Question: Have you read Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict by Norman G. Finkelstein? He could hardly be accused of anti-Israel bias. Yet he refutes Joan Peters’s book, From Time Immemorial, calls it “a threadbare hoax” and proves it. Shouldn’t you pull Peters’s book from your catalog, apologize to your readers and give a full refund to all who bought it?
Response: No. I have read Finkelstein’s book. That his parents survived the death camps is no proof that he would not be biased against Israel. Many “liberal” Jews around the world oppose Israel. Finkelstein is one of them: His thesis is that “Zionism is a kind of Romantic nationalism fundamentally at odds with liberal values....” (p. 1).
His critique of Peters’s immigration statistics seems convincing. His anti-Israel bias, however, is so blatant that there is good reason to doubt whatever he says. Even statements by Israeli soldiers (saying they don’t hate Palestinians and regret having to use force) are turned against them. Finkelstein insists that their concern is not for Palestinians but for the damage done to their own souls (pp. 114-16). He likens Israeli soldiers to the Nazis who, after torturing their victims all day, claimed they had nothing personal against Jews but were just doing their duty (pp. 116-20)!
His prejudice screams from every page in absurdities, such as the claim that the very existence of a “historical homeland of the Jewish people” would render “the Jewish people ‘alien’ to every other state/territorial unit, thus sanctioning the claims of anti- Semitism” (p. 14). Doesn’t everyone, from American Indian to Finn to Zulu, claim a “historical homeland”? He even supports Arab imperialism, which claims the entire Middle East for the “great Arab nation,” with no room in it for Israel to exist!
Finkelstein echoes the preposterous PLO Charter: “Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements....It is racist...and fascist...a geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab home- land to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for...progress....Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history....” Talk about revisionism!
Finkelstein rejects the very existence of a nation called Israel “whose proprietorship would be Jewish” (p. 10). Isn’t Germany under German proprietorship? Or France under French? But it is not allowed that there should be a Jewish state which would serve as the homeland for a people who were repeatedly thrown out of their land by aggressors and for centuries persecuted and killed all over the world!
Yes, Israel has flaws—but compare its treatment of Arabs living inside Israel with the brutal abuse of Jews in Muslim countries for 1,300 years! Even today no Jew can set foot in Saudi Arabia or be a citizen in any Muslim country, whereas about 16 percent of Israel’s voting citizens are Arabs. If they could choose, most “Palestinians” would much rather live under Israeli rule than under the PLO, where raw hatred of Israel is promoted from earliest childhood and anyone accused of “collaboration” with Israel is lynched. Finkelstein gives none of these facts favorable to Israel.
He condemns Israel for favoring Jews who have endured centuries of persecution worldwide. Doesn’t Switzerland favor the Swiss, Turkey the Turks, etc.? Sadly, Israel discriminates against Jews who believe in Jesus and will not allow them to immigrate and become citizens. This is wrong—but the solution is not to destroy Israel.
Finkelstein blames Israel for every problem. Even the June 1967 Six-Day War is blamed upon “Israel’s provocation of Nasser....” (p. 124). In May-June 1967 our family was in Egypt and saw firsthand that the entire Arab world was preparing to annihilate Israel. From Israel’s very inception the Arabs had sworn to exterminate her. On May 15, 1948, the Arab League declared, “The Arabs intend to conduct a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” (That determination is even stronger today.) To Egypt’s National Assembly March 26, 1964, Nasser denounced “the very existence of Israel.” On March 8, 1965, he boasted, “We shall enter [Palestine] with its soil saturated in blood.” Shortly thereafter he declared, “We aim at...the eradication of Israel.”
On May 16, 1967, Nasser ordered UN peace-keeping forces to leave the Sinai. By May 18, Egyptian troops were massed in the Sinai on Israel’s border and Syrian troops had done the same on the Golan. The “Voice of the Arabs” broadcast boasted that “The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence.” On May 20, the Syrian Defense Minister declared, “Our forces are now entirely ready...to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland...to enter into a battle of annihilation.” On May 22, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli shipping. It was an act of war. On May 27, Nasser threatened, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. ...We will not accept any coexistence with Israel....” On May 30, he announced, “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel...while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation....” Iraq’s president thundered, “This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear—to wipe Israel off the map.” In fact, no Arab map then or now shows Israel’s existence. About 250,000 troops and more than 2,000 tanks and 700 aircraft were poised around Israel for the imminent battle. [Mitchell G. Bard, Myths and Facts, 2001, pp. 80-82.]
Yet Finkelstein gives none of this evidence and insists that Israel provoked a war of annihilation! In fact, it was Israel’s mere existence, from its very beginning, that had provoked the Arabs’ hatred. Israel had no option but to strike first.
This book purports to tell the truth about the conflict in the Middle East. Yet there is not a word about Arafat or his infamous great uncle, Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920s, nothing about the terrorism and riots he organized against Jewish settlers, his partnership with Hitler and Himmler, his fatwah calling upon Arabs to “rise as one man and kill the Jews wherever you find them,” his unblushing boast that the Arabs had the honor of finishing what Hitler had begun, etc. Nothing is said about the PLO, its hatred and terrorism, its torture and murder of thousands in Lebanon, the continual threats to exterminate Israel. Frankly, I can’t trust anything Finkelstein has written.