Dr. Norman Finkelstein, well known speaker and scholar, will address recent events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the future of Palestine. All students, faculty, and guests are welcome to attend.
Sponsored by UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Union Directorate Society and Politics Committee and support from Associated Students of Madison.
Major Givers Reportedly withholding Funds from School, Sparking Fierce Free-Speech Debate on Massachusetts Campus
Larry Cohler-Esses, The Jewish Week (New York), February 16, 2007
Major donors to Brandeis University have informed the school they will no longer give it money in retaliation for its decision last month to host former President Jimmy Carter, a strong critic of Israel.
The donors have notified the school in writing of their decisions–and specified Carter as the reason, said Stuart Eizenstat, a former aide to Carter during his presidency and a current trustee of Brandeis, one of the nation’s premier Jewish institutions of higher learning.
They are “more than a handful,” he said. “So, this is a concern. There are evidently a fair number of donors who have indicated they will withhold contributions.”
Brandeis history professor Jonathan Sarna, who maintains close ties with the administration, told The Jewish Week, “These were not people who send $5 to the university. These were major donors, and major potential donors.”
As Jimmy Carter’s new book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid climbs the bestseller list, the reaction of Israel’s apologists scales new peaks of lunacy. I will examine a pair of typical examples and then look at the latest weapon to silence Carter.
No aspect of Carter’s book has evoked more outrage than its identification of Israeli policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory with apartheid. Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post called it “foolish and unfair,” the Boston Globe editorialized that it was “irresponsibly provocative,” while the New York Times reported that Jewish groups condemned it as “dangerous and anti-Semitic.” (1)
In fact the comparison is a commonplace among informed commentators.
From its initial encounter with Palestine the Zionist movement confronted a seemingly intractable dilemma: How to create a Jewish state in a territory that was overwhelmingly non-Jewish? Israeli historian Benny Morris observes that Zionists could choose from only two options: “the way of South Africa”–i.e., “the establishment of an apartheid state, with a settler minority lording it over a large, exploited native majority”–or “the way of transfer”–i.e., “you could create a homogeneous Jewish state or at least a state with an overwhelming Jewish majority by moving or transferring all or most of the Arabs out.” (2)
The historical chapters of Palestine Peace Not Apartheid are rather thin, filled with errors small and large, as well as tendentious and untenable interpretations. But few persons will be reading it for the history.
It is what Carter has to say about the present that will interest the reading public and the media (assuming the book is not ignored). It can be said with certainty that Israel’s apologists will not be pleased. Although Carter includes criticisms of the Palestinians to affect balance, it is clear that he holds Israel principally responsible for the impasse in the peace process. The most scathing criticisms of Israel come in Chapter 16 (“The Wall as a Prison”). One hopes that this chapter (and the concluding “Summary”) will be widely disseminated.
Below I reproduce some of Carter’s key statements.
In his landmark book, Democracy in America, the 19th-century French intellectual Alexis de Tocqueville commented on the fever pitch to which American polemics can often ascend. In a chapter entitled Why American Writers and Speakers Are Often Bombastic, he wrote: “I have often noticed that the Americans whose language when talking business is clear and dry … easily turn bombastic when they attempt a poetic style … Writers for their part almost always pander to this propensity … they inflate their imaginations and swell them out beyond bounds, so that they achieve gigantism, missing real grandeur.”
When it comes to a duel between DePaul university political science professor Norman Finkelstein and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz over Finkelstein’s upcoming book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, gigantic bombast feels like an understatement. It is a row that has spilled on to the pages of most of the nation’s prominent newspapers and gone all the way to the desk of California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Like the two professors in Irvine Welsh’s The Acid House who abandon their high-minded theoretical clashes for a drunken brawl in a car park, Finkelstein and Dershowitz hover between principle and raw verbal pugilism in which the personal and the political are almost indistinguishable.
I want to alert you to a disturbing development on the academic freedom front: It is possible that the University of California Press might not, after all, publish the long-awaited book by Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. The reason is that UC Press, under pressure from outside political forces as well as pressure from inside the UC administration, has asked Norman Finkelstein to make further changes despite and in violation of an earlier commitment to publish the final galleys without any further changes.
This commitment came after a very long and tortuous editing process during which Norman has bent over backwards in accommodating queries by editors, reviewers, and several (nine is the figure I heard) libel lawyers that UC Press consulted. As the article by Jon Wiener that appears in the current issue of the Nation magazine shows, the book has received excellent reviews by eminent scholars and has been cleared by several lawyers. The new demands seem to be the result not of scholarly concerns, but of intensive lobbying by Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard professor and author of the book The Case for Israel, which Norman tears apart by showing that every substantive claim the book makes is false. Norman also makes a strong case that Dershowitz is a plagiarist.
My understanding is that the core of the new demands by UC Press is the deletion of any references to plagiarism on the part of Alan Dershowitz, primarily in order to avoid being sued. That is a dangerous abdication of the right of academic freedom and the consequences go well beyond Norman Finkelstein and his book. If the heavy handed tactics succeed in muzzling UC Press and Norman Finkelstein, university presses in general will become very wary of publishing any book critical of Israeli policies or of the apologists for these policies, of which Dershowitz is a prime example. The capitulation of the President and Provost of Columbia University when it comes to what ME professors can teach now may have its publication equivalent.
There is no doubt in my mind that Norman’s book would have been published by now if the normal procedures of peer review were followed. The folks at UC Press, if left alone to do their work freely, would have seen this book through. But peer review procedures and academic freedom do not always apply when it comes to critical academic works about Israel. What we have before us here is a naked in-your-face attempt to exercise political muscle in support of bankrupt intellectual arguments.
What do you do when somebody wants to publish a book that says you’re completely wrong? If you’re Alan Dershowitz, the prominent Harvard law professor, and the book is Norman Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, you write the governor of California and suggest that he intervene with the publisher–because the publisher is the University of California Press, which conceivably might be subject to the power of the governor.
Schwarzenegger, showing unusual wisdom, declined to act. The governor’s legal affairs secretary wrote Dershowitz, “You have asked for the Governor’s assistance in preventing the publication of this book,” but “he is not inclined to otherwise exert influence in this case because of the clear, academic freedom issue it presents.” In a phone interview Dershowitz denied writing to the Governor, declaring, “My letter to the Governor doesn’t exist.” But when pressed on the issue, he said, “It was not a letter. It was a polite note.”
Old-timers in publishing said they’d never heard of another case where somebody tried to get a governor to intervene in the publication of a book. “I think it’s a first,” said Andre Schiffrin, managing director at Pantheon Books for twenty-eight years and then founder and director of the New Press. Lynne Withey, director of the University of California Press, where she has been for nineteen years, said, “I’ve never heard of such a case in California.” Continue reading →
Grainger Hall, University of Wisconsin
975 University Avenue
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Dr. Norman Finkelstein, Professor of Political Theory at DePaul University and author of Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict will present this keynote address at the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation Upper Midwest Regional Organizing Conference. The event is free and open to the public.
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