95 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2012
Norman Finkelstein released his newest book approximately a month and a half ago and eagerly I ordered it and began reading it. I have been interested in Norman Finkelstein for about five years when I first became involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict and his books have been a beneficial tool in deciphering the conflict. Even at one point I actively worked to get him to speak at my Alma Mater (University of Massachusetts Lowell) about what happened during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9.
Since living in Palestine since the beginning of 2010, his books have hit a point with me that cannot be explained. Studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem opens up many racist facets in the American Jewish community. Having been disconnected to American live, unfortunately this community here has reminded me of the many problems within my home country.
All this being said, Finkelstein's new book "Knowing too Much" is about the American Jewish community specifically and its role in the conflict. He begins by analyzing it from the founding of the State of Israel and its relationship with it. He documents rather extensively the passive attitude the vast majority of American Jews had towards Israel during this time. The shift, which he correctly sees, begins with the 1967 war when Israel carried out an extremely premeditated attack on its Arab neighbors while at the same time maintaining a sense of innocence and constant threat upon it. The subsequent occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan became invisible to the American Jewish community as compared to the "great achievements" the Israeli army carried out. Finally, American Jews were able to be "proud" of Israel and this manifested into many various forms.
All of the sudden Israel became a source of inspiration and a leading factor in American Jewish life. Often it was heralded as the "light unto nations" and various narratives at this time sprang up with great proliferation. Criticism of Israel and its policies within the community and within the world in general was kept hidden to a point that criticism was (and still now) considered anti-Semitic or "self hating." This newly found love affair produced a plethora of "authoritative" works by prominent American Jews and their sympathizers that were held in high regard. Miraculously these books coincided with key events in the history where Israel was rightly being condemned for massive atrocities in the occupied territories and foreign countries such as Lebanon.
Unfortunately for the American Jewish community, since the first Intifada in 1987, it has become impossible to ignore the massive and gross violations of basic human rights of Palestinians in particular and Arabs living under constant Israeli domination on the other. The springing up of human rights groups in Israel, Europe, the United Nations, and beyond have simply made it impossible to maintain the same fantasy of a "light unto nations" that so forcefully dictated the framework of which one has discussed Israel since 1967.
As this being the basic framework, Finkelstein forcefully maintains that the American Jewish community cannot maintain the ignorance or high opinion of Israel anymore. Specifically he holds that due to Israel's rightward shift and extremely fatalistic propaganda war it unleashes on any criticism of it, the American Jewish community has a very near dilemma to deal with. Does the American Jewish community maintain its liberal values that has allowed it to become the most prosperous and powerful ethnic group in the United States for the defense of Israel, or does it abandon Israel to maintain these liberal values and forego the charge of dual loyalty? Finkelstein is of the mind that the vast majority of American Jews will choose their liberal values and prominent positions in the United States instead of remaining diehard Israel supporters.
Finkelstein believes specifically that the second Intifada, the 34 day war with Hizballah, and the massacres of Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla in 2010 have simply become a catalyst for a potential turn of the American Jewish community to abandoning their support for Israel in favor of human rights. He states that various polls showing the support and importance of Israel constantly decreasing, especially among young adults, within the American Jewish community. He attributes this to the above mentioned situations. As he says:
"Twenty years ago Israeli soldiers toured US college campuses to be feted by Jewish students as war heroes, now the campus Hillels drag them on tours to persuade Jewish students that Israeli soldiers are not war criminals. Twenty years ago pro-Israel Jewish students aggressively interrogated critics of Israel at public events, now they sit silently in the audience or do not bother to even show up."
As stated, he does not believe the whole community will get behind accepting the fact that Israel is an oppressive occupier, as he says "the likes of Alan Dershowitz will continue to laud Israel's `generally superb' human rights record even after Israelis themselves look back upon it with shame." In fact, he states that (mostly) American Jewish apologists for Israel have had to change their discourse of `scholarly' work. The likes of "From Time Immemorial" and "Exodus" simply cannot manipulate the Jewish community anymore and new forms of propaganda have been developed, mostly futile attempts, and he goes on to document a number of them.
Any reader of Finkelstein knows that he likes to deconstruct `popular' literature on a specified topic to further drive home his point and this book is no different. To prove the `new propaganda' theory he analyzes Jeffrey Goldberg's book "Prisoners," Dennis Ross' "A Missing Peace," Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez's "Foxbats over Dimona," Michael Oren's "Six Days of War," and Benny Morris' "One State, Two States." In every analysis he goes point by point proving how utterly false, but `creative,' these new narratives for apologizing for Israel's crimes have become. He documents all the various lies used in each one to cover up various topics such as 1967, Camp David, the Intifadas, and more in order to deceive the readers. Each one of these deconstructions brought me great joy to read, having read all of these lies and distortions. This to me personally is Finkelstein at his best and he does not let down in his thorough analyses of the topics.
The last topic in which I will bring up about the book is two other deconstructions he carries out in great detail. First he uses his framework of the abandoning of the American Jewish community to go through Walt and Mearsheimer's book "The Israel Lobby." He contends that although they are correct on many key aspects, their hyping of the power of the lobby is potentially dangerous and rather off point. By creating connections to things such as the war in Iraq, they actually give it too much credit and misdirect where attention should be about the lobby. Second, he discusses a couple of Human Rights Watch reports about the bombing in Lebanon by Israel and the inconsistencies involved in the documentation. He states that Israel's pressure, in addition to local lobbies, watered down and even caused great distortions about what happened in the war between Hizballah and Israel in order to white wash Israel's massive human rights violations including the dropping of four million cluster munitions in Lebanon in the last days. He uses vast sources to prove massive inaccuracies, all the while further proving his point about the actual power of the Israel lobby in the world.
Overall the book is fantastic and a must read for anyone who enjoys reading Finkelstein's work or wanting a very detailed and well researched book about the topics mentioned above. Although Finkelstein has recently many complaints and even allegations regarding his stances on BDS and solving the conflict, his book stays true to his consistent scholarly standard. The book is available on OR Books on e-book and hard copy, both for reasonable prices. I would rate the book a solid 9/10 due to its consistency, scholarship, and detailed analysis. If you have read Finkelstein before, you will not be disappointed or if you like well documented writing on the Israel-Palestine conflict, you will be greatly pleased. If anyone has any questions about the book, since 1,400 words can hardly do justice to a 500 page book, please ask.
61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2012
The more danger, the more honor - this saying could be a trade mark for the straightforward attitude and non-corruptible scholarly work of the US-American political scientist Norman G. Finkelstein. There is no other American Jew in the United States whom the right-wing pro-Israel Zionist lobbies and their cheerleaders' worldwide love to hate more than Finkelstein.
One of his fiercest opponents is Alan Dershowitz, law professor at Harvard University, whose book, "In Case of Israel", Finkelstein not only ridiculed but also exposed in many parts as plagiarism. Dershowitz returned this compliment by pursuing a smear campaign against Finkelstein at DePaul University where he was just up for tenure. He achieved his goal. Finkelstein considered an excellent teacher by his students and an outstanding scholar by the faculty was not accepted for tenure. That the biggest Catholic university in the U. S. yielded to the pressure of parts of the right-wing pro-Likud Zionist "Israel-Lobby" is something to be noted. They used the book "The Holcaust Industry" as a pretext of getting rid of him.
If Israel has become a crazy state, it is in no small part because of American Jews", writes the author at the end of his analysis about the attachment of American Jews towards Israel. Despite this fact, American-Israeli relations are undergoing a major shift. Zionist propaganda is not as readily accepted by liberal American Jews as before. Young American Jews do not automatically support Israel, the government of which continues to pretend that it speaks in the name of worldwide Jewry.
The main focus of the book is what Steven M. Cohen has observed of the contemporary American Jewish scene: "For many American Jews, politics - in particular pro-Israel and liberal activity - have come to constitute their principal working definition of Jewishness." According to Finkelstein, Israel can no longer count on the blind support of American Jews. This shift in perception is especially palpable on American college campuses. Despite all the efforts of pro-Zionist and pro-Israel propagandists in the U. S., young American Jews, as many opinion-polls indicate, turn their back on Israel and its extremist policies that offend liberal, democratic people.
As Finkelstein shows in his book, ever fewer U. S. American Jews support the ethnically based State of Israel, albeit kinship among Jews is still the main bedrock in their relationship. What alienates liberal American Jews from Israel is the "hijacking" of the relationship between the U. S. and Israel by the right-wing pro-Likud "Israel Lobby" and its neoconservative and Christian fundamentalist allies. Their legitimization of Israeli politics clashes with human values democratic American Jews stand for. Precisely because most American Jews adhere to a robust liberalism, they loosen their ties with Israel. That is why Finkelstein feels optimistic about reaching American public opinion and the mainstream of Jewish public opinion.
Finkelstein argues that the awareness of the Israel-Palestine conflict changed because knowledge shifted from fiction to fact "that has rendered support for Israel on the basis of liberal values increasingly untenable". In the early 70s and 80s, only a few "esoteric" Israelis like Felicia Langer and Israel Shahak spoke out against Israeli occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people. Later advocate Lea Tsemel joined in. These were and still are wonderful and courageous individuals. At the time they could be easily dismissed as marginal's but in the 90s several human rights organizations, such as B`tselem, amnesty international and Human Rights Watch appeared on the scene, writes the author. And these could not be dismissed.
Especially in the last decade, the facts on the ground have become so revolting that hardly any liberal Jewish American could justify what the Israel government does. Although the record of Israeli governments is disastrous, there are still [Jewish] groups [in the United States] that attempt to whitewash Israel's human rights violations and distain for international law. Significant portions of Finkelstein`s try to set the record straight. Israeli Hasbara (propaganda) fights an uphill or even a losing battle. Should Israel really face an existential threat - and not one concocted by invoking Iran's non-existent nuclear capabilities - almost all American Jews, according to Finkelstein, "will almost certainly rally, and should rally, to [Israel's] defense". A peace settlement could have reached decades ago, so the author, but "Israel - with critical U. S. backing, largely because of the Israel lobby - has blocked it".
In four chapters Finkelstein shows that American Jewry can no longer reconcile Israel's right-wing ideology and extremist policies with its liberal principles. American Jews do not anymore pretend they do not know. All the propaganda by the Dershowitz'es and his ilk, let alone the powerful Israel lobby, cannot anymore bridge the gap between Zionist fiction and the brutal reality in Palestine. Finkelstein shows that finally, liberal American Jews have grasped it. The lobbies' attempts to tar critics with "anti-Semitism" or label them "self-hating Jews" are not anymore effective.
According to Finkelstein, Israel must be held accountable to the same standards as any other country. That means that international law has to be enforced: Israeli settlements are illegal under international law; Israel has no legitimate title to the West Bank, Gaza, or Jerusalem, and the Palestinians have a right to return to their country. The author mentions that President Barack Obama was criticized by Benyamin Netanyahu for not holding on to the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Young liberal Jewish Americans don't want to hear this political nuisance any longer, so Finkelstein.
Also in this book, the author remains true to his brand. He deals with the books of Jeffrey Goldberg, Dennis Ross, Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez, Michael Oren, and Benny Morris. Finkelstein lashes at the Israeli "new historian" Benny Morris for justifying a potential "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinians and advocating a nuclear attack" on Iran by Israel, should the United States not do the job: "It is no longer possible to both be an honest historian and perpetuate the Exodus version of Israel's past, and it is no longer possible to defend Israel on the basis of liberal values. To gain entry into the elite tier of Israel's historiographic establishment, however, it has always required recycling the mythical version of Israel's past and staunchly defending the Israeli state (...) If Morris has gone berserk, it is because he aspires to be the official storyteller of a nation that itself has gone over the cliff . His degeneration vividly illustrates that except by resorting to a mishmash of lies and lunacies, deceits and delusions, it is no longer possible for Israel's defenders to justify its policy."
To make a long story short: this book is typical Finkelstein. He always handles hot iron but based solely on meticulously researched facts and convincingly argued. All in all, very worth-reading, intellectually challenging, and a real treat.
Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany.
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Support for Israel on the basis of traditional liberal Jewish values has become increasingly untenable. American Jews want to aid poor nations, but Israel, not a poor nation, takes the largest share of American aid. They want to support democracies, but Israel's rights for Arabs are far from models of the rights expected. They are against conquest of territory but support a state that has doubled its size through force. Meanwhile, growing numbers of authoritative sources (eg. former President Carter) criticize Israeli policies, and Israeli propaganda no longer monopolizes public discourse.
Author Finkelstein believes Israel's denial of Palestinian rights and reflexive use of criminal force are pushing it toward destruction, that resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict has been within reach for decades but blocked by Israel with U.S. backing - the latter due to the Israel lobby. A fixation on 'The Holocaust' in American Jewish culture has exacerbated the insecurity of American Jews, increasing the attraction of Israel as a last refuge in the event of a repeat and creating blind support of Israeli policies.
A 2003 poll of the European Union named Israel the biggest threat to world peace; more recent polls have found overwhelmingly negative opinions of Israel. Support from the American populace is generally limited and weakening.
Iran's desire for nuclear weapons has logic. It was gassed into surrender in the first Persian Gulf War (1980-88) after losing at least a half-million men, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, Iraq is next door, Saudia Arabia - its most reviled religious rival, has long-range missiles, Russia is again trying to reassert it's influence in the area, and Israel has a number of nuclear weapons. With nuclear arms, Iran would also reduce U.S. power in the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. has increasingly found itself diplomatically isolated in its support for Israel in the U.N.
Finkelstein's 'bottom-line' is that America's predominantly liberal Jews can no longer accept or pretend they don't know about Israel's predominantly right-wing extremism. The bad news is that meanwhile, American political contributors (eg. Sheldon Adelson) mostly support Israel 100% with enormous donations and thereby dominate America's disastrous foreign policy vs. Israel to this day.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2013
Finkelstein's book displays his usual scholarship and erudition. One gets a strong sense of irony in reading it, however, especially in the chapter on the sad transition of Israeli historian Benny Morris. Finkelstein shows how the once liberal Morris has become an apologist for denying Palestinians their rights. The irony is that Finkelstein appears to be undergoing the same type of transition. At one point in this chapter he sites the UN's affirmation of the right of return of Palestinian refugees, which Morris denies. More recently Finkelstein himself has written that calling for the return of refugees is the same as calling for the end of the Israeli state. The book is perplexing to me, not because of what it says, but because I know too much about more recent positions of its author.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2012
If you notice, the person who has given this book a single star seems to have ignored all the arguments in the book, preferring ad hominem attacks to scholarly rebuttal. This is pretty unsurprising, I doubt they have even read the book.
Finkelstein's thesis is interesting, and one which has a lot of merit in my estimation. However, while the scholarly destruction of people like Benny Morris is brilliantly argued and achieved, it probably belongs in another book...the concentration in this should really be the central thesis. This being said, for the quality of the scholarship, and my own enjoyment in reading these parts, I'm kind of glad he included it!
Finkelstein is perhaps the eminent scholar on the Israel/Palestine conflict, he deserves no less praise. Authoritatively documented and argued, a lot of people will get enjoyment out of this book.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2012
I only came across Norman Finkelstein's books a couple of years ago. Since then I have been astounded not only by his courage, but by his scrupulous scholarship.
The premise of this book is that there is a growing divide between American Jews who, like Jews in most other Western democracies, tend to be more liberal than their fellow citizens and the right-wing extremism of a succession of Israeli governments which has led to tremendous human rights abuses and lack of respect for international law. Those Israeli governments are supported by some American organisations which claim to be representative of their fellow Jews, in their "my country, right or wrong" attitude to Israel. But, as Peter Beinart has also pointed out in his book The Crisis of Zionism, far from representing their fellow Jews, they actively misrepresent them.
In showing how young American Jews have become disenchanted with Israel, Finkelstein, in this book and his previous one Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History reveals the intellectual dishonesty of people like Alan Dershowitz (a person to whom I'd never really paid a lot of attention until I came across articles of his, justifying torture, after September 2011). It's no surprise that Dershowitz was the prime, intellectually dishonest, mover behind the refusal of academic tenure to Norman Finkelstein at DePaul university.
In reading Finkelstein's descriptions of American organisations and intellectuals, I was reminded of the situation in France, where, in some quarters, there is a similar level of intellectual dishonesty and disregard for Palestinian human rights. The CRIF, which justifies Israeli extremists in ways reminiscent of the U.S. Anti-Defamation League, has extreme right-wing opinions. It claims to represent French Jews, but articles by liberal Jews in Le Monde Diplomatique, Médiapart and other center-left publications virulently dispute this claim and condemn the CRIF's stance on Israel.
I am one of the people who, until a few years ago, thought Israel could do no wrong. The turning point for me was Sabra and Chatila. Like many people who will read this book, it has taken me three painful decades to move from not knowing enough to now knowing too much.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2012
Norman Finkelstein, with seemingly indefatigable scholarship, delineates how and why "The American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End", which is the sub-title of "Knowing too Much". Showing how disenchantment,often among many young,liberal Jews, arose-- as they learned, often through alternative media, many truths about Israel's "on-the-ground" behavior. In my case, tho I'm elderly, it has also "come from the air", as when I watched on television, the high tech destruction rained on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, with no visible defenses in the form of anti-aircraft guns or even pistols, by those on the ground.
In characteristic fashion, Finkelstein takes on a variety of well-know American and Israeli authors and refutes their scholarship in no uncertain terms. We may expect a retaliatory storm from such notables as Benny Morris, Dennis Ross, not to mention (not for the first time)
Allan Dershowitz. It will be interesting to see if their scholarship and detailed references,
approach the level of the author, about whom the highly regarded Holocaust scholar, Raul Hilberg, wrote, his "place in the whole history of writing history is assured".
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2012
"Item under review: customers have told us that there may be something wrong with the description, the content, or the way that the content is displayed". The book remained unavailable from Amazon for over a month - I know because I have been checking the page since mid-June, when "Knowing too much" was reviewed in Economist, and was only able to buy it in late July. (In the interim, I have visited Norman Finkelstein's web site and watched several YouTube videos with his interviews; the NPR show featuring a contorting faux historian Alan Dershowitz may offer the most fireworks, but I would recommend the joint interview of Finkelstein and Shlomo Ben Ami). I hope that the author can comment on this pretty remarkable situation on his site: personally, I would be glad to hear that the month-long downtime was due to a technical issue, not because Amazon was beaten into submission by the assorted Dershowitzes of this world, keen to suppress inconvenient evidence. In any case, I enjoyed the book - perhaps "appreciated" is a better word, given Israel's repugnant track record, laid bare in "Knowing too much" - and have a great esteem for Finkelstein's contribution to educating people about the ongoing Palestine tragedy.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2013
Its always nice to read info thats not in the mainstream media. At least not here in the United States. Well written and worth reading. I look forward to reading more from this author.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2013
Of course, it is always hard for me to read that Israel is torturing people. But I must accept the truth of Dr Finklestein's claims. His arguments are clear, and well referenced.