Finkelstein and the Pope

The United States is an amazing country. On the surface it looks like it has the tremendous potential to solve the third world’s problems in a day or a week at most. On the other hand the third world has no greater and more dangerous enemy than the United States. You just have to watch an American news channel to see unadulterated lies about others and how filled with contempt is this nation for the rest of the planet. Except for a small minority of dissenters the rest of the nation is pied piped by the media into utter stupidity and brainlessness that we don’t see anywhere else.

American intellectuals by and large are the biggest cowards on earth if not the most self-righteous. You can say anything about anybody but not a word about American foreign policy or Israel because whatever you say might cost you your position given the clout that the pro-Israel lobby has in the United States. The American intellectual is busy inventing excuses or apologies that justify the worst forms of atrocities and murders that his country is doing to others on this planet. Such is the nature of brainwash in this country that it would’ve embarrassed George Orwell and left him speechless.

For some reason the rest of the world hates Americans, is envious of American way of life, wants to hurt and kill Americans, is anti-Semitic too these days – a new addition thanks to the pro-Israel lobby, anti-democratic, anti-fun, anti-everything in fact that an average American would think gives meaning to his or her life. Borat – a painfully unfunny comedy about a Kazakh shown in the worst imaginable light is one example of what an average American might think is funny. How one can say so many ugly things about others without dying of shame is a mystery to me! Even Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda look more respectable than this. And the movie Hostel about an ex-communist East European nation where children commit unthinkable murders on streets and are anti-American too – these are all too real reflections of a soul that rots with the stench of its own wrongdoings. That’s the soul of a nation with a history of genocide and slavery.

Finkelstein’s book: The Holocaust Industry (2000) is a hauntingly truthful book. It’s a book along with a few others that I’ve time and again recommended students, friends and strangers alike to read. For two reasons the book is important: one is that truth is important both in politics and life and the second, as important as the first is, that truth must be spoken even if it means going against one’s own country or the community or group that one comes from. The son of Nazi holocaust survivors, Finkelstein’s passionate attempt to expose the exploiters of Jewish suffering by turning the holocaust into an industry gives an unforgettable dimension to the book. A sequel to The Holocaust Suffering is: Beyond ‘Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-semitism and the abuse of history’ argues among other things of how history has been distorted if not outright abused by scholars such as Alan Dershowitz to suit the current interests of Israel and the United States. Both the books deconstruct arguments based on fallacious viewpoints with the use of truth that comes from facts.

Speaking of his parents in the Introduction of the book Finkelstein says:

“The time is long past to open our hearts to the rest of humanity’s sufferings. This was the main lesson my mother imparted. I never once heard her say: Do not compare. My mother always compared. No doubt historical distinctions must be made. But to make out moral distinctions between “our” suffering and “theirs” is itself a moral travesty. “You can’t compare any two miserable people,” Plato humanely observed, “and say that one is happier than the other.” In the face of the sufferings of Afro-Americans, Vietnamese and Palestinians, my mother’s credo always was: We are all holocaust victims.”

And of course “we” are. Everyone who lives his or her life under the boot of another man is a holocaust victim. Those employers – very familiar on the Indian landscape – are Nazis in fact who treat their employees or workers as if they were less than dirt. That is not all. Victims of hunger and poverty across the third world are holocaust victims. They haven’t chosen to be there. They’re brought into a situation which leaves them no choice but passively suffer. The only alternative left to them is fight or die.

The Pope endeared himself on two counts. One with the Vatican approving the inclusion of ‘social sins’ among which are environmental pollution as well as social injustice which causes poverty or “the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few” and by his scathing criticism of colonialism in his book Jesus of Nazareth. Benedict puts it brilliantly when he accuses colonialism of having destroyed native cultures and made people rootless left to their own inhumanity, greed and cynicism. The mercenary character of people living in the third world, the basic dishonesty we encounter in daily life as being almost normal, the need to be violent in verbal and non-verbal ways, the tendency to be dominant and servile at the same time – these things that are a familiar aspect of third world living come from our colonial past that continues in various forms right into the present.

Culture creates in-built discipline and ways of coming to terms with reality. In the haven of one’s own language and culture one is most oneself. Deceit is normal in any third world street. You always have to be prepared for the worst. More often than not you’ve to look out for yourself. But, this is not us. I’m not saying we had a golden past before colonialism. All I’m saying is that for sure we would’ve overcome most of those limitations within our own time and space. We did not have to be colonized for that to happen.

“The topical relevance of the parable (of the Good Samaritan from the gospel of Saint Luke) is evident. When we transpose it into the dimensions of world society, we see how the peoples of Africa, lying robbed and plundered, matter to us. Then we see how deeply they are our neighbors; that our lifestyle, the history in which we are involved, has plundered them and continues to do so. This is true above all in the sense that we have wounded their souls. Instead of giving them God, the God who has come close to us in Christ, which would have integrated and brought to completion all that is precious and great in their own traditions, we have given them the cynicism of a world without God, in which all that counts is power and profit, a world that destroys moral standards so that corruption and unscrupulous will to power are taken for granted. And that applies not only to Africa…The victims of drugs, of human trafficking, of sex tourism, inwardly devastated people who sit empty in the midst of material abundance…Karl Marx painted a graphic picture of the ‘alienation’ of man; even though he did not arrive at the real essence of alienation, because he thought only in material terms, he did leave us with a vivid image of man fallen among robbers.” (Jesus of Nazareth 198)

A man fallen among robbers! That defines the true face of colonialism. The absolute evil of third world leaders, rich and powerful elites, CEOs of multinational companies, hollow as Faustus before Mephistopheles, they’re the true wretched of the earth. In abandoning the person on the street they created systems that bring out the worst in a human being. They peopled the world with holocaust victims in the form of cheap labor whose existence is bare survival.

The American way of life has caused irreconcilable contradictions in the cultures of the developing world. It has destroyed the best that local cultures offer in the making of a person. Like a virus American way of life has eaten into the spirit of the local and turned people into greedy mercenaries that would gladly abandon their brothers and sisters fallen on the streets of the world. If Americanization meant the spirit of Thoreau and Walt Whitman I would gladly embrace it body and soul because such a dialogue would’ve brought out the best in us. Needlessly to say it is not. Americanization in the third world means grab as much as you can and you’ve no responsibility towards others.

Said Gandhi in all innocence: “I am only hoping and praying.…[that there] will rise a new and robust India, not warlike, basely imitating the West in all its hideousness, but a new India learning the best that the West has to give and becoming the hope, not only of Asia and Africa, but the whole of the aching world.” The India I live in with the worst you can think of running the show is cultureless as a pig and without any spirit to innovate. It’s a dead man with a body soullessly moving into the future without any sense of direction.

Men like Chomsky and Finkelstein give respectability to the notion that there are dissenting Jews and not all Jews agree with what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. Honesty we attach to Jews in the same way that we attach hospitality to Turks and generosity to Arabs especially the Palestinians. These are way of making positive generalizations about people as opposed to negative stereotyping. Honesty that borders the ridiculous – is how I refer to Finkelstein’s books in general. You almost cannot help laughing at his scathing attack of the Holocaust industry crooks that used historic suffering to make profits. There’s nothing human about it. You feel disgust rather than pity.

If Hitler thought that British rule of India was enviable you only have to guess what British imperialism actually meant in practice. Nazi cruelty knew no bounds. All those characters in the novels of Marquis de Sade pale before the horrors of the Nazis though I must say that Pasolini’s movie “Salo” is a brilliant insight into fascism. Finkelstein does not deny the holocaust. Movies and books that simplify the sufferings of Jews do not deserve to be taken seriously. The European Jews suffered and nothing is more terrible than belittle the suffering of another human being.

I saw the Battle of Algiers to visualize what Israel is doing in Palestine. It’s what the colonizer does to the colonized. America’s friendship has helped Israel perfect the art of colonialism. Jews who live in Israel seem to have a memory block. They forgot the days when they were what Gandhi called the “untouchables” of the west. That’s exactly what Finkesltein is critical of. “The staggering dimensions of Hitler’s Final Solution are by now well known. And isn’t the “normal” history of humankind replete with horrifying chapters of inhumanity? A crime need not be an aberrant to warrant atonement. The challenge today is to restore the Nazi holocaust as a rational subject of inquiry. Only then can we learn from it. The abnormality of the Nazi holocaust springs not from the event itself but from the exploitive industry that has grown around it…The noblest gesture for those who perished is to preserve their memory, learn from their suffering and let them, finally, rest in peace.”

Jews are an interesting minority. “I am not Jewish but I am sure there must be some somewhere in me. I hope so” said Charlie Chaplin. A minority that produced none other than Spinoza to Marx and Freud and Einstein and Feynman might have a lot to speak for itself. But, Jews and Israel are two different entities. When I think of Israel nothing but disgust fills my heart. The brutality of Israel toward the Palestinians whose lands they’ve robbed, using force and treachery of every kind makes you sick. Not to forget that they are doing the job of America’s policeman in the Middle East. With a history of the holocaust that they claim for themselves how they could dehumanize themselves to such an extent is a mystery to me!

If there is really some historic memory of what they went through under Hitler, the Israeli on the street should defy the system oppose it in every possible way and fight for justice to the Palestinians. The American Jewish lobby only shows itself in the worst possible light when it puts a stranglehold on the truth by terming anyone against Israel as being anti-semite. As it is no one takes them seriously any longer. What is worse it might actually be a trigger to justify anti-semitism.

To be honest Gandhi has the last word on the question of Palestine. If the Jews of Europe took his words seriously their lives would be a lot better. They had no right to go and occupy Palestine. It’s a state founded on murder in the same way as the United States which is part of the empathy they’ve for each other I believe. Says Gandhi:

“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home. The nobler course would be to insist on a just treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France are French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the national home affords a colorable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.”

What they are doing now is even worse. The rest of the world spits on the United States and Israel and they seem to be completely oblivious to it. How can such people walk on this planet I could never understand! Even a buffalo has more shame than them. When people die in Europe and America they’re tragedies. When they die in other parts of the earth these things just happen. In principle the American Jewish lobby is as evil as the Nazis. If they’ve not built concentration camps – they’re doing something as bad in being a part of the American foreign policy – which is to persecute the Palestinians and manipulate the Arabs to suit their vested interests. If anyone thinks he or she is a Jew and calls him or herself one – how can you think that what Hitler did is wrong and what America or Israel is doing is right? How is it possible that the same logic that accuses the Nazis is used to excuse Israel? In my view both are the same.

Pasolini’s Salo and Costas Gavros’ Amen touch on what fascism is all about in a much more serious manner than Schindler’s List and Life is beautiful the latter being rather frivolous. The Pianist in fact has a much more vivid picture of Nazi cruelty. The Pianist had its heart-rending moments that I did not feel with Life is beautiful. Both Schindler’s List and Life is beautiful dilute the role of Christian Europe in the persecution of Jews which even Shakespeare would not do. Nazi cruelty is a phenomenon in itself that can be explained only through the simple idea of racial superiority – a disease that infected the soul of Europe and whose manifestation is colonialism. How can a man go through so much without killing himself is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the The Pianist. The artist in Szpilman – the creator and the survivor and more than that a preserver of memory and one who celebrates life – that’s what the movie is all about. The face of Szpilman though at the end of the movie did not carry that absolute suffering that was his plight. It had a benign look which kind of made me see the actor rather than the character.

Being Finkelstein – honest and daring to offer full public support to Hezbollah that fought Israel in Lebanon and drove them out! It’s difficult to lose a job for what you believe in. It’s difficult to be critical of the country you live in especially like the United States where dissenters are in a hopelessly small minority and can very easily acquire a bad reputation. I respect anybody who speaks for third world interests. I respect anybody who is critical of colonialism. I respect anybody who understands that third world suffering is what makes first world comfort. Not to see this simple fact is what makes one blindingly stupid. This stupidity is a virtue in the United States where average people are drugged by the media day in and day out and kept sedated for most of their lives because it suits the system to have it that way.


Categories: Rethinking The World

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2 replies »

  1. Your writing is powerful, sometimes poetic. It tears at the heart. But what are we to do? Left-liberal progressivism is a fragmented shambles of redundant complexity. There is no ideology, no leadership, not even an ethic which unites.

    If modernity is dead, where is postmodernity? Some French dudes use the term so we think that is what it means? They got it wrong. We need to get it right. Here is a start. Premoderns are oriented to the past – traditionalism. Moderns are oriented to the future – goals, targets – progressivism. Postmoderns are oriented to the present, to experience, to immediacy. That’s simple. It’s a start. And it’s true.

  2. eric…thanks much for your comment.
    Left or right – these are just labels my friend. don’t pay too much attention to them. what is more important is what the egyptian writer naguib mahfouz said in his “nobel prize acceptance speech”: “One day the great Pyramid will disappear too. But Truth and Justice will remain for as long as Mankind has a ruminative mind and a living conscience.” human injustice is temporary and ultimately conscience will triumph. this may not seem like a solution to the corruption and dishonesty of powerful people but as an attitude it is bound to reinforce the belief that change is not just a possibility but a reality.

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