The Guardian on DePaul’s latest outrage
Holocaust academic vows to fight axe of university class
08.29.2007 | The Guardian
By Donald MacLeod and agencies
The controversial political scientist Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry, has protested against the axing of his last class at DePaul University in Chicago.
Mr Finkelstein, whose work led to a long-running public feud with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, was denied tenure by the university after six years on the faculty, but permitted to work out the one year remaining on his contract.
He threatened civil disobedience and a hunger strike if he was prevented from teaching.
Last week, the university emailed students saying that Mr Finkelstein’s sole political science course had been cancelled. By Monday, the books for the course had been removed from the DePaul bookstore.
Mr Finkelstein’s accusations that some Jews were abusing the legacy of the Holocaust stirred deep passions, which surfaced on the EducationGuardian.co.uk blog when he was denied tenure in June.
Prof Dershowitz campaigned to prevent his opponent securing tenure at DePaul, although the president, Dennis Holtschneider, said the public attention was “unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case”.
A letter to Mr Finkelstein announcing the decision criticised his “unprofessional personal attacks” and said his scholarship did not meet the university’s standards for tenure.
The American Association of University Professors is preparing a letter to the university protesting against Mr Finkelstein’s treatment as a serious violation of academic ethics, the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday.
Mr Finkelstein told the newspaper: “I intend to go to my office on the first day of classes and, if my way is barred, to engage in civil disobedience.”
He added: “If arrested, I’ll go on a hunger strike. If released, I’ll do it all over again. I’ll fast in jail for as long as it takes.”
The most recent book by Mr Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors, is called Beyond chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-semitism and the abuse of history, and is an attack on Prof Dershowitz’s The case for Israel.
In it, Mr Finkelstein argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-semitism as a weapon to stifle criticism. Prof Dershowitz, threatened to sue Mr Finkelstein’s publisher for libel. (He has also threatened to sue any British academics mounting an academic boycott of Israeli universities.)
Denise Mattson, DePaul University’s associate vice-president for public affairs, released a statement saying Mr Finkelstein was on administrative leave with full pay for the academic year.
“Administrative leave relieves professors from their teaching responsibilities. He was informed of the reasons that precipitated this leave last spring,” the statement said.