Thursday, June 26, 2008
The son of Jewish Holocaust survivors, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, formerly of DePaul University, earned his Ph.D. in political science at Princeton University where he wrote his dissertation on Zionism. He made a name for himself for debunking the spurious scholarship of the pro-Zionist journalist Joan Peters in her book From Time Immemorial, a book which peddled the Israeli talking point that historical Palestine, which itself was part of historical Bilad al-Sham (greater Syria), was devoid of inhabitants in the late 19th century when foreign, European Zionist settlers began moving in.
More recently, he has been at the heart of the struggle for the independence of the American academe, which American conservatives and Zionist lobbyists seek to control. He was not granted tenure at DePaul by the university's president and tenure board intervened, despite having the support of his departmental committee and his College committee. It is widely believed that Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, whom Finkelstein had embarrassed and manhandled in a debate about Dershowitz's PR book The Case for Israel aired on Democracy Now!, played a role in petitioning DePaul to deny Finkelstein tenure.
Dershowitz had been further embarrassed by Finkelstein's dissection of The Case for Israel in his book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, which Dershowitz tried and failed to have blocked from publication by the University of California Press. In their lengthy Democracy Now! debate, Finkelstein seemed to have a clearer understanding and knowledge of The Case for Israel than Dershowitz himself, who seemed surprised and befuddled. Their debate can be seen here.
Despite the denial of his tenure under lobbyist pressure, Finkelstein has continued to be an active public intellectual and a popular speaker. He was recently denied entry into Israel, purportedly because he was a "security risk," but more likely because he is one of the most vocal critics of Israeli government policies against the Palestinians, many of which violate international legal and practical norms, despite what the lobbyists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee make up. To put things in perspective, journalists like CNN's Wolf Blitzer and political operatives like Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk are considered "balanced" and "unbiased" observers. All three were AIPAC officials.