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(en) US, anarchist journal, Nor'easter #8 page 11 - Reviews: American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein By ROBERT JORDAN / The Coca-Cola Case By HANNAH E. DOBBZ

Date Sat, 17 Apr 2010 12:30:45 +0300


When a student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario accuses Norman Finkelstein of trivializing the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust, his answer pretty much sums up his personal history, politics and scholarly interests. Both his parents survived concentration camps during World War II, and, he says, âitâs precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silenced when Israel commits its crimes against Palestinians. ---- consider nothing more despicable than to use their suffering and their martyrdom to try to justify the torture, the brutalization and the demolition of homes that Israel daily commits against the Palestinians.â

So begins American Radical, the
biographical documentary of firebrand writer,
lecturer and erstwhile professor Norman
Finkelstein. The film follows Finkelstein on
book tours in Europe, Canada and Japan, in
which he lays out his contentious arguments
against what he calls the âHolocaust Industryâ
â Israelâs exploitation of the Holocaust to
enable its ruthless oppression of Palestinians.
Through interviews with childhood friends,
relatives, critics, colleagues and Finkelstein
himself, the film also explores the roots of
the professorâs steadfast conviction that
Palestinians have the unquestionable right to
self-determination.
Two things stand out about Finkelstein: his
general intensity and his fierce commitment to
his politics. His brow is almost always deeply
furrowed, his jaw set, a scowl darkening
his face; he looks like he is ready to defend
himself, which makes sense given the constant
controversy swirling around him. Finkelstein
can even come across as self-destructive, as
someone who is unable to keep from saying
what he thinks even if he knows there will
be hell to pay. And there certainly have been
consequences: The film suggests that his
vociferous criticisms of Israel have led him to
lose a teaching position at Hunter College, to
be denied tenure at DePaul University and
to be unable to find a new job since. After a
speaking tour through Palestinian refugee
camps in Lebanon in 2008, he was banned
from Israel for 10 years. As of the end of the
film, a Jewish group was campaigning to have
him evicted from his apartment in Coney
Island, Brooklyn.
Yet, Finkelstein never backs down.
Throughout his childhood, his mother, who
greatly shaped his thinking, insisted that Jews â
as the victims of the Holocaust â have a special
responsibility to ease the suffering of others.
As a result, he takes it personally when he feels
that Israel is using the Holocaust to its own
advantage. Moreover, Finkelstein believes his
arguments are based in objective fact, to which
he attaches the greatest value. Colleagues call
him a careful scholar but also note that his
powerful insights are sometimes weakened
by his provocative and confrontational
presentation.
Finkelstein often calls himself a radical,
but of a particular sort. To him, radicalism is
a question of degree; itâs about feeling more
than the usual discontent with the world. âI
see it as radically unfair,â he says. âTherefore,
it has to be radically changed.â The substance
of his ideas, however, is not especially radical:
He supports self-determination and the right
of self-defense against foreign invaders. He is
not challenging the sovereignty of the nation-
state, nor is he questioning Israelâs right to exist
in the Middle East. Were his ideas considered
in any other context, they would hardly be
controversial â but because he is advocating for
Palestinian self-determination and Palestinian
self-defense, he is branded as an extremist and
an âenabler of terrorism.â
Regardless of the content of his politics,
Norman Finkelstein deserves respect for his
enduring conviction and his willingness to
take risks to further this struggle that he sees
as essential. For the last three decades, he has
tackled head-on one of the most treacherous
and divisive issues in the world, regardless
of the political and professional fallout that
has resulted. âThe truth is often a bitter pill to
swallow,â he says. And he is a living example.
Produced and directed by David Ridgen and
Nicolas Rossier
2009
www.americanradicalthefilm.com/

Pictures:

Left: Finkelstein protesting outside the Israeli Consulate during the first Israel-Lebanon War in 1982. His sign reads: "This SON of SURVIVORS of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising,
AUSCHWITZ, MAIJDENEK will NOT be silent. Israeli NAZIS--stop the HOLOCAUST in Lebanon!!!"
Right: Finkelstein in Lebanon, 2008, where he visited and spoke at Palestinian refugee camps.
----------------------------------

The Coca-Cola Case By HANNAH E. DOBBZ

The Coca-Cola Company puts out
more than 3,000 beverage products.
Here are some of their most well known:
Dasani Caribou Coffee ............................
The Coca-Cola Case: Produced by Johanne Bergeron (NFB), Yves Bisaillon (NFB), Carmen Garcia (Argus Films Inc.)
Photo taken from the production  2009 Argus Films and the National Film Board of Canada. All rights reserved.

Think about the difficulty in making a
documentary film about a thing that you can
neither show nor legally talk about. The action
is too clandestine to be caught on camera, and
all authorities refuse to be interviewed. The
entire would-be content of the film is guarded
so securely that the individuals appearing in
the film risk penalties for even speaking about
it â penalties that are themselves kept secret. Filmmakers Carmen Garcia and GermÃn
GutiÃrrez faced this dilemma in the making of
their documentary film The Coca-Cola Case.
The Coca-Cola Case is like the cinematic
arm of the Stop Killer Coke campaign â an
activist group that broadcasts the abuses
of Colombian Coca-Cola employees,
emphasizing the systematic assassinations of
SINALTRAINAL union leaders since 1992.
The content sounds compelling: power,
murder, money and lies. But the 84-minute
film clocks in at about 64 minutes too long
for what the filmmakers are actually able to
show. The near hour and a half is spent mostly
following the conversations of human-rights
lawyer Dan Kovalik and Stop Killer Coke
activist Ray Rogers, from which audiences
glean the same information that they could
have read in Left Turn magazine in 2004.
If the story seems dry to viewers, however,
itâs only because it legally has to be.
Despite the humdrum footage, the film is
still exactly what it claims to be: The Coca-Cola
Case is about litigation against Coke in U.S.
courts. Unfortunately, litigation is boring â at
least on camera.
Ironically, the best part of the story is
not in the film, but rather about the film. The
Coca-Cola Company got so nervous about the
release of this documentary that it threatened
legal action to ensure that the film reached the
minimum number of viewers.
The film itself was produced in Canada,
insulating it somewhat from threats by
the U.S.-based company, which has sent
representatives to college screenings to dispel
the filmâs accusations while promoting their
product.
Garcia and GutiÃrrez capture in their film
one such college campus counter-protest
organized by Coke. In this scene, a student
carrying a life-size sign that reads âFuck
Human Rightsâ inarticulately asserts that the
actions of Coca-Cola are of no consequence
due to the âinvisible handâ of the free market.
And besides, he explains, he just likes drinking
Coke.
The screening that I attended at Pittsburgh
University did not stir up such brouhaha. It
was rumored that a Coke representative was in
the audience, but, if this were true, the person
was never identified. When only a handful of
people stayed for the Skype discussion with
Ray Rogers after the show, it suggested to me
that maybe Coca-Cola is overreacting just a
tad.
Coke may be paranoid to work for the
suppression of this film, but it is thanks to
this type of muscle flexing that they are
still winning. The United Steelworkers of
America and the International Labor Rights
Fund have been trying to sue on behalf of
SINALTRAINAL since 2001, but the cases
keep getting thrown out because Coca-Cola
has oodles of money to spend that nobody else
does.
If nothing else, it is flattery to the
filmmakers for this monolithic corporation to
act as though it doesnât already have the world
bought and sold.
_________________________________________
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