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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Anti-Semitism will not come to Brandeis

Published: March 9, 2007
Section: Opinions

After WWII, Hungarian author Arthur Koestler gave a speech in London about the rise of the Cold War, the Soviet Block and everything he perceived as wrong with communism. He was then attacked, immediately following the lecture, for bringing aid and comfort to individuals now known as McCarthyists. Koestler responded by simply saying, You cannot help it if idiots and bigots share your views for their reasons. That doesn't mean you can be tarred with their views.

This is an apt realization of which many intellectuals fail to take note. Alan Dershowitz has ruthlessly slandered Dr. Norman Finkelstein because of idiots and bigots who use Finkelstein's works to support their outrageous views. In Dershowitz's March 3rd column in The Huffington Post, he asks students and universities, Would You Invite David Duke to Your Campus? Of course, the column is not about Duke, it is about Finkelstein. Dershowitz claims that Finkelstein willingly collaborates with neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, and quotes generously from Ernst Zundel, who Dershowitz labels as a notorious Hitler-lover and Holocaust denier, saying Finkelstein's exceedingly useful to us and to the Revisionist cause.

Dershowitz also makes inaccurate references to Finkelstein's invitation to Iran's International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, claiming in the Feb. 2nd pages of The Justice that Finkelstein did not attend because he was too busy trying to testify, as a crackpot witness, for Hamas. Of course, this is not the truth, Finkelstein dispelled this rumor at a Feb. 22nd lecture at Dershowitz's own Harvard University, saying that he declined the invitation because he was not interested in attending a non-academic circus. It is obvious that Dershowitz believes that rejected invitations are cause enough to link an individual to the KKK and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but, as Koestler brilliantly noted, you cannot blame an individual if idiots and bigots twist his or her ideas to promote evil.

So who is Norman Finkelstein? When a faculty member alerted me to his lecture at Harvard entitled Is Jimmy Carter Anti-Semitic? On Palestine and Apartheid, I decided to attend with a friend. In the end, we were both surprised by how academic and scholarly the lecture was. There were no radical statements no calls for destroying Israel, no Holocaust denial, no deprecation of Judaism, and no love for terrorism. After the event, the floor was briefly opened for questions. Students who handed out fliers linking images of Finkelstein's face to that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked questions of Finkelstein. When asked about Iran, he condemned Ahmadinejad. When asked by a student about the Holocaust denial conference in Iran, he dismissed that as well. You could see the confusion in the faces of the Israel advocates when the controversy that they expected never occurred. Finkelstein never called for the destruction of Israel, just for the return to pre-1967 borders.

Finkelstein's lecture was ultimately based in legal explanations for the return to the 1967 borders, which is likely why Dershowitz finds him so threatening. As presented by Finkelstein, there was very little room to debate these legal facts, which were also outlined in Carter's book. Where does that leave Dershowitz? Instead of debating these individuals based on scholarship and the validity of the decisions of the World Court and the United Nations, he slanders them as anti-Semites.

This week, the Radical Student Alliance (RSA) pulled out of the event concerned that they would be associated with Holocaust denial and their anti-war campaign would be put in jeopardy. Soon after RSA pulled out, the Arab Culture Club (ACC) pulled out as well, afraid that they would be going at it alone and that they would look like a fringe group that even RSA would ignore. The decision of the two groups has forced the lecture to be canceled yet again.

What a shame. Many students and faculty have been working over the years to make debate on Israel and Palestine more kosher. I consider myself part of this movement, and I believe that great progress has been made towards breaking down the walls blocking meaningful debate at Brandeis. However, when we allow outside pundits, be it Alan Dershowitz or Mort Klein from the Zionist Organization of America, to dictate and bully the decisions as to who is appropriate to lecture, Brandeis loses its autonomy and its academic integrity is sacrificed. Let it be known, Brandeis is not an outpost for ideology it is an outpost of learning and scholarship. Dershowitz has no right propagating condemnable allegations that only work to censor academic debate at Brandeis. I sincerely hope that a club, the Student Union, an academic department, or even the administration comes forth to support Finkelstein's visit, proving that Brandeis will not cower in the face of demagoguery.

Editor's note – Kevin Montgomery is a member of the Brandeis Hoot editorial board.

Video of Finkelstein's lecture at Harvard can be watched at