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Norman Finkelstein and Chris Hedges appeared together at Princeton University on March 21 for “On the Gaza Genocide,” where they discussed the events of Oct. 7, the logic of Israel’s retaliation, and the response of the Democratic Party to rising opposition to the Biden administration’s support for the genocide in Gaza.

Videographer: Aaron Raizenberg


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Speaker 2:

For Justice in Palestine, it is our pleasure and honor to welcome you all today to this important conversation on the ongoing Israeli genocide on Gaza with the company of our esteemed guests, Norman Finkelstein and Chris Hedges.

We would like to begin by extending our thanks and gratitude to the Princeton Muslim Advocates for Social Justice, also known as MASJID, the Center for Collaborative History, and the Department of New Eastern Studies for being our co-sponsors for this event. Thank you so much for your support.

As we speak, more than 70% of people in Gaza are suffering from catastrophic levels of hunger. At least 25 people, including babies and children, have died of dehydration and starvation. The United Nations Secretary General has said that this is the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger ever recorded anywhere, anytime.

People have resorted to scavenging, eating grass and animal feed and drinking polluted water. Starving mothers are unable to produce enough milk to feed their babies. Miscarriages among pregnant women in Gaza have skyrocketed by 300% due to a combination of malnutrition and extreme chronic stress and fear.

Israel has murdered over 30,000 people in Gaza since October 2023, close to 14,000 of them being children. Every single university in Gaza has been bombed and destroyed, obliterating the educational infrastructure. Only 12 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are even partially functional. More than 1,000 children have had to undergo amputations of one or both legs without anesthesia since the beginning of Israel’s genocide in Gaza. These numbers reflect only a fraction of the horrors that Palestinians and Gaza have had to endure due to Israel’s assaults. And we now live in a world where Palestinians have been forced to live stream their pain and trauma, many of which many of us here have beared witness to from our devices.

As this talk will remind us, history did not begin on October 7th. As we continue to bear witness to and protest against the ongoing genocide in Gaza, it is more pressing than ever for people to learn and pay attention to the history of Palestine and of the violence that Israeli apartheid state has done unto the people and land of Palestine.

We gather here today in an effort to confront the political reality underpinning some of these horrors. We gather here to reflect on the ways that we as people who live in the United States, a persistent supporter and funder of Israel’s apartheid and genocide of Palestine, can pressure our government to change course. And finally, we gather here, or at least most of us, as people who will no longer stand by in silence as our government actively funds and partakes in upholding apartheid and genocide.

So before getting started, I’d like to introduce a little about our speakers for this event. Norman Finkelstein is the author of many books, including the Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, and Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom. He graduated from Binghamton University School for advanced studies in the social sciences and received his PhD from Princeton University’s Department of Politics. He has held faculty positions at Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Hunter College, New York University, and the Paul University.

Continuing on, Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize winning Former Foreign Correspondent who spent two decades covering conflicts in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He was the Middle East Bureau chief for the New York Times and the papers Balkan Bureau chief during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. He was later based in Paris where he covered Al-Qaeda for the New York Times and Europe and the Middle East. He was a vocal critic of the invasion of Iraq and left the paper after being told by the editors that he was not allowed to publicly speak out against the war.

He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, our very own Princeton University and the University of Toronto. He has also taught for over a decade in the college degree program offered by Rutgers in the New Jersey prison system. He’s also the author of 14 books, including titles such as War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, American Fascists, The Christian Right, and the War on America, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, and other New York Times bestsellers. He’s currently working on a book about Gaza for Simon & Schuster with the cartoonist Joe Sacco.

Finally, without further ado, it is my utmost pleasure to welcome Dr. Norman Finkelstein and Mr. Chris Hedges.

Chris Hedges:

So I’m a journalist, not an academic, not a great historian like Professor Finkelstein in journalism. If any of you are considering, the profession is a very superficial profession. We always say journalists know a little about a lot of things. And it is impossible, although I spent seven years covering the Middle East, to have any conception of what’s happening in the Middle East, in Palestine, in Israel, unless you read history, unless you read the works of the great historians such as Dr. Finkelstein and Benny Morris and Ilan Pappé and others. And so that context is key. One of the things that I have always found when I covered conflicts was that the aggressor seeks to destroy the context to make the reaction of the oppressed incomprehensible. If there is no context, then when you see people burst through the security barriers of their open air prison and carry out, admittedly, I think Norman and I will both concede, atrocities, you don’t understand that long, slow drip of oppression, humiliation and murder that has been carried out by the Palestinians trapped in their concentration camp.

Context is key. And that’s why I have so much admiration for what Norman does as a scholar. He’s paid the price. I always think of Julien Benda’s great book, Treason of the Intellectuals, where he talks about those intellectuals who hedge and essentially distort the truth to advance their careers and get foundation grants in 10 year. Not that any of that would happen here. And Norman didn’t do that. It was Joan Peters, right? Joan Peters who wrote this book that many especially Zionist scholars used. It was completely mendacious. I think she was a journalist herself. I don’t even think she was an academic, but they used it to build the scaffolding of how the Palestinian people didn’t have an identity, that that was an empty land. And in his doctoral work, he obliterated it. I know Noam Chomsky, we both admire immensely and Norman and Noam are close to warned him, but it was his integrity coupled with his brilliance that he refused to back off. And he took on that very powerful Zionist, those institutions from day one and he’s paid a tremendous price for it. But what he’s retained is his integrity.

So I think we should begin, Norman will come and speak, I think the first thing we have to do is put where we are today in historical context, and there’s very few scholars who can do it as well as Norman can. Thanks.

Norman Finkelstein:

Well, thank you for having me here today. I attended Princeton for my graduate school. And that’s already, for better or for worse, it’s a half century ago. You’ll just direct me and I’ll get it in a moment. Would you prefer if I use my this mic and this one and just shut this off? You can’t have both because of the feedback.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible 00:09:33].

Norman Finkelstein:

Yeah, that’s what I meant. But you have to shut this off because of the feedback. Let’s see. Yeah, no, it’s fine. Okay, thank you.

It’s now been a half century. I played a little game with myself to remember the buildings. I remember obviously the Graduate College Housing. Corwin Hall, is that still here? The political science department. What we called Woody Woo, but I don’t think it’s still around. What’s it now called?



Norman Finkelstein:




Norman Finkelstein:

SPIA? What does that stand for?


School of Public and International Affairs.

Norman Finkelstein:

Aha. And of course, where I spent my entire time when I was here. I know that edifice still stands, which is Firestone Library, which at the time was the single biggest unit in terms of collection of books in the entire United States. I don’t know if that’s still the case. Other schools like Harvard obviously had several units, but the single biggest unit was Firestone Library. So those are the memories aside from Bowen. Bowen, you can hide. We charge you with genocide because I was active in the anti-apartheid movement when I was here. So thank you for receiving me.

What I want to do just by way of introductory remarks, is to give what journalists used to call, at least that’s what we were told when I was in grade school, the key questions, and Chris Hedges can correct me, were always who, what, when, where, how, and why. Is that still what you’re talking to [inaudible 00:11:31]?

Chris Hedges:

Yes, they are. That’s fine.

Norman Finkelstein:

Okay. I remember learning it in 7th grade in library class.

I’m not going to do exactly who, what, when and where, how, and why, but I’ll do something along those lines. I’ll begin with what happened on October 7th. I would say that parts of it are relatively clear. Other parts of it are somewhat obscure. There hasn’t yet been a full-fledged international investigation of what happened, and there have been investigatory bodies formed by the United Nations, but to date, the Israeli government hasn’t cooperated with them. But what I think roughly, and I don’t claim to have any special knowledge here that many of you have, because what happened on October 7th basically depends on digital evidence. I will freely confess since October 7th, I haven’t watched any digital evidence from October 7th on. I occasionally look at a picture, but I have not looked at the digital evidence, not by the Israeli side, not by Al Jazeera. I haven’t watched it. But from what I’m told, the digital evidence isn’t definitive on things like numbers.

And also the other kind of evidence would be forensic evidence, but there’s been relatively little forensic evidence on October 7th. What you could say is what most of you know, approximately 1,200 people were killed. Of those 1,200, approximately 800 or more were civilians.

I’ve asked many people whose judgment I respect because I don’t feel the competence. You can say with a certain amount of confidence that a clear majority of those killed were killed by Hamas and affiliated groups. And also, there’s one question which will come into play in a few moments. Apparently the militants from Gaza burst the gates of Gaza in three… It’s now called Three Waves. The first wave were Hamas Commandos. The second wave were other armed groups from Gaza. And the third wave were Palestinians from Gaza who were not affiliated with any particular armed or militant organization.

Now, those are roughly the facts. And people in the audience in the course of this evening can add to those facts, amend those facts. As I say, I don’t claim to be a particular expert on that particular topic. And I don’t believe that the evidence is clear on that. One basic question where I think the evidence is completely murky is, what exactly was Hamas’ goal? Was the goal to take combatants hostage? Was the goal to take combatants and civilians hostage? Was the goal to take combatants and civilians hostage and also to commit a large scale massacre of civilians? I don’t believe the evidence is at all clear, and I think it’s quite possible. We’ll never know what their goals were.

Now, there’s a totally separate question.

Speaker 1:

Can you turn your lapel mic back on?

Norman Finkelstein:

I thought I had it on. Maybe I should lift it. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Okay. For some reason…

Norman Finkelstein:

Maybe you want to turn up the volume?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you should turn up the volume.

Norman Finkelstein:

But that’s…

Speaker 1:

We’ll figure that out.

Norman Finkelstein:

I’m not able to do that. Is that better? Is that better?

Speaker 1:

It’s fine. It’s fine.

Norman Finkelstein:

Okay. Now, obviously the factual side of a question is only one side of the question. The other side is how do you morally evaluate it? And I have to say that the first day, October 7th, it seemed like it was a, so to speak, prison break, or in my opinion, concentration camp break, that there were casualties on the Israeli side. The figure that was given on the first day was about 50 to my recollection.

As in any break from a concentration camp, I would of course be on the side of those who broke through. That was the first day. But by the second day, the third day, the fourth day, the numbers started to climb. It didn’t reach 1,400 until about one week later. Clearly, there was some massive death that occurred, massive atrocities that occurred. And then one has to figure out how to make sense of it. Now, most people made sense of it by answering that question, not the famous one of the 1950s of, “Are you now? Or have you ever been a communist?” But the question was, do you condemn what Hamas did? And I have to say, and I’ve freely admitted to it, I found that to be a moral quandary. Why? Because I had spent the last 15 years chronicling what had been done to the people of Gaza, the fact that they had been locked up in a concentration camp.

That’s not my opinion. It was the opinion of Giora Eiland who was the head of Israel’s National Security Council, and who’s a person, Israel is off the spectrum, and he’s off the Israeli spectrum now. Mr. Eiland, he’s the one who’s credited with probably the most insane remarks pertaining to the situation now in Gaza. And he already said in March 2004, he described Gaza as a huge concentration camp. That was before, that was before the blockade had been imposed in its strongest form, which began in January 2006. And then the blockade, it was tightened even more in 2007.

I had read a lot, mostly if not entirely UN reports, UNCTAD, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and a slew of other international organizations. They were describing a situation in Gaza over a sustained period of time, which was inhuman. Most of the young men who burst the gates of Gaza on October 7th, they had been born into a concentration camp. And as of October 6th, the very high probability was that they were going to die in that concentration camp. I found it very hard to fastly condemn them. I said, condemn them because I don’t have any difficulty in condemning atrocities, the targeting of civilians.

I’ll even be honest with you. I do try to stick to the international law. But let’s say 400 of the combatants that were killed, if they were combatants who were just attending a music festival, I actually don’t think their lives should have been lost. So I have sympathy both for the actual civilians who were killed, but the category of combatants can also, I think, obscure some realities. So if some soldier was taking his time off to attend a music festival, in my mind, and we can obviously disagree in it, I would still classify them as a civilian. That’s how I see it. I recognize that’s not the legal denotation, but in my own moral calculus.

And so I have no problem condemning the atrocities, but I did recoil at condemning the perpetrators of the atrocities. That was a moral struggle for me and those days were not easy because I couldn’t find my way. Again, I’ll freely admit that even though I am fairly confident of my competence in the facts of the situation, I’m not very confident of my moral judgment. I take the life of the mind very seriously. And I know moral philosophy is a significant intellectual endeavor, and I wasn’t confident that I was equipped mentally to pass a judgment here.

My usual recourse, I’m not proud of it, I’m not ashamed of it, my usual recourse for the past 40 years was to defer to the judgment of Professor Chomsky because he was, in his intellectual equipment, he was steeped in Western philosophy. And not just Western philosophy and Hebrew philosophy. He had, my experience, he had exemplary moral judgment. But at that particular moment, he wasn’t available to me and I felt this sudden huge burden because I recognized many people were waiting to hear what I had to say and I really wasn’t sure. I knew what my gut feeling told me. As I said, I recoiled from condemning them, even as I recognized atrocities of a significant magnitude had occurred. It happened that in recent years, I had put the Israel Palestine conflict behind me, and I did start to do fairly significant reading on the African American history.

I remembered, as quite a number of people here will remember, that we had our own slavery votes in the United States and that they were very ugly. I went back and I started to read about things like the Nat Turner Rebellion. And Nat Turner, he was a slave. He was a very smart guy. Everyone, white and Black, said, “This Nat Turner is a very clever fellow.” And he was torn by the reality of this huge chasm that separated his potential as a human being from the reality that he would be a slave from the day he was born to the day he died, and none of his potential would ever be realized. And at some point, Mr. Turner, who was a religious fanatic of the first degree, Mr. Turner gathered around him others. They plotted a slave rebellion. They went out and the order Nat Turner gave was kill all whites. That was the order, kill all whites. And that’s what they proceeded to do. They went from house to house, chopped off the heads of babies. That’s literally true. They beheaded babies. They shattered skulls.

It was ugly. I would say in some respects, not in terms of numbers, but actions. In some respects, it was worse than October 7th. The numbers vastly differed. It was about 60 whites that were killed before they were suppressed. So now I had in my mind an analogy. The question now I turned to was, “Okay, let me see how the abolitionists, the judgment they rendered on Nat Turner.” And the first person I looked at was William Lloyd Garrison, the editor of the Liberator. It was kind of, if I can use the expression, it was a kind of eureka moment for me. Garrison said, “No question horrors occurred during that Turner’s rebellion.” Horrible things happened. But it’s very noticeable when you read his postmortem. He never condemns Nat Turner. Read it yourself. It’s easily available. What he does is he condemns his fellow whites. He kept saying, he begins his postmortem and ends it by saying, “We told you so. We told you so. We told you. If you treat people like that, at some point-“

Norman Finkelstein:

… told you, “If you treat people like that, at some point you will reap what you have sown.” As I said, that was a kind of epiphany for me, a eureka moment. I felt, now, I had the right framework for trying to understand what happened, which is, “You condemn what happened and don’t pretend it didn’t happen.” On the other hand, that William Lloyd Garrison, knowing what it meant to be a slave, he didn’t have it in him to condemn Nat Turner.

It was the same thing with me. A large part of what I’ve written the last 10 and 15 years was just chronicling that horror, not just the horror of being born in there, the horror of no future, the horror of no past, the horror of no present. There were also those periodic mowings of the lawn, what Israel calls its operations. The periodic high-tech massacres: Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense, Operation Protective Edge, the horrors of life in a concentration camp compounded by the horrors of those periodic “mowings of the lawn” in Gaza. And, it’s not entirely incorrect. In fact, I think it’s close to reality. For those who recoil at what Hamas did on October 7th, from their point of view, it was their “mowing of the lawn.”

You want to use that pathological, that diabolical, that utterly sick metaphor of “mowing the lawn.” That lawn, one half of the blades on that lawn, one half of the blades on that lawn are children. Gaza is about 50% children and about 70% refugees and the descendants of refugees from 1948. So, if you find it amusing to talk about “mowing the lawn,” Hamas was just as amused when it “mowed the lawn” on October 7th.

The Israeli reaction had three components to it. The first component is straightforward. It was bloodlust, revenge. “We will revenge what happened on October 7th.” I’m sure everybody will recognize that’s not exactly a sentiment alien to the hearts of most human beings. The revenge here, however, had a second aspect to it. It was the outrage, the fury, that these untermenschen, these subhumans, in Gaza had, on October 7th, outsmarted the Israeli ubermenschen, the Israeli supermen.

Particularly in my generation, Israel had the image of… You can call it a “James Bond writ large,” the commando operations. Most of you will know, I suspect, that the current Prime Minister’s, Mr. Netanyahu’s brother was famously killed during the commando raid on Entebbe. The whole country had projected this image of a cutting edge, James Bond, high-tech, super surveillance country. Lo and behold, on October 7th, this ragtag army of untermenschen, of subhumans, had outsmarted them, outwitted them, humiliated them.

So, the bloodlust revenge was compounded and exacerbated by the desire to exact revenge for the humiliation that had been visited on the Israeli high-tech James Bond society.

The second concern in the Israeli response was the fear of the loss of its deterrence capability. Deterrence capability or deterrence capacity, which is a crucial component of Israeli military doctrine and political doctrine, is very simple. It’s a fancy term, but all it means is the Arab world’s fear of Israel.

Israel, for all its modern history, has felt that in order to keep the Arabs in their place, we have to have them dread the prospect of Israeli retaliation, the fear. After October 7th, I’m fully willing to admit Israel did have a significant security problem on its hands. The problem was it suddenly dawned on many Arabs and Muslims that, “Hey, maybe Israel isn’t as invincible as we thought, and maybe there is a military option against them.”

Up until that moment, with the single exception of the Hezbollah, which had claimed, or said openly, in the words of Sayyed Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah… After the battle of Bint Jbiel in 2006, he said, “Israel is a spider’s web. You just blow on it.” Oh, excuse me. “You just blow on it, and it will disappear.” But, that was definitely not the predominant view in the Arab-Muslim world. The world view was Hezbollah was militarily, invincible. Suddenly, on October 7th, as I said, it began to dawn on the Arab-Muslim world, the popular level, the popular level, “Maybe, it isn’t all that strong.”

If I could just give a brief anecdote. A little more than a week ago, I was on a debate with Israel’s Senior Historian, Benny Morris. I mentioned this fact about Israel’s deterrence capacity having collapsed on October 7th, and the Arab world now thinking, “Maybe, we can militarily defeat him.” I was very struck by his response.

He laughed. I thought a kind of nervous laugh, but that’s my opinion. He said, “Well, we have nuclear bombs.” What struck me about that answer was he didn’t gloat about the army. He didn’t say, “We have the IDF. We have the Air Force.” He didn’t. He immediately reached for the nuclear bombs because it had apparently seemed to have sunk into him that, “The IDF isn’t as powerful as we thought.”

So the insane reaction by Israel after October 7th, it was also an effort to restore its deterrence capacity, to transmit to the Arab world the message, “If you mess with us, we’ll turn your country into Gaza.”

There is the bloodlust, the deterrence capability or capacity. The third component, in my opinion, is the most important one. I don’t want to trivialize the first two. That is, everybody knows the cliche that, “Every crisis is an opportunity.” The Israelis realized on October 7th, as Mao Zedong used to say, “How to turn a bad thing into a good thing.” They were going to use what happened on October 7th to finally, once and for all, put an end to the Gaza problem.

For those of you who know the history, the people in Gaza have always refused, in quite militant ways, to acquiesce in their fate, the fate of being born, living and dying in a concentration camp. Now, because of October 7th, Israel envisaged, and you’ll excuse the obvious analogy, “It was time for the final solution to the Gaza question.”

And, what was the solution? I would say the solution fell on the spectrum. At one end of the spectrum was to ethnically cleanse Gaza. That seemed to be their goal the first week or so, when they thought they could sweep the entire population into the Egyptian Sinai.

Those plans were foiled by the Egyptian President who said, “We are not going to solve your Gaza problem. It’s not going to be at our expense.” That’s one point on the spectrum.

The middle point of the spectrum was to make Gaza uninhabitable, as Giora Eiland put it at one point, the former head of the National Security Council. Not now, but he’s still prominent. He’s an advisor to the Defense Minister, Gallant. He said, “We will give the people of Gaza two choices. Choice one, stay and starve. Choice two, to leave,” to make Gaza uninhabitable.

The third point on the spectrum is to just carry out a genocide without any elaboration and without any subtlety.

I would say it’s still an open question, how it will end. It’s possible that enough pressure will be exerted on President Sisi to open the Rafah gate and expel the population. It’s possible that we will be entering a period, judging by all international UN and humanitarian organizations, in which a large part of the population will starve to death. That’s a significant possibility.

I don’t know better than anyone here. For those of you who have studied these matters, and have attempted to, the way the international organizations classify hunger, starvation, famine, it’s a complex formula. I can never commit it to memory.

What’s certain is, as Human Rights Watch put it about two months ago, and as all UN officials without exception are putting it now, “Starvation is being used as a weapon.” It’s a calculated, premeditated attempt to starve the people of Gaza.

If you read the New York Times yesterday, they had a long article trying to persuade readers that the problem in Gaza is a technical one, how to deliver the goods. The roads are old. The inspections can be protracted. It’s not a technical question.

If you look at the statements by the EU Foreign Policy Chief Mr. Borrell, if you look at the statements by Mr. Lazzarini, the head of the UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, if you look at the statements even by Gutierrez, the Secretary General of the UN, it’s a calculated policy. This is not a technical challenge. It’s a political policy by the state of Israel to, as Human Rights Watch put it, and then the Foreign Policy Chief, Borrell, put it, “It’s a calculated weapon using starvation as a method and mode of warfare.”

I’ll look at one last question, and then I’ll proceed to talk with Chris. The question is, How do we assess, at this point in time, the significance of what happened October 7th? I remember my good friend, Muin Rabani, he said to me, “It’s a game changer.”

I was very hesitant to agree to that because I had seen many massacres come and go. I had chronicled them. I was, at least at the beginning, inclined to, “Another bloodletting and then we move on.” I was wrong. I have no problem saying that. I would say the following things changed.

Number one, I think we are at an end, at least provisionally, to any diplomacy to resolve the conflict. The talk about two states, at this point, is completely ridiculous. There is no diplomatic solution on the horizon. On the one hand, Israel is determined it’s going to exact a military victory. It’s not going to retreat from that goal. If they manage to achieve a military victory, then they will almost certainly and expeditiously move on to extract another military victory from the Hezbollah. So on their side, it’s quite clear, though it’s true to say how you define a military victory has gray areas.

On the other side, the Party of God, the Hezbollah, has made absolutely clear, “We will not accept a military defeat for Hamas. That will not happen.” And as anybody here understands, those two goals are zero-sum. They are irreconcilable.

It’s also true to say that after the horrors of the past five months, a realization has set in in a large part of the Muslim world, “It cannot live with that state. It’s impossible.” That state has got to go. It’s a lunatic state. For that reason, as well, it doesn’t seem that a political solution is possible in the short term.

The other change is, I think, for the first time in my lifetime, Israel is now facing a legitimation crisis. Up until this moment, the state of Israel itself was not called into question within the broad mainstream. What was called into question was the occupation. I would say, now, the state of Israel itself has been called into question, its legitimacy. I’ll just suggest two pieces of evidence for that.

Piece of evidence number one, it’s very striking that the country in the world that decided to take up the cause of Gaza was South Africa. South Africa has always been the model pointed to by critics of Israel as the preferable ideal, one state for the people. It’s hard not to notice that the country which represents the one state ideal is now the chief representative of the Palestinian cause at the International Court of Justice.

The second indication, to me, I was very struck and surprised by Senator Schumer’s speech last week. Senator Schumer has always been a fanatical supporter of the state of Israel. In fact, in 2010, he already was advocating what Israel decided to do. He said, “We should economically strangle Gaza.” As you’ll all remember, or some of you will remember, Senator Schumer and New Jersey Senator, Menendez, were the two main Democrats who opposed the deal with Iran. He was effectively a spokesperson for the state of Israel in our country.

The speech was very interesting, just on three points. Point number one, he was very careful to allocate equal responsibility on both sides. He said Hamas had to go and the Palestinian authority had to go, at least under Abbas.

Then he said, “Netanyahu has to go and the far right has to go.” He made it exactly even, his allocation of responsibility. Coming from Schumer, unthinkable, unthinkable.

Then, it was very interesting how he addressed criticism of Israel. He said, “It’s not fair to call Israel a settler state,” or nowadays, the jargon is settler colonial state. He said, “It’s not fair because we have these longings from 3,000 years ago.” I won’t go into that. But, he didn’t dismiss the claim as being anti-Semitic, as being lunatic. He felt the need to rationally refute the claim.

Then, the second point was he had to address the question of one state. It was very interesting. Far from calling one state anti-Semitic, he said, “I understand that many idealistic young people believe in the idea of one state and everyone living together.” “I don’t agree,” he said, “but I understand it.” That was a signal, in my view, that Senator Schumer realized that a large part of his Democratic Party constituency regards that as a legitimate goal and that he can’t dismiss it as anti-Semitic without dismissing a significant part of the Democratic Party base. So, that was a indirect realization that Israel is now facing, as a Jewish state… Israel is a Jewish state, not just the occupation. Israel as a Jewish state is facing a real legitimation crisis. Okay. Thank you.

Chris Hedges:

Alli, you…

I want to ask about the difference. I watched the debate with Benny. I thought the first two hours were really fascinating. Benny Morris being a very reputable Israeli historian. So much of the argument came down to intent over the founders of the state of Israel. But, I want to ask about the difference between liberal Zionism embodied in figures like Teddy Kollek and Shimon Peres, maybe even Rabin and others, this religious Zionism now, Ben-Gvir, and how you see that in terms of changing Israel, and that kind of process.

Certainly, when I was in Israel, you had significant aspects of the Labor Party. You had a peace movement. It’s a very different country. I wonder if you could talk about that transition.

Norman Finkelstein:

I happen to think that’s an excellent question, and it’s a very tough question. Right now, Israeli society has no left. It doesn’t have a center. It has a right, a far right, and an ultra-right. That’s the whole of the Israeli spectrum.

Well, for those of you who are doubtful of that characterization, I’ll give you just one piece of evidence. Then, you judge it on your own. If you look at the most recent opinion polls, 90% of Israelis believe that Israel is using enough, or not enough, force in Gaza at the moment. Fully 40% believe that Israel is using insufficient force in Gaza. Now, I find that irreconcilable with any notion of even a center in Israel, let alone a left.

Now, some people make, in my opinion, the extenuating argument, the alibi, that the Israeli media are biased and that’s why the people, they don’t know what’s happening. Many respectable people say that, but I find that most implausible.

Israelis have probably the highest per capita rate of usage of the web, social media, and things like that. They know what’s going on. Even if their newspapers are lying, even if their television is lying, they’re on the web. If I can read-

Norman Finkelstein:

They’re on the web. If I can read The London Times, if I can read The Economist, they can read The New York Times and they can read 10,000 other outlets, which are telling more or less… Okay, I’ll leave out The New York Times, are telling more or less what’s happening.

But, Chris, it raises a tough question because it’s true. Only the oldest people in this room will remember Israel was a left-wing cause for the longest time. I know that sounds strange to you. The head of Israel at the beginning was a party called the Mapai. It belonged to the Socialist International. The leading opposition party was the Mapam and the Mapam were totally slavish ideologically to the Soviet Union. Israel, its founding was supported by the Soviet Union, and that was true pretty much until 1977 when what was called the Likud came to power under Menachem Begin.

The problem with this left-right demarcation is the ethnic cleansing of 1948. It occurred under the left, the Mapam, the left in Israel. They were the executors of the ethnic cleansing. Or take another example. Up until Gaza, up until Gaza, the worst bloodletting were not those periodic mowings of the lawn in Gaza, up until I meant the present. The worst bloodletting, and I was just talking about with Chris beforehand, was in 1982 in Lebanon. In 1982 in Lebanon, the estimates are between 15 and 20,000. That’s not a trivial number. 15 and 20,000 Palestinians and Lebanese were killed. And the head of the government was Begin and Sharon, Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin. But the Labor Party supported it. I even remember back then when a major Marxist academic named Shlomo Avineri, some of you may remember, he’s probably around a hundred years old now.

Shlomo Avineri, he was supposed to appear at the Democrats… What was it called back then? It wasn’t called DSA, maybe it was called the DSA back then.

Chris Hedges:

I think so.

Norman Finkelstein:

At their convention, and he was kicked out because he was supporting the Lebanon war. So horrible things happened under the labor governments, though it’s also true to say that they weren’t nearly as ideologically brazen as the current governments, but everybody knows, overwhelmingly, who built the settlements. It was labor. Whenever there was a switch between labor and Likud, labor, every time it came into power, it built more settlements than Likud. So one place where I will acknowledge a difference is, and this is one of the reasons why I said, and I don’t say gleefully, I don’t believe a diplomatic settlement is possible now. I’m not saying that with any kind of glee, I’m just trying to be factual. When you were in the era of Ehud Barak and then Ehud Olmert, that is the era of 2000 and then 2007, 8, in that era, what the Palestinians and the Israelis were arguing over, they were arguing over percentages. Which is to say, Israel wants to keep 80% of the settlers in the West Bank. Olmert wants to keep 87% of the settlers in the West Bank.

The Palestinians make an offer to keep 60% of the settlers in the West Bank. It was arguments over details and percentages. It’s true they were still far apart, but there was, so to speak, a common goal. We’re at the point where the current government in Israel won’t even give a broom closet to the Palestinians. We’re nowhere even near where things once were. So the idea when they say we’re going to make two states… Two states out of what? You’re going to give them 10 feet of land, four acres of land? What are you talking about? So at that level, I would have to say, yes, there has been a change between what was under labor and what’s currently under the current government.

Chris Hedges:

I want to ask about the United States is clearly complicit in sustaining the genocide. I think 67 or 68% of the weapons stockpiles come from the US and the obsequiousness of both parties towards Israel’s demands. I’m just going to quote Ariel Sharon and then have you comment. He told Shimon Peres, “Every time we do something, you tell me Americans will do this and will do that. I want to tell you something very clear. Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America and the Americans know it.”

Norman Finkelstein:

There has been a question for many people. Why is Biden acquitting himself in the fashion that he is? And for that matter, Blinken, Jake Sullivan and the rest. I would say there are two elements. One element is there is a strategic interest by the United States to seeing that Israel’s deterrence capacity is restored after October 7th, and our administration does see Iran as a crucial regional power that has to be put in its place. And there is the fear in the US administration, from the vantage point of its own interests, there is the fear that a victory for Hamas will embolden what’s called the resistance front. So that is I think a distinct and separate US interest.

However, not however, I would say, and in addition. And here, I’ll freely admit to going into speculative terrain and some people may be offended by it. It’s my honest opinion and we can argue over facts. We’re obviously in an election cycle, and as everybody knows, if you open up, say the front page of The New York Times today, the first thing they’re always calculating is which party is getting more campaign contributions. And today, The Times Breathe a big sigh of relief, Joe Biden is getting ahead now of Trump. I’m not sure of just the current month or totals. I didn’t read the full article. There is a Jewish billionaire class, and since October 7th, it’s gone mad. That’s not an exaggeration. It is impossible to find an example in American history of not one, but two Ivy League college presidents who were toppled in real-time in-your-face coups.

The president of Harvard University was ousted from office because she was insufficiently repressive, suppressive of a speech and assembly on her campus. That’s completely unprecedented. It was the grossest, most egregious, the most flagrant violation of academic freedom in our country’s history. There’s nothing that even compares to it. I have studied that history, I’ve written on that history. There was, at the turn of the century, the robber barons, when I say the turn of the century, I mean from the 19th or the 20th century, the robber barons got very upset because there was a lot of labor insurgency and there were just a handful of professors, really, you can count them in the fingers of your hand, who, in their university posts, were expressing some support for the labor insurgencies and the robber barons were ruthless in trying to get them expelled from the university. And that was the beginnings of the whole battle for academic freedom of our country was the formation of the AAUP, the American Association of University Presidents. John Dewey and several others played a very important role. But this was simply breathtaking.

They, no holds barred, not behind closed doors, they toppled two Ivy League college presidents. They are that ruthless and they have that much power. Remember, they’re giving a hundred million dollars at a shot. That’s an extraordinary amount of money. If there’s anybody in this room from my generation, we, as kids, used to watch this program. It was a weekly program. It was called The Millionaire, and it was about this philanthropist who would, each week, it was a weekly, he would give a million dollars to some do-gooder. And we would sit in front of our TV sets and oh my God, a million dollars. It was unbelievable. It was like going to Jupiter and back. And okay, I account for inflation and I know I’m old. Okay, a slice of pizza, my day was 15 cents, now, it’s $3. I get that. But a hundred million dollars is a lot of money. Or $50 million in the case of the donor to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

And for Biden, that’s a concern. If he says something too critical of Israel, they’ll just give the money to Trump because Trump, they know he’s an ace in the hole. He’s going to do for us whatever we want on Israel. So I do think that that is a significant factor in Biden’s calculation. And what they did was they tried to do a kind of good cop, bad cop. Biden sticks by Netanyahu. Chuck Schumer is cautiously critical of Israel, in general, and Netanyahu, in particular, because each of them had a designated role in the division of labor. Biden needs to keep the billionaire class. Schumer has to appease that restive base in the Democratic party, which is not happy with what’s going on. So that’s how I try to understand what Biden is doing.

Chris Hedges:

Let’s talk about Gaza itself. I was in Sarajevo during the war. That was three to 400 shells a day, that resulted in about four to five dead a day and two dozen wounded a day. I juxtapose that with Gaza where it’s hundreds of wounded and dead a day. I think there’s a pretty strong case to be made that the numbers released by the health ministry and Gaza are a severe undercount given what are presumably tens of thousands of missing. And also, the bombing itself. Gaza is only five miles wide, 20 miles long is of such intensity that it’s, from my own experience, hard to believe it’s 30,000. But I want to talk about the reaction, with the exception of Yemen and the Houthis, there is really no resistance. And your parents were both survived the Holocaust and your mother was in Auschwitz, right? Was that correct?

Norman Finkelstein:


Chris Hedges:

Your father.

Norman Finkelstein:

My mother was in Majdanek.

Chris Hedges:

In Majdanek. And so in some ways it does replicate the Holocaust in the sense that the rest of the world does nothing. We are watching this slaughter being live-streamed, and other than rhetorically, and it’s worse because of course you have the rhetoric, but then you have the arms shipments, now largely through Cyprus being helicoptered in, the UK, and there are some countries, Canada just announced that they’ll cease sending weapons. I think the Netherlands have stopped, Norway, but nevertheless it’s being sustained. But I want you to, because that’s also that period of history well, to draw comparisons in terms of what we’re seeing and the reaction.

Norman Finkelstein:

I would say there are many factors in trying to make an analogy. The fact of the matter is that Hitler couldn’t have done what he did without a war. He couldn’t have possibly carried out the final solution had he not had the cover of a war. And the fact that it was being executed, at least in theory, it was being executed, so to speak, behind closed doors. Now, if you were in the German army, if you were in the Wehrmacht, you were on the front and 50% of the Jews were killed on the front. They weren’t killed in the concentration camps. They were just lined up and shot down. So that’s, in my opinion, a very thin alibi that you didn’t know what was going on, but at least you can call it an alibi. You can grasp something. Here, there’s no alibi. It’s being done right out in the open. There’s nowhere to hide in this current round.

And a significant number of UN officials are saying it out loud. It took them quite a while to say it, but now, they’re saying it out loud. This is a genocide, mass starvation is. If that’s a cell phone, I carry my Star Trek laser, phaser, phaser. And I set it not on stun, but I set it on kill, which is what I tell my students. [foreign language 01:11:42]. So in that respect, it’s actually worse now because it’s been just out in the open. And we have the facts, we have the figures. We don’t have just the Hamas Ministry of Health. There’ve been three very systematic, stringent, exhaustive studies done. And they said the Hamas Ministry of Health numbers are right. It’s not a speculative fact. Now-

Chris Hedges:

I just want to say that what they record is only out of the morgues and hospitals.

Norman Finkelstein:


Chris Hedges:

So that’s-

Norman Finkelstein:

No, but I’m saying to the extent that we use the Hamas numbers, they’ve been confirmed by three independent, stringent studies. Now, when I was in a debate with Benny Morris and I mentioned the figure of 30,000, he said, “Oh, we could have killed 500,000 if we wanted to.” And I said, “That’s not really true because there’s a gap that separates the wish from the deed. It’s called politics and the international community. It exists and it puts constraints.” We all wish there were much more significant, those constraints. But I said, “Considering what you’ve accomplished, when you look at the numbers, more children killed in Gaza since October than every single war zone in the world added together times four. That’s not a small achievement. More journalists killed than in all of World War II. That’s not a small achievement. More medics killed than any other conflict zone in the world in any year’s time.

The density of the bombing, unparalleled in the 21st century, the intensity of the bombing, it exceeds the bombing of Dresden. So even though you haven’t gotten your 500,000, I would say you’re doing pretty well. As genocides go, you’re doing a pretty good job.” Now, some people want to say, well, ICJ said only a plausible case of genocide. And they try to claim it’s a low standard plausibility. I would say to any person in the room, if I were to say to you, there’s a plausible case that you murdered your neighbor, you would take that claim pretty seriously. You wouldn’t dismiss it and said, well, what do you mean by plausible? No, it’s just such a stupid argument. Plausible means credible. That’s a pretty serious charge.

What does plausible mean? Let’s say there’s a regional athletic competition and you win the competition to go on to be on the Olympic team and you win the competition. Now, it’s true, it doesn’t mean you’ve won yet a gold, silver, or bronze medal. That’s true. And it doesn’t yet even mean you made the team. But if you qualified in the regional to be on the team, that’s a pretty impressive achievement. So if you qualified for having committed the genocide, plausible case of genocide, I would say that’s a pretty impressive achievement. So when you try to poo poo it, yes, it’s true. The Minister of Antiquities, he wanted to nuke Gaza and that was not permissible, but that’s not because they don’t want to. It’s the limits imposed by the international political system. What we know is, they have gone as far as they want to go before they’re stopped because we know exactly what they wanted to do.

It’s one of those rare cases of truth in advertising. Defense Minister Golan said, “We will not allow any food, fuel, water, electricity into Gaza.” Well, it doesn’t require rocket science to understand what’s the consequence of that. Now, you’re going to say, but they’re letting it in. But go back and remember, they let it in when Biden said, you have to let something in. And at this moment in time, they’re not letting it in. Starvation is being used as a weapon. So all things said, I would say they’re doing a very good job if their goal is genocide.

Chris Hedges:

Well, they cut the humanitarian aid shipments last month by 44%.

Norman Finkelstein:

Yeah, between the ICJ opinion, International Court of Justice opinion, one of the two provisional requirements imposed on Israel was to allow more humanitarian aid to get in. In fact, it was reduced by half between February and March. And I forgot, I want to just say one last part. I talked to the bleak part of the present picture. There are some extraordinarily inspiring things. Number one, the incredible courage, tenacity, conscientiousness of the young people who have been coming out day in and day out in support of the people of Gaza. It’s absolutely breathtaking. I figure at some point, it’ll get boring, people will move on, and the young people keep coming out and coming out and coming out.

I went to a demonstration about two weeks ago. It was at NYU, New York University, in Washington Square Park. It was pouring rain, and I see you two. Look, I didn’t see anybody over 25 there. But there were umbrellas, so it was a little, I don’t know. I was like grandma in munchkin land. It was, and it was a Saturday. It was pouring rain. We started at 12, we ended at 5:30. And you know what? We then went, or large number of us, descended into the subway. It ended at New York Public Library at 42nd Street. And on one side of the train platform, and on the other side, they were still shouting, still all the energy level. And I remember, I was with somebody and he said to me, “And you know, they have no stake in this.” They gain no gain. There’s no gain. The expression, of course, you know it of your generation, friends with benefits. This was solidarity without benefits. It was really a deeply inspiring thing.

A second data point is South Africa. When people were talking about invoking the Genocide Convention, I said, “Oh, forget it. What are you talking about?” What state is going to come to defense of Gaza in the face of the United States?

Norman Finkelstein:

They come to defense of Gaza in the face of the United States. That’s ridiculous. And the South African performance has just been breathtaking. I don’t know how many of you have read the application they submitted, the original application. It was 84 pages with literally hundreds of footnotes. It was so exhaustively and impressively documented. They must have had a very large team of people produce that document.

And they continue, I don’t know how many of you follow, literally every three weeks, they’re back at the ICJ demanding that the ICJ do more, and they have all the footnoted documents. Israel just released its response two days ago, and Israel was bristling now at South Africa, “You’re getting out of hand.” They should be worried about being nuked also, I’m afraid.

And the third thing, which was totally… I always freely admit to when I’m wrong because I like to be wrong for a good cause. When people ask, “How do you think it’s going to go on the International Court of Justice?” I said, “Maybe, maybe you could squeak by an 8-to-7 vote. That’s the most,” and I didn’t believe it. I thought it would be 6-4 and the rest against. And lo and behold, the vote turned out to be 15-to-2. The US was the president of the court, Donoghue, and she voted with the majority. How do you explain that?

There was a song in the 1960s, a famous song, “There’s Something happening Here.” And when 15 judges in the ICJ vote to say, “Israel is plausibly guilty of genocide,” and the American judge, the president goes along with that, that’s pretty impressive as an indicator of things. And I’ll freely say, if there were a Nobel laureate, if there were a Nobel Prize, Peace Prize to be given out now, first and foremost, I would give it to the doctors in Gaza. So many of them from abroad volunteered to go there. A death zone. That’s very impressive. Could I have done that? I would feel the moral pressure, but I think the fear would get the better of me.

Second, I would give it to the South Africa delegation.

And third, I would give it to the Houthis. Oh. I’m not saying that as a throwback to my days as a Maoist. I’m saying that as a human being. Remember, in the 1990s, there was this whole doctrine, which was propagated by liberals, like the Samantha Powers type. It was called Responsibility to Protect, RtoP. But what are the Houthis doing? The idea was you have a responsibility to protect people who are being threatened with genocide. Isn’t that what the Houthis are doing, protecting? They are fulfilling their responsibility to protect. The Genocide Convention says every signatory has a responsibility to prevent genocide. That’s what the Houthis are doing.

So now you might ask why they’re doing it. You could speculate, but I think there’s one very good reason why they’re doing it. You know why? Because what’s happening to Gaza happened to them. Between 2015 and 2018 because of the Saudi US-backed blockade, about 80,000 Yemenis starved to death. They understand starvation. So they would be the third, in my opinion, recipients of that prize.

Chris Hedges:

So we’re going to open the questions. Keep them short. Don’t give speeches, please.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So turns out that we’ll probably have to exit this building in about 20 minutes because campus security wants us out here by then. So what we’re going to do is raise your hand. Yeah, raise your hand if you want to ask a question. I’ll come over and get to you.

Norman Finkelstein:

Excuse me, young man. I’d like to call on him first. This fellow in the back, if you don’t mind.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, okay. Gotcha. Also, after I ask this question, the second floor will get their own question, and third floor will get their own question. And I think that’ll be pretty much it for tonight.

Speaker 6:

Okay. “I totally support the Houthis as a Jew.” You said that, Norm.

Norman Finkelstein:

Yeah, totally.

Speaker 6:

The Houthi flag says, “God is the greatest, death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam.”

Norman Finkelstein:

Yes, I’m aware of that.

Speaker 6:

How do you reconcile this?

Norman Finkelstein:

I have no problem reconciling it for this very simple reason, and you’ll allow me… You can disagree. I have no problem with that.

From my first conscious moments in my own life, my parents loathed the Germans. They didn’t loathe the Nazis. They loathed, they hated the Germans. In fact, I vividly recall, my father once recommended me a book on the Nazi Holocaust. And I asked him, “What makes this book special?” And he said to me, “I liked it, that the author didn’t talk about Nazis. He talked about Germans.”

Now, my parents were very decent human beings, the apple did not fall far from the tree, but I could understand that sentiment. The only Jews the Houthis have known are the Israelis. It’s a regrettable fact that they don’t know, have never experienced any other kinds of Jews.

I remember I once asked my mother, just out of curiosity, “Did you ever meet, did you ever come into contact with a German who was decent?” And she said to me, she thought hard, and she said, “I remember one German soldier. He had a kind of guilty look on his face.” That was all she could remember. One. So it doesn’t surprise me that she loathed all Germans.

Do I wish the Houthis were more discriminating in their slogans? Of course, I wish it, but do I understand where it comes from? Yes. And will that slogan of theirs color my appreciation of the fact that alone among the world’s peoples, they are resorting to armed force to stop the genocide in Gaza? I have to ask myself the question, how would my parents have felt if this ragtag army happened to be situated on the point in the world’s map where they could inflect the outcome of the Final Solution? And these people, this ragtag people hailing back to the Middle Ages, they were investing all of their physical resources and moral energy to stopping the extermination. How would my parents react? Would they ask, “What are their political slogans?” I don’t think so.

That’s my honest reaction. I’m not trying to be rhetorical with you. You asked me a concrete question. That’s how I reasoned it through.

Chris Hedges:

And we should be clear that that blockade, that blockade that the Houthis have imposed is circumvented by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, which has created a land corridor to supply Israel with its vacuum cleaners and consumer goods.

Next question?

Speaker 6:

Just one more sentence?

Norman Finkelstein:

Yes, please do.

Speaker 6:

In your characteristically slow and pointed speech pattern, Am Yisrael Chai.

Norman Finkelstein:

I don’t understand the relationship of those two statements, but okay.

Speaker 6:

Because you’re not going at me.

Speaker 5:

Free Gaza!

Speaker 12:

Free Gaza! Woo-hoo!

Norman Finkelstein:

I want to speak honestly to you. If it does go somewhere, and I do believe a problem is lurking though, if it does go somewhere, it’s of your own making. You’ve gone too far. They said already a book I wrote in 2008, the title was taken by something written by Gideon Levy referring to Operation Cast Lead. And the title was, This Time We’ve Gone Too Far, and Cast Lead is now a pale, pale, pale comparison to what’s happened to the people of Gaza. And I don’t say it with glee, I’m just saying if you do go somewhere, it’s of your own making.

Chris Hedges:

Well, and there are Israeli moral philosophers like Yeshiyahu Leibowitz who warned Israel precisely of the self-destructive path that it was on.

So do we have any more questions? Oh, go ahead.

Speaker 4:

Only one question, that’s his.

Chris Hedges:

So just raise your hand and they’ll bring the mic to you.

Speaker 7:

Over here.

Oh. Thank you for that response. I was wondering if you can talk to the fact that that response has to be, in order for it to be powerful and legit, it has to come from a Jewish standpoint. And I wanted to ask you, what could be possible for those who do not have that experience to respond back to the Houthis and supporting the Houthis? So what kind of response do you imagine could be possible from another standpoint that does not fall into that kind of deadlock of, “How come you’re supporting the Houthis?”

Norman Finkelstein:

I think it’s simply a fact of life that certain persons have certain kinds of, I won’t call it immunities, but they have certain kinds of what you might call rhetorical privileges, which others don’t have. And I want to be judged by the facts. And if you disagree with me, you’re free to disagree with me. And I would hope that beyond disagreeing with me, you will make an argument and not just a slogan.

But I also recognize that I do have… I can’t say my life has been exemplary of immunities. On the other hand, I recognize that I am able to, in public, at any rate, make arguments that the two young women sitting in the front row now are not able to make and who are more easily dismissed. And I don’t think you can get around that. It’s just, so to speak, the nature of things.

You’re choosing? I think we need the-

Chris Hedges:

We need the mic.

Norman Finkelstein:

Oh, I see. He has the mic back there.

Chris Hedges:

Yeah. So go ahead. Oh, there.

Speaker 8:

So I’m filled with emotions. I’m from Gaza, I’m from Khan Yunis. 45 people from my family have been killed. On Friday morning, 6:00 AM, after the morning prayer, my nephew, 17 years old, was killed in a tent that is in the safe area that was designated by Israel after they were driven out of their town. And other people were injured.

So just going back to the Houthis, I don’t understand why, whoever is asking a question about the Houthis, they’re not outraged about what Israel has done and is doing. If they were outraged about that, they wouldn’t even see the Houthis as a problem because the main problem in the Middle East right now is Israel and what it’s doing. Israel is the one who’s killing, Israel is the one who’s bombing, Israel is the one who’s doing everything that is against civilization, destroying hospitals, schools, universities, houses, villages, cutting trees, doing everything unimaginable. And we’re still asking about what the Houthis are doing?

What are the Houthis are doing? What are they? They’re just stopping some ships from passing through the sea and the ships are going to support the genocide? How big of a problem is that compared to what Israel is doing? Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So I’ll go middle here and then left side next, if that’s okay with all of you.

Okay. Not yet? Sure, sure.

Speaker 9:

Could you talk about the ICJ and why that decision had so little impact in the grand scheme of things?

Norman Finkelstein:

Why that decision had so little impact? I can’t really agree with that because legal opinions and legal decisions, unless you have force behind them, they’re basically weapons in a political or ideological struggle. And that was a very powerful weapon that the ICJ handed to the solidarity movement with the people of Gaza. The fact that I said earlier Israel was facing a legitimation crisis, the fact that Israel now has pinned on it the scarlet letter of genocide has radically or potentially will radically reshape opinions of Israel. They’re going to have to carry that with them, that they were plausibly accused of a genocide. And that’s, for us, it legitimates, or let me just put to you in reverse.

Many people were worried if the ICJ had voted in reverse, namely there is no plausible case of genocide, that would’ve been a political disaster. Israel would’ve won 99% of the propaganda war or the war for a public relations war. So that fear was not only dispelled, but now you have a very potent weapon in the quiver of those struggling for justice, that the highest judicial body in the world, the president at the time of which was an American, had said, “Well, we looked at the evidence, there’s a plausible case for genocide here.”

Chris Hedges:

It’s an existential issue, as Norman laid out in his book, The Holocaust Industry, because they, Israel, has weaponized the Holocaust, weaponized the genocide that was carried out against Jews. And this ruling potentially removes-

Norman Finkelstein:

That’s correct.

Chris Hedges:

… that protection.

I just want to quickly highlight that it’s not just genocide, but within the United States, there are five laws that every day the State Department is violating as it approves ships and cargo planes full of weapons: the Foreign Assistance Act, which forbids the provision of assistance to a government which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights; the Arms Export Control Act, which says countries that receive US military aid can only use weapons for legitimate self-defense and internal security; the US War Crimes Act, which forbids grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, including the willful torture, killing, or inhuman treatment; the Leahy Law, which prohibits the US government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights; and the Genocide Convention Implementation Act, which was enacted to implement US obligations under the Genocide Convention, and Israel would push for that, and provides for criminal penalties for individuals who commit or incite others to commit genocide.

So what is happening is a grotesque violation of not only international law, but domestic law. And I think that this refusal… I know in the debate, Benny Morris was saying, “Well, the laws don’t matter, laws don’t matter,” well, laws do matter because if we don’t have any kind of legal mechanism by which we can restrain these forces, then we create a kind of Hobbesian world. And I think that is… I’m very, as some of you know, very close to Julian Assange and just came back from the hearing in London, and one of the things that terrifies me, having sat through those hearings in London, is the way the British legal system and the American legal system is ignoring its own laws, and this sets a kind of precedence that is very, very dangerous.

So yeah, the law does matter, and I found that an interesting kind of exchange between you and Benny because he was essentially saying it doesn’t.

Norman Finkelstein:

Well, Professor Morris says, “The laws don’t matter,” or, “law doesn’t matter” when it all depends on whose ax is being ground.

So on October 7th, if you really truly believe that international law is an irrelevance, if you believe that, then Hamas did nothing wrong on October 7th because the wrongness of its deed springs from the fact that international humanitarian law, IHL as it’s called, distinguishes between civilians and combatants. It’s what’s called the most fundamental principle of IHL, international humanitarian law, the fundamental principle is the principle of distinction. You have to distinguish civilians and combatants, civilian sites and military sites. “But if you don’t believe in the law,” as I said to Benny Morris, Professor Morris, “then don’t complain about what happened on October 7th.” You can’t have it both ways. The law only becomes operative when you are the victim, but becomes inoperative when you are the perpetrator.

Speaker 10:

Oh, thank you. I think it was in February 15th or something like that, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, he said something along the lines that, “The waterfront properties in Gaza are going to be very valuable,” and he also recommended to get people out of there and clean it. Do you think that that will give us an idea of a potential, what are potential second-term policies for Trump are going to be?

Norman Finkelstein:

Well, Jared Kushner is an example of why we have to get rid of affirmative action for rich people. He’s a terrifying imbecile and he went to Harvard because of his father, who’s a sick crook, got him into… I think the only good thing Chris Christie ever did was lock up his father. It was, beyond all else, it was just so stupid. To be-

Speaker 2:

I’m so, so sorry, but we are at time right now and we’re going to have to close out. I don’t want to interrupt you. I really hate doing this, but we have to. I’m sorry.

Norman Finkelstein:

No problem.

Speaker 2:


Chris Hedges:

The campus security-

Speaker 2:

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Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.