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25 May 2007

Finkelstein tenure case exposes the commonplace cowardice of “responsible” professors

Above article by Robert Jensen.

Here's an excerpt from an interview of Raul Hilberg -- arguably the originator and certainly one of the finest practitioners of Nazi holocaust studies. The interview deserves to be read in full, but here's the part on Finkelstein:

Q: What are your thoughts on the current debates over how to interpret the Holocaust and its legacy in the work of people like Norman Finkelstein or Daniel Goldhagen?

Hilberg: Well Finkelstein is now maligned all over the place. There were obviously lobbies who tried to dislodge him from his position. Finkelstein is a political scientist. I believe he has a PhD degree from Princeton and, whatever you may think of Princeton, this is a pretty strong preparation to be a professional political scientist. He wrote to me a couple of times. He was the first one to take Goldhagen seriously. He attacked Goldhagen in a very long essay which I could never have written because I would have never had the patience. Goldhagen is part of an academic group that in my kind of research is a disaster...

Q: Why is that?

Hilberg: Because [Goldhagen] was totally wrong about everything. Totally wrong. Exceptionally wrong. In other words, this whole fury of his anti-Semitism was, at the root, that it was especially eliminationist anti-Semitism, was totally absurd. He talks about anti-Semitism among Germans, Estonians, Ukrainians, Latvians, and Lithuanians, but where did this unique eliminationist anti-Semitism come from? It is just totally absurd. I mean, totally off the wall, you know, and factually without any basis. Finkelstein took this seriously. I took it less seriously, but I was a latecomer in attacking this Goldhagen fellow.

Now Finkelstein had a second point, which, in my opinion, was one hundred percent correct and that is that the response to the issue of the Swiss banks and German industry, which had coincided during the War, was not only coercive on the part of the Jews who mobilized, but also on the part of all the insurance commissioners, the Senate, the House, and the critical committees. The only thing they could not break through was to the courts, which still have independence. So they lost at court, but they threatened people like Alan Hevesi in New York. They could make threats because Swiss banks wanted to expand here. For Finkelstein, this was naked extortion and I’m not sure who agreed with him except for me and I said so openly. In fact, I said so to the press in maybe seven countries.

The press did not expect my answer. The World Jewish Congress was led by a man who was appeared to be from his own autobiographical statements to be totally, not even average, but like a child almost. What this tycoon, who took over the World Jewish Congress, was saying was totally preposterous. The claims lawyers, joined by the World Jewish Congress, made an incredible display of totally inappropriate behavior.

Now when he talks about the Arabs, some Jews feel that he is also anti-Zionist, that he is anti-Israel; that he seems to always emphasize the suffering of the Arabs. I do not join him in this particular venture because I have my own view, but you cannot say he is altogether wrong either. Would you like to be an Arab citizen in Israel? Think of the doors that are closed. You may eat better and have a better income than if you lived in a slum in Cairo. The great irony is that the economic condition of Israeli Arabs is considerably better than the proletariat in some other Arab countries, but a person needs something more. A person needs a feeling of dignity. Think of the security check points. It is a life that certainly something ought to be done about it in one way or another. This particular battle cannot be fought forever. It cannot be. The Israelis will tire of it. The Israelis will simply tire of mistrusting people. It is not possible to go on this way forever. Finkelstein has the corner on the germ of correct vision in these matters because he is pretty sharp. More often than not, especially with regard to these other matters like Goldhagen and the Swiss banks he has been right.

And Robert Trivers exposes, yet again, how fast and loose Dershowitz plays with quotations. First time I've ever been impressed by an evolutionary psych type:
What I Said to Dershowitz

05.21.2007 | Wall Street Journal

In regard to Alan Dershowitz's commentary "Finkelstein's Bigotry" (editorial page, May 4): In it he asserts that "He [Norman Finkelstein] has encouraged radical goons to email threatening messages; 'Look forward to a visit from me,' reads one. 'Nazis like [you] need to be confronted directly.'"

But all of this is untrue. I wrote the letter in question (April 15, 2007), but without Prof. Finkelstein's knowledge, interest or approval. The key sentences had nothing to do with Prof. Finkelstein: "Regarding your rationalization of Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians, let me just say that if there is a repeat of Israeli butchery toward Lebanon and if you decide once again to rationalize it publicly, look forward to a visit from me. Nazis -- and Nazi-like apologists such as yourself -- need to be confronted directly."

As for being an academic goon : I am late responding because I was in Europe lecturing after receiving the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Robert Trivers
Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences
Rutgers University
Somerset, N.J.
For some reason, Dershowitz's letter is free to the public, whereas Trivers' letter is not.

Update: I cannot find the words for this; read it yourself:
Scientist says Harvard canceled talk

Letter he sent to Dershowitz cited as possible threat

05.27.2007 | Boston Globe
By Marcella Bombardieri and Brian Ballou

An evolutionary biologist from Rutgers University said he was told that a talk he was scheduled to give at Harvard University Friday was canceled because he compared Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to a Nazi last week in a letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal.

Robert Trivers said he had been invited to speak at Harvard to celebrate a prestigious international award he recently won. He planned to discuss his research on self-deception, including how self-deception factored in Israel's invasion of Lebanon last year.

His letter in the Journal quoted from a missive he had sent directly to Dershowitz: "Regarding your rationalization of Israeli attacks on Lebanese civilians, let me just say that if there is a repeat of Israeli butchery toward Lebanon and if you decide once again to rationalize it publicly, look forward to a visit from me. Nazis -- and Nazi-like apologists such as yourself -- need to be confronted directly."

Dershowitz said in a telephone interview yesterday that he had sent Trivers's letter to Harvard police because he regarded it as a threat, but that he knew nothing about Trivers's talk being canceled.

But Trivers told the Globe on Friday that the letter was not a physical threat.

"Under no circumstances would I have threatened him physically," he said. "I would go see him in person."

The talk had been organized by Martin A. Nowak, professor of mathematics and biology at Harvard.

On Friday morning, only hours before the talk, Trivers said Nowak told him that his talk was canceled because he had called a Harvard professor a Nazi.

Nowak did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

"I regard it as a very humiliating, extremely obnoxious experience," Trivers said. "It is very disappointing, it is a stain on Harvard."

Dershowitz, meanwhile, said he did nothing to prevent Trivers's scheduled appearance and doesn't know who canceled it.

But Dershowitz said he was prepared to stage a protest against Trivers if the event had occurred.

"If there was going to be a party honoring him, I wouldn't have stopped it, but I would have stood outside to hand out copies of his letter. It is important if he was being honored, for the people attending to know about this threat."

Trivers was to be honored Friday for his pioneering work in evolutionary biology. Earlier this year, he won the prestigious Crafoord Prize in biosciences from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

His letter in the Journal waded into an ongoing war of words between Dershowitz and Norman Finkelstein, a political science professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

Dershowitz, an adamant defender of Israel, has accused Finkelstein, a critic of Israel, of anti-Semitism and of shoddy research.

Dershowitz and Finkelstein have exchanged salvos through published books.

Dershowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Finkelstein had "encouraged radical goons to e-mail threatening messages."

Trivers's letter to the Journal was meant in part to explain that his criticisms of Dershowitz had nothing to do with Finkelstein.

2 comments:

  1. And Robert Trivers exposes, yet again, how fast and loose Dershowitz plays with quotations. First time I've ever been impressed by an evolutionary psych type:

    All that Robert Trivers exposed was that Robert Trivers remains mentally unstable, as he has long been (see Wikipedia entry).

    Dershowitz wrote "He [Norman Finkelstein] has encouraged radical goons to email threatening messages."

    "Encouraged" does not mean Finkelstein "ordered them to do so", it means Finkelstein's writings helped egg them on to do so.

    As to "radical goons":

    Trivers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Trivers

    [Trivers] took a psychology class after suffering a breakdown, and was very unimpressed with the state of psychology. He was prevented from getting into Yale law school by his breakdown, and wound up with a job writing social science textbooks for children...He met Huey P. Newton, Chairman of the Black Panther Party, in 1978 when Newton applied (while in prison) to do a reading course with him as part of a graduate degree in History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz. Trivers and Newton became close friends, Newton was godfather to one of Trivers' daughters. Trivers joined the Black Panther Party in 1979.

    If that's not a definition of an "academic goon", I don't know what is.

    How would you like to see a threat by someone with such a history in a national newspaper? Mu question is, does Trivers own a gun? Does he reamin connected to his former Black Panthers associates? Are there any protection orders issued in the past by anyone against Trivers?

    It is also not inconceivable that Trivers, prevented from getting into Yale law school by mental illness, resents Dershowtiz, a famous Harvard lawyer.

    And, by the way, Trivers just can't get it through his skull that Jews don't just march to their deaths like good little sheep anymore. Trivers needs to start viewing Jews as very capable of giving him the kick int he ass he rightly deserved.

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  2. Unfortunately, you need to hide behind your anonymity. Very courageous.

    Many people suffer breakdowns. They get better, and it doesn't last forever. So, that's not particularly convincing evidence, even though your source, Wikipedia, is unimpeachable (sic).

    Second, not everyone considers the Black Panthers, including Huey Newton, to be goons. Radical? Sure. You may want to look into COINTELPRO and the political assassinations that the FBI and Chicago police department put together to get rid of the Black Panthers.

    Finally, the actual evidence that is relevant here -- Trivers' letter to Dershowitz -- is a threat only insofar as he said he'd tell Dershowitz exactly what he thought of him if ever he met him. I've done the same, actually, with my real name, via e-mail, and got a predictable response.

    As for "Nazi-like," that covers not only Dershowitz's attacks on free expression, but also his support for torture. Possibly a slight exaggeration -- I would have picked "Stalinist," actually -- but well within reality. In any event, calling someone "Nazi-like," right or wrong, is not exactly a crime. Yet.

    Thanks for stopping by. Would be nice if you could actually step up and identify yourself. Or maybe you're not tough enough to do that. (I'm Jewish, FYI.)

    News flash: people who worship and talk about "toughness" are usually cowards.

    Not to mention that you assume Jews "march[ed] to their deaths like good little sheep" back in the day -- which borders on, well, Nazi-like thinking and says volumes about you. What the hell does Dershowitz's increasingly desperate attempts to salvage his reputation, which Finkelstein has shredded, have to do with the Nazi holocaust?

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