norman finkelstein 311.
(photo credit: AP)
BERLIN – Remember the late British Jewish actor Marty Feldman’s role in the 1974 comedy film Young Frankenstein?
He plays Dr. Frankenstein’s hunchback assistant Igor and moves his hump
from shoulder to shoulder to deliberately perplex his boss.
The controversial American Jewish political scientist Norman
Finkelstein’s attempt to secure locations last week in Munich and
Berlin to deliver anti-Israel lectures recalls Feldman’s shifting hump.
Finkelstein, whose scheduled talk – “One year after the invasion of the
Israeli army in Gaza and the responsibility of the German government in
the starvation of the Palestinian population” – generated protests and
cancellations last week, resulting, like Igor’s hump, in a perpetual
shift of venue. Initially, he was scheduled to speak in the Trinitatis
evangelical church in Berlin, with organizational and financial support
from the political foundations of the Green Party, Left Party,
German-Palestinian organizations, and a fringe group of anti-Zionist
Finkelstein was denied entry to Israel in 2008 because of his
pro-Hizbullah solidarity activity in Lebanon. According to a February New York Times
review of a documentary on Finkelstein, he waved a banner during a
protest against the First Lebanon War in 1982, “urging ‘Israeli Nazis’
to ‘stop the Holocaust in Lebanon.’”
The Heinrich Böll Foundation, affiliated with the Green Party, pulled
the plug on its involvement and said in a statement: “We regret our
decision... and because of careless, insufficient research we made a
fiercely bad decision. Finkelstein’s behavior and his theses take
place, in our view, not within the framework of justified criticism.”
There has always been an insatiable market, particularly among the
Left, for Finkelstein’s views in Germany, largely because he allows
many Germans to air anti-Israel sentiments in a politically and
socially correct way. A spokeswoman from the respectable Piper
publishing house in Munich, which publishes his books, told The Jerusalem Post
that Finkelstein’s anti-Israel Holocaust Industry
sold 150,000 copies in 2001, catapulting it to best-seller status.
It’s not hard to explain the popularity of Finkelstein in Germany: If
the son of Holocaust survivors can equate Israel with Nazi Germany and
charge American Jewish organizations with exploiting the Holocaust to
tap into the guilt and financial chords of Germans, then Germans can
breathe more easily and alleviate their sense of guilt and connection
to the Shoah.
Finkelstein’s background serves as a social-psychological crutch that
allows many Germans to invoke his Jewish biography to insulate
themselves from accusations of anti-Semitism.
After the cancellation of the support of the Green Party foundation and
the Trinitatis church, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, which is
affiliated with the Left Party, offered to provide a venue for
Finkelstein. A diverse group of pro-Israel organizations – including
the BAK Shalom Working Group within the Left Party – protested the
foundation’s decision. Henning Heine, a spokesman from the foundation,
issued a statement, saying “we underestimated the political
explosiveness of Finkelstein’s lecture” and rescinding its offer.
BAK Shalom is a group of young Left Party members who seek to end their
party’s adherence to flourishing anti-Zionist positions within the
Rising pressure from the pro-Israel community also prompted the Amerika
House in Munich to walk away from its support of Finkelstein’s
The last refuge for Finkelstein is the headquarters of the notoriously pro-Islamic Republic leftist Junge Welt
daily, a leftover from the former communist East Germany. Finkelstein
will deliver his talk on Friday in the gallery of the paper’s building
Finkelstein’s counterpart in France, the German-born Alfred Grosser, is
another telling example of an anti-Israel Diaspora Jew who has a fan
club among broad swaths of the Left in Germany. Following in
Finkelstein’s footsteps, he sees Germany as exposed to “an exaggerated,
masochistic guilt consciousness.”
Grosser has argued in newspaper interviews that “criticism of Israel
and anti-Semitism have nothing to do with each other. It is rather
Israel’s policies that promote anti-Semitism globally.”
Grosser’s book From Auschwitz to Jerusalem
was published last year in Germany.