Another important voice that I felt necessary to bring to the discussion on the flotilla attack is Dr. Norman Finkelstein.
Dr. Finkelstein received his doctorate in 1988 from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. For many years, he taught political theory and the Israel-Palestine conflict, although he is currently an independent scholar. Finkelstein is the author of five widely-translated books. He has just completed a new book entitled A Farewell to Israel: The Coming Break-up of American Zionism.
Dr. Finkelstein is Jewish, and his parents were Holocaust survivors. He shared some photos on his website and asked a very important question to reflect on. "At what point does it become too close for comfort?"
In this interview, I asked Dr. Finkelstein to address some questions and claims raised in the media about the flotilla attack.
Wazwaz: In the article “Turkey's off balance, and tilting the wrongway,” Thomas Friedman argues that Turkey is "joining the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran resistance front against Israel." In Friedman's view, the anger in Turkey is not a result of 9 people shot at close range 30 times by armed commandos but due to a tilting to extremism. Do you agree with this analysis?
Finkelstein: Friedman is a preposterous blowhard. Erdogan spoke out against the Gaza massacre in winter 2008-9 -- as did most of the world. Alongside Brazil he brokered a diplomatic settlement with Iran - which is what most of the world wants. He supported an end to the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza -- as did most of the world. He deplored Israel's murderous assault on a humanitarian convoy in international waters -- as did most of the world. So, where is the extremism?
Wazwaz: A local Rabbi, commented the Israeli defense story which is that the deaths of the nine humanitarian activists were a result of a conflict. She said, "I am convinced that the activists on all seven boats were angered by Israel’s decision to defend its blockade of Gaza with this military operation. Only on one boat, the Mavi Marmara, did some of the activists respond to the Israeli commandos with physical violence. In the conflict that ensued, tragically, nine people were killed." Have you seen the new videos that emerged by Iara Lee from Culture of Resistance? And how would you respond regarding this Israel defense story?
Finkelstein: Even if one grants for argument's sake that Israel had a right to stop the humanitarian convoy, it had many nonviolent options. It could have disabled the propeller or the rudder and towed the ship to port. Israel has said that it didn't expect forceful resistance from the passengers: so, why didn't it board the vessel in broad daylight? It chose the most violent option of an armed commando raid in the dead of night because it wanted to show the Arabs/Muslims that its armed forces were still up to snuff and because it wanted to humiliate Turkey.
Wazwaz: Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren commented on Stephen Colbert Show, that he is worried that calling for an international investigation into the Flotilla Attack, would allow Libya and Sudan to investigate Israeli actions. The UN did not send Libya or Sudan to investigate the bombardment of Gaza in 2008, but Judge Goldstone, a respected jurist with an impeccable record as well as a Zionist. Can you briefly comment on Michael Oren's fears that an international investigation allows Libya and Sudan to investigate Israel?
Finkelstein: Oren is a congenital liar. The proposal by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was for a commission composed of the former head of state of New Zealand, the U.S., Turkey and Israel.
Wazwaz: As we look at the discussions happening across the US on this incident, I rarely see voices of Palestinians or intellectuals with a clear knowledge of the facts on the ground invited to comment to the claims being made. Were you invited to any discussion taking place on this issue by any major paper or TV network? CNN, NY Times, etc.?
Finkelstein: I have NEVER been on a national radio or television program in the U.S. except for Democracy Now! I have never been on National Public Radio. My last two books did not receive a single review in the mainstream press (including the Nation).
Wazwaz: In the aftermath of the attack, a campaign is being waged to project the Turkish Charity Organization, IHH as a terrorist organization. There were even calls by democrats to refuse visas to any members of the Flotilla. First have any of these members of congress contacted you to hear the opposing argument - since they took an oath to serve this country and not themselves? I am not aware of any Congressional hearings where Palestinians, especially abused by Israel have taken place. And second, what are your views on reconstructing the Flotilla activists as terrorists?
Finketstein: It's one of the wonders of American life that after an armed Israeli commando unit stormed a humanitarian vessel in international waters and killed ten passengers, Congress wants to have the victims declared terrorists; and it is one of the wonders of Israeli life that it has managed to turn the perpetrators of wanton murder into the victims of a "lynching."
Wazwaz: Noam Chomsky argued that since Israel is militarily occupying someone else's land, then it cannot be defending itself. The occupation is against International Law, and it existed way before Hamas came in power. Yet, as Israel continues the settlement building and Arab home demolition and confiscation of Arab land, and the UN failure to stop clear violations of International Law, what options remain for Palestinians to protect themselves from being pushed into disconnected reservations?
Finkelstein: The Palestinians have the right to use arms to resist an occupation that after nearly a half-century has become a de facto annexation and denial of their right to self-determination. However, the fact that morally and legally they have that right doesn't mean that it's the most prudent strategy. In my opinion, a national Palestinian leadership committed to mobilizing nonviolent resistance can defeat the Israeli occupation if those of us living abroad lend support to it.
Wazwaz: Quite a few people assume that peacemaking means that you speak and act like Barney the purple dinosaur and they quote Gandhi and Martin Luther King selectively. In fact, both men were considered terrorists in lifetime. MLK was very vehement against the war in Vietnam and very critical of American foreign policy. You recently explained that Gandhi also did not see non violence as allowing yourself to be raped and doing nothing. Can you explain non violence and respond to the call for the Palestinian Gandhi?
Finkelstein: Gandhi's opinions on nonviolence are complex and not always consistent. But it should be clear that Gandhi ranked courage and bravery as high as nonviolence, and he repeatedly said that if you don't have the courage and bravery to resist the oppressor nonviolently then you should use violence. He repeatedly denounced those who used nonviolence as a cover for their fear and cowardice.
Wazwaz: Thank you very much for this interview.