Truth, the greatest threat to the powerful
8 April 2007
by G.S. <email@example.com>
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-04-08.htm
Norman G. Finkelstein is a treasure of the academic world. His effectiveness in making known much of the truth about the Israel-Palestine conflict is so great that Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University has mounted a disgraceful one-person campaign to try to bury his voice by preventing him from gaining tenure in De Paul University, i.e. by getting him fired.
I learned of this from an email from Cherifa Sirry <firstname.lastname@example.org>, who sent me the following message from Michael Carmichael, 64 Kingston Road, Oxford OX2 6RJ, United Kingdom. After Mr. Carmichael's entire e-mail I will add a few comments. [Note added 2007-04-13. Cherifa wrote, on 2007-04-12, “By the way, Michael Carmichael didn't send me this email. A common friend did... and just as I clicked the send button, I noticed his name again at the end of the email. I thought that I'd removed reference to him..., but I thought wrong and in my haste wasn't careful enough.”]
From: Michael Carmichael [no e-mail address provided, name inferred from its appearance at the very end of the forwarded item from Cherifa Sirry, and the initials MC that appear at the end of the first e-mail (this one) and in a parenthetical comment following the third paragraph from the end, shortly before the full name and address appeared in the original]
The email below was forwarded to me by a colleague in the Oxford academic community.
Earlier this week, the global academic community was distraught to learn of the brusque and unprofessional treatment of Ilan Pappe' by his colleagues in Haifa and the disturbing anonymous threats that he is now receiving on a daily basis from citizens of Israel. Next academic year, Pappe' will migrate to the United Kingdom. Pappe's departure from Israel and his relocation to Exeter University in England is both understandable and regrettable. Israel's loss will be England's gain.
Now comes evidence of the deeply personal campaign to deny tenure to Norman Finkelstein of DePaul University - a peculiar and troubling development that is the result of direct intervention by one of his academic adversaries, Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, the lawyer who gained fame through his defense of Klaus von Bulow.
Who will be next?
From: M Machover
Date: 6 April 2007 13:55:27 BDT
To: Machover, Moshe <email@example.com>
Subject: Fwd: Norman Finkelstein denied tenure
Apologies for cross posting. A very serious issue emerged for all of us, in that Norman Finkelstein could be denied tenure at De Paul University. Apparently a decision on tenure will come down within a month-6 weeks and if he is denied tenure his livelihood would become a real problem. This is an affront to academic procedure, for Finkelstein is a meticulous researcher is a prolific writer and furthermore, his colleagues unanimously consider him an excellent teacher. See below article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that explains the case and the shameful intervention of Dershowitz. We all understand the motives behind this move, so it is very important that the mail box of the De Paul University is filled with letters of complaint from the four corners of the world, and in particular from Israeli academics. See below a letter from Miriam Reik that could serve as an example and the article from the Chronicle.
Please write in protest to the president of De Paul University and circulate this appeal to your networks.
By JENNIFER HOWARD <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., Ed.D.
I write with regard to the question of tenure for Prof Norman Finkelstein of the department of Political Science. I understand that despite approval by own department and that of the College Personnel Committee, Dean Suchar has written to oppose granting tenure, although admitting Prof Finkelstein's proficiency as a teacher and although his productivity is beyond question.
Working in a contentious area, Prof Finkelstein's methodical use of conservative and widely accepted scholarly tools has allowed him to fearlessly advance controversial theses. Dean Suchar's main objection is therefore not the soundness of Prof Finkelstein's scholarship, but his "tone," yet no academic rule forbids a vigorous polemic, especially one that, on Finkelstein's part, is careful not to exceed the facts and documentation underpinning it. I should add that, having attended a Finkelstein lecture myself, his ability to lucidly present an argument and his steady demeanor in the face of aggressive questioning are most impressive.
From the point of view of academic freedom, I cannot imagine that Prof Finkelstein's work would not have the university's support, but I would further suggest that faculty members sufficiently intrepid to study controversial areas in this manner should be considered valuable assets rather than denied tenure.
Miriam M. Reik, PhD <email@example.com>
Harvard Law Professor Works to Disrupt Tenure Bid of Longtime Nemesis at DePaul U.
By JENNIFER HOWARD <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 month.
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.
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 faculty.
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 council.)
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 Dershowitz's emails."
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 views." (Quite. MC [I believe this comment was inserted by Michael Carmichael –G. Salzman])
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.
There is a long record of institutions of so-called higher learning denying tenure, a euphemism for firing in the case of deserving faculty, done for spurious supposed reasons. In a couple of recent particularly notorious cases, anthropologist David Graeber got thrown out of Yale http://www.geocities.com/graebersolidarity/ , and the University of California at Berkeley tried unsuccessfully to dump molecular biologist Ignacio Chapela http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Salz/2004-05-02.htm . Back in the 1960's the University of Massachusetts at Boston tried to rid itself of physicists Freda Salzman and me (despite my being tenured) http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Freda/index.htm . The record of universities dedication to serving dominant political/financial interests is the subject of Upton Sinclair's 1923 book, The Goose-Step: A Study of American Education, discussed in my posting “Colleges and Universities from Coast to Coast: Who Runs Them? And for What Purpose?” at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/SfHS/1995-01-19.htm . His chapters on Harvard, in my article, are ‘must’ reading.
The intervention of Alan Dershowitz in Norman Finkelstein’s tenure review is particularly egregious because Finkelstein has shown, with meticulous care, irrefutably, that Dershowitz, in his book The Case for Israel, plagairized substantial material from Joan Peters’ book, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine. Peters’ book is well known to be a total fraud. Finkelstein, a skillful and committed scholar, has been relentless in uncovering the massively organized propagandistic misrepresentation of the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The false, pro-Israel version held almost undisputed sway from 1948 until it began to be challenged in 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon. Dershowitz used Peters’ material to help meet his own apparent psychological need to justify Israel’s actions. That he knowingly claimed the material taken from Peters’ book was his own historical research was, independently of the fraudulent nature of the material itself, surely grounds for Harvard to have revoked his tenure and fired him. Lying, as a faculty member, by claiming plagairized material to be his own academic research, is unacceptable academic conduct, tenure notwithstanding.
Dean Charles S. Suchar of De Paul University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences appears to have based his rejection of the unanimous recommendation by the College Personnel Committee in favor of Finkelstein’s tenure on his judgment: “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 views.” It is certainly true that Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky write very different kinds of polemics. However, Chomsky, like Finkelstein, exposes the shallow scholarly basis on which ‘the reputation of many who oppose his views’ are based, and in that way Chomsky acts to destroy their scholarly reputations. Among those ‘many’ are the uninformed but not malicious academics and others who honestly believe Israel is righteous. But Mr. Dershowitz is in a different category. He is not acting out of ignorance. His efforts to stifle open discussion and debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict are both legion, and undertaken with full readiness to lie. In this he acts as a lawyer, not a scholarly academic. His goal is to win ‘the case for Israel’, not to uncover the truth, and if besmirching Finkelstein and trying to destroy his livelihood and thus punishing him for not shutting up are, in Dershowitz’s belief, useful tools for his campaign, he seizes them without hesitation. In my opinion his efforts are despicable.
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