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A panel discussion held during last weekend’s Left Forum, an annual gathering of left-wing activists in New York, revealed some startling fractures and points of dissent within the domestic anti-Israel movement. The conference, which typically features a variety of anti-Israel sessions and speakers, included a panel this year called “How to Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict: 0, 1, or 2 State Solution.”
Three of the panelists expressed support for a one-state solution as one that is more “just.”
The most surprising presentation, however, came from Norman Finkelstein, a former professor at DePaul University and noted critic of Israeli policy.
Finkelstein, who caused quite a stir in anti-Israel circles last year when he claimed that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement has characteristics of a “cult” and seeks to destroy Israel, began the discussion by arguing that Israel is a state recognized under international law with responsibilities, obligations AND rights. He challenged the latent hypocrisy within the anti-Israel movement (and his co-panelists), which constantly points to international law to justify its agenda while ignoring the fact that international law established Israel as a Jewish state. “How does one propose to win support for the Palestinian cause based on international law yet not support two states? That just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.
He continued to assault common objectives of anti-Israel activists. He specifically took issue with the BDS movement’s claim of being “rights-based” while again not recognizing Israel’s right to exist, saying, “That’s pure unadulterated hypocrisy. And, speaking personally, I don’t want to have anything to do with it. And speaking politically, it won’t go anywhere.”
If Finkelstein was a pro-Israel advocate, his views would perhaps come as no surprise. But Finkelstein has made a career out of demonizing Israel. He has described Israel as a “satanic state,” accused Israel of caging Palestinians “into a ghetto” and exalted Hezbollah’s military achievements against Israel as a “victory of liberty and a victory for freedom.”
Members of the audience reacted hostilely to Finkelstein’s presentation, talking and shouting over him and even yelling at him during the question and answer period. While he spoke, two of the other panelists – Lamis Deek, a founder of Al-Awda; and Sherry Wolf, an avid BDS activist – who both later expressed support for a one-state solution, frequently rolled their eyes and put their heads down, displaying visible discomfort with his positions.
At one point, Deek and Finkelstein engaged in a hostile back-and-forth exchange. After acknowledging that she could never “recognize the right of the entity known as Israel” to exist, Finkelstein challenged Deek’s use of the term “entity,” stating, “Israel is a state. It has the same rights and the same obligations as the 190 other states.” Deek countered that she has “no obligation to operate strictly under the auspices or within the framework of international law despite the fact that Professor Finkelstein or other professors would like me to do so because they don’t make that requirement of the Israeli entity.”