Category Archives: Norman Finkelstein

Muzzling Roundup: Attacking Iran, Dershowitz v. MJ Rosenberg, Harvard One-State Conference

It’s been a few weeks of major Muzzling attempts on Israel/Palestine. Last week in Washington, DC, AIPAC held their annual conference, or shall we say chorus, where over half the US Congress and thousands of Likud supporters cheered on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assertion that Iran’s potentially-maybe-would-be nuclear capacity is the same thing as Auschwitz, a move some keen observers see as making it that much harder for Netanyahu not to attack Iran. As Jon Stewart makes only too clear, American politicians do not – cannot? – oppose Netanyahu. (In this excellent essay, Peter Beinart lays out the history of Obama’s failure to stand up to Netanyahu, warning that the cost of this failure may be war with Iran.)

JVP activists were among the hundreds of activists who occupied AIPAC from within and without, reminding attendees and the media that AIPAC does not speak for Jews, and that many, many Jews, allies and others oppose the Israeli government’s planned war on Iran and policies of occupation and oppression of Palestinians. Though JVP’s truck ad was silenced, JVP’s voice came through loud & clear, both displayed on the outside wall of the Convention Center on the night of the AIPAC Gala and as JVP Board Member and general badass Liza Behrendt directly challenged AIPAC, StandWithUs, the David Project and Hillel for silencing young Jews on the issue of Israel/Palestine.

And beyond AIPAC, the campaign to silence the indomitable, indispensible MJ Rosenberg (whose analysis of Netanyahu, Obama and AIPAC is the only glimmer of light we’ve seen) continues. The Emergency Committee for Israel (a truer McCarthyite organization there never was) published an attack in the NYTimes against MJ’s employer, Media Matters, as well as the Center for American Progress, two organizations with close ties to the Democratic Party. The ad quotes Alan Dershowitz’s critique of Media Matters and CAP, and Dershowitz didn’t like that – and in his articles and interviews opposing the ECI’s use of his words, Dersh has been very clear that he won’t stop until Media Matters fires MJ or the White House fires Media Matters. MJ is the latest target of this chief muzzler, or “heresy hunter from Harvard,” as Jeremiah Haber calls Dershowitz, whose targets have included Richard Goldstone, Norm Finkelstein, Shlomo Sand, Anat Matar, Rachel Giora – at least MJ is in good company. JJ Goldberg of the Forward defends MJ here and MJ’s latest column is as smart, impassioned, insightful and indispensible as ever, proving, once again, how much we need his thinking, his intuition, his guts, and his voice. May he only get stronger and louder.

And last, the March 3 & 4 One State Conference at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government was a success even before it took place, before an array of fascinating, bold thinkers,  including JVP Advisory Board member Sarah Schulman and Rabbinical Council co-founder Brant Rosen, aired nuanced, thoughtful and difficult ideas to a sold out crowd.

This conference was a success simply because it happened. No less a powerful figure than Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown tried to get it shut down, while the ADL led the charge among dominant Jewish organizations in demanding that Harvard denounce the conference and the legitimacy of discussing a one-state solution. More than 4,000 “students, alumni and friends” of Harvard signed a petition calling for the university to effectively prevent the conference by denying it funding and facilities. The AJC called it a “non-starter”.

The condemnation of the conference took the same forms, calling the discussion of a one state solution anti-Semitic, and worse: organizers are “soft eliminationists” (Jeffrey Goldberg) who seek Israel’s “elimination (ADL) through a “Final Solution” that will lead to the “extermination” and “annihilation” of Israel (FrontPage Magazine). As the ADL put it in a letter to Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, “there can never be any legitimate discussion” about a one-state solution. Yet do they lob the same critique at Knesset members calling for one state – one Jewish supremacist state, that is – or the state legislatures of Florida and South Carolina, which recently passed resolutions supporting one state, meaning the state of Israel in the greater land of Israel?

No, on the topic of a viable solution for Israel/Palestine, these muzzlers reserve their muzzling for perceived leftists. What they’re doing is trying to make it impossible for anyone but speakers they’ve vetted and chosen to speak about Israel’s future. Palestinians need not apply – and nor should anyone who thinks there’s more to the story than “why the Palestinians have inflicted so much unnecessary suffering on themselves, as the ADL’s New England Regional Director put it.

Harvard hosted the conference in spite of the attacks, yet it did something else, too. Dean David Ellwood of the Kennedy School issued a statement regarding the conference, saying “We would never take a position on specific policy solutions to achieving peace in this region, and certainly would not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.” Does “the Jewish State of Israel” ring any bells? That’s the new language / negotiation precondition imposed by Netanyahu in 2007. Never before did Israel demand official recognition as “the Jewish state;” this demand flummoxed diplomats and threw a wrench in potential negotiations with Palestinians. Israel as the “Jewish state”: what impact would this declaration have on discrimination against Palestinian citizens? Or civil rights for Jewish Israelis, who also suffer from ultra-orthodox domination? On negotiations over the Palestinian right of return? In short, Dean Ellwood’s use of that language is a victory for Netanyahu and a loss for democracy, equality, civil rights and justice. Congratulations, ADL. Congratulations, Harvard.

First Employee at Yad Vashem fired for voicing the wrong kind of political views.

Former Israeli combatant Itamar Shapira was recently fired for mentioning the 1948 massacre in the village of Deir Yassin, the ruins of which are visible from Israel’s official Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem talks about the Holocaust survivors’ arrival in Israel and about creating a refuge here for the world’s Jews. I said there were people who lived on this land and mentioned that there are other traumas that provide other nations with motivation ….

The Holocaust moved us to establish a Jewish state and the Palestinian nation’s trauma is moving it to seek self-determination, identity, land and dignity, just as Zionism sought these things

A Yad Vashem official astonishingly claimed that the institution “objects” to any political use of the Holocaust. If I may be so bold, I could reframe this to say that Yad Vashem objects to any political use that is not in service to the interests of the state of Israel. (Please refer to the stream of  foreign dignitaries that flow through  Yad Vashem in a “must do” ceremony that is designed to represent the absolute evil that was done in the Holocaust [no argument here], and the absolute incomparability of this terrible event to anything else in history). Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors, has written extensively and controversially (a good thing) about this in his book. The Holocaust Industry: reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering”.

In this vein, Shapira said that:

Yad Vashem chooses to examine only some of the events that took place in the War of Indpendence. “It is being hypocritical. I only tried to expose the visitors to the facts, not to political conclusions. If Yad Vashem chooses to ignore the facts, for example the massacre at Dir Yassin, or the Nakba… it means that it’s afraid of something and that its historic approach is flawed.

Clark University Cancels Norman Finklestein Updated (4-23-09)

Apparently Clark University can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. Norman Finklestein had, in February, accepted an invitation from the Clark University Students for Palestinian Rights to speak on April 21st, which apparently coincides with a Holocaust conference at the Clark Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Clark University’s President John Bassett called the two events “conflicting” after Hillel objected to Finkelstein’s scheduled appearance.  Bassett canceled the Finklestein talk because of the possible threat of violence.   There was no available information on exactly where this violence might come, and who might instigate it…… Hillel, the students for Palestinian rights?

Further, its not clear how these events are actually conflicting, are they occurring in the same auditorium, are they located in nearby rooms and more importantly, what might the conflict be about?  Norman Finklestein is an expert commentator on issues related to the Holocaust and the Palestine/Israel conflict (his invited talk was to be on Gaza), whether his specific viewpoint is similar or different than those at the conference is within the realm of academic debate/discussion, and is essentially academically/intellectually, irrelevant.

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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?


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

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.)

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.

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?

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.