HOME / ABOUT / WRITINGS / POLITICS / NEW / CONTACT

NB: The following interview excerpts, from a leading Dutch newspaper, provide a fascinating portrait of the hysterical paranoia and blatant antisemitism of far-left professor Norman G. Finkelstein. Translated from Dutch.

Interview: “Jews Are Immune From Any Kind of Criticism” [Excerpts]

Norman Finkelstein – American, Jew, polemicist – on the exclusive claim of suffering.

American Jews have exploited and manipulated the suffering in the Second World War for their own benefit. Politics professor Norman Finkelstein has written an indictment of the “Holocaust industry” and provoked a stream of reactions, especially in Europe. “Everyone can say that my analysis is too limited. But don’t say that my method is no good.”

Bas Blokker,
NRC Handelsblad,
August 5, 2000

Don’t rush yourself, says the man in the doorway, keep calm. It is ten o’clock, already a suffocating day in New York. Norman Finkelstein is wearing short sleeves and has bare feet in slippers. He speaks cautiously and softly. From the kitchen comes the whistle of two caged parakeets. Everything suggests the calm that Finkelstein desires for his visitor.

Oh well.

Within a couple of hours he’ll be screaming and saying: sorry I’m raising my voice. He’ll jump up from his chair to the bookcase to get one book after another and read excerpts from it with a breaking voice. He’ll point to paragraphs where there are mostly large areas of scribbling: “Now look, now look,” he then shouts, “that’s the level they’re lowering themselves to.”

“They” – that is what the politics professor Finkelstein (47) calls the “Holocaust industry”: American Jews, who have appropriated, twisted and exploited the extermination of the Jews during the Second World War for their own benefit – and the American government that uses this fabricated version of history for its own Middle East policies. According to Finkelstein, this thesis is set out in his controversial book The Holocaust Industry, whose Dutch translation appears in September.

“They” – that is people such as Edgar Bronfman, President of the World Jewish Congress – according to Finkelstein, a “blackmailing gangster.” People such as Daniel J. Goldhagen, author of the successful book Hitler’s Willing Executioners - “Holo-porno,” according to Finkelstein. People such as the historian Martin Gilbert, whose book Never Again Finkelstein calls “Harry Potter, Part IV.” People such as Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel, who Finkelstein says “fabricates – that’s a nice word for lie.”

... Until 1967 there was nothing available, writes Finkelstein. A few serious studies about the Jews’ destruction and isolated authentic diaries and memoirs from survivors appeared. In that year the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors changed the attitude of the American government to the Jewish state. The Americans saw in victorious Israel a strategic bulwark in the Middle East. To justify massive American military support to Israel, history was revived. The US as protector of the people that had already suffered so much. And so that the past would leave absolutely no space for misunderstandings, it was polished into virtually the new orthodoxy.

The Nazis were the incarnation of age-old Jew-hatred. The hatred of non-Jews for Jews is a form of envy; Jews had to be destroyed because they were better. And that destruction is the most terrible that has ever happened in the whole of history. The destruction of the Jews is a unique crime.

So schoolchildren are taught in compulsory Holocaust lesons. So students are instructed in courses in Holocaust Studies. So it is presented to visitors at the dozens of Holocaust museums across the whole of America. So it is instilled in all Americans on Holocaust Memorial Day. To keep this version intact, shelves full of Holocaust literature have appeared, not to be confused with Holocaust scholarship, says Finkelstein. But the distinction has become blurred, he thinks. Certainly after Goldhagen’s Holocaust literature in 1996 became Holocaust scholarship. That was the moment when Finkelstein decided that something had to be done. And that he must do it.

“As a Jew I have an inborn immunity. And the moral responsibility to use that.” That responsibility earlier brought him to write about the Palestinians. “The suffering of the Jews was invoked as an excuse for what Israel did to the Palestinians.” He goes to look at a photograph of himself from 1982. He is standing in front of the Israeli consulate in Washington with the placard:

This son of survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising & Auschwitz & Majdanek will NOT be silent. Israeli-Nazis – stop the Holocaust in Lebanon!!!

Goldhagen, also the son of a survivor, does the opposite, according to Finkelstein. “He gave the Jews and Israel a permit for their actions.” As victims of the ultimate Evil they are the ultimate Good. “It is unhealthy that Jews are immune from any kind of criticism. Any form of criticism of Jews is dismissed as antisemitism or Holocaust denial. That has a devastating effect on their morality. My mother always made many merciless criticisms of me. Painful, but in the end a good thing. I never had a superiority complex because of my success at school, because she always pointed out my mistakes.

“By hammering on the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the exclusive link between Holocaust and Jews, the Holocaust industry has become the main promoter of antisemitism. I teach at a public university and there you notice the irritation over Jewish self-worship because of the Holocaust. The moment that a Jewish student starts on the Holocaust, you feel the tension in the hall rise. That is suffocating.”

... Finkelstein takes from the shelf a book by Guenter Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies - issued by Oxford University Press, footnotes and everything...

“For the Holocaust industry the Gypsies must be forgotten. The thought that lies behind the uniqueness argument is: they killed us because we were better. And that thought is untenable if the Gypsies accompany it. For looking at their current status, who could seriously maintain that Gypsies were murdered because they are better? Let me say that the real reason for a book like Lewy’s is Jewish racism – or no: chauvinism...

“Why is Goldhagen’s thesis so attractive? Because it’s politically convenient.”

Did the American public really crowd into Schindler’s List because it generated support for policies in the Middle East?

“Then give me a better reason. If we encounter a large body of material which, taken together, constitutes an ideology, then the first question is really: who is profiting from this? In my opinion, there are two beneficiaries of these ideas: American Jews, and the American government, which uses the destruction of the Jews for its political goals.

“In 1978, NBC made the TV series Holocaust. Do you think that it was a coincidence, 1978? Just in time for the negotiations between Israel and Egypt at Camp David?”

In 1978, the ABC series Roots came out, a history of American blacks over two centuries. Whose interests did that serve at the time?

Roots was something quite different. That series came out of the victory of the massive civil rights movement.

“Everyone can say that my analysis is too limited. But don’t say that my method is no good. Or that it comes from a conspiracy-theorist’s mindset. That’s absurd.”

At the end of your book you no longer have individuals, but only “the Holocaust industry,” which does this or says that. That sounds really rather like conspiracy-mongering.


“The silence around my book in the US – if that isn’t a conspiracy, what is it then?”

Lack of interest?

“You don’t believe that! Lack of interest for something to do with the Shoah? This is America. Here we make Holocaust cookbooks. Really, the cookbook of the women of Terezin, In Memory’s Kitchen.”

Perhaps people did not consider the book sufficiently important.

“Then would it really get so much attention in England? The mechanism of ideological control is subtle. People know automatically whom you must and must not name. And anyone who doesn’t know that yet, and then goes to look me up for a comment, gets a telephone call from his boss: ‘You know who that Finkelstein is? You know what he’s said about Israel? About Goldhagen?’ And then: silence.”

It is scarcely believable that a small group of people, which also represents only a small part of the American population, is succeeding in foisting its ideology on such a large number. Certainly in light of the fact that so many other interest groups are competing for the same attention.

“Jews are influential. They occupy an important position in the media. All opinion journals in the US, from left to right, are Jewish.”

So it’s only a matter of time before black viewpoints start to count.

“Ha ha ha, that will take about as long as the advent of world communism. Power structures are strong.

“It would be interesting to see what would happen if Israel or American Jews taxed the patience of the American government. I think that the Holocaust would then simply be one of many relatively obscure chapters of history. As it also was until 1967. In 1966 nothing ever appeared in the papers about the Holocaust. It was scarcely written about.”

... I’m no martyr, says Finkelstein, fearing that the impression is arising that he is. “Every five-year-old Palestinian boy who threw a stone at Israeli soldiers has more courage than me. But if you want to know how you’re treated in the American academic milieu, if you have criticisms of Israel such as I’ve made in Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, then this is it: I can never get a job. I’m at Hunter College as an adjunct teacher, which is roughly equivalent to a lift boy. My income is between $15,000 and $18,000 dollars, far below the poverty line...

“Only once have I been invited for a job interview, at the University of San Francisco, a small Jesuit college. Not one article by me has ever been published in a scholarly journal. In Hunter I can never give a class on the extermination of the Jews, only on the history of political theory. I also rarely give a class by day, mostly in the evenings. I’ve paid my price.

“The truth is a bitter pill. My parents did not teach me to soften the pill. My parents and my intellectual teacher Noam Chomsky have that outspoken style. I love moral indignation.”