Editor’s note: Reader letters below article.
Editor’s note: detailed exposure of Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial can be found in Chapter 2 of Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, entitled “A Land Without a People: Joan Peters’ ‘Wilderness’ Image.”
By Marty Peretz
Please, I don’t mean to offend anyone. But the Catholic college and university is not one of the faith’s big achievements in America. Look at any one of the ratings charts (there are many) and see how low these institutions fare on the competitive scales and how few of them rate at all. It’s true that there are two or three Catholic law schools in the middle range. But that’s it. Catholic institutions certainly haven’t made a mark in the life or physical sciences, or, for that matter, the social sciences either. Of course, denominational schools have it especially hard when the great elite institutions–also mostly church-based in origin–no longer discriminate against anyone and, in fact, compete ferociously for students and faculty from wherever they come.
So when the largest Catholic university in the country–that’s how DePaul advertises itself–makes itself victim to its own fashionable left-wing politics, one almost begins to yearn for fascists like Father Coughlin and McCarthyite right-wingers like Cardinal Spellman. At least, then, we were dealing with a recognizable Catholic tradition. Now, I know that from St. Peter’s Square to urbi et orbi, the Church has been reforming itself in doctrine and in behavior, especially with historic reference to the Jewish people now seen, from John XXIII on, as the older brother of the Roman communion. And it also has begun to confront the complicity of the Church leading up to the Jewish catastrophe and in the catastrophe itself. (See Daniel Goldhagen’s article “Hide and Seek,” in the January 31, 2005 issue of TNR.) For years, the existence of the State of Israel was a theological quagmire for Catholic theologians and for the Vatican itself. But, with some hiccups, the vicarage of Christ has come to grips with the reality of Israel that one pious and learned lay person, ironically someone close to Pius XII, said was the greatest evidence for God’s existence in modernity.
Ironically, in two separate but unethically connected acts exemplifying utter contempt for what academic freedom really means and focusing on the existence of Israel and the historicity of the Holocaust, DePaul has shown itself to be an institutional panderer to and of left-wing anti-Semitism. This is not a virus. It is altogether visible and audible. It does not hide its hatreds, and this is because the anti-Semites think that there is a reservoir of solidarity that can be easily tapped in the American public. They are wrong. Still, believe me, right now, anti-Semitism in America and in Europe is a phenomenon of the Left. Not of the Right. (Before too long, the Democratic Party will have to confront this reality and drive it out of the liberal tent, from Jimmy Carter to Michael Moore to well, let’s just watch.)
The first case involves Thomas Klocek, who for 14 years was a DePaul “adjunct instructor” at the School for New Learning (as opposed, I gather, from the “old learning”), one of those academic indentured servants who now make up perhaps 50 percent of faculty in higher education, people usually without offices, benefits, job safety, and status. He was suspended from his job and then dismissed without so much as a hearing for hurting the feelings of some Palestinian students, not his students and not in his class but at a campus cafeteria where members of Students for Justice in Palestine and United Muslims Moving Ahead had set up two tables with leaflets. Klocek, a pious Catholic, confronted the people at the table saying that their materials were distorted. An angry confrontation ensued, during which Klocek quoted the director of Al Arabiya TV as stating, “While not all Muslims are terrorists, it is a sad fact that almost all terrorists are Muslims.” This, alas, is an indisputable fact, as clearly Pope Benedict grasps. Would the Holy Father be permitted to speak at DePaul? Yet a simple truth was grounds for Klocek’s dismissal. Another statement Klocek uttered that led to his firing was that “Palestinian” is a “twentieth-century construction.” It certainly isn’t a nineteenth-century construction or an eighth-century one, either. This is true for the peoples of the entire Arab world, save for Egypt. And, to those who lay claim to be members of the Iraqi nation or the Lebanese nation (or, for that matter, the Palestinian nation) I, we ask: When will you behave as a nation? Your nationhood is in your hands.
The second case revolves around Norman Finkelstein who, a quarter century after getting his PhD and after having taught at Hunter and Brooklyn Colleges and New York University, is not an assistant professor of political science at DePaul. This is a stunning instance of downward mobility. Richly deserved. But no students deserve to be under the tutelage of Finkelstein. His initial appointment and now his pending designation as tenured professor have been supported on the grounds of academic freedom. This makes an at best flawed process–forgive the Catholic terminology–the equivalent of a papal bull. In fact, a papal bull would encounter more discussion and objections among faithful Catholics then Finkelstein’s supporters would permit his scholarly critics. The fact is that Finkelstein is not a scholar. He is a nut case. There are many contentious issues in Holocaust history. But he is a Holocaust denier. That is like denying that slavery existed in America and that the economy of the South was based on slavery. Someone who denied this would not get a faculty appointment, and, if he did, one would think it much more than odd and the academics who made the appointment either stupid or malevolent. This would not be a process that could or should be defended on the grounds of academic freedom. An appointment certified by a department chair and a university president may still be intellectually preposterous. If you want to get more information on both the Klocek and Finkelstein cases just search for them on Google, 14,000 and 900,000 citations, respectively.
Finkelstein has his own website: normanfinkelstein.com. On it he posts vicious cartoons by Carlos Latuff. Here is one called “Dershowitz Hard at Work….” In it, Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard, is shown masturbating before a cartoon TV visual of destruction in Beirut, Lebanon. This is the kind of scholarship that Finkelstein produces and with which he associates.
I don’t want to make too much of this. But I’ve scanned the DePaul website. There’s no one on the faculty of whom I’ve heard. Maybe that is a failing of mine. Maybe there are wonderful scholars in the woodwork of the place, so to speak. But I have heard of Norman Finkelstein, this assistant professor at 53, and he fills me with disgust. Anyway, why do you think no other academic institution is considering him for tenure? After all, he has got lots of books to his name. They are junk, that’s why.
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2006 02:32:23 -0400
Iv’e tried to write to you before, but I got it in return. Hope to get through this time. When I read the kind of stuff you serve in DePaul’s disgrace, I ask my self: Is the writer stupid or is the person a calculating demagogue, aware of his or hers distortions? I don’t think you believe in your accusations against Norman Finkelstein. I think that’s pure demagoguery. As an American you have better access to his work than I have, and you have to know that you’re wrong about him.
I come from the so called “Old World” and many Europeans experience that Americans are extremely ignorant about the world outside their national boarders. So when you quote: “While not all Muslims are terrorists, it is a sad fact that almost all terrorists are Muslims,” and then you conclude: “This, alas, is an indisputable fact,” I do not exclude that you think you’re right and that you never have heard of “terrororganizations” like IRA and ETA. I don’t have the time to lecture you, but they are not Muslims. Many armies fulfill the definition for terrorism too, among them the IDF, who often have targeted unarmed civilians (a frequent definition of terrorism).
But obviously the uniform gives immunity. After all, Hitler has never been called a terrorist even he was very busy targeting civilians. So being labeled “terrorist” does not necessarily tell much.
It’s said that “War is the rich man’s terror, and terror is the poor man’s war”
That’s not a bad way of putting it.
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 00:07:18 -0400
Dear Martin Peretz,
I was aghast to hear recently about your slanderous and baseless libel against Professor Finkelstein, a distinguished academic who has written extensively on the Holocaust, in which most of the members of his family died. To call this distinguished, objective and highly scholarly man a “Holocaust denier” and to label his books as “junk” reveals that you either: a) have never read any of Professor Finkelstein’s works and are essentially bullshitting through your dubious ‘review’ or b) have read Dr. Finkelstein’s work and for some unknown reason or possibly due to your own blinding stupidity or tendencies towards constructing fallacious slander to protect Israel from scrutiny have misrepresented Dr. Finkelstein’s work. I am really at a loss as to whether this instance was due to the former or the latter reason. I suspect that it’s a blend of both unsavory elements. No-one who has read anything Professor Finkelstein has written could possibly honestly call him a Holocaust denier. To say so would be to construct a deliberate falsehood, as you have done, which is exponentially more shameful considering the suffering his family has undergone due to the Holocaust. I personally can not understand how Professor Finkelstein copes with strategic and worthless liars like yourself. He is being very generous in not suing you for libel.
Subject: Feedback to Mr. Peretz.
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 03:10:31 +0000
Your blog entry (De Paul’s Disgrace, 10.9.2006), in
its cheap wretchedness, raises some serious questions.
You wrote: “The fact is that Finkelstein is not a
scholar. He is a nut case. There are many contentious
issues in Holocaust history. But he is a Holocaust
Your insights into his professional career are equally
mysterious: “Anyway, why do you think no other
academic institution is considering him for tenure?
After all, he has got lots of books to his name. They
are junk, that’s why.”
You should really feel ashamed of yourself, Mr.
Peretz. The latter quote is straight from Pravda and
amazing enough to win the jackpot, but the former is
truly invincible. Someone not familiar enough with
this particular topic might pose a question, in the
face of all this confusion: Should we try to persuade
the so called pro-Israeli representatives to believe
that Finkelstein isn’t a ‘Holocaust denier’, an
‘anti-Semite’ and, in his case, a ‘self-hating Jew’?
That reaction takes for granted, inaccurately, that
the individuals and organizations spreading these
allegations actually believe a word they’re saying.
In the field of propaganda truth, by definition, is
twisted. I honestly don’t see any other way to
lobby the war crimes and illegalities the Israelis,
with US backing, have committed and are committing at
this very moment than egregious deceit, flavored with
desperate labels such as ‘self-hating Jew’, ‘an
anti-Semite’, ‘anti-Israeli’ etc. There’s no other
tactic that I can come up with, and those on the other
side, like myself, must recognize this, than to
fabricate and delude. What else is there left to those
trying to discredit, if we take professor
Finkelstein’s case, someone who, for instance,
1) calls for the realization of exactly the same civil
and political rights of both ethnic groupings involved
in the Israel/Palestine conflict,
2) relies, sometimes solely as in the case of Beyond
Chutzpah, to the relatively conservative mainstream
human rights organizations, such as Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem and
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel.
3) calls for the imposing the United Nations
resolutions and respect for and compliance to the
When interviewed (09.17.2005, Radio interview on WNUR
89.3 Chicago), Finkelstein described this very
phenomenon to the interviewer: “And you’ll be deluged
with criticism and they’re going to say ‘how can you
have that Holocaust denier on your program?!’ Never
mind that my late mother and late father passed
through the Nazi holocaust. Never mind that they were
>in the Warsaw Ghetto from 1939 to 1943. Never mind
that my mother was in the Majdanek concentration camp
and 2 slave labor camps. Never mind that my father was
in Auschwitz, in the Auschwitz death march. Never mind
that every single member of my family was exterminated
>on both sides. That doesn’t stop these people. You
will get a deluge of calls and emails stating that you
had a Holocaust denier on your program and if there’s
any doubt they’re gonna say, ‘go to the Internet, look
at what Professor Dershowitz has to say on the
subject, of Harvard University, the Felix Frankfurter
Chair at Harvard, he’s even written that Finkelstein
thinks his mother was a Nazi collaborator.’ That’s
what Dershowitz writes. Never mind that’s a complete
fraud and Professor Dershowitz is a very ill liar.
That’s all irrelevant. That’s how they work.”
As you’re so interested in academic standards, let us
take a brief look at what scholars at, say, Oxford
University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard
University say about professor Finkelstein’s latest
book. (“Look at any one of the ratings charts (there
are many) and see how low these institutions fare on
the competitive scales”.)
“Beyond Chutzpah is the most comprehensive,
systematic, and well-documented work of its kind.”
Baruch Kimmerling, George S. Wise Professor of
Sociology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“On display are all the sterling qualities for which
Finkelstein has become famous: erudition, originality,
spark, meticulous attention to detail, intellectual
integrity, courage, and formidable forensic skills.”
Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations,
“A vigorous, intelligent, succinct, and powerfully
argued analysis that is difficult if not impossible to
Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle
astern Studies, Harvard University.
There’s a lot more of this. The way he’s portrayed at
famous universities, however, tells us very little
about his actual integrity and honesty. The reason is
that prestigious universities are, as unfortunate as
it is, surprisingly full of careerists who couldn’t
have less respect for accuracy or honesty.
The fact of the matter is that professor Finkelstein
is not only a world-renowned scholar, but an excellent
scholar. These opprobrious fairy-tales are being
spread, with remarkable commitment, because it is
fully well known that the texts of professor
>Finkelstein are exceptionally illuminative and
therefore dangerous to the never-ending line of
fraud that we hear from certain circles.
-Bruno Jäntti, Finland.
Please, I don’t mean to offend anyone. But!! In your depiction of Finkelstein you sound so exalted with hatred towards him. You really step on the gas to drive your passion against him. Does it give meaning to your existence? Can Finkelstein be THE meaning of your existence?
After all, how could a nut in a downward mobility rut command any attention from a guy like you whuz way up there on the top of the heap? According to you, Finkelstein is not worth the time of day, so why write about him?
I puzzled on that question until I figured it out. You’re not really writing about him, you’re writing on your own feelings about him. You’re sucking on your own turds for inspiration to write about someone you hate. You write like someone who hasn’t read him but has substituted knowledge of his books with a deep passion, a passion that has purified all
your knowledge of his books and left you purely stupid.
For example: Finkelstein is a holocaust denier. Could stupidity have a purer moment of expression?
But I don’t want to make too much of this. Henceforth Mr Peretz I will read you when I need a reminder of the faults, foibles and follies of human intelligence.
From: John Costello costelloja[at]yahoo.com
Subject: Catholic Universities
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 12:00:03 -0700
Dear Martin Peretz,
Perhaps, it is insulting to quote the New Testament to a Jew. But I think this quote has relevance to your attack against Norman Finkelstein and Catholic universities.
“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
Before we attack the seriousness of Professor Finkelstein’s scholarship, let’s take a couple seconds to look at the seriousness of yours.
I have two words for you: Joan Peters. You supported that hoax and have never admitted your mistake. This is not the behavior of a serious scholar. And even a weak scholar would have taken a look at “US News and World Report” to see if there were any Catholic Universities in the top 25. Your own disgraced Stephen Glass attended the Georgetown University Law Center. Surely, you know Georgetown is a Catholic University.
Incidentally, your attacks against Catholic universities would have been considered anti-Semitic if they were said about Jewish universities.
By the way, there are plenty of quotes in the Old Testament about hypocrisy.
Subject: Norman Finkelstein
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 07:59:39 -0700 (PDT)
Dear Mr. Peretz,
After reading your blog entry (dated October, 9, 2006)
posted on Prof. Finkelstein’s site, there are a number
of comments which you’ve made about Prof. Finkelstein
which merit some clarification.
You wrote: “The second case revolves around Norman
Finkelstein who, a quarter century after getting his
PhD…is not an assistant professor of political
science at DePaul. This is a stunning instance of
downward mobility. Richly deserved.”
Mr. Peretz, most HONEST intellectuals who decide to
become educators do so because they usually want to
teach and are quite dedicated to their students.
Status has nothing to do with it. It’s not about
upward or downward mobility – it’s about teaching
other people to think on their own and to learn the
material properly. They’re not in it because of the
wine & cheese parties or joining an old boy’s club or
looking for opportunities to brown-nose their way to
the top of the social cocktail scene. Those professors
who do are usually the worst educators because their
lack of interest in their students is so obvious.
You’re clearly projecting YOUR VIEW of what education
and professorships are all about (i.e upward
mobility). You shouldn’t assume or make assumptions
about other people Mr. Peretz, not everyone shares
your life motives or worldview and to think that
anyone who differs from what you do or think is the
height of genuine ignorance and truly denotes an
extremely limited worldview. To react so harshly to
points of view which you DON’T want to hear or agree
with is also usually indicative of borderline bigotry
of a different sort.
There is a website where STUDENTS are able to post on
their profs, the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d
encourage you to visit www.ratemyprofessors.com and
have a close and careful look at Prof. Finkelstein’s
profile. The majority of his real students (i.e NOT
the ones posting from Tel Aviv) seem to adore him and
his class from what I can see. On the other hand,
Professor Dershowitz seems to have abysmal ratings
because he doesn’t seem to make any time for his
You continued with, “But no students deserve to be
under the tutelage of Finkelstein.”
Speak for yourself – I never had Finkelstein as a
professor (have only heard him speak) but had there
been a college somewhere where the likes of
Finkelstein, Chomsky, Zinn, Said and Bookchin were
teaching under the same roof, I know at least 50 MA’s
and Ph.D’s who would’ve worked themselves to the bone
to get in and study with them (and no, these are not
low-brow community college educated persons either –
these are largely persons, myself included, who had
gone to institutions like McGill, Oxford, Cambridge,
Trinity Dublin, Yale, Cornell, U. of Toronto, Le
Sorbonne etc). Instead, we went to all these
illustrious institutions and had professors who, by
and large, are not that different from you and came
out disgusted with academia and with what is being
passed off as “honest” discourse.
You wrote: “The fact is that Finkelstein is not a
scholar. He is a nut case. There are many contentious
issues in Holocaust history. But he is a Holocaust
How can someone whose parents were BOTH Holocaust
survivors and had to live under the shadow of the
Holocaust for a large part of his life be a Holocaust
denier? Have you ever read his books? If you did then
you’d see that Finkelstein is the 180 degree opposite
of a Holocaust denier. If anything, he’s a Holocaust
I had a look at your blog and with great interest
read what you wrote yesterday (October 9, 2006). I’ll
interject my comments in brackets.
“Pondering about Iran, I realized how much difficulty
I had for so long pronouncing President Ahmadinejad’s
name. (Ahh-maad-deen-a-jaad) Imagine, I said to
myself, if you have trouble saying his name, how can
you hope to understand his country? (Imagine, I said
to myself, if I have trouble understanding Ivy League
pseudo-intellectual posers who never have a point, how
can I hope to understand that country?) Apparently,
lots of other people also have trouble pronouncing
his name (the reporters from CNN and FoxNews don’t seem
to have a problem)– including people at the British
foreign office. To remedy this embarrassing situation,
the ministry some months ago issued a memo
instructing its staffers that, when they had actually to say
“Ahmadinejad,” they should think:
“I-am-a-dinner-jacket.” I heard about it and I’ve
never faltered since.”
You know what? I’ll make it infinitely easier for you,
I’ll send you a copy of “Hooked on Phonics”. What
edition would you like? Ages 3-4? Ages 5-7? Or ages 8