Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Plaut never ceases to amaze

Of and on, sometimes I get the feeling that maybe all of this is not worth the trouble; that writing about the affair on Israel and Palestine is only reserved for the experts and the few who are better prepared to articulate the best criticisms of the Jewish State, and perhaps, that the side I am fighting for is losing so badly that it is easier to let the guns down and continue living a normal existence by raising my beautiful son and inundating myself with the trappings of every day problems such as bills and what is good on TV tonight. Because worrying about a conflict that really does not involve myself personally does not look like it's worth the trouble of reading and writing and researching on my own spare time for precious little to be given back. Looking around, it seems that the activism on behalf of the Palestinians is only resulting in the cesspool of nothingness and ineffectuality. Despite all the best efforts, the knocking on the door is not answered by most in the media and is given an oblique look, derided as petty partisan displays of "Jew mongering" and "anti-Semitism", in whatever form that word is meant to define nowadays anyway.

But then I run into the likes of Steven Plaut, one of the most pious of morons out there defending the regime of Israel and all its glorious actions that leaves bodies in its wake, and then I am adamant that I am doing the right thing and I'm on the correct path and that I should not be unnerved about what I do and what it all means with a bigger picture.

Plaut lost a libel suit against Neve Gordon last year, and had to fork out some money to compensate for accusing Gordon of being a "Holocaust Denier", amongst other smears with it. Do you think such a decision would stop Plaut in his tracks? You'd think maybe he would have learned a lesson after losing such a case. But not our Steven Plaut.

Check out the latest from the liar of liars. Having lost his battle with Gordon, he targets recently fired professor Norman Finkelstein and his supporters, claiming that no outside party had no bearing in the decision to deny Finkelstein tenureship. The article has to be read in its entirety to grasp how silly Plaut really is. Plaut never fails to find baseless lies to rely upon. (Here's another refutation of his repugnant statements on the Nakba.)

He has plenty to choose from in his latest rant:

  • "Finkelstein had repeatedly proclaimed Holocaust Denier and pseudo-historian David Irving as his role model and hero"
  • "Finkelstein physically threatened his own Dean"
  • "[Depaul] has a long history of hosting pro-terror radical haters of America, from Ward Churchill to Tariq Ali"
  • "It hosts and sponsors numerous Islamist pro-terror student groups and faculty members"
  • "Finkelstein has yet to publish a single scholarly paper in a refereed bona fide academic journal"
  • "And speaking of little white lies, much of the media were willing to accept at face value claims by the Finkelstein Lobby about "hundreds" of DePaul students rallying on campus in early September to back Finkelstein. A fast look at this news photo of the event shows that there were less than 25 people present, some of whom might have been DePaul students"
  • "Finkelstein's "books" were almost universally dismissed by serious historians (meaning, those working for the something other than the annihilation of Israel) as fraud"
  • "The bottom line is that "outside pressure" had little to do with Finkelstein getting turned down for tenure"
  • "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"
  • "The liberal media are overflowing with hatred of Israel, and the real endangered species on campus are the conservatives and Israel supporters"

It's all in a day's business for Plaut and his ilk. Typifying what tactics they use to discredit ANY dissenter of Israel, it is laden with smears here and another slander there. What really takes the cake is accusing Finkelstein of "physically threatening his Dean". There is no source given, no evidence, just a shameless display of bullplop. Where did he get this information from? This is the best of my search from the internet:

"Mr. Finkelstein physically held open elevator doors so he could confront a DePaul dean."

No corroboration from DePaul on anything close to this, nor charges being filed against Finkelstein. The fact that he held open an elevator door so he could "confront" the Dean is enough to expose Finkelstein as a man on a warpath. He may have been angry but didn't he have reason to be? I'm sure plenty will say alot about the memos that circulated around the campus, but nothing ever equated to a "physical threat". All credit goes to Plaut for his misconceptions and oversimplification to suit his own needs.

Some more refutations are mandatory here to expose how awful Plaut's lies are.

First, Finkelstein had not proclaimed Irving his "hero". Here's a clip courtesy of Holocaust Controversies (in which Finkelstein argues with Michele Renouf about the Holocaust). By using Irving, Plaut attempts to discredit Finkelstein's work by association, falsely. The sentence also suggests that Finkelstein sympathises with Holocaust Denier, removing the fact that Finkelstein himself is a victim of the Nazi Holocaust and explicitly states that fact. The sheer nonsense of this sentence from Plaut is unparalleled, until he writes more in his article.

DePaul's long record? Shouldn't universities invite speakers from all kinds of opinions? Didn't David Horowitz speak there too? What would Plaut's ideal university have? Would it be diverse enough to invite professors he excoriates? Did he omit purposely that DePaul is home to a Conservative Alliance? Yeah, it really is a shame he left that out.

Plaut then asserts that DePaul is a haven for "lumpen leftists" (his emphasis), ie critics of Israeli and US policy, and that no outside force was at play in the decision of Finkelstein's denial of tenure. He cites a number of staff members at DePaul to emphasise his point. But what he unknowingly proved is the exact opposite of what he claims is the truth. Logically, if DePaul is a hub of "bash-Israel and hate-America political extremism", and by Plaut's standards Finkelstein matches this description to a tee, if no there was no foul play, Finkelstein would have been not only granted tenure but hailed with more accolades considering DePaul approves of such "political extremism and vulgarity". Something made the "modest heroes" change their "liberal" minds or else there would not have been a furore.

Not having his fill with DePaul's staff, Plaut proceeds to denigrate Noam Chomsky and John Mearsheimer, the former for his appraisals of a "French Holocaust Denier" and the latter just for praising Finkelstein. He lambasts Professor Chomsky for his lack of credentials in political science (but not even mentioning Mearsheimer is a specialist in that field) in a vain attempt to minimise Chomsky's worldwide stature with his dissidence of American foreign policy. Noam Chomsky is revered in his field of linguistics, publishing a coterie of books and pioneering a theory still in use to date. But Plaut wants him to keep his opinions to himself, much like the rest he disagrees with, all because they don't specialise in PS. Curiously, Plaut includes himself as his profession is in business. Should he be barred from politics and stay in what he knows?

The Faurisson-Chomsky affair is decades old but is the one spectre (along with Pol Pot which is surprisingly absent in Plaut's characterisation of Chomsky) that is repeated over and over about him. Chomsky is decontextualised and misrepresented, the right maintains that he backtracks and never admits when he is wrong. It's really who you choose to believe here. Pierre Vidal-Naquet; Chomsky's rebuttal; Brad DeLong; Edward Herman. To me, Chomsky went over the top in an attempt to defend free speech, even to the likes of a person who was threatened with violence because he questioned the existence of gas chambers. Some may perceive this to be defending an anti-Semite, but Chomsky maintains that just because someone asks questions about the Nazi Holocaust doesn't mean they're an anti-Semite. "Similarly, numerous scholars deny that the Armenian genocide took place, and some people, like Elie Wiesel, make extraordinary efforts to prevent any commemoration or even discussion of it." Would that make Elie an anti-Armenian? Of course not.

Plaut was not content with just Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Mearsheimer and the DePaul staff, he included Ward Churchhill and evokes neo-Nazi favourites such as David Irving and KKK man David Duke while defending his buddies on the right like Alan Dershowitz and Thomas Klocek. While it is unclear what just transpired in the Klocek affair, two versions seems to have arisen in the matter so it is difficult to judge on what truly happened, (see Klocek's version here) but the ASU from DePaul states that "faced a harassment board which asked him to remedy certain issues, which he did not." Until more details are revealed, it is impossible for me to make a judgement on this issue, considering most of the support given to Klocek are from right-wing circles involved in the lynching of Finkelstein.

The abuse of Hilberg was a nice shot for a person who just recently passed away. Hillberg exiled? I recall he was appointed emeritus professor and was honoured with Germany's Order of Merit. Hilberg is still referenced by most historians and his work is unparalleled. Plaut's attempt to limit Hilberg's sanity for his support of Finkelstein is not appropriate. The only conclusion as to why is because Hilberg was the Dean of Holocaust Studies, and to get approval from him is a nice star on your work. I am not sure about how seriously other scholars take Finkelstein's work, some say yes, others say not at all, but the fact that Hilberg gave Finkelstein his blessing could not have been sitting well with Plaut, hence his slander.

The denial of the existence of an Israel Lobby is fascinating. Walt and Mearsheimer has done the work for me in this section. How much money does it receive? How much money does the Arab Lobby receive? It's leaves one scratching their head when Israel's leaders brag about a lobby in the US, and the US refuses to recognise that they have great power in Washington. (The National Journal listed AIPAC at #2.)

The accusation of a "liberal media" is the strategem of the right: be the victim. It's weird that Plaut can say such things without realising the irony that such an outrage against a man like Finkelstein happened at all. All apologists make a huff about the "liberal media". It's a fallback position that inverts who the true victim is. It's shameful that coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict is deemed "leftist". (For numbers on bias, see If Americans Knew.)Plaut seems to forget that Dershowitz himself admits to playing a role in getting Finkelstein fired, and that the relationship is close to personal thanks to Finkelstein exposing the fraud of The Case For Israel. Why isn't Dershowitz being called to get fired for his role if the liberal media were so liberal? Where's David Horowitz calling for support for Finkelstein? In addition, I don't recall even seeing a major newspaper carrying a Finkelstein article. Since he's the Arab Lobby's poster boy, the "liberal media" has dropped the ball on this one. Wasn't there a major hubbub over Churchill's appearance at DePaul? In fact, hasn't there been plenty of coverage defaming Churchill? It's enough to make you sick. Save me "liberal media".

Truth be told the alternative media is gaining so much steam because the mainstream is so unreasonable.

I would love to know more about the Klocek affair and I can only hope people are subjective in that case, careful to not take it at "face value". The right seems to have elevated him to martyrdom, which they love to do because the playing field is so far to the left in academia.

The link to the photo is broken. The Chicago Tribune has removed it from its archives so I can not investigate further without seeing the photo in question.

I wanted to write something about the picture he claims to hold on 25 people, mostly students. I would be under the impression that most, if not, ALL who supported Finkelstein and showed up would be students of his or those who heard about the sit-ins. Many academics signed petitions for Finkelstein too. Norman Finkelstein Wordpress is up and running, along with a magnitude of praise from his peers and supporters. Scroll through and Plaut may be surprised that it isn't just students who part of Finkelstein Solidarity.

I'm sure many others would willingly express their solidarity with Professor Finkelstein but in the end there is no point to call attention to every single detail. Plaut will be Plaut. I may not even register to him but at least someone is onto him, and I hope more are easily dismissive of him as he is of his (perceived) enemies. Perhaps one day he will just be ignored; maybe not. Dershowitz still gets a say, not matter how much he depicts himself as an ignoramus, right Mr Sonypictures.com? (Queue Democracy Now! debate with Finkelstein.)

The stakes are high, and the players are willing to go to any lengths to win the propaganda game. We shouldn't be unphased by all of this. The right is trying, very hard, to keep Israel's bad name hidden from the mainstream. But slowly things may be pierced. We may be witnessing something good. Or something really terrible if we let it go under the radar. I'd report Plaut to the Anti-Defamation League but it looks like Abraham Foxman is a little busy denying genocides right about now.

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