Norman Finkelstein's July 30, 2014 appearance at Red Emma's bookstore in Baltimore was recently broadcast on C-SPAN. In front of a large and highly engaged audience Finkelstein proved himself adept at discussing the legal and moral implications of Israel's ongoing slaughter in the Gaza Strip. As usual, he was highly informative, passionately articulate, and fully committed to achieving peace in Palestine - so long as it doesn't require the abolition of a Jewish state.
But what if it does?
Finkelstein took several shots at BDS activists (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) and any notion of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which he denounced as supremely unrealistic.
He actually went further, suggesting it was a form of lunacy, lacking backing from even a single member state of the United Nations. A one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, he said, would be like proposing a resolution to U.S. immigration problems by eliminating the border with Mexico.
How appropriate is this analogy? Does the U.S. Constitution declare the American state to be the exclusive property of WASPs, as Israel does for Jews, thus excluding Mexicans by definition? Are Mexicans an actual or potential majority of a combined U.S.-Mexico, as Palestinians would be in Palestine if Palestinian exiles in Lebanon, Jordan, and around the world were allowed to come home? If Mexicans outnumbered the overwhelmingly white American middle class, and availing oneself of one's rights required one to be a white Christian, would it really be reasonable to dismiss calls for a single-state democratic solution to this as a form of lunacy? This appears to be what Finkelstein is asking us to believe.
Finkelstein was particularly critical of BDS basing its campaign on international law, while at the same time dismissing the legitimacy of Israel, in spite of the fact that Israel is a legal member state of the United Nations. You can't have it both ways, he said; either you favor international law in its entirety or you don't really favor it.
Good point. So how does a two-state solution envision the implementation of the Palestinian right of return, as called for under international law? (Finkelstein side-stepped a question about how a two-state solution would be just to Palestinians, on the basis that the question was complicated, as it surely is, but so what? The entire issue is complicated.) The answer is, it doesn't. No matter how borders are drawn to accommodate a two-state diplomatic settlement, many Palestinians with legal deeds to homes in pre-1948 Palestine will be permanently dispossessed, which outcome dissident professor Noam Chomsky (whose views on this topic parallel Finkelstein's) says has to be accepted as "realistic," since Israel will never allow complete implementation of the Palestinian right of return. Finkelstein, too, said that Israel would "never accept" a one-state solution, so it's best to not even entertain the notion.
In other words, both Finkelstein and Chomsky take the position that what Israel refuses to accept should define the limits of a Middle East "peace." The only problem with this stance is that Israeli leaders are certifiably insane even by the dismal standards of contemporary international politics, and cannot envision "peace" apart from total Israeli domination of the entire Middle East.
What these learned professors cannot seem to fathom is that a Jewish state, no matter how decent, humane, and democratic to Jews, is a massive obscenity to Palestinians on whose land the state is constructed, and until this fact becomes the basis for peace negotiations, there is no possibility of Middle East peace, now or ever.