Monday, September 17, 2007

Plaut at It Again

As mentioned at this blog some months ago, Haifa University professor Steven Plaut lost a libel suit to fellow Israeli academic Neve Gordon (Ben-Gurion University) for having called Gordon a "Holocaust denier," which Gordon is most decidedly not.

Having lost that case, Plaut, spewing for his rot in the pages of David Horowitz's, argues a "revisionist 'narrative' of the affair was being churned out by the Far Left." His targets now are Norman Finkelstein and the late Raul Hilberg. As the former is a public figure and the latter dead, U.S. libel law makes it far more difficult for legal action to be taken against Plaut.

Read more!
I happen to have serious issues with Finkelstein's work. Nevertheless, I have more serious issues with what appears to be an attack on Finkelstein's academic freedom -- a freedom Plaut would very much like to see denied to anti-Zionists. I also have a serious problem with Plaut -- once again -- making a host of unsourced assertions about his perceived enemies.

But let's delve into Plaut's rant. Here are some of the gems:
  • First of all, I love how any person who disagrees with someone like Plaut is automatically a member of the ill-defined "Far Left" that Plaut and others like him frequently attack. (It's a stock-in-trade insult of Bill O'Reilly of Fox News -- he of "the Americans committed Malmedy" gaffe.)

  • Plaut writes, "Neo-Nazi web sites hailed him as the 'Jew who proved that the Holocaust was a hoax.' Finkelstein had repeatedly proclaimed Holocaust Denier and pseudo-historian David Irving as his role model and hero, even when Irving was sitting in a Vienna prison for Neo-Nazi propagandizing. Finkelstein baselessly smeared just about everyone, from Holocaust writer Elie Wiesel to Alan Dershowitz, the latter whom Finkelstein falsely accused of plagiarism. Finkelstein physically threatened his own Dean."

    First of all, any neo-Nazi or other Jew-hating malcontent that would argue that Finkelstein "proved the Holocaust was a hoax" clearly has never read his work. That a host of idiots of decided to put Finkelstein's work into that category does not in any way impeach Finkelstein's research -- it impeaches only (a) themselves and (b) those people who, like Plaut, would seek to besmirch reputations through guilt by association -- associations that, here, don't even exist.

    Second, I would defy Plaut to produce any evidence whatsoever that Irving is his "role model and hero." I do recall Finkelstein arguing that Irving had a right to be an idiot. I also recall my colleague Deborah Lipstadt saying the same. Finkelstein, however, said it in a forum where he also attacked "Lady" Michele Renouf, a British neo-fascist supporter of Irving's, for denying the Holocaust. Finkelstein asked Renouf where his aunts and uncles who were killed by the Nazis were today, and the best she was able to muster was that they had gone to Palestine. This she alleged without evidence -- much the same way that Plaut has done with Finkelstein. (I would urge readers to view the debate between Finkelstein and Renouf here.)

    Third, I would also like to see any evidence that Finkelstein threatened his own dean. If this is true, then why didn't the dean at DePaul take legal action against Finkelstein? A physical threat is a criminal act, after all.

  • Plaut writes further, "It seeks to attribute Finkelstein's career failure to the all-but-nonexistent 'Israel Lobby,' while overlooking the bizarre alliance of hatred and bigotry comprising the Finkelstein Lobby. Finkelstein's apologists are leaders in the pro-terror Arab Lobby, the sorts of people who readily believe everything about the Middle East except the facts. They include everyone from the 'Revolutionary Communists,' to the 'anarchists,' to the Islamists, to David Duke and the Neo-Nazi fruit loops, to a handful of Jewish leftwing loonies."

    First, without getting into an argument over Walt and Mearsheimer, I would have to wonder how Israel receives in excess of $4 billion per year without it having a strong lobby.

    Second, that a host of lunatics correctly identified by Plaut support Finkelstein is not a recent to refuse supporting him. Using Plaut's logic, if a neo-Nazi voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Presidential election, then one ought not vote for Reagan at all -- a position I sincerely doubt Plaut takes.

  • Plaut attacks DePaul University itself for having hosted a performance of The Vagina Monologues and having invited award-winning British author Tariq Ali to lecture there (baselessly called pro-terrorist by Plaut). That the university offers a class in music journalism taught by a woman who has written on the heavy metal genre is apparently another symptom of DePaul's moral turpitude. (Never mind that our own Nick Terry used to write on heavy metal for Britain's music industry, as did I for ClearChannel in the U.S.)

  • Plaut claims that Finkelstein was denied tenure because of his lack of scholarship. During his time at DePaul, Finkelstein published a book with the University of California Press. Has Plaut published a book-length work in his field (economics) since 1985's Joy of Capitalism? It seems this is an area where Plaut would be better off keeping his mouth shut, as he appears to be academic dead wood.

  • Plaut, apparently not wanting to get his pants sued off again, now quotes Alan Dershowitz about Neve Gordon: "Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli." Really? Would Dersh like to show us all the wounds he sustained defending the State of Israel? What's that? He doesn't have any? Neither does Plaut? That's funny: "Self-hating Israeli" Neve Gordon is a disabled IDF veteran.

  • Plaut's next target is University of Pennsylvania professor Ian Lustick, author of several seminal texts of Israeli far-right terrorism, including Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, an excellent work. Plaut writes about Lustick, "[He] deconstructs terrorism thus" and then he quotes (without attribution) a review of one of Lustick's books by Dr. Joshua Sinai. He doesn't bother to quote Lustick himsef, and one must wonder why.

  • In attacking Noam Chomsky's support of Finkelstein, Plaut writes, "Noam Chomsky was no doubt the most outspoken and shrill outside lobbyist, in spite of the fact that Chomsky is but a linguist (and a discredited one at that), not a political scientist." Actually Chomsky is still considered a major authority in the field of linguistics. Plaut ought to keep his trashing to fields with which he is familiar.

  • Turning to defaming the dead, Plaut writes, "But Hilberg praised Finkelstein as an act of petty solidarity simply because Finkelstein had earlier smeared Hilberg's own arch-nemesis, the historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. It was an example of Middle East style vendetta, where 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' Exiled to rural Vermont, Hilberg was bitter and hostile towards a 'Jewish establishment' that he felt granted him insufficient recognition, and was willing to praise a vicious anti-Semite in order to poke his finger in their eye."

    Actually, there are extremely few people in the Holocaust historiography community who take Finkelstein's work seriously, while Hilberg remains the benchmark by whom other Holocaust historians' work is measured. Hilberg was not "exiled" in Vermont; he had a tenure-track position at the University of Vermont in Montpelier. The characterization of Hilberg here is nothing but sheer lies.
But the thing that really gets me about Plaut's piece is the constant waving of the bloody shirt of the Holocaust to hammer home his point.

Finkelstein isn't Hitler, Dr. Plaut. In fact, Dr. Finkelstein, by virtue of the experience of his parents' experience during the war, is a victim of Hitler. Perhaps you can try to bear that in mind when writing your next hit piece on a public figure or dead person. Or both.


  1. Walt and Mearsheimer's essay and book are probably the most thoroughly discredited works in history (see this link).

    Good work, professors!

    Oh, and please, no ad hominem attacks (see this link) against the authors of the critiques. Find some meat and make an argument like a man, not a drunken cossack, hysterical leftist, sufferer of this problem, or chimpanzee, if you disagree with the above-linked assessments.

  2. Sorry, asshole, but I'm going to engage in ad hominem against you.

    As for Walt & Mearsheimer, they are tangential to my argument here, but I generally agree with them.

    No Israel lobby? You're fucking crazy.



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