Skip to content

Dr. Norman G. Finkelstein: Independent Academic, Political Analyst, and Author


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2014/05/22


In the following brief interview with Dr. Norman Finkelstein, he discusses the following: survival of his parents from the Nazi death camps; personal moral outrage against racism, war, and injustice; terse considerations of controversial topics such as economic inequality and climate change; The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2003); the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a potential solution in “mass, nonviolent resistance”; moral and pragmatic responsibilities of academics, and everyone; and influence of his mother and Noam Chomsky on him.

Keywords: academic, climate change, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, economic inequality, Holocaust industry, injustice, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nazi, Noam Chomsky, racism, war.

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?  How do you find this influencing your development?

My parents survived the Nazi death camps (my father was in Auschwitz, my mother in Maidanek).  No one else on either side of the family survived.  Everything I’ve done in my life has been, in some sense, a vindication of their martyrdom.   What they endured has been the source of my moral outrage against war, racism and injustice, although Professor Chomsky provided me with the intellectual “method” to articulate it.

2. What do you consider the most controversial topics at the moment?  How do you examine the issues?  What do you consider the strongest arguments of those with differing views of the issues than you?

Many of the “most controversial topics at the moment” such as climate change/global warming, and unemployment/economic inequality, require not just background but also technical mastery (in the natural sciences and or economics/mathematics) that I do not possess.  So, it’s difficult to enter these debates with the kind of preparation and confidence that I prefer before taking a stand.

3. In the second edition of your book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2003), you discuss what you term the ‘Holocaust Industry’.  For those unfamiliar with your writing, how do you define it?  What does this imply?  Where does your current research stand on this issue a little over a decade after the second paperback issue?

The Holocaust industry referred to Jewish organizations that exploited the Nazi holocaust for political gain—mostly to immunize Israel from criticism—and financial gain—this shakedown racket mostly in Europe to extract what was called “compensation” for “needy Holocaust victims.”   Nowadays, many people refer casually to the Holocaust industry—it’s taken for granted or as a given.  For example, even the former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg, in his book “The Holocaust is Over,” refers to the “Shoah industry.”

4. Where do you see the future of the Israel-Palestine conflict?  In particular, what about the dangers for areas of further conflict?  Where do you see the strongest possibilities for resolution?

I am not optimistic for a just resolution of the conflict unless Palestinians in the occupied territories engage in mass, nonviolent resistance.  For now, they have (with good reason) lost interest in, or grown cynical of, politics.   What the future brings in this regard, I cannot predict.  But if they don’t resist, then Palestine will go the way of the Native Americans.

5. If any, what responsibility do academics and researchers have for contributing to society and culture?  What do you consider the greatest potential benefits and damages to society, and culture, based on the contributions of academics and researchers?

Everyone has a responsibility to make the world a just and decent place.  It’s not just a moral but also a pragmatic responsibility.  If the overwhelming majority of climate scientists are right, the human race just won’t be around much longer, unless we get our act together.  Academics and researchers by the nature of their profession have more time, resources and leisure than most of the world’s population (of peasants and industrial workers) to right the world’s wrongs, so their responsibility is obviously greater.

6. Who most influenced you?  Why them?  Can you recommend seminal books or articles by them?

My late Mother had, by a wide margin, the biggest impact in shaping my moral outlook.  But, although she was very smart (actually too smart for her own good), she was never able to articulate her moral outrage (in part because she was so against “intellectualizing”/”debating” war, destruction and death).  It was not until I started reading Chomsky that I found a “method” to be both indignant at injustice and also to preserve scholarly standards.  It didn’t help me survive in academia, but I think it did help me become more convincing before a broad public.


1)  [Nizar Abboud] (2010, March 30). Norman Finkelstein on Goldstone, Gaza, and Israel.wmv. Retrieved from

2)  [TrinityNew Dublin] (2012, October 1). Norman Finkelstein. Retrieved from!.


4)  Cole, T. (2002). Representing the Holocaust in America: Mixed Motives or Abuse?. Public Historian, 24(4), 127.

5) Finkelstein, N. (2014, March 26). Alternative Voices – Ep. 2: The Uncompromising Life and Times of Norman Finkelstein of Norman Finkelstein. Retrieved from

6)  Finkelstein, N. (2000, September 21). Book Notes. (Cover story). New York Amsterdam News. p. 1.

7)  Finkelstein, N. (2013, July 30). Democracy Now: Norman Finkelstein on the “Peace Process”.  Retrieved from

8)  Finkelstein, N. (2014). Norman Finkelstein on Nuclear Weapons. Retrieved from

9)  Finkelstein, N. (2014, March). The End of Palestine?  It’s Time to Sound an Alarm. New Left Project. Retrieved from

10)  Finkelstein, N. (2003). The Holocaust Industry: The Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. 2nd edn. London: Verso.

11)  Finkelstein, N. & Stern-Weiner, J. (2014, January 22). Israeli-Palestinian talks: An Update. New Left Project. Retrieved from

12)  Finkelstein, N. & Stern-Weiner, J. (2014, January 11). The End of Palestine? An Interview with Norman G. Finkelstein. New Left Project.

13)  Gillespie, M. (2008). Norman Finkelstein Speaks on Illegitimacy of Israel’s Occupation. Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, 27(5), 58-59.

14)  Massad, J. (2002). DECONSTRUCTING HOLOCAUST CONSCIOUSNESS. Journal Of Palestine Studies, 32(1), 78.

15)  Mutch, N. (2014, February 8). Nick Mutch Discusses Obama and Israel with Norman Finkelstein. Cherwell. Retrieved from

16)  RT News [RT] (2010, May 17). Norman Finkelstein: Israel being exposed and feels threatened. Retrieved from

17)  RT News [RT] (2010, January 27). Crosstalk on Holocaust: Murder Revenues. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: