Fink Protest Fizzles



[Birds of a feather]

Controversial scholar Norman Finkelstein has left DePaul University. He’s controversial for a variety of reasons. Radical leftists say it is due to his willingness to stand up to the Jewish “Zionist” lobby. Conservative critics note that Finkelstein, who presents himself as an expert on Israel and the Middle East, knows neither Hebrew nor Arabic. Further, he uses his classes as a bully pulpit rather than providing students a complex and nuanced understanding of history and politics.

Finkelstein threatened to “commit an act of civil disobedience,” engage in a hunger strike, and have his supporters hold massive protests due to his failure to receive tenure. In the end, it was all a bluff. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Wednesday’s demonstration witnessed the way in which the professor’s personal and academic struggle has been subsumed into a constellation of larger issues. Though the majority in the pro-Finkelstein ranks were college age, some in the crowd of 120 looked like veterans of many an earlier protest. One carried a placard and a portable oxygen supply.

But instead of a dramatic standoff, Finkelstein stood beside a statue of St. Vincent DePaul, for whom the university is named, and announced that he and the school had come to an amicable agreement: He resigned, and the university acknowledged his scholarship and teaching.

Recently, both supporters of the Palestinians and those of the Israelis have exchanged cries of “foul” during bitter campus debates. Jewish college students have complained of being harassed, in and out of the classroom. After an incident at the University of Chicago, that school brought in counselors, hoping to restore civility to the dorms.

Scholars of Middle Eastern studies have complained that Jewish organizations were out to censor them.

But Finkelstein himself was soft-spoken in what had been billed as his final class session.

His voice cracked with emotion when he thanked his students for their support through some dark periods.

Poor Fink. Don’t worry about him though. I’m sure he’ll land a gig at the University of California at Berkeley or some other bastion of groupthink. If that doesn’t pan out, he can always make plenty of loot from speaking engagements. Maybe he’ll join former President Carter on the Peace Not Apartheid circuit.

UPDATE: From Arutz Sheva:

[A] contingent of anti-Semites is to come to DePaul to show support for Herr Finkie, and these will include Khmer Rouge spokes-Stalinist Noam Chomsky, Walt “Jewish Cabal Controls the World” Mearsheimer, Brownshirt Tony Judt, jihadnik Tariq Ali, and of course Neve Gordon, Fink’s anti-Israel groupie from Ben Gurion University.


4 responses »

  1. Tony Judt is not a brownshirt. I dislike his political attitude to Israel and Jews but at least he is not vile, like the others in that group (with the possible exception of Chomskey, whose expertise should have remained where it is more useful: linguistics). Judt is a serious scholar and his book “Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945” comes close to being a classic model of clarity and narrative.

    Judt insists that there is no current wave in antisemitism in the world. The violence against Jews in Europe he imputes to Israel’s policies against the Palestinians. I think his analysis in this case is gravely flawed, especially since he demonstrates such unease with the proximity which his ethnicity compells him to bear with co-religionists. He is clearly embarrassed by Israel’s muscular power and insistence on robust, pre-emptive self-defence which he is too fastidious an intellectual to bear. But you can have a conversation with him, without it lurching into ouvert antisemitic hostility as it often does with the others (again, with the possible exception of Chomskey who is a bird of a somewhat different feather).

    Finklestein and Tariq Ali are the no doubt shrill and vulgar antisemites. I don’t know the fifth name, Neve something. Who is he? Another “ex-Jew”?

  2. Thanks for the corrections, Noga. The article in Arutz Sheva was more than a bit cheeky, especially the ending.

    Neve Gordon is a professor of politics at Ben Gurion University who contributes to Alexander Cockburn’s “Counterpunch”. Anyone who contributes to that rag is suspect IMHO.

  3. New Centrist:

    It was not meant to be a correction, just a different opinion. I confess I tend to be too pedantic about the way words are used and I am always on my guard against any fascist/Nazi analogy.

    A “brownshirt” is a name for a Nazi, especially a storm trooper.

    In a recent article Oliver Kamm provided a good parameter for using historical analogies. He says:

    “Historical analogies are never exact but sometimes useful. If they are to be useful, then the precedent needs at a minimum to be stated accurately.”

    Even if it is done tongue-in-cheek, it somehow dilutes the real meaning of what a “brownshirt” is. It also works in the opposite direction: If Tony Judt is a “brownshirt”, then the historical “brownshirts” were hardly anything as terrible and violent as they were.

  4. Noga, you are absolutely correct.

    If I’m going to get upset about people throwing around the term “fascist”–i.e. George Bush is a fascist, the U.S. is a fascist country, etc.–then I should be just as critical about the loose use of the word “brownshirt.” Judt cleary is not a brownshirt. I may not agree with him but he’s certainly not out in the steets beating people up (or worse).

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