Tag Archives: Oslo

Finkelstein dissects the ICC ruling about Palestine

Finkelstein and Lora in NYC (August 2017)

I first met Professor Norman Finkelstein in Albuquerque in 2012 when he spoke to a friendly audience about his book “This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion” about Operation Cast Lead. Several years later, I was serendipitously in the right place at the right time, and attended a course he taught over several weeks at the New York City public library dissecting John Stuart Mill’s classic ON LIBERTY. Finkelstein is a controversial figure in the best sense of the word. He thoroughly reads and researches before he expounds on a topic, and then he speaks his mind clearly and without reservation for the political correctness or sensibilities of his audience.

Norman  Finkelstein received his doctorate in political theory in 1988 from the Princeton University Politics Department. He taught for two decades in the CUNY system, NYU and DePaul University (in Chicago). He has lectured on a broad range of subjects, and has written ten books that have been translated into more than 50 foreign editions. Finkelstein’s main fields of research and teaching are political theory, international law, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

On February 14, 2021, Finkelstein was asked his opinion about the recent ruling of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC concluded it had jurisdiction over the Palestinian occupied territories to investigate potential war crimes from Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014 as well as the 2018 Gaza border protests where Israeli sharpshooters maimed or killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protestors. Many of us have been waiting for the court’s decision for years.

The mainstream media (including the United Nations) has framed the ICC’s recent ruling as “good news” for the Palestinians. I must admit that I’ve been on cloud 9 since reading this news, thinking that perhaps there would finally be a measure of justice for the Palestinians, as well as elevating the credibility of international law and of the ICC itself.

Unfortunately, I failed to read the opinion (or even digest the entire announcement made by the ICC on February 5, 2021). Although the ICC concluded it does have jurisdiction in Palestine, it went on to say:

In addition, the Chamber found, by majority, that the arguments regarding the Oslo Agreements, and its clauses limiting the scope of Palestinian jurisdiction, are not pertinent to the resolution of the issue of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine. Such matters and other further questions on jurisdiction may be examined when and if the Prosecutor submits an application for the issuance of a warrant of arrest or summons to appear.

In this interview, Professor Finkelstein dissects the ICC’s opinion better than many who are well-versed in the intricacies of international law in the context of Israel-Palestine. Every Palestine solidarity activist would be wise to spend the next hour listening to his explanation. Without giving the punch-line away, I’ll just say that the Palestine Authority shot itself in the foot when it responded to the ICC’s query regarding the Oslo Accords.


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Obama in his own words

I’m trying to get inside President Obama’s head to understand why he’s pressing so hard for an airstrike against Syria.

On September 4, a Swedish reporter asked Obama how he reconciles being a Nobel Peace Laureate (’09) with his current plans to attack Syria. Noticeably, he didn’t mention strategic ‘balance of power’ issues or a direct U.S. national security interest. Here’s his answer.

Obama is speaking emotionally — like a father — about the 400 dead children killed by gas, and he posits the issue as one for political leaders and all citizens to ask.

“At what point do we confront actions that are violating our common humanity?”

Framing the issue that way is profoundly shocking, at least to me, and it gives me hope.  I agree with Obama, that is exactly how we should be looking at Syria. We should be looking through that lens at every atrocity, not simply when chemical weapons are deployed against defenseless civilians.

Obama’s framing of the issue demands that we consider:

  • How do we define what constitutes “our common humanity”?
  • What actions are appropriate to respond to such violations?

The President is really challenging Americans to have that discussion, and I suspect he is wrestling with the answers himself.

In 2007, I visited city hall in Oslo, Norway where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year.  I think it’s the most magnificent city hall in the world.

Oslo City Hall

Oslo City Hall

Two years later Obama donned the mantle of Nobel Peace Laureate in that very same room.

Today I watched his 37-minute Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to see what I might gleam about his thinking in the current situation in Syria. Of course, he never once mentioned Syria or chemical weapons, but much of his 2009 speech is poignantly prescient to the situation in Syria today.

Obama’s speech begins as a university history lecture talking about “just war theory” and he notes that  the old architecture of peace-keeping is buckling. He mentions the new types of war (sectarian civil wars as an example) and acknowledges that he does not have the answers about how to meet these new challenges in the 21st century, but he knows it will require us to “think in new ways”.

I’m going to watch it again.

Mr. President: You are grappling with finding a new way of thinking while holding onto the tools of the old way of thinking (a military response). Perhaps the two are incompatible.

You are one of the brightest Presidents America has had — at least in my lifetime — and if anyone can find a new way of thinking and responding to this crisis facing our common humanity, you can!


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