October 26, 2006
Editor’s note: On Steve Plaut, see Haaretz: U.S.-born professor guilty of libeling colleague, by Ira Moskowitz, 09.06.2006, The Hit-Piece on Finkelstein from the Santa Cruz Protest by Kathleen Eschen-Pipes and
Should decent people subscribe to The Progressive?
Reader letters follow the article.
By Steven Plaut
The new academic school year is well underway. But there is one school in which this year will determine once and for all whether it will henceforth be considered to be a bona fide “university”, or merely a make-pretend parody of one.
|That institution is DePaul University.
This year will witness the most important decision in DePaul’s entire history, ever since it was first founded by the Catholic “Vincentians”. Over the next few months, DePaul will be deciding whether or not to grant Norman Finkelstein tenure on the basis of his “record”. The same university that fired Prof. Thomas Klocek for daring to defend Israel in a campus conversation outside the classroom is now seriously considering granting tenure to Finkelstein on the basis of his hate-filled pseudo-scholarly screeds. At DePaul, Finkelstein serves as assistant professor of political science at DePaul, but scholarship is the last thing that occupies his time.
Before coming to DePaul he had been fired from several adjunct jobs at academic institutions in the New York area for his lack of serious academic credentials and scholarship. Virtually Finkelstein’s entire publication record consists of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel books and non-professional articles. He has no publications whatsoever in any refereed academic journals, although he has hundreds in anti-Semitic, Holocaust Denial, and neo-nazi web magazines. The closest Finkelstein ever got to journal publication was with a couple of propaganda pieces in New Politics, a “socialist” non-academic magazine of far-leftist agitprop, sponsored by – among others – Noam Chomsky. This “journal” openly states that it “stands in opposition to all forms of imperialism, and is uncompromising in its defense of feminism and affirmative action.” Finkelstein also writes in assorted pro-terror Palestinian “journals”.
Finkelstein’s “books” have been dismissed as scholarly frauds and hate-filled propaganda by just about every serious historian or other scholar who has reviewed them. In the New York Times, Prof. Omer Bartov (Brown University historian) described Finkelstein’s book on the Holocaust as a “novel variation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the fraudulent essay concocted in the late nineteenth century by the Czarist secret police. He also described Finkelstein as “juvenile,” “arrogant,” and “stupid” (Aug. 6, 2000). Professor Marc Saperstein described Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history as a “prolonged diatribe,” replete with “outrageous ad hominem attacks” and written in the “rhetorical style of the arrogant academic pit bull.”
The eminent historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has dismissed Finkelstein as an anti-Semitic crackpot, as a pseudo-scholar, and as an apologist for the Hamas terrorists. The historian Israel Guttman dismissed Finkelstein’s book as an anti-Semitic buffoon. Professor Hans Momsen from Germany described it as “a most trivial book, one that appeals to easily aroused anti-Semitic prejudices.” University of Chicago Professor and author Peter Novick dismisses Finkelstein’s writing as “trash“. Novick has written,
“Such an examination reveals that many of those assertions are pure invention… No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate.” 
“I had not thought that (apart from the disreputable fringe) there were Germans who would take seriously this twenty-first century updating of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ I was mistaken.” (Offene Fenster und Tueren,’Sueddeutsche Zeitung, February 7, 2001)
The Anti-Defamation League has repeatedly characterized Finkelstein as an open Holocaust Denier. So has the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The French group “Avocats Sans Frontieres” (Lawyers without Borders) filed a suit in a French court against Finkelstein and his publisher two years back for libel and Holocaust Denial. Finkelstein readily adopts the language of neo-nazis; his web site a few days ago described a meeting of pro-Israel Jews in Europe as an assembly of the “Elders of Zion“. His personal web site recently carried a banner heading asserting that the Jews themselves fabricated photos of the murdered at Auschwitz..
“The field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud,”
writes Finkelstein. Among his most famous pronouncements is,
“If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one,” my mother used to exclaim, “who did Hitler kill?” (Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry, Verso, London 2000).
He describes the reparations paid by Germany to the families of victims of the Holocaust as “”the greatest robbery in the history of mankind.” He dismisses all research into the Holocaust at universities: “Indeed, the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud.” Even Benny Morris, himself an radical “New Historian” from whose books Finkelstein frequently quotes, has dismissed Finkelstein as a fraud and quack.
The Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher wrote (Dec. 3, 2002), that Finkelstein is a writer
“celebrated by neo-Nazi groups for his Holocaust revisionism and comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany.”
Leon Wieseltier from the New Republic wrote,
“He’s poison, a disgusting self-hating Jew, something you find under a rock.”
Gabriel Schonfeld, the editor of the neo-conservative Commentary Magazine, has written (Commentary, January 2001) that Finkelstein’s writings are
“crackpot ideas, some of them mirrored almost verbatim in the propaganda put out by neo-Nazis around the world.”
Finkelstein is beloved by ultra-extremists of both the Right and the Left. He is a regular columnist on the pro-terror Israel-bashing web magazine Counterpunch, published by neo-Stalinist Alexander Cockburn.
Finkelstein has long led a personal campaign of defamation and smear against Nobel Prize winning writer and philosopher Elie Wiesel. A concentration camp survival, Wiesel has been smeared by Finkelstein as “The Resident Clown of the Holocaust Circus.” Finkelstein charges that Wiesel is responsible for creating a “meaningless version of the Nazi Holocaust” and for only exposing “genocides that serve the interests of the US and Israel” (Salon.com, Aug. 30, 2000).
In contrast, Finkelstein has described the convicted Holocaust Denier David Irving, at the moment rotting in an Austrian prison, as “a good historian“, one who has “made an indispensable contribution to our knowledge of World War II.” Irving claims there were no gas chambers at all, no Holocaust of Jews in WWII, and that Hitler was in fact a friend of the Jews.
Finkelstein has dismissed the Simon Wiesenthal Centre (which documents the Holocaust and pursues Nazi war criminals) as ‘Dachau-meets-Disneyland’. Finkelstein has also led a long vendetta against Harvard professor of law Alan Dershowitz. But unlike Finkelstein, Dershowitz is a serious scholar with real academic publications. Finkelstein has called Dershowitz a nazi, has campared Dershowitz to Adolf Eichmann, and has even called for the targeted assassination of Dershowitz. He has run as “illustration” for his articles a cartoon by a Brazilian neo-nazi cartoonist (“Latuff”) showing Dershowitz masturbating.
Finkelstein has a long history of justifying and celebrating terrorism directed against the US and against Israel. He has justified bin Laden and al-Qaeda attacks on the US. He repeatedly called for “solidarity with the Hezb’Allah” as it fired rockets loaded up with ball bearings at Israeli children. He has stated,
“I say this without fear: for those who believe in freedom and dignity, we are all Hezb’Allah now.”
Neo-nazi organizations all over the world celebrate Finkelstein as the “Jewish David Irving“, as the person who proves as accurate their claims that there was no Holocaust, and that people like David Irving are simply telling the historic truth. Ernst Zundel (deported from Canada for his open neo-nazi activities) and his wife repeatedly sing the praises of Finkelstein. So do almost all the pro-terror web sites of Islamofascists in the world. Finkelstein has appeared on the official Hezb’Allah television network al-Manar, because, he said, “If I’m willing to appear on CNN – the main propaganda organ for America’s terrorist wars–why shouldn’t I appear on al-Manar?”
Finkelstein today is the symbol of DePaul’s dishonorable decline, someone who has even endorsed death threats against pro-Western Moslem dissidents. Irshad Manji runs Muslim Refusenik a web site for dissident Muslims who reject Islamofascism and terrorism. She has been using her site to collect signatures to a petition that denounces Islamist violence and Islamofascism. In her site, she explains that she and her friends have received a serious death threat from a British-based Islamist website. Finkelstein cheered those threats and wrote the Muslim Refusenik web site asking, “Is there a petition supporting the death threats?”
In a few months we will know whether DePaul is to adopt real academic standards and strive to morph into a real university. The litmus test is how it handles Finkelstein.
Anyone wishing to express an opinion to DePaul’s heads about that can find a list of DePaul officers with their email addresses here.
 The Holocaust in American Life (1999) Houghton Mifflin
Just read your piece :
I must say that your writing is horrific.
You have no arguments in this piece, just a chaotic grouping of ad hominems, red herrings, hasty generalizations, a few posioned-wells, and other fallacies.
I doubt seriously you have read any of Finkelstein’s books. In his defense, he actually makes arguments using facts (oh no not those) and data and conclusions from mainstream reputable human rights groups.
You have nothing to offer the dicussion on the Israel-Palestine conflict but fallacies and labels.
And you are a professor !?
Poor students …
Dear Mr. Plaut,
I hope I have the right Steven Plaut–my apologies if there are two
I understand you have a mixed track record when it comes to libeling
your political opponents, and I wouldn´t want to get in the way of
you and your next law suit, but I thought it important to t
you that your recent polemic against Norman Finkelstein can only
be described as: hilariously mendacious. Just three examples
1. Finkelstein´s mention of the “Elders of Zion” on his website is
clearly–without any possibility of misinterpretation–ironic. That
you pretend not to understand this deserves another adjective.
2. Daniel Goldhagen hardly counts as an objective source (or
“eminent historian”, for that matter) on NF, since his book
“Hitler´s Willing Executioners” was demolished by Finkelstein in a
lenghy review, of which you are most certainly aware.
3. Finkelstein, as any serious Finkelstein-basher knows, has never
in any form or forum denied the Holocaust, and your reproduction of
his own quote from his mother is a case of brazen
decontextualizing. Her point (and Finkesltein´s) is to question the
number of survivors, not victims (but of course, you know that
Articles like yours give “pro-terror” anti-Zionists like myself the
satisfaction that, if we don´t always know who to root for, at least
we know who to root against.