Saturday, July 26, 2008

Last night we saw Norman Finkelstein speak, and as much as I respect and admire him, I couldn't quite reconcile the Norman we saw last night the Norman I've read and heard speak elsewhere.

Finkelstein, if you remember, was denied tenure for purely political reasons. In an attack on academic freedom, Depaul University dean Chuck Suchar ignored the positive 9-3 vote of Finkelstein's department and the 5-0 vote of his college and recommended that Finkelstein not be granted tenure. A key force influencing Suchar's decision, it seems, was Mr. Alan Dershowitz, a one time civil liberties buff turned enthusiast for torture, who interfered in what is supposed to be an internal decision process by turning in a 50 page dossier against Professor Finkelstein.

Dershowitz' spirited justification of torture and his campaigns to compromise the freedom and integrity of independent academic research has apparently made him irresistible to one Joel B. Pollak, who my friends in Harvard describe as an "aspiring Dershowitz." Mr. Pollak also happens to be the research assistant to Mr. Dershowitz.

On July 5, 2008, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Pollak in which he claimed that the book used for instruction in beginner's Arabic classes at Harvard is filled with the "stale prejudices and preoccupations of the pre-Sept. 11 Middle East."

Mr. Pollak's claims have been met with many objections, though I doubt that outfits like the Washington Post would give equal space to the critics of Dershowitz and mini-Dershowitz. For that reason, a friend suggested that bloggers may want to link to some of the responses that are otherwise likely to be ignored by mainstream media sources. Following his lead, here are the links:

-Elijah Zarwan's response to Joel Pollak

-Philip Weiss' response to Joel Pollak

-Will Youmans' response Joel Pollak

-Matthew Yglesias' response to Joel Pollak

If you know of anyone else who has written in response to Pollak's op-ed, let me know and I will try to remember to link them.