A DePaul University professor who has accused some Jews of improperly using the legacy of the Holocaust to get compensation payments has been denied tenure after a drawn-out public fight.
Norman Finkelstein, whose work led to a long-running public feud with a Harvard law professor and lawyer famous for representing O.J. Simpson, said he was disappointed by the faculty panel’s 4-3 decision.
“They can deny me tenure, deny me the right to teach,” the 53-year-old told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But they will never stop me from saying what I believe.”
Finkelstein’s most recent book, “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History,” is largely an attack on Alan Dershowitz’s “The Case for Israel.” In it, Finkelstein argues Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a weapon to stifle criticism.
Dershowitz, who threatened to sue the book’s publisher for libel, has urged DePaul officials to reject Finkelstein’s tenure bid.
“This should not have been a close case,” he said in an e-mail Sunday. “Finkelstein’s only academic output is ad hominem attacks on ideological enemies. ... The only reason this appeared close was because outsiders from the hard left mounted a political campaign on his behalf.”
The debate over his tenure raised the ire of many in academic and religious circles, and blogs and petitions that both support and deride him have appeared on the Internet.
On his Web site Sunday, Finkelstein posted a letter explaining why the panel denied him tenure at the Catholic university.
The three-page note cites Finkelstein’s “deliberately hurtful” scholarship along with his lack of involvement with the school and his tendency for public clashes with other scholars.
“In the opinion of those opposing tenure, your unprofessional personal attacks divert the conversation away from consideration of ideas, and polarize and simplify conversations that deserve layered and subtle consideration,” school President Dennis Holtschneider wrote in a letter dated June 8.
In a statement issued by the university, Holtschneider noted the heated debate surrounding Finkelstein’s tenure.
“Over the past several months, there has been considerable outside interest and public debate concerning this decision,” he said. “This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case.”
An e-mail message left Sunday for Finkelstein, who lives in New York, was not returned. A telephone recording said his Brooklyn phone had been temporarily disconnected.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Finkelstein earned his doctorate from Princeton in 1988. He published five books and taught political theory at DePaul since 2001, school officials said.
University spokeswoman Denise Mattson said Sunday that Finkelstein’s teaching term expires next June, but he can elect to leave his post immediately.
He was one of nine faculty members to be denied tenure or promotions this year, she said.