We went to hear Norman Finkelstein at the University of Toronto Mississauga last night. While we were there, I had a chance to meet two peace and justice activists from Mississauga and Oakville, who I've emailed with but had never met in person, plus Allan and I distributed hundreds of Stop The Deportation leaflets.
Finkelstein's talk was highly enlightening and educational. It also left me outraged and grief-stricken. Although I was familiar with most of what he said, it's not every day one gets a refresher course on history and truth-telling.
Finkelstein basically gave a history lecture on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and exposed Israel's motives for the current massacre. It's not, as some people say, because of upcoming elections - although for some, killing Arabs is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. There were no upcoming elections before Israel's 2006 attack on Lebanon. And it's certainly not because Israel was provoked and "has no choice". That's pure US-Israeli propaganda.
Finkelstein walked the audience through a history of Israeli-Palestinian violence since 1967, through Hezbollah's victories in 2000, Israel's massacres in Lebanon in 2006, up to today. He showed Israel's motives boiling down to two points: proving its "deterrence capacity" - its ability to instill fear in the Arab world - and instilling in both the Israeli and Arab people a fear and distrust of all peace initiatives.
Finkelstein quoted from Israel's own statements, from pro-Israeli historians, from pro-war media, from official statements of the Israel Defense Forces. The motives are very clear. Despite all efforts at conciliation, despite the cease fire that Hamas agreed to and maintained, despite Hamas's stated intention to recognize Israel under a two-state settlement, Israel continued to provoke and provoke and provoke, until it was rewarded with the pretext it wanted to begin its latest annihilation.
Finkelstein referred to the "Dahia Strategy". Dahia is a suburban neighbourhood in southern Lebanon - or it was. It's now nothing. Israel flattened it into non-existence in 2006. The Dahia Strategy is to instill "shock and awe" by unceasing military might. To obliterate. To pulverize. He quoted several Israeli sources saying the current Gaza massacre is a "second chance to get it right," meaning a continuation of the 2006 Lebanese massacres. I was particularly disgusted by quotes from the esteemed Thomas Friedman about Israel "educating" Hamas. I have no doubt Palestinians are being educated. But what are they learning?
Again and again and again and again, the entire world cries out for the only viable alternative: the two-state solution and a just resolution for refugees. All international bodies - the Hague, the UN Security Council, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International - the list goes on and on - call for this to be enacted. Only two nations oppose it: Israel and the United States.
This is only the sketchiest outline of Finkelstein's talks. I'm not filling in the dozens of quotes and facts and dates. But they're all out there for you to find.
Saying Israel has "no choice" but to massacre Palestinians is as preposterous as saying the US had "no choice" but to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. If you're still getting this impression from the mainstream media, it's time to educate yourself by looking elsewhere. You could start with Finkelstein's website, or The Nation, TruthDig, truthout, or AlterNet. Also see Candians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.
And please, this man is Jewish. He's the son of Holocaust survivors. Don't tell me he's motivated by Jew hatred. He's motivated by the same disgust and horror we should all feel about this massacre.
As an Israeli friend once said to me and Allan, Israelis have to stop hiding behind accusations of anti-Semitism, and do what's right. North American Jews need to do the same thing. Luckily there is evidence that this is happening. Israel's actions are so egregious - and perhaps a new generation North American Jews is not so steeped in paranoia and Holocaust reverence - that many Jewish people are rejecting the anti-Semitism card.
At the end of the talk, Finkelstein said, "And Canada! What's happened to Canada?" He plaintively recalled Canada's reputation as the best country in the world for refugees, and decried what it is today. He said, "And it's not just the Government. There's another man, a war whore by the name of Ignatieff..." to huge applause. He lambasted Liberal MP Irwin Cotler and Bernie Farber, head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who was so upset seeing an Israeli flag burned at a demonstration - but had no similar condemnation as Palestinian children are incinerated by white phosphorous.
At the close of Finkelstein's talk, as a seasoned activist, I knew where he was going, and I wept. He spoke of Satyagraha, the philosophy articulated by Gandhi, who urged us to "hold on to the truth". And Finkelstein quoted our friend Joe Hill, who famously said, "Don't mourn, organize".
Finkelstein took exception with the first part. How can we not mourn, when people are gathered in a pen and slaughtered, when children are massacred, when a mighty military cuts down defenseless people? How can we not mourn? But it's what we do with that mourning that counts: organize, organize, organize.
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I know there are many people who feel that one of the primary functions of the blogosphere is to stimulate and encourage debate. I have heard and read in countless blog posts and comments that to not allow debate is to be intellectually dishonest and to oppose free speech. As wmtc readers know, I disagree.
The purpose of this blog is not to encourage debate, and I do not believe that I am obligated to host opinions with which I passionately disagree.
I don't want to end this post with a long explanation of my reasoning. I'll just say that I've thought about this a great deal, the wmtc community has discussed it many times, and I'm comfortable with my comment policy.
To those ends, on this post, as in all posts, I will determine what comments are put through, without explanation or apology.