Monthly Archives: June 2007

Finkelstein denied tenure

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Norman Finkelstein, the DePaul University faculty member whose case attracted attention beyond the academic world, has been denied tenure.

At DePaul, as elsewhere, tenure decisions are not announced publicly, but as news of Finkelstein’s fate spread across the academic gossip network late Friday, DePaul’s president issued a statement confirming denial of tenure and explaining the university’s position on the combative political scientist.

“Over the past several months, there has been considerable outside interest and public debate concerning this decision,” Rev. Dennis Holtschneider said. “This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case.”

Hailed by some for his outspoken views on Israel and Jewish issues, he has been decried by others as fomenting anti-Semitism. Supporters and opponents of Finkelstein, 53, have circulated petitions about the assistant professor, a frequent and fiery speaker on campuses across the nation.

Among his supporters are Raul Hilberg, the dean of Holocaust historians formerly at the University of Vermont, and celebrated linguist Noam Chomsky. Among those challenging the legitimacy of Finkelstein’s scholarship is Harvard professor of law Alan Dershowitz.

Finkelstein is noted — some would say, notorious — for the heated rhetoric of his books and public appearances. He has called leaders of American-Jewish organizations “Holocaust mongers.” In his book “The Holocaust Industry,” he portrayed legal efforts to get compensation for World War II slave laborers as an extortion.

His students, though, have given him high marks, saying he has encouraged debate on touchy issues such as the continuing struggles between Israel and the Palestinians.

Before coming to DePaul, Finkelstein taught at several New York universities but was not granted tenure. At DePaul, his application for tenure was supported by the political science department but opposed by Dean Chuck Suchar of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who said he found Finkelstein’s attack-style scholarship inconsistent with the university’s commitment to respect for the views of all.

Finkelstein could not be reached for comment; Hilberg saw DePaul’s decision as disquieting.

“I have a sinking feeling about the damage this will do to academic freedom,” Hilberg said.

Dershowitz applauded the outcome of the long and bitter case. “I think it was the right decision,” he said. “DePaul is a better university for making it.”

Holtschneider recognized that the school would be criticized — as it would have, had the decision gone the other way.

“Some will consider this decision in the context of academic freedom,” he said. “In fact, academic freedom is alive and well at DePaul.”

For the full range of articles and other materials about the decision, go to Finkelstein’s site.

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Comments back on

Hey friends. Thanks for bearing with me on this cooling off period. Some folks wonder why we don’t automatically remove all comments that are bigoted. It’s a good question. Certainly many, many bigoted comments have gone through since the blog’s inception. (As people have repeatedly told me, “Muzzlewatch comments are nothing, you should read Haaretz comments”…and I have.) Continue reading

UC Irvine: free speech or hate speech?

Copley News Service reported:

A guest speaker at the University of California Irvine this year denounced compromise solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and declared that “the Palestinians must have their will crushed.”

A group of protesters then disrupted the speech and marched outside, where one young man said to rousing cheers that “it’s just a matter of time before the state of Israel will be wiped off the face of the Earth.”

There seems to be a real battle going on among a relatively small, but vocal number of UC Irvine students. The involvement of outside organizations, coverage by national media outlets like Fox News, and the use of YouTube and blogs, has, suggests campus administrators, stirred up more intensity on the campus.

A recent statement by the campus paper editorial board about a planned third investigation into anti-Semitism on the campus (by Hillel) argued:

But when one considers the entirety of the evidence that can be brought against UCI, the inescapable conclusion is that anti-Semitic students are a tiny minority who give a bad name to the 25,000 others here.

Exaggerating the extent of anti-Semitism at UCI does harm unfairly to our school’s reputation and sends the misleading message that anti-Semites are welcome here.

The few virulently anti-Jewish students at UCI – some of whom have no reservations about loudly spreading their hateful rhetoric – are met with indifference (at best) by the vast majority of students, who are more interested in getting to class than they are in engaging with bigots.

Meanwhile, disturbing videos circulating the net featuring anti-Semitic hate speech, specifically against Jewish supporters of Israel, have caused great concern in parts of the area Jewish community.

In Harsh speech called free speech at UC Irvine

Facing a polite but skeptical Jewish audience, UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake walked a tightrope Wednesday as he tried to explain that campus events seen by some as anti-Semitic are actually expressions of constitutionally protected free speech.

Drake met with more than 600 members of the county’s Jewish community who expressed concern about what they perceived as anti-Semitic activity on campus, much of it involving Muslim students. The town hall meeting — organized by the Jewish Federation of Orange County, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee — was held at the Shir Ha Ma’alot synagogue in Irvine.

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Campaign to stop mosque in Boston: The Islamic Society of Boston drops defamation lawsuit against opponents of mosque, construction to proceed

Interfaith relations are finally looking up in Boston after the announcement of a temporary cease in hostilities between the Islamic Society of Boston and the city of Boston, and groups and individuals that have sought to stop them from building a mosque.

Boston-area Jewish and Muslim leaders sighed in relief yesterday at the resolution of a lengthy legal dispute over the planned construction of a mosque in Roxbury, saying the development cleared the way for renewed local dialogue between adherents of the two faiths.

It’s been almost 5 years since Boston mayor Thomas Menino and Massachusetts Congressman Michael Capuano attended the groundbreaking for what was slated to become the largest Islamic Cultural Center in New England. On that day, Mayor Menino hopefully announced:

Boston is now – and has always been – a City of vibrant faith communities. The ISB Cultural Center builds on that tradition – and provides a new context for religious and cultural exchange. By creating a space for inter-faith dialog, this Center will bring both the Muslim community and the community at large closer together.

But in marked contrast to city and state leaders’ enthusiasm about the project, a group that included some Boston residents, well-known right wing Israel advocacy group the David Project, and self-styled terrorism expert Steve Emerson, reacted with tremendous alarm and waged a full scale campaign to stop construction of the mosque.

Christian Science Monitor religion reporter Jane Lampman wrote:

It’s a microcosm of the suspicions about Islam that have played out across America since 9/11.

After the city of Boston conveyed a parcel of land to the ISB, articles appeared in the Boston Herald in 2003 linking society leaders to Islamic extremists. The ISB denied the story, responding in detail to what it saw as inflammatory distortions. “When you place a picture of Osama bin Laden next to a picture of our mosque, that is completely misrepresentative of who we are,” says Salma Kazmi, assistant project director.

Boston’s Fox TV station followed with broadcasts on the charges, and two local organizations – the David Project, a pro-Israel group, and Citizens for Peace and Tolerance (CPT) – have continued to publicize them and press for public hearings.

CPT says Boston could become a “potential radical Islamic center.” The ISB counters that media and local groups, with help from terrorism analyst Steven Emerson, have conspired to halt construction and “incite public sentiment against area Muslims.”

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Self-muzzling and anti-Semitism.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the board of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. He is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity. He recently wrote about his own experience of self-censorship in regard to the physics Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg. Weinberg, in addition to his unambiguous accomplishments in physics has written and talked about (with uneven results) other issues such as the differences between science and non-science and the Israel/Palestine conflict. Recently Weinberg wrote of the newly instituted British Academic Boycott against Israel (more on the boycott in future columns):

“I know that some will say that these boycotts are directed only against Israel, rather than generally against Jews…..But given the history of the attacks on Israel and the oppressiveness and aggressiveness of other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, boycotting Israel indicated a moral blindness for which it is hard to find any explanation other than anti-Semitism.”

Weinberg’s concern for the racism of anti-Semitism apparently doesn’t extend to other kinds of bigotry, for example his own anti-Palestinian bigotry. At an event in which Robert Jensen invited Weinberg to speak (at Jensen’s church which I assume to be Presbyterian) about science and religion Weinberg took the opportunity to attack the Presbyterian Church for past criticism of Israeli policy. When Jensen discussed this issue at the end of the talk Weinberg’s parting reply was

“Don’t romanticize Palestinians just because they are primitive.”

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