Governors are asked by members of the public to do lots of things, but the request Arnold Schwarzenegger got from Alan Dershowitz in December was unique: to intervene with the University of California Press' plans to publish a book. Why does Dershowitz care? Because the book in question — Norman Finkelstein's "Beyond Chutzpah," due out next month — is harshly critical of Dershowitz.Jon Weiner sets out the rights and duties of authors, publishers and subjects of books.
Dershowitz has a right to be worried about how he will be treated in the book. Perhaps it was even legitimate for him to contact the UC Press about misstatements he believes Finkelstein has made about him in the past. And the Press certainly has an obligation to publish an accurate book.Hear, hear.
But for Dershowitz to try to stop publication of the book is simply unacceptable. The appropriate response to speech that is wrong is not to silence it, but to argue against it — because nobody has a monopoly on the truth.
Dershowitz, of course, knows all this. He has said he doesn't want to suppress Finkelstein's freedom of speech, but that he wants to ensure that "maliciously false statements about me … are not published." In fact, he says he supports publication of Finkelstein's book — by some publisher other than UC Press, which, he told me, should not "give its imprimatur" to Finkelstein's work. Instead, he said, it should be published by "the kind of publisher that publishes those kinds of books."
Thanks in part to Schwarzenegger, Dershowitz doesn't get to decide who publishes a book that criticizes him.
For more articles in a similar vein please visit Norman Finkelstein's website. If you follow the links you can even get to see Dershowitz's face when Finkelstein shows him a major (possibly deliberate) mistake in Dershowitz's book The Case for Israel.