Born in December 1953 to parents who had survived the Nazi Holocaust in Europe, Norman Finkelstein is a political scientist specializing in the Arab-Israeli conflict. After graduating from Binghamton University in New York, he went on to earn a doctorate in political science at Princeton. He has been a faculty member at Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Hunter College, New York University, and most recently, DePaul University, where he was an Assistant Professor from 2001-07. When he was recruited by DePaul, he had recently been fired from NYU and Hunter College because of his pseudo-scholarship regarding Jews and Israel. In June 2007, Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul and was placed on administrative leave for the 2007-2008 academic year. In 2014-15, he taught at the Sakarya University Middle East Institute in Turkey.
Finkelstein is a disciple of the discredited historian and Holocaust denier David Irving, whom he considers an authoritative scholar. Finkelstein refers to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis as the “Six Million” in quotation marks, and says that many self-identified Holocaust survivors are frauds. In an interview with the German paper, Die Welt, he said: “Not only does the ‘Six Million’ figure become more untenable but the numbers of the Holocaust industry are rapidly approaching those of Holocaust deniers. . . . Indeed, the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense if not sheer fraud.”
In his 2003 book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, Finkelstein wrote, “‘If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one,’ my mother used to exclaim, ‘who did Hitler kill?’” “My parents often wondered why I would grow so indignant at the falsification and exploitation of the Nazi genocide,” Finkelstein added. “The most obvious answer is that it has been used to justify criminal policies of the Israeli state and U.S. support for these policies.” Elsewhere in the book, Finklestein wrote:
“The Zionists indeed learnt well from the Nazis. So well that it seems that their morally repugnant treatment of the Palestinians, and their attempts to destroy Palestinian society within Israel and the occupied territories, reveals them as basically Nazis with beards and black hats.”
In a December 2001 interview with CounterPunch Magazine, Finkelstein said:
“[Jewish organizations that seek compensation for Holocaust survivors] bring to mind an insight of my late mother, that it is no accident that Jews invented the word ‘chutzpah.’ They steal, and I do use the word with intent, 95% of the monies earmarked for victims of Nazi persecution, and then throw you a few crumbs while telling you to be grateful. . . . They have disgraced the memory of the Jewish people’s suffering on the one hand by turning it into an extortion racket.”
He also stated: “If you understand terrorism to mean the targeting of civilian populations in order to achieve political goals, then plainly the U.S. qualifies as the main terrorist government in the world today …”
When asked whether he thought that “the West was in some way responsible for the tragedy of September 11,” Finkelstein replied:
“Regrettably, it’s payback time for the Americans and they have a problem because all the other enemies since the end of World War Two that they pretended to contend with . . . were basically fabricated enemies. . . . Frankly, part of me says … ‘you know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things bin Laden says are true.’ One of the things he said on that last tape was that ‘until we [Muslims and Arabs] live in security, you’re not going to live in security,’ and there is a certain amount of rightness in that. Why should Americans go on with their lives as normal, worrying about calories and hair loss, while other people are worrying about where they are going to get their next piece of bread? Why should we go on merrily with our lives while so much of the world is suffering, and suffering incidentally not with us merely as bystanders, but with us as the indirect and direct perpetrators.”
At the invitation of the Muslim Students Association of Columbia University, Finkelstein delivered a March 2006 speech titled “Israel and Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History.” Co-sponsors of Finkelstein’s appearance included the United Students of Color Council, the Arab Students Association, the Organization of Pakistani Students, and the International Socialist Organization. According to a report in the Columbia Spectator, Finkelstein (at the foregoing event) characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “contrived and fabricated controversy”; he declared that “regardless of intent, Israel is in effect guilty of state terrorism”; and he alleged that the “only difference between Israel terrorism and Hamas terrorism is that Israeli terrorism is three times as lethal.” Finkelstein also criticized Columbia University President Lee Bollinger‘s refusal to support an anti-Israel divestment campaign or to depict Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid.” Accusing Bollinger of “intellectual terrorism,” Finkelstein declared: “I think it’s a sorry truth when the president of … [Columbia] subordinates the pursuit of truth to the pursuit of fundraising.”
In May 2007, UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union (MSU) sponsored a talk by Finkelstein in which he stated, “Most peace initiatives came from the Arab world…. Arabs showed a remarkable tendency for compliance with negotiations. It was Israel that violated formal and informal agreements.” Finkelstein also said the following about the terrorist group Hezbollah: “I have no interest whatsoever in Hezbollah as a political organization. I have only one interest: … Do the Lebanese people or does Hezbollah have the right to resist foreign occupiers? … Every victory of Hezbollah, I celebrate.” In response to this, the audience cheered loudly and shouted “Allahu Akbar” [“God is great”].
In a January 2008 interview on a Lebanese television station, Finkelstein (who very recently had met with Hezbollah leaders) said this about Hezbollah:
“I was of course happy to meet with the Hezbollah people … And I have no problem saying that I do want to express solidarity with them … People have the right to defend their country from foreign occupiers, and people have the right to defend their country from invaders who are destroying their country…. There is no way that the United States and Israel are going to tolerate any resistance in the Arab world…. Israel is determined, with the United States, to put the Arabs in their place and to keep them in their place…. Israel and the United States are attacking, because they will not allow any military resistance to their control of the region…. If Hezbollah laid down its arms and said, ‘We will do whatever the Americans say,’ you wouldn’t have a war — that’s true. But you’d also be the slaves of the Americans. I have to respect those who refuse to be slaves…. There will [someday] be a leader who comes into power in Israel, who is willing to make the concessions, after the conditions have been created — namely, Israel has to suffer a defeat.”
In 2009 Finkelstein blamed the Arab-Israeli conflict on Israel’s desire to “terrorize the region into submission,” even as “Hamas was signaling … they had joined the international consensus” in seeking “a diplomatic settlement of the conflict along the June 1967 border.” Historically, he said, “the Palestinians were willing to make concessions. They made all the concessions. Israel didn’t make any concessions.”
For additional information on Norman Finkelstein, click here.