Norman Finkelstein Addresses Charges of Scholarly Improprieties

The DePaul University Political Science Department Personnel Committee rejected egregious and frankly ideologically inspired charges of academic misconduct on the part of external critics of Professor Finkelstein. They issued their report on November 1, 2006. The leader of this national effort to silence the professor is Alan M. Dershowitz, Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard.

Professor Finkelstein sent the committee, that had voted unanimously 4-0 against charges of academic misconduct, a memorandum seeking to clarify some of the points addressed by the committee. This is the memorandum. Several typos were corrected.

To: Personnel Committee
From: Norman G. Finkelstein
Re: Document dated November 1, 2006

Michael Budde presented to me your document investigating aspects of my scholarship that have become the subject of public debate. Having read it closely, and considered various options, I have decided not to write a detailed reply. It was plainly composed in good faith, and reflects a substantial investment of time and effort. I would only hope that before submitting the final version you would consider these three points:

Item #1: In his rebuttal Professor Dershowitz refers only to the relevant passage in Why Terrorism Works. However, in my book I quote first the relevant passage from an article he wrote in The Jerusalem Post (not cited in the committee’s report), which uses rather more incendiary language and which can scarcely be interpreted as supporting (at worst) “the destruction of a few empty houses that had been used to harbor terrorists” (see attachment #1). In addition, it seems there might be some misapprehension regarding what I call the “Lidice-like destruction” of a Palestinian village. To my understanding Lidice has come to represent the physical destruction of a village as an act of reprisal. (For whatever reason, the Nazis uncharacteristically did not murder all the inhabitants, but rather killed the adult males, deported the women, and resettled the children among German families.) in one of my replies to Dershowitz’s criticism I wrote this to indicate how Lidice is understood in Zionist-Jewish history, with which I am most familiar:

The association of destroying villages with Lidice occasionally crops up in the history of Zionism. In his study of the first Arab-Israeli war, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (2004), Benny Morris reports: “As Jewish losses mounted [in December 1947, the policy-makers’ and, in some localities, local Haganah commanders’ hearts grew steadily harder… . Binyamin Mintz, the leader of the orthodox Po’alei Agudat Yisrael Party, said with respect to a certain village in the Negev: ‘If the possibility arises of evicting all its inhabitants and destroying it, this must be done.’ (But Sapir, the mayor of Petah Tikva and a major orange-grove owner, argued against destroying whole villages, ‘even small [ones]… . This recalls Lidice – [and] here is food for thought.’)” (pp. 73-4; see attachment #2)

Notice that the Lidice analogy is deployed with reference to the destruction of an empty village.

Item #2: In analyzing Dershowitz’s views on torture, I quoted from an interview he did for Salon.com. upon publication of Why Terrorism Works. Once again the language is rather more incendiary in this interview (not cited in the committee’s report; see attachment #3) than in his book and hard to reconcile with his protestations of categorical opposition to torture. For example, consider these passages:

0: Any reason why you use needles under the fingernails as your torture method of choice?

A: A reviewer criticized me for that. I purposely wanted to do that. I don’t want to be vague. I wanted to come up with a tactic that can’t possibly cause permanent physical harm but is excruciatingly painful. I agree with the reviewer; he’s right when he said, “different strokes for different folks.” For different people, different kinds of nonlethal torture might be more effective. Obviously, to the experts, having seen the movie “Marathon Man,” drilling the tooth might be better than some. But the point I wanted to make is that torture is not being used as a way of producing death. It’s been used as a way of simply causing excruciating pain.

Q: Aren’t there other forms of torture that would be less painful than that, that you might have considered?

A: But I want more painful. I want maximal pain, minimum lethality. You don’t want it to be permanent, you don’t want someone to be walking with a limp, but you want to cause the most excruciating, intense, immediate pain. Now, I didn’t want to write about testicles, but that’s what a lot of people use. I also wanted to be explicit because I didn’t want to be squeamish about it. People have asked me whether I would do the torturing and my answer is, yes, I would if I thought it could save a city from being blown up.

Item #6: The Committee suggested that I “could have found additional evidence to clarify the issue” regarding the misuses of compensation monies by the World Jewish Congress. In fact, much of the material incorporated in new editions of The Holocaust Industry was devoted to further documenting this allegation, (See for example attachment #4 for the first three pages from Postscript to The First Paperback Edition.

File: The P.S.P.C. Report

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