In recent years, one of the worst segments of the huge Destroy-Israel Lobby operates on behalf of the unemployed ex-faculty member Norman Finkelstein. You may recall that DePaul University last year joined the growing list of academic institutions in which the anti-Semitic hate-mongerer Finkelstein has gotten himself fired, and Finkelstein has been unemployed ever since. The Finkelstein Lobby refused to surrender to common sense since then, and in fact recently tried, unsuccessfully, once again to get its guru of terrorism hired at yet another school.
Norman Finkelstein is a leading anti-Semite and Holocaust mocker and trivializer. In spite of having been born to Jewish parents, he tried to build an academic career on turning out anti-Jewish hate, misrepresented as "scholarship." The New York Times dismissed Finkelstein's scribblings as comparable to the czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Finkelstein is renowned not only for smearing and obscene mocking of Holocaust survivors, but also for his obsessive vulgarity and juvenile insulting of serious academics. He is also notorious for his devoted service on behalf of Hezbollah and Islamofascism.
Finkelstein has proclaimed Holocaust denier David Irving (who insists there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz) a great historian and his role model. Finkelstein's personal web site is a collection of hate and bigotry, including death threats and pornographic cartoons, as well as countless smug denunciations of all Holocaust survivors, whom he accuses of stealing money from Germany and victimizing the Germans. Finkelstein's "books" have been dismissed as pseudo-scholarship by nearly every serious historian to review them. He maintains the most intimate ties with Holocaust Deniers and he is himself considered by the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and many others to be a Holocaust Denier.
The Finkelstein Lobby, which operates on his behalf, is a hodgepodge of anti-Semites, including Middle East jihadniks, ranging from David Duke and the Holocaust Deniers on the ultra-right to the Neo-Stalinist cheerleaders of the jihad in Counterpunch on the left. The Finkelstein lobby is as devoted to historical revisionism when it comes to the career of its hero as Finkelstein himself is devoted to Holocaust revisionism. The Destroy-Israel Lobby seeks to attribute Finkelstein's career failure to the all-but-nonexistent "Israel Lobby," while overlooking the bizarre alliance of hatred and bigotry comprising the Finkelstein Lobby.
Finkelstein apologists run about the globe and the cyber-world proclaiming that Finkelstein was the "victim" of a nefarious sinister conspiracy. They claim a sinister cabal of Jews is suppressing academic freedom in America and elsewhere, denying freedom of speech to critics of Israel.
The "narrative" of the firing of Finkelstein by his lobby is maliciously wrong about what actually happened on each and every point. Such a collection of deliberate disinformation would be hard to find anywhere else. Finkelstein was fired not only by DePaul, but by three schools in the New York area before that – all for the same reason – a complete lack of serious scholarship and academic publications. Such a record makes clear that Finkelstein is not a scholar at all, but a propagandist. The fact that he published books hardly makes him a scholar or academic researcher. David Irving, the notorious British pseudo-historian and Holocaust Denier, has published books, as have David Duke, and Alexander Cockburn. Publishers choose which books to publish based on their commercial potential, and Bash-the-Jews books always sell well. No serious academic institution would count the sort of hate propaganda peddled by Finkelstein as research or scholarship. That of course does not mean that unserious institutions are reluctant to hire hate propagandists from the Left as academics.
And that is really the lesson of the Finkelstein saga at DePaul. That university decided to get serious about enforcing academic standards and tests of academic excellence when Finkelstein's apologists decided to try to get him tenure there. Finkelstein was fired because he has no academic credentials, with not a single article published in a bona fide academic journal. Indeed, he was hired in the first place by the entrenched far Left at DePaul University, which has managed to hornswaggle the administration there into granting other pseudo-academic leftists tenure. But Finkelstein's career of vulgar hate and anti-Semitism had drawn too much attention to be ignored by university leaders.
More generally, the problem in American academia is not suppression of academic freedom by some imaginary Israel Lobby, but rather the orchestration of campaigns of support on behalf of incompetent far-leftist pseudo-scholars as acts of solidarity by the entrenched Campus Tenured Left. Those campaigns have resulted in charlatans and buffoons who do little more than mouth anti-American and anti-Israel slogans getting hired and promoted, often in spite of their having no serious academic accomplishments whatsoever. The Anti-Israel Lobby is the enemy of academic excellence and plays a destructive role in this attempt at subverting American academic standards.
The bulk of the outside interference in Finkelstein's promotion proceedings was by his supporters, not his detractors. A media myth has arisen about the role of Alan Dershowitz in all that, but Dershowitz merely expressed his well-documented opinion when it was solicited by DePaul. The Left recruited Israel-hating propagandists at other universities to come to the aid of Finkelstein and pressured DePaul to give him tenure. In one of the worst cases of academic prostitution in recent years, Ian Lustick from the University of Pennsylvania and the anti-Israel propagandist Avi Shlaim from Oxford wrote sycophantic letters of recommendation on Finkelstein's behalf, hailing his "scholarship." Noam Chomsky also pitched in, as did even a few Israeli self-hating leftist extremists.
The narrative of Finkelstein's firing by DePaul as told by the Finkelstein Lobby is pure fiction. Finkelstein's apologists claim he fell victim to academic politicization. But the simple truth is that Finkelstein was one of the country's most obvious beneficiaries of academic politicization and scholarly prostitution, and he would never have been hired at DePaul without it. The lobby on behalf of Finkelstein did inadvertently succeed in one thing - drawing light to the fact that academia is crawling with pseudo-scholarly extremists who have made a career out of ladling out political advocacy and extremist agitprop. The recruitment of political support on behalf of such characters demonstrates how dishonest and unscrupulous are the depths to which the Bash-Israel Lobby is willing to sink.
That brings us to the latest developments in the continuing Finkelstein mythology. Since getting booted out of DePaul in the summer of 2007, Finkelstein has been unemployed, although he continues to travel the speaking circuit, offering his opinions to Hezbollah terrorists, jihadists of all stripes, and others. New York Magazine reports that he is living in a dusty rent-controlled basement tenement owned by his parents near Coney Island. But the newest campaign on his behalf by his groupies has consisted of an attempt to get him hired at California State University in Northridge, near Los Angeles.
Most of the initiative to get Finkelstein a new job at CSUN seems to have come from a far-leftist professor of math there, one David Klein. He has a track record of goofiness, such as claiming that Big Business wants to prevent oppressed minorities from learning math and that the LA Board of Education wants to suppress thinking and debate in schools.
After Finkelstein was evicted by DePaul, Klein decided to rush to his rescue. Whether Klein was motivated by mere stupidity, actually believing that Finkelstein is a serious scholar fired because of Zionist pressure, or something far more nefarious, is open to debate. Klein demanded of his own university that they hire Finkelstein, if only as a visiting professor. In a statement about his efforts on behalf of Finkelstein, Klein writes: "There can be little doubt that Finkelstein was fired (at DePaul) because of his criticisms of Israel's human rights violations against the Palestinian people, and for his fact-based criticisms of the Israel lobby." Klein then adds: "An unstated axiom for U.S. universities is that criticism of Israel by untenured faculty members is not allowed. Academic freedom protects critics of the national policies of the U.S., France, England, and every other country in the world, save one: Israel."
Starting in July 2007, Klein started haranguing his own university officials to hire Finkelstein. In February 2008, Finkelstein showed up on campus to give some agitprop guest lectures. Klein was joined by one Mehran Kamrava, an Iranian professor in political science at CSUN, in marketing Finkelstein. As usually happens when Finkelstein speaks outside Arab terrorist encampments, his "lectures" at CSUN triggered protests and hostility. Some local Jewish groups distributed a booklet about "Stinky Finky." CSUN officials got letters of protest and some threats to withhold financial support if it hosted or hired Finkelstein. The student paper at CSUN, the Daily Sundial, ran pieces exposing Finkelstein as a hatemonger and opposing the visit. Jody Myers, Professor of Religious Studies and Coordinator of the Jewish Studies Program at CSUN, opined: "We believe our administration should be following its own stated mission and only invite speakers who meet our high level of scholarship and who exercise academic responsibility... He (Finkelstein) isn't a responsible scholar."
The tenured Left at CSUN, including the entire "Women's Studies" department, wrote letters endorsing Finkelstein and demanding he be hired. Chomsky sent in a letter of support. The same people so outraged when Dershowitz wrote a letter about Finkelstein to DePaul have had nothing to say about this! Despite the juggernaut by the Finkelstein Lobby, all the efforts failed. There is simply too much material available now about Finkelstein and he could not slip under the academic radar screen at CSUN, as his lobby managed to do with him when he was hired at DePaul in 2000. The CSUN university heads vetoed the idea of granting him a new academic podium from which he could spew his agitprop.
Klein wrote his own provost that the Israel Lobby is preventing honest discussion of the Middle East and of Israel. Klein then wrote a long-winded essay about cases in which the "Zionist Lobby" supposedly prevented serious academics from speaking on campuses, such as the infamous incident involving Robert Trivers. In fact ultra-leftist Trivers was prevented from speaking at Harvard, but only because he had threatened to murder Alan Dershowitz.
In recent years, it has gotten harder for the Tenured Left to muscle campus heads into hiring and promoting Far Leftist propagandists and pseudo-scholars. There is no shortage of radicals among the faculty on most campuses, but those with near-zero academic accomplishments and achievements in research are having a harder time getting past the hurdles. Far leftists, anti-American podium preachers, and foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Semites are having their academic records scrutinized more closely, and that is what has the Left in terror. Some leftist pseudo-academics are finding their "academic careers" blocked by universities which are at last getting serious about enforcing academic standards, even for members of the Far Left. And that is why the anti-Israel Lobby is in hysterics.
Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.