|HOME||January-February 2007 Featured Stories||Background Information||News On The Web|
Prof Neve Gordon, a teacher and prolific left-wing writer from Ben Gurion University who regularly bashes Israel and her leaders, may have finally met his match. Last month, Dr. Gordon, who is currently suing Haifa University Economics Prof Steven Plaut for essentially writing an insultingly negative review, was challenged by Harvard law professor and author Alan Dershowitz to sue him as well:
"Here is my challenge to Neve Gordon: I visit Israel frequently, and am easily available for service of process. I invite Gordon to sue me for essentially restating in my own words what Prof Plaut has said: It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and antisemites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli."
Dr. Gordon, a BGU senior lecturer with special interests in "Political Theory, Human Rights, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," based his suit against Dr. Plaut on an Internet email posting after Dr. Gordon wrote a positive (Mr. Dershowitz called it "a fawning") review of the book Beyond Chutzpah by Norman Finkelstein in Ha'aretz.
While Mr. Finkelstein does not deny that the Holocaust occurred, he regularly minimizes the number of survivors and refers to many of them as "hoaxes" and "hucksters." He has accused Elie Wiesel of lying about his past.
In 2003, when Mr. Dershowitz, an ardent, eloquent, and not always uncritical defender of the Jewish state, published his well-received book, The Case for Israel, Mr. Finkelstein initially suggested the book, which has been described as a proactive defense of Israel and almost an amicus brief to the court of public opinion, had been written by the Israeli Mossad.
When Mr. Dershowitz produced his hand-written manuscript, Mr. Finkelstein changed his story and claimed that, in the book, Mr. Dershowitz had plagiarized information and ideas from Joan Peters's From Time Immemorial, a claim most scholars -- including Harvard's own investigative team -- dismissed.
The charge appears again in Beyond Chutzpah, which, according to Mr. Finkelstein "copiously documents that The Case for Israel is among the most spectacular academic frauds ever published on the Israel-Palestine conflict."
Some say the animus
between Messrs Dershowitz and Finkelstein prompted the latter to title
his new book Beyond Chutzpah as a surly tweak at Mr. Dershowitz'
s 1991 best-seller Chutzpah.
In another positive review of Beyond Chutzpah, published by the National Catholic Reporter, Dr. Gordon devoted two paragraphs to the accusation that Mr. Dershowitz "tried to stop the University of California Press from publishing" the book, a claim that has also been proffered by Mr. Finkelstein.
According to Mr. Finkelstein, Mr. Dershowitz initially contacted the University of California Press because he was concerned that by again bringing up the charges of plagiarism, Beyond Chutzpah would libel him. Through his attorneys, Mr. Dershowitz strongly suggested that the publisher not permit this.
Mr. Finkelstein said the publisher was "understandably at great pains to fend off a potential lawsuit."
"For an academic publisher, the associated costs would have been ruinous, to the point of making certain victory meaningless," said Mr. Finkelstein.
According to Mr. Finkelstein, there was a point at which it seemed likely that Beyond Chutzpah would not be published, until, finally, a compromise was reached between him and the publisher by which some allegations about Mr. Dershowitz were removed from the text.
Seemingly furious that Mr. Dershowitz was able to claim victory, Mr. Finkelstein said, "Resorting to blackmail and censorship is not normally reason for boasting."
Dr. Gordon's allegation that the University of California Press has "numerous letters" in which Mr. Dershowitz and the "prestigious law firm that he hired demand that it sever all contact with Finkelstein," makes sense in the context of Mr. Dershowitz's insistence that libelous material be removed.
Mr. Dershowitz publicly released the letters in which he told the University of California Press, "I have no interest in censoring or suppressing Finkelstein's freedom of expression."
Responding to Dr. Gordon's charge that he had tried to stop publication of Beyond Chutzpah, Mr. Dershowitz accused Dr. Gordon of simply repeating Mr. Finkelstein's "lie." Mr. Dershowitz pointed out that Mr. Finkelstein "has a history of claiming that prominent Jews are trying to silence him, prevent publication of his books, and keep them from being reviewed."
According to Mr. Dershowitz, Mr. Finkelstein has written: "All opinion-leaders, from the left to the right, are Jews. The silence around my book in the US -- if this is not a conspiracy, then what is one?"
"What's ironic about Gordon's article, though, is that just as he was falsely accusing me of trying to silence Finkelstein, he was trying to silence Steven Plaut."
Dr. Plaut's Internet post which prompted Dr. Gordon to sue him came after the flattering review of Beyond Chutzpah in Ha'aretz, and was entitled "Ha'aretz Promotes 'Jews for Hitler.'"
Recalling Dr. Gordon's visit to the late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat while the latter was a virtual prisoner in his headquarters in Ramallah (Dr. Gordon said, at the time, that he had come in order to serve as a human shield to protect Mr. Arafat against the IDF), Dr. Plaut said Mr. Arafat was Dr. Gordon's "guru" and then compared Dr. Gordon to members of Judenrats during the Holocaust.
Without claiming any material damages, Dr. Gordon proceeded to sue Dr. Plaut for slander, using Israel's legal permission for the plaintiff to choose which judge will hear the case. Dr. Gordon and his attorney selected a female Arab judge, Reem Naddaf, in Nazareth, who found Dr. Plaut guilty and ordered him to pay NIS 80,000 ($18,775).
While this is being appealed, Dr. Plaut's legal fees are also mounting.**
In the US, where even Dr. Gordon recognized that his complaint would be seen as a violation of free speech, Dr. Plaut might be able to file a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation) suit, designed to prevent parties from making free speech too financially onerous to pursue.
Mr. Dershowitz accused Judge Naddaf of going "out of her way in her opinion's dicta to justify Holocaust revisionism, which of course goes over the line into something far darker, as it does when Finkelstein espouses it to mock survivors and condemn those seeking justice."
In her written opinion, Judge Naddaf praised Mr. Arafat as the "legitimate leader of his people" and defended Dr. Gordon's entry into his compound and service as a "human shield," which was in violation of Israeli law, as "legitimate protest."
She then turned her attention to the Holocaust and the rights of Holocaust deniers and minimizers to speak out without even the risk of being criticized.
"At times we are witness to the phenomenon in which some people 'dare' to re-examine the Holocaust and its dimensions, from various aspects, whether it be the human, historic, scientific, political, etc, and where such people are turned into objects for attack and accusations of being antisemites and Holocaust deniers, deserving of being called Judenrat or Jews for Hitler," she wrote, adding that "this phenomenon is not understandable or justified, in my opinion, and contradicts the principles of democracy, which should stand fast, especially in those debates in which stormy public opinion re-examines such sensitive and painful subjects."
Many legal analysts point out that while Judge Naddaf granted freedom of speech to Holocaust revisionists, she denied that freedom to those, such as Dr. Plaut, who would challenge them.
Mr. Dershowitz maintained that Judge Naddaf's decision was "wrong" both substantively and legally.
"First, as to substance, Gordon argued, dubiously, that Plaut meant to include him (Gordon) when he wrote 'Jews for Hitler,' rather than Finkelstein and his fellow-travelers such as Noam Chomsky, who have openly endorsed Holocaust deniers and revisionists," said Mr. Dershowitz.
Having said that, however, Mr. Dershowitz acknowledged that, considering Dr. Gordon's public admiration for Mr. Finkelstein, he believes there may be a factual basis behind the claim that Dr. Gordon "supports genocidal antisemites."
"The major theme of the Finkelstein book that Gordon was extolling is that Jews are responsible for antisemitism," said Mr. Dershowitz, quoting from the book: "Alongside Israel, [American Jewish elites] are the main fomenters of antisemitism in the world today. They must be stopped."
Mr. Dershowitz and Dr. Plaut have pointed out that many articles by Mr. Finkelstein and Dr. Gordon are featured on Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi websites, including the one belonging to Ernst Zundel, a German-born Holocaust denier who resided in Canada and was imprisoned in the US (for visa violations) and in Canada (for publishing hate literature and becoming a national security threat). In 2005, he was deported to Germany, where he was immediately arrested and is awaiting trial for "inciting racial hatred." Referring to Mr. Finkelstein, Mr. Zundel has said, "He is making three-fourths of our argument -- and making it effectively."
"So if Finkelstein and Gordon aren't themselves explicitly neo-Nazi, they're at least very highly regarded by those who are -- and for good reason," said Mr. Dershowitz.
Dr. Plaut pointed out that many anti-Israel publications written by Muslims and their left-wing supporters in the West have posted and reprinted Dr. Gordon's material. The weekly Egyptian paper Al-Ahram has a piece in which Dr. Gordon compares Israel's behavior to that of Nazi Germany on Kristallnacht, and the anti-Israel British publication, Counterpunch, has one in which Dr. Gordon compares Israeli behavior to Adolf Eichmann's.
"Gordon regularly compares Israel's defense fence to the walls built by Nazi Germany around concentration camps and ghettos," said Dr. Plaut.
Defending himself in the Jerusalem Post last month, Dr. Gordon denied that he is a neo-Nazi or anti-Israel, and, he said, he has never compared Israelis to Nazis.
"Following the great Jewish tradition, I try, however modestly, to be critical of Israel whenever its policies violate principles of justice or human rights," he wrote, adding that he still believes Mr. Dershowitz is guilty of plagiarism and attempting to prevent Beyond Chutzpah from being published.
Later in his piece, he discounted his earlier characterization of himself as a "modest" critic of Israel and wrote, "Yes, I am a severe critic of the Israeli government's policies, but just as I want my opinions to be heard, I believe in freedom of expression and am not interested in censoring other people's opinions, including those of Dershowitz or Plaut."
Then why is he suing Dr. Plaut? Because, he said, the Haifa University professor called him "an antisemite, Judenrat wannabe, and promoter of Hitler."
"The use of Holocaust vocabulary is intentional and emotive, designed to destroy my credibility in the political arena," he wrote.
Dr. Gordon said he was suing Dr. Plaut for slander because the Haifa University professor had "published an article on the racist Kahane website, asking his readers to harass me -- some obediently complied; he also disseminated the falsehood that my academic ability is poor, and even initiated an international campaign to have me fired."
Dr. Plaut denied that he had ever posted any of his articles on a Kahane website, but he recognized that just as Dr. Gordon's pieces may wind up on neo-Nazi websites, his may be used by those who appreciate his politically conservative, pro-Zionist views. Dr. Plaut also denied that he had ever encouraged anyone to "harass" Dr. Gordon.
Dr. Gordon called Mr. Dershowitz's challenge to sue him, too, "a cheap dare."
Dr. Plaut said reading Dr. Gordon's attack on Mr. Dershowitz reminded him "of the fable about the flea calling the elephant 'shorty.'"
Many media accounts of the dispute between Drs Gordon and Plaut have noted the similarities between Dr. Gordon's apparent attempt to suppress his critic's freedom of speech and the tactics adopted by Holocaust revisionist David Irving in his unsuccessful suit against Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt.
"While whining about his 'reputation," Gordon led a venomous and dishonest campaign of vilification against Israeli Gen Aviv Kochavi for 'war crimes,' which resulted in attempts by Muslims in Britain to prosecute Kochavi under phony charges should he ever set foot in London," said Dr. Plaut.
Mr. Dershowitz characterized Dr. Gordon as "one of the world's most extreme anti-Israel academics," who "belongs to the class of rabidly anti-Israel far-left professors whose trademark is the delight they take in comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany."
"Talk about chutzpah. It's absurd that Gordon is allowed to call people Nazis, but Plaut isn't, especially given that Plaut's characterization is far closer to the truth," said Mr. Dershowitz, adding that he personally wishes the term "Nazi" were reserved only for Hitler and his followers.
Nevertheless, said Mr. Dershowitz, Dr. Plaut's critique of Dr. Gordon, a recognized public person, "falls squarely within the realm of well-supported opinion, and it should be protected in any free society."
Mr. Dershowitz accused Dr. Gordon of being "afraid of the open marketplace of ideas, and so he has gone whining to a friendly judge to protect his 'reputation.'"
"It's an undemocratic ploy, violative of principles of free speech and fairness," said Mr. Dershowitz.
Many of Mr. Dershowitz's arguments have been voiced by others, including some BGU personnel in the US, whose job to fundraise for the school may be compromised by Dr. Gordon's activities.
One employee, who asked for anonymity, in the New York office of American Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev acknowledged that although the school could do nothing about Dr. Gordon, she could understand why donors might withhold contributions as long as he was associated with the school, writing screeds against Israel, and pursuing his anti-free speech suit against Dr. Plaut.
In an article written by Dr. Gordon for "Borderlands e-Journal," he acknowledged that the president of BGU had received the following letter, which Dr. Gordon characterized as "hate mail":
"I recently received a solicitation from you on behalf of Ben-Gurion and was planning to send money to this fine institution -- that is, until I found out about Neve Gordon teaching political science for you. It is unfathomable that you can allow a vicious Holocaust denier who sings the praises of Norman Finkelstein, the famous Jewish antisemite who is worshipped by neo-Nazis, at your university. This, at a time when worldwide antisemitism has reached levels not seen since the (yes, it really happened as written, Mr. Gordon!) Holocaust, is completely unacceptable. As long as you allow Neve Gordon to teach at Ben-Gurion, you will never receive any money from me or my community in support. I urge you to remove Gordon (and anyone else who preaches such reprehensible ideas) from your university."
After Dr. Gordon's piece appeared in the Jerusalem Post, most of the "talk-backs" showed that readers were unimpressed by his arguments; many were ready to let BGU suffer the consequences.
One said he would "re-think" any contributions to BGU and another wished Dr. Gordon would "defend your own people against their enemies rather than defend our enemies."
Someone using the name Gavriel said the article had prompted him to research Dr. Gordon's work on the Internet. Gavriel said he then reached the conclusion "unequivocally that Neve Gordon is decidedly anti-Zionist, racist, and pro-terror."
"His constant comparisons to South Africa and Nazi Germany show both his limited understanding of political science and his lack of imagination for generating comparisons beyond cliché. Please web search and see for yourselves," he said, adding a warning to BGU that its reputation would suffer "until you dump your garbage."
Dr. Plaut characterized the courses taught by Dr. Gordon at BGU as amounting to "little more than anti-Israel political indoctrination, such as his notorious 'Critical Aspects of the Occupation,' in which no Zionist opinion dare be expressed."
"That says volumes about the standards of the political science department at BGU," he said.
Susan L. Rosenbluth is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Jewish Voice and Opinion, based in Englewood, NJ. Contact her by phone at (201)569-2845 or go to the website: http://jewishvoiceandopinion.com
This article was published in the December 2006 issue of the Jewish Voice and Opinion. It was entitled "Accusations of Slander, Plagiarism, and Holocaust Revisionism, Beyond Chutzpah: A Tale of Steve, Neve, Alan, and Norman."
[*]The photo comes from http://www.masada2000.org/list-G.html and is not part of the original article.
[**] Contact Professor Steven Plaut at
Graduate School of Business,
University of Haifa,
Haifa 31905 Israel
Or send a check to the Central Fund of Israel,
980 Sixth Ave.,
New York, NY 10018.
The check should be earmarked to the Legal Forum-Prof Plaut.
For information, call 212-724-1642 or 212-354-8700, ext 208.
To read more about the trial, the issues and the main characters:
P. David Hornik, "Finkelstein's Fan in Israel,"
Front Page Magazine, November 1, 2005
Richard Lakisher, "The David Irving Trial In Israel,"
Think-Israel, December 17, 2003
Steven Plaut, "A Call To Arms To Oppose Slapp Suits,"
Think-Israel, December 31, 2003
Caroline Glick, "The judicial overthrow of democracy," The
Jerusalem Post, June 19, 2006,
"Maariv Editor Denounces Nazareth Judge for Holocaust Revisionism Comments,"
June 26, 2006,
Bryna Berchuck, "Whatever Happened To Freedom Of Speech In Israel?"
Think-Israel, November 11, 2004
|HOME||January-February 2007 Featured Stories||Background Information||News On The Web|