American Radical; a key film about Jewish questioning

American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein has just been screened in the US for the first time:

The film-makers have given me a preview screening of the film. It’s a powerful work, revealing the history of Finkelstein himself and his leading critics. In many ways, I feel deep sympathy for Finkelstein, a man who remains determined to outline Israel’s outrageous behaviour towards the Palestinians.

The documentary isn’t entirely positive towards Finkelstein, allowing people such as Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz the opportunity to challenge his findings. But overall, Finkelstein is the key figure, a man with a tortured past and trauma (and seemingly unhappy present) who has spent much of his life with a cause that is very personal. The Jewish response to criticisms of Israel are predictable; defensive, blind and anti-intellectual. He is therefore having the right effect. Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon rightly regard him as a hero; the people who matter.

The film’s press release says the following:

American Radical is the probing documentary portrait of American academic and activist Norman Finkelstein. A devoted son of holocaust survivors, ardent critic of Israeli and US Mid-East policies and author of six provocative books-including The Holocaust Industry and Beyond Chutzpah, Finkelstein has been at the center of many intractable controversies. Called a lunatic and a self-hating Jew by some and an inspirational, street-fighting revolutionary by others, Finkelstein is a deeply polarizing figure whose struggles arise from core questions about freedom, identity and nationhood. The film provides an intimate portrait of the man behind the controversy, giving voice to both his many critics and his supporters, while following him around the globe as he labors to change peoples’ minds.

This is a film that shines because it dares to articulate the key issues within the Jewish Diaspora: who speaks for us and who is allowed to dissent without facing a barrage of hate and slander? Sadly, Finkelstein’s story suggests that the Jewish community is insufficiently mature to understand that dissent is the highest form of humanity.

American Radical should be watched by people who care about the Middle East and a warning to those who want to speak out; you will be hounded simply for telling the truth about apartheid in Palestine. Too many Jews prefer to remain loyal to their ethnic group and ignore the human rights abuses being committed in their name.