The American Jewish community is slowly but surely becoming more willing to critically debate Israel’s brutal policies towards Palestinians. Norman Finkelstein, here interviewed by Haaretz, says occupying Israel has a problem on its hands:
“Nobody really defends Israel anymore,” he said in an interview. “If you go on college campuses, there are some Hillel faithfuls who are bringing an IDF soldier to try to explain that not all IDF soldiers are war criminals. And among the 60 to 100 people in the audience, there are Palestinian supporters who come with tape over their mouth, and when the soldier starts to speak, many people stand up and walk out.
“They’ve lost the battle for public opinion,” he says. “They claim it’s because American Jews know too little – I claim it’s because they know too much about the conflict, and young liberal Jews have difficulty defending the use of cluster bombs in Lebanon or supporting the Israeli settlements. I was bashing Israel in the past because nobody else was exposing its true record. Many people are doing it now, so I switched hats from a critic of Israel to a diplomat who wants to resolve the conflict. I have not changed, but I think the spectrum has moved.”
Finkelstein’s book is suprisingly optimistic about the chances of settling the confict, and about changing the debate, even among American Jewry. The tide of public opinion is turning against Israel, he says, and once support for Israeli policy becomes widely unacceptable in the United States, the “self-designated voices for Israel,” as he calls them, will quickly drop out. Meanwhile, American Jewish college students are having their eyes opened.
“The academic research on Israel is no longer the footnoted “Exodus,” and younger Jews, when they go to college, are walking away with very different picture of Israel,” he said. “And the American Jewish community that for a long time was a huge obstacle to resolving the conflict is breaking up. If you put forth a reasonable and principled goal, I think a resolution is possible. We might be entering the endgame, but one that might take a long time.”
Last night, Al-Jazeera’s The Stream (great show, by the way, that allows new voices to be heard in the international arena) tackled the American Jewish community and its young people not simply blinding defending Zionism: