Standing tough for truth, Norman G. Finkelstein
Into my pantheon of truth-tellers he goes

by <george.salzman@umb.edu> 2009-04-22
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2009-04-22.htm


Norman G. Finkelstein speaking at Suffolk University, Boston in 2005. Yesterday I watched his lecture in 2008 at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. It's at http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22450.htm, well worth taking the nearly hour and a half needed to see it. 1:26:57 to be precise. He was wearing a blue shirt, with no jacket, appropriate for the less staid environment of the capital of Washington State. The picture here is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Finkelstein. He still has the same mature boyish grin, as though on the lookout for some mischievous fun.

      I keep saying, Stop talking to Jews. The way to stop the Israeli Nazis from continuing their conquest of the Palestinians is to talk to the overwhelming majority of non-Jewish Americans, to spread a profound awareness in this population group of how they are being made to sacrifice their own well-being, and thousands of them their very lives, in support of the U.S. imperial project to control the world and concurrently, the Zionist conquest of the so-called ‘Holy Land’.[1] What’s holy about the ‘Holy Land’? Any indigenous person who hasn’t been totally brainwashed by one of the pompous self-declared three ‘great’ monotheistic religions knows the answer: “all land is holy”. It is where every living creature exists. Without it there could be no life.”

      Last Friday, 17 April 2009, Nancy and I attended the first day of a two-day National Forum “Building a Network of Resistance for the Defense of Our Territories”. We were among a handful of gingos with hundreds of indigenous people, mostly of course from Mexico, especially Oaxaca State, but including participants from Guatemala and Honduras and a few from European countries. The forum was held in a small town, San Pedro Apostol adjacent to another small town, San José del Progreso, where inhabitants have been blockading the entry to a gold and silver mine operated by a Canadian-based mining consortium.[2] The mining operations are environmentally destructive. The ‘precious metals’ are leached from the ore with arsenic compounds that poison the local water supply. Unsurprisingly the well-bribed politicians who run Mexico and who illegally gave the Canadians a concession to operate the La Trinidad mine care about the indigenous inhabitants as much as the Israelis care about the Palestinians whose land they are stealing.

      As usual, the rich are stealing from the poor. That’s how they became rich, and they like it. Governments work to maintain the status quo, i.e. keeping the system of theft in place. Today’s Oaxaca City newspaper Noticias front-page headline reads The Federal Government gives guarantees of the mining investments. Yesterday a force of more than 500 state police went to Ocotlán to remove the blockade of the federal highway that the protestors had added to their month-long blockade of the mine entrance.[3] The standoff continues, so far relatively peaceful, though militant.

      The exchange with John Bassett, Norman G. Finkelstein and me, follows:


Subject: A disgraceful, arbitrary act -- cancellation of Norman Finkelstein’s invitation
From: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>
Date: Monday, April 20, 2009 2:40 PM
To: John Bassett <jbassett@clarku.edu>
Cc: Clark Univ Students for Palestinian Rights <palestine@clarku.edu>, Norman G. Finkelstein <normangf@hotmail.com>, Mazin Qumsiyeh <qumsi001@hotmail.com>, John Spritzler <spritzler@comcast.net>, Cecilie Surasky <c.surasky@gmail.com>

Oaxaca, Mexico Monday 20 April 2009
Dear Mr. Bassett,
      A report by the anti-censorship sub-group Muzzlewatch of the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, posted at http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2009/04/14/clark-university-cancels-norman-finklestein/#more-475 tells of your action as follows:

The Clark Students for Palestinian Rights have circulated two petitions. One questions whether the president should be able to cancel events without first consulting event organizers, and the other asks whether Clark students can have productive conversations about issues with which they may not agree.

We consider this an abuse of academic freedom” [http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/clark-university-president-john-bassett-cancels-finkelstein/], said senior Thomas MacMillan, president of the organization, which had raised half of the $1,800 costs associated with Mr. Finkelstein’s talk before Mr. Bassett canceled it. “Free speech is probably one of the greatest things we have in this country, as long as it’s not encouraging hate or violence toward someone else.”

The ACLU also wrote a letter to President Bassett in which they noted that this cancellation: “violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom, which are so fundamental to an institution of higher learning.”

Norman Finklestein commented thusly: [http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/clark-university-president-johm-bassett-cancels-finkelstein/]

Part of the Clark University-Boston Globe disinformation campaign is the pretense that I was scheduled to speak on the Nazi holocaust. In fact I was scheduled to speak on the Gaza massacre. Isn’t it too perfect that Clark was using The Holocaust as a pretext to silence criticism of Israel?

      I urge you to apologize to the students and to Mr. Finkelstein, and to encourage them to hold the event, albeit at a later date than originally planned.
Sincerely,
George Salzman
Prof. Emeritus of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston


Subject: RE: A disgraceful, arbitrary act -- cancellation of Norman Finkelstein’s invitation
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2009 22:07:26 -0400

George, I believe the talk is scheduled for April 27, only four days later than they had originally planned. We were not banning any speakers, only asking for some common courtesy in scheduling.
John Bassett


Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2009 23:08:37 -0500

Dear Mr. Bassett,
      I am writing to express my pleasure that Mr. Finkelstein and members of your and neighboring institutions will have an opportunity to meet at Clark to hear his presentation and response to their questions and comments. He is not only a formidable intellectual but, more importantly, is totally committed to trying to make the truth known.
Sincerely,
George Salzman


From: Norman
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2009 01:20:32 -0400

Does he really believe anyone will fall for this; that it wasn’t all the bad p.r. that forced him to capitulate? I would still want to know what he means by “common courtesy”: 1) I was scheduled to speak on the Gaza massacre, not the Nazi holocaust, (2) even were I scheduled to speak on the Nazi holocaust, I have written two books on the subject, one was named a “notable book of the year” by the New York Times Sunday Book Review, the other of which was translated into 27 languages, and both of which received endorsements from the world’s leading authority on the Nazi holocaust (Raul Hilberg), and (3) both my late parents passed through the Nazi holocaust. So why is it lacking in courtesy for me to speak on the subject? I would be most curious to read his response.


Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2009 06:36:35 -0500

Hi Norm,
      I have little if any doubt that you are right in discounting Mr. Bassett’s supposed explanation for his initial action banning your appearance, but let’s face it, his role is that of an administrator who is answerable to the people in the hierarchy above him. What was he to write me? That he was initially cowed by some Israel-firsters in Hillel, the so-called Anti-Defamation League and people in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee threatening that funding from some very wealthy donors to Clark Univ would be cut if he allowed the students to continue with their planned event? They’d never forgive him for being honest, any more than Obama could get away with telling the truth about why he supports the Zionist Nazis who run the nation-state of Israel.
      Trying to get the truth from an administator beholden to an illegitimate hierarchy is like trying to get blood from a stone – inevitably fruitless. I think you are correct – Bassett folded because, at a deep level, the propaganda machinery of the self-pitying Jews, the Abraham Foxmans et al is being swamped by the tide of honest propaganda and outrage unleashed by the evident brutality of the long-planned attack on Gaza. The fact is that I was very surprised to see an e-mail last night – I couldn’t remember at first who John Bassett was – responding to my critical earlier note. It’s really funny. I pulled out my phony credentials as a physicist (not having done any physics research for 30 or 35 years) and he apparently mistook me for an important person warranting a reply. It’s probably a reflection of the storm he’s been weathering.
      You’re a tough cookie Norm, always demanding the truth. I admire that because knowing the truth is also my passion. But it’s not always necessary to get a straightforward admission from someone who has lied in order to ‘know’ the truth. I’m pleased that Bassett has surrendered, given up his institutionalized power to censor open discussion at Clark, and don’t feel compelled to pursue him into a corner. It’s the young people we need, and they are moving massively in the direction of making a decent world. More important to win the world than to win an argument.
      As that wonderful fish-peddler Bartolomeo Vanzetti said (according to Upton Sinclair in his historical novel Boston) We musta makka de propaganda. Of course the great president of Harvard certified the Commonwealth’s need to put such a man to death.
All the best,
George


Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2009 23:51:07 -0400

In fact, I totally agree. It’s just the pretense that grates on me.


NOTES
[1] . See for example my paper, Forget Jews! The overwhelming non-Jewish American majority could halt the genocide of Palestinians, where I wrote, “ The genocide of Palestinians will end . . . only when (a) enough non-Jewish Americans learn how they're being screwed by the U.S. and Israeli governments, allied with the avid efforts of many American Jews, and, in their own self interest, gain the political clout to put a stop to it. . . . 18 Feb 2009. The entire item is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/s/2009-02-18.htm.

[2] There’s a report by Nancy Davies, Actions Follow Talks – Ocotlán Residents Take the Highway, on the forum and the nearby struggle at the mine in the NarcoNews Bulletin at http://www.narconews.com/Issue57/article3506.html.
      The listserv of the Oaxaca Study-Action Group, at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/ has information on the popuar struggle in Oaxaca, including the conflict over mining. In fact, a posting today at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/message/5597 begins,
Grahame at Rights Action has a detailed file of the actions of Canadian mining companies. info@rightsaction.org
--- On Mon, 3/30/09, Rights Action wrote:
Subject: Goldcorp Inc. & Arsenic Contaminants in Guatemala
To: mexicoconamor@yahoo.com
Date: Monday, March 30, 2009, 7:05 AM
* Guatemalan Church Group Finds More Contaminants (Arsenic) in Rivers Near Goldcorp Inc’s ‘Marlin Mine’ in Guatemala.

[3] Ocotlán is the seat of the municipality with governing jurisdiction over some 28 communities (small towns), among them San Felipe Apóstal, where the forum was held, and San José del Progreso, where the mine is located. Perhaps oddly, the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocotl%C3%A1n_(Oaxaca) lists 28 town in the municipality, but the list does not include San José del Progreso. The communities listed are: Buenavista, El Carmen, El Carrizal, El Guayabo, El Taray (El Taray Dos), La Chilaíta, La Mojonera, La Soledad, La Tortolita, Lachilagua, Las Flores, Paraje del Rancho (Balneario el Rocío), Paraje Lachilagua, Praxedis de Guerrero, Rancho de los Amadores, Rancho el Ciruelo, Rancho el Moreno, Rancho Galea, San Cristóbal Ixcatlán, San Felipe Apóstol, San Isidro, San Jacinto Chilateca, San Pedro, Guegorexe, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Sitio de Santiago, Tejas de Morelos.

==================================
George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.

All comments and criticisms are welcome.    <george.salzman@umb.edu>

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