January 7, 2006
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National Catholic Reporter; 11/11/2005, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p23-25.
Neve Gordon’s review of Beyond Chutzpah.
Dershowitz: “Gordon devoted the first two paragraphs of his book review to me rather than to the book, claiming that I “tried to stop the University of California Press from publishing” Beyond Chutzpah. But I did no such thing and have said so many times in print.”
Chutzpah review dispute
11.11.2005 | National Catholic Reporter
I was shocked to find that NCR, a reputable and responsible magazine, would assign Neve Gordon to write a rant against Israel in the form of a review of Norman Finkelstein’s latest book Beyond Chutzpah (NCR, Oct. 14).
Gordon is hardly an unbiased reviewer. Considered one of the world’s most extreme anti-Israel academics, he 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. He has even been arrested for serving as one of Yasir Arafat’s “human shields,” protecting from arrest terrorists who planned suicide bombings. Recently Haifa University Professor Steven Plaut took NCR to task for publishing Gordon, a writer whose “fanatical anti-Israel propaganda writing” is “so extreme that it is carried by neo-Nazi Web sites and by Islamic fundamentalist magazines endorsing al-Qaeda!” Gordon shares Norman Finkelstein’s radically anti-Zionist agenda. Finkelstein “can’t imagine why Israel’s apologists would be offended by a comparison with the Gestapo.” As The Washington Post wrote, Finkelstein is “a writer celebrated by neo-Nazi groups for his Holocaust revisionism and comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany.” No wonder Gordon found the book such an enjoyable read.
What’s worse, as a contributor to Alexander Cockburn’s anti-Semitic Counterpunch.org Web site, Gordon has a vested personal interest in praising Finkelstein, Cockburn’s close friend and accomplice. That should have disqualified him from reviewing the book.
Gordon devoted the first two paragraphs of his book review to me rather than to the book, claiming that I “tried to stop the University of California Press from publishing” Beyond Chutzpah. But I did no such thing and have said so many times in print.
Among Finkelstein’s defamations are his allegations that I “almost certainly didn’t write” The Case for Israel “and perhaps [he] didn’t even read it prior to publication.” Finkelstein even suggests that all of my books are written for me by the Israeli Mossad: “[I]t’s sort of like a Hallmark line for Nazis. … [T]hey churn them out so fast that he has now reached a point where he doesn’t even read them.” When I produced my handwritten manuscript to prove that I had written The Case for Israel, Finkelstein changed his story, claiming that I plagiarized the book, a claim Gordon accepts at face value. But several distinguished scholars have concluded that Finkelstein’s plagiarism claim against me was absurd on its face. Harvard investigated and dismissed the charges, finding “that no plagiarism had occurred.” Yet Finkelstein persists in making this charge–part of his long pattern of leveling personal attacks against those who support Israel or justice for Holocaust survivors rather than engaging them on the merits of their views.
I invite all fair-minded readers to read my account in Chapter 16 of The Case For Peace, compare it with Finkelstein’s and make up their minds based on the facts rather than on the misrepresentations of a politically biased and personally interested reviewer.
Neve Gordon responds:
Instead of engaging with the issues at hand, Prof. Dershowtiz decided to attack me personally, thinking that if he undermines my reputation he can save his own. Paradoxically, he manages to prove one thing in his letter to NCR–that he is a consistent man. As in his book The Case for Israel, here too he relentlessly passes fiction for fact.
Despite Dershowitz’s claims, I never served as a human shield for Ararat, and thus was never arrested for this action, and I certainly am not anti-Israeli. Like Dershowitz I am an American citizen, yet unlike him I have chosen to live in Israel and to spend a large portion of my time struggling for social justice. Incidentally, about a year ago Dershowitz invited me to contribute a chapter to a book he is currently editing called What Israel Means to Me, and I politely refused. At the time he thought I was invested in Israel. what, I wonder, led him to change his mind?
Dershowitz avers that he never tried to stop the University of California Press from publishing Beyond Chutzpah and seems to think that if he says so many times it will eventually become true. This is a well-known demagogic strategy. Unfortunately for him, the press has a file with numerous letters in which he and the prestigious law firm that he hired demand that it sever all contact with Finkelstein. A typical letter from Dershowitz’s attorney, Rory Millson of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, describes “the press’ decision to publish this book” as “wholly illegitimate” and concludes that: “The only way to extricate yourself is immediately to terminate all professional contact with this full-time malicious defamer.”
Finally, Dershowitz asserts that he did not plagiarize, but as I mentioned in the review, according to Harvard’s own definition, it appears that he did. I invite NCR readers to peruse Beyond Chutzpah and to judge for themselves. The evidence is overwhelming.
National Catholic Reporter
I agree with Alan Dershowitz that, ideally, readers should decide truth for themselves “based on the facts” presented in our respective books (NCR, Letters, Nov. 11). The difference is that I did not try to suppress publication of his book, but he did try to suppress publication of mine. Dershowitz denies this. There’s a simple means to resolve this dispute: He should make public his and his lawyers’ correspondence with my publishers and with Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegger. Why has Dershowitz adamantly refused to do so if he has nothing to hide? In his fecund imagination Dershowitz has conjured up a global conspiracy headed by Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn and myself to defame and destroy him. In reality, I merely sat down and did what any serious scholar does when reading a book. The central thesis of Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel is that, contrary to what mainstream human rights organizations have reported, Israel’s human rights record is “generally superb.” I scrutinized his sources and the logic of the argument. My conclusion, copiously documented in Beyond Chutzpah, is that Dershowitz plagiarized from a notorious hoax and fabricated and misrepresented his source material. Neither his tantrums nor his slanders can alter these incontrovertible facts. Indeed, leading scholars at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Oxford University, Harvard University, M.I.T. and Berkeley peer reviewed my manuscript for University of California Press and enthusiastically recommended its publication. Incidentally, all of these scholars are Jewish. COPYRIGHT 2005 National Catholic Reporter
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COPYRIGHT 2005 National Catholic Reporter