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Norman Finkelstein: Why I resigned from the Gaza Freedom March coalition (updated)

Palestinian schoolboys sitting beside the empty seats of friends who were killed in Israel's Decemeber 08/January09 bombing raid on Gaza.

Palestinian schoolboys sitting beside the empty seats of friends who were killed in Israel's December 08/ January 09 bombing raid on Gaza.

Norman Finkelstein has announced his resignation from the Gaza Freedom March Coalition. He cites the adding of a Political Context statement, which he dubs ‘sectarian’, as the reason he fears the movement’s appeal would be narrowed.  As noted previously, Finkelstein’s involvement has not been uncontroversial, but his absence is a pity. This important movement to urgently end the illegal and reprehensible siege of Gaza Palestine needs the widest possible support. You can sign up for the trip here. (For context, also see this excellent post by our friend Max Ajl who is himself involved in organizing the march).

UPDATE: The Electronic Intifada has published this thoughtful response from Gabriel Ash, Mich Levy, and Sara Kershnar, Compromising for Gaza without compromising Palestine.

Norman Finkelstein’s withdrawal statement:

The original consensus of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza was that we would limit our statement to a pair of uncontroversial, basic and complementary principles that would have the broadest possible appeal: the march to break the siege would be nonviolent and anchored in international law.

I agreed with this approach and consequent statement and decided to remove myself from the steering committee in order to invest my full energies in mobilizing for the march.  During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed “the political context” was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months.

Because it drags in contentious issues that—however precious to different constituencies—are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal.

It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation.   It was whether inclusion in the coalition’s statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration.

In addition the tactics by which this new agenda was imposed do not bode well for the future of the coalition’s work and will likely move the coalition in an increasingly sectarian direction.  I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal.   Because I would loathe getting bogged down in a petty and squalid public brawl I will not comment further on this matter unless the sequence of events climaxing in my decision to resign are misrepresented by interested parties.

However I would be remiss in my moral obligations were I not humbly to apologize to those who, either coaxed by me or encouraged by my participation, gave selflessly of themselves to make the march a historic event and now feel aggrieved at the abrupt turn of events.  It can only be said in extenuation that I along with many others desperately fought to preserve the ecumenical vision that originally inspired the march but the obstacles thrown in our path ultimately proved insurmountable.

Gaza Freedom March organizers adopt statement of context

From: Haidar Eid
Date: 2009/9/4
Subject: Gaza Freedom March organizers adopt statement of context
To:

Dear all,

We were just informed that the organizing committee of the Gaza Freedom March has finally adopted the statement of context that takes into consideration the key constructive suggestions expressed by both of us (Omar Barghouti and Haidar Eid) weeks ago.

We and the organizers of the March have reached an agreement whereby the Call will be posted with a clear reference to the statement of context, which clearly acknowledges that Palestinians have for over six decades been denied their basic rights that they are entitled to under international law, including the right of return, and the fact that Palestinian civil society has adopted Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as one of its main civil resistance strategies against Israel’s occupation and other injustices.

Accordingly, we fully endorse the Gaza Freedom March call to action and statement of context, and we call on all supporters of international law, just peace and Palestinian rights to endorse them as well and to do whatever is possible to make this March a success.

A lot of work still needs to be done, clearly, to iron out organizational and logistical details, particularly to minimize the risks to the Palestinians in Gaza who will participate in this form of civil resistance; but these challenges can best be met by a wide coalition of enthusiastic, principled and well organized networks across the world, all coming together to make this happen. It can also happen if we all manage to convince world renowned figures to lead the March, as initially planned.

Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)
Haidar Eid (Gaza)

Read the new call of the Gaza Freedom March, at this link :
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/424/t/9750/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=2055


In Solidarity
from all
International Movement to Open Rafah Border

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=9986479902

“Only a united world against oppression will help unite and free all of Palestine.”

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country

Haidar Eid and Omar Barghouti had earlier sent an email to Free Gaza March (FGM) supporters and signatories outlining their concerns:

Dear signatories of the Gaza Freedom March statement,

We think most Palestinians will agree that the intentions behind this call are noble and that there is clear moral courage involved in endorsing this freedom march. We think that this initiative, “inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the encroachments of Israel’s annexationist wall”, is worthy of the widest international support.

We do have a few concerns and constructive suggestions, though, and we want to share them with you:

1) The statement omits — perhaps inadvertently — the necessary legal and political context of the illegal siege, Israel’s 42-year-old military occupation and 61-year-old denial of the UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestinian refugees, who constitute more than 75% of the population of the occupied Gaza Strip. This is a substantial oversight, as the siege is not just about suffering and humanitarian needs, but political rights, above all the right to self determination, as stipulated in UN principles. The only mention of the occupation comes towards the very end, without an explicit call to end it: “The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would be unsustainable.” This is equivalent to issuing a statement in the 1980s calling for action in solidarity with the South African majority without mentioning ending apartheid.

2) From all the available information, this whole idea of a non-violent march in Gaza against the siege was conceived and developed without due consultation with Palestinian civil society representatives (elected parliamentarians, leading academics/intellectuals, experienced activists, trade unionists, women leaders, student leaders, etc.), particularly those in Gaza. While the document talks about “joining ranks with the people of Gaza”, in reality, the Palestinian people in Gaza are the ones being invited here to join ranks with predominantly international figures, going to Gaza in an otherwise deeply appreciated show of solidarity and moral courage. This is not to undermine the idea; it just highlights the fact that the proposal comes from outside without taking into consideration the aspirations, concerns and express needs of the Palestinian people under siege in Gaza.

One obvious example of such needs is for international civil society to apply pressure on the Egyptian authorities to reopen the Rafah Crossing to allow freedom of movement and partially relieve the humanitarian crisis, in such a way that does not help Israel claim that its effective control over, and therefore occupation of, Gaza has ended. The marches, many people in Gaza believe, should aim at breaking the siege in a way that will allow people to move freely out of Gaza. Rafah is currently the only exit Gaza has to the external world; opening the Erez/Beit Hanoun checkpoint would – obviously — still not allow freedom of movement as Israel alone decides who exits and under what circumstances and conditions, as the case was before the full application of the siege. We, therefore, think that pressure to reopen the Rafah Crossing is crucial and deserves to be highlighted in the statement. The fact that Egypt has managed to open the Crossing so many disparate days already shows that it can and that it is vulnerable to pressure. Accordingly, simultaneous marches should, in our view, be organized to Erez as well as the Rafah Crossing.

3) While over-emphasizing Gandhian non-violence, the statement ignores the most effective, home grown, non-violent form of resistance advocated by most Palestinians today: BDS. This omission is particularly perplexing given that BDS is not only the most prevalent non-violent form of resistance today; it is inspired by a century of Palestinian civil struggle and more recently by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Furthermore, there were no efforts made by the initiators of this proposal to coordinate or consult with the BDS National Committee, BNC, the umbrella group of the most important Palestinian political parties, trade unions, mass movements and NGOs that is guiding and leading the global BDS movement.

4) Palestinians in Gaza are referred to as “the people of Gaza” or the “population of Gaza,” inadvertently stripping them of their national identity and, as a result, giving credence to the Israeli division of the Palestinians into THE Palestinians, meaning those in the West Bank, “Israeli Arabs”, some abstract refugees, and “the people of Gaza.” The people in Gaza are only indirectly referred to as part of the Palestinian people. This could adversely affect their right to self determination as an integral part of the people of Palestine.

5) Some of the most impressive popular resistance actions in Gaza are worth mentioning in the statement as part of the “chain of nonviolent resistance to Israel’s flagrant disregard of international law.” Examples include the human chain from Rafah to Erez, the tearing down of the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt and the marches to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel.

Best regards,

Haidar Eid (Gaza) and Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

62 comments on “Norman Finkelstein: Why I resigned from the Gaza Freedom March coalition (updated)

  1. Chrysalis
    7 September, 2009

    Its a shame and I hope it doesn’6t sabotage or undermine the effort.

    Here’s what Max Ajl had to say:

    Fair enough: they’re the Palestinians, we’re the Westerners. They set the terms for our solidarity. That, I’m with. Norman Finkelstein has left the march because of the conditions set for this endorsement. He didn’t leave quietly and amicably. He left and made a statement. That statement was harsh. That statement was public. It didn’t have to be. But a public statement invites a public response. There will be a public response, I imagine. My readers can probably guess what I think of Finkelstein’s statement. But a few words. About this phrase, “it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal”: is this self-fulfilling prophecy, since Finkelstein, who had intended to barnstorm to raise awareness of this mobilization, will no longer be expanding the “reach of our original appeal”? I’m relatively new to this stuff, but wasn’t it important to first get near-unanimity from Palestinian civil society on the principles underlying the march and thereupon move forward on that foundation? And seriously: what Americans or Westerners would leave a coalition because of a “statement of context,” or wouldn’t join because of it? I’d be “remiss” if I didn’t point out that in the e-mail traffic of the last few months concern about the statement of principles wasn’t NF’s priority except as a diversion from organizing and mobilization. But now it’s “sectarian,” so much so as to cause resignation. Cue self-serious tone: it’s not a happy moment for me when someone I admire so much crashes so hard to earth.

  2. 99
    7 September, 2009

    I trust Norman on this. I trust him 100% on this. He has given everything for justice in Palestine, and there is NO way he would do anything to jeopardize success in the liberation of Palestinians.

    I am in the middle of very trying personal circumstances and cannot pay close attention, but I listened to him on the subject of this march and I am 100% certain he is doing this for good, decent, human, altruistic reasons… and anyone not listening to him is making a huge mistake.

    I have been guilty of the blindness of hero worship plenty of times, but this time there isn’t so much as an ion of dissent about this in me.

    Norman is right. Everyone else is wrong. On this.

    Heed him if it is not too late.

  3. m.idrees
    7 September, 2009

    I completely agree with Max Ajl’s analysis. I am quite dismayed that Finkelstein should try to sabotage the march just because the Palestinians are trying to make it more meaningful by tying it to BDS and the Right of Return. To describe these two fundamental Palestinian demands as a ‘sectarian’ agenda is a mere gratuitous slur.

  4. 99
    7 September, 2009

    I beg you to reconsider.

    To think harder, or stop thinking at look at it as dispassionately as possible.

    It HAS to be the whole rest of the world liberating suffering humans for completely non-partisan reasons. The Palestinians must not have ANY involvement, or the whole thing is way too apt to be nothing more than a gigantic failure, a festival of “activists” getting to love themselves for trying so hard to do good, when the ONLY way that good will be done is if everyone EXCEPT THE OPPRESSED goes in and makes it stop.

    It will fail as surely as every other effort unless you heed this wisdom.

    DON’T make this mistake.

    Way more depends on it than mere shows of solidarity, or concerns that Norman’s ego is too big. The man is a sculpture of the RIGHT kind of humility, and so dedicated, and so prominent, and there is every chance he’d be picked off by a sniper just for spite. His life’s work is on the line, and his life is on the line. It gets done the right way, or EVERYONE is an asshole for expecting him to back such an apocalyptic for the Palestinians mistake… apocalyptic for us ALL.

    Please. Think harder.

    NORMAN IS RIGHT.

  5. m.idrees
    7 September, 2009

    It HAS to be the whole rest of the world liberating suffering humans for completely non-partisan reasons. The Palestinians must not have ANY involvement, or the whole thing is way too apt to be nothing more than a gigantic failure, a festival of “activists” getting to love themselves for trying so hard to do good, when the ONLY way that good will be done is if everyone EXCEPT THE OPPRESSED goes in and makes it stop.

    That’s a non-sequitur. You should take your own advice and think harder.

  6. qunfuz
    7 September, 2009

    I don’t understand your point, 99, except that you think Finkelstein must be 100% right. And I really don’t agree with “The Palestinians must not have any involvement.” Sorry, 99, but it’s their issue, not ours.

    As Idrees says, the right of return is fundamental, especially to the population of Gaza, over 80% of whom are refugees. The boycott is also a basic means of resistance. By refusing their inclusion in a statement of context it is Finkelstein who is ‘sectarian.’ And how arrogant of him to use that word, and to queen about in this fashion. He has slipped far in my estimation.

    One of the major problems facing Palestine is the Zionist attempt to separate areas and issues in people’s minds, so that today we talk about Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, the refugees, the Palestinian Israelis as if they were separate peoples with separate problems. Finkelstein’s narrow focus on Gaza’s seige is part of this.

    In fact, given Finkelstein’s ‘sectarian’ focus on the unjust and unworkable two-state solution (called a bantustan solution in south Africa), and his focus on himself as the saviour, I have much more sympathy for the march now than before his resignation.

  7. malangbaba
    7 September, 2009

    I think (and hope) that 99 is being sarcastic

  8. peoplesgeography
    7 September, 2009

    Personally, I’m reserving judgment until we have more of the facts, but it doesn’t look good. As 99 knows, I must admit to being initially taken aback by the counter-intuitive proposition that no Palestinians be involved. I’d like to understand the rationale however, and to share some communication with 99.

    From what I understand, 99 supports Finkelstein’s position that for maximum efficacy and appeal, this struggle has to be framed as a human one rather than a partisan or even a Palestinian one (that’s the reasoning, not my position). The rationale appears to be that its got to be something the rest of the world does for the Palestinians as fellow humans, for once.

    Again, I’m not sure I support this rationale or uphold its perceived strategic value, but am trying to make a sincere effort to understand it alongside the very compelling argument against it, and along with Max, Idrees and Robin have laid out the case for why it should explicitly be framed as a Palestinian (and human) issue very well here.

  9. 99
    7 September, 2009

    I’m not kidding. It’s very late and my father is in VERY dire extremis, so I might not be making the sense I should, but it is vital you make an effort to grasp my point, and it seems Ann has gotten the gist of it.

    Norman sees it. He’s staking his life on it, and he is doing right now precisely the only thing that holds out the hope of turning this around, turning it back into the thing that sets Palestine free at last.

    I know the distinction is recondite, but this is NOT “their” fight. This is all humankind’s fight and there is ONE chance of winning it.

    Norman’s way.

    He’s right.

    This is not a matter of opinion but of vision… and Norman has it.

    I’m so desperately tired and must plead with you all not to take offense, not to be insulted, none of that inheres my plea.

    NORMAN IS RIGHT. Do it his way and it will work. Ignore him and the best you can hope for is temporary semi-retreat in mostly rhetorical areas, and Palestine will remain in this agony, this long-aching and unendurable agony. NORMAN IS RIGHT.

    Try not to forget that right now he knows more about Gandhi than probably anyone alive… but certainly anyone this conversant with the instant situation… Gandhi opened his eyes. He sees it. Listen to him.

    I know everyone is busy and offended and freaked and, and, and… but this is huge and it deserves that you try your hardest to catch a glimpse of the truth.

    Listen to Norman Finkelstein. He’s right.

  10. peoplesgeography
    7 September, 2009

    In a previous comment on an earlier post on the Gaza March, Max also made this point that might be relevant to consider in this discussion:

    “Shouldn’t such a campaign have a steering committee on which the people of Gaza are effectively represented before it goes out? What if Israeli response to this campaign is not to shoot Noam Chomsky but to let them pass peacefully and then bomb Khan Younis? don’t the people of Khan Younis has a right to be consulted, consider the risk, decide that it is or isn’t worth it? Shouldn’t Palestinian grassroots organizers in the U.S. be involved?”

  11. Asa
    7 September, 2009

    Right. 99, I guess you are being sarcastic. Fair enough, but maybe a little harsh on the man.

    OK: I’ve read this blog post, and the other posts it links to. Controversy aside, I don’t see anywhere in the Gaza march material that mentions right of return either in the “statement of context” or the sign up pledge. So I don’t really see why he should have resigned from this march.

    The new context statement does mention the FACT that Palestinians have endorsed BDS. It does not commit those signed up to the Gaza march to BDS. It merely mentions it.

    Have I missed something here? Where does it even mention the right of return?

    With all that in mind, this just looks like one of those unfortunate internal conflicts you get in such activist groups: more about clash of personalities than anything else.

    However, I will say some critical words about Finkelstein’s actions here. In particular I tend to agree with Max Ajl’s post above.

    In a way, this has kind of been the problem with this initiative from the outset. They pretty much just decided to go ahead with it, without (as far I saw at the time) even consulting Palestinians on the ground first. This struck me as a) potential “colonialist activism” and b) doomed to failure without a Palestinian lead.

    Nevertheless I was not vocally critical, hoping that they would engage with Palestinian activists on the group and begin to take the lead from them. Fortunately, it seems that this has started to happen. Unfortunately, Finkelstein seems to have an issue with this?? (am I missing something here?)

    Although he mentions it’s about the potentially divisive impact of focusing on the right of return (which, tactically speaking, he might have a point on — although personally I wouldn’t agree enough of a point not to focus on it) — that seems to me a moot point, as I don’t see how the Context Statement even mentions it! How is it sectarian exactly?

    Am I right in thinking this is the statement Finkelstein was talking about : http://www.gazafreedommarch.org/article.php?id=5081 ?

    No mention of the right of return at all! (unless I’m missing something?!?)

    HOWEVER, I have to say, with statements like this out there:
    http://gaza08.blogspot.com/2009/07/tarzan-in-africa.html

    … I can kind of see it from Finkelstein’s point of view. I mean: this really is too much. Don’t get me wrong. I pretty much agree with all the political positions in that statement. Peronally, I am for one democratic state. I am for all boycotting the Zionist entity in all ways possible. But there is a time and place. As someone coming from the West it took me a while to come around to these points of view. I think that it’s unrealistic to expect thousands of young activists, new to the cause to subscribe to such positions when there is NO Palestinian leadership or political party that is officially working towards one democratic state. Even PACBI and the BNC take no position on one-vs-two states as their focus is the BDS campaign (correctly IMHO).

    That said though, I can’t see anything in the official Gaza march material that is “sectarian” like Finkelstein claims. If, as I suspect, he has a personal problem with others involved in the March, he should just have quietly backed out.

    I still very much respect the guy for his work, but it seems that, like Chomsky, he’s always been too “moderate” on practical solutions in Palestine to be an organiser.

  12. peoplesgeography
    7 September, 2009

    Asa,

    thanks for your thoughtful comments and observations. Note that 99 is being very serious, and I think agrees with Finkelstein’s position that, if I understand it correctly, sees it is a tactical error to tie the march with RoR or to a one-state outcome (thus precluding the support of the two-staters) rather than concentrating on what is seen as the immediate imperative of ending the crippling siege.

    I’m not sure that’s what the statement of context does, though, and the strategic value of pursuing a narrow immediate goal versus tying in wider (and long overdue!) rights is certainly a matter of contention.

    On NF’s position on RoR, you’ll find more here if you go through some of the comments about his Sabra-Shatila camp address, and you are right to notice that it is not explicitly raised on the main website (there’s also a Facebook page for the movement).

    Ann

  13. m.idrees
    7 September, 2009

    This is the right of return reference that Finkelstein presumably found ‘sectarian’.

    For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194.

    And you are right, if he had disagreements he could have quietly withdrawn. Instead he tried to sabotage the whole thing. This makes it more than personal.

    This whole discussion is based on the self-important, silly premise that Finkelstein marching with his undivided, non-sectarian troupe of white Gandhis would ‘break the siege’. Presumably Israel would be so swayed by his moral example that it won’t rebuild the wall the next day (as it did after Hamas ‘broke the siege’ when it blew up the wall), after the Good Samaritans have marched back to the mundane, predictable security of their American/European homes. This is just the type of symbolic feel-good mode of protest (exclusive to the anglophone world) which I have come to reject because its futile, its about US rather than about THEM. I also found this march pretty pointless, a drain on resource and energies, until I discovered that attempts are being made to integrate it into the wider palestinian struggle that includes the BDS movement and a sustained (as opposed to the symbolic one-off) and meaningful commitment to change.

  14. qunfuz
    7 September, 2009

    99 – I really don’t think Finkelstein is right at all. And I think Gandhi is over-rated. But apart from all that, I’m sure that everyone shares with me in sympathising with you when your father is so ill. My best wishes to you at this difficult time.

    Robin

  15. hysperia
    7 September, 2009

    I signed up to march in Gaza because of Norman Finkelstein. I actually had some difficulties with marching against the seige “only” and thought it was a bit disingenuous. But I have a lot of re-thinking to do now. “Gandhi is overrated”???? I’m aware that the Vietnam protests didn’t become truly effective until they involved people from across sectarian divides. That took time and a lot of work and suffering. I was hoping, in this instance, that we could start in that place of union and solidarity that came only at the end of those terrible years. Maybe not?

  16. Ismail
    7 September, 2009

    I can see the reasoning behind Finkelstein’s position. Despite my own support for ROR and one state, I think that it makes no sense to alienate those who are outraged by the assault on Gaza even if they are not as politically astute as I would like. More people=more political effect.

    Many folks in the USA in 1960 were appalled by the disenfranchisement of black voters. Many of these people might at the same time have been uncomfortable about, say, intermarriage. What made greater political sense: to insist that actions must endorse the entire panoply of civil rights issues, or focus on voting rights and insure greater participation?

  17. 99
    7 September, 2009

    Thank you hysperia. Bless your heart.

    idrees, does it ever occur to you that your bitter boiling everything down to a problem of white racism is racism? Did Norman ever say, No, only white saviors allowed? You need some black or brown person to clock you on this one because red sure ain’t getting through.

    Anyway, thank you for putting up with me here, and thank you for trying to see it.

  18. Max
    7 September, 2009

    Just to clarify, that was Gabriel from Jews Sans Frontieres point, but obviously I agree entirely. I want to add that the march seems to be gathering a lot of momentum. Every person I’ve talked to [except one guy who I hit up for a donation] is enthusiastic. I support what went on, although I wasn’t privy to any of the conversation that preceded it.

  19. m.idrees
    7 September, 2009

    More people=more political effect.

    YOu really need to read some Gramsci. Numbers don’t mean a whole lot unless the sources of power are identified and pressure is directed at vulnerable spots. Remember the millions who marched in the street to protest the Iraq war?

    “Gandhi is overrated”????

    As a matter of fact, he is. His Satyagraha was a failure. His use of religious symbolism and imagery was the catalyst for the split that eventually created a divided subcontinent. He miscalculated during WWII and started the Quit India movement expecting the Japanese to win. IN fact, it was the massive Japanese violence, rather than Gandhi’s non-violence, which eventually convinced the Brits to leave. And both circumstances have no parallels at all. India was ruled through proxy, by a massive native army, and fear of mutiny was always high. Hence the Brit reluctance to use overwhelming force. And even Gandhi’s failed non-violent strategy was working contrapuntally against the widespread violence of the insurgents in the various regions of the subcontinent. He played off them.

    idrees, does it ever occur to you that your bitter boiling everything down to a problem of white racism is racism?

    I wasn’t boiling things down to anything. You suggested that Palestinians should step aside and allow Finkelstein to come and liberate them. If that’s not White Man’s Burden, I am not sure what is.

  20. 99
    7 September, 2009

    It isn’t Finkelstein coming to liberate them; it’s ALL of the rest of humanity. That’s perfectly crystal clear from him if not from me, and SHOULD be to everyone anyway.

    Here’s more discussion of this point in the comments, if you care. I’m too whupped to keep talking, and I think it becomes counter-productive very quickly when trying to yank everyone up out of the trees to catch a glimpse of the forest…….

  21. m.idrees
    7 September, 2009

    It isn’t Finkelstein coming to liberate them; it’s ALL of the rest of humanity.

    Sure, but why do the Palestinians have to be separated from the rest of humanity? And what does liberating them mean anyway. Is there some guarantee that the day after all the checkpoints and obstacles won’t go back up again? On the other hand the BDS campaign will still be there, and hopefully gaining further momentum.

  22. qunfuz
    7 September, 2009

    good point Ismail – although ‘voting rights’ is the one state solution.

  23. qunfuz
    7 September, 2009

    Fair enough, hysperia – my ‘over-rated’ comment was loose shorthand. But when 99 says of Finkelstein, “right now he knows more about Gandhi than probably anyone alive” – it sounds almost religious to me, like Finkelstein is the top Ayatullah or shaikh of al-azhar or something, with access to the truth text. Gandhi was undoubtedly a great man, but he made mistakes, and his particular context was not the same as the Palestinian one.

    I wrote about Finkelstein and Gandi here. http://pulsemedia.org/2009/02/07/non-violence-finkelstein-and-gandhi/
    A point I didn’t make in that post was that one of Gandhi’s mistakes was his sectarianism – using specifically Hindu imagery contributed to the later partition.

  24. qunfuz
    7 September, 2009

    so let’s have a march to demand voting rights, an end to the voting seige

  25. Pingback: 2 Views on Norman Finkelstein's putting Zionism off limits in the debate | Palestine Think Tank

  26. Élise Hendrick
    7 September, 2009

    I tend towards giving Finkelstein the benefit of the doubt here. First of all, concerning the statement that “he could have left quietly,” I think it’s rather unlikely that no one would notice that Finkelstein’s name had disappeared from the list of endorsers. Chances are, even if he hadn’t said a thing, the same discussion would ultimately have ensued once someone picked up on the fact that his name was no longer on the list.

    Statement or no statement, then, his resignation was probably going to attract attention and discussion. In such a context, a statement can be useful for clarification of some of the obvious questions, such as “Does this mean he opposes the goal of breaking the blockade?” etc. He didn’t name names, and he didn’t attack anyone specifically. I think, as a whole, his statement is quite circumspect.

    It does, of course, leave plenty of open questions. In particular, there is a lot of speculation as to what part of the Statement of Context led to his resignation.

    It seems, as a whole, that his belief is that the immediate problem – the murderous blockade of Gaza – can most effectively be handled by an appeal that is specific to it. This is a tactical judgment, and reasonable people can certainly disagree with it, but I think it does make some sense.

    It seems reasonable to suppose that people are more likely to respond to a current humanitarian crisis, one about which there is consensus amongst all international observers, from the UN to Amnesty, than they are to an appeal that takes up broader issues about which they may be insufficiently informed, undecied, or on which they may simply disagree. If the goal is to ensure as broad an international coalition as possible to break the Gaza blockade, there is some sense in keeping the issue as narrow as possible. People may find their way to the broader issue through work on a narrow one.

    There is also a lot of criticism of the use of the word “sectarian”. This word certainly does have a negative connotation in common usage, but, at bottom, it essentially means “particular to a specific faction.” Considering that some of the central statements in the Statement of Context, such as BDS, are things he is on record as emphatically supporting, it seems reasonable to assume that his problem is not with the content of the Statement, but with its attachment to an appeal that has the potential of attracting the support of people who are on different sides of the issue on these broader questions.

    I think it’s an entirely reasonable assumption. He may certainly be wrong. I hope that he is, and that the Statement of Context has the effect of causing people already disgusted by the treatment of Gaza to look at things from a broader perspective.

    But I don’t think we should be so quick to condemn someone whose commitment is indisputably genuine, who has made these exact points countless times, and who has done invaluable work on the issue.

  27. m.idrees
    7 September, 2009

    I wasn’t aware that NF had emphatically supported BDS. On the various occasions that I have heard the question asked he has sidestepped it.

    As regards what you call the current humanitarian crisis, its roots are political, as NF well knows. So once again, what does breaking the siege mean? What happens the day after once the marchers leave?

    Symbolic protest never changed a thing. The point of symbolic protest is always to raise awareness about larger issues. The march has only become meaningful now with the references to BDS and RoR added.

    As regards his use of words, it doesn’t matter what dictionary defition no. 3 says. He knew what he meant when used the word sectarian, and everyone else who reads it also knows. What does ‘foisted’ mean? Since these decisions are made democratically, I am assuming the statement of context had majority support. Surely we would have heard of other resignations had it not?

  28. Élise Hendrick
    7 September, 2009

    This is just a selection of recent posts, with commentary in the post titles by Finkelstein, from his website. His brief comments on each of the BDS efforts is positive, sometimes positively euphoric. This is obviously not meant to be exhaustive, but clearly shows that Finkelstein can hardly be considered an opponent of BDS.

    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/unusually-excellent-article/ (Haaretz piece, described by Finkelstein as an “unusually excellent article, advocating BDS)

    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/please-post-under-long-live-vikings/ (“Norway examines the ethics of its Israel investments”; Finkelstein’s comment in the link “Long live the Vikings!”)

    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/scottish-workers-unite-for-peace-and-justice-in-palestine/ (“Scottish TUC commits decisively for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions”, described by Finkelstein as “Scottish workers unite for peace and justice in Palestine”)

    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/humane-canadians-for-a-change/ (“Camping retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op considers Israel boycott” – Finkelstein’s description “Humane Canadians (for a change)”)

    _____________________________
    Editor’s note: Élise, apologies for the time-lag in this comment appearing. Because it contains more than three links, it was quarantined automatically by the spam filter where I’ve just released it.

  29. 99
    8 September, 2009

    If you look at the comments at the link I gave, I think it answers why the Palestinians have to stand down for this to work.

    Or not.

    People tend to read what they already think instead of what is being said, which adds greatly to the shortcomings of language itself, and written language in particular.

    On the surface it may make no sense for them to stay out of it, the imperative that they stay out of it. But it does make ultimate sense, and they should stand down for this one immediately.

  30. d.kuche
    8 September, 2009

    NF has lost his prof. career ultimately due to his support for the Palestinian cause (and due to enemies such as A. Deshowitz). You can’t say his participation in this march was all about him. I watched a recent interview and he outlined the reasons for the march. Mainly to stop now the stranglehold that Gazans must deal daily with. In other speeches and interviews he has stated, if only the Palestinians had the courage to chip away at the wall, citing International Law, and the Israelis responded with atrocities, the International community would wake up and turn the tide against the Israelis and the Palestinian cause would prevail. And the momentum would push the other issues as well. This was about getting the whole world watching and to get results one step at a time (a big step in itself). Now that the whole shebang or ‘context’ is thrown in, do you think it will get anywhere? The thinking will be like when the German general asked the American general to surrender and the response was ‘Nuts’

    You say well he’s an outsider — have they had any success doing anthing like this on their own? Norman has studied both sides ad infinitum and knows the motives of the Israelis better then they know themselves. Many times it takes someone from the outside with insight to help solve problems and it’s a shame this couldn’t come off as was first intended.

  31. 99
    8 September, 2009

    I guess I am relying on people to figure out that I wouldn’t be so emphatic if it were not so vital, and whether “it sounds almost religious” bears not a whit on the point.

    The point is vital. And so I yelp.

  32. m.idrees
    8 September, 2009

    In other speeches and interviews he has stated, if only the Palestinians had the courage to chip away at the wall, citing International Law, and the Israelis responded with atrocities, the International community would wake up and turn the tide against the Israelis and the Palestinian cause would prevail.

    Yep. If only they had the courage. Or the education to know what international law is. A palestinian citing international law? That’s unheard of. Yes, I am totally convinced all it would take to break the International community’s siesta is for the Israelis to commit an atrocity. Now that’s gonna be a tough one.

  33. Max
    8 September, 2009

    99, do you even understand what we have envisioned as the physical configuration of the march? The Palestinians are going to be marching with us. Or, we’re going to be march with them. Or we’re going to be marching together. The idea has been to do this in such a way that the IDF doesn’t turn around and pummel Gaza after the Westerners leave. But that point notwithstanding, it is the Palestinians in Gaza and not the Westerners who will deal with the direct consequences of this action–which could involve retaliatory attacks. They aren’t “out of it” no matter what.

  34. hysperia
    8 September, 2009

    As I understand it, Norm Finkelstein pulled out of Gaza Freedom March for two reasons.

    1. The process used to discuss and finalize the “Statement of Context” was flawed.
    2. The “Statement of Context” is flawed and violates the principle by which Finkelstein (and others) were willing to stand – that is, that the Freedom March be anchored in criminal law.

    For anyone who cares, here’s what I think:

    As for the process, it worries me deeply. As a feminist, I am deeply aware that those who are affected by decisions taken “at the top” or by “organizing committees” etc. must be fair and inclusive and must appear to be so. The process by which the “Statement of Context” was drafted was neither fair nor inclusive. It binds me, as one who both endorsed the Gaza Freedom March and signed up to attend the March, to principles I didn’t sign up for. That’s divisive and, frankly, wrong.

    As for the principles outline in the Statement, the language is so loose that it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what’s being said but, fatally, it’s internally contradictory and violates the principle that the March ought to protest on the basis of International Law, because:

    1. The language with respect to the Palestinian “Right of Return” refers to “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians” yearning for return since 1948 – it’s unclear whether than includes the generations born after 1948 and thus is more in accord with the Israeli position. My bet is, that’s a mistake, but it doesn’t give me confidence that the writers understand the implications of the principle.

    2. The UNGA resolution relied upon in supporting the Palestinian Right of Return includes reference to a “two-state solution”. Rely on the UNGA for anything and you must rely on it for everything – or it will be used against you. This is a big tactical error.

    3. Boycott, Divest, Sanction is a divisive issue whether you like it or not. It doesn’t matter to me whether Finkelstein is “for it” or “against it”, but it does matter that many people are for it and many are against it. It’s a shame and contrary to the initial idea to exclude people from the March who don’t, for whatever reason, support “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” – another tactical error. Sometimes better known as shooting yourself in the foot.

    I find Finkelstein’s argument now as compelling as I found his arguments in the first place. I’m not a Finkelstein “worshipper” – I’d never heard of him till I read his work in support of the March. After having read and thought about his resignation and carefully perused the Statement of Context that appeared AFTER I’d endorsed and signed up for the March, I’ve decided to withdraw my endorsement and stay home from Gaza. This is, indeed, sad, but not as sad as it often is to stand for something that you think can’t possibly work.

    And, ad hominem attacks on Finkelstein (and Ghandi) just don’t impress me.

  35. Max
    8 September, 2009

    Elise,
    You’ll know from the way I wrote what I wrote that I really want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I feel like a little kid in the level of admiration I have (perhaps had, for now) for the man. It’s true that discussion would have ensued otherwise, but then it would’ve been, at a certain level, gossip. It would have continued at a lower pitch, too. NF’s intervention makes it not gossip but the legitimate object of public debate or discussion among people who are working on the mobilization [that, obviously, includes me].

    The secondary issue is that the tone and argument of the piece ignore the fact that NF’s role was very much to be a barnstormer. He’s great at that. That he’s not doing will mean the initiative will have less visibility. It’s hard to not see it as a sabotaging effort. He should’ve stepped off and said, support the mobilization, even if I’m not involved.

    There’s a third issue too: the tempering of what should rightly be enormous respect for Finkelstein’s life’s work with stark acknowledgment that if these are the terms he’s placing on his organizational activity [in effect, solidarity] then organizers can’t work with him.

  36. Max
    8 September, 2009

    Hysperia,
    I hate to use the argumentative tactic that I’m about to, because it seems unfair, but you just don’t know what happened and you don’t know what you’re talking about. Sorry.

  37. 99
    8 September, 2009

    Yes, Max. The more reason to heed NF.

  38. 99
    8 September, 2009

    I heard NF describing the march in great detail…. I have a very good idea of what his vision was.

  39. Max
    8 September, 2009

    This is a bizarrely Leninist and vanguardist vision. “Leave decision-making in the hands of those in possession of the requisite/superior knowledge/vision, the proles will follow along.” You really don’t understand the dynamics or politics behind any of this, do you?

  40. Max
    8 September, 2009

    The issue is not his vision. The Palestinians, so far as I can tell, are not looking for the moshiach.

  41. m.idrees
    8 September, 2009

    After having read and thought about his resignation and carefully perused the Statement of Context that appeared AFTER I’d endorsed and signed up for the March, I’ve decided to withdraw my endorsement and stay home from Gaza.

    Such asinine self-important pomposity makes one wonder if the Palestinians won’t be better off without this type of (conditional) support. I am disgusted that the Palestinians’ demand to have a voice would occasion this type of cretinous hysterics by self-anointed would-be messiahs. It reminds me of the fellow at the Make Poverty History march who told me that he won’t do anything more for those bloody Africans because he had attended the Live Aid concert for them in the ’80s and ‘look at them, they are still starving’.

    As regards the alleged ‘ad hominem’ attack on Gandhi (something tells me you have no idea what ad hominem means), I presume you are talking about the brief history of Satyagraha mentioned earlier. I am of course reproducing in watered down form the criticisms of those other notorious character assassins: Arundhati Roy and Tariq Ali. FYI: Tariq tells me that Verso is publishing a book by Ambedkar on Gandhi, separating the man from the myth, with an introduction by Arundhati Roy. You must get yourself a copy. Gandhi was a great man, but like most great men prone to mistakes. The fellow you have in mind is Ben Kingsley, a first rate English actor but not someone whose example one could follow when it comes to strategies of resistance.

  42. Pingback: PUTTING ZIONISM OFF LIMITS IN THE DEBATE « Desertpeace

  43. LD
    8 September, 2009

    99 you sound like a troll.

    Stop licking NF’s boots. He’s not the savior of the Palestinian people. And you’re not representing him well by spamming this blog entry and others (I assume you’re the same ‘Agent 99’) w/ your inanely idiotic idol-worship.

  44. Declan
    8 September, 2009

    I cannot believe some of the comments I have read here. As someone who has lived under a foreign military oppressive presence in my own country of Ireland, having lost friends to the conflict lived as a 2nd class citizen in my own country. I have a few words to say about this from the perspective of the oppressed.

    There are some seriously troubling statements in this comment section from the “99” poster, here are a few:

    1. I trust Norman on this. I trust him 100% on this. He has given everything for justice in Palestine,

    >>>Untrue and a disrespectful comment to Palestinians, Finkelstein lives in America, with equality, freedom, a justice system and the largest army in the world to protect him. He lives in a house that foreign invaders cannot remove him from and then claim as their own. He cannot be kidnapped and interned and he does not risk being shot when he takes a stroll near a US border. He can freely travel within all parts of America, he can even leave the country and then re-enter. In short, he is “free” But, in sharp contrast, Palestinians have none of the above, and, moreover it is they who have “given everything for justice in Palestine” NOT Norman Finkelstein.,and they do this with each body they bury. Finkelstein “chose” to take up the cause for Palestinians, in doing so he lost his job teaching. He made a moral choice, but for doing so this does not mean his sacrifice can be compared to the sacrifices of Palestinians. So I find this insulting.

    2. The Palestinians must not have ANY involvement, or the whole thing is way too apt to be nothing more than a gigantic failure,

    >>>>>this above statement has ethnically racial overtones to the oppressed ear, and in addition again quite insulting to Palestinians. It basically says to Palestinians; let’s just let the important white Jewish people who want to help you do all the thinking for you. Never mind that you are the victims, you should have no voice in anything, you are not smart enough and you will screw it up, we know better what you should do and we will tell you how to best serve your own purpose. How insulting. That’s like a white plantation owner saying he supports Black people, as he calls his maid to shine his shoes. Using that same logic I reckon all those oppressed black people like Martin Luther King should have let the “white folk” do the thinking for them and decide what Black people should want and have, because after all, the oppressors know better how the oppressed should handle things.. That is disturbing logic.

    3. His life’s work is on the line, and his life is on the line. It gets done the right way, or EVERYONE is an asshole for expecting him to back such an apocalyptic for the Palestinians mistake

    >>>> “Palestinians mistake”? and “His Life’s Work on the line?” a bit overdramatic, don’t you think. I’m sure a Palestinian who lost a loved one would be willing to trade for “Finkelstein’s loss” Sorry again we seem to be forgetting who the victims are in all of this; it’s the Palestinians, not Finkelstein. Although that’s what he (and others) are attempting to do, to out victim the Palestinians by putting on the “poor mouth” over Finkelstein withdrawing from the march. If he disagreed with the context of the statement then he should have left quietly, instead he makes it all about him not Palestine, and for this he has lost my respect.

  45. Nu'man
    9 September, 2009

    I do not think that Finklestein has any ill intentions towards the Palestinians and he has worked and written tirelessly on their cause. On this basis, and although his approach seems novel, he should have been given the benefit of the doubt.

    Muhammad, I think your comments on Finklestein are a touch over the top (“sabotage”) and unwarranted. He resigned, and that’s that.

    Although, I am confused about his ‘sectarian’ accusation. Does anyone know the reasoning behind this?

  46. 99
    9 September, 2009

    All humanity is the victim here, Declan.

  47. 99
    9 September, 2009

    I look like one too.

  48. 99
    9 September, 2009

    Doesn’t matter WHAT the Palestinians are looking for. The world is looking for them to stop being slaughtered by Israelis, for them to have human rights, to have their homes. What the Palestinians want is, actually, counter-intuitively, MOOT.

    We want them alive and healthy, no matter what they want.

  49. 99
    9 September, 2009

    You seem to be an expert at reading the contents of your own mind into others’ comments.

    I guess I have not been the kind of clear it takes to break through blocks, but it’s pretty low to accuse someone whose commentary you can’t grasp of not understanding the dynamics….

    I’m trying to point to where this can WORK… not just end up as another great big exercise in We’re-Caring-Activists….

    You’d prefer that all this effort would solve the problem, no?

  50. 99
    9 September, 2009

    Here is an interview about this that I don’t think many of you have listened to very carefully….

    I think I need to listen again and am doing so right now.

    He talks about this vision in this interview.

  51. 99
    9 September, 2009

    If you don’t have time for the whole playlist, the last two are about this march, and his discussion with the Hamas moderates.

  52. 99
    9 September, 2009

    And he explains it perfectly here.

    Innocence of means and innocence of ends. I don’t know how he can get clearer than this.

  53. 99
    9 September, 2009

    And, I’m sorry, but I have to officially bow off this thread entirely because it is just too confusing to keep scanning up and down it for replies and questions, etc.

  54. qunfuz
    9 September, 2009

    Very well said, indeed, Declan.

  55. qunfuz
    9 September, 2009

    and this is a fatuous comment, 99.

  56. tali99
    9 September, 2009

    Declan, I completely agree. I happen to be in the strange situation of being an Israeli supporting “the Palestinian cause”. I put it in quotes because it effects my own life so much, I see it as my own. Without a doubt I calculate my own sacrifices as I demand sacrifices of others, but foremost in my mind are the desires of my Palestinian fellow human beings. One must remember that they are the victims and I can always hide behind my white skin and pretend like they don’t exist, and save myself the troubles that I encounter because of my support of their right to breathe. I put only one very clear red line to what I won’t stand behind and that is violence and bigotry.

    I don’t agree with Finkelstein, but I believe he exited in a polite manner. I can only hope that he has moved enough people to continue on without him. And that the instances we’ve seen here are not the norm.

    For all of those still in search of “the Palestinian Ghandi”, not sure if the Palestinians can “manage” their own struggle, may I point out that the growing international boycott movement was initiated by Palestinians like Omar Barghouti. An outspoken, opinionated and peaceful leader. It is people like him that will determine this struggle. Just like PACBI, with him at the front, has determined the terms of what the BDS will look like. They have done a phenomenal job mobilizing within the Palestinian community and winning the hearts of westerners around the world. All this without loosing their precious identity, which is the only thing they have left- it’s their right to demand it.

  57. peoplesgeography
    10 September, 2009

    Omar Barghouti has announced that the Gaza Freedom March has now secured the endorsement of a “decisive majority in Palestinian civil society” (thanks Nadia):

    In addition to the Islamic University of Gaza, Al-Aqsa University, and tens of local grassroots organizations, refugee advocacy groups, professional associations and NGOs in Gaza, the March was endorsed by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC)*, a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and professional associations, including all the major trade union federations, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the largest network representing Palestinian refugees. Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, representing the most prominent Palestinian NGOs inside Israel, has also endorsed.

    * The BDS National Committee, BNC, consists of: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (all major political parties); General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Union of Palestinian Farmers; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative (OPGAI); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Palestinian Economic Monitor; Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps; among others …

  58. James
    10 September, 2009

    I’m with Norman. I’m horrified at the damage that’s been done by these two Palestinians, hi-jacking the previously international Free Gaza Movement. Failure to condemn these two guys in the harshest terms (on essentially racial grounds) reminds me of others guilty of the same kind of thing. Prepare to see this part of the movement lose all influence.

  59. Asa
    10 September, 2009

    m.idrees: thanks for the clarification. I see what you mean now. I still don’t understand how this is supposed to be “sectarian”.

    Wow: 99 was serious. I honestly couldn’t believe that all that hero-worshiping stuff was not sarcastic: but apparently it wasn’t! Others have already covered the reasons that you are wrong well enough, 99, but to that I will only add Finkelstein’s own words: “Never have heroes, because you’ll always be disappointed” (see this talk): http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2587693067472444036#docid=1522693649427645832

    hysperia: having not really been involved with this initiative (as I had reservations about it from the start) I can’t comment on what the process for adopting the statement of context was. However your three points are all flawed:

    1. The word “return” is not used in the adopted Statement of Context even once. Therefore, your characterisation of it is incorrect. It merely mentions the bland, historical FACT that “The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194”. It says nothing about what the solution to this should be. This in NO WAY commits you or any of the other people signed up to the dreaded one-state solution.

    2. Um. So what? Why should this Gaza march take any position on two states? I thought it was all about focusing on ending the siege. The Statement does not argue that, neither does Finkelstein to my knowledge. I really don’t understand your point.

    3. Again, the statement says nothing about BDS except for the FACT that “Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support” it. It certainly does not commit you or any of the other people signed up to it to BDS.

    I was always sceptical about this initiative for one simple reason: it did not seem to have any sort of local Palestinian lead. In the ISM, this has always been one of our three core principles (the other two being: non-violence and working in groups, not individual “heroics”). ISM does not organise it’s own demonstrations, we instead take part in Palestinian demonstrations.

    I cannot stress enough that this is in NO WAY some sort of abstract ideological point.

    If we were to charge in and (e.g) remove some road blocks because it makes us feel like cool, radical activists, and gives us some “war stories” to take back home, the Palestinians would not thank us – the local people would suffer the backlash when – as m.idress points out – the Zionists just build the road blocks again at best, or at worst start imposes collective punishments. Or course, the community may feel it worth doing anyway, and may be willing to endure the risk and/or repercussions: but this should ALWAYS be the decision of the people directly affected by it themselves.

    If you take the same fact in the context of Gaza, to me, this translated to the simple fact that in all likelihood, the march will just be stopped at the Rafah crossing by Egypt. Of course, local Palestinians may have a way around this – but you won’t know if you intend to just do it yourself!

    This is why ISM held off from endorsing the Gaza march until now. Yet neither did we condemn it in a sectarian fashion, instead trying to engage good people involved in the initiative. More importantly, the Palestinian BDS types also took the same approach and it has paid off. Unfortunate that NF, who I still greatly respect, has bowed out in this public manner. As Max says, he could just have said “I’m not involved any more, but don’t let that stop you being involved”.

    It makes absolutely no sense to me that if, as he says, his problem with the Statement of Context is that it will stop the maximum number of people being involved: why on earth would he withdraw in this manner, an act can only result in discouraging the maximum number of people from being involved!

    This leads me to believe that this split is more about a clash of personalities. I do not say that to denigrate either side, as I know what how it can get in such activist groups: we’re far too good at turning on each other. I know Norman has the best of intentions: I just think he is wrong on this issue.

    When all is said and done, my estimation of him as not really gone down, because – like Chomsky – to me, the strength of his work has really never been in finding solutions to ending the occupation and ending Israeli apartheid. It’s been more about education on the nature of the occupation and the nature of apartheid. It’s about letting the scales fall from our eyes so we can see to get to where we need to be, rather than how exactly we make that journey.

    Hopefully there will still be a decent turnout for the march. CODEPINK – who are also no slouches when it comes to mobilising people – are still involved and they seem really organised from their website. Good luck to ‘em!

  60. Asa
    10 September, 2009

    Oh yea, I forgot: this excellent piece by Gabriel (from JSF I think) and others from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network was on EI:

    “Compromising for Gaza without compromising Palestine”
    http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10761.shtml

    The last word on that one I think.

  61. Davina
    15 September, 2009

    hysperia: Thank you for your thoughtful comment. The point about RoR being inseparable from a two-state solution is apt. Your interlocutors’ failure to address that (and other points) speaks volumes, as does their immediate resort to personal attacks on you. thanks again for trying to raise the level of discussion.

  62. morris meyers
    4 October, 2009

    I believe that Norman Finklestein is 100% RIGHT.
    If the palestinians were to join in as many want them
    to, They would be putting their life and families
    in jeopardy. Oh sure you and the others could go home
    and be safe put not the Gazans. Think about it for one
    second. The Israel’s have cameras…They would be \
    subject to all kinds of abuse and imprisonment. Think
    about it. moemeyers@gmail.come

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This entry was posted on 7 September, 2009 by in Activism, Gaza, Palestine and tagged , , , .

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"


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