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The Finkelstein Affair:

[Bernstein responds to Leiter here.]

I keep getting emails asking what I think about DePaul University's denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein. The short answer is that while I certainly haven't tortured myself by reading everything Finkelstein has written, I've read enough to broadly agree with Cathy Young's assessment, which you can find here.

What I find irritating about the Finkelstein controversy it's almost always portrayed as a lightning rod for controversy because he is "anti-Israel." He certainly is anti-Israel, but the reason he attracts such enmity is that he uses rhetoric that is unmistakably anti-Semitic, including in contexts only tangentially related to Israel. Whether he's actually anti-Semitic (yes, I know he's ethnically Jewish; so?) or just uses anti-Semitism as a rhetorical prop in an attempt to stir the masses against the Jewish establishment in the hopes that this will ultimately weaken Israel, I don't know.

By now some of you are thinking, "there goes Bernstein conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism." No, I'm conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Semitism. Writing that leading American Jewish activists "resemble stereotypes straight out of [Nazi newspaper] Der Sturmer" has nothing to do with criticizing Israel. Neither does claiming that American "Jewish elites" have "a mindset of Jewish superiority." If Pat Robertson had made these remarks instead of Finkelstein, is there any doubt that many of Finkelstein's staunchest allies would not hesitate to proclaim them anti-Semitic?

Both of these quotes can be found in his book, Beyond Chutzpah. But what about context? Here's the context for the first quote:

Legitimate questions can surely be posed regarding when and if Jews are acting as people who happen to be Jewish or acting "as Jews," and, on the latter occasions (which plainly do arise), regarding the actual breadth and limits of this "Jewish power," but these questions can only be answered empirically, not a priori with politically correct formulae. To foreclose inquiry on this topic as anti-Semitic is, intentionally or not, to shield Jews from legitimate scrutiny of their uses and abuses of formidable power. In an otherwise sensible treatment of the new anti-Semitism, Brian King maintains that "it is a form of anti-Semitism" if an accusation against Jews mimics an anti-Semitic stereotype such as the idea of Jews being "powerful, wealthy . . . pursuing [their] own selfish ends." Yet if Jews act out a Jewish stereotype, it plainly doesn't follow that they can't be committing the stereotypical act. Can't they commit a vile act even if it conforms to a Jewish stereotype? It is perhaps politically incorrect to recall but nonetheless a commonplace that potent stereotypes, like good propaganda, acquire their force from containing a kernel—and sometimes even more than a kernel—of truth. Should people like Abraham Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, and Rabbi Israel Singer get a free ride because [Finkelstein's italics] they resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer? [To give you some idea of how grossly offensive this is, here are some cartoons representing Jewish stereotypes in Der Sturmer.]

And heres the context of the second quote:

Jewish elites in the United States have enjoyed enormous prosperity. From this combination of economic and political power has sprung, unsurprisingly, a mindset of Jewish superiority. Wrapping themselves in the mantle of The Holocaust, these Jewish elites pretend—and, in their own solipsistic universe, perhaps imagine themselves—to be victims, dismissing any and all criticism as manifestations of "anti-Semitism." And, from this lethal brew of formidable power, chauvinistic arrogance, feigned (or imagined) victimhood, and Holocaust-immunity to criticism has sprung a terrifying recklessness and ruthlessness on the part of American Jewish elites. Alongside Israel, they are the main formentors of anti-Semitism in the world today. Coddling them is not the answer. They need to be stopped.

If anything, the context of these quotes makes them look worse!

Those so inclined can turn Finkelstein into a free speech martyr if they wish. But, putting aside the merits of his claim to tenure, it's fundamentally dishonest to suggest that he attracted notoriety and criticism simply because he's a critic of Israel. I'm waiting for the first, honest, defender of Finkelstein to say, "yes, he's guilty of anti-Semitism, and that anti-Semitism is directly related to the work on which his tenure relied, but I think DePaul should have granted him tenure anyway." It's certainly plausible to argue that the fact that one's work on Jews and the so-called "Holocaust Industry" is tainted by anti-Semitism should not be a barrier to tenure if the work otherwise makes a significant contribution to the literature, but I'm waiting for someone to forthrightly make the case.

V:
Amazing. An eight paragraph post on the extensively covered (both by academic interest groups like AAUP, and by the media) Finkelstein tenure issue, and not one word (in a LEGAL blog) about Alan Dershowitz... [Editor: Just because Finkelstein is obsessed with Dershowitz (and vice versa) doesn't mean I have to be.]
10.3.2007 12:49am
Mappo (mail):
Well this was an excellent post by David taking a very surprising position for him which will undoubtedly lead to nothing but civil discourse and good feelings.
10.3.2007 12:59am
TerrencePhilip:
wow- the guy's quotes are positively chilling.
10.3.2007 1:03am
jgshapiro (mail):

Amazing. An eight paragraph post on the extensively covered (both by academic interest groups like AAUP, and by the media) Finkelstein tenure issue, and not one word (in a LEGAL blog) about Alan Dershowitz


What does Dershowitz have to do with whether Finkelstein is an Anti-Semite? Discount everything Dershowitz said and you might still conclude that Finkelstein is anti-semetic or did not deserve tenure at DePaul. Conversely, credit everything Dershowitz said and you might still decide to give Finkelstein tenure based on the [potential] argument raised in DB's last paragraph.

Dershowitz did not have a vote on the tenure issue, just an opinion. The DePaul faculty was perfectly free to ignore it.
10.3.2007 1:03am
U-M 3L:
Academia is so political that it makes the practice of law seem like a meritocracy.

Professors who disparage the American Jewish establishment or are to the right of hushed moderation invite banishment and should by year seven have arranged a second career.
10.3.2007 1:07am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Haven't we just spent the last week bemoaning how poor old Clarence Thomas is oppressed and vilified because he is a black man who refuses to kowtow to the black liberal elite. Yet if a Jewish man criticizes the Jewish elite then he is an anti-semite.

Please explain the distinction.
10.3.2007 1:17am
DavidBernstein (mail):
If Thomas had said analogous things about black leaders, I think he would reasonably be termed a racist. Can you give us examples of analogous things Thomas has said about black leaders, or the "black elite?" Be specific, so we can judge.
10.3.2007 1:27am
SenatorX (mail):
Nasty quotes and nastier cartoons.
10.3.2007 1:32am
V:
"Should people like Abraham Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, and Rabbi Israel Singer get a free ride because [Finkelstein's italics] they resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer?"

Tell me, David, as one Jew to another, is it a stereotype of Jews that they have no sense of humor?
10.3.2007 1:32am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Heck, I've criticized Jewish leaders on more than one occasion for a variety of perceived sins. But I've never said anything like they resemble stereotypes out of Der Sturmer.
10.3.2007 1:32am
DavidBernstein (mail):
V, on what grounds, given the context (e.g., stereotypes may have more than a kernel of truth), and the fact that vituperation is his style (e.g., Elie Wiesel is a "clown") do you think Finkelstein was joking?
10.3.2007 1:36am
spud (mail):
"(yes, I know he's ethnically Jewish; so?)"

Brilliant combination of the formal with the informal! It is rare that a semi-colon will find itself embraced by brackets, but it's always a pleasure to see (quite unusual; yeah!).
10.3.2007 1:37am
randal (mail):
I don't understand what you see as anti-semitic about the second quote. Could you elaborate?

I agree with the first one.
10.3.2007 1:46am
Brian K (mail):
Dershowitz did not have a vote on the tenure issue, just an opinion. The DePaul faculty was perfectly free to ignore it.

How come this defense has never once been used on this site to defend liberals when they protest against a conservative getting tenure or speaking on campus? Afterall, they were just voicing an opinion, they had no actual vote on the matter.
10.3.2007 1:53am
Roger Schlafly (www):
I don't know anything about Finkelstein, but let's
deny tenure to everyone who makes an inappropriate Nazi analogy!
10.3.2007 1:59am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't know anything about Finkelstein, but let's
deny tenure to everyone who makes an inappropriate Nazi analogy!
If "Bush = Hitler" were grounds for tenure denial, we'd eliminate homelessness, because we'd have to shut down the universities, freeing up lots of dorm space.
10.3.2007 2:33am
neurodoc:
Ah, Finkelstein. He is much favored by Alec Cockburn, The Nation's shame*, and CounterPunch, truly a fount of antisemitism. Is there anyone much favored by Alec Cockburn and CounterPunch who can be seen as estimable?

*even Lefty Eric Alterman, The Nation's media critic, has made clear his loathing of this particular Cockburn.
10.3.2007 3:11am
V:
Hyperbole can be used as a form of humor, David, as when you say of someone fussing over you they are acting like a Jewish mother. They are not literally fussing as much as a Jewish mother. But the point is made. Now it's been a few years since I've read Beyond Chutzpah, and I was more interested in the second part, which documented on a virtual line-by-line basis gross lying, fabrication of evidence, manipulation of sources, and plagarism that would have gotten any Harvard undergraduate summarily dismissed in this work of Dershowitz's (The Case for Israel) that had been so vastly praised in the US press. But I seem to recall that Finkelstein gave some specifics about actions taken by Foxman et al that were both dishonorable and played into a Jewish stereotype. No doubt these Jewish stereotypes they played to were not as bad as portrayed in der Stermer, but the point is made. Finkelstein's way of making his point with hyperbole is perhaps not your way of making a point--I imagine hyperbole is frowned on more in law school than in political science--but to use it as an example of anti-semitism shows how little a case you have.

As to his denial of tenure, his publications were greater and elicited more praise from recognized experts in the field, than anyone else in his department, he consistently was ranked among the best teachers in the university. The large majority of his department voted for his receiving tenure. There WAS a reason the AAUP was strongly opposed to the tactics used to deny Finkelstein tenure, and it wasn't because the AAUP is anti-semitic.
10.3.2007 3:22am
V:
David,

Spoke with Mearsheimer and Walt and they confirmed it. You ARE part of the Israel Lobby...
10.3.2007 3:24am
Tony Tutins (mail):
There is nothing sinister or remarkable about the case of Finkelstein, because schools deny tenure all the time -- yes even if their departments vote unanimously to grant them tenure. Only with the greatest reluctance do schools grant their faculty lifetime status, so you better be both damn good and squeaky clean. A new tenure track appointee has the same chance to get tenure as a new biglaw recruit has to make partner. In other words, many are called but few will be chosen. Of the ten assistant profs in my master's program, exactly one got tenure (another got tenure at a fifth rate school). And, although I didn't realize it at the time, the year I was there, the school was auditioning replacements for my advisor, a sixth year prof (beware the departmental seminar series of fresh PhDs.)

If you'd like to teach more than six years, you're actually better off to be a lecturer or instructor than to be on the tenure track. Because the school can fire you at any time, they're paradoxically more apt to keep you on the payroll.
10.3.2007 3:38am
Tony Tutins (mail):
he consistently was ranked among the best teachers in the university

Excellence in teaching is traditionally the kiss of death for tenure aspirants. (In ug and grad school, the excellence in teaching award invariably went to an assistant professor who never got tenure.) Others are writing books for a lay audience, expressing unorthodox views (wait till you get tenure before you let your little iconoclast out of the closet), and basically anything that does not tell the world "there is a productive uncontroversial scholar".
10.3.2007 3:46am
maplethore:
David:

I agree with you on this individual case, but what are the limits of your argument in regard to Finkelstein's point? In other words, if a rock-solid truth happens to also be a jewish stereotype, is it prima facie anti-semetic to point it out? Consider:

American jews are, on average, wealthier than American non-jews.

American jews are disproportionately represented in the industries of law and media, and underrepresented in the industries of construction and farming.

Both of those facts are true. But both were also highly associated with vicious stereotypes used by the nazis? Where do we draw the line on their presentation?

I guess I'm uncomfortable with the idea that basic ethnic differences —- which abound in America —- are somehow not fair game for examination. Somewhere between finkelstein and my examples is a line, I'm just not sure where it is.

jp
10.3.2007 7:22am
LawProfCommentator (mail):
V would probably find it just hilarious if someone said that the members of the Congressional Black Caucus acted like the subhuman beastmen of the racist literature of the 1920s while noting that related African American stereotypes may have more than a kernel of truth.
10.3.2007 7:39am
Ilya Non-Somin:
jp-

the line is at whether one draws a conclusion of a "Jewish conspiracy," which Finkelstein clearly crossed.
10.3.2007 9:59am
R. Richard Schweitzer (mail):
Why should tenure for "professors" be based on their "writimgs?"

What ever happened to the criterion of being an effective guide in the process of learning?

"Publish or Perish" has now become "Perish by What You Publish."

Why not just do away with the entire concept of "tenure?" Is it really contributing to the quality of learning?

R. Richard Schweitzer
s24rrs@aol.com
10.3.2007 10:34am
jonesinjonesin:


the line is at whether one draws a conclusion of a "Jewish conspiracy," which Finkelstein clearly crossed.


That can't possibly be the line. If it is, then most American jews I know are too quick to charge anti-semitism. Plus, what would we call the following:

American jews as a group are highly educated, wealthy, and reside disprop
10.3.2007 11:04am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Sorry, Jones, I thought you double-posted, and I deleted the second one.

As for the line, that's a good question, but I'd say that if you think that prominent members of ANY group resemble the most grotesque, hostile, disgusting stereotypes that overt racists have of them, you are clearly well over the line. Finkelstein's only defense is that the Nazis had a good point, you give Jews some power and wealth and they do resemble blood-sucking vermin eking the life out of the Gentile population, and if he wants to rest his case on that, so be it. And if his supporters among "progressives" want to lionize him anyway, then they are undermining their own "anti-Zionist" cause.
10.3.2007 11:32am
MDJD2B (mail):

And, from this lethal brew of formidable power, chauvinistic arrogance, feigned (or imagined) victimhood, and Holocaust-immunity to criticism has sprung a terrifying recklessness and ruthlessness on the part of American Jewish elites. Alongside Israel, they are the main formentors of anti-Semitism in the world today. Coddling them is not the answer. They need to be stopped.


This quote is not anti-Jewish?
10.3.2007 11:37am
NattyB:
David,

Perhaps you should evaluate your presumptions. How can you read the following quote and not think of Feith, Wolfowitz and Norman Podhoretz.

Legitimate questions can surely be posed regarding when and if Jews are acting as people who happen to be Jewish or acting "as Jews," and, on the latter occasions (which plainly do arise), regarding the actual breadth and limits of this "Jewish power," but these questions can only be answered empirically, not a priori with politically correct formulae. To foreclose inquiry on this topic as anti-Semitic is, intentionally or not, to shield Jews from legitimate scrutiny of their uses and abuses of formidable power.

I think where you really take issue with Finklestein is the tenor of his criticisms of the "Jewish Elites", and that he has the temerity to use inflammatory language to make a point.

What Finklestein is really trying to say, is that Abe Foxman (I'm sorry, but Abe Foxman does resemble that negative Jewish stereotype), AIPAC, et al. do not speak for all the Jews, in the same way, that Sharpton and Jesse Jackson do not speak for all black people.

Just look at how Mersheimer and Walt were assailed. They couldn't get published anywhere, and these guys were the foremost experts in their field. That certainly lends veracity to Finklestein's claims.

Oh, and Finklestein isn't just "ethnically Jewish", his parents were survivors from Poland. And for those reasons, he does not like, what he perceives, as the Jewish Elites using the Holocaust for political gain (I am NOT referring to Holocaust museums and things like that), because it cheapens, or perhaps in a way "commercializes", one of the darkest periods in humanity.
10.3.2007 11:59am
frankcross (mail):
The problem with "true stereotyping" is the implicit association of causality. Thus, the statement that Jews are wealthier than average may be true. And there's nothing wrong with identifying it. However, when this enters political discourse, it often transforms to "Jews are wealthier because of something associated with their Jewishness." This is the problem. It is true that blacks are more often convicted of criminal behavior. However, saying "blacks are much more criminal than whites" in an argument carries the implication that this is due to race. So something may be a fact, but one should be very careful how one characterizes that fact. Why say "Jews are wealthier" when the same message might be captured with "Urbanites are wealthier." The decision to categorize the facts of the world by religion (or race) is where problems start.
10.3.2007 12:14pm
anduril (mail):
David, you certainly have the advantage over me--while you haven't read everything that Finkelstein has written, I have read nothing that he has written. Nevertheless, I'd like to suggest that, when you write:
he uses rhetoric that is unmistakably anti-Semitic

your examples don't make your case.

To be considered anti-Semitic, Finkelstein would have to apply his words to ALL Jews, whereas, as I read his words (in your two examples), he clearly has certain classes of Jewish people in mind--not Jews as a whole. Of the three prominent Jews he names, I have only a nodding acquaintance with the work of one: Abe Foxman. Nevertheless, I have certainly heard many Jews strongly condemn Foxman, albeit not in the hyperbolic terms that Finkelstein uses. But that, in a way, is the point. The condemnations of Foxman by other Jews usually focus on his hyperbolic style, which they believe misrepresents Jewish attitudes as a whole and may cause non-Jews to develop harmful stereotypes. This was almost certainly the reason for recent Jewish criticism of Foxman for his efforts to deny that Armenians were subjected to a genocidal policy of the Turkish government at the end of WWI. But, again, it appears that Finkelstein's hyperbole--which on a second reading is more carefully qualified than a first reading would suggest--is directed at a quite specific target, and not at Jews in general.

Perhaps you have other examples that would support the charge of "unmistakably anti-Semitic" rhetoric. Distasteful as your chosen examples of Finkelstein's rhetoric may be to Jewish sensibilities, I don't think they support the charge of actual anti-Semitism. That charge would better be restricted to such luminous examples of anti-Semitism as the President of Iran. However, as a non-reader of Finkelstein's work I am open to further persuasion.

That said, my general impression--based on a very cursory perusal of a few news accounts--is that Finkelstein is a professional provocateur. That simply seems to be his preferred personal style. My view is that a university is within its rights to deny tenure to a professor whom the university judges would, on a continuing basis, subject the university to publicity that would tend to misrepresent the principles that the university stands for. DePaul at least claims to be a Catholic institution, so it does have some interest in preserving the image that it upholds Catholic principles. Finkelstein's chosen use of hyperbole does appear to run that risk, from the university's standpoint. In addition, it is true, I believe, that most or even all of Finkelstein's arguments have been made by others without the hyperbole, so it cannot be said that a viewpoint is being suppressed or eliminated from the field of public discourse. Certainly, it doesn't appear that the university came to its decision hastily or without due and serious consideration.
10.3.2007 12:15pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Given that Finkelstein says the Holocaust shouldn't be used for political purposes, I think it's ironic that you think the fact that his parents are survivors is at all relevant. Or are only "Zionists" not allowed to reference the Holocaust, but we should especially respect Finkelstein's views because of his parents' suffering?

As for M &W, they were commissioned to write a piece for the Atlantic. The Atlantic then turned it down, for who knows what reason. Magazines turn down pieces all the time. They then got it published elsewhere, and have gone on to fame, glory, and riches, despite the fact that their original paper was torn to shreds for numerous factual errors, and unsupported assertions (which may be why it was turned down to begin with). Not all of the criticism of M&W was productive, in my opinion, but they have hardly been "silenced," indeed there seems to be a great appetite for their views, no matter how poorly supported.

And if you're saying that Abe Foxman actually does resemble Der Sturmer stereotypes, then I think you should examine your soul. Look at the cartoons I linked to, if you haven't already, and tell me you think that this is mere "inflammatory language."

As for "what Finklestein is really trying to say", it's very nice for you to reinterpret what he says, but the idea that not all Jews support AIPAC is rather trite and uncontroversial, and if that's all he has to say, no one on either side would care.
10.3.2007 12:19pm
von (mail) (www):
As for the line, that's a good question, but I'd say that if you think that prominent members of ANY group resemble the most grotesque, hostile, disgusting stereotypes that overt racists have of them, you are clearly well over the line.

I think that's correct -- although it will continue to have a "know it when you see it quality" and different folks will "know" different things when they see varying "its."

As for me, Finklestein clearly goes over the line in the first example provided by Professor Bernstein. Humor and exaggeration are fine, but this isn't a comedy routine. I also think that the second example goes over the line, but that's a more difficult call for me. Certainly, it's anti-Jewish, as MDJD2B points out, but not everything that's anti-Jewish is necessarily motivated by a hatred of Jews as Jews (i.e., anti-Semitism). For me, however, the assumption that there is some monolithical body of "Jewish Elites" is what puts it over the line.

OTOH, all of this is a little different from the very interesting point that Professor Bernstein makes at the end of his post: Are distasteful views alone sufficient to deny someone tenure, if the work is otherwise meritorious? I tend to think yes -- universities should have the option of tenuring those whom they wish on the grounds that they wish -- but am open to persuasion.
10.3.2007 12:20pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Anduril, I said I'm agnostic on whether he is actually anti-Semitic, or just uses anti-Semitic rhetoric as a political tool. I'll stick by that. Again, put these words in Pat Robertson's mouth, and see what happens. Or use the equivalent language about prominent blacks, hispanics, gays, women, etc and see whether self-described "progressives" leap to your defense.
10.3.2007 12:28pm
PLR:
DB is perfectly capable of understanding the difference between terms such as anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Likud. However, his previous writings on this site make it clear why he classifies Professor Finkelstein (and Mearsheimer and Walt and anyone else who raises questions about AIPAC) into the first two categories.

One wonders if the third and fourth categories even exist for DB. Are all anti-Zionists by definition anti-Semitic? Are all anti-Likud individuals inexorably anti-Israel even though Israel has many of of them?

Not for nothing do some political science types put the government of Israel on the fascist side of the spectrum.

[Editor: Do you realize that your post conflates "anti-Israel" and "anti-Semitic"? Unless you missed the fact that I have several times said that I don't think M&W are anti-Semitic. And what, pray tell, is the difference between being "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Israel"? Zionism means that you believe Jews should have a state. Israel is that state. And since I don't agree with Likud, I kind of doubt that I think anyone who is against Likud (which I doubt PLR has any actual knowledge of, accept as a bogeyman) is anti-Semitiic). This is exactly the type of garbage post that makes me tempted to close comments.
10.3.2007 12:28pm
anduril (mail):
I'd say that if you think that prominent members of ANY group resemble the most grotesque, hostile, disgusting stereotypes that overt racists have of them, you are clearly well over the line.

Every year on March 17th, or thereabouts, the streets of many American cities are filled with marching people wearing goofy green outfits. Many of the marchers are intoxicated and they are led by prominent members of the Irish American community: mayors, etc. (most of them, hopefully, not intoxicated). These parades are an occasion of acute embarrassment to some Irish Americans and of disgust to other Americans. Is it "racist" or otherwise invidious to say that prominent members of the Irish American community, if not resemble, at least lend their support to "the most grotesque, hostile, disgusting stereotypes that overt racists have of them?" Hopefully, their fellow Americans know that most Irish Americans are not drunks, but is it illegitimate to criticize the Irish American community for countenancing such displays as tending to reinforce invidious stereotypes--such stereotypes may be demonstrably mistaken but they can't be said to rest on no evidence at all.

In Finkelstein's case, he appears to be targeting self-appointed representatives of Jews, in a way similar to those self-appointed black "leaders" whom certain other black academics term "poverty pimps." I suppose it's a question of degree.
10.3.2007 12:31pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
You're saying that St. Patrick's Day celebrations are actually a manifestation of hostility toward the Irish?

I never said that attacking Jewish leaders, including vigorous rhetorical attacks, are necessarily anti-Semitic. I said that claiming that Jewish leaders have a mentality of Jewish superiority and resemble Der Sturmer caricatures is anti-Semitic. So far, we've had people reinterpreting Finkelstein, claiming he was just joking, claiming he was just engaging in hyperbole, and so forth. So far, no one willing to simply acknowledge that he engages in anti-Semitiic rhetoric but argue that this should be irrelevant to his tenure.
10.3.2007 12:42pm
anduril (mail):
David wrote:
Anduril, I said I'm agnostic on whether he is actually anti-Semitic, or just uses anti-Semitic rhetoric as a political tool. I'll stick by that. Again, put these words in Pat Robertson's mouth, and see what happens. Or use the equivalent language about prominent blacks, hispanics, gays, women, etc and see whether self-described "progressives" leap to your defense.

1. I specifically disputed whether Finkelstein's rhetoric is correctly categorized as anti-Semitic. That is the specific area of our disagreement, not whether or not he is an anti-Semite per se. As I several times stated, the reason for my disagreement with you on this point, based on an admittedly very limited sample of Finkelstein's rhetoric, is that Finkelstein includes language that appears to narrow his target to a fairly specific sub-category.

2. I specifically characterized Finkelstein, based on limited knowledge, as a provocateur. Clearly his choice of language is based on the fact that he knows he can get away with it because he isn't a Pat Robertson. However, in a way you are making Finkelstein's point for him: if, as I maintain, the chosen samples of Finkelstein's rhetoric are not actually anti-Semitic in the normal sense of that word, then that characterization would be equally inapplicable to a Pat Robertson, were he to write or speak the same words. Since you are, however, quite correct that Robertson would be denounced as a rank anti-Semite for speaking or publishing such words, Finkelstein would have a field day criticizing the over application of the term "anti-Semitic."

3. I would certainly never expect "progressives" to defend virtually anything that I have to say and would expect to be verbally tarred and feathered in the circumstances you outline.
10.3.2007 12:47pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
It would be better if all professors were denied tenure because tenure didn't exist. Tenure is based on an outdated and questionable as to whether it was ever a good idea practice that should be abolished everywhere for everyone. I fail to see why a professor needs any different job security than applies to any other person or profession in the United States.

Says the "Dog"
10.3.2007 12:55pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
The statements wouldn't be anti-Semitic because Robertson made them, they are objectively anti-Semitic and people just give Finkelstein a pass because they like his politics, a pass they wouldn't give someone like Robertson. Ironically, Finkelstein's own case demonstrates a political use of anti-Semitism that he somehow doesn't mention, that someone like him won't be called to account by his allies for anti-Semitism because he's such a prominent "anti-Zionist."
10.3.2007 1:00pm
NaG (mail):
Anti-Semitic: the Der Sturmer cartoons, negative stereotypes, etc.

Anti-Zionist: any state based on preserving and promoting a given ethnic group, regardless of the motivation, is inherently unjust. Thus, there should not be a Jewish state.

Anti-Israel: Jews are entitled to a Jewish state, but just not in Israel where it has caused endless grief, strife, turmoil, etc.

The latter two positions can be made without being anti-Semitic, but it's very rare to see it actually done.
10.3.2007 1:00pm
Stating the Obvious (mail):
David is really quite amazing. No difference between "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Israel"? If he'd read W&M, for example, he'd know they (and I'm sure this is not an unusual position; in fact, I think it quite common, though apparently not in DB's world view) support explicitly Israel's right to exist (thus, not anti-Zionist, agreeable to a homeland for the Jewish people, willing even to use American military might to preserve Israel's right to exist), but opposed to many specific Israeli actions (the well documented torture of Palestinians and destruction of their homes as collective punishment that Dershowitz denies ever happens but has been thoroughly documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israeli human rights groups), thus "anti-Israel" in the only reasonable sense that term is used, i.e., anti-Israeli policies, practices, goals.

This is, in fact, exactly Finkelstein's point in part I of his book, Beyond Chutzpah: that whenever anyone opposes Israeli policies, Foxman and other prominent members of the Jewish community in the United States denounce it as anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic. He gives well documented examples, none of which DB bothered to quote or examine.

I was joking before about David being a member of the "Israel Lobby", but in fact he fits the W&M description to a tee.
10.3.2007 1:03pm
anduril (mail):
David wrote:
I said that [1] claiming that Jewish leaders have a mentality of Jewish superiority and [2] resemble Der Sturmer caricatures is anti-Semitic.

#1 is a factual question, but one that is difficult to address. If Finkelstein said: "Jews secretly teach in their schools and synagogoues that the Jews are a superior, master race," I would say that that is "anti-Semitic," for the simple reason that I believe it to be false. The only motive for making such a false claim that comes readily to mind would be to increase hostility toward Jews--an anti-Semitic motive. However, what Finkelstein actually says is that:

Jewish elites in the United States have enjoyed enormous prosperity. From this combination of economic and political power has sprung, unsurprisingly, a mindset of Jewish superiority.

The truth of this statement, and thus the question of whether or not it is anti-Semitic, depends on several variables--all of them difficult if not impossible to verify. Who are the "Jewish elites?" How does Finkelstein define or describe this term? What is involved in "a mindset of Jewish superiority" and how are we to verify the existence of such a mindset? These are factual matters that I am not qualified to decide. My point is simply that by qualifying and restricting the application of his statements, Finkelstein avoids the charge of using actual anit-Semitic rhetoric--unless it can be shown that his rhetoric is used with a knowing disregard for its truth or based on a delusional belief in its truth.

As to #2, my initial reaction is that Finkelstein's rhetoric is quite hyperbolic. I would even say that it tends in an anti-Semitic direction, since the cartoons (I only read a few descriptions and didn't view the actual cartoons) seem to apply to ALL Jews. However, again, Finkelstein is careful to restrict the application of his characterization:
...people like Abraham Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, and Rabbi Israel Singer...resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer

As I said, I have had only a limited exposure to Foxman, and have no real knowledge of Bronfman's and Singer's views. Does Finkelstein give examples of their views that would suggest "a mindset of Jewish superiority"? I don't know and, unless another poster can enlighten me, will never know the answer to that factual question, since I've neither read nor intend to read any of Finkelstein's books.
10.3.2007 1:11pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Obvious, despite the rudeness of your post, you have a point. The way the other poster phrased it, it struck me that he was saying you can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Israel; I've noted on this blog previously that many people don't have any idea what "anti-Zionist" means. But you're right, you can be Zionist in the sense that you think there should be a Jewish state, and anti-Israel because you think the current Jewish state is morally loathesome.

So perhaps next time you will express your view politely.
10.3.2007 1:11pm
Stating the Obvious (mail):
DB: "Given that Finkelstein says the Holocaust shouldn't be used for political purposes, I think it's ironic that you think the fact that his parents are survivors is at all relevant."

So, to change the example, if you noticed that some people were using the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings for "political purposes", trying, for example, to cash in on the huge amounts of money the federal government is spending to "protect us from terrorism" by using that money for obviously unrelated reasons, or crying "Remember 9/11" as a justification for rounding up Muslims and imprisoning them without trial (I'm making these examples up, of course...). If you felt this cheapened the tragedy of 9/11, and therefore spoke out against it, it would be completely irrelevent that one reason you feel strongly about this issue is that you lost your parents in the Towers on 9/11? Really??
10.3.2007 1:12pm
LongSufferingRaidersFan (mail):
Death to tenure and an end to lifetime appointments of all sorts. Power corrupts, and absolute tenure makes people fat, stupid, and lazy.
10.3.2007 1:18pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
If it turned out that the person in question was actually a secret jihadist, his supporters said, "how dare you accuse him of being a jihadist, his parents were killed on 9/11," yes, I'd say it was ironic, and, if they were being intellectually consistent, irrelevant.
10.3.2007 1:21pm
anduril (mail):
My understanding of Zionism is that it maintains that there is some necessary connection between Jews as a group and entitlement to a specific piece of real estate, regardless to past or intervening possession. Based on that understanding, it is possible to both reject Zionism as an ideology yet defend the right of the present state of Israel to exist, for a variety of reasons rooted in history. There are many, many groups throughout the world who have a similar belief: the example of Islamic attitudes toward the presence of non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia is only one example that comes to mind. In considering such situations, state of mind is probably the least relevant consideration.
10.3.2007 1:21pm
anduril (mail):
Death to tenure and an end to lifetime appointments of all sorts. Power corrupts, and absolute tenure makes people fat, stupid, and lazy.


In fairness, I don't believe any sitting Justices on the Supreme Court are fat.
10.3.2007 1:28pm
Stating the Obvious (mail):
What was rude about my post, David? Was it the introductory statement that you, an intelligent legal mind that on the topic of Israel seems to confound clearly different concepts, are "amazing"?

Was it reference to your "worldview" which seems blinded to certain anti-Israel realities?

Was it my claim you had not examined or quoted (clearly a truth that you hadn't quoted) supportive material Finkelstein offers in part 1 of his book? (If I suggested you HAD examined it but withheld--hadn't quoted--it to your readers, that might be a rude claim...).

Or was it the claim you fit precisely the W&M definition of a member of the Israel Lobby? This seems a simple truth--just read their definition--and W&M do not use this term insultingly, merely descriptively. They repeatedly note that members of the lobby feel they're doing the right thing both for America and Israel.

I think you, not uniquely, are quick to imagine insult but less quick to recognize when you insult others, David. I don't mean that in any anti-semitic sense. :-)
10.3.2007 1:29pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I guess that one interpretation. But given that Israel already exists, the only practical meaning of Zionism now is that it should continue to exist. "Zionism," writ large is an umbrella term for supporters of a Jewish homeland (not even necessarily state) in the historic Land of Israel, and encompassed a wide range of ideologies within that umbrella. Since this goal has been accomplished, the umbrella term most plausibly means now that this achievement should be preserved. My perspective, which I posted on the VC three plus years ago, follows:

One thing I've noticed is that the Muslim/Palestinian/Campus Left (an odd alliance, to say the least) has managed to make the words "Zionism" and "Zionist" into epithets, so much so that people don't even know what the word means, they just know it's something bad. More than once I've seen Jewish students quoted as saying things like "I support Israel's right to exist with secure borders as a Jewish state, but I'm not a Zionist."

So let's get things straight: Zionism is the term that describes the movement for a Jewish state in the "Land of Israel"--the area that was once a sovereign Jewish state, but over almost two millenia had been controlled by various other nationalities, including Europeans (Great Britain and also briefly and in part during the Crusades), Mamluks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks. Zionists are those who believe in Zionism.

Nowadays, to say one is a Zionist means nothing more than that one supports the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. One could be a liberal Zionist, who wants Israel to withdraw from the territories and achieve full equality for its Arab citizens, or one can be an illiberal Zionist, and support a vision of "Greater Israel" with a suppressed Arab minority. One can be a secular Zionist, or a religious Zionist. There are Christian Zionists, and even a few Muslim Zionists.

One can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Semitic, or even prejudiced. Some left-wing Israelis are "post-Zionists" in that they wish Israel to become a "state of all its citizens" rather than a Jewish state. Many libertarians of my acquaintance object to the notion of a "Jewish state," and oppose Zionism for that reason.

On the other hand, many leading anti-Zionists have no objection to other states that are explicitly based on religion or nationality. Indeed, the draft Palestinian Constitution seeks to establish an explicitly Islamic, Arab state, with Islamic law the "primary" basis for its laws. By contrast, outside of family law Israel is a largely secular state (update: and there is nothing in Zionism, as such, that prevents having a wholely secular state), with a legal system easily recognizable to lawyers from common law jurisdictions. And there are some obvious historical reasons why Jews feel the need to have their own defined sovereign entity, reasons that simply don't apply to the local Arab population. So the "anti-Zionist" who claims to oppose Israel on liberal/libertarian principle, but is a fullthroated supporter of Palestinian Islamic nationalism, is a major hypocrite--or worse.

In short, to be a Zionist should be no more controversial than to be a "Pakistanist" (believing that Pakistan should be allowed to exist), or a "Polandist" (believing that Poland should be allowed to exist)--imagine if the founders of Israel had simply called it Zion, as some wished. The word has instead been hijacked by those who, as the saying goes, would like to drive Israel into the sea. By using the word as an epithet, and obscuring its innocuous meaning, they are able to engage in shenanigans such as asking a visiting speaker "Are you a Zionist?", assuming that a yes answer will discredit even a liberal, secular individual.

So, let's take back the words Zionism and Zionist from the Islamofacists, their leftist enablers, and other miscreants. I'll start: I am a proud Zionist. You should be, too.
10.3.2007 1:30pm
anduril (mail):
1. What's in a name? What's wrong with being pro-Israel?

2. I dispute your characterization:
the Muslim/Palestinian/Campus Left (an odd alliance, to say the least)

To me this is not at all an odd or unexpected alliance. I don't believe I'm alone in this view, either.

3.
In short, to be a Zionist should be no more controversial than to be ... a "Polandist" (believing that Poland should be allowed to exist)

Actually, if you were Pat Buchanan you might find that controversial. Buchanan has written extensively to the effect that Poland has no right to exist within its present borders and that the irredentist claims of the descendants of Germans who were expelled from Poland after WWII have merit. (That is also currently a source of friction between Germany and Poland--not Buchanan's views but the views of a German member of their parliament.) Buchanan has also written that the West should never have come to the defense of Poland against Hitler. Since his books seem to sell well, I have to assume that there are a fair number of supporters of his view and that, therefore, it IS controversial to be a "Polandist"--in some circles.

Have a good one.
10.3.2007 1:44pm
Brian K (mail):
HAHAHAHA

A very long post describing how the word "zionist" has been turned into an epithet...followed by the use of the word "leftist" as an epithet.
10.3.2007 1:48pm
Stating the Obvious (mail):
DB: If it turned out that the person in question was actually a secret jihadist,
---
Assuming facts not in evidence, David. What if he turned out to be a meticulous researcher and thoughtful, if provocative, political scientist who sincerely opposed the memory of his parent's suffering being defiled by people who use their image, and the image of those with them, to enrich themselves and perpetuate a 40 year military occupation that has led to the death and impoverishment of huge numbers of people and continues to rank among the least recognized (in America) but most eggregious injustices on the planet?
10.3.2007 1:55pm
Question:

So, let's take back the words Zionism and Zionist from the Islamofacists, their leftist enablers, and other miscreants. I'll start: I am a proud Zionist. You should be, too.


Aren't you supposed to be an American? Becasue if Zion is synonymous to Israel - your words could be interpreted to imply allegiance to a foreign country. And if you do consider yourself "belonging" in some way to another nation, how do you reconcile that feeling with your duties as a citizen of the United States?
10.3.2007 1:57pm
MDJD2B (mail):
If you Image Google Abraham Foxman, you will find a cartoon of Foxman dressed in an SS uniform that links to normanfinkelstein.com. My forewall at work blocks me from all sorts of random sites, and I can't acces this site. But I can't think of a good reason to dress Foxman in an SS uniform.

I suppose there is an inconsistency here. Der Stuehrmer would not have depicted a Jewish activist so garbed, so in Finkelstein's view (if the cartoon represents his view) Foxman does not *entirely* conform to Nazi stereotypes of Jews, being a Nazi himself.

Of course, boys will be boys, and this all is just hyperbole.
10.3.2007 2:04pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
"I think where you really take issue with Finklestein is the tenor of his criticisms of the "Jewish Elites", and that he has the temerity to use inflammatory language to make a point.

What Finklestein is really trying to say"

I would expect a professor to express himself clearly, precisely, and civily. If he uses such "inflammatory language" that he needs to have others explain what he's "really trying to say," he's ineffective as a scholar.

Which is sufficient reason for denial of tenure.
10.3.2007 2:04pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Question, did you actually read the post before I said that? All I said was that I support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, which makes me a Zionist, by my defintion. I also support the right of France to exist as a French state, the right of Germany to exist as a German state, the right of Poland to exist as a Polish state, and so on.
10.3.2007 2:09pm
Stating the Obvious (mail):
MDJD2B:

You might note along the right side of Volokh.com 80 links to other websites. I'm sure they're not random. I'm sure one or more Volokh conpirators find something positive about each of them. Tell me, do you think that means that Eugene Volokh personally vouches for everything that's on every one of those sites? Or (your post is a little unclear on the direction of the link) do you think EV supports everything said on sites throughout the Internet that link to VC?

So what's your point?
10.3.2007 2:10pm
c.l. ball:
I think the case for Finkelstein's tenure was weak given that he had no peer-reviewed publications, and that his book manuscripts were not really academic in the usual sense. DePaul's higher-ups fouled up by not addressing the scholarship side, and instead focusing on "collegiality" rather than service alone (which he lacked) or inappropriate public conduct (academics have the freedom to speak as citizens; not the freedom to be assholes about it, however). The AAUP weighed in against the "collegiality" line in the dean's letter because collegiality is not a proper tenure standpoint outside of service criteria.

But the problem from the academic freedom standpoint was the campaign by Dershowitz and others to derail Finkelstein's tenure. Dershowitz did not merely send a letter to Callahan, as Callahan had asked, he broadly distributed the letter and called publicly for Finkelstein to be denied tenure.
10.3.2007 2:14pm
PLR:
Responding to the editor's note:

"Do you realize that your post conflates "anti-Israel" and "anti-Semitic"? Unless you missed the fact that I have several times said that I don't think M&W are anti-Semitic."

--I have not conflated them, I have suggested the four are distinguishable. And this topic is primarily about Finkelstein, not M&W.

"And what, pray tell, is the difference between being "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Israel"? Zionism means that you believe Jews should have a state. Israel is that state."

--Anduril has responded to your own conflation rather well. I am neither Zionist nor anti-Zionist. I certainly don't believe that specific groups have any divine right to statehood. I am not anti-Israel, I wish its people well just as I do the people of Portugal and Indonesia.

"And since I don't agree with Likud, I kind of doubt that I think anyone who is against Likud (which I doubt PLR has any actual knowledge of, accept as a bogeyman) is anti-Semitic)."

--I was simply pointing out that there are narrower categories of dissenters out there, and anti-Likudniks would be another category. I didn't suggest you were pro-Likud. I could have used anti-Kadima as a classification, but I don't pretend to be in a position to make extremely fine distinctions, only general ones. You seem to make almost no effort to distinguish among those whose opinions conflict with yours, consigning them all to a slag heap of undesirables who are referred to with labels like anti-Semite. If the DB dialect gives that term a broad meaning that few others give it, you should not be surprised at the kind of responses you get.

"This is exactly the type of garbage post that makes me tempted to close comments.

--I guess that depends on the result you are trying to achieve. I think the above discussion has at least been informative, if not useful. I don't think the quality of the VC has been degraded by the responses to this topic, but I defer to the administrators.
10.3.2007 2:16pm
Dionysius (mail):
Finkelstein uttered what could well be characterized as anti-semitic with respect to the existence and behavior of "Jewish elites". Now, whether there are such elites and whether they exhibit, certain biases with respect to American foreign policy and wield power in a way that is inimical to the United States' interests, are proper questions for academics to address. So, the raising of these questions is not ground for denial of tenure. Is the intemperate way in which he wrote about these matters ground for tenure denial?
10.3.2007 2:24pm
Stating the Obvious (mail):
Let's go back to Logic 101:

See if you can detect a logical difference between these statements:

1. Right of ISRAEL to exist as a JEWISH state
2. Right of FRANCE to exist as a FRENCH state
3. Right of GERMANY to exist as a GERMAN state
4. Right of POLAND to exist as a POLISH state

Many (look at the polls) see America as a Christian nation. Does DB support the

A. Right of AMERICA to exist as an AMERICAN state
or
B. Right of AMERICA to exist as a CHRISTIAN state?

It's not a small distinction, either logically or politically. For example, does the "right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state" imply the right to prevent non-Jews from becoming a demographic majority? Does that imply the right to prohibit or limit child-bearing of the non-Jewish Israeli population? Does it allow (further) "ethnic cleansing" (to use Israeli historian Ilan Pappe's term) of the non-Jewish Israeli population? Does it imply, in this democratic society, the right to, should it be necessary to preserve the Jewishness of the state, prohibit non-Jews from voting? Can this democratic society of Israel ever peacefully and democratically vote itself into a non-Jewish state, or would that violate the "right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state"?

As David no doubt knows, these are issues discussed both at high levels of government and in the media in Israel. The "demographic problem" is of concern to many Israelis. No doubt, though, repeating bromides like "the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state" will, in the end, be sufficient.
10.3.2007 2:25pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
I often read David's posts and its commentariat, but rarely comment. He and his commenors appear to exist as a seperate species from the rest of Volokh. Its really like reading another blog altogether, more emotionally charged, slapdash, and far less civil. I hope David continues posting and doesn't close comments.
10.3.2007 2:53pm
MRB (mail):
Can I just ask, what is so bad about being an anti-semite if you can't divorce "Jewish Elitism" as a philosophy from "Jewish Elitism" as a cultural phenomenon? To criticize Israel is to criticise its corrupt politics as much as its warrior-like culture, why is that forbidden?
10.3.2007 3:10pm
SteveDK:
From "Stating The Obvious":

1. Right of ISRAEL to exist as a JEWISH state
2. Right of FRANCE to exist as a FRENCH state
3. Right of GERMANY to exist as a GERMAN state
4. Right of POLAND to exist as a POLISH state


Let's assume there's nothing special, or even semi-special, about Jews in our world that might require a particular solution that is rare but not unheard of to deal with their situation.

Then let's ask are the Jews a people or a religion.

If they're a people, we can solve STO's problem by renaming Israel "Jewland" and we'll see his objection isn't Semitic so much as semantic.

If they're a religion, we can note there are Islamic states (not just one, but several, official and unofficial), that have religious restrictions and that don't offer the freedom Israel does.

For that matter, a number of European nations are officially Christian, and even have state religions. And while they allow immigration from Muslims, they would be quite conflicted about allowing so many in that they became the majority—in fact, many Europeans are quite conflicted right now and Muslims are still a fairly small minority.

Finally, would the "Right Of PALESTINE To Exist As A PALESTINIAN state" means as many Jews could live in Palestine as they wish—even in settlements, even becoming a majority?
10.3.2007 3:24pm
sbron:
Is Finkelstein the Man in the Glass Booth?

There is a great line in the movie version "Only a Jew
could be that anti-Semitic."
10.3.2007 3:24pm
sbron:
Actually, I think the line was "No Gentile could be
that anti-Semitic." This was spoken by a defense
witness who was convinced that the defendant was actually a
Jew, and not a Nazi war criminal.
10.3.2007 3:28pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I'm a libertarian. I don't think any state really has the "right to exist", as such, but I think a state that follows basic liberal norms of governance is entitled to be a respected member of the family of nations, and I think Israel falls within that category.

Beyond that, Israel has as much "right" to be the state of the Jews as Germany the state of the Germans. Analogies to the U.S. are inapt, because the U.S. is, in Ben Wattenberg's term, the first universal nation, but I daresay neither the local Jews nor Arabs (even less so the Arabs, overall) are inclined to given up their national identity for a Jewrab or Israelstine or Palestrael identity. The practical current alternatives are (1) a Jewish state, and a Palestinian state, with the Jewish state having a significant Arab minority with more or less full civil rights (Israeli Arabs don't get equal treatment, but they also aren't generally interested in taking on full citizenship obligations such as national service, either); (2) A Palestinian state, with Jews at best second class citizens, and at worst sent back to their "homelands"; or (3) A Jewish state ruling over a restive Palestinian Arab population almost as large as the Jewish population. Like most people, including even the Arab League nowadays, I support some version of (1), though of course the devil is in the details. Option 4 is a binational state, but advocates of this are either very unrealistic about the prospects of this becoming another Lebanon or Yugoslavia, or just use it as a cover for supporting opton 2.

Of course, Jewish religion is an aspect of Jewish national identity, and is bound to be reflected in the policies of a state of the Jews, but then many European nations go further than Israel and have an established church that reflects the heritage of their country. This doesn't sit well with American ideals, but I also don't see anyone complaining about the Church of England, et al. (Religious groups in Israel do have an unfortunate hold on family law, but that's actually a remnant of Ottoman and British rule, not a "Zionist" innovation.)
10.3.2007 3:31pm
LongSufferingRaidersFan (mail):
Wouldn't the world be a much much MUCH better place if there were no Muslims or Jews? This is just a thought experiment, so think about it for a minute....
10.3.2007 3:35pm
Rickm:
A few thoughts from someone studying the Middle East in academia.

I haven't read much of Finkelstein, but my impression from reading him is "how the hell did someone get through grad school using this type of language in his academic writing?". Contrary to popular opinion, snarky and sarcastic prose is frowned upon in the academy. Jargon is preferred. If I submitted a paper that utilized the level of rhetoric that Finklestein employs, it would be returned to be still dripping in red ink. Finkelstein sounds like a commenter!

I was absolutely shocked that a professor would be up for tenure without ever publishing in a peer reviewed journal. I mean, publishing in peer reviewed journals are what academics do! Number of publications is the most effective heuristic to determine the worth of a scholar, and Finkelstein has none. And he brags about it!

I am also unsure of the value of Finkelsteins books, qua scholarship. What would someone use a book like say, The Holocaust Industry, for? Writing a research paper on what exactly? It seems to me that Finkelstein is not engaging in an established scholarly literature. Rather, he is picking his topics willy-nilly. Just my impression. A more important question regarding teaching. What kind of student would seek Finklestein out as a Ph.D. advisor? Someone who wants to study the middle east? No. Someone who wants to study Jewish Studies? No. Someone who deals with collective memory? No.

Most scholars write books that sell moderately well and are intended for the public AFTER they have established a body of serious scholarship. Finkelstein has failed to do the latter.


Of course, this is irrelevant to the tenure discussion because his peers voted for him, and they feel his work is worthy.
10.3.2007 3:36pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
David, you sure are a glutton for punishment. I cringe every time you address this topic knowing the type of responses you will get from some of the posters. This is a subject that generates a level of hostility by some people that cannot be explained in any rational way. The visceral response on the part of some people would seem to be totally out of proportion to your comments. It is not simply that they disagree with your comments, but they are personally offended that you have the temerity to question the motives of some of the harshest critics of Israel. As far as they are concerned, these critics should be immune from any criticism of their comments. So David, let me give you a word of advice. Do not wave a red flag in front of a bull. Do not bump into a motorcycle at a Hell's Angel meeting. And, unless you like being abused, do not address the subjects of Israel or anti-Semitism.
10.3.2007 3:57pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
c.l. ball said:
"But the problem from the academic freedom standpoint was the campaign by Dershowitz and others to derail Finkelstein's tenure."

Rickm said:
"Of course, this [poor writing, lack of peer-reviewed articles] is irrelevant to the tenure discussion because his peers voted for him, and they feel his work is worthy."

These are examples of an implicit view I've seen elsewhere (particularly in some discussions at Durham-in-Wonderland) that true academic freedom means allowing departments to do whatever they want to without any outside comment.

I don't believe that's a reasonable definition: Once you get a department with a majority of flakes, idots or ideologues, there's no mechanism for recovery. So I find it entirely appropriate that sholars of other subjects at the same university and scholars of the same subject at other universities should have a say in tenure decisions.
10.3.2007 4:11pm
MDJD2B (mail):

So what's your point?


That Finkelstein is posting cartoons comparing Abraham Foxman to the SS. That is whacky.
10.3.2007 4:17pm
MDJD2B (mail):

Wouldn't the world be a much much MUCH better place if there were no Muslims or Jews? This is just a thought experiment, so think about it for a minute....


I'd prefer a world without people who wanted to rid the world of Jews or Moslems.
10.3.2007 4:24pm
SenatorX (mail):
I tend to think someone is anti-Semitic when they seem focused on the Jews and Israel in a negative way but for reasons they don't seem willing to apply to other countries and peoples. I'm not Jewish and I'm an atheist so I really don't have a motive to be on any side(well except the Jews don't want to kill me for being me). But when I look at the Middle East and compare the Islamic states to Israel I just don't get how someone would be anti-Zionist and not say anti-Saudi unless they had a prior prejudice.

Certainly in regards to civil liberties, women's rights, the rule of law, etc... Tt is hard for me to imagine someone couldn't find other nations with much greater problems to focus on. The U.N. rights groups for example I find embarrassing in their focus. We have so many places on this earth that are vile, and IMO Israel is not one of them(or at worst, way down on the list).
10.3.2007 4:25pm
SenatorX (mail):
Richard Nieporent, some people are just more courageous than others.
10.3.2007 4:29pm
Ross Levatter (mail):
To Steve DK:

First: Great line about semantic not semitic.

Here's the difference Steve. In America, Jews and Muslims, among other groups, ASSIMILATED as they came here. In France, Germany, and other countries, various ethnic and religious groups, some more successfully than others, can ASSIMILATE. France does not lose it's French character when third-generation French-Egyptians, speaking French, listening to French TV, influenced by French culture, etc. live there. But what does it mean to assimilate to a Jewish state? Does it mean one has to become Jewish? If not,what restrictions are acceptable to place on the non-Jewish population in order to maintain the Jewishness of the Jewish state? (note, when we restrict our conversation to citizens, it doesn't even make sense to talk about the non-French French but it makes perfect sense to talk about the non-Jewish Israelis)
10.3.2007 4:34pm
randal (mail):
You certainly can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Israel. In fact this is a common position among my acquaintences.

The way it works is, you think that in retrospect, the Zionist movement that brought Israel about was a bad (or immoral) idea and it never should have been attempted. (By extension, you probably think that if Israel happens to fail, it shouldn't be attempted again.)

At the same time, you believe that what's done is done, and at this point Israel is a legitimate nation and should be treated as such.
10.3.2007 4:38pm
Paul G.:
I too think that David is courageous for standing up for truth in the face of group-think pressure. It is actually a terrific example of strong character in a prejudiced world.
10.3.2007 4:42pm
randal (mail):
In other words, Zionism is to Israel as Bush's case for war is to the troops.
10.3.2007 4:44pm
V:
I'm not an academic, so perhaps I'm not clear on generally understood publishing requirements for tenure. Maybe they even differ from specialty to specialty (maybe, for example, journal articles are more important in Physics but well-received books count more in political science...)

But I see a lot of Finkelstein bashing about the poor quality of his books.

Here in front of me are my copies of David Bernstein's You Can't Say That (which I very much enjoyed), and Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah (from which I learned a great deal).

Bernstein's book is published by The Cato Institute. I have the upmost regard for Cato. I was one of their first interns. I have supported their work for many years. But it's not a university press.

Finkelstein's book is published by University of California Press, Berkeley. It was published after intensive legal and academic review given the threatening letters being sent to the Press by Dershowitz.

On the back of Bernstein's cover are positive blurbs from Catherine Crier of Court TV and author of The Case against Lawyers, Diane Ravitch, author of The Language Police, Walter Williams, former chairman of Economics at George Mason and syndicated columnist, Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic and author of The Unwanted Gaze, and our own Eugene Volokh, UCLA Professor of Law and author of The First Amendment:Problems, Cases, and Policy Arguments.

I respect all these people (though I wonder, David, if part of the agreement to give you a positive blurb was to market their own books. I don't recall seeing a blurb page before where every blurb mentions another book). But only Volokh and Williams are academics, and Williams is not known for a large publication list in peer-reviewed journals (as far as I'm aware), more for subbing occasionally for Rush Limbaugh (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Finkelstein's back cover blurbs include: Bruce Kimmerling, George S. Wise Professor of Sociology at Hebrew University of Jerusalem ("Beyond Chutzpah is the most comprehensive, systematic, and well documented work of its kind. ...it is an excellent demonstration of how and why the blind defenders of Israel, by basing their arguments on false facts and figures, actually bring more damage than gains to their cause"). Also included are Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations at Oxford University ("On display are all the sterling qualities for which Finkelstein has beoome justly famous: erudition, originality, spark, meticulous attention to detail, intellectual integrity, courage, and formidable forensic skills") And from Sara Roy, Senior Resarch Scholar for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard, "A vigorous, intelligent, succinct, and powerfully argued analysis that is difficult if not impossible to reproach"

Mouin Rabbani (not a name I recognize, but) Contributing Editor Middle East Report "The scholarship is simply superb...master[ing] a breathtaking range of material: primary sources and documents, scholarly works, reports old and new, correspondence with relevant individuals..."

No doubt some VC readers feel some of these blurb sources are biased (though not one attempted to sell any books by listing them with their names). But all of them actually read Finkelstein's book, more than can be said for many of the negative commentators here.

So what are we to think: that the University of California Press, Berkeley, is anti-semitic? That Oxford and Harvard are infested with anti-semites? Or, perhaps, that there is more to this issue than David elucidates or even appreciates, and that people not actually familiar with Finkelstein's writings beyond the two paragraphs David offered are not the best judges of a man's professional career and justification for tenure?

And isn't demonstration of "master[ing] a breathtaking range of material: primary sources and documents, scholarly works, reports old and new, correspondence with relevant individuals..." the sort of thing one is supposed to do to obtain tenure?
10.3.2007 5:14pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Blurbs aren't exactly peer review, and mine were chosen to help sales of the book, anyone can line up a few academic friends to write blurbs. But I would say that if "You Can't Say That!" were my most substantial academic work when I was up for tenure, I wouldn't deserve it, because the book is more of a popular polemic (though far less polemical, and more academic, than what I've seen of Finkelstein's work) than traditional scholarship. Fortunately, I got tenure a few years before YCST came out, based on many academic articles in various leading journals and a university press book.
10.3.2007 5:44pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
"Stating the Obvious":
MDJD2B:

You might note along the right side of Volokh.com 80 links to other websites. I'm sure they're not random. I'm sure one or more Volokh conpirators find something positive about each of them. Tell me, do you think that means that Eugene Volokh personally vouches for everything that's on every one of those sites? Or (your post is a little unclear on the direction of the link) do you think EV supports everything said on sites throughout the Internet that link to VC?

So what's your point?
I believe the point would be that for some reason, despite your "name", you're stubbornly refusing to admit the obvious about Finkelstein, such that you'll make odd excuses for him. The picture of Foxman as a Nazi is not on some "other website" that Finkelstein links to, or on some "other website" that links to Finkelstein, but on Finkelstein's website.
10.3.2007 6:03pm
V:
Well, David, we may just have to disagree (OF COURSE blurbs aren't EXACTLY peer review, but...). I think if one's friend's are willing to put their name on a book, it matters somewhat if these friends are from Harvard, Oxford, etc., or from Iowa State, Temple, and what are universally recognized as second-tier instittions. And I see you recognize that university press books connote some assurance of quality, or you wouldn't have mentioned you had published one. Please note I wasn't condemning your book in the least. I very much liked it. I merely compared it to Finkelstein's book. On a number of standard parameters of quickly assessing an academic text, his stood up well against yours. That's not in any way to say your book is lacking, merely to suggest there's more to Finkelstein's work than you and many posters are willing to credit.

It is clear many negative posters have read nothing by Finkelstein beyond the two paragraphs you quoted. Quick to judge, to say the least. Perhaps you could explicitly clarify. Did you yourself carefully read all of Beyond Chutzpah? Or did you just skim the first section to determine if you could find evidence sufficient in your mind to label NF a likely anti-semite?

On this topic, the largest portion of the book, part II, is devoted to a detailed refutation of a major (popular) work of Alan Dershowitz. Now Dershowitz is frequently mentioned/referenced on VC, usually in a positive, occasionally reverential, way. I would think, then, even more interesting than debating whether or not Finkelstein deserved tenure, or whether or not the vetting process was fair or succumbed to outside pressure, would be the substantive question, on a legal blog, of whether or not a well-known academic at a highly ranked law school engaged in shoddy research, false claims, and significant plagarism. Independent of whether or not you think Finkelstein is an anti-semite, independent of his motivation for outing Dershowitz's fraud, I am perplexed there has never been discussion of this issue on VC. Finkelstein's data is devastating, detailed, and hard to deny. Is that why it's been ignored by you, Dave Kopel, and other VC bloggers?
10.3.2007 6:18pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
If you'll pay me my billing rate, I'll be happy to look up the original sources referenced by Dershowitz and critiqued by Finkelstein, and give you a report. But I'm not inclined to simply take Finkelstein's word for it, nor for that matter, Dershowitz's.
10.3.2007 6:25pm
V:
Mr. Nieporent:

MDJD2B said "If you Image Google Abraham Foxman, you will find a cartoon of Foxman dressed in an SS uniform that links to normanfinkelstein.com" STO seems to have misread that as refering to a link AT (rather than to) normanfinkelstein.com. In any case, there is no such cartoon there now.

Nonetheless, STO's point is still valid. Have you LOOKED at Finkelstein's website? It basically consists of hundreds of links to articles (news articles mostly: AP releases, Ha'aretz, Jeruselem Post, NY Times, etc.; as well as a famous Palestinian cartoonist who, like all political cartoonists, uses exaggeration to make points. Then there are links to scholars supportive of Finkelstein (e.g. the late Raul Hilberg). Extensive material on the Finkelstein/Dershowitz "debate". References to his past books.

You may say, "Well *I* wouldn't set up a website like that." Maybe not, but presumably you agree that setting up a website consisting almost entirely of links is a) not evidence of anti-semtism and b) not evidence of implicit agreement with every statement at every link.
10.3.2007 6:51pm
RH:
V, your argument is self-contradictory. You begin by conceding that the cartoon was not a link on the website but was physically placed on normanfinkelstein.com. Then you end by saying that: "setting up a website consisting almost entirely of links is a) not evidence of anti-semtism and b) not evidence of implicit agreement with every statement at every link."

You last sentence is debatable enough, never mind your self contradiction.
10.3.2007 7:30pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Does anyone know of a religious, political, ethnic, or national group that does not harbor a subset of elites who consider the group to be superior?
10.3.2007 7:39pm
Seamus (mail):
I'm a libertarian. I don't think any state really has the "right to exist", as such, but I think a state that follows basic liberal norms of governance is entitled to be a respected member of the family of nations, and I think Israel falls within that category.

Do you believe that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is entitled to be a respected member of the family of nations? Katanga? Biafra? Somaliland?
10.3.2007 7:55pm
Seamus (mail):
Let me ask further: Was Rhodesia entitled to be a respected member of the family of nations? If not, is Zimbabwe entitled to be a respected member of the family of nations? If so, why the different outcomes? It can't be because Zimbabwe is more respectful of those basic liberal norms of governance.
10.3.2007 7:59pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Well, David, we may just have to disagree (OF COURSE blurbs aren't EXACTLY peer review, but...)
But what? DB was using humorous understatement there. Blurbs aren't the least bit peer review; if you think a blurb necessarily means that the blurber even read the work being blurbed, you're pretty naive.
10.3.2007 8:03pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
MDJD2B said "If you Image Google Abraham Foxman, you will find a cartoon of Foxman dressed in an SS uniform that links to normanfinkelstein.com" STO seems to have misread that as refering to a link AT (rather than to) normanfinkelstein.com. In any case, there is no such cartoon there now.
False. The reason I knew what MDJD2B was referencing was because I replicated his search and found the cartoon, which certainly is there now.

You may say, "Well *I* wouldn't set up a website like that." Maybe not, but presumably you agree that setting up a website consisting almost entirely of links is a) not evidence of anti-semtism and b) not evidence of implicit agreement with every statement at every link.
Again, it was not a link. It was on his site.
10.3.2007 8:10pm
randal (mail):
I get no love from DB. Oh well, I guess next time I'll talk about his blurbs.

Anyway, I think you should reconsider your statement that to be pro-Israel, you have to be Zionist. If it starts seeming like Israel doesn't want the support of people who don't think it has a super-special right to exist not shared by other nations, then, well, Israel will likely lose the support of a lot of people.
10.3.2007 8:12pm
V:
DN: I can't find it. Why don't you either provide a link or give instructions on what to do after going to normanfinkelstein.com to get to this cartoon?
10.3.2007 8:38pm
Frank Menetrez (mail):
Professor Bernstein's implication that he has provided the relevant context for the quotes is incorrect. When the proper context is supplied, it is clear that the charge of anti-Semitism is absurd. In this comment I provide that context, followed by a few comments on each quote. I apologize for the length of the comment, but it often takes much longer to explain the truth behind a pernicious falsehood than to state the falsehood.

The quotes are taken from Chapter 3 of Beyond Chutzpah, which is entitled "Crying Wolf." The chapter opens with this sentence: "What's currently called the new anti-Semitism actually incorporates three main components: (1) exaggeration and fabrication, (2) mislabeling legitimate criticism of Israeli policy, and (3) the unjustified yet predictable spillover from criticism of Israel to Jews generally." The chapter then has three sections, each devoted to one of those topics. Professor Bernstein's quotes are from the "Spillover" section.

That section begins: "In some quarters anger at Israel's brutal occupation has undoubtedly spilled over to an animus toward Jews generally." In the remainder of that paragraph, Finkelstein argues that this phenomenon, though "lamentable," is not terribly surprising for various reasons, and he notes that many vocal critics of "the new anti-Semitism" themselves foster this kind of spillover by expressly identifying Israel with Jews in general.

The next paragraph, from which Professor Bernstein's first quote is taken, begins as follows: "Just as it's too simple (and convenient) to label accusations of Jewish responsibility for Israeli policy anti-Semitic, so it's too simple (and convenient) to label the notion of Jewish power anti-Semitic. Jews now rank as the wealthiest ethnic group in the United States; with this economic power has accrued substantial political power. Their leaders have wielded this power, often crudely, to mold U.S. policy regarding Israel." Later in the paragraph, Finkelstein quotes some remarks by Abe Foxman concerning Jewish influence in the media, and those remarks lead into the passage Professor Bernstein quoted. Here's the full context:

"It's undoubtedly trued that there are prominent Jews among the producers, directors, studio executives, and stars in Hollywood," Foxman concedes. "It's even true that, proportionately, there has always been a relatively prominent Jewish presence in the movie, TV, and record industries." But, he continues, "[t]he Jews who work in Hollywood are there not as Jews but as actors, directors, writers, business executives, or what have you," concerned only with "the bottom line" (his emphasis). His proof? "This explains the paradox that no anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist has ever tackled--how it is that the supposedly Jewish-controlled movie industry has produced so few films dealing with overtly Jewish characters or themes." Is that why Hollywood has produced a mere 175 films on the Nazi holocaust since 1989? Legitimate questions can surely be posed regarding when and if Jews are acting as people who happen to be Jewish or acting "as Jews," and, on the latter occasions (which plainly do arise), regarding the actual breadth and limits of this "Jewish power," but these questions can only be answered empirically, not a priori with politically correct formulae. To foreclose inquiry on this topic as anti-Semitic is, intentionally or not, to shield Jews from legitimate scrutiny of their uses and abuses of formidable power. In an otherwise sensible treatment of the new anti-Semitism, Brian Klug maintains that "it is a form of anti-Semitism" if an accusation against Jews mimics an anti-Semitic stereotype such as the idea of Jews being "powerful, wealthy . . . pursuing [their] own selfish ends." Yet if Jews act out a Jewish stereotype, it plainly doesn't follow that they can't be committing the stereotypical act. Can't they commit a vile act even if it conforms to a Jewish stereotype? It is perhaps politically incorrect to recall but nonetheless a commonplace that potent stereotypes, like good propaganda, acquire their force from containing a kernel--and sometimes even more than a kernel--of truth. Should people like Abraham Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, and Rabbi Israel Singer get a free ride because they resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer?

A few comments: (1) The language about Jews acting "as Jews" was not Finkelstein's coinage, but rather was taken directly from Foxman, as the context makes clear. Finkelstein is saying only that Foxman's claim--that Jewish media players act solely from concern with "the bottom line" and never "as Jews"--is an empirical one, that the truth or falsehood (partial or total) of the claim is a legitimate subject of empirical inquiry, and that such inquiries should not be preempted by cries of anti-Semitism. Maybe all those Holocaust movies get made because so many studio executives are Jewish, or maybe it's because the Holocaust does great at the box office, or maybe it's some of both. What's anti-Semitic about any of this? Nothing.

(2) In the remainder of the quote, Finkelstein is responding to Klug's claim that to accuse a Jew of possessing a characteristic (e.g., wealth, power, or selfishness) that is part of an anti-Semitic stereotype is eo ipso anti-Semitic. Klug's claim is absurd on its face. It is not anti-Semitic to observe that Steven Spielberg, for example, is wealthy. It's just an obvious fact. Finkelstein's point is just that individual Jews who happen to possess certain undesirable characteristics (e.g., greed, selfishness, dishonesty) should not be immune to criticism on those grounds solely because the characteristics in question belong to pernicious Jewish stereotypes. He was not suggesting that Foxman, Bronfman, and Singer have all, some, or any of the features depicted in the cartoons to which Professor Bernstein linked (e.g., that they are engaged in a campaign of seducing gentile women in order to destroy gentile womanhood). Rather, he was suggesting that they have certain characteristics (e.g., greed, selfishness, dishonesty) that feature in anti-Semitic stereotypes (such as those in Der Sturmer), but that the fact that those characteristics feature in those stereotypes should not render Foxman, Bronfman, and Singer immune to criticism for their (alleged) greed, selfishness, and dishonesty. What's anti-Semitic about any of this? Nothing.

Professor Bernstein's second quotation comes from the final paragraph of the "Spillover" section, which concludes the "Crying Wolf" chapter. The paragraph is long, but it is worth quoting in full to make clear how utterly baseless the anti-Semitism charge is. Here is the full text of the paragraph:

In The Holocaust Industry, this writer posited a distinction between the Nazi holocaust--the systematic extermination of Jews during World War II--and The Holocaust--the instrumentalization of the Nazi holocaust by American Jewish elites and their supporters. A parallel distinction needs to be made between anti-Semitism--the unjustifiable targeting of Jews solely for being Jews--and "anti-Semitism"--the instrumentalization of anti-Semitism by American (or other) Jewish elites. Like The Holocaust, "anti-Semitism" is an ideological weapon to deflect justified criticism of Israel and, concomitantly, powerful Jewish interests. In its current usage, "anti-Semitism," alongside the "war against terrorism," serves as a cloak for a massive assault on international law and human rights. Those Jews committed to the struggle against the real anti-Semitism must, in the first instance, expose this specious "anti-Semitism" for the sham it is. "[T]here are no patent remedies and quick solutions available" for anti-Semitism, the authors of Manifestations [of Anti-Semitism in the European Union] conclude. "[I]t is not possible to formulate a once and for all strategy, which is effective everywhere." This writer begs to differ. Tell the truth, fight for justice: this is the time-tested strategy for fighting anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of bigotry. If, as all the important studies agree, current resentment against Jews has coincided with Israel's brutal repression of the Palestinians, then a patent remedy and quick solution would plainly be to end the occupation. A full Israeli withdrawal from the territories conquered in 1967 would also deprive those real anti-Semites exploiting Israel's repression as a pretext to demonize Jews--and who can doubt they exist?--of a dangerous weapon, as well as expose their real agenda. And the more vocally Jews dissent from Israel's occupation, the fewer will be those non-Jews who mistake Israel's criminal policies and the uncritical support (indeed encouragement) of mainline Jewish organizations for the popular Jewish mood. On the other side, the worst enemies in the struggle against real anti-Semitism are the philo-Semites. This problem typically arises on the European scene. By turning a blind eye to Israeli crimes in the name of sensitivity to past Jewish suffering, they enable Israel to continue on an murderous path that foments anti-Semitism and, for that matter, the self-destruction of Israelis. The philo-Semitic application of this special dispensation to American Jewish elites has proven equally catastrophic. As already noted, Jewish elites in the United States have enjoyed enormous prosperity. From this combination of economic and political power has sprung, unsurprisingly, a mindset of Jewish superiority. Wrapping themselves in the mantle of The Holocaust, these Jewish elites pretend--and, in their own solipsistic universe, perhaps even imagine themselves--to be victims, dismissing any and all criticism as manifestations of "anti-Semitism." And, from this lethal brew of formidable power, chauvinistic arrogance, feigned (or imagined) victimhood, and Holocaust-immunity to criticism has sprung a terrifying recklessness and ruthlessness on the part of American Jewish elites. Alongside Israel, they are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today. Coddling them is not the answer. They need to be stopped.

A few comments: (1) The passage makes as explicit as could reasonably be demanded that Finkelstein considers himself to be engaged in the struggle against anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of bigotry. Those are his words. He even offers a strategy for how that struggle should proceed: "Tell the truth, fight for justice[.]" One can, of course, disagree with any or all of the points that Finkelstein is making. But to accuse him of anti-Semitism on the basis of the quotation presented by Professor Bernstein is outrageous and disgusting. Ditto for Dershowitz's similar antics in, for example, his Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled "Finkelstein's Bigotry." To anyone who has actually read Finkelstein's books (I have read all of them), the claim that he is an anti-Semite or a bigot is preposterous.

(2) Finkelstein's concluding remarks flow from his claim that our worst enemies in the struggle against real anti-Semitism are "philo-Semites," i.e., those who turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of both Israel and "American Jewish elites" in the name of sensitivity to past Jewish suffering. His argument is that such "philo-Semites" aren't doing Israelis or Jews in general any favors by exempting Israel and non-Israeli Jewish leaders ("elites") from criticism when they misbehave, because that misbehavior-with-impunity actually fosters real anti-Semitism. That is why "coddling" miscreants is never the answer, and "stopping" them always is--tell the truth, fight for justice. Again, one can disagree with any or all of Finkelstein's points here. But to accuse him of anti-Semitism on the basis of the quotation presented by Professor Bernstein is, again, outrageous and disgusting.

I would prefer not to believe that Professor Bernstein is so stupid that he would have missed the points I have made if he had read these passages in their entirety himself. I would also prefer not to believe that he is so dishonest that, had he been aware of this fuller context and its importance, he still would have omitted it and presented the faux "contextualized" quotes in the manner that he did. I consequently hope that he never did read the original passages but rather obtained the quotes from some secondary source. I emailed him to find out the answer, but he has not responded. A previous comment also raised this question, and Professor Bernstein responded to other aspects of the comment but ignored the question. Perhaps now he'll see fit to clear it up.

Finally, because Professor Bernstein has repeatedly indicated his taste for irony, I note that last spring he refused to post a link to an article I published in which I tried to present an objective evaluation of the merits of Finkelstein and Dershowitz's charges and countercharges. Professor Bernstein's sole stated basis for refusing to post a link to my article was that it was not sufficiently "balanced." I found this quite ironic, given that Professor Bernstein's previous posts on Finkelstein/Dershowitz (e.g., here) made clear that balance was not among his priorities. This new post confirms both that pattern and the continuing irony of his pretext for refusing to link to my article.
10.3.2007 9:08pm
Scotts (mail):
It never ceases to astonish me how many people with academic credentials in fields with a substantial claim to objectivity are blinded by their own righteousness.

To be sure, there is much to criticize about Israel and some of its most blinded defenders. Finkelstein's transparent disgust towards the subjects of his criticism is objectionable to me, but what is more objectionable is the complete lack of intelligence when it comes to the propaganda and crimes of Palestinians. Anyone who publishes unqualified screeds and defends doing so because they are merely balancing some other flawed piece of work has no place in academia. Yes, I know that applies to thousands. People with propagandistic tendencies shouldn't get tenure. The cottage industry of apologists is pathetic. Good riddance to Finkelstein and all his ilk.
10.3.2007 9:09pm
MDJD2B (mail):

Anyway, I think you should reconsider your statement that to be pro-Israel, you have to be Zionist. If it starts seeming like Israel doesn't want the support of people who don't think it has a super-special right to exist not shared by other nations, then, well, Israel will likely lose the support of a lot of people.


V,

Prof. B can speak for himself, but I think you have misread him.

First, he defines Zionism as support for Israel's right to exist. The word is loaded. I think Ahmedinejad would use this definition. Some diehard Israeli pioneers might disagree, believing that Zionism is the belief that all Jews should live in Israel. The topic isn't terribly interesting— it's about use of the Z word.

Second, Prof. B. Does not thing that Israel has a "super-special right to exist." Rather, it has the same right to exist as Pakistan, Qatar, Slovakia, Moldava or Latvia.

Finally, (and this is not in response to V), Judaism as traditionally conceived is not analogous either to Christianity or to Latvianness. Judaism originated before the concept of citizenship separated from the concept of religious affiliation. Language, religion and nationality were inseparabe. An Athenian could not have spoken Phonecian or worshiped Baal. A phoenecian could not have woshiped Athena. India and Japan have somewhat the same unitary view of their nationality; Hindu is a cognate of India, and Shinto is officially the Japanese religion, though I don't know how many people believe in it.

Reform Judaism has traditionally tried to divest the religious aspect of from the ethnic and national, at least classically. Prayers in the conservative and Orthodox liturgy that have been used for 2 millenia reflect the longing for reestablishment of a commonwealth under the aegis of an immanent God. So some of the remarks of "Stating the Obvious" state things that are only obvious to him, and ask others to conform to criteria that STO believes should be used to classify humanity.

For most Jews, Jewish nationality is not so closely tied to the State of Israel as to create double loyalty. Rather, there are ties of religion, sympathy, cultural identity and kinship.
10.3.2007 9:22pm
Seamus (mail):
Second, Prof. B. Does not thing that Israel has a "super-special right to exist." Rather, it has the same right to exist as Pakistan, Qatar, Slovakia, Moldava or Latvia.

What about the same right as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which now has existed for longer than Israel had at the time of the Six-Day War, and almost longer than Israel had at the time of the Yom Kippur War? The fact is that when you talk about statehood for such disputed entities, which established themselves against the will of the majority of the population of the larger entity out of which it was carved, then any right to exist necessarily is in the realm of super-special rights, not the ordinary rights or countries like Pakistan, Qatar, Slovakia, Moldova, and Latvia--all of which became independent with the consent of of the larger entity (or in the case of Pakistan, pursuant to an Act of the Parliament of the sovereign), and none of which was established by relatively recent migrants into the territory. (If recent migration conferred a right to carve out an independent state, then the pieds-noirs of Algeria would have had a right to partition Algeria and establish their own state when France withdrew in 1962, the whites in Rhodesia would have had a right to carve out an independent white state when the Brits finally acknowledged independence in 1980, and the Afrikaaners in South Africa certainly should have been able to create their own state out of any predominantly white territories in that country when it went over to majority rule in 1994.
10.3.2007 9:43pm
Seamus (mail):
Correction to the last post: Qatar didn't become independent with the consent of any "larger entity" out of which it was carved; it was simply given its independence by Britain.
10.3.2007 9:56pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Seamus,

Israel was created by resolution ofthe United Nations, succeeding obtained diplomatic recognition by the US, the USSR and most other major nations. This is a pretty sound enjoyed by the Turkish Cypriat entity, or the Rhodesian whites.

The fate of these whites in Zimbabwe, however, might foreshadow the fate of the Jewish population in Israel were Israel to lose its independence. In Cyprus, the integrity ofthe Turkish community and the safety of Surely you are not arguing that Israeli Jews should be subject to the same sort of insecurity as the citizens or subjects of the "illegitimate" regimes you use as an example.
10.3.2007 10:13pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Oh, yes-- Israel is also a member of the UN. That surely gives it a super duper right to exist.
10.3.2007 10:15pm
DD:
V: Try...

this

And, btw, that cartoon is by the same guy who won 2nd prize in Iran's notorious "Holocaust cartoon contest" last year. Finkelstein features a lot of Latuff's work.
10.3.2007 10:35pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Frank, it's a mighty effort on your part, but you lost me when you write that even though F said "Abraham Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, and Rabbi Israel Singer ... resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer" he was "not suggesting that Foxman, Bronfman, and Singer have all, some, or any of the features depicted in the [Der Sturmer] cartoons to which Professor Bernstein linked," and then you go on to give your own explanation of what he meant, even though he never says any such thing. Given that he's supposed to be a Holocaust scholar, you can't claim that he doesn't know what's in the cartoons. Your best case would to acknowledge that Finkelstein went over the top and got caught up in his own rhetoric, and if he's at all a decent person he'd rephrase that line if given a chance. But like I said in the original post, his most vociferous defenders refuse to acknowledge the obvious anti-Semitism of his remarks.

But hey, it's a fun game: "Hey that woman just looks like Marilyn Monroe," by which I don't mean she looks anything like Marilyn Monroe. "Hey, that guy reminds me of Einstein," by which I don't means he's at all intelligent, or looks anything like Einstein, or has a German accent, or otherwise has anything in common with Einstein. "Hey, that Romani guy resembles the stereotypical thieving, conniving, lying, cheating, stealing, fortune-telling, child abusing gypsy," by which I don't mean that he has any, all, or some of those traits!

I also get a good chuckle out of the idea that anyone could possibly think that the best way to fight anti-Semitism is accuse Jewish elites of, among other things, greedily using their immense power to promote Jewish superiority. Maybe Finkelstein will aid the cause further by distributing the Protocols at his lectures.
10.3.2007 10:46pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
V, I hate when other people want me to do their homework, but I'm in a good mood right now, so I'll give you the link.

Seamus, I don't know how you think Israel differs from Pakistan or Qatar in your analysis, except that Israel came into existence not only with the consent of the sovereign, but also with the endorsement of the United Nations. There's no "larger entity" the way there was with Slovakia, Moldova, or Latvia.
10.3.2007 10:50pm
c.gray (mail):

Wrapping themselves in the mantle of The Holocaust, these Jewish elites pretend--and, in their own solipsistic universe, perhaps even imagine themselves--to be victims, dismissing any and all criticism as manifestations of "anti-Semitism."


Oh please. Finkelstein and his supporters are the ones in "their own solipsistic universe" imagining him to be a victim and "dismissing any and all criticism as manifestations" of the power of "The Holocaust Industry."

I'm sorry, but I purchased and read the book soon after its publication. I saw it in the "Employee Recommendation" section of the Union Square Barnes &Noble, and was intrigued by the title and the white title print on black background cover. Since I was spending two hours a day on Metro North, I had a LOT of reading time on my hands, and made a lot of impulse buys at that same store.

Speaking as an Anglo-Saxon Roman Catholic with no particular affection for Jews, Zionism, Israel or Hollywood, I remember it to be an appalling, dishonest polemic. And as a species of that genre, it wasn't even very good. The language was simultaneously hysterical AND dull, the claims poorly supported and the argument, if you could call it that, unconvincing.

Years later, when I read that Dershowitz was trying to prevent DePaul from granting Finkelstein tenure, I was almost as surprised to realize "Finklestein" really existed and had a tenure track job at DePaul as I was to read that the book was being put forward as an example of the serious "scholarship" that justified granting the man tenure. I had sort of assumed until then that the book was a half-clever anti-semitic hoax.

It's almost a joke. Does anyone think a "scholar" of any ethnicity could get tenure in ANY department in any US university after writing a tendentious screed claiming that the leaders of the NAACP are hijacking the terrible legacy of slavery and Jim Crow to conduct a shakedown of innocent corporations, that in doing so they are inciting "understandable" racism, and thus they are in fact the biggest obstacles to eliminating racism?
10.3.2007 10:57pm
randal (mail):
MDJD2B:

It was me, not V, you quoted. Anyway: I don't think I'm misreading DB. He defines Zionism not as Israel's right to exist, but as:

So let's get things straight: Zionism is the term that describes the movement for a Jewish state in the "Land of Israel"--the area that was once a sovereign Jewish state, but over almost two millenia had been controlled by various other nationalities, including Europeans (Great Britain and also briefly and in part during the Crusades), Mamluks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks.

I personally am someone who, all else being equal, is totally against this "movement". It's stupid and immoral. It certainly counts as a "super-special right to exist". If some other religion decided they deserved a state in that area (or any area that they claimed to have some historical relationship to), I would think they were stupid and immoral too.

That said, I'm basically pro-Isreal, given the instant situation. It exists, it's been there a long time, they're basically nice, and I'm willing to let bygones be bygones. There are things I don't like about how they act, but I basically root for them. There are lots of nations that got off to a less-than-exemplary start.

So... I think it's a mistake for DB to write off people who share this stance, because it's a lot of people. If forced to choose between rejecting Israel and embracing Zionism as legitimate in principle, we will choose to reject Israel.
10.3.2007 11:18pm
V:
Thanks to Frnak Menetrez for an exceptionally well developed critique of Professor Bernstein's initial blog. It would seem Professor Bernstein "has some splainin' to do"...

To take a quote out of context, then begin by providing only part of it, then claim that by adding the larger (but still incomplete out-of-context) quote one is "providing context" is truly quite ingenious, in a contemptible sort of way.

[Note to DB: Now THIS is rude. You deserve it. That will become even more clear when, as I suspect, you will ignore all of Menetrez's substantive arguments. You should be ashamed.]
10.3.2007 11:21pm
V:
DN: I hate it when people don't pay attention to important details. Your link explicitly proves my point. I clearly said Finkelstein's website consists largely of links to other peoples' work. The cartoon of interest is no more on Finkelstein's website than any of the subtantive info on the 80 links to other websites on VC are on VC's website. This is a cartoon from the political cartoonist Latuff, a Palestinian. It is from his website, which Finkelstein offers a link to. This is EXACTLY what I said in an earlier post. Unless you want to claim EV is responsible for or agrees with everything on, say, InstaPundit because VC has a link to that site, your claims against Finkelstein are absurd.
10.3.2007 11:31pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Randal, you're missing the point, whether the idea was originally stupid or not, a Jewish state does now exist there, so Zionism in practice simply means that the state shouldn't be destroyed. Since you agree with that, you, by definition, are a Zionist.

Even before the state was established, the operative principle among the overwhelmingly non-religious Zionists wasn't that Jews were "entitled" to the land, but that if they settled the land, worked the land, purchased the land, and established a framework for a decent government there, they would then have earned a homeland there.
10.3.2007 11:34pm
c.l. ball:

So I find it entirely appropriate that sholars of other subjects at the same university and scholars of the same subject at other universities should have a say in tenure decisions.

But they do! The schools have a series of procedures in which other academics within and outside the school review the tenure file. Dershowitz was asked by the dept. chair to provide examples of Finkelstein's most egregious conduct to the dept. chair. When asked, the procedure is to return the letter to the dept. chair and only the dept. chair. Instead, Dershowitz sent copies to DePaul faculty more broadly, which at many schools would have led to letter being excluded from the file entirely. And he made public calls for Finkelstein to be denied tenure. He also called on the Chicago-area Jewish community to oppose Finkelstein's tenure. Dershowitz was agitating for outside pressure by non-academics to derail the tenure decision.

Frankly, I found Dershowitz's actions to be reckless since he ran a risk that DePaul administrators would decide to grant Finkelstein tenure not because they thought his scholarship was weak, but in order to avoid appearing pressured. As it is now, their denial decision is tainted by the Dershowitz's campaign.

Oddly, neither Finkelstein nor Dershowitz has sought to sue the other for libel or defamation despite claims by each that the other libeled and defamed him. Even granting the cost and difficult of proving libel or defamation, the absence of legal action indicates that both doth protest too much.
10.3.2007 11:37pm
randal (mail):
DB says

Randal, you're missing the point, whether the idea was originally stupid or not, a Jewish state does now exist there, so Zionism in practice simply means that the state shouldn't be destroyed. Since you agree with that, you, by definition, are a Zionist.

You're making a logical fallacy. It probably has some name but we'll call it the Zionist Fallacy.

Believing in X has consequence Z. Believing in Y also has consequence Z. Therefore believing in X is equivalent to believing in Y.

X = Zionism
Y = Israel, as presently constituted, is a legitimate nation
Z = Israel shouldn't be destroyed

It's totally consistent to accept Y and reject X, as I do. X may have other consequences that Y doesn't have. I don't want those other consequences to occur. I do want at least one of the consequences of X to occur, namely Z, but that doesn't mean I believe X.
10.3.2007 11:45pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
You're reading too much into "Zionism," at least by my lights. You think that "Zionism" means that you are ideologically committed to the idea of a Jewish national homeland. I'm arguing that under current circumstances Zionism just means supporting the continuation of the existence of the existing Jewish national homeland, which you do in fact support. Ergo, you are a practical Zionist, albeit not an ideological one. Now, you can argue that one can only be an ideologlical Zionist in that you support the original Zionist aims in the abstract, not a practical one that supports those aims as they've actually come to fruition, and if so we can agree to disagree on that.
10.3.2007 11:57pm
randal (mail):
Ok, we can agree to disagree on that, but I think the idea of "practical Zionism" is poorly motivated. Do you call yourself a "practical Christian" when you treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself? Now everyone's a Christian.
10.4.2007 12:04am
neurodoc:
Scotts: Anyone who publishes unqualified screeds and defends doing so because they are merely balancing some other flawed piece of work has no place in academia.
I like that because I agree wholeheartedly (if those screeds are all the individual has produced); and because it sets up the question I would ask: what "scholarship" has Finkelstein produced that might qualify him for a tenured professorship?

Finkelstein has never published in a scholarly journal. Do those who have never published in a scholarly journal get tenure in political science or other disciplines?

Since Finkelstein has never published in a scholarly journal, do his books constitute his scholarly ouevre? If so, which one(s)? I have glanced at a couple and read lengthy excerpts, and they all appear to be polemic "screeds." Do they contain what most would agree was true scholarship, and if so can someone summarize those contributions?

Some of his supporters point to the fact that Beyond Chutzpah was published by a respected university press (U of California). What do that say? It doesn't mean that his "scholarship" has been vetted in the same way that it would had he published in scholarly journals, does it?
10.4.2007 12:53am
David M. Nieporent (www):
V: I don't know what your expertise is, but I know what it isn't. That is not a link to another site. It is a post on Finkelstein's site, hosted on Finkelstein's server.

I know it is a cartoon by Latuff; what's your point? Nobody suggested that Finkelstein was any more an artist than he is a scholar. Obviously someone else drew it. So what? Finkelstein didn't just happen to link to a site that happened to have this image on it. He affirmatively chose to post that specific picture on his site.

Your comparison to the Volokh/Instapundit relationship is false.
10.4.2007 1:57am
Frank Menetrez (mail):
Professor Bernstein, it's not clear to me that your response to my comment is intellectually serious enough to warrant a reply. But on the off chance that you or some of your readers might think it is, here goes:

First, I note that you neglected to say whether you found the quotes in Beyond Chutzpah or in some other source. If you choose to respond to this comment, please answer that question, and, if you did find them in some other source, please identify it.

Second, on any minimally charitable interpretation of what Finkelstein wrote, his suggestion that Foxman, Bronfman, and Singer "resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer" means that they resemble those stereotypes in some but not all respects. Or did you think he meant that Foxman, Bronfman, and Singer actually look like those vile drawings in the cartoons you linked to? To be sure, Finkelstein must have meant that they resemble those stereotypes in some nontrivial respects. But wealth, greed, selfishness, and dishonesty are surely central and salient features of anti-Semitic stereotypes in Der Sturmer and elsewhere, regardless of whether they are depicted in the particular cartoons to which you linked. Indeed, in this very passage Finkelstein describes Klug (not "King," as you wrote) as specifically pointing to wealth and selfishness as standard components of pernicious anti-Semitic stereotypes.

I hope that clarifies my claim that Finkelstein "was not suggesting that Foxman, Bronfman, and Singer have all, some, or any of the features depicted in the cartoons to which Professor Bernstein linked." I hope it also explains why my claim does not require any stretched interpretation or rewriting of Finkelstein's text.

Third, as for your disparagement of the idea that "the best way to fight anti-Semitism is accuse Jewish elites of, among other things, greedily using their immense power to promote Jewish superiority," I believe you have misrepresented Finkelstein's claim. According to Finkelstein, certain prominent American Jewish individuals are in fact committing various misdeeds, e.g., going after Swiss banks (but not going after equally culpable American banks) for twenty times more than they owe in Holocaust compensation, and then stiffing the very Holocaust survivors in whose name the money was collected. If he is right, and if he is also right that those same individuals are trying to immunize themselves from criticism for those misdeeds by raising spurious charges of anti-Semitism, then of course it helps in the fight against anti-Semitism to call them on it, denouncing them both for their original misconduct and for their abuse and cheapening of the anti-Semitism charge. And it particularly helps if Jews call them on it, because it shows that Jews don't generally approve of that conduct. Compare: Doesn't it help in the struggle against real racism when people in general, and African Americans in particular, express their disgust with the Tawana Brawley episode? Exposing the frauds has to be included in the project of going after the real thing.

It seems to me that at bottom, your problem with Finkelstein's suggestion is just that you disagree with him about the facts--you don't believe that these prominent Jewish individuals have done the nasty things he claims (and copiously documents) they have done. If you just said that, we could have an intellectually serious discussion. But instead you accuse him of anti-Semitism, and without even having the decency to acknowledge that he expressly allies himself with the struggle against both anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its forms (which I suppose you could have tried to explain away as some sort of elaborate ruse). That is not intellectually serious, and it suggests that you, unlike Finkelstein, do not take the charge of anti-Semitism seriously. Rather, it seems that to you it's just a convenient bit of mud to sling at your ideological enemies, regardless of what the evidence shows.
10.4.2007 2:06am
Brian K (mail):
It appears this article might be tangentially relevant to this post. It regards the selective denunciations of comparisons of one's opponents to "nazi", "hitler", etc. by several prominent jewish groups for political gain. (foxman is mentioned)
10.4.2007 2:34am
V:
I said: It is clear many negative posters have read nothing by Finkelstein beyond the two paragraphs you quoted. Quick to judge, to say the least. Perhaps you could explicitly clarify. Did you yourself carefully read all of Beyond Chutzpah? Or did you just skim the first section to determine if you could find evidence sufficient in your mind to label NF a likely anti-semite?

I then went on to discuss the Finkelstein/Dershowitz controversy and asked why THAT issue was never discussed by David B.

DB responded: If you'll pay me my billing rate, I'll be happy to look up the original sources referenced by Dershowitz and critiqued by Finkelstein, and give you a report
----

Well, first thanks to David for avoiding a pernicious anti-semitic stereotype to the effect Jews are interested only in money.

Second, while I appreciate your offer, I don't need that work done. It was already done, and exceptionally well, by Frank Menetrez, linked to in his first post above.

Third, here's a compromise: I don't know what your billing rate is David, but I'm fairly well off. How about this: I'll pay your twice your billing rate for the time it takes to answer my question: "Did you yourself carefully read all of Beyond Chutzpah? Or did you just skim the first section to determine if you could find evidence sufficient in your mind to label NF a likely anti-semite? " as well as Frank Menetrez's question: "you neglected to say whether you found the quotes in Beyond Chutzpah or in some other source....if you did find them in some other source, please identify it. "

And remember,David, no padding...
10.4.2007 3:41am
DD:
V.

Are you being obtuse?

The link I provided shows the Foxman caricature on Finkelstein's site... along with many others by the 2nd prize winner of last year's "Holocaust Cartoon Contest" in Tehran. Entirely appropriate for someone who keeps trumpeting his parents' experiences, I would think, eh?
10.4.2007 4:11am
neurodoc:
<blockquote><b>David Bernstein</b>: If you'll pay me my billing rate, I'll be happy to look up the original sources referenced by Dershowitz and critiqued by Finkelstein, and give you a report. But I'm not inclined to simply take Finkelstein's word for it, nor for that matter, Dershowitz's.</blockquote>Hasn't some of the work you say you would be happy to do if paid already been done?

As reported by the Boston Globe, Finkelstein e-mailed Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan in 2004 claiming "that his (Finkelstein's) book would document that Dershowitz plagiarized <i>The Case for Israel</i>, and that Dershowitz 'almost certainly didn't write the book, and perhaps didn't even read it prior to publication.'...Kagan asked former Harvard president Derek Bok to examine Finkelstein's plagiarism allegation. Bok determined no plagiarism had occurred..." So, Bok (husband of Sissela Bok, the author of <i>Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life</i>) isn't to be believed? (Was Bok's report to Kagan a confidential one, or can it be found somewhere?)

James O. Freedman, the former president of Dartmouth, who Todd Zywyicki will attest is surely no right-winger or natural ally of Dershowitz, said, "I do not understand [Finkelstein's] charge of plagiarism against Alan Dershowitz. There is no claim that Dershowitz used the words of others without attribution. When he uses the words of others, he quotes them properly and generally cites them to the original sources."

Supposedly, in response to the charge that he did not write his own book, Dershowitz supplied the U of California Press with a copy of a handwritten manuscript. (Reminiscent of the charge that JFK did not write <i>Profiles in Courage</i>, to which JFK responded by producing his handwritten manuscript.) And this publisher backed down on the Finkelstein's claim that Dershowitz didn't write his book and that it was "plagiarized," striking that charge from Finkelstein's bill of particulars.

Because Finkelstein and his supporters keep banging this drum, more needs to be said about this particular calumny by the great calumniator Finkelstein?

<b>DB</b>, I second <b>David M Nierporent</b>'s commendation of you for moral courage here, but unlike <b>DMN</b>, I would not have you stop posting on these topics. Your responses to your critics are excellent and very useful. Conserve your time and energies by ignoring those do not deserve responses, but do engage with the coherent and even the semi-coherents arguments.
10.4.2007 4:25am
wc (mail):
Menetrez, your argument on Der Sturmer comes down to "when NF wrote 'resemble', he actually meant 'has a characteristic or two in common with, but isn't actually similar to.'" But that's not consistent with what the word "resemble" actually means, and it's not consistent with NF's choice to use a Nazi periodical as a reference point.

According to Google, you're a lawyer. I dare you to tell the next judge you appear before that he or she "resembles" a three toed sloth, and then try to explain that you have your own idiosyncratic defition of "resemble."
10.4.2007 9:18am
wowzers:
I must say that the Frank Menetrez comments are enlightening. While they don't fully exonerate Finkelstein, they sure do implicate David as someone willing to twist the facts a bit to make a point.

David: not providing the full context of those quotes was wrong. You significantly altered the reader's interpretation by not providing the full context. This is something other VC members have railed against in the past.

That said, the full context doesn't exonerate Finkelstein, and it certainly doesn't mean he deserves tenure, but it does make it a closer case on the anti-semetic charges.
10.4.2007 9:48am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Dershowitz was agitating for outside pressure by non-academics to derail the tenure decision.

As a taxpaying non-academic I fail to see the outrageousness of this conduct.

He was not asking for government intervention. He was not asking for rioters to destroy DePaul's property or interfere with its operations.

A whole bunch of people expressed their opinions to DePaul about how they should allocate their limited resources. Depaul listened to them and appears to have decided they were right. This is a violation of freedom of speech?
10.4.2007 10:40am
r4d20 (mail):

not one word (in a LEGAL blog) about Alan Dershowitz


Not one word on Bigfoot either,

or the Loc Ness Monster,

or Tiny Winky!!!
10.4.2007 10:47am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
DB responded: If you'll pay me my billing rate, I'll be happy to look up the original sources referenced by Dershowitz and critiqued by Finkelstein, and give you a report
----

Well, first thanks to David for avoiding a pernicious anti-semitic stereotype to the effect Jews are interested only in money.


Funny, here I thought he was reinforcing a stereotype about lawyers. This is the Volokh Conspiracy, remember?

Try and think like a lawyer for a second. Lawyers are supposed to be able to separate issues. For example, despite the fact that they all arise from the same series of events, the following are all logically independent questions:
(1)"Is Dershowitz violating the norms of academia?"
(2)"Is Dershowitz being unfair?"
(3)"Has Dershowitz libeled Finkelstein?"
(4)"Is Dershowitz a schmuck?"
(5)"Is Finkelstein's general thesis substantially correct?"
(6)"Is Finkelstein's scholarship well written, researched, and reasoned by academic standards?"
(7)"Has Finkelstein libeled Dershowitz?"
(8)"Is Finkelstein a schmuck?"
(9)"Is Abe Foxman a schuck?"
(10)"Is zionism racism?"
(11)"Was the founding of Israel a good idea?"
(12)"Is the continued existence of Israel a good idea?"
(13)"Does Finkelstein deserve tenure"


DB is interested in question 13. In my opinion only questions 5, 6 &8 are relevant to 13.

Short form - just because Dershowitz is a schmuck doesn't mean Finkelstein isn't one too.
10.4.2007 11:04am
RH:
The Volokh Conspircay used to be a welcome, and rare, oasis of civility and rational discourse in the internet. The standard of discourse has now degenerated to the level of personal insults. A brief sample from this thread:

"Now THIS is rude. You deserve it" (among many other ad hominum attacks from tht author)
"it's not clear to me that your response to my comment is intellectually serious enough to warrant a reply"
"V. Are you being obtuse?"

As a long-time reader, I would encourage the mangement to enforce the guidelines detailed in the Important Note to Helpful Readers below. Freedom of specch does not require you to give a forum to every voice that wilfully violates posting guidelines on a private web site.
10.4.2007 11:58am
anduril (mail):
Ralph Phelan, way back yesterday I tried to suggest two things:

1. That nothing in the presented quotes from Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah is actually anti-Semitic in nature, and

2. DePaul University may, nevertheless, have had legitimate reasons for wishing Professor Finkelstein well in his future endeavors, but no longer at DePaul University.

As for #1, nothing I've read on this forum has given me reason to change my mind. As for #2, I decided to do some serious research and looked up the Dershowitz - Finkelstein controversy at Wikipedia (that's a bit of self deprecating humor, designed to get everyone on my side right at the start). The Wikipedia entry, IMO, tends to support my contention in #2. Here are some relevant quotes:


In early 2007 the DePaul University Political Science department voted 9 to 3, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Personnel Committee 5 to 0, in favor of giving Finkelstein tenure. The three opposing faculty members subsequently filed a minority report opposing tenure, supported by the Dean of the College, Chuck Suchar. Suchar stated he opposed tenure because Finkelstein's "personal and reputation demeaning attacks on Alan Dershowitz, Benny Morris, and the holocaust authors Eli Wiesel and Jerzy Kosinski" were inconsistent with DePaul's "Vincentian" values.[20] In June 2007 a 4-3 vote by DePaul University's Board on Promotion and Tenure (a faculty board), affirmed by the university's president, the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, denied Finkelstein tenure.[21] [22] Finkelstein has been placed on administrative leave for the 2007-2008 academic year, the remainder of his contract with DePaul, his sole course having been cancelled.[23]

It is, of course, open to question whether DePaul applies its "Vincentian" values consistently--indeed there is some reason to believe that that may not be the case. However, Wikipedia also quotes a Finkelstein supporter, Michael Desch:
Even if Finkelstein's most serious charges are not true, it is nonetheless a scandal that Dershowitz's sloppy book was widely and favorably reviewed in many prominent places, including the New York Times, and became a national bestseller. (Its bestseller status probably should include an asterisk because, as Finkelstein notes, some American Jewish organizations and the Israeli government bought bulk orders of the book to use as part of their efforts to advance Israel's case.) Nothing could be better evidence, in my opinion, of the corrosive influence of the Israel lobby on the intellectual climate of our country than how the nation's leading university allowed such a book to pollute our national discourse on one of the most important issues facing American foreign policy."
This is not to say that Finkelstein is always the best advocate for his case. As with his previous books, it is clear that his muse is his spleen. Outrage drips from nearly every page of Beyond Chutzpah when facts alone would have made a more effective case. Indeed, I had a similar reaction when I heard Finkelstein speak at Harvard about the Goldhagen book [Hitler's Willing Executioners]: the facts were clearly in his corner but his strident presentation undermined his case.
Still, I hesitate to be too critical of Finkelstein. Much of his outrage is justified. Moreover, he has been on the frontline of a brutal war with the Israel lobby, which gives no quarter to its enemies, and so it may be unreasonable to. ..expect him to write on this topic with clinical detachment.

It still seems to me that DePaul, without denigrating Professor Finkelstein's scholarship, may legitimately consider that his style is not a good fit with DePaul's "Vincentian" values. The university may well wish to avoid being continually caught in the crossfire of the Dershowitz - Finkelstein feud. While denial of tenure to Finkelstein might appear cowardly in this light--an unprincipled surrender to Dershowitz's attacks on Finkelstein--it appears to be the case, as even some of Finkelstein's supporters agree, that he invites this type of controversy. I think DePaul is within its rights to prefer a less personal and confrontational style in its faculty. Had Finkelstein not been Finkelstein, i.e., personal and confrontational to a fault, his application for tenure would have been far harder to deny. The fact is, Finkelstein's concern appears to be to influence public views in a wider marketplace of ideas than is usually reached by academic publications, and that calls for a different, "livelier" style. There is no dishonor nor impugning of scholarship implied in such a judgment, but it is an approach from which a university might well wish to disassociate itself. And these strictures might apply equally to some of Professor Dershowitz's publications. The fact is that both professors have likely sought to use their status as professors to bolster their agendas. That is understandable, but universities are not required to accommodate professors who wish to trade in the universities' names for such reasons.

Yesterday I noted that I have never read any book by Professor Finkelstein and don't intend to do so. Today I say the same with regard to Professor Dershowitz. Nor do I know whether either or both of them are schucks, and I don't intend to express a view on the matter. However, if pressed, I can reproduce an amusing story about schmucks riding on camelback in Miami.

Now, why did I address this post to Mr. Phelan? Simply to disagree, finally, with the notion that "DB is interested in question 13." I have offered, more than once, reasons why DePaul might legitimately deny tenure to Professor Finkelstein. No one, least of all Professor Bernstein, appears remotely interested in that issue. I have to conclude that question 13 is not Professor Bernstein's primary interest.
10.4.2007 12:05pm
Seamus (mail):
Israel was created by resolution ofthe United Nations, succeeding obtained diplomatic recognition by the US, the USSR and most other major nations. This is a pretty sound enjoyed by the Turkish Cypriat entity, or the Rhodesian whites.

Two points:

(1) Israel was not "created by resolution of the United Nations." It was created by unilateral action of the Yishuv, much as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was created by unilateral action of the Turkish Cypriot community (under the protection, of course, of the Turkish army). General Assembly Resolution 181(II), like General Assembly resolutions generally, was hortatory rather than binding. It merely "[r]ecommend[ed] to the United Kingdom, as the mandatory Power for Palestine, and to all other Members of the United Nations the adoption and implementation, with regard to the future Government of Palestine, of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union set out [as an attachment to the resolution]," and it "[c]all[ed] upon the inhabitants of Palestine to take such steps as m[ight] be necessary on their part to put this plan into effect."" As is well known, the UK decided that was easy for the General Assembly to say, when it didn't have soldiers being shot at from both sides, and it neither adopted nor implemented the Plan, but withdrew on May 15, 1948, leaving the two communities to which it had given conflicting expectations to fight it out among themselves, while the Arab community of Palestine rejected the GA's call (just as I suspect the Greek community of Cyprus would if the GA had made a similar call for them to acquiesce in the creation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).

(2) So what's the basis on which "the US, the USSR, and most other major nations" justify recognizing Israel and refusing such recognition to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus?

The fate of these whites in Zimbabwe, however, might foreshadow the fate of the Jewish population in Israel were Israel to lose its independence. In Cyprus, the integrity ofthe Turkish community and the safety of Surely you are not arguing that Israeli Jews should be subject to the same sort of insecurity as the citizens or subjects of the "illegitimate" regimes you use as an example.

So are you agreeing that the whites in Rhodesia, the Turks in Cyprus, the pieds-noirs in Algeria, and the Boers in South Africa *should* have been allowed to carve out their own states? If not, why should they be denied the kind of security to which the Jews in Palestine are entitled? Especially considering that the Rhodesians, the Turkish Cypriots, the pieds-noirs, and the Boers had been in their lands before--and, in the case of the Boers and the Turks, long before--the Jews began their return to Eretz Yisrael, and especially considering that most of the aliyah took place time when the Zionist immigrants knew good and well (or should have) that they were immigrating to a land where they were not welcomed by the natives and where they were therefore creating a security problem for themselves?
10.4.2007 12:11pm
Seamus (mail):

Randal, you're missing the point, whether the idea was originally stupid or not, a Jewish state does now exist there, so Zionism in practice simply means that the state shouldn't be destroyed. Since you agree with that, you, by definition, are a Zionist.

Even before the state was established, the operative principle among the overwhelmingly non-religious Zionists wasn't that Jews were "entitled" to the land, but that if they settled the land, worked the land, purchased the land, and established a framework for a decent government there, they would then have earned a homeland there.



Well, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus does now exist, and has existed since 1980. Similarly, Somaliland exist, and has existed since 1991 (almost as long as Israel had existed at the time of the Six Day Way). Moreover, the Turks in Northern Cyprus and the Somalis in Somaliland have worked the land and established a framework for a decent government there. (They didn't have to settle the land or purchase the land, since they were already there, except for those Turks who were refugees from the southern part of the island. I suspect they paid about as much for the land abandoned by Greeks as Israel paid to Arab refugees from the land they abandoned during the War for Independence; a just settlement of both disputes would include either a right of return or compensation.) So have the Turks and Somalis earned a homeland (in the sense of an independent state)?
10.4.2007 12:20pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Anduril, I linked to Ms. Young's piece regarding whether F deserved tenure, and said I broadly agreed with that. But the rest of my post was about a subject not covered in Mr. Phelan's list, whether Finkelstein is a victim of "the Israel Lobby" or his own acidic rhetoric.
10.4.2007 12:26pm
Ross A:
Seamus writes:

Do you believe that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is entitled to be a respected member of the family of nations? Katanga? Biafra? Somaliland?

Seamus, seeing you feel comfortable in asking a number of controversial questions, what about answering the key underlying question in return. Do you believe that Israel has a right to exist?
10.4.2007 12:41pm
c.l. ball:
As a taxpaying non-academic I fail to see the outrageousness of this conduct.


Dershowitz is an academic and is well aware of the norms of academic freedom and tenure. Dershowitz violated those norms by trying to influence the tenure decision outside the accepted channels.

Saying 'I'm not an academic and I haven't read scholar X's confidential tenure file or published work, but I know that X should not be tenured' is equivalent to saying 'I'm not a juror in X's trial, and I haven't heard the trial testimony or the judge's instructions, but I know X is guilty.' If you're an attorney and you're sending letters to jurors, judges, and counsel in a criminal trial calling for a guilty plea and publicly calling for community figures to demand a guilty plea, I think you've violated some pretty damn important norms even if you attended the trial.


Again, DePaul's dean justified his decision not not the accepted grounds for tenure -- scholarship, service, teaching -- but on an appeal primarily to 'collegiality.' Had the dean instead said that Finkelstein's scholarship was poor, there would be legitimate grounds. But DePaul's administrators apparently considered that publishing several books with Verso and one with Univ. of California Press and another w/ Univ. of Minnesota Press was sufficient, or that it was harder to challenge him on those grounds.
10.4.2007 12:43pm
anduril (mail):
David Bernstein wrote:
Anduril, I linked to Ms. Young's piece regarding whether F deserved tenure, and said I broadly agreed with that. But the rest of my post was about a subject not covered in Mr. Phelan's list, whether Finkelstein is a victim of "the Israel Lobby" or his own acidic rhetoric.

Agreed. That's what I was trying to point out, perhaps at too great length: the primary focus of your post was NOT on the tenure denial per se. However, I think we can be somewhat more precise as to the general drift of your initial post. As I understood you, your problem with Finkelstein's rhetoric was not so much that it was "acidic" but that it was out and out anti-Semitic. It appears to me that your post was largely devoted to convincing one and all that Finkelstein uses "unmistakably anti-Semitic" rhetoric, that he is "guilty of anti-Semitism," and that those who would deny this are dishonest:

Those so inclined can turn Finkelstein into a free speech martyr if they wish. But, putting aside the merits of his claim to tenure, it's fundamentally dishonest to suggest that he attracted notoriety and criticism simply because he's a critic of Israel. I'm waiting for the first, honest, defender of Finkelstein to say, "yes, he's guilty of anti-Semitism, and that anti-Semitism is directly related to the work on which his tenure relied, but I think DePaul should have granted him tenure anyway." It's certainly plausible to argue that the fact that one's work on Jews and the so-called "Holocaust Industry" is tainted by anti-Semitism should not be a barrier to tenure if the work otherwise makes a significant contribution to the literature, but I'm waiting for someone to forthrightly make the case.

I think it was this imputation of dishonesty to those who may disagree with your assessment of Finkelstein that generated some of the heat in the responses to your post. It is, perhaps, ironic in a way that this imputation of dishonesty is akin to some of Finkelstein's rhetoric, as I saw it described at Wikipedia. I think my citations to the Wikipedia article confirm that, had you confined your comments to the overall style of Finkelstein's rhetoric rather than imputing dishonesty to those who would deny that he is anti-Semitic, both I and other readers would have been in more general agreement with you. I have no particular problem with imputing dishonesty to those who may differ with you, but in this case I don't think you established your case, i.e., that Finkelstein is "guilty of anti-Semitism."

As for Young's article, with which you express agreement, I too can agree with the conclusion:
What does all this mean for academic freedom? UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh says that while particular tenure cases are "highly fact-specific" and often murky, the overall issue of when a professor's maverick views or abrasive style should affect the appraisal of his or her work is a thorny one: "The question is, how do you promote tolerance and diversity of ideas while maintaining judgment of quality." Given the ideological tenor of the academy, there is a real risk that opponents of affirmative action or gun control, or proponents of traditional gender roles, could some day find themselves declared "beyond the pale."

The only good answer, perhaps, is to approach each case on its individual merits. There is no cause to cry for Finkelstein or Gonzalez, whose right to express their beliefs does not include the right to a lifetime professorship.
10.4.2007 1:20pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
The fundamental dishonesty is the claim that it's all about Israel. I think the anti-Semitism in the statements speak for themselves, but even if you deem them merely caustic, acidic, uncalled for, inflammatory, uncouth, impolite, unacademic, and raising colorable suspicions of anti-Semitism, the basic point doesn't change.
10.4.2007 1:29pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):

As a taxpaying non-academic I fail to see the outrageousness of this conduct.


Dershowitz is an academic and is well aware of the norms of academic freedom and tenure.


As a taxpaying non-academic I am not going to assume that those norms are always correct, and remaine agnostic as to whether those norms serve the interests of society as a whole, the pu8rsuit of knowledge, or the personal interests of those currently employed as faculty.

Granted what Dershowitz did - involving the outside world - is considered uncouth among academics. That doesn't mean it's wrong.
10.4.2007 1:58pm
Seamus (mail):
Seamus, seeing you feel comfortable in asking a number of controversial questions, what about answering the key underlying question in return. Do you believe that Israel has a right to exist?

Sure, if the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has a right to exist.

The key underlying question is not whether Israel has a right to exist. The key underlying question is, what are the standards by which we judge whether a state has a right to exist?

Or do you prefer to decide first that a state you like has a right to exist (or that a state you dislike doesn't have a right to exist), then craft an ad hoc set of standards that will justify that decision?

Seeing that you feel uncomfortable with my "asking a number of controversial questions," let me ask what is, or should be, a very uncontroversial one: Do you believe that Israel's right to exist should be judged by the same standards that are applied to other states in comparable situations?
10.4.2007 1:59pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
"But the rest of my post was about a subject not covered in Mr. Phelan's list, whether Finkelstein is a victim of "the Israel Lobby" or his own acidic rhetoric."

Sorry I missed your point.

Now that I get it, let's contrast Finkelstein's case with that of another "uncollegial" guy whose public tenure fight went the opposite way - outside forces forced his acceptance - KC Johnson who guest-blogged here recently.

(1) He's got tons of peer-reviewed articles.
(2) His writing style is very factual and non-hyperbolic, and he's often generous to a fault in trying to give the benefit of the doubt.

I'd say having a scholarly approach to one's work is useful in getting oneself a job as a scholar.
10.4.2007 2:03pm
MDJD2B (mail):

Especially considering that the Rhodesians, the Turkish Cypriots, the pieds-noirs, and the Boers had been in their lands before—and, in the case of the Boers and the Turks, long before—the Jews began their return to Eretz Yisrael, and especially considering that most of the aliyah took place time when the Zionist immigrants knew good and well (or should have) that they were immigrating to a land where they were not welcomed by the natives and where they were therefore creating a security problem for themselves?


Seamus,

All other things being equal, all national groups that so desire should be allowed to govern themselves.

For example, the Cypriot Turks undoubtedly are better off than they would have been under Greek Cypriot domination, while the Greek Cypriots are not significantly worse off.

I do not hold this as an absolute rule. For example, if there were a 150 acre Lithuanian-speaking enclave in the middle of Paris or Milwaukee, I would not favor their secession as an independent state. I haven't thought through the appropriate marginal conditions but I would propose the rule.
10.4.2007 2:13pm
MDJD2B (mail):

Do you believe that Israel's right to exist should be judged by the same standards that are applied to other states in comparable situations?


Seamus,

This is a bit disingenuous. Conditions are never the same. The standards are contrversial and murky. Do you, for example, look at economic viability of the putative state? At the likely fate of the residents if the larger entity absorbed the putative state? At the way the putative state proposes to govern itself? At how old the community is?

Ar ethe standards to be set out in advance? Or will we pick and choose our standards ad hoc so we can include or exclude the putative states we like?

Israel was established after a General Assembly vote that, while hortatory, was going to be honored by the UK. The UK, which held the UN mandate, pulled out after the vote. Israel proclaimed its independence, and was recognized by most major countries. The Islamic contries recognized Israel de facto by shipping most of their own native Jews there-- Jews who, in the case of Iraq, had been there for over a millenia before there were Arabs there. The state has been in existence for 60 years, now.

So-- you didn't answere the question. Does Israel have a right to exist?
10.4.2007 2:23pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
anduril siad:

"As I understood you, your problem with Finkelstein's rhetoric was not so much that it was "acidic" but that it was out and out anti-Semitic."

It's true, there seems to be legitimate disagreement as to whether
(A)Finkelstein is anti-Semitic, or merely
(B)Hyperbolic, acidic, inflammatory, a professional provocateur, snarky and sarcastic, with an inexplicable soft spot for folks like Latuff who are genuinely anti-semitic, and with a website consisting largely of links to crank and crackpot sites, many of them antisemitic, but not actually an anti-Semite himself, merely an asshole.

If in fact DB made a mistake and stated Finkelstein was A when really he's B, I suppose he would owe Finkelstein an apology.

But not a very big one.

Anyone interested in my question above, "Is Finkelstein a schmuck?" should go immediately to finkelstein.com.
10.4.2007 2:27pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
"what are the standards by which we judge whether a state has a right to exist?"
As a practical matter, the quality of its military counts for a lot.
10.4.2007 2:30pm
Rickm:
Is this really more complicated than DePaul didn't want to hire a dick with an unorthodox record of scholarship?
10.4.2007 2:34pm
anduril (mail):
David Bernstein wrote:
The fundamental dishonesty is the claim that it's all about Israel.

David, by your own words
I'm waiting for the first, honest, defender of Finkelstein to say, "yes, he's guilty of anti-Semitism, and that anti-Semitism is directly related to the work on which his tenure relied, but I think DePaul should have granted him tenure anyway."

you maintain that:

1. anyone who defends Finkelstein and is honest must admit that they are defending a person who
a) is guilty of anti-Semitism, and
b) whose anti-Semitism is directly related to the work on which his tenure relied;
2. you then call upon these defenders of Finkelstein to acknowledge that--knowing of Finkelstein's anti-Semitism and fully understanding the relation of his anti-Semitism to his application for tenure--they still support his application for tenure.

In other words, you are asking them to discredit themselves by acknowledging either

1. that they are free speech extremists to a remarkable degree of irresponsibility, or

2. that they are closet anti-Semites who, were they honest, would exit their closet(s) forthwith.

You contend that there is simply no other alternative, but decline to support your contention in any meaningful, factual way and make no response beyond stating that your view of Finkelstein is obviously correct. Since none of the posters in this discussion appear to be free speech extremists of this variety, it appears that you are, implicitly, requiring all who disagree with you in this matter to prove a negative, i.e., to prove that they are not themselves anti-Semites.
10.4.2007 2:34pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I wondered about "Vincentian values," so I tried to look them up. The primary value is serving the needs of the poor. The ones applicable here seem to be the dignity of every human being, the committment to charity and justice, friendship, solidarity, community, and simplicity.
10.4.2007 3:01pm
anduril (mail):
Ralph Phelan, I agree with your assessment:
"what are the standards by which we judge whether a state has a right to exist?"
As a practical matter, the quality of its military counts for a lot.

However, I'm afraid that you may be misrepresenting Professor Bernstein if you are attributing the following position to him:
It's true, there seems to be legitimate disagreement as to whether
(A)Finkelstein is anti-Semitic, or merely
(B)Hyperbolic, acidic, inflammatory, a professional provocateur, snarky and sarcastic, with an inexplicable soft spot for folks like Latuff who are genuinely anti-semitic, and with a website consisting largely of links to crank and crackpot sites, many of them antisemitic, but not actually an anti-Semite himself, merely an asshole.

It appears to be Professor Bernstein's precise contention that there is NO legitimate disagreement as to whether Finkelstein is anti-Semitic: he is. I agree with you to this extent, that, based on the quotes from Beyond Chutzpah, I think there can be legitimate disagreement--that is, disagreement without dishonesty--as to whether Finkelstein is anti-Semitic or indulges in rhetoric that is "unmistakably anti-Semitic."

For the rest, I offer no opinion, never having read any of his books, nor articles, for that matter. Furthermore, I've never visited his website, nor do I intend to do so--not even to find out whether or not he's a schmuck. Ditto for Professor Dershowitz. (I mean, I won't visit Professor Dershowitz' site to find out whether he--Dershowitz--is a schmuck; I suppose the Finkelstein site may offer an opinion on that, and vice versa, but the dispute is so personal that there doesn't seem much point.)
10.4.2007 3:02pm
Ross A:
Seamus writes (in answer to the question as to whether Israel has a right to exist):

Sure, if the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has a right to exist.


Without tring to be sarcastic, I really can't work out whether your answer is "yes" or "no". Do you belive that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has a right to exist? It appears you are leaning towards "no" for the latter question which means "no" to Israel's right to exist. But I may be putting words in your mouth; please correct me if I am in error.
10.4.2007 3:23pm
Frank Menetrez (mail):
Neurodoc makes some points that I think deserve a response. It is true that Dershowitz has claimed for years now that Harvard investigated Finkelstein's plagiarism accusations and "completely cleared" him. Harvard has likewise confirmed that Bok investigated the charges but found that "no plagiarism had occurred." But neither Dershowitz nor Harvard has ever identified the specific issues or allegations that were investigated.

After Finkelstein initially accused Dershowitz of plagiarism and Dershowitz defended himself against the charge, Finkelstein's principal counterargument was this: The quotations and citations of certain primary sources in Dershowitz's book contain errors that are identical to errors concerning the same primary sources in Peters' book (i.e., the book Derhsowitz was accused of plagiarizing), but Dershowitz cites only the primary sources, not Peters. Finkelstein concludes that Dershowitz must have copied the stuff from Peters and never checked it against the originals but still didn't cite Peters.

Finkelstein first made this argument in an exchange with Dershowitz that was published in the Harvard Crimson on October 3, 2003 (the Crimson's archive is searchable online, so it's easy to find). Dershowitz has never responded to it in any fashion, as far as I am aware, although he did correct some of the errors in the paperback edition of his book. In fact, to my knowledge, Dershowitz has never even acknowledged that Finkelstein ever made this argument at all.

I specifically asked both Dershowitz and the Harvard Law School administration whether, when Harvard investigated the plagiarism issue, they investigated the identical errors issue. Both refused to answer my question. My own research on the issue, which will soon be published, leaves no room for doubt that Finkelstein's argument is correct. For what it's worth, I showed my findings to a law professor friend of mine (who is a prominent member of the administration at his school), and he said that if this were a student plagiarism case, they wouldn't even need to conduct a hearing. The only issue would be the severity of the punishment.

I don't want to say anything more about my research right now, because it is not yet published. But when it comes out, I'll be sure to let Professor Bernstein know, and he can decide whether it's sufficiently balanced to be worth sharing with his readers.

As for Dershowitz's handwritten manuscript, his claim that he sent the whole thing to the UC Press appears to be false. The UC Press has released all of the correspondence it received from Dershowitz and his lawyers (which happens to be quite an illuminating read). It includes a small piece of his handwritten manuscript (just a few pages), not the whole thing. In one of the letters from Dershowitz's lawyer at Cravath, he refers to the manuscript and says something like "we would be happy to show it to a jury." Cute. But there is no evidence (apart from Dershowitz's say-so, which is not terribly reliable) that they showed the whole thing to the UC Press.

That's all I have for Neurodoc. WC makes an argument that was already addressed in my previous comment. Foxman, Bronfman, and Singer can resemble stereotypes straight out of Der Sturmer without resembling every stereotype in Der Sturmer in every respect. If they resemble some of those stereotypes in some nontrivial (or, if you prefer, significant) respects, then Finkelstein's claim is true. No "idiosyncratic" definition of "resemble" is required.

Professor Bernstein, I note that you still have not answered the repeated question (from me and others) about where you got your Finkelstein quotes, from Beyond Chutzpah or some other source. If you choose to respond to this comment, please answer that question, and, if you got them from some other source, please identify it.

Finally, I want to emphasize my agreement with the following point made in some recent comments: In his original post and subsequent comments, Professor Bernstein accused Finkelstein of anti-Semitism. That is an extremely serious charge. To be sure, Professor Bernstein initially expressed some agnosticism about whether Finkelstein is really anti-Semitic or merely uses anti-Semitic language as some sort of rhetorical ploy. But at the end of the post Professor Bernstein was calling on any "honest" defender of Finkelstein (if only he could find one) to admit that "yes, he's guilty of anti-Semitism." It will take some very fancy hermeneutic footwork to turn that into something other than a charge, by Professor Bernstein, of anti-Semitism. Other comments bear this out. For example, in his response to a post by Stating the Obvious concerning a hypothetical about a 9/11 family member, Professor Bernstein's response was based on the supposition that "the person in question was actually a secret jihadist." The response is relevant only if Professor Bernstein is accusing Finkelstein of being a (secret?) anti-Semite.

Professor Bernstein's more recent comments have tended to avoid the extremely serious charge of anti-Semitism that he originally made, but he has expressed no remorse about making it and has not even retracted it. Will an honest defender of Professor Bernstein (perhaps the professor himself?) be so good as to admit that Finkelstein is not an anti-Semite (however distasteful one might find some of his language), that there is no evidence to support the charge, that there is powerful evidence against it, and that this evidence is contained in the omitted portions of the very passages that Professor Bernstein quoted? We shall see.
10.4.2007 3:35pm
Seamus (mail):

Do you believe that Israel's right to exist should be judged by the same standards that are applied to other states in comparable situations?



Seamus,

This is a bit disingenuous. Conditions are never the same. . . .

So-- you didn't answere the question. Does Israel have a right to exist?



But I take it you *did* answer my question, and that your answer is, no, Israel's right to exist should *not* be judged by the same standards that are applied to other states in comparable situations, because it's impossible to judge different states by the same standards.

Funny, I've always heard defenders of Israel accuse some critics of Israel of anti-Semitism because, claim the defenders, the critics hold Israel a standard that they don't hold other nations to. And here you're telling me that you *can't* hold Israel to the same standards you hold other nations to, because "conditions are never the same."

For the record, I believe that any just settlement in the Middle East will probably have to be one in which the Arab Palestinians and the surrounding Arab states acknowledge Israel's right to exist. Whatever the merits of the establishment of Israel between 1918 and 1948, it's been there for more than two generations, and it would be unjust to require its Jewish population to leave--but I note that no one talked much about the injustice of effectively requiring the pieds-noirs or the white Rhodesians (leaving aside such valiant examples as Ian Smith, who refuses to be driven out), nor does anyone seem bothered by the prospect that Afrikaaners (whose ancestors have been there for 400 years) may soon be required to do the same in South Africa. (The Afrikaaners' co-religionists in Ulster, who'd been there about as long as the Afrikaaners were in South Africa, got lucky and were permitted to carve out their territory from the rest of Ireland in 1920, against the strenuous objections of the majority in the larger unit--and even they acquiesced when the Irish Free State Treaty was concluded in 1922.)

Ultimately, in international affairs, there has to be something like a statute of limitations on territorial acquisition. That said, I'd note that the Arabs have certainly done the equivalent of asserting their claim within any reasonable statute of limitations, since they've been disputing the claims of Israel to the land for decades before there even was a State of Israel. I don't like the idea that a state can forcibly establish itself and, just by holding onto the territory against the continuous objections of those who were displaced, gain title. (BTW, that's why I maintain that the British title to the Falklands (which the Argentines have disputed from the get-go) is flawed, though that doesn't give the Argies the right to upset the status quo by force.

Similarly, a just settlement of the Cyprus situation requires recognition of the independence of Northern Cyprus, and a just settlement of the situation in Somalia requires recognition of the independence of Somaliland. I don't see how the U.S. and the international community can insist that the independence of Israel is a fait accompli, while that of Northern Cyprus or Somaliland is up for grabs. (In fact, the case of Somaliland is pretty much analogous to that of Israel. Just as the power exercising sovereignty in Somalia collapsed in 1991, so the power exercising sovereignty in Palestine in 1948 withdrew. Just as the people of Somaliland filled that vacuum of sovereignty with a new state, exercising jurisdiction over only part of the territory and population of Somalia, so the Yishuv dilled the vacuum of sovereignty in Palestine by establishing a new state, exercising jurisdiction over only part of the territory and population of Palestine. So why did Truman rush to recognize Israel minutes after its proclamation, while GHW Bush did nothing after the proclamation of Somaliland, and his successors have followed suit. Maybe there needs to be a stronger "Somaliland lobby.")
10.4.2007 3:59pm
Seamus (mail):
The Afrikaaners' co-religionists in Ulster, who'd been there about as long as the Afrikaaners were in South Africa, got lucky and were permitted to carve out their territory from the rest of Ireland in 1920, against the strenuous objections of the majority in the larger unit--and even they acquiesced when the Irish Free State Treaty was concluded in 1922.

When I say "they acquiesced," I meant that "the majority in the larger unit" (i.e., Ireland) acquiesced, as evidenced by the vote of the Dail to ratify the Treaty.
10.4.2007 4:02pm
MDJD2B (mail):

But I take it you *did* answer my question, and that your answer is, no, Israel's right to exist should *not* be judged by the same standards that are applied to other states in comparable situations, because it's impossible to judge different states by the same standards.


No-- I said that I don't think it's possible to develop applicable prospective standards. That is not the same thing. Please don't put words in my mouth. I don't think that Israel should be judged by different criteria than other nations.

This question of when a national group should get a state should be, if you will, a matter of equity ratherr than of law. Each situation is sui generis. There can be analogies to prior events, but each case must be judged on its own merits without application of standards, becasue the relevant issues are so numerous.

In another post I said that all things being equal, self-determination should be awarded to national groups that desite it. I also said that the Turkish Cypriots (whose claim is no stronger than Israel's) should have the option of independence (or affiliation with Turkey, I suppose).

Those people who want to delegitimize israel tend to pick out areas in which they feel the case for Israel is weak and say that these parameters should comprise the standard. They gainsay the relevance of factors that would tend to support Israel's right to exist. But to the extent that they act as though these were preexisting standards, they are playing a dishonest game. No "standard" that is adopted after compliance or non-compliance with that standard can be considered a fair standard. In the case of law, our constitution has prohibited ex post facto laws.

There is no generally accepted standard for assigning legitimacy to creation of a country that I am aware of. If one were created, then so be it. I don't like the idea, for reasons I have stated, but I'd lose. But youcan't proclaim a stansdard and apply it to past events.
10.4.2007 4:18pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
"I don't like the idea that a state can forcibly establish itself and, just by holding onto the territory against the continuous objections of those who were displaced, gain title."

I suggest you not study history then. You won't like it.

"I don't see how the U.S. and the international community can insist that the independence of Israel is a fait accompli, while that of Northern Cyprus or Somaliland is up for grabs."
See my 1:30 pm post. There's also the economic argument. Israel's a major high-tech center. It's GDP is more than that of the entire Arab world not counting oil extraction.
If Israel were to be overrun and laid waste by its enemies tomorrow, the results would be (1) a world wide economic depression and (2) a whole bunch of mushroom clouds in its general vicinity.
If Somaliland were to be overrun and laid waste by its enemies tomorrow, would anyone more than a hundred miles away even notice?
10.4.2007 4:27pm
Ralph Phelan (mail):
anduril 2:02-
I get your point that DB's claim that Finkelstein gives every appearance of being an antisemite is not the slam-dunk DB claims it is if all you've got for evidence is those two quotes.

But looking at the entirety of Finkelstein's website ... yes, his words and actions are those of an antisemite, and it takes disingenuous mental contortions to claim otherwise.

And then there's the question of just how important is the distinction between "antisemite" and "lunatic who supports antisemites."
10.4.2007 4:35pm
davidbernstein (mail):
I'm swamped, and surprised this thread is still going on, but I'm perfectly willing to clarify that I don't know whether Finkelstein is an anti-Semite, but I know he uses anti-Semitic rhetoric. When I said that I think he clearly guilty of anti-Semitism, I meant the latter, not the former.

You can also check out, e.g., a book review (you can read it here, it was originally published in a major paper, I think) by a Columbia history professor who says that "The Holocaust Industry" is anti-Semitic. I haven't looked at that book in years, but I do know that I'm not the only one to find Finkelstein's rhetoric anti-Semitic, and not just in one or two quotes.
10.4.2007 5:25pm
anduril (mail):
Ralph Phelan, I'll have to leave it to others who are more knowledgeable than I to work this out. Certainly DB should have presented more unequivocal evidence. My reason for entering this discussion is simply that, while I recognize the necessity of labels as shorthand in almost any discussion, I do prefer to see more care used in how serious labels are attached to others. Perhaps that means I wouldn't very much like either Finkelstein or Dershowitz.
10.4.2007 5:32pm
V:
So I guess that means, David, that you agree with Finkelstein's argument, in part I of Beyond Chutzpah, that many prominent and influential Jews try to silence anyone who details Israeli attrocities with claims of anti-semitism, as well as Walt and Mersheimer's claim in The Israel Lobby that the lobby works assiduously to condemn any criticism of Israel and American supporters of Israel by claiming anti-semitism. Thanks for the demonstration.
10.4.2007 5:40pm
Ross A:
V, I don't belive your logic holds. There are people who are anti-Israel. There are also people who are anti-semitic. Sometimes they are different but quite often the groups overlap. I will go out on a limb to say most people who are anti-semitic are also anti-Israel. DB claims that Finkelstein is in the overlap category (or at least uses ant-semitic rhetoric). Notwthstanding Frank Menetrez's magnum opus (which I find well written but ultimately unpersuasive in its reasoning and strained definitions), DB has presented reasonable prima facie evidence of this claim. It is a real leap to say DB's claim in any way proves the points of Finklstein or M-W mentioned above.

On a separate note, snarky comments like "Thanks for the demonstration" really do not add much to the discussion.
10.4.2007 7:00pm
Elliot123 (mail):
1. DB, you introduced the term "anti-Semtism" in your original post. As the OP, can you tell us exactly what you mean by the term?

2. No nation has a right to exist. A nation exists because its people can take and hold the territory, or some stronger friend will do it for them. That might not be ideal, but that's how it has always worked. Israel is simply following the historical pattern used by everybody else.
10.4.2007 7:08pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
So I guess that means, David, that you agree with Finkelstein's argument, in part I of Beyond Chutzpah, that many prominent and influential Jews try to silence anyone who details Israeli attrocities with claims of anti-semitism, as well as Walt and Mersheimer's claim in The Israel Lobby that the lobby works assiduously to condemn any criticism of Israel and American supporters of Israel by claiming anti-semitism. Thanks for the demonstration.
Actually, as DB has stated explicitly in the past, he thinks that anti-semites often falsely claim that people do this, so that they can pretend that criticism of their anti-semitism is just criticism of their anti-Israelism.

And he has stated explicitly in this thread that Finkelstein lies and pretends opposition to him is based on his comments about Israel rather than his comments about Jews. He doesn't "detail Israeli atrocities"; rather, he attacks American Jews and Holocaust survivors for discussing the Holocaust.

But given that you're so dishonest that you pretend you can't find something on a website when instructions are given to you, and then you deny it's there even when the link is given to you...
10.4.2007 8:18pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't like the idea that a state can forcibly establish itself and, just by holding onto the territory against the continuous objections of those who were displaced, gain title.
But that's human history. "Those who were displaced" did not honestly come by the land; they forcibly established themselves and displaced the previous occupants of the land.

There's no reason to freeze human history in 1946 and say, "This state of affairs is just and any displacement from this point on is unjust."
10.4.2007 8:22pm
Rickm:
DB-

A minor correction. David Greenberg was a fellow at Columbia (where he earned his Ph.D.), not a professor. He is currently a Assistant Professor at Rutgers. His professional subject of study is 'media studies' at Rugters' school of Communication. Judging from his CV, he teaches courses on the Holocaust in American life. His expertise is on the memory of Nixon.
10.4.2007 9:01pm
Frank Menetrez (mail):
That's just swell, Professor Bernstein. You "don't know whether Finkelstein is an anti-Semite," even though in the omitted portions of the passages you quoted he clearly allies himself with the struggle against anti-Semitism. I suppose you think it might just be a bunch of bald-faced lies, but you have given us no reason to believe that. In fact, you've never addressed the issue at all. And you've still never told us where you got your Finkelstein quotes in the first place.

You now "clarify" that when you accused Finkelstein of anti-Semitism, you meant only that he uses anti-Semitic rhetoric, even though your original post expressly distinguished between anti-Semitism and the mere use of anti-Semitic rhetoric, and even though the post ended up expressly accusing Finkelstein of the former. And even your "clarified" charge remains unsupported by the quotes you presented, if they are read in context and in a minimally charitable fashion.

So you also fall back on: And it's not just about one or two quotes either, believe you me. Well, having read all of Finkelstein's books, I don't.

And you throw in the review by Greenberg, a Columbia history professor who, according to Rickm (8:01) turns out to be a Rutgers media studies professor. So now I've read Greenberg's review. Please forgive me, but I found it, shall we say, less than tightly argued. It in many ways resembled Omer Bartov's well-known review in the New York Times: little argument, lots of name calling, with some misrepresentation sprinkled in. I frankly can't understand why you mentioned it except as some sort of appeal to authority.

So, much as I dislike this sort of argument-by-name-dropping, what are we to make of Avi Shlaim (Oxford), Sara Roy (Harvard), Baruch Kimmerling (deceased, formerly Hebrew University of Jerusalem), and Raul Hilberg (deceased, formerly University of Vermont, and probably the most eminent Holocaust historian who ever lived)? All of them Jewish, all of them eminent scholars (and not in media studies), and all of them supporters of Finkelstein's work. Are they all anti-Semites too? Or just dupes? Or do they just have a soft spot for anti-Semites? Or for people who use anti-Semitic rhetoric? Or for "lunatics who support anti-Semites" (per Ralph Phelan, 3:35)?

This discussion is not serious, and I will not participate in it any longer.
10.5.2007 12:29am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Hmm, Frank's under the impression that I'm somehow obligated to respond to questions from him. Anyway, if anyone is still reading this thread, here's more charm from Dr. Finkelstein; he headlines a picture of Ruth Wisse and Cynthia Ozick "Rated R, May Induce Nightmares." So we can add misogyny to the bill of particulars.
10.5.2007 1:05am
DD:
DB:

I followed your link and, unfortunately, strayed to read some other items on Finkelstein's site. Some of the stuff is cringe-inducing. There are passages (e.g. "MEMRI Nazis") which may not qualify as certifiably anti-semitic but -- even to my insensitive, lapsed-Catholic ears -- are utterly despicable. I would not want this man teaching in my university.
10.5.2007 2:02am
neurodoc:
I'm sorry that Frank Menetrez checked out without saying anything about Finkelstein's claim to be a scholar worthy of tenure.

Right, the focus of this thread has for the most part been on the charge of "antisemitism" leveled at Finkelstein, but FM did not limit himself to a rebuttal of that charge. He has given considerable time and energy here and elsewhere to arguing in support of Finkelstein's claim that Dershowitz is a "plagiarist." Whether Dershowitz is or isn't a plagiarist, a child molester, or whatever, is surely irrelevant to the question of whether or not Finkelstein should be seen as an antisemite.

So, if you are listening FM, would you summarize the case for Finkelstein as a scholar worthy of tenure. I am genuinely interested to hear a Finkelstein supporter make a competent case for him in this regard, that is one that does not go off on Dershowitz or anyone else; that does not rely on endorsements by those who share Finkelstein's politics (e.g., Sara Roy); that does not proclaim Finkelstein a "public intellectual" to get around the lack of tangible (writings) evidence of scholarly contributions; etc. I don't know, but would like to, what exactly Finkelstein's scholarly contributions might consist of. (He has never published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, so is it his books, and which is the most important among them as a work of "scholarship"?)

Finally, FM, please tell us why you chose to publish your analysis of the Finkelstein v Dershowitz fight in CounterPunch. Were you invited to do so by Finkelstein or Cockburn? Did you submit elsewhere and get turned down? Or did you simply decide that CounterPunch was the most suitable place?
10.5.2007 3:14am
David M. Nieporent (www):
But that's human history. "Those who were displaced" did not honestly come by the land; they forcibly established themselves and displaced the previous occupants of the land.
Incidentally, just for the sake of clarification after re-reading this, I'm not singling out the Palestinians here; rather, I'm doing exactly the opposite: pointing out that every people has done this and has had it done to them, and that there's no reason to treat the Palestinian situation as unique.


he clearly allies himself with the struggle against anti-Semitism.
Of course, he did no such thing.

Finkelstein is the equivalent of a person who spent most of his time in the 1960s viciously attacking Martin Luther King for infidelity, plagiarism, and communism -- and nastily slandering King's defenders, arguing that those who defended King were provoking racism -- and then claimed that he was only saying these things because he didn't want King's personal foibles to undermine the fight against racism. Nobody would take seriously the claim that such a person cared about fighting racism.
10.5.2007 5:19am
neurodoc:
David M. Nieporent: Finkelstein is the equivalent of a person who spent most of his time in the 1960s viciously attacking Martin Luther King for infidelity, plagiarism, and communism...
Dead on! But you stopped short. The equivalent of Finkelstein here would be someone who viciously attacked Martin Luther King and every AA civil rights leader of the time and anyone of any prominence who assisted or defended them. Then you would have something like Finkelstein as "courageous activist" in "the struggle against anti-semitism." (Maybe we should require that the person attacking be an AA to get it still closer to the exceptional case of Finkelstein.)

V, who can't figure out, or simply refuses to acknowledge, that Finkelstein clearly approves of those repulsive cartoon images and other antisemitic expression, thinks it significant that Finkelstein's supporters include such people as Baruch (sic) Kimmerling and Sara Roy. I do too. Kimmerling, Roy and Marc Ellis and others are notable in their likeness to Finkelstein himself and they are discussed at some length as enemies of Israel in The Jewish Divide Over Israel by Alexander and Bogdanor. Mouin Rabbani, another endorser of Finkelstein, is of Palestinian origin and regularly speaks on behalf of the Palestinian cause.
10.5.2007 2:10pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Well, just for grins, suppose someone is anti-Semitic, or anti-black, anti-gay, anti-Armenian, anti-environment, anti-baby-seal, or anti-law-professor. So what?

Why do we care about the internal mental state of people? I really don't care about their attitudes; I care about their actions. And if their actions are of concern, and those actions consist of writing things we dispute, then we can simply refute them with reasoned and cogent argument. I suspect the name calling disguises an inability to really engage ideas. And if the ideas are engaged and refuted, why the need for the name calling. What is gained?
10.5.2007 4:45pm
Ross A:
Elliot, I don't get your point. Are you saying that if someone is actually anti-semitic, it is out of bounds (just name calling) to refer to him as such. This sounds a little strange. It is even stranger in the context of an academic whose area of specialization is the Middle East and the holocaust. Surely, you see the linkage here. If a member of the KKK wrote a book on the civil rights movement and applied for tenure on the basis of the book, would you also argue that his racism should not be questioned?
10.5.2007 5:18pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Ross,

Is it out of bounds? No. I simply question why we care about mental states, which is exactly what being anti-Armenian is.

However, calling someone anti-Armenian is somewhat a waste since nobody ever tells us what they mean by being anti-Armenian. Intelligent and well educated people go on and on discussing anti-Armenianism, hurling the nemes back and forth, yet they never tell us what they mean by the term. I suggest there is hardly agreement on the meaning, and the above posts demonstrate that very well.

The tenure applicant should be judged on his academic work. If the Grand Klaven applied for tenure, and his scholarship supported tenure, then who cares about his mental state, or what might be tatooed on his backside? And if detractors can't discredit his work with cogent evidence and argument, then what's the beef?
10.5.2007 5:50pm
Ross A:
Elliot,

I think it is a little naiive to try separate the racism of a Grand Klaven from his scholarship on civil rights. I think that most observors would see the direct linkage between the two and how one could directly influence the other. (I, however, am in full agreement with you that we can separate his rear-end tatoo from his academic work).
10.5.2007 6:08pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I would ask those observers who see a direct linkage to provide cogent analysis of the scholarship, and refute it. If they can't do that, then I fail to see the basis for the direct linkage they see.

One area where calling someone anti-Armenian would be out of bounds is where someone tries to use name-calling as a substitute for engaging the work itself.
10.5.2007 6:21pm
Ross A:
Elliot,

Just for kicks (to use your term), we will assume a scholar who is anti-semitic claims that Israel's actions arise from a deep-rooted belief in the superiority of Jews and that all other races are inferior. Is it not fair game to label that as anti-semitic? Can the observor not take the author's anti-semitic mindset into account when evaluating the claim?

(What do you have against poor Armenians anyway?)
10.5.2007 6:33pm
Elliot123 (mail):
In that case, you are evaluating the work itself, and finding it to be anti-Semitic by some given definition if anti-Semitism. If the work itself fits the definition, what need is there to deal with the author's presumed mindset?

Actually, I have nothing against Armenians, but I find the terms anti-Armenianism, anti-Eskimo, or anti-poodle-owner to be less emotionally charged than anti-Semitism. It's easier to deal with the general case.
10.5.2007 6:44pm
Ross A:
Elliot,

If I understand your response correctly, it is copasetic to say that a published work is anti-Semitic, just not the author. Is that correct? It seems a little of a fine distinction, but a not-ridiculous argument.

If so, I guess then that you have no beef with Professor Bernstein as his main thrust is showing what he sees as anti-Semitic passages in the Finkelstein book (people in the comments obviously differ on whether he was successful).

It appears you and I will not come to agreement whether an anti-Semitic mindset is relevant in evaluating the academic work of a Middle East scholar. However, I am sure that you will agree with me that (notwithstanding your views of what is ideal) in the real world, no Grand Klaven of the KKK, is going to get tenure at any respectable university on the back of his civil rights research.
10.5.2007 7:01pm
Elliot123 (mail):
You understand me competely. If we evaluate the work itself, then we have a firm basis to classify it as anti-Semitic by the chosen definition. However, if we fail to evaluate the work, and simply impute what we see as the author's mindset to the work, then we have not actually evaluated the work.

I have no beef with Professor Bernstein at all. Critiquing the work is quite proper. I think his argument would be stronger if he concentrated more on the work, actually told us what he means by anti-Semitism, and then showed how the work qualifid.

I agree a Grand Klaven would not get tenure today at any university, and I think the reason would be because of his linen closet. That's a real world analysis.

However, I note there are many universities where the Federalist Papers are held in high regard. Madison owned slaves. Was he a racist?
10.5.2007 7:21pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Eliot, I didn't critique his work, or not critique, because of the anti-Semitism it contains. I merely said that his defenders' argument that his work attracts so much negative attention (and disgust) is because it is anti-Israel is fundamentally dishonest, because it refuses to acknowledge that a major source of the enmity people feel toward Finkelstein is that his work uses anti-Semitism as a rhetorical prop.
10.5.2007 7:39pm
Elliot123 (mail):
DB,

Fair enough. You did say that. You also said, "He certainly is anti-Israel, but the reason he attracts such enmity is that he uses rhetoric that is unmistakably anti-Semitic, including in contexts only tangentially related to Israel."

We could better understand your position if you told us what you mean by anti-Semitism, and how Finkelstein's work fits that definition. If it is "unmistakable" that his rhetoric is anti-Semitic, then it should be easy to demonstrate that.

I don't dispute your conclusion, but observe that terms like racism, anti-Semitism, torture, and anti-Christian are frequently the subject of very erudite discussions which lack a definition of their subject. I suspect there are many different definitions being used, and each is competing for the exclusive rights to the emotionally charged labels. So, what's your definition?
10.6.2007 1:24am
neurodoc:
Elliott123:...if we fail to evaluate the work, and simply impute what we see as the author's mindset to the work, then we have not actually evaluated the work.
How could we possibly "impute what we see as the author's mindset to the work"? We never "know" someone's mindset, do we; we only infer it from their utterances and conduct, don't we? You may conclude for yourself that the evidence adduced does not prove Finkelstein to be an antisemite (the "political" rather than "racial" sort), but I don't know how you could possibly say that this is simply a matter of name calling and there is no credible evidence to support that charge.

Elliott123, have you ever concluded that someone was a racist or an antisemite? If so, what caused you to reach that conclusion? How difficult/easy to satisfy are the criteria you yourself employ, if you are ever willing to be "judgmental" in this way about anyone?
10.6.2007 5:37am
Elliot123 (mail):
neuro,

1. If one observes someone at a KKK rally and finds it anti-Armenian under some given definition, then is one justified in imputing anti-Armenianism to that person's writing? The problem arises when the name-calling is used as a substitute for analysis of the writing itself.

2. I think the terms "racist" and "anti-Semite" have lost their common meaning today. "Racist" is used so often and in so many different situations, I really can't say what most users mean by the term. I think the terms have lost their ability to convey precise meaning, but do convey the speaker's emotion. So, no, I am not willing to judge people as racists or anti-Semites. I find it futile to label people with those terms.

However, that doesn't mean I don't judge the president of Iran as someone who wants to wipe out Israel because it is Jewish in origin. I recognize David Duke as someone who wants to relegate American blacks to second class status. I recognize Al Sharpton as someone who wants to use bogus claims of racial hostility (Twana Brawley) to advance his personal agenda.

So, I really have no need for the terms "racist" or "anti-Semite." The actions of various people stand for themselves and need no generalized labels. If the actions themselves are reason for us to deny tenure, employment, election, or advancement, then let those actions speak for themselves with prcision and clarity; there is no need to add superfluous and undefined labels.
10.6.2007 1:09pm
neurodoc:
Elliot123: I am not willing to judge people as racists or anti-Semites. I find it futile to label people with those terms...So, I really have no need for the terms "racist" or "anti-Semite."
Thank you for your willingess to serve. But since you indicate you would not be willing to pronounce Norman Finkelstein, or indeed anyone, an "antisemite" no matter the evidence presented, you must be excused from the jury pool.
10.6.2007 9:57pm