the finkelstein/larudee affair

depaul's denial of tenure to profs. finkelstein and larudee is becoming a cause beyond just middle eastern studies and political science circles. many academics are questioning the motivations behind depaul's decision, connecting it not just to the traditional suppression of points of view critical of israel, but to the right-wing attack on academic inquiry more generally.


many have pointed out that depaul's decision meshes with the level of intolerance in the western mainstream for those taking a critical approach to the israel-palestine conflict. less remarked upon is the factor that noam chomsky emphasized in "the fate of an honest intellectual." chomsky describes how twenty years ago, when finkelstein was a graduate student at princeton, he exposed the large segment of american intelligentsia which had been very publicly enamoured of joan peters' "from time immemorial" as being very foolish for being so uncritically accepting of a massive fraud. since chomsky's interview, finkelstein publicly outed dershowitz as a dreadfully bad propagandist.

underlying the whole issue of "tone of scholarship" seems to be the disturbing idea that dissident scholarship can be tolerated to an extent, as long as it's polite; if your work, however, doesn't just argue that the conventional view is wrong, but that the conventional view is idiotic and not worth serious consideration, the guardians of the idiot convention will come gunning for you and the merits of your scholarship will not protect you. it might be a useful study to check up on the "tone" of academics who criticize literature at the scholarly and moral level of dershowitz's writings on israel, but less politically popular, like maybe holocaust denial or apologetics for al-qaeda.

another suspicion i have is that there's funny business going on behind the scenes. a university doesn't just deny tenure to an world-renowned and unquestionably qualified scholar based on discredited accusations made by an outsider, even if the outsider is a celebrity and the scholar is a lightning rod for controversy. it even more certainly does not deny tenure to another qualified scholar who is not especially controversial but stands up and supports a controversial professor against the university. presumably the leadership of depaul is not stupid, and knows that its decisions would lead to a serious loss of reputation in the academic world. based on this i'm guessing that depaul was secretly promised some large amount of money, perhaps by a right-wing foundation, to get rid of finkelstein and larudee.

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