Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chomsky Speaks: On Iraq, Iran and Norman Finkelstein

By WAJAHAT ALI ... ALI: What does the Norman Finkelstein tenure debacle at Depaul and his scathing critique and dismantling of Alan Dershowitz’s book, Case for Israel, tell of intellectual honesty and integrity in the United States? Is this a warning for academics and intellectuals who don’t “play by the rules” and openly challenge ideologies espoused by powerful interest groups and lobbies? Or, is this just an isolated incident without profound implications or reflections regarding the intellectual environment of post 9-11?

CHOMSKY: The behavior of the DePaul administration in overturning the faculty recommendation for tenure was of course deplorable, but this case should not be generalized too far. It had special features, notably the role of the desperate and fanatic Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. Finkelstein demonstrated with impeccable scholarship that Dershowitz is a slanderer, a liar, and a vulgar apologist for the crimes of his favored state. Dershowitz turned over heaven and earth to try to prevent the book from being published, and after he failed, launched a hysterical crusade to try to suppress its contents. He is not a fool, and knows that he cannot respond at the level of fact and argument, so turned to what comes naturally to him: a stream of vilification and abuse, and an extraordinary campaign of intimidation, to which the administration finally succumbed, presumably because of concerns that funders would be mobilized. The depraved performance is reviewed with fair accuracy in standard journals, like the Chronicle of Higher Education, and I need not comment further here.

It is true that there are major efforts to prevent honest and independent discussion of Middle East issues, particularly anything relating to Israel. Nonetheless, this is a special case. And it has nothing to do with the post-9/11 environment. ...

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