Norman Finkelstein is a 50-something itinerant academic who revels in controversy, especially with his delight in attacking Israel and Jewish establishment interests at every turn. He is Jewish himself and enjoys cover by widely advertising himself as a child of Holocaust survivors (both now deceased).
He is not lying in this regard. A long-time acquaintance of mine is related to him by marriage. According to him, his relatives don’t speak to Finkelstein because he arbitrarily defines survivors only as people who were in concentration camps. So this relative’s parents, by virtue of surviving in hiding, were “not” survivors.
He has published a number of books that take a very one-sided pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel stance. A few years ago, he published a widely cited book, The Holocaust Industry, which ferociously savaged Jewish institutions and (shall we say) “professional” survivors. Much of his work is factually on-target but is argued in a tendentious way that reduces complexities to simple moralistic terms of black & white. It’s accurate to say that he feeds on facts, presenting them in ways that inspire hatred or contempt (rather than understanding) toward Jews and Israel.
Back in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, I wrote a review of one of Finkelstein’s books for ISRAEL HORIZONS. I compared his work with that of a Mapamnik (Mapam being the socialist-Zionist party that later merged with the Civic Rights Movement, RATZ, to form Meretz); the books were quite similar factually in ways that were not complimentary to Israel, but the tone and context were hugely different. The Mapamnik wrote to instill understanding and to foster a new approach toward peace making; Finkelstein wrote only to condemn and to excoriate.
Despite my dislike for Finkelstein’s views and my doubt that he engages in true scholarship – as opposed to politically-charged argumentation – I see DePaul’s decision on his tenure as its decision. Outside attempts to argue against his tenure are doomed to failure even if they succeed, because they would make him a victim of the all-powerful “Israel Lobby.” Obviously, people have the right to make their views known, but the cause of academic freedom is served neither by his obtaining tenure (because he’s dedicated to polemics rather than disinterested scholarship) nor by his rejection (because he becomes a “martyr” that extremists will rally around).
Efforts by Dershowitz against Finkelstein have been particularly obnoxious and counter-productive; I am advised by a colleague that Dershowitz was asked by an authority at DePaul to make his case, but this doesn’t negate his reported effort to get the University of California Press to cancel the publication of a book by the Fink via an appeal to Governor Schwartzenegger. Dershowitz has a personal animus against Finkelstein – quite understandably – because the Fink has written his book, Beyond Chutzpah, and otherwise engaged in a very public and caustic campaign against the Dersh’s views. Dersh is responding in kind, but this doesn’t make him any better in doing so. This resembles an undignified food fight. – R. Seliger
Dershowitz contacted U California Press regarding a claim in the original version of Finkelstein’s book, since removed, asserting that Dershowitz had plagiarized The Case For Israel.
Dershowitz threatened to sue if the offending passage was included in the published version of the book. Dershowitz provided his handwritten original version of the book.
U California properly removed the offensive claim. I find no fault in Dershowitz on this matter.
Your analysis is spot-on here.
“””Much of his work is factually on-target””””
Some of Finkelstein’s statements about the Holocaust are lies. Alan Dershowitz has pointed at least two examples:
10. “I am not exaggerating when I say that one out of three Jews you stop in the street in New York will claim to be a survivor.”
(Sunday Times of London, June 11, 2000)
“Finkelstein says…that most ‘survivors’ are bogus.”
(Guardian, Wednesday July 12, 2000)
“”””It’s accurate to say that he feeds on facts,”””
No, it is inaccurate. Finkelstein also feeds on lies, as shown above.
“”””I see DePaul’s decision on his tenure as its decision.”””
It is DePaul’s decision, and it is our decision about whether to complain about it loudly and to whoever will listen, and for the next twenty years if Finkelstein gets tenure.
“””Outside attempts to argue against his tenure are doomed to failure even if they succeed, because they would make him a victim of the all-powerful “Israel Lobby.””””
Not necessarily so at all. His credibility will be reduced once he is no longer a professor at DePaul. His false statements about the Holocaust (see above) will have less credibility.
If denying him tenure further deludes his supporters into believing in an all-powerful Israel lobby against which they cannot win, then so much the better.
I am all in favor of those head cases believing that we are all powerful.
Criticizing Finkelstein is a win-win situation. I have seen no negative fallout from such criticism whatever.
“””Obviously, people have the right to make their views known, but the cause of academic freedom is served neither by his obtaining tenure (because he’s dedicated to polemics rather than disinterested scholarship) nor by his rejection (because he becomes a “martyr” that extremists will rally around).”””
Actually, academic freedom is unrelated to either of those two outcomes. There is no academic freedom issue here. Finkelstein has made false statements about the Holocaust, and nothing about academic freedom prevents some of us from criticizing him for it.
“””Efforts by Dershowitz against Finkelstein have been particularly obnoxious and counter-productive;”””
How so? If Finkelstein is denied tenure at DePaul, a desirable outcome, then Dershowitz’s efforts were not counterproductive at all. On the contrary, they were much needed in order to avert a tragedy that would have lasted for the rest of Finkelstein’s career at DePaul.
“””I am advised by a colleague that Dershowitz was asked by an authority at DePaul to make his case,”””
The former Poli Sci department head at DePaul asked Dershowitz to provide the most egregious examples of poor scholarship by Finkelstein.
“””but this doesn’t negate his reported effort”””
Falsely reported effort.
“””to get the University of California Press to cancel the publication of a book by the Fink via an appeal to Governor Schwartzenegger.”””
He appealed for the book’s publisher to remove libelous material about Dershowitz, and the publisher complied. No harm, no foul.
“””Dershowitz has a personal animus against Finkelstein”””
Irrelevant. At least two of Finkelstein’s statements about the Holocaust are false and defamatory towards Jews and towards Holocaust survivors as a group. It would be expected that anyone who is aware of the above two statements would feel animus towards Finkelstein.
“””Dersh is responding in kind, but this doesn’t make him any better in doing so.”””
Better than what? Dersh’s criticism appears effective in its goal of embarrassing DePaul into arriving at the correct decision about tenure for Finkelstein.
“””This resembles an undignified food fight.”””
No, it is more important than that. Once Finkelstein has tenure his two false statements about the Holocaust will gain credence.
If Jonathan Samuels is correct in these details, I’ve been too easy on Finkelstein and unfair to Dershowitz.
Their feud resembles a food fight, but I could well be mistaken.
As an “academic” I find it very troublesome that people bring political issues into academic decision making. However, this is the real world and political issues abound in academia. It is amazing to me that there are still so many defensive Jews out there who take all negatives about our behavior and Israel’s policies as anti-semitism. However, when they want to criticize removal of Gaza “settlers” or similar things they are still “pro” Israel. Unfortunately, we Jews and Israel are far from above reproach. If Finkelstein has some deep seated desire for us to be angels that’s his problem. My students question me at every turn.
I thought you promised us to blog less.
This would have been a good example of a case in which not blogging about something you didn’t know the details of would have been better.
I don’t know who Jonathan Samuel is, but it sounds like he should be getting a share of Dersh’s book royalties. Good source to rely on.
I thought you proposed to focusing energies on Hamas and Likud rather than Carter, Nusseibeh and Finkelstein.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Irrespective of your disagreements with Finkelstein, I was shocked to see you, with neither preparation nor judtification, refer to him in at least two places as “the Fink.” Surely I don’t have to tell you the implications of that term — nor can you compare it with your reference to Dershowitz as “Dersh.”
This comment is from Martha [who asked me to delete her last name]:
I am deeply troubled by the attacks on Finkelstein that seem petty and off the mark. If his criticisms are harsh, deal with them on the merits. Outsiders have no business intervening in questions of tenure, and the argument (by a commenter) that his views will be supported if he is tenured for his research—his tenuring seems to have been unanimously supported by his peers and external reviewers—is specious and foolish. Dershowitz engaged in some very low behavior here, and an effort to deny a qualified academic his job is far from a’ food fight.’ If we cannot accept and evaluate criticism from within our community, how strong are we, anyway? I suggest you do some further research.
Sorry Henry. I couldn’t resist having fun at the expense of Finkelstein’s dignity by twice referring to him as “the Fink.” But his work is often, perhaps usually, at the expense of the dignity of Holocaust survivors and other Jews; in fact, I’d say he demonizes them.
Anyone who thinks Allan Dershowitz is an honest unbiased person, or even scholarly, should read all his works and law cases how he makes millions of dollars by defending murderers and rapists, such as Claus von Bulow and O.J. Simpson. His clients are all very wealthy and he makes a fortune off of them. In my opinion, it is Deshowitz who is an incredibly unethical human being.
Seliger, et.al take Finkelstein’s comments out of context. Support from him, for example by one of the foremost Holocaust scholars Raul Hilberg, are ignored.
Finkelstein’s arguments stands on very solid ground and Seliger’s personal attack, by calling him “Fink” proves one of Finkelstein’s arguments perfectly. You cannot critique the Jewish establishment without getting personally attacked and called names.
If you want to crtitique Finkelstein, it would behoove your readers to do so from an intellectual and scholarly fashion that equals Finkelstein’s intellect. You may not like Finkelstein’s style but who could blame him when he is so angered by so many innocent Palestinians and Israelies being killed daily by the occupation.
I’m send an excellent interview about Finkelstein, by Raul Hilberg and Oxford scholar Avi Shlaim which was conducted by the wonderful Amy Goodman on one of the few news programs that we have left in the U.S., “Democracy Now.”
“Raul Hilberg, considered the founder of Holocaust studies, and Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford University and an expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Shlaim calls Finkelstein a “very impressive, learned and careful scholar”, while Hilberg praises Finkelstein’s “acuity of vision and analytical power.” Hilberg says: ‘It takes an enormous amount of courage to speak the truth when no one else is out there to support him.'”
The rest of the interview can be read at
The article below:
“It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage to Speak the Truth When No One Else is Out There” — World-Renowned Holocaust, Israel Scholars Defend DePaul Professor Norman Finkelstein as He Fights for Tenure
Wednesday, May 9th, 2007
The battle over political science professor Norman Finkelstein to receive tenure at DePaul University is heating up. Finkelstein has taught at DePaul for the past six years. Finkelstein’s two main topics of focus over his career have been the Holocaust and Israeli policy. We speak to two world-renowned scholars in these fields: Raul Hilberg, considered the founder of Holocaust studies, and Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford University and an expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Shlaim calls Finkelstein a “very impressive, learned and careful scholar”, while Hilberg praises Finkelstein’s “acuity of vision and analytical power.” Hilberg says: “It takes an enormous amount of courage to speak the truth when no one else is out there to support him.”
The battle over political science professor Norman Finkelstein to receive tenure at DePaul University is heating up. Finkelstein – one of the country’s foremost critics of Israeli policy – has taught at DePaul for the past six years. His tenure has been overwhelmingly approved at the departmental and college level, but the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has opposed it.
A final decision is expected to be made in the coming weeks. Finkelstein has accused Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz of being responsible for leading the effort to deny him tenure. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Dershowitz admitted that he had sent a letter to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein’s tenure. Then last week the Wall Street Journal published an article by Dershowitz titled “Finkelstein’s Bigotry.” In it, Dershowitz accuses Finkelstein of being an “anti-Semite” and says that he “does not do ‘scholarship’ in any meaningful sense.”
Finkelstein’s two main topics of focus over his career have been the Holocaust and Israeli policy. Today we are joined by two world-renowned scholars in these fields:
Raul Hilberg. One of the best-known and most distinguished of Holocaust historians. He is author of the seminal three-volume work “The Destruction of the European Jews” and is considered the founder of Holocaust studies. He joins us on the line from his home in Vermont.
Avi Shlaim. Professor of international relations at Oxford University. He is the author of numerous books, most notably “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.” He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
AMY GOODMAN: The battle over political science professor Norman Finkelstein to receive tenure at DePaul University in Chicago is heating up. Finkelstein is one of the country’s foremost critics of Israeli policy. He has taught at DePaul for the past six years. His tenure has been overwhelmingly approved at the departmental and college level. A college-wide faculty panel voted 5-0 to back his ten-year bid, but the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has opposed it. A final decision is expected in the next few weeks.
Professor Finkelstein has accused Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz of being responsible for leading the effort to deny him tenure. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Dershowitz admitted he had sent a letter to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein’s tenure. Then, last week the Wall Street Journal published an article by Dershowitz titled “Finkelstein’s Bigotry.” In it, Dershowitz accuses Finkelstein of being an anti-Semite and says he “does not do scholarship in any meaningful sense.” Professor Finkelstein’s two main topics of focus over his career have been the Holocaust and Israeli policy.
Today, we’re joined by two world-renowned scholars in these fields. Raul Hilberg is one of the best known and most distinguished of Holocaust historians. He is author of the seminal three-volume work, The Destruction of the European Jews. He’s considered the founder of Holocaust studies. He joins us from his home in Vermont. Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at Oxford University in Britain. He is the author of numerous books, most notably The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. He’s widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
We’ll begin in Vermont with Professor Hilberg. Can you talk about Professor Finkelstein’s contribution to Holocaust studies with his book, The Holocaust Industry?
RAUL HILBERG: Yes. I read this book, which was published about seven years ago, even as I, myself, was researching actions brought against Swiss companies, notably banks, but also other enterprises in insurance and in manufacturing. And the gist of all of these claims, all of these actions, was that somehow the Swiss banks, in particular, and other enterprises, as well, owed money to Jews or the survivors or the living descendants of people who were victims. The actions were brought by claims lawyers, by the World Jewish Congress, which joined them, and a blitz was launched in the newspapers. Congressmen and senators were mobilized, officials of regulatory agencies in New York and elsewhere. Threats were issued in the nature of withdrawal of pension funds, of boycotts, of bad publicity.
And I was struck by the fact, even as I, myself, was researching the same territory that Professor Finkelstein was covering, that the Swiss did not owe that money, that the $1,250,000,000 that were agreed as a settlement to be paid to the claimants was something that in very plain language was extorted from the Swiss. I had, in fact, relied upon the same sources that Professor Finkelstein used, perhaps in addition some Swiss items. I was in Switzerland at the height of the crisis, and I heard from so-called forensic accountants about how totally surprised the Swiss were by this outburst. There is no other word for it.
Now, Finkelstein was the first to publish what was happening in his book The Holocaust Industry. And when I was asked to endorse the book, I did so with specific reference to these claims. I felt that within the Jewish community over the centuries, nothing like it had ever happened. And even though these days a couple of billion dollars are sometimes referred to as an accounting error and not worthy of discussion, there is a psychological dimension here which not must be underestimated.
I was also struck by the fact that Finkelstein was being attacked over and over. And granted, his style is a little different from mine, but I was saying the same thing, and I had published my results in that three-volume work, published in 2003 by Yale University Press, and I did not hear from anybody a critical word about what I said, even though it was the same substantive conclusion that Finkelstein had offered. So that’s the gist of the matter right then and there.
AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think, Professor Hilberg, he was criticized and you were not?
RAUL HILBERG: Well, Finkelstein — I believe Finkelstein was criticized mainly for the style that he employed. And he was vulnerable. And it was clear to me already years ago that some campaigns were launched — from what sector, I didn’t know — to remove him from the academic world. Years ago, I got a phone call from someone who was in charge of a survivors’ group in California who told me that Finkelstein had been ousted from a job in New York City at a university — actually, a college there — and this was done under pressure.
And then, again, I gave a lecture a year and a half ago in Chicago, which is the place where Finkelstein had been employed at DePaul University, and my lecture was about Auschwitz, and it was based on the records, which we’ve now recovered from Moscow, about the history of this camp. Not exactly a simple topic. But there was a question period, and I awaited pertinent questions, when someone rose from his chair and asked, “Should Finkelstein be tenured?” Now, for heaven’s sake, I said to myself, what is going on here?
And whether he’s being intimidated, whether he is in a situation where, whatever else may be happening, the employers are being intimidated, it’s hard for me to say, but there is very clearly a campaign, which was made very obvious in the Wall Street Journal, when Professor Dershowitz wrote in a style which is highly uncharacteristic of the editorial page of this newspaper, which incidentally I read religiously. So I, myself, cannot fully explain this outburst, but it clearly emanates from the same anger, from the same revolt, that prompted the whole action against the Swiss to begin with.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Professor Avi Shlaim into this discussion, a professor of international relations at Oxford University, has written numerous books, including The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. Can you talk about the significance of Professor Finkelstein’s work?
AVI SHLAIM: Yes. I think very highly of Professor Finkelstein. I regard him as a very able, very erudite and original scholar who has made an important contribution to the study of Zionism, to the study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in particular, to the study of American attitudes towards Israel and towards the Middle East.
Professor Finkelstein specializes in exposing spurious scholarship on the Arab-Israeli conflict. And he has a very impressive track record in this respect. He was a very promising graduate student in history at Princeton, when a book by Joan Peters appeared, called From Time Immemorial, and he wrote the most savage exposition in critique of this book. It was a systematic demolition of this book. The book argued, incidentally, that Palestine was a land without a people for people without a land. And Professor Finkelstein exposed it as a hoax, and he showed how dishonest the scholarship or spurious scholarship was in the entire book. And he paid the price for his courage, and he has been a marked man, in a sense, in America ever since. His most recent book is Beyond Chutzpah, follows in the same vein of criticizing and exposing biases and distortions and falsifications in what Americans write about Israel and about the Middle East. So I consider him to be a very impressive and a very learned and careful scholar.
I would like to make one last point, which is that his style is very polemical, and I don’t particularly enjoy the strident polemical style that he employs. On the other hand, what really matters in the final analysis is the content, and the content of his books, in my judgment, is of very high quality.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Shlaim, what about the whole issue of when you criticize the Israeli government, being charged with anti-Semitism? What is your response to this? You were born in Iraq. You’re also an Israeli citizen and then moved to Britain?
AVI SHLAIM: I am. I was born in Baghdad. I grew up in Israel. I served in IDF. And for the last forty years, I have lived in Britain, and I teach at Oxford. My academic discipline is international relations, and I am a specialist in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
And I think that there is no — that we must be very careful to separate questions of anti-Semitism from critique of Israel. I am critical of Israel as a scholar, and anti-Semitism just doesn’t come into it. My view is that the blind supporters of Israel — and there are many of them in America, in particular — use the charge of anti-Semitism to try and silence legitimate criticism of Israeli practices. I regard this as moral blackmail. Israel has no immunity to criticism, moral immunity to criticism, because of the Holocaust. Israel is a sovereign nation-state, and it should be judged by the same standards as any other state. And Norman Finkelstein is a very serious critic and a very well-informed critic and hard-hitting critic of Israeli practices in the occupation and dispossession of the Palestinians.
His last book, Beyond Chutzpah, is based on an amazing amount of research. He seems to have read everything. He has gone through the reports of Israeli groups, of human rights groups, Human Rights Watch and Peace Now and B’Tselem, all of the reports of Amnesty International. And he deploys all this evidence from Israeli and other sources in order to sustain his critique of Israeli practices, Israeli violations of human rights of the Palestinians, Israeli house demolitions, the targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants, the cutting down of trees, the building of the wall — the security barrier on the West Bank, which is illegal — the restrictions imposed on the Palestinians in the West Bank, and so on and so forth. I find his critique extremely detailed, well-documented and accurate.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Hilberg, like you, Norman Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust victims, his mother and his father both in concentration camps. Your final thoughts on this whole dispute and whether Norman Finkelstein should get tenure at DePaul University in Chicago?
RAUL HILBERG: Well, let me say at the outset, I would not, unasked, offer advice to the university in which he now serves. Having been in a university for thirty-five years myself and engaged in its politics, I know that outside interferences are most unwelcome. I will say, however, that I am impressed by the analytical abilities of Finkelstein. He is, when all is said and done, a highly trained political scientist who was given a PhD degree by a highly prestigious university. This should not be overlooked. Granted, this, by itself, may not establish him as a scholar.
However, leaving aside the question of style — and here, I agree that it’s not my style either — the substance of the matter is most important here, particularly because Finkelstein, when he published this book, was alone. It takes an enormous amount of academic courage to speak the truth when no one else is out there to support him. And so, I think that given this acuity of vision and analytical power, demonstrating that the Swiss banks did not owe the money, that even though survivors were beneficiaries of the funds that were distributed, they came, when all is said and done, from places that were not obligated to pay that money. That takes a great amount of courage in and of itself. So I would say that his place in the whole history of writing history is assured, and that those who in the end are proven right triumph, and he will be among those who will have triumphed, albeit, it so seems, at great cost.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Professor Raul Hilberg and Professor Avi Shlaim, I want to thank you both very much for being with us. Raul Hilberg, speaking to us from his home in Vermont, one of the best-known and most distinguished of Holocaust historians, his three-volume work is The Destruction of the European Jews. Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University in Britain, his book, his latest, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. Thank you very much for joining us.
ps: I found the comment by Ralph Seliger that he “couldn’t resist having fun,” by refering to Finkelstein as “fink” very unprofessional, unscholarly and stooping to a low level- which is exactly what Deshowitz does.
It seems the wounds of the holocaust are from from healed. And that is one of Finkelstein’s main points. There can’t be debate on Israel and Jewish institutions when people continue to be emotionally invested in seeing themselves as victims and refuse to do some deep reflection on their own behavior, eg. the Israeli government and the occupation.
If Ms. Browar thinks I am a big fan of Dershowitz, she didn’t read my blog carefully enough. I’ve already apologized to Henry Foner for referring to Finkelstein as I did, but I suspect that it’s more pleasant to have a disagreement with me than with Finkelstein.
I found Naomi Browar’s posting of the “Democracy Now” segment enlightening in a couple of ways: First, you get two views that are exactly the same on Finkelstein; apparently Amy Goodman didn’t even try to get an anti-Finkelstein perspective. Second, both scholars acknowledge Finkelstein’s abrasive and polemical style. They wouldn’t agree with me on this, but I think this colors and degrades the value of his scholarship because he can’t approach material as a fair-minded researcher.
In the late 90s I used to think Meretz provided some kind of positive vision. But as I see more, and read, for example, the type of things that you write, I am losing that hope that Meretz provides any kind of tolerant vision, willingness to re-examine traditional views or to acknowledge historical wrongs. Slightly to the left of Likud is just not gonna get us anywhere.
So my question for you is, in order to help us better understand Meretz, where do you find yourself within Meretz? On the right, the center or the left?
Dear Mr. Seliger:
Thank you for response.
In response to your response:
1. I did read your response thoroughly regarding Dershowitz, and you wrote:
“Dershowitz has a personal animus against Finkelstein – quite understandably – because the Fink has written his book, Beyond Chutzpah, and otherwise engaged in a very public and caustic campaign against the Dersh’s views.”
The caustic debate is fueled by Dershowitz who attacks Finklestein personally and doesn’t address the issues. I have seen this time and time again with Deshowitz. The last time was a debate beyween him and Chomsky. Dershowitz again attacked the person and not the issues. Dershowitz is very clever at manuevers that derail and manipulate the public off the REAL issues.
As he is doing now by trying to silence Finkelstein.
2.Re: Amy Goodman. You obviously have not listened to her program. Usually she asks the opposing side to also appear on the prgram.
Frankly speaking who could blame if she did not this time. The media is so enslaved to making their profits that they never produce anything of substance. One has to turn to foreign news to get anything of substance.
If one wants to hear about how rotten or backwards, or how we’re taming the savage beasts by bringing them democracy, all you have to do is listen and read all the media outlets.
Thank god for Goodman. Sy Hersh is a regular on her show as well as other intellectuals that can’t narrow a topic down to a three minute blurb.
2. One must ask though about political correctness. Does one have to bring on a member of the Ku Klux Klan when mentioning Martin Luther King?
The debate between Finkelstein and Dershowitz is similar to the debate between the arrogant orientalist Bernard Lewis(who is an adviser to the Bush adminstration under the guise of being a Near Eastern machar) and Edward Said.
The argument then was the Israeli occupation. Period.
The argument now is the Israeli occupation. Period.
On another level, one doesn’t have to be a scholar to see that the entire fabric of Israeli society continues to deteriorate the more they become like the United States (because they are pawns of the United States) and move further and further away from a socialist perspective.
As Finkelstein has said, this is not a complex issue.
Again, you attack Finkelstein because of his style and this gets people talking about the messenger instead of the message. Whether you mean to or not, this is a strategy used when the message is too painful.
What Finkelstein book did you review for Israel Horizons,and can you make the review available?
btw, have you read Finkelstein’s recent piece about the Dennis Ross book?
Speaking of Israel Horizons, though, perhaps you should note that a review of Derhowitz’s book The Case for Israel appeared in Israel Horizons Winter 2005, stating that:
“For the most part, Dershowitz presents
highly persuasive arguments that are factually sound”
Will Israel Horizons be reviewing Beyond Chutzpah? It would be interesting to compare the reviews.
Regarding Finkelstein and Dershowitz, what I find remarkable about the whole controversy is that for all of Dershowitz’s writings about Finkelstein, he doesn’t actually address Finkelstein’s arguments. For example, in Finkelstein’s Image and Reality, he has a very interesting chapter about the February 1971 Jarring negoations and the leadup to the 1973 war. But yet in the chapter on the 1973 war in The Case for Israel, Dershowitz has nothing to say about this, in a book in which he is supposedly responding to so-called critics of Israel. etc.
Also regarding the Dershowitz and Finkelstein,
under “tenure files” you can find Dershowitz’s file of accusations against Finkelstein and the political science department’s investigation of the charges and their conclusions.
Dershowitz clearly has his flaws, but it’s interesting that Ms. Browar brings up his debate last year with Chomsky. Dersh uncharacteristically reached out to Chomsky by pointing out that their views are not really dissimilar; both support a two-state solution based on a massive Israeli withdrawal from the territories. Chomsky rather ungraciously refused to acknowledge Dersh’s point and their mutual animosity took over.
Similarly, there’s a wide overlap between Finkelestin’s views and my own, between left-Zionist views and what he sees as true. I agree with
Ms. Browar that F’s “style… gets people talking about the messenger instead of the message. … [and that] this is a strategy used when the message is too painful.” This is also what makes him ineffective.
The message is “painful” but if I wanted to avoid it, I’d steer clear of the issue. And I wouldn’t take views that position me to be attacked by both the right and the left.
I had mentioned my review article of over 15 years ago when I noted how factually similar one book was that I liked, as opposed to Finkelstein’s that I deplored. There’s nothing “simple” in the facts; both sides have made mistakes and both sides have committed wrongs, even crimes. If Browar, Finkelstein and others can’t find common ground with left-Zionists like myself to struggle for peace and the legitimate rights of Palestinians (as well as for Jews) they are not helping anybody.
I’ve addressed Gil Kulick’s questions privately. I’m sorry that I can’t please Zack, but he’s on to something. I don’t personally define Meretz in Israel nor Meretz USA here, and I try to provide a sampling of views. There is some overlap in Meretz with the left of Labor and I tend toward the center or more moderate end of the Meretz spectrum.
In general, Meretz women tend to be more rhetorically “left” than most of the men. Perhaps Susie Becher, Naomi Chazan, Yael Dayan or MK Zehava Gal-On would be more to Zack’s taste, but I doubt it — since we’re all Zionists. Zack would be more civil if he refrained from such insults as “Slightly to the left of Likud is just not gonna get us anywhere.”
Much of his [Finkelstein’s] work is factually on-target but is argued in a tendentious way that reduces complexities to simple moralistic terms of black & white. It’s accurate to say that he feeds on facts, presenting them in ways that inspire hatred or contempt (rather than understanding) toward Jews and Israel.
Dear Mr. Seliger,
I find this statement rather curious. Could you give a specific example of how Mr. Finkelstein’s use of on-target facts unjustly inspires hatred or contempt for Jews or Israel?
“Dersh uncharacteristically reached out to Chomsky by pointing out that their views are not really dissimilar; both support a two-state solution based on a massive Israeli withdrawal from the territories. Chomsky rather ungraciously refused to acknowledge Dersh’s point and their mutual animosity took over.”
Dershowitz may claim he is for an end to the occupation, but I doubt that many people regardless of their beliefs about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict take his statement seriously. It is just a rhetorical ploy.
“Similarly, there’s a wide overlap between Finkelstein’s views and my own, between left-Zionist views and what he sees as true.”
I wonder why you have spent so much time and effort criticizing Finkelstein when there “is a wide overlap” in your views.
Mr. Finkelstein is one of the few passionate and knowledgeable American voices against the Israeli occupation and human rights abuses. My feeling is that those that are truly opposed to the occupation would not act in a manner that would help silence his voice.
You write: “I’ve addressed Gil Kulick’s questions privately”
There was no other Kulick on the comments, and since my first name is not Gil, and I have not heard anything from you privately, I don’t understand what you are referring to. Besides, I don’t think there was anything in what I asked that required a private response instead of a public one.
I responded in error to Gil Kulick, whom I know as a leading activist for Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. This is how I responded to him (“privately”) when meaning to answer Seth Kulick:
I don’t recall which book by Finkelstein I reviewed, but it was either in the late ’80s or around ’90 or ’91. Since my paper files are chaotic, I haven’t yet found the issue with my review. I don’t recall if I’ve read Finkelstein’s review on Ross, but I’ll look it up. Ross is not beyond reproach, but I’m inclined to regard him as a much more credible source than Finkelstein — especially since Ross was present at many or most Mideast diplomatic events of the last two decades.
“Beyond Chutzpah” is two years old now. I hadn’t thought about reviewing it. I agree that Dersh is not the well-informed authority he claims to be and he’s an apologist for Israeli excesses, no doubt. Curiously, he’s also a dove in where he winds up, advocating a two-state solution with Israel’s withdrawal from most of the territories.
Finkelstein’s flaw is that he’s a total advocate — to the point of (also) being an apologist — for the Palestinians. Since the Palestinians are clearly suffering more from Israel than the other way around, this plays well to left-wing sympathies — but it’s not in the service of proper scholarship or a two-state solution.
To Ira Glunts:
There are many “passionate and knowledgeable American voices against the Israeli occupation and human rights abuses” — including those of this blog and of Meretz USA. But it’s not adequate to simply speak out against Israeli abuses and wrongdoing; we must also oppose the violent and intolerant habits and practices of Palestinian factions — especially those of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades — which have victimized innocents and undermined the Israeli peace camp repeatedly with their attacks.
A Zionist evaluation of the Fink:
To the last anonymous person who submitted what they called a “zionist” analysis of Finkelstein that is posted on Arutz Sheva…nothing more needs to be said…Arutz Sheva speaks for itself, fundamentalist, racist and anti intellectual.
In the end I think one could look at Finkelstein’s not getting tenure in a positive way. Universities have become more and more corrupt in their big business practice and ties to the defense and pharmaceutical industries. When Bernard Lewis (his position at Princeton helped along by the Turkish government) beckons to the call of Rumsfeld we know that there is something amiss in academia.
I hope Finkelstein continues his excellent argumentative and passionate defense of Palestinians and Holocaust victims who have yet to receive their recompense.