June 14, 2007

Norman denounces tenure denial!

Well he would wouldn't he? Well no actually, you might not expect this particular Norman to denounce or at least find suspect, DePaul's decision to deny tenure to Norman Finkelstein. This Norman is Norman Geras, a zionist blogger and academic. Now you can bet your boots this guy doesn't like Finkeltsein one iota but:
the decision to deny Finkelstein tenure is one that everyone who cares for academic freedom should demand be challenged, reconsidered by DePaul and, unless it can be given a thoroughly convincing justification, rescinded.
And he gives reasons too:

1) My own judgement on the quality of what I've read of Finkelstein's work, little as this is. As I've said, I have major disagreements with things in the Holocaust industry book, and Finkelstein's intellectual style is rebarbative. But extrapolating from what I have read, I'd reckon he was perfectly eligible for tenure.

2) The support for Finkelstein from a scholar of Raul Hilberg's stature.

3) The fact, as reported here, that Finkelstein's 'department and a college-level personnel committee both voted in favor of tenure'.

4) The letter received by Finkelstein explaining why tenure had been denied him:

The three-page note cites Finkelstein's "deliberately hurtful" scholarship along with his lack of involvement with the school and his tendency for public clashes with other scholars.

"In the opinion of those opposing tenure, your unprofessional personal attacks divert the conversation away from consideration of ideas, and polarize and simplify conversations that deserve layered and subtle consideration..."

These complaints - 'hurtful' scholarship, 'public clashes with other scholars', and 'polarizing' or 'simplifying' conversations - may say something about how Finkelstein is perceived by many and, indeed, about the sort of person he is, but from the point of view of upholding academic freedom, they are not reassuring ones. The president of DePaul may be satisfied that 'academic freedom is alive and well' at his university, but it needs to demonstrate that its decision in this case hasn't betrayed that principle. You don't have either to agree with or to warm to Norman Finkelstein to find the decision suspect, at best.
So there we have it. I wasn't going to run this bit but look. Geras started with a big swipe at Finkelstein thus:
This is a man who taxes others with illicitly invoking their relationship to the Holocaust while doing exactly that himself. You can find an especially grotesque example of his doing so in the report here about his recent denial of tenure by DePaul University:
[A]ny temptation to "indulge in a bout of self-pity," he [Finkelstein] said, was halted by thinking of his parents, who survived the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi death camps while the rest of his relatives were exterminated. "They survived," he said. "I'll survive."
Was that so bad? Clearly Geras feels he ought to make it clear that he thinks Finkelstein a nasty piece of work.

Anyway, I found this because of this Linda Grant comment under an article in Comment is free, supporting Finkelstein:
I have no opinion about whether Norman Finkelstein should have been given tenure or not, but Norman Geras, whose opinions I greatly respect, thinks that the De Paul decision was suspect, and he is not himself a fan of Finkelstein's work.
I don't know why Norman Geras didn't post the comment himself but something curious is happening here. The zionists are in a bind. Dershowitz is now here to help them in their struggle against the suggestion of a boycott of Israel. They know that if Engage has been a liability then Dershowitz will hole them below the waterline. There seems to be an awkward split developing in the ranks of the zionist faithful.


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