15 June 2024

Open Letter to Norman Finkelstein – Zionism has Failed – Two States is Dead - Stop Undermining the Global Movement in Support of the Palestinians

‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free’ Means Exactly That 

An End to Zionism’s Jewish Supremacist State

Dear Norman,

You have been one of the most perceptive critics of Zionist ideology, its misuse of holocaust memory and the practices of the Israeli state.

So it is with surprise and dismay that during Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza, you have suggested that there might be some basis to Zionist accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’. This is something that Palestine supporters experience day in day out from the Zionists and the right-wing media. They don’t expect to hear it from you.

I am referring to your attack on the slogan, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free which has become the property of every single Palestinian demonstration, encampment and protest march.

Norman Finkelstein Speaking to Students at Columbia University

In your speech to Columbia University students on April 21you said:

I don’t agree with the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” It’s very easy to amend and just say, “From the river to the sea, Palestinians will be free.” That simple, little amendment drastically reduces the possibility of your being manipulatively misunderstood....

any movement has to ask itself: What is its goal? What is its objective? What is it trying to achieve? A few years ago, “From the river to the sea” was a slogan of the movement.

However, there’s a very big difference when you’re essentially a political cult and you can shout any slogan that you like, because it has no public repercussions or reverberations...  There’s a big difference between that situation and the situation you’re in today,....

You have to adjust to the new political reality that there are large numbers of people, probably a majority, who are potentially receptive to your message. I understand that sometimes a slogan is one that gives spirit to those who are involved in the movement. ...

I believe one has to exercise — not in a conservative sense, but a radical sense — in a moment like this, maximum responsibility to get out of one’s navel, to crawl out of one’s ego, and to always keep in mind the question: What are we trying to accomplish at this particular moment?

Finkelstein speaking to Columbia University Students

It is nothing less than a stab-in-the-back for you to attack this slogan at a time when it is being criticised as anti-Semitic by the establishment and racists such as Suella Braverman. It might be a good idea if you took your own advice to get out your navel and crawl out of your ego.

At Columbia you shied away from your own argument, perhaps because you realised that the audience was not receptive to your argument. But in your Guardian interview you

questioned the slogan “Palestine will be free, from the river to sea” as mostly ineffective for these purposes, due to how it inflames fears among Israel’s supporters and gives fuel to arguments that pro-Palestinian protests on US university campuses are antisemitic and even “genocidal”.

It was reported that ‘the students were largely unmoved’. As soon as you finished speaking they started chanting the very same slogan! You said:

The two problems I have with that are very simple. ... If you want to build a mass movement, you want to bring as many people as possible inside the big tent.... I have no doubt it was those screaming headlines every day about those student demonstrations that made Biden realize: “I have to do something now.”

I believe that a political slogan should be as clear and succinct as possible, to allow for no wiggle room that can be misinterpreted and exploited by the other side. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is a slogan that gives the other side a lot of room to exploit. “What do you mean by Palestine will be free? Do you mean there is no room for Israel?”

I find this a strange argument. Of course there will be no room for a Jewish supremacist state. Do you think a free Palestine can co-exist alongside an apartheid state? Israeli Jews will have the right to continue living there but on the basis of equality not domination. Just as in South Africa Whites continued living there after Apartheid fell.

Your problem is that you don’t have an anti-Zionist perspective. You don’t question why should Israel continue as a Jewish Supremacist state. Your paradigm is an entirely different one based not on a set of principles but on what is acceptable to the ‘international community’ and ‘international law’. You justify the resort to imperialism’s legal architecture on pragmatic not principled grounds.

The ‘rules based order’, ‘international law’ and the ‘international community’ as represented by the UN, serve to legitimise the plunder and exploitation of western imperialism post-WW2.

Despite your intellectual contributions to the struggle of the Palestinians you have repeatedly sought to undermine the solidarity movement by counterposing the justice of its demands to what is acceptable to imperialism (the ‘international community’).

Only you know your own subjective motivation and why you feel the need to attack even the most basic demands and campaigns of the solidarity movement such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS]. You don’t feel comfortable with anti-Zionism because it questions the very basis of the US imposed international order.

I first became aware of your stance when I attended a talk by you arguing for the two-state solution at the Institute of Education (11.11.2011). I covered it in a blog, Norman Finkelstein –A Wasted Opportunity & Self-Indulgence. I wrote then that

When Norman Finkelstein says that 2 States represents the best hope for the Palestinians and that it is now very close, he is living on another planet. The fact is that Zionism has always opposed any recognition of Palestinian statehood and for very good reasons. Zionism is a settler-colonial movement. As such it is expansionist and seeks regional hegemony not confinement,.... There is absolutely no intention of granting any such thing. At best there will be a continuation of autonomy under Abbas with the faces of Israeli soldiers and jailers being replaced by that of Palestinians.

As Moshe Dayan was reported as saying in Ha’aretz (12.12.75):

Fundamentally, a Palestinian state is an antithesis of the State of Israel… The basic and naked truth is that there is no fundamental difference between the relation of the Arabs of Nablus to Nablus and that of the Arabs of Jaffa to Jaffa… And if today we set out on this road and say that the Palestinians are entitled to their own state because they are natives of the same country and have the same rights, then it will not end with the West Bank. The West Bank together with the Gaza Strip do not amount to a state… The establishment of such a Palestinian state would lay a cornerstone to something else… Either the State of Israel — or a Palestinian state.

The Obama Administration was pushing hard at that time for Israel to agree to a two-state solution. The Israeli government refused to countenance it because an Israeli state cannot co-exist alongside those they have ethnically cleansed in a state, even in a part of Palestine. The Zionist slogan was ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’.  It wasn’t half or three-quarters of Eretz Yisrael but all of it.

It is your failure to understand the nature and dynamics of both Zionism and the Israeli state which has led you to campaign for a two-state solution. What you failed to recognise then and now is that the two-state solution served but one purpose – as a smokescreen for the continuing colonisation of the West Bank until such time as a critical mass of settlers would make such a state impossible to achieve.

Your appeal to the ‘international community’ and ‘international law’ was an appeal to imperialism to be reasonable when imperialism by definition is unreasonable.

Your advocacy for two states also involved a catastrophic failure to understand US imperialism in the post-war period. International law has never provided justice except at the margins. If international law had prevailed, the American blockade of Cuba would have ended, Salvador Allende would not have been overthrown and the genocide in Guatemala would not have occurred.

Today we can see that when international law and the interests of US imperialism collide, as with the pending arrest warrants for Gallant and Netanyahu, the US Congress calls for sanctions against them like some second rate Mafiosi boss.


It is because the one democratic state solution means the end of the Israeli state that you feel the need to attack the slogan Palestine will be free from the river to the sea.’ Despite your description of Israel as a lunatic or satanic state you refuse to countenance its decolonisation.

Norman Finkelstein describing BDS as a cult

You have attacked BDS as a ‘cult’ for the same reasons. You argued that although BDS didn’t demand the eradication of the Israeli state, its three main demands

i.                   Israel ends the occupation of the lands it occupied in 1967.

ii.                 That it guarantee equal rights and end discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens and

iii.              That Palestinian refugees had the right of return.

amounted to the same. You argued that

We have to be honest,... They [BDS] don't want Israel. They think they're being very clever, they call it their three tier – we want the end of the occupation, ... the right of return and ... equal rights for Arabs in Israel... they know the result of implementing all three is what? What's the result? ... There's no Israel... If you want to eliminate Israel that's your right but I don't think you're going to reach anybody. I think it's a non-starter.

But what is this Israel that you believe has a right to exist? What is this Israel that is unable to withdraw from the Occupied Territories, grant Israel’s Arab citizens equal rights and allow Palestinian refugees the right of return if not a state of entrenched inequality? Does an apartheid state have the right to continue in existence?

You also assume that a demand for an end to the Apartheid Israeli state will not be popular. Certainly it won’t be popular with Western imperialism. But today, when Israel is engaged in the slaughter of thousands of Palestinian children, the argument that Israel is a failed genocidal state is more popular than ever.

In Brighton, from 2012-14 we picketed a Soda Stream shop forcing it to close down. On innumerable occasions the Zionist counter-demonstrators quoted your attack on BDS as a ‘cult’ to show that we were extremists. Are you aware of the damage you are causing?

You only have to look at the anti-Palestinian Jewish Chronicle’s coverage, Finkelstein disowns 'silly' Israel boycott. It wrote:

Controversial American anti-Zionist academic Norman Finkelstein has launched a blistering attack on the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, labelling it a "cult" led by "dishonest gurus".

If BDS was an insignificant cult why did the Israeli government pass a law barring its supporters from visiting Israel and another law allowing Israelis to sue boycott advocates? Why is it that 38 US states have passed legislation penalising advocates for BDS? At the heart of the Empire Israel’s supporters are frightened by BDS.

There is public consciousness today that there’s something wrong with a state which privileges Jews. As B’Tselem put it, there is ‘a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid’. The real question is how we build on what B’Tselem, Amnesty and HRW have said.

Your difficulty, as you explained in the Guardian is that:

 “Palestine will be free” can also mean something else. It can fit into what’s called the settler colonial framework, which basically says, “Settlers do not have legitimate rights to the land. The land belongs to those who are ‘Indigenous’ to it. And everybody else, at most, can live there on the sufferance of the Indigenous majority, or they have to pack up and leave.

You are wrong about what you all the ‘settler colonial framework’. Your solution to this problem was ‘constructive ambiguity.’

For me, the ideal slogan would actually be: “From the river to the sea, one person, one vote, Palestinians will be free.”

Even if the movement did endorse your clunky slogan do you really think this would solve the ‘anti-Semitism’ problem? The Zionists would simply respond by saying that ‘Palestinians will be free’ meant Israeli Jews would not be free. If anything your proposed slogan falls foul of the very objections that you yourself make.

The problem isn’t the wording of a slogan but the determination of imperialism to protect its racist rottweiler in the Middle East. Your objections are simply a distraction. You say that the slogan

‘inflames fears among Israel’s supporters and gives fuel to arguments that pro-Palestinian protests on US university campuses are antisemitic and even “genocidal.’

If you are correct that the slogan inflames fears among Israel’s supporters then that is because it demands that they relinquish their privileges. Perhaps I should remind you of Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ where he wrote:

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

What you are trying to do is depoliticise the Palestine solidarity movement for the sake of bad faith objections. You are allowing the feelings of Zionists and Israeli students to dictate our slogans.

The ‘anti-Semitism’ that is alleged is the reflex reaction of Israel’s supporters. When Israel was taken to the ICJ it was ‘anti-Semitism’. When Netanyahu faced a warrant for his arrest it was ‘anti-Semitism’. Most people can see through this. We should not pander to it. Our slogans are not for changing!

As for genocide Israelis, like other settler colonists, see the de-colonisation of their state and the end to Jewish Supremacy as the destruction of their identity and therefore genocide.

Ironically, having begun your talk to Columbia students with a critique of cancel culture and ‘hurt feelings’, you then engaged in that very same narrative. Israel’s supporters are ‘hurt’ by the idea of living with Palestinians on the basis of equality.

As Ali Abunimah argued (Finkelstein, BDS and the destruction of Israel), Ulster Unionists viewed a united Ireland as a mortal threat. In 1990 James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, described the Republic of Ireland’s constitutional claim to the North of Ireland as “equivalent to Hitler’s claim over Czechoslovakia”.

Abunimah described how the language of the Unionists when faced with the possibility of a United Ireland ‘resembles that used by Zionists.’ For you to describe the abolition of the Israeli state and a one-state solution, as tantamount to Israel’s “destruction” implies that an end to a Jewish Supremacist state is equivalent to genocide.

Zionist objections to the ‘Palestine will be free’ slogan would be no different if you replaced it by ‘Palestinians will be free’ because what they object to is the disappearance of their Jewish supremacist identity. It appears that this is also your real objection because at heart you support the idea of a Jewish state.

The thread running through all your arguments is your belief that Zionism can be ‘normalised’ within the confines of two states. For all your criticism of Israel’s human rights record and its falsification of history you still believe that Zionism can return to a ‘golden age’.

This was brought home to me when we exchanged correspondence in August 2020. You wrote:

‘I actually don't think Netanyahu is a Zionist. He's a Jewish supremacist and a ruthless thug. "Zionism" gives people like him much more credit than they deserve. The original Zionists were austere, fanatically committed to an Idea.  (9.8.2020)

To which I responded

‘Yes Netanyahu is a Jewish supremacist and a ruthless thug.  But he's also a Zionist.  Zionism isn't some benign dream of a future Jewish utopia.


In a subsequent email you wrote

The Yishuv and Israel's early years had agreeable, even attractive features: the kibbutzim, the austere life, the idealism. That's why Chomsky and Deutscher felt such an affinity for it. It was sort of like the rugged individualism of the settlers in the American West. Something to admire then, if you weren't an Indian; something to admire in Palestine if you weren't an Arab. It would be nice if the world came in neat little packages labelled Good and Evil, but human affairs are more messy. I would have to say, however, that in my opinion the redemptive features in Israeli life have altogether vanished, and it's now a pretty Satanic place.

At heart your attempt to undermine the slogan ‘Palestine will be free’, owes less to any fears of genocide and more to do with your belief in the mythical past of heroic Labour Zionist pioneers farming the land that they had just evicted the Palestinian peasants from.

Chomsky may have enjoyed his time on a kibbutz, although he also noted that it was built on the ruins of Arab villages and that ‘some pretty ugly things had happened in 1948’. What Chomsky didn’t understand was that the kibbutzim were stockade and watchtower settlements marking out the future boundaries of the Jewish state, Jewish-only settlements founded upon the dispossession of the native population. It is little wonder that the settlers on the West Bank lay claim to be the continuation of that pioneering spirit you so admire.

What we need, as Naomi Klein put it is an ‘Exodus from Zionism’ not a pandering to its unerring ability to paint itself as the victim, even whilst committing genocide.

Since I suspect that you won’t be convinced by my arguments I want to challenged you to a debate over these issues for a wider audience to consider.

Solidarity,

Tony Greenstein

Background to my letter

Norman Finkelstein is difficult to pigeon hole. He is not an anti-Zionist nor does he claim to be. Politically he is close to Noam Chomsky who never disavowed Zionism.

On the other hand Finkelstein’s analysis, dissection and demolition of various Zionist propagandists and frauds masquerading as historians and scholars is unsurpassed. ‘Victims’ of his include Joan Peters, Daniel Goldhagen and Alan Dershowitz.

Finkelstein is without doubt a caustic critic of Zionism and its pretensions. He is also in the habit of making rash statements that are damaging to the solidarity movement such as calling BDS a ‘cult’, or advocating for an apartheid 2-state solution when it is clear to all bar Finkelstein that two states would, in James Connolly’s words, create a carnival of reaction on both sides of the border.

Norman Finkelstein on holocaust denier David Irving

I have had some experience of Finkelstein in a free speech panel discussion when he praised David Irving as a historian without also mentioning that Irving was a neo-Nazi and holocaust denier whose attempt to suggest that Hitler knew nothing of the holocaust rested on tampering with and falsification of his sources.

This led to an article in the Jewish Chronicle and by the Community Security Trust which suggested that anti-Zionists had uncritically praised a holocaust denier. It also led David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists Group to accuse the panel, and David Miller in particular, of agreeing with Finkelstein’s comments. Rosenberg eventually and grudgingly withdrew his remarks since I had in fact corrected Finkelstein.

Finkelstein has continued his tradition of being an iconoclast on the Palestine question. After the October 7 breakout from Gaza he defended the uprising as being in the tradition of slave break-outs such as Nat Turner. Yet more recently he has started attacking the slogan ‘Palestine Must Be Free on grounds not dissimilar to that of the Zionists.

My Open Letter to Finkelstein expresses my own dismay at his suggestion that the slogan gives substance to Zionist claims that it could be genocidal. In so doing he is reinforcing the idea that democracy and equal rights are somehow genocidal.

From Time Immemorial -  Joan Peters Hoax

At the beginning of his career Finkelstein, was the brightest star in the firmament. His painstaking research in Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict demolished Joan Peter’s hoax and forgery, From Time Immemorial, (1984). Peters argued that Palestine was an empty land before the Zionist settlers arrived and that the Palestinians had only migrated to Palestine as a result of Zionist immigration.

Peters’ argument was similar to that of White South African settlers who had also argued that South Africa was an empty land until they arrived. Settler-colonialism has always been attracted to the idea that the lands they coveted were terra nullis or empty lands. The natives have always been invisible.

Finkelstein’s review laid the basis for writers like David & Ian Gilmour to continue the attack on Peters work.  They cited errors such as quoting a medieval Arab historian, Makrizi, who died in 1442, to support her statements about mid-nineteenth century population movements. (LRB, 7.2.85. ‘Pseudo Travellers’).

The evidence that Peter's thesis was junk came from the Zionists themselves. Leo Motzkin, a Zionist leader who in 1912 called on the Arabs of Palestine to transfer themselves to other countries, told delegates to the 2nd Zionist Congress in 1898 how

‘Completely accurate statistics about the number of inhabitants do not presently exist. One must admit that the density of the population does not give the visitor much cause for cheer. In whole stretches throughout the land one constantly comes across large Arab villages, and it is an established fact that the most fertile areas of our country are occupied by Arabs..." (Protocol of the Second Zionist Congress, p.103).

Ahad Ha'am in The Truth From the Land of Israel (1891) wrote:

We who live abroad are accustomed to believe that almost all Eretz Israel is now uninhabited desert and whoever wishes can buy land there as he pleases. But this is not true. It is very difficult to find in the land cultivated fields that are not used for planting.... We who live abroad are accustomed to believing that the Arabs are all wild desert people who, like donkeys, neither see nor understand what is happening around them. But this is a grave mistake. The Arab, like all the Semites, is sharp minded and shrewd. ... The Arabs, especially the urban elite, see and understand what we are doing and what we wish to do on the land, but they keep quiet and pretend not to notice anything. For now, they do not consider our actions as presenting a future danger to them. … But, if the time comes that our people’s life in Eretz Israel will develop to a point where we are taking their place, either slightly or significantly, the natives are not going to just step aside so easily.

Peters ignored this and all other evidence that contradicted her thesis.

Peters’ book attracted rave reviews and endorsements from the US’s  police state ‘intellectuals’, such as Barbara Tuchman and Lucy Dawidowicz. The book neatly fitted into the Zionist agenda because it challenged the very existence of the Palestinian refugee problem. The expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 was according to them a myth. They had never lived there! Finkelstein described how

I immediately brought my findings to the attention of 20 or so publications and to several individuals who I thought would find my discovery of some interest. Only Noam Chomsky responded. ... I devoted some two months in the New York Public Library to systematically going through all Peters’ documentation for her central demographic thesis. To my utter amazement, I discovered that every single piece of evidence in support of the central thesis of the book was falsified. Every single one.

Subsequently I discovered that extensive passages of the book were plagiarized from some rather ludicrous right-wing Zionist propaganda tracts.

Despite this no publication would print Finkelstein’s critique. Commentary turned down his response to Daniel Pipes’ review on the grounds that the reviewer was not qualified to respond to it, which begged the question why he had reviewed it in the first place!

Finkelstein’s critique of Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996), was equally clinical in its dissection of Goldhagen’s thesis that the holocaust had occurred because Germans were uniquely anti-Semitic.

Goldhagen held Nazism to be benign except for the Jews. The problem was not racial fascism but the Germans themselves who were ‘eliminationist’ anti-Semites. Racism was apparently a biological inheritance. Finkelstein described it as worthless as scholarship’. See ‘Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s ‘Crazy’ Thesis: A Critique of Hitler’s Willing ExecutionersNew Left Review I/224, July-August 1997.

In The Holocaust Industry Finkelstein argued that Zionism had harnessed the holocaust to the needs of Zionism and the Israeli state. Finkelstein took apart the Zionists’ use and abuse of holocaust memory to both justify their human rights crimes and to legitimise the apartheid practices of the Israeli state.

The Holocaust Industry took aim at the US Zionist establishment which had built up a veritable industry of holocaust publications, museums and memorials, all with the aim of providing a moral case for the Israeli State and its treatment of the Palestinians.

Finkelstein showed how the Jewish Claims Conference had stolen and defrauded the holocaust victims of the reparations that had been intended for them, paid for by West Germany.

Finkelstein’s ‘Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History’ further established his reputation. The book also proved that Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Professor of Law, had plagiarised and copied material from other sources, for ‘The Case for Israel’. He had also copied their mistakes!

Included in the book was a detailed refutation of Dershowitz’s main thesis by reference to numerous human rights sources. Herein lay a clue to Finkelstein’s approach. To him the Palestine Question was primarily a human rights not a political issue. These human rights abuses have a political cause. Finkelstein’s primary weakness has been his failure to situate Israel's behaviour within the political context of imperialism.

One of the consequences of Finkelstein’s attack on Dershowitz, was that he was denied tenure at DePaul University. A good example of how, in the aftermath of the ‘War Against Terror’ academic freedom has been relegated to the status of a curious artefact in the USA.

I first criticised Finkelstein after attending a talk he gave at the Institute of Education in London (11.11.11). Finkelstein spent the best part of 2 hours arguing why we should support a 2 State solution.

I responded by writing a blog The Tragedy of Norman Finkelstein which Ilan Pappe described as ‘a brilliant refutation of Norman's position’, e- mail 18.2.12. See also Arguing the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign with Norman Finkelstein

After a pre-talk interview with activist Frank Barat surfaced my first reaction was that Finkelstein must be suffering from a mid to late life crisis. Repeatedly he talked about how he had devoted his life time to the cause and how he was growing tired and weary. He said:

‘Yes BDS has had some victories, but the way people have promoted it, on the verge of victory is sheer nonsense – it’s a cult. I’m tired of it. I went through my cult stage I was a Maoist. There were 2 competing possibilities – you can be a Maoist/Leninist and waste 20 years of your life. You can work with Ralph Nader, lot of bills through Congress. Nice we have seat belts and airbags – that was Nader. I’m not going to be in a cult again. Gurus in Ramallah giving marching orders.’

You cannot but detect a feeling that Finkelstein believed he had wasted his life on a cause that didn’t seem to be bearing any fruit. Finkelstein wanted instant results. Hence Ralph Nader was his political hero for having obtained legislation in support of seatbelts. An important issue no doubt, but it was hardly an earth shattering, life-changing event for the world.

Finkelstein argued that ‘If you are serious about politics you can’t go beyond what the public accepts, and that is international law.’ Herein lay his most important mistake. He seems to believe that US foreign policy is subject to popular support. But this isn’t true as Israel’s current genocide proves.

Not only in Britain and Germany, but even in the United States the public supports an immediate ceasefire. The public has been extremely critical of Israeli genocide yet Biden, Sunak and Scholtz act in complete disregard of public opinion.

It is true that Palestine solidarity supporters demand that Israel upholds international law. But that does not mean we have any illusions in international law. The fact that the rulings of the ICJ and ICC have been ignored proves that.

Indeed the US’s reaction to the decision of the ICJ that Israel was committing a ‘plausible’ genocide was to freeze contributions to UNWRA. Thus the United States, Britain and other Western countries became complicit in Israel’s use of starvation as a weapon of war. 

The right of an occupied people to resist their occupier is not subject to the dictates of international law. It is an inalienable right which is why the decision of the ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, to issue warrants for Hamas leaders is so ludicrous. It is as if the leaders of the French and Polish Resistance should have appeared alongside Goering and the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg.

Congress has passed a resolution imposing sanctions on the ICC and Israel has stalked and threatened its previous Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda. When the imperialists don’t like the rulings of a court they threaten the court itself!

Israel does not rule over 5 million Palestinian Arabs because ‘international law’ granted them permission to do so. As the Anti Defamation League acknowledged the Zionist settlers were intent on “creating facts on the ground ­ immigration, agricultural settlement of the land’. From this there came the law, not the other way around.

International law has always been a fiction since it has no independent enforcement mechanism. Who is going to take the United States to the International Court for its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan? What prevented the ICC from issuing a warrant for the arrest of Bush and Blair like it did for Putin when Russia invaded Ukraine?

The UN can only act when the United States allows it to. When Israel breaks international law the US can be relied on to veto any critical resolutions at the Security Council. To therefore rely, as Finkelstein does, on the ‘international community’ is to fail to recognise the reality of existing  power relations and who calls the shots.

Tony Greenstein