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on 3 December 2008
Somebody, I forget exactly who, pointed out that Norman Finkelstein's books about the Arab-Israeli conflict are not actually works of Middle Eastern history but books about American history. This is essentially true, in that Finkelstein does not write narrative history or even critical history; he is essentially a scholarly critic of American opinion on the conflict, and the general tendency of his work is to point out the gap between what American writers have tended to say about the conflict and what the historical record actually shows. So, the meat of this book is his relentless, meticulous and devastating demolition job on Joan Peters' book "From Time Immemorial", a work that no professional historian is now willing to cite but which still has a loyal and uncritical readership out there among people who think that the Israeli government can do no wrong.

It can be seen, therefore, that criticising Finkelstein for having an "agenda" is beside the point. It's never very to the point anyway, since everybody who writes a book about anything whatever has an agenda, in that they have something that they want to say about the subject. Finkelstein's agenda is simply open for anyone to see. This book also contains his relatively brief and offhand dismissal of Michael Oren's "Six Days of June", which is interesting partly because that book is often cited as an "objective" history of the Six Day War, and Finkelstein doesn't find it difficult to prove that it is nothing of the sort, being heavily biased in favour of the Israeli side.

He performs an essential public service, and has been vilified and slandered for doing so. Finkelstein remains one of those fiercely independent thinkers who are the backbone of any secular culture; when there are no more guys like him, who are prepared to insist on telling the plain truth no matter how much it costs to him personally (and it has cost him a great deal, in terms of advancement in his actual career as an academic), then you live in a society where there are no effectively more public intellectuals, merely timeservers and lickspittles. My own country, Ireland, has reached that condition.
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on 23 February 1997
Dr. Norman Finkelstein has written a brilliant and scholarly expose of
the Israel-Palestine conflict. He is not a dispassionate historian/scholar
nor does he pretend to be. He dedicates the book to his parents,
survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi extermination camps:
"May I never forget or forgive what was done to them."

Finkelstein's keen intellect is breathtaking. His painstaking research
which supports the evidence how the "reality" of the causes of the
conflict is vastly different than the "image" presented to us by the media
is a marvel to behold.

My favorite chapters in the book are chapters 2 and 4.

In Chapter 2, he discusses Joan Peters book "From Time Immemorial"
and masterfully exposes it as a hoax. The crux of Peters' thesis was
that "Palestine was, literally, 'uninhabited' on the eve of the Zionist
colonization; and that if the Arab population did not materialize, literally,
ex nihilo in Palestine, it did surreptitiously enter to exploit the economic
opportunities that the Jews created when they made the 'desert bloom'." By that logic, most Palestinians were not even there in 1948 to be expelled from their homes.
The fact that such a threadbare hoax can be published in this country
is not surprising. But the fact that this book received accolades from
journalists and scholars alike, from such luminaries as Daniel Pipes,
Sidney Zion, Holocaust historian Lucy Dawidowicz, and Nobel
peace prize laureate Elie Wiesel, speaks volumes about the American
commissar culture. After the book went through several printings and
was exposed as an utter fraud in Britain, it finally prompted Anthony
Lewis to write a column for The New York Times aptly entitled "There
Were No Indians."

Perhaps the most illuminating part of the book is Chapter 4 entitled
"Settlement, Not Conquest." Finkelstein's dissection of how the
historical rhetoric and justifications for conquest are strikingly
similar -- "from the British in North America to the Dutch in South Africa,
from the Nazis in Eastern Europe, to the Zionists in Palestine" --
is both enlightening and comical.

Finally, it is noteworthy to mention Finkelstein's poignant observation
for those of us who want to see justice done to the Palestinians and
to all people who are suffering as a direct result of America's
diplomatic and military support to the darkest and most oppressive
regimes around the globe: "The plea of 'not knowing' cannot in
good faith be entered at history's bar. Those who want to know can
know the truth; at all events, enough of it to draw the just conclusions."
To buttress his point, he quotes Albert Speer's mea culpa at
Nuremberg: "Whether I knew or did not know, or how much or little I
knew, is totally unimportant when I consider the horrors I OUGHT to
have known about and what conclusions would have been natural
ones to draw from the little I did know . . ."

Thus, Finkelstein concludes: "Indeed, the [ordinary] Germans could
point in extenuation to the severity of penalties for speaking out
against the crimes of state. What excuse do we have?"
Perhaps, we may want to do some genuine soul-searching
as we ponder that question.
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on 29 January 1997
This book is a meticulous exposition of the multitude of
propaganda theories that have been peddled as truth, and
are now accepted as the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is concise and very well researched. An
essential read for anyone who is interested in the history of this conflict.
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on 20 November 1998
First of all, I'd like to say that this book is not without bias. History texts, especially in regard to this conflict, rarely represent both sides equally. However, it is quite possible for both "Arabists" and their Israeli counterparts to agree on some basic points. First, Palestine was not "depopulated" in 1850 - it was an area governed by the Ottoman Empire with a population somewhere in the neighborhood of 450,000, mostly Arabs. Approximately 25,000 Jews lived there at that time. Second, in regard to expulsion, Israelis will argue that the Arabs left at the behest of the Jordanian or Egyptian governments. That has never been substantiated, and the idea that they left simply because someone told them to is also utterly ridiculous. Why would someone just get up and leave EVERYTHING behind? It was because of the threat of Israeli aggression - and their departure prior to seeing a soldier could be called prudent. Better to flee than be shot. The idea that the Israeli Irgun and Haganah had nothing to do with the Palestinians leaving is the sign of a misinformed and delusional viewpoint on history. Third, the size of the police force agreed to in the Oslo peace agreement is woefully insufficient. If Israel continues to demand security for peace, the only way for the Palestinian Arabs to actually meet that demand is to recruit and train a police force sufficient to enforce the law. When the Arabs finally have their independence, then perhaps they might start working on building roads. Right now, paying for roads would only facilitate the destruction of Palestinian homes by Israeli tanks and bulldozers. And finally, the quarrel over historical points is very important. How else are people to wade through the vast amounts of propaganda circulated by both sides? Without an understanding of the past, how can one ever formulate an informed and effective foreign policy? Oftentimes, those who fear history wish others would place less emphasis upon it - perhaps the Israelis would even like to simply rewrite history completely. Finkelstein certainly offers a particular point of view of the past, one that is colored in some ways. However, it is a useful text, and it deals with many interesting ideas. Anyone interested in the history of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict would do well to use this book as a PART of their study. It is not an all-encompassing read, but you'll not find that anywhere.
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on 10 June 2010
Impassioned and mercilessly detailed analyses of various aspects of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Finkelstein is quite obvious in his political biases, which in many ways makes it easier to trust him because you know what you need to adjust for. A distinctly American kind of radical, and that's not a put down.
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on 27 August 2010
This book is only for those who are serious about understanding one of the longest, and seemingly confusing conflicts in modern history.

Dr. Finkelstein's bold and very thorough analysis does an outstanding job at dissecting most of the greatest myths about the Palestine/Israel conflict. He covers the entire conflict, starting with the reasons for creating a Jewish state in the first place, the real source of Palestinian resistance to the creation of such a state (the fear of expulsion and/or oppression), and Israel's cunning ability to exploit narrow historical opportunities in order to expand its state.

I heard there were efforts to silence this book, and after reading it, I perfectly understand why- it exposes several parts of the American intellectual community as complete frauds.

15 years on, this book remains remarkably relevant to what's going on today.
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on 16 January 2009
There's not too much to add to the others who have highly praised this book.

Finkelstein is a master debunker and this book is a work of masterful debunking.

Finkelstein here tackles Zionist propaganda that, for too long, has been accepted as historical truth.

Finkelstein shows how Zionists have always planned to remove the indigenous Palestinians from the land of Palestine, how the concept of this 'purification' has always been at the heart of Zionist ideology.

The book includes Finkelstein's incisive and funny demolition of Joan Peters's theory that Palestine was unpopulated prior to Zionist colonisation.

Finkelstein also contributes here to the debate regarding whether the Palestinians left Palestine in 1948 due to war, the Benny Morris view, or due to deliberate Zionist policy. He convincingly shows the latter.

Also included is a really quite astounding demolition of the Israeli, as articulated by Abba Eban, case for starting the 1967 war that needs to be read by anyone interested in the region.

All excellent stuff. No wonder the Zionists hate him.
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on 3 June 2009
With this excellent analysis of many of the myths surrounding the Israel-palestine conflict, Prof Finkelstein demonstrates quite clearly that Ben-Gurion had been correct all along, the zionists are indeed the aggressors in this conflict. He expertly picks apart the fraudlent claims made by Joan Peters in her hoax 'From Time Immemorial' which is now widely accepted as being of little academic value and should rank just below 'Protocols' on the scale of outright hoaxes. Many people who criticse Finkelstein's work end up playing the man instead of the ball and cite people like Pipes or Dershowtiz as 'credible' counterweights to Finkelstein. Well anyone who is aware of Finkelstein's annihalation of Dershowtiz during a debate on 'Democracy Now', that along with Finkelstein's 'Beyond Chutzpah' which is a searing critique of Dershowitz' risible 'The case for Israel' (which borrowed extensively from the Joan Peters fraud) one is left with the knowledge that Finkelstein is secure as leading voice of truth and justice in the murky world of Israel-palestine debate. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the middle east !
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on 3 August 1997
Finally someone not afraid to tell it like it really is. Since the Arabs are not allowed to speak for themselves in this country, Finklestein steps in to take up the mantle. If you want to know the unvarnished truth about what's happening in Palestine, read THIS!
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on 4 January 2009
This book offers a comprehensive overlook to the ideas and ideology behind the foundation of Israel. Dr. Finkelstein took the important theories and "written" historical events one by one to shed some light on them and on the false images which were given to the world about this important conflict at the early days of the state. A great work and a clear, clever argument.
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