Left:scholar Norman Finkelstein
Author Norman Finkelstein, whose book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History has taken both the academic and political worlds by storm, visited the University of Toledo Thursday night. I and a small group of graduate students met with him Thursday afternoon before his public appearance.
Unlike some appearances by Finkelstein, Toledo proved to be a relatively calm visit for the political scientist from Depaul University. The author has experienced cancellations and organized protests at some stops on the tour.
"I have ben called such things as a 'Holocaust denier' and 'self-hating Jew,'" said Finkelstein. "Of course, I'm not sure that I would want to be a 'self-loving Jew.'"
Finkelstein's parents were Holocaust survivors, and he bristles when people question his understanding of the horrors of Nazi Germany.
"Anyone who knows me understands that there is not a day that goes by when I don't think about the Holocaust," he said. "At the same time, I think it is fair to take a critical look at all issues, including the rise of what I term the Holocaust industry."
The crux of Beyond Chutzpah is Finkelstein's criticisms of Alan Dershowitz and his book The Case for Israel. In his book Finkelstein found over 20 passages that Dershowitz plagiarized from a 1984 book by Joan Peters entitled From Time Immemorial.
Finkelstein said that Dershowitz has been on a nonstop campaignt to prevent the publication of Beyond Chutzpah, as well as to discredit him.
Dershowitz even contacted California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in an effort to prevent the University of California Press from publishing Finkelstein's book.
"To his credit, Governor Schwarzenegger denied Dershowitz's request," he said. "The governor duly noted that this is an issue of academic freedom."
Finkelstein has found himself in a strange place; by attacking a liberal icon in Dershowitz, he has lost friends on the left. Conversely, by debunking the pro-Israel rhetoric of Harvard University's Dershowitz, he simultaneously found few allies on the right. The author, however, remained resolute in his goals.
"This is about truth," he said. "This book is about exposing the intellectual rot that has settled in many of our institutions of higher education."