Sunday, May 29, 2005

Chicago Jewish Star's editorial on Klocek, DePaul, and Finkelstein

Under the title of "DePaul's predicament: The choice--Stop--or stop justifying--anti-Israel sentiment," the Chicago Jewish Star returns to the issues haunting Chicago's DePaul University.

In its previous edition, the Star summarized Thomas Klocek's free speech struggle against DePaul, and it included this quote from Klocek, "I stood for Israel, because it is in the right. I paid the price at a Christian University."

The Chicago Jewish Star is not available online, it's a free weekly. If you're in Chicago's Loop, look for a Jewish Star newspaper box and pick up a copy to see the entire editorial.

Here are some excerpts:

During the past few years, Chicago's DePaul University, the largest Catholic institution of its kind in America, has been careening towards securing a reputation as a safe haven for promoters of anti-Israel sentiment on campus.

Three separate, unrelated developments incline an observer to that conclusion. They are worth reviewing in order to understand how DePaul got into this predicament. '

That first development is the recent art show at DePaul's Lincoln Park campus, written about here in the DePaulia, Subject of Palestine: a Vincentian Masterpiece, and on Jewish United Fund Online, DePaul faces criticism over Palestinian art exhibit.

Like the JUF article, the Star challenges the fiction in the introductory text of the exhibit's program, that in 1948 Israel occupation ended Palestinian independence. The truth of course, is the Arab nations surrounding Israel attacked it, in a futile attempt to destroy the then-hours old nation of Israel. As for those Arab "allies" of the Palestinians, rather that creating a Palestinian state, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, and Jordan did the same in the area now know as the West Bank.

The Star scolds two DePaul history professors, Warren Schultz and Daniel Goffman, for giving this talking-out-of-both-sides-the-mouth explanation of their opinion of The Subject of Palestine:

According to Professor Schultz, "Dan and I are in agreement that this is not a statement we would have made about the events in 1948, but I recognize that what this statement does reflect is a view of a at least some Palestinians, and as such, it helps people to understand the art that is being produced."

The Jewish Star gives an "F" to those "obfuscating, invertebrate responses."

The second development is the suspension of DePaul professor Thomas Klocek, the Jewish Star specifically takes Dean Susanne Dumbleton to task, when she "set the tone in her abject, fawning and pathetic explanation" which can be found here in the October 8, 2004 DePaulia.

Klocek, of course, was offended by Palestinian student claims that Israelis treat the Palestinians the same way the Nazis treated the Jews.

Again, quoting from the Star:

While there are conflicting accounts of what took place at this encounter, DePaul's handing of it makes it clear that--at least when it comes to pro-Palestinian students--publicly contesting false claims is not what that institution of higher learning is all about.

As for the third development, the Chicago Jewish Star is troubled by the presence on DePaul's faculty of Professor Norman G. Finkelstein. As the Star notes:

When the university first hired Mr. Finkelstein in 2001, his reputation as an out-of-control, unbalanced analyst who mixes vile and vitriolic attacks on his critics with a gleeful exhibitionism was firmly established.

With so many credible, intelligent, informed scholars of Middle Eastern studies available from which to select, why in the world did DePaul decide to bring this man on its staff?

The Star juxtaposes DePaul's hiring choice of Finkelstein with the predicament Evanston's Northwestern University continues to face in having holocaust-denier Arthur Butz as a tenured member on its faculty. Northwestern found out after it gave Butz tenure that he was a holocaust- denier. As noted above, with Finkelstein, DePaul knew what it was getting into by hiring this man, who if he is not a holocaust-denier, is definitely a holocaust-minimizer.

I'd like to add that what's worse for DePaul, is that Finkelstein is on the faculty of DePaul's political science department, where Israeli-Arab relations are bound to come up within the context of his classroom responsibilities. This does not by any means get Arthur Butz off the hook, but Butz is a professor of electrical engineering, an academic discipline where Middle Eastern politics don't matter much--if at all Still, Northwestern has been trying various methods to relieve Arthur Butz of his duties for decades, most recently, according to the Jewish Star, by buying out his contract, an offer Butz refused.

Butz remains an engineering professor at Northwestern, but he's forbidden from bringing up holocaust-denial in the classroom.

Finkelstein in the winter quarter of 2002 taught this class at DePaul, Israel-Palestine Conflict in Historical Perspective.

The final paragraphs are once again from the Chicago Jewish Star editorial.

DePaul administrators do not have to allow the university to become, or used as, a safe haven for Israel bashers.

The administration needs to take control of the university to monitor what goes on in its space, and to replace the political correctness that has filtered into the system with Catholic convictions about right and wrong, truth and falsehood.

We are hopeful that, once aware how it has drifted from these moorings, DePaul can now recover its bearings.

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