June 28, 2005

With potentially devastating Finkelstein book about to be released, Dershowitz drops his opposition . . . sort of . . .

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“I think it’s a first,” says Andre Schiffrin, longtime head of Pantheon Books and founder of the New Press. He’s talking about Alan Dershowitz‘s effort to get California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to block publication of a University of California Press book that is critical of Dershowitz. (See previous coverage in the MobyLives archive for 16-20 May 2005.) In an in-depth report for The Nation, Jon Wiener takes a look at Dershowitz’s ongoing battle with Norman Finkelstein over Finkelstein’s book, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Weiner notes in particular Dershowtiz’s ongoing letter writing campaign, and denial of same: “In a phone interview Dershowitz denied writing to the Governor, declaring, ‘My letter to the Governor doesn’t exist.’ But when pressed on the issue, he said, ‘It was not a letter. It was a polite note.'” So what is Dershowitz so upset about? Weiner says newly circulated galleys of the July book reveal: “Beyond Chutzpah describes Dershowitz’s Case for Israel as ‘among the most spectacular academic frauds ever published on the Israel-Palestine conflict.’ In Dershowitz’s book, ‘It’s difficult to find a single claim…that’s not either based on mangling a reputable source or referencing a preposterous one, or simply pulled out of the air.’ He charges that Dershowitz ‘plagiarizes large swaths’ of his book . . . . [and] challenges Dershowitz’s defense of Israel’s human rights record by citing the findings of mainstream groups, including Amnesty International, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch.” And making the case all the more difficult for Dershowitz: “Finkelstein somehow obtained a copy of the uncorrected page proofs of The Case for Israel containing some devastating footnotes,” wherein Dershowitz instructs his assistant to simply copy another book’s sources. In a follow-up report by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed, Dershowitz calls Finkelstein’s book “a sequel” to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and now says he’s dropped his opposition to its publication. “I want to see his book published now,” he tells Jaschik. I want to see it demolished in the marketplace of ideas.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives

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