Workers Vanguard No. 895

6 July 2007


Opponent of Zionist Terror Denied Tenure

Protest DePaul University Attack on Norman Finkelstein!

(Young Spartacus pages)

On June 8, the college dean and the Board on Promotion and Tenure at Chicago’s DePaul University denied tenure to assistant professor Norman Finkelstein, a longtime opponent of Zionist terror. The decision overturned a vote by the Political Science department and personnel committee of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences supporting his tenure. Finkelstein stands to lose his job altogether at the Catholic university after a one-year “grace period.” Mehrene Larudee, an assistant professor who was slated to head the International Studies Program and an advocate for Finkelstein, was also denied tenure and likewise stands to lose her job. The Chicago Spartacus Youth Club has joined continuing protests in support of Finkelstein and Larudee.

Finkelstein has long been targeted by Zionists because he is a Jewish historian, the son of Holocaust survivors, who defends Palestinian rights. He has a long history of exposing Israeli atrocities and apologists for them, not least rabid Zionist Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, whom Finkelstein charges “played the leading role in creating an atmosphere of hysteria” at DePaul (Harvard Crimson, 17 June). According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (5 April), in fall 2006 Dershowitz “sent members of DePaul’s law and political-science faculties what he described as ‘a dossier of Norman Finkelstein’s most egregious academic sins’.” As Finkelstein put it, “I met the standards of tenure DePaul required, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the political opposition to my speaking out on the Israel-Palestine conflict” (London Guardian, 11 June).

Finkelstein, who authored the highly controversial 2000 book, The Holocaust Industry, has written detailed refutations of shoddy history and apologies for Zionism, like Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial (which claimed Palestine was basically empty land before 1948). His 1998 essay, A Nation on Trial, was a powerful polemic against Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, which alibied the German bourgeoisie’s responsibility for the Nazi Holocaust by claiming that the entire German people were “guilty” (see “The Holocaust, ‘Collective Guilt’ and German Imperialism,” WV Nos. 697, 698 and 699, 25 September, 9 October and 23 October 1998).

In recent years, Finkelstein has made a point of exposing Alan Dershowitz’s churning mass of justifications for Israeli state terror. In 2005 he wrote Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, a refutation of Dershowitz’s 2003 screed The Case for Israel, which—in the midst of renewed and massive state terror against the Palestinians—trumpeted Israel’s “human rights” record! The Nation magazine (11 July 2005) reported that Dershowitz intervened heavily in the process of publication of Finkelstein’s book, appealing to California governor Schwarzenegger. The governor’s legal affairs secretary responded, “You have asked for the Governor’s assistance in preventing the publication of this book” and went on to say that Schwarzenegger was “not inclined” to intervene because of the “clear, academic freedom issue it presents.”

Witchhunting those who oppose the crimes of U.S. imperialism and protest Israel’s genocidal assaults against the Palestinian people is a major industry these days in academia. Such campaigns have included the likes of all-purpose reactionaries Ann Coulter and David Horowitz. In 2001, Horowitz even ran a grotesque ad in 50 campus newspapers alibiing slavery and spitting on the gains of black struggle (see “Racism and Witchhunts on Campus,” WV No. 756, 13 April 2001).

More recently, Horowitz has been on the offensive against Jewish Near East historian Joel Beinin, outrageously claiming that Beinin “supported terrorism” because of his defense of Palestinian national rights. Horowitz provocatively slapped Beinin’s photo—as well as that of leftist attorney Lynne Stewart and Palestinian engineer Sami al-Arian, victims of government “war on terror” witchhunts, and Rachel Corrie, a pro-Palestinian rights activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003—on the cover of his 2006 diatribe, Campus Support for Terrorism. Horowitz has also targeted Ward Churchill, a longtime activist on behalf of Native Americans and co-author of The COINTELPRO Papers, who is threatened with being fired by the University of Colorado because of his political views, including opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Another prominent target of this witchhunt is pro-Palestinian rights Columbia University professor Joseph Massad. In a visit to the campus in February 2005, Dershowitz urged students to cooperate with the committee “investigating” lying allegations against Massad and the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department and denounced critics of Israel, claiming that they “encourage the terrorists.” In his speech, he also defended “regulated” torture (Columbia Daily Spectator, 8 February 2005). Dershowitz had earlier told CNN (4 March 2003) that what he means by this is something like “a sterilized needle underneath the nail, which would violate the Geneva Accords, but you know, countries all over the world violate the Geneva Accords.”

The Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Clubs defend Finkelstein, Larudee, Massad and all those victimized by the right-wing witchhunts on the campuses, despite whatever political differences we have with their views. Finkelstein and Larudee should get tenure. However, contrary to the myth of the university “ivory tower,” tenure is essentially a tool to punish or reward the bourgeois administration’s allies, an avenue to purge the campuses of those who challenge current ruling-class policy. We revolutionary Marxists are for nationalizing all the private universities, for free, quality education for all, and for union organization of teachers and campus workers. The campus administrations should be abolished—for student/worker/teacher control!

In the case of Finkelstein, like those of Massad and Beinin, what is key to defeating the witchhunt is forthrightly taking up the defense of the Palestinians. Against the Zionists and all variants of Arab nationalism and religious fundamentalism, we emphasize that a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where two peoples lay claim to the same small piece of land, is not possible under capitalism (see article, page 1). Our perspective is that of joint class struggle of Hebrew-speaking and Palestinian Arab workers, connected to working-class struggle throughout the region. We fight for the establishment of a socialist federation of the Near East—the only way to guarantee the national rights of the region’s myriad peoples. Defend Norman Finkelstein and Mehrene Larudee! Down with the campus witchhunts!