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During the month of November, 2011, Dr. Norman Finkelstein spoke at three different events in Chicago; home to one of the largest Palestinian diasporas in the world, with estimates figured near 200,000. On November 19, the oldest Middle-Eastern charitable organization in the Midwest invited Dr. Finkelstein as guest speaker for their annual United Holy Land Fund dinner engagement in Burbank, IL, near Chicago.
Six hundred attendees rose for a moment of silence honoring the fallen in Syria, Bahrain, Egypt and Libya who died rising against tyrannical overlords. Comedians of Palestinian descent then took stage to lighten the mood with their experiences in America and the prejudices they have faced being of Arabian descent.
All laughter subsided when Dr. Finkelstein approached the podium. His hawkish gaze scanned the crowd evenly, his vocal inflection engaged the room with calculated cognitive research and opinion of the dilemma in Israel.
This was a rare form of speech.
Most of his events taking place in front of a student audience on or around campus, not a community organization banquet. Finkelstein reflected how Israel and Palestinian delegates have mutual meetings every year with a preset assumption the conflict will never end. There needs to be a change of mode. Instead of the attitude having a hopeless tone during such exchanges, there should be optimism.
The Professor stressed the delegates need to approach the conflict as if, “it is possibly within our reach once and for all to put this conflict behind us.” Multiple conferences and events for resolve have transpired over the years, yet nothing has changed. The Palestinian Papers; a collection of 1,700 confidential documents dated 1999-2010 of correspondence between Israel and Palestine, were leaked to Al Jazeera, revealing new details about events such as:
Still, Finkelstein emphasized, nothing changed the situation in the Holy Land. The Professor continued citing examples of how futile the results of negotiations between sides has been; even while major figureheads of American politics initiate a potential resolve. One example being of Condoleeza Rice hosting the Annapolis Conference on November 17, 2007 with hope for a mutual resolve to a two state solution. Still, nothing changed.
A recent BBC poll of 35 countries prompted if Israel had a good or bad impact on the world. Only Iran, Pakistan and North Korea were ranked higher on the negative end of the scale. Finkelstein continued, explaining the dilemma currently faced by many Jewish-Americans: since the majority are Democratically-Liberal, they are finding it more and more difficult to empathize with Israel when the question of human rights violations and the label of apartheid are brought to question.
The International court of justice, and all 15 justices of Amnesty International, unanimously agree that the Israeli settlements are illegal. Representatives in international institutions agree that the conflict can only be resolved with a two-state solution, Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, and a resolution to the refugee question.
Finkelstein describes Israel as a “lunatic state” bent on warfare and ethnic cleansing. In 2006, Israel dropped 4,000 cluster bombs on S. Lebanon. Accusations of using white phosphorus on Gaza hospitals would be in violation of the Geneva Convention.
The Palestinians need to “choose the right goal to reach people,” said Finkelstein. Gandhi preached that politics is not about trying to change peoples opinions, but getting people to act on what they already know is wrong.
There exists no ambiguity for Professor Norman Finkelstein. The son of Polish Holocaust survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the man is barred from entering Israel for his scholarly opinion of their policies toward the Palestinian people. Author of eight controversial books, his opponents decry as hate literature, the professor has been labeled a self-hating Jew, an anti-zionist, and harbors hatred toward Israel, per Abraham Foxman, director of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League).
Alongside many on the liberal left and in the Muslim world, whom regard Finkelstein as an advocate of peace, he presents himself as a reputable man trying to solve a grave geo-political strife that has been raging for decades, without semblance of resolve. Like him or not, Norman Finkelstein stands for his passion of aiding a populace facing eradication of their ways of life. A lesson he learned from his parents’ experience in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Despite an extensive teaching background, Finkelstein was exiled from his educational career in New York for his critical works on Israel. He eventually found refuge at DePaul University in Chicago as an Assistant Professor for six years, but resigned after a heated exchange with Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and his book, “The Case for Israel.”
Finkelstein now writes, travels and speaks on behalf of a people often branded as nothing more than terrorists, and the nemesis to his own ethnic background. His engagements draw large crowds and vocal confrontations erupt between Finkelstein and his opposition.
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