September 30, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 18  

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Mid East talk gets mixed reaction

By Tom Podsiadlo
Gazette Staff

Competing visions on the origins of bloodshed in the Middle East have become a hallmark of the Palestinian-Israel conflict.

Norman Finkelstein, a Jewish-American academic, analysed the conflict in a lecture Thursday evening. The event was co-sponsored by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, the departments of anthropology and political science and the Undergraduate Political Science Association.

"The origins of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are fairly clear - it is basically a moral question, [but] the challenge is of a different order," Finkelstein said.

"The American media landscape is committed to shrouding the conflict in an ideological fog, making the reality hard to discern," Finkelstein explained, adding the challenge is to question the taboo and separate the facts from the hot air of academics and pundits.

Finkelstein claimed the Zionist movement has historically hinged on one choice in its attempt to establish a Jewish state in Arab Palestine: the establishment of an apartheid system, wherein the settler minority rules over a native majority.

Finkelstein stated the Arab opposition to the arrival of Zionists was not based on inherent anti-Semetism, but a sense of danger to their community. Finkelstein explained that during the 1948 war, 750,000 - or 90 per cent - of Palestinians fled in terror or were actively expelled from their ancestral homeland and turned into refugees.

Finkelstein said he thinks a terrorist pretext might be manufactured to induce the necessary response to justify an ethnic cleansing program. "Then Israel would find some local leader, playing the role traditionally assigned to indigenous collaborators under a type of imperial rule we witnessed in South Africa," he continued.

Students in attendance had mixed reactions to Finkelstein's message. Yaron Shlesinger, a first-year Ivey Student, was critical of Finkelstein's presentation. "He completely simplified and perverted a very complicated conflict by presenting facts in a clearly selective and biased fashion."

Ahmmar Naji, a third-year engineering student applauded Finkelstein. "I congratulate Finkelstein for having the courage, as a Jew, to be objective and recognizing the truth when it presents itself."



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