Norman Finkelstein Accused of Anti-Semitism

Story Type: NEWS Section:

A controversial Jewish academic was  as he shared his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last night.  was forced to raise his voice above shouts of criticism as he told about 250 people at the University of Waterloo that for the first time public opinion may play a role in the Middle East conflict.

The political science professor from DePaul University in Chicago said he saw a glimmer of hope in the antiwar protests that rose up around the world over Iraq. "It was a force to reckon with," Finkelstein said, imploring the energized crowd to not lose hope because "it's within our grasp to achieve a just and lasting" solution for the Palestinian community.

Still, the outspoken anti-Zionist had harsh words for the American Roadmap for Peace. The peace document "is truly a waste of trees" and rings like previous attempts at peace. "It's the song everything old is new again," he said, acknowledging the potential outcome is unknown. "Whether it will work or not I can't predict."

The son of two Holocaust survivors is best known for his book The Holocaust Industry, which argued American Jewish groups have exploited the Holocaust for political and financial gain. Finkelstein compares the treatment of Palestinians by Israel to that of blacks under the old apartheid of South Africa and native Americans when their land was taken by European settlers.

While many cheered his thoughts, several in the audience couldn't restrain their disgust as they listened to Finkelstein's pro-Palestinian views. Alex Karelin was among several who interrupted the talk, shouting "This is hate speech," amid boos and shushes. "He's spreading hate," the young Jewish man said outside the event. "I found it extremely one-sided." Karelin, from Toronto, said he was shocked Finkelstein would be allowed to speak at a place of higher learning. "Forget the university, he should not be in Canada."

The talk, sponsored by a number of groups, including the Students for Palestinian Rights and the Chomsky Group -- both part of the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group -- threatened the security and safety of Jewish students, said Darcie Richler, who came from out of town. "Let anyone speak, but not when they're inciting hate and telling lies."

Richler said Finkelstein manipulates facts to boost his argument and shouldn't be allowed to share his "lies." "They bring in someone who's going to cause a rift on this campus." Such a rift already exists, said Ida Thibeh, a member of the talk's organizing group. "It's there, why hide it?" Such talks, though controversial, are essential in promoting discussion and resolutions, she said. And as a Jew who supports the Palestinians, Finkelstein provides an unusual and thought provoking perspective on the old debate, Thibeh added. "This is what university is about." University spokesman Martin Van Nierop agreed, noting universities are places where free speech and ideas are welcome and encouraged. "Hopefully people will maintain their calm," he said. At times the atmosphere was far from calm, with one woman dissolving into tears at Finkelstein's views.

Finkelstein himself got caught up in the emotion and yelling. "If you had any heart you would be crying for the Palestinians," he shouted at the woman to loud applause. Such comebacks were common as Finkelstein defended his views much like a comedian would hecklers. "Nazis never like to hear they're being Nazis," Finkelstein said to some of the Jewish members of the crowd.
This version of the story ran in the Final Edition. Copyright (c) 2003 The Record. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Record, The (Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo, ON), Jun 11, 2003 Item: Q4K115043114803

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