Listen now (119 min) | My guest this week is the political scientist and wildly prolific author Norman Finkelstein. If you know Norman’s work and history, you’ll know that some view him as a controversial figure. His criticisms of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the cultural legacy of the Holocaust, the Democratic Party, and any number of other hot-button topics have made him virtually persona non grata in mainstream circles. I’ve even received emails from viewers asking me not to post this conversation, despite the fact that, until now, no one except Norman, me, and my team knew what was said in it. Perhaps you think his ideas are so toxic that he should be silenced. Clearly, I don’t think he should be.
A few points:
1.) I will give credit where it is due. I thought NF was open to Glenn's criticism (I wish Glenn would have given more of it!).
2.) To call Israel an apartheid state is asinine. Israeli-Arabs have rights. NON ISRAELI Arabs are allowed to work in Israel but are not treated the same way as Israeli Arabs (why would they - they are not Israeli citizens!) The non-Israeli Arabs art treated commensurate with their aggression against the Israeli citizenry.
3.) I understand Glenn relating to NF on being attacked from with in due to the criticisms of the communities to who they belong. However, I see two major differences between Glenn and NF on this ...
A.) Glenn is often right. NF is often foolish on his comments on Israel and the Holocaust. Candace Owens often gets hate for her critique of the black community from black people; in her case (like NF) she often deserves the response she gets for her bombastic approach.
B.) Glenn has a strong commitment to the black community; his criticisms come from a place of love. NF is ethnicity Jewish and has made vigorous conscientious efforts to distance himself from Jewish peoplehood (he despises the concept).
4.) You can tell a person according to whom they praise. NF worships at the feet of Noam Chomsky. It would be understandable if it were in the realm of linguistics. It is his (Chomsky 's) activism that FN styles himself in. To his credit NF opposes the woke. However, that moral bank account is still far in the red with his comments on Israel, the Holocaust, Charlie Hebdo, etc.
5.) When I was in youth group I remember a kid who was a anarchist/extreme leftist. He was howling about Jews focusing on the Holocaust so they gave him a platform to state his case and he mitigated it's (the Holocaust) relevance and importance because more people were killed in other genocides. NF reminds me of this kid. I would not classify him (NF) as a self-hating Jew. I would put him in the camp of the many other atheists of Jewish ethnicity who desire to be a "citizen of the world" and think that can only be achieved by vigorously separating themselves from Jews and specific concerns of the Jewish community (Israel and the Holocaust). You can see this approach peppered through out the conversation with Glenn where NF went through a lot of effort to point out how he was not specially interested in Jews or matters to Jewish interests.
6.) All this being said I don't necessarily disagree with NF on all counts of Israel and the Holocaust. I acknowledge that both subjects can be used to try to manipulate people into agreement based on the threat of being labeled antisemitic.
However, there is a difference between legitimately criticizing Israel and labeling it "satanic" and it's actions "a Holocaust" just as one could say disproportionately focusing on the Holocaust can be a disservice to acknowledging other tragedies and genocides inflicted on other cultures without calling it "the Holocaust industry." Play stupid games win stupid prizes. It's amazing how misguided intelligent people can say and believe in things so dumb.
I will also say that I have read most if not all of Alen Dershowitz's books on Israel. I found them worthwhile and often convincing, but I acknowledge that the academic rigor he is probably capable of was not reflected in the material in the books.
7.) I don't put the importance that some put on the Holocaust with regard to how it is unique in it's nature and implementation. However, I would make a couple observations which I think make it unique from other genocides (not that it diminishes the atrocity are importance of other genocides). I am not aware of citizens of THEIR OWN country being targeted for their ethnicity for genocide. I am also not aware of a country with such high standards for civility and culture (Germany) inflicting such barbarity on the world.
Welp add us to the august list of people who disagree in the comments.
I will only add that:
1 - there is a distinction between and idea and a moral judgment and in the later case the actions of the person passing judgment do matter.
2 - as much as I respect Glenn and enjoy his commentary, his opinion on how to run an business would mean far less to me than that of someone who has actually done it, and I suspect he would agree with this sentiment.
This was a podcast where lots the guest made many claims without providing any supporting data.
I just wish I could see the faces of people who bought into Finklestein’s simplistic and hyperbolic version of the Israel-Palestine Conflict now being called ignorant and fraudulent by him. Ooo boy, this was a fun one ☕️
One further point to add to others I have made here. Going back to what I say about K-12 educators and their uses of the Holocaust. Rarely (as near as I could tell) or minimally do these materials relate the Holocaust to the founding of Israel - as I said earlier, as opposed to Finkelstein's view that the Holocaust is used to justify Israel. In my view, the absence of much or any reference to Israel in these materials is because their "narrative" is the Jews as ultimate victims. Hence the loving dwelling on the emaciated bodies, the gaunt expressions, the hopeless passivity of the camp survivors, etc. The story these materials usually tell is of the Jews as victims. In fact, bringing Israel into that story integrally would upset that narrative and so it is rarely done. The building of Israel makes the Holocaust the story it in fact is, a story of Jewish resilience. A defiant "we will live, we will thrive, and we will reclaim our homeland." Jewish agency, not victimhood, ought to be the story that is told about the Holocaust. So, in that sense, I say to Norman F, yes, bring Israel into it. There is no shame in that, it is a central part of the story, a story far, far from over.
I have no issue with ideas being introduced so long as they can be defended. No one is able to defend communism on either its merits or its results, unless mass murder has somehow become a good thing. Finkelstein may identify as a "small c communist," whatever that means but he seems quite happy functioning in a capitalist system where his ideas can be aired. Try being on the opposite side in a communist regime and see how it works out.
Also disappointed in Glen, no pushback at all. Finkelstein is a moral midget and childish thinker. Like most who hurl invective at Israel from the cheap seats, he has never actually had do anything, build anything or physically defend anything or anyone. He has the luxury to remain pure while judging the people who have their hands in the dirt.
The fact that he is correct about the wokes just proves the old adage about broken clocks.
Did I correctly hear that Chomsky told Norm to publish the anti-woke book ?
Will Chomsky and Norm now be banned from appearing on woke Democracy Now with their previous best friend woke Amy Goodman? 😁
Hilarious. When introducing young Black people to the work of Black writers DuBois, Carter G Woodson, Martin Delaney, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, Frederick Douglas, Phylis Wheatley, etc are among the usual starting points. Octavia Butler is included for those who love SciFi.
Hanna-Nicole Jones and Ibrim X Kendi are rarely induced. It is amusing to watch people waste time arguing about Kendi. Jones has a children’s book “Born in the Water”. Young readers are reminded that Black people were enslaved. They were not born in the water. Youth interested in where Black people originated are introduced to literature about the Continent of Africa. Summer reading classes include Zoom sessions where children in the United States are able to interact with Black children from Africa, the Caribbean, and South America. In other words, they are exposed to the Diaspora.
Listening to the outrage about Kendi is like watching a sitcom
I’m disappointed in Glen not pushing back on the leftist Chomsky-like attitude to using “apartheid” relative to Israel as a state. Palestine leadership wants the elimination of the Jews, hard to negotiate with people who only want your extermination.
Thank you, Robin. I shall try.
The class topic is on point. But there are still some blacks who feel that race and class are the same thing. They are not able to distinguish them. That goes back to what I have said many times. Black culture is subjective. People will keep moving the goal post in any direction on that field.
Finkelstein's love for Sanders blinds him. Of course the Democrat elites didn't want Sanders to win the nomination because they thought Biden had a better chance against Trump.
Fascinating and instructive. Honestly, I had never heard Dr. Finkelstein speak and was pleased that Dr Loury pretty much gave him a free rein to rattle on.
In the past, I had read allegations that Dr. Finkelstein had been on the payroll at one time or another of both Hamas and Hezbollah. I have no idea if those allegations are true and was a bit disappointed that this issue did not surface during the interview given the degree to which Dr. Finkelstein has repeatedly condemned Israel in his many books.
Frankly, I have always found Dr. Finkelstein’s mentor, Noam Chomsky, to be certifiably nuts. But, like Dr. Loury, I found myself often nodding my head in agreement with many of the points Dr. Finkelstein was making.
I am continually impressed by Dr. Loury’ s willingness to host guests on this podcast with whom he may have profound disagreement and yet the respect and decency to allow such persons the opportunity to be heard.
What an exhilarating conversation Glenn!
Among other things it made me reconsider the meaning of standing and natural cover, which we discussed here:
Based on your self-censorship paper, I had always thought of standing to speak on particular issues as being a form of protection offered by immutable characteristics related to race, gender, etc. But Finkelstein seems to have standing based on earned cover. His perspective on Obama has a different meaning because of his perspectives on Israel as a Jew. His natural cover on that topic seems to extend to standing on other issues.