March 7, 2006
By DAVID ANDREATTA
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A professor who has drawn widespread criticism for declaring that some Jews use the memory of the Holocaust an “extortion racket” has ignited an outcry at Columbia University, where he was invited to speak by several student groups.
Norman Finkelstein was slated to speak at the university’s largest lecture hall tomorrow night on the topic “Israel and Palestine: Misuse of Anti-Semitism, Abuse of History.”
The appearance of Finkelstein, a DePaul University political-science professor, comes as Columbia is still licking its wounds over charges last year that pro-Palestinian professors had intimidated Jewish students.
A university panel cleared the professors, but the controversy ignited debates on academic freedom that still burn today.
Last week, student leaders from the College Conservatives and the College Democrats denounced Finkelstein’s visit in a fiery opinion piece titled “Hate Comes to Columbia,” in the student newspaper.
Yesterday, two Muslim students defended his appearance, noting in the newspaper that Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors whose work has been hailed by numerous authorities on the subject.
“I am distressed that after so much effort toward dialogue on this campus, these groups are bringing a divisive anti-Semite to Columbia,” said Danielle Slutzky, president of LionPAC, a pro-Israel student group.
An e-mail sent from The Post to the Muslim Students Association at Columbia, the prime sponsor of Finkelstein’s speech, was not immediately returned.
Finkelstein caused a stir in 2000 when he wrote in his book, “The Holocaust Industry,” that the Holocaust is being used as “an extortion racket” by some Jews who “shake down” owners of looted Jewish property while paying lip service to Holocaust survivors.
He also called Nobel Prize-winning Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel the “resident clown” of the “Holocaust circus.”
In an interview with The Post, Finkelstein stood by his work, saying, “I do not run away from my statements. On the other hand, I have real problems when people try to stick labels on me that are not only libelous, but filthy lies.”
“Among serious scholars, my views are not lunatic or kooky,” he continued. “I am, rather, appropriating what serious scholars have said on the topic.”