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Speaker sees hypocrisy in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Monday, March 3, 2008 | 11:02 p.m. CST; updated 8:11 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 9, 2008
Norman Finkelstein lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the MU Old Alumni Center on Monday night. Before the lecture members of the Chai' Times staff distrubuted pamphlets titled, "Keep This in Mind: What to know before you go."

COLUMBIA — A controversial author and critic of the state of Israel called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the “least controversial” in the world today, arguing that any obstacles to a resolution come from factual distortions of Israel’s policy record.

Norman Finkelstein, a former professor at Depaul University, spoke to about 120 people Monday night at the Old MU Alumni Center. He was invited to speak by the Peace Studies Program at MU and was co-sponsored by the Center for Religion and the Professions and Boone Tikkun, a Jewish interfaith group that works toward peace in the Middle East. In his books, Finkelstein criticizes Jewish organizations for exploiting the Holocaust in order to fend off criticism of Israel.

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Finkelstein said Monday that Israel is not held to the same moral standards as Palestine and called this disparity an “exercise in hypocrisy.” In his comparison of the two governments’ human rights records, he noted a 4.5 to 1 ratio of Palestinian fatalities to Israeli fatalities.

Finkelstein also called for academic freedom in his lecture. He chastised the MU administration, who he said reprimanded Kathy Andresen, a faculty member who invited him to speak.

His invitation caused a mixed response from some Jewish organizations.

Members of the staff of the Jewish student magazine, Chai Times, protested the event by handing out fliers discrediting his scholarly record.

“Really our goal here is to have an alternative viewpoint,” said Jason Goldstein, production manager for the publication.

The group had sought advice from Harvard law professor and Finkelstein opponent, Alan Dershowitz, on protest methods.

The Hillel Foundation at MU chose to “not recognize or react” to the speaking engagement but did not bind its members’ individual decisions, said Kerry Hollander, executive director of the foundation.

The Jewish Student Organization wrote letters to Chancellor Brady Deaton and Peace Studies Program Director John Galliher expressing their “extreme disappointment” in Finkelstein’s invitation. The letter criticized his scholarship as “controversial, one-sided opinions regarding the Holocaust and Israel” and questioned the department’s decision to not provide alternative views.

But others who attended the lecture said they appreciated Finkelstein’s point of view.

Ken Levy of Columbia said, “I think Finkelstein is an articulate spokesman for resolving the conflict.”

He said he attended the lecture because of his interest in justice for the Palestinian people. Levy videotaped the event and said he planned on posting the recording on Google Video because he sees Finkelstein as an important voice that needs to be heard.

Dick Hanson, a retired Columbia resident, said he attended the lecture because he wanted to learn more about Finkelstein’s positions. He said that the controversial nature of Finkelstein’s research should be expected because of his field of study.

“Not too many speeches having to deal with war and peace will ever be noncontroversial, especially in the Middle East,” he said.

However, Jordan Smarr, a senior at MU, said he didn’t see anything controversial about Finkelstein’s comments.

“I wasn’t really surprised by anything he said,” Smarr said. “It was pretty straightforward.”


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Comments

JAMES V McCormick MCCormick March 4, 2008 | 5:49 a.m.

I AM GLAD FINCKLESTEIN MANAGED TO GET A WORD IN EDGE-WISE ABOUT WHO
IS THE REAL VICTIM IN PALESTINE: THE JEWS HAVE KILLED PALESTIANIANS, OF
EVERY CLASS AND VARIETY--NOT "MILITANTS" IN A RATION OF 5 TO ONE--
AND OF COURSE ISRAEL HAS AN ARMY OF PLANES,TANKS, SHIPS (!!) AND INFANTRY--THE PALESTINIANS HAVE NOTHING. WHO IS PHAROAH AND WHO
IS THE OPPRESSED SLAVE THESE DAYS. THE BEST QUESTION IS "WHO OWNS OUR
MEDIA?"

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 4, 2008 | 8:46 a.m.

While I see why Finklestein is not a popular guy in maby circles, I also feel there is nothing to be lost by examining history and what we do with it. The Holocaust needs to be remembered, and guarded against (especially in this day of distrust of Muslims - they could become the next Jews), but since most everyone who lived through it is dead, or nearly so, we should look past it and concentrate on preventing the next one.

(Report Comment)
Rachel Rubin March 4, 2008 | 11:46 a.m.

Those are israeli flags that Chai Times are passing out

(Report Comment)

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