Campus, News

Pro-Palestine activist speaks despite petition, student criticisms

“Politics is not about changing public opinion. Politics is about trying to get people to act on what they already know is wrong,” said Activist Norman Finkelstein on Wednesday during a lecture about the Israel-Palestine conflict at Morse Auditorium.

Finkelstein and Palestinian expert Mouin Rabbani spoke to a crowd of more than 80 students about “Solving the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine.

The lecture included a YouTube video, where photographs and videos of Palestinian protestors were juxtaposed with those of African-Americans during the Civil Rights movements in the U.S.

Students signed a petition on Change.org against hate speech, specifically against letting Finkelstein speak at Boston University because of previous statements he has made about the Holocaust. As of Wednesday night, 426 people had signed the petition.

“We are deeply troubled by the “Anti-Semitic rhetoric and ideology held by Mr. Finkelstein,” the petition states.

“The petition is against all hate speech,” said College of Communication freshman Leora Kaufman. “And Finkelstein is a prime example of someone who speaks hatred toward Israel. A lot of the things he said are lies, and I don’t think it should be tolerated.”

Kaufman said that the “lies” Finkelstein has told include him calling the Holocaust an “industry” and naming professor Ellie Wiesel its “clown.”

A number of students left the audience after the video screening before the speakers began. One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she walked out because the video’s portrayal of the Israeli people angered her.

Finkelstein said he believed that public opinion was on the side of Palestine, which made the present environment a good time for Palestine to act, and that not acting, or acting too rashly, could have consequences.

“If you miss a historical moment,” he said, “then you miss a huge historic possibility.”

Rabbani, a longtime advocate for Palestine, said that in order for Palestine to achieve its statehood, the Palestinian leadership would need to come up with a clear plan

“A coherent strategy requires preparation, discipline, commitment and most importantly mobilization,” he said.

Ian Chinich, a third year post-doctorate student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said the message Finkelstein represented with his support of Palestinian interests was a positive one.

“We need to strive for social justice and not support and violent and oppressive state,” Chinich said.

Some students, including College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Matt Goldberg, disagreed.

“The only reason my fellow students and I were disturbed by Finkelstein [visiting BU is that] he is an anti-Semite and not his views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Goldberg said. “While it’s vital that we allow a multitude of views on our campus, we should not invite speakers who have an unacceptable track record of making any members of any community feel unsafe on their campus.”

Jarib, a CAS senior who asked to keep his last name anonymous, said a lot of misinformation and propaganda exists surrounding Finkelstein.

He said that many believed  “The Holocaust Industry,” one of Finkelstein’s books, show Finkelstein to be an anti-Semitic and a Holocaust denier, accusations that he called unfounded.

“To call it a [Holocaust] denial is absurd, like calling the Earth flat,” he said.

The book, he said, focuses on how some people and institutions that have not suffered directly from the Holocaust have “exploited the memory of the Holocaust for their own benefit” or defended Israel’s crimes against Palestine.

Jarib and other members of the group also pointed out that both of Finkelstein’s parents were Holocaust survivors – his mother was held in Majdanek and his father in Auschwitz.

10 Comments

  1. Finkelstein is not anti Semitic, people have a tendency to twist facts in their own favour. Semitic peoples are a larger class than just Jews and he himself is a Jew by the way. All he has ever done is to criticise Zionism and Israeli policies that at times remind the world of Nazism. Judaism & Semitism are never to be confused with Zionism.

  2. This article should be titled “Known anti-Semite speaks despite petition, student criticisms”. Students are not upset that a pro-Palestinian speaker has come to campus. Dianna Bhutto a prominent pro-Palestinian activist came to campus with no opposition from students on campus. Rather students are upset that their undergraduate student fee was used to bring a speaker who has a track record of making disturbing hate filled anti-Semitic comments.

  3. Bu Student,

    You need to read what Finkelstein has written, and listen to what he says. It’s easy enough to do via YouTube and his own site. Clearly, you haven’t a clue about what Finkelstein actually says.

    You are not a politics or history student, are you?

  4. i too have ideas about what the article should have been titled

  5. Its utterly shameful that the BU hillel signed on to that letter. Calling the son of holocaust victims an anti-semite or a holocaust denier based on his critiques of those who exploit the holocaust for their own ends just shows how much he was correct. You are exploiting the holocaust! Rather, we should be understanding the utter horror of the 11 million murdered (6 million Jews) to mean never again to ANYONE!

    Once again it shows just how low BU Hillel has sunk and it is just another reason that so many young jews are becoming disaffected with it and with Israel. I am nauseated by some privileged American 20 year old calling someone who has grown up with seeing his parents with PTSD and numbers on their arms a holocaust denier. Do you have no shame at all? Do you really have no humanity?

  6. When is intolerance permissible? When Zionists seek to silence Norman Finkelstein. The campaign exhibited here is a strong push for abrogation of freedom of expression based on “feeling unsafe” and accusations of “hate speech.” The former is ludicrous and the latter entirely subjective. For some of us Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s calls for the extermination of the Palestinians and labeling gentiles as donkeys is “hate speech,” but should the rabbi be banned from Boston University? No! Talmudic Judaism is fundamentally totalitarian, not Jeffersonian, and this is reflected in the mentality that seeks to ban Judaic activist Norman Finkelstein as an “anti-semite.” Similar libels were leveled at Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister, shortly before he was murdered by a Talmid chacham (Talmud scholar). Rabin had been slandered as a neo-Nazi. Voices of moderation at Boston University should call on Finkelstein’s would-be censors to moderate their frenzies. BU is not (yet) a yeshiva.

  7. What does Finkelstein say in his books which is specifically anti-semitic? Please give me a quote and not just a random accusation.

  8. I don’t agree with Finkelstein. I think he is a loon.

    However, I support his right to speak and do not support a petition to prevent him from speaking. When he speaks, he exposes himself to be a clown to anyone who really listens to what he says and looks more into the subject matter. It is shameful how he cherry picks facts to support his weak case.

  9. Boston Hillel tried to keep Professor Finkelstein out. Who is Hillel? The parent organization behind Hillel and the ADL, the International Order of the B’nai B’rith, is a secret organization of Jewish Freemasons founded in New York City in 1843. This is the core group of powerful Zionists that operates behind the scenes for its own benefit. B’nai B’rith has a strong vested interest in keeping the Holocaust Industry alive. Is it any wonder that they should want the man who exposed the scam of the Holocaust Industry to be smeared, blacklisted, and censored in every way imaginable?

  10. I have been listening to Norman Finkelstein for many years. I have also read 4 of his books. You can accuse Prof. Finkelstein of many things, but, saying he is a Nazi holocaust denier or an anti-semite is totally outrageous. In fact, this just fuels Finkelstein’s thesis regarding the use’s of anti-semitism; he claims it is used as an ideological tool to silence anyone who criticizes Israel, without having to dispute one single fact.

    The Dean of all scholars on the Nazi holocaust, Raul Hilberg, appears in the documentary about Prof. Finkelstein, (An American Radical), and has also written a blurb on one his books. So, can anyone explain to me how this would be possible given the accusations?