Interview Norman Finkelstein – ‘The left is not a political force in American life’

Norman Finkelstein is a renowned scholar and author of ‘The Holocaust Industry’ and ‘Beyond Chutzpah.’ Hicham Yezza asked him about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran, and Obama.

Interviews, Profiles - Posted on Friday, January 9, 2009 4:27 - 1 Comment

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September 2008

Is a two-state solution still viable?
The two-state settlement is viable if Israel wants it to be viable. Settlements can be evacuated, and land swaps are possible where settlements remain in place. If the two-state settlement is not viable, then it is for Israel to declare, in which case Palestinians will have no alternative except to seek a unitary state. Politically it is not prudent for Palestinians to appear to be the “spoilers”of a two-state settlement, which is supported by the whole of the international community.

Do you think threats to academic freedom are reaching dangerous new heights?
I do not see serious new threats to academic freedom in the United States. Few professors are denied tenure for political reasons. Most tenure-track professors know exactly what they need to say and what they need not to say in order to get tenure. This is true as a general rule, not just when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, although the range of permissible academic discussion on the Israel-Palestine conflict is perhaps narrower. It’s in the nature of academic life that by the time a professor gets tenure, he or she has been morally and intellectually neutered. The process begins already in graduate school, when you learn what are the “respectable” journals and publishers, etc.

How do you think Israel will respond to the ‘Iran problem’?
I do not believe Israel has a military option, and it cannot do anything without support from the United States. So, the question is how will the US respond to the “Iran Problem”? Again, it does not seem that the US has a military option, although it is possible that if Obama gets elected, Bush-Cheney will use their last months in office for one last roll of the dice: if they knock out Iran, well and good; if not, they will leave the whole mess for Obama to clean up.

The US presidential campaign has been quiet on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Any thoughts about the candidates and their positions?
I am a person of the Left. The Left has no say on the outcome of the election, because it is currently not a political force in American life. The best advice is of course to free ourselves from all illusions; and some illusions – fewer now than a few months ago – are still rife about Obama. Some of his appointments, especially at the sub-Cabinet level, will probably be somewhat more humane than the Republican party super-crazies, but otherwise it will pretty much resemble the Clinton era.

You are due to speak here in Nottingham in November. Have you noticed a difference between British and American academia in relations to anti-Israel criticism? In particular, their response to the recent books by Walt/Mearsheimer and Jimmy Carter?
The public reception to criticism of Israeli policy has become much less hostile in the United States. There’s lot of opportunity to get things done, if the supporters of Palestinian rights would get their act together: less pointless chatter about one-state vs. two-states and more serious organizing.

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Gun
Mar 19, 2009 0:21

I wanted to comment and thank the author, good stuff

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