In the course of writing this blog, I’ve chronicled some really dumb moves by the Shin Bet. But their decision in arresting and deporting Norman Finkelstein from the country really takes the cake:
Finkelstein said he was asked whether he had met with Al Qaida operatives, whether he had been sent to Israel by Hezbollah and how he intended to finance his stay in Israel.
“I was kept in a holding cell at the airport for approximately 24 hours…” Finkelstein said.
The Shin Bet apparently doesn’t understand the difference between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah. Or perhaps it pretends it doesn’t know the difference in order to smear people like Finkelstein. But actually, such questions only show the utter stupidity of the agent who asked them. And since he was following a scenario sketched out for him by his superiors, I presume we can blame the entire agency for this line of questioning.
The idea that Norman Finkelstein was imprisoned by the Shin Bet is an outrage. Even if you disagree with Finkelstein’s views on Hezbollah and think that Finkelstein is an intellectual provocateur, he is a respected academic with a large international audience. In banning him, Israel has made itself look petty, small and mean.
In an exchange of e-mails with fellow progressives I was shocked to discover that several people I thought would respond positively on this issue essentially said: “Finkelstein can go to hell for all I care.” I can understand why they don’t like Finkelstein. He is prickly person who tends to argue his case in extreme terms. In the passion of his argument, he gets carried away and overstates his case.
But the amount of misinformation forwarded even by Jewish progressives about Finkelstein was astonishing. One person who works for an Israeli human rights group said he praised Hezbollah as “heroes.” He didn’t. Another who is a senior staffer for a Jewish peace group said Finkelstein “celebrated the murder of Israelis.” He didn’t. The same person said Finkelstein made him “want to vomit.” What is especially astonishing about the argument advanced by these people is their claim that Finkelstein’s deportation is not a blemish on Israeli democracy. That Israel did what any democratic country can and should do in denying entry to someone it views as hostile to its interests.
It’s also ironic that when deported, Finkelstein was on his way to visit a Palestinian activist for the very same Israeli human rights group whose staffer I referred to above. The latter essentially said Finkelstein deserved what he had coming to him. I’m continually astonished that even so-called liberals can wear such blinders.
I’m not saying Finkelstein is my favorite human being or even my favorite analyst of the Israeli-Arab conflict. But if we allow the petty, small-minded spooks of the Shin Bet to determine that a he can be banned for criticizing Israel then any one of us can be similarly denied.
Remember Martin Niemoller. He began his career hating Jews. Then he became a critic of Hitler and was imprisoned by him for eight years. By the end of his imprisonment he understood that Jews were the canary in the coal mine. By not standing up for them when he should have, he made it that much easier for Hitler to come for him later on. I am simply shocked that I should have to say this to people who work for Jewish peace groups and Israeli human rights groups. It seems like an elementary and fundamental point that should be understood by anyone sensitive to these issues. Yet it isn’t.
In thinking of this case, I am reminded of a very similar one here in the U.S. in which the Department of Homeland Security revoked a visa for Tariq Ramadan, the European Muslim scholar who intended to teach a course at Notre Dame. DHS made a similarly vague statement that Ramadan was denied entry on security grounds. His U.S. government interrogators similarly noted that he had donated money to groups affiliated with Hamas (before that group was listed as a terror organization). Daniel Pipes had argued publicly that Ramadan supported Islamic terror and the former had forwarded his claims to DHS. It is likely that Pipes’ false claims about Ramadan’s sympathy for terrorism played a similar role in his exclusion from the U.S.
My question to these erstwhile Jewish progressives who’ve deserted Finkelstein is: if DHS actually, but mistakenly sees Ramadan as a supporter of terrorism, why is this agency’s action any worse than Israel’s? In short, if a government wishes to ban someone for their political views, they should show cause how those views will actually do real harm to the nation. They should allow the victim to appeal the ruling in an expedited way: that is, they shouldn’t imprison someone like a Ramadan or Finkelstein as a common criminal until their case can be heard.
Finally, just as the Bush Administration should be made to pay a price for its ludicrous decision in the Ramadan case, so the Israeli government should be made to pay a similar price. If you want to deny a Jew the right to enter Israel simply because he says things that your own citizens say (and who are not prosecuted for saying them), but which are inconvenient to hear–then you deserve to become the laughingstock of democracies the world over.
Jerry Haber has also written a terrific post on this subject.
William Burns says
Since Finkelstein is now barred from entering the country for ten years, perhaps Israel should redefine itself as “the state of the Jewish people, except Norman Finkelstein.”
Well look on it the oher way. Israel is not a racist country because they deport people for what they do not for the group with which they associate or belong to.
Finkelstein by his own words was in Israel at least ten times. Now he passed a red line and got it. He is allowed in the country, he is not wanted when he conduct media and Psych. war against it. This take much of your and similar arguments.
How do you kmow that Finkelstein did not meet both Hizb. and Al kaida?
Please google Finkelstein Lebanon Hizb. See for your self his appearance on Leb. TV he even surprized by his extreme hate the Lebanese interviewer. This apperance on Leb. TV is not critisism. The man is conducting Psych War against Israel. Israel=Fraco, Arabs = Republicans. Facts: Franco was supported by Arab muslims with weapons, all Zionists were against Franco, Zionists joined the international Brigade in high numbers. No Zionist at all on Franco side many Muslim Arabs there. Israel, unlike Arabs, never recognized Franco Spain. More, according to him Arabs=Stalin, Israel= ? you guess it. Resistance is holly and allowed every thing. Isrel is ani resistance Israel is a criminal state ergo it is right that it should be punished any way any time by any means. According to him Israel is permanently out to fight Arabs all the time and every time. He was not expressing opinion he was prevrting facts and conducting an anti Israel, very crude, propaganda.
Israel is like our living room. We have a right to decide who we let in and who we keep out.
The US is quite good at denying entrance to people it wants out. Not just Tariq Ramadan but Cat Stevens too and Amy Winehouse who missed the Grammys because of it. (She was ler into Israel though). If you google the words denied entry United States, you would learn that the US has denied entry to a computer specialist going by the name Halvar Flake, a Professor named John Milios , an Irish Peace Activist named Damien Moran , British Sri Lankan rising superstar M.I.A. was denied entry because of the lyrics of her songs, Sebastian Horsley, a British was also sent back packing, a Canadian gay couple legally married in Canada were denied entry because they refused to fill out seperate customs forms, and so on. It’s called sovereignty. And we don’t owe you or Finkelstein any explanations.
BTW, why don’t you send the Shin bet a list of the blogs you read so that they can be as well informed about al-qaeda as you are.
“People are entitled to their judgments without being written off as the enemy.”… quote from youtube :”Norman Finkelstein: Is criticism of Israel Antisemitic? Pt 1
Didn’t Jimmy Carter just meet with the Hamas leader? This April.
We apparently knew the difference back in ’72 when Jane Fonda went to Hanoi.
quote from wikipedia:
During this visit she also visited American prisoners of war (POWs), and brought back messages from them to their families. When cases of torture began to emerge among POWs returning to the United States, Fonda called the returning POWs “hypocrites and liars.” She added, “These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed.” On the subject of torture in general, Fonda told The New York Times in 1973, “I’m quite sure that there were incidents of torture… but the pilots who were saying it was the policy of the Vietnamese and that it was systematic, I believe that’s a lie.” ……..
Although Fonda’s actions in July 1972 did not receive widespread coverage at the time (The New York Times, for example, ran only a brief UPI story and no photograph), her trip was perceived by many as an unpatriotic display of aid and comfort to the enemy, with some characterizing it as treason; the Nixon Administration, however, dismissed calls for legal action against her.
Good for Nixon.
Other Jewish critics of Israel, including Jamie Spector, Adam Shapiro, Starhawk, Kate and Raphael Bender, and others, have been deported by Israel over the last several years due to their criticism of israeli policies.
Richard Silverstein says
I had a little trouble following your argument because it came across garbled.
Norman Finkelstein is NOT an enemy of Israel. He is an enemy of Israeli policy. Unfortunately, you & many others do not understand the important nuance of this statement. He is not conducting media or psychological war against Israel. In fact, as I’ve said many times he supports Israel’s right to exist.
Finkelstein, by his own admission, has met Hezbollah. So have Israeli citizens. What’s the big deal? He has not met Al Qaeda. That’s a fever dream of Shin Bet spooks & people like you. Do you think Osama bin Laden would be willing to meet a N.Y. Jew who supports a 2 state solution?? Gimme a break.
I have NEVER heard of Zionists joining the International Brigade & would be interested to hear if you have any evidence to support this claim. I’m not saying they didn’t. I’ve just never heard they had & won’t concede the truth of yr statement unless you prove it.
I strongly disagree with Finkelstein’s likening of Hezbollah to Stalin & his praise of Stalin’s victories against the Nazis. In this, Finkelstein crossed a red line for me. But if you consider that this speech was given in the middle of the Lebanon war when no one knew how badly Israel would devastate the country or when or how the battle would end–his rhetorical overkill can be understood (though not excused) in better context.
I do agree w. Finkelstein though that Israel’s role in the Lebanon war was criminal & beyond the pale. I was in favor of Israel responding strongly to the assault and kidnapping of its troops on Israeli soil. But I was completely opposed to all out war against the entire Lebanese nation that ensued. Hezbollah had a right to defend its territory against the Israeli invasion, though it had no right to initiate the action which provoked the war. Again, that’s a position that people like you prob. don’t understand. But that’s where I stand.
Richard Silverstein says
No, Israel is NOT JUST YOUR living rm. It is the living rm. of the entire Jewish people, because it calls itself the homeland of the Jewish people. It has a responsibility to Jews throughout the world to accept them not just as citizens, but as visitors as well. If it wants to accept only certain Jews but not all then it has no right to call itself the homeland of the Jewish people. Instead, it should call itself the homeland of those Jews who are acceptable to it. Until it does that, it has absolutely no right to turn away a Jew who supports its right to exist, while disagreeing vehemently with its policies. And disagreeing no more vehemently than many Israeli citizens w. those policies, I might add.
Do you think I need to read blogs to know that Norman Finkelstein was not sent to Israel by Al Qaeda??? C’mon. And I’d like to dare you to say the Shin Bet question related to this was a reasonable one & not just a deliberate attempt to smear him.
I am totally opposed to the Bush Administration policy of excluding foreigners fr. our soil simply because of their political views or ethnic origin. Amy Winehouse is a slightly diff. story because she has been convicted of several drug offenses.
Rabbi Michael Lerner says
When Finkelstein was pushed out of his academic job, we offered him space in Tikkun magazine to discuss his situation. He declined our offer. So it would be incorrect to suggest that Jewish progressivesw had abandoned Finkelstein (Tikkun being the largest circulation liberal and progressive Jewish magazine in the world).
From our standpoint, the exclusion of Finkelstein from Israel should be protested, along with tthe exclusion of Jews from Saudi Arabia (an explicitly racist policy), the exclusion of Iranian protest writers and feminists from Iran, and the exclusion from the U.S. of Tariq Ramadan and many other Muslim activists and thinkers. Borders should be open all around the world, and we should all be willing to listen to the voices of those with whom we disagree. In this resspeect, I find it troubling that many on the Left and particularly the Jewish and Israeli Left, do not support Tikkun magazine or even read it because they dislike the fact that we publish articles some of which project a religious or spiritual dimension to progressive politics. Many lefties and anti-occupation activists have told me personally that they feel “uncomfortable” with Tikkun becasuse some of our writers and some of our editorials talk about God or about Judaism in a positive way. This reliigio-pbobia is pervasive in progressive Jewish circles. I fear that if these people were ever to succeed in having control of a government, they might be just- as intolerant toward fellow Jews with whose perspective they disagreed as the current government of Israel is. But that fear does not stop us at Tikkun from critiquing the current policies of the govt. of Israel and the govt. of the US and the governments of many other countries (China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, et.c) whose current violations of free speech and assembly are violations of human rights. We invite Jewish progressives to join the Network of Spiritual Progressives (our interfaith organization), to write for Tikkun magazine (particularly our website which is read by hundreds of thousands of people), and to actually read Tikkun regularly.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, Tikkun Magazine
Chair, The Network of Spiritual Progressives http://www.spiritualprogressives.org
Richard, why do you refer to Israeli soldiers in uniform as being kidnapped? Kids get “kidnapped.” Uniformed soldiers get “captured.”
Referring to their capture as a “kidnapping” is just pure Israeli expansionist propaganda.
Having said that, let’s hope that an exchange of ALL prisoners can be made and a peaceful compromise along the Geneva proposals can be negotiated.
According to the quote that you presented, NF was asked if he had MET with al qaeda or whether he was sent by Hizzballah. Not sent by al qaeda.
And frankly, stranger things have happened. Lets be honest, when NF arrived at BG airport he did not say he has come as a Jew to his homeland for a visit. He said I have just come from visiting your Lebanese enemy and I now which to visit your Palestinian enemy (I’m not refering specifically to the individual he planned on visiting, but that the Palestinians are still an enemy of the Jewish state). I’m pretty sure he didn’t kiss the ground when he came off the airplane.
If NF wants to exercise his right as a Jew to make Aliyah then that’s fine. To deny him that right the burden of proof is on the state of Israel to prove that he is not eligible. But the Israeli law does not guarantee visitation rights to all Jews under all circumstances. Non-Israeli Jews are not allowed to vote for the knesset, nor are they obligated to pay taxes or serve in the army. Certain rights only come with citizenship.
Thank for the interest:
There is a blog in the net: Jews who served in the Spanish Civil War by Martin Sugarman
I counted there about 8 Isralies who served with the Hagana or later Zahal. However at least 2 that I knew personally are not in the list. One Dsvid Karon? or Caron was later a high up in the Shin-bet.
Also please check in Wikki in Hebrew !!! The International Brigade and see refferences there
This is just for a start.
By the way Finkel. on the Leb. TV did not talk about the IDF or the Isr. Gov. He made it a point to tar Israel as whole ,concept and reality: morally, spiritualy and legaly.
A new and very good documentary (“American Radical”) about Finkelstein is coming out that will likely upset “jewish progressives” as much as Dershowitz and his ziocon billionaire vuntz friends. It’ll likely be nominated for an Academy Award. Why are they secretly pleased that Finkelstein was interogated by Shin Bet and banned from Israel? Two reasons:
1. Bilious jealousy. Who’s the scholar who demolished the fraudulent works of Peters and Goldhagen?, the one largely responsible for shifting the debate in the U.S. from “Cycle of Violence” to “The Israeli Occupation”? Who’s the hot speaker on the college lecture tour here and abroad? Not any of those schlubs.
2. Most of the so-called “anti-zionist jews” are crypto-zionists. They don’t give a damn about the Palestinians but just figured they could get more kudos and attention posing as “harsh jewish critics of Israel”.
Richard Silverstein says
@Rabbi Michael Lerner:
It’s instructive that Finkelstein declined yr offer to discuss his tenure battle. I wonder why. Did he say?
I never meant to claim that ALL Jewish progressives had abandoned him. I was referrign to three particular people who made disparaging comments about his deportation in e mails to me. I used them as examples because I’m certain that if they were willing to turn their backs on Finkelstein, there are many other Jewish liberals who would be happy to do so as well. On the other hand, many other Jewish progressives I included in my e mail were supportive of NF in this situation.
You should know that I have linked a number of times in my blog to Tikkun articles. I remember in particular writing an entire post about yr interview w. Tariq Ramadan. Nor do I have any problem w. Tikkun’s interest in Jewish spirituality. In fact, I embrace this view myself.
Richard Silverstein says
@amir: It’s completely immaterial whether they asked him whether he’d met with Al Qaeda or had been sent by Al Qaeda. The purpose would be the same in either case. To set up a scenario in which they could smear, imprison & deport him.
He had NOT JUST come from visiting Lebanon. He had just come from Amsterdam. Nor was he visiting a Palestinian enemy, unless of course you consider a Palestinian researcher working for B’Tselem an enemy of Israel. He was not coming for the purposes of activism against Israel so yr claim above is yet another spurious lie about NF.
Since you have in effect conceded that Israel is not a homeland for [all] the Jewish people, in future I will never refer to that way. I will say it is the homeland for some Jewish people; or the right Jewish people.
Richard Silverstein says
@danni: Thanks for that info. It’s not that surprising that left-wing Zionists would fight in the Brigades.
I’m not sure you are right in saying “all Zionists were against Franco.” Jabotinsky, if I recall, spoke admiringly about Mussolini. I can’t imagine the Zionist right supporting the Spanish royalists.
As far as the Lebanon war, which is what NF was talking about, I think Israel does deserve to be tarred morally, spiritually & legally (& militarily). If he supports Israel’s right to exist (as he does) then you make a mistake if you claim that he doesn’t.
The large number of Jews who were involved with the Spanish war were on the Republican side. The Arab Muslims, in great majority, were on the side of Franco. You got a point there. Some Zionists people on the right did support Franco at the begining. Later with the intervention of Germany the number declined. But as Jews are Jews, free and independant, see Finkel for example, some Jews participated as killers for the Communists in Spain and few others supported, for a while any how, Franco. But as I have said and I have been dran into a spin on that, Finkel was insidiously and cleverly trying to connent Arabs and Palstinians with the Republicans and generally the Arab national movement was with Franco, Moso., and Adolf. This is also the spin that Finkel does in the holocast history. He converted the story of the Genocide of the Jews to a discussion about the Jews as crooks who steal from their own brothers.
Richard Silverstein says
I strongly objected to Finkelstein’s historical analogy claiming Hezbollah was Hitler & Israel the Nazis. THat was odious. However, his actual pt. that Hezbollah was defending Lebanon fr. Israel attack is valid & legitimate. I did not however support or justify the original Hezbollah attack & neither did Finkelstein as far as I know. That being said, until Lebanese territorial claims are resolved w. Israel there will be conflict w. Lebanese forces & for Israel to act as if the Hezbollah attack sprang fr. nowhere is not legitimate.
Also, Finkelstein’s critique of the Holocaust industry is entirely legitimate. There are American Jewish groups & leaders who shamefully exploit the Holocaust & claims of anti-Semitism for their own political & financial aggrandizement. And I say this as someone who has written extensively & sympathetically about the Holocaust & published a survivor’s oral history.