My encounter with Norman Finkelstein

August 23, 2009

It takes an incredible amount of courage to do what Norman Finkelstein has done with his life. From the time he chose to “interrogate” Zionism as his phd topic, life has not been easy, especially as an academic. But I imagine it must have been quite a challenge from the start, being the son of holocaust survivors, and the way in which this fact has made him who he is.

I can’t claim to know the man in any profound way from just a few days of conversation, but I can say with certainty that he is no ordinary individual. His quiet dignified manner belies the passionate intensity of his deep conviction about the injustices that have been done to the Palestinian people, and his committment to making a substantive difference to their lives. He speaks in a measured  manner, but underneath the professorial demeanour, beats the heart of a true activist, a comrade who will stand in front of an Israeli army tank if needs be (well ok, I am assuming this, but I doubt that I am far from the truth), to make his point.

My encounter with him, was like one who has been seeking for the light, in Plato’s simile of the cave and has finally found it, staggering out from the illusion of the shadows. I have always known that I was committed about Palestine, but my convictions pale in comparison when measured against the sacrifices that Norman has made for the cause. And what makes him stand out from the masses, is that he is like a soldier willing to take a bullet with such humility and  certainty of his true purpose, that you cannot but salute the integrity of the man.

He has I believe, more than most in the contemporary era, taken on the intellectual and political task that will begin the unravelling of the Zionist project, which has been the bane of humanity for the last century. Several generations have been destroyed in the effort to create a militarised ethnic enclave for the Jewish people, many of whom have distanced themselves from this mythical homeland, which has only brought death and destruction to the global community, in various ways.

He claims that Gandhi inspires him in many ways. I suspect if the Mahatma were still alive, he would say the same about Norman Finkelstein.