On the first edition of First Voice 2012 we invited Agniezka from SJP DePaul about the coming of one Dr. Norman Finkelstein – an event both momentous and controversial for the campus who denied him tenure back in 2007. Norman Finkelstein is an activist and author of several books on the Israel-Palestine conflict. His combination of moral indignation over the Palestinian cause and rigorous scholarly research has made him a target of the pro-Israel political and intellectual establishment.
As a graduate student at Princeton he exposed the 1984 book by Joan Peters From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict as nothing short of a fraud. Time Immemorial intended to destroy the moral argument for the millions of Palestinian refugees created since the creation of Jewish-settled areas in former Palestine, much to the amusement of the American intelligentsia. It claimed that almost no Palestinians existed in the region at the time of Israel’s establishment as a state in 1948. Peters’ work was lauded by the intellectual community and the praise continued for many months-exposing the books as a fraud became the thesis for Finkelstein’s doctorate at Princeton. Finkelstein’s research was ignored in America. It wasn’t until Time Immemorial would be published in England that mentor and ally Noam Chomsky sent copies of Finkelstein’s research to the British intelligentsia. By the time the book was released “every major journal, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review, the Observer, everybody had a review saying, this doesn’t even reach the level of nonsense, of idiocy”, Chomsky said. In due time the exposed truth came back to America, much to the dismay of the periodicals, the journals, and virtually every reviewer of the book that had praised it as “groundbreaking.” Not only did Finkelstein succeed in discrediting Time Immemorial as a hoax: he had also exposed the “American intellectual community as a gang of frauds” as Chomsky had foreseen.
In 2007, after the prolific exchange between Finkelstein and Alan Dershowitz, Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul University in Chicago. During a debate on Democracy Now! Finkelstein showed how Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel was a work of plagiarism, “fraud, falsification, and [...] nonesense.” From that time forward Dershowitz campaigned to have Finkelstein’s bid for tenure denied. Officially, Finkelstein, then Assistant Professor of Political Science at DePaul University in Chicago, was denied tenure because his work and research was both ‘unscholarly and polemic.’ President of DePaul, Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, echoed the University’s Board on Tenure and Promotion’s intent to deny Dr. Finkelstein tenure despite his department’s tenure committee support (9 to 3) and the unanimous support by the Personnel Committee for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (5-0).
Dr. Finkelstein’s work has been vetted as highly analytical and rigorous in research. Dr. Finkelstein himself has been denounced as an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier, despite his Jewish ethnicity and direct wounds to the Nazi killing machine: the Fascist regime murdered his grandparents. DePaul’s decision was marred with controversy- sit-ins, hunger strikes; Professional and collegiate outrage. Noam Chomsky’s warning was still ringing true: “[if you] expose the American intellectual community as a gang of frauds [...] they are not going to like it, and they’re going to destroy you.”
Almost five years since DePaul’s denial of tenure and Finkelstein’s resignation, he is being invited back to the university by SJP DePaul to speak on Monday, January 16th, 2012: An Evening With Norman Finkelstein at DePaul University.
Ahead of Dr. Finkelstein’s two lectures at DePaul – Israel and Palestine / Freedom of Speech on College Campuses – we speak with Agniezka, organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine at DePaul. Listen to our conversation with Agniezka here.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Context:
This year the Israeli occupation of Palestine enters its 64th year amidst an increasingly global consensus on the right of Palestine to exist as an independent and sovereign state that would include the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza along the borders of the 1967 Six Day War.
In September of 2011 the Palestinian Authority-the governmental representation of the Palestinian people- formally launched its bid for statehood at the United Nations, the culmination of a diplomatic strategy taken by Palestine to ask individual countries to recognize it as a state. The US and Israel condemned Palestine’s actions as destructive to the diplomatic peace process and the US promised to wield its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Counsel against Palestinian statehood.
In October, 2011 UNESCO- the United Nation’s cultural organization- going against opposition from the US and Israel- symbolically voted to grant membership to Palestine. Immediately, the US cancelled a $60 million payment to the organization. Months prior, in February of 2011, the U.S. vetoed a Security Council measure that reiterated the illegality of Israeli settlement expansion into the West Bank. The settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal under international law, reached a record number in 2011.
In December 2008, January 2009 Israel launched a vicious attack on Gaza-Operation Cast Lead- which ultimately killed some 1,300 people and left more than 5,000 injured. The U.S. not only supported this military excursion but went as far as halting efforts at the U.N. Security Council for a ceasefire to the brutal venture which saw the use of white phosphorous and Dense Inert Metal Explosives on scores of Palestinians in Gaza. The attack came as the Israeli blockade of Gaza reached its 18th month.
A call to recognize the U.S. backed occupation of Palestine and the countless human rights abuses by Israel will continue to gain traction outside the American Academia and its conspiring journals and think-tanks as will the “overwhelming international consensus” on Palestine’s right to exist.