Friday, April 06, 2007
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Harvard Law Professor Works to Disrupt Tenure Bid of Longtime Nemesis at
By JENNIFER HOWARD
The highly public feud between Norman G. Finkelstein of DePaul University
and Harvard Law School's Alan M. Dershowitz has taken an unusual
procedural twist, with Mr. Dershowitz attempting to weigh in on Mr.
Finkelstein's bid for tenure at DePaul.
How Mr. Dershowitz's move will play out remains to be seen. Mr.
Finkelstein's department supported his tenure bid, but the dean of his
college has refused to support him. A final decision is expected next
There's no love lost between Mr. Finkelstein, an assistant professor of
political science, and Mr. Dershowitz, a law professor. The two scholars
have attacked each other repeatedly in the past few years, hurling
accusations of plagiarism and polemicism at one another.
They've taken adversarial stances on such issues as the Israel lobby,
anti-Semitism, and what Mr. Finkelstein terms "the Holocaust industry."
Mr. Dershowitz threatened to take legal action against the University of
California Press if Mr. Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of
Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (2005) went to print with
allegations that Mr. Dershowitz plagiarized portions of his 2003 book The
Case for Israel (The Chronicle, July 22, 2005).
Last fall, with Mr. Finkelstein up for tenure, Mr. Dershowitz sent the
DePaul law school faculty and members of the political-science department
what he described, in a letter dated October 3, as a "dossier of Norman
Finkelstein's most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright
lies, misquotations, and distortions."
"I hope that this will serve as an introduction and primer to the
so-called scholarship that Finkelstein will present this term as he is
considered for tenure," Mr. Dershowitz wrote.
Mr. Finkelstein said in an interview on Monday that Mr. Dershowitz had
embarked on "this frenetic and relentless campaign to deny me tenure."
"He sent to every member of the law school ... a dossier which came, I
think, to about 50 pages, leveling or, I should say, recycling all of the
allegations he's been putting forth for the past couple of years. And he
sent a copy of that dossier to every member of my department."
The packet included what Mr. Dershowitz's letter called "some of the lies
I am absolutely confident that Finkelstein told" on such points as Israeli
torture and whether or not Mr. Dershowitz writes his own books.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday with The Chronicle, Mr. Dershowitz
confirmed that he had sent the information to "everybody who would read
it." He said he had compiled the material at the request of some two dozen
DePaul students, alumni, and faculty members who were alarmed at the
prospect of Mr. Finkelstein's receiving tenure.
Asked what he hoped to accomplish, he said, "Revealing the truth -- all
I'm doing is disclosing the truth."
Mr. Dershowitz continued, "It would be a disgrace to DePaul University if
they were to grant tenure. It would make them the laughing stock of
American universities. ... His scholarship is no more than ad hominem
attacks on his ideological enemies."
He added, "I think, by every standard, he's worse than Ward Churchill. ...
He's a propagandist, not a scholar."
Given Mr. Dershowitz's history of clashes with Mr. Finkelstein, some might
conclude that the matter had by now become more personal than
professional. Mr. Dershowitz denied that. "For me, it's not personal. It's
institutional." He said that Mr. Finkelstein sent "a message to other
pro-Israel writers: If you dare write anything scholarly in favor of
Israel, I will call you names, I will call you a plagiarist."
Mr. Dershowitz's involvement has stirred serious concern among the DePaul
Gil Gott, a professor of international studies at DePaul who is chairman
of its Liberal Arts and Sciences' Faculty Governance Council, said in an
e-mail message on Wednesday that the council had taken up the matter at
its November 17, 2006, meeting. (Mr. Gott was not then chair of the
According to the minutes of the session, the council voted unanimously to
authorize a letter to DePaul's president, Dennis H. Holtschneider, and the
university's provost, Helmut P. Epp, along with the president of Harvard
University and the dean of Harvard Law school. The letter was to express
"the council's dismay at Professor Dershowitz's interference in
Finkelstein's tenure and promotion case" and also to explain "that the
sanctity of the tenure and promotion process is violated by Professor
The minutes add: "A discussion followed in which members expressed their
views that this was a very disturbing intrusion which attacked the
sovereignty of an academic institution to govern its own affairs."
Asked whether it was unusual for a scholar to weigh in on tenure
deliberations at another university, Mr. Dershowitz responded, "What's so
unusual about a concerned academic's objecting to his receiving tenure? He
would be the first person in history ever to receive tenure based on no
scholarship other than personal attacks."
Mr. Finkelstein contacted The Chronicle last weekend to discuss his
concerns about the status of his case. He said that his department had
investigated Mr. Dershowitz's claims and "concluded that none of the
scholarly allegations that Dershowitz leveled against me had any merit."
But he added: "DePaul is in a growth mode, and they see me as an albatross
because they're getting all this negative publicity because of me. And
they want to get rid of me. And now the question is, what's going to
prevail? The principles of fairness, the principles of academic freedom,
or power and money in the form of a mailed fist?"
According to Mr. Finkelstein and to departmental reports sent to The
Chronicle, his department voted 9 to 3 in favor of granting him tenure,
with the majority voicing strong support for his scholarship and giving
him high marks for his pedagogy. One of the reports described him as "an
outstanding teacher whose contributions to student learning and
transformation are impressive." It concluded that "while not all members
of the department share a love of polemic and inflammatory rhetoric as
practiced by Norman and his adversaries, there is clearly a substantial
and serious record of scholarly production and achievement."
The College Personnel Committee subsequently voted 5 to 0 in favor of
tenure for Mr. Finkelstein. But Charles S. Suchar, dean of the College of
Liberal Arts and Sciences, shot down the recommendation in a March 22,
2007, memo, a copy of which was also obtained by The Chronicle.
In language similar to that used by Mr. Dershowitz, the dean wrote, "I
find the personal attacks in many of Dr. Finkelstein's published books to
border on character assassination and, in my opinion, they embody a
strategy clearly aimed at destroying the reputation of many who oppose his
Because the process is not yet complete, the DePaul administration has not
made a public statement about Mr. Finkelstein's case.
"No comment at this time," Mr. Suchar wrote in an e-mail message. "The
promotion and tenure review process is still under way, and final
decisions are not expected until mid- to late May." The final decision on
whether Mr. Finkelstein receives tenure rests with the provost and
president of the university.
Feud Weakens Prof's Tenure Bid
04.04.2007 | The Harvard Crimson
By KEVIN ZHOU, Crimson Staff Writer
DePaul University Assistant Professor Norman G. Finkelstein, who has been
no stranger to controversy in years past, will face difficulty gaining
tenure this summer after the dean of DePaul's College of Arts and Sciences
overrode recommendations made at the departmental and college review
Finkelstein, who is in his sixth year at DePaul, said in an interview
yesterday that Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz-perhaps his
most outspoken critic-was responsible for leading the effort to deny him
"I would call it, for about ten weeks, a relentless campaign," Finkelstein
said, adding that comments made by Dershowitz amounted to "character
assassination." "Had there been no outside pressure, I'm fully confident
that I would make it through" the tenure process, Finkelstein said.
Finkelstein alleges that Dershowitz is trying to discredit him with
baseless claims to draw attention away from strong criticisms that
Finkelstein has leveled against Dershowitz's work on the Israel-Palestine
According to Finkelstein, both the political science department and the
College Personnel Committee at DePaul voted to recommend tenure for him,
but the dean disagreed with these recommendations.
DePaul University Spokeswoman Denise Mattson said that Finkelstein's
tenure case is ongoing and will be up for final review at the University
level around June. She declined to comment further.
In an interview yesterday, Dershowitz confirmed that he had sent a letter
last September to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein's
The letter, which Dershowitz said contained "self-proving information,"
referenced dozens of alleged instances in which Finkelstein had made-up
quotations of Dershowitz, the Israeli Supreme Court, and others.
Dershowitz posted the letter on his public website.
Responding to claims that he was engaging in character assassination,
Dershowitz stated, "When I quote back his own language to him, that is, in
fact, character assassination, but he is the assassin."
Dershowitz added that he had sent the letter in response to a request by
Patrick Callahan, a former chair of the DePaul political science
department, who had asked Dershowitz to point out the "clearest and most
egregious instances of dishonesty on Finkelstein's part."
Callahan could not be reached for comment.
However, Finkelstein said yesterday that he believed the reason why
Dershowitz was actively working to deny him tenure was over his most
recent book, "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the
Abuse of History,"
"I caused real damage to his reputation," Finkelstein said. "I think that
Dershowitz is desperate to discredit me to be able to say that this
Finkelstein guy couldn't even get tenure at a third-rate Catholic
University, so how can we take him seriously?"
This new dispute between Dershowitz and Finkelstein is only the latest
chapter in a long and embittered relationship.
In "Beyond Chutzpah," Finkelstein argued that supporters of Israel
deflected criticism of the country by labeling the accusers anti-Semites.
In the original version of the book, he contended that Dershowitz did not
actually write "The Case for Israel," and that he might not have even read
it. The University of California Press eventually removed this claim from
the final version of the book.
-Staff writer Kevin Zhou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Dershowitz on the Right of Return:
3. The Pappe attacks Joos:
4. What part of "No to Saudis" don't they understand?
5. Anti-Semites at Princeton:
6. Let me guess - the leftists and Tikkunies will object that this is a
terrible human rights violation:
The gay guide to God's word
Andrew K. T. Yip
Published: 06 April 2007
Title: The Queer Bible Commentary
Editor: Deryn Guest, Robert E. Goss, Mona West and Thomas Bohache
Reviewer: Andrew K. T. Yip
Publisher: SCM Press
Reading this book, I was reminded of John Bowker's thought-provoking words
in A Year To Live: "The consequences of treating the scripture as though
history and personality made no difference to the words and content...
have been, in Christian history, horrendous. By lifting a text from its
content and treating it as a timeless truth, Christians claimed scriptural
warrant for their murder of Jews (Matthew 27:25); Ifor burning women whom
they regarded as witches (Exodus 22:18); Ijustified slavery and apartheid
(Genesis 9:25); Ifound justification for executing homosexuals (Leviticus
This volume, like the increasing corpus of transgressive theology by
feminist, black, postcolonial and liberationist scholars, attempts to undo
the harm that Bowker refers to, perpetrated and sustained by traditional
theology that for a long time was accepted as the exclusive truth about
the Bible, Christianity and humanity. Such transgressive theology argues
that theology, far from being objective and universal, is gendered,
racialised, classed and "sexualised" (privileges heterosexual experiences)
- an ideological construct infused with power. There is no denying that
the flourishing of such theology has given a voice to Christians whose
lived experiences and viewpoints were traditionally excluded.
Written from a queer standpoint, this much welcome commentary achieves its
transgressive agenda with passion and rigour. It offers illuminating
contributions from a team of internationally renowned theologians,
biblical scholars and religious practitioners covering every book/text in
In spite of the necessary engagement with technical terminology and
concepts, the contributors generally balance well academic rigour and
Contributors generally adopt two approaches: dissecting the entire text
thematically and offering reflections based on selective passages of the
text. Both approaches have their strengths and shortcomings, but there is
no denying that the contributors share the political commitment to promote
a "paradigm shift" in the reading of the Bible - one that transgresses the
imperialism of heteronormativity and patriarchy.
As Robin Hawley Gorsline declares in his commentary on 1 and 2 Peter, "Iif
we do not bring our experience to the texts that others used to oppress
us, we and they will never be free".
By queering the Bible, this volume attempts to first destigmatise
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) sexuality - particularly
male-to-male sexual acts - by casting new light on problematic passages
and emphasising the importance of socio-cultural and historical context.
For instance, passages that are used conventionally to censure male
homosexuality, such as the story about the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah (Genesis 19) and the injunctions about sexual purity (Leviticus
18:22; 20:13), are given a new interpretation. Thus, the contributors
argue that what brought about divine retribution on the two cities was not
man-to-man genital acts that could have occurred, but sexual violence and
inhospitality towards strangers, which have no bearing on same-sex love
and intimacy today.
Similarly, the Levitical injunctions are subjected to re-examination with
specific reference to the socio-cultural contexts within which such codes
were constructed, exposing significant differences in the sexual landscape
between now and then.
A similar hermeneutic approach is applied to the Apostle Paul's seemingly
anti-gay rhetoric in Romans 1. 24-32; 1 Corinthians 6.9; and 1 Timothy
1.10 and 18.32, which are often used to buttress homophobic reading of the
Old Testament. This effort of what Ronald E. Long calls in the volume's
introduction "disarming biblically based gay-bashing" is not new.
Nevertheless, given the lack of progress in this area within the religious
sphere, compared to many secular spheres, this engagement remains
What I find more satisfying is the contributors' creative attempts to
uncover queer sensibilities and subjectivities in each text. This involves
lifting the veil on hitherto silenced voices of homoeroticism and same-sex
intimacy and care (for example, the devotion between Ruth and Naomi in
Ruth; and David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel), as well as casting
queer-friendly light on passages that are on the surface not relevant to
LGBT experiences. It is hard not to be moved by the thought of an LGBT
Christian declaring with pride, confidence and honesty that, "God, you
fashioned me in my mother's womb... For I am awesomely and wondrously
(Psalms 139: 13-14).
As S. Tamar Kamionkowski reminds us in her analysis of Psalms,
appropriating verses such as these turns them into an empowering statement
of faith and ontology, underpinned by the unshakeable certainty that one's
sexuality - no matter how despised and persecuted - is not just a choice
or random genetic predisposition but divinely willed and planned.
Similarly, in her thematic analysis of Exodus, Rebecca Alpert likens the
Israelites' experience of Passover to LGBT Christians' and Jews'
celebration of liberation from oppression. Through the same lens, Christ's
washing of his disciples' feet is much more than an exemplary act of
humility. It is also a political act that transgresses the rigid gender
code of the time.
More broadly, this volume tackles the construction of gender and
sexuality, transgendered voices of the prophets, the reification of
heterosexuality, lesbian and gay ancestry within the Bible, and the use of
the Bible in contemporary political and socio-cultural spheres. A
publication such as this is heart-warming evidence that, for LGBT
Christians at least, there is burgeoning theological capital that not only
serves to destigmatise their sexualities but also to instil pride, comfort
and confidence. Such works are not only spiritually nourishing but also
transformative on the personal and socio-political levels. It reminds LGBT
Christians - and others - that far from being incompatible, spirituality
and sexuality could be harmoniously incorporated and provide a wealth of
resources for meaningful living.
Nevertheless, basing the interpretation of the Bible on a particular
standpoint - queer in this case - has its limitations. One could go too
far in using personal experience to interpret the Bible, without being
sufficiently aware of one's own personal and structural limitations and
There is also the temptation to overstate one's experience of being
oppressed and be desensitised to one's potential to oppress.
Essentialising the dichotomy of the oppressed and the oppressor and
rigidifying the boundary between them does not, in my view, accurately
present the fluid and contextual nature of power relations.
In his reading of Galatians from a queer Asian perspective, Patrick S.
Cheng cautions against racism and other forms of oppressive practices such
as imposition of white-centric values within the LGBT community at large.
I recommend this illuminating volume to academic and non-academic readers
who are interested in LGBT issues specifically, as well as gender and
sexuality in relation to Christianity, textual analysis and hermeneutical
approaches in general.
Andrew K. T. Yip is reader in sociology, Nottingham Trent University. He
is the author of Gay Male Christian Couples: Life Stories.
8, Anti-Semites at Diablo:
9. Surrendering to Saudis: