Opinion: Norman, is that you?


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In the eternal struggle against The Jews, there can be no deserters.

That’s pretty much the takeaway from this astounding interview that Norman Finkelstein, the historian, communist provocateur and academic-without-portfolio, gave last month to Lebanon’s Future TV. Among many other Finkelsteinian aperçus: Any Arab who fails to resist the Israeli juggernaut to his last bullet will become a ‘slave of the Americans’ reduced to ‘crawling on your knees’; interviewer Najat Sharafeddine reveals herself as neither a serious nor a level-headed person for suggesting that the 2006 attack on Lebanon could have been avoided; Hitler would have prefered to achieve his goals through peaceful means (I am not making that up); anybody who prefers survival to glorious death in service of the international Shiite jihad deserves no respect; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a ‘human freak’; any Lebanese who is presently alive has ‘no self-respect’; and of course, every situation everywhere always is exactly analogous to Hitler and the Nazis.


It’s a mind-bogglingly arrogant, condescending, creepy, ill-informed performance. And in fact an overtly imperialist one that erases all marks of local politics and individual choice in order to make room for great-power conflict. In true Leninist fashion, Finkelstein does not believe in bystanders; any Arab who chooses not to engage the international struggle against the Zionist/capitalist enemy is not only expendable but beneath consideration. (Allah only knows what Fink made of Future TV’s founder, the late rentier oppressor of the proletariat Rafiq al-Hariri.)

I’ve never given much thought to Finkelstein, who seems to have done some interesting historical (or at least historical-debunking) work, and my view of his long-running feud with Alan Dershowitz has never gone beyond a vague wish for both sides to lose. But at least Dersh contents himself with being a stateside nuisance of no danger to anybody except the wives of insulin-happy bazillionaires. Finkelstein, however, is speaking in the context of a goodwill tour of Lebanon on behalf of Hizbollah — whose views, don'tcha know, have been too long ignored in the United States. (Speak for yourself, Norm!) This is where the cesspool of leftwing extremism eventually flows, into a full-hearted alliance with any scuzzbucket willing and able to kill people. At Reason, Michael Young (who has had his own apparently bruising exchange with the no-nonsense Sharafeddine) expands on the pathology at work:

This behavior comes full circle especially for the revolutionary fringe on the left, which seems invariably to find its way back to violence. In the same way that Finkelstein can compare Hezbollah admiringly to the Soviet Red Army and the communist resistance during World War II (‘it was brutal, it was ruthless’), he sees in resistance a quasi-religious act that brooks no challenge, even from its likely victims. What is so odd in Finkelstein and those like him is that the universalism and humanism at the heart of the left’s view of itself has evaporated, to be replaced by categorical imperatives usually associated with the extreme right: blood; honor; solidarity; and the defense of near-hallowed land.

Full interview (courtesy of the invaluable MEMRI) and transcript.