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26 April 2007

"The Camp David II Negotiations: How Dennis Ross Proved the Palestinians Aborted the Peace Process," Norman Finkelstein

Journal of Palestine Studies, 142: Winter 2007.

By the way, Finkelstein's talk at Brandeis was good; Sara Roy's intro was excellent; the questions, and some yelping members of the audience, were embarrassing.

I've never seen an academic audience act like that...fall asleep, sure, but not be so wildly irrational. Yelling stuff out; well, I shouldn't be surprised. Actually, I had to tell a couple of wackazoids sitting next to me to "chill out" and "take it easy" after their second outburst. Poor Roy: people like that don't care about free speech or anything of the kind. She should have cut the first lunatic off, who gave five-minute speech, as he was not following the rules set out immediately before he started talking. Maybe she was taking the high road, but people like that are basically cowards (usually) and will back down if held to the rules. Of course, he proved Finkelstein's point by making ad hominem attacks -- anything but challenging the assertions.

I was sitting next to those two yahoos; they were referring to Finkelstein as "Herr Professor"; and generally acting like children (or Stalinists): running up and down the line to arrange questions with like-minded individuals. There was some "post-mortem" after the talk in which the first nutjob questioner (Russian?) was berated for getting too emotional and not sticking it to Finkelstein more. A poor 18-year-old who was, heaven forbid, "confused" (i.e., open-minded) was told in no uncertain terms to read Dershowitz (!), as he "has refuted everything Finkelstein has written." Quite the opposite, I should think.

Anyway, I think lightning rods like Finkelstein allow for the expulsion and explosion of pent-up psychological needs...as Finkelstein said, I'm really not sure those people care at all about Israel -- from Dershowtiz to the questioners there.

The student questions were generally embarrassing, when not combative. A couple of good ones, but I would bet Finkelstein gets better ones at a Barnes & Noble (or equivalent). Some great university that Brandeis.

Even with a weak case to work with (i.e., Israel's record), hell, I could have played devil's advocate better than that! Eh, whatever: it really should not be surprising to me, but that was the first time I'd ever been present for one of those talks.

The moral blindness of many of the questions was amazing: one kid wanted to know how the Palestinians first got to Palestine -- duh, we all know the implication: the Arab conquest in the seventh century. First, from what little I know, Arabs had been living there for as long as anyone could remember back into the Roman period. Second, if at some point in remote antiquity, after the Babylonians removed (most? all?) of the Jews, the local population increased or immigration increased, still, the Babz had zilch to do with the local Arabs or proto-Arabs, so it's hardly the same thing. Third, even if all Palestinians stem from an Arab conquest in the seventh century (let's grant that for argument's sake), if the moral and political bar is to be set as low as the seventh century, well, hey, let's bring back slavery and a host of other wonderful things! It's scary to watch the propaganda at work -- I think that's what really upset me: total blindness on this issue.

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