Norman Finkelstein on the shift between American Jews and Israel


Norman Finkelstein, who, in a recent post in this blog, is accused of advocating a “soft zionist”approach on the Palestinian question, is still, nevertheless, worth listening to. That is, if we want a coherent, cohesive argument that is accompanied by a moral stance and that is why, despite my own recent reservations vis-a-vis the author, his latest book “Knowing too Much” is recommended despite the reservations that are already taking shape.

The doubts, however, have already been formed after only the first three minutes of the attached clip, when Dr Finkelstein contends that Jews, because they are the richest ethnic community in the United States, should be voting Republican, but are, in fact, consistently voting Democratic. “80% voted Obama”, we are told and we are told that “Jews classify themselves as liberal”. The thesis statement that is being developed in those three minutes is obvious and it will be that this liberal democratic community can no longer give unconditional support to the Israel’s illegal activities in the occupied territories.

Of course, there are at least a couple of assumptions here which just don’t hold. Firstly, what does it mean today in the United States to be a “democrat” and would the 80% who voted Obama, have voted Obama had he not gone to AIPAC before the election and, more or less, declared his unconditional support for the Zionist state? “The Democratic Party”; is that not the party of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and many other die-hard Zionists? Secondly, Norman’s understanding of “liberalism” reminds me of that type of  bourgeoise liberalism that sometimes confuses “liberalism” with libertarianism. Well, maybe that is not Norman’s perception of it, but it is how many of the “liberals” in the Jewish community might see it. Yes, of course, we all enjoy those personal freedoms offered by bourgeoise liberalism and in enjoying them it might just turn our stomachs a little bit to see them abused elsewhere. However, to believe that this revulsion might develop into a wholesale rejection of Israel by the Jewish community in the United States is naive to say the least.

Indeed, the reality in the United States would at least appear to be one where no democrat is going to adopt a stance similar to that taken by Ken Livingstone in London, which is only partly conveyed in a letter of concern, sent to Ed Miliband, by some Labour Party members from the Jewish community. In that letter they say that the mayoral candidate for London, “basically has no sympathy for those that he perceives as bourgeois, which is why he isn’t really attempting to appeal to, and perhaps why he is losing progressive as well as Jewish votes.” Is the implication here that the Jewish community is also “progressive”, a label that Dr Finkelstein would appear to attach to the Jewish community in the United States, for if it is, it is time to ask what is “progressive”? Moreover, when we do so, we can rightly conclude that Mr Livingstone is rejecting those progressives, not because of their bourgeoise liberalism, but rather because of their support for Zionism.

Therefore, in considering the above, it is easy to see that Dr Finkelstein does himself no favours in the first three minutes or so of the clip above. While not all Jews in the United States are supporters of Zionism, it is fair to say that the majority are, it is also fair to say that the party of Obama, Biden and Clinton has also been pro-Israel consistently, at least since 1967, to a degree where we must also label it pro-Zionist. To talk about the Jewish community in the United States, and indeed in the U.K., as liberal and progressive is to put that community into a context where it enjoys the benefits of being liberal and progressive at home but is anything but in its dealings with the Palestinians. Quite simply if those values were to be applied to Palestine, then Zionism would a priori collapse and, however, “well-intentioned” our wooly thinking liberals are, this is the last thing they want. Nevertheless, it must be added that we too will not be doing ourselves any favours if we are to leave it at that and that is why, despite the reservations just outlined, I personally will still be reading Dr Finkelstein’s latest book.

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About sanculottist

There are a lot of poor bastards out there being used and abused; it is just not cricket "old bean". Something tells me that ignorance is not bliss, but is, in fact, simply ignorance and in the global village we cannot look the other way.
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