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Norman Finkelstein in Coney Island: ‘It’s Like Death’

New York magazine catches up with anti-Israel polemicist and now ex-academic Norman Finkelstein. Having been given the boot by DePaul University, it turns out he’s now living in Coney Island!

Ben Harris reports for New York Magazine:

At 54, Norman Finkelstein is pretty much back where he started. This summer, the leftist scholar—who made a name for himself in 2000 with his book The Holocaust Industry, in which he called Jewish leaders a “repellent gang of plutocrats, hoodlums, and hucksters” intent on extorting war reparations from European governments—lost his job as assistant professor of political science at DePaul University. Fortunately, he kept the lease on his late father’s threadbare rent-stabilized apartment, on Ocean Parkway, and there he’s retreated.

“It’s like death,” Finkelstein says. “You keep saying you’re going to die, but you never really come to grips with it. And I can see I’m not going to get another job. I haven’t yet fully absorbed it.”

His days are now spent in solitary scholarly pursuits; his bookshelves buckle under the weight of tomes by Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky. Notes of support from his students sit on a piano; there’s a photo of him and Noam Chomsky (“my closest friend”) bare-chested on the beach at Cape Cod.

It’s tempting to feel sorry for Finkelstein. But then one remembers all his overheated rhetoric and vitriol — sometimes delivered before audiences that have been all too welcoming to outright antisemites.

True, critics of Israel often face outcries from elements of the Jewish community disproportionate to the offenses they have given. I’d include here Jimmy Carter, Tony Judt and, yes, even Walt and Mearsheimer (all of whom have, indeed, given plenty of cause for offense). Finkelstein, however, is in a different league. If the Israel debate is ugly, he’s done his part to help make it so.

In any case, if Finkelstein is feeling lonely, since his buddy Noam Chomsky is way up in Boston, maybe he can make friends with this guy.

UPDATE: For a nice taste of Finkelstein’s rhetoric, check out the following video of him speaking at a rally during Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah. In it, Finkelstein explicitly compares Israeli actions in Lebanon to those of the Nazis and declares, “Right now, we are all Hezbollah.” He says other cute things, too. Watch the video:

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