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Norman Finkelstein Slams Chuck Schumer for Pushing Trump to Declare Jerusalem Israel’s Capital

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In December, President Trump announced he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and initiate a process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move has sparked protests across the Occupied Territories. The United Nations voted 128 to 9 in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Despite the international condemnation, several leading Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, praised Trump’s decision.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we get to speak more extensively about Gaza, I wanted to quickly ask you what you felt the motivation was for President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, saying he’d move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, the massive response in the United Nations after he announced this recognition, the overwhelming vote against the United States, and the United States threatening people who voted against them.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, it’s a little complicated question, how U.S.-Israeli policy works. But in general, you could say, when major U.S. national interests are at stake, the Israel lobby has very little power. We saw that, for example, during the negotiations over the agreement with Iran. That was a major U.S. international interest. The lobby was dead set against it. Netanyahu was dead set against it. But the agreement went through. And many of Israel’s strongest supporters—Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, the whole gang—they supported the agreement.

But when a major U.S. interest is not at stake, the lobby is quite powerful. So you take, in this particular case, it was clear the Saudis, which is a U.S. major interest, didn’t care what the U.S. did with Jerusalem. They gave the green light: “If you want to give it to Israel, that’s fine with us. We don’t care.” So, no U.S. natural interest is at stake, and so Trump does what anybody does: He rewards his donors. In this case, it was Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire, who was strongly supporting the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.

But we have to bear in mind, it wasn’t just Trump. You know, sometimes the media wants to pile up on Trump. And they forget it’s not just Trump. Charles Schumer, the current Senate minority leader, Schumer was constantly attacking Trump, right after he got elected: “Why aren’t you recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital?” When Trump did recognize it, Schumer, Charles Schumer, he said, “He did it because of me. I was the one that urged him to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.” So that’s the Senate minority leader speaking. And for the same reason—if you look at Schumer’s money, he gets it mostly from conservative, right-wing Jews and from Wall Street, the same sources of income as Trump, the same streams of income.

And on these questions, a lot of the Democrats, including Schumer—or especially Schumer, I should say—are worse than Trump. So, for example, after the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, when Israel killed the passengers aboard the humanitarian vessel, the Mavi Marmara, killed 10 passengers, Charles Schumer, he went before a group of Orthodox Jews, and he said, “The people of Gaza voted for Hamas. They voted for Hamas, and therefore economic strangulation is the way to go.” Now, bear in mind what that means. We’re talking about a population, more than half of which are children, who are living under a medieval siege. And what he’s effectively saying is we should continue starving them, until they vote or get rid of Hamas. Now, what do you say about something like that?

You know, Charles Schumer, he went to my high school, as did, incidentally, Bernie Sanders. I didn’t know him. He was, I think, four years ahead of me. I knew his sister pretty well, Fran. Extremely bright. You know, even now, looking back almost a half-century, she still stands vividly in my memory. Extremely bright young woman. They were decent, actually. Chuck’s—as he was called Chuck—his father was an exterminator. You know, that’s really rising. It was an impressive show. He’s an extremely bright guy. He was valedictorian of his class, and he was way ahead of everybody else, as was Fran, you know? But what they turned into, what can you say? He grew up in Kings Highway in Brooklyn, right near where Bernie grew up, by the way. I passed the house every day, because I bicycled to the pool. What do you say about a person who recommends starving children? That’s what he did.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to—

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: You know, he’s a moral monster. And you have to face up to that fact. He’s a moral monster. And yet everybody wants to dump on Trump. What about people like Schumer?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk about the situation you’re describing in Gaza. Your new book, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom. We’re speaking with author and scholar Norman Finkelstein. The book has just been published. Stay with us.

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“Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom”: Norman Finkelstein on the Many Lies Perpetuated About Gaza

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