Oh, what a difference a middle initial makes — at least when it comes to Norman Finkelsteins. Just a single-degree shift in the alphabet, from Norman G. to Norman H., takes you from an ardent pro-Zionist to one of the world’s most famous Israel bashers.
“I’ve often wanted to change my name to Lance,” kidded H. Finkelstein.
H. Finkelstein, a librarian in the Brookline, Mass., school district, recently has rereleased his children’s book, “Remember Not to Forget,” which pays homage to the Jewish state and the memory of the Holocaust.
G. Finkelstein has pilloried that same Jewish state and its use of the Holocaust to conspiratorially extend Jewish power, earning himself fame — and the lasting enmity of large swaths of the Jewish community. His 2000 book, “The Holocaust Industry,” was characterized by a New York Times reviewer as a modern-day variation on “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
It is G. who scored the Web site normanfinkelstein.com, which H. discovered when he went to register his own domain name (he ended up with normfinkelstein.com). The nominal proximity has caused lasting confusion for both of them, and both seem to take this with a good dose of humor.
“People occasionally order ‘all’ my books on Amazon, including his,” said G., “[and] later wonder why I admired Herzl so much.”
For his part, H. said, “I came across an anti-Zionist Web site in which someone had issued an alert, saying ‘He’s not that Norman. He’s a Zionist propagandist.’ I must say I felt quite proud to be called that.”
Indeed, the Finkelstein name game has tripped up more than these readers. During his first months on the beat, this reporter went looking for the author of “Heeding the Call: Jewish Voices in America’s Civil Rights Struggle,” by H. The e-mail query for an interview turned up a curt response: “It seems you have me confused with another Norman Finkelstein.”
TO THE LETTER: Norman G., left, pilloried Israel in his writing. Norman H., right, paid homage to the Jewish state in his book.