Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finkelstein and the holocaust

I think this will be another Harry's Place post where comments get disappeared before their sell by date.
Roscoe Turi   
  31 December 2011, 8:15 am

From renowned Holocaust scholar (he practically invented the field of Holocaust Studies) and lifelong Republican Raul Hilberg:
Q: What are your thoughts on the current debates over how to interpret the Holocaust and its legacy in the work of people like Norman Finkelstein or Daniel Goldhagen?
Hilberg: Well Finkelstein is now maligned all over the place. There were obviously lobbies who tried to dislodge him from his position. Finkelstein is a political scientist. I believe he has a PhD degree from Princeton and, whatever you may think of Princeton, this is a pretty strong preparation to be a professional political scientist. He wrote to me a couple of times. He was the first one to take Goldhagen seriously. He attacked Goldhagen in a very long essay which I could never have written because I would have never had the patience. Goldhagen is part of an academic group that in my kind of research is a disaster…
Q: Why is that?
Hilberg: Because [Goldhagen] was totally wrong about everything. Totally wrong. Exceptionally wrong. In other words, this whole fury of his anti-Semitism was, at the root, that it was especially eliminationist anti-Semitism, was totally absurd. He talks about anti-Semitism among Germans, Estonians, Ukrainians, Latvians, and Lithuanians, but where did this unique eliminationist anti-Semitism come from? It is just totally absurd. I mean, totally off the wall, you know, and factually without any basis. Finkelstein took this seriously. I took it less seriously, but I was a latecomer in attacking this Goldhagen fellow.
Now Finkelstein had a second point, which, in my opinion, was one hundred percent correct and that is that the response to the issue of the Swiss banks and German industry, which had coincided during the War, was not only coercive on the part of the Jews who mobilized, but also on the part of all the insurance commissioners, the Senate, the House, and the critical committees. The only thing they could not break through was to the courts, which still have independence. So they lost at court, but they threatened people like Alan Hevesi in New York. They could make threats because Swiss banks wanted to expand here. For Finkelstein, this was naked extortion and I’m not sure who agreed with him except for me and I said so openly. In fact, I said so to the press in maybe seven countries.
The press did not expect my answer. The World Jewish Congress was led by a man who was appeared to be from his own autobiographical statements to be totally, not even average, but like a child almost. What this tycoon, who took over the World Jewish Congress, was saying was totally preposterous. The claims lawyers, joined by the World Jewish Congress, made an incredible display of totally inappropriate behavior.
Now when he talks about the Arabs, some Jews feel that he is also anti-Zionist, that he is anti-Israel; that he seems to always emphasize the suffering of the Arabs. I do not join him in this particular venture because I have my own view, but you cannot say he is altogether wrong either. Would you like to be an Arab citizen in Israel? Think of the doors that are closed. You may eat better and have a better income than if you lived in a slum in Cairo. The great irony is that the economic condition of Israeli Arabs is considerably better than the proletariat in some other Arab countries, but a person needs something more. A person needs a feeling of dignity. Think of the security check points. It is a life that certainly something ought to be done about it in one way or another. This particular battle cannot be fought forever. It cannot be. The Israelis will tire of it. The Israelis will simply tire of mistrusting people. It is not possible to go on this way forever. Finkelstein has the corner on the germ of correct vision in these matters because he is pretty sharp. More often than not, especially with regard to these other matters like Goldhagen and the Swiss banks he has been right.