Letters to Matthew Abraham on Beyond Chutzpah Review

by Berel Dov Lerner, Maoz Azaryahu, and Jason Jungreis


The following letters were sent to the editor regarding Matthew Abraham's review of Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah in the Fall, 2005, issue of Logos (issue 4.4). Click here to read his review. Professor Abraham's reply to his critics can be read in the Winter, 2006, issue of Logos (issue, 5.1). Click here to read his reply.

To the Editor:

Here is the most serious complaint against Israel mentioned by Matthew Abraham in his review of Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah:

"To justify Israel's 'ethnic cleansing' of the Palestinian population from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel's apologists have had to sustain an untenable ideological juggling act, keeping several balls in the air."

Well, if Israel has been engaged in the "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinian population, we have been doing an amazingly inept job of it. The Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza has increased in size at a tremendous rate during the decades since Israel captured those territories in the Six Day War of 1967. The only "ethnic cleansing" going on around here has been Israel's recent removal by force of all Jews living in the Gaza Strip. Talk of "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide" is the kind of over-the-top big-lying practiced by Israel's radical critics which creates the suspicion that they are motivated by some irrational factor such as anti-Semitism.

If Matthew Abraham thinks that the Zionists have managed to stifle public criticism of Israeli policies, I can only wonder: Does he ever read the New York Times or the Washington Post? Has he ever seen the English Internet editions of the Israeli newspapers? Does he own a television set?

As for Palestinian anti-Semitism - well, what other word is there for those many Palestinians (and Arabs in general) whose understanding of modern history is shaped by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or who routinely refer to Jews as inhuman "sons of monkeys" destined for eventual annihilation?

 Berel Dov Lerner
 Lecturer in Philosophy
 Western Galilee College
 Akko, Israel




Dear Sir,
Why are progressives so afraid of Zionism? The answer is perhaps very simple: Zionism is the idea that Jews - those who want - should have a homeland and the right of self-determination. This idea obviously poses a real threat to the progressives' dream of a world without Jews who assert their right of self-determination.
I enjoyed Abraham's review. For me, a Zionist Jew, it proved what I knew: the hatred of Israel is a global phenomenon, uniting Islamists, fascists and - yes, progressives. What a strange fellowship! This 'coalition of hatred' convinces me that Israel is as necessary as ever in a world where 'human rights' have become an euphemism for Arab ultra-nationalism and Israel-hatred.
I am sure Dr. Abraham is an immensely important literary scholar. I am less sure about his honesty. He is an anti-Israel activist, which is fine. Only that this should be mentioned explicitly. For the sake of honesty...
Professor Maoz Azaryahu




 Dear Editor:
It is anathema to critical literature review to appoint a reviewer or publish a review in either of the following cases: when the reviewer is not sufficiently informed as to the book's subject matter, and when the reviewer has a vested interest in the perspective presented by the book's author. A third error would be to publish a review that essentially offers the reader a reviewer's single-sided opinion on a subject with zero balance. You have committed all three of these sins in allowing and publishing Matthew Abraham's review essay of Norman Finkelstein's book Beyond Chutzpah.
Mr. Abraham's review is chock-a-block full of unsubstantiated and, moreover, factually false assertions. He demonstrates in his review that he is either not a historian - indeed, his credential does not states that he is, nor does he offer any information to suggest that he is - or that he is not interested in historical accuracy. To the contrary, he presents startlingly little information to the reader to identify any basis for his ability and authority to write his review essay, and this problem is compounded by his reviewer's slant: he spends a vast amount of the review discussing the history of the book and not the book itself. This political perspective is the prerogative of a reviewer who carefully explains to the reader both sides of the dispute regarding the book so that the reader can appreciate the nature of the politics, but here there is no effort made to explain both sides: shockingly, the political perspective is used only to vilify one side without any analysis of their actual concern.
Here, we are told that Mr. Finkelstein's book is the subject of political controversy because one side has concerns regarding its historical accuracy. Good, now we're getting somewhere: we trust that our reviewer is therefore knowledgeable regarding history and will be able to fairly determine whether the claim is true or false. However, rather than put that line of political analysis to the test under a historical microscope, the charge is essentially ignored. Worse than ignored, the whole of the problem of historical accuracy is compounded by the reviewer's personal interest in the side presented by the author. Mr. Abraham does not explain his own interest (readily inferable from his credentials) and instead proposes statements of alleged fact in support of Mr. Finkelstein which are simply untrue, and in so doing spins the review to positively reflect upon his own position.
In short, this review fails its own premise of analyzing the book's political history. The reviewer is unknowledgeable, biased, self-interested, and essentially uninformative of the issues allegedly covered by the book, other than to provide false historical endorsement. It is a wonder than it got published in a serious forum, unless this question begs its own answer.
 Jason Jungreis