FrontPageMag.com Steven Plaut Rips Professor Kirstein; Denounces STUDENTS for even taking Norman Finkelstein’s Classes!

FrontPageMag.com article by Dr Finkelstein critic Steven Plaut calls me names:

“Legions of other political extremists, from DePaul’s Palestinian radicals to Professor Peter N. Kirstein who regards America as a terrorist state, to journalist Robert Fisk (who holds identical views), joined in support of Finkelstein’s tenure.”

I am not sure that suggesting the United States commits acts of terrorism is indicative of “political extremism.” Abu Ghraib, preemptive war against Iraq, baby-killing sanctions that caused 100,000s of infant deaths, Haditha and extraordinary rendition are merely the most recent examples of terrorism committed by the U.S. My point is we get nowhere in using the word “terrorism” indiscriminately but we need to recognise that the moral high-ground that the United States situates itself is more of a desert without elevation. Furthermore terrorism is a tactic, a strategy of attack than an aim or goal of a belligerent. It may reflect asymmetrical warfare from a weaker technological foe that uses suicide attacks since it does not have Apache attack helicopters, or a superpower using its strategic assets in an indiscriminate or illegal manner. Terrorism, or acts of violence, should be denounced regardless of their source.

Yet I don’t want Mr Plaut or others with strong opinions on the “Jewish Question” and geopolitics to miss the point. The primary issue concerning Norman G. Finkelstein should not be who is right or wrong on various geostrategic issues or historical events, but rather is Dr Finkelstein being afforded appropriate due process rights and academic freedom as required under A.A.U.P. guidelines? Mr Plaut wishes to politicise this tenure case into a battle between good v. evil, terrorists v. non-terrorists and anti-semites v. blind supporters of Israel. A more responsible position is to emphasise that professors from external institutions should not be marshaling forces and conducting a national campaign of vilifcation against vulnerable colleagues at other universities.

Professors have the right to do research and to publish that research. Dr Finkelstein’s peers have repeatedly affirmed the value and the integrity of that research. Dr Finkelstein has the right to be controversial and in fact that is considered a positive good by the A.A.U.P. in its 1940 Statement on Academic Freedom. Americans are not well-served if professors are driven from the academy or are abused by ideological opponents. They must be assessed on merit and according to the due process structure as articulated in a faculty handbook or by-laws. While an internal review does not guarantee fairness and indeed many professors have won academic freedom and tenure cases against universities who violated it, the presence of powerful Harvard professors such as Alan M. Dershowitz attempting to bully and cajole DePaul University into denying a harsh critic of his research tenure, is suggestive of a process that needs careful monitoring and observation. I think Mr Plaut should rise above his ideological views and see the value for my country, the United States of America, to protect and nurture academic freedom and critical thinking.

Mr Plaut teaches in the business school at the University of Haifa in the State of Israel and is neither a Middle East specialist or apparently cognizant of American educational practices. I am not saying he is not entitled to his views but perhaps he should consult extensively the literature on academic freedom, the American Association of University Professors numerous documents in the “Redbook” and even his patron David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights.

I do think Mr Plaut is an irresponsible and deeply troubled person. It is one thing to criticise faculty but another to slander our students. This is how he described students who took Dr Finkelstein’s courses:

“Naturally, his courses are popular among his students, who just happen to be the radical and jihadi DePaul students, not driven away by his in-classroom harangues.”

Such vituperation is unprofessional, cruel and a disgrace to himself and frankly FrontPageMag.com. One can only speculate how Mr Plaut engages his students on matters of debate and analysis. Mr Plaut is not an individual who is capable of reasoned analysis and should be condemned, but NOT silenced, for his egregious and frankly execrable analysis.

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