.
My entire adult life I’ve been involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict. I started publishing on the topic in 1984. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the topic in 1988. I lecture about 2-3 times a week on the topic. I’d like you to show me a statement where I say I don’t support the two-state settlement. You said I don’t support a two-state settlement, can you provide the evidence to that?
You can see this at 2:00 in the first video at this link
What this entire debate has taught me is that you can consider yourself opposed to the notion of a Jewish State (in other words, anti-Zionist) while still supporting the two state position as the most pragmatic and viable considering the political circumstances in which almost all Israelis would never accept a solution involving a single state. This is a notion that’s far too nuanced for the Alan Dershowitz’s brittle brain.
To my queries of Peace Now UK about their participation in this imbroglio, I received these churlish non-responses from co-chair Paul Usiskin:
As I have no idea who you are, I am not prepared to simply blindly respond, particularly to someone who claimes to be a progressive Zionist, but who at the same time appears to be perfectly willing to accept carte blanche what the Jerusalem Post would say about the Oxford Union debate, or anything else for that matter…
You haven’t given me the courtesy of revealing your identity [ed., this despite the fact that all my e-mails were clearly marked with my first and last name as sender] As I still have no idea who you are, what you write and what you think, but sense someone ready to jump to instant and outrageous conclusions…I don’t think I’ll go any further with this…
How low can Peace Now go, really?
It can go lower than that:
These people just won’t give up:
Luke Tryl President of Oxford Union shows there was no Zionist conspiracy against Finkelstein
Added by David Hirsh on November 03, 2007 10:14:53 PM.
“The cancellation of Finkelstein had nothing to do with pressure from supporters of Israel. Rather, it resulted from another of the speakers against the motion and groups of interested students pointing out that Finkelstein was an inappropriate co-speaker. I told the Union members present at the debate that the selection of Finkelstein had been an unfortunate mistake.”
Read the rest by Jonathan Hoffman, here.
Richard Silverstein says
Yeah, Hoffman is a broken record. He seeks to appropriate blame to everyone but those truly responsible. I’m tired of dealing with them. They live in their own dream world in which Alan Dershowitz is a fine fellow & Norman Finkelstein a fiendish anti-Semite. What a world!
David L. says
Alan Dershowitz is a very dishonorable man. Perhaps if he would spend more time studying Torah and less time trying to silence Norm Finkelstein, he might accomplish something with his life!