Norm!
Muffti has to admit he’s biased: given his job, he has strong reasons to like and admire the tenure system. However, there is a long history of venerable justifications for the system: it allows professors a measure of job security thus attracting good people into professorships and it protects an academic’s freedom of speech. One cannot be fired for following lines of inquiry that sometimes run very much counter to public sensibilities and long held beliefs. On the downside, as with any right to free speech, people don’t always bring a great deal of wisdom to the table when they excersize that right and sometime tenure protects people who do irresponsible work.

An interesting recent case is Norman Finkelstein’s. He teaches at DePaul University and is the author of several controversial books including Beyond Chutzpah, The Holocaust Industry, A Nation on Trial and others. He’s tussled with Alan Dershowitz. He’s widely known as a Jewish anti-semite and anti-zionist. The story, of course, appears more complicated when you scratch the surface. His refutation of Dershowitz, for example, draws heavily on such sources as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations that are widely regarded as Anti-Israel.

He’s also up for tenure this year at DePaul. His department voted 9-3 in favour of tenure and the university committee voted 5-0. Usually, (if external reviewers in some cases agree), this is basically sufficient for being granted tenure. However, the Dean of DePaul, Chuck Suchar, in a rare event, stepped in to try to block granting tenure. Suchar claims,

I find this very characteristic aspect of his scholarship to compromise its value and find it to be reflective of an ideologue and polemicist who has a rather hurtful and mean-spirited sub-text to his critical scholarship — not only to prove his point and others wrong but, also in my opinion, in the process, to impugn their veracity, honor, motives, reputations and/or their dignity…I see this as a very damaging threat to civil discourse in a university and in society in general.

Dershowitz has harsher words for Finkelstein:

He totally distorts my positions, uses quotes out of context, and simply makes things up. He assumes that his readers will not have read the material he criticizes, because if they did, they would not recognize his characterizations of them. Indeed I challenge any reasonable reader to peruse my writings and then Finkelstein’s characterization of them and decide whether his characterizations are even close to what I actually said.

It was President Bush who once famously said, “I don’t do nuance.” Well at least Finkelstein has that much in common with our president. Any effort by a pro-Israel writer to be reasonable, balanced or nuanced is turned by Finkelstein into a justification for genocide.

Finkelstein himself had some rather unkind words for Dershowitz. Oddly enough, Finkelstein himself is the child of holocaust survivors.

Notice, however, interestingly that the Dean’s comments relate to Finkelstein’s tone; he explicitly praises Finkelstein’s teaching abilities and says very little about the level of scholarship. Sadly absent from the discussion is a thorough discussion of Finkelstein’s abilities as an academic. While Muffti isn’t in any position to make such judgments (he doesn’t judge historians and hopes that they don’t judge philosophers), there are some rather unkind words for his work from others in the academy:

In the New York Times, Prof. Omer Bartov (Brown University historian) described Finkelstein’s book on the Holocaust as a “novel variation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the fraudulent essay concocted in the late nineteenth century by the Czarist secret police. He also described Finkelstein as “juvenile,” “arrogant,” and “stupid” (Aug. 6, 2000). Professor Marc Saperstein described Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history as a “prolonged diatribe,” replete with “outrageous ad hominem attacks” and written in the “rhetorical style of the arrogant academic pit bull.”

The eminent historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has dismissed Finkelstein as an anti-Semitic crackpot, as a pseudo-scholar, and as an apologist for the Hamas terrorists. The historian Israel Guttman dismissed Finkelstein’s book as an anti-Semitic buffoon. Professor Hans Momsen from Germany described it as “a most trivial book, one that appeals to easily aroused anti-Semitic prejudices.” University of Chicago Professor and author Peter Novick dismisses Finkelstein’s writing as “trash”. Novick has written,
“Such an examination reveals that many of those assertions are pure invention… No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate.” [1] He adds,
“I had not thought that (apart from the disreputable fringe) there were Germans who would take seriously this twenty-first century updating of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ I was mistaken.” (Offene Fenster und Tueren,’Sueddeutsche Zeitung, February 7, 2001)

Yikes. So probably on account of the Dean’s poor choice of focus and lack of external review, Finkelstein will get tenure (at this point he has threatened to sue the university if he doesn’t) and probably for all the wrong reasons.

source: HigherEd and a hat tip to Jewschool.

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  • I think perhaps most disconcerting, regarding Finkelstein, is the flaws, contradictions and outright contradictions within much of his scholarship. However, should we be surprised that he is popular? His p.o.v. reflects prevailing thoughts amongst students on college campuses, and perhaps that is the scariest part of all. That said, it is difficult–as an academic–to view personal, political perspectives (no matter how offensive they may be) as reason enough for someone’s career to be effected. HOWEVER, the case with Finkelstein–as well as many other anti-Israel scholars–should surround the quality of his scholarship, which certainly is (at the least) questionable.

  • Ha’aretz Magazine. Friday, March 30, 2001

    The Finkelstein polemic
    ‘The Holocaust Industry,’ Norman Finkelstein’s controversial book, has quickly achieved best-seller status in Germany. Finkelstein, who denounces the Jewish establishment for extorting billions of dollars from Swiss banks, tells Ha’aretz: ‘You can’t accuse me of inciting anti-Semitism. I’m only the messenger.’

    By Yair Sheleg

    When “The Holocaust Industry,” by Prof. Norman Finkelstein was released in the United States and Great Britain some nine months ago, representatives of the Jewish establishment evidently decided that killing it with kindness was their best strategy. The book viciously attacks them for exploiting the Holocaust for their own needs, and in order to establish a line of defense for Israel. But they decided against responding too strongly to the accusations, hoping that the storm would soon abate. The fact that the author was Jewish and a child son of Holocaust survivors undoubtedly contributed to their decision.Nevertheless, this low-profile approach is changing in the face of the book’s immense success in Germany since its release there two months ago. In a telephone interview with Ha’aretz from his home in New York, Finkelstein claims that 130,000 copies were sold in the first four weeks after the book’s German-language translation arrived in the bookshops. For comparison’s sake, after nine months on sale in the U.S. and Britain, “The Holocaust Industry” notched sales of 18,000 and 12,000, respectively.

    Just what is Finkelstein claiming in the book? First, as he already makes clear in the first few paragraphs of the introduction, he differentiates between the “Nazi holocaust” – in which millions of Jews and other victims were exterminated – and “The Holocaust” – the well-known public “persona” of the event, the image that he alleges is nothing but the product of propaganda of the Jewish establishment.

    Second, Finkelstein claims that the interest in the Holocaust by the Jewish-American establishment dates only to the aftermath of the Six-Day War, and in any case is not rooted in authentic Jewish motives, but from the Jewish establishment’s collaboration with the interests of the American administration. As soon as the American administration started to consider Israel a strategic asset, the Jewish establishment in the U.S. seized on the Holocaust as a line of defense for the Israeli occupation.

    Not coincidentally, in the introduction to the book Finkelstein thanks Prof. Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s most famous linguistics experts and an anti-Zionist Jewish intellectual, who has similar beliefs.

    Third, Finkelstein analyzes and sharply criticizes the exploitation of the Holocaust for financial profit. He singles out the author Elie Wiesel as having reaped personal benefit. But Finkelstein also assails the general Jewish campaign to restore property and/or to arrange compensation for assets stolen during the Nazi period. He views the campaign and its methods as “those of extortionist gangsters.”

    Who was murdered?

    “The Jewish establishment,” he tells the interviewer, “was in a rush to shake down the Swiss on the banks issue, and used pressure exerted by agencies of the American government – [saying] that if they didn’t pay up, they would be boycotted in the U.S. There is an extortion racket at work here, and for this alone the extortionists should have been thrown out of public life.

    “They also put the pressure on to reach an agreement with Switzerland before the Volcker Committee [the international committee that investigated the dormant bank accounts] released its report, because the agreement gave them $1.25 billion, even though it later turned out – according to the Volcker Committee – that the maximum value of the dormant accounts came to a few hundred million dollars.”

    Finkelstein even alleges that the Jewish establishment is exaggerating the numbers of survivors. “How is it possible that in 1997, when they started talking with the Swiss humanitarian fund for destitute survivors, they put the number of survivors around the world at a quarter-million, and now they’re talking about close to a million?”

    Someone who frequently quotes his mother, both in the book and the interview, Finkelstein quotes her now, and asks, “If there are so many survivors, who exactly was murdered in the Holocaust?”

    Not surprisingly, Finkelstein’s book has recorded notable commercial success in Germany. A public-opinion poll held by the newsweekly Der Spiegel found that 50 percent of the public “partially agrees” with the allegations made in the book, 15 percent “completely agree” with them, and only 24 percent “are opposed” to the claims.

    Criticism about people exploiting the Holocaust for purposes of personal publicity or monetary gain has been voiced for years, as has the somewhat coarse statement (which Finkelstein attributes to Abba Eban) that “there’s no business like Shoah business.”

    Nor is there anything new about how the Holocaust has taken on a disproportionate role in shaping the identity and agenda of the American Jewish establishment. Finkelstein’s book was published only a year after Jewish-American historian Peter Novick’s “The Holocaust in American Life,” in which Novick aired some similar accusations, but his book was received rather warmly, even by representatives of the Jewish establishment. In the introduction to his book, Norman Finkelstein mentions Novick as having influenced his own writings.

    But Novick is not at all pleased to be on the receiving end of Finkelstein’s bear hug. He wrote an article about Finkelstein’s book for the German newspaper Die Welt, which was entitled “Hate Campaign of a Zealot.” In an interview with a Polish newspaper, Novick stated that Finkelstein is distorting the facts, was anti-Zionist and “displays a paranoid belief in some sort of global conspiracy of the Jewish elites in the U.S.”

    Perhaps as a result of Novick’s harsh criticism, in the current interview Finkelstein opted not to cite Novick’s contribution to his own work. Instead, Finkelstein mentioned Holocaust researcher Raul Hilberg as someone who has influenced him. Although the subject of some controversy himself, Hilberg has earned a great deal more respect in Holocaust history circles than Finkelstein.

    Overriding hatred

    Finkelstein’s detractors seem to be disturbed mostly and foremost by his style. “The most conspicuous fact in the book is the hatred,” says David Witztum, the Channel One journalist who was the first member of the press in Israel to interview Finkelstein. “Hatred for every establishment Jewish organization, be it the State of Israel or the Jewish establishment in the United States.”

    “This is not research; it isn’t even political literature,” says Prof. Israel Guttman, formerly the chief historian of Yad Vashem. “This is a lampoon, which takes a serious subject and distorts it for improper purposes. I don’t even think it should be reviewed or critiqued as a legitimate book. We should consider it nothing more than an anti-Semitic lampoon.” In a similar vein, the German historian Prof. Hans Momsen called it “a most trivial book, which appeals to easily aroused anti-Semitic prejudices.”

    As for Finkelstein’s allegations themselves, opinions are divided. There are some critics who reject them out of hand. Ilan Steinberg, the executive director of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) who spearheaded the campaign to have Jewish assets restored, scorns Finkelstein’s claim that the organization pocketed funds that had been intended for Holocaust survivors: “Not only is the claim itself an out-and-out lie, the source on which it is ostensibly based is distorted. Finkelstein quotes an interview with Edgar Bronfman, the president of the Congress, that appeared in the German newspaper Die Zeit. According to Finkelstein’s quote, Bronfman said that from all its various campaigns, the WJC had received a sum of $7 billion.

    “First of all, it is unusual for an academic researcher to use a quote from a newspaper interview as a reliable source. But aside from that, he quotes him incorrectly: Bronfman has said that the public campaign on this issue yielded compensation totaling $7 billion – and that not a single penny of it was going to the WJC. If he can’t even quote accurately, how is anyone supposed to take his book seriously?”

    Raul Teitelbaum, a member of the board of directors of the umbrella organization of Holocaust survivors in Israel, also vehemently rejects Finkelstein’s claims that the WJC pocketed money that was supposed to go to the Holocaust survivors, leaving them only a few crumbs.

    To bolster his claim, Finkelstein once again brings up his mother’s name, noting that for all her years of suffering in the Holocaust, she received only $3,500.

    Teitelbaum: “The Swiss banks and the other organizations who negotiated over the indemnity payments dragged out the discussions for a long time, which is why the money has not yet begun to be paid out, even though some of the agreements were signed a long time ago. So how can he talk about thievery by the Jews?

    “As for the money that Finkelstein’s mother received, he should blame the Germans for that. In the original reparations agreement, they insisted on paying only ‘members of the German culture,’ and gave a German test to anyone who asked for compensation. It was only about 10 years ago, in the wake of the struggle waged by our organization in conjunction with the Jewish establishment, that they agreed to grant a small amount of compensation to the other survivors, as well. So he should be thanking the Jewish organizations for the money his mother got, and not abusing them.”

    Teitelbaum also rejects Finkelstein’s claim that the Jewish establishment extorted the Swiss. He feels the opposite is the case – that the Swiss paid much less than they should be paying: “The agreement with the Swiss banks essentially compensates the Jews only for the dormant accounts held in commercial banks in Switzerland. Nevertheless, the Swiss stipulated that their signature on the agreement absolved them of any additional payments in the future – including any compensation for the sale of gold by the Nazis to the Swiss government and the central bank, and the artworks that were stolen and found their way to Switzerland.”

    Read Kant in Yiddish

    Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, took the time to write an article in Yedioth Ahronoth in response to Finkelstein’s claim that he has gotten rich from his lectures about the Holocaust. Wiesel claimed that most of his lectures are not even about the Holocaust, but rather culture and literature, and that when he does lecture on the Holocaust he either waives his speaker’s fee or transfers it directly to a charitable institution.

    The row between Finkelstein and Wiesel has deteriorated to personal mudslinging, with Finkelstein seeking to prove Wiesel’s “cheating” with his written claim that he had read Kant in Yiddish in his youth. Finkelstein says Wiesel is lying, since Kant was never translated into Yiddish. Wiesel has responded by citing the exact name of the book and the publishing house, so as to prove that it is Finkelstein who is the liar.

    But Finkelstein is not ready to give in yet, and told Ha’aretz that he had looked into the matter and found that Kant’s book “The Critique of Practical Reason” was indeed translated into Yiddish, but that his book “The Critique of Pure Reason,” was not.

    Splitting hairs notwithstanding, some scholars are saying that even if Finkelstein’s style is indeed unendurable, there is a kernel of truth behind some of his claims. Prof. Michael Brenner, who teaches Jewish history and culture at Munich University, is one.

    “There is a nucleus of justified claims in the book, including the stuff about the compensation issue, the lack of transparency of the Jewish organizations that are handling the matter, and the Holocaust obsession of the American Jewish establishment. Nevertheless, in order to gain a proper understanding of these claims, Novick’s book was definitely enough. Finkelstein’s style only makes it harder to accept these claims,” says Brenner.

    David Witztum joins the chorus: “The book has a core, a nucleus of allegations of real substance, but I would put it this way: That which is interesting in the book is not original, and that which is original is worthless – it is a heap of distortions and facts taken out of context.”

    Prof. Moshe Zimmerman of Hebrew University’s German history department, who has himself been the target of some criticism about style, argues that Finkelstein’s biggest problem is not the content of his claims, but the style in which they are written: “What is irritating about him is his caustic style and choice of words. The claims themselves, both those that attack the centrality of the Holocaust in Jewish-American identity and the compensation affair, contain at least a kernel of truth.”

    The lone wolf

    Brooklyn-born Finkelstein, 48, is the third and last child of parents who survived the Holocaust. Both spent the initial war years in the Warsaw ghetto. His father, Zacharias, was subsequently sent to Auschwitz, while his mother, Maryla, went to Majdanek. After the war they met in a displaced persons camp in Austria.

    His parents always struggled to earn a living. Zacharias Finkelstein was a factory worker and his wife raised the children while they were young, and then worked as a bookkeeper in a bank. All their lives, they continued to yearn for the Jewish world of Warsaw from which they had been forcibly torn away. Evidently, both parents, but especially his mother, had communist leanings, although Norman Finkelstein states that they did not officially belong to any ideological movement.

    David Witztum is convinced that the family is the root cause of Finkelstein’s hatred for the Jewish establishment and Israel. “As I see it, this book is not research. It is the cry of pain of a wounded person, and as such it is absolutely authentic.”

    In the course of the interview, Finkelstein describes growing up in a bitter and distrustful home: “My parents didn’t trust anyone else in the world – only themselves.” So much so that even after they separated relatively late in life, his mother – although herself dying of cancer – cared for his father, who had Alzheimer’s.

    “Despite the fact that they were already living separately, she wouldn’t agree to have him institutionalized, and took care of him at home until the last moment. She also made us children visit him every day. She said that after everything he had gone through in his life, she wasn’t going to let him die like a dog.” Both parents died in 1995.

    As ironic and paradoxical as it may seem, Finkelstein is also sustained today by the Holocaust – or at least by the public debate over it. His academic career previously never had anything to do with the Holocaust: Finkelstein teaches political theory at Hunter College of the City University of New York, and specializes in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    Prof. Benny Morris of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev claims that Finkelstein has not made any unique contributions in his field of academic expertise. “He has not published any research to date that might be called a ground-breaking contribution. Essentially, the only book he published in the field is a collection of articles he wrote over the years, which do not make any unique contribution either, except for an interesting analysis of some research studies by other scholars,” says Morris.

    “Incidentally, in one article he also critiques my book ‘Birth of the Refugee Problem,’ claiming that I did not draw all of the appropriate conclusions regarding the State of Israel from the facts that I myself reveal in my book. My impression is that he is more of a pro-Palestinian propagandist than a serious scholar.”

    Finkelstein bridles at his depiction as an anti-Zionist: “It’s a superficial term. I am opposed to any state with an ethnic character, not only to Israel.”

    Anti-Semitic label

    Four years ago, Finkelstein made his first appearance on the Holocaust scene. This was after the big controversy that broke out in Germany surrounding publication of “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” the book by Prof. Daniel Goldhagen – another Jewish scholar whose parents are Holocaust survivors. Goldhagen alleged that the entire German people, and not only “the Nazi regime,” were accomplices in the destruction of the Jews. Finkelstein wrote a caustic attack on Goldhagen (which eventually spawned an entire book), even accusing him of racism against the German people.

    It was Finkelstein’s first taste of publicity in Germany.

    Finkelstein’s book has made big waves elsewhere in Europe. A media debate has sprung up in connection to the book in Britain, where The Guardian published excerpts in installments. Finkelstein says that the recently released French edition was showcased in a two-page spread and editorial in Le Monde. So far, he says, the book has been or is being published in 13 languages, including Portuguese, Polish, Swedish, Danish, Romanian, Japanese, Dutch, Turkish and Arabic. At this stage, at least, no one is talking about a Hebrew translation: “The publisher doesn’t have an agent in Israel, and he told me the publishing houses there have shown no interest.”

    Israel Guttman says it is not coincidental that the book has been relatively well received in European countries. “These are the countries that are being required in recent years to pay out large sums of money as compensation for assets stolen during the Holocaust, so Finkelstein’s allegations are falling on fertile ground.”

    Finkelstein attributes the book’s flop in the U.S. to a lethal book review by Israeli scholar Omer Bartov that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. “The New York Times Book Review has two dominant social functions: identifying for other book supplements which books should be reviewed, and indicating to librarians around the country which books are worth purchasing. As soon as my book was labeled as being anti-Semitic, the editors of the other book supplements and the librarians knew that it wasn’t worth it for them to even get close to the book.”

    In any event, the “Finkelstein Polemic” has made the author, originally a leftist radical, into a darling of the extreme right (which only by dint of the strict German law does not call itself by the more explicit term of “neo-Nazis”). The book was not very well received by critics in the mainstream German media. In parallel with its publication a “competing” book appeared, containing articles that counter Finkelstein’s claims.

    How does it feel for him to be a favorite of the radical right in Germany?

    “At first I was very puzzled by it,” says Finkelstein, “and then I realized I wasn’t responsible for it. It was the actions of the Jewish establishment. You can’t accuse me of encouraging anti-Semitism. I am only the messenger who reports on the actions of the Jewish establishment, actions that are encouraging anti-Semitism.”

    Many people familiar with the subject believe that the tremendous popularity of the book in Germany derives from the fact that the “simple” German masses are fed up with apologizing for the Holocaust, and even more so for paying for it.

    Moshe Zimmerman, however, thinks there is no link between this sentiment and Finkelstein’s popularity. “The reason his book is successful has to do with the immense sensitivity to the entire subject of the Holocaust in Germany. This helps to explain why more books about the Holocaust are sold in Germany than in any other country, Israel included. And it also explains why Goldhagen’s book, which raises completely different, if not diametrically opposed, allegations, was even more popular than Finkelstein’s.”

    The book’s huge success nevertheless raises questions about the policies of the Jewish establishment. Is it not responsible for some big blunders that caused the book – distorted and problematic as it may be – to be received so enthusiastically?

    “The Jewish establishment made a few big mistakes, not out of the malevolence that Finkelstein attributes to it, but some difficult mistakes, nonetheless,” says Raul Teitelbaum. “The first mistake was to consent in the original reparations agreement to the German demand to compensate only ‘members of the German culture.'”

    Only in Israel were other survivors compensated, through the Finance Ministry, from reparations funds that were transferred by Germany to Israel, but this was not the case elsewhere in the world.

    “This left the majority of Holocaust survivors living outside Israel incredibly frustrated,” he adds. “Second, the establishment erred when it took the Holocaust survivors out of the negotiating picture. And third, there is a problem with the huge gap between the billions of dollars that have been bandied about in recent years and the fact that the survivors haven’t yet received a thing, and when they do get something, each will receive only a small amount. This gap is the cause of frustration and generates rumors that the Jewish establishment is profiting at the expense of the survivors.”

    But the most disturbing question has to do with the wide-scale campaign in recent years over the restoration of Jewish property in Europe. Hasn’t this been a Pyrrhic victory, as some people in the know had cautioned, because of which remembrance of the Holocaust will eventually be identified with large-scale monetary demands – justified though they may be – rather than with the ethical and moral implications?

    Guttman, who from the outset opposed the compensation campaign, is convinced that the answer is yes: “I have no doubt that if not for the property campaign, no one would be willing to pay even half-a-cent for this book. It was a big mistake. At most, an effort should have been made to see if compensation could have been secured through quiet discussions. It shouldn’t have been made into a dramatic public struggle, as if it was the ultimate redress for the Holocaust. It only reinforced the feeling that the Holocaust is simply a means of extorting money and status.”

    Conversely, Ilan Steinberg, as one of the leaders of that struggle, is equally convinced and resolute that in spite of it all, it was a battle that had to be waged: “The philosophy of our organization is unequivocal: After the Holocaust and the wars of Israel, we will no longer be silent. We will not continue to be the silent Jews only so that others shouldn’t say bad things about us. We will fight for our justice, and we will constantly remember that anti-Semitism should be blamed on anti-Semites, not on the legitimate struggles of Holocaust survivors and heirs of the victims.”

    The father, the son and Prof. Guttman

    Concealed within the larger ideological drama of the conflict between Finkelstein and “the Holocaust establishment,” is another, more personal drama. One of his father’s closest friends was Prof. Israel Guttman, the former chief historian at Yad Vashem (in his book, Finkelstein mistakenly calls him the director of Yad Vashem), who is now one of Finkelstein Jr.’s arch-critics. Guttman and Zacharias Finkelstein met in the Warsaw Ghetto, and formed a deep friendship while being held in the Auschwitz death camp.

    Guttman relates that after the war they were in the same displaced persons camp in Austria, and were involved in the illegal effort to smuggle Holocaust survivors to Palestine. “We planned to immigrate together to Israel and settle on a kibbutz,” he recalls.

    The plan went awry after Guttman was sent to Italy one day. By the time he returned to Austria, his close friend had fallen in love with a woman with a visa for the United States, and had gone with her to America.

    Guttman had a hard time finding forgiveness: “As an ardent Zionist, I had no contact with him for many years. I only decided to renew contact when I made my first visit to America. After that, I stayed with him whenever I visited the United States.”

    In the course of these visits, Guttman also met Norman Finkelstein (who lived with his mother following his parents’ break-up). He remembers the arguments between father and son about the father’s Zionist friend.

    In the introduction to his book, Finkelstein mentions the relationship, without noting Guttman’s name. “With bitter disappointment, my father eventually admitted that this man had also been corrupted by the Holocaust industry, selling his beliefs for power and profit.”

    Today, the strained personal relationship between these two antagonists prevents either from publicly speaking about the complex relationship between Israel Guttman and Zacharias Finkelstein.

    “I’ve already said as much as I am going to say about it,” says Norman Finkelstein. “Practically to the end of his life, my father admired Guttman as a very idealistic person, a belief that was shattered at the end of his life. Out of respect to my father’s memory and his feelings for Guttman, I do not want to say any more about it.”

  • And while he irritates me like zit yet popped, he made Dershowitz look like a fool on Democracy Now.

    And then Sam Harris did the same to Dennis Pragger.

    In the past, before the internet, we Jews felt comfortable making huge generalizations about history, theology, whatever. And we could do so with impunity. Times have changed. And our “talking heads” need to do their homework before spewing rehearsed dogma commonly heard at an Aish intro seminar.

  • Finkelstein won the debate on form but not on content, Shtreimel. Dershowitz tried to blast him but Finkelstein obviously expected that and merely wanted to focus on the couple of issues he was able to raise. These were weak issues. For example, I’ve also used that Mark Twain quote in discussions and debates about Israel. Does that mean I plagiarized Joan Peters? Many people know and use that quotation and it’s Mark Twain’s not Joan Peters’.

    Or, for example, at the end of the debate, he brings up HRW and Amnesty as critical sources of irrefutable commentary on the situation in Israel. He expects to trip up Dershowitz, as many pro-Palestinian do, by using HRW or Amnesty as sources of supposedly unbiased information against the perfidious pro-Israelis who criticize their claims. In this case, he does it with respect to Jenin where Israel did not commit war crimes but where HRW claimed they did.

    I guess in theory this makes Dershowitz look bad, especially with Finkelstein’s strong presentation. Of course, Finkelstein is hypocritical about this. For example, when HRW says something that goes against his beliefs about Palestinian war crimes, Finkelstein conveniently attacks them.

    I should add that this is nothing. I think it’s far more hypocritical to attack Jewish organizations and survivors or children of survivors (he does this by claiming that his definition of a survivor, which eliminates some survivors, is the correct one) by using, over and over, his survivor parents as the authority and platform that provide legitimacy to his supposedly academic claims. Take a look at this interview promoting his book “The Holocaust Industry.”

    I mean, logic and truth fall flat quite often when this guy wants to make his case but here he brings up his mom and her beliefs to buttress his points. Is this what an academic does? A person’s mom can’t be wrong? Are his parents somehow more right than other survivors? Are they flawless angels? Does he hypocritically make them out to be flawless angels in order to strengthen his argument?

    This is a guy who has a debate with the former head historian of Yad Va’shem (who was a friend of Finkelstein’s father from the camps). I mean, did Finkelstein Sr. disagree with his best friend from the camps, or is it just coincidental that since his father isn’t around to be asked – his father who received $250k in compensation probably thanks in part to those Jewish organizations that sought reparations for victims of the Nazis – when Norman makes his claims? Who can challenge him on the veracity of discussions he may have had with his father? And then again, even if his father agreed with Norman, that still doesn’t make this a sound academic argument. His father and his mother could be wrong; they’re just two people with particular points of view.

    I have no idea whether he’s written peer reviewed papers or books. From what I see from a brief look at his online discourse in what I list above and some other interviews he’s given that I’ve just read, it seems that he is an angry and bitter man with an agenda. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve tenure if he’s published academically accepted publications and if he meets other criteria of DePaul’s for tenure. That’s for the university to decide and they have their procedures for this. However, it should be noted that this is the same university that let go a lecturer who debated with students who were comparing Israelis to Nazis so if Norman Finkelstein has finally found an academic home at DePaul, it shouldn’t surprise anybody.

  • If you look at the book sales listed below in this book review, the “I’m poor and only do this for academic purity” claim that Finkelstein makes in his Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview cannot be true. He must have made quite a bit of money from sales of that book, not to mention speaking engagement fees.

    The Finkelstein Phenomenon: Reflections on the Exploitation of Anti-Jewish Bigotry – The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering – Book Review

    Judaism, Fall, 2002 by Paul Bogdanor

    The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. By NORMAN C. FINKELSTEIN. New York: Verso, 2001.

    Norman G. Finkelstein has emerged as the most popular Jew in the history of antisemitism. Celebrated by neo-Nazi groups all over the world and a bestselling author in Germany, Finkelstein has publicly announced his discovery that the field of “Holocaust studies” is “mainly a propaganda enterprise,” so that “‘The Holocaust’ is in effect the Zionist account of the Nazi holocaust.” (1) Such revelations should come as no surprise when uttered by the favorite disciple of Noam Chomsky, whose central contribution to the study of Nazism has been the assurance–offered while defending the French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson–that there are “no antisemitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers.” (2)

    Attention naturally turns to Finkelstein’s latest diatribe and with good reason. In Britain, every major newspaper devoted at least a full page to the book, which was serialized in The Guardian. In France, it received two full pages plus an editorial in Le Monde. In Germany, the reaction was explosive: some 200 journalists attended the book’s press launch, while over 130,000 copies were sold in the first few weeks, and three volumes of commentary were issued within months. (3) On publication of the paperback edition, the book was scheduled for translation into sixteen languages, including Danish, Swedish, Dutch, Portuguese, Polish, Romanian, Turkish,Japanese, and–of course–Arabic. (4)

    What is the source of this morbid fascination?

    Finkelstein calls the Holocaust an “ideological representation” whose “central dogmas serve significant political and class interests” (3). He argues that American Jews are the class enemy, ruthless collaborators with capitalism and imperialism, who use the memory of the gas chambers to oppress their victims. The result is a gruesome parody of ethnic self-hatred: “Lording it over those least able to defend themselves: that is the real content of organized American Jewry’s reclaimed courage” (38). Furthermore: “By conferring total blamelessness on the Jews, the Holocaust dogma [sic] immunizes Israel and American Jewry from legitimate censure” (52). The Holocaust “dogma” must be overcome, so that the Jews can once again be “censured” with impunity. If Arab extremists wish to annihilate the Israelis, then the Israelis clearly deserve it. If black racists blame the Jews for their problems, then the Jews must be at fault. “Ever chastised, ever innocent,” he sneers, “this is the burden of being a Jew” (53).

    It should be unnecessary to point out that like most examples of the genre, Finkelstein’s tract is riddled with inconsistencies and evasions. He argues that American Jews discovered the Holocaust only after the Six-Day War (9-38), but then he adds that in previous years “the universalist message” of concentration camp survivor Bruno Bettelheim “resonated” among them (54). He is enraged by the fake memoirs of Jerzy Kosinski and Binjamin Wilkomirski (55-62), but he neglects to cast his Gorgon’s gaze upon similar fabrications by his comrades on the radical left, such as Rigoberta Menchu and Edward Said. What are we to think of a book which explains that “much of the literature on Hitler’s Final Solution is worthless as scholarship” (55), only to announce that “[n]ot all” Holocaust denial is totally useless (71)? And how should we react to an author who can dismiss the work of Deborah Lipstadt (68-71), only to endorse the view that David Irving, the Holocaust denier who sued her in a British court and lost, plays “an indispensable part” in the “historical enterprise” (72)?

    The book systematically falsifies quotes and references. Daniel Goldhagen allegedly thinks that Serbian crimes in Kosovo “are, in their essence, different from those of Nazi Germany only in scale” (70). In fact he is referring to Bosnia as well as Kosovo, both of which he explicitly distinguishes from the Holocaust. (5) Guenter Lewy is cited as authority for the claim that the Nazis “murdered as many as a half-million Gypsies” (76). In fact he rejects this figure as baseless. (6) Yehuda Bauer supposedly maintains that the Gypsies “did not fall victim to the same genocidal onslaught as the Jews” (76). In fact he has long held that the Gypsies were victims of genocide. (7) Elie Wiesel is mocked because he claims to have read the works of Kant in Yiddish, when they were never published in that language (82). In fact parts of Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason were translated into Yiddish, as Finkelstein has now admitted. (8)

    Finkelstein’s best-known allegation is that Holocaust reparations are a “double shakedown of European countries as well as legitimate Jewish claimants” (89). It is a cruel argument because it plays on the fears of elderly survivors. It is also self-contradictory: if Jewish claimants have a right to the money, then it has not been stolen from European countries; but if European countries have a right to the money, then it cannot be stolen from Jewish claimants. Given that Finkelstein’s “double shakedown” is a logical impossibility, one wonders why anyone takes it seriously. To sample his methods, consider his treatment of the so-called Gribetz Plan for the distribution of $1.25 billion from the Swiss banks (“Postscript to the Paperback Edition,” 151-78). He announces a shocking discovery: hidden in the details of the Gribetz Plan is “the devilish reality” that”probably but a small fraction of the Swiss monies” will be paid directly to Holocaust survivors (155). The reader is primed to expect massive documentation of this “devilish reality.” So where is it? Finkelstein concedes that from the $1.25 billion fund, $800 million will cover dormant bank accounts, with another $400 million for looted assets, slave labor and refugees. This might be thought to present a certain difficulty for his position. It is instructive to see how he resolves it.

    On the $800 million, he says that the actual sum paid out on dormant accounts will be a tiny fraction of this amount, whereas the remainder will go to Jewish groups, not only because “the Holocaust industry” will have the final say, but also because the funds will not be distributed until few actual Holocaust survivors are alive (163-4). Thus Finkelstein admits that money will be paid directly to owners of dormant bank accounts, but speculates–without any evidence at all–that the rest will go to Jewish groups because of the wickedness of”the Holocaust industry.” On the $400 million, he is enraged that the money will not be distributed until the relevant appeals are over. Does he seriously expect that money will be irrevocably surrendered while it is still subject to litigation? He predicts that Holocaust survivors will be so determined to appeal that few will be alive to benefit even if they win; meanwhile “the Holocaust industry,” already the “main beneficiary” of the Gribetz Plan, can only gain from the delay (165). His guess becomes plausible only if we assume what he has to prove, that Jewish groups are run by heartless profiteers whose only concern is to swindle Holocaust victims, doubtless including their own relatives. The fact is that he has produced no evidence whatsoever.

    By playing on these suspicions and innuendoes, Finkelstein is able to conclude (167) that upon “close analysis” the Gribetz Plan “confirms” his argument, i.e. that “probably but a small fraction of the Swiss monies” will be paid directly to Holocaust survivors. But where is the proof of this “devilish reality”–in the “probably”?

    Historians furiously denounce the book. According to Professor Omer Bartov, it is “an ideological fanatic’s view of other people’s opportunism” by a writer who is “reckless and ruthless in his attacks.” (9) According to Professor Israel Gutman, it is “a lampoon, which takes a serious subject and distorts it for improper purposes. I don’t even think it should be reviewed or critiqued as a legitimate book.” (10) According to Professor Hans Mommsen, it is “a most trivial book, which appeals to easily aroused anti-Semitic prejudices.” (11)

    Who am I to disagree?

    NOTES

    (1.) Norman G. Finkelstein, “Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s ‘Crazy’ Thesis,” New Left Review (July/August 1997): 83-4. Needless to say, these insights were removed from the doctored version published in Norman G. Finkelstein and Ruth Bettina Birn, A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (Owl Books, 1998). See also Finkelstein’s earlier book, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Verso, 1995), which is distinguished by the exploitation of every conceivable opportunity to compare Israel with Nazi Germany. To take one of many examples, Finkelstein proposes to discredit the Israeli doctrine of “purity of arms” with the argument that its “closest analogue was, ironically, Nazism” (Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, p. 88).

    (2.) W. D. Rubinstein, “Chomsky and the neo-Nazis,” Quadrant, Australia, October 1981.

    (3.) Ernst Piper, ed., Gibt es wirklich eine Holocaust-Industrie? (Pendo, 2001); Petra Steinberger, ed., Die Finkelstein-Debatte (Piper, 2001); Rolf Surmann, ed., Das Finkelstein-Alibi (Papyrossa, 2001).

    (4.) Joseph Croitoru, “Holocaust Memories,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, May 14, 2001; Finkelstein, “Foreword to the Paperback Edition,” Holocaust Industry, p. vii.

    (5.) Daniel J. Goldhagen, “A New Serbia,” New Republic, May 17, 1999.

    (6.) Guenter Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies (Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 221-2.

    (7.) Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (Yale University Press, 2002), p. 66.

    (8.) Viktor Frike, “Shoah Business,” Salon.com, August 30, 2000.

    (9.) Omer Bartov, “A Tale of Two Holocausts,” New York Times, August 6, 2000.

    (10.) Yair Sheleg, “The Finkelstein Polemic,” Ha’aretz Magazine, March 30, 2001.

    (11.) Yair Sheleg, “The Finkelstein Polemic,” Ha’aretz Magazine, March 30, 2001.

  • Finkelstein is a liar and a fraud.

    He claims to be a scholar of the middle east, yet cannot speak ANY language of the middle east, I.E. Hebrew OR Arabic.

    I could not even get my MA without knowing Hebrew.

  • I’m with R. Yonah on this one. He’s simply a bad historian. A popular one though, which makes it somehow difficult to not grant him tenure. I say this is sheer idiocy. We all need to stand up and say that this is BS, his ‘research’ is bunko, and his job is finito. He should be flipping burgers someplace muttering incantations to himself. That’s if he was lucky. We could spend years debunking him, we might have to now if he gets tenure. I say abolish tenure for just this reason. If supremely unworthy dolts and academic frauds like this clown can get tenure, what earthly use is it to anyone to protect ‘honest scholarship’? Honesty, real honesty begins by saying that such nonsense should not be granted the privilege and the cachet of the academy. It’s as simple as that. This is not defending ‘controversial truths’, it’s the defense of poorly sourced lies & fantasy. Someone needs to stand up and say that, and I fear not many inside his school ever will.

    And yes, color me unsurprised all this is happening at the largest Catholic University in the nation. The staff anti-Semite quota needed to be filled somehow, so why not with a Jew? How very clever, right? And yes, the Vatican can deny anyone tenure anywhere, should they see fit to do so. They’ve done this before with far more competent teachers that have gone against their dogma. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • uhhhh…. muffti……. outside of engineering and hard sciences, exactly WHAT objective standards can be applied to determine the, uh, quality of academic work in the post-deconstructionist liberal arts?

  • To state Ben-David’s point differently, just because your a liberal-artsy idiot doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get tenure. Finkelstein’s hardly the first guy to essay the art of self-aggrandizing, celebrity pseudo-scholarship.

    Bit of cheap shot at DePaul, VJ. In point of fact, Finkelstein would have to convert, become a priest, and teach errant theology for the Vatican to have any jurisdiction over him. The Vatican generally steers clear of US Catholic universities: its willy-nilly interventions spark outrage from the academic-freedom crowd (led, in significant part, by non-Catholic and/or secular academics who often view the Vatican with disdain). We’ve seen that at Catholic University (Cardinal Ratzinger’s effort to silence Charles Curran), Boston College, Notre Dame and elsewhere.

    Besides, why line up to become a defendant in Finkelstein’s promised lawsuit?

    This guy makes a living pissing off the VJ’s of the world. Shades of Mel Gibson! Refuse to be drawn, and he’ll sell fewer books.

  • You have to ask yourself objectively and honestly: does Finkelstein have a point regarding the Holocaust becoming a circus? I think any objective observer would clearly have to say yes. Even the Dean of the Holocaust, Raul Hilberg, affirms.

    I saw Finky recently giving a lecture and he said that the Arab world was loaded with anti-Semitism–just that the “new” anti-semitism deviated in the sense that criticizing the UN or Amnesty or B’tselem was akin to anti-semitism. I think Finky is right. The New Anti-Semitism is an offshoot of real anti-semitism, and is an industry. This is not denying that 6 million perished. But This is looking at those who enriched themselves from this terrible, horrible tragedy–primarily American jews who had nothing to do with the Holocaust, and no interest in it at all until they suddenly ‘discovered it.” I mean, how much money did Steven Spielberg (who married a Goy) make off of the Holocaust?

    You must make an honest distinction between Israelis, American Jews, and European Jews–not to mention African and Indian, etc. Different cultures, different motives, different experiences.

  • I would like to add that I do think that Finky is clearly a self-hating Jew–he has a major, major problem with American Jews–I have his book Holocaust Industry, and it looks at Wiesel and Foxman in detail.

    But again, you have to ask yourself, how did these voices rise to the top and suddenly ‘discover’ the Holocaust? Is it a shakedown gimmick?

    Finky does not deny that survivors be paid their due, he questions how the money was allocated!

    I think he has a wonderful argument and found a schism between the actual Holocaust, and the Holocaust Industry.

    The problem of course is that his argument empowers right and left wing fanatics, and is becoming the gospel amongst anti-semites.

  • Re VJ’s notion that DePaul, or the Vatican, keeps Finkelstein around as a house anti-semite: that dog won’t hunt, I’m afraid. It’s perverse, to put it mildly, to blame an essentially intramural Jewish dispute over Jewish institutions and American Jewish politics on The Other (here, the dread goyim and their sinister, popish religion).

    Gentiles (with the peculiar, imponderable exception of moi-meme) don’t care about what Finkelstein told Dershowitz, or the latter’s artful response. I think most of us, apprised of this dust-up,would think: ‘they’re arguing about the Holocaust…. And they’re JEWS?), shake our heads and, uncomprehendingly, move on forthwith to something worthier of attention.

    Familiar with the 60s-era slogan, ‘the whole world is watching’?

    It isn’t.

  • B-D, Muffti has to agree that there are no objective standards to judge things by. There is, however, a remarkable amount of inter-subjective agreement in fields, however, regarding when the standards in that field are being met and when they aren’t. This isn’t to say that there is perfect agreement, just that there is a fair bit of it. And there are things next to no academics are willing to put upw ith: plagarized word, use of sources that are agreed to be dubious in honesty (this is hard to judge to).

    But don’t get all excited thinking this is hte result of post-modernism, deconstructionism or otherwise. The probelm of telling the quality of an academic’s work was ALWAYS a controversial issue. And will remain so even in post-post-modern days, post-post-post modern days ad infinitum.

    In any case, B-D, the question is a good one but not a special question regarding the case at hand. What is true is this: however people go about establishing worthiness of tenure, should things like your tonie and attitude adn what an asshole youare enter into the considerations at all and the traditional answer has been ‘no’.

    Muffti wishes he could agree directly with Rabbi yonah and VJ. But he has to admit that (a) he heans’t read any of finkelstein’s stuff and (b) he’s not realy qualified to evaluate it, so even if he did…

  • Anyone here actually ever read “The Holocaust Industry”?

    Just wondering…

  • “You have to ask yourself objectively and honestly: does Finkelstein have a point regarding the Holocaust becoming a circus?”

    Yes. And having worked for Federation CJA, we were primed and pumped how to milk suffering for dollars. We were experts at it. But you cant’ blame us though. I mean, almost all of our top brass, both lay and professional, wouldn’t be caught dead in a shul on shabbos. So it’s not like they’re going to be able to raise funds promoting Judaism or anything.

    “Anyone here actually ever read “The Holocaust Industry”?”

    I’ve read it. And while it’s tone and intent is nourished with anger and self-hate, the points are valid.

  • It’s not uncommon in many attempts at academic writing for personality, anger, etc…to seep into one’s work and have it cloud the research itself, and I think that happens in this book. I mean, it’s clear that he is a very angry man when it comes to these issues, and an example of some of the more extreme internal struggles endured by the children of survivors.

    But like Shtreimel says, many of his points are valid. And I think that even if all of his points about the Holocaust, reparations, Israel/Palestine were ever to be proven 100 percent factual and on the mark, he would still be rejected by the Jewish community.

    As far as his tenure goes, he doesn’t really teach about the Middle East as far as I’ve heard (willing to be wrong), but is a well-regarded political science professor. He does his job at DePaul and apparently does it quite well. God forbid he should be evaulated on the basis of that.

    But of course, in academia, you are not just being evaluated in terms of your teaching, but also in terms of your published work. So whether or not this area of his writing directly relates to his teaching, it seems that he has put himself in the position to be judged on that work as well.

  • Which points of Finklestein’s are correct?

    That it is unseemly for Jews to demand that the people who murdered us, enslaved us and stole everything we owned should have to, you know, give us our stuff back and try to make amends in some way?

    Yes, I can see why the representatives of countries who either murdered the Jews outright (Germany) or did nothing about it while trafficking in Nazi loot stolen from the Jews (Switzerland) could get pissed off at being constantly reminded that they were immoral, craven criminals who murdered millions of people and enriched themselves in the process. People generally do get kind of pissed at being made aware of the depths of their moral depravity. A guilty conscience is a terrible thing.

    In the old days, the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons had the institution of weregild, or “man price”, a reparational payment demanded of a person guilty of homicide or other wrongful death. The payment was typically made to the family or to the clan.

    Reparations are our weregild, and we have every right to demand it. If those people had any conscience, they would open their wallets and say “Here, take whatever price you deem fit”. Instead, they mewl and whine that “the Jews” are being too greedy.

    Too greedy? Chutzpah doesn’t even begin to describe such an attitude. “Yeah, I know I murdered your family in cold blood after raping your daughters and roasting your babies over a slow fire, but don’t you think executing me for it is a little extreme? How about community service instead?”

    What I think is really going on with Finklestein is that he doesn’t want to put a price on what happened. If the suffering his parents underwent can be quantified, then there is a possibility that the descendants of the perpetrators actually have a way to do tshuva and get out from under the burden of guilt. Reparations means that a monetary value can actually be placed on the suffering, that X number of Jewish lives arw worth X number of dollars. If this were to happen, Finklestein would be deprived of his righteous anger at those who persecuted his parents. He is obviously a man who cannot live without feeding on anger, hatred and resentment, so he cannot have this.

    However, he is obviously a Jew in name only. Like all other assimilated Jews, he desperately desires the approval of the gentiles. And he also wants to maintain the sanctity of his parents suffering. Therefore, instead of being angy at those who caused his suffering, he is angry at those who would, in his mind, reduce what happened to a vulgar commercial transaction.

    Now, if he is correct that various Jewish organizations are enriching themselves at the expense of the survivors by pocketing money that rightfully belongs to them, then this should be addressed and corrected. At the same time, nobody would be getting a dime if not for those same greedy Jews who decided “Yes, they owe us and we’re going to do something about it”. Even with their efforts, getting anything at all has been like trying to get Scrooge to give up the keys to his strongbox. Imagine what would have happened (or more to the point, what would not have happened) if those Jews hadn’t been so “greedy”.

    I also agree that the organized Jewish community in the US has much too much invested in the Shoah as a component of Jewish identity. However, getting the Swiss to cough up their ill-gotten gains is not the same thing as wasting money on Holocaust Museums.

    However, I cannot agree that demanding that companies, countries, institutions and various other entities that actually still have stolen Jewish assets return those assets to their rightful owners can be a cause of anti-Semitism. That’s like saying that hitting a guy back is the same thing as starting a fight. To refrain from demanding your rights because the goyim might get mad at you for doing so is the mark of the gollus yid.

  • Uh oh, it’s my damned doppelganger again. I always forget to take my meds on Good Friday.

  • Ephraim,

    I read the book, and the criticisms you’re attacking weren’t exactly the heart of his issue.

    Have you read it?

  • It was an awesome good Friday, I got some cool gardening work, with more on Sunday, building up the brix for me next trip to the Holy Land, hopefully in Sept. In addition to my November tripo.

  • I have read a lot of stuff on his website, and it is so hard to stomach that I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the book. But his general attitude seems to come out pretty clearly.

    Can you summarize the heart of his issue? If I am misunderstanding him I will revise my judgment.

  • Balaam, anger and bitterness and “personality” are not supposed to be part of academic scholarship, are they? If some “seeps in” to the publication, that is also not okay and I would guess is one of the reasons for a peer review process. Anger and bitterness distort facts and truth.

    If you take a bunch of facts and string them together, you can make a lot of claims and to Finkelstein everything is a huge conspiracy. Thus, all Holocaust museums are unwarranted, all those people involved in finding restitution are “hucksters,” all organizations working with or on behalf of survivors are dishonest and use their restitution on themselves, all survivors except for a few are not really survivors, all non-European gentiles are dupes and all European gentiles are victims of the Jewish “Holocaust industry.”

    We have been critical of the ADL, Holocaust museums and the Claims Conference on Jewlicious. We’ve poked fun at Bronfman and ignored the distasteful fight that’s ongoing at the WJC. However, that’s very different than finding conspiracies that color all Jewish people and organizations, not to mention survivors and of course, Israel.

    Ephraim, read the interviews I link above and read this Wikipedia entry – it looks like Finkelstein edited it himself.

  • This goes a bit beyond mere ‘conspiracies’, at a bare minimum it’s the toleration of poor scholarship. DePaul should be properly ashamed and embarrassed by it. The fact that they clearly are not, does speak volumes. The fact that this dreck will be deemed worthy of their high standards of scholarship once he’s granted tenure will stain their reputation for years to come. And as always, I stand by my prior remarks. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • Middle, I was wondering the same thing about Passover. And don’t ask me about Sabbato Sancto, which even the church can’t figure out.

  • Ephraim,

    While I can’t deny that he’s an unbelievably problematic figure (I’m being polite), much of what he has to say in terms of reparations has little to do with whether or not the practice is justifiable. His problem is with how those responsible for acquiring these funds had gone about it, in terms of continuously inflating or changing the ages/numbers of survivors, expanding the definition of one so that more funds could be acquired, and then finally, having acquired a huge amount of money, finding that a very large amount of it never directly reaches the survivors themselves, as it would be claimed for other purposes by such organizations as the Claims Conference and the WJC. It is no secret that money from reparations is now used to fund programming or initiatives that don’t involve impoverished or deserving survivors getting what they rightfully deserve.

    To simplify the issue with Finkelstein, I find that it’s not always about the validity of some of his ideas, but the way he goes about presenting them. Or as The Dude put it:

    “You’re not wrong, Walter. You’re just an asshole.”

    Middle, I don’t disagree with you, but when I read the book, I didn’t find myself reading about a vast conspiracy. I found myself reading that the assholes at the top of the pyramind were playing some dirty dirty games to get this money and then use it for the wrong reasons. Those are two different things.

  • If he wasn’t speaking of a conspiracy, why speak of an industry? If I talk about the auto industry, it’s not as if there’s another industry somewhere also making cars or car parts. Nope, everybody in that industry is in on the game and everybody has the same goal of selling cars. It’s a little like Carter using the term “apartheid” on the cover of his book and then disingenuously claiming he didn’t really mean it except for the “apartheid” in the Territories and even though he only brings up the argument for apartheid a couple of times in the book. Ultimately, all of Finkelstein’s work revolves around conspiracies, typically involving Jews and either having those Jews screw other Jews, screw non-Jews or screw Palestinians.

    If he gets tenure, somebody should fund a Chair for him. It would be called the Jews Screwing the World Chair of Jewish History. Or we could also just call it the Protocols Chair for short.

  • Look, Finkelstein is just a schmuck. I’ve listened to him speak more times than I care to admit. I remember back in the day when he used to bring his Mom along to lectures. he would never introduce her as such and when his lecture ended, she would be one of the first called upon to comment. She would get up and with her very Jewish accent, tell the crowd that she was a holocaust survivor and that she knew, from personal experience, that what the Israelis were doing to the Palestinians was worst than what the Nazis had done to the Jews. I saw this little dog and pony show on several occasions. This hateful little bubbe, I’d call her a fucking kappo, but that would dishonor the memory of the kappos – like the guys that blew up the smokestacks at Auschwitz.

    I’ve seen crazy people in my life. I saw the madness in Kahane’s eyes in Jerusalem. I see the same madness in Finkelstein’s eyes and in the eyes of his hateful, venom filled mother (who is dead now by the way). It is this hatred that permeates his speech and his “academic” writing. I don’t care whether or not he gets tenure from his little bo peep college. Finkelstein is an academic non-entity, notable only for the venom he spews into the world.

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