Friday, February 15, 2008

Which side of the Spanish Civil War do they most remind you of?

Jeff W:
If there were any remaining doubts that Norman Finkelstein's visceral and obsessive hatred of Israel (along with his clearly deep-seated psychological problems) have left him thoroughly unhinged, this illuminating recent interview on Lebanese TV (via MEMRI) should be enough to dispel such doubts.
Read the rest, including the stomach-turning language in which Fink gives his solidarity for their "resistance". While the Lebanese interviewer gently suggests that Hezbollah might not be the genuine voice of all Lebanese people, Finkelstein goes on the offensive. Finally, he says: "You have no self-respect... How can you expect other people to respect Arabs is you show no respect for yourselves?" What he means by "having no self-respect" is basically "not all of you silly little Lebanese people are man enough to die fighting against the Nazi Zionists". Although that is a paraphrase, it is no exaggeration. This man is completely off the deep end.

Being offensive in a different register, Fink invokes the spirit of La Pasionaria, the Spanish anti-fascist. Jeff shows some grim pics of saluting* Hizbollah militants, and asks "Which side in the Spanish Civil War does this remind you of?"

Later in the day: I just watched the actual clip (it was down when I read Jeff's extract). It is actually even worse than I thought. Asked if there is any alternative for Lebanon than military resistance, Finkelstein emphatically says no. Then, he says, "unless you want to be their slave". Later, he makes it clear who the "they" is: "the Jews", not Israel. Fink is utterly offensive towards the pro-democracy movement in Lebanon, calling them "human freaks" and "disgusting" for not wanting constant war against Israel. And again and again in the interview he directly compares Israel to Nazi Germany. Final words of the interview: "Israel has to be defeated".

Oddly, though, the only time he loses his rag and departs from his strange cyborg psychopath pattern of speech, however, is not when talking about Israel, but when he mentions George Bush: a name he cannot pronounce without getting apopolectic.

And on Monday: Another thing of note in the interview is the way the Fink always uses the definate article about Jews - "the Jews". Hmmm.

*Erratum: I wrote that the Hezbullah fighters were "goose-stepping" when in fact they were doing fascist salute, as Jeff W kindly noted to me in an e-mail ("As you know, fascism was quite popular in that part of the world during the inter-war period ... and it has continued to be popular in some quarters since then, but in most cases there have been efforts to clean up some of the more obvious historical roots. In Lebanon, however, the good old 1930s-style symbolism is apparently still in style.")

Disclaimer: this blog does not endorse hero-worship of La Pasionara; she was a Stalinist who wanted to sell out her country's revolution to another totalitarianism that would have been nearly as bad as Franco's. But that's another argument.

9 comments:

The Contentious Centrist said...

How come Finklestein does not realize how he so perfectly fits the stereotype that he himself manufactured of the hate- mongering Jew who feeds on Holocaust memory to get people to do his bidding? Here is an American-Jew telling the Lebanese they must fight to destroy Israel, so as to "liberate" themselves. He is the very embodiment of that which he purports to reject.

Psychologist should have a field day dissecting what shaped this man's worldview. But one can get a clue from referring to the quotes where he mentions his mother.

He is his own self-generated Frankenstein's monster. What a sick performance!

Anonymous said...

Centrist:

To put it simply, rude people don't know they are rude or don't care. F-ed up people, if they were capable of recognizing how f-ed up they are, would go for help and otherwise not go swanning around the globe exposing their sickness for all to see, as does Finky. Instead, he sees himself as being persecuted for being a truth-teller.

The New Centrist said...

Hi Bob,

I know it’s off topic—or, another argument—but I had to comment:

“La Pasionara…was a Stalinist who wanted to sell out her country's revolution to another totalitarianism that would have been nearly as bad as Franco's. But that's another argument.”

If the ghoulish legacies of Franco and Stalin are our standards of comparison I would have to say that it very well would have been worse if the Communists had seized power and established a totalitarian state in Spain. There are a lot of "what ifs" involved but it is important to keep in my mind that the Spanish Civil War took place when Stalin was in the midst of a major purge of his ideological enemies back in the Soviet Union. These internal struggles for power--against "uncontrollables" (anarchists), "Trotskyists," and others--were replicated in Spain by Stalin's agents. In other words, we know anarchists and democratic socialists were imprisoned (and worse) by Franco but would a Stalinist regime have treated these people any better? If history is any guide, I say absolutely not.

I actually think Franco comes across as the “less evil” of the two, at least by a comparison of the level of barbarity of the two regimes. A large part of this is power. Franco never had the level of state power and control of Stalin, to say nothing of Hitler, so he was not able to accomplish as much atrocity. What he did accomplish was horrific and generations of Spanish people are still dealing with it but IMHO Stalinism was worse. The legacy of Stalinism is as horrendous as Nazism.

Oh, and Finkelstein is a total scumbag.

Anonymous said...

Amazing that Finkelstein is seen as part of an "anti-war" camp, as your analysis shows, he supports war against Israel. When the Left proclaims "we are all Hezbollah," and Hezbollah proclaims open war with Israel, how are these idiots able to proclaim themselves part of an "anti-war" or "peace" movement? It's utterly ridiculous. They simply mirror those they perceive (and construct) as their opposition. Projection for the sake of justifying their own disasterous position.

bob said...

NC: You might be right, although that would be a difficult step for me to take! There's a very interesting debate between Hitchens and Ronald Radosh (somewhere on the web) about this, where Hitch says that Stalinism was worse than Franco and Radosh the opposite. I think there are lots of reasons Naziism was worse than Stalinism, but of course Franco was not the same as the Nazis.

Perhaps, though, this sort of debate is not a good one (compare: which was worst, the Shoah or the trans-Atlantic slave trade). Both were terrible moral evils; both continue to need to be fought.

The New Centrist said...

"I think there are lots of reasons Nazism was worse than Stalinism, but of course Franco was not the same as the Nazis."

I agree. I may have put it a bit too strongly and simply when I stated:

"The legacy of Stalinism is as horrendous as Nazism."

But not by much. Stalinism lacked the scientific racism and gas chambers of Nazism but they shared some important similarities. And if this is a numbers game (which I generally am loathe to get in to) I think the two systems of government measure rather closely to one another.

Thanks for pointing me to the Radosh-Hitchens debate. However, they actually take the opposite perspective i.e. Radosh says a Stalinist regime would have been worse. I found it here:

http://www.hoover.org/multimedia/uk/3392191.html

I haven't watched the entire video but within the first five minutes Radosh basically says given the horrendous choice between Franco's authoritarian state and a totalitarian communist one, Spain was better off with the former. I suspected this would be Radosh's perspective especially if it was recorded after he co-authored "Spain Betrayed."

Another point to consider, this video was recorded before the terrorist attacks on Sep. 11, 2001. As we know, Hitchens's political perspective shifted dramatically after that event. I wonder what Hitch would say today?

At the end of the day, you're absolutely correct, Bob. Both are scourges that need to be combated. (Not Radosh and Hitchens, authoritarianism and totalitarianism).

bob said...

Thanks for the link NC. I don't know what I was thinking getting the Hitch and Radosh the wrong way round. I too would be very curious to know what CH thinks now: he was very much part of "the left" then.

I wonder if my refusal to follow Radosh's line of argument, and my relief to have Hitchens on my side, is part of a non-rational entanglement with my leftist heritage which I need to break free of!

The New Centrist said...

"I wonder if my refusal to follow Radosh's line of argument, and my relief to have Hitchens on my side, is part of a non-rational entanglement with my leftist heritage which I need to break free of!"

I think a lot of rational thinkers agree with you and Hitch. I'm not sure how it is in the U.K. but here in the U.S., very few people know much about the Spanish Civil War. Most of the people who do know something about the conflict are people on the broad left. Not that they are all activists or anything like that but they are sympathetic to the struggle of the Spanish Republic. I consider myself in this group.

Most of these folks view the war as a simple struggle between democracy and fascism. The few who possess more understanding of the complexity of the conflict (communists versus anarchists and POUMistas, etc.) still maintain a fascist/anti-fascist lens of interpretation. When viewed through this lens, of course you are going to support the "anti-fascist" side. Me as well.

Unfortunately, what's generally lacking is a similar understanding of the complexity of the nationalist side. The forces who supported Franco were not exclusively fascist and it could be argued that his fascist support was small compared to that of other traditional conservative forces: land owners, the Church, etc. After Franco achieved power, the power of the fascists did not increase, the Phalange were marginalized and their power severely limited as technocrats moved into positions of authority.

When one compares an authoritarian technocratic state with a totalitarian communist one and is given a choice between the two, it becomes a much different decision than fascism vs anti-fascism. In short, I'd argue that an understanding of the history of the conflict and its outcome, as well as the complexity and political divisions on both (all?) sides will lead one to the conclusions similar to Radosh and myself. I realize this is very controversial position on the left and I don't know of any leftists who expound it.

jeremy jks973@hotmail.com said...

I posted the following comment on an earlier thread about Finkelstein at the Engage website, and I think it's relevant here also.

Charles Jacobs recently made a passing reference to Norman Finkelstein in a review (of Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor's "The Jewish Divide Over Israel: Accusers and Defenders") in Haddassah magazine. Jacobs noted that Norman is "a truly odious character... who consorts with Hezbollah and characterizes Israelis as worse than Nazis."

See: http://tinyurl.com/8d9ws

The second part of that statement is accurate, of course, but it was too much for Norman's brother Henry Finkelstein, who dashed off the following disgraceful letter, which appears in the current issue of the magazine (Norman's brothers have in the past written in defense of their supposedly maligned sibling):

-----
Have you no shame? In your book review section (December issue), Charles Jacobs does not find it sufficient to just refer to my brother, Norman Finkelstein, as an odious character and a closet Nazi sympathizer, now he is being labeled as a consorter of Hezbollah. What rubbish.

My brother doesn’t frame his criticism of the State of Israel within the bounds that you have set, so you must resort to blatant character assassination of the lowest form, in such an off-handed manner that the assumption is that this is fact and not what it really is: a personal, biased opinion. My brother welcomes criticism and so do I, but this is not criticism.

Henry Finkelstein
Brooklyn, NY
------

But as this video shows, it's not rubbish. And so another almost remarkable thing about the video is that Norman has managed to make not just himself look like foolish but also his brother, whose claims about Norman are so easily contradicted by Norman's own words and actions. And, in this case, on television, no less, and now the Internet. Really, how embarrassing. "Have you no shame?" is a question that Henry might be better off addressing to his brother, if he hasn't done so. And after this video of Norman, it's about the least that should be asked of him.

Anyway, Jacobs, who despite brother Henry's petulant protestations to the contrary had obviously not referred to Norman as "a closet Nazi sympathizer," responded to Henry thusly:

-----
Perhaps if Henry Finkelstein knew what his brother, Norman, promotes, he would not fire off letters defending him. Norman routinely compares Israelis with Nazis and he told The Jerusalem Report (August 28, 2000) that he “can’t imagine why Israel’s apologists would be offended by the comparison.”

And while Norman expresses nothing but contempt for Israel, he lavishes praise on the terrorist group Hezbollah. On his Web site: “I did make a point of publicly honoring the heroic resistance of Hezbollah to foreign occupation.... Their historic contributions are... undeniable.”

Why two brothers, sons of Holocaust survivors, act like this is a subject beyond the scope of normal political discourse.

Charles Jacobs
------

Indeed.