The Jerk

Norman Finkelstein is a jerk. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask blogger Lydia McGrew:

“As it happens, I have a friend who is on staff at DePaul [University] who tells me that the word on the staff side is that you were lucky if you never had to deal with Norm, because he’s a jerk. I put a lot of weight on this, by the way. In my opinion, staff at a large university pretty much keep the place running, sometimes nearly single-handed, and they probably deserve to get paid a lot more than they do get paid. If the staff think a faculty member is a jerk, odds are high that he is a jerk.”

And he is. Finkelstein, who has called Elie Weisel a “clown in the Holocaust circus,” and  has asked, “If all these people survived the Holocaust, who actually died?,” is most notable for his traveling freak show of books, articles, appearances and interviews in which he hysterically denounces the Jews’ alleged use of the Holocaust to extort money, sympathy, and political advantage, and for which he proclaims that his Jewish heritage and Holocaust survivor parents give him a kind of sovereign immunity from charges of bias or antisemitism. Said Finkelstein: “I think it’s pretty audacious when people try to play the holocaust card with me.”

Finkelstein has also praised the Hezbollah terrorist group, most notably following the 2006 war with Israel:

“I truly honor [Hezbollah] for having inflicted an exceptional and deserving defeat on their foreign occupiers. It’s another wonderful chapter in the long and painful struggle for human emancipation and even liberty and certainly one that every human being can take inspiration from.”

I would have been most happy to forget, or, at the very least, ignore all of this but for a strange thing happened to me some time ago when I taped a documentary on the Military channel about the Doolittle raid, and sat down to watch it. What I got instead was a documentary on Link TV on Norman Finkelstein–someone had changed the channel I was taping, obviously. The documentary, titled, “Norman Finkelstein, Uncensored!,” traced his long, lonely struggle to reveal “the truth” about “the Holocaust industry.” At one university somewhere, a young girl who was trembling and crying, gently, almost pleadingly, asked him if he realized how hurtful comparing Jews to Nazis was to some Jews.

Now, he might have calmly explained to the girl, who was crying and obviously very distressed, his point of view on the Israeli-Palestinian situation and why, and reassuring her that he could understand her feelings, and then, maybe explaining to her his (in my opinion, ridiculous and insulting) view of how he sees past Jewish suffering used as a warrant for certain objectionable actions committed against Palestinians in the past and present.

But no. Stormin’ Norman Finkelstein assailed his timid, trembling questioner with all the belligerence of a bar room brawler sailing into a fistfight. He brutally mocked what he called the girl’s “crocodile tears” and then exhaled a blast furnace of self-righteous thundering about his Holocaust survivor parents and how Jews use the Holocaust to oppress Palestinians–his usual shtick to browbeat anyone who challenges his hysterical–and sometimes shockingly ad-hominem–assertions and attacks.

The young girl continued to weep all through the lively professor’s three-minute aria of brutal and remorseless self-justification. When the number expired, he briefly left the podium and smiled innocently to the camera (Finkelstein: “I’ve never been in a crowd like this. They’re nuts!”)–proud of his handiwork, no doubt, and of having throttled a timid young girl into tears and silence. Served her right, I guess.

What a jerk.

About the Author
Robert Werdine lives in Michigan City, Indiana, USA. He studied at Indiana University, Purdue University, and Christ Church College at Oxford and is self-employed. He is currently pursuing advanced degrees in education and in Middle Eastern Studies.