Finkelstein’s “Knowing Too Much”

by LENNI BRENNER

Norman Finkelstein is a well-known critic of Israel and he had to pay for his efforts. In 2007 he was denied tenure by DePaul University.  Recently he generated opposition within the Palestine solidarity camp by denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a  “hypocritical, dishonest cult” seeking to replace Israel with a democratic secular binational state. (wiki/Norman_Finkelstein) Given his success at attracting attention, potential readers must be warned that his latest opus, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End, is the ultimate in pedantry. Reading it is an ordeal.

Finkelstein complains that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s Six Days of War: June 1967 and the making of the modern Middle East was “weighed down with nearly a hundred pages of endnotes and  bibliography.” (p. 161), even while burdening Knowing Too Much with 1,241 endnotes over 94 pages and using them to extend points made in his  text. Novices and venerable scholars alike will drown, swimming from his tendentious arguments to his endnotes morass, then back to his repetitious text.

On page xiv he tells us that:

“The bedrock of the American Jewish  bond with Israel is kinship: the attachment of an ethnic group to “its” ethnic state…. The high rate of intermarriage among American Jews in  recent years has diluted the impact of this blood tie and consequently attenuated the connection of many American Jews to Israel.”(5) But we must turn to his endnote on page 355 to learn that “Because much has  already been written on intermarriage and its impact on American Jewish life, this topic will not be pursued in these pages.”

Discussion of the increasing assimilation of American Jewry via  the 58% intermarriage rate is essential for fully understanding young  Jews’ alienation from Zionism’s intra-Jewish marriage priority. Instead, when we return to the INTRODUCTION, we are given a quote with  Finkelstein’s unnecessary comment smack in the middle of it:

“For many American Jews,’ Steven M. Cohen observed in his  classic anatomy of the contemporary Jewish scene, ‘politics–in particular  pro-Israel and liberal activity–have come to constitute their principle  working definition of Jewishness.’” (p. xv),  Only then we are finally told  that “The interaction between these twin commitments, and in particular  the tension between them, is the focus of this book.” (p. xv) He tells us that “Because Israeli propaganda no longer monopolizes public discourse,  and enough of the truth, even if still only a small fraction of it, has become  known, Israel can no longer count on the blind support of American  Jews.” (pp. xvi-xvii)

In case we forget his central theme, he endlessly repeats it. His  CONCLUSION declares that “Large sectors of the significantly liberal  American Jewish community now know too much of the truth abut the Israel-Palestine conflict to continue lending Israel blind support.” (p.299)  One page later he tells us that “American Jews have demonstrated and  enduring commitment to liberal values and have contributed disproportionately to the vitality of liberal American institutions. In recent  years however they have experienced a conflict between fidelity to these  liberal values and fidelity to an increasingly illiberal Jewish state.”(p. 300) Knowing that his readers are forgetful, one paragraph later he  proclaims that “The focus of this book has been on the ideological rift. It  has been argued that in the face of the accumulated documentary record  American Jews are longer able to reconcile Israeli policy with bedrock  liberal principles.” (p.300)

I concede one thing. At least he remembers his ‘great truth.’ One page on,  he yet again reminds us that “Because it is tapped into the broader  intellectual culture, the liberal, highly literate American Jewish  community can no longer be unaware, or pretend to be unaware of the  brutal realities of Israeli policy.” (p. 301)

He finds his own point again and again in his reviews of several Zionist authors, Oren, Peter Beinart, Jeffrey Goldberg, Dennis Ross and Benny Morris.

Beinart is an ex-editor of the neo-con New Republic. Finkelstein quotes from his “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” in the June 10, 2010 New York Review of Books. “For several decades, the  Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at  Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.” (p. 29)

This example from one author will do for the lot.

The operative proverb here is “Happy are they who learn from the mistakes of others.” Learn from Finkelstein’s follies.

1 – Completely write your book inside your text. Endnotes are only to tell  readers on what page in your source they can find what you quoted in your book.

2 – “Brevity is the soul of wit.” You have an important point to make? Good. Say it short and sweet, explain it clearly, then move on.

Lenni Brenner is the author of Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators. He can be contacted at BrennerL21@aol.com.

 

Lenni Brenner is the author of Zionism In The Age Of The Dictators. He can be contacted at BrennerL21@aol.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”