Sep 30, 2005

Norman Finkelstein Visits University Of Toledo

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."


Hooda Thunkit said...


This Norman Finkelstein sounds too good to be true.

Now i just need to go to Amazon and pick up his book Beyond Chutpah (isn't there supposed to be a "z" in there somewhere?). Chutzpah was correct!

I also find it interesting that Alan Dershowitz wrote Chutzpah.

Dueling books???

Looks like Alan is no stranger to authors following behind him with a different opinion...

Now, it’s even more interesting, knowing that…

historymike said...

My bad - missed 2 z's (now fixed).

The only "Chutzpah" is Finkelsein's.

Except the chutzpah of Alan Dershowitz.

Lisa Renee said...

I wish I could have met him, I admire his work.

Anonymous said...

Dershowitz is a pompous ass.

Joel said...

Finkelstein's presentation was a polemic and not much more. His 2.5 hour presentation was focused on debasing almost every known scholar on the history of Israel, the Holocaust, and the Israel-Arab struggle.

A critical ear that evening would have recognized that his rantings were based on opinion and very thin slices of reality that he subsequently twisted and puffed up to serve his needs.

Of course, the majority of those there took his swill as the Gospel and left thinking that history should be rewritten along Finkelstein's interpretation.

Too bad it was a one sided presentation. A first year graduate student in Middle East or modern European history could have had a field day with him, let alone the drumming Dershowitz would give him had they actually ever debated.

historymike said...

Thank you for your post, Joel.

While I do not agree with everything that Finkelstein had to say, I think he made a number of valid points.

Would you care to share any specifics of his arguments with which you disagree?

Fern Sidman said...



Columbia University students including the College Conservatives and campus Democrats plan to protest a speech Wednesday by a professor who has written that Jewish organizations exploit the Holocaust to deflect criticism of Israel and to extort European banks and governments for compensation.

Norman Finkelstein, an assistant professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago, wrote in his 2000 book "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" that some Jews have used the Holocaust as an "extortion racket" to get compensation payments, and he has referred to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as the "resident clown" of the "Holocaust circus."

His most recent book, "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History," is largely an attack on lawyer Alan Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel." In it he argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a bully weapon to stifle criticism.

In an editorial in Columbia University's student newspaper, The Columbia Spectator, Columbia sophomores, Chris Kulawik and Josh Lipsky write the following: "Those who assume that Finkelstein is just another "controversial" speaker, one of many in Columbia's recent past, fail to grasp the absurdity that is Finkelstein. Taking a job at DePaul University after being fired by New York University for his ludicrous and factually inaccurate book, The Holocaust Industry, this "scholar" makes his living off of absurd statements that garner comfortable speaking engagements. At a recent speech delivered at Yale University, Finkelstein equated the Jewish concern over Holocaust denial with a "level of mental hysteria." Clearly, we must first question his very "professorship." Anyone who so blatantly disregards facts and vehemently supports the murder of innocent children is worthy neither of academia nor of the title of professor.

Well, what precisely is Mr. Finkelstein's crime? It is not that he is a Holocaust revisionist. It is not that he denies the right of the Jewish state to exist. It is not that he cheapened the lives of the millions of innocents lost to the concentration camps by equating their systematic murder to any other large disaster. No, his crime both includes and transcends these radical, depraved stances. Only months after Sept. 11, 2001, Finkelstein asserted his support of terrorism. In that 2001 interview, Finkelstein exclaimed, "Frankly, part of me says—even though everything since Sept. 11 has been a nightmare—'You know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things [Osama] bin Laden says are true.'"

It is this sentiment that forces students to take a stand against Finkelstein's unique blend of pure idiocy and potent evil. Columbia attempts to teach its students to respect all opinions, listen to all viewpoints, and embrace the free exchange of ideas. We will listen, but we will not let a petty ploy to incite tension and turmoil go unnoticed."

In defense of Professor Finkelstein, the Columbia Spectator also published the views of Arab students. Maryum Saifee and Athar Abdul-Quader who write, "Finkelstein's critics, most notably Alan Dershowitz, charge Finkelstein with anti-Semitism precisely because of his criticism of Zionism, i.e. criticism of the Israeli occupation and Israeli state-sponsored human rights abuses committed against Palestinians. This isn't the first time that a reputable scholar has been typecast as anti-Semitic for critical views against Israeli policies (see David Horowitz's The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America). Undoubtedly, anti-Semitism is an ugly, appalling form of bigotry that deserves universal condemnation. However, Zionism is a political ideology and must never be confused with the Jewish religion, culture, or population. Contrary to the anti-American label commonly placed on Finkelstein, his critique of political Zionism is precisely the type of controversial political discourse that is characteristically American and is analogous to the College Democrats' stimulating debate on the Bush administration.

Finkelstein is often met with accusations of Holocaust revisionism, generally associated with Holocaust denial. Finkelstein's book The Holocaust Industry is actually a critique of Holocaust revisionist arguments that privilege the Holocaust as exceptional in the historiography of genocide. Far from the Anti-Defamation League's claims that Finkelstein is a Holocaust denier, his proof is an unambiguous affirmation that the Holocaust did occur -- his parents are living proof of its horrors! -- noting that the tragedy of the Holocaust has since been ruthlessly exploited and commercialized into what Finkelstein outlines as an industry to promote Zionist interests."

In Norman Finkelstein's own words, he states, "The problem is when you get to the United States. In the United States among those people who call themselves supporters of Israel, we enter the area of unreason. We enter a twilight zone. American Jewish organizations, they’re not only not up to speed yet with Steven Spielberg, they're still in the Leon Uris exodus version of history: the “this land is mine, God gave this land to me," and anybody who dissents from this, you can call it, lunatic version of history is then immediately branded an anti-Semite, and whenever Israel comes under international pressure to settle the conflict diplomatically, or when it is subjected to a public relations debacle, such as it was with the Second Intifada, a campaign is launched claiming there is a new anti-Semitism afoot in the world."

There is no question that Professor Norman G. Finkelstein is a self hating, viciously anti-Semitic Jew. One of his biggest supporters is David Irving, the Holocaust denier who was recently sentenced to three years in prison by an Austrian court for statements he made denying the veracity of the Holocaust. Despite the fact that Finkelstein in the son of Holocaust survivors, his vituperative and twisted and patently distorted logic is being embraced the world over by legions of devoted Jew haters.

We are told that a person can be honest, decent, moral and ethical without belief in G-d. We know that at the beginning of the 20th century, the false gods of education and culture began to replace the One true G-d of Israel. Jews began to believe that a moral and ethical person was one who was highly educated, one who attended the best of most prestigious universities and institutions of higher learning. We believed that an educated and cultured person was a moral person, who would never even entertain the notion of murder, of dishonesty and engaging in unethical practices.

At the beginning of World War II, that fallacy fell apart at the seams. For it was highly educated and extremely cultured German scientists who invented the gas chambers, who invented techniques to transform Jewish fat into soap and who discovered ways of making Jewish skin into lampshades. It was highly educated and cultured lawyers who devised and created laws that developed a society predicated on racism, fascism and xenophobia.

Let us never be fooled. "Reishis Chochma Yiras AdoShem". The beginning of wisdom is the fear and knowledge of G-d. Without that we have nothing. Without that, even highly educated and cultured people can and do engage in immorality, unethical conduct and become purveyors of lies, hatred, distortions, bigotry and Jew hatred. Professor Finkelstein is the personification of such evil.