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Noam Chomsky on Alan Dershowitz: "Jihad" against Norman Finkelstein

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  • Noam Chomsky on Alan Dershowitz: "Jihad" against Norman Finkelstein

    This is part of an interview with Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn which aired on Democracy Now.
    To hear/watch the whole program, go to Democracy Now!

    Noam Chomsky Accuses Alan Dershowitz of Launching a "Jihad" to Block Norman Finkelstein From Getting Tenure at Depaul University


    AMY GOODMAN: "In a wide-ranging interview, we talked about US wars from Iraq to Vietnam, about resistance and about academia. I asked Noam Chomsky about political science professor Norman Finkelstein, one of the country’s foremost critics of Israel policy, and his battle to receive tenure at DePaul University, where he has taught for six years.

    Professor Finkelstein’s tenure has been approved at the departmental and college level, but the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at DePaul has opposed it. A final decision is expected to be made in May. Finkelstein has accused Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz of being responsible for leading the effort to deny him tenure. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Dershowitz admitted he had sent a letter to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein’s tenure. I asked Noam Chomsky about the dispute.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: The whole thing is outrageous. I mean, he's an outstanding scholar. He has produced book after book. He's got recommendations from some of the leading scholars in the many areas in which he has worked. The faculty -- the departmental committee unanimously recommended him for tenure. It's amazing that he hasn't had full professorship a long time ago.

    And, as you were saying, there was a huge campaign led by a Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, to try in a desperate effort to defame him and vilify him, so as to prevent him from getting tenure.

    The details of it are utterly shocking, and, as you said, it got to the point where the DePaul administration called on Harvard to put an end to this.



    AMY GOODMAN: That's very significant, for one university to call on the leadership of another university to stop one of its professors.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: To stop this maniac, yeah. What's behind it? It’s very simple and straightforward. Norman Finkelstein wrote a book, which is in fact the best compendium that now exists of human rights violations in Israel and the blocking of diplomacy by Israel and the United States, which I mentioned -- very careful scholarly book, as all of his work is, impeccable -- also about the uses of anti-Semitism to try to silence a critical discussion.

    And the framework of his book was a critique of a book of apologetics for atrocities and violence by Alan Dershowitz. That was the framework. So he went through Dershowitz’s shark claims, showed in great detail that they are completely false and outrageous, that he's lying about the facts, that he’s an apologist for violence, that he’s a passionate opponent of civil liberties -- which he is -- and he documented it in detail.

    Dershowitz is intelligent enough to know that he can’t respond, so he does what any tenth-rate lawyer does when you have a rotten case:
    you try to change the subject, maybe by vilifying opposing counsel.
    That changes the subject. Now we talk about whether, you know, opposing counsel did or did not commit this iniquity. And the tactic is a very good one, because you win, even if you lose. Suppose your charges against are all refuted. You’ve still won. You’ve changed the subject.
    The subject is no longer the real topic: the crucial facts about Israel, Dershowitz’s vulgar apologetics for them, which sort of are reminiscent of the worst days of Stalinism. We’ve forgotten all of that. We’re now talking about whether Finkelstein did this, that and the other thing. And even if the charges are false, the topic's been changed. That's the basis of it.

    Dershowitz has been desperate to prevent this book from being -- first of all, he tried to stop it from being published, in an outlandish effort, which I’ve never seen anything like it, hiring a major law firm to threaten libel suits, writing to the governor of California -- it was published by the University of California Press.
    When he couldn't stop the publication, he launched a jihad against Norman Finkelstein, simply to try to vilify and defame him, in the hope that maybe what he’s writing will disappear. That’s the background.

    It’s not, incidentally, the first time. I mean, actually, I happen to be very high on Dershowitz's hit list, hate list. And he has also produced outlandish lies about me for years: you know, I told him I was an agnostic about the Holocaust and I wouldn't tell him the time of day, you know, and so on and so forth.



    AMY GOODMAN: You mean that he made that charge against you?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Of course, and on and on. I won’t even talk about it. What's the reason? It's in print. In fact, you can look at it in the internet. In 1973, I guess it was, the leading Israeli human rights activist, Israel Shahak, who incidentally is a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and Bergen-Belsen and headed a small human rights group in Israel, which was the only real one at the time, came to Boston, had an interview with the Boston Globe, in which he identified himself correctly as the chair of the Israeli League of Human Rights.
    Dershowitz wrote a vitriolic letter to the Globe, condemning him, claiming he’s lying about Israel, he’s even lying about being the chair, he was voted out by the membership.

    I knew the facts. In fact, he's an old friend, Shahak. So I wrote a letter to the Globe, explaining it wasn't true. In fact, the government did try to get rid of him. They called on their membership to flood the meeting of this small human rights group and vote him out.
    But they brought it to the courts, and the courts said, yeah, we’d like to get rid of this human rights group, but find a way to do it that's not so blatantly illegal. So I sort of wrote that.

    But Dershowitz thought he could brazen it out -- you know, Harvard law professor -- so he wrote another letter saying Shahak's lying, I’m lying, and he challenged me to quote from this early court decision. It never occurred to him for a minute that I’d actually have the transcript. But I did. So I wrote another letter in which I quoted from the court decision, demonstrating that -- as polite, but that Dershowitz is a liar, he’s even falsifying Israeli court decisions, he's a supporter of atrocities, and he even is a passionate opponent of civil rights. And this is like the Russian government destroying an
    Amnesty International chapter by flooding it with Communist Party members to vote out the membership.

    Well, he went berserk, and ever since then I have been one of his targets. In fact, anyone who exposes him as what he is is going to be subjected to this technique, because he knows he can't respond, so must return to vilification.

    And in the case of Norman Finkelstein, he sort of went off into outer space. But it's an outrageous case. And the fact that it’s even being debated is outrageous. Just read his letters of recommendation from literally the leading figures in the many fields in which he works, most respected people.



    AMY GOODMAN: Most interesting, the letters of support from the leading Holocaust scholars like Raul Hilberg.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Raul Hilberg is the founder of Holocaust studies, you know, the most distinguished figure in the field. In fact, he says Norman didn't go far enough. And it's the same -- Avi Shlaim is one of the -- maybe the leading Israeli historian, has strongly supported him, and the same with others. I can't refer to the private correspondence, but it's very strong letters from leading figures in these fields. And it's not surprising that the faculty committee unanimously supported him. I mean, there was, in fact -- they did -- the faculty committee did, in fact, run through in detail the deluge of vilification from Dershowitz and went through it point by point and essentially dismissed
    it as frivolous.



    AMY GOODMAN: They rejected a 12,000-word attack, point by point.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Aside from saying that the very idea of sending it is outrageous. You don’t do that in tenure cases.



    AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you think it will turn out?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the usual story: this depends on public reaction.
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  • #2
    As tenure drama comes down to the wire:

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    • #3
      An Enormous Amount of Courage

      "It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage to Speak the Truth When No One Else is Out There"

      The battle over political science professor Norman Finkelstein to receive tenure at DePaul University is heating up. Finkelstein has taught at DePaul for the past six years. Finkelstein’s two main topics of focus over his career have been the Holocaust and Israeli policy.

      We speak to two world-renowned scholars in these fields: Raul Hilberg, considered the founder of Holocaust studies, and Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at Oxford University and an expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Shlaim calls Finkelstein a “very impressive, learned and careful scholar”, while Hilberg praises Finkelstein’s “acuity of vision and analytical power.” Hilberg says: "It takes an enormous amount of courage to speak the truth when no one else is out there to support him."
      [...] Democracy Now!
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