A response to the attempt to ban Dr. Norman Finkelstein from Mohawk College

American academic and critic of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, is due to speak at Mohawk College in Hamilton on Saturday. The college has requested $1,500 for security on top of other fees paid, putting the event in jeopardy. For more information, click here.

In response, Edward C. Corrigan, a lawyer specializing in citizenship and immigration law and immigration and refugee protection, has written an open letter to Mohawk College:

I have read with great dismay that some individuals are creating obstacles in an attempt to deny Dr. Norman Finkelstein the right to speak at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont. There is some irony that a college named after one of the indigenous communities of Canada is now attempting to suppress a talk about the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine.

Dr. Finkelstein's academic accomplishments are well recognized by the international academic community. Dr. Finkelstein's style is unique, the social justice and human rights issues he is dealing with are critically important and an entire society's survival is at stake.

The action of Mohawk College does not directly deal with the outrageous attacks made by Zionists on Dr. Finkelstein and their many other opponents, and the specious allegations of anti-Semitism and of being "self-hating Jews" for supporting the Palestinian cause. I submit that Mohawk College is hiding an anti-activist mentality, a refusal to address a major social justice issue and violation of human rights and racism against Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims in general. It is also an attack on people who associate with Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.

Please note that I have previously won a complaint filed against a similar attempt to prevent the pro-Palestinian perspective from being heard in an academic setting. See my 1987 article linked to here, entitled "The Palestinian Question at the University: The Case of Western Ontario." 

This denial of Dr. Finkelstein's unfettered right to speak is an attack on the right of individuals to support the Palestinians, and to criticize Israel and question the political ideology of Zionism. This denial is also a thinly disguised attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech. The campaign against Dr. Finkelstein and the many other supporters of human rights for Palestinians is a calculated attack on academic freedom and is part of an ongoing campaign against pro-Palestinian academics, activists and politicians in the United States, Canada and elsewhere in western society.

I fear that historians will look back on this episode and these debates on Zionism, the distortion of history, and support for the systematic destruction of a people or culture or what we should correctly term genocide. We could also use the late Israeli academic Baruch Kimmerling's phrase: "the politicide, of the Palestinian people." The destruction of a multi-religious secular/national Palestinian state and the creation of an exclusionary and racist "Jewish State" will be seen by future historians as a form of collective insanity or calculated malevolence. It clearly shows a failure in moral and political leadership.

Dr. Finkelstein is well known and highly respected for his principled criticisms of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians. He did exemplary work in critiquing Joan Peter's book, From Time Immemorial. As a graduate student in political science I wrote an article summarizing the many criticisms of From Time Immemorial, which relied extensively on Dr. Finkestein's careful research. (Joan Peter's From Time Immemorial: Definitive Study or Transparent Fraud?, published in 1987.) Allan Dershowitz's book, The Case For Israel, relies on many of the same false arguments that Peter's used in her now discredited book. Dr. Finkelstein was correct and should be commended for his exposure of these fraudulent academic arguments.

I am attaching a link to an article, "Jewish Criticism of Zionism," written when I was a graduate student, which lists more than 160 other prominent Jewish critics of Zionism that largely share Dr. Finkelstein's views on Zionism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine Arabs by political Zionists. Many Jews were concerned about the impact of a political ideology based on an exclusionary nationalist movement which called for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and a political movement named Zionism. Zionism was opposed by many Jews in the past, in fact historically the majority of Jews) and is opposed by many Jews today.

Professor Finkelstein is just another Jewish critic in a long line of Jewish critics. This list includes Albert Einstein, I.F. Stone, Rabbi Elmer Berger, Rabbi Reuben Slonim, Isaac Asimov, Noam Chomsky, Hans Kohen, Eric Fromm, Bruno Kreisky, Israel Shahak, Hannah Arendt and many other leading Jewish intellectuals and religious figures. Tens of thousands of religious Jews today are opposed to Zionism including the orthodox Neturei Karta and the Satmar sects. Mordecai Richler, the esteemed Canadian author, wrote an article entitled "Israel marks 50th anniversary out of favour with many Jews," Toronto Star, published Feb. 15, 1998.

Adam Shatz, formerly the Literary Editor of The Nation Magazine and now the Editor of the highly respected London Review of Books, has published a book titled Prophet's Outcast which contains essays written by 24 prominent Jewish scholars and intellectuals which are very critical of Zionism and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. I am attaching a link to a copy of the book review that I did for Middle East Policy for your information. Professor Finkelstein joins a very distinguished group of Jews in his criticism of Zionism and its treatment of the Palestinians.

If you want to look for Israeli voices who are speaking out against the policies of Israel's government toward the Palestinians you should look at the book, The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent, forward by Tom Segev and Anthony Lewis (the former New York Times columnist) which was published in 2002. This book lists 28 prominent Israeli critics of Zionism.

My review of The Other Israel is attached as is my review of Reframing Anti-Semitism: Alternative Jewish Perspectives, published by Jewish Voice for Peace. Here eight American Jewish peace activists critically analyze Israel's policies toward the Palestinians and the use of anti-Semitism as a weapon to attempt to silence legitimate criticism of Israeli policies. I am also attaching links to other articles I have written on Jewish criticism of Zionism and of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, see below.

For the mainstream North American media to bring this critical information and these political views to the U.S. and Canadian public, it would be telling the truth about Israel and expose the fact that many Jews are non-Zionist and anti-Zionist and do not support the brutal campaign to dispossess the Palestinians from their homeland. But to do that would be tell the truth about Zionism and that is something that Mohawk College and other apologists for Israel's actions are not prepared to do. It would destroy the Zionist apologist argument that criticism of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is somehow anti-Semitic.

Not to tell the truth about what is going on in Palestine is racist and a crime against the Palestinian people and a crime not unlike the one committed against Jews in the Second World War. Denying a respected scholar like Dr. Norman Finkelstein the right to speak casts a blight on Mohawk College. It is most certainly an attack on academic freedom and an attack on the Palestinians and those who dare speak up on their behalf. Please do the morally and academically right thing and grant Dr. Finkelstein the right to present his academic views at Mohawk College which incidentally are supported by the vast majority of scholars on the Middle East and also by the vast majority of countries in the world.

Yours very truly,

Edward C. Corrigan
Barrister and solicitor
edcorrigan.ca

Links to articles: 

"Zionist Distortion of History," Media Monitors Network, Jan. 16, 2006

"The JNF: Charitable tax Status for Racism?" Outlook Magazine, Sept./Oct., 2008

"Is it anti-Semitic to defend Palestinian human rights?" Dissident Voice, Sept. 1, 2009.

"The Goldstone Report and the debate in Israel," Dissident Voice, Dec. 2, 2009.

"Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitic? Jewish Critics Speak," Middle East Policy, Winter 2009.

"Einstein on Palestine and Zionism," Dissident Voice, Jan. 9, 2010

"Harper's attack on democracy and the Arab and Muslim community," The Canadian Charger, Feb. 10, 2010.

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