Category Archives: Alan Dershowitz

Reasoned Debate and the Fear of Reprisal at Harvard

Academic freedom, relatively unfettered by corporate business interests, is one of the last bastions of free speech and inquiry in the US. That is precisely why people like Alan Dershowitz and Daniel Pipes, extensively discussed here, intrepidly do their utmost, despite assertions to the contrary, to stifle such activity. No matter one’s point of view, the ability to have multi-vocal academic discussion is a core activity of a functioning democracy. In this spirit J. LORAND MATORY discusses in detail his own worrying experience as a long time Harvard faculty member. His effort to have the Harvard faculty “commit itself to fostering a civil dialogue in which people with a broad range of perspectives feel safe and are encouraged to express their reasoned and evidence-based ideas” was tabled by the Faculty of Arts and Science precisely because it could allow such reasoned debate about I/P. He goes in to detail on censorship occurring to him and others, such as Norman Finklestein, in and around the Harvard Campus.

What Do Critics of Israel Have to Fear?

By J. LORAND MATORY

Published On Thursday, June 05, 2008 12:22 AM

At what point do imbalances in access to money, media, and society’s administrative apparatuses constitute the censorship of dissent? Recent events at Harvard provide an exhaustive example.

At the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) meeting on Nov. 13, 2007, I moved “that this faculty commits itself to fostering a civil dialogue in which people with a broad range of perspectives feel safe and are encouraged to express their reasoned and evidence-based ideas.” Expressing the fear that voting down so self-evidently reasonable a proposition would be embarrassing, my colleagues voted massively (74-27) to “table” the motion—that is, to end discussion of it and to avoid a vote. They did so because the motion had arisen in the context of what many of my more silent colleagues regard as the widespread censorship of dissent about Israel-Palestine on campus and in the nearby bookstores that are an essential part of the intellectual life of the University. Moreover, as I showed on this page last November, the vote unambiguously violated Robert’s Rules of Order, the standard of parliamentary procedure in Faculty meetings. The fervor of their conviction blinded 74 Ph.D.’s to the fact that they were proving my point.

The massive displacement of people that resulted from Israel’s founding 60 years ago is the object of willful forgetting in American foreign policy and of baffling ignorance by the American public in general. How else could we justify the massive and ongoing theft of the Palestinians’ native land since the mid-20th century—subsidized annually with upwards of three billion dollars from the U.S. government—while we correctly enforce the right of Jewish refugees to recover European properties from which they were displaced in the mid-20th century? If we do not recognize the equality of Palestinian and Jewish rights, how can we avow the equality of the rights belonging to Tibetans and Han Chinese, Sahrawis and Moroccans, Africans and Americo-Liberians, women and men, blacks and whites, gays and straights?

However, on no other issue at Harvard have I ever heard of the disinvitation of even one invited speaker, much less three. In 2002, Harvard’s Department of English invited Tom Paulin—Oxford professor and one of the finest living British poets—to speak, but promptly disinvited him after then-University President Lawrence H. Summers expressed disapproval of Paulin’s criticisms of Israel. Though the Department later voted to reverse the disinvitation, Paulin has never come to campus. In 2005, DePaul historian Norman G. Finkelstein, who has both sharply criticized Israeli military conduct and accused Harvard Law School Professor Alan M. Dershowitz of plagiarism, had been invited to speak at Harvard Book Store but was abruptly disinvited without explanation. While Finkelstein cannot prove that Dershowitz was responsible for the disinvitation, the Dershowitz modus operandi is evident in the hundreds of pages of threatening legal correspondence which document Dershowitz’s campaign to stop publication of Finkelstein’s book at University of California Press (UCP) and had evidently succeeded at doing so at the New Press. Dershowitz even wrote—using Harvard Law School letterhead—to ask Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to stop the book’s publication.
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Johann Hari writes about the McCarthy-ite attacks on Israel’s Critics

Below is a new London Independent article recounting one reporter’s own experience, along with the experience of others, (discussed here previously). We need to be ever vigilant. The forces arrayed against legitimate criticism of US supported Israeli transgressions must be countered for there to be any possibility of a stable peace in the region. There will always be “push-back” from such forces, CAMERA, the David project, etc, but there is a growing movement of progressive voices, Jewish and otherwise, that is making the claim of monolithic and unquestioning support for Israel more and more difficult. Even the New York Times with the new bureau chief Ethan Bronner is starting to report in a slightly more balanced way.
The Loathsome Smearing of Israel’s Critics

by Johann Hari

In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence — and to a large degree, it works. There is nobody these self-appointed spokesmen for Israel will not attack as anti-Jewish: liberal Jews, rabbis, even Holocaust survivors.

My own case isn’t especially important, but it illustrates how the wider process of intimidation works. I have worked undercover at both the Finsbury Park mosque and among neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers to expose the Jew-hatred there; when I went on the Islam Channel to challenge the anti-Semitism of Islamists, I received a rash of death threats calling me “a Jew-lover”, “a Zionist-homo pig” and more.

Ah, but wait. I have also reported from Gaza and the West Bank. Last week, I wrote an article that described how untreated sewage was being pumped from illegal Israeli settlements on to Palestinian land, contaminating their reservoirs. This isn’t controversial. It has been documented by Friends of the Earth, and I have seen it with my own eyes.

The response? There was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile “pro-Israel” writers and media monitoring groups — including Honest Reporting and Camera — said I an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh, while Melanie Phillips even linked the stabbing of two Jewish people in North London to articles like mine. Vast numbers of e-mails came flooding in calling for me to be sacked. Continue reading

Finkelstein settles with DePaul, fight continues for Larudee

Inside Higher Ed reports:

Wednesday was supposed to be the day of the big showdown at DePaul University. Instead it turned out to be the day of the big compromise. DePaul and Norman Finkelstein, the professor to whom it had denied tenure, announced that he was resigning immediately. The university and Finkelstein even managed to say some nice things about one another. But while Finkelstein will be leaving, some at the university and elsewhere believe that significant academic freedom issues raised by his case are very much alive.

The exact terms of the agreement remain confidential, but at a press conference Wednesday Finkelstein reminded the assembled supporters that the denial of tenure to Professor Mehrene Larudee remains ‘an open wound’ at DePaul.

Jewish Voice for Peace has this urgent action where you can write a letter of protest to the DePaul University President (Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider) and Provost (Dr. Helmut Epp).

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Norman Finkelstein: “I fully expect to be arrested,” Sept 5

After losing tenure because of an unprecedented campaign of outside interference waged by Alan Dershowitz, who has no academic background in in Middle East or Israeli history or politics , DePaul University has decided to unilaterally cancel Holocaust Industry author Norman Finkelstein’s classes and shut down his office. This despite overwhelming approval of his scholarship by his peers at the school, and a remaining one-year contract.

When classes start on September 5, Finkelstein promises

“As usual I will show up for class on the first day and go to my office. I fully expect to be arrested.”

Fox News reports:

Meanwhile, a faculty advocacy group sent the university a letter demanding the administration reinstate Finkelstein or hold a hearing with an elected faculty body to show cause for the suspension.

“There ought to be a hearing before any such action is taken,” said Robert Kreiser, senior program officer for the American Association of University Professors.

Administrative leave with pay isn’t justification for removing Finkelstein from teaching, Kreiser said.

“They have the burden of demonstrating that there was good reason to suspend him,” Kreiser said.

For a man who is a son of Holocaust survivors and who has been targeted by critics because hebelieves that some Jews have exploited the Holocaust,” Finkelstein must have felt some tragic sense of validation while watching demonstrations in Israel earlier this month by Holocaust survivors and their familes. There are 250,000 survivors still living, but it turns out barely, in Israel. A government report said about a third live in poverty. Thousands took to the streets when the state offered to help out with insulting $20.00 monthly payments, prompting Israeli historian Tom Segev to say, it could be that Germany treated the survivors better than the State of Israel did.

So who got all those reparation payments? It wasn’t the Holocaust survivors of Israel.

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DePaul uproar: despite unanimous support, professor who supported Finkelstein loses job; students continue protest

“Our jaws just dropped, hit the floor, when we saw the decision went the other way.”

–Michael A. McIntyre, director, DePaul’s program of international studies, in response to denial of tenure to Dr. Mehrene Larudee.

Following a highly unorthodox outside pressure campaign from media star and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been engaged in a highly publicized grudge match with Norman Finkelstein for some years, the denial of tenure to two politically allied professors has sent DePaul into an uproar over academic freedom.

Angry students, charging the university with violating its own tenure process, immediately occupied university property in protest and have vowed to continue. On Wednesday, June 13, the university’s Faculty Council voted 27-3 “for an appeal to be made on behalf of both professors citing “violations of academic freedom” and procedural problems in the tenure process. ”

Inexplicably, a universally respected professor of international studies, Mehrene Larudee, who openly advocated for Finkelstein, was denied tenure, to the shock of her colleagues.

The Chronicle of Higher Education writes:

Another professor at DePaul University was rejected for tenure at the same time as Norman G. Finkelstein, and she believes her advocacy for the embattled political scientist may have derailed her career.

“There is no good explanation for why I was denied tenure,” Mehrene E. Larudee, an assistant professor of international studies, said in an interview on Monday. “So one has to look elsewhere.”

Praised as “outstanding” by the dean of her college and recommended unanimously by distinguished faculty peers during the tenure process, Ms. Larudee was 19 days away from becoming director of DePaul’s program in international studies when she learned on Friday of the decision against her.

She and the program’s current director, Michael A. McIntyre, had been discussing the responsibilities she would be assuming when he received, via e-mail, a letter from DePaul’s president, the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider.

“Hey, this is great, I’ll get to congratulate Mehrene right now,” Mr. McIntyre recalls thinking, until he read the letter. “Our jaws just dropped, hit the floor, when we saw the decision went the other way,” he said.

Dr. Larudee has promised to fight to overturn the decision. For now, there seem to be plenty of faculty, alum and students willing to back her in that fight. (Larudee is a member of the Chicago chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.)

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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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Scientist talk canceled at Harvard after threat to Dershowitz

This seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. Now a prominent evolutionary biologist, Robert Trivers had his talk canceled after publication of his letter in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in which he wrote:

Regarding your rationalization of Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians, let me just say that if there is a repeat of Israeli butchery toward Lebanon and if you decide once again to rationalize it publicly, look forward to a visit from me. Nazis — and Nazi-like apologists such as yourself — need to be confronted directly.”

Dershowitz claimed that he thought this was a physical threat and reported it as such and did nothing to try to get the lecture canceled. From the Boston Globe:

“Robert Trivers said he had been invited to speak at Harvard to celebrate a prestigious international award he recently won. He planned to discuss his research on self-deception, including how self-deception factored in Israel’s invasion of Lebanon last year.”

There is, of course, a back story here that concerns the Norman Finklestein/Alan Dershowitz imbroglio regarding Finkelsteins tenure application. Trivers, in the WSJ, was denying that his criticism of Dershowitz had anything to do with Finkelstein. Although Dershowitz, in the WSJ, said that Finkelstein “encouraged radical goons to e-mail threatening messages.”

This situation is generally unseemly, the hyperbolic and demonizing language of Trivers and Dershowitz, combined with Dershowitzs disingenuous need to involve the police makes for a less than pleasant scenario. This being said, does any of this really justify an academic lecture being canceled?

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Roundup, tips from readers

There’s a new Dutch television documentary on YouTube about the Israel Lobby and muzzling. While the interstitial narration is in Dutch, all those interviewed– John Meirsheimer, former Colin Powell chief of staff Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Representative Earl Hilliard Jr., Tony Judt, Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth and more, speak, of course, in English. (I’ve only seen the first 20 minutes or so, and while I don’t agree with everything I saw, it features captivating, forthright interviews with primary sources.)

Further, as I have said here before, at Jewish Voice for Peace we don’t believe the evidence supports the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis that the Israel Lobby is so strong that it categorically forces the US to go against its own interests. Nonetheless, their analysis of the muzzling tactics of the Israel Lobby is right on mark, and they’ve done exactly what they set out to do-start a global dialogue.

And speaking of Kenneth Roth, here, as one reader put it, is a humorous case of the “pot calling the kettle black” in which Ford Foundation, Amnesty International, BTselem critic Gerald Steinberg takes Human Rights Watch head Kenneth Roth to task for Abusing the Holocaust.

The Denver Post writes ADL chief decries muzzling debate.

An appeals court ruled against Amiri Baraka, former New Jersey poet laureate, who lost his job after he wrote Somebody Blew Up America, a poem that included the lines “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed/Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day?/Why did Sharon stay away?”

Stanford tried to ban media from seeing self-described ex-terrorist Walid Shoebat.
Olympia looks at Rafah for sister city, reports the Olympian. Expect sparks.

Wondering what Robert Fisk has to say about the Dershowitz-Finkelstein tenure affair? How about Noam Chomsky who weighed in on Democracy Now this morning? My colleague Mitchell Plitnick reminds us that, even if we disagree with some of Finkelstein’s conclusions, his Israel-Palestine scholarship is solid, and Dershowitz has no standing as a Middle East scholar. There is a petition supporting Finkelstein, and a full dossier of documents at the Finkelstein solidarity campaign website.

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Roundup: more on Finkelstein, Carter video

[Editor's note: There are times when I will link to stories that I believe are of interest to readers, but I may have neither the time nor the inclination to either look into or judge the merits of the case. These stories often appear, but not always, as quick links in the Roundup section. In these cases, it is my assumption that readers are smart enough to make up their own minds-you can use the comments section to bring in additional information and debate the issues.

But when it comes to debating Muzzlewatch or Jewish Voice for Peace opinions, a good rule to follow is if you haven't seen us state an opinion, don't assume you know what it is. After several months of watching folks do just that, sometimes projecting onto Muzzlewatch and Jewish Voice for Peace things we've never said, or positions that actually violate our policies, I felt it worth pointing out. ]

Peter Kerstein has this exclusive, the full unedited report by Finkelstein’s colleagues in which they examine Dershowitz’s 50 something page dossier of charges. Makes for interesting reading.

On YouTube, you can catch Norman Finkelstein give a talk at Harvard (Is Jimmy Carter an anti-Semite?) “which he was supposed to give at Brandeis University.” (This video is in 5 parts)

You can also see Carter give his famous talk at Brandeis, otherwise known as the talk that lost Brandeis at least $5 million in donations, according to Jewish Week.

Cartoonist Tony Auth gets a chance to show he’s not an anti-Semite, gets welcome reception from Philadelphia section of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam is on the front page of today’s New York Times because of the impersonator blog set up to mock him after he got Masada2000 taken down.

Simply Appalling is amazed at conservative columnist Robert Novak’s new take on apartheid after a visit with the Palestinians.

This one is not directly about muzzling- but Harvard’s Sara Roy has written an absolutely stunning essay about Jews, Judaism and the Lebanon war that left me speechless. If you want to understand what the “Jewish Divide” is really about, read her piece. Hers is a deeply moral voice.

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Dershowitz v. Finkelstein:Harvard Law Professor Works to Disrupt Tenure Bid of Longtime Nemesis at DePaul U.

That’s the headline from the April 5 Chronicle of Higher Education.

“His scholarship is no more than ad hominem attacks on his ideological enemies.” No, that’s not a statement about Alan Dershowitz (whose multi-part ad hominem attack on his ideological enemy Jimmy Carter is nicely dissected by Mitchell Plitnick here). That’s Dershowitz on Finkelstein, explaining why he sent a “dossier of Norman Finkelstein’s most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions” to “everybody who would read it ” at DePaul University. (Dershowitz says he compiled the file at the request of some 24 people associated with DePaul.)
We wrote earlier about The Holocaust Industry author Norman Finkelstein’s battle for tenure at DePaul. It should not come as a surprise that Dershowitz is back: several years ago the famed First Amendement advocate waged a scorched earth campaign, prior to publication, against Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah:On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, which contained several hundred pages chronicling, to put it more charitably than Finkelstein did, errors in Dershowitz’s book, The Case for Israel.

In this must-read article in the Nation in 2005:

What do you do when somebody wants to publish a book that says you’re completely wrong? If you’re Alan Dershowitz, the prominent Harvard law professor, and the book is Norman Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, you write the governor of California and suggest that he intervene with the publisher–because the publisher is the University of California Press, which conceivably might be subject to the power of the governor.

Payback looks an awful lot like this (from the Chronicle):

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.

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