UC PRESS'S statement on the publication of the book

July 15, 2005

In News

The University of California Press is pleased to publish Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History by Norman Finkelstein. Since 1893, UC Press has been especially well known for pioneering books on critical social and political issues. As one of the largest, most distinguished scholarly publishers in the world, we are respected for attracting authors whose work transcends traditional academic boundaries. We have built a reputation for publishing books that matter. We think this one does.

Beyond Chutzpah scrutinizes what Norman Finkelstein describes as “the proliferation of distortion masquerading as history” around the Israel-Palestine conflict. He questions this scholarship and asks why, in his view, it receives uncritical acclaim within the academy. To support his thesis, Finkelstein uses Alan Dershowitz’s recent bestseller The Case for Israel as a springboard from which to investigate controversial human rights cases involving Israel over the last few decades. Sifting through thousands of pages of reports, and presenting the first accessible distillation of key human rights findings, Finkelstein argues that Dershowitz has misstated the facts. Most integral to this argument, Finkelstein claims that a long and lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict will never be attained without a basis in truth.

Anticipating the publication of Beyond Chutzpah, Professor Alan Dershowitz launched a letter-writing campaign, targeting our Board of Directors, the UC Administration, and Governor Schwarzenegger. We take this seriously. We are confident in our processes of factual and scholarly review, a protocol we follow as one of the leading university presses, and as a publisher of critical, incisive scholarship on politics, international studies, and domestic issues. We are also buttressed by enthusiastic reviews of this book from several scholars in Middle Eastern and Jewish Studies, who see this book as a critical work in the field.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS about UC Press’s decision to publish Finkelstein’s book

Why is UC Press publishing this book?

The University of California Press has historically published controversial books and has a strong and wide-ranging list of books on the Arab world, the Middle East, and Jewish Studies. It goes without saying that university presses, like universities, foster academic freedom so as to widen discussion on vital issues and to contribute to debate in the public sphere.

Beyond Chutzpah was originally to be published by the New Press. Why was the project brought to the University of California Press?

Norman Finkelstein exercised an “out clause” in his contract with the New Press when the Press decided to delay publication from Spring 2005 to Fall 2005. Finkelstein wanted the book to come out while charges of “new anti-Semitism” were still in the public eye. UC Press offered the promise of an earlier publication date and the additional benefit of academic peer review.

Why was your publication date pushed back? You were supposed to publish Beyond Chutzpah in June. It is now due out in August.

We were under a very tight schedule. The issues that Finkelstein discusses are extremely timely. The author and UC Press planned a breakneck production speed of five months, but editing and production took longer than we hoped. Additionally, Finkelstein wanted to include recent items such as the conflict unfolding at Columbia University.

Did you have the book reviewed by your lawyers, and if so, why?

Yes, we did. It is a controversial book, with a controversial thesis. It is the responsible thing to do. We request a careful review of all books of a similar nature.

How much of Beyond Chutzpah was changed, edited, or excised after the review and vetting process? What were the reasons for these edits?

According to its standard practice, the University of California Press copyedited the manuscript. In addition, because of the controversial nature of this book, the Press engaged a fact checker and commissioned a legal review. Changes made were editorial in nature and did not alter the fundamental arguments of the book.

Is it true that you excised references to Finkelstein’s claims that Alan Dershowitz did not author The Case for Israel, as has been reported in the press?

In an early draft of the book, Professor Finkelstein questioned why Alan Dershowitz, in recorded appearances after his book was published, seemed to Finkelstein to know so little about the contents of his own book. We felt that this statement distracted from the central issues of the book. Finkelstein agreed.