The intellectual wrestling match over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on at UC Davis as the Muslim Student Association brings to campus Wednesday a son of Nazi concentration camp survivors who accuses Israel of exploiting the Holocaust.
Norman Finkelstein, a DePaul University professor who got his doctorate from Princeton, will speak at 8 p.m. on "Israel and Palestine -- Roots of Conflict, Prospects for Peace."
Finkelstein, author of "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections On The Exploitation of Jewish Suffering," has been called a self-hating Jew and a Holocaust denier by his critics.
Shira Rawlinson, a 22-year-old American studies major of Jewish ancestry and a member of the Davis College Republicans, said her organization and several campus Jewish groups plan to challenge Finkelstein's ideas at his speech at the university's Chemistry 194 lecture hall.
Rawlinson said the Muslim Student Association is bringing Finkelstein as payback for Walid Shoebat, a controversial self-proclaimed "former Islamic terrorist" turned Zionist who spoke on campus in February.
Shoebat, a Palestinian American who wrote "Why We Want To Kill You -- The Jihadist Mindset and How To Defeat It," was brought to campus by the Davis Campus Republicans and the nonpartisan Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which has campus chapters across the country.
While Shoebat was given standing ovations by the more than 1,000 people who attended his speech at Freeborn Hall, several dozen Muslim students walked out in protest. They said Shoebat was spreading hate by claiming the majority of the world's Muslims, including most American Muslims, support radical Islam.
Rawlinson, who attended Shoebat's speech, said she is offended by Finkelstein's message and the fact that student fees are helping finance his appearance. The Club Finance Council, an arm of the Associated Students of UC Davis, allocated $440.76 to the Muslim Student Association to bring Finkelstein to campus.
Shoebat was paid entirely through private funding, Rawlinson said.
Finkelstein "has a right to come to campus, but he doesn't have a right to be paid for with the money my parents earned for my education," she said. "I had ancestors who died in the Holocaust in Poland. If I called up my grandparents in Jersey and told them what my parents' money was paying for they'd be outraged."
Shazeb Qadir, president of the 200-member Davis Muslim Student Association, said Finkelstein had been lined up before Shoebat spoke here.
Qadir said Finkelstein argues that "the Holocaust has been exploited for political ends. He presents a lesser-known but equally important viewpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"This is the honor of being a college student. We have the opportunity to be exposed to opinions all across the spectrum."
Rawlinson said she thinks it's hypocritical for Finkelstein to claim some Jews are exploiting the Holocaust when he exploits his own background as a child of Holocaust survivors. "It's a complete double standard," she said.
Finkelstein, in a telephone interview Monday, said he is not a Holocaust denier. "My parents lived in the Warsaw ghetto from September 1939 to April 1943, then they were taken to a concentration camp," Finkelstein said. "Every single of member of their family was exterminated, and my father was on the Auschwitz Death March. So for me to deny the Holocaust is to say I'm certifiably insane."
The 53-year-old Brooklyn native said that "the Nazi Holocaust is dragged in (to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict) to spell confusion over what's going on. The actual record shows Israel is responsible for major human rights violations, and the main obstacle in resolving the conflict is Israel's refusal to accept international law and withdraw to its legal borders."
Finkelstein, in his 2006 book, "Beyond Chutzpah," attacked Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case for Israel." The New York Times reported that Finkelstein called Dershowitz a "raving maniac" and "hoodlum" and wrote an article titled "Should Alan Dershowitz Target Himself for Assassination?"
Dershowitz, on his Web site (alandershowitz.com), charged, "Finkelstein's name was listed among the participants -- along with neo-Nazi David Duke -- in the infamous Iranian Holocaust denial hate orgy (in December). But he couldn't attend because he was too busy trying to testify, as a crackpot witness, for Hamas," long-described as a Palestinian terrorist organization by Israel and the United States.
UC Davis student registration fees helped pay for Finkelstein's visit because the Muslim Student Association met the criteria for the grant, said Paul Cody, assistant director of the Student Programs Activities Center.
It was awarded based on the association's history of responsible behavior and actions when receiving such funds, and "support for the principles of community at UCD," Cody said.
Those principles "affirm the rights of freedom of expression and our commitment to civility and decency," Cody said. "You might have one idea, I might have a disagreeing idea, and we have the ability to counter any point of view, providing an opportunity for a free exchange of ideas."
Finkelstein's speech will last about an hour, followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session, Cody said.