Sunday, May 25, 2008

Finkelstein "security threat"? Haifa professors discuss.

MORE on the detention of American Jewish professor Norman Finkelstein at Ben Gurion airport in Israel, where he was held overnight before being put back on a plane for the United States.

Here is how it was reported by Yossi Melman in the daily Ha'aretz


Israel denies entry to high-profile critic Norman Finkelstein
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

The Shin Bet security service detained and deported an American Jewish professor who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday.

Professor Norman Finkelstein was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport cell before being put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his point of departure. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for 10 years.

The Shin Bet said Finkelstein "is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon," and because he "did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions."

However, in e-mail and phone interviews with Haaretz while in detention at the airport, Finkelstein said, "I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me. I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn't much more to say for myself: alas, no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organizations. I've always supported a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. I'm not an enemy of Israel."

Finkelstein visited Lebanon a few months ago and met with Hezbollah operatives there, and subsequently published articles.

Finkelstein, 55, has accused Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for political ends. He recently left DePaul University following pressure by Jewish organizations and individuals, including Professor Alan Dershowitz.

He also said in the interview that he was "en route to Palestine to see one of my oldest and dearest friends, Musa Abu-Hashhash."

Finkelstein said he was asked whether he had met with Al Qaida operatives, whether he had been sent to Israel by Hezbollah and how he intended to finance his stay in Israel.

"I was kept in a holding cell at the airport for approximately 24 hours. It wasn't a Belgian bed-and-breakfast, but it wasn't Auschwitz either. I had several unpleasant moments with the guards at the airport and in the holding cell, but since martyrdom is not my cup of tea, I'll spare you the details," Finkelstein said.

He said he eventually used a cellphone belonging to another detainee and called another friend he was scheduled to see in Israel, the journalist Allan Nairn, who called attorney Michael Sfard. Sfard met with Finkelstein and told him he could appeal the ban; however, Finkelstein said he has been to Israel at least 15 times and declined to appeal.

Sfard on Saturday said banning Finkelstein from entering the country "recalls the behavior of the Soviet bloc countries."

Note: "Hezbollah operatives" - Hezbollah, the "Party of God", is a major political party in Lebanon. I would not support it myself, but lots of Lebanese, at least from the Shi'ite population, do see it as their party. I don't know whether Yossi Melman's otherwise fair article used a
Hebrew equivalent of "operative", but in English that word is normally used of people working for agencies like Shin Bet, or clandestine terrorist societies. The latter is how the Israeli security establishment and its
allies wish to present Hezbollah, but wishing does not make it so. As we shall see, this is used to pretend that Finkelstein is not just a political opponent or critic, of whose contacts one may disapprove, but someone engaged in illegal activity who presents a danger.

Anyway, here is some comment by Haifa University professor Avraham Oz, who appends some different comment from his colleagues:

Dear friends,

You may have heard that US academic Norman Finkelstein was detained a couple of days ago by the Israeli authorities at the airport upon coming to visit the occupied territories and sent back home. Now granted that Finkelstein is a controversial figure in academe: the reason for his detention and expelling from the country is based on his opinions, as expressed in his books and articles. So much for an academic establishment which made a loud worldwide noise when the University of Haifa was boycotted by a union of academic teachers: no whisper was raised by members of academia in Israel to protest the case of detaining a fellow academic for his opinions, radical as they might be.

I send you the only two mails to date posted on the academic circuit of my university, one by my colleague Professor (of psychology) Micah Leshem and one by me, both obviously bitter and ironic, trying to alert our colleages to the implications of their roaming silence regarding this gross breach of academic freedom. And then two typical answers, by colleagues from the university. Note the last paragraph of the last message, by Professor of Business Administration Steven Plaut, who suggests that Israeli academics such as Leshem and me should get the same treatment by the Israeli authorities as did Finkelstein. Needless to say, our administration lets such comments pass without response. After all, our university is a haven of academic freedom!

For better days,
A. Oz

---------- Forwarded messages ----------

1. from Micah Leshem:

The well oiled anti-academic boycott machine of the University of Haifa has swung into action to fight for the Academic Freedom of Dr. Norman Finkelstein, an American Scholar with views critical of the Israeli Establishment.
The university of Haifa Vice President has called on the government of Israel to respect plurality of scholastic views, especially in view of the recent attempt to boycott our university by British academics critical of Israeli Academics' indifference to compromised academic freedom in selected academic institutions in Judea and Samaria.
Her press release emphasized that the University of Haifa has a tradition of not tolerating any infringement of academic freedom anywhere on campus, and that we have experienced security personnel to back this up. She warned the shabbak that interference with academic freedom of a colleague will be met with the full force of the university's UK lawyers and lobby, and that the university will make a point of Awarding Honorary Doctorates of Philosophy to all those who fight academic boycotts. She ended with a call for practical action, and said the university would put transport at the disposal of all those Faculty wishing to travel to the Knesset to protest the detention and expulsion of a Jewish Scholar from the Jewish State, just because his analyses are critical of Arab and Jewish mores and policies that perpetuate the bloody conflict.
The unicycle will leave from outside Bank HaPaolim at 2500h.
Flight 0000 from Cloud Cuckoo Land has landed. Kindly proceed to the shabbak desk to have your papers reviewed, stamped and shredded.

(Shabak -acronym from Sherut Bitakhon Klalit, General Security Service, also known as Shin Bet, from the first two Hebrew letters of its name - CP)
2. from Professor Avraham Oz:

From: Avraham Oz
Date: Fri, May 23, 2008 at 10:04 PM

Yes, Micah,

You can't imagine the traffic jams blocking the roads of Tel Aviv right now with our colleagues rushing to the detention place to demonstrate against the breach of academic freedom!

Which explains of course the scant attendance of academics at the commemoration, this morning, to one of the greatest sociologists we had among us: Baruch Kimmerling, who died a year ago. Nothing to do, of course, with the colour of his arguments.

And the media - thoroughly analyzing every mail on the computer of Shula Zaken [Olmert's aide - A. O.] - didn't find the few seconds to mention either of these two events. Nor have I heard the voice of the famous London attorney who received an honorary doctorate from our University just for helping lift the academic boycott of it, issuing a statement to the effect that academic freedom should preclude political vendetta.

A. Oz

But as we see below, political defence of Hizbollah, even opposition to its liquidation, is treated as though it was
evidence of criminal, terrorist action, or equivalent to it:

3. from Professor Michael Antony


I don't know whether Finkelstein is a security risk or not. Quotations such as the following one (from 2001; taken from Wikiquote, and also appearing on Finkelstein's web site) suggest he may well be:

"To my thinking the honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah as the US and Israel target it for liquidation. Indeed, looking back my chief regret is that I wasn't even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack."

On what do you base your apparently very high level of confidence that he isn't?


4. From Professor Steven Plaut:

A heart congratulations to the Israeli authorities for uncharacteristically doing the correct thing in denying the Hizbollah agent and Neo-Nazi Norman Finkelstein entry into the country and the "occupied territories."

Finkelstein, described incorrectly in the news story as an "academic," something he is not and never has been, is a Neo-Nazi widely regarded as a Holocaust Denier (including by the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center), who was fired by DePaul university last summer because he has no academic credentials at all and has yet to publish an academic paper. While making a career out of mocking and denouncing Holocaust survivors as frauds, hoaxsters, and thieves, Finkelstein has spent most of his time since being fired by DePaul in promoting Hizbollah terror.
It is of course well in character for the University of Haifa's own pseudo-academic anti-Zionists to rally on behalf of a Neo-Nazi and terrorist agent. Why should they only rally for Bishara? These people believe that "freedom of speech" should always be defended only for those endeavoring to orchestrate a second Holocaust of Jews, but not for anyone else.
Perhaps the Israeli authorities should deny entry into Israel not only to people like Finkelstein but also to those Israeli "academics" who serve as apologists for Neo-Nazis and for Islamofascist terrorists?


Professor Plaut teaches Business Administration at Haifa. Maybe that does not require much grasp of politics or history. But one might have thought it could use care with words, respect for accuracy, and regard for the truth. We'll leave aside any consideration for professional colleagues.

Of course Professor Finkelstein is neither a Nazi nor a Holocaust denier. Nor are the fellow academics whom Plaut denounces "apologists for Neo-Nazis and terrorists". Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors who objects to his and other families'suffering being exploited whether for financial gain or to excuse ill-treatment of the Palestinians.

Avraham Oz, and the late Baruch Kimmerling whom he mentions, opposed racism and oppression, and demanded that their Israel honour the "democracy" of which it boasts.

If anyone resembles a "Nazi", with the use of the Big Lie, denunciation of colleagues, and insistence that those he dislikes are traitors serving the enemy, and must be denied their rights, it is Professor Steven Plaut.
And sadly, though he may be insignificant, he is not alone.

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