The Chomsky Conspiracy

May 19, 2005

In News

By Steven I. Weiss

An academic battle simmering for two years is coming to a boil with
the release next month of a new book taking aim at Harvard
University professor Alan Dershowitz and his support for Israel.

In the new book, “Beyond Chutzpah,” DePaul University professor
Norman Finkelstein attempts to discredit Dershowitz’s 2003
bestseller, “The Case for Israel.” The title of the new books is a
play on Dershowitz’s 1991 book, “Chutzpah,” which made the case for
Jewish assertiveness in American life.

For two years, Finkelstein, author of “The Holocaust Industry” and a
fierce critic of some Jewish organizations, has been using his Web
site to criticize Dershowitz’s book, going so far as to argue that
the Harvard professor failed to properly attribute material from
Joan Peters’s book, “From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the
Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine.”

Dershowitz has vigorously defended the sourcing in his book and is
firing back at Finkelstein.

In an essay recently published on the Web site,
Dershowitz attacked Finkelstein, as well as Noam Chomsky and
Alexander Cockburn, left-wing pundits widely regarded as
anti-Israel. Dershowitz argued that the three were guilty of
“literary McCarthyism” in their attempts to discredit him.

“The mode of attack is consistent,” Dershowitz wrote. “Chomsky
selects the target and directs Finkelstein to probe the writings in
minute detail and conclude that the writer didn’t actually write the
work, that it is plagiarized, that it is a hoax and a fraud. Cockburn publicizes these ‘findings,’ and then a cadre of fellow travelers bombard the Internet with so many attacks on the target that these attacks jump to the top of Google.”

While Dershowitz has only recently gone public with most of his
complaints about Finkelstein, he has for some time engaged
Finkelstein’s publishers with warnings about potentially defamatory
material in “Beyond Chutzpah.”

“Beyond Chutzpah” is now with its second publisher, University of
California Press. “Dershowitz’s interventions slowed the production
schedule at New Press,” Finkelstein said. “Given the timeliness of
the book, I switched to UC Press, which was able to promise an
accelerated production schedule.”

However, Dershowitz claims that Finkelstein’s contract with The New
Press was canceled after the publisher “concluded that the material
was defamatory.”

Dershowitz said he has contacted UC Press in order to alert “them to
any potential defamations…. I just wanted to make sure they were
aware of the fact that a previous publisher had canceled a

Officials at The New Press would not comment on Finkelstein’s contract.

The director of UC Press, Lynne Withey, indicated that although the company plans to publish Finkelstein’s book Dershowitz had succeeded
on at least one front: Withey told the Forward that any claim that
Dershowitz did not write “The Case for Israel” would likely be
removed from Finkelstein’s book. Finkelstein responded to Withey’s
comments by saying, “The decision of the press, with which I fully
concurred, was to focus on the egregious misrepresentations of the actual record in Dershowitz’s book.”