Moonlighting: Non-Specialists in the News
The Passion of Norman Finkelstein
by Steven Plaut
The Norman Finkelstein affair at DePaul University was not yet buried when an entire revisionist "narrative" of the affair was being churned out by the Far Left. A bit of revisionism was to be expected, one supposes, regarding the favorite "academic" of those promoting Holocaust Revisionism and "New History" about World War II. After all, Finkelstein had made his name in the media by cheering Hezbollah's terror attacks on Jews, by arguing that Germany is the victim of greedy dishonest Jews, that nearly all those claiming to be Holocaust survivors are liars, thieves, and hoaxers, thus feeding the lunatic fringe that claims that the entire Holocaust of Six Million Jews by Nazi Germany was a Zionist hoax. Neo-Nazi web sites hailed him as the "Jew who proved that the Holocaust was a hoax." Finkelstein had repeatedly proclaimed Holocaust Denier and pseudo-historian David Irving as his role model and hero, even when Irving was sitting in a Vienna prison for Neo-Nazi propagandizing. Finkelstein baselessly smeared just about everyone, from Holocaust writer Elie Wiesel to Alan Dershowitz, the latter whom Finkelstein falsely accused of plagiarism. Finkelstein physically threatened his own Dean. But in spite of all this, the scope of Finkelsteinian revisionism emerging the past few weeks and its willingness to employ the Big Lie are still shocking.
Finkelsteinian revisionism simply and completely falsifies every single aspect of the hiring and firing of Norman Finkelstein by DePaul University. It claims that the Chicago master of vulgar ad hominem defamation was himself the innocent "victim" of ad hominem attacks. It seeks to attribute Finkelstein's career failure to the all-but-nonexistent "Israel Lobby," while overlooking the bizarre alliance of hatred and bigotry comprising the Finkelstein Lobby. Finkelstein's apologists are leaders in the pro-terror Arab Lobby, the sorts of people who readily believe everything about the Middle East except the facts. They include everyone from the "Revolutionary Communists," to the "anarchists," to the Islamists, to David Duke and the Neo-Nazi fruit loops, to a handful of Jewish leftwing loonies. All these are running about the cyber-world proclaiming that Finkelstein was the "victim" of nefarious sinister conspiracy by you know whom. Perhaps it is their way of coping with their disappointment at not having been among those recruited by Mohammed Ata.
Finkelstein's apologists claim he fell victim to academic politicization. But the simple truth is that Finkelstein was one of the country's most obvious beneficiaries of academic politicization. Nothing else can explain the outpouring of support for such a ridiculous buffoon, fraud, and juvenile smear-monger. The campaign on behalf of Finkelstein has succeeded in one thing - in drawing light to the fact that academia is crawling with pseudo-scholarly extremists who have made a career out of ladling out political advocacy and extremist agitprop. In fact, the recruitment of political support on behalf of such a character as Finkelstein demonstrates how dishonest and unscrupulous the Bash-Israel Lobby is willing to sink.
DePaul University is hardly a bastion of neo-conservatism. In fact it is one of the loopiest campuses in the Midwest when it comes to political correctness. With administration blessing, it ran a series of lectures and seminars on "The American Empire" and US "imperialism." It has a long history of hosting pro-terror radical haters of America, from Ward Churchill to Tariq Ali. The university hosted the "Vagina Monologues" and "art exhibits" celebrating Palestinian terrorism. It hosts and sponsors numerous Islamist pro-terror student groups and faculty members.
The DePaul campus is crawling with lumpen leftists and jihad-supporting faculty who use their classrooms for political indoctrination. These include Deena Weinstein, Professor of Sociology at DePaul University, whose "specialization" is the sociology of heavy metal rock music in her sociology course "SOC 282- Rock Journalism". She also is a promoter of pulp Marxism. Then there is Aminah Beverly McCloud, the Director of the Islamic World Studies Program (IWSP) at DePaul, is an apologist for and follower of Louis Farrakhan. Her courses feature anti-American propaganda texts. Another professor who teaches in the Islamic World Studies Program is Khaled Keshk, whose classroom indoctrination is based in part of biased texts that blithely portray Palestinian terrorism as a justified response to Israeli "atrocities" in typical Orwellian inversion. The DePaul Religious Studies department is full of PC indoctrination courses in "liberation theology," feminism, and "post-modernism." Political Science at DePaul offers "Contemporary Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Politics." That is just the tip of the DePaul PC iceberg. Political correctness permeates the entire campus.
Obviously Finkelstein was not fired because DePaul is hostile to anti-American and anti-Israel radical faculty members and opinion. Au contraire! The only reason the political science department at DePaul had hired Finkelstein in the first place, in spite of the total absence of academic journal publications on his resume, was that they APPROVED of Finkelstein's bash-Israel and hate-America political extremism. The simple fact of the matter is that someone with Finkelstein's "academic record" would never have been hired by DePaul's political science department at all had he been pro-Israel, pro-America, or politically conservative. And no such person would have attracted an entire lobby of kibitzers on his behalf. The ONLY reason that any of the faculty members in political science at DePaul had endorsed Finkelstein's bid for tenure was that they approved of his political extremism and vulgarity, willing to overlook his total lack of scholarly credentials as a gesture of political solidarity with him. Three members of the DePaul political science department had the courage to resist the naked political machinations on behalf of Finkelstein. They are the modest heroes of the entire affair.
Not only is DePaul not hostile to radicals, America haters, supporters of terrorism, and anti-Semites, but it came dangerously close to granting Finkelstein tenure as a form of political solidarity, at least before the majority on the DePaul Promotions Committee returned to its senses. Ultimately the Finkelstein Lobby lost because DePaul chose to enforce and impose academic integrity and serious scholarly standards upon its own faculty, and of course also to conduct campus denazification two generations after the end of World War II.
DePaul is indeed hostile to certain political opinions and sentiments, but they are conservative and pro-Israel opinions. The university administration took sanctions and denounced conservative DePaul students when they dared to hold an "affirmative action bake sale," which mocked affirmative action. And DePaul had earlier fired the untenured professor Thomas Klocek when he dared to challenge the anti-Israel opinions of some Arab students on campus outside the classroom. DePaul administrators suppressed Klocek's freedom of speech and fired him without justification. He has yet to be rehired.
The Klocek affair also illustrates the truth, which naturally is in direct contradiction to the claims of Finkelstein revisionism. Members of the Finkelstein Lobby claims that they only support Finkelstein as part of their desire to defend academic freedom at DePaul. But I doubt that a single member of that Lobby has spoken out in defense of Thomas Klocek's academic freedom! To the contrary, most Finkelstein apologists go out of their way to defend the firing of Klocek. After all, he is pro-Israel and we can't have any pro-Israel opinions being voiced on politically correct campuses. There was indeed a victim of "thought crime" persecution at DePaul, but it was not Norman Finkelstein.
Even more absurd have been the efforts by the Finkelstein Lobby to paint Finkelstein as some sort of "scholar" who was fired because of his controversial political opinions. No doubt he is regarded as such by most members of the Taliban. In part, the DePaul administration is to blame for this. In the September "joint statement" that allowed DePaul to be rid of Finkelstein and revoke his "terminal year of employment," the school paid lip service to Finkelstein's being a supposed "prolific scholar and outstanding teacher." He is of course neither. Clearly the DePaul brass were willing to tell some little white lies if that were the price of being rid of him. Finkelstein is not a scholar of any sort, but rather is a full time anti-Semitic propagandist and generator of hate screeds. At that he is indeed prolific. That is why his cheerleaders support him, including self-conscripted radicals from academia. As for his being an "outstanding teacher," he was indeed popular with the campus leftist fringe and student admirers of Middle East terrorism, who filled his classes. These gave him high teaching evaluations because they like his politics. Ward Churchill no doubt also was a popular teacher. So what? Courses in Holocaust Denial at some schools can be filled with local Hitlerjugend granting the lecturer outstanding teaching evaluations.
Any self-respecting institution of higher learning must make sure that course content consists of actual academic research and analysis, not populist political indoctrination, no matter how much radical students seek the latter. And speaking of little white lies, much of the media were willing to accept at face value claims by the Finkelstein Lobby about "hundreds" of DePaul students rallying on campus in early September to back Finkelstein. A fast look at this news photo of the event shows that there were less than 25 people present, some of whom might have been DePaul students.
Finkelstein's greatest "scholarly" achievement was commissioning and publishing an obscene cartoon of Alan Dershowitz masturbating while watching Lebanese children die. Finkelstein has yet to publish a single scholarly paper in a refereed bona fide academic journal, not even in the anti-Israel ones, of which there is no shortage. Finkelstein built his entire "career" on churning out anti-Jewish "books," snatched up by publishers indifferent to academic quality and interested only in their commercial potential. Finkelstein's "books" were almost universally dismissed by serious historians (meaning, those working for the something other than the annihilation of Israel) as fraud, as defamation of Holocaust survivors, and as amateurish one-sided anti-Israel propagandizing. The New York Times compared these to the czarist forgery "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Finkelstein's closest "research" associate was the Holocaust Denier Brazilian Arab cartoonist "Latuff."
The fact that Finkelstein was fired for fraud and for a lack of scholarly research seems to be precisely what motivates the leaders in the Finkelstein Lobby to rush to his defense. Most of these lobbyists are themselves academics with dubious records and long histories of turning their classrooms into political indoctrination encampments. Among these are James Holstun, a SUNY English professor who brags about turning his classroom into a Marxist re-education gulag, Peter N. Kirstein from St. Xavier University, best known for his vile denunciation of Air Force cadets and his collaborations and paling-abouts with Holocaust Denier David Irving, Matthew Abraham, a leftist DePaul English professor who falsely accuses his own school of taking millions of dollars in payoffs for firing Finkelstein (he is so biased that he won the "2005 Rachel Corrie Courage in the Teaching of Writing"), and Neve Gordon, an extremist anti-Israel lecturer at Ben-Gurion University about whom Alan Dershowitz writes: "Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli."
The whining about "outside pressure" upon DePaul was the height of hypocrisy by the Finkelstein Lobby. There was indeed plenty of outside pressure on DePaul, but most of it was in favor of Finkelstein. The Finkelstein Lobby organized countless petitions and letter writing campaigns to DePaul officers on behalf of their guru. The Anti-Israel Lobby provided massive artillery support for Finkelstein. Only Jimmy Carter was missing. Indeed, the entire operation of the campaign to get tenure for Finkelstein at DePaul involved the cynical manipulation of the academic system by DePaul radicals conniving with extremists outside their university. The tale is a classic illustration of how campus hiring and promotion can be subordinated to political corruption and manipulation.
First, an evaluation committee was set up for Finkelstein consisting of those politically friendly to him and his ideological agenda. These then recruited letters of recommendation from "outside experts," but every single one of those was from a Bash-Israel extremist who was known to be willing to ignore Finkelstein's lack of scholarship for the sake of political solidarity. Not a single objective political scientist was asked for an evaluation, because the local DePaul marketers of Finkelstein knew what they would write. (Even Raul Hilberg was not asked for one, lest he deliver an "unreliable" endorsement of Finkelstein.) The two main "evaluators" were academics willing to prostitute themselves in writing sycophantic fibs about Finkelstein. One was Professor Ian Lustick of the University of Pennsylvania, a far leftist, anti-America and unabashedly anti-Israel propagandist, best known for his expressing regret that America did not lose more soldiers in the campaign to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan. A frequent ranteur about the Zionist cabal, Lustick deconstructs terrorism thus:
"Lustick dismisses the concept of terrorism as a valid conceptual term. Instead, he embraces what he terms an 'extensive', as opposed to an 'intensive', definition of terrorism that is not bound by any limiting 'conditions'. This, he claims, enables one to classify activities as 'terrorist' if they encompass any violent 'actions and threats' by governmental militaries and even 'tax collectors', as well as insurgents."
The second "neutral evaluator" of Finkelstein was John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, best known for his dredging up medieval blood libels together with Stephen Walt about an imaginary Jewish cabal that controls the world. Both letters were part of the most outrageous example of Chicago ballot stuffing since the days of the elder Mayor Daley. These "evaluations" were fed to the handpicked political science evaluation committee as a tactic to get Finkelstein smuggled through for tenure.
It did not work, because the campus promotions committee at DePaul saw through the naked manipulation and voted against tenure for Finkelstein and against the Finkelstein Lobby. The Dean of Liberal Arts at DePaul went to the trouble of reading all of Finkelstein's mind-bogglingly idiotic "books" for himself, to form his own independent opinion. It needs to be emphasized that Finkelstein was canned because his own colleagues at DePaul ultimately refused to be browbeaten into giving a pseudo-academic buffoon tenure on the basis of "outside evaluations" that expressed little more than political solidarity with Finkelstein's extremism and bigotry.
True, there were plenty of people who were understandably outraged at Finkelstein's obscene rantings, and some of these expressed themselves in public, just as lots of folks have long been ready to call on the University of Colorado to do something about Ward Churchill. Alan Dershowitz is being accredited by the media and the Finkelstein Lobby with the most devastating of these "outside pressures." But Dershowitz' professional opinion of Finkelstein was recruited by DePaul itself. (And even unsolicited outside letters of evaluation are not so unusual in academia.) In any case, Dershowitz' lobbying against Finkelstein paled in its weight in comparison with the campaign on Finkelstein's behalf by the jihaniks in the Middle East Studies Association, or the repeated expressions of support for Finkelstein by the bats in the ivory belfry of the American Association of University Professors. Noam Chomsky was no doubt the most outspoken and shrill outside lobbyist, in spite of the fact that Chomsky is but a linguist (and a discredited one at that), not a political scientist. The bottom line is that "outside pressure" had little to do with Finkelstein getting turned down for tenure, but had everything to do with his having been hired and then proposed for possible tenure in the first place!
Finkelstein is almost universally regarded as an anti-Semite, and is regarded as a Holocaust Denier by the Anti-Defamation League, by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (Finkelstein smears the latter as "Disneyland in Dachau"), and others. Finkelstein generally uses the expression "Six Million Jews killed by Hitler" with quotation marks. Finkelstein seems proud to be proclaimed the "Jewish David Irving," and has never denounced Irving's Holocaust Denial. Finkelstein's firing strongly resembles the dismissal of the French Holocaust Denier Robert Faurrison from a university in France. Faurrison is also proclaimed a great scholar by his apologists, who again claim he was a "victim" of persecution by a Jewish cabal. And Noam Chomsky has led the public campaign on behalf of BOTH!
The Finkelstein Lobby likes to counter arguments about Finkelstein's fraudulent "scholarship" by citing praise for him by Raul Hilberg, a well-known Holocaust historian who died recently. But Hilberg praised Finkelstein as an act of petty solidarity simply because Finkelstein had earlier smeared Hilberg's own arch-nemesis, the historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. It was an example of Middle East style vendetta, where "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Exiled to rural Vermont, Hilberg was bitter and hostile towards a "Jewish establishment" that he felt granted him insufficient recognition, and was willing to praise a vicious anti-Semite in order to poke his finger in their eye. For a good laugh, ask a Finkelstein lobbyist to name a second Holocaust historian who has praised Finkelstein.
One of the silliest claims of the Finkelstein Lobby had to do with the case of Mehrene Larudee, a DePaul radical faculty member who was also turned down for tenure at the same time as Finkelstein. The Finkelstein Lobby claims she was the "target" of the Zionist bogeyman. But there were no criticisms at all in the media against Larudee before she was denied tenure, no public calls to dismiss her. Virtually no one had ever heard of her, which turns out to be most of her problem. Her academic record was nearly empty. Claiming to be an economist, her publications were not enough to get her tenured anywhere. The Finkelstein Lobby claims she was fired for endorsing Finkelstein. But lots of people at DePaul endorse Finkelstein because they like his political extremism, and virtually no one even knew that Larudee was one of those. In fact, the dual dismissal of Finkelstein and Larudee attests, if anything, to the fact that DePaul was simply getting serious at long last about academic standards.
DePaul after all is a Catholic University, not exactly an appendage of the Zionist bogeyman. The attempt by the Finkelstein Lobby to blame Finkelstein's demise on "The Israel Lobby" simply shows how deep the anti-Semitism is that drives Finkelstein revisionists, and how thoroughly dishonest the Finkelstein Lobby is. One of its members, Matthew Abraham from DePaul itself, claims the Israel Lobby paid DePaul millions of dollars to fire Finkelstein. Perhaps he should go to work for the government of Iran.
Representation of the Finkelstein dismissal by DePaul as extortion by the "Israel Lobby" is not only patently absurd, but smacks of the sort of anti-Semitic libels about a "Jewish cabal" once found in Der Sturmer in the 1930s. If anything from the outside affected DePaul, it was the fact that the Church saw Finkelstein's association with a Catholic university to be an unending source of embarrassment and disgrace.
The Finkelstein apologists insist that Finkelstein was a courageous crusader willing to defy the "Zionist Lobby," which supposedly suppresses criticism of Israel, and to challenge the oppressive force of campus conformism. And it will repeat this Big Lie style for as long as you fail to walk away. Anyone who thinks that it takes courage to spout off anti-Israel or anti-American platitudes on American campuses must have been on another planet these past few decades. It is about as courageous as denouncing Israel and the United States in the Syrian press. If the "Israel Lobby" is in control of the media and terrorizing anti-Zionist academics, it is doing an awfully poor job of it. The liberal media are overflowing with hatred of Israel, and the real endangered species on campus are the conservatives and Israel supporters.
The more an academic screams about the need for diversity, the more likely it is that he or she belongs to a university department that contains not a single non-leftist. The Finkelstein Affair threw terror into the hearts of the hordes of pseudo-academic leftist faculty members with their embarrassingly skimpy resumes, often consisting of nothing but leftist agitprop and political propagandizing. Ward Churchill really wanted Finkelstein to get tenure. The Finkelstein revisionists are horrified at the idea that their academic records could be publicly examined and the manipulations that got them tenured exposed. No wonder they came out for Finkelstein with all claws extended.
The reality is that bashing Israel on campus is the easiest and morally most cowardly thing one can do these days, aside being the first resort of a scoundrel and a bigot. Academics and students standing up to the Anti-Israel Lobby today require an ever-growing amount of moxie and guts.
Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.Note: Articles listed under "Moonlighting: Non-Specialists in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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