Chicago Sun-Times Reporter Responds to Letter that was not published on Finkelstein Tenure Case

Dave Newbart wrote an article on DePaul University political science Professor Norman G. Finkelstein’s tenure case. I submitted a letter that appeared headed for publication but was later rejected. The reporter contacted me to explain his views.

I appreciate the gracious gesture and this was our exchange. This sentence is a quotation from Mr Newbart’s article:

“In turn, anti-Israel groups and academic freedom advocates have started their own letter-writing campaigns urging DePaul not to give in to outside pressure.” [Emphasis added.]
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From: Newbart, David [mailto:dnewbart@suntimes.com]
Sent: Sat 5/19/2007 2:23 PM
To: Kirstein, Peter N.
Subject:

Dear Prof. Kirstein:

Sorry for the delay in responding to this issue, but I’ve been out of the office this week.

Thank you for posting a link to my entire story on your blog. As you can see, I made no statements in the story suggesting that all supporters of Prof. Finkelstein are anti-Israel. My reporting found anti-Israel groups, along with academic freedom groups, that supported Finkelstein. I also realize there were other supporters of Finkelstein that I was not able to mention in the piece, just as there were groups against his tenure that I couldn’t include.

Just as I did not intend to suggest that all of his supporters were anti-Israel, my editors also did not read the story as saying that.

Also, please send me a heads up from time to time when you break news on your blog, as in this case, or when you include items that might be of interest to our readers.

Dave Newbart
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From: Kirstein, Peter N. Sent: Sat 5/19/2007 3:16 PM
To: Newbart, David
Subject: RE:

Dear Mr Newbart:

I appreciate your response and I am flattered you took the time to do so. I do believe sir that the use of the term “anti-Israel” was an effort to disparage those who have courageously supported Professor Norman G. Finkelstein. I think you needed to define what you meant by “anti-Israel.” I believe you were editorialising and inserting your own opinions in what was meant to be a news story. One can oppose a government’s policy without being labeled as “anti” which insinuates a lack of patriotism or an animus against a people.

You seemed to be a partisan of Professor Alan M. Dershowitz. You even describe him as a “civil-rights lawyer” as if this man even has an inkling of what oppressed minorities experience whether it be in Gaza, Qana or in the United States. He is not a civil-rights attorney but a blind supporter of Israel without the capacity of nuance or reflection on the sadness and tragedy that has befallen upon the peoples of that region.

I also found it rather extraordinary that a letter-to-the-editor was basically accepted for publication, in the normal course of events, and then rejected after the op-ed editor consulted with a reporter. In the news business, reporters are not to be protected by editorial page editors. Their job is to separate opinion from news. That is the very point I believe you failed to adhere to in your article and I think your paper should offer an explanation or a correction that it does not subscirbe to the belief that those who believe Norman Finkelstein should be afforded appropriate due process and academic freedom are “anti-Israel.” Do you believe I am “anti-American” because I oppose American foreign policy?

Feel free to contact me when doing a story when looking for a perspective that may represent an alternative to that of the editors of the Sun-Times. Since I believe you had consulted my blog in doing your story, perhaps you too may have interviewed me for a more complete picture of the issues at hand.

Sincerely yours,

Peter N. Kirstein

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