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Match Point

Noam Chomsky:

It is always intriguing to see just how far Alan Dershowitz will go in his efforts to conceal the fact that Norman Finkelstein exposed him as a vulgar and fraudulent apologist for Israeli human rights violations--carefully, judiciously, with extensive documentation ("Taking the Bait,", May 21). Knowing that he cannot respond, Dershowitz is reduced to a torrent of slanders and deceit about Finkelstein's alleged misdeeds--which would, transparently, be irrelevant if there were a particle of truth to his easily-refuted charges. The latest chapter in Dershowitz's efforts at self-protection is a campaign to undermine Finkelstein's tenure appointment, actions that are utterly without precedent, even reaching to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In an attempt to obscure what he is up to, along with other little fibs that I'll ignore, Dershowitz has now invented a new fairy tale: that he is following my course when I "led [my] own jihad" to deny Kissinger a faculty position at Columbia.

As reported in such exotic sources as the national press (e.g., The Washington Post, May 27, 1977), when Henry Kissinger left the government, the Columbia administration created a special endowed chair for him, apparently without faculty consultation or normal review procedures. That elicited widespread opposition on campus, including a front-page denunciation in the student newspaper, protests signed by hundreds of faculty and students, and much more. My role in this was precisely zero, as Dershowitz knows, with one exception: I was invited by Columbia faculty members to speak at one of the events they organized. So much for the precedent Dershowitz invents to try to defend his disgraceful efforts to block Finkelstein's tenure.

Why does he drag me into this? For the same reasons as his Finkelstein rampage. I have been the target of a deluge of Dershowitz deceit and inventions since 1973, when I responded to his slanders about the Israeli League of Human Rights, even gross falsification of Israeli court records as he sought to defend serious violations of elementary civil rights that the court barred--exactly contrary to his claims (The Boston Globe, April 29, May 17, May 25, June 5, 1973, available online). As always when his performances are exposed, Dershowitz knows he cannot respond, and makes no effort to do so, instead resorting to the device that comes naturally to him: a torrent of vilification and deceit, of which his "Cambridge Diarist" submission is the most recent. As of today.

Noam Chomsky
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Alan Dershowitz responds:

It is not surprising that Noam Chomsky would leap to the defense of his ideological soul mate Norman Finkelstein. He always supports the academic freedom of those with whom he agrees, never those with whom he disagrees. But even Chomsky cannot actually cite any scholarly contributions that Finkelstein--who admits that he has never had an article published in a peer-reviewed journal--has made. What passes for Finkelstein-scholarship is charging me, and virtually every other pro-Israel writer, with plagiarism for citing material to their original rather than secondary sources. Anti-Israel as well as pro-Israel scholars use the same citation method because it is the one preferred by the Chicago Manual of Style and other authoritative sources. For example, Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer repeatedly cite primary sources for material they found in secondary sources. I proved this and challenged Finkelstein to level the same charge against these anti-Israel writers as he did against pro-Israel writers. He refused, because his is not scholarship; it is propaganda.

Finkelstein's other claim to scholarship is to cite the conclusions of anti-Israel human rights organizations as proof that I and other pro-Israel writers must be wrong when we come to independently researched conclusions that are different. He never provides independent research and when asked why not, he replied: "Why should I interview people?"

Finkelstein's only contribution to public discourse is to coarsen the level of debate about the Middle East. In a recent speech, Finkelstein called for all "monsters and freaks in the White House and their collaborators in Tel Aviv" to "drop dead." When Irshad Manji, the Canadian Muslim dissident, was subject to death threats, Finkelstein supported those threats and wrote to a website that was collecting petitions against the death threat the following: "Is there a petition supporting the death threats?" He has also supported, he claims in jest, my assassination. Some of his followers did not understand his humor and have made threatening phone calls to me. He has called me a moral pervert, a Nazi and commissioned a cartoon showing me masturbating in ecstatic joy to dead Lebanese civilians.

That is what passes for scholarship on Planet Chomsky. I challenge Chomsky to cite specific pages of Finkelstein's writings that warrant the grant of tenure. Since Finkelstein writes only for popular audiences and never for scholarly ones, his work can easily be evaluated by lay readers. The pages please!

Chomsky characterizes my input into the Finkelstein debate as "disgraceful." Yet he admits that he, as an MIT professor, spoke at a rally against Columbia University granting an academic position to Henry Kissinger. He claims that he was invited to speak by Columbia faculty members. I too was invited to write about Finkelstein by a DePaul faculty member. Moreover, my comments about Finkelstein have mostly been responsive to attacks by him against me. Would Chomsky deny me my freedom of speech when attacked? Has Chomsky ever remained silent in the face of criticism?

In addition to distorting the record with regard to Finkelstein's scholarship Chomsky distorts the history of my criticism of him. It began when he endorsed a notorious neo-Nazi Holocaust denier named Robert Faurisson by writing an introduction to his book. He also legitimated his falsification of history by characterizing Faurisson's fabrications--he claimed that Hitler's gas chambers never existed and that the Holocaust "never took place"--as having been based on "extensive historical research". Chomsky also legitimated Holocaust denial by writing that he saw "no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the Holocaust." Chomsky once told a group of people that he himself was "agnostic" on whether the Holocaust occurred. When professor Robert Nozick, who was part of the group, confronted Chomsky with this outrageous statement following a debate at Harvard Medical School, Chomsky shoved Nozick, saying, "How dare you quote an off-the-record remark I made to a small group at Princeton." He did not deny making the statement.

Chomsky then championed another anti-Semite, this time a Jewish one named Israel Shahak who has written that Jews worship the devil and that Israel is comparable to Nazi Germany. Shahak, like Chomsky, was a phony civil libertarian who believed in defending only the rights of the left, tried to hijack an Israeli human rights group.

Now Chomsky is once again championing an anti-Semite who has made a career out of rewriting the history of the Holocaust and denying the reality of Holocaust survivors. Chomsky and Finkelstein deserve each other. The DePaul community deserves better.

By Alan Dershowitz