The controversial American scholar and writer, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, visited York January 11 to speak about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Hosted by the Middle Eastern Student Association (MESA) at York, the event drew an audience of approximately 200 students and community members. The audience was asked at the beginning of the lecture to be respectful, and there was a significant security presence at the event, though there was no visible protest.
According to Finkelstein, there is now a realistic opportunity to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict because there has been a significant shift in public opinion, and that most would agree that the duration of the conflict is "preposterous."
He discussed what he viewed as discrepancies between the media's depictions of Israel, foreign policy, and public opinion, referring to the Canadian government and its policies as "lunatic."
He chose to steer away from the contentious discussion topics he is generally known for, such as questioning the existence of a "Holocaust Industry," and chose instead to focus on the resolution of the ongoing conflict.
Finkelstein is optimistic of a peaceful resolution because he believes it is increasingly unacceptable to claim to be liberal and be pro-Israel at the same time, and young people are leaning more and more towards liberalism.
"We have to set our minds to it," he said in his closing speech. "We want this conflict to end. This is not about eternal martyrdom."
Surrounded by controversy since the very onset of his career, Finkelstein is best known for his book The Holocaust Industry, and his scholarly critiques of the book The Case for Israel.
Finkelstein holds a PhD in politics from Princeton and has taught at a number of prestigious universities across the United States.
In 2007, he was denied tenure at DePaul University in Chicago despite overwhelming support from students and faculty due to his notorious plagiarism accusations against Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz. He has not held a teaching position since then.