Kate Perkins interviews Norman Finkelstein in Guernica:
The career of radical political scholar Norman Finkelstein might be described as a sort of heroic painting-into-a-corner. The son of Holocaust survivors, his life’s work has been dedicated to exposing the hypocrisy, ideology, and violence that sustains the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The dimensions of his emphatic anti-Zionism, expounded over the course of six meticulously researched and often polemical books on Israel, Palestine, and the legacy of the Holocaust, have made him a pariah in the mainstream and a hero amongst supporters of Palestinian liberation. The high controversy around Finkelstein’s politics has penetrated university walls on more than one occasion, making his academic career fraught with defensive, uphill battles. I first met Finkelstein in 2007, in the eye of a storm of controversy surrounding his academic status at DePaul University. Despite his prolific and highly influential body of critical scholarship—and after first having been approved for tenure at DePaul by both department and faculty committees—Finkelstein’s tenure had ultimately been denied—minority dissenters had campaigned successfully against his appointment. Flanked by a supporting cast of speakers including Tariq Ali, Tony Judt, and Noam Chomsky (via satellite), Finkelstein stood before some one thousand six hundred people in the University of Chicago’s packed Rockefeller Chapel to make the case for academic freedom. Contrary to his reputedly prickly demeanor, he appeared extraordinarily collected and calm, his heavy brow furrowing only slightly over sharp, dark eyes as he prepared to publicly address the charges against him. (The university’s final word on the matter was that Dr. Finkelstein’s reputation for outspoken criticism of Israel and of Israeli apologists like Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz made Finkelstein unfit for tenure at DePaul, a school of “Vincentian values.”)
It was the culmination of a long struggle to advance his radical political critique of Israel and of the American Israeli lobby from within the academy. Now an independent scholar, Dr. Finkelstein remains a leading voice of dissent against the pro-Israel policies that underwrite an apartheid regime enforced by egregious war crimes and human rights violations. In This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, his first book since departing from DePaul—he argues that Israel’s November, 2008 invasion of Gaza, which decisively ended a fragile ceasefire brokered by Egypt that June, marked the beginning of an unprecedented decline in public support for Israel. The book’s epilogue is devoted to the Goldstone Report, a document authored by renowned South African jurist Richard Goldstone that describes the damning conclusions of a U.N.-commissioned investigation into the Gaza invasion, including charges of war crimes against Israel.