November 8, 2006
Editor’s note: Neve Gordon’s response.
It’s ironic that those who shout loudest about freedom of speech for themselves and their friends are often the first to try to silence those with whom they disagree.
A case in point is Dr. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University, who has defamed so many people, as well as the nation of Israel. He also recently defamed me by saying that I had tried to prevent the publication of Norman Finkelstein’s latest anti-Zionist screed, Beyond Chutzpah. In fact, as I specifically wrote in my letters to Finkelstein’s publishers – as Gordon knew, because I released the letters – “I have no interest in censoring or suppressing Finkelstein’s freedom of expression.”
Gordon’s lie came straight from Finkelstein, who has a history of claiming that prominent Jews are trying to silence him, prevent publication of his books and keep them from being reviewed: “All opinion-leaders, from the left to the right, are Jews… The Silence around my book in the US – if this is not a conspiracy, then what is one?”
What’s ironic about Gordon’s article, though, is that just as he was falsely accusing me of trying to silence Finkelstein, he was trying to silence Prof. Steven Plaut of Haifa University.
THE GENESIS OF Gordon’s notorious lawsuit against Plaut was a fawning book review Gordon wrote of Beyond Chutzpah for Haaretz. In response, Plaut wrote an Internet posting entitled “Haaretz Promotes the ‘Jews for Hitler.'” Plaut subsequently wrote that Yasser Arafat was Gordon’s “guru” and compared Gordon to members of Judenrats after Gordon illegally entered Arafat’s compound in solidarity with the terrorist leader.
For exercising his freedom of speech in this way, Plaut was found liable for slander and fined NIS 80,000, by a Nazareth judge, Reem Naddaf, who went out of her way in her opinion’s dicta to justify Holocaust revisionism, which of course often goes over the line into something far darker, as it does when Finkelstein espouses it to mock survivors and condemn those seeking justice.
The verdict against Prof. Plaut was wrong, as I will explain by discussing both substantive and legal aspects of Plaut’s accusations.
First, as to substance: Gordon argued, dubiously, that Plaut meant to include him (Gordon) when he wrote “Jews for Hitler,” rather than Finkelstein and his fellow-travelers such as Noam Chomsky, who have openly endorsed Holocaust deniers and revisionists.
Even so, is there a factual basis behind the claim that Gordon supports genocidal anti-Semites, considering his admiration for Norman Finkelstein?
Finkelstein himself isn’t an outright Holocaust denier (though neither was Hitler, of course), because he acknowledges the basic facts of the Holocaust, while minimizing the number of victims. But Finkelstein is, in many ways, worse than an outright denier. He denies the reality of survivors, calling them “hoaxes” and “hucksters” and accuses Elie Wiesel of lying about his past.
The major theme of the Finkelstein book that Gordon was extolling is that Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism. “Alongside Israel, [American Jewish elites] are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today. They must be stopped.”
FINKELSTEIN’S and Gordon’s articles are featured on Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi Web sites, such as that of the Hitler-loving Ernst Zundel, who said of Finkelstein that “[h]e is making three-fourths of our argument – and making it effectively.”
So if Finkelstein and Gordon aren’t themselves explicitly neo-Nazi, they’re at least very highly regarded by those who are – and for good reason.
It’s no wonder Gordon is so attracted to Finkelstein. As I have previously written: “Considered one of the world’s most extreme anti-Israel academics, [Gordon] belongs to the class of rabidly anti-Israel far-left professors whose trademark is the delight they take in comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.”
The bulk of his writing consists of anti-Israel propaganda designed to “prove” that the Jewish State is fascist. Consider the irony: Gordon, who has no qualms about comparing Israelis to Nazis, has taken legal umbrage at being compared – at least as he sees it – to these same Nazis.
Talk about chutzpah! It’s absurd that Gordon is allowed to call people Nazis, but Plaut isn’t (especially given that Plaut’s characterization is far closer to the truth). I personally wish everyone would stop using the term Nazi, except when referring to Hitler and his followers.
AS FOR the legal and civil liberties aspect of the case, it seems clear that what Plaut said – about a public figure, no less – falls squarely within the realm of (well-supported) opinion, and it should be protected in any free society. Finkelstein and Gordon have dragged the debate over the Holocaust and the Middle East into the gutter, and now they are trying to enhance their own statures through a forum-shopped lawsuit.
Gordon is apparently afraid of the open marketplace of ideas and so he has gone whining to a friendly judge to protect his “reputation.” It’s an undemocratic ploy, violative of principles of free speech and fairness.
So here is my challenge to Neve Gordon: I visit Israel frequently, and am easily available for service of process. I invite Gordon to sue me for essentially restating in my own words what Prof. Plaut has said: It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli.