The Making of Norman Finkelstein

A couple of years ago, I have seen American Radical with much sympathy for Norman Finkelstein. It was after I had followed in full the fateful “debate” with Alan Dershowitz at “DemocracyNow!” about the latter’s apologetic trash “The Case for Israel” which is partly covered also in David Ridgen’s and Nicolas Rossier’s documentary of 2010. On Amy Goodman’s show, in 2003, Finkelstein had relentlessly smashed Dershowitz’ questionable, well shoddy, scholarship by proving, again and again, plagiarism, distortion of facts and blatant lies in favor of Israel’s policies in 65 years of the conflict which in fact deserves, more than ever, a fair and unbiased assessment.

Finkelstein’s public revile on DemocracyNow! was onehundred percent right, of course. But had he really not realized that his disproportiante attack and humiliation of one of the most powerful representatives of the Israel lobby, a cunning attorney and sophister, Harvard’s Felix Frankfurter professor, would ultimately end Finkelstein’s already shaky academic career as assistant professor at Chicago’s DePaul University? It denied him tenure, not least after Dershowitz had sent unsolicited letters and dossiers about Finkelstein to members of the Law and Political Science Departments at DePaul.

In a series of televised parts of a longer interview with The Real News Network’s Paul Jay, Finkelstein pretends never having seen American Radical. And Jay seems not to know the reason for Finkelstein’s dire situation for now seven years as a non-academic. He once mentions Finkelstein’s polemic The Holocaust Industry of 2000 (now in its 2nd edition), but it probably was rather Beyond Chutzpah of 2005 which was the last straw, where Finkelstein tried to prove that he was right and Dershowitz a plagiarist and fraud. Dershowitz had threatened University of California Press with an expensive lawsuit and even urged then Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to prevent publication of the book.

In the four parts of the interview with Paul Jay so far (originally, it seemed that there was  a fifth part), Dershowitz was not mentioned once, neither by Jay nor Finkelstein. Finkelstein’s most significant and undeniable achievement is that, not in the U.S. but mainly in Europe, strategies by Israel and its lobby to instrumentalize the holocaust and its real victims and put the Nazi holocaust in a category on its own have been exposed to a wider audience. These strategies include accusation of anti-Semitism whenever Israel’s acts, be it its “operations” in Gaza or its settlements in the Westbank, or its sabotaging what is called the “peace process”, are criticized. Finkelstein once admits in the interview that his personality has serious flaws and briefly mentions that, after he had to leave DePaul University, he had sought advice from old friend Noam Chomsky who had apparently pointed to the fact that Finkelstein had made a grave mistake when accusing Dershowitz of plagiarism after having exposed that he was constantly distorting facts. It was that (unnecessary) accusation (albeit proven to be true) that ultimately ended his academic career (not broke his neck).

Sad to say, Dershowitz had actually managed to make part of what is Norman Finkelstein today and, despite denying it, he is of course bitter.

9 January 2015 @ 4:59 pm.

Last modified January 9, 2015.

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