Editor’s note: Replying to a caller’s question about Finkelstein, Elsie mooed:
“Think of him as the dirt you step in on the street and you know what kind of dirt I’m talking about. It has no importance unless you fail to clean it off your feet before you go into the house.”
Reader letters follow article.
For Deborah Lipstadt’s comments on Finkelstein go to 26:55 in the audio:
“Austrian Court Jails Historian Who Denied Holocaust.”
(Audio for this story available on the NPR site)
Talk of the Nation, February 21, 2006 · An Austrian court sentences British historian David Irving to three years in prison Monday, for the crime of denying the holocaust. Guests examine whether or not anti-Nazi laws are needed more than 60 years after the end of World War II.
Derek Scally, Berlin correspondent for the Irish Times
Deborah Lipstadt, professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta
Mark Weitzman, director, Task Force against Hate, the Simon Wiesenthal Center
Subject: Letter to NPR
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 2006 17:31:17 -0600
FYI, after being deeply disturbed over the comments “allowed to pass”
on yesterday’s “Talk of the Nation,” I felt compelled to send this
email to NPR:
The Talk of the Nation episode of February 21, 2006, had a deeply
and truly appalling moment–one in which the guest Prof. Deborah
Lipstadt was allowed, without comment or notice on the host’s part,
to make particularly distasteful and vulgar comments about Prof. NormanFinkelstein.
The comment: “Think of him as the dirt you step in on the street and
you know what kind of dirt I’m talking about. It has no importance unless you fail to clean it off your feet before you go into the house.”
…all passing without notice or comment on the host’s part. And,
indeed, a muffled chuckle may have been heard…
Agreement or disagreement on the issues in question aside, I doubt
Prof. Finkelstein takes arbitrary or lightly held positions. Avi
Shlaim, an Israeli Jewish historian of Oxford University calls Prof.
Finkelstein’s recent book _Beyond Chutzpah_ “Brilliantly illuminating…all the sterling qualities for which Finkelstein has become famous: erudition, originality, spark, meticulous attention to detail, intellectual integrity, courage, and formidable forensic skills…”
If Prof. Lipstadt disagrees with Prof. Finkelstein, then I suggest she
debate him on facts instead of being allowed to launch vulgar personal
attacks via NRP with impunity.
It would appear the host of the show, in not reigning in the guest, who
is frequently reigning in guests in other circumstances, was
essentially giving tacit approval to this position and to the outburst.
This show and its host are an embarassment to NPR on this day. I feel
ashamed to be a listener or contributor to NPR.
Again, issues and agreement thereof aside, do the producers of this
show have the fortitude to have a guest as courageous as Prof. Finkelsten? I doubt it. And even leaving aside Prof. Lipstadt, does Neil Conan have the ability to debate Dr. Finkelstein on the relevant issues? I rather doubt that as well.
To Mr. Conan, I suggest an apology to NPR listeners, and to
Prof. Finkelstein, both on the air and in print.
Robert B. Kasten