FINKELSTEIN’S FLIP-FLOP: It was an odd debate — from the topic to the choice of panelists. To the chagrin of many in Britain’s Jewish community, the Oxford Union — the once-venerable and now-sensationalistic debating society — decided to take up the following proposition: “This House believes that the State of Israel has a right to exist.” As if debating whether or not a sovereign state has the right to exist weren’t bad enough, the Oxford Union selected two fierce critics of Israel to defend the proposition, including “Holocaust Industry” author and Hezbollah booster Norman Finkelstein. Unsurprisingly, Finkelstein proved to be a poor advocate for Israel, voting at the debate’s conclusion against the proposition he had been tasked with defending. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the story.The Jewish Chronicle's story, to which the Forwards refers, is here. It claims that Finkelstein supported the motion that Israel has the right to exist and then voted against it. It also claims that Ilan Pappe and Ghada Karmi voted against the resolution. Pappe must have sent in an absentee ballot, because he wasn't even present at the debate (nor, apparently were the authors of the Jewish Chronicle piece, Bernard Josephs and Leon Symons, who surely would have known that.) Pappe was supposed to have been present, but he begged off at the last minute and was replaced by a Palestinian lawyer. Finkelstein argued in favor of Israel's right to exist on the grounds that it had international recognition. He had no intention of voting, and he left the auditorium without voting, or at least not intending to. As explained by my source at Oxford:
The voting system works as follows. The main enty and exit has a bar down the middle of it, with a door either side of it. Above the door to the left of the bar it says something like 'nay'; above the door to the right of the bar it says something like 'aye'. If you exit to the left, that counts as you voting against the motion, and the opposite is true if you exit to the right. (I may have got the two sides the wrong way around as to which is aye and which is nay). You vote simply by virtue of exiting through a particular side of the bar. A union official at each side keeps a tally. If you want to abstain, you have to tell the official as you exit. So unless [Finkelstein] told the union official at the door that he wanted to abstain, if Finkelstein exited then he necessarily (whether he meant to or not) voted one way or the other.In fact, Finkelstein wasn't aware of any of this arcane Oxford tradition, much less that he voted with his feet, until I contacted him about it a few days ago. Maybe he should have been, but he was seen walking out talking with students and entirely preoccupied with the debate. But when it comes to the Jewish media reporting on Norman Finkelstein, who cares about accuracy? Or fairness?