Norman Finkelstein: The BBC Legitimizes a Crank

May 13, 2012 7:27 pm 5 comments

Norman Finkelstein on the BBC's Hardtalk show. Photo: Screenshot.

The BBC has a strange set of editorial guidelines. According to a leaked memo sent to BBC staff by the network’s senior manager, Abu Qatada – Al-Qaeda affiliate and indefinite London resident – can only be classified as a “radical” because to call him an “extremist” would be a “value judgment”.  Yet apparently, the Beeb has no problem using the darkly suggestive term “Jewish lobby” to frame a debate over whether or not a certain ethnic minority in the United States has got a succession of U.S. presidents “in thrall” to its demands.

In the latest installment of HARDtalk, presenter Sarah Montague interviews Norman Finkelstein on the subject of whether or not young American Jews are becoming less concerned with the fortunes of the Jewish state, and how this might alter the dynamics of U.S. foreign policy.

Finkelstein is an odd choice as barometer of Diaspora opinion. He is best known as the author of The Holocaust Industry, a thin polemic which argued that the Shoah had been systematically exploited by the American Jewish community as a marketing tool for Zionism. The Jewish leadership, he wrote in characteristic style, was a “repellent gang of plutocrats, hoodlums, and hucksters”. Since then, Finkelstein has been a regular visitor to Europe, appearing on university campuses to enumerate the sins of what he calls the “lunatic state”. Back home, his academic career has floundered after he was denied tenure at DePaul University; he now writes primarily for his own website.

Finkelstein postures simply as a staunch defender of human rights and international law, though he is not above declaring “solidarity” with the Iranian terrorist proxy group Hezbollah, which, when it isn’t busy blowing up former prime ministers or helping Bashar al-Assad kill Syrians, holds rallies in Lebanon where a popular chant is “Death to Jews”.

HARDtalk’s raison d’etre is to create “good telly” by tackling controversial subjects and antagonizing controversial figures. But the entire premise of this latest broadcast was as false as it was revelatory of how extremists have managed to shift the acceptable bounds of mainstream discussion about the Middle East. First, it legitimizes the notion that American Jewish support for Israel is ideologically monolithic and disproportionately influential at the political level, which, as countless historians and intellectuals on the left and right have pointed out, not-so-subtly traffics in the classical tropes of anti-Semitism. Second, as HARDtalk presenter Sara Montague herself indicates, the latest polling data show that there is not a drop in young American Jewish support for Israel; on the contrary, support has remained consistently high. So why bother having a discredited crank on to argue the opposite?

Actually, “argue” might be too high of an estimation for Finkelstein’s performance, which grades into hilarious self-indictment. He claims that there is “anecdotal” evidence to support his view that young Jews are becoming disenchanted with Israel: namely, that whereas he used to cause quite a fuss on American college campuses in the 1960s, nowadays, hardly anyone turns up to hear him speak. When Montague points out that this might just be a sign that no one takes him seriously anymore, he balks.

Why the BBC has chosen to take him seriously is another matter.

Dr. Alan Mendoza is a Founder and the Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society.

5 Comments

  • I sincerely thank Dr. Finkelstein for standing up and helping the rest of us sift through propaganda campaign and also pick up the argument on behalf of Palestine.
    “…traffics in the classical tropes of anti-Semitism.” This vague grasp of an inappropriate accusation of intent just does not work anymore. I respect the religion just not the sovereignty that abuses it, nothing to confuse.

  • Iranian terrorist proxy group Hezbollah? That’s opening the Israeli/ U.S. window to view the world isn’t it? This is a ‘freedom fighter’ group with a Lebanese heritage. Desperation caused by the U.S., Britain and now Israel have necessitated serious defensive measures, by many countries, who have had lines drawn on “their” territories.

  • How dare you, DOCTOR Mendoza, call a respected scholar Dr. Finkelstein, a crank?!! Your stupid commentary sounds like you have been granted patent for reason. Yeah, you must be – in your mind – the wittiest, wisest, smartest person in the universe. Have you devoted 30 years of your professional life to the Middle East and the Holocaust studies as Dr. Finkelstein did?? NO !! You didn’t. You criticize a person whose area of expertise is completely foreign to you and of which you are informed only superficially. Your doctoral dissertation was on a completely different subject. You are NOBODY in the debate on the Middle East and the Holocaust. I would like to see you in a face to face debate with Dr. Finkelstein. Question is – How would you argue with him?? What could you possibly say to an expert like him? – You would call him a crank. That’s all you could come up with. So, know what? Go and enjoy the life as an arogant, disrepectul DOCTOR. Stick to your field of “expertise” and don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.

  • wrong. he never said that nobody turns out for his lectures. listen again.

  • Sharp observation. Brilliant commentary.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.