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An Open Letter to Norman Finkelstein, and Barbara Lubin of MECA in Berkeley, et al
Norman Finkelstein's (anti-)intellectual abusivenes --now a beaten down anti-Zionist, who's going to decide *for* the Palestinian people and damn what they think otherwise-- indirectly contributed to brouhaha at the February 13, 2008, event in Berkeley, CA. Now, he -- like his mentor, Noam "The Great White *Hype*" Chomsky -- is doing what white (closet) liberals (and 'liberal/progressive Zionists' -- a *contradiction* in morality and terms) always do: tell everyone to go do something totally symbollic and totally ineffectual from the outset as a practical matter; they give you namby-pamby, pointless, dead-end *busy-work* to distract you and take up your time and all your political energy, but let you feel good.
RE: Dr. Norman Finkelstein in Berkeley, CA!: "The Coming Break-up of American Zionism"
An open letter from Joseph Anderson
by An open letter from Joseph Anderson
(slightly punctuation-/word-edited for clarity)
Thursday Feb 14th, 2008, 11:08 AM
Dear Norman and other friends,
[Please, in advance, forgive the long email.]
At the outset, I again apologize to Barbara Lubin for my resulting outburst at yesterday's, 2/13, Finkelstein event.
Newspaper writing says that you put the most important or highest priority writing first. So, let me say, first, that I believe that Norman Finkelstein's *UNPRINCIPLED* RIDICULE -- as well as his *DEMAGOGUERY* (which I, afterwards, politely told Norman that I thought was beneath him) -- of certain -- like my -- questions (including his dodgey mischaracterization of the separate two of them, as "a conflation of many issues"), as well as my other principled disagreements with him, *contributed* to the self-assumed abusive license of the microphone monitor -- whom I don't even know and don't even know why he has a chronic bug up his butt against me (because he's not man enough to tell me) -- to *again* abuse me in a provocative and hostile manner. This, as well as others to carrying on and *INDEFINITELY EXTENDING* his abuse -- LONG AFTER I WAS READY AND QUITE WILLING TO SIT DOWN -- AS I COMMITTED MYSELF TO DOING SO -- WHEN THE MONITOR FINALLY GOT OUT OF MY FACE.
Indeed, the only person who seemed to know how to respectfully defuse and de-escalate the situation, in a way respecting my dignity, was Beverly -- whom I'm also sure used her, even direct *physical*, interposition and status as a white woman to keep me from being arrested by 2 'trigger/truncheon happy' cops -- BPD's cocaine-stealing 'finest'. (And I'm sure that Barbara Lubin, for whom I am also quite appreciative, kept me from being arrested too -- even though I rhetorically challenged them to arrest me.) And I thank Aaron Aarons, of Berkeley, for challenging Norman's intellectual abuse of my question and anyone else who had a different progressive moral or political perspective from him (Norman).
Finkelstein's intellectual behavior, last night, was a long way from the very first time I asked Finkelstein a question a number of years ago at Boalt Law School, at UC Berkeley, when Finkelstein opened the Q&A, after his lecture, by saying, "First, I want anyone who *disagrees* with me to ask me a question" -- *unprecedented*, I'd bet, in the history of American lecture icons. I was truly impressed.
(A *JEWISH FRIEND, IF THAT COUNTS FOR ANYTHING EXTRA, NOTED THAT THE MONITOR, IN THE FIRST ROW, WAS ACTING WEIRD FROM THE TIME WE SAT DOWN IN THE SECOND ROW, BY HAPPENSTANCE BEHIND HIM.)
Now if the monitor did that in the 'hood or in downtown Oakland, the monitor would just get 'a cap' in his ass or a quick beat down -- and that would probably end it faster than all the white folks trying to verbally pile onto me one by one, drawing the altercation out, doing much more harm than good, instead of the organizers just getting him outta my face and letting me be!: prior knowledge and experience of my usual politeness (when not wrongfully provoked), consideration, thoughtfulness and intelligence obviously count for *nothing*. But, as Thomas Kochman wrote in his book, "Black and White Styles in Conflict", white people usually respond to the *reaction*, especially when the 'victim' is Black, more that the *instigation* -- and especially to maintain 'decorum'.
And I'll bet that leftist organizers of East Bay events, even by yesterday's sponsor(s), will let the monitor work again, with not even reprimand, at their events. So, I've been putting everyone on notice: Joseph Anderson has stopped being 'the good negro' and stopped taking sh*t anymore -- homie don't play that no mo'. Or, maybe I'll just start coming to these events with a couple of tall Black friends of mine from tha 'hood (not that they'd be interested: they know what most of what white progressive gala events amount to -- or even Black progressive gala events -- as they know it's all mostly entertainment).
But I bet if some white girl [additionally, especially, one well-known for intelligence and general politeness] told some Black guy to get out of her face, the white assumption of guilt ["*what* did he *do* to her!!?"] would have gone straight to the Black guy [all the whites would have backed *him* down] -- not to *her* for violating decorum. The Black guy would have been questioned, by organizers and everyone white, for his instigating behavior and possible abuse.
I wasn't going to attend Norman's award event, Wed, Feb 13, [although I posted it a month in advance at the Indybay and Global Exchange calendars and sent an announcement out to my email list of about 200 names], because I knew that I disagreed with his latest interview (written by someone else) in Counterpunch [http://counterpunch.org/bruinsma01052008.html]. Indeed, I thought that he had backslid, as well as slid into namby-pamby liberalism (indeed, a 'liberal Zionism', somewhat back to the Chomsky line -- that 'Great White Hope[/*HYPE*]' for Palestinian people -- of a functional Zionist) in the latest interview article on Finkelstein in Counterpunch. I think Norman deserves high respect for his past work, but I *didn't* even think, based on that Counterpunch *interview* article, and subsequently based on his lecture last night, and particularly the Q&A, that he even morally or intellectually deserved such an award anymore -- although I think he deserved the event per se.
But, I wanted to add to the numbers in attendance that honored Norman; to add to the numbers in attendance who, in effect, were protesting his tenure denial; and I wanted to contribute my financial contribution share (whenever possible) to MECA, especially when it has a benefit event. And I knew that everybody would be asking me, "Where *were* you?: I didn't see you at the Finkelstein event."
(Btw, I prominently signed the online petition for his tenure. I think I was 1376, although I have the exact entry number in my records.)
And while $15 certainly wasn't a strain on my budget, and not as much as other iconic events often are ($20/$25), I've discovered that the more one pays, the less intellectually worthwhile the event is: the more one pays, the more the event becomes, slightly more or less, mere leftist entertainment. So, I almost never go to events over $15. I realize that for more than about $15 -- what then inevitably amounts to leftist entertainment events -- and the more one pays -- the more the organizers want to tightly control everything and keep all the questions lite and intellectually unchallenging, let alone intellectually unthreatening.
The organizers of major events usually want a strictly question and unchallenged *oracle* answer format -- the questioner is to immediately move away from the mic and sit down -- and the oracle can throw out, unchallenged, any ole answer they feel like --even for the most evasive, let alone unprincipled, answer. Decorum -- i.e., nothing intellectually challenging to the oracle -- becomes more important than true discourse. To really protect the oracle -- if there is even a Q&A at all -- tiny index cards [like at JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace) events] are used so that difficult questions can be censored and only the simplest, one or two sentence, questions asked. For the more expensive events, it all just becomes a gala social event. The left's equivalent of some Hollywood/entertainment celebrity event -- to see and be seen at.
After going out to the same restaurant Norman ended up at (but not at the same table), I was up late at home reviewing Finkelstein's lecture and his answer to me with my often-alluded-to *brilliant* attorney housemate. She almost never attends such events --whoever the icon is-- because she says that if they didn't say it in their book/s (if they've penned any), or if they didn't say it on the radio (if they get regular opportunities), then they probably have nothing to add at an in-person lecture -- and she can just read their book (in the comfort and convenience of her own home and time) if she's interested.
Furthermore, she believes that if someone normally, intellectually incisive like me is going to bring something up that the icon has not covered in their books, articles and radio/TV interviews, they probably haven't ever thought about, let alone considered, what someone incisive has to say anyway, and would either pointedly not answered the question -- BECOME EVASIVE -- or ridicule the question and/or questioner, or even lash out at the questioner (especially someone who wasn't intellectually shaken).
Indeed, she also thought it was remarkable that Norman didn't seem to care *what* the victims, the Palestinians, think! -- who he *professes* to care about! So, Finkelstein has become another 'Great White Hope' for the Palestinian people. She called Finkelstein "arrogant" (as well as "absolutely delusional" about int'l rulings, in the face of U.S. vetoes) -- not only for that, but also for his *RIDICULE* and *DEMAGOGUERY* of me, and/or my question, as well as others with similar perspectives. (And he and I are supposed to be casual *friends* -- at least kindred spirit friends.)
A couple of women once paid $50 to attend a private reception for Norman --obviously supporters of his if they were willing to pay that much -- and they told me right afterwards (and after he left) that they were quite disappointed because they were told in advance not to ask him any potentially difficult, critical questions: they rhetorically asked me [approx. quote], "What did we pay $50 for? -- if we can't ask him deeper questions, have a true dialogue, and find out what he thinks in response: maybe contribute to the development of thought on the issue, and maybe learn something new."
Appreciatively, several [actually, *numerous*] people came up to me afterwards [and later] -- and, amazingly, given my outburst -- and highly complimented me on my two questions to Finkelstein.
I guess Finkelstein, who once -- out of the sheer blue -- called Michael Eric Dyson "a minstrel show" -- without even asking me what *I* thought -- and said that Blankfort "wasn't worth reading" (which in major part is why I intellectually --and quite independently -- took Norman apart in my Dissident Voice article, without even telling Jeff why, for a long, long time), is becoming as morally slimey, squiggly and equivocal as his good friend and *mentor* Noam Chomsky (not a very good mentor).
My time permitting, I hope to write another (DV?) article again intellectually tearing Norman to shreds based on his lecture or (for less work and a shorter article) his answer (which encapsulated the major points of his lecture) to me.
But, we need to get those 'liberal Zionists', functional Zionists, latent Zionists, de facto Zionists, beaten down "anti-Zionists", [closet Zionists], and other liberal white-supremacists out of the Palestinian human rights movement. As an African American friend of mine once said --and I'll always remember -- there's a *reason* the Israeli "peace" movement calls itself "Peace Now", but not "*Justice* Now".
Thank you very much for your forebearance in this email if you got the end.
All Together in The Struggle,
by from Joseph Anderson
Thursday Feb 14th, 2008 6:03 PM
(slightly punctuation-/word-edited for clarity)
My two separate questions were, essentially -- otherwise, regarding Finkelstein who more recently (at least since his May 1, 2006, Counterpunch article, "It's Not Either/Or") has been saying just that (except when it's too intellectually inconvenient):
1) Finkelstein said, in the interview below, that he was opposed to boycotts/divestment/sanctions against Israel; that he preferred to take "the course of least resistance", which he thought was the Palestinians gathering shovels, and chisels, and pick axes, and whatever, and going out to hack away at and bring down the (no doubt rebar reinforced wall). This, he said, "is sure to get a lot of Palestinians killed", but that is the better course, rather than boycotts.
So, I asked him, "Why would you recommend a course of action that you said would surely get a lot of Palestinians killed, instead of a nonviolent int'l course of action -- boycotts/etc. -- that wouldn't get *any* Palestinians killed?"
[And I forgot to tack on, that he otherwise says it's not either/or, so why is it either boycotts *or* tear down the wall, instead of *both*. (Although, if I imagine myself a Palestinian, I wouldn't let Israel kill me pick-axing at some wall, rather than over my engaging in armed struggle: I'd want to take at least one/some of those Israelis with me).]
2) I asked him that, "*Since* you are proclaiming the present breaking-up of Zionism anyway, and since a two-state solution with a viable Palestinian state is just about at least as remote -- and Edward Said said it was *more* remote -- as a reunified secular democratic Palestine with equal rights for all regardless of ethnicity, then since when do leftists, communists [as N.F. calls himself], Marxists, and Anarchists(as Chomsky calls himself) stop calling for justice and what's moral, because it's supposedly 'not practical or realistic'?"
[And, as a *practical* matter, and as any good lawyer could tell him, it's a very bad negotiating position to give that up!]
I interjected [in the context of Chomsky opposing boycotts against Israel or a reunified secular democratic state in Palestine] that, "I'm glad that Chomsky wasn't an Abolitionist during American slavery."
[Chomsky would have opposed economic and cultural boycotts, sanctions and divestments against slave plantation owners and the South, not so incidentally being a 'former' ideological adherent and former resident of the South himself; he'd say that it was *unrealistic* to call for the immediate abolition of slavery, and therefore progressive/leftist "purists" *shouldn't*].
Finkelstein basically ridiculed anyone who would call for a reunified secular democratic state in Palestine as (close appoximate quotes/characterizations) ridiculously internecene, battling, holier-than-though purists; as wanting a utopia; as wanting to establish a *communist* utopia in Palestine and all over the world first; as "a bunch of 1960's sectarian, internecene intellectual [in effect] masturbators, when real lives were not at stake in the '60's"; as "willing to do anything to destroy the chances for the Palestinian people for 'the prize' of their own state, when 'the prize' is virtually [very 'virtually', as in illusory at the greatest] at hand".
I don't know where he gets that imminent "prize" from -- but, he says "from all those, now, coalescing int'l court rulings against Israel" -- 'it's tha (int'l) *law*' -- 'they (i.e., the U.S. and Israel) *have* to obey'. [I guess that such faith -- in the face of the realities of U.S. govt vetoes in the UN Security Council and the face of the U.S./Israeli "might makes right" military -- and such total reliance on the White Man's "int'l law" is just like a the proverbial ivory tower white academic, like the self-important, legal pie-in-the-sky, University of Illinois professor Francis Boyle.] Even though, more and more Palestinians -- except for probably the corrupt Mahmoud Abbas leadership -- realizing that they are not going to get a viable 'Palestinian state' anywhere in the foreseeable future, which many of them might have/still settle/d for -- are no closer to one now that they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago -- are now calling for a reunified state.
Furthermore, I think I stated that Israel would be fighting 'forever' over things like where the [squiggly] borders would be, and who would control them, and what settlements wouldn't or might come down or be evacuated, and what the economic independence or lack thereof would be, and arguing over the all-important water resources, and all the dilatory minutiae that would keep this tied up for years and years and years of 'negotiations'.
Finkelstein engaged in a bunch of other red-herring strawmen -- when not at least borderline demagogic -- accusations. I recorded the event, so if/when I get around to writing an article (for DISSIDENTVOICE.org, like my previous one, "THE LEFT AND THE ISRAEL LOBBY"), I'll have the exact relevant quotes (or I can look them up later for you).
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Well, I didn't post the open letters, but I thank whomever did. -- Joseph Anderson
Friday Feb 15th, 2008 2:09 PM
Well, I didn't post it, but I thank whomever did,
-- Joseph Anderson