Monday, October 31, 2005

Moral or normal?

"Two important implications can be drawn from Finkelstein's study, one political and the other academic. Politically, Beyond Chutzpah reveals how Israel has defied the rule of law in the Occupied Territories by providing a condensed and precise summation of literally thousands of pages of human rights reports. In this way, Finkelstein does a great service for those who long for a better Israel, since one is left with the conclusion that the only way of putting an end to the violations of Palestinian rights is by ending the occupation. There is no other option.

Academically, the section discussing Israel's human rights record raises serious questions about intellectual honesty and the ideological bias of our cultural institutions, since it reveals how a prominent professor holding an endowed chair at a leading university can publish a book whose major claims are false. The significant point is not simply that the claims cannot be corroborated by the facts on the ground--anyone can make mistakes--but that any first-year student who takes the time to read the human rights reports would quickly realize that while The Case for Israel has rhetorical style and structure, it is, for the most part, fiction passing as fact.

...The major irony informing this saga is that [Norman] Finkelstein's book, not [Alan] Dershowitz's, constitutes the real case for Israel--that is, for a moral Israel".

So writes Neve Gordon in a useful review of Beyond Chutzpah.

A question for Gordon and others: can Israel ever be a normal country (one in which people screw up big time as well as do amazing things), or will myth bury the values of Enlightenment liberalism on which the best hopes of some Zionists, like some other European thinkers, were based?

(P.S. Jon Wiener also had a useful piece on Finkelstein/Derschowitz in The Nation back in July)

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