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Dershowitz Launches "Jihad" Against Finkelstein

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    Noam Chomsky Accuses Alan Dershowitz of Launching a Jihad to Block Norman Finkelstein From Getting Tenure at Depaul University 04.17.2007 Democracy NOW! by
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      Noam Chomsky Accuses Alan Dershowitz of Launching a "Jihad" to Block
      Norman Finkelstein From Getting Tenure at Depaul University
      04.17.2007
      Democracy NOW!
      by Amy Goodman
      http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=11&ar=979


      We play Part II of our conversation with two of the country's leading
      dissidents, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. In the interview, we ask
      Chomsky about Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz who is lobbying
      DePaul faculty members to oppose Norman Finkelstein's bid to receive
      tenure. Chomsky says, "[Dershowitz] launched a jihad against Norman
      Finkelstein simply to try and vilify and defame in the hope that maybe
      what he is writing will disappear." [includes rush transcript] We turn
      to Part II of our conversation with two of the country's leading
      dissidents, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. We spoke with them yesterday
      in a rare joint interview.



      We turn to Part II of our conversation with two of the country's
      leading dissidents, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. We spoke with them
      yesterday in a rare joint interview.

      Howard Zinn is one of America's most widely-read historians. His
      classic work "A People's History of the United States" has sold over
      1.5 million copies and it has altered how many teach the nation's
      history. His latest book is "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress."

      Noam Chomsky began teaching linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute
      of Technology in Cambridge over 50 years ago. He is the author of
      dozens of books on linguistics and U.S. foreign policy. His most
      recent book is titled "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the
      Assault on Democracy."

      In a wide-ranging interview, we spoke about US wars from Iraq to
      Vietnam, about resistance and about academia. I asked Chomsky about
      political science professor Norman Finkelstein - one of the country's
      foremost critics of Israeli policy - and his battle to receive tenure
      at Depaul University where has taught for six years. Finkelstein's
      tenure has been approved at the departmental and college level but the
      dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has opposed it. A
      final decision is expected to be made by May. Finkelstein has accused
      Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz of being responsible for leading
      the effort to deny him tenure. In an interview with the Harvard
      Crimson, Dershowitz admitted that he had sent a letter to DePaul
      faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein's tenure. I asked Noam
      Chomsky about the dispute.

      Noam Chomsky. Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts
      Institute of Technology. He is the author of dozens of books on
      linguistics and U.S. foreign policy. His latest book is "Failed
      States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy."
      Howard Zinn. Professor emeritus at Boston University. His classic work
      "A People's History of the United States" has sold over 1.5 million
      copies. His latest book is "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress."
      RUSH TRANSCRIPT

      This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help
      us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our
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      AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the second part of our conversation with
      Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, two of the leading dissidents in this
      country today. I spoke to them yesterday here in Boston in a rare
      joint interview. Howard Zinn is one of America's most widely read
      historians. His classic work A People's History of the United States
      has sold over a million and a half copies, and it's altered how many
      people teach the nation's history. His latest book is A Power
      Governments Cannot Suppress. Noam Chomsky began teaching linguistics
      at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge over half a
      century ago. He is the author of dozens of books on linguistics and US
      foreign policy. His most recent book is called Failed States: The
      Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.

      In a wide-ranging interview, we talked about US wars from Iraq to
      Vietnam, about resistance and about academia. I asked Noam Chomsky
      about political science professor Norman Finkelstein, one of the
      country's foremost critics of Israel policy, and his battle to receive
      tenure at DePaul University, where he has taught for six years.
      Professor Finkelstein's tenure has been approved at the departmental
      and college level, but the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and
      Sciences at DePaul has opposed it. A final decision is expected to be
      made in May. Finkelstein has accused Harvard law professor Alan
      Dershowitz of being responsible for leading the effort to deny him
      tenure. In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Dershowitz admitted
      he had sent a letter to DePaul faculty members lobbying against
      Finkelstein's tenure. I asked Noam Chomsky about the dispute.
      NOAM CHOMSKY: The whole thing is outrageous. I mean, he's an
      outstanding scholar. He has produced book after book. He's got
      recommendations from some of the leading scholars in the many areas in
      which he has worked. The faculty -- the departmental committee
      unanimously recommended him for tenure. It's amazing that he hasn't
      had full professorship a long time ago.

      And, as you were saying, there was a huge campaign led by a Harvard
      law professor, Alan Dershowitz, to try in a desperate effort to defame
      him and vilify him, so as to prevent him from getting tenure. The
      details of it are utterly shocking, and, as you said, it got to the
      point where the DePaul administration called on Harvard to put an end
      to this.

      AMY GOODMAN: That's very significant, for one university to call on
      the leadership of another university to stop one of its professors.

      NOAM CHOMSKY: To stop this maniac, yeah. What's behind it? It's very
      simple and straightforward. Norman Finkelstein wrote a book, which is
      in fact the best compendium that now exists of human rights violations
      in Israel and the blocking of diplomacy by Israel and the United
      States, which I mentioned -- very careful scholarly book, as all of
      his work is, impeccable -- also about the uses of anti-Semitism to try
      to silence a critical discussion.

      And the framework of his book was a critique of a book of apologetics
      for atrocities and violence by Alan Dershowitz. That was the
      framework. So he went through Dershowitz's shark claims, showed in
      great detail that they are completely false and outrageous, that he's
      lying about the facts, that he's an apologist for violence, that he's
      a passionate opponent of civil liberties -- which he is -- and he
      documented it in detail.

      Dershowitz is intelligent enough to know that he can't respond, so he
      does what any tenth-rate lawyer does when you have a rotten case: you
      try to change the subject, maybe by vilifying opposing counsel. That
      changes the subject. Now we talk about whether, you know, opposing
      counsel did or did not commit this iniquity. And the tactic is a very
      good one, because you win, even if you lose. Suppose your charges
      against are all refuted. You've still won. You've changed the subject.
      The subject is no longer the real topic: the crucial facts about
      Israel, Dershowitz's vulgar apologetics for them, which sort of are
      reminiscent of the worst days of Stalinism. We've forgotten all of
      that. We're now talking about whether Finkelstein did this, that and
      the other thing. And even if the charges are false, the topic's been
      changed. That's the basis of it.

      Dershowitz has been desperate to prevent this book from being -- first
      of all, he tried to stop it from being published, in an outlandish
      effort, which I've never seen anything like it, hiring a major law
      firm to threaten libel suits, writing to the governor of California --
      it was published by the University of California Press. When he
      couldn't stop the publication, he launched a jihad against Norman
      Finkelstein, simply to try to vilify and defame him, in the hope that
      maybe what he's writing will disappear. That's the background.

      It's not, incidentally, the first time. I mean, actually, I happen to
      be very high on Dershowitz's hit list, hate list. And he has also
      produced outlandish lies about me for years: you know, I told him I
      was an agnostic about the Holocaust and I wouldn't tell him the time
      of day, you know, and so on and so forth.

      AMY GOODMAN: You mean that he made that charge against you?

      NOAM CHOMSKY: Of course, and on and on. I won't even talk about it.
      What's the reason? It's in print. In fact, you can look at it in the
      internet. In 1973, I guess it was, the leading Israeli human rights
      activist, Israel Shahak, who incidentally is a survivor of the Warsaw
      Ghetto and Bergen-Belsen and headed a small human rights group in
      Israel, which was the only real one at the time, came to Boston, had
      an interview with the Boston Globe, in which he identified himself
      correctly as the chair of the Israeli League of Human Rights.
      Dershowitz wrote a vitriolic letter to the Globe, condemning him,
      claiming he's lying about Israel, he's even lying about being the
      chair, he was voted out by the membership.

      I knew the facts. In fact, he's an old friend, Shahak. So I wrote a
      letter to the Globe, explaining it wasn't true. In fact, the
      government did try to get rid of him. They called on their membership
      to flood the meeting of this small human rights group and vote him
      out. But they brought it to the courts, and the courts said, yeah,
      we'd like to get rid of this human rights group, but find a way to do
      it that's not so blatantly illegal. So I sort of wrote that.

      But Dershowitz thought he could brazen it out -- you know, Harvard law
      professor -- so he wrote another letter saying Shahak's lying, I'm
      lying, and he challenged me to quote from this early court decision.
      It never occurred to him for a minute that I'd actually have the
      transcript. But I did. So I wrote another letter in which I quoted
      from the court decision, demonstrating that -- as polite, but that
      Dershowitz is a liar, he's even falsifying Israeli court decisions,
      he's a supporter of atrocities, and he even is a passionate opponent
      of civil rights. And this is like the Russian government destroying an
      Amnesty International chapter by flooding it with Communist Party
      members to vote out the membership.

      Well, he went berserk, and ever since then I have been one of his
      targets. In fact, anyone who exposes him as what he is is going to be
      subjected to this technique, because he knows he can't respond, so
      must return to vilification.

      And in the case of Norman Finkelstein, he sort of went off into outer
      space. But it's an outrageous case. And the fact that it's even being
      debated is outrageous. Just read his letters of recommendation from
      literally the leading figures in the many fields in which he works,
      most respected people.

      AMY GOODMAN: Most interesting, the letters of support from the leading
      Holocaust scholars like Raul Hilberg.

      NOAM CHOMSKY: Raul Hilberg is the founder of Holocaust studies, you
      know, the most distinguished figure in the field. In fact, he says
      Norman didn't go far enough. And it's the same -- Avi Shlaim is one of
      the -- maybe the leading Israeli historian, has strongly supported
      him, and the same with others. I can't refer to the private
      correspondence, but it's very strong letters from leading figures in
      these fields. And it's not surprising that the faculty committee
      unanimously supported him. I mean, there was, in fact -- they did --
      the faculty committee did, in fact, run through in detail the deluge
      of vilification from Dershowitz and went through it point by point and
      essentially dismissed it as frivolous.

      AMY GOODMAN: They rejected a 12,000-word attack, point by point.

      NOAM CHOMSKY: Aside from saying that the very idea of sending it is
      outrageous. You don't do that in tenure cases.

      AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you think it will turn out?

      NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the usual story: this depends on public reaction.

      AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. We'll come back to them in
      a minute.

      [break]

      AMY GOODMAN: We return to my interview with Noam Chomsky and Howard
      Zinn, who joined me in the studio here yesterday. We continued to look
      at the issues of academia in a time of war, so I asked Howard Zinn
      about his experience at Spelman College, the historically black
      college for women in Atlanta. Professor Zinn taught at Spelman for
      seven years before eventually being fired for insubordination. I asked
      him why he was pushed out.

      HOWARD ZINN: I had supported the students, and this was the Civil
      Rights Movement, right? My students are black women who get involved
      in the Civil Rights Movement. I support them. The administration is
      nervous about that, but they can't really say anything publicly, or do
      anything, because this is the first black president of Spelman
      College. They have all been white missionaries before that. And so, he
      doesn't want to do anything then. But when the students come back from
      -- you might say, "come back from jail" onto the campus and rebel
      against --

      AMY GOODMAN: What year was this?

      HOWARD ZINN: This was 1963. And the students rebel against the
      conditions that they're living in, very paternalistic, very
      controlling, and I support them in that, then that's too much for the
      president, and so, although I have tenure and I'm a full professor and
      I'm chair of the department, I get a letter saying goodbye.

      And so, that was my -- you know, what Noam was talking about when you
      ask him what's going to happen, universities, colleges are not
      democratic institutions. Really, they're like corporations. The people
      who have the most power are the people who have the least to do with
      education. That is, they're not the faculty, they're not the students,
      they're not even the people who keep the university going -- the
      buildings and grounds people and the technical people and the
      secretaries -- no. They're the trustees, the businesspeople, the
      people with connections, and they're the ones who have the most power,
      they're the ones who make the decisions. And so, that's why I was
      fired from there, and that's why I was almost fired by John Silber at
      Boston University, but there was a --

      AMY GOODMAN: Over what?

      HOWARD ZINN: Over a strike. We had a faculty strike. We had a
      secretary strike. We had a buildings and ground workers strike. We had
      almost a general strike, almost an IWW strike at Boston University in
      1977. And when the faculty had actually won, got a contract and went
      back to work, some of us on the faculty said we shouldn't go back to
      work while the secretaries are still on strike. We wouldn't cross
      their picket lines. We held our classes out on the streets rather than
      do that. And so, five of us were threatened with firing.

      But there was a great clamor among students and faculty and actually
      across the country. They even got telegrams from France, protesting
      against this. And so, one of the rare occasions in which the
      administration, with all its power, backed down. And so, I barely held
      onto my job.

      AMY GOODMAN: You begin your book with two quotes. One of Eugene V.
      Debs: "While there is a lower class, I am in it; and while there is a
      criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I
      am not free." And Henry David Thoreau: "When the subject has refused
      allegiance and the officer has resigned his office, then the
      revolution is accomplished." You also write more about Henry David
      Thoreau. You write about him going to jail.

      HOWARD ZINN: Yeah, well, Thoreau is worth reading today and
      remembering today, because Thoreau committed just a small act of civil
      disobedience against the Mexican War. I mean, the Mexican War had some
      of the same characteristics as the war in Iraq today, and that is that
      the American people were lied to about the reasons for going into
      Mexico, and they weren't told that the real reason for going into
      Mexico was that we wanted Mexican land, which we took at the end of
      the Mexican War, just as today we're not being told that the real
      reason for being in Iraq has to do with oil and profits and money. And
      so, the situation in the Mexican War, against which Thoreau objected,
      was in many ways, you know, similar.

      And Thoreau saw that, and he saw that American boys were dying on the
      road to Mexico City and we were killing a lot of innocent Mexican
      people, and so he decided not to pay his taxes and spent just a very
      short time in jail, but then came out, delivered a lecture on civil
      disobedience and wrote an essay on the right to disobey the government
      when the government violates what it's supposed to do, violates the
      rights of Americans, violates the rights of other people.

      And so, that stands as a classic statement for Americans, that it's
      honorable and right to not to pay your taxes or to refuse military
      service or to disobey your government when you believe that your
      government is wrong. And so, the hope is that today more soldiers who
      are asked to go to Iraq, more young people who are asked to enlist in
      the war against Iraq, will read Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience,
      will take its advice to heart, realize that the government is not
      holy, that what's holy is human life and human freedom and the right
      of people to resist authority. And so, Thoreau has great lessons for
      us today.

      AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, as we wrap up, that whole issue of hope and
      where you see things going in the current Bush administration, what it
      stands for, and the level of protest in this country. Do you think
      that level of protest will succeed?

      NOAM CHOMSKY: It depends what you mean by "succeed." I mean, I have a
      slightly more hopeful sense than Howard, at least expressed. I suspect
      he agrees. It's true that the country, that in terms of the
      institutional structure -- government for the wealthy and so on --
      there hasn't been much change in 200 years.

      But there's been enormous progress, I mean, even in the last forty
      years, since the '60s. Many rights have been won: rights for
      minorities, rights for women, rights of future generations, which is
      what the environmental movement is about. Opposition to aggression has
      increased. The first solidarity movements in history began in the
      1980s, after centuries of European imperialism, and no one ever
      thought of going to live in an Algerian village to protect the people
      from French violence, or in a Vietnamese village. Thousands of
      Americans were doing that in the 1980s in Reagan's terrorist wars.
      It's now extended over the whole world. There's an international
      solidarity movement.

      The global justice movements, which meet annually in the World Social
      Forum, are a completely new phenomenon. It's true globalization among
      people, maybe the seeds of the first true international -- people from
      all over the world, all walks of life, many ideas which are right on
      people's minds and agenda, in fact, being implemented about a
      participatory society, the kind of work that Mike Albert's been doing.
      These are all new things. I mean, nothing is ever totally new. There
      are bits and pieces of them in the past, but the changes are enormous.

      And the same with opposition to aggression. I mean, after all, the
      Iraq war is the first war in hundreds of years of Western history, at
      least the first one I can think of, which was massively protested
      before it was officially launched. And it actually was underway, we
      have since learned, but it wasn't officially underway. But it was
      huge, millions of people protesting it all over the world, so much so
      that The New York Times lamented that there's a second superpower: the
      population. Well, you know, that's significant and, I think, gives
      good reason for hope.

      There are periods of regression. We're now in a period of regression,
      but if you look at the cycle over time, it's upwards. And there's no
      limits that it can't reach.

      AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, two of this country's
      leading dissidents. We spoke yesterday on Patriot's Day, which is
      observed here in Massachusetts -- also, I believe, in Maine.

      *********************************************************************

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