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November 23, 2015 7:09 am

Finkelstein vs. Salaita: Battle of the Anti-Israel Professors

avatar by Cinnamon Stillwell

Prof. Steven Salaita. Photo: Facebook.

Prof. Steven Salaita. Photo: Facebook.

Norman Finkelstein, who is currently teaching at Sakarya University in Turkey after being denied tenure at DePaul University, has some choice words for Steven Salaita. The latter reached an $875,000 settlement with the University of Illinois (UI) in a lawsuit involving UI’s withdrawal of an offered position in its American Indian Studies Program due to his inflammatory, Israel-bashing tweets. Like Finkelstein, Salaita went on to teach in the Middle East, in this case at American University in Beirut (AUB). Neither is happy about it.

Ira Glunts asked Finkelstein to comment on Salaita’s settlement for the left-wing, anti-Israel website Dissident Voice, given that they are both, as he conspiratorially described it, “victim[s] of Jewish lobby pressure.” After declaring at the outset, “I am not a party-liner,” Finkelstein let loose:

I’ve read Salaita – or, let’s say, I’ve endeavored to read him. Even Google has yet to invent a translation program that makes coherent sense of his prose. . . . [I]n a rational world it would be cause for wonder how he got hired in the first place. It’s a telling commentary on the state of the humanities that his tweets got greater scrutiny than his (so-called) scholarship.

Finkelstein maintained that Salaita was hardly a victim, given his hefty settlement and the fact that he now holds “the prestigious Edward Said chair” at AUB:

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That’s not bad for someone with a PhD from the University of Oklahoma who, before being hired to teach Native American Studies at an excellent second-tier university, last taught English composition at Virginia Tech.

Glunts notes that Salaita penned a 2013 column comparing Finkelstein unfavorably with his nemesis Alan Dershowitz. The column followed Finkelstein’s break with the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which he famously described in 2012 as a “cult” whose goal is to “eliminate Israel.”

Finkelstein’s apostasy incurred the wrath of BDS activists, including Salaita, who dismissed him as “a slightly cogent but mostly curmudgeonly white male who occasionally annoys with outbursts of bluster and disdain.”

One can’t help but enjoy a certain guilty pleasure from a feud between the likes of Norman Finkelstein and Steven Salaita. Both carry their criticism of Israel to absurd, ahistorical extremes, with Finkelstein accusing Jews of exploiting the Holocaust to justify Israel’s alleged predations, and Salaita asserting that Israel is a soulless, monolithic, supremacist society with territorial designs on the entire region.

All we can say is, pass the popcorn.

Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at [email protected].

This article was originally published by Campus Watch.

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