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Norman the Lionheart

By now, you may know that Prof. Norman Finkelstein has been denied tenure at DePaul University in Chicago, where he has been an esteemed and highly regarded teacher since 2001.

Norman is a light on the hill of US scholarship, especially when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, about which he has written extensively, with unflinching honesty and rare integrity.

Prof. Finkelstein’s speaking truth to power and not slavishly toeing the Likudnik line has meant he has also been a target for vulgar and sustained attacks from the Israel Lobby, who have sought to exert an undue influence on his tenure application, an internal university process. His sterling scholarship has attracted the endorsement and support of various international scholars, including Noam Chomsky, Avi Shlaim, Raul Hilberg and Sara Roy, and the support of many students.

It is an indictment of US academe that a leading scholar such as Finkelstein, now in his mid-fifties, has still not achieved tenure despite his merit. In his application, he won the first two departmental and college review rounds with tenure recommendations, but the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences overrode these recommendations.

Ressentiment, the Heathlander and the Fanonite all feature good write-ups on the injustice perpetrated against this important scholar — do check them out. The incomparable Benjamin Heine has also produced a portrait of Norman (above), depicting the American Zionist lobby’s McCarthyist tactics and campaign of defamatory attacks and outright lies spearheaded by Alan Dershowitz, whom Prof Norman Finkelstein has exposed for his more than shoddy scholarship.

For now, I wish to offer my condolences to all those thousands of students and faculty both at DePaul and worldwide who have supported Finkelstein, and to those who will be denied his teaching. I offer my support and sympathy to Norman himself for his courage, integrity and example, lest we forget that he has also endured personal attacks on himself and the memory of his Holocaust-survivor parents. The desperation of the Lobby exposes the extent to which cracks are appearing in their confidence to promulgate their narrative as the supreme and unchallenged one.

Norman, in an America that wasn’t Israeli-occupied territory, you’d be snapped up at any august higher education institution and would be much sought after, as indeed you are sought after as a speaker internationally. DePaul does not deny you tenure as much as it denies itself this opportunity to have you in their permanent employ. This is their loss and missed opportunity.

Here’s a golden oldie to cheer you and us all, and to which we might add “The Israel Lobby mounted a smear campaign against him”. Norman, though you have not committed any of the (tongue-in-cheek) offenses below, apparently you’re in good company:

Why God Never Received Tenure at A University

1. Because he only had one major publication.
2. Furthermore, his one major publication:

  • was in Hebrew
  • had no references
  • was not published in a refereed journal, and some even doubt he wrote it himself

3. It may true that he created the world, but what has he done since?
4. The scientific community has had a very rough time trying to replicate his results.
5. He has never applied to the Ethics Board for permission to use human subjects.
6. When one experiment went awry, he tried to cover it up by drowning the subjects.
7. When subjects didn’t behave as predicted, he often punished them, or just deleted them from the sample.
8. He rarely came to class, just told students to read the book.
9. He had his son teach the class.
10. He expelled his first two students.
11. Although there were only ten requirements, most students failed his test.
12. His office hours were infrequent and usually held on mountain top.

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9 comments on “Norman the Lionheart

  1. Curtis
    10 June, 2007

    Excellent statement in support of Professor Finkelstein. The disreputable actions of DePaul University bring shame upon that institution—and, even more importantly, they set a dangerous precedent.

  2. peoplesgeography
    10 June, 2007

    Thanks Curt. Good point about this setting a dangerous precedent of tenure denial to a clearly meritorious candidate. Is this the proverbial canary in the coal mine for academic freedom in the US, or has that point passed already?

  3. michaelgreenwell
    10 June, 2007

    i posted over at the fanonite but its worth posting here too…

    a relevant chomsky quote.. he was accused of ‘betraying the intellectual tradition’

    “That’s true, I agree with him. The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn’t betray it, I’d be ashamed of myself.”

  4. Servant
    10 June, 2007

    Bravo! Thanks for the Chomsky quote Michael!

    I’m very disappointed with De Paul university. I expected a Catholic institution to have more integrity than this and to provide sanctuary to the individuals being accused unjustly by the blood thirsty mob. But they threw open the doors and invited the mob to have their lynching right there in the sacristy, and any offerings from the Zionists will be surely cover the cost of their indulgence in this small temporal matter.

  5. peoplesgeography
    10 June, 2007

    That’s a great quote Michael, thanks for posting it here as well.

    I share your disappointment with a Catholic institution, Serv. I think they resented the zio lobby’s outside pressure on what is supposed to be a closed-door process, and that in itself may have counted against Finkelstein, though it was hardly his fault.

    He has a year left at De Paul. In a press interview he’s reproduced at his site, he is disappointed but philosophical:

    I met the standards of tenure DePaul required, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the political opposition to my speaking out on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

    As it happens, I was just this past week teaching about Paul Robeson in my political science class. When Robeson was crucified for his beliefs, he said, ‘I will not retreat one-thousandth part of one inch.’ That’s what I say to the thugs and hoodlums who are trying to silence me. They don’t want to talk about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. So they make Norman Finkelstein the issue.

    … There is a song by the folk singer Pete Seeger, ‘Die Gedanken sind frei. That means, ‘thoughts are free.’ No one can deny that ‘die gedanken sind frei.’ They can deny me tenure, deny me the right to teach. But they will never stop me from saying what I believe.

  6. Ben Heine
    10 June, 2007

    Excellent post, Ann.
    Thank you.

  7. peoplesgeography
    10 June, 2007

    Good to see you, Ben-meister, and to feature another of your inspired creations.

  8. peoplesgeography
    11 June, 2007


    Law Prof at University of Illinois Francis Boyle has written a supportive letter I just came across at Palestine Chronicle

    Letter from Francis Boyle: De Paul & Dershowitz v. Finkelstein

    To the Editor:
    I think I have read almost every book Professor Norman Finkelstein has written. He is on my “automatic buy” list along with Noam Chomsky and a handful of others. Professor Finkelstein is an outstanding scholar who has had and will continue to have a momentous impact on Middle East Studies.

    It is a disgrace that DePaul University–which purports to be Catholic–succumbed to political pressure and inflicted this grave injustice upon Professor Finkelstein at the behest of Alan Derhshowitz and his Neo-Conservative confederates.

    As for Dershowitz, he is a self-incriminated war criminal who publicly admitted that he serves on a Mossad Committee that authorizes the murder and assassination of Palestinians, which constitutes a grave violation of the Geneva Conventions and thus a serious war crime. Dershowitz is also infamous around the world for being this country’s foremost advocate for torture.

    In my opinion it is Professor Finkelstein who far better represents the real values and ethos of the Jewish People. In any event, it is a shame that the University named after St. Vincent DePaul has allied itself with Dershowitz against the courageous Norman Finkelstein. Unlike Dershowitz, Professor Finkelstein has always spoken the Truth to those in Power. By comparison, Dershowitz is nothing more than an Errand Boy for those in Power. But as St. Vincent DePaul University should have understood: “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free!”

    Francis A. Boyle
    Professor of Law
    University of Illinois College of Law

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

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-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"