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Norman Finkelstein Invited to Campus

Published: January 26, 2007
Section: Front Page


DePaul University Professor Norman Finkelstein, controversial author of Beyond Chutzpah: On the Use of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, has been invited to speak on campus by members of the student body, according to an e-mail sent to the Radical Student Alliance (RSA).

Despite impressive efforts on our part to bring Professor Norman Finkelstein of DePaul University to lecture yesterday evening [Jan. 23] following speeches by former President [Jimmy] Carter and Professor [Alan] Dershowitz, wrote Kevin Conway 09 in a Jan. 24 e-mail to the group, we were ultimately denied because of the last minute nature of our proposal.

Conway added in his e-mail that despite these setbacks, Finkelstein, a world-renowned expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had agreed to speak on a date tentatively scheduled for Feb. 3 at 7pm. The event, according to the e-mail, would be co-sponsored by the RSA, the Arab Culture Club (ACC), and a possible third sponsor.

Finkelstein is probably regarded as one of the most internationally acknowledged experts in regards to life on the ground in the occupied territories, said Conway. Citing Tuesdays successful speeches from Carter and Dershowitz, Conway said he felt the time is right Brandeis is ready to have an open debate about this sort of thing.

Farrah Bdour 07, co-president of the Arab Cultural Club, said that while she did not have any particularly strong feelings regarding Finkelstein, the club agreed to co-sponsor the event because my co-president and I do feel that any debate or discussion at Brandeis about the Palestinean-Israeli conflict is skewed. She added that while we dont always agree with what Norman Finkelstein writes or says we do feel he offers another opinion and voice that is largely missing at Brandeis.

When asked about rumors that a potential debate between Finkelstein and his political opposite, The Case for Israel author and vocal Carter critic Alan Dershowitz, Conway confirmed that he was trying to orchestrate a debate between the two. If Dershowitz did agree to debate Finkelstein, however, that will change the whole scenario, said Conway. We currently have reserved an auditorium in [Gerstenzang]. If he were to debate Dershowitz, attendance would be much higher, security would be insane, and we would have to reschedule it.

Finkelstein and Dershowitz have been engaged in a long-time political feud since Finkelstein accused Dershowitz of plagiarism in his book The Case for Israel. After being exonerated of these charges by former Harvard President Derek Bok, Dershowitz threatened libel action, forcing Finkelstein to change publishers and remove all accusations of plagiarism from his books.

Conways invitation of Finkelstein, however, has been disputed by some as having been extended without having enough discussion beforehand amongst the members of the RSA. Insofar as I can tell, Kevin thought that RSA would be interestede-mailed the list, and with a somewhat lukewarm reception and minimal discussion, the event is going forward with our name on it, said RSA member and organizer Michelle Lindstrom 07. As I've communicated to RSA via [e-mail], I'm not opposed to Finkelstein coming so much as I am troubled by the process by which it's happening, and specifically RSA's role therein, especially since there has been no meeting of the group regarding the matter.

Professor Jerry Cohen (AMST), meanwhile, said that its time to get past bringing in these professional mud-wrestlers and designated hitters, and having the debate amongst members of the community who are well-known for their differing positions. He added that we dont have to turn this into a media circus and turn this university into a television program we shouldnt just bring in people who trash Israel, or trash Dershowitz, or bring out counter-trash.