Monday, April 23, 2007

Academic Whoring for Finkelstein

The Finkelstein Affair
By Steven Plaut | April 23, 2007
The Finkelstein Affair
By Steven Plaut | April 23, 2007

Academic hiring and promotion processes are mysterious procedures poorly
understood by the public. While supposedly designed to ensure quality
control and the maintenance of standards of scholarship, in fact they are
all too often subordinated to intentional subversion, including when this
is done out of political ideology.

The most notorious example in recent days of corruption of the promotion
process has been the attempt by radical leftist faculty members at DePaul
University to obtain tenure for the pseudo-scholar and Holocaust
trivializer Norman Finkelstein. The Finkelstein affair is unusual in that
the politicization has been exposed so thoroughly in the media and is now
so obvious and explicit. In part, this has been thanks to the fact that
Finkelstein himself, or his close followers, have published the supposedly
classified secret documents related to his promotion on the web. How can
it be that someone like Finkelstein was hired in the first place,
especially by an institution with ties to the church and committed to
Catholic ethical standards? Ironically, the answer was provided
inadvertently by Finkelstein and his followers when they publicized
(probably illegally) these key documents related to his tenure bid. These
documents show how easy it is for extremists with no scholarly credentials
to recruit on their behalf respected academics who share their political

Finkelstein, the assistant professor in political science at DePaul
University best known for his cheerleading the Hizbollah and his endless
smearing of Holocaust survivors, has a completely empty record of academic
publication. He has never produced a single paper published in a refereed
scholarly journal. Instead, he turns out one anti-Semitic book after
another, as well as hate screeds for propaganda magazines and web sites.
His "books" are published by firms making editorial decisions based on
commercial considerations rather than the quality of their scholarship.

Finkelstein's long history of Jew-baiting is by now well known, as is his
history of vulgarity and juvenile smear mongering. Finkelstein has
proclaimed Holocaust denier David Irving (who insists there were no gas
chambers at Auschwitz) a great historian. Finkelstein's personal web site
is a collection of bigotries, including death threats and pornographic
cartoons, as well as countless smug smears against all Holocaust
survivors. Finkelstein's "books" have been dismissed as
pseudo-scholarship by nearly every serious historian to review them. He
has used his position at DePaul University in Chicago to promote his open
celebration of Middle East terrorism. He maintains the most intimate ties
with Holocaust Deniers and he is himself considered by the Anti-Defamation
League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and many others to be a Holocaust

It would be hard to find a more illuminating lesson about the dark side of
campus hiring and promotion than the Finkelstein affair. From the
classified documents that Finkelstein himself has illicitly (and probably
illegally) published about his promotion, anyone can see the obvious
political forces at work. Finkelstein was hired in the first place
because his crude anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism endeared him to
academic radicals generally and to those who dominate the political
science department at DePaul in particular. Despite the fact that
Finkelstein's antics have served to make DePaul into something of an
international laughingstock of higher education, the political science
department recommended granting Finkelstein tenure by a vote of 9 to 3.
Were Finkelstein pro-Israel, he would not have stood a chance of getting
tenure with his existing "academic record."

The syllabi of Finkelstein's courses have appeared on the web and they
consist of nothing more than one-sided political indoctrination.
Naturally, his courses are popular among his students, who just happen to
be the radical and jihadi DePaul students, not driven away by his
in-classroom harangues. The politically conscripted tenure committee at
DePaul lauded his "teaching popularity" on such a basis. Even more
amazingly, it cited Finkelstein's frequent anti-Semitic speeches and
racist public incitements, including his famous collaborations with the
Hizbollah and with neo-Nazi organizations, as valuable "service to the

To achieve their goal, his political science comrades saw to it that only
two outside "experts" wrote letters of evaluation for Finkelstein's tenure
consideration. These two happen to share Finkelstein.s anti-Israel and
anti-Semitic agendas. The first was John Mearsheimer of the University of
Chicago, whose tract written with Stephen Walt maintaining that the
American media and America.s foreign policy is controlled by a Jewish
cabal has made him infamous. His assault on Israel and American Jews has
made him a propaganda favorite of radical Islamic groups like CAIR, and he
makes no secret either of his antipathy for Israel nor his desire to see
America weakened and "deterred."

The second academic reference for Finkelstein was provided by Professor
Ian Lustick, of the University of Pennsylvania, who has hosted Finkelstein
several times at Penn, is a far leftist, anti-America and unabashedly
anti-Israel. He earned some notoriety for his expressing regret that
America did not lose more soldiers in the campaign to topple the Taliban
in Afghanistan. Lustick likes to describe America's foreign policy as
being under the control of a "cabal" (his word); writing in the
anti-American, anti-Israel magazine, The Nation, a magazine hostile to
America and Israel and sympathetic to radical Islamicists, wrote:

"This campaign for an invasion of Iraq is thus aptly understood as a
supply-side war because it is not driven by a particular threat, a
particularly accentuated threat or a "demand" for war associated with the
struggle against Al Qaeda, but because of the combination of an enormous
supply of military power and political capital and the proximity to the
highest echelons of the American government of a small cabal long ago
committed to just this sort of war."

His deconstruction of terrorism runs like this:

"Lustick dismisses the concept of terrorism as a valid conceptual term.
Instead, he embraces what he terms an 'extensive', as opposed to an
'intensive', definition of terrorism that is not bound by any limiting
'conditions'. This, he claims, enables one to classify activities as
'terrorist' if they encompass any violent 'actions and threats' by
governmental militaries and even 'tax collectors', as well as insurgents."

Lustick was an instrumental player in getting a pro-Israel professor at
Penn, Francisco Gil-White, fired. Gil-White did not benefit from the same
mass political conscription on his behalf that Finkelstein enjoys.
Lustick is an advocate on behalf of, and evidently sees himself a member
of, the "New Historian" group of pseudo-academics who rewrite Middle East
history from the Arab point of view. He has close ties the with Michael
Lerner, editor of the radical magazine Tikkun, and is active in several
anti-Israel leftist groups.

DePaul's recruitment of Lustick and Mearsheimer to "evaluate"
Finkelstein's "scholarship" is a bit like asking Hezbollah imam, Hassan
Nasrallah, to evaluate Noam Chomsky's service to America.

But Lustick and Mearsheimer have not been the only professors to supply
academic support services on behalf of Norman Finkelstein. The moment
news came out that the Dean at DePaul was seeking to deny Finkelstein
tenure, an outpouring of support for Finkelstein's "scholarship" took
place from tenured radicals and academic jihadi. The Middle East Studies
Association (MESA) which is boycotting a scholarship program designed to
train American students in Arabic to help their country.s defense publicly
endorsed Finkelstein's tenure bid. Legions of other political extremists,
from DePaul's Palestinian radicals to Professor Peter N. Kirstein who
regards America as a terrorist state, to journalist Robert Fisk (who holds
identical views), joined in support of Finkelstein.s tenure.

In the midst of the Ward Churchill affair a couple of years back, one of
the key questions the media failed to raise was how a charlatan like
Churchill could have been hired and promoted at a major university in the
first place. After all, his "academic record" was little more than a
joke, a collection of shallow anti-American hate propaganda tracts. He
was a notorious liar, faking his Indian ethnicity, and had been involved
in academic fraud. So how on earth could a serious university have hired

These mysteries are explainable only by understanding how academic hiring
and promotion take place, and how that process may be subverted and
corrupted. This process is largely unknown to the general public and even
to students and alumni. In far too many schools, the process is easily
subordinated to political agendas. In all cases, the outward appearance of
the de jure hiring and promotion procedures work pretty much in a similar
manner. The academic records of faculty members are reviewed, evaluations
from outside experts are solicited. The publication and teaching records
of the candidate are critically examined. Campus promotion committees and
other university officials form an opinion and make recommendations.

All very nice, on paper.

The problem is that the system lends itself to easy manipulation,
especially by those operating on behalf of a political agenda. Every
stage of the faculty evaluation process can be twisted and perverted by
those seeking to hire or promote someone out of a sense of personal or
political solidarity. This subversion may be the greatest open secret in
all of academia. My guess is that in any honest survey of professors,
nearly every one could attest to knowing of such cases. The result of
this subversion of academic hiring and promotion is that hundreds, and
probably thousands, of faculty members with ludicrous and embarrassingly
insipid academic records have been hired and tenured by the university
system as acts of political and personal solidarity.

Occasionally, university insiders rebel against the attempt to impose upon
them politicized hiring decisions, sometimes with the help of outraged
alumni. The prospective hiring last year of Juan Cole by Yale University
was regarded by many as a done deal until pressures forced the university
to take a clear and unbiased look at his real academic record. At the
University of Colorado, Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano recently issued
a notice of intent to dismiss Churchill from his faculty position there,
defying the massive leftist public campaign on Churchill's behalf. Some
other less-publicized rebellions have similarly blocked attempts at
politicized hiring and promotion.

Two things are certain. Not a single one of the academics raving about
Finkelstein's remarkable "scholarship" would be supporting him if it were
not for his hatred of Israel and America -- in short his political
credentials as a member in good standing of the academic left.

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