American Radical; The Trials of Norman Finkelstein

by Imraan

Dear friends,

I was so glad to discover that the aforementioned film is still available on Al-Jazeera. I’d definitely recommend that you have a look if you have the time.

I have watched it at least a couple of times – I think it portrays a brutally honest look into the life of perhaps one of the most principled public figures alive today. For those of you who think that this will be a little dry – I assure you it isn’t (or so I think). It is both an honest look at what it’s like to lead his sort of life – an academic – though not always valued by the establishment stooges is nonetheless an incredibly prolific and insightful figure.

For those who don’t know him, Norman Finkelstein is an American academic, a political scientist more specifically, and a son of two Jewish Holocaust-survivors, who just happens to be one of the most vocal and articulate critics of the politics of the state of Israel and Zionism. Perhaps after the late Edward Said – he is probably the most sympathetic and fair critic of the subject – despite himself not being a Palestinian.

He has been embroiled in various academic discussions, most notably with perhaps the most, umm…let’s say ‘voracious’ popinjays of the Zionist Lobby, Felix Frankfurter Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz, of Harvard University, whose book, The Case for Israel he labelled a “fraud”. BAD idea…

Though usually staunchly pragmatic, perhaps he was a little foolhardy and rushed into a conflict with the Professor during a live debate on Democracy Now! (with Amy Goodman) – a very interesting watch and someone has uploaded it to YouTube. He clearly won the debate. Hands down.

This, by my estimation, resulted in his being removed from his post DePaul University in Chicago (the rather curious reasons for which are discussed in the film), and a huge public outcry and campaign against his unfair dismissal, which was supported by some very high-profile personalities.

Incidentally, Professor Dershowitz is also featured in this documentary, so certainly I don’t think a case can be made that the film was one-sided.

I am really a fan of his – he embodies perhaps the most important of the characteristics of what it means to be human, that is, empathy, and hope. Moreover, watching so thoughtfully reflect on his life is quite a treat. Perhaps I sound rather like a sycophant?! You decide!