I was astounded when I came across this debate on RussiaToday’s CrossTalk between Dr. Norman Finkelstein, a thorn in the pro-Occupation extreme Zionist camp and Raanan Gissin, an ex-official with the Israeli Government. Raanan Gissin was formerly a senior adviser to Ariel Sharon and currently works as a PR man for Israel, making frequent public appearances on various cable and international networks.
He made statements that many Israeli spokesmen and PR gurus are reticent to make, at least to American and European viewers. If I was the Israeli Media Defense Force (yes, such groups exist) I would be praying and hoping he wont make anymore appearances on TV. In the encounter, Gissin essentially said the reason that Jews have rights over those of the Palestinians who lived on the land is because it was written in the Bible. He says his grandfather tried to be nice to the Palestinians and do business with them after taking their land but some of them had to meet his gun. He also goes on to justify the take over of Palestinian land by Jewish Eastern Europeans and Russians by saying American settlers did the same thing to Native Americans.
Norman Finkelstein calmly and logically obliterates him. This is high voltage ownage that you don’t want to miss. (Below is the video and a transcript of the relevant portion.)
Transcription begins from 6:20 of video one, up until 0:55 of the second video. Enjoy.
Ranaan Gissin: When my great parents, came from Russia in a hundred and fifty years ago they came because there was a Bible in one hand, my grandfather came with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in another, and his hand was extended to the Arabs who lived here, some did make business with him and others who fought him had to meet the wrath of his rifle, and that’s how you live in the Middle East.
Norman Finkelstein: It is an oddity that you say you are coming and that you want to live in peace with someone you come with a rifle in one hand. I often have friends visit me at home and when they come to my home they don’t come with a rifle.
Ranaan Gissin interrupts: So did the settlers in America…
Norman Finkelstein: That’s correct. I appreciate Dr. Gissin’s comparison because I think it is exactly right, the first Euro-Americans who came to North America, came with rifle in hand because they came with the intention of displacing and replacing the indigenous population, that’s why they needed a rifle, and most Americans now a days at least acknowledge that what was done to the indigenous populations of North America was wrong and it’s exactly for the same reason that Jews from Eastern Europe had to come to Palestine with a rifle in hand because their intention was not to live with the indigenous population but to displace and dispossess it in order to create a Jewish state in an area that was overwhelmingly Arab, and uh, I think everything pretty much ensued after that, followed that basic fact. Now a days I would say there are possibilities for Israel to live at peace with what remains of the indigenous population but unfortunately Israel is unwilling to resolve the conflict along the lines of international law which would allow for some sort of co-existence between Israel and the Palestinian population that was displaced and dispossessed.
Peter Lavelle: Let’s go back to Tel Aviv, does Israel want to have peace with its neighbors and can the Palestinians have their own state as well? I mean, consistently the United States and Israel are the only two countries in the world that block this, consistently, consistently at the United Nations. So does Israel want to have peace? Go ahead Dr. Gissin.
Ranaan Gissin: Dr. Finkelstein’s formula is a formula for committing suicide, not for living in the Middle East. You have to live with the realities in the Middle East. I would like the Middle East to be like North America, I would like the Middle East, after four hundred years of bloody wars to be like Europe, but it’s not, it’s still a young region, it’s fraught with conflict, the Arab-Israeli conflict is not the only one, there are more conflicts than states in the Middle East, there are 22 states with one Israel and over thirty armed conflicts. Let’s face it, the largest conflicts are not between Israel and its neighbors but between Sunnis and Shi’ites, and Israel came with good intentions. Israel came with the intention to live alongside the Palestinians and let me say the way, when my great grandfather came from Russia, you know what he said, he had it very right and he had the Bible as his guide, he said the rights of the land are ours because this is our land. This is why I came back because this is our ancestral homeland, people who live on the land have rights and we tried to live with those people.
Peter Lavelle: We’re going to a break. Norman would you like to have a quick word before we go to the break?
Norman Finkelstein: Yes, I wonder Mr. Gissin if I came with a Bible in one hand and came to your home, I knocked on your door and said “according to my Bible, my family lived where your home is, my family lived there two thousand years ago,” would you pack up your bags and leave?
I am waiting for your answer.
Gissin for some reason becomes obsessed with bringing his great grandfather into the picture. Maybe he was feeling nostalgic or reminiscing on olden’ time stories that he use to hear growing up, but it is quite chilling that he would think that the Bible is sufficient to justify taking another’s land. Just imagine a Muslim saying the same thing, “my grandfather came with a Quran in one hand and a rifle in another,” he would be branded a Jihadist terrorist in a split second. In fact, this is one of the stereotypical caricatures propagated by Orientalists and Islamophobes regarding Islam; the image of a Muslim warrior on an Arabian horse with a Quran in one hand and a sword in another.
Gissin has no intelligent rebuttal to Norman Finkelstein’s responses, his only retorts come in fumbling, high decibel, off topic spiels, at times he mumbles and stumbles over words. The most amazing portion might be where he justifies taking over Palestinian land by comparing what Jewish settlers did in Palestine to the actions of Euro-American settlers in North America. This is quite interesting because many pro-Israel defenders claim that it is not a correct analogy, and they say you can’t make that comparison; “it isn’t the same thing” we are told. There was just such a discussion in the comment section of a previous article by our very own intrepid Danios, and yet here is an ex-Israeli official and one of their main PR men not only admitting that the comparison is true but using it as justification.
In my last article on Bill Maher I noted that one of the reasons for the intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the claims that religious Jews hold on the land. For them there is no room to maneuver because as Gissin states, using the Bible as his guide, “the rights of the land are ours because this is our land.”
For purposes of full disclosure, here is the third and final portion of the debate between Finkelstein and Gissin: