Beyond Chutzpah

Carnegie-Mellon Revisited

Click here for the September 2005 update.

by CMU Faculty

University communities across the United States are facing a campaign of intimidation directly threatening academic freedom. Professors at Columbia University facing charges of institutionalized anti-Semitism have been subjected to death threats, hate messages, and massive sabotage of their e-mail correspondence. Yet these charges were found to have been grounded on “no evidence” by an ad hoc faculty committee on March 31. A victim of these tactics at Columbia, Prof. Joseph Massad, lamented, “The Columbia University administration acted as a collaborator with the witch-hunters instead of defending me and offering itself as a refuge from rightwing McCarthyism.”

Most recently two speakers invited by Carnegie Mellon University, Ali Abunimeh and Norman Finkelstein, were the subjects of organized harassment. During Mr. Abunimeh’s February 3 talk hecklers who rehearsed their tactics beforehand, in which they referred to the speaker as a ‘cockroach’ and waved signs, laughed and applauded when the speaker described Palestinian suffering, and had to be warned the meeting would be canceled if they continued. Norman Finkelstein’s March 14 lecture had been delayed for a month after pressure was placed on CMU administrators from outside the University community. A few days before his appearance, Laura Conrad, Program Associate for the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh, distributed an e-mail to CMU students and members of the Center which explicitly laid out a program designed to prevent Finkelstein from being heard by the community at large: “The concept is not to ‘publicize’ the event,” wrote Conrad, “thus bringing more attention ! to the speaker, but rather to quietly fill the lecture hall with those who cannot be influenced by Finkelstein’s rhetoric. Through filling the hall with Jewish students and community we will minimize participation of those who can be influenced by his propaganda.” At Finkelstein’s lecture, audience members stood and turned their backs on the speaker, spoke loudly to one another, and booed and catcalled at various intervals. Finkelstein’s discourteous treatment was capped by the imposition, without consultation, of a “rebuttal” scholar, who attempted to discredit Finkelstein by alleging his popularity with anti-Semitic hate groups, not by engaging directly with his argument.

A notable proponent of open discourse and rational, compassionate thought was Rabbi Hillel, who lived in Jerusalem in the first century, and whose attributions in the Mishnah’s Pirkei Avot and in the Talmud have rendered him one of the most respected interpreters of Jewish law. His most famous pronouncement is, of course: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; that is the whole Law: all the rest is interpretation.” According to rabbinical tradition, Rabbi Hillel’s distinction as a teacher is due primarily to the openness of his students and their willingness to consider opposing viewpoints. His profound contribution to the academic culture of the free exchange of ideas has impacted scholars across the world, not merely those interested in Jewish thought or history. Unfortunately, some groups who claim to act in Hillel’s name need to be reminded that free thought is possible only when all are allowed to speak and be heard, even those whose viewpoints may be odious! to us. A profound cultural amnesia, regrettably, seems to afflict many sectors of our modern society, in which the values of freedom of discourse are in increasingly serious danger of being replaced by ideologically motivated censorship, creating a well-founded fear of retribution from those in power. We scholars of Carnegie Mellon University feel it is in the best interests of all to uphold the principles of free inquiry guided and shaped by demonstrable evidence. While students understandably may wish to find their own personal convictions reflected in the ideas they encounter, it is the work of professors to challenge ideas, even deeply-held ones.

We the undersigned further call upon the administration and the Faculty Senate to quickly agree upon a clarification of the Controversial Speakers Policy, founded upon the principle that the free exchange of ideas is necessary to the project of a University and of inestimable value to the society at large, and strong enough to enable the members of our administration to protect the community they steward from censorship deriving from within or without Carnegie Mellon University.

Anthony Butts, Assistant Professor, English

Michael Chemers, Assistant Professor, Drama

David Demarest, Associate Professor, English (Emeritus)

Sharon Dilworth, Associate Professor, English

Jed Allen Harris, Associate Teaching Professor, Drama

Brian Johnston, Professor, Drama

Mladen Kiselov, Associate Professor, Drama

Barbara MacKenzie-Wood, Associate Professor, Drama

Catherine Moore, Associate Professor, Drama

Michael Olich, Associate Professor, Drama

Ken Leigh Rogers, Associate Teaching Professor, Drama

Jeffrey Williams, Professor, English

Editor’s Note: The full text of this piece and list of signatories is available on The Tartan’s website, If you would like to add your name to the list of signatories, please do so in the “Comments” box beneath the online article.

Harvard professor criticizes top scholars

by Andrew Gerst and Emily Rotberg

The biggest obstacles on the road to peace in Israel, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz said Sunday, do not reside in refugee camps, Israel Defense Forces outposts or Jewish settlements—but in elite university academic departments.

“Anti-Semitism from the far right is largely a thing of the past,” said Dershowitz, who is also the author of The Case for Israel. “But anti-Semitism from the far left is becoming a very, very, very serious thing.”

Dershowitz, speaking with intense passion, said anti-Semitism has plagued the rhetoric of a number of prominent professors who question Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian population.

In particular, he denounced the language used by professors Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Norman Finkelstein of DePaul University and the late Edward Said, formerly of Columbia University.

By oversimplifying the conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews into a case of oppressed and oppressor, Dershowitz said, these professors have worked toward creating a climate where Israel will be perceived in decades to come as an illegitimate nation.

“I wish I didn’t have to write a case for Israel,” he said. “Nobody has to write the case for Canada.”

Dershowitz spoke before an audience of about 200 in Page Auditorium and later ate dinner with students at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life.

After the speech, a line extended around the quad as audience members waited for Dershowitz to sign copies of several of his books.

During both the speech and dinner, Dershowitz reiterated his praise for the Duke Jewish community’s measured response to the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference. which came to campus in October.

“You didn’t try to censor, you tried to answer—and I think you won,” Dershowitz told students dining with him.

He continued to commend the group, saying that he believed their response to PSM will serve as a model for future reactions by Jewish student groups.

In a question-and-answer session following the speech, Dershowitz said he would in theory support a university policy calling for divestment from all nations and companies with unethical practices—but that Israel would fall at the very end of such a list.

“If any university did divest out of Israel, they know that [supporters of Israel] would divest out of them, and with impunity,” Dershowitz said.

Corinne Low contributed to this story.

DePaul’s Jihad against academic freedom

DePaul University in Chicago is one of the fastest growing universities in the country. It has become the largest Catholic-affiliated university in America. Muslim and Arab students are one of the segments of DePaul’s student population that has seen the greatest increase in numbers in recent years. Although no figures are available, these students are an important source of revenue for the University, and many may well pay full tuition, making their attendance particularly lucrative.

Perhaps in recognition of this market segment, the University hired Norman Finkelstein to teach in its Political Science Department. This acquisition of “talent” took place after Finkelstein had lost his job at two different colleges in New York, following controversy over his support of holocaust denier David Irving and his bitterly abusive attacks on the state of Israel.

DePaul, like many other colleges and universities, may have also received significant funding for new academic chairs and programs from various Arab countries. When a college can find a Jew who loathes Israel like Finkelstein, supports holocaust deniers, and is the go-to-guy on lots of viciously anti-Semitic websites, Arab money is almost sure to follow.

To top it all off, DePaul is currently exhibiting a Palestinian art exhibit, cosponsored by twelve academic departments of the university, which might suggest to any fair minded observer, that for Palestinians, art is defined only by hatred of Israel and Jews.

This is the backdrop for an almost astonishing violation of the academic freedom of Thomas Klocek which has been perpetrated by the University. For 14 years a part time adjunct professor in DePaul’s School of New Learning, Klocek has been a popular professor, with large enrollments, and excellent student reviews for his teaching.

But Klocek has lost his teaching position and school-paid health insurance benefits, and faces a bleak future due to his chronic health problems. He is guilty of a thought-crime, challenging the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel mindset which has come to dominate the DePaul campus

Klocek’s challenge to this new campus orthodoxy occurred in a cafeteria during a student activities fair last September. For 15-20 minutes, Klocek, who is Catholic, not Jewish, confronted a group of 8 students manning two tables for the groups Students for Justice in Palestine, and United Muslims Moving Ahead. Klocek says he argued that the materials the groups were disseminating were one-sided. On this, he is indisputably correct. Neither group pretends to provide balanced information on the Israeli Palestinian conflict. That of course, is perfectly understandable and acceptable. These are advocacy groups.

Klocek says the discussion was heated at times, and he admits to raising his voice. He says he told the students that Palestinians were Arabs who lived in the West Bank and Gaza – that they had no unique national historical identity. He challenged one student’s assertion that Israel was behaving like the Nazis. He stated that while most Muslims were not terrorists, pretty much all terrorists these days were Muslim. This statement had originally been made by the manager of an Arab news channel, and had recently been quoted in the Chicago Sun Times. It has the incidental merit of being true.

Clearly, the students were not used to such a challenge. DePaul in fact has gone out of its way in recent years to make the campus dialogue “safe” for Muslim and Arab students. The University administration warned the campus community after the September 11th attacks that offensive speech hostile to Muslims would not be tolerated.

But speech hostile to Jews, or Israelis, or for that matter, the great mass of Americans grieving and offended by the 9/11 attacks, was perfectly legitimate. While New York and Washington were digging up their 3,000 dead, Muslims students at DePaul were using the post 9/11 environment to publicly attack America and Israel for their crimes and policies at campus forums, paid for with student fees. The campus has welcomed representatives of the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad to campus. The scurrilous propaganda “documentary” Jenin Jenin has been shown on campus.

I have a bit of personal experience with DePaul’s concept of academic discussion and balance. I was invited a few years back to participate in a debate that was a final class project for a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There were six debate participants, three on each side. That much seemed fair enough. However the class material that had been distributed to students before the debate had been provided by pro-Palestinian groups including Students for Justice in Palestine. The suggested reading list could have been prepared by Norman Finkelstein himself. Two of the three debate moderators were aggressively hostile to the pro-Israel speakers (the third played it down the middle). The audience constantly interrupted the pro-Israel speakers.

I have participated in several such debates, and the atmosphere at this one was more physically threatening than any other in which I took part. Two of my family members who attended said they were concerned about my safety at times during the debate, as some audience members (almost all of whom were Palestinian supporters) shook their fingers and approached the podium, with the audience loudly cheering and hooting. It was, for a good part of the time, a free-for-all. Such is a final class project at DePaul these days.

During his cafeteria confrontation with the students, Klocek did not identify himself as a professor at the school. He did not know any of the students, and had not had any of them in a class. After realizing that the argument needed to end, Klocek started to walk off. One student then asked if he taught at DePaul, and if so, what classes. The students followed Klocek, eager to continue arguing with him. He signaled he was done with the debate by thumbing his chin, meant to indicate, he says, enough already. The Muslim students later claimed this gesture was obscene.

For his behavior in this brief debate with the students, Klocek, a popular long-time DePaul professor, has lost his job, his health benefits, and has been smeared and humiliated by the University administration.

It has gotten so bad that Klocek has even been told not to pray at the campus chapel, which he formerly did regularly during his DePaul teaching stint. Such is the retribution of a Catholic University for a professor who has taken the risk of challenging the established mindset at DePaul on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians.

It would be too easy to compare Klocek’s alleged misbehavior – engaging in a short debate in a cafeteria with students who were not in any of his classes and who did not even know he was affiliated with DePaul – with the recent well-publicized events at Columbia University. At Columbia, one professor was alleged to have ordered a pro-Israel student out of his classroom, and to have accused a former Israeli soldier of being a murderer at a public lecture. Another professor ridiculed a Jewish student for her eye color, using this as justification to deny any real Semitic link.

Critics of Columbia also have charged that the Middle East Studies Department had become little more than an advocacy forum for Israel-bashing professors. When the charges of faculty misconduct from the Columbia students were considered by a faculty panel, the faculty members appointed by the university were individuals who had demonstrated in the past that they were Palestinian sympathizers. Not surprisingly, with only one small exception, the students’ complaints were rejected. So Columbia University has formally indicated that far more egregious conduct in the classroom is quite important to academic freedom.

What is surprising at DePaul is that groups which might normally come to the defense of a beleaguered professor unjustly removed from his position have been nowhere in sight. The ACLU has been silent. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has also not yet gotten involved. Perhaps for these groups, the “crime” of defending Israel may trump a professor’s right to free speech.

The University wasted little time after hearing of the students’ complaints about Klocek. The students first met with their advisors and then with a series of University administration members. They said that he had insulted them and their religion and (imagine this!) acted as if he was right and they were wrong. DePaul accepted the charges in toto and without holding a hearing (to which Klocek was entitled) quickly suspended the Professor.

The Muslim students also sent out an email to a large population at DePaul declaring a fatwa on Klocek for insulting Islam. With the recent history of the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, and the secret life of Salmon Rushdie for more than a decade since the Iranian fatwa directed against him, one might have expected DePaul to have viewed this email as possibly threatening to Professor Klocek, and as potentially criminal behavior.

But that would be to misunderstand the political environment and cowardice at DePaul. Threaten the life of a pro-Israel professor, and it is apparently no concern to DePaul’s administration. But argue with a group of pro-Palestinian students, and you create great offense, and hurt.

The public comments by the DePaul administration prove their self-interested narrow vision of academic freedom: the freedom to preach the party line only. Amazingly the President of DePaul, Father Dennis Holtschneider, argues that the proof that DePaul values academic freedom is that they protect Norman Finkelstein’s ability to make his case against holocaust survivors and Israel, regardless of its unpopularity (and regardless of course of its untruth!). For DePaul the defense against charges that it is limiting the ability of pro-Israel speakers to make their case is that they allow anti-Israel speakers to make theirs!

DePaul has argued that they object to Klocek’s behavior, not to his speech nor to his views. This is nonsense. Susanne Dumbleton, Dean of the School of New Learning, Klocek’s boss, made the following priceless remark about the Klocek case :

“No one should ever use the role of teacher to demean the ideas of others or insist on the absoluteness of an opinion, much less press erroneous assertions.”

So what Klocek argued was erroneous (meaning of course that the pro-Israel position is wrong). But at the same time, no opinion should ever be argued as right or wrong (the absoluteness of an opinion). And no teacher should ever tell a student that he is wrong about anything. Make these three contradictory statements in one sentence, and you too qualify to be a dean at DePaul.

When she met with him, Dumbleton also told Klocek that the students were hurt and crushed by his behavior. She effectively accused Klocek of being a religious bigot and a racist with this comment:

“No student anywhere should ever have to be concerned that they will be verbally attacked for their religious beliefs or ethnicity.”

Dumbleton’s comment picked up on the theme of a student emailer who said the incident was a “racist encounter.” Accusing somebody who disagrees with you of being a racist is a very common technique, especially by those who lack history or facts to make their case. Apparently none of the students were so badly injured by Klocek that they missed classes due to their distress.

Dumbleton also accused Klocek of using his power as a professor, and therefore his power over the students, to force them to accept his views as true. But until the students asked, Klocek revealed nothing about his campus teaching role, and had no power relationship (professor with his students) to use against any of the student complainers. DePaul, in defending its actions, went so far as to argue that since Klocek was older than the students, that in and of itself, established a power relationship. Evidently older people are to be cautioned against disagreeing with their juniors, on the danger of wielding power. At DePaul, evidently the student inmates run the asylum, based on the principle of Bizzaro-world seniority.

As for forcing the students to accept his views as true, if that were indeed the case, then Klocek presumably should have stuck around until he forced the students to accept his views, rather than walk off realizing the discussion was not changing anybody’s minds (neither his nor theirs). Klocek clearly accepted that failure to ever agree. What the students seemed to resent, in his view, is that somebody on campus did not accept their views.

Dean Dumbelton said in an interview with the campus paper that she was

“deeply saddened by the loss of intellectual empowerment that the students suffered.”

She later wrote a letter to the same paper that the

“students’ perspective was dishonored, and their freedom demeaned. Individuals were deeply insulted.”

She said she had met with the students and apologized to them for the insult and disrespect they endured.

“I regret the assault on their dignity, their beliefs, their individual selves.”

Remember that these alleged abuses and injuries were all suffered as a result of one 15-minute conversation with Professor Klocek in the cafeteria. One wonders how the University might describe a rape or murder victim. Could such an offense to a victim be any greater than that supposedly suffered by the Muslim students who were forced to discuss their propaganda with somebody who did not agree with them?

As the humorist Dave Barry would say, I am not making any of this up. This is the house of horrors that DePaul has become, and this is how the university administration defends its outrageous behavior. It is why Professor Klocek plans to sue the university.

In the black-is-white, white-is-black world that is DePaul, he has been left with no other option. When you stand for Israel at DePaul, you will not be left standing much longer.

Richard Baehr

A New Publication by Alan Dershowitz: The Committee to Expose Norman Finkelstein’s Close Connections to Neo-Nazism, Holocaust Denial, and His “Big Lie” of an “International Jewish Conspiracy”

Editor’s note: A backup is located here .

See also The Real Axis of Evil.

The Marketplace of Ideas: Know Who You Are Listening To or Reading.

The Norman Finkelstein Top Ten Lists

(If you come across more, please feel free to add them to the ever-growing list. As Einstein said: “The difference between genius and stupidity is that there are limits to genius.”)

04.18.2005 | Click here for the original MS Word document pamphlet on

The 10 Nuttiest Things “The Nutty Assistant Professor” Has Said

10. …on Finkelstein’s “International Jewish Conspiracy”
“All opinion-leaders, from the left to the right, are Jews…The Silence around my book in the US—if this is not a conspiracy, then what is one?”(1)

Finkelstein’s “international Jewish conspiracy” includes Steven Spielberg, Leon Uris, critics of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and NBC:

…on Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”
“Give me a better reason!…Who profits [from the movie]? Basically, there are two beneficiaries from the dogmas [of Schindler's List]: American Jews and the American administration…”(2)

…on Leon Uris’ “Exodus”
“The name of the character is Ari Ben Canaan because Ari is the diminutive for Aryan. It is the whole admiration for this blond haired, blue eyed type.” (3) (The fact is that Ari a traditional biblical name meaning lion.)

“[T]he Israeli establishment likes the blue eyed, blonde haired Aryan types as a racial group.” (4)

…on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats”
“Some people [who support the thesis of a new anti-Semitism think the musical] Cats is a codeword for K-A-T-Z, Katz.”(5)

…on the NBC series “Holocaust”
“In 1978, NBC produced the series Holocaust. Do you believe, it was a coincidence, 1978? Just at this time, when peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt took place in Camp David?” (6)

9. …on David Irving
David Irving, the notorious Holocaust denier who claims there were no gas chambers and that Hitler was “the Jews’ greatest friend,” is “a good historian” who has “made an ‘indispensable’ contribution to our knowledge of World War II.” (7)

8. …on Jews as devil worshipers
“I don’t know about Judaism, but [Israel Shahak, an anti-Jewish zealot who wrote that Jews worship Satan] did. He knew it well. He took an interest in it and I have no doubt that what he wrote is accurate.” (8)

7. …on Finkelstein’s own research and “scholarly independence”
…on not doing research
Question: “[Mr. Finkelstein] If you are a historian, why didn’t you write a serious study about the subject? Why didn’t you do research yourself? Interview people, etc.?”
Finkelstein’s answer: “Why should I interview people?” (9)

…on obeying Chomsky
“I’m a person of the left, and when you get a call from Professor Chomsky [asking you to 'find' that a pro-Israeli book you haven't even read was a 'fraud'], his wish is your command.” (10)

6. …on Holocaust survivors
“Finkelstein says…that most ‘survivors’ are bogus.”(11)

“I am not exaggerating when I say that one out of three Jews you stop in the street in New York will claim to be a survivor.”(12)

“‘If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one,’ my mother used to exclaim, ‘who did Hitler kill then?'” (13)

5. …on Israel
“[I] can’t imagine why Israel’s apologists would be offended by a comparison with the Gestapo.” (14)

Israel’s human rights record is “interchangeable with Iraq’s” when it was ruled by Saddam Hussein. (15)

4. …on Osama bin Laden
“Frankly, part of me says…’you know what, we deserve the problem on our hands because some things Bin Laden says are true’. One of the things he said on that last tape was that ‘until we live in security, you’re not going to live in security’, and there is a certain amount of rightness in that.” (16)

3. …on Hezbollah
“[T]he honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah as the US and Israel target it for liquidation. Indeed, looking back my chief regret is that I wasn’t even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack.” (17)

2. …on Pan Am 103
“Libya had nothing to do with it [the blowing up of Pan Am 103, for which Libya has acknowledged responsibility] but they are playing along. And that is the thing with the Swiss banks …because they are so afraid of those hoodlums…. They are ruthless and reckless thugs [referring not to Libyan terrorists or Nazi war criminals, but to Jewish leaders seeking compensation for Nazi crimes].” (18)

1. …on blaming the victims
“…the worst enemies in the struggle against real anti-Semitism are the philo-Semites… Alongside Israel ["American Jewish elites"] are the main fomenters of anti-Semitism in the world today… They need to be stopped.” (19)

The 10 Most Devastating Things People Have Said About Finkelstein

10. “You don’t know who Finkelstein is. He’s poison, he’s a disgusting self-hating Jew, he’s something you find under a rock.” (20)
Leon Wieseltier,
literary editor of The New Republic

9. “Norman Finkelstein [is] a writer celebrated by neo-Nazi groups for his Holocaust revisionism and comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany.”(21)
Marc Fisher,
Reporter of The Washington Post

8. “[C]rackpot ideas, some of them mirrored almost verbatim in the propaganda put out by neo-Nazis around the world.” (22)
Gabriel Schoenfeld,
Senior editor of Commentary

7. “Finkelstein is a Jew…who supports anti-Semitism. He is grist to [Germany's] extreme right’s mill.” (23)
Martin Dietzsch and Alfred Schobert,
German scholars on the issue of neo-Nazism

6. Norman Finkelstein is “the Jewish Ward Churchill.” (24)

5. Finkelstein’s own mentor on Finkelstein
“As concerns particular assertions made by Finkelstein…, the appropriate response is not (exhilarating) “debate” but (tedious) examination of his footnotes. Such an examination reveals that many of those assertions are pure invention… No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate, without taking the time to carefully compare his claims with the sources he cites…. I had not thought that (apart from the disreputable fringe) there were Germans who would take seriously this twenty-first century updating of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ I was mistaken.” (25)
Peter Novick,
whose work Finkelstein described as the “initial stimulus” for The Holocaust Industry

“Finkelstein’s book is trash.” (26)
Peter Novick,
for writing The Holocaust Industry

4. “[Because of Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry] I feel like a kid in a candy store… Finkelstein is a Jewish David Irving.” (27) [Irving is the notorious Holocaust denier who claims that Hitler was "the Jews' greatest friend."]
Intended to be a compliment by
Ingrid Rimland, wife of neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Ernst Zuendel

3. “This book is, in a word, an ideological fanatic’s view…by a writer so reckless and ruthless in his attacks… [His theory is] both irrational and insidious…an international Jewish conspiracy verges on paranoia and would serve anti-Semites…. [Finkelstein] combines an old-hat 1960’s view of Israel as the outpost of American imperialism with a novel variation on the anti-Semitic forgery, ”The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which warned of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world…. [A] series of vague, undocumented and contradictory assertions…. There is something sad in this warping of intelligence, and in this perversion of moral indignation. There is also something indecent about it, something juvenile, self-righteous, arrogant and stupid.” (27)
Omer Bartov,
world leading expert on the issue of the Holocaust

2. “Finkelstein’s work is, from beginning to end, a tendentious series of inventions. …[T]he examples from his article that are deemed to be the strongest are thoroughly misleading and without merit. Finkelstein’s writing is the sort of transparent political polemic that—had others not cynically propped him up as an expert and a champion of truth—would not even merit a response. This is a man who has made a career of attacking Israel’s legitimacy…. His documented inventions about my book, it is worth noting that Finkelstein has never before written anything on the Holocaust or German history and cannot read German…which means that he cannot read many of the sources on which he is passing his ‘expert’ opinion…. [A] man who has arrived overnight to a scholarly field made up of massive scholarly literature, not to mention all the documents, who, to boot, cannot read most of the sources because they are in German.” (29)
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

1. Finkelstein about Finkelstein
“I’m in exile in … Chicago because I was thrown out of every … school in New York.”

“Never has one of my articles been published in a scientific magazine” (30)

The 10 Most Despicable Things Finkelstein Has Said About Others

10. …on Elie Wiesel
“Elie Wiesel [is] resident clown of the Holocaust circus.” (31)

“Elie Wiesel is such a ridiculous character… The expression ‘There’s no business like Shoah-business’ is literally coined for him…He’s turned it into a business, where he casts himself as a person who’s doing all this from anguish and pain and personal sacrifice, while he has made a fortune out of it.” (32)

“Elie Wiesel…is such a wimp.” (33)

9. …on Edgar Bronfman
“Edgar Bronfman is the Jewish Ribbentrop. He is a liquor salesman and then he decides he is going to represent the World Jewry. Where he got the idea to represent the world Jewry. That is really the megalomania of money and power.”

8. …on Rabbi Singer
“[Bronfman's] crooked sidekicks, like Rabbi Singer … belongs in jail. He is a blackmailer, an extortionist. He belongs behind bars.” (35)

7. …on Alan Dershowitz
“If [Dershowitz] is [one of the main archetypes of evil in America], then he is a representation of Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil. You want to believe that there is something profound in evil. But evil has no depth. Look at Adolf Eichmann; he could have been a vacuum salesman. Yes Dershowitz is evil, a
vacuum salesman at Harvard.” (36)

6. “One of the world’s greatest charlatans and frauds.” (37)

5. Dershowitz is “constitutionally incapable of saying anything that is true. I think that if a true word actually came out of [Dershowitz], he would probably implode.” (38)

4. “[Dershowitz] has come to the point where he’s had so many people write so many of his books.… [I]t’s sort of like a Hallmark line for Nazis… [T]hey churn them out so fast that he has now reached a point where he doesn’t even read them.)” (39)

3. …on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre
“The Centre is renowned for its ‘Dachau-meets-Disneyland’ museum exhibitions and ‘the successful use of sensationalistic scare tactics for fund-raising.” (40)

2. Finkelstein’s favorite false attack words against pro-Israel and pro-Holocaust survivor authors:
…on Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial: “spectacular hoax,” “fraud from start to finish,” “plagiarism” (41)

…on Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners: “hoax…with footnotes” (42)

…on Alan Dershowitz’ The Case for Israel: “hoax,” “sheer fraud from beginning to end,” “plagiarized” (43)

1. …on the ADL
“[The] Anti-Defamation League. Its main purpose is to defame the character of anyone who criticizes Israel. Its current National Director, or I prefer to say, its grand wizard is Abraham Foxman.” (44)

The 10 Biggest Lies Finkelstein Has Been Caught Telling

10. The Lie: “I had an excellent teaching record, yes I had an excellent publication record.” (45)

The Truth: He has been fired by Brooklyn College, N.Y.U., and several other schools for “incompetence,” “mental instability” and “abuse” of students with politics different from his own, according to a high-ranking official at one of the schools.

His writings have been universally condemned by objective reviewers as “an ideological fanatic’s view,” “crackpot ideas,” and “pure inventions.”

9. The Lie: “[Dershowitz's] book—well we have to put that in quotes, ‘his book,’ because the likelihood of him having written the book is roughly equal to the likelihood of me performing in the Bolshoi ballet or as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall…” (46)

The Truth: Dershowitz wrote every book by hand. His manuscripts are preserved in an archive.

8. The Lie: “One third of it [The Case for Israel] is simply plagiarized… [Dershowitz] plagiarized another hoax. [referring to Joan Peters' From Time Immemorial]” (47)

The Truth: That is impossible, since 90% of Dershowitz’ book deals with current issues, occurring after the publication of the Peters book. Moreover, there is not a single word or phrase in Dershowitz’ book that is copied from anyone without attribution.

7. The Lie: “And in the proofs, it says in the footnotes before the footnotes are actually entered. It says: copy from Joan Peters.” (48)

The Truth: The instruction says exactly the opposite. In the advanced proofs, footnote 20, Dershowitz instructed his research assistant to cite to the original sources, as mandated by the Chicago Manual of Style.

6. The Lie: “[I]f you look at the footnotes for the book, he never once—I mean literally, not once—mentions any mainstream human rights organization. Never a mention of Amnesty’s findings, never a mention of Human Rights Watch’s findings, never a mention of B’Tselem findings, Public Committee Against Torture, Physicians for Human Rights—none.” (49)

The Truth: Dershowitz cites Amnesty on at least five occasions, B’Tselem on three occasions and numerous other human rights groups. Amnesty and B’Tselem even appear in the index. Indeed much of the book is a critique of the double standard employed by these very organizations with regard to Israel.

5. The Lie: “If you open up [Dershowitz's] book, Chutzpah, he says that, well as far as I’m concerned, he says, ethnic cleansings are, quote, a fifth-rate moral issue, and no different – he says, and they’re analogous—I’m now quoting him—they’re now, ethnic cleansings are analogous to massive urban renewal.” (50)

The Truth: This quotation is totally made up. Dershowitz was writing about an entirely different matter: the movement of people as part of a post-conflict “political solution,” such as what occurred after World War II when “approximately fifteen million ethnic Germans” were moved from Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European nations to Germany as part of an international effort to produce increased stability. This is not ethnic cleansing, but, as Dershowitz wrote, it “may constitute a human rights violation” as may the movement of Palestinians following the Arab attack on Israel in 1947-48. (51)

4. The Lie: [I]f you look at the latest book of that raving maniac, Alan Dershowitz, he actually says at the very beginning that he only became actively involved supporting Israel after June 1967.” (52)

The Truth: Dershowitz says no such thing. In fact, Dershowitz began to make that case in early 1967 before the war began. He was among the leaders of the student and faculty campaign at Harvard in support of Israel during weeks leading up to the Six Day War. He was an active Zionist from the age of 10 when he attended a Hebrew speaking Zionist camp. Dershowitz went to a Zionist high school and belonged to a Zionist house plan in college.

3. The Lie: “There was a famous case in 1995 of a Palestinian who was shaken to death while in detention. And nobody disputed the facts—the Israeli pathologist’s office, the forensic pathologists who were brought into the case, eventually it went to the Israeli High Court of Justice—they all agreed. And I’m quoting now from the High Court of Justice Judgment: “All agree that Harizad died from the shaking.” (53)

The Truth: Finkelstein made up the quotation. The Supreme Court actually said that “the suspect expired after being shaken.” The difference between “died from the shaking” and “expired after being shaken” is considerable, especially since the sentence that follows in the decision attributes the death to an extremely rare complication, and the sentence before summarizes the literature as having no examples of anyone dying from shaking.”

2. The Lie: “Several times, … I kept saying [to Dershowitz] things like: ‘The book you claim that you have written.’ And I was expecting him sort of implode. If you tell somebody a book you claim to have written, there is no bigger insult. But he was actually quite calm about it. It is if he would say, ‘That is interesting. How do you know?'” (54)

The Truth: As the transcript of the debate shows, Dershowitz immediately interrupted him and replied: “I proudly wrote it.”

1. The Lie: Finkelstein has called Elie Wiesel a “liar” because “[i]n his memoir Wiesel had written that ‘I read The Critique of Pure Reason—don’t laugh!—in Yiddish.” Finkelstein claims that The Critique of Pure Reason was never translated into Yiddish.” (56)

The Truth: Former Oxford professor Dovid Katz, one of the world’s most distinguished scholars of Yiddish literature, attests to the fact that the Critique of Pure Reason was translated into Yiddish and that he has seen a copy. Moreover, its substance was included in a popular Yiddish philosophy compendium by Chaim Zhitlovsky. Finally, a Yiddish translation of the Critique of Practical Reason is available in the Harvard Library.

1. NRC Handelsblad, August 5, 2000
2. NRC Handelsblad
3. Norman Finkelstein, “The Holocaust Industry,” March 10, 2004
4. Don Atapattu, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: A Conversation with Professor Norman Finkelstein,” CounterPunch, December 13, 2001
5. Catalyst Radio Interview With Dr. Finkelstein
6. NRC Handelsblad
7. Anne Applebaum, “The battle for the Holocaust Legacy,” Sunday Telegraph, July 16, 2000; and “The Holocaust Industry,” p. 71
8. Norman Finkelstein, “The Holocaust Industry,” March 10, 2004
9. Victor Frkle, “Shoa Business.” Interview with Norman Finkelstein
10. Norman Finkelstein, Vancouver, May 15, 2004
11. Guardian, Wednesday July 12, 2000
12. Sunday Times of London, June 11, 2000
13. “The Holocaust Industry,” p. 81
14. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, “Canadian Jewish Organizations Charged With Stifling Campus Debate”
15. Link, “A Reply to Henry Kissinger and Fouad Ajami.”
16. Don Atapattu, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: A Conversation with Professor Norman Finkelstein,” CounterPunch, December 13, 2001
17. Norman Finkelstein, “A Reply to Michael Young”
18. Norman Finkelstein, “The Holocaust Industry,” March 10, 2004
19. The Occupation’s Spillover Effect,” Tikkun, March/April 2005, p. 14
20. accessible at
21. “Campus Should Cultivate Its Seeds of Debate,” Washington Post, December 3, 2002
22. Response to Critics, “Holocaust Reparations,” Commentary, January 2001, p. 20
23. Eds. Martin Dietzsch and Alfred Schobert, “Ein „jüdischer David Irving”?, p. 6
24. Intended to be a compliment by Portland Independent Media Center,

25. Peter Novick, Offene Fenster und Tueren. Ueber Norman Finkelsteins Kreuzzug, in: Petra Steinberger (ed.): Die Finkelstein-Debatte, (Piper Verlag: Muenchen 2001), p. 159 (translated from German)
26. Tagesspiegel, Feb 6, 2001 (translated from German)
27. Eds. Martin Dietzsch and Alfred Schobert, „Ein „jüdischer David Irving”?,p. 11
28. Omer Bartov, “A Tale of Two Holocausts,” New York Times, August 6, 2000, p. 8
29. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, A Comment by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen on: A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth” (found at
30. Norman Finkelstein, “‘I won’t lie down and take the insults,'”Irish Times, July 1, 2003, p. 13; NRC Handelsblad, Aug. 5, 2000
31. Irish Times, “‘I Won’t Lie Down and Take the Insults.'”
32. Victor Frkle, ‘Shoa Business.’ Interview with Norman Finkelstein
33. Norman Finkelstein, “The Holocaust Industry” (March 10, 2004)
34. Norman Finkelstein, interview “The Holocaust Industry” (March 10, 2004)
35. Norman Finkelstein, interview, “The Holocaust Industry” (March 10, 2004)
36. Y.M.D. Fremes, “Interview with Professor Norman G. Finkelstein,” Palestine Chronicle, November 24, 2003
37. Catalyst Radio Interview With Dr. Finkelstein
38. Catalyst Radio Interview With Dr. Finkelstein
39. Norman Finkelstein, New York, Oct. 4, 2003
40. Norman Finkelstein, The Business of Death, The Guardian, July 12,2000
41. May 15, 2004, public forum at the Vancouver Public Library, “Is Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic?,” Norman Finkelstein, Disinformation and the Palestine Question: The Not-So-Strange Case of Joan Peters’ “From Time Immemorial,” in: Said, Hitchens (eds.): Blaming the Victims, p. 34
42. Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry, p. 64
43. Chicago, February 4, 2004
44. Catalyst Radio Interview With Dr. Finkelstein
45. Interview with Norman Finkelstein, conducted by Don Atapattu, CounterPunch, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
46. Catalyst Radio Interview With Dr. Finkelstein
47. Chicago, February 12, 2004
48. Calgary, April 3, 2004
49. Chicago, March 18, 2004
50. Vancouver, May 15, 2004
51. see Chutzpah, p. 215
52. October 2003
53. Chicago, March 18, 2004
54. Calgary, April 3, 2004
54. The transcript of the show can be viewed at
55. Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry, p. 82

Opposition raised to UC Press publication: Alan Dershowitz questions release of book on Israel-Palestine conflict

By Derek Lipkin

Norman Finkelstein is releasing a new title through the University of California Press, but before the book has even been released, there has been opposition to its publication.

Finkelstein currently teaches political theory at DePaul University in Chicago and is the author of four other titles, all dealing with the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

According to Finkelstein’s Web site, the new book, titled “Beyond Chutzpah,” is about “the corruption of scholarship on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

In the book, Finkelstein alleges that several authors, including Alan Dershowitz, a well-known trial attorney and author, have misrepresented facts in earlier publications that address the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Prepared to release its spring 2005 titles, the UC Press is being questioned by Dershowitz for its decision to publish Finkelstein’s latest work.

Noted for his work as a defense attorney on the OJ Simpson murder trial, Dershowitz is currently a faculty member at Harvard Law School. Last year, he toured the United States, going to various universities, including UCLA, where he spoke about his book “The Case for Israel” and his motivations for writing it.

Representatives from the UC Press did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Dershowitz said publication of Finkelstein’s book will cause problems for the UC Press and that it should not be released by such a far-reaching publisher.

“(Publishing this book) will tarnish the UC Press,” he said.

The UC Press is currently one of the five largest university presses in the nation. It is non-profit, and has hosted several bestselling titles, according to the organization’s Web site.

“Beyond Chutzpah” was originally slated for release by New Press. Finkelstein said Dershowitz wrote several letters of considerable length to New Press about the release of “Beyond Chutzpah,” citing misinformation in the book, in order to slow the production of the title.

Dershowitz confirmed that he wrote letters to New Press, but added that he did so only after he had been contacted by the publisher’s fact checkers who had concerns about references to “The Case for Israel.”

Subsequently, Finkelstein moved the publication to the UC Press, where Dershowitz sent similar letters to the ones he had written to New Press.

Dershowitz employed the help of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, one of the largest firms in the country, to write to the UC Press to address the same concerns that were brought up by the fact checkers at New Press.

The lawyers also sent the handwritten manuscript of “The Case for Israel” to the UC Press to use as a reference.

Dershowitz said he also contacted Gov. Schwarzenegger’s legal office to inform them of the UC Press’s projected release of the new title.

Finkelstein said he understands that his work may cause a stir when it is released, and that UC Press took steps to be thorough in its evaluation of the book.

“Because of its controversial nature, they submitted it to eight outside readers,” Finkelstein said, adding that the UC Press usually submits manuscripts to three outside readers.

Finkelstein said these readers included scholars from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Oxford, Harvard and UC Berkeley. Finkelstein said all eight readers approved of the book and encouraged him to proceed with its publication.

Finkelstein questioned Dershowitz’s stated intentions to prevent damage to the reputation of the UC Press.

“When you enlist Cravath and Swaine, it’s not because you are worried about UC Berkeley; it’s because you are worried about yourself,” Finkelstein said.

In addition, Finkelstein said Dershowitz’s actions contradict with statements he has made in the past, citing Dershowitz’s visit to UCLA in October 2003.

According to a transcript of the event from the UCLA International Institute Web site, Dershowitz said he would never sue writers for libel or slander, but “will oppose them in the marketplace of ideas.”

But Finkelstein alleges Dershowitz laid the foundation for a case of libel against him in the letters to the UC Press.

In the United States, premeditation is necessary to substantiate a case of libel. Finkelstein alleges the letters were written in such a fashion to serve as evidence of knowledge that alleged inaccuracies were knowingly published.

Dershowitz denies Finkelstein’s allegations. He said the UC Press has not tried to contact him to check the facts that New Press brought to his attention, and that if the UC Press checked the facts, they would not release Finkelstein’s work.

This is not the first time Dershowitz and Finkelstein have disagreed over each others’ publications.

Dershowitz’s last major publication, “The Case for Israel,” was a New York Times best seller after its release in August 2004, according to the jacket of the book.

After the book’s publication, Finkelstein alleged Dershowitz had plagiarized from Joan Peters’ 1984 book “From Time Immemorial,” according to a transcript from “Democracy NOW!”, a nationally broadcasted radio show.

Dershowitz has consistently denied the allegations, and said a Harvard study proves that fact.

Behind Beyond Chutzpah: Professor’s Allegations Sets Dershowitz In Motion

by Steven Zeitchik, PW Daily — 5/17/2005

For years, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz and DePaul professor Norman Finkelstein have been feuding brutally and publicly. Now the fight is spilling over into publishing.

It’s a duel already responsible, at least indirectly, for one publisher pulling out from publishing Finkelstein’s book and for the author’s new house, the University of California Press, pushing it back several months.

The book, Beyond Chutzpah, is a point-by-point rebuttal of Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. It also continues allegations that Finkelstein has long made that the Harvard professor invented facts in, plagiarized parts of and in fact may even have not written his 2003 book The Case for Israel.

Finkelstein and Dershowitz have engaged in sniper fire for years, with the argument surfacing nastily on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now program two years ago. The two have deep ideological divides on Jewish issues ranging from Israel to cultural treatment of the Holocaust, with each considering the other a radical, to put it mildly.

But the most contentious claim this time is over the authorship of The Case for Israel, published by Wiley in August 2003. The evidence and counter-evidence is complicated but basically, Finkelstein’s charges stem from citations Dershowitz made of Joan Peters’ 1984 book on the subject From Time Immemorial, and turns on questions of primary and secondary sourcing. Finkelstein also disputes a number of facts in the book, which he says were distorted to serve Dershowitz’s ideological ends. Dershowitz, of course, says Finkelstein is doing the same thing.

The announcement of the book’s publication by the New Press prompted Dershowitz to send a number of letters to the publisher that the house’s Colin Robinson calls “extremely aggressive.”

While the letters did not make the house change its plans, the publisher did want to push back the book from spring to fall–because of the sensitivity, Robinson says, the house wanted to see the finished manuscript before it catalogued it–and Finkelstein exercised an out clause.

Beyond Chutzpah (a double-entendre meant to also refer to Dershowitz’s book Chutzpah), then went to the University of California Press, where the house scheduled it for June–and then quietly pushed it back to August. Somewhere in that time, Dershowitz sent several letters to the house in which he made “serious accusations about Finkelstein as a person and as a scholar,” according to someone familiar with the letters.

Dershowitz also sent letters to the office of governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (UC Press receives sate funding as part of the California school system.) A response from that office to Dershowitz obtained by PW shows that it reads, in part, that the governor “is not inclined to otherwise exert influence in this case because of the clear, academic freedom issue it presents.”

Dershowitz acknowledged sending letters to several parties but says that he simply wanted to draw attention to what he believes are factual errors. “My goal has never been to stop publication of this book, but to eliminate as many of the demonstrable falsehoods as possible through a careful vetting, which thus far the University of California Press has not to my knowledge done.”

For her part, UC publisher Lynn Withey says the book had indeed been fact-checked and given added rounds of peer and legal review. She says that the reason for the delay are that some changes needed to be made, but that they were not prompted by Dershowitz’s missive. “All of the changes have been editorial,” she says. She notes that the plagiarism case is now made in an appendix.

Some observers were puzzled by Dershowitz’s strategy of behind-the-scenes lobbying; as a legal tactic its track record isn’t very good, and as a press strategy it’s hardly much better. One source noted that its intention could be to get UC to remove explicit accusations that Dershowitz did not write A Case for Israel, which could be grounds for a libel suit from Dershowitz.

The house, Withey acknowledged, is walking a tightrope between rabblerousing and capitulating. “We really don’t want to get into a continued antagonism between these two authors, and they’ve been at each other for a while,” she says. “But Finkelstein has an important message and an incredible amount of documentation and an important argument that needs to be heard.”

This article originally appeared in the May 17, 2005 issue of PW Daily.

Dershowitz Exposed Yet Again: The Critique of Pure Cant

To deflect scrutiny of copious evidence demonstrating that his book is a hoax, Alan Dershowitz resorts to ad hominem attacks, irrelevant asides and yet new fabrications (not to mention numerous errors).  For example, in a letter to the UCLA campus newspaper, The Daily Bruin, Dershowitz stated that criticism of The Case for Israel was "part of a widespread, coordinated and well-funded campaign." He went on to allege that "similar campaigns were conducted…against numerous other writers," listing these names: "Elie Weisel" – but its Wiesel; "Burt Nuborn" – it’s Neuborne; "the Honorable Stewart Eisenstadt" – it’s Stuart Eizenstat; and "David Goldhagen" – it’s Daniel. (October 29, 2003; the editors confirmed that all the errors were his, but refused to publish my reply)  The lamentable truth is that Dershowitz hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about.

Dershowitz’s central allegation is that I falsified evidence against Wiesel in my book, The Holocaust Industry (Verso: 2000; expanded second edition 2003).  In his memoir Wiesel had written that "I read The Critique of Pure Reason – don’t laugh! – in Yiddish."  I suggested that this was most improbable since The Critique of Pure Reason was never translated into Yiddish (p. 82).   Rather, as I subsequently pointed out in a Salon interview (see this website under "The Holocaust Industry"), the only selection by Kant translated into Yiddish was a chapter on ethics from The Critique of Practical Reason.  Pretending to be a Kant aficionado, Wiesel once recalled that: "As a boy, when I went out with a girl, I would talk to her about Kant and generally never see her again" (quoted in Against Silence: The Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel, selected and edited by Irving Abrahamson [New York, 1985], vol. iii, p. 278).  For an avowed Kant expert to confuse reading one chapter of The Critique of Practical Reason with the whole of The Critique of Pure Reason is akin to an avowed Tolstoy expert who confuses reading one chapter of Anna Karenina with the whole of War and Peace.  Although Wiesel would later claim to possess the "title page" of The Critique of Pure Reason in Yiddish (Daily Telegraph, July 31, 2000), the translation was nowhere to be found among all the major collections of Yiddish writings I consulted in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel.  Now, along comes Alan Dershowitz informing readers and audiences everywhere that, lo and behold, it’s right there in Harvard Library.  For example, he wrote this in the Harvard Crimson:

[Finkelstein] accused Wiesel of lying because Wiesel said that when he was 18 years old "I read The Critique of Pure Reason…in Yiddish."  Here is Finkelstein’s "gotcha" accusation: "The Critique of Pure Reason was never translated into Yiddish" (The Guardian, July 12, 2000).  A fairly unambiguous charge.  The only problem is that The Critique of Pure Reason was translated into Yiddish and published in Warsaw in 1929.  The Harvard Library has a copy and Wiesel did read it.  I have seen no apology from Finkelstein." (October 2, 2003;

Regrettably, the Harvard Crimson barred any reader response.  Below I post the title page of the one and only item of Kant in Yiddish (60 pages) in Harvard’s collection.  The translation reads:


from the book Critique of Practical Reason

selected by N. Shaynberg

Publisher: Etik


Case closed, except – when will Harvard finally get rid of this repellent fraud?

Norman G. Finkelstein

December 2003


Letters to the editor

Daily Bruin (UCLA)

29 October 2003

Dershowitz responds

Your readers should know that the letter from Sarah Weir (Viewpoint, Oct. 24) is part of a widespread, coordinated and well-funded campaign to attack my book, "The Case for Israel," not on its merits, but instead by raising phony issues regarding my integrity and credibility. Similar campaigns were conducted by the same zealous, anti-Israel bigots against numerous other writers such as Elie Weisel, Sir Martin Gilbert, Burt Nuborn, the Honorable Stewart Eisenstadt and David Goldhagen who were perceived as pro-Israel or favorable to justice for Jewish Holocaust survivors.

The plagiarism charge is a smoke screen and utterly without merit, as determined by several objective experts, such as the former president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The charge itself is absurd in its face. Every single quote in my book is within quotation marks. The accusation is that I cited these quotes to their original source rather than to the secondary source which the accusers claim is where I first came across the quotes. Citing original sources is the preferred form, however, according to the authoritative style manuals. Moreover, I originally found many of these quotes in other books and have been using them for years with proper attribution.

My accusers know their plagiarism accusation is totally false. Why then do they make it? The answer is clear: to intimidate other professors, especially those without tenure, from writing pro-Israel books. The message they are sending is unambiguous. Anyone writing a book favorable to Israel will be subject to false, though potentially damaging, attacks on their integrity. This form of literary McCarthyism has become a pattern that must be exposed, along with those who are employing it.

Alan Dershowitz
Professor, Harvard Law School

Dershowitz/Cockburn: The Nation Exchange

Cambridge, Mass.

Alexander Cockburn realizes that, as one columnist characterized him,

"as an accuser, Joe McCarthy was more responsible." So he has invoked

a purported neutral academic expert to lend credence to his

preposterous plagiarism charge ["Beat the Devil," Oct. 13; "Letters,"

Oct. 27]. It turns out, however, that his "expert" is as biased,

irresponsible and wrong as he is. Sayres Rudy is not a "professor."

So far as I can determine, he has no PhD. He has no permanent

teaching job. He is an academic vagabond with little experience and

even less knowledge about academic disciplinary matters. He is also,

not coincidentally, an ideological soul mate of Cockburn on Israel,

having signed petitions that accuse Israel but not Palestinian

terrorist organizations of war crimes. I have read the disciplinary

and plagiarism codes that he cites and cannot find anything even

close to what Cockburn has falsely accused me of doing. More

important, Harvard Law School’s extremely demanding definition of

plagiarism makes it clear that what I did was entirely proper.

Moreover, I did it completely in the open. In the galley proofs that

were sent to hundreds of reviewers, I included an instruction to my

research assistant to cite several sources I came upon in Joan

Peters’s book. I also instructed my research staff to check these

sources against the original. The experts I consulted-real experts,

with vast experience and no ideological ax to grind-know of no case

in which a student or faculty member was ever disciplined for doing

what I did. I challenge Prof. Rudy to come up with a single case in

which he participated at the universities he mentions that resulted

in any kind of discipline for a student or professor who cited

original rather than secondary sources for a handful of quotations

(out of hundreds) that he or she originally found in a secondary

source with whose conclusions he disagrees, checked them against the

originals and then cited the originals. Although the names of

students are generally kept confidential, the charges are often made

public so that students can learn from the "common law." He will be

unable to do so, because what I did was absolutely proper and

routine. And he knows it. His claim that he can say "unequivocally"

that any student who did what I did would be disciplined for

plagiarism is a deliberate lie made out of whole cloth to serve his

ideological agenda. Like Cockburn, he doesn’t like the substance of

my book and so has joined forces with those seeking to deligitimize

it with false charges. This is a form of literary McCarthyism of

which he should be ashamed, even if Cockburn is shameless.

Alan Dershowitz

Cockburn Replies

New York City

First let me give the floor to Sayres Rudy: "Alan Dershowitz thinks

I’m too inexperienced to assess his plagiarism because I’m not a

professor but a vagabond. When I finish my dissertation this year, I

will have three advanced degrees: Johns Hopkins, SAIS (MA 1990),

Columbia (MA 1996; PhD 2004). How many does Dershowitz have? What he

calls vagabondage I call teaching. Since 1993 I’ve taught political

science at Columbia, Amherst and Mount Holyoke, and political

philosophy at Harvard (six years). I served on and chaired Davidson

College’s Honor Council (1983-86), whose hearings are confidential

and outcomes sealed. At Davidson as elsewhere, Dershowitz’s

technique-citing unchecked sources in any given footnote as his own

research findings when they’re in fact taken from uncited sources-is

an honor code violation: either plagiarism or, worse, stealing.

Dershowitz also implies that I’m politically motivated. I do deplore

inhumane and intellectually absurd apologias for political

domination. But whether in defense of Saudi, Palestinian Authority

or-as in this case-Zionist criminality, Dershowitz’s tactics

constitute plagiarism. If not, why would he use me as a red herring

rather than answer Alexander Cockburn’s (and Norman Finkelstein’s)

charges directly?"

On the plagiarism charges Dershowitz is dead in the water. We now

have the "smoking gun" proof that he copied Peters’s sources without

checking them. A correspondent has sent Finkelstein the advance

uncorrected proofs of D’s book. Many of the footnotes are not yet

filled in, and instructions are left for D’s research assistants on

how to complete the text. Here’s footnote 19 on p. 13: "Holly Beth:

cite sources on pp. 160, 485, 486, fns 141-145." Notice the wording:

D doesn’t say "check" sources on pp.__; he says "cite" sources on

pp.__. All the page references are to Peters’s book citations, which

correspond to those in D’s book. Holly Beth is one of his research

assistants, acknowledged in the final version of the text. Dershowitz

knows the smoking gun has surfaced, hence the hastily inserted

bluster on the matter in this latest letter.

McCarthy? In his ghastly book D claims that the International

Solidarity Movement are supporters of terrorism; that Rachel Corrie

"threw herself" in front of the oncoming Israeli bulldozer; that

female Palestinian suicide bombers were raped by "terrorist

operatives"; that an "independent investigation" proved that a

Palestinian killed during torture by Israel died from unrelated

causes; that Israel doesn’t currently torture Palestinian detainees;

that the Marines in Beirut 1983 were killed by "Palestinian

terrorists"; that no Palestinian was deliberately killed during

Operation Defensive Shield; and on and on. As Finkelstein remarks,

it’s simply not possible to address the "substance" of D’s "book,"

because the book lacks substance. It’s a flat-out fraud, from the

author’s name forward. Finkelstein promises to demonstrate this in a

forthcoming book, from the New Press, titled Letters to an Old

Shyster: How Professor Alan Dershowitz Concocted a Ludicrous Hoax and

Why Harvard University Should Expel Him for It. Dershowitz should be

kicked out of his Felix Frankfurter chair for being a plagiarist, and

then he should sue himself for incompetency of counsel.

Alexander Cockburn

Dershowitz vs. Cockburn (including exchange of letters)

Alexander Cockburn

Alan Dershowitz, Plagiarist

Let’s start with a passage from Alan Dershowitz’s latest book, The

Case for Israel, now slithering into the upper tier of Amazon’s sales

charts. On page 213 we meet Dershowitz, occupant of the Felix

Frankfurter Chair at Harvard Law School, happily walloping a French

prof called Faurisson, charged by the FF prof from Harvard U as being

a fraud and a Holocaust denier: "There was no extensive historical

research. Instead, there was the fraudulent manufacturing of false

antihistory. It was the kind of deception for which professors are

rightly fired-not because their views are controversial but because

they are violating the most basic canons of historical scholarship."

Let me now usher into the narrative an important member of the cast:

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over

Palestine, a 601-page book by Joan Peters, published in 1984.

Peters’s polemical work strove to buttress the old Zionist thesis

that the land of Israel had been "a land without people, awaiting a

people without land." Peters’s book was soon discredited as a charnel

house of disingenuous polemic. The coup de grâce was administered by

Professor Yehoshua Porath in The New York Review of Books for January

16 and March 27, 1986.

Though neither Peters nor her book appears in the index to The Case

for Israel, they both get a mention in note 31 of chapter 2, where

Dershowitz cites the work of a nineteenth-century French geographer

called Cuinct [sic], and adds, "See Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial

(Chicago: JKAP Publications, 1984). Peters’s conclusions and data

have been challenged. See Said and Hitchens, p. 33. I do not in any

way rely on them in this book." "Them" clearly refers to Peters’s

conclusions and data.

This brazen declaration is preceded in chapters 1 and 2 by repeated,

unacknowledged looting of Peters’s research. I have before me a

devastating comparative archive of these plagiarisms, compiled by

Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on

the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering and Image and Reality of the

Israel-Palestine Conflict. Here are but four from twenty thus far

discovered in the first two chapters alone.

"In the sixteenth century," the learned Dershowitz remarks on the

seventeenth page of his book, "according to British reports, ‘as many

as 15,000 Jews’ lived in Safad, which was a ‘center of rabbinical

learning.’" Source cited by Dershowitz: Palestine Royal Commission

Report, pp. 11-12. Turn now to page 178 of Peters’s book, published

nineteen years earlier: "Safed at that time, according to the British

investigation by Lord Peel’s committee, ‘contained as many as 15,000

Jews in the 16th century,’ and was ‘a centre of Rabbinical

learning.’" Source cited by Peters: Palestine Royal Commission

Report, pp. 11-12. Originality displayed by Dershowitz: downgrading

"Rabbinical" to a lower-case r.

Same page of Dershowitz: "[A]ccording to the British consul in

Jerusalem, the Muslims of Jerusalem ‘scarcely exceed[ed] one quarter

of the whole population.’" Source cited: James Finn to Earl of

Clarendon, January 1, 1858. Peters (p. 197): "In 1858 Consul Finn

reported the ‘Mohammedans of Jerusalem’ were ‘scarcely exceeding

one-quarter of the whole population.’" Source cited: James Finn to

Earl of Clarendon, January 1, 1858.

Dershowitz (p. 20): "Nor could the Jew seek redress, as the report

observed: ‘Like the miserable dog without an owner he is kicked by

one because he crosses his path, and cuffed by another because he

cries out-to seek redress he is afraid, lest it bring worse upon him;

he thinks it better to endure than to live in the expectation of his

complaint being revenged upon him.’" Source cited: Wm. T. Young to

Viscount Palmerston, May 25, 1839. Peters (p. 187): "[T]he life for

Jews described in 1839 by British Consul Young: ‘[S] Like the

miserable dog without an owner he is kicked by one because he crosses

his path, and cuffed by another because he cries out-to seek redress

he is afraid, lest it bring worse upon him; he thinks it better to

endure than to live in the expectation of his complaint being

revenged upon him.’" Source cited: Wm. T. Young to Viscount

Palmerston, May 25, 1839.

Dershowitz (p. 27): "J.L. Burkhardt [sic] reported that as early as

in the second decade of the nineteenth century, ‘Few individualsSdie

in the same village in which they were born. Families are continually

moving from one place to anotherSin a few yearsSthey fly to some

other place, where they have heard that their brethren are better

treated.’" Source cited: John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and

the Holy Land (New York: AMS Press, 1983), p. 299. Peters (p. 163):

"John Lewis Burckhardt graphically described the migratory patterns

he found in the early 1800s: ‘[S]Few individualsSdie in the same

village in which they were born. Families are continually moving from

one place to another[S]in a few years[S]they fly to some other place,

where they have heard that their brethren are better treated.’"

Source cited: John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy

Land (London: 1882), p. 299.

For those who, on the monkeys-writing-Shakespeare analogy, may

speculate that Dershowitz somehow replicated Peters’s researches

unknowingly, I should add that in two very long passages, one from a

letter from Wm. T. Young to Col. Patrick Campbell (May 25, 1839), and

the other from Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, Dershowitz

reproduces the quotes with ellipses in exactly the same places as


Amid this orgy of plagiarism, Dershowitz understandably gets confused

about sources. Claiming to be inspired by George Orwell, Peters in

her book coined the term "turnspeak" to signal an inversion of

reality. Dershowitz is apparently so nervous of citing Peters in any

way that he credits the term "turnspeak" to Orwell, accusing critics

of Israel of "deliberately using George Orwell’s ‘turnspeak.’"

Over to Harvard president Lawrence Summers-or will the man so happy

to dress down Prof. Cornel West be more timid when it comes to

confronting the occupant of the Felix Frankfurter Chair? All you have

to do is remind him of Dershowitz’s words about Prof. Faurisson.

The Nation, October 27, 2003

Letters Exchange

‘Plagiarized!’ ‘Total NonsenseS’

Cambridge, Mass.

Alexander Cockburn’s politically motivated claim that I "plagiarized"

from Joan Peters is total nonsense ["Beat the Devil," Oct. 13]. Let’s

begin with what is undisputed: Every word written by others appears

with quotation marks, is cited to their original or secondary sources

and is quoted accurately. This means that they are not plagiarized.

James Freedman, the former president of Dartmouth and the American

Academy of Arts and Sciences, has concluded, after reviewing the

relevant material, that what I did was "simply not plagiarism, under

any reasonable definition of that word."

Cockburn’s claim is that some of the quotes should not have been

cited to their original sources but rather to a secondary source,

where he believes I stumbled upon them. Even if he were correct that

I found all these quotations in Peters’s book, the preferred method

of citation is to the original source, as the Chicago Manual of Style

emphasizes: "With all reuse of others’ materials, it is important to

identify the original as the source. ThisShelps avoid any accusation

of plagiarismSTo cite a source from a secondary source (‘quoted inS’)

is generally to be discouragedS."

It is especially cynical that Cockburn would have me cite the quotes

to Peters, since Norman Finkelstein-his source-has alleged that

Peters herself originally found these and other quotes in earlier

books. Should I have cited those books? That is why citing the

original source is preferred.

I came across the quoted material in several secondary sources. They

appear frequently in discussions of nineteenth-century Palestine. The

Mark Twain quote, highlighted by Cockburn, appears in many books

about the subject. I came across it in 1970 while preparing a debate

about Israel for The Advocates. Cockburn also points out that I quote

some of the same material from the Peel Report that Peters quotes,

but he fails to mention that I also use many quotes from the report

that do not appear in Peters’s book. I read the entire report and

decided which parts to quote. I rely heavily on the Peel Report,

devoting an entire chapter (Six) to its findings. They are quoted

directly, with proper attribution.

Cockburn refers to Finkelstein’s "devastating chart," which compares

several quotes from my books with quotes from Peters’s book. By

juxtaposing these quotes, he makes it appear that I am borrowing

words from her. But these are all quotes-properly cited in my

book-from third parties. Of course they are similar, or the same. One

does not change a quote. And since I did find some of the quotes in

Peters’s book, as she found them in others, it should come as no

surprise that the ellipses are sometimes similar or the same.

It is important to recall that my book is a brief for Israel. It does

not purport to be a work of original demographic research, as

Peters’s does. A few pages are devoted to summarizing the demographic

history, and these pages rely heavily on quotes from others to make

my points. I found most of my quotes in secondary sources. When I was

able to locate the primary source, I quoted it. When I was unable, I

cited the secondary source. Contrary to Cockburn’s implication that I

cited Peters once, I cited her eight times in the first eighty-nine

pages (Ch. 2, fn 31, 35; Ch. 5, fn 8; Ch. 12, fn 34, 37, 38, 44, 47).

Of my more than 500 references, fewer than a dozen were found in

Peters and cited to original sources. Although we use a few of the

same sources-and we each use many sources not used by the other-I

come to different conclusions from Peters about important issues. As

I made clear in my book, "I do not in any way rely on" Peters’s

conclusions or demographic data for my arguments. Peters’s basic

conclusion is that only a small number of Palestinians lived in what

later became Israel. She provides specific figures, which have been

disputed. My very different conclusion is that:

There have been two competing mythologies about Palestine circa 1880.

The extremist Jewish mythology, long since abandoned, was that

Palestine was "a land without people, for a people without a land."

The extremist Palestinian mythology, which has become more embedded

with time, is that in 1880 there was a Palestinian people; some even

say a Palestinian nation that was displaced by the Zionist invasion.

The reality, as usual, lies somewhere in between. Palestine was

certainly not a land empty of all people. It is impossible to

reconstruct the demographics of the area with any degree of

precision, since census data for that time period are not reliable,

and most attempts at reconstruction-by both Palestinian and Israeli

sources-seem to have a political agenda.

I offer very different and rougher estimates, which Cockburn and

Finkelstein do not challenge, as they do Peters’s. How then can I be

accused of plagiarizing ideas or conclusions with which I disagree,

from a book that I cite eight times, using the preferred form of


Why then would Cockburn attack me so viciously? The answer is in his

sentence bemoaning the fact that a pro-Israel book is "slithering

into the upper tier of Amazon’s sales charts." He disapproves of my

message and of the fact that it is reaching a wide audience. Instead

of debating me on the merits, he has tried to destroy my credibility

with a false accusation. (This is not the first time he and

Finkelstein have gotten together and employed this tactic against

people with whom they disagree.)

Let people read The Case for Israel and judge it for themselves

against Cockburn’s charges. I have sent his attack and my response to

President Summers. I have nothing to fear from false charges.

Alan M. Dershowitz



Every time he tries to leap to firmer ground, defending the rotten

standards of scholarship in his rotten book, Dershowitz sinks in

deeper. Start with his defiant declaration from the dock that he did

not commit plagiarism because "every word written by others appears

with quotation marks, is cited to their original or secondary sources

and is quoted accurately." This skates (rather clumsily, I have to

say) round the question of what source Dershowitz actually did use

for his citation and whether or not he acknowledged it. Often he used

Peters and pretended he didn’t, which would get him into very hot

water at Harvard if he were a student and not the Felix Frankfurter


Here are Harvard’s own rules, set forth in Writing With Sources: A

Guide for Harvard Students: "Plagiarism is passing off a source’s

information, ideas, or words as your own by omitting to cite them."

And also: "When quoting or citing a passage you found quoted or cited

by another scholar, and you haven’t actually read the original

source, cite the passage as ‘quoted in’ or ‘cited in’ that scholar

both to credit that person for finding the quoted passage or cited

text, and to protect yourself in case he or she has misquoted or


I discussed only Dershowitz’s first two chapters, as dissected by

Norman Finkelstein, his nemesis in this affair, who points out that

twenty-two of the fifty-two footnotes to these chapters are lifted

from Peters without attribution. Finkelstein recently laid waste

Dershowitz’s attempts at self-exculpation in the Harvard Crimson. As

Finkelstein points out, one problem for the beleaguered prof comes in

the form of ellipses. Dershowitz echoes Peters’s ellipses. Another

problem identified by Finkelstein: For Twain, Dershowitz cites from

one edition and Peters from another, but the page numbers he cites

are from Peters’s edition, not his. So Peters’s text is where he got

the quote.

Yet another problem goes to the concluding sentence from the Harvard

guidelines quoted above. Dershowitz echoes Peters’s mistakes. From

Twain she cites as one continuous text what are in fact two separate

paragraphs separated by eighty-seven pages. Dershowitz follows suit.

He’s handcuffed to Peters in a more serious breach of scholarship

when he plagiarizes her erroneous citation of British consular

official Wm. T. Young’s supposedly first-person description to Lord

Canning of an instance of anti-Semitism in Jerusalem. The description

was not Young’s but a memorandum by one A. Benisch, which Young was


Another bloodied glove, as it were, comes with Dershowitz’s

attribution of the unlovely neologism "turnspeak" to George Orwell.

This was a coinage by Peters, who cited Orwell as having inspired it.

Glazed with literary pillage, and ever eager to suppress the fact

that he was relying heavily on one of the most notorious

laughingstocks of Middle Eastern scholarship, Dershowitz seized on

Orwell as the source, once again cutting Peters out.

Quoting The Chicago Manual of Style, Dershowitz artfully implies that

he followed the rules by citing "the original" as opposed to the

secondary source, Peters. He misrepresents Chicago here, where "the

original" means merely the origin of the borrowed material, which is,

in this instance, Peters.

Now look at the second bit of the quote from Chicago, chastely

separated from the preceding sentence by a demure three-point

ellipsis. As my associate Kate Levin has discovered, this passage

("To cite a source from a secondary sourceS") occurs on page 727,

which is no less than 590 pages later than the material before the

ellipsis, in a section titled "Citations Taken from Secondary

Sources." Here’s the full quote, with what Dershowitz left out set in

bold: "’Quoted in.’ To cite a source from a secondary source ("quoted

inS") is generally to be discouraged, since authors are expected to

have examined the works they cite. If an original source is

unavailable, however, both the original and the secondary source must

be listed."

So Chicago is clearly insisting that unless Dershowitz went to the

originals, he was obliged to cite Peters. Finkelstein has

conclusively demonstrated that he didn’t go to the originals.

Plagiarism, QED, plus added time for willful distortion of the

language of Chicago’s guidelines, cobbling together two separate


Some time ago three judges on a Florida appeals court overturned a

$145 million landmark judgment against tobacco companies. In their

decision the judges appropriated without acknowledgment extensive

swaths of the brief put forward by the tobacco companies’ well-paid

lawyers. The judges were sued for judicial plagiarism, and, as so

often, Dershowitz had a pithy quote: "If a student ever did what this

judge did, he’d be tossed out on his rear end from Harvard Law

School. We teach our students as a matter of ethics that when you

borrow, you attribute."

Amherst professor Sayres Rudy, who says his credentials are "from the

ground up," i.e., based on honor codes he enforced (Davidson) or

examined (UVA, The Citadel), has studied the Dershowitz/Peters case:

"I can say unequivocally that under Davidson College’s and other

schools’ honor codes Dershowitz’s quotations constitute plagiarism,

with clear attempt to deceive as to (A) his research and (B) his

findings. Thus his plagiarism is serious and unambiguous, and if it

were a student in question, the debate would regard levels of

punishment. Maximal punishments would be considered without any

doubt, including at UVA expulsion, at Davidson two-term suspension,

and at military schools such as West Point or The Citadel a


But then, Dershowitz isn’t a student. He’s the Felix Frankfurter

Professor at Harvard Law School, meaning presumably that he’s beyond

reform. Two-tier justice for all!

Alexander Cockburn

“A case of plagiarism?” from Globe and Mail (Toronto)

by Nomi Morris
p. D20

How do you take a free-flowing debate of the type common at dinner
tables and on TV talk shows and translate it into a book-length
essay? If you are a journalist, you weave quotations and examples
through the text to bolster your case. If you are a Harvard law
professor like Alan Dershowitz, you also painstakingly footnote
every point, lending an air of academic scholarship to the work and
presumably insulating you from censure.

The Case for Israel has 13 pages of tightly printed footnotes which,
annoyingly, allow Dershowitz to somewhat sloppily cite many facts,
figures and opinions without their sources being clearly evident. A
few flips to the book’s notes was enough to placate this reviewer.

It therefore came as a surprise to learn that Dershowitz was accused
of plagiarizing from a 1984 work by Joan Peters, From Time
Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine.
Peters’s name appears nowhere in Dershowtiz’s chapters on the early
demographic make-up of the area which became Israel. But she is
cited in several footnotes, the first including a rather cryptic
additional note: “Peters’ conclusions and data have been challenged
. . . I do not in any way rely on them in this book.” Other
quotations from Peters are cited back to their original sources,
among them Mark Twain’s writings on his travels in the Middle East,
and the British Peel Commission report of 1937.

Dershowitz’s main accuser is Norman G. Finkelstein, a political
science professor at DePaul University in Chicago who has long been
pitted against Dershowitz on the opposite side of the
Israel-Palestinian debate. Finkelstein, who has written a rebuttal
of Peters’s book, called Dershowitz “a plagiarist” while both were
on a talk show. “He not only plagiarized, but he plagiarized from a
certifiable hoax,” Finkelstein told the Harvard Crimson student
newspaper. Finkelstein also tried to get the newspaper to run an ad
showing what Dershowitz allegedly lifted from Peters. Alexander
Cockburn, another intellectual opponent of Dershowitz’s, then used
Finkelstein’s research for an article in the Oct. 13 issue of The
Nation (Alan Dershowitz, Plagiarist).

Not surprisingly, Dershowitz came back kicking, calling Finkelstein
and Cockburn’s charges “biased, ideologically driven accusations
leveled by two rabid anti-Israel polemicists.” In a letter to the
Harvard Crimson (Sept. 30), Dershowitz enlisted the aid of James O.
Freedman, former president of Dartmouth. He wrote: “There is no
claim that Dershowitz uses the words of others without attribution.
…he quotes them properly and generally cites them to the original
sources.” Dershowitz has said that Finkelstein’s action shows “that
if you dare write a pro-Israel book, you risk . . . having your
integrity attacked.”

It bears noting that this type of controversy is rampant on
campuses. Dershowitz hardly shied away from attacking several fellow
academics in his book. He attacked Finkelstein, but was most
aggressive toward his nemesis, MIT linguistics professor Noam
Chomsky. Of course, the arguments get even messier when the players
are Jewish, which provokes whispered charges of either blind loyalty
to Israel or the “self-hating Jew’” syndrome. Dershowitz was rather
bold in devoting a chapter to Jewish and Israeli champions of the
Palestinian cause, being careful not to label all such activists as
self-hating Jews — but concluding that they abet the enemy. There is
a Jewish saying which is a self-mocking tribute to diversity of
thought: “Put two Jews together and you get three opinions.” A
modern-day addendum might be that when you put two Jewish professors
together you get at least three books, several articles and possibly
a lawsuit.


“Dershowitz v. Israel-bashers”

Globe and Mail (Toronto)

4 October 2003
by Nomi Morris
pp. D19-D20

The Case for Israel
By Alan Dershowitz
Wiley, 264 pages, $29.95

There is the Arab-Israeli conflict. And there is the war of words
that swirls around it, in which each side seeks to convince the
larger world of the justice of its cause — and to denigrate the
legitimacy of the other side’s claims. Alan Dershowitz, outspoken
Harvard law professor best known for defending difficult clients
such as Klaus von Bulow and O. J. Simpson, decided it was time he
issued a spirited defence of Israel. In his foreword, he writes that
he has been formulating this book since 1967, motivated by the rabid
anti-Israel rhetoric he has encountered for years on campuses around
the world. He is also justifiably concerned about the integrity of
international agencies such as the United Nations, which apply a
double standard to the Jewish state on issues of war and human

The Case for Israel, with a blue-and-white Star of David on the
cover that suggests the Israeli flag, will particularly hit the spot
for supporters of Israel who have long felt the Jewish state is
singled out for unfair treatment in the court of public opinion and
whose outrage over the past three years of suicide bombings is the
prism through which they view the conflict. “It is the thesis of
this book that no nation in the history of the world that has faced
comparable threats to its survival — both external and internal —
has ever made greater efforts at, and has ever come closer to
achieving the high norms of the rule of law (human rights and civil
liberties),” Dershowitz writes. “Yet no civilized nation in the
history of the world, including totalitarian and authoritarian
regimes has ever been as repeatedly, unfairly and hypocritically
condemned and criticized by the international community as Israel
has been over the years.”

He opens his argument by saying he is critical of many Israeli
policies and is a believer in a two-state solution. But, he tells
us, that is not what this book is about. This book is to set the
record straight, to balance the radically pro-Palestinian writings
of influential academics such as Columbia literature professor
Edward Said, who died Sept. 25, and MIT linguistics professor Noam

The book is organized in 32 chapters, each opening with one of the
“slurs, slanders and misrepresentations that have been hurled at
Israel over the years,” such as: European Jews displaced
Palestinians, Jews exploited the Holocaust, Israel created the Arab
refugee problem, Israel tortures Palestinians, Israel is a racist
state. Under the heading The Proof, Dershowitz rebuts each item,
sometimes with incisive brilliance, sometimes with the same kind of
strident hyperbole used by Israel’s detractors. The result is a
stellar example of what is known in Israel as hasbara. Literally
translated from Hebrew as “explanation,” hasbara would be called
“public relations” by its professional practitioners — many of them
Israeli diplomats and American Jewish leaders. It might be
translated as “propaganda” by others who are more concerned with how
to end the war itself than how to win the war for public opinion.

Dershowitz’s book is far too sophisticated to be dismissed as mere
propaganda. But it is a polemic. And like every good polemic, it
succeeds through selection, omission, philosophic extrapolation and
comparisons with other countries and historical events — and by
presenting debatable premises as incontrovertible fact. Since the
book’s appearance, Dershowitz has boldly offered $10,000 to anyone
who can prove he has written something inaccurate.

But when it comes to the Middle East, there is often a fine line
between outright inaccuracy and differing interpretations of the
same event. For instance, Dershowitz, like many Israelis and
Americans, takes Yasser Arafat’s rejection of Israel’s peace offer
at Camp David in July 2000, as proof that Palestinians are still
bent on eliminating the Jewish state. After all, it marked the third
time this century Palestinians had rejected a two-state solution
(the earlier occasions were the Peel Commission recommendations of
1937 and the UN partition plan in 1947). Few would deny that Arafat
made a tragic mistake in walking away from the last serious peace
talks and in opting, yet again, for violence. But that doesn’t mean
the Palestinians were never serious about accepting a mini state in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Dershowitz gives no analysis of the
1993-2000 Oslo peace process and the degree to which Israeli land
confiscations, daily Palestinian checkpoint humiliations, Israeli
settlement activity and other factors had fatally eroded Palestinian
trust in Israel’s intentions. By the time Arafat and his cronies
actually got to Camp David, they were on very shaky ground in terms
of their own domestic support. And a few Palestinian negotiators
have since revealed they genuinely feared they were being misled by
some of the maps and numbers presented by the Israelis.

The Case for Israel succeeds admirably in most of what it sets
forth. Its failing is what is left out. For instance, Dershowitz
gives short shrift to the entire issue of Israeli settlements and
the role they played in undermining Palestinian good will during the
Oslo years. He gives the settlements a cursory six-paragraph chapter
in which he says, “Although I am personally opposed to the
settlements, I do not believe they are the real barrier to peace.”

His “case” is most satisfying in its historical sections, offering a
cogent summary of the demographics of the region between 1882 (the
first major influx of Jewish settlers to Palestine) and 1948 (when
Israel declared statehood). Israel’s original settlers were not
“imperialist” agents of great powers Britain and France, but Jewish
refugees from Europe, who bought — and did not steal — land that was
largely free of permanent (rather than migratory) inhabitants.

Dershowitz is also correct in asserting that Palestinian nationalism
— even the notion of a Palestinian nation — arose in the late 1950s
and early 1960s, long after the establishment of Israel. Previously,
local Arab aspirations were articulated by pan-Arabism, which was
ascendant in the region, and local Arab inhabitants considered
themselves part of larger Syria.

The book is also convincing in its premise that terrorism has worked
for the Palestinians over time, and that it would be immoral for
Israel and the United States to reward terrorism by offering any
concessions before there is a major crackdown by the Palestinian
leadership on groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This is Ariel
Sharon’s basic operating philosophy, which has been completely
accepted by the Bush administration.

Likewise, Dershowitz conducts a useful discussion of moral
relativism, bemoaning attempts to equate Palestinian suicide attacks
against Israeli civilians with Israeli army operations to crush
Palestinian combatants, which often result in Palestinian civilian
deaths. “Both are wrong, but the former is far more culpable than
the latter, because of the differing purposes,” he writes. “No
civilized society regards premeditated first-degree murder as
morally equivalent to negligent homicide.” This is a fine argument
on the philosophical level. But the experience of the past few years
has showed that Israel’s often harsh crackdowns in Palestinian
territories have utterly failed as a deterrent to terror or as a
motivator for the Palestinians to abandon violence. Winning the war
of words on this point is a hollow victory indeed when the result on
the ground is to radicalize further the Palestinian population.

But the major omission in Dershowitz’s otherwise laudable tome is
any acknowledgement of Israel’s relative strength in the region,
however hard won it was. Dershowitz argues as if Israel’s very
existence is currently as threatened as it was in 1947, when, in
fact, Israel’s last war of survival was the 1973 Yom Kippur war. No
doubt, three years of suicide attacks have leveled a psychological
blow to Israel unparalleled since 1973. But the second Palestinian
uprising does not threaten the existence of Israel any more than the
attacks on the World Trade Center signaled the imminent demise of
the United States.

I’m not saying Israel should be punished for the skill of having
survived and thrived. But nowhere in Dershowitz’s philosophical
musings does he pose the question: If two children are fighting over
a finite number of marbles, how should the parent intercede if the
older, larger, stronger child is holding onto the bulk of the
marbles and won’t let go as the younger, angry child keeps hitting
and hitting?

I’m not convinced Dershowitz or anyone else in the year 2003 need
prove Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. It has been an
internationally recognized fact for 55 years, which even the most
vociferous European critics of Israel would acknowledge as a
starting point. It is only fringe intellectuals and Muslim
extremists who argue otherwise. And leading up to the 2000 Camp
David talks, even most of the Arab world had grudgingly accepted
that Israel was here to stay. (The Gulf states for example, could
not wait to begin doing business with the Jewish state.)

Still, Dershowitz has convinced me that in some circles his book is
sorely needed. It should be required reading in university Middle
East courses and for diplomats heading to the region. It has
provided a genuine service by laying out the Israeli and Jewish
perspective on the history of the conflict. It may well be the
perfect volume to hand to, say, a neighbour with little knowledge of
the Middle East who is upset by television images. It may be just
the gift for, say, a European intellectual whose post-Second World
War anti-militarism has jaundiced his view of modern Israel.

But for those already steeped in the arguments of the Arab-Israeli
conflict, for those who have investigated on the ground, far beyond
the war of words waged in ivory towers in greater Boston, there is
much missing here.

I, for one, await a forward-looking sequel of more than the
seven-page summary Dershowitz offers at the end of this book. I
would like to see America’s leading defence lawyer go beyond making
the case for Israel. I would like to see him write The Case for

*Nomi Morris, who has followed the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1976,
was Middle East bureau chief for Knight Ridder Newspapers,
1998-2001. She covered the July 2000, Camp David talks and the first
year of the current Palestinian uprising, which has so far lasted
three years.*