For three decades, Norman Finkelstein has been the American Jewish community’s problem-child—denounced as a hysteric, a marginal ideologue, and a self-hating Jew. Selfless and vain, highly emotional—sometimes hysterical—in tone yet relentlessly logical in his arguments, he is now an academic with a doctorate from Princeton whose attacks on “the Holocaust Industry” and public cheerleading for Hezbollah have rendered him so toxic that he can’t obtain even the lowliest adjunct teaching position at any community college in America.
Yet, like it or not, Finkelstein’s influence on public debate is by now undeniable, with his once-radical ideas having been embraced throughout the Jewish community, from his debunking of the idea of Israel as “a land without a people” and his diagnosis of a strain of American Jewish Holocaust obsession to his assertions of the immorality of the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
On the eve of the publication of two new books—Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance With Israel Is Coming to an End and What Gandhi Says About Nonviolence, Resistance, and Courage—I made a pair of unlikely pilgrimages to Finkelstein’s book-lined one-bedroom apartment on Ocean Parkway. Located smack in the middle of the most densely populated Jewish ZIP code in America, the place where Finkelstein spends his days is, as he is quick to point out, quite different from the fancy suburban abodes occupied by critics like Alan Dershowitz, who, he says, claim to love Jews but “live among the goyim.”
Read the interview on Tablet