Federal prosecutors on Tuesday rested their case against Mohammed Salah, and the judge now will decide whether to let jurors hear from the first defense witness -- a brash and controversial DePaul University professor.New horizons in jurisprudence: the "the prosecution is a conspiracy" defense! Silly me, I always thought that a trial hinges on whether the prosecution can prove its case, not on whether it represents the sinister machinations of a powerful lobby.
Norman Finkelstein, a Jew whose parents survived the Holocaust, is an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories and the influence of Israeli interest groups in the United States. In court Tuesday, the scholar of Israeli affairs called prominent pro-Israel law professor Alan Dershowitz a "complete fraudster."
Defense attorneys want Finkelstein to testify as an expert on the theory that the Israeli government has influenced American media to help shape favorable U.S. policy.
Salah, 53, of Bridgeview, has been on trial in Chicago for two months on charges that he served as a high-ranking operative of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization. Defense attorneys contend that the Salah prosecution is a politically motivated appeasement of the Israeli lobby.
Prosecutors called dozens of witnesses -- including two code-named Israeli intelligence agents who interrogated Salah following his 1993 arrest on a money-running mission to the Occupied Territories -- and entered thousands of pages of documents into evidence.(Hat Tip: Martin Kramer)
They now are objecting some witnesses that Salah's defense attorneys want to call. In a hearing after jurors were dismissed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve had Finkelstein questioned about what he will testify about. The judge has yet to rule on whether she will allow him to do so.
Finkelstein said it's impossible to study events in the Middle East over the past four decades without also analyzing the relationship between Israel and the United States. He described a powerful and complex "system" of U.S.-based Israeli interests working to influence American foreign policy.
"I'm not prepared to simplify matters by trying to conjure a conspiracy theory," Finkelstein said of the Israelis. "They have a lobby, and it's very effective, and it's been working very well since 1967."
When pushed for proof that Israeli interests greatly influence American policy, he pointed to past instances in United Nations debates when Israel and the United States have been lone allies on controversial issues.
"The record is: The whole world on one side, and the U.S. and Israel on the other side," Finkelstein said. "How do you explain that?"
Finkelstein said he personally has been an "object" of powerful pro-Israeli forces, citing verbal attacks on him for his views that some Jews exploit memories of the Holocaust for financial gain and political capital.
He also alluded to pro-Israeli machinations that he suspects recently led to the cancellations of his book-promoting appearances on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" and WTTW-TV's "Chicago Tonight."
"It's very sinister, and it's not happening to Jimmy Carter," Finkelstein said. [...]