Dr. Norman Finkelstein, 61, is as known for his pugnacious lectures and TV appearances debating the Israel/Palestine conflict as for his controversial scholarship on the topic. He will be speaking at Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) on Friday, March 13, at 6:00 pm to the delight of some and to the disappointment of others including the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (Indy JCRC).
Currently teaching in Sakarya University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Turkey, Finkelstein received his Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University. Finkelstein is not one to mince words. He has repeatedly called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who gave a speech before a joint session of U.S. Congress on March 3 — a maniac.
“I think it’s an accurate description,” he told NUVO. “He’s a lunatic, he’s a maniac... In the midst of everything that’s happening, that happened in the Middle East: let’s just start with the 2003 attack on Iraq and the rise of ISIS, the destruction of Syria, the millions of refugees that have been generated…Do we really need another war with Iran? Is that what the world needs? Can it be anyone other than a certifiable maniac that would after all of this death and destruction since 2003 would now be encouraging military confrontation with Iran?”
Per the Israeli government point of view, shared by Netanyahu, last summer's assault on Gaza originated as a response to Hamas rocket attacks and was about self-defense. But, according to Finkelstein, the statistics of the conflict tell another story.
"In the last Israeli operation in Gaza, about 2,200 Palestinians were killed of which approximately 1,500 were civilians," he told NUVO. "And approximately 540 were children. On the Israeli side, 72 israelis were killed of which five were civilians and one was a child. So the ratio of civilians killed was 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. The ratio of children killed was 540 children killed to one Israeli. That doesn’t sound to me like self defense. That sounds to me like the statistics of a massacre."
Coming on the heels of his most recent book, Method and Madness: the Hidden story of Israel’s Assaults on Gaza, one can safely assume that it will have at least as much to do with the Gaza conflict that commenced in July last summer as it does with Netanyahu who he doesn’t seem to like very much.
If you are trying to follow Finkelstein’s narrative, however, it’s necessary to consider the Israeli prime minister’s role in this conflict. Per Finkelstein, the conflict results from the Israeli political objective of denying political legitimacy to Hamas which Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organization. It was the refusal of the European Union and the United States to condemn the formation of a unity government between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, according to Finkelstein, that got Netanyahu looking for an excuse to shake things up a bit.
It was last summer when “an apple fell into his lap,” as he told an audience at the University College of Dublin on February 21.This apple, as it were, was the abduction of three Israeli teenagers last June in the West Bank by Hamas-affiliated Palestinians. (This kidnapping, according to Finkelstein, was not ordered by Hamas leadership.)
“Operation Brother’s Keeper" was launched allegedly to find the kids even though it was known almost immediately that they had been killed,” Finkelstein told his University College of Dublin audience. “And they proceeded to kill a half dozen or more Palestinians, blow up Palestinian homes, all in the West Bank, ransacked businesses, and arrested 500 Palestinians, overwhelmingly Hamas members…. They wanted to keep provoking Hamas to a violent reaction so that Mr. Netanyahu could then throw up his hands and stare out at to the world and say, See, I told you, they are terrorists. You can’t negotiate with them.’ Initially Hamas resisted the provocations, but there are other factions in Gaza that didn’t resist the provocations.They started firing the homemade weapons and at some point the whole thing spiraled out of control and the third major assault began.”