The audience of nearly 300 sat in silence, transfixed by the message of hope which scholar Norman Finkelstein delivered May 5 at the 10th anniversary dinner of KinderUSA in the Long Beach Hilton Hotel. Indeed, the author of The Holocaust Industry (available from the AET Book Store) had every reason to be pessimistic in light of his past experiences with American Zionists, who led a witch hunt that influenced De Paul University to deny him tenure because of his criticism of Israeli policies.
Nonetheless, Finkelstein remarked that, even though Gazans tell him circumstances grow worse by the day, he believes "there are reasonable grounds for hope the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is entering the end game."
He cited developments occurring regionally, internationally and on the U.S. scene that could muster world opinion to demand an equitable justice for both parties. "Israel has lost its last allies in the region-Turkey and Egypt," observed Finkelstein. "Turkey no longer will tolerate Israeli rampages, " he added, in unspoken reference to Israeli commandos lethally commandeering the Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship to Gaza, the Mavi Marmara. "It's taken 10 years, but Egypt will no longer remain passive during an Israeli onslaught on Gaza and seal its border to Gazans."
Internationally, he noted, Israel ranks in negative opinion polls beside North Korea, Iran and Pakistan.
Finkelstein concluded: "For the first time in living memory, the public is ready to listen that Israel bears the burden of responsibility for its actions. We must present a clear, unified, fair and reasonable solution to retain public attention."
He defined this as a two-state solution observing June 1967 borders, dismantlement of settlements, and the right of return.
The International Court of Justice and its 15 justices concur that Israel has no title to East Jerusalem, Gaza or the West Bank and that it is illegal to transfer its Jewish population onto occupied Palestinian territory. Furthermore, the refugee question has been resolved: there is no doubt the Palestinans have a generational attachment to their land, Finkelstein said.
"Israel is a state and it must obey international law-not just choose selectively those parts of the law it likes," he averred. "We have a big opportunity to enforce international law. Now is the time to isolate Israel's right-wing supporters and unmask them as unreasonable fanatics."
A bonus speaker was Dr. Mads Gilbert, who was a volunteer at Shifa Hospital during Israel's three-week land, sea and aerial assault on Gaza in 2008-09.
KinderUSA chairperson Dr. Laila Al-Marayati reviewed the organization's achievements over the past year, including supporting women's cooperatives which buy produce from Palestinian farmers and create nutritious food baskets for needy families. KinderUSA also provides medical and psychological care to children, as well as clinics and playgrounds in war torn areas.
Dr. James Zogby on Arab Voices
Dr. James Zogby discussed his book Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why it Matters (available from the AET book store) at a May 17 meeting of the Orange County World Affairs Council in the Westin South Coast Hotel, Costa Mesa.
"We [Americans] don't know the Middle East. We don't know Arabs. We don't know Islam. Furthermore, we don't want to know," averred the founder and president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC. "We didn't study the history of the Middle East. We don't know the people or their history, but we're making important decisions that will affect all of us in regard to the Middle East."
When Americans talk about Palestine, he continued, the whole Arab world hears us, and our blind support of Israel is hurting us in the Arab world. The Arabs don't hate us, Zogby said. In fact, he discovered they like us and like what we like-with the exception of Israel's right-wing policy toward Palestinians. …