Monday, January 04, 2010


Before I adduce what I think are other unmentioned, if not hidden, seminal factors contributing to this dismissal
Dr. Finkelstein has made significant contributions in the fields of Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and established, almost single-handedly, the field of critical Holocaust studies, work which required considerable courage as it is contrary to the political position of the United States and the Israeli/Zionist lobby
His critique connected anti-Semitism and the Holocaust to Zionist protectionism with respect to Palestinians. For decades Israel and its apologists have insisted that a critique of Israeli policies and practices is always a cover-up for a deeply-seated and incorrigible anti-Semitism, the very same poison that led to the Holocaust. Thus anyone criticizing Israel, the Jewish state, is ipso facto an anti-Semite who wishes to bring about second Holocaust upon the Jewish people. The Roman Catholic Church has been in the Jewish firing line for decades

continuing to be charged with both a historical and an enduring anti-Semitism. That there was both collaboration between the Church and some Nazis
Of course it is also true that the Church and many of its members were persecuted by the Nazis, is not politically advantageous to the Zionists
another three factors connected to this scandal
Two are intra-Catholic issues: the issue of Catholic university autonomy and the issue and status of liberation theology. The third issue concerns the Church leadership and political Islam. The former may explain how the firing took place, as well as indicate future positions that will be taken in Catholic universities, while the latter two provide two reasons for it
Until 1991, a Catholic university enjoyed full autonomy as an independent institution
In 1991, Pope John Paul II issued his Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, known by its introductory latin phrase, Ex Corde Ecclesiae--from the heart of the Church
Two examples stand out
During the

Pope John Paul II, Prof. Fr. Hans Küng, at Tübingen University in Germany had his faculties as a Catholic theologian removed by Rome for daring to question the issue of papal infallibility, while Prof. Fr. Charles Curran, teaching about homosexuality in a questioning and opening manner that did not contradict any infallible statements made by the Pope, was dismissed from the pontifical Catholic university in Washington DC
The Finkelstein affaire seems to justify the deep felt fear of those who were originally against Ex Corde Ecclesiae and in a manner possibly more insidious than originally suspected
no longer confined to arcane doctrinal issues
but to issues of the wider political arena, which the Church hierarchy will either promote or defeat, depending on how it assesses its interests,
how the Church leadership is positioning itself in this changing world. Dr. Finkelstein's work, both academic and political, relates indirectly to the doctrinal issue of liberation theology

Rome had both condemned its focus, its approach and methods and some of its leading exponents
it has recently begun to raise its head once again
the state of affairs
has worsened exponentially in the more than two decades since it was first censured
it has now been explicitly referred to in the political arena of the new governments
in South America
and whose programs are threatening the status quo determined by the US
What was and is Roman Catholic liberation theology? And how does it affect Dr. Finkelstein?
the Roman Catholic Church
church of the empire, has been aligned with the rich and the powerful, or what is called at times "law and order
With respect to the poor, the underprivileged and the oppressed
it developed the giving of alms
to relieve their suffering
With the development of sociology in the nineteenth century by Marx
and the modern phenomenon of an urban proletariat in the industrializing cities
a social phenomenon dependent upon capitalism
a new understanding of
to understand the

poor either as a class, or as a level of society that was the outcome of particular political and social powers, institutions and structures.
Popes have condemned capitalism
they have completely shied away from taking any positions
liberation theology began to flourish after Vatican II
Church's confident entry into modern life breaking with its traditional, conservative, pre-modern, pre-industrial and pre-urban past
Vatican II took place both in the wake of, and during the time which the liberation movements in Africa and Asia brought about the dismantlement of the old empires
which surged visions of freedom and development for
experienced oppression, deprivation and dispossession under the yoke of colonialism.
Liberation theology
went far beyond traditional metaphysical doctrines in its search of liberation of the individual. It recognized that if poverty, deprivation and oppression were the material conditions of a person's life
set as its goal to analyze the society in which such

Using Marxist tools of analysis, these studies revealed that these social conditions of poverty were the deliberate and predictable results of the structures and institutions of capitalist society, and not mere accidents
not as backward, incompetent lazy people, who brought their fate upon themselves, but rather as victims of institutional violence
"preferential option for the poor"
The focus of salvation swung
to consciousness-raising of the poo
the poor began to be empowered by running their own lives
Given that South America's economies were dominated by a capitalist United States
Two historical events occurred
to bring to a halt the spread of liberation theology
election of Pope John Paul II in 1978, and his appointment, in 1981, of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Both men were intractably anti-Communist
identified Marxism with the communism of the Soviet Unio
Pope from his experience living in Communist Poland

Cardinal Ratzinger as a result of the student uprising in Tübingen University in 1968
placing him firmly on the right in the conservative camp
the conservation of those structures of power that already exist for the sake of order
late 1970's, first under Carter
then under Reagan
began covert persecutions of political liberation movements, informed by liberation theology, in Central and South America, in particular Nicaragua and then El Salvador
collapse of the Somoza regime
result of the exposure of its huge corruption
to the funds that had poured into the country to aid in the reconstruction, following an earthquake that devastated the capital Managua
failure of a rightist, repressive, pro-US government to take power
The Sandinistas, with Catholic priests in leadership positions, espoused a political program to benefit the poor through government programs for literacy, medical care, housing, etc. and aided by Cuba, led the struggle for power in Nicaragua and won
In El Salvador, the violence

was being exposed by
Archbishop Oscar Romero
the horror of the violence brought about his political conversion
adopting a liberation theology stance, he used his church
in the struggle against the government's violence
Reagan government saw the liberation movements as being against the interests of the US
he labeled them both "communist" and "terrorist"
Rome began to seriously question liberation theology
at this time, the non-Communist trade union in Poland, led by Lech Walesa, was being supported openly by the Pope
contributed to the collapse of Communism in Poland
This assault led, in 1984, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Ratzinger, issuing its first Instruction against liberation theology
many theologians were persecuted
the defection
Leonardo Boff, one of the leading Brazilian liberation theologians
liberation theology has come back to haunt
by politicians
most recent theologian to be condemned is Fr. Jon Sobrino, sj
In December, 2006, the Congregation
under its new prefect

the American, William Joseph Cardinal Levada, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI
issued a Notification
that have no bearing on the life of an ordinary Catholic, let alone
all those who have joined their ranks as a result of the unchecked, rapacious, capitalist imperialist policies of the US, Europe and their client states, such as Israel.
What served as the provocation at this time?
the Church does not act
without a policy
immediate effect of this censure on Sobrino
removed his teaching faculty
given the historical context, there is a much broader thrust
Sobrino is a Basque
teaching in the Jesuit University
in San Salvador, El Salvador, where four Jesuits, with whom he was living, were killed by an assassination squad in 1989
as part of the US supported murderous political repression of indigenous political liberation movements
Sobrino escaped
only because he was out of the country
Sobrino continued his work in liberation theology
a focus which is reflected in these new regimes in South America

It comes at a period when indigenous governments are actually standing up
First and foremost
Hugo Chavez
Rafael Correa
Evo Morales
Luis da Silva
Michelle Bachelet
Chavez has not hesitated to call upon the Jesus of liberation theology in support of his socio-political goals
domino effect
phrase coined by Chomsky
the "threat of a good example"
to wrest their fate out of the rapacious grip of US capitalism
This is what happened with Saddam Hussein who had both modernized and strengthened Iraq
regional power
influencing the surrounding countries
the confrontation of power that is lining up in South America is not for amateurs
the very highest stakes
control of resource and markets.
the intention of Sobrino's censure is to condemn these new leftist leaders
while aligning the Church
with the US
the problem for Dr. Finkelstein is that in the context of Palestine/Israel, he has addressed the same questions that liberation theology addresses, and has also taken the side of the "poor and the oppressed."

the same damning assessment of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and its ally, the US, as liberation theology draws about the oppressive regimes of Central and South America and their ties with the US.
It has not been remarked that there is an almost virtual identity of the repressive and violent Central and South American governments and the repressive and violent Israeli government
These governments
have not hesitated to conduct attacks in neighboring countries
it would not be unreasonable to expect progressive Arab and Palestinian movements to begin to make common cause with forces with the progressive governments of South America,
This nexus continues to maintain that Zionism is not colonialism, is not an integral part of the capitalist-imperialist hegemonic outreach in the Middle East, nor is it a loyal client for other capitalist ventures, eg Iran-Contra affair
to maintain the bluff of a legitimate Jewish state in Palestine, the Zionist/Holocaust narrative is promoted

with full force
Norman Finkelstein has challenged these positions
one of its supreme spokesmen, Alan Dershowitz
at this critical juncture in world politics
is what caused De Paul University
to either go along
The third factor
It is
a well-known fact that "Islamic fundamentalists" were invented originally by the US, in order to discredit and prevent the spread of Arab democratic secularism, which spearheaded Arab liberation movements. They naturally posed a threat to the capitalist, imperialist ambitions, particularly in the oil-rich Middle East, just in the same manner as the South American liberationist governments are doing at this time
it turns out that the Islamic liberationist movements are no less anti-US than the secular democratic ones were and therefore have been attacked
This anti-Islamic stance
has found a very deep resonance in the pronouncements of Pope Benedict XVI
He called Islam a "violent" religion
contrasting it
peaceful Christianity
Europe is a "Christian" continen
for Turkey, a Muslim country, to join the European Union
this condemnation of Islam finds a resonance in attitudes towards Palestine, where the democratically elected Islamic Hamas government has been attacked and mortally undermined by Israel, the US and Europe
Hamas was elected because of the corruption of the pro-Western Fatah leadership
Hamas seems to function in Palestine pretty much as liberation theology functions in South America
serving society at its most basic level
providing material and communal services, while condemning the US-backed Israeli onslaught
Christians that many of them voted for Hamas because they are not corrupt and have been serving the people who they say they represent

Thus we have several interests converging in the demise of Dr. Finkelstein: the loss of autonomy of Catholic universities, the anti-liberationist position of the Church and its lining up with Western capitalist global interests and an anti-Islamic stance which harks back to a xenophobia one would have wished had disappeared from the world. Is it any wonder, then, that Dr. Finkelstein was booted from De Paul Catholic University?

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