ISRAEL: Seeing a threat in U.S. academic


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When is a 55-year-old lifelong academic and son of Holocaust survivors a threat to the national security of Israel? When that academic is Norman Finkelstein, a former DePaul University professor and prominent critic of Israeli policy.

Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service detained Finkelstein at the airport Friday when he arrived from a recent European speaking tour. After a night of detention and interrogation, Finkelstein was declared a security threat and sent back to Europe. According to his lawyer, Finkelstein is banned from the country for 10 years.


Shin Bet officials told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Finkelstein was deported because of ‘suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon’ -- a reference to Finkelstein meeting recently with leaders of Hezbollah and expressing solidarity with the Lebanese militant group.

Born in Brooklyn to parents who survived the Warsaw ghetto and Nazi concentration camps, Finkelstein has cut a polarizing swath throughout his career. His writings accuse Israel and its supporters of cynically using the legacy of the Holocaust and accusations of anti-Semitism to stifle international debate about its occupation of Palestinian lands.

Finkelstein’s most prominent book bluntly sums up his thesis. It’s called, ‘The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering.’ His latest book is called ‘Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History.’

Clearly this is not a man who deals in subtleties.

Finkelstein’s writings prompted a nasty public feud with prominent Israel-supporter
Alan Dershowitz, a celebrity lawyer and Harvard law professor. Last year, Dershowitz launched an unprecedented public campaign, lobbying DePaul administrators to deny Finkelstein tenure.

When DePaul did reject Finkelstein’s tenure application, students and supporters protested on campus and claimed the defeat merely proved his contention about the systematic stifling of debate on Israel in America. Finkelstein eventually resigned.

Finkelstein spoke with Haaretz after arriving in Amsterdam, and claimed he was only coming to Israel to visit friends.


‘I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me,’ he said. ‘I support a two-state solution based on ’67 borders and I told my interrogators I’m not an enemy of Israel.’

—Ashraf Khalil in Jerusalem

Video: Norman Finkelstein praises Hezbollah in an interview this year with Lebanon’s Future TV.

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