Norman Finkelstein (Born on 8th December 1953) is an American activist and political scientist. He has researched extensively about the Holocaust and the Israel-Palestine war. Some of his popular literature on these subjects include:
- From the Jewish Question to the Jewish State: An Essay on the Theory of Zionism
- The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal account of the Intifada Years
- Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict
- The Holocaust Industry: Reflection of the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering
- Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom
- Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel’s Assault on Gaza
Here is his story as told by WoK,
Norman Finkelstein Background
He was born in New York to Jewish parents, Harry and Maryla Finkelstein. His mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto and Majdanek concentration camps while the father survived the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz.
The two met in a displaced persons camp in Austria then emigrated to the United States where his father worked in a factory. Both his parents died in 1995.
Norman Finkelstein Education
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, he attended James Madison High School and received his undergraduate degree from New York’s Binghamton University.
Later, he obtained a Masters degree in Political Science and a PhD in Political Studies from Princeton University.
His doctoral thesis was focused on Zionism. He worked as a part time social worker with teenage dropouts in New York before gaining employment.
Finkelstein began getting involved in the Israeli-Palestinian war in 1982. Together with other Jews in New York, they protested the invasion of Lebanon by Israel.
During the First Intifada, he spent every summer from 1988 in the West Bank as a guest of Palestinian families in Hebron and Beit Sahour. He would teach English at a local school.
Finkelstein kick-started his teaching career at Rutgers University as an adjunct lecturer in International Relations.
In 1988, he joined Brooklyn College followed by Hunter College and New York University from 1992 to 2001.
He reportedly left Hunter College after being unceremoniously kicked out. According to him, he had asked the college to retain him with 2 courses a semester for $12,000 a year. The New York Times reported that his workload and salary was reduced by the college administration.
In 2001, he joined DePaul University where he went on to teach for six years. Between 2014 and 2015, he taught at Sakarya University Middle East Institute.
As a writer, Norman’s works have been praised and critiqued in almost equal measure. He has described himself as a forensic scholar whose work is to demystify what he terms pseudo-scholarly arguments.
He has criticized popular authors and scholars whom he accused of misinterpreting facts with a view of defending Israel’s policies and practices.
He has argued that there is a holocaust industry that takes advantage of the Holocaust memory to the financial advantage of Israel.
He published the book, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections On the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering in 2000. In the book, he said that Elie Wiesel and others exploit the Holocaust in order to cast the Israeli as the victims in order to make them immune to criticisms.
He accused a section of people for seeking enormous compensations from Germany and Switzerland. The money would then go towards lawyers and institutional actors involved in procuring them rather than the real victims.
He then criticized Alan Dershowitz’s book The Case for Israel. He termed the book a collection of fraud, falsification, plagiarism and nonsense.
In response to the criticism, Dershowitz threatened libel action prompting Finkelstein to remove the word plagiarism from the text before publishing. Later, Dershowitz campaigned to block Finkelstein’s tenure at DePaul University.
He called him a propagandist rather than a scholar and he promised to demonstrate that he did not meet the academic standards of the Association of American Universities. Finkelstein resigned from the University in 2007.
In 2008, he was denied entry into Israel and later banned from the country for ten years. He was questioned after arriving at Ben Gurion Airport and put in a holding cell for 24 hours before being deported to Amsterdam.
In 2023, after Hamas attacked Israel, he expressed his support for Gaza saying they had been immured in concentration camps for twenty years.
He declared support for Hezbollah and its secretary general Hassan Nasrallah. He believes the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war demonstrated how to defeat Israel using guerilla war.
The scholar believes that the Palestine Solidarity Movement should focus on a pragmatic settlement of the Israel-Palestine war rather than one. According to him, a two-state Solution is the pragmatic option while a one-state solution is the idealistic one.
In a recent tweet, he said that Gaza has a right to hate the people who destroyed their lives.