Method and Madness



"Mr. Finkelstein['s] … research is certainly thorough. His characterizations, too, can be brilliant, and he spares nobody …"—The Economist

"As a work of scholarship and commentary, Method and Madness is simply outstanding."
                                                            —Mouin Rabbani, Senior Fellow, Institute for Palestine Studies

"One of the most perceptive critics of Israel’s increasingly barbarous occupation of Gaza and the West Bank"—TeleSUR

"An undiluted, undoubtedly powerful prosecution case against Israel over the death and destruction visited on Gaza by its military assaults since 2008." —The Independent

"Against tanks, warplanes, drones, high-precision missiles and white phosphorus, Finkelstein deploys the weapons of white-hot anger, scathing irony, sanity, common sense, international law, rational logic, clear analysis and the truth." —New Left Project

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About the Book

In the past five years Israel has mounted three major assaults on the 1.8 million Palestinians trapped behind its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Taken together, Operation Cast Lead (2008-9), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012), and Operation Protective Edge (2014), have resulted in the deaths of some 3,700 Palestinians. Meanwhile, a total of 90 Israelis were killed in the invasions.

On the face of it, this succession of vastly disproportionate attacks has often seemed frenzied and pathological. Senior Israeli politicians have not discouraged such perceptions, indeed they have actively encouraged them. After the 2008-9 assault Israel’s then-foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, boasted, “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded.”

However, as Norman G. Finkelstein sets out in this concise, paradigm-shifting new book, a closer examination of Israel’s motives reveals a state whose repeated recourse to savage war is far from irrational. Rather, Israel’s attacks have been designed to sabotage the possibility of a compromise peace with the Palestinians, even on terms that are favorable to it.

Looking also at machinations around the 2009 UN sponsored Goldstone report and Turkey’s forlorn attempt to seek redress in the UN for the killing of its citizens in the 2010 attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla, Finkelstein documents how Israel has repeatedly eluded accountability for what are now widely recognized as war crimes.

Further, he shows that, though neither side can claim clear victory in these conflicts, the ensuing stalemate remains much more tolerable for Israelis than for the beleaguered citizens of Gaza. A strategy of mass non-violent protest might, he contends, hold more promise for a Palestinian victory than military resistance, however brave.

Publication January 15, 2015 • 236 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-939293-71-8 • E-book 978-1-939293-72-5

About the Author

Photograph © Maryam T. Ordoubadi

Norman G. Finkelstein received his doctorate in 1988 from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. For many years he taught political theory and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Finkelstein is the author of a number of books, among them Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Ari Shavit’s Promised Land (OR Books, 2014); Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End (OR Books, 2012); What Gandhi Says: About Nonviolence, Resistance and Courage (OR Books, 2012); “This Time We Went Too Far”: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion (OR Books, 2010, expanded paperback edition, 2011); Goldstone Recants: Richard Goldstone Renews Israel’s License to Kill (OR Books, 2011), Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (University of California Press, 2005, expanded paperback edition, 2008); The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (Verso, 2000, expanded paperback edition, 2003); Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Verso, 1995, expanded paperback edition, 2003); with Ruth Bettina Birn, A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (Henry Holt, 1998); and The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years (University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

Read an Extract

Israel has committed three massacres in Gaza during the past five years: Operation Cast Lead (2008-9), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012), and Operation Protective Edge (2014). It also killed nine foreign nationals aboard a humanitarian vessel (the Mavi Marmara) en route to deliver basic goods to Gaza’s besieged population.

This book chronicles and analyzes these Israeli massacres. It casts doubt on the accepted interpretation of their key triggers, features, and consequences. Each chapter reproduces (with minor stylistic changes) the author’s commentary as it was composed after each successive cessation of armed hostilities.

A trio of themes form the connective tissue of the book’s narrative. First, Israel has repeatedly manufactured pretexts to achieve larger political objectives. Invariably, it resorted to military action against Hamas in order to provoke a violent response. Israel then exploited Hamas’s retaliation to launch a series of murderous assaults on Gaza.

Second, Israel has repeatedly eluded accountability for its war crimes and crimes against humanity. Both the Goldstone Report and Turkey’s attempt to prosecute Israel after the Mavi Marmara massacre proved stillborn. The prospect of an International Criminal Court indictment of Israeli leaders after Operation Protective Edge also holds out faint hope.

Third, at the end of each new round, the political balance between the antagonists did not change: each side declared victory, but neither side won. Such a stalemate has been much more tolerable for Israel than for the people of Gaza. The human and material losses suffered by Gazans have been of an incomparably greater magnitude. Moreover, Israel can live with the status quo, whereas Gaza, suffering under the double yoke of a foreign occupation and an illegal blockade, cannot. The fact that the indomitable will of the people of Gaza has repeatedly brought the Israeli killing machine to a standstill cannot but impress. However, such “negative” victories have yet to translate into a “positive” victory of a real improvement in Gaza’s daily life.

Palestinians are under neither legal nor moral obligation to desist from using armed force against Israel. Nonetheless, it is this author’s contention that nonviolent mass resistance, both in Gaza and by its supporters abroad, still offers the best prospect for ending the illegal siege and occupation of Gaza. Armed resistance has been attempted many times and, notwithstanding its heroism and nobility, has failed to budge Israel a jot. The time is ripe to attempt militant nonviolent resistance, or so it is argued in the ensuing pages.

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