Calling the moderator of a debate "a certified moron," controversial anti-Israel professor Norman Finkelstein abruptly stormed off the air when he was asked to "dial it back a bit," The Algemeiner has learned.
The topic of the debate, conducted last month on the Jewish Internet station J-TV's program "Current Affairs" — and moderated by the UK-based Henry Jackson Society founder and executive director Dr. Alan Mendoza — was the question of whether Israel is held to double standards where international criticism is concerned.
Finkelstein, author, most recently, of Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel's Assaults on Gaza, began to hurl epithets about halfway through the 17-minute segment. These included accusing his debate partner, Jewish historian Ken Spiro, of promoting "Israeli propaganda" at the expense of facts.
"It's despicable!" Finkelstein shouted at Mendoza, who was trying to steer the discussion back on track and defuse tensions. "It's despicable how you carry on – with your red tie and your crossed legs — when people are being killed! And you spout the most ridiculous Israeli propaganda!"
Spiro had asserted, "There's no question that in international forums, Israel is held to a double standard. The most glaring example, of course, is the United Nations, where there are more...resolutions condemning Israel than every other country in the world combined...So Israel gets an inordinate amount of play and focus in the media, to the exclusion...of many other human rights issues and humanitarian tragedies in the world. Statistically, it stands out like a flashing red light..."
Finkelstein's response: "Well, it would be useful if Israel were held to any standard."
He went on to say that "it's quite correct that there are many UN resolutions on the Israel-Palestine conflict...[and] that Israel has been repeatedly condemned in all the representative and authoritative venues in the international arena...[T]he point is...the reason it's constantly, repeatedly condemned is because it ignores, and is enabled to ignore, the condemnations..."
When Spiro presented arguments to the contrary, Finkelstein retorted, "One of the problems with debates like this is people have no knowledge of the facts. They go through an Israeli propaganda sheet, and they simply read off of this propaganda sheet the nonsense of the Israeli government...[but] I believe in facts."
Reminded by Mendoza that he is on a TV show, not delivering a solo lecture, Finkelstein shot back, "If you want to just chat, then you should cut me off. I'm interested in facts. I'm not interested in chatting, and I'm not interested in propaganda..."
Finkelstein concluded by yelling, "You're brain dead! It's like having a conversation with somebody who's brain dead... I don't want to go on, because you don't know what you're talking about! I've never seen such stupidity!"
"Professor Finkelstein's behavior was quite extraordinary for someone purporting to be an academic," Mendoza told The Algemeiner. "Walking out of an interview and attacking the interviewer when simply being asked to clarify a point is the action of a polemicist. For years, Professor Finkelstein has claimed he has been blackballed from faculty positions because of his views on the Holocaust and Israel. Judging by his performance, a likelier explanation is that he simply isn't open to reasoned debate and discussion, which is a baseline expectation of all institutes of higher education."
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