NYC-DSA Anti-War Working Group Talk with Norman Finkelstein

NYC-DSA Anti-War Working Group Talk with Norman Finkelstein


>>Oh there’s pizza by the way, and, uh, generously
provided by Eric, one of our OC members out of his own pocket so that’s their Venmo… [applause]>>Carrington: Hi everybody, is this volume
good enough? Is there a speaker? So today we have our honored guest, Norman
Finkelstein, who’s been a trailblazer in this movement that we’re also behind and he graciously
accepted to join us tonight and uh we’re going to do some interview format to kind of go
over some things, is that alright?>>Norman Finkelstein: Sure.>>C: Um, welcome, thanks for coming out. So, we’re going to start just as…we in DSA,
we have endorsed Bernie for president; what hope do you think his candidacy offers for
the Palestinian cause going forward?>>NF: Well, before I talk about the Palestinian
cause I just came back from the future, and I can report back that it works! For those of you who remember that line, who
said that? this is very sad, oral history is being forgotten. That is the famous line by Lincoln Stephens,
who nobody knows…>>C: It’s a new generation.>>NF: No, it’s actually three new generations. Lincoln Steffens was a novelist and
heartbreaker, and he went to the Soviet Union in 1919, and he famously said on his return
“I have seen the future, and it works!” Alas, it seems he was mistaken. But I am not. [laughter] I spent 24 glorious hours in denmark, which
as you know is one of Bernie’s favorite reference points, though as the people here
told me, strangely enough: “Bernie is a far leftist in the United States, but he’s
dead center in Denmark.” On a less amused note it really was for me
an amazing experience, moreover, how impressed I was. Just a few factoids: people pay a minimum
of 40% in taxes, and they moan and groan a little, but it’s kind of a pro forma moan-and-groan,
because they’re very proud of the system they created. Healthcare is free, Education is free—all
education from university is free. The only thing, oddly enough, that’s not free
is dental, and dental is as expensive there as it is here. A root canal is fifteen-hundred dollars. I was checking on reference points that I’m
familiar with, so I was curious what they do and people tell me everybody goes to Eastern
Europe for root canals and for dental. And there is a small movement underway to
make the dental free. Everybody rides bicycles and it looks like
Amsterdam in that respect. I hate SUVs, that’s my current pet peeve,
and I was gratified to learn that if you want an SUV or any other oversized imbecilic vehicle,
it’s a 280% tax, so you don’t see them in the street. For those of you who have read More’s Utopia,
the people resemble More’s Utopia. They dress vary drably, even more drab than
this audience, [laughter] which is, you know, a pretty low standard…>>Speak for yourself…>>NF: They are said to be—I had only a
little interaction with them, since I was invited by a Shia Muslim group to speak—but
they’re said to be really down to earth, really nice. I have to say I never believed the capitalist
system could be so clean. But it really was.>>C: Well it’s nice of you to join us today,
on landing…>>NF: Well forget about the trip, the landing
and takeoff, but the actual stay there was really quite an enlightening—and they make
constant reference to Bernie Sanders, cause they’re kind of proud of the fact that Denmark
is the place he always refers to. Now it’s a small place, it’s six million people,
Copenhagen is six-hundred thousand people. And there are a couple of indices that things
aren’t perfect there. Divorse rate is fifty percent…>>C: Suicide rate might be high too.>>NF: Family size is only one point two. Which means, in de facto terms, the Danes
are dying out. Soon they said it’ll be a elderly society. When you walk in the street, you don’t see
any children.>>C: And they’re also big advocates for Palestine,
because you’ve been invited there quite a few times, haven’t you?>>NF: No actually they have had a lot of
their residual guilt for World War Two, so it’s a very strong connection between Denmark
and Israel, regrettably.>>C: Haven’t you been invited there quite
a few times?>>NF: Yeah but, um, it’s not representative.>>C: Okay, um, so do you have thoughts about
Bernie’s candidacy in relation to Palestine? in 2016 we heard a presidential candidate
talking about Palestine and being critical of Israel for what seemed to me the first
time, um and it seems he’s um spoken more boldly, as have others. Do you have thoughts about that going into
the 2020 election?>>NF: There are many things to be said. First of all, the Palestine cause, at this
moment, for people who want to be honest and not engage in kind of romanticism: it’s dead. It was a tragic insight to how dead it was
that the people of Gaza were effectively abandoned, and left to their own devices. Not only did they not get any support from
the international solidarity movement, they got no support from the West Bank.>>C: And you’re referring to the Great Return
March?>>NF: Yeah, the Great March of Return. Uh, which continues as we speak. But, it, for many reasons, which for any people
who want to pursue it, one can understand why, it died. But I do believe two things. Number one: if Bernie gets elected, it will
be a game-changer. It may even—you never can predict these
things, obviously—but it may actually inspire the people in the West Bank to give it a last
go. Cause they know that there’s a possibility
of budging the United States. Um, so, I think there’s a possibility that
it may resurrect the Palestine movement if Bernie gets elected. The second thing is that if Bernie wins it
will set—if, obviously…that’s a very big ‘if’—but it will set the parameters, the
limits, of what’s possible. Because once you start advocating something
beyond what he supports, you’re going to lose him, and you’ll lose the whole mainstream,
which, if he sets the lead, the mainstream, should he win, um, you can win it. And so you have to, I think, if you want to
extract some change, you have to look at what he’s saying, and what he’s likely to say. Incidentally, not just him, but the people
ostensibly more radical than him, like Ilhan Omar, and even she, like him, are very firm
on nothing past the Two State settlement and preserving the state of Israel. I won’t say preserving it as a Jewish state,
because in my own view, there’s no clear meaning, what you mean by ‘a Jewish state.’ There are innocuous ways of defining a state
as Jewish, just as there are innocuous ways of defining Britain as Anglican. But there are also pernicious ways to define
Israel as Jewish, uh, just as it’s pernicious, in ways, to define South Africa as white. It depends on what content you give that term. And I’m pretty confident that, a Bernie Sanders,
uh, administration will give that term a relatively innocuous, uh, content. So it’s an opportunity. However, I would want to stress, the being
realistic about the limits of that opportunity. I don’t think, if you’re hoping that you can
push Bernie to advocate one state, that to me is pie in the sky. But both Bernie and his more uh intense version,
namely Jeremy Corbyn, uh one can hope for them to put a uh, to um, change the um, balance
of forces. And if he does it, you know, Bernie comes
to power and Corbyn comes to power, it will move Germany. I mean Germany’s just afraid. You know, the Holocaust card. But if, if a German administration is supported,
uh it can find support from the US and the UK, uh they too will be moved. And then the game changes. But again, having said that, nothing changes
unless the Palestinian people take the lead. It’s not gonna happen from the top, that’s
impossible, in my opinion, it’s not possible. But I think they, there’ll be Palestinians
who think, you know what, maybe now we have a chance. And so they may do something.>>C: Um, so, is it safe to say you think
Bernie is the best candidate in terms of uh Palestine? That’s running?>>NF: Um, I don’t think, when you say the
best candidate…>>C: …most favorable?>>NF: …um, I would say that he represents
a consensus that has a chance to win, that’s the maximum you can hope for now. And it was clear with Ilhan Omar, who seemed
like a flaming radical, but then when she’s in Washington and she takes a measure of the
land, she writes an op-ed in the Washington Post and she says “I support two states.” That’s measuring, you know, it’s weighing
the political forces. It was the same thing, if anybody follows
these things, and you’re all, or almost all of you are way too young to have followed
it, every Palestinian leadership followed the same route. When Yasser Arafat was invited to the United
Nations in 1974, up until then they supported one unitary democratic secular state, or at
least they claimed they did, the moment he’s in the UN, he takes a look, he gets uh, he
weighs the political forces, he starts advocating two states. Hamas was supporting one Islamic state in
Palestine. In 2006 it wins the election, it’s suddenly
now a political player in the international arena—the parliamentary election—and it
quietly changed its position, and started to advocate two states. Every time any political party steps into
the real world, or any political person, in this case Ilhan Omar, well now she quickly
realizes, this is the only game in town, and if you don’t play by those rules, you can
be a heroic figure but you’re not going to accomplish anything.>>C: Um, are you familiar with Congresswoman
Betty McColumn’s bill? No Way to Treat a Child?>>NF: I’ve seen, you know, reports about
it but there is so much legislation going on now, uh mostly negative, that I don’t recall
particularly the content of hers.>>C: So this is the Anti-War Working Group
with DSA, and a major cause of ours is Palestine, as well as Yemen, and—>>NF: As well as…?>>C: Yemen?>>NF: Yemen, yes.>>C: Um, so for the No Way to Treat a Childs,
Danielle do you want to speak to what that is?>>Danielle: Yeah so um, basically No Way
to Treat a Child, it’s a campaign of the organization Defence for Children International, Palestine,
and they’ve been trying to push legislation in Congress—right now it’s only in the House—but
to ammend the Leahy Law to address violations of human rights of children, to end the US
funding for specifically Israeli administrative detention of Palestinian children in the West
Bank, and also appropriate funding for monitoring human rights of Palestinian children. And they kind of see it as a sort of…I mean
it’s the Leahy Law, so it’s a kind of a sanction. And that’s one reason we were pushing it,
that we saw it as a meaningful, like, ‘S’ in BDS, even if it’s very limited, um, you
know, in, like, the political constraints of our time, I suppose.>>C: Yeah, the idea is that it’s an entry
point in, and how can you argue that children should be incarcerated and taken from their
parents and, um, abused. So it has been supported in New York from
Ocasio-Cortez. I don’t think she signed on to the legislation
but she’s given vocal support of it, um, public support of it, and there’s other congresspeople
in New York considering it, so it has a chance. It was presented before and it got thirty
congresspeople supporting it. I think was it 2018? 2017?>>Yeah the last session.>>C: So it will be reintroduced, and that’s,
um, we are trying to put some energy behind that, and support it across the country and
DSA, and support it with the Anti-War Working Group. But we’re trying to be strategic because we
don’t think it’s a dead cause. I mean, we’d like to keep the cause alive. And as activists, just do what we can, um…>>NF: Well it sounds like, you know, the
right piece of legislation. There’s a lot of, um, well, I don’t want to
say a lot, because that’s an exaggeration, but there is useful material out there, which
regrettably hasn’t been used, um, most notably, the recent Human Rights Council report on
the Great March of Return. It’s unusually substantial. It runs to 252 single-spaced pages, which
is quite large for a human rights report. A significant part of the beginning is highly
legalistic and can be safely ignored, but the real part is really quite extraordinary,
because it’s the first human rights report, to my knowledge, which focuses on—or, I
should say, “documents,” because it’s not intentionally focussing on—it’s the
first human rights report which documents extensively and, one might say, incontrovertibly,
on Israel’s deliberate targeting of children, journalists, medical personnel, and disabled
people in the Great March of Return. Now, in the laws of war, there’s no distinction
made between what’s called a ‘disproportionate’ attack, an ‘indiscriminate’ attack, and an
‘intentional’ attack on civilians. According to the laws of war, each of those
three categories, indiscriminate, disproportionate, and intentional attacks—they all qualify as
war crimes Now, that’s what the law says, and any human
rights expert, were he or she in the room, would say ‘we don’t have any hierarchy when
it comes to war crimes.’ That is to say, they’re all of…they’re all
equally egregious. But that’s just the theory. The reality is the broad public is much more
tolerant of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on the one hand, and the intentional
targeting of civilians on the other. Because the assumption among the broad public,
which is not obviously without foundation, is: “well, war is hell, there’s the fog of
war, disproportionate attacks, indiscriminate attacks—they’re inevitable.” However, for the broad public, the deliberate
targeting of civilians, that crosses a red line. Now, the human rights organizations, ever
since they started to honestly monitor the Israel-Palestine conflict—and that began
roughly in the late 1980s with the First Intifada, that’s the first time the human rights organizations
began to more-or-less honestly monitor the Israel-Palestine conflict—they’ve always…the
limit they’ll go has always been to charge Israel with indiscriminate and disproportionate
attacks. They will occasionally say, “this or that
individual was intentionally targeted by Israel,” but that’s always been the red line, that
intentional targeting. This is the first report which documents,
to the point that your innards start to writhe and shred, this systematic targeting…. Actually, if you’ll allow me, cause I wasn’t
sure what the format was, so I have brought along some notes. Obviously for reasons of time I couldn’t possibly
go through all of it, um, but…>>C: Can you tell us what the date is for
the report?>>NF: Uh this report came out, uh, three
months ago, four months ago.>>C: So 2019?>>NF: Early 2019, if my memory is correct.>>C: And it’s Human Rights Council?>>NF: It’s the Human Rights Council report,
and um, as I said, on the one hand, it’s very professional, learned, and objective. But then, when it comes to this chronicling
of what was go…what’s been going on there, it was just astonishing. So I’ll just arbitrarily, just to show I’m
being arbitrary, I’ll just ask Carrington, just choose one from the first page. I’ll just, we’ll just go arbitrary. Okay so: “Ali Khafajah was a university student. ISF soldiers shot him in the head with live
ammunition. Ali was talking on his phone while standing
in a crowd about 150 meters from the separation fence when he was shot. He died at a hospital.” Choose one from this page. Okay. “Abed Abdullah Al Qotati was a 22-year-old
volunteer paramedic. ISF soldiers shot him in the chest in Rafah
as he was tending to an injured demonstrator near the separation fence. Abdullah was wearing a white paramedic’s jacket
and carrying a red first-aid kit when the ISF soldiers shot him. He died of bleeding and lacerations to his
thoracic organs.” Choose just two more, just arbitrarily. Okay. “The ISF shot 30-year-old journalist Yasser
Murtaja with live ammunition in the lower abdomen as he covered the demonstration site. Yasser was wearing a dark blue bulletproof
vest clearly marked with the word ‘PRESS’, and a blue helmet. He was standing approximately 300 meters from
the separation fence, behind a large group of demonstrators. Visibility was good, and there were no other
shots fired in the vicinity at the time. The gunshot hit him in the abdomen, and he
died of his injuries the following morning.” Well it goes on, and on, and on, and on. They’re targeting thirteen, uh, eleven-year-old
kids; they’re targeting double amputees; they’re targeting people on crutches. It was just unbelievable to be reading it. Not because I was surprised. Anybody who has followed the…human rights
reporting, as I have, you would know it. But it was very surprising to see it documented. And then the question was, um, well there
are two two-fold questions. Number one: why hadn’t this been documented
before in such a graphic way? And there I think there’s a double reason. Number one, obviously, to say things like
this casts Israel in a very different light than when you talk about disproportionate
and, um, disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks. The second thing is: even people on what’s
called “the Left,” there’s like this constitutional incapacity to believe that Israel does things
like this. And, in large part, it’s because it’s very
hard, and I’m speaking now as a Jewish person, uh for a Jew to imagine Jews doing these things. It’s just…there’s something like…when
you think of a Jew, you think about maybe a Woody Allen, maybe a Franz Kafka, maybe
an Einstein, or a Jascha Heifetz. You don’t think about child-killers. It’s just a very hard thing to reconcile in
your mind. By the way, the people who are doing it? These are Israel’s top snipers. They were specifically trained, specially
trained snipers in order to ensure—this is Israel speaking—”accurate and measured
use of live ammunition.” Israel itself never claimed that these were,
um, bad apples or exceptions to the rule. They said: “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled. Everything was accurate and measured, and
we know where every bullet landed.” Defense minister Avigdor Liberman, he said
that, quote, “Israeli soldiers did what was necessary. I think all of our soldiers deserve a medal.” And in fact, that is how they carry on. There was nothing aberant, except for the
fact that a human rights organization, for the first time, documented it and didn’t shy
away from the reality of what was going on. And, one of the things that, and here I’m
not trying to be facetious, I’m actually being very serious, you have trouble believing that
Jews do something like this, but Israel does do that. And there was an interesting article by probably
the world’s leading authority on fascism, a fellow from Israel named Zeev Sternhell. And he’s a very reputable, serious scholar. He has his apologetic side when it comes to
Israel but he also can be very tough. And he recently pondered the question: why
is it that Israel feels so comfortable with all of these ultra-rightists in Eastern Europe,
for whom anti-Semitism is part of their stock and trade? In Hungary, in Poland—why does Israel feel
so much at ease? But there’s also the reverse side: they all
love Israel! Why do they all love Israel? And it was interesting, Sternhell’s response. He said, because for the people in Eastern
Europe, and the other ult-right countries like Bolsonaro in Brazil, he said: Israel’s
not Jewish. They don’t see Israel as Jewish. They see Israel as a white-supremacist, far-right
regime, like themselves. And actually, I think that’s right. I don’t think Israel—I’m not trying to be
facetious, I’m not trying to be purposely, uh, provocative—I don’t think Israel’s Jewish. There’s nothing really about it that’s Jewish. It’s a wholly alien entity. Yes there are aspects, you know, of the religion
at some superficial level, um, and certainly there are certain aspects of Judaism and Jewish
tradition, the sense of superiority and so forth, uh, which has, uh, makes itself felt
in Israel in very ugly ways. But it doesn’t—it’s not Jewish. And that’s one of the things, I think, one
of the reasons why people have so much trouble making sense—I don’t mean just, I’m talking
about the left too. Joint Operation Protective Edge in 2014. So there was one…there were many horrendous
things that happened then, but some of you remember one incident—that’s the human rights
language, ‘incident’, but I have to use it—there was one incident where Israel kills four children
playing hide-and-seek on the wharf in Gaza. Now this was not a very complicated case. There were for kids, they were playing…no,
they were playing hide-and-seek…they were playing it around an old, dilapidated fisherman’s
hut. So, it happened to be they were playing right
in front of the main international hotel for journalists. So there were all these journalists out there,
they all observed the incident, they said there were no Hamas militants around, this
was not—Israel claimed it was a Hamas, uh, naval center, blah blah blah—they said “nah,
that’s ridiculous, it was just a fisherman’s hut.” And they just sent out two drones and they
killed one and then as the three others were fleeing they killed the three other kids,
who were aged around ten years old. And nobody would believe Israel did that intentionally. And when I say no one…for those of you who
follow these things, go back and look at the Intercept. So last year the Intercept has one of its,
uh, scoops, big stories, uh, that the kids were killed—it was a botched-up operation,
it was a mistake. And how do they know it’s a mistake? Because the Intercept obtained a transcript
of a judicial court where the soldiers who were responsible said it was a botched-up
operation. Well that’s very compelling evidence! But, even the Intercept, they can’t kind of
assimilate that, um, Israel does these things routinely. It doesn’t just incarcerate kids; it tortures
them! And that’s not news! The first report, the first report, put out
by a human rights organization documenting Israeli torture…because that was another
red line: you can accuse Israel of abusing prisoners; you can accuse Israel of ill-treating
prisoners, but you could never use the t-word. You could never use the “torture” word. Even Amnesty—in the 1980s, the decade of
the 89s, Amnesty had a international campaign to abolish torture. And it put out a report, it was called “Torture
in the 80s”—even Amnesty would not say Israel was practicing torture. Finally, that red line was crossed when B’Tselem,
the Israeli human rights organization, had put out a report, and the title of the report
was, um… “Ill-treatment, torture, abuse? (question mark) the treatment of Palestinian
minors, M-I-N-O-R-S, minors in Israeli, uh, detention.” The very first report was about, the very
first report on torture which documented, in…of the 18 cases they studied, 17 of the
people had been tortured. But they’re, they’ve been routinely torturing
Palestinian kids for decades. And that…that was 1990, that was the very
first report.>>C: Um could I get a time check, um, how
much time do we have?>>About thirty minutes.>>C: Okay so just so you know in terms of
what we want to cover, um…speaking of the crimes, we can assimilate what you’re talking
about…>>NF: No I think a lot of people…you know,
even I, to this day, I read it, I read it, I read it…and I can’t believe it. I just find it so… it’s just… it, uh, it is… so contrary, to everything we talk about
as being Jewish And I remember my late mother used to say—my
mother, my late mother was given to conspiracies, she had conspiratorial fantasies, no question
about it. But she was very smart and like any broken
clock she could be right twice a day. Um, and she used to say, she was from Eastern
Europe, came from a pious Jewish home—ended up Stalinist, but that’s another story—um
and uh, she used to say they’re not Jews in Israel; they’re all CIA agents. [laughter] And that’s of course, there’s an
element of hyperbole there, but there is a basic truth there, which for the first time
I was forced to think about when Sternhell made that comment. He said they all love Israel because, for
them, Israel’s not Jewish. I think there’s…there’s a deep truth there,
in what he was saying. And I wanted to just say one other thing:
how does it come to pass that they did this? Why did these three commissioners in this
Commission of Inquiry, they documented and nobody else did before them?>>C: In 1990?>>NF: No, no, the Human Rights Council, the
intentional and deliberate targeting of children—not just children; children and journalists, uh,
disabled people, and medical personnel. It’s an interesting question because it tells
you about a real opportunity that was squandered. Israel always claimed in the past: “we’re
not targeting civilians. Hamas is using them as human shields, Hamas
was firing rockets from the midst of civilians….” They always had those arguments. But this was the first time, because the Great
March of Return was overwhelmingly nonviolent, that you couldn’t use those pretenses anymore. They didn’t have that alibi. It was masses of people being videotaped,
videotaped in broad daylight. You have the camera fixed on a person in crutches,
sitting under a tree, getting shot. You have a double amputee, nobody surrounding
him, getting shot. You couldn’t use the threadbare lies of the
past. And so here was, to my thinking, a huge opportunity
for us, the solidarity movement, because now you had irrefutable, incontrovertible evidence
that Israel is targeting civilians for death. And it was squandered. Nobody even read the report. The official…yeah. It’s a real, to my opinion, a real tragedy. We had a real opportunity to go after Israel
on the report. That’s a lie? Well, then watch the videos! There were no Hamas—nobody even claims there
were Hamas militants firing rockets in the middle of the Great March of Return! Incidentally, the report said: “we saw no
evidence of grenades being used.” Israel and those pigs in the Times, Halbfinger
and Kershner, reporting grenades —there were no grenades used, there were no IEDs,
there was nothing. There was nothing. Yeah, some of the kids, they tried to rip
off the barbed wire. But they said, in the whole period that they
chronicled—the Great March of Return began March 30th, and they chronicled in until December
31st—in that whole period, they came to two incidents where there may have been a
weapon in the crowd. One was somebody apparently just fired a rifle
arbitrarily, and another one where somebody shot a drone. That was it. That’s it. Otherwise they said there wasn’t a single
incident, apart from those two, where Israeli soldiers could have faced an imminent threat
to their life. It just didn’t happen. There was a lot there and, uh, I think that
opportunity was lost.>>C: I think there’s still a chance. Um, what was…and, uh, you had some thinking
on the ICC and that there might be a possibility of going that route, to have some accountability
for Israel. Did you want to talk about that at all?>>NF: I’ll just talk briefly. The, um, there have now been two “referrals,” as
they’re called, to the International Criminal Court. One of them was over the Mavi Marmara. Some of you might remember: it was the humanitarian
vessel, or floatilla, that went to Gaza in May 31st 2010 and came under Israeli attack
and ten passengers were killed. That incident—as it’s called, I have to
use the language—is now before the International Criminal Court. And then in…last year? or, yeah, last year
or two years ago, I can’t remember…um, the state of Palestine, which has official status
now, it filed another referral to the International Criminal Court, this time pertaining to the
illegal settlements. Under the Rome Statute of the Criminal Court,
settlements are war crimes. And also, Israel, also Operation Protective
Edge and the Great March of Return, they’re all part of this second referral. The current head of the…the current chief
prosecutor of the International Criminal Court—or as some people like to call it, correctly
in my opinion, the International Caucasian Court—um, so far, the chief prosecutor’s
a Gambian judge named Fatou Bensouda, and Fatou Bensouda is totally terrified of inditing
Israel, um, because she’s afraid that she’ll be Goldstoned. For those of you who remember the South African
jourist, who after Operation Cast Lead [cough], brought a very damning indictment of Israeli
conduct. He then came under attack by Israel and its
allies. It seems, you can’t prove it, but it seems
like they found dirt on him, or a member of his family, and he eventually had to recant
the report that he wrote, and his whole career was destroyed. And after that everybody got…in the human
rights community, got very nervous, cause we all have skeletons in our closets…including
you. And you! And, um, the Mossad is quite efficient at
finding that. Anybody would be able to find it because everybody’s
now being watched. Except me, because I’m the last holdout. I don’t own a cell phone. [laughter] Um, so everybody knows where you
folks are, but nobody knows where I am. Um, and so the chief prosecutor has been doing
everything in her power to kill the cases before her—the referrals. But, surprisingly, there’s been a lot of pushback
within the ICC. A lot of people don’t like what she’s doing. And she keeps saying, this particular case
in the Mavi Marmara that’s been going on since 2013, and it’s already now a stack of…back
and forth and back and forth, and Bensouda keeps saying “case closed! case closed!” And then somebody comes by and says “nope!
not so fast!” And so it’s still open, and, um, I think there’s
a realistic possibility that she may be forced to indict—investigate Israel, we’re not
even at the point of indictment. But it’s very tough now, because John Bolton
and Pompeo have both said, literally, I’m not using my language here, “If you indict
us (meaning the US or Israel), we’re going to destroy the ICC.” Um, the said “we’re going…”, they already
started. You may know that Bensouda decided to stand
firm and proceed with an investigation of Israeli—excuse me, US—war crimes in Afghanistan. The moment she said “we’re going to pursue
the investigation,” uh, the US cancelled her visa. And then the Court—what’s called “the chamber,”
the pre-trial chamber—the pre-trial chamber reversed Bensouda and killed the case against
the United States. And when people ask: “why did they do it?
why did they kill the case?” It’s just not complicated. You know this t-shirt, “I love New York”? Well the judges love New York! And now they were told: “you indict Israel,
we’re cancelling your visa.” And so Bensouda got her visa cancelled, the
pre-trial chamber got nervous, and, uh, so they killed the case. She still can’t come. And so people who…I know a lot of folks
in that, um, milieu, and they’re trying to figure out what Bensouda will do, because
she wants to come to New York. You know, that’s where the fun is! The Big Apple! [laughter] Well it’s true!>>C: There might be other punishments of
it that are included that we don’t see, besides not being able to come to New York.>>NF: You know, funny, you may think that
that’s not a big punishment, but when you’re in that circuit, the UN circuit…>>C: It’s like being an exile.>>NF: Yeah! It’s like being an exile.>>C: Do you think there’s any sort of pressure
that the activist community can apply to get more attention to this?>>NF: I think…I think it’s a worthwhile
endeavor for the following reason: because if she tries to investigate Israel, the US
said that they’re going to do…they said: “we’re going to cancel all visas for the whole
ICC.” And they said—don’t ask me how—but they
said they’re going to take them to court! [laughter] It’s really craziness. So, um, if they did proceed with a investigation
it would create a diplomatic flap, which would be good, you know, just bring attention… I’ve written something very long. Um, it’s…it’s 70 pages, single-spaced, proving
that Bensouda is a liar. I think it’s pretty convincing but it’s…kind
of boring. I can’t get anybody to read it. [laughter]>>C: Where do you want to publish it?>>NF: I’m hoping, um, well I took volunteers
on my website for proofreaders—uh, for fact-checkers, cause I don’t want there to be a single error
there. And I got forty volunteers, so, uh, little
did they know what they’re in for, bored to tears and cursing me til the end of time. Um, but I…but I, uh…tried to get every
error teased out, and then in the beginning of September, September first…. It’s called—I hope you’ll get the title,
your generation is so painful to deal with—”J’accuse!” [laughter]>>C: That’s great. Um, well good luck with that. So, wait, just a last question, and then I
think we should open it up to people here, is that there are growing calls for cuts in
US military aid to Israel, particularly in light of Israeli violations of Palestinian
rights, as we discussed. So we are seeing more prominent politicians
speak out about that, um, and…do you have any thoughts to give on that?>>NF: Listen, I listen closely, I’m a good
listener. And I thought what you said earlier was right. You said: we wanted to be focusing on the
bill with the children, because how can you object to that? You know? Of course, they’ll object! [laughter] Uh,
but I have come to realize in politics that you really do have to go for the line of least
resistance. And there’s a tendency among parts of what’s
called “the Left” to try to cast heroic poses by going after the line of most resistance. This kind of divine isolation: the more you’re
despised the more you’re hated, and the more successful, in your mind, you are. And so I always think it’s advisable, first
of all, to see where the mainstream organizations are—the furthest to the so-called left—where
they are, and they have called many times, they called for—Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
International—they have called for a ban on all weapons transfers to Israel and the
Palestinians. In the case of the Palestinians, you know,
it’s totally meaningless, cause all they have a firecrackers and bottle rockets. But, so that seems to me…it’s within the
range of mainstream, the weapons ban. I personally think the most important thing
now is to end that brutal, inhuman siege in Gaza. And I don’t think it’s a tough case. I don’t believe it’s a tough case. First of all, you have every single human
rights organization and military institution, every single one, bar none, saying that blockade
is illegal. Whether it’s the International Committee for
the Red Cross, even…I mean, for Godsakes, even Ban Ki-moon, that corpse, said it…the
UN Security Council, um… of course the human rights organizations… uh, that the blockade
is illegal under international law, because it constitutes a form of collective punishment. All of the…the Human Rights Council report called for the end of the blockade with immediate effect. The report before that, one put out by an
American jurist, Mary McGowen Davis, a New York State judge, she said that the blockade
has to be lifted immediately and unconditionally. So you have a whole lot of public opinion
supporting it, and it would make a very big difference for a martyred people, if you can
lift that blockade. I think that’s the demand that should be put
on Bernie, and it should be put on AOC. I do believe that all of these debates that
are focusing on one state or two states, Zionism… they’re so completely beside the point. Why not focus on something practical that’s
actually winnable: ending the blockade? I really wish, I mean…I think the word—the
world of Ilhan Omar…that, if you have a pulpit like that, why not focus on the blockade? You have so much evidence to draw on. You don’t have to get involved in all these
arguments about Zionism, which are so pointless and meaningless and meandering.>>C: Still, she’s done a pretty good job…>>NF: She’s been great.>>C: Yeah.>>NF: I just wish there was a concerted,
focussed, on a demand that’s winnable, that can really affect in very profound ways the
lives of a martyred people.>>C: Um, do we open it up to questions? Thank you. [applause]>>NF: There a just…water? Don’t mind. That was absolutely delicious. I totally mislead them in Denmark, because
they bought me a beautiful smoothie and it cost seven or eight dollars. And they asked me, “how much would it cost
in the US?” And I said three-fifty. Now I just bought this and it was seven dollars. [laughter] So I’m going to have to go back now and…>>C: Um so, do you want to ask people or
should I?>>NF: Just speak up.>>Yeah, um…thanks for the talk. And um, I agree with you on that notion that
we have to have winnable demands, and we have to educate, but I think that your emphasis—I
have a different emphasis. And I think, first of all, it’s not going to change
until Trump and those people are out. End of discussion. End of discussion. [murmuring] Second of all, demands won’t be
met until we organize the unorganized, until we go into Bernie’s campaign or go somewhere…and
it can’t be looked from what the congresspeople are doing, what the human—yes, we could
use the Human Rights Committee for their information, but the only way we’re ever going to win is
to build a mass movement. And I think that the way to do it—I have
a lot of ideas about that—do you have any ideas about how somebody, at this point…? Suppose we come to the conclusion that we
have to put our work, all our work, into getting Bernie elected. And I think I’ve come to that conclusion,
personally. Then how do you integrate—how do you organize
on the Palestinian issue in that context? What do you do? Do you put demands on Bernie? I’m not necessarily think that you should. Not necessarily. I do believe that we go in there, on a grassroots
level, and we try to, one, build organization, like DSA, and, two, we try to educate people
as much as possible on those minimum demands that people understand, like human rights
violations. We don’t have to talk to people about, like,
the things that you said. So I think in general we’re completely in
agreement, although I have a little emphasis…different emphasis than your talk. So my question then becomes—and maybe other
people have ideas about this—about how do we enter that campaign, enter the discourse,
organize people that we can really win if we defeat Trump?>>NF: Well…I don’t think there’s really
any difference of opinion between us.>>No.>>NF: You can’t but demands on Bernie. I very much doubt his wife can put demands
on him, you know? He’s been around a long time and has a very
clear sense of what he’s going to do and what he’s not going to do.>>Exactly.>>NF: I think it’s just a question of a focused
message. Do we want Bernie, to the extent that he speaks
on the issue—do we want him to focus on one state versus two states, or do we want
him to focus—to the extent that we can influence it—about a winnable demand, like: can you
take a stand… There are people non-violently demonstrating in
Gaza; many people have lost their lives Can you take a stand, along with the International
Committee of the Red Cross, along with the UN Security Council—can you take a stand
and say: I think that blockade of Gaza has to be lifted, full stop? No conditions, no qualifications; the blockade
has to be lifted. He has said a couple of things along those
lines in the past, but I think to focus it. Uh, and that’s all. But I will say, and I’m not trying to be mean-spirited
and score points, I’m just trying to look at the situation objectively and factually. If you look at websites, which I occasionally
follow—I don’t follow them religiously—but you look at a website like Mondoweiss. About ninety percent is focused on Zionism
or one state versus two states. I would say there may be one item out of—you
can disagree with me and I could be off—but I would say there’s about one item out of
between fifty and a hundred that’s about the Great March of Return. And there’s something really off about that. Do you want to win something practical that
could actually change peoples’ lives for the better? That to me is…it’s just an incongruity. And it causes me to wonder: why? Why are people focussed—there are people
who are going out every day and getting murdered to try to end that blockade. Why aren’t we focusing on it? They’re not marching about Zionism. They’re not marching about one state or two
states. They’re marching to end the blockade. Why aren’t we focusing on that? And the only other thing is…you know, I
was listening to, along the lines of what you said, um, I think Bernie, what he…I
was listening to a statement he made—was it yesterday, at the California, uh, meeting? And he said: “there’s only one way we’re going
to defeat Trump.” How many people saw this? Nobody? Only one way we’re going to defeat Trump. He says: “you have to get the young people
and the working people to believe in politics again, and that they can actually affect their
lives. If you can’t get them into the political process,
Trump’s going to win.” And I think that was absolutely realistic
and absolutely correct. You have to get at least twenty—okay, let’s
call it ten to fifteen percent of that fifty percent that never vote in the presidential
election—you gotta get them out to vote. You gotta mobilize and organize the unorganized
and disaffected and the indifferent. And that struck me as correct, and I think
that we can be part of that: raising demands which are relevant, realistic, and important.>>C: Thanks, are there more questions?>>Hi. Yes thank you so much. I’m kind of a visitor to this group and I
really appreciate your, what you’re saying. My question in partly is: we are living in
a time where the forces against communal life, anything that smacks of the “Big S”, socialism,
is being undermined if—first it’s being brought out into the open. Then it’s being deliberately said to be a
cancer that’s growing by these forces that Trump supports. Now I feel like between that and the fact
that the Congress of the United States, this august body, supposedly, isn’t being respected
by Trump, by not have any of these people who are his allies come in front of it—between
that and the way they can work together so symbiotically, if you will—the Israeli government
and the US government—how do you have faith that the same attitude…”we don’t need to
listen to Human Rights Watch, we don’t need to listen to this Commission,” you know, we’re
not…”the blockade it’s a better form of…a kind of bulwark against terrorism,” by making
terrorism look darker-skinned and, uh, not Ashkenazi, it’s all about the Arabs, we’re
already so poisoned…do you see what I mean? I mean, my question is, where does that faith
in you thinking that can be realized, this idea?>>NF: Well the faith is very simple. Because things have happened in this country
in the last four years which I never thought would be possible. The Bernie Sanders candidacy will actually…the
Bernie Sanders candidacy, just none other than Bernie Sanders! You thought it was just going to be a token
candidacy. And then all sorts of things were happening
in our country which I didn’t think was possible. Let’s start with the most basic thing: I thought
the young people, uh, were completely hopeless. They were hooked on Facebook and antidepressants. [laughter] As a professor, and I mean this, people, I couldn’t believe what happened in 2016. I had never in my life, in a colorful life—I
had never seen such serious, committed, intelligent young people as I witnessed during the Bernie
Sanders campaign. I was traveling on busses out of town…. In my day, you went to an anti-war rally in
Washington, on the way home everybody’s passing around joints. And most of the talk was not about politics. I’m going to be honest about it: it was not. When I went with these, um, cross-state, um…organizing
with these young people, it was deadly serious. Deadly serious. They only talk politics. There were no drugs. There was no—I’m not saying positively or
negatively, just speaking factually—there was no sex going on, come-ons—there wasn’t! I mean, that’s why the whole thing about the
Bernie Bros was so stupid. First of all, most of the people on the bus
were women. It was around sixty-percent women, it wasn’t
guys. It’s just not true. And it was deadly serious. I remember being very, very hopeful. I have never—I had not experienced that,
even during the heyday of the anti-war movement, no, I did not. Now the Civil Rights Movement in the South,
you could see it was deadly serious. I mean, the freedom marches, you know, that
was a very high level of moral commitment. Mine was lower, you know it was…it was the
anti-war movement, college students and the counterculture intersected with the politics,
so it was a mixed thing. That made me very hopeful. Then, who would have ever thought, in the
United States, on mainstream television media, a person would be going out and denouncing
the one percent? And saying that a handful of people control
all the wealth? And not only saying it but naming them, naming
the Walton family, naming Goldman Sachs? I thought: this is America? I couldn’t believe it!>>Socialism, we never heard of it for forty
years!>>NF: Yeah, socialism! I mean the funny thing about the Bernie candidacy
is the only one who really cares about the label of democratic socialism is him. Everybody else, they were just very issues-oriented. They liked his message. Universal healthcare, abolition—or, reduction
of student debt, free higher education: those issues resonated. Um, and it’s a very interesting thing with
Bernie, because he did it the way it has to be done. He used to have…I don’t know how many of
you are familiar but they discovered these old tapes of Bernie having these town hall
meetings like in the 1980s in Vermont. And they said that he was constantly adjusting
and testing his message. It wasn’t like he pulled it out of a hat…a
rabbit. He was testing you: what works? what resonates? what wins people over, what loses them? And then he finally refined the message. Now, I’m not trying to toot my own horn, I’m
just trying to speak objectively and factually: that’s how I eventually, I think, became quite
successful with large audiences in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Because I was…for a period of time, I was
speaking a lot, I was speaking twice, three, four times a week. And I was constantly testing the message:
what works? what wins people? what loses people? And then, finally, after many years, I started
to see that this focus on international law, focus on human rights supports, things like
that, that they…they won the audience. You know, as Chairman Mao used to say, you
know, the goal of politics? “Unite the many to defeat the few.” How do you isolate the other side? How do you win over? And you test it, and you test it, and you
test it, because that’s the only way—you have to go before real people and test your
message. And then Bernie got it down…. Now, it’s true, he won’t let go. [laughter] Somebody said the other day, the
joke with Bernie Sanders is: he starts the speech—and for those who know him, from
the seventies and eighties—he starts the speech and then we finish it, [laughter] because
everybody knows what the speech is going to be. But it works! It works. And, um, like Bensouda, things are now being
said in our country which were unthinkable—by the way, most unthinkable, on the Israel-Palestine
conflict. When Ilhan Omar started to say there’s a lobby
that’s, you know, paying people off, who would ever have believed that the New York Times
said she was right. The New York Times runs this large article
and says, “yeah, it’s true. They’re being paid off.” You know, who would have ever thought that? It’s an interesting fact, by the way, that
right now, on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the US is more open than the UK. If Ilhan Omar was in the Labor Party, for
the things she’s been saying, she would have been expelled. People have been expelled for less in the
Labor Party, uh, in the last few months, than for what Ilhan Omar—in fact, everybody who
supported Ilhan Omar would have been expelled, in the Labor Party, for saying that the lobby
is, uh, manipulating US foreign policy, that’s considered, in the Labor Party, you’re not
allowed to say that anymore. No, literally: you’re not allowed to say it. And so, far from being pessimistic, we’ve
never been more open in the US, in terms of what’s legitimate. Now it’s true, a large part of it is always
getting on Omar. But it’s also true that Ilhan Omar was able
to say it because public opinion had shifted so radically, especially in the youth base
of the Democratic party and the liberal part of the Democratic party. So it’s a very hopeful time. It’s also a very dangerous time, obviously. You know it’s…um… It used to be a cliche in my era that the
Chinese character for “crisis” is also the Chinese character for “opportunity.” There’s a serious crisis, but there’s also
a very big opportunity. I think there’s a reasonable chance, no certainty,
uh, there’s a reasonable chance that Bernie can win, um, so, that would be, uh…
that would be really… it’s a nice way to end your life. [laughter]>>C: I think we’ve ignored Rashida Tlaib…is
that how you say her name? I think we’ve ignored her and she’s been quite
active on that front and is planning a tour to Palestine, I think this summer…with some
congresspeople. Um, are there any other questions? And I think we’re out of time? Okay, well thank you, Norman, so much for
coming to speak. [applause]

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