Sunday, October 16, 2005
Revolver: Tell us a little bit about your new book.
Norman Finkelstein: The subtitle summarizes the book's content. It's about how Israel and its American apologists use the claim of anti-Semitism to immunize Israel from criticism, and how American apologists for Israel like Alan Dershowitz falsify the historical record to protect Israel.
Rev: What are your thoughts on the Gaza pullout? Is this making Gaza a giant isolated prison? Is it a retreat on Israeli's part? Is Sharon going soft or is he using it as a diversion to add more settlements and build the wall in the West Bank?
Fink: The consensus among all serious commentators is things will probably deteriorate yet further in Gaza after the Israeli pullout. It's also useful to bear in mind that all human rights organizations - Human Rights Watch, B'Tselem - agree that the disengagement doesn't mean the end of the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Under international law Israel's continued military control of Gaza after disengagement means it remains an occupying power.
Rev: You are friends with Professor Noam Chomsky, and have called him one of your biggest intellectual influences, but you are a communist and he's an anarchist. Do you guys ever get in friendly arguments about it? With you cheering for Marx and Lenin and Chomsky rooting for Bakunin and Kropotkin?
Fink: We talk about Lenin and Marx about once every 10 years. I suppose we don't agree but it doesn't keep me up nights. The practical legacy of Marxism - the Soviet experiment, China under Mao - is an abiding interest of mine, but not the theoretical side.
Rev: In the Chicago Reader article about your feud with Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz Dershowitz is quoted saying that he will fly out to Chicago next year when you are up for tenure to make a case against you receiving tenure. Are you worried that DePaul might listen and be swayed by his claims? I'm told by my classmates that DePaul already tried getting rid of you once, and if it wasn't for students protesting and defending you that they might have succeeded. What can students do to help your chances of receiving tenure?
Fink: When I read that remark of Dershowitz's in the Reader, I thought of the song, "Bring on the Clowns." I assume he's just trying to use up his "frequent flier" miles. I never tell students what to do: they're smart enough to figure things out on their own.
Rev: Dershowitz is known for his support of Israeli torture techniques like sticking hot nails under the fingernails of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Are issues like this being lost in the focus on the argument over whether or not he is guilty of plagarism and fraud in his book? The Chicago Reader article for example had no mention of Dershowitz's support for torture.
Fink: I cannot dictate a journalist's storyline. Two-thirds of my book is devoted to Israel's human rights record as documented by mainstream human rights organizations, juxtaposed against Dershowitz's falsification of this record.
Rev: Dershowitz has been trying to prevent the success of your new book at every step. One of the more outrageous attempts to silence "Beyond Chutzpah" was when DePaul's own bookstore canceled an appearance and booksigning with you. I understand that public pressure convinced them to reschedule your booksigning though. Do you have any thoughts or comments about this episode or Dershowitz's campaign in general?
Fink: I'm glad that Barnes and Noble was responsive to the feedback of customers. It shows that when people act, things can change.
Rev: Any closing thought or comments on topics we didn't touch on?
Fink: In a few days I'll be back in my office, 24-7, as usual.
Thompson Implies Grounds for Impeachment
Against Torres on Ridiculous Charges
Torres Fed Up with Intimidation,
SGA President Exiles Dissident Leader
In the time since the above article was written major developments have occurred in DePaul’s Student Government. The rumors of attempts to get rid of Progressive Vice-President Cyndi Torres have been feuled. In an E-Mail that President Wes Thompson sent to a former Senator of Student Government, he complains that Torres has not been attending cabinet meetings and that missing meetings is grounds for impeachment. Despite the fact that Thompson’s appointed assistant, Ben Thrutchley, has been in Washington DC all summer sucking up to politicians, and unable to perform duties as an appointed cabinet member. Thompson has made no comments regarding attempts to impeach Thrutchley. The difference apparently being that Thrutchley is a DePaul Democrat and loyal to the two-party system and Thompson while Torres is an anti-war, pro-queer upstart.
This came after several summer meetings where, according to Torres, members of the cabinet that Thompson picked, were consistently rude to her, undercut her ideas, and derided her attempts to bring new voices into student government.
Citing her frustration to accomplish anything of value in Student Government, she officially resigned Sunday the 18th of September, and was replaced by Democrat Matt Tweed Thornton.
In a separate incident, at the Involvement Fair on Sunday the 11th of September, a three year SGA member and former candidate who is currently not enrolled due to scholarship technicalities was forced off of the DePaul Student Government table. However, because this student was associated with the progressives of SGA, security was called to escort this student off the SGA table and he was initially threatened to be kicked out of the fair all together. It is unclear at this moment which SGA official called security, although Thompson took responsibility, and it is clear that security was called before anyone from SGA approached the student and asked him to leave. After the student shared some coarse words with Thompson, the SGA President, without warning, had security permanently kick him out of the Student Center at threat of arrest. President Wes Thompson defended the action saying that he had to maintain the integrity of his organization, and that he had the right to kick a former student off campus grounds because he didn’t like the individual. One witness contends that Thompson lied to Public Safety claiming that he had requested the individual leave before going to security.
Student Government has more power at DePaul than many would like to admit. It appoints students to funding boards like SAF-B and liaisons with many sectors in the University. But the most powerful aspect of Student Government is vested in the President who is the only student allowed to attend board of trustees meetings. It is at these meetings that the major financial decisions of the University are made. They deal with everything from the price of tuition, to contracts with unethical corporations, and much more.
Alejandro Acierto is my kind of guy. I met him at an anti-war protest in downtown Chicago. I would often find myself running into him at anti-war protests, without me even telling him about them. The best was when I was in New York City heckling some republican delegates from the GOP convention at a bar they were drinking at. Several dozen people gathered outside the bar to shout obscenities at the murderers of Iraqi and Afghani people when I realized that Acierto was one of the people besides me. Acierto is a music major of mixed Philippine and Mexican descent, former Music School Senator for Student Government and a sweet guy.
I met Cyndi Torres through her involvement in DePaul Students Against the War. Torres also became heavily involved in DePaul's queer group SPECTRUM. She ran for homecoming queen and even though she lost (we're not told by how much) she still managed to freak out some of the sorority girls by wearing a suit instead of a dress to the dance. She has been violently attacked just for being who she is- a Mexican lesbian. She never takes people's crap Cyndi Torres at a protest though. After being attacked, she organized a rally against hate crimes on campus. She's brave, funny and affectionate all in one.
It would be hard to find more dedicated and hard working people for social justice at DePaul. They looked good especially compared to the competition last Spring.
As usual you had members of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity running the ultra-conservative slate. A few years ago DTD controlled Student Government, almost everyone of power was in the fraternity, or appointed to a position because they were dating a member of the fraternity.
However DTD got sloppy with their abuse of power. They disqualified myself and two other candidates in the 2003 Student Government elections for handing out campaign fliers that advocated political positions (dumping the Patriot Act, and calling for a boycott on coca-cola). Their Elections Board head used physical intimidation. Plus their fraternity brother who was President of SGA, didn't tell students about the Board of Trustees plans to take computers out of the dorms. It was only after groups like the Black Student Union protested and collected thousands of signatures on a petition that mini-computer labs were put in each dorm as a compromise. I’ve met some newer members of the DTD fraternity though that seem to be a lot cooler and more progressive than older members.
Then there was a more center-liberal slate that many of us thought we could work with. Until we discovered racist and sexist comments directed against African-Americans, Asians and women on their pick for vice-presidents blog.
Which brings us to the Democrat-Republican slate. DePaul being in Chicago, one of the most liberal and Democratic party strongholds in the country, many people at DePaul knew Wes Thompson from the DePaul Democrats and thought he was the liberal slate. I had to explain to them that his running mate was from the DePaul Republicans. Students would look at me confused, and I would have to explain to them that if someone like Ralph Nader had a chance of winning, wouldn't the real democrats and republicans unite forces to stop it? The Ralph Nader in this case being Acierto and Torres.
Thompson and Mohseni were vicious in their attempts to silence progressive, radical and anti-capitalist voices in the student government elections. At one point they teamed up with the Delta Tau Delta slate and attempted to disqualify five progressive candidates (Alejandro Acierto, Cyndi Torres, Jon Reinert, Andrea Craft and this author) because those candidates were endorsed by a comic strip that parodied student government.
The elections board rules were flagrantly disregarded in the rush to eliminate competition in the market place of ideas. Not only was a comic strip parody that featured giraffes, alligators and hippos called libel, but even though the election bylaws called for two violations before a disqualification, with the option of an appeals hearing, those five candidates were sent disqualification letters after this first alleged violation. Those candidates immediately appealed the decision and were let back on the ballot. However their attempts to overturn the alleged violation went unheard as they asked for an appeals board hearing, and were never granted one.
Consider the role Thompson has played in the recent revision of SGA's constitution. All the DePaul democrats were supporting a move that would have merged the Senator for Students with Disabilities, the Senator for Multicultural Students and the Senator for International Students into one position. So instead of having those three positions, you would have one. They also shot down the idea of having a Senator to deal with Queer issues and instead opted to include that as one of the responsibilities of what I called the “token senator”.
In the end there was to much opposition to this plan, and even though the real progressives in the room didn't go along with it, the democrats and republicans in the room eliminated the Senator for Students with Disabilities, and the Senator for inter-cultural awareness now does what the Senator for multicultural students did, plus the role of being a senator for Queer students.
During the campaign, several DePaul Democrats came to progressive and radical groups to co-opt them and their mission. Just the way people like Senator Kerry do in real life. Consider new Senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Ronald Brooks. Brooks came to a meeting of DePaul Students Against the War and asked for our endorsement. We asked him one key question, “Do you support the immediate and unconditional retreat of US occupation forces from Iraq?” Of course he didn't.
Like many liberals, Brooks thinks that if the US left Iraq, it would be a mess, which is why we should try to form a more multilateral occupation force with the UN. Sarcastically one thinks, because the deaths of 100,000 Iraqi’s would be justified under the UN flag instead of the US flag. This kind of thinking ignores reality, because as long as the US or any occupation force is in Iraq, US troops will torture suspected insurgents and arrest Iraqi's who form unions. To think the US should stay in Iraq is to support having Iraq's economy privatized and social security abolished, and to prohibit letting Iraqi's build a country that isn't going to be dominated militarily and economically by the US.
DSAW sent Brooks away without an endorsement.
At one point Thompson and Mohseni came to a meeting of the Activist Student Union. ASU has been working on anti-sweatshop campaigns for 5 years and have had several major victories in that time. ASU's major campaign right now is to get DePaul to cut it's contract with Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has been working with terrorist paramilitary groups in Colombia to prevent the unionization of it's bottling plants in Colombia. So far Coke and the paramilitaries have assassinated nine union members, and kidnapped, tortured and threatened others. There are eyewitness reports of this and one of the witnesses and victims, Luis Adolfo, lives in Chicago after receiving political asylum because of these attacks. ASU has waged a high profile campaign against coke because of this issue, winning the support of thousands of students who have signed ASU's petition against Coke and several student groups who have asked us to provide alternatives to coca-cola at their events. ASU also successfully lobbied the University to revive the Ethical Business Contracting committee. This committee was originally formed because of the lobbying efforts of ASU founding members.
Despite all this Thompson and Mohseni told ASU that they were against the boycott and would vote against any anti-coke measures in student government. After being sworn in as President, Wes was able to attend the Ethical Business Contracting committee meeting. At this meeting, the first thing he did was to try to get the ASU representative to the committee kicked off the committee saying that ASU doesn't represent a large enough student population. To the Committee's credit, they didn't take Wes' request seriously, and lectured him “without ASU, this committee would not exist.” ASU still has a representative to this committee, perhaps because ASU has more signatures on it's petition than Wes received votes in the last election.
It will be interesting to watch if Thompson and his crew of republicrats even attend the events of many of the groups they went asking for endorsements from. Will they ever come to a United Muslims Moving Ahead event? What about Concerned Black Students or the DePaul Linux Community? I wonder what promises they made to those and other groups that they will break?
I can count one promise they broke already. Thompson and Mohseni promised to bring new faces into Student Government. What was Thompson's first official action as president? After implying that Cyndi could help him pick some members of the cabinet, Wes backpedaled and appointed many of the same people who were on the cabinet before. People like Liz Marcus, Nina Mohseni and Marie Jensen. All three are members of the DePaul republicans. The votes for them were close. So close that Liz Marcus was voted in only by a tie breaker. After realizing this was the case, she stormed out of the Student Government meeting, quiting her cabinet position.
Despites Thompson's public pronouncements of being able to get along with Cyndi Torres there have been persistent rumors that the republicrats are planning on intimidating Torres until she quits Student Government. If these rumors are true, those planning on messing with Torres need to recognize that they will not just be messing with her, but will be attacking progressive and radical students all over this campus.
The battle for a truly democratic student government and University has just barely begun. Progressive and radical students can support people like Cyndi Torres, Jon Reinhert, Andrea Craft and Auvergene Larry, progressives in Student Government. It may even be possible that many of the new senators might be sympathetic to the demands of progressive and radical students.
We must keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to have a University that is not run by an unelected and unaccountable board of trustees. Old white rich men who donate money to the school are not in touch with students needs and demands. Only Democratically run student, faculty and staff councils will be able to meet and respond to the needs of the University community in a way that is fair and just.
-Rapper Kanye West
“These Troops know how to shoot and kill and
they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will.”
-Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco on the national guard troops who
arrived in New Orleans from Iraq to fight “looting”.
The corporate media is up in arms. Possibly thousands dead, a city under water, and yet when people take food they need to survive from corporate stores that have been abandoned, then it becomes a disaster and it's looting and anarchy according to to people like Bill O'Reilly.
Well first of all, I don't think any true anarchist would call the situation in the areas ravaged by hurricane Katrina anarchy. Chaos perhaps, but not anarchy. While, like most philosophies, there are many different branches of anarchism, the basic idea is that people are inherently good, and can create a society based on radically direct democracy in all spheres of life- political, economic, personal, social, etc. This would mean the eradication of government, bosses and capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and a host of other oppressive hierarchical systems.
So looting is not quite anarchy. Although some anarchists like Peter Kropotkin have proposed the eradication of the wage slavery system and currency to be replaced with en economic system of gift-giving based on mutual aid, the looting in the Gulf region is only people taking for free. There needs to be the other side of democratically organized work places offering their services and products for free for it to be called true anarchism.
Despite this, the looting in the hurricane zones is understandable and justified. Those who could not afford to leave their homes before the hurricane hit were mostly African-American. While Hurricanes don't judge people, the political and economic system in the US certainly does. This system decided long ago to judge Africans as inferior, and to do what it cold to make sure they never rose to the top. This is why so many Africans were hit the worst by the hurricane and flooding.
For to long the system in this country has kept many African-Americans in the south in poverty and given them barely enough to survive. Looting was already justified before the hurricane. Now people's homes, life savings, and personal belongings are forever gone. Now that people are starving and in need of clothing, now that people need televisions to watch the news and decide what to do, looting is especially justified as an act of survival.
There have also been reports of prison riots in the hurricane zone. While it has been hard to validate this, one must also keep in mind the extreme racism in the prison industrial complex. Professor and activist Angela Davis has written extensively on the topic of how the US targets poor communities of color with ridiculous schemes like the “war on drugs” in order to fill prisons with cheap slave labor for major multinational corporations. Even though there might be some legitimately dangerous people in prison, there are far more dangerous people running the prisons. If politically conscience, prison revolts can play a role in creating a society that is truly liberated. Consider the prison uprisings in the 1960's inspired by the actions of Black Panther George Jackson.
Some have started criticizing the US government for spending to much time and money on the war in Iraq and elsewhere than preparing for a major natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina. Certainly Katrina has caused more property damage and possibly more deaths than 9/11.
While these criticisms have a point, certainly a sane society would spend it's resource on helping each other instead of bombing others, it's hard to believe that the US has good intentions in New Orleans. Sure there have been some dramatic helicopter rescues, but remember, marshal law has been declared. Police and the national guard have the law on their side if they shoot someone and claim that they were looting, who's going to question them? Don't forget it was the national guard called up to quell rebellions in the 1960's and sent off to kill Iraqi's today. As recent as late July of this year, New Orleans police murdered Raymond Robair a 48 year old black man, for the crime of sitting out on his porch at night. They also recently killed black youth Jenard Thomas and two officers were being charged with rape. But like the New York Police Department after 9/11, the media conveniently forgot how it was the NYPD that shot Amadou Diallo 41 times for reaching for his wallet.
One of the most frustrating things about this situation, is that the police and national guard, are all we have to rely on. The Left in the US has yet to create an independent force capable of dealing with mass social and civil emergencies. Sure, some charitable people will give to the Red Cross and Salvation Army to help provide food, medicine and clothing for the victims of Katrina. But it should be kept in mind how both the Red Cross and Salvation Army maintain anti-gay discriminatory policies. The Salvation Army's national office shot down the Salvation Army's West Coast's attempts to provide same-sex partner benefits. The Red Cross is a big supporter of the Food and Drug Administrations ban on accepting blood donations from people who have engaged in homosexual sex acts. If you donate money to one of these organizations, please at least write them a letter expressing your outrage at their homophobia.
The thought that is worrying many people though, is the idea that this hurricane wasn't completely an act of nature, but a possible effect of human induced global warming. Consider the gigantic earthquake that led to the Tsunami earlier this year. What's up with this drought in the mid-west, that statistically rivals that of the dust bowl? Yet there is a myth being spread by right wingers. A myth possibly as dangerous as holocaust denial- global warming denial. Oil tycoons, politicians and pundits are lining up to say that somehow they know better than the majority of scientists in the world.
You would think these kind of natural disasters, plus the fact that we are sacrificing our friends and family for oil in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the high price of gas would convince us to change our ways. What does Bush do though? He uses the disaster in New Orleans to relax Environmental Protection Agency guidelines so that gas companies can produce gas quicker, cheaper, but also dirtier.
If we are to challenge all of this we must start asking ourselves tough and forward thinking questions. Can looting in New Orleans be taken to the next level and lead to expropriation of the means of production? Many factories and places of business must be abandoned and with authorities overwhelmed elsewhere, a cooperative of workers could seize their former workplaces and operate them without bosses. A similar movement is on the rise in Argentina as documented in the movie “The Take”.
How can we resist martial law and racism in the hurricane zones? How can we stop global warming? How can we prevent the US from reinstating the capitalist status quo in the flooded areas? We want New Orleans to be rebuilt with great Jazz and cultural centers, not with Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Haliburton. Here's one audacious idea: radicals can flood the city of New Orleans and rebuild it ourselves.
For updates and more on how your can help visit www.neworleans.indymedia.org and Katrina.indymedia.org. For the Chicago response visit www.chicago.indymedia.org
Fundraiser for a destroyed Anarchist New Orleans Housing Cooperative: Saturday October 15th, 6-10 pm, 1766 W. Morris. Vegan Cajun food.
To Support Grassroots, Non-corporate and
Non-Government Relief Efforts go to
Thursday, September 15, 2005
The following was a letter to the Editor that the Chicago Reader Published in September 2005.
As a student at DePaul I took a class with Professor Norman Finkelstein ["Whose Holocaust Is It Anyway?" August 26]. Finkelstein was a professional who took his work and teaching as seriously as his dedication to justice.
To illustrate a point in class he once talked about a movie where a lawyer must defend her father in court against allegations that he was a Nazi war criminal. As the movie went on, she became the only person who stumbled across evidence that her father was indeed a war criminal who helped commit mass murder. She is faced with the moral dilemma: does she turn her father in to face justice, or does she defend him and hide the evidence because he is family?
In many ways, I think this illustrates Finkelstein's devotion to justice. While Alan Dershowitz supports Israel's use of torture and occupation because they are Jews like himself, Finkelstein has the courage to say that justice is for all people, no matter their nationality, religion, or relationship to family.
Monday, February 21, 2005
The link to the article on the DePaulia's website is available here.
Groups thirst for change
by Nastassja Noell
DePaul students were accused of violating fire codes as they gathered in the hallway of the 22nd floor of the Loop Campus CNA building on Wednesday.
The students were calm but firm, repeating to the administrative staff that their purpose was to show support for a private meeting being held between DePaul President Father Hochschneider, student representative Ben Meyer and five Coca-Cola executives to discuss the possibilities for an investigation into human rights violations at Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia, South America.
DePaul currently has an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola, but is considering terminating the contract as labor practices of the corporation may be in violation of DePaul’s Vincentian values.
Student groups at DePaul and around the world have been protesting against Coca-Cola since July 2003. Activists cite the assassination of nine union leaders, the kidnapping and harassment of union members and their families, and a U.S. District Court ruling which validated the human rights case against the Coca-Cola bottling plant and the Colombian paramilitary as motivation for their actions.
“We are a coalition of student groups, Activist Student Union (ASU), DePaul Student’s Against War (DSAW), DePaul Alliance for Latino Empowerment (DALE) and Concerned Black Students (CBS) … who got together and realized that this was an important issue to the DePaul Community,” said Matt Muchowski, a junior political science student who visited the bottling plants in Colombia last summer. “We decided to take up this issue of solidarity with Colombian trade unionist to heed their call to boycott Killer Coke.”
“My concern is for the rights of the Colombians because I strongly believe Colombians should not be denied the right of liberty for the benefit of the few,” said Erika Abad, a Latin American Studies student and an Amate House resident.
Currently, DePaul administration is attempting to maintain an amicable relationship with Coca-Cola, and is negotiating with the student requests and the Coca-Cola corporation.
“I don’t think [the meeting] was positive,” said Meyer. “Coca-Cola is telling their side of the story and DePaul is eating it up; we need to get this contract cut.”
“The meeting was productive,” said Lori Billingsley, the Director of Issues Communications and Corporate Media Relations for Coca-Cola. “We were happy to do it.”
Officially, Coca-Cola does not take responsibility for the assassinations and human rights violations at bottling plants in Colombia. At the U.S. District Court case in Miami, Coca-Cola argued that the corporation is not explicitly responsible for labor issues in the subcontracted bottling plants and has no power in the situation.
In the meeting, Coca-Cola executives said that union members are attacked because Colombian paramilitaries mistakenly associate labor leaders with the rebel guerilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), not because the paramilitaries are hired by Coca-Cola or affiliated bottling plants.
“The Coca-Cola Company and our bottler have investigated the claims regarding human rights abuses in Colombia and found no evidence to support them,” said the company in an official press release.
The company states that the bottling companies, local unions and bottling companies will provide transportation to work, loans for secure housing and cellular phones for employees who feel unsafe, though the Coca-Cola corporation’s role in this protective strategy is not stated.
Students from the University of Chicago and DePaul want an independent investigation by the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC). Meyer stated that the Coca-Cola executives will not allow the WRC investigation, and would prefer an investigation by the Fair Labor Association (FLA). Five years ago during the anti-sweatshop movement, DePaul chose to join the WRC instead of the FLA, because the WRC is independent of any corporate influence.
“We should not support any investigation through the FLA, we are with the WRC,” said Muchowski. “By Coca-Cola trying to avoid the WRC investigation it is an implicit statement of their guilt.”
“The contract will be renegotiated in 2006. If this issue is unresolved by the time of renegotiation then we should terminate the contract with Coca-Cola,” said Meyer.
Scott Scarborough, who handles campus contracts, could not give a statement because he did not attend the meeting.
“If they don’t kick off Coke from campus … the school should allow alternatives for students who do not want to drink or support Coca-Cola,” said Diana Alfara, vice president of DALE.
“It was a faux-meeting,” said Ryan Feigenbaum, a junior philosophy student.