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Posted in: Anti-Semitism

Published on Apr 03, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

My Norman Finkelstein Problem—And Ours


I am no stranger to withering scorn, hate mail, death threats, and slander. In addition, from the early 1970s on, people have tried to, or have actually, sued me. Once, a grand jury was even convened to question me. Reviewers have both praised and damned my work. This is the inevitable consequence of speaking out and of being a public intellectual. (I was once proud of this designation. Now, given how most intellectuals have betrayed the truth, the Jews, and the West, I'm seriously considering telling people that I'm a gardener, a cook, a carpenter, or just a wordsmith.)

Earlier this week, strange emails began arriving. They were tight, hate-filled, sarcastic, insulting, and very "wordy." I could not understand why they started arriving now, instead of last week, for example. Then, all became clear when I found out that Norman Finkelstein, the infamous darling of the Hate Israel crowd had reprinted my piece Our Eternal Struggle which you may read HERE. However, Finkelstein, titled the piece: Who Would Ever Have Thought That a Cow Could Write the Alphabet?

Long ago, I had been told that Finkelstein had also attacked me in his book Beyond Chutzpah (which, I must admit, I have not read). But I did read some of the offending passages. And, as I quickly scanned the book, I realized that Finkelstein was mimicking an academic book, not actually writing one. Like many in the postmodern academy, the work had a huge and requisite number of footnotes and specialized in very long, often incomprehensible paragraphs—none of which advanced knowledge or was often true. Ersatz knowledge for an Orwellian time. I chose not to respond to Finkelstein because my friend and colleague, Alan Dershowitz, was doing just fine on that score.

Thus, 'tis courtesy of Finkelstein that I received a few rather twisted letters. Here are three, just so my readers will know what's "out there." I dunno. Methinks that Finkelstein himself might have penned these miserable missives—or that his style of pseudo-academic sarcasm and utter lack of brevity is like an infectious disease; his followers, those who are attracted by him, seem to have caught the bug. Two of these three letter writers identify themselves as Jews. Perhaps these are faux-email addresses. But maybe these are real people with very real problems. If we don't stand up to them, their problems become our problems.

Ordinarily, I do not take views such as Finkelstein's seriously but his publisher is none other than the University of California Press. I take that seriously. Finkelstein may be reached at http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/contact/ His website is http://www.normanfinkelstein.com.

LETTER # 1:

I read your ridiculous piece on anti-semitism on Finklestein’s site. How can you not see that Zionism is racism, that Israel is an apartheid state involved in racism, murder, theft and war crimes that rival those of Hitler, a kindred racist, who the Zionists were only too happy to deal with. When Israel calls itself a Jewish state, is there any wonder why hatred of Jews is spreading? As Finklestein points out, you are a stupid cow. Here’s a clue: When you steal someone’s land and murder his family, you won’t be admired.

Michael Berkowitz, michaelberkowitz@yahoo.com

LETTER #2:

Dear Dr. Chesler, I’ve just finished reading your article entitled ‘Our Eternal Struggle’ written for the Jewish Press, and I felt compelled to write you. I have to ask you, in all seriousness: do you genuinely believe this hysterical, vacuous drivel you’ve discharged upon we the already steeped-in-bullshit reading public? Do you genuinely believe in this absurd and unjustifiable conflation of legitimate (and legally supported) criticism of Israel’s post-1967 occupation, warmongering, war crimes, rejectionism, torture, settlement expansion, house demolitions, imprisonment of civilians without trial, slaughter of innocent men, women and children (please show me the evidence from any respected, independent Human Rights organisation’s records to support the claim that Palestinian militants routinely use innocent civilians as human shields); with this old, recycled “New Anti-semitism”? Are you not even a little tempted to entertain the overwhelmingly more credible hypothesis that whatever little new anti-Jewish feeling that does exist can adequately be accounted for by Israel’s very real, very consistent and very gross violations of basic human rights in the eyes of the world? Do you feel at all guilty for damaging, albeit in a very tiny but still notably insidious way, the prospects of achieving a just and lasting peace for both sides to the conflict in the form of a two state settlement in accord with UN Resolution 242 and International Law? I mean, surely this MUST bother you in some small way. Do you suffer from nervous ticks at all? From the trademark Dershowitz facial spasm, perhaps? Guilt must manifest somewhere, surely? Assuming, of course, you’re not a hopeless sociopath. Your genuinely concerned “new anti-semite” (I can safely assume my preceding remarks more than qualify me as a worthy target for this particular piece of ideological excrement?), Hugo Newman. p.s. Shame on you.

Hugo Newman, hugonewman@gmail.com

LETTER #3:

Dr Chesler, I am a grad student in Psychology and am doing a thesis on the correlation between sociopathic individual character and collective group cultural formative factors. My focus will be authoritian character dynamics with its attendent racist, victim-aggressor, infantile entitlement psychopathogy of German/Zionist culture with special connection to the formation of a consciousness that enabled Nazism and Israeli Zionist group think to successfully colonize an adaptive normative group sociopathic standard. Your article "Our eternal struggle” impressed me greatly. I would like to interview you to gain insight into the how the root cause of the great eternal struggle, the struggle against evil operates. By the way I am Jewish. One of the many, and probably majority by now, who finally really get the moral atrocity being perpertrated my a mad subset of my group, have a conscience and are sane enough to feel shame, shock and horror witnessing the moral darkness and sociopathic sadism of the last 61 years. By the way since the Nazi doctors who normalized much of the experiments and orginal extermination of “other people” were psychiartrists would you advise me to not pursue this specialty. — Please, on second thought let me withdraw that question - having read your article, the analogy between your rationalizatios and those of the other experts in Germany disqualify you from responding. Bearing witness Shamefully yours, Yitzak Zev, Elliot Fox

Elliot Fox, foxelliot@aol.com


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