Finkelstein to 'Post': I may not fight Shin Bet entry ban

Agency says it will need to re-evaluate its position if controversial academic tries returning.

Norman Finkelstein 224 8 (photo credit: AP [file])
Norman Finkelstein 224 8
(photo credit: AP [file])
Controversial academic Norman Finkelstein, who was refused entry into Israel last week, said Wednesday that he has not yet decided whether to pursue his case in court. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) detained and deported Finkelstein, who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation, when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday. He was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport holding cell before being returned to Amsterdam, where he had been lecturing. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for at least 10 years. Speaking from his home in Brooklyn, Wednesday, Finkelstein said it is not his "inclination to pursue the matter," but lawyers in Israel are encouraging him to do so. "Martyrdom is not my cup of tea, I like to read, write, and speak, but lawyers in Israel say it might be good to pursue it on political grounds," said Finkelstein. "If I can be convinced it's worth my time and energy I might pursue it, but as of now I have not made up my mind." The author of numerous articles and books, Finkelstein has accused Israel of exploiting the Holocaust for political ends. He was recently denied tenure at DePaul University following pressure by Jewish organizations and a highly publicized tete-a-tete with Prof. Alan Dershowitz. On Tuesday, the Shin Bet said that if Finkelstein tried returning to Israel it would need to re-evaluate its position. Officials said that he was denied entry due to suspicions about his relationships with hostile elements in Lebanon. The officials noted that during his interrogation upon arrival in Israel, Finkelstein had not provided satisfactory answers to questions regarding these suspicions. Finkelstein said Wednesday that he visited Lebanon six months ago where he was invited to lecture at a conference at the American University in Beirut. He also was in the country for a book tour following the publication of several of his articles in book form. Finkelstein said he was accompanied by his Arab publisher and representatives of Hizbullah as they toured the south of Lebanon. On his Web site, Finkelstein has a section called "In Defense of Hizbullah" which contains excerpts from an interview he gave in January to a Lebanese TV station. In the interview, the academic said he was "happy to meet the Hizbullah people because it is a point of view that is rarely heard in the US." Finkelstein said he is not "dogmatic or fanatic" and believes every country has the right to restrict entry, but said he does not agree with the criteria. "Just as I would oppose the US not allowing people to enter due to ideological beliefs, I would consistently oppose them in Israel," said Finkelstein who denies that he poses any threat to Israel. "I couldn't be [a risk] because of any security threat I pose," said Finkelstein. "The US has as stringent anti-terrorism laws in the books as Israel, and Hamas and Hizbullah are on their terrorist list. If I posed a security threat I should be talking to you from jail. Because no authorities have contacted me there are no grounds for it." Finkelstein did not intend to visit Israel, but had to pass through Israeli customs "by force of circumstance," to visit a friend in Hebron. "Israel has the right to restrict who enters its country, but the West Bank is not its country," said Finkelstein, who has traveled to the West Bank annually for the last 15 years. "One day the Palestinian Authority may restrict my rights, but that's an issue for the Palestinian Authority."