Perhaps the most depressing story (among many) this week is the report of De Paul University's refusal of tenure to its distinguished scholar Norman Finkelstein (Report, June 12). First, because the decision makes a mockery of academic freedom. In my view, Finkelstein' s writings and arguments have never failed to meet the criterion of academic quality, although many have disagreed with them. Second, because 9/11 really does seem to have revivified McCarthyism in the US. Finkelstein has been vilified by those who have simply smeared the arguments with which they were unwilling to engage. Everyone familiar with Alan Dershowitz's responses to those who have attempted to reasonably debate the allegations Dershowitz made in response to Finkelstein' s reviews of his The Case for Israel can have little doubt about the stronger argument.
And third, because while we have Finkelstein always ready to debate openly, on the other hand, we have his chief prosecutor, Dershowitz, declaring that any attempt by UK universities, or their employees, to advocate a boycott of Israeli academic institutions will be met with legal action. Finkelstein' s very livelihood is casually dismissed. I hope a British (or European) university steps forward to prove that we retain values the US has found all too dispensable.
Professor Wade Mansell
University of Kent
· Controversial Finkelstein' s scholarship may be, but few academics have suffered so many ad hominem attacks. It's clear the boycott tactic is alive and kicking in the US. The UCU should take no lessons on the subject from that source.
Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh
Aldergrove, Co Antrim