On the Denial of Norman Finkelstein

I haven't followed the acrimonious debate surrounding Norman Finkelstein's denied tenure application (The Times provides background here and here) and I'm, this late in the game, loath to offer an opinion. But after watching this debate between the Holocaust Industry author and Alan Dershowitz, I have come to the slightly heterodox conclusion that Depaul University's decision was based on one practical factor: Finkelstein is a bit nuts (Skip about 16.45 in):

Dan Drezner weighs in on the controversy, noting that "Finkelstein has been in the field for twenty years and apparently has never published a single peer-reviewed article" but, nevertheless, he finds the decision "really, really troubling to those of us who like academic freedom." University of Chicago historian Peter Novick called Finkelstein's Holocaust Industry a "a twenty-first century updating of 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,'" but insists that Dershowitz should butt-out of tenure proceedings.

In his case against tenure, Dershowitz persuasively argues that Finkelstein holds some pretty wacky views. For instance:

NBC, he says, broadcast Holocaust to strengthen Israel's position: "In 1978, NBC produced the series Holocaust. Do you believe, it was a coincidence, 1978? Just at this time, when peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt took place in Camp David?"

He argues that Leon Uris, the author of Exodus, named his character "Ari" in order to promote Israel's "Nazi" ideology: "Because Ari is the diminutive for Aryan. It is the whole admiration for this blond haired, blue eyed type." (Ari is a traditional name dating back to the Bible.)

Well, ok. But if holding fatuous conspiracy theories is grounds for tenure denial, my alma mater should have been denuded of faculty long ago.

In the Guardian, Finkelstein's DePaul University colleague Matthew Abraham makes the case for tenure; the following day, Dershowitz made the counter case.

Bonus link: The ever-accurate Iranian state television channel headlines its Finkelstein story "Academic Sacked over Holocaust."

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    I have come to the slightly heterodox conclusion that Depaul University's decision was based on one practical factor: Finkelstein is a bit nuts

    Yeah maybe, but Alan Dershowitz is still a douche. I just as soon all the asshats were denied tenure. Now if only there was some objective way to identify asshats.

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    Yeah maybe, but Alan Dershowitz is still a douche

    Agreed.

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    Interesting to find out that Mr. Moynihan got his education at a public university, which any good Reasonoid means that it was stolen from the people at gunpoint...

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    edit: any good Reasonoid knows...

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    A torture proponent bitch-slapping a Holocaust denier. It's hardcore douche-on-douche action.

  • thoreau||

    I claim no in-depth knowledge of this matter, but something from Drezner's synopsis makes little sense to me:
    Dan Drezner weighs in on the controversy, noting that "Finkelstein has been in the field for twenty years and apparently has never published a single peer-reviewed article"

    He supports it by linking to a cached CV. It may very well be that that's an abbreviated CV. If you go to the web pages of some academics, they'll have a page called "CV" that summarizes their career but not their publications, and a separate page with publications. My thesis advisor's profile on his laboratory web page, for instance, is divided up that way. Yes, publications are a crucial part of a CV for professional evaluation, and they'll be listed on a CV submitted for review by employers and such, but on web pages they might divide up info a bit differently.

    So I don't know how much we can conclude from that.

    OTOH, Drezner also searched scholarly databases for articles. So that's more significant.

    I don't know what to make of the 9-3 vote for tenure. It's been suggested by some that the department requires consensus, and a 9-3 vote in favor means that there were 3 honest people and 9 polite people. Maybe. I dunno. If he really has no peer-reviewed publications I'm frankly surprised that he'd even get 9 votes.

    I suspect that, at the end of the day, the guy's a nut without peer-reviewed publications, and so the faculty failed to unite behind him. But that's just a suspicion.

  • Penishat||

    I just as soon all the asshats were denied tenure. Now if only there was some objective way to identify asshats.

    Seeking tenure = asshat.

  • ||

    Finklestein is not being denied the opportunity to express his views, he is only being denied tenure. I suspect that in the heavily politicized social sciences, cases such as this are too numerous to mention.

    Finklestein's views may be getting wider coverage than they would have otherwise. NOw a lot more people know who he is and what he stands for. He hasn't been kidnapped and sent to Germany like Ernest Zundel on trumped up hate crime charges.

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    Good point DanT about the schools. I bet over half the H&R Libs got a public school education (which must not have been too bad if it allowed them to have the brains to get to Hayek and Mises, not exactly household names among the uneducated). I bet if trouble started they would call the cops, not some voluntary self-protection network.
    Many of the areas where they did not turn to government they probably got help, especially as kids, from a parent, aunt, nice neighbor, church, etc.. Of course they then fail to realize that a shitload, and I mean shitload of kids who have no helpful parents, aunts, neighbors. We have government programs to help those people. The record there is not perfect, but look at Mississippi pre-War on Poverty. Geez, why didn't the charitable organizations and spontaneous voluntary self help organizations deal with that? If these posers ever lived in Libertopia they would shit themselves.
    Now, as to Finklestein, the key here is the very interesting actions of his Dean, who took the rather extra-ordinary step of not only going against his tenure, but wrote an active letter to the committee at the time urging it be killed. Note that Dean's are the ones who take the heat for bad p.r. and at times have a deserved rep for bending academic principles in the face of such heat...

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    I got the best public school education my parents could afford.

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    From Dershowitz:

    He argues that Leon Uris, the author of Exodus, named his character "Ari" in order to promote Israel's "Nazi" ideology: "Because Ari is the diminutive for Aryan. It is the whole admiration for this blond haired, blue eyed type." (Ari is a traditional name dating back to the Bible.)



    Who in the Bible is named Ari?

  • Geoff Nathan||

    I'll pretty much go with most of the comments above--no real publications and a loony to boot--every so often the tenure process actually works.
    Ari is Hebrew for 'lion', and is derived from the Proto-Semitic word for 'wild beast'. Aryan comes from a place name, deriving from some Indo-European root (perhaps related to 'Iran'.) It's totally unrelated to Ari. But of course people like Finkelstein feel no need to actually cite facts in their blather about language. They'd rather just assert stuff, knowing nobody will bother to look it up or check with an expert

  • Ashish George||

    Finkelstein has never, to my knowledge, denied the Holocaust happened.

    The academic blog Crooked Timber had some interesting comments on this:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2007/06/13/deluge-of-dershowitz/

  • M||

    Who in the Bible is named Ari?

    A hill of beans: "And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, [is]?" (Acts 17:19)

  • neK||

    Good DanT point on the schools. I bet that überhälfte received the H&R libraries a formation of the general school (that too badly to have been not precisely cannot, if it made it have the brains to arrive at of Hayek and Settings, uneducated the budget name below). I bet, if the effort named it the axes, a voluntary self-protection network did not start. Many the sectors, where they did not turn to the government that they probably received the assistance, particularly like kids, a one of the parents, aunt, pleasant neighbor, church, etc…. can then note them obviously that shitload and I do not mean shitload the kids which do not have useful parents, aunts, neighbors. We must the government of programs help these people. The note is not there perfectly, however a sight at the Mississippi which on the poverty of préguerre is. Geez, why not the organizations barmherzigen and the spontaneous volunteer himself - do the assistance of the organizations employ those? If those actually lived posers in Libertopia, themselves would become scheissen. Maintaining with regard to of Finklestein, the key is the very interesting activities of its senior which do not go only the rather extraordinary stage counters its possession undertook, wrote here however at the committee an active letter which currently pushes it it, is killed. It notices that the senior those are that heat for bad p.r. takes and has sometimes a representative gained to fold academic basic rules seen of such heat…

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    Dr. Mehrene Larudee received unanimous support from both the International Studies Department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Dean Suchar of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recommended Dr. Larudee, who will serve as the Chair of International Studies next year, and issued a report against recommending Dr. Finkelstein for tenure.

    But both professors are being denied tenure,
    Dr. Larudee is evidently being punished for her support of Finklestein. The process is clearly heavily politicized. More disturbing than Finklestein's denial is the denial of tenure for Larudee for supporting him. There does appear to be less controversy surrounding her qualifications.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Now a lot more people know who he is and what he stands for.

    Evidently not, given the number of people, on this thread and elsewhere, who believe that he is a Holocaust denier.

  • Gene Berkman||

    I read "The Holocaust Industry" and Finkelstein does not deny the Holocaust, but says it is used to justify Israeli policy. In some ways a valid point, and in some ways Israel might be justified using the Holocaust to defend its policy.

    I found the tone of the book heavy-handed in its condemnation of the contemporary Jewish establishment, and he might have made more points with a balanced presentation.

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    Iz zere any vey zey can boze loze?

  • ||

    "...but Alan Dershowitz is still a douche..."

    I haven't read more than a small sampling of his writing but he rocks as a debater. I've never seen him appeal to emotion. He may be a douche but he's a smart/clever one.

    As for his unwavering defense of Israel... I've noticed that he usually argues against those trying promote moral equivalence between Palestinian violence and Israeli violence. The fact is if they were similar there probably wouldn't be many Palestinians left. Not trying to start a huge discussion- just my opinion,

  • Dave W.||

    NBC, he says, broadcast Holocaust to strengthen Israel's position: "In 1978, NBC produced the series Holocaust. Do you believe, it was a coincidence, 1978? Just at this time, when peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt took place in Camp David?"

    I don't know if this is correct or not, but what is wacky about it? That the entertainment department at NBC could ever have a political agenda? C'moooon. I mean, even if their only motivation was to attract maximum eyeballs to the mini-series, it would make sense to run it when interest in Israel was running high for whatever reason.

    He argues that Leon Uris, the author of Exodus, named his character "Ari" in order to promote Israel's "Nazi" ideology: "Because Ari is the diminutive for Aryan. It is the whole admiration for this blond haired, blue eyed type." (Ari is a traditional name dating back to the Bible.)

    I don't know if this is correct or not, but this is a conspiracy theory how? It seems quite possible that "Ari" is both: (i) a traditional name; and (ii) evocative of certain modern connotations that Uris wanted to raise.

    Bonus link: The ever-accurate Iranian state television channel headlines its Finkelstein story "Academic Sacked over Holocaust."

    So? Sounds like they called this one about right.

    I miss Tim n Matt n Julian.

  • han||

    I miss Tim

  • han||

    So? Sounds like they called this one about right.

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