Cockburn on Finkelstein's New Book

(Plus: Finkelstein's new book available)

by Ronald Bleier (rbleier@igc.org)

Alexander Cockburn devoted a few paragraphs of his "Beat the Devil" column for the Nation, January 8/15, 1996, to a review of Norman Finkelstein's new book. In his column, Cockburn had described an attack on him by Michael Tolkin in the Voice Literary Supplement which included a discussion of the Amalekites. (See Cockburn's explanation below.) This selection begins with Cockburn's paragraphs on Finkelstein's book.

"Cherokee Paradigm"

"I continued the history of Israel's war on the Amalekites* by reading Norman Finkelstein's new book, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict, just published by Verso, a measured, fierce and learned exposition of Zionism in practice as it wrought the eviction and attempted destruction of the Palestinians. It was Finkelstein, some years ago, who exposed in greatest detail the amazing fraud of Joan Peters' From Time Immemorial', which claimed the Palestinians had, en masse, fabricated their genealogies and origins, and had never really been in Palestine at all, at least for the duration required to establish any sort of inconvenient claims.

"Finkelstein is particularly fine in comparing settler-conqueror ideologies as they became necessary in the extermination of the American Indians, the settlement of southern Africa, the French colonization of Algeria (he's good on Camus, now in intensive rehab), the Nazi assault on the "lost territories" of Eastern Europe and of course the occupation of Palestine.

"Finkelstein explains the dialectic between settlers and a central government protesting that the former are beyond its control while simultaneously colluding with them. "To the victims of settler encroachment in America," he says, "federal pleas of impotence rang hollow. `Are Congress, who conquered the King of Great Britain,' the Cherokee asked, `unable to remove these people?' But of course the national government worked closely with the frontiersmen. Although the national government displayed `less of cupidity and violence than the frontiersmen,' as Tocqueville concluded, `they were equally lacking in good faith.' Tactical approaches differed, but both were `means to the same end.' One may discern the identical pattern of intermittently ambivalent but, for all the posturing on both sides, ultimately collusive relations between Israel's government (be it Labor or Likud) and the Jewish settlers in the occupied territories.

"In Rabin's case the collusion was destroyed because the settler element was so carried away in its own fanaticism that it could not perceive that Rabin was doing the best he could for them. He did indeed mature by the end of his life, having doubled the amount of Palestinian land on the West Bank he thought Israel could successfully steal. There were probably some Cherokee who signed the New Echota accord in 1835 capitulating to Jackson who traveled to the funeral of Old Hickory, honoring the Indian slayer as a man of peace just as Arafat honored the ethnic cleanser of Lydda."


Cockburn on the Amalekites

Earlier in his column, Cockburn had explained about the Amalekites: "You'll recall the Amalekites (`first of the nations' -- i.e.,goyim), whom the Lord God (as relayed by the prophet Samuel to Saul ) enjoined the children of Israel to smite and `utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not: but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.' The divinely ma ndated genocide was duly performed, with Samuel himself finally hewing King Agag to pieces before the Lord in Gilgal."

Note by Ronald Bleier:

Rabin on Lydda Expulsions

In his memoirs, Rabin describes how, in July 1948, as commander of the Harel Brigade, on the direct orders of Ben Gurion, he expelled the 50,000-90,000 population of the tow ns of Lydda and Ramle -- the largest single Israeli expulsion accounting for about one-tenth of the 1948 refugees. (Because it was such a significant Palestinian population center, the U.N. Partition Resolution of November 1947 had designated the area to be part of a proposed Palestinian state.) "Shots were fired," Rabin wrote, to persuade those reluctant to leave. In his memoirs, Rabin did not mention the killing of about 200 Palestinians to enforce the Israeli order.

Rabin's account was originally suppressed by the Israeli military censorship but years later was brought to light by his English translator, Peretz Kidron, and led to a heated controversy in Israel which was covered in a New York Times article in October 1979. Kidron tells the whole story in an essay printed in a volume edited by Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens entitled Blaming the Victims, which also includes an early version of Finkelstein's expose of Joan Peters.

Finkelstein's Book

Copies of Norman Finkelstein's book are available for $17.95 from AMEU:
Americans For Middle East Understanding (AMEU)
Room 570
475 Riverside Drive,
New York, NY 10115-0241
Tel: 212.870.2053

Finkelstein on Tape

Norman Finkelstein gave a one hour interview in connection with his new book with producer Mike Feder on January 14, 1996, on WBAI radio in NYC. The interview is available on tape [although part of the first minute is missing]. Interested persons should contact: Ronald Bleier (rbleier@igc.org)