Finkelstein and Me

By Khalid Amayreh • May 26th, 2008

Seeking to punish critics for communicating the truth about
Israel to the world, Israel has barred an American scholar
from entering the country and a Palestinian journalist from
leaving the occupied territories for a brief trip to
Germany.

Israel’s chief domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet,
as it is known by its Hebrew acronym, has detained and
deported Professor Norman Finkelstein, a prominent American
Jewish historian and intellectual.

Finkelstein is a well-known critic of the apartheid Israeli
state, especially its 41-year-old Nazi-like occupation of
East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

He is also the author of a famous book entitled “The
Holocaust Industry,” in which he accused Israel and allied
Zionist circles of using the memory of Holocaust victims
for political ends.

Finkelstein arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport Friday, 23
May, for a visit to friends in the city of Hebron, where
nearly 200,000 Palestinian citizens are effectively held
hostage to the whims and moods of a few hundred fanatical
Jewish settlers who believe that non-Jews in
Israel/Palestine ought to be treated as water carriers and
wood hewers, or expelled and/or exterminated.

However, upon his arrival at the airport, the 55-year-old
professor was unceremoniously whisked away to a nearby Shin
Bet office where he was interrogated for several hours on
his views.

Shortly before he was put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his
point of departure, the Jewish historian was told that he
wouldn’t be able to visit Israel for ten years.

Finkelstein is the son of survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto
and concentration camps. He wrote in his book, “I do care
about the memory of my family’s persecution. The current
campaign of the Holocaust industry to extort money from
Europe in the name of the needy Holocaust victims has
shrunk the moral stature of their martyrdom to that of a
Montecarlo casino.”

Predictably the powerful Zionist establishment, both in
Israel and North America, couldn’t tolerate his daring and
meticulously documented criticisms. In 2007, he was forced
to leave DePaul University following a virulent
vilification campaign from powerful Zionist organizations,
including the contribution of Professor Alan Dershowitz,
the stalwart supporter of apartheid in Israel.

And now my story: A few weeks ago, I received an invitation
from the German Institute for External Relations to attend
a conference on how journalists ought to reconcile
patriotism with journalistic professionalism in wartime. I
went to the German representative office in Ramallah where
I was interviewed on my political orientation and whether I
had any association with organizations the German
government considers “terrorist.”

I have always been and continue to be an independent-minded
journalist. I never belonged to or was a member of any
political organization or party. True, like everyone else,
I do hold certain views with regard to the Israeli
occupation of my country and oppression of my people. But
so what? After all, no honest person under the sun would or
should expect us to love our tormentors. Do Jews love their
tormentors?

I have made laborious efforts and knocked on many doors to
obtain a permit that would enable me to travel abroad for
the two-day conference. Interestingly, I have not been
allowed to travel abroad for 13 years, apart from a brief
trip Mecca and Medina with my late mother for the Haj
pilgrimage in 1997.

Last week, I went to the local District Coordination Office
(DCO) in Dura, my town, hoping that they would be able to
help. The office forwarded my personal details to the Shin
Bet office in Hebron. However, the next day, I was told
rather tersely that I was “barred from traveling for
security reasons.” No further details were given.

In the process, I discovered the painful truth that the
Palestinian Authority DCO officials were no more than
insignificant middlemen between the Israeli occupation
authorities and Palestinian citizens. They had absolutely
no authority or influence, which generally epitomizes the
overall status of the entire PA vis-à-vis Israel.

Last week, I was advised to go to the Israeli army Civil
Administration Headquarters in Hebron in an effort to
obtain a security clearance or at least explain my case to
officials there.

There I saw dozens of Palestinian permit-seekers stuffed
like farm animals in a metal pen, waiting to be allowed
admittance. I was told that some people there had been
waiting their turn for ten hours. Some of the people
urgently needed a travel permit for medical purposes such
as undergoing an urgent surgical operation at an East
Jerusalem hospital.

I calculated that even if I had to experience the
humiliation of languishing for 10 or 15 hours in that
pen-like metal corridor, constantly monitored by
trigger-happy soldiers in nearby military watchtowers,
there was no guarantee that I would be allowed to get in
and meet a security official to whom I would be able to
explain my case.

In fact, it was abundantly clear that the soldiers enjoyed
the indescribable humiliation and persecution Palestinian
permit-seekers were going through on a daily basis at the
notorious facility.

I really thought that the “Civil Administration Office” was
a stark misnomer and that a truly appropriate name for the
hateful facility would be “the Central Humiliation
Station”, since there was absolutely nothing civilized
about it.

A few days ago, I called Hussein Sheikh, head of the
Civilian Affairs Coordination Office in the West Bank, and
explained my problem to him.

I informed him that I was never arrested or detained by the
Israelis and that there was no real justification for
barring me from traveling. He concurred and asked me to fax
him my details.

However, after waiting several days, it was clear that the
Israeli occupation authorities paid no attention to his
“mediation” on my behalf.

Some people here have suggested that I ask some erstwhile
collaborators for help. However, I know well that broaching
an Israeli dog to intercede with the Israelis for me was
asking me for too much. After all, I spent half of my life
exposing these malignant outgrowths that enabled Israel to
achieve many of their murderous goals in Palestine.

Fettering journalists

Needless to say, Israel, which classifies Palestinians into
either terrorists who ought to be annihilated or
quisling-like collaborators, has no right to deny
Palestinian journalists freedom of movement, internally or
externally. Indeed, without this freedom, a journalist can
hardly carry out his job properly.

As Palestinian journalists, we can’t be expected to
compromise our honesty and professionalism for the sake of
getting a travel permit from an occupying power that calls
itself the freest and only democratic state in the Middle
East.

We cannot adopt the Israeli narratives, use the Israeli
jargon and parrot the Israeli lies. Our responsibility is
first and foremost is to our conscience.

Israel and her supporters in North America and Europe claim
ad nauseam that it is a democratic state.

But truly democratic states don’t impose town-arrests on
journalists because their writings are deemed
non-conformist.

Indeed, a state that behaves this way must be hopelessly
insecure to the hilt, otherwise one is prompted to wonder
what security risks would result from allowing a journalist
to travel to Germany, a state that embraces Israel and
Zionism heart and soul?

Is Israel worried that people like Khalid Amayreh and
Norman Finkelstein would expose its criminality more than
it has already been exposed? Is this the reason why the
Israeli authorities are trying to fetter people’s freedom
of movement?

Israel has no right to grossly violate people’s human and
civil rights in the name of an amorphous and wantonly
abused mantra called “security.”

Israel, which had left no stone unturned to get the
government of the former Soviet Union to allow Nathan
Sharansky and other so-called “Prisoners of Zion” to leave
Russia, is very much committing the same crime by denying
thousands, or probably tens of thousands, of Palestinians
their inalienable right to travel abroad for religious,
professional, business, health or recreational reasons.

We are not Israeli citizens, and Israel has no sovereignty
over us. Hence, the draconian repression is incompatible
with international law.

Hence, I call on my colleagues around the world to strongly
protest this violation of my natural and human right to
travel, first as a human being and second as a journalist.

Finally, a few words to the Palestinian Authority. You are
maintaining a huge bureaucracy of thousands of officials
and operatives whose main job is supposed to be helping
Palestinian citizens bypass or overcome the stringent
restrictions of the occupation.

However, it is obvious these people have failed to carry
out their tasks.

It is really sad and embarrassing that while Israel allows
certain VIPs to travel freely (probably in the hope that
the preferential treatment would hasten pernicious Israeli
goals) the Israeli occupation regime continues to deny the
vast bulk of the Palestinian people their basic rights,
including the right to travel.

It is time that you insist that Israel refrain from
interfering with Palestinian freedom of movement. If you
can’t do it, then just pack up and leave.

This would much better for your own dignity and the dignity
of the Palestinian people.

(end)

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