This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion; A Review

This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion
Book by Norman Finkelstein; OR Books, 2010, 204 pp.


Norman Finkelstein is back with another book. ‘This Time We Went Too Far’: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion. The title comes from Gideon Levy, an Israeli columnist who penned the words in response to the twenty-two days of aggression Israel waged against the Palestinian people in late December 2008 and early January 2009.

Z readers are likely to be familiar, to the 16th decimal or more, with the facts and history of not only Israel’s actions in the occupied territories and the region more widely, but the dubious circumstances in which the state of Israel came into existence as well. Finkelstein does touch on all of this, though briefly. This Time We Went Too Far does, as the title suggests, focus on the truth and consequences of the most recent Israeli invasion largely thanks to American support – political, economic and military.

Finkelstein draws heavily from human rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, as well as the candidness of Israeli policy makers, Israeli soldiers, and of course, Richard Goldstone’s infamous United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict. One of the most important aspects of This Time We Went Too Far are the notes. They are the foundation in which Finkelstein debunks such claims that Israel was defending itself, that the high civilian Palestinian civilian casualties was due to Hamas using Palestinians as human shields, or that those who spoke out against the invasion were, wait for it, anti-Semites.

The book, however, is less reactionary to apologist accusations than I may be presenting, and more on why the invasion happened, how public opinion has been growing more favorable of the Palestinians among young Jewish people in North America and Europe, and what lessons we might draw from Gandhi in seeing truth and justice through. Finkelstein also delivers his trademark quips loaded with sarcasm and a piercing shot to the heart of the matter.

When Israeli officials claim to going to pains to differentiate between military and non-military targets but attacked a chicken farm that was an important part of the Palestinian diet, and which killed more than 60,000 chickens, Finkelstein retorts, “If the world only knew what was in those chickens…”

Or when the IDF makes such hyperbolic claims to have done more than any army in the history of warfare to protect the lives of civilians – and keep in mind 80% of their 1,400 victims were civilians whereas 33% of the 9 Israelis Palestinians were killed were civilian – Finkelstein shoots back, “Pity the civilian population in [Israel’s] theater of operation.”

One more: when Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker absurdly claims that Palestinians identify with Gilad Shilat, the Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas, Norman writes, “This resolves the mystery as to why one Gazan family after another has christened their newborn Gilad…”

As I read the book I could hear Norman’s voice (I don’t know why, but I have always liked his accent and found him a pleasure to listen to). In This Time We Went Too Far he captures his speaking style in a prose that keeps you reading. While the book is not very big it is thorough. Norman Finkelstein manages to overcome something that plagues many writers: a tendency of being verbose. He packs in a lot of information without overwhelming you or making it difficult to keep up. And again, the notes! It’s not Chomsky’s Understanding Power but there are a lot of notes here. If you consider it a chapter in and of itself it’s the longest chapter in the book. Anyone who wants a detailed list of sources on the Israeli invasion, whether just for the sake of knowledge or as ammo to refute apologists for Israeli aggression, will find that this book gives you more than you could ask for.

The book begins as a dedication to Carol and Noam Chomsky “for being there” for him and ends with a relieving sense of optimism. Another welcoming aspect of the book is that it is not anti-Zionist. He stresses that the point of the Palestinian struggle is human freedom and dignity – something that is beyond ideology. Finkelstein points to Richard Goldstone, a self-proclaimed Zionist, and says, “A criterion of membership that would exclude a Richard Goldstone from our ranks is transparently counterproductive.” The tide is turning. Norman talks about a button he was given from a sponsor at one of his speeches. It said, “I GAZA.” He notes how he later received positive and unexpected feedback about the button from random people.

The hearts and minds of the world over are finding a cause to struggle for in solidarity: justice for Palestine. Students, especially young Jewish ones, did not stay silent when Israel attacked Gaza. In Europe many schools were occupied in protest. Contingencies of aid have tried to be delivered, and international marches trying to break the blockade have been tried as well. While these attempts have yet to succeed, it is a step forward that they were attempted at all. One of the main reasons for this is due to the (growing) many people who refuse to sit back and do nothing, and who are dedicating themselves to truth, peace and justice. In this respect, Norman Finkelstein’s This Time We Went Too Far continues that trend.

Michael M’Gehee is an independent writer and working-class family man.

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