Monday, September 7, 2009

Will Norman Finkelstein break the seige?

A week ago, I read on Mideast Youth that Norman Finkelstein is organizing a coalition to break the siege of Gaza through a mass demonstration on the 1st of January of next year hoping that it will attract significant world media attention. Finkelstein has always intrigued me because of his clash with establishment academia. He's definitely radical which highly contrasts with my shifting view towards the center.

I believe he's mostly known to Arab activists in North America and Europe but not a frequent speaker in the Middle East. Ali Dahmash of Mideast Youth writes:
It is disappointing that he doesn’t get any attention from Arab media or officials. I would love to see him touring our Universities and addressing our youth but I won’t be surprised if he was harassed by Arab governments as well. Let’s wait for January 1st and see what Mubarak will do?
I would have thought that he'll more likely get in trouble with Hamas in Gaza and not with Mubarak because one of the first details one learns about him is that he's the son of Holocaust survivors, and the Holocaust is one thing Hamas believes to be a "Zionist lie".

Unfortunately for Finkelstein, from the statement he recently posted on his website, it seems that the coalition and organization of the march has been hijacked. The statement isn't long so I think it is worth for me to reprint it in its entirety:
Why I resigned from the Gaza Freedom March coalition:

The original consensus of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza was that we would limit our statement to a pair of uncontroversial, basic and complementary principles that would have the broadest possible appeal: the march to break the siege would be nonviolent and anchored in international law. I agreed with this approach and consequent statement and decided to remove myself from the steering committee in order to invest my full energies in mobilizing for the march. During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed "the political context" was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months. Because it drags in contentious issues that--however precious to different constituencies--are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal. It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation. It was whether inclusion in the coalition's statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration. In addition the tactics by which this new agenda was imposed do not bode well for the future of the coalition's work and will likely move the coalition in an increasingly sectarian direction. I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza. In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal. Because I would loathe getting bogged down in a petty and squalid public brawl I will not comment further on this matter unless the sequence of events climaxing in my decision to resign are misrepresented by interested parties. However I would be remiss in my moral obligations were I not humbly to apologize to those who, either coaxed by me or encouraged by my participation, gave selflessly of themselves to make the march a historic event and now feel aggrieved at the abrupt turn of events. It can only be said in extenuation that I along with many others desperately fought to preserve the ecumenical vision that originally inspired the march but the obstacles thrown in our path ultimately proved insurmountable.
I highlighted the important phrases above.


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