June 5, 2006

In News

Editor’s note: See also Usual Suspects, Usual Garbage.

The Finkelstein Syndrome,
by Roz Rothstein, National Director

In May of 2006, I witnessed the bizarre rantings of Norman Finkelstein at UC Irvine. This was the second time that I had the misfortune of sitting through his lecture, the first time was at Cal State Fullerton.
Once again, it was apparent to me why Finkelstein has been such an abject failure in academia. In my opinion, here are just some of the reasons Finkelstein is held in such low regard by serious scholars.

First, Finkelstein uses his identity as the child of Holocaust Survivors to gain credibility. He distorts history by omitting context, and he defames well-respected figures for the purpose of promoting hatred against
the state of Israel and minimizing the horrors of the Holocaust.

His lectures include predictable rants against Israel, promotion of conspiracy theories regarding the reason his own new book (Beyond Chutzpah) was never reviewed, and a strange continuous
bashing of Professor Alan Dershowitz for writing “The Case for Israel.” He spends an inordinate amount of time lecturing about Joan Peters book “From Time Immemorial,” and calls Survivor Eli Wiesel the “clown in the Holocaust circus.” How twisted is Finkelstein’s sense of human decency?

As the daughter of Holocaust Survivors, I find Norman Finkelstein beyond despicable. I believe he openly and methodically lies in order to promote his own anti-Israel agenda. It is well known that some children of Holocaust Survivors carry severe scars and wounds that actually manifest in peculiar psychological behavior. For two decades I worked as a licensed Family Therapist, and I believe that some day soon there will be a formal psychological syndrome that would account for self-hating Jews like Norman Finkelstein. Perhaps the syndrome will even be named after him: The Finkelstein Syndrome.

It’s inconceivable to me that an academic fraud like Finkelstein might achieve tenure at De Paul University in Chicago, where he presently teaches his bizarre theories. That he is an assistant professor there is, in my view, a badge of shame for De Paul.

Finkelstein’s true occupation is being a member of a traveling circus, a freak show of anti-Semites who promote anti-Israel propaganda from campus to campus. He openly admits to having high regard for Hezbollah on his website, and promotes the false notion that “scholars widely agree that Israel ethnically cleansed the Palestinian people in 1948.” Even the historians that he quotes, disagree with him. He denies the evidence that Arab leaders told Palestinian Arabs to leave Israel in 1948 so that the combined forces coming from Arab countries could exterminate the Jews, after which the Arabs who had lived in the region could return. He denies the overwhelming evidence that this was the case, contained within periodicals and confirmed radio announcements at the time, like The Near East Arabic Broadcasting
Station, The New York Herald, London Economist, Time Magazine, Jordanian Daily Newspaper, etc. that clearly reflects the push by Arab leaders to encourage the flight of their brethren for the purpose of the annihilation of the Jews and their reborn state. You can read a compiled list of critical quotes from reputable
sources regarding this issue at

I cannot help but wonder why Finkelstein fails to mention that approximately 150,000 Palestinian Arabs chose to remain in Israel in 1948, becoming Arab Israelis with descendants and friends that now number over one million. Growing numbers of Arab Israeli citizens, with representation in Israel’s Knesset, do not match with his accusation of ethnic cleansing.

I wrote a letter to him once, frustrated after having attended one of his deeply disturbing lectures. I asked him why he lied to well meaning students during his lecture. I showed him the evidence that the flight of the Palestinian Arabs from Israel in 1948 was in part due to the war, and in part due to the clear calls from Arab countries. I showed him evidence from credible sources. I asked him to refute them, but he did not. Instead he told me to read his book, and he told me that our conversation was at an end.

As I sat watching Finkelstein this second time, I looked around the room at the eager 300 to 400 students who came to hear him speak. Many of them were already anti-Israel and enjoyed his presentation because it supported and expanded their own prejudices. Others, however, heard that a controversial speaker was coming and came in good faith, with an open mind. I watched for three straight hours at UC Irvine, as students were poisoned by the Finkelstein Syndrome. I walked away feeling saddened by the notion that young hearts and minds were affected by a man of such dubious scholarship and malicious intent.

What remedy do we have when a hateful propagandist and academic fraud like Finkelstein comes to town? As the national director of an organization that believes in free speech, the only power we have is to expose him as a failed scholar who clearly lacks balance, as a man with an obsessive agenda, and as a man who respects the likes of Hezbollah. Maybe if these things about him becomes more widely known, the 350 people who may have the misfortune of attending his future lectures will come for entertainment rather than for education.

The above is the humble opinion of another child of Holocaust Survivors. I am confident, however, that I am not alone.

Roz Rothstein,
National Director