Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Noam Chomsky Accuses Alan Dershowitz of Launching a "Jihad" to Block Norman Finkelstein From Getting Tenure at Depaul University

Democracy Now!
With Amy Goodman

".....In a wide-ranging interview, we spoke about US wars from Iraq to Vietnam, about resistance and about academia. I asked Chomsky about political science professor Norman Finkelstein - one of the country's foremost critics of Israeli policy - and his battle to receive tenure at Depaul University where has taught for six years. Finkelstein's tenure has been approved at the departmental and college level but the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has opposed it. A final decision is expected to be made by May. Finkelstein has accused Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz of being responsible for leading the effort to deny him tenure. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Dershowitz admitted that he had sent a letter to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein's tenure. I asked Noam Chomsky about the dispute.

NOAM CHOMSKY: The whole thing is outrageous. I mean, he's an outstanding scholar. He has produced book after book. He's got recommendations from some of the leading scholars in the many areas in which he has worked. The faculty -- the departmental committee unanimously recommended him for tenure. It's amazing that he hasn't had full professorship a long time ago.

And, as you were saying, there was a huge campaign led by a Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, to try in a desperate effort to defame him and vilify him, so as to prevent him from getting tenure. The details of it are utterly shocking, and, as you said, it got to the point where the DePaul administration called on Harvard to put an end to this.

AMY GOODMAN: That's very significant, for one university to call on the leadership of another university to stop one of its professors.

NOAM CHOMSKY: To stop this maniac, yeah. What's behind it? It’s very simple and straightforward. Norman Finkelstein wrote a book, which is in fact the best compendium that now exists of human rights violations in Israel and the blocking of diplomacy by Israel and the United States, which I mentioned -- very careful scholarly book, as all of his work is, impeccable -- also about the uses of anti-Semitism to try to silence a critical discussion.

And the framework of his book was a critique of a book of apologetics for atrocities and violence by Alan Dershowitz. That was the framework. So he went through Dershowitz’s shark claims, showed in great detail that they are completely false and outrageous, that he's lying about the facts, that he’s an apologist for violence, that he’s a passionate opponent of civil liberties -- which he is -- and he documented it in detail.

Dershowitz is intelligent enough to know that he can’t respond, so he does what any tenth-rate lawyer does when you have a rotten case: you try to change the subject, maybe by vilifying opposing counsel. That changes the subject. Now we talk about whether, you know, opposing counsel did or did not commit this iniquity. And the tactic is a very good one, because you win, even if you lose. Suppose your charges against are all refuted. You’ve still won. You’ve changed the subject. The subject is no longer the real topic: the crucial facts about Israel, Dershowitz’s vulgar apologetics for them, which sort of are reminiscent of the worst days of Stalinism. We’ve forgotten all of that. We’re now talking about whether Finkelstein did this, that and the other thing. And even if the charges are false, the topic's been changed. That's the basis of it.

Dershowitz has been desperate to prevent this book from being -- first of all, he tried to stop it from being published, in an outlandish effort, which I’ve never seen anything like it, hiring a major law firm to threaten libel suits, writing to the governor of California -- it was published by the University of California Press. When he couldn't stop the publication, he launched a jihad against Norman Finkelstein, simply to try to vilify and defame him, in the hope that maybe what he’s writing will disappear. That’s the background.

It’s not, incidentally, the first time. I mean, actually, I happen to be very high on Dershowitz's hit list, hate list. And he has also produced outlandish lies about me for years: you know, I told him I was an agnostic about the Holocaust and I wouldn't tell him the time of day, you know, and so on and so forth.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean that he made that charge against you?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Of course, and on and on. I won’t even talk about it. What's the reason? It's in print......."

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