April 8, 2005
By Derek Lipkin
Norman Finkelstein is releasing a new title through the University of California Press, but before the book has even been released, there has been opposition to its publication.
Finkelstein currently teaches political theory at DePaul University in Chicago and is the author of four other titles, all dealing with the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
According to Finkelstein’s Web site, the new book, titled “Beyond Chutzpah,” is about “the corruption of scholarship on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
In the book, Finkelstein alleges that several authors, including Alan Dershowitz, a well-known trial attorney and author, have misrepresented facts in earlier publications that address the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Prepared to release its spring 2005 titles, the UC Press is being questioned by Dershowitz for its decision to publish Finkelstein’s latest work.
Noted for his work as a defense attorney on the OJ Simpson murder trial, Dershowitz is currently a faculty member at Harvard Law School. Last year, he toured the United States, going to various universities, including UCLA, where he spoke about his book “The Case for Israel” and his motivations for writing it.
Representatives from the UC Press did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Dershowitz said publication of Finkelstein’s book will cause problems for the UC Press and that it should not be released by such a far-reaching publisher.
“(Publishing this book) will tarnish the UC Press,” he said.
The UC Press is currently one of the five largest university presses in the nation. It is non-profit, and has hosted several bestselling titles, according to the organization’s Web site.
“Beyond Chutzpah” was originally slated for release by New Press. Finkelstein said Dershowitz wrote several letters of considerable length to New Press about the release of “Beyond Chutzpah,” citing misinformation in the book, in order to slow the production of the title.
Dershowitz confirmed that he wrote letters to New Press, but added that he did so only after he had been contacted by the publisher’s fact checkers who had concerns about references to “The Case for Israel.”
Subsequently, Finkelstein moved the publication to the UC Press, where Dershowitz sent similar letters to the ones he had written to New Press.
Dershowitz employed the help of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, one of the largest firms in the country, to write to the UC Press to address the same concerns that were brought up by the fact checkers at New Press.
The lawyers also sent the handwritten manuscript of “The Case for Israel” to the UC Press to use as a reference.
Dershowitz said he also contacted Gov. Schwarzenegger’s legal office to inform them of the UC Press’s projected release of the new title.
Finkelstein said he understands that his work may cause a stir when it is released, and that UC Press took steps to be thorough in its evaluation of the book.
“Because of its controversial nature, they submitted it to eight outside readers,” Finkelstein said, adding that the UC Press usually submits manuscripts to three outside readers.
Finkelstein said these readers included scholars from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Oxford, Harvard and UC Berkeley. Finkelstein said all eight readers approved of the book and encouraged him to proceed with its publication.
Finkelstein questioned Dershowitz’s stated intentions to prevent damage to the reputation of the UC Press.
“When you enlist Cravath and Swaine, it’s not because you are worried about UC Berkeley; it’s because you are worried about yourself,” Finkelstein said.
In addition, Finkelstein said Dershowitz’s actions contradict with statements he has made in the past, citing Dershowitz’s visit to UCLA in October 2003.
According to a transcript of the event from the UCLA International Institute Web site, Dershowitz said he would never sue writers for libel or slander, but “will oppose them in the marketplace of ideas.”
But Finkelstein alleges Dershowitz laid the foundation for a case of libel against him in the letters to the UC Press.
In the United States, premeditation is necessary to substantiate a case of libel. Finkelstein alleges the letters were written in such a fashion to serve as evidence of knowledge that alleged inaccuracies were knowingly published.
Dershowitz denies Finkelstein’s allegations. He said the UC Press has not tried to contact him to check the facts that New Press brought to his attention, and that if the UC Press checked the facts, they would not release Finkelstein’s work.
This is not the first time Dershowitz and Finkelstein have disagreed over each others’ publications.
Dershowitz’s last major publication, “The Case for Israel,” was a New York Times best seller after its release in August 2004, according to the jacket of the book.
After the book’s publication, Finkelstein alleged Dershowitz had plagiarized from Joan Peters’ 1984 book “From Time Immemorial,” according to a transcript from “Democracy NOW!”, a nationally broadcasted radio show.
Dershowitz has consistently denied the allegations, and said a Harvard study proves that fact.