Israel/Palestine

Finkelstein in trouble, again.

Apparently, Norman Finkelstein has been refused entry to Israel for 10 years.

There seems to be a little confusion in the Guardian as to the validity of Israel’s reason for banning him. Toni O’Loughlin reports:

Shin Bet interrogated him for around 24 hours about his contact with the Lebanese Islamic militia, Hizbullah, when he travelled to Lebanon earlier this year and expressed solidarity with the group which waged war against Israel in 2006. He was also accused of having contact with al-Qaida. But Finkelstein rejected the accusations, saying he had travelled to Israel to visit an old friend.

“I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me,” he told an Israeli newspaper in an email exchange.

“I am confident that I have nothing to hide. Apart from my political views, and the supporting scholarship, there isn’t much more to say for myself: alas, no suicide missions or secret rendezvous with terrorist organisations. I’ve always supported a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. I’m not an enemy of Israel.”

The Guardian report gives the misleading impression that Finkelstein did not meet with Hezbollah at all – which would be quite a reasonable basis to exclude somebody from the country – and that he was “deported and banned for criticising Israel”.

Of course, what Finkelstein is saying is literally true. He did not have any “secret rendevous with terrorist organisations”. The meeting with Hezbollah was quite open. Neither was it a mere allegation, as the original Haaretz article from which the Guardian report is taken makes clear.

Indeed, Finkelstein does not regard Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation at all. Here he is scolding a Lebanese TV reporter for questioning the role of Hezbollah in her country. Here is a report of his meeting with the, erm, sectarian milita organisation. And here he is discussing his meeting with Hezbollah:

“After the horror and after the shame and after the anger there still remain a hope, and I know that I can get in a lot of trouble for what I am about to say, but I think that the Hezbollah represents the hope. They are fighting to defend their homeland,” the Brooklyn-born Finkelstein told reporters.

Given that he met with Hezbollah – an organisation which prefers the “destruction by terrorist violence aimed at ordinary Israeli civilians” solution to the “two state” solution that Finkelstein claims to support – it can hardy have surprised him that he was barred from the country. Actually, I don’t think he was genuinely surprised at all by what happened.

I smell a publicity stunt. The things people will do to keep themselves in the headlines!

If the Guardian was genuinely not aware that Finkelstein had in fact met and then written about his meeting with Hezbollah, and that he had not in fact been banned merely for “criticising Israel”, then it looks as if they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes. If they did know that Finkelstein had met with a top Hezbollah commander, then they’ve pulled the wool over the eyes of their readership.

UPDATE

Also, see Engage and Martin in the Margins, who thinks that the Guardian’s reporting was “disingenuous, not to say deliberately mischievous”.

The Guardian has a Readers’ Editor to correct such errors. Unfortunately, if the Guardian did make it clear that they’d misreported this affair, it would only prove to some the supernatural powers of the Jewish Lobby.

UPDATE 2

Over at the UCU Activists List, poor old Prof Haim Bresheeth has been sent into a tailspin of panic by the Guardian’s misleading report:

I assume you all know of Norman Finkelstein, the American historian. It may be interesting to learn that Israel now arrest academics on arrival, for no other reason than their disagreement with Israeli policies. Needless to say, each one of us may suffer from this innovation in the near future, should we be silly enough to go to Israel…
Haim

Silly fellow.

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