Norman Finkelstein Debates Former Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami
"NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, on the issue of terrorism, I agree with Dr. Ben-Ami's definition. It's the indiscriminate targeting of civilians to achieve political ends. That's a capsule definition, but I think for our purposes it suffices. What does the record show? Let's limit ourselves to just the Second Intifada, from September 28 to the present. The period for that period, the record shows approximately 3,000 Palestinians have been killed, approximately 900 Israelis have been killed. On the Palestinian side and the Israeli side â€” I'm now using the figures of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories â€” on the Palestinian and the Israeli side roughly one-half to two-thirds of the total number were civilians or bystanders. And if you look at the findings of the human rights supports â€” B'Tselem, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, and so forth â€” they all say that Israel uses reckless indiscriminate fire against Palestinians, and B'Tselem says when you have so many civilian casualties, you have, you know, 600 Palestinian children who have been killed, which is the total number of Israeli civilians killed. 600 Palestinian children killed.
They said when you have so much, so many civilians killed â€” I don't particularly like the phrase "collateral damage" â€” when you have so many civilians killed, B'Tselem says it hardly makes a difference whether you are purposely targeting them or not, the state has responsibility. So, you could say Israel â€” using numbers, now â€” is responsible for three times as much terrorism in the Occupied Territories as Palestinians against Israel. That's the question of terrorism.
Let's turn to an ancillary issue: the issue of torture. Now, the estimates are, up to 1994-1995, that Israel tortured â€” and I'm using the language of Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem â€” Israel has tortured tens of thousands of Palestinian detainees. Israel was the only country in the world, the only one, which had legalized torture from 1987 to 1999. The record on torture, on house demolitions and on targeted â€”
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: 1999 is when we came to office.
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I wish that were â€” I wish that were the saving grace, but . . .
the fact of the matter is, being faithful to historical record, the record of Labour has been much worse on human rights violations than the record of Likud. It's a fact that the only Israeli government during the period from 1967 to the present which temporarily suspended torture was Begin from 1979 to 1981. On the record of house demolitions, Mr. Rabin used to boast that he had demolished many more homes than any Likud government. Even on the record of settlements, as Dr. Ben-Ami well knows, the record of Rabin was worse in terms of settlement expansion than the record of Yitzhak Shamir, and a fact he leaves out in the book, the record of Barak on housing startups in the Occupied Territories â€” "
AMY GOODMAN: Building more houses?
NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah â€” was worse than the record of Netanyahu. It's a paradox for, I'm sure, American listeners, but the record on human rights, an abysmal record in general, an abysmal record in general, and in particular, the worst record is the record of Labour, not Likud.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Ben-Ami?
SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, he's â€” Dr. Finkelstein already said what needs to be said about the end of the practices or the legal status of tortures in 1999. . . ."
Entire debate here
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