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Customer Review

96 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profoundly troubling work both provocative and alarming., 25 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the explotation of Jewish Suffering (Hardcover)
With the exception of Noam Chomsky it has been a long time since anyone attempted a deconstruction of an American power elite along the lines of C. Wright Mill's famous study. The present author attempts to step into the breach. Finkelstein is concerned with the relationship between the collective American Jewish self image and how that image is mediated and bolstered through a plethora of devices (from compensation claims to educational trips)originating from the impact of the Nazi Holocaust. Many readers will wince at phrases such as 'organised American Jewry'and one from another source that 'Jews are better', as they have uncomfortable connotations in European life - on occasion I had to check myself from saying only a Jewish academic could make these points. Finkelstein's main arguments are (a) that American Jewry (or that aspect he portrays)has used the tragedy of the Holocaust as a means of morally, and on occasion even financially, terrorising critics into silence, (b) the 'uniqueness' of the Holocaust is to the contrary purely historically relative, and (c) that the suffering of nonJewsish victims of the Nazis has largely been set aside, especially when financial settlements are being pursued. His castigation of various Holocaust organisations as a cynical self serving 'industry' is unstinting, and his contrasting of the reception given to Jewish concerns by successive Administrations, in contrast to Black America's treatment, is grim reading. Finkelstein furnishes copious notes throughout the book, which are very useful. Two subcurrents emerge in the book which are never fully debated (and weaken its central theses to an extent). Firstly Finkelstein argues that 'organised American Jewry' has used the ethnicity of the Holocaust to put itself beyond criticism and inter alia Israel. All criticism of Jewish ideology is therefore antisemitic and one can never ask if antisemitism was/is in any way influenced by Jewish practices, i.e. antisemitism is really another expression of economic conflicts of interests. Finkelstein leaves this very contentious issue undeveloped and it is a definite weakness in the text. Secondly, he dismisses the uniqueness of the Holocaust, citing other exterminations that have occurred through history, yet he leaves unanalysed the motive for the Nazi extermination campaign deferring to Raul Hilburg's work instead. If the book is reprinted it would be helpful to have these issues examined clearly.
In conclusion I found this a very arresting book. Perhaps unnecessarily polemical in parts, but passionately argued. Confrontational and courageous yes, but arguably it needs more detail on the points above to substantiate its many charges. Essential reading for those on the Left and Right who really believe in a family of mankind where ethnicity has no role, except an accidental one.
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