TEHRAN - It was a great honor for me to meet one of the greatest minds who has put up a fight against the Zionism almost all alone, and as a result lost his tenure in 2007.
Although accused of being an anti-Semite, Holocaust denier, self hating Jew, he is more determined and passionate than ever before to reveal the truth to the world.
Yes, that is no one but Dr. Norman Finkelstein, an American political scientist and activist, who came to Iran almost a week ago and will leave the country today.
His primary fields of research are the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust, an interest motivated by the experiences of his parents who were Jewish Holocaust survivors.
In his book “The Holocaust Industry”, published in 2000, Professor Finkelstein argues that Zionists are exploiting the memory of the Holocaust as an "ideological weapon."
I had pictured him a difficult and tough man prior to the conference, (based on some of his interviews I had watched, of course, on youtube, but the reality was just the opposite. He seemed a free spirited and kind man whose heart beats for his big cause, to fight off injustice done to Palestinians.
At the press conference held at Tasnim News Agency on Sunday, Finkelstein started off by talking about his perspective on Iran. He said that as he was getting ready for his trip to Iran he didn’t quite know what to expect. “Not that I was concerned but caution about what I was going to see in Iran”, he stated.
After spending a few days in disorientation and going through numerous interviews plus the fall of heavy snow in Iran, he got to visit Mashhad, a religious city in northeast Iran.
He described his experience “unusual” and began to discover Iran on his own. “As I went past the surface and started talking to people, I discovered the strangest thing about Iran which is ‘Iran is a perfectly normal country’”, he said.
There was nothing unusual about Iran, if someone just got off the plane and took a bus to his hotel and started walking around, he said, adding they would discover quickly that Iranians are a bit “more polite” than other places and a “little less aggressive”.
He added that the crazy hysteria created about Iran in the West is a total lunacy, and that in Iran he didn’t have to go behind bamboo curtains like in China or iron curtains in the Soviet Union to speak.
In his remarks, Mr. Finkelstein referred to the poll taken by the BBC World Service about the countries that have contributed positively to the world and the ones that have contributed negatively to the world. To his surprise, Iran was on the same list as North Korea, Israel and Pakistan have always been grouped together as having contributed the most negatively to the world. He said that he couldn’t quite grasp the idea of what Iran has done to the world to deserve such treatment to stand at the bottom of the list.
In his opinion Iran has been misrepresented in the world and it is in the hands of Iranians to change all that.
In terms of censorship, he said he has not come even close to that in Iran. Even when he was on the main news program, some people asked him a few questions ahead of time and wondered how he was going to answer them, but he said that he needed some time to think about them and they didn’t object to that. He got to speak on the live program without getting interrupted and with no censorship.
“When it comes to BBC, I am lucky if I get 30 seconds in a 30 minute show. Before I open my mouth they are already attacking me”, he said.
Something I found quite hilarious and smart in Finkelstein’s remarks was that he referred to a show called ‘hard talk’ on BBC as “hard to talk” since he could barely get a word in there.
In terms of his highlight of his trip in Iran, he referred to the meeting he had with clerics in Qom whom he found very smart, serious and easy to talk to. When he was told that he would be having a meeting with the religious clerics at first, he wasn’t sure how the meeting between secular (himself) and religious figures would go. “Oh, boy, I said to myself”, but then after the visit the people who had taken him there commented on how “he felt right at home among the clerics”.
He got to meet a young 26-year-old cleric at Qom, the son of a former foreign minister in Iran, who could have become a doctor, a lawyer or anything else, but he decided to lead a spiritual life and went ahead to study theology. Also impressed by the mind of that young boy who said he’d rather speak to God directly by reading the Book (Quran) than carrying a cell phone to speak to people horizontally.
“These young people are credit to Iranians in Iran, and I wish the world could see the reality”, he said.
I certainly hope that we see more intellectuals like Mr. Finkelstein travel to Iran to see realities on the ground. This can help bring the much deserved respect to Iranians.
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader