Saturday, May 05, 2007
Dershowitz Outs Neo-Nazi Norman in the Wall Street Journal
By ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ
May 4, 2007; Page A15
In her 1951 best seller, "The Groves of Academe," Mary McCarthy
fictionalized a failed academic who, realizing he wouldn't get tenure,
became a communist so that he could claim that he was being denied tenure
because he was a Red rather than a lousy scholar.
A version of that ploy is being used today. Norman Finkelstein brags that
"never has one of [his] articles been published in a scientific magazine."
By his own account he has been fired by "every school in New York,"
including Brooklyn College, Hunter and NYU. His chairman at one of these
colleges said that Mr. Finkelstein was fired for "incompetence," "mental
instability" and "abuse" of students with politics different from his own.
His prospects seemed bleak, so when radical Islamist Aminah McCloud -- a
follower of Louis Farrakhan -- helped him land a job at DePaul, a school
that Mr. Finkelstein describes as "a third-rate Catholic university," he
His prospects did not improve when he wrote a screed against Holocaust
survivors called "The Holocaust Industry." The scholar whose work on the
Holocaust was the "stimulus" for this volume, University of Chicago
professor Peter Novick, warned that: "No facts alleged by Finkelstein
should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be
assumed to be accurate, without taking the time to carefully compare his
claims with the sources he cites. . . .[S]uch an examination reveals that
many of those assertions are pure invention." Nor was he helped when New
York Times reviewer Prof. Omer Bartov, an authority on genocide,
characterized his book as "a novel variation on the anti-Semitic forgery,
'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' . . . brimming with indifference to
historical facts, inner contradictions, strident politics . . . [I]ndecent
. . . juvenile, self-righteous, arrogant and stupid."
On the other hand, Mr. Finkelstein is supported by hard-leftists like Noam
Chomsky and Alexander Cockburn. They regard him as a scholar in a class
with Ward Churchill (the Colorado professor who called the 9/11 victims
"little Eichmanns") -- a characterization with which I would not quarrel.
Facing tenure denial, Mr. Finkelstein opted for a tactic that fit the
times. He expressed views so ad hominem, unscholarly and extreme that he
could claim the decision was being made not on the basis of his
scholarship, but rather on his politics.
Mr. Finkelstein does not do "scholarship" in any meaningful sense.
Although his writings center on Israel (which he compares to Nazi Germany)
and the Holocaust, he has never visited Israel and cannot read or speak
German -- precluding the possibility of original scholarship.
Prof. Bartov characterized his work as an irrational Jewish "conspiracy
theory." The conspirators include Steven Spielberg, NBC and Leon Uris. The
film "Schindler's List," Mr. Finkelstein argues, was designed to divert
attention from our Mideast policy. "Give me a better reason! . . . Who
profits? Basically, there are two beneficiaries from the dogmas [of
Schindler's List]: American Jews and American administration." NBC, he
says, broadcast "Holocaust" to strengthen Israel's position: "In 1978, NBC
produced the series Holocaust. Do you believe, it was a coincidence, 1978?
Just at this time, when peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt took
place in Camp David?" He argues that Leon Uris, the author of "Exodus,"
named his character "Ari" in order to promote Israel's "Nazi" ideology:
"[B]ecause Ari is the diminutive for Aryan. It is the whole admiration for
this blond haired, blue eyed type." (Ari is a traditional name dating back
to the Bible.) He has blamed Sept. 11 on the U.S., claiming that we
"deserve the problem on our hands because some things Bin Laden says are
true.") He says that most alleged Holocaust survivors -- including Elie
Wiesel -- have fabricated their past.
Like other anti-Semites, Mr. Finkelstein generalizes about "the Jews"; for
example: "Just as Israelis . . . courageously put unruly Palestinians in
their place, so American Jews courageously put unruly Blacks in their
place." He says "the main fomenters of anti-Semitism "are 'American Jewish
elites' who need to be stopped." Normally, no one would take such claims
seriously, but he boasts that he "can get away with things which nobody
else can" because his parents were Holocaust survivors.
And then, of course, there is me. In a recent article, "Should Alan
Dershowitz Target Himself for Assassination?" Mr. Finkelstein commissioned
a cartoon by a man who placed second in the Iranian Holocaust-denial
cartoon contest. The Hustler-type cartoon portrayed me as masturbating in
joy while viewing images of dead Lebanese on a TV set labeled "Israel peep
show," with a Star of David prominently featured.
Mr. Finkelstein has accused me of not having written "The Case For Israel"
but when I sent his publisher my handwritten draft, they made him remove
that claim. He has accused virtually every pro-Israel writer, including
me, of "plagiarism." I asked Harvard to conduct an investigation of this
absurd charge. Harvard rejected it, yet he persists.
The final part of Mr. Finkelstein's quest for tenure is to blame his
tenure problems on "outsiders." He claims that I intruded myself into the
DePaul review process, neglecting to mention that I was specifically asked
by the former chairman of DePaul's political science department to "point
[him] to the clearest and most egregious instances of dishonesty on
Finkelstein's part." I responded by providing hard evidence of made-up
quotes and facts -- a pattern that should alone disqualify him from
Nevertheless, Mr. Finkelstein's radical colleagues voted for tenure,
having cooked the books by seeking outside evaluations from two of his
ideological soulmates. The dean, however, recommended against tenure. Mr.
Finkelstein then used my letter to stimulate a "Solidarity with
Like the character in the "Groves of Academe," Mr. Finkelstein generated
protests by students and outsiders. He has encouraged radical goons to
email threatening messages; "Look forward to a visit from me," reads one.
"Nazis like [you] need to be confronted directly." He has threatened to
sue if he loses -- while complaining about outside interference. No
university should be afraid of truth -- regardless of its source --
especially when truth consists of Mr. Finkelstein's own words.
Whether or not he receives tenure, Mr. Finkelstein will persist in his
unscholarly, ad hominems against supporters of Israel, Holocaust survivors
and the U.S. But for the time being, the question remains: Will his
bigotry receive the imprimatur of the largest Catholic university in the
Mr. Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard, is the author, most recently,
of "Preemption: A Knife that Cuts Both Ways" (Norton, 2006).
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