The timing could not have been better. Just as the Jewish holiday of liberation, Passover, was about to begin, the news was spreading throughout the blogosphere that one of America's most openly anti-Semitic and anti-American pseudo-academics was about to be "passed over" for tenure. That tentative decision is now being attacked by the Left as supposed suppression of academic freedom, although in fact it is merely the introduction at long last of some semblance of academic quality control into a university that has been under attack for lacking such.
Norman Finkelstein is a 53-year-old untenured assistant professor of political science at DePaul University, no doubt one of the oldest assistant professors in America. Before coming to DePaul in 2003, he had been fired by several schools in the New York area for being a pseudo-scholar and for his hatemongering activities. Finkelstein is regarded by the anti-Defamation League and by the Simon Wiesenthal Center as a Holocaust Denier and is similarly defined by Martin Peretz from the New Republic and by others. Finkelstein is an open fan and endorser of Holocaust Denier David Irving.
Born Jewish but having no affiliations with the Jewish community or institutions, Finkelstein has made a career out of turning out hate literature attacking Jews and Israel, the most famous of which is his scurrilous "The Holocaust Industry." He is celebrated by every Neo-Nazi organization and web site on earth, which delight at the irony of being able to feature a nominal Jew who endorses their political agenda. Finkelstein also appears regularly on Counterpunch. Finkelstein is the Hezbollah's favorite American "academic" PR chief and has publicly embraced Hezbollah and Hamas terror for many years. In the middle of the barrage by Hezbollah against Israeli civilians last summer, Finkelstein declared that his "chief regret is that I wasn't even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack." He added: "I say this without fear: for those who believe in freedom and dignity - We are all Hezbollah now."
Finkelstein has been dismissed as a charlatan by nearly every serious academic who has reviewed his writings. In the New York Times, Professor Omer Bartov (Brown University historian) described Finkelstein's book on the Holocaust as a "novel variation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the fraudulent essay concocted in the late nineteenth century popular with German Nazis. Leon Wieseltier from the New Republic wrote that Finkelstein is "poison, a disgusting self-hating Jew, something you find under a rock," while Gabriel Schonfeld, the editor of Commentary Magazine, has written (Commentary, January 2001) that Finkelstein's writings are "crackpot ideas, some of them mirrored almost verbatim in the propaganda put out by Neo-Nazis around the world." Enrst Zundel, the Canadian Neo-Nazi deported to Germany where he is now in prison, proudly proclaimed Finkelstein the "Jewish David Irving." He meant that as a compliment. Finkelstein has long written vulgar smears against Holocaust survivors, and in particular against Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel. Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz has written quite a few articles exposing Finkelstein and his fraudulent pseudo-scholarship.
DePaul officials are reportedly blocking Finkelstein's prospects of getting tenure in spite of sycophantic endorsement of his case by most of his colleagues there in the Department of Political Science. The DePaul officials are to be heartily congratulated for taking such a courageous stand against charlatanism and fraud!
No less impressive is the fact that the efforts to force the political science department at DePaul to adhere to real academic standards - against the will of nine twelfths of the department's members – are reportedly in large part those of Professor Chuck Suchar, Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Suchar, a sociologist, is hardly a vintage member of the vast rightwing conspiracy. He is a leftist who in the past sponsored and defended a series of events and lectures at DePaul attacking "American imperialism". But Suchar seems to have drawn the line in the sand when it comes to naked attempts by the political science department at DePaul to award tenure to someone whose record is devoid of any scholarly achievement or academic publications. And if Suchar displays the courage of his convictions and sticks to his guns, he will emerge as the hero of this entire sad episode at DePaul. If you would like to send Suchar a cyber-pat on the back, he can be reached at email@example.com and also firstname.lastname@example.org.
DePaul is a Catholic school associated with the "Vincentians." Among Suchar's grounds for vetoing the political science department's skullduggery was his belief that keeping a buffoon of hate like Finkelstein on the faculty would violate the ethical standards of the Vincentians. How seldom we hear about real commitment to ethical behavior on campus these days!
In recent years Finkelstein has turned his personal web page into a sewer of vulgarity, obscenity, and defamatory personal smears against anyone who has ever dared to criticize him or defend Israel. There he has also published death threats, including one against Irshad Manji, who runs Muslim Refusenik, a web site for dissident Muslims who reject Islamofascism and terrorism, and another against Dershowitz. Finkelstein has allied himself closely with a Brazilian-Arab Neo-Nazi cartoonist named "Latuff", best known for winning the second prize in the Iranian Holocaust Denial cartoon contest. Finkelstein not only runs Latuff's vile "cartoons" on his web site, but commissioned Latuff to draw an obscene cartoon of Professor Alan Dershowitz masturbating, after Dershowitz had denounced some of Finkelstein's own antics. Finkelstein falsely accused Dershowitz of having engaged in plagiarism, and unfortunately Dershowitz never filed suit against him for it.
While some in the media are spinning the DePaul decision to block Finkelstein's tenure as cowardice because of supposed nervousness about Finkelstein's "controversial writings," the truth is far simpler. Finkelstein is simply not an academic at all, but rather a fulltime scribbler of hate and vulgarity. Indeed, the only reason he was ever hired by DePaul in the first place is that the political science department there was seeking someone born Jewish to indoctrinate students into far-leftist jihadi hatred of Israel (and also hatred of America). Finkelstein's courses were always one-sided exercises in political indoctrination, which no doubt explains why they were popular among the anarchist-Maoist wing of DePaul student radicals who signed up for them.
As noted, Finkelstein has no publications at all in academic journals, the first and main requirement for granting tenure at any serious institution of higher learning in the world. Instead, Finkelstein turns out one anti-Israel propaganda diatribe after another. Getting Bash-Israel books published is not particularly difficult these days, given the commercial appetite of publishers for such material, but it hardly earns Finkelstein any serious academic laurels. Finkelstein is quite simply a pseudo-scholar and a charlatan who spends most of his time collaborating with Neo-Nazis, Holocaust Deniers and Islamofascist terrorists. DePaul seems to have made up its mind that the time has come at last to maintain and enforce real academic standards. DePaul, long the worst bastion of anti-American campus indoctrination in the greater Chicago area, has decided that actual scholarship is to be required of its faculty members. And a growing number of people at DePaul have simply had enough of Finkelstein's infantile antics.
The same far Left that had absolutely nothing to say against DePaul when it fired Professor Thomas Klocek because he had dared to express a pro-Israel opinion outside the classroom is suddenly all up in arms over what appears to be a decision to deny Finkelstein tenure. Finkelstein himself seems to be blaming Dershowitz and his followers for "sabotaging" things for him at DePaul.
Finkelstein's tenure proceedings also shed light into the dark secret corners of academia, and especially into the mysterious processes through which universities hire and promote. Most non-academics have no idea how such things work.
Professors at serious universities are recruited, promoted and granted tenure primarily on the basis of their scholarly research and only secondarily on the basis of the quality of their teaching (measured - somewhat foolishly - by student evaluations of professor popularity). In the social sciences, research performance is measured mainly by articles in refereed international academic journals. To the surprise of most non-academics, publishing books does not "count" for much in academia, mainly because book publication does not undergo the same peer review as do journal article publications. Finkelstein has published nothing at all in international refereed academic journals, although he does have a few screeds in Marxist and Palestinian propaganda journals. Finkelstein's "academic record" consists entirely of his hateful "books".
While the details vary from department to department and from university to university, in general a non-tenured faculty member gets tenure in the following way: if his department recommends that he get tenure, a "professional committee" is set up to review his publications and to solicit outside letters of evaluation from experts from around the world. It then makes recommendations that must be approved by a campus-wide promotions committee and by higher officials (Deans, Rectors, Presidents), all of whom are supposed to oversee the honesty and professionalism of promotion procedures and decisions.
The problem with all this is that it is very easy to manipulate and neutralize the quality control procedures at many universities. This is especially true when it comes to political extremists among the faculty up for tenure. A non-objective professional committee can be easily compiled and recruited from among faculty members friendly to the candidate or sharing his radical political views. These can then purposely solicit letters of evaluation from other political extremists who glowingly endorse the "academic qualifications" of the candidate out of political solidarity. Hence even a buffoon like Finkelstein with no scholarly achievements may have enough political "friends" capable of manufacturing on his behalf raving sycophantic letters of evaluation, sometimes even written by academics at distinguished universities.
In the case of Finkelstein, his department reportedly voted 9 against 3 to recommend him for tenure, despite Finkelstein's embarrassing lack of scholarly publications. Those three dissidents who were opposed submitted a minority report, and their valiant behavior proves that courage and intellect are not dead at DePaul. The other members of the political science department at DePaul are by and large the same leftists who hired Finkelstein in the first place. They did not hire him for his scholarship but for his politics of hate.
The DePaul "professional committee" for Finkelstein then made a unanimous five-vote recommendation to grant him tenure, but that was reportedly because a sixth committee member who opposed the tenure was denied the possibility of casting a vote. This "unanimous" recommendation says little about Finkelstein's credentials, but serves as a mountain of proof about how easy it is to manipulate academic tenure proceedings and short-circuit all quality control in universities! The naked manipulation by Finkelstein's political science collaborators at DePaul and the fact that the "professional committee" behaved with such unprofessional partisanship were what triggered the veto by Dean Suchar and perhaps also further opposition from other DePaul senior officials against Finkelstein!
So will Finkelstein now be goosestepping his way to the unemployment office in his jackboots? He and his followers are still trying to browbeat the DePaul officials into changing their minds about his tenure, and there are panicky calls coming from far-leftists all about to rush to Finkelstein's aid. Naturally, they are all blaming "rightwingers" (and especially Alan Dershowitz) for poor Norman's academic demise. The Marathon Pundit blog describes where things now stand:
'Finkelstein's fate may end up in the hands of Father Dennis Holtschneider, DePaul's president, whose arrival in Chicago came after Finkelstein's hiring. Holtschneider's first crisis was the Klocek affair. A youngish-president, he appears to be about my age, forty-five, and he let his inexperience show as he mishandled the Klocek incident and its aftermath. Other flare-ups during "Holt's" reign include the Ward Churchill fiasco and the school's Chicken Little reaction to the DePaul Conservative Alliance's attempt to hold an "affirmative action bake sale."'
So where does all that leave America's leading cheerleader for the Hezbollah? The same Finkelstein who may have attended the Holocaust Denial conference last year? Will DePaul's odium at last be removed? Well, it looks like his job prospects are not that bad. Perhaps DePaul's loss will be the University of Tehran's gain.
[If you would like to tell DePaul's President Holtschneider what YOU think of all this, his email address is email@example.com . The names and emails of the other officials are here.]