Thursday, May 29, 2008
When Israel Gives Finkelstein the Bum's Rush
The Eviction of Norman Finkelstein
By Steven Plaut
FrontPageMagazine.com | 5/29/2008
Whenever the media takes note of the antics of Norman Finkelstein, the
former DePaul University professor and anti-Israel activist, a flood of
disinformation seems bound to follow. Finkelstein.s arrest in Israel last
week was no exception.
The facts of the case are clear. Finkelstein had attempted to enter Israel
last Thursday to travel into the West Bank. There he would likely have
lent support to Palestinian extremists. Unquestionably, he would have
caused trouble. And while Israel generally does not prevent foreign
trouble makers from entering the country (a highly naive and short-sighted
policy), it made an exception this time: Finkelstein was detained at the
Tel Aviv airport upon landing, kept under watch for a few hours, and
eventually deported to Amsterdam.
The deportation served as a siren call for all Israel.s critics, both
foreign and domestic, to protest this alleged "suppression of academic
freedom of an academic critic of Israel." The leftist web sites and the
liberal media were immediately filled with reports of how "Professor
Finkelstein" was kicked out of Israel for, supposedly, having anti-Israel
Finkelstein.s supporters, like Peter Kirstein of St. Xavier University,
cried "outrage. at Finkelstein.s eviction. Israel.s far-Left also got into
the fray. Finkelstein's own web site broadcast his martyrdom in lurid
As usual when Finkelstein is involved, the facts all got lost along the
First, Finkelstein is no "professor.. In fact, he never was an academic in
any meaningful sense of the word. Finkelstein is a crackpot and an open
admirer of Holocaust denier David Irving. Finkelstein claims that all
Holocaust survivors are liars, hoaxsters, and thieves, extorting Germany.
Finkelstein was fired last year from DePaul University in Chicago because
he had no academic publications or achievements at all; he has yet to
publish his first academic paper. He is regarded to be a Holocaust denier
by the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others. For
all the whining of his supporters that in DePaul he fell victim to
"outside interference" when he was denied tenure, the fact is that most of
the outside interference there was actually in Finkelstein.s favor.
Second, Finkelstein was not denied entry into Israel because he holds
anti-Israel opinions. Anti-Israel leftists come in and out of Israel all
the time. For instance, the Jewish state has long put up with the
International Solidarity Movement (ISM), whose members enter Israel to
engage in violent hooliganism and to assist Palestinian terrorism,
sometimes assaulting Israeli police and soldiers in the process.
Some of Israel's own tenured professors, moreover, are even more extreme
and anti-Israel than Finkelstein himself. As is clear from any fair-minded
reading of Israeli media reports, Finkelstein was denied entry into Israel
because he has spent the past few years serving as an all-but-official
spokesperson for the Hezbollah terror group and was suspected of wanting
to enter Israel for purposes of espionage and activities on its behalf.
Third, entry into Israel is not a universal entitlement. According to the
official Israeli statement as reported in Haaretz, Israeli intelligence
said Finkelstein "is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions
involving hostile elements in Lebanon," and because he "did not give a
full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions." The
last point is especially critical. While still in Israeli captivity,
Finkelstein adamantly refused to answer questions about what he was
planning to be doing while in the country, as well as who was paying for
his trip. Given his refusal to cooperate, it.s difficult to see that
Israeli authorities had any alternative but to deport him.
That.s not how Finkelstein sees it, of course. Moments after arriving in
Amsterdam, Finkelstein sent out the following message to his fans
(spelling and grammar uncorrected):
"Before rumors report my premature death, I was kept in a holding cell for
24 hours and then deported to Amsterdam. It wasn't a Belgian bed and
breakfast but it wasn't Auschwitz either (although after six hours of
abusive treatement (sic) I did call them "f**king Jewish Nazis," not taken
well). It seems that to see Musa and his family again, I'll have to wait
until the end of the occupation. I have been been (sic) banned for "at
least 10 years." Another incentive to work towards ending the occupation."
Facts notwithstanding, some on the hard-Left were prepared to see
Finkelstein as the victim. The so-called "Association for Civil Rights in
Israel" or ACRI took the lead in this regard. The ACRI quickly dispatched
once of its leaders, a lawyer named Michael Sfard, to serve as attorney
for Finkelstein while he was being held at the airport. Sfard was then
cited in the media as saying, "A country that starts to fear what its
harshest critics write about it is a country that is already behaving in a
manner reminiscent of the darkest days of the communist regime."
But Finkelstein is not a substantive "critic" of Israel. By his own
admission, he is a supporter of a terrorist group . Hezbollah . that
explicitly seeks Israel.s destruction. Contrary to the amen corner loudly
commiserating with this disgraced academic, Finkelstein is not a victim of
Israeli censorship, but of his own extremism.