Finkelstein speaks out for Egypt and Gaza

Photo by Keith Race.

The media and America blamed for a lack of transparency and democracy

Controversial scholar Norman Finkelstein spoke as part of the Human Rights Conference at Concordia University on Wed. Nov. 5 concerning the human rights crisis in Egypt and Gaza and the link between both countries.

The talk, entitled Egypt and Gaza Intertwined: Human Rights Conference, was based around three main topics: understanding what Finkelstein calls the Gaza massacre of 2014; media misinformation and Israel’s ability to take advantage of it; and the role of the United Nations (U.N.) and primarily the United States with regard to both Gaza and Egypt. The event was sponsored by the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy, the Egyptian Canadian Home Organization, and the Concordia Egyptian Student Association (CESA).

Photo by Keith Race.

Finkelstein, a political activist who has done extensive research on both conflicts, has seen his fair share of criticism over his opinion on what he sees as flagrant human rights abuses in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  That night, he focused most of his speech on creating a timeline of the major events that took place during Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli name for this summer’s seven-week assault on Gaza, which was spurred on by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas operatives.

“[The event] was not unlike the previous massacres, though on, clearly, a larger scale,” explained Finkelstein on the thousands of overwhelmingly civilian casualties in Gaza, which he said the European Union and United States turned a blind eye on. “Surprisingly, the United States and the European Union did not break off relations with the new [Israeli] government, but basically took an approach of ‘let’s just see what’s going to happen’,” Finkelstein said.

While the world sat by their T.V.s, computers and/or smartphones, there was little to no reference to the conflict as a major issue. According to Finkelstein, Hamas were not behaving like terrorists, a necessary premise for Israel, whose actions would otherwise be considered war crimes, as stated explicitly by Amnesty International.

Finkelstein argued that one of the main reasons Israel was able to continue attacks in Gaza for nearly two months was because of the media. He cited the fluidity and ever-changing focus of the news as something that allowed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue the “massacre” relatively unnoticed. His two primary examples of this shift were the bizarre and tragic Malaysian airplane crash over Ukraine and the first ISIS beheading of an American.

The other side of the media coin was the lack of research of Israel’s claim of terror rockets sent by Hamas. Finkelstein called this claim a piece of “science fiction,” explaining that it is highly implausible that 4,000 rockets would kill a mere seven civilians and cause only $15 million in property damage. He also denied Israel’s claim that its Iron Dome (a system that Israel claims intercepts and destroys short-range rockets) saved countless lives.

The latter half of the conference focused on the U.N. and U.S.A.’s role in both Egypt and Gaza. With regard to Gaza, Finkelstein condemned UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for his laissez-faire attitude toward Israel. Particularly, Finkelstein said Ban Ki-Moon only released a statement calling the Israel-Gaza conflict a “moral outrage and criminal act” after Israel attacked a seventh UN shelter. “Ban Ki-Moon, [the] comatose puppet of the United States, wasn’t doing anything,” Finkelstein said. It was the later that day that President Obama spoke out. Having Ban Ki-Moon speak out was very embarrassing for Obama, he added.

Finkelstein argued that the events that took place in Egypt, the overthrowing and jailing of the elected president in the name of democracy by the United States, were and continue to be unfounded. Finkelstein refused to call the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a president.

It took about 40 minutes, but Finkelstein managed to find the place to compare the two situations, making the title of the conference relevant. Finkelstein argued that the common denominator between the atrocities in both Gaza and Egypt is America. The U.S.A. is a country in which the last two presidents have defended and illegally armed those who were vested interests to them, according to Finkelstein. “Egypt is not on a democratic transition, Israel is on a dictatorial transition,” he explained. This is because the United States have allowed it to be so by expressing how both Israel and President Sisi have the right to defend themselves, despite the lack of evidence that they are being attacked.

“Israel has the right to defend itself, Sisi has the right to defend himself, the only ones who don’t have the right to defend themselves are the people living under brutal and illegal siege,” said Finkelstein. “And the people of Egypt who are now living under a brutal dictatorship, they don’t have the right to defend themselves. Only important people have the right to defend themselves and the rest of us just have to live with it.”

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