July 20, 2005
Editorial: Don’t Stop the Presses
In yet another episode of a particularly publicized academic catfight,
DePaul University assistant professor Norman Finkelstein said Harvard
professor Alan Dershowitz accused the University of California Press of
libel by publishing Finkelstein’s latest book. “Beyond Chutzpah”-which
focuses on Israel’s human rights record and what he sees as the misuse of
cries of anti-Semitism to defend it-accuses Dershowitz of lifting part of
his book, “The Case for Israel,” from other publications. While Dershowitz
may be upset after being accused of plagiarism, that’s no reason to try and
stop UC Press from publishing the work.
Dershowitz certainly unleashed his fiercest epithets at the press, but
calling it “the National Enquirer of university presses” is a little
extreme. For one thing, it’s highly doubtful that the Enquirer goes through
revisions 15 times and is peer reviewed by more than 20 professors and field
experts. If the contested allegations are still in the book, it’s more than
likely there’s enough evidence to back up Finklestein’s claims.
It’s also important to remember that anti-Israel does not equal
anti-Semitic. In fact, it’s quite fitting that instead of debating the
points, one of the first things Dershowitz has to say about Finkelstein’s
latest work is that it is anti-Semitic-effectively playing into Finkelstein’
s larger point.
Frankly, it’s refreshing that Dershowitz and Finkelstein are already
publicly quarrelling about this book. For one, Dershowitz’s arguments
against “Chutzpah” will likely be nearly as well known as the work itself.
For another, it means there’s at least some exchange of ideas going on,
which bodes well for discussion on this topic once the book is published and
people actually read it.
UC Press should be commended for standing by the legitimacy of “Chutzpah”,
checking it many times over and not balking from publishing controversial
work just because its contents don’t coincide with the prevailing attitude.
The healthy exchange of ideas in an open society depends on authors and
publishers brave enough to continue in spite of such threats and