On the night of the 6 September 2017, the writer and academic Dr Norman Finkelstein was arrested at his Brooklyn home on charges of harassment, relating to his (at the time) ongoing efforts to aid a former student and friend, Dr Rudolph Baldeo, against what he characterised as an attempt by two Long Island based lawyers to “frame, blackmail and terrorise” the paediatrician, on the basis of accusations of spousal abuse during acrimonious divorce proceedings.
Finkelstein, an academic respected by friends of the Palestinian struggle for his valued body of work detailing Israeli oppression against Palestinians and for his unrestrained criticism of the Zionist entity, has described the affair in detail through posts on his blog http://normanfinkelstein.com/2017/12/16/vulture-lawyers-michael-chetkof-and-allyson-burger-my-soul-is-a-witness/ where his attempts to have the two “vulture lawyers” debarred from practice – and their ensuing retaliation, is recorded.
Explained briefly, Finkelstein’s argument is that the lawyers in question, Michael Chetkov and Allyson Burger, had banked on being able to threaten and pressure Dr Baldeo into relinquishing his life savings (not to mention his professional reputation), not on the basis of any validity of his former spouse’s accusations, but on the basis of the confidence they felt in the probability of a Guyanese national being assumed to be guilty, relying on racial prejudice on the part of the court system.
In Dr Finklestein’s opinion, these two lawyers “…colluded to frame him [Baldeo], maliciously slandering him, lying in court, perjuring themselves”.
While the basis on which Finkelstein chose to challenge the lawyers in question was undoubtedly just, that on which he was subjected to an 11.30pm police visit, forceful arrest and subjection to considerable police brutality at the hands of Nassau County police appears to be anything but.
For one thing, he just happened to be due in court the next day to support Dr Baldeo, so his arrest and subsequent charging the following morning for the Class A misdemeanour of ‘aggravated harassment’, would seem to have been carried out with the express intention of not only preventing him from attending Baldeo’s court case, but also to dissuade him from continuing with any further similar actions.
According to Finkelstein, the trumped up charges against him (based on the notion that the emails he had been sending to the two parasitic lawyers constituted a form of harassment) are in fact the standard methods by which many of those working within the legal system in the US impress their power on to black and immigrant communities, so the point he would like people to understand is that the brutal treatment which he suffered as a 64 year old white Jewish man from Brooklyn is felt regularly by men and women of all ages within poor, non-white communities. We reproduce below a selection of statements made by Dr Finkelstein regarding the charges brought first against Dr Baldao and subsequent charges brought against himself for attempting to defend Dr Baldao, exposing the cynical and avaricious machinations of Chetkov and Burger.
“Although the prospect of prison time looms, I still anxiously await the opportunity to re-enact on the witness stand the horrors to which I was personally witness these past 17 months:
“How two Long Island vulture-lawyers framed, blackmailed and terrorized a penniless immigrant who made good.
“How these vulture-lawyers left Dr Rudolph Baldeo homeless, penniless, and verging on suicide.
“How I desperately begged and pleaded with these vulture-lawyers to accept a fair and equitable settlement.
“How these vulture-lawyers wouldn’t be sated by anything less than the last bite of flesh from Dr Baldeo’s carcass.
“How these vulture-lawyers then framed me on fabricated, frivolous and trumped-up charges.
“Whatever Fate befalls me, I harbour no regrets.
“Dr Baldeo was crucified in broad daylight.
“It was my duty to rise to his defence.
“Wherever and however I end up, the indelible Court record of my testimony will forever haunt Michael Chetkof and Allyson Burger, as it trails them like a pitch-black shadow cast by their Evil deeds.”
Of course, it should be strongly considered that the reason for the Court’s decision to bring the book down hard on Finkelstein has little to do with his wish to defend a former student against scurrilous attacks from opportunist lawyers, and a lot to do with using the opportunity to silence and break an academic who has been a thorn in the side of Zionism since the early 1980s.
As with the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was threatened with extradition to Sweden on (long since dropped) allegations of sexual harassment and rape, following a string of Wikileaks releases damaging to US imperialism during 2010, it would seem that Dr Finkelstein is threatened with a possible 2-year jail sentence for persistently sending emails to the Long Island lawyers.
Not being in a position to incarcerate him on political grounds for the crime of speaking out against the colonialist settler state of Israel, the powerful forces of the international bourgeoisie will be salivating at the prospect of having him removed from public life on unrelated charges.
His court hearing has already been postponed several times, and at the time of writing no decision has been made, and, while a Change.org petition calling for the charges to be dropped has reached 19,398 signatures as of 14th February 2018, we sincerely hope that progressive people also take note of the underhand manner in which Norman Finkelstein has been treated, and recognise this tactic as what it is – a gross abuse of power, instigated by miserable individuals, backed up by the police and exploited by the pro-Israel imperialist establishment as a way to curtail the activity of a brave, intelligent and meticulous critic of their rotten system of oppression.