Sunday, September 03, 2006

Finkelstein vs Dershowitz

After watching the excellent (and freely available) Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land, I searched around and found a link to a 2-part debate on this blog.

Here's part 1 and part 2 of Alan Dershowitz (D) "debating" Norman Finkelstein (F) on Democray Now about D's new book about Israel. It's trumpeted in some places as a "demolition" by F however I just found it to be incredily tedious.

In essence, F points out some problems with D's references in the book but never really lands a killer blow. To me the problems range from not so bad to not so bad. For example, he uses some not very authoritative sources (like a Sony Pictures movie which was also a book) but the information he attributes to the source is not in dispute. F is right to say that you'd expect better from a professor at Harvard but it's fairly immaterial in the grand scheme of things. There were a few other things but assuming F hit D with his best stuff then really the whole thing was kinda pointless. He did catch him somewhat for his reliance on IDF and other official sources for his stats.

D on the other hand constantly interrupts F while he is trying to make his points. D appeared on The Breakfast Show presented by Eamonn Dunphy last year and Eamonn smacked him down for exactly this type of behaviour. It makes an intelligent debate impossible. When asked by the host, Amy Goodman, about targetted assassinations by Israel and the innocent civilians that are killed in the process, D didn't do much of a job defending them. When D gave an example of Israel's careful approach when trying to assassinate one particular guy, F caught him nicely with how they had killed a whole bunch of civilians with 1000lb bomb in an earlier attempt to assassinate the same guy.

It was disappointing to see F twist D's words slightly. In part 1 there's an argument over deliberate civilian killings by the IDF. D says there are none, F gave the example of a man in Jenin in a wheelchair with a white flag who was shot and then driven over by a tank. D says this was not deliberate (or maybe he says it's not accurate I can't remember). In part 2, F bring this up again when they argue about numbers of civilian deaths except this time, F makes it sound like D didn't count this a civilian death. That's unfair on D, he never denied it was a civilian death, he denied it was deliberate.

Also F kept saying silly things about how he hoped the book wasn't actually written by D. This was completely pointless.

If you didn't already hold a strong position one way or the other before watching this then you will learn almost nothing except:

  1. D is a sloppy scholar
  2. D and F are incredibly annoying and should never be brought together in public again

Oh and wikipedia has a page about the whole thing.

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