June 26, 2011
Dear Mr Marsh,
I have been following the controversy concerning your withdrawal of an invitation to Norman Finkelstein to take part in a debate at the Yale Political Union.
A very similar thing happened at the Oxford Union Society in the United Kingdom a couple of years ago when Mr Finkelstein was mysteriously uninvited to appear in a debate. Actually there was nothing mysterious about it as it soon became clear that the Society had caved in to pressure to uninvite him.
As it happens Norman Finkelstein did get to speak at the Oxford Union on a later occasion and as someone who was there I can say his contribution was by far the most well argued contribution to the debate. His views may make him very unpopular in some quarters but the fact is he bases his arguments on the primary sources normally used by serious scholars. Some people may disagree with the conclusions he draws but there is no doubt he arrives at them in a reasoned and robust way.
A few years ago I was only aware of Finkelstein’s reputation as a ranting “extremist”. However, when I actually read his work and listened to his lectures I realised that not only was he highly knowledgable about the Israel/Palestine conflict but it was his critics who were more often than not the unreasonable extremists.
You should allow your members to judge for themselves by reinviting Norman Finkelstein to speak at the first available opportunity.