Joseph W, February 17th 2012, FROM HARRY’S PLACE
Here Norman Finkelstein appears to reveal the moment when he became disillusioned with the campaign for full Right of Return for all Palestinian Arabs and their descendants:
When I do politics, I have one standard. You know what my standard is?: “Can I defend this position in public?” Not, “Can I defend it in my little cult?” [Frank: mmm] but whether stepping outside my cult, whether I can defend it in public. And when I listen to Moeen, because we spoke together in Boston, and Moeen is writing the chapter of the book on the refugees, and I listened very carefully to him, (because the division of labour was, I’ll do the settlements, he’ll do the refugees, and we haven’t had a chance we’ve corresponded but we haven’t seen each other’s positions yet).
And I listened to him, and I didn’t listen with the ear “Is he right or is he wrong? Is what he’s saying moral or is what he’s saying immoral?” What I was listening was “Can I defend it or can’t I defend it?” If I can’t defend it, then what am I doing? What’s the point? Do we want to build a movement, or do we want to create a cult?
Now Frank, you have to be honest. Honesty is important in politics. If you tell a public, Israel’s population is 7 and a half million. Of those 7 and a half million, 5 and a half million are Jewish, and the other 2 million are Palestinian-Arab and other, and neither of the above. And you say, as a lot of the Solidarity Movement says, all 6 million Palestinian refugees have to go back. Okay? Now, will a public think it’s reasonable for 6 million Palestinians to descend on a country, which right now has 1.8 million Palestinians and 5 and a half million Jews, which means you are going to completely, overnight, radically completely change the demographic balance of the country. Will a person in the public find that reasonable? My answer is: you can give them every fact behind the creation of the refugees, and they’ll still see the Israeli position that that’s not tenable. I don’t think you can sell it.
Here is my understanding: Finkelstein has, somehow, realised that his co-author’s arguments are unreasonable, and basically indefensible. He has either dramatically fallen out of love with the movement that loves him, or his frustrations which he has kept quiet, have suddenly bubbled over.
He is pushing back against the BDS movement and their arguments, and framing his arguments as a tactical dispute. But Finkelstein’s unrest seems to go far deeper than tactics.
I wonder who Moeen is, and whether Finkelstein will still co-author the book that he and Moeen have started writing.