May 23, 2008

Alex Brummer "on" Norman Finkelstein and Howard Jacobson on Israel's random defenders

I'm a little anxious that the headline to the previous post was a little, let's say, enigmatic. I wanted to write about a grotesque slur on Norman Finkelstein by a chap called Alex Brummer, media commentator of the Jewish Chronicle and Finance Editor of the Daily Mail. I also wanted an excuse to show Howard Jacobson up a bit for getting sillier with each comment he makes on Israel. So here I am repeating the previous post only I've cut to the chase.

I should say that the Brummer has a little bit of form when it comes to smearing Israel's critics. Well now He's surpassed himself by coming as close as anyone from the mainstream has to accusing Norman Finkelstein of being a holocaust denier. The wholly false allegation comes in a piece claiming that Johan Hari, in a recent Independent article, was wrong to accuse zionists of a "loathsome smearing of Israel's critics". As is so typical in these cases, the denial amounts to a confirmation of Hari's allegation.
The language used by Hari was crude, even for a “right on” tyro writer, and produced a stinging response from Israel’s defenders, including Melanie Phillips in her Spectator blog.

Most columnists would have left the matter there and moved on. But Hari, evidently, is not someone who takes criticism lightly. In a second column on May 8, he took aim at his challengers. He charges that anyone who draws attention to the plight of the Palestinian people is intimidated in order to silence them. Among those cited are the media monitoring groups Honest Reporting and Camera, who he says regard him as “an anti-Jewish bigot”.

He goes on to bracket Professor Alan Dershowitz and Phillips as “the two most prominent figures sent in to attack anyone who disagrees with the Israeli right”, as if these two writers — on opposite sides of the Atlantic — are acting in concert. Most bizarrely, perhaps, he accuses the pro-Israel lobby of hounding the American political scientist Norman Finkelstein from office.

Hari makes no reference to the fact that Finkelstein has described American Jews as “parasites” and calls Holocaust survivors “frauds and hucksters” who have exploited the Shoah for their own gains. Hari suggests Finkelstein was removed from the faculty at De Paul University “simply for speaking the truth”.
Actually there's a distortion of what Hari wrote by reference to crude language. Early in the article Hari notes that he has been accused by certain islamists of being "a "a Jew-lover", "a Zionist-homo pig" and more". There the crude language begins and ends.

But what of Finkelstein? Brummer takes a little detour to praise the increasingly absurd Howard Jacobson's response before returning to smearing Finkelstein:
Hari clearly feels very strongly about the social and economic condition of the Palestinians, as readers of his body of work can testify. What is harder to justify is Hari’s use of discredited figures like the historian Ilan Pappe and the Holocaust revisionist Norman Finkelstein to justify the positions he takes. Pappe, as Jacobson notes, has been questioned at every turn by fellow historians. Finkelstein’s views have been tested in the High Court in London and found wanting.
If he had any integrity at all, Brummer would explain just what it is about Ilan Pappe's work that has been discredited. But let's leave that to one side.

The "holocaust revisionist historian Norman Finkelstein"? What's that? This is a clear allegation that Finkelstein is a holocaust denier. Is it not? Well look at Wikipedia on the difference between holocaust denial and holocaust revisionism:
Because the term "revisionist" has become associated with Holocaust deniers, Holocaust historians today generally avoid using it to describe themselves, though they continue to study and revise opinions on aspects of the Holocaust.
Hmm, it's not quite clear what is meant by holocaust revisionist but what is clear is that Brummer does not use revisionist as a compliment. But there's more:
Finkelstein’s views have been tested in the High Court in London and found wanting.
Really? Finkelstein's views have never been tested in the High Court in London. He seems to be confusing, deliberately, David Irving, the holocaust denier, and Norman Finkelstein, who doesn't actually write about the holocaust itself. He just writes about the way various "parasites", "frauds and hucksters" have exploited the holocaust and its survivors for financial gain and to cover for the crimes of the racist war criminals of Israel.

In the final paragraph, Brummer congratulates the Indie's approach:
In this debate some credit must go to the Independent. It not only allowed Hari to embarrass himself in public, it also found the space for Jacobson’s muscular reply.
You see. You can criticise Israel, but be prepared for some "loathsome smearing."

Anyway, so much for Alex Brummer. Let's just hope that when Finkelstein is back from a lecture tour Brummer gets "tested in the High Court in London and found wanting."

I just want to take a look at the responses to Jacobson's piece on how if the zionists are trying to silence Israel's critics then they're not being very successful because people know that Palestinians are aggrieved. That's pretty much what he's saying. Cop this for a response:
Sir: Howard Jacobson's claim that there is no evidence of a campaign to silence Israel's critics is just plain barmy (Opinion, 10 May). Ask any Israeli politician why the government spends millions on campaigning groups such as Bicom, Aipac and Memri and they will tell you that it makes good PR sense. I agree that these campaigns are becoming less effective in recent years, largely because of the internet, but let's not forget that it is only relatively recently that even the basic facts of Palestinian dispossession have been aired in the Western mainstream media. They still aren't in the US.

Also, Jacobson's suggestion that evidence of Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948 is merely a view of the historian Ilan Pappé is ridiculous and demonstrates either his ignorance or deceit. This ethnic cleansing is well documented by Israeli historians from left to right, anti-Zionists and Zionists.

Alex Hogg

London W10
What is it with these sane people who make claims that are "just plain barmy"?

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