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Norman Finkelstein’s Hunger Strike

So. The good professor has had his last political science class canceled at DePaul University. His books have been pulled from the shelves and he's more or less been told he's out of a job. In response, he plans to … Read More

By / August 30, 2007

So. The good professor has had his last political science class canceled at DePaul University. His books have been pulled from the shelves and he's more or less been told he's out of a job. In response, he plans to attend the first day of his non-class anyway and, if barred by campus security, to engage in "civil disobedience." If arrested, he plans to go on a hunger strike. If… well, here, let Finkelstein tell it:

If released, I'll do it all over again. I'll fast in jail for as long as it takes.

He may need to start storing up on carbs. Though won't want for company in his campaign to be given a permanent placement at, as he once put it, a "third-rate Catholic university."  (Why is that radicals always protest when they're refused admittance into the very establishment they loathe?) A constellation of celebrity intellectuals has formed around the Norman Conquest. What I wouldn't give to sit in on the green room chatter here:

In Defense of Academic Freedom

12 October 2007 – 2:00pm – 7:00 pm Rockefeller Chapel, University of Chicago

Featuring:

Dr. Akeel Bilgrami, Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy and Director of The Heyman Center, Columbia University

Dr. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Tony Judt, University Professor and Director of the Remarque Institute, New York University

Dr. John Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

Dr. Neve Gordon, Professor, Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University

 

Hosted by:

Tariq Ali, Editor of the New Left Review and Verso Books

Should be a fun night.

My own take on this protracted and stultifying affair is this: DePaul has every right to fire a faculty member whom it deems unworthy of employment or promotion. Whether the university came to this conclusion based on the demerits of Finkelstein's scholarship, or based on the ostentatious campaign to have him fired, is entirely up the university and its board of directors. 

You'll note that those now clamoring for a boycott of all Israeli academics, regardless of the merits of their scholarship or their publicly held political positions, seem not at all discomfited at the prospect of bullying an entire nation of PhDs into silence, at minimum, and out of livelihoods, at maximum. It's only the PhD who boasts of his support for Hezbollah and Hamas and who says that one out of three Jews you stop in the street in New York will claim to be a Holocaust survivor — he's the one who must never be boycotted.

Very well, then. Academic freedom means the right to conduct your research and present your findings without being told by a government or a coordinated assembly of private institutions that you cannot do either. David Irving was robbed of his academic freedom when he was tossed into a Austrian prison cell for the simple act of writing a book.

No one has threatened Finkelstein with this, though I'm sure if he is arrested for trespassing on campus property, he'll try to present himself as a martyr of free speech. If anyone attempted to block Verso's publication of his books, or to forcibly prevent him from playing the lecture circuit, I'd be happy to sign a petition defending Finkelstein's right to expression. 

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