Norman Finkelstein, political scientist and son of two Holocaust survivors, gave a scathing critique of the Gaza conflict at UTM last week.
“It was high time [for Israel] to find a defenceless target to annihilate. Enter Gaza, Israel’s favourite shooting gallery,” he said.
Unlike Finkelstein’s last appearance at U of T, where protestors from Zionists @ U of T handed out flyers and a heckler was shown the door, supporters filled the 500-seat lecture hall and dozens were turned away at the door.
Citing Israel’s losses in the Lebanon war and its recent inability to attack Iran, Finkelstein said that Israel’s deterrence capacity – its ability to deter enemies with fear – was seen as having been weakened. According to Finkelstein, Israel targeted Gaza to reinforce its ability to deter enemies with fear, after losses in the Lebanon war and recent inability to attack Iran.
Finkelstein argued that the attacks were due to Hamas’ increasing legitimacy and its willingness to negotiate an agreement with Israel. “Hamas had embraced the international consensus for resolving the conflict. Hamas was going along with the UN General Assembly. Hamas was accepting the opinion of the International Court of Justice,” he said.
According to Finkelstein, the ceasefire was broken by Israel because a protracted ceasefire would increase the likelihood of a resolution and further legitimize Hamas.
Turning his attention to Canada, Finkelstein lamented the government’s recent vote at the UN Human Rights Council session on Gaza. The UN motion condemned the Israeli military offensive and passed 33 to 1, with Canada being the sole supporter of Israel.
Finkelstein reserved his most explosive words for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. “I respect Elliot Spitzer’s call girl a thousand more times more than Ignatieff…what’s his excuse for being a high-priced whore?”
“I hope that at each of his press conferences, people show up with shoes.”
In closing remarks, Finkelstein urged the audience to organize for Gaza. He was followed by Shaila Kibria of Islamic Relief Canada, who asked the audience to donate funds for the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
For Mafaz Al-Suwaidan, a Ryerson journalism student, Finkelstein’s popularity gave weight to his arguments. “I thought the attendance at the lecture spoke very clearly about Professor Finkelstein and his expertise and impact on the issue.”
The lecture, part of the Xpression Against Oppression week, was co-sponsored by the UTM student union and Canadians for Justice & Peace in the Middle East.