…by Jonas E. Alexis
In the last article, we pointed out that examining the philosophies and intentions of those who promote certain ideologies can be laborious because ideologies are not just ideas which have no consequences in the real word.
Ideology also does not have to be supported by facts or evidence. Daniel J. Flynn argues in Intellectual Morons that ideology invariably blinds a person even in the face of evidence. As he puts it,
“When Ideology is your guide, you’re bound to get lost. Ideology deludes, inspires dishonesty, and breeds fanaticism. Facts, experience, and logic are much better at leading you to truth. Truth, however, is not everyone’s intended destination…Ph.D.s, high IQs, and intellectual honors are not antidotes to thickheadedness.”
The only antidote to ideology is truth, backed up by evidence, logical consistency, rational conclusions, deductive arguments, and adherence to reality. Ideologues do not always like the truth. Truth becomes a friend only if it supports their ideology. If the truth happens to be antithetical to their ideological framework, then truth ought to be dismissed.
This brings us to our topic here.
No historical discussion has caused more controversy than the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. The question here is not whether people suffered under Nazi Germany, but whether the Holocaust has been used as a weapon to promote an ideology.
One individual who raised this issue was Norman Finkelstein, who, although the child of concentration camp survivors, was not exempt from ridicule and scorn.
Finkelstein was appalled at how many historical deceptions have been perpetrated under the name of the Holocaust, so he set out to dispel those myths, especially as portrayed in the writings of Alan Dershowitz and others.
However, publishing books such as The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering and Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History cost Finkelstein his academic position.
Finkelstein had taught at State University of New York, Rutgers University, and New York University, but when it was time for him to gain tenure at DePaul University, Dershowitz went on a campaign to force the university to deny Finkelstein tenure, even sending “a dossier of Norman Finkelstein’s most egregious academic sins.” Keep in mind that Dershowitz was not even at DePaul but at Harvard.
The university eventually succumbed to the campaign against Finkelstein, though it admitted in an official statement that Finkelstein is “a prolific scholar and outstanding teacher.”
Apparently it doesn’t matter if you are telling the truth, or if your family died in Auschwitz. What matters is your loyalty to essentially Talmudic ideologies. An article in the Harvard Crimson declared,
“Dershowitz confirmed that he had sent a letter last September to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein’s tenure. The letter, which Dershowitz said contained ‘self-proving information,’ referenced dozens of alleged instances in which Finkelstein had made up quotations of Dershowitz, the Israeli Supreme Court, and others.”
Later, DePaul University declared that Finkelstein did not get tenure because of his demeaning attacks on important public figures like Dershowitz and author Elie Wiesel.
This raises several important issues. Should universities base their hiring criteria on rational discourse or on pressure from lobbyists? It is simply a shame that any university would discuss internal issues with people on the outside who don’t have a say.
Also, in his works Finkelstein presses Dershowitz and others to provide evidence for their claims. If they cannot back up their assertions, then it is fair to call their works historically false…right? Should we let falsehood reign in academia because we want to propagate misinformation under the banner of “diversity”?
This was one of the questions that Finkelstein raised to Helena Kagan, then dean of Harvard Law School and now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Dershowitz would even write on the Harvard school website that Finkelstein’s mother was a Nazi collaborator!
Finkelstein took the issue to Kagan saying, “Professor Dershowitz has that on the Harvard school website, which is to say it has your imprimatur on it. Don’t you think he would have to take it down? That’s not a violation of free speech. He has his own website.”
Since Kagan refused to answer the question, Finkelstein pressed the issue further, “Do you think there is evidence for that claim [that Finkelstein’s mother was a Nazi collaborator]? And do you have any limits on your website [Harvard website] about what can and can’t be posted?”
Kagan did not want to answer the first question, but with respect to the second question, she brazenly declared that Harvard has “broad limits.” To which Finkelstein replied,
“‘Broad limits’ does not mean ‘no limits.’ So for example, Dean Kagan, if a Harvard professor posted on the website that Dean Kagan’s mother was a whore, would you have him take it down?” End of conversation.
It is disrespectful for Finkelstein to say things like that, but it is not disrespectful to say that Finkelstein’s mother was a Nazi collaborator.
This double standard is the norm, not a rare exception. For example, persecuting Jews during the Nazi era was wrong, but seeking to destroy an entire population in Gaza is to be accepted. Listen to the Associated Press:
“Gaza will no longer be ‘liveable’ by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health, and schooling, the United Nations’ most comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave said on Monday…
“Five years into an Israeli blockade supported by Egypt, and living under one-party rule, Gaza’s population of 1.6 million is set to rise by 500,000 over the next eight years, say the authors of the U.N.’s most wide-ranging report on the territory.”
This is not some abstract principle which can be debated on plausibility or probability. This is reality. And this reality is based on Rabbinic or Talmudic discourse:
“Soldiers fighting in northern Gaza were afforded an ‘inspirational’ visit from two leading rabbis, who explained to them that there are no ‘innocents’ in Gaza, so everyone there is a legitimate target, quoting a famous passage from Psalms calling on the Lord to seize infants of Israel’s oppressors and dash them against the rocks.
“the rabbis were breaking no new ground. A year earlier, the former chief Sephardic rabbi wrote to Prime Minister Olmert, informing him that all civilians in Gaza are collectively guilty for rocket attacks, so there is ‘absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings,’ as the Jerusalem Post reported his ruling.
“His son, chief rabbi of Safed, elaborated:
“‘If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand, and if they do not stop after a 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”
No serious politician would support this bloodbath if Jews or Israelis were the victimizers, and we all know that this is violation of international law. “Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law, a panel of human rights experts reporting to a U.N. body said on Tuesday, disputing a conclusion reached by a separate U.N. probe into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship…The four-year blockade deprived 1.6 million Palestinians living in the enclave of fundamental rights, they said.”
“According to internal documents released by a court order last year, the Israeli military meticulously and callously calculated the number of calories Gaza residents would need to consume in order not to starve, and used those calculations to inform their blockade policies.
“As Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said in 2006, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”
Finkelstein’s departure from popular academic ideology started during his Ph.D. program when he first stumbled on Joan Peters’s book From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine.
The book was endorsed by Saul Bellow, Barbara Tuchman, Daniel Pipes, and other Jewish intellectuals and historians such as Lucy Dawidowicz. Dawidowicz herself praised Peters for having
“dug beneath a half-century’s accumulation of propaganda and brought into the light the historical truth about the Middle East.”
These are nice accolades, but they are completely vacuous. Finkelstein took Peters’s claims to task and examined the historical documentation behind her citations. His findings were quite shocking:
“It quickly became obvious that Joan Peters had concocted—and, more revealingly, that the American intellectual establishment had lent its name to—a threadbare hoax. As it happened, documenting the fraud…proved by far the easiest task as compared to publicizing my findings.”
Later Finkelstein notes that the book
“is among the most spectacular frauds ever published on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In a field littered with crass propaganda, forgeries, and fakes, this is no mean distinction. But Peters’s book has thoroughly earned it. The fraud in Peters’s book is so pervasive and systematic that it is hard to pluck out a single thread without getting entangled in the whole unraveling fabric.
“To begin with, the fraud falls into two categories. First, the evidence that Peters adduces to document massive Arab immigration into Palestine is almost entirely falsified. Second, the conclusions that Peters draws from her demographic study of Palestine’s indigenous Arab population are not borne out by the data she presents. To confound the reader further, Peters resorts to plagiarism.”
As Finkelstein goes on to say in Beyond Chutzpah, Peters’s book
“From Time Immemorial was a colossal hoax. Cited sources were mangled, key numbers in the demographic study falsified, and large swaths plagiarized from Zionist propaganda tracts. Documenting the hoax and the rather more onerous challenge of publicizing these findings in the media proved to be a turning point for me.”
The frauds were so obvious that Avishai Margalit, chair of the philosophy department at Hebrew University, declared that From Time Immemorial is a “web of deceit.”
After Finkelstein refuted the forgeries in Jones’ book, he writes,
“Peters’s book has been rejected as worthless by the scholarly community in Israel and around the world…Yehoshua Porath, one of Israel’s leading scholars on the Arab population of Palestine during the pre-state period, described the book as ‘sheer forgery,’ adding that ‘in Israel, at least, the book was universally dismissed as sheer rubbish except maybe as a propaganda weapon…
“Given the well-known scholarly reputation of Peters’s book, no scholar would rely on it, any more than a scholar would rely on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’”
Just to show you how bad things got, Peters quotes a book on population saying that “medical and sanitary progress has made little headway among the Palestinian Arabs as yet, and cannot account for any considerable fall in the death-rate.” Finkelstein responded:
“If we consult the pages in World Population cited by Peters, however, we discover the following: “Medical and sanitary progress, so far as it affects the personal health and customs, has made little headway among the Palestinian Arabs as yet, and cannot account for any considerable fall in the death rate. But general administrative measures, in the region of quarantine, for example, have been designed in the light of modern knowledge and have been adequately carried out. Measures of this kind can be enforced almost overnight…
“Therefore we can find in these administrative changes, brought about by the British occupation of Palestine, what is in any case a tenable explanation of the increase of population among Arabs.”
“Carr-Sanders does indeed state that ‘medical and sanitary progress’ couldn’t explain the ‘fall in death rate,’ but only insofar as such progress impinges on the ‘personal health and customs’ of the Palestinian Arabs.”
Peters’s footnotes, as Finkelstein documents, argue against what Peters set out to prove; he also proves that she concocted non-existent evidence to support her thesis.
At one point, Peters argues that the Hope Simpson Report, one of her sources, says that “some 300,000 unrecorded Arabs had entered and settled in Palestine.” But Finkelstein noted that
“the only policy statement in the Hope Simpson Report pertinent to her thesis reads: illegal immigrants should ‘at once [be] returned to the country whence they came.”
At another point, when the Simpson Report declares that “there can be no doubt that there is at present time serious unemployment among Arab craftsmen and among Arab laborers…Arab unemployment is serious and general,” Peters states that “Arab unemployment was claimed when in fact such was not the case; according to the Report, Arab unemployment figures were inflated.”
When the Anglo-American Survey of Palestine (1945-6) reports that “the Survey divides Arab immigration into Palestine during World War II into two categories,” one of which was “the 3,800 Arabs who were brought in under ‘official’ arrangements,” Peters reports that
“what the official Anglo-American Survey of 1945-6 definitively disclosed…is that…tens of thousands of ‘Arab illegal immigrants’ [were] recorded as having been ‘brought’ into Palestine.”
“To document the British Mandatory Government’s indifference to Arab infiltration of Palestine, Peters cites the 1935 annual Report to the League of Nations in which, she asserts, ‘only Jewish Immigration into Palestine’ was catalogued; that was the only heading.’
“In fact, the British report in question meticulously and exhaustively tabulates every conceivable aspect of Arab immigration on nine consecutive pages. Peters could hardly have overlooked these tabulations since the comparable statistics for Jewish immigration appear on the very same pages in parallel columns. Every annual British report on Palestine—and Peters purports to have scrutinized thirteen of them—contains identical exhaustive tabulations of Arab immigration under the same chapter heading, ‘Immigration and Emigration.’”
From Time Immemorial reached the peak of its popularity in the United States in 1984, and no major newspapers and periodicals—including The New Republic, Atlantic, Commentary, The Village Voice, Dissent, and The New York Review of Books—which praised the book as a historical breakthrough, wanted “to run any critical correspondence” of the work. It also received all kinds of awards, including the prestigious National Jewish Book Award.
But when the news spread that it was a fabrication, British historians and writers got angry. Albert Hourani of Oxford denounced the book as “ludicrous and worthless” and called it a “grotesque work,” adding that the sources “proved to be wrong in one way or another.” David Gilmour of the London Review of Books, along with The Spectator of London and Time Out, also began to call it out for its completely historical inaccuracies.
When word that the book was worthless began to spread, the New York Times Review of Books could not stay silent. In February 1985 it “finally commissioned and in early March received a lengthy piece on From Time Immemorial by the noted Israeli scholar Yehoshua Porath.”
Even then the Porath essay “was kept under wraps…The Porath essay dismissed out of hand Peters’s ‘theses,’ yet scrupulously avoided any mention of her fraudulent scholarship; every effort to raise this obviously crucial issue in the Review’s correspondence columns proved unavailing…
“Faced with escalating accusations of censorship leveled mainly by the British press, the Times finally ran a piece in November 1985. It was placed in the Thanksgiving Day (non-)issue, on the theater page, without even a listing in the index. Indeed, all the painstakingly assembled documentation of the hoax was cut from the published version.”
Why then did neoconservatives like Saul Bellow, Daniel Pipes, and a host of other Jewish elites and Jewish-run newspapers, which previously endorsed the book, do so in the first place? Were they blind? Or were they following an ideology?
“Of Peters’s original endorsers, to date only Daniel Pipes and Ronald Sanders have publicly acknowledged any lapses in Peters’s scholarship, if not in her central ‘theses.’
“Sanders rejoined in the New York Review that, all the criticism notwithstanding, ‘there is an original and significant argument at the heart of her book’ and that ‘it must be granted that she has achieved ample results.’ Pipes likewise opined in the same issue that ‘the book presents a thesi’ that no ‘reviewer has so far succeeded in refuting,’ that Peters ‘supports this argument with an array of demographic statistics and contemporary accounts, the bulk of which have not been questioned by any reviewer,’ and that ‘because it makes such good sense, I put credence in the argument.’”
Jewish responses varied. Barbara Tuchman attributed the criticism to Peters’s work to a “growing anti-Semitism,” among other things. Saul Bellow was finally forced to admit that “given another chance” he wouldn’t endorse Peters’s work. When asked about the book, Elie Wiesel declared that “political science” was not his field, but when the paperback edition of the book came out, Wiesel endorsed the work, as did Theodore White and Bernard Lewis.
Lewis in particular, though supplied with enough evidence proving Peters could not be taken seriously,
“categorically refused to comment on any aspect of the matter even with a graduate student at his own university (this writer). Oddly, Lewis later lamented that the linking of his name with the disinformation effort was ‘an interesting example of how…myths are born.’”
Finkelstein states that he went over Peters’s one thousand references and nearly all are fabrication and misinformation adding up to, as he puts it, “a threadbare hoax.”
Noam Chomski of MIT wrote, “I warned [Finkelstein], if you follow this, you’re going to get in trouble—because you’re going to expose the American intellectual community as a gang of frauds, and they are not going to like it, and they’re going to destroy you.”
Before the publication of Finkelstein’s book, he went around the country trying to get a major newspaper to publish his critique of Peters’s From Time Immemorial, particularly journals which had previously given the book excellent reviews. None of them agreed.
Being blacklisted by academia is one thing, but Finkelstein was further denied entry to Israel in 2008
“because of suspicions that he had contact with elements ‘hostile’ to Israel…Finkelstein was questioned after his arrival at Ben-Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and placed on a flight back to Amsterdam, his point of origin.”
In 2010, Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire was denied entry to Israel simply “because of her participation in an aid flotilla to Gaza in June.”
Oswald Rufeisen, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, received similar treatment. Rufeisen was hidden in a monastery in order to escape Nazi Germany and actively saved dozens of Jews from being deported to the concentration camp. Later Rufeisen converted to Catholicism and applied for citizenship in Israel. He was immediately denied “on the grounds that he had converted to Christianity. Rufeisen appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Israel, and in 1962 the Court upheld the government’s decision: any Jew converting to another religion would lose their preferential access to Israeli citizenship.”
Rufeisen was later granted citizenship, but it was after a long struggle with the state of Israel.
Dershowitz was asked by British television reporter Riz Khan to appear with Finkelstein in an interview. Dershowitz declined, saying, “I will not be on your show with anti-Semites.” He repeats the accusation in his new book, declaring that people like Finkelstein “have proved [that] even a Jew can be anti-Semite.”
Dershowitz was even less subtle in a 2009 interview:
“Norman Finkelstein is a sick and deeply disturbed, self-hating Jew, who in his autobiography implied that his own mother was a kappo. He constantly compares Israel to the Nazis (though he seems to admire the Nazis and to despise Israel). He constantly invokes anti-Semitic stereotypes of the kind that were found in Der Stutterer. He is beneath contempt and deserves no further comment.
He should be relegated to the dustbin of history and ignored.”
Then, when it comes to responding to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby, Dershowitz, like Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, declares, “They are no longer realists; they are hate-mongers who have given up on scholarly debate and the democratic process in order to become rock-star heroes of anti-Israel extremists.” Has the academic and scholarly world sunk that low?
Well, people like Dershowitz seem to prove this point. It is all the more amazing that the chair of Harvard Law School argues in another publication that people like T. S. Eliot, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Tacitus, and Cicero were also anti-Semites.
Finkelstein, in return, declared that Dershowitz is afraid to debate him personally because
“Dershowitz is aware that I have read his books; I have read them carefully, I studied their documentation and I can demonstrate quite easily as I have in my book Beyond Chutzpah that Professor Dershowitz is a charlatan and a fraud. Those are harsh words, but had I limited myself to words, then people would have good grounds [for] doubting me.
“However, I took some three hundred pages to document all of my claims in the book. And [it is] precisely because I have documented my claims that Dershowitz does not want to appear on television with me…
“I have recently chosen not to answer to his accusations because they progressively become more hysterical and less grounded in any kind of reality. He no longer has anything to do with my scholarship and believes that my late mother was a Nazi collaborator…It’s quite impossible to debate claims like that, any more than I would debate a member of the flat earth society.”
The last time Dershowitz went head to head with Finkelstein in a debate was in 2003, shortly after the publication of Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. I highly recommend this intense debate, during which Finkelstein challenged every single premise of the book in a scholarly manner.
As the debate intensified, it was obvious to even the moderator that Dershowitz’s arguments had no real factual basis. Not only that, Finkelstein showed that Dershowitz’s citations from his book are deliberate misquotations or forgeries.
The more one reads Dershowitz’s book, the more his assertions are shown to be vacuous. When Finkelstein asked Dershowitz to be accurate and factual in his book, Dershowitz thought that Finkelstein was out to destroy Dershowitz’s career: “Finkelstein and Chomsky knew they couldn’t destroy me because I have the means to fight back, but they could deter others who lack such means.”
Obviously one of the means to which Dershowitz is referring is the academic advantage he has as a tenured professor at Harvard.
Take it from Dershowitz:
“I decided to fight back and send a counter-message: those who falsely accuse pro-Israel writers will be exposed as liars and they will have to pay a price for their defamations. Since I prefer the marketplace of ideas to the courtroom as the proper forum for answering defamations, I offered my contribution to the marketplace of ideas.”
Finkelstein lost his job—not because his exposition of Dershowitz in Beyond Chutzpah was refuted by facts, but because of underhanded politics. Finkelstein questioned the Jewish powers-that-be and paid the price, even though he is Jewish.
Similarly, Tony Judt, late Jewish historian and professor at New York University, in 2003 lost his position on the editorial board of The New Republic simply because he proposed that Israel has become “belligerently intolerant,” and that Israeli and Palestinians should have equal rights to live together in both Israel and Palestinian territories.
Judt, like Finkelstein, lost much of his family during the Nazi era. In 2006, he was scheduled to speak at a Polish consulate, but his speaking engagement was abruptly canceled because of action by the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations.
There have been numerous cases like these. Of Judt’s position, Abraham Foxman declared, “He’s taken the position that Israel shouldn’t exist. That puts him on our radar.” Jewish pundit and former speechwriter for George W. Bush accused Judt of “genocide liberalism.”
What we are seeing here is that when Talmudic discourse takes over the academia, serious intellectual pursuit and equal debate based on rational discourse and evidence will cease to exist. Alan Dershowitz again proved this point.
At one point, Dershowitz—and once again keep in mind that the man is a chair at Harvard Law School—used “a chronology appended to a high school syllabus” as one of his authoritative sources! When confronted, the legendary Dershowitz responded, “I’m happy that I don’t have to cite inaccessible sources.”
Back in 1991, Martin Anderson of Columbia declared in his book Impostors in the Temple: American Intellectuals Are Destroying Our Universities and Cheating Our Students of Their Future that many professors are corrupting our impressionable students and, “while small in number, their influence is large and pervasive. They pretend to teach, they pretend to do original, important work. They do neither. They are impostors in the temple.”
Both Alan Dershowitz and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen are classic representations of those intellectuals who are destroying our universities and cheating our students of their future.
Jonas E. Alexis has degrees in mathematics and philosophy. He studied education at the graduate level. His main interests include U.S. foreign policy, history of Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the new book Zionism vs. the West: How Talmudic Ideology is Undermining Western Culture. He teaches mathematics in South Korea.