The Dersh and the Don


If you've managed to avoid the Alan Dershowitz-Norman Finkelstein contretemps, congratulations: You live a full enough life not to notice when two grown men get into the academic equivilent of an Ain't It Cool News talkback thread. Short version: Finkelstein claimed that Dershowitz plagiarized a few passages in his book on Israel, Dershowitz called Finkelstein a Holocaust denier, Finkelstein commissioned a cartoon of Dershowitz masturbating to news footage of the Israel-Hezbollah war, Dershowitz lobbied aginst Finkelstein's application for tenure. Dershowitz's wrap-up in The New Republic includes this hilarity:

I've been a leading villain of this effort. Chomsky has accused me of launching a "jihad." (I am not alone, it should be noted, in opposing Finkelstein's tenure: The president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights argues, "Finkelstein lacked the requisites associated with academic excellence.")

Yes, the Catholic League and Bill Donohue—the artillery you need when you're trying to blast an alleged anti-semite.

Tim Cavanaugh on Donohue and the rest of the outrage industry here.

NEXT: What's Wrong With a Clutter of Candidates?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Simply saying that “Chomsky has accused me of launching a ‘jihad'” would have been the most eloquent argument Dersh could make for himself.

  2. Uh, Bill, I’m pretty sure shooting Jesus isn’t the Christian thing to do.

  3. Both of these guys might be pretty immature, but Finkelstein has the better case.

    “Yet, for months, Alan Dershowitz, Harvard’s Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, tried to stop UC Press from publishing Norman Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah. When the Press’ director Lynne Withey replied that she believed in academic freedom and would therefore go ahead with the book, Dershowitz sent letters to the university’s board of trustees and even to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, asking them to intervene on his behalf. Following both the trustees’ and governor’s decision not to get involved, one would have thought that the struggle would end. But now that the book is on the shelves, it seems that a new campaign is underway to cancel the author’s reading engagements, for example, at Harvard Bookstore and Barnes and Noble in Chicago.”

    You know someone is desperate when they go to such great lengths to silence their opponents.

  4. And Dershowitz probably DID jack off to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. I imagine Marty Peretz paying him to, a la near the end of Boogie Nights.

  5. Is this the elite’s version of an Anna Nicole Smith story?

  6. @chucklehead –

    Close. Rosie / Trump.

  7. This reminds me my favourite line from the Simpsons. It’s the MENSA episode when the quango of high IQ’s springfieldians takeover the town, and concludes with Stephen Hawkins explaining that sometimes the smartest people are the most immature.

    Comic book guy, imposing his new regulations, states:

    ‘Following the example of the most logical race in the universe, the vulcans, breeding will only be permitted once every eight years. For many, this will mean much less bredding. For me, much, much more’.

    These two should be told to grow up and watch the Simpsons.

  8. Finkelstein commisioned what? That’s bizarre behavior for an academic (as one I would at least like to hope)…Yikes.
    In the other corner I think Dershowitz is exactly the kind of goofball that feeds anti-Semtitic paranoid fears. This guy is enthused with Israel that he does not mind contradicting nearly every stand he has taken on criminal law issues AS THEY APPLY TO THE US ONLY of course. I think it is completely understandable that some Jews, given the horrible treatment of their people for nearly forever, become mindless shills for Israel. In fact, I think it a testament to the higher than ordinary levels of intellectuallism and integrity in Jewish culture that the majority of Jews in America and the world are acutally quite fair and rational on Israel (this is not reverse racism here, I don’t see any differences in various ethnic groups CAPACITY for intellectualism, but there are certainly cultural/historical factors that have produced some ethnic groups with longer, deeper and more illustrious intellectual cultures than others). Dersh, and a plethora of neo-cons I can think of, just don’t fall into that group…

  9. Meaning of course Ders and the neo’s fall into the mindless shills category.

  10. It’s been downhill for Dershowitz ever since Jeremy Irons kicked his ass in Reversal of Fortune II: The Wrath of von B?low.

    I fear that Dershowitz lets his emotions and strong biases cloud his legal judgment too much, not to mention launching him off on the occasional jihad.

    Look for Dersh’s new book: Why Norman Finkelstein Should be Tortured. Out on bookshelves next week sometime.

  11. is there a way for both of these guys to lose?

  12. edna,

    Why yes. Ignore them.

  13. I second edna, although I like Henry Kissinger’s phrasing, when discussin the Iran/Iraq War:

    Iz zere any vey zey can boze loze?

  14. I third edna’s proposal and move that we bring it to a vote. All in favor say “Aye”.


  15. ‘Why yes. Ignore them.’

    But that never, ever, ever works. My mum’s been telling me to do that for nearly a quarter of a century but it simply feeds by unrequited anger.

    The two need to be publicly humilitated. I suggest an activity involving stocks, a chicken suit and a gallon bottle of horse urine.

  16. Well, then, we seize them both and apply healthy portions of tar and feathers to their skin. The traditional methods are usually the best.

  17. Mark VIII:

    Just stage a reenactment of the BATIN (in public), and it will
    1) publicly humiliate each
    2) serve as a lesson to the rest of us (it burns! it burns!)
    3) there is *NO* 3.

    There you go, ProGLib. Shilling for Big Hot Top again. Just remember: erotic is with one feather. Kinky is with the whole chicken.

  18. Not really, VM. I do not advocate actually paving Messrs. Dershowitz and Finkelstein.

  19. Dershowitz Street? How did it get that name?

    Funny story…

  20. Talking of slightly bonkers Academics, and an unashamed thread-jack, is anyone planning on reading Christopher Hitchens new book?

    I’m torn between the fact he is:

    a) a cracking writer
    b) amusing
    c) often insightful


    d) clearly going fruit-loops

  21. What’s the basis for the assertion that Finkelstein is a holocaust denier?

  22. Fluffy,

    His opposition to Dershowitz, natch.

  23. Close. Rosie / Trump.

    But of course. A much better example. Thanks.

  24. What’s the basis for the assertion that Finkelstein is a holocaust denier?

    From what I can determine, there seems to be no such basis. Fink seems to argue (among other things) that some Jewish folk use the fact of the Holocaust to somehow deflect criticism of Israel. Of course, this seems to imply that Fink believes in the reality of the Holocaust. So I don’t see where the denial comes in.

    On the plagiarism charge, there seems to be more to go on. It all comes down to how one reads the citation rules in the Chicago Manual of Style, apparently. From what I perused, it seems like Dersh may have been guilty of some poor scholarship.

    So Fink 2, Dersh 0.

  25. What’s the basis for the assertion that Finkelstein is a holocaust denier?
    There is none. His mother was a holocaust survivor in fact. It’s just a noxious smear that’s found currency amongst his ideological opponents. Some Holocaust deniers have lauded his books (David Irving to name one) which is the likely genesis of the smear, but he has never once denied the Holocaust.

  26. yes, it is indeed possible to be a jerk, a propagandist, and a bigot without being a holocaust denier. why that gets thrown into the mix is a mystery to me.

    tarring and feathering dershowitz is a good start, but there are a lot of lawyers in the u.s., so i hope that the proven tar and chicken reserves are enough.

  27. I can’t find an actual cite, but Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said words to the effect of: “academic politics are so vicious because there is so little at stake.”

  28. Well, Finkelstein argues that the Holocaust as understood by Jews in general is a social/economic construction, which may derive from the actual historical Holocaust, which he believes in, but is really a widespread conspiracy of greedy, mendacious Shylocks who have leveraged world sympathy to a) shake down European banks and corporations and b) steal land from Palestinians. So insofar as his polemical work more or less rubbishes the accepted understanding of the Holocaust as held by the people who experienced it and their descendents (himself accepted), he’s a Holocaust denier.

    And, of course, he’s fond of of making outrageous, Jew-baiting comparisons between the IDF and the Gestapo, which are tantamount to Holocaust-minimization and a sort of victim-perpetrator reversal that actually makes Jews into the retrospective cause of their own genocidal suffering two generations ago: if they’re doing THIS today, surely they deserved THAT yesterday.

    Go see how his work is used by Arab ‘historians’ and the Jew-haters of the Palestinian ‘solidarity’ movement to get an idea of how Finkelstein, at the very least, contributes to a certain deniability of the Holocaust.

    On the tenure question, Finkelstein’s scholarship is professionally deficient. He’s an aggravator, not a researcher. Dershowitz, for all the despicable positions he’s taken, is a formidable academic.

  29. Himself excepted.

  30. “What’s the basis for the assertion that Finkelstein is a holocaust denier?”

    Finkelstein distinguishes between what he calls the “Jewish Holocaust” which he readily acknowledges was real and horrible, and “The Holocaust” which he calls the Zionists’ misuse of the Jewish Holocaust for political purposes. Whatever one thinks of his terminology, it is ridiculous to lump him together with Holocaust denial as the term is generally understood.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.