July 17, 2011

Norm on Norm

Someone told me about the New Statesman interview of Norman Finkelstein but I only remembered just now when I strayed onto the blog of Norman Geras called Normblog.  I think Norman Geras is one of many former marxists turned zionist and liberal interventionist and he is now often to be found among the pack hunting down critics of Israel and of western wars.  Finkelstein is well known as a critic of Israel and his book The Holocaust Industry, which, among other things, accuses zionists of exploiting the holocaust for political gain and the Claims Conference of exploiting it for financial gain, had a ragbag of zionists accusing him of denying the holocaust though he does nothing of the kind.

Here's what he says in the NS interview:
In your view, Israel has appropriated the Holocaust. Could a non-Jew have said that?
There is no way a non-Jew could say what I did in The Holocaust Industry without being labelled a Holocaust denier. I am labelled a Holocaust denier, too. Nobody disputes that my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto from 1939 to 1943. If I were denying the Holocaust, I would have to be certifiably insane.
Well I'm sure he has detractors who are more than happy to accuse him of being "certifiably insane" but I wonder if they're so done with the bogus allegations of holocaust denial they're resorting to plain silliness. Which brings us back to Norman Geras and his post on the interview:
Asked here whether he believes in God, Norman Finkelstein says:
No. When I was a young man, my mother said to me, "You can't be a communist without being a militant atheist." So I had to be a militant atheist because I wanted to be a communist.
This is unsound reasoning. Let's give Finkelstein the benefit of the doubt and assume that he followed his mom's dictum, not just because it was she who said this to him, but because he had independent grounds for believing that what she said was true. If we don't give him the benefit of that doubt, then he was accepting the truth of the statement merely on her authority - not a good principle, especially not for a militant atheist, since one of the things atheists dislike about organized religion is the religious tendency to appeal to the authority of sacred texts and suchlike, regardless of relevant reasons and evidence.
So then, if we assume that Finkelstein found his own way to the supposed truth of his mother's claim, it is clear that he must have lost his way. It isn't true that one can't be a communist without being a militant atheist. Communism is a principle of social organization and can be adhered to (or not) with or without a belief in God. There have been religious communists. The point is even clearer if we consider agnostics. Why someone who is uncertain about the existence of God couldn't be devoted to communist principles in politics... well, of course they could be.
For that post, based on what appears to have been a jokey anecdote relating to Finkelstein's upbringing, Geras thanks "AL". Apparently he needed help to pull that together.

Now Professor Geras is a leading Eustonista and something of a darling of neo-con and zionist bloggers. Many boast of how they feature in his profiles of like-minded bloggers. So to have him stoop to such a ridiculous post simply to remind his readers, by way of a dog whistle, that "we" (that is, they) don't like Norman Finkelstein and that "we" (that is, they) will only appear to take him (that is, Finkelstein) seriously when he (that is, Finkelstein) appears to be joking. This, I think, is another recent example of things looking up for critics of the State of Israel.

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