I think me and Kareem were both expecting to come across a barrage of Zionist questioners at every Norman Finkelstein event we spoke at, but it seems that times are changing; for the first half of the tour, such dissent was non-existent. We had to wait until the University of Arizona on May 3rd…
The tone was set early on, as Kareem began his introductory speech:
“We are here today, to talk not only about Operation Cast Lead…”
“This is bullshit!” an old man shouted from the audience, standing up and leaving his seat. If he thought that was bad, then it was probably a good thing that he left early.
As we got into the question and answer session, I could see a smug young man in the line, waiting for his turn. I knew it was him. As I later found out, locals refer to him as “The Terrier”, for reasons I would quickly understand.
“Hi, my name’s Adam, and I help run the pro-Israel advocacy on campus.” Really, he should have just left it at that. “Throughout this year, we have extended our hands to the pro-Palestinian students on campus, to engage in dialogue… I’ve contacted members, student organisers… but I’ve heard nothing back for an entire year. Do you support that kind of dialogue?”
Although the question was directed at Norman, he insisted on handing over to me.
“The first problem with what you have just said,” I began, “is that I don’t believe a word of it. This is part of a wider campaign we are seeing by Zionist societies on campuses across the US and the UK, to normalise a situation of occupation. How can we have a “dialogue” when, as we speak, the Israeli government are evicting more Palestinian families from their homes? What I find interesting is how the dialogue has shifted; five years ago you might have stood up and attacked what we have said, but now that isn’t working anymore, you’re going to try this whole facade of “dialogue”, and really, I don’t believe a word.”
A rousing applause followed, and the isolation of pro-Zionists such as Adam, seems to be a sign that things are changing for the better.
I was feeling very tired and unwell, so I slept for the entire flight back to New York. When we landed, Norman came and sat in the row just in front of me as we waited for Kareem to come from the back of the plane. The man sitting next to me, who I hadn’t said one word to, now turned to Norman.
“What did the doctors say his diagnosis was?”
“Excuse me,” I interjected, “why didn’t you just ask me? I do have a voice of my own.”
“It’s fine, I don’t need to hear explanations, but just think about it next time.” And I began to walk off the plane.
When we got out to the terminal building, the same man came up to me.
“I want to explain why I said that. I have a seventeen year-old son who’s similar to you, but he can’t talk or walk or anything.”
“I’m sorry to hear that…” I replied.
“It’s difficult,” the man said, “but he still smiles everyday.”