Feud Weakens Prof’s Tenure Bid

DePaul University Assistant Professor Norman G. Finkelstein, who has been no stranger to controversy in years past, will face difficulty gaining tenure this summer after the dean of DePaul’s College of Arts and Sciences overrode recommendations made at the departmental and college review level.

Finkelstein, who is in his sixth year at DePaul, said in an interview yesterday that Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz—perhaps his most outspoken critic—was responsible for leading the effort to deny him tenure.

“I would call it, for about ten weeks, a relentless campaign,” Finkelstein said, adding that comments made by Dershowitz amounted to “character assassination.” “Had there been no outside pressure, I’m fully confident that I would make it through” the tenure process, Finkelstein said.

Finkelstein alleges that Dershowitz is trying to discredit him with baseless claims to draw attention away from strong criticisms that Finkelstein has leveled against Dershowitz’s work on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

According to Finkelstein, both the political science department and the College Personnel Committee at DePaul voted to recommend tenure for him, but the dean disagreed with these recommendations.

DePaul University Spokeswoman Denise Mattson said that Finkelstein’s tenure case is ongoing and will be up for final review at the University level around June. She declined to comment further.

In an interview yesterday, Dershowitz confirmed that he had sent a letter last September to DePaul faculty members lobbying against Finkelstein’s tenure.

The letter, which Dershowitz said contained “self-proving information,” referenced dozens of alleged instances in which Finkelstein had made-up quotations of Dershowitz, the Israeli Supreme Court, and others.

Dershowitz posted the letter on his public website.

Responding to claims that he was engaging in character assassination, Dershowitz stated, “When I quote back his own language to him, that is, in fact, character assassination, but he is the assassin.”

Dershowitz added that he had sent the letter in response to a request by Patrick Callahan, a former chair of the DePaul political science department, who had asked Dershowitz to point out the “clearest and most egregious instances of dishonesty on Finkelstein’s part.”

Callahan could not be reached for comment.

However, Finkelstein said yesterday that he believed the reason why Dershowitz was actively working to deny him tenure was over his most recent book, “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History,”

“I caused real damage to his reputation,” Finkelstein said. “I think that Dershowitz is desperate to discredit me to be able to say that this Finkelstein guy couldn’t even get tenure at a third-rate Catholic University, so how can we take him seriously?”

This new dispute between Dershowitz and Finkelstein is only the latest chapter in a long and embittered relationship.

In “Beyond Chutzpah,” Finkelstein argued that supporters of Israel deflected criticism of the country by labeling the accusers anti-Semites.

In the original version of the book, he contended that Dershowitz did not actually write “The Case for Israel,” and that he might not have even read it. The University of California Press eventually removed this claim from the final version of the book.

—Staff writer Kevin Zhou can be reached at kzhou@fas.harvard.edu.