Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Anglais) Broché – 1 avril 2008
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Finkelstein set out to enumerate the techniques used by Israeli apologists, and to that end I found Beyond Chutzpa to be beyond reproach. He sets out to use Dershowitz and other propagandist's own works to show how they go about disseminating falsehoods, exaggerations and lies to obfuscate the reality on the ground to the detriment of both sides. As for Dershowitz's works, Finkelstein devotes much of the book to systematically tearing down each of his arguments and shining a bright light on the shoddy scholarship used by Dershowitz. By using Dershowitz as an example case, he lays waste to the arguments that Israel is a humane and just nation that deals with all peoples, including the Palestinians, on an equal basis.
Mr. Finkelstein uses two world renowned human rights organizations, (and also Palestinian and Israeli organizations) Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, to document the numerous humanitarian violations committed by the Israeli government. He uses copious amounts of documentation from these organizations to rebut claims made by Dershowitz. He also points out Dershowitz's lack of reference to these organizations. This is a glaring omission since many times these organizations are the only groups to have neutral observers on the ground to witness and document what is happening in places like Gaza and the West Bank. How could anyone writing a book about this area not use these organizations as source material?
This conflict is a very divisive issue for anyone who delves even skin deep into this topic. We all come to the table with built in biases and well formed opinions, but we must sift through these "opinions" and figure out what is fact before there will ever be a peaceful conclusion. What we have now is not only killing Palestinians and Israelis, but in a wider context, destabilizing the entire world. Believe it or not many of the terrorists that have attacked the U.S. did not commit these acts because "they hate our freedoms" but rather is directly attributable to their belief that the U.S. is no longer an honest broker in the area, and when a UN vote in regards to Israeli policies comes up and the vote ends up being the entire world voting yea and the U.S., Israel and the Marshal Islands voting nay I believe they may have an argument.
People like Dershowitz do not help anyone when they obscure the reality of the situation. When someone from such a prestigious university says that Israel is wonderful place that has a wonderful record on human rights people here believe him. Then that means that the crazy hate filled Arabs are just racists who have a great life but just want to kill Jews anyway. We here in the U.S. must become the honest brokers that the citizenry believes we are, but to do that we have to have the blinders removed. So once again, if this book is a lie then attack the scholarship and expose it, but do not simply spout that he's a racist and expect me to dismiss this book.
I did not enjoy reading the Introduction, except for the last paragraph of the Introduction, where the author finally declares his purpose in writing this book. I am a practical person and I like to get right down to substance. I felt the Introduction explored arguments and concepts of an intellectual, abstract and often academic nature. I hold a masters degree in international affairs and I have considerable experience digesting abstract theory; I just happen to prefer dealing with concrete facts in the real world. My own advice is to skip the Introduction altogether. After finishing my copy of Finkelstein's book I gave it to a friend interested in the Palestine-Israel conflict and I said the same thing to him- just jump right into Part 1, where the book really begins. You can always come back to the Introduction when you finish the book itself.
And once you begin the book itself you immediately realize that the controversy surrounding the publication of this work and the angry statements going back and forth between the author, Norman Finkelstein, and the celebrity, Alan Dershowitz, actually occupy a very insubstantial part of Finkelstein's work. This book, "Beyond Chutzpah," has in my opinion virtually nothing to do with Alan Dershowitz, a man who many people for many years (myself included) have in any case seen as being nothing more than a clever but obnoxious media hack. My point is that "Beyond Chutzpah" is a book that addresses issues and movements far more significant than either of these personalities, Dershowitz or Finkelstein. If what you seek is mud slinging between these two men, then don't buy books from either author. Instead, simply visit the authors' respective websites, where you can relish the personal attacks and save yourself both time and money.
What is "Beyond Chutzpah" about? Well- have you ever had the impression that American Jews have, on an individual basis, and through some of America's Jewish groups, used the horrible experiences Jews have endured- like my grandmother- as a means of discouraging criticism, particularly criticism of the policies of the Israeli government? If you are American, and non-Jewish, in fact of any race, background or religion- have you ever felt you had to steer clear completely, or tip toe around, any discussion of Israel's military occupation, or of Israel's assassinations, or of any of Israel's policies whatsoever, for fear that you would be violently attacked as an anti-Semite? If you have- or if you are a non-American wishing to gain insight into the American political climate in relationship to the Palestine-Israel conflict- then you must read this book, "Beyond Chutzpah." With the greatest sobriety, in the clearest and most direct words, with no games or fanfare, Finkelstein- both of whose parents were survivors of the Nazi camps- describes how things in America have come to be this way.
Nobody outside of America can possibly begin to imagine the extent to which hysterical and fanatical Jewish Americans and hysterical and fanatical Jewish groups in America have successfully created through great effort over time a climate of moral, political and psychological blackmail. Even I, a Jewish man whose grandmother is a camp survivor, a Jewish man who has personally visited camps in Germany, Holland and Poland, and who has read endless books on the Holocaust, and who holds an extremely deep concern for Israel's safety and security, and has so held for years- even I cannot dare to raise my voice in criticism of Israel, or even address some of the blindingly obvious facts, for fear of an instantaneous and abominable backlash and assault. In "Beyond Chutzpah," Finkelstein explores this reality. Finkelstein goes to the very heart of the matter. And it is absolutely devastating.
By page 85, in the chapter titled "Crying Wolf," Finkeltein's words read like a revolution, some kind of an unbelievable feat. I deeply believe that this page in this book marks the beginning of what is going to be a sea change, a real movement, long overdue, toward honesty and gradual purification in relation to how Jewish Americans, my own peers, have misused anti-Semitism for political ends. What has been done is a sacrilege, and it is at long last going to be exposed- through this very book. I truly believe that this book will occupy that place in modern American history. Only by presenting some unbelievably ugly truths could any book written by any person at any time anywhere in this world ever even hope to encounter the level of hysteria and opposition that this book has faced. That right there tells you something.
The second major concern of this book is the origin, development and current status of the Palestine-Israel conflict. On this subject I have read countless books over many years- and Norman Finkelstein's exploration is unbelievably, and devastatingly, head on. In saying this I am including Finkelstein's materials in Appendix II. Appendix II is virtually a stand-alone presentation on the Palestine-Israel conflict. If your primary or even exclusive interest is the Palestine-Israel conflict, then "Beyond Chutzpah" is a book worth owning for Appendix II alone.
Earlier in the review I stated that "Beyond Chutzpah" was not about Dershowitz. Yet in the second part of "Beyond Chutzpah," Finkelstein makes reference after reference to the claims and conclusions in Dershowitz's book, "The Case for Israel." Finkelstein also dedicates some limited space to showing, embarrassingly well (and embarrassing not just for Dershowitz but for Harvard too) how Dershowitz engaged in plagiarism when writing "The Case for Israel." Still, I say that "Beyond Chutzpah" is not about Dershowitz. I say this because in fact Dershowitz is just a symptom of a far deeper malady, an interchangeable spokesperson for American Jewry gone mad- and as a Jew, it has taken me years of painful self exploration to come to terms with this ugly state of affairs. Again- Dershowitz is insignificant; yes, he's been embarrassed and exposed, but his replacements will line up to keep up the senseless, self-conscious and ultimately devastatingly-damaging-to-Israel campaign. Not only will Dershowitz be replaced, but the false and occasionally outrageous claims that Dershowitz has made in his book, The Case for Israel, are basically the same claims that Jewish American fanatics have been making all along. Truly, "Beyond Chutzpah" is not about Dershowitz, and it's not about Finkelstein either. I'm a middle aged cynic and yet still I deeply believe that Finkelstein's book marks the turning point, a signal that American Jewry is as a whole going to look at itself in the mirror now and begin refraining from this despicable dishonesty and unforgivably ugly hatred and intolerance of a weaker, desperate and humiliated group of people that in the end simply want a land that they can call their own.
As the Chronicle of Higher Education says:
Mr. Finkelstein's case has excited widespread interest, in part because of the involvement of Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University. The two scholars have sparred repeatedly in public. Last fall, Mr. Dershowitz sent members of DePaul's law and political-science faculties what he described as "a dossier of Norman Finkelstein's most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions." Earlier Deroswitz had threatened to sue the U.C. press, the academic press that published the book.
UC press is one of the most prestigious university presses. Finkelstein's book was peer reviewed. His Department and Dean recommended he be awarded tenure. So much for free speech and academic freedom.
Part I of the book deals with the latest campaign by Israel's dogged supporters to convince us that the world is awash in a "new anti-Semitism" which turns out to mean any criticism of the Zionist state. The evidence is...nothing. Finkelstein shows that this a regular practice whenever Israel is forced to come close to actual peace.
In Part II Finkelstein deals with Dershowitz' attempts to paint Israel as not only innocent of human rights violations but as a paragon of virtue ("generally superb") in the face of unanimous opposite conclusions by every international body dealing with the subject. I would recommend that any reader first read Appendices II and III before the rest of the book to get an appreciation of Dershowitz' appalling misrepresentations. To make his case Dershowitz is compelled to denounce every human rights organization and the International Court of Justice. The latter not only found Israel's recently constructed "wall" built in the occupied West Bank illegal but also confirmed once again that the Israeli "settlements" - all of them - were likewise illegal, so the violations were not only offensive in themselves but were committed in illegally occupied territory. This book effectively exposes Dershowitz' claims which have been promoted by the Israeli government as "among the most spectacular academic frauds ever published on the Israel-Palestine conflict." Only a skillful and courageous Jew like Norman Finkelstein could have written and published this book.
I read Dershowitz's book (The Case for Israel) when it came out and am embarrased to have found it convincing at the time. Since than, I've done a little fact-checking of my own and found the book wanting in ways that Finkelstein doesn't even discuss: specifically the matter of land-purchases in the pre-1948 period. While technically, a good deal of land was (as D. maintains), purchased by Zionist settlers from its owners, he fails to point out the trickery and manipulation of absentee landlords which was involved in this. Ouch!