While in Cairo: Norman Finkelstein Joined a March on Israeli Embassy


“Norman Finkelstein joined some Egyptian youth activists in their most daring and adventurous attempt to breach the heavy security cordon around the Israeli embassy in Cairo, break into the embassy and take down the Israeli flag”

“Some argue that Egypt has other priorities at the moment than to get into trouble with the restless Zionists in Tel Aviv, only Dr. Finkelstein didn’t think so”


Dr. Ashraf Ezzat


Poster of Dr. Finkelstein's lecture at the American University in Cairo

If you’ve been trying lately to contact Dr. Norman Finkelstein via email only you kept getting this reply “I will be out of town until 20 May 2011. I will not have access to internet so I will not be able to check my email”  .. Then you must have wondered where Dr. Finkelstein was and what could that seemingly urgent matter, that kept him from checking his email, be?

Well, to spare you the time and a wrong guess, Dr. Finkelstein was not on some Caribbean island vacation, he was in Egypt joining some youth activists in their most daring and adventurous attempt to breach the heavy security cordon around the Israeli embassy in Cairo, break into the embassy and take down the Israeli flag.

Nevertheless and before he left Egypt he somehow managed to keep his prefixed schedule and gave a memorable lecture at the American university in Cairo – AUC.

63 years of Nakba


Every year and on May 15, the Palestinians and the whole Arabs mark the Nakba day – the day Israel was established and declared a state by a controversial UN decree back in 1948.

Nakba is the Arabic for catastrophe. And indeed it has been, at least for the Palestinians who were expelled in a mass exodus as 750000 Palestinians were forced to flee their home land and make way for the new Jewish settlers.

This year marks the 63rd anniversary of this catastrophic event which proved after all these years of land grab that it’s not just some kind of brutal occupation or apartheid regime but an imminent danger to world peace altogether if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained unresolved

Palestinian protesters on the Lebanese side of the border near Maroun al-Ras take cover from Israeli gunfire on Nakba Day

The 63rd anniversary of Nakba day comes amidst extraordinary events the Arab world is currently witnessing as the wind of change and revolutionary tide is sweeping across the Arab world.

Emboldened by the powerful Arab uprisings Palestinians living in Diaspora in scattered refugee camps along the borders with Israel in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestinians from the west bank and Gaza decided to rally in hundreds and head for the land where their ancestors once lived. They all decided to march to Palestine on the 63rd Nakba day.

In commemorating the day they simply crossed the barbed wires and the fortified Israeli check points jeopardizing their lives for the sake of a few moments where they could walk through the fields and actually touch the trees their fathers planted ages ago.

For the Palestinians it was a day of remembrance, mourning their uprooting, embracing the past and keeping the hope to return home alive in the heart of new generations.
For the Israelis it was also a day to remember, not as their day of independence but rather as the day Israel’s borders were practically breached on 4 fronts; the Syrian, Lebanese, Jordan and Palestinian.

One cannot go far as some Zionist analysts who, in their bid for more American and European funds to Israel’s security, came out and said that on Nakba day Israel had been invaded on all fronts. But I would certainly point out that this has been more like a psychological blow to the Zionist myth of living secure and isolated behind some high wall or impregnable iron dome.

The 760 km concrete barrier has given the Israelis the false perception that their world stopped where the high fence stood and that nobody existed on the other side.

The Israelis have been deluded by this wall myth and on the Nakba day they found out how vulnerable they are.


While segregation walls are being demolished all over the world, Israel stands on the wrong side of history and embrace this dying wall culture.

It has been years since Israel witnessed this kind of pan-Arabic public display of rejection to the Zionist scheme for the transfer or rather the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Protest like an Egyptian


Dr. Finkelstein joining the anti-Israeli rallies outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo on May 15

In Egypt the Nakba day scenario has been completely different as thousands of pro-Palestinian activists planned to commemorate the day by marching toward Rafah, the border crossing point with Gaza, where they would express their solidarity to the Palestinians and denounce the continuing occupation of their land.

Also in the commemoration program came the invitation by al-Quds studenty club for Dr. Norman Finkelstein, the political scientist and the world acclaimed pro-Palestinian activist to give a lecture at AUC.

Since they were banned from reaching the border terminal of Rafah for security reasons, the activists made a tactical change in their plan and headed for the Israeli embassy in Cairo instead. They rallied there on Sunday as they called for the embassy to be closed and the Israeli flag to be taken down.

The protests started peacefully in front of the embassy in the morning but at 11 pm things began to turn violent as the protesters managed to breach the heavy security cordon around the embassy and actually reached the main entrance of the multi-story building at the top of which the Israeli embassy lies.

At that point, and minutes before the protesters were to get inside the embassy building, military and security reinforcements were called upon and on arrival to the protests site they began to warn the protesters not to proceed any further.

Failing to heed the warning, the military began to disperse the rally by shooting tear gas canisters and rubber bullets that hit one protester in the head and another one in the abdomen.

Egyptian protesters in front of the embassy calling for Israeli flag to be taken down.

Dr. finkelstein joined the rally and actually took part at the beginning of the protests which lasted for hours into the night leaving 353 wounded and 168 arrested and waiting to be interrogated by a military prosecutor.

A military spokesman declared that the violent crackdown on protesters came after they had violated the peaceful terms for rallying as they actually set out to break into the embassy and commit an international violation by trespassing the premises of the embassy of a foreign sovereign country and forcibly taking down its flag.

As a matter of fact, a great sector of the Egyptian people, especially those who have witnessed the long history of Egyptian military confrontation with Israel in 1956, 1967 and 1973 are not at ease with these enthusiastic anti-Israeli embassy protests for they know too well that Israel tends to get foolishly aggressive whenever she gets nervous, and they think Egypt has other priorities at the moment than to get into trouble with the restless Zionists in Tel Aviv. But Dr. Finkelstein didn’t think so.

And when asked, on an Egyptian TV show the following evening, if now was the right time for post-Mubarak fragile Egypt to provoke Israel by closing down its embassy or taking down its flag, Dr.Finkelstein responded

“the Israeli embassy is the real provocation, and I think the Israeli flag should be taken down and the embassy should be closed as long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved” …

and he added “the Egyptians will not lose their lives if Egypt lowered down the flag. It’s the Palestinians who are losing lives; around 15 were killed yesterday as they marked the Nakba day”


In his lecture that focused on the effects of the January 25 Revolution on the Arab-Israeli conflict Finkelstein said ..

“Egypt’s first civilian government is unlikely to attack Israel or renounce its 1979 peace treaty with the country. Instead, Israel is sweating simply because Egypt has become a force to reckon with rather than a pawn to be played. The biggest threat to Israel, he said, is that Egyptians will enter the modern world, continue to reclaim their dignity, and demand a central role in the region”


Dr. Norman Finkelstein during his lecture in Cairo

Finkelstein managed to win his AUC audience over, exactly as he did with most of the viewers of his TV interview. And he wrapped up his talk on TV by calling for the Egyptian military not to do Israel’s dirty work, and to release all 168 arrested protesters whom he viewed as true heroes who couldn’t stay silent over the Israeli crimes in Palestine and the whole Middle East.

In the few days Finkelstein stayed in Cairo, which lacked any mainstream media coverage, he did not only walk like an Egyptian but he talked and protested like one.

Though it was the first lecture for Dr. Finkelstein in Egypt but the chemistry between him and the Egyptian audience has been remarkable.

Finkelstein is a man who never does anything against his conscience and who dares to go to the end of his thought and that is the kind of voices people want to hear not only in Egypt but the whole world.

13 thoughts on “While in Cairo: Norman Finkelstein Joined a March on Israeli Embassy

  1. Norman Finkelstein is Pro-Palestinian but he does not go far enough. For example, during the planning of the Gaza Freedom March he refused for tactical reasons to not include mention of BDS and right of return (which Norman is sketchy on as he questions how all refugees can return to their land, Palestinians undoubtedly realize this point to but still the right of return should be granted to as many as possible). So, what occurred was that two academics, leaders in their respective Occupied Palestinian Territories, were able (I was involved in this move as well) to convince most of the organizers behind the Gaza Freedom March to at least put in as a mission statement about BDS and ROR, but not made mandatory for participants to sign up for the March. We praise Finkelstein for his bellweather forthrightness and his scholarly work on the I/P conflict, but nowadays with a slowly growing solidarity of anti-Zionist Jews supporting the cause, Finkelstein is not that radical as seemed before. He is not a one-stater as he continues to quote international law that is great as an argument but neither the U.S. or Israel adheres to and will probably never will. Second, from reading his posts on his website, he seems to embrace the economic boycott of Israel, but is reluctant to with academic and cultural boycotts. Some say with the academic boycott that it might inflict harm on academic freedom others say, no it is again for tactical reasons.


    1. .. I don’t view Finkelstein as belonging to “Radicalism” ..but rather a liberal scholar with righteous political awareness.
      He might not fit into a lot of people’s expectation, but like you mentioned, he has earned the respect of the free thinkers around the world.


  2. BTW, Israel investigated, THOROUGHLY, all the allegations made against its conduct in the Goldstone Report. As you must know, Goldstone has retracted the central accusation in his report:


    “In a remarkable u-turn, UN-appointed judge Richard Goldstone admits that his UN Human Rights Council report into the Gaza War was wrong to conclude that Israel deliberately targeted civilians in the three-week campaign in 2008-9.

    Writing in an op-ed for the Washington Post on Friday, Goldstone retracted some of the key conclusions reached by his 2009 report. In ‘Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes’, he writes that ‘civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy’, and that:

    ‘If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.’

    Goldstone reaffirmed his assessment that war crimes were committed by Hamas as a matter of policy during the conflict, as ‘its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets’. However, by comparison he explains that such allegations against Israel were based on lack of evidence, rather than substantiated proof:

    ‘The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion…

    ‘I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.’ ”

    An honest writer with such an affinity for setting historical records right ought to be able to adjust his position to the facts as they emerge along the research.

    “I’m interested in the fact that the less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice.” (Clint Eastwood)


    1. Remarkably coward U-turn indeed.
      Allegations of intentionality, my ass.
      He made it sound as if he was reporting on a case of collateral damage.
      More courage and honest could have suited him better.
      ..I would have respected him if he came out and attested that the Zionists in Washington & Tel Aviv managed to make him wet his pants and regret palying Mr. rihgiteous ever again.


  3. I left a few comments on your other posts, Pyr, and they disappeared into the great yonder. Are you filtering comments that contradict your positions? Tsk, tsk …


  4. Israel is the last apartheid state in the world. People are waking up. Last week the Washington Post did a series of articles on Palestine and Israel. As a follower of the comments at Washington Post, I can assure you there were commenters pro Palestine four to 1…a few months ago the reverse would have happened. I urge everyone interested in this issue to sign on to washington post so you too can comment and get the truth out. I am told many legislators staff persons look at those comments every day to see what people are thinking.


  5. http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=222765

    “A man who’s been a high-ranking judge salutes terrorists who blow up a pipeline. Yet judges are supposed to uphold the rule of law. If a judge can cheer those who blow things up, that opens the door to supporting other acts of lawless violence. Wherever Khodheiri draws the line, others will find justification for mayhem. Attack Christians? Kill Jews? Assassinate secularists or government officials? Once lawlessness is rationalized as absolute right, there are no limits.

    A former high-ranking judge calls for ignoring a legal contract. Of course, he could call for renegotiating the contract through legal channels, but that isn’t what he did. So the acceptable response to an agreement where you aren’t currently gaining an advantage is violent, unilateral abrogation.

    What does this tell us about other agreements/contracts that Israel might make with Arab neighbors or the Palestinians? Israel is an enemy. Despite a peace treaty signed 33 years ago, most Egyptians regard this as a temporary truce. The return of the Sinai and the reopening of the Suez Canal and of Egyptian oil fields in western Sinai do not suffice to make them feel at peace with Israel, whatever continuing sympathy and support they might give the Palestinians. Nor does Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the creation of the Palestinian Authority or Israel’s acceptance of its arming. Why should we believe that Israel’s turnover of east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the creation of a Palestinian state, would change anything? Selling gas is “treason.” And what does one do to traitors in the Arabicspeaking world? One kills them. While Khodheiri isn’t a cleric, he has been a career judge, one of the people who lay down the law of the state, as Muslim clerics rule on Shari’a (Islamic) law. So in a real sense, what he has done is issue what one might call a “secular fatwa.”

    If an official of Egypt’s energy authority is murdered tomorrow, the killers can cite Khodheiri as justifying it, just as previous killers, or the would-be assassin of Naguib Mafouz – Egypt’s great novelist – rationalized their acts because of clerics’ statements.

    Remember, Khodheiri is a Mubarak-appointed judge! What will the judges selected by the next government sound like? Finally, “blood.” The resort to passion rather than reason is dangerous. The English-language expression “as sober as a judge” doesn’t just refer to intoxication but to a “judicious temperament” – calm, cool and rational.

    If judges call for violence and murder, invoking blood and treason, how might common people behave? What example is being offered to the national political culture? Obama and European leaders don’t get it. We are about to be projected back to the bad old days of radical Arab nationalist regimes competing with each other in militancy, anti-Americanism and hatred of Israel. Except this time they’re Islamists, and that’s worse.

    When top judges yell for fire and vengeance, your society is in real trouble.

    And so are its neighbors. No democratic state can be built on such a foundation.”


    1. “Once lawlessness is rationalized as absolute right, there are no limits”
      Well said my dear Noga.
      I couldn’t have put it better
      Operation cast lead, Israel’s military campaign in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009 that has left 1,400 plus Palestinian dead, 30% of whom were children and the Gaza infrastructure and economy destroyed not to mention the humiliation and the blockade that has been imposed since.
      When Israel was asked to investigate the irregularities and the misconduct of the IDF that were tantamount to war crimes, the Israeli probe into the Gaza war crimes with all the sober Israeli judges wrapped up the case satisfactorily and found only one soldier worthy to be convicted for a wartime abuse: he got seven months in prison for the theft of a credit card.
      It’s funny .. but it is so true


  6. Please visit Democracynow.org, last thrusdays program. Norman appeared with the head of J Street and another journalist. Norman said, “the international court has already voted, all of Gaza, all of the West Bank, all of the Golan Heights and all of E. Jerusalem belong to the Palestinans. So who is Obama think he is, by over ruling an INTERNATIONAL court. Obama still appeases the zionists while not admitting their genocidal ways. Move over AIPAC was organized by codepink and put up a huge struggle at the AIPAC conference.


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