“American Radical”: Norman Finkelstein Movie in 2009

Coming to theatres and on DVD in 2009:




The Official Website of Norman G. Finkelstein

(you can watch Academic Freedom videos in the meantime, on Open Anthropology TV)


21 thoughts on ““American Radical”: Norman Finkelstein Movie in 2009

  1. Pingback: Academic Freedom News: Ward Churchill, Joel Kovel « OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY

  2. Colin Genders

    American Radical : The Trials of Norman Finkelstein” coming t0 theatres and on DVD in 2009. It will be interesting to see, after the US Israeli/Zionist lobby go into action, just how many theatres will screen this movie. The voices of the likes Norman Finkelstein, Naom Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, who back up there statements with rigidly researched documentation, will always, banished from mainstream media by the likes of lesser intellects, whose strengths lie more in the direction of the plagiarism of suspect research and outright lies.

    While the US, for some inexplicable reason, supports Israel in it’s endless disregard of United Nations Resolutions, International Law and continued Human Rights violations against the Palestinian population, the rest of the world is less gullible. Why the US cannot see that many of the problems they are experiencing with the Arabs and with Islamic extremists stem from their undiluted support of what can only be described Zionist Fascism.

  3. phel

    I’m a bit worried about this. I know you can’t judge these things by just the trailer, but it looks like the documentary may be out to give the impression that finkelstein is well-meaning but possibly fanatical and confused.

    Anyone know anything about the producers?

    1. jesseplotowsky

      Yes, the director and producers are David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier, the former is Canadian, an independent filmmaker but his main job is at Canadian Broadcasting Corporation–which is interesting in itself as Norm delights in ranting against the CBC, but then panders to one of their employees for his film. At one time I supported this fellow, Norman, and wrote defenses for his tenure. After getting to know him personally,I found out he is not what he is cracked up to be. It was quite disappointing. Unlike other academics that suffer greatly for their political beliefs, I have figured out that was not our Norm’s problem. It was his arrogance, hypocrisy and lack of collegiality why he got fired from every job he had and he gloats in it. Yes, collegiality should not be a determining factor of an academic’s performance. But truth be told in political science, as opposed to the humanities, just producing books is not enough you must publish peer reviewed journal articles, which he did not. He will tell you he does not want to be paid for his beliefs, but he does from every lecture he gives. Yes, he should be paid, but at least not lie about it. People who have supported him, he backbites and when they ask for support in return, he will do just enough to get by and then complain about having to serve them. He is a poor excuse as a human being. If it were not for Professors Chomsky and Edward Said, who were his readers on his dissertation at Princeton, in addition, on his account, finally finding a sympathetic advisor, he would not have obtained his PhD. Although I find Dershowitz’s beliefs despicable and contrary to mine, Normie did not pick his battle well in the end albeit his debatorial performance was superb on Democracy Now. In the trailer you state that he appears fanatical and confused, I would say rather that he knows exactly what he is doing and is sociopathic, demoniacal and a promoter. He makes his living off the misfortune of Palestinians and most recently after his trip in Gaza he has drummed up with other activists a campaign to free the seige in Gaza–which I think is outstanding–but the killer is he has the audacity to put his mug on the front of a website poster announcing the January1, 2010 event.

      1. Maximilian Forte

        If Finkelstein was denied tenure because he did not publish — which in reality means re-publish — articles in obscure journals, rather than very widely received books, then the tenure committee was staffed by asses.

        I have also NEVER heard of anyone being fired for “arrogance, hypocrisy” because if that were the norm, assuming we can agree on who is an arrogant hypocrite, then many university departments would be suddenly vacated. What you are telling us then is that the university fired him for very unprofessional and unethical reasons that have little to do with actual scholarship.

        As for the collegiality issue, this is code for groupthink and submitting to the standard piety. Offense is taken more than it is given, and attending to other people’s emotional states should not be Finkelstein’s homework.

        “He makes his living off the misfortune of Palestinians” — that is a simplistic and dishonest statement: anybody who writes anything can be accused of that. Should we ignore their misfortune altogether, so as to not be accused of “using” it?

        You tried to be balanced, but I am afraid that you smuggled in some rather outrageous statements that are totally unacceptable and should play no part at all in rendering verdicts on an academic career. I am extremely thankful, however, not to have been born in the U.S. and not to be working in an American university, it sounds like a sewer.

      2. Tim

        “Yes, collegiality should not be a determining factor of an academic’s performance. But truth be told in political science, as opposed to the humanities, just producing books is not enough you must publish peer reviewed journal articles, which he did not.”
        I’ve heard this claim thrown around a lot on the internet, in critiques of Finkelstein. Some, like Dershowitz, even claim that Finkelstein had the audacity (stupidity?) to not only admit that “Never has one of my articles been published in a scientific magazine,” but that he actually boasted about it. As it turns out, the phrase Dershowitz quoted never appeared in the article referenced (“‘I won’t lie down and take the insults,’” Irish Times, July 1, 2003, p. 13). This makes sense, because the statement is in fact false. The critique by Dershowitz in which this claim appears can be found here: jbooks[dot]com/interviews/index/IP_Dershowitz[dot]htm
        As it turns out, Finkelstein has written several articles that have appeared in academic journals, not none as Dershowitz and other of his detractors claim he has said. He has had several articles published. The publications include the Journal of Palestine Studies, Antipode, South Atlantic Quarterly, and others.

        Here’s a list:
        -Zionist orientations, Scandinavian Journal of Development Alternatives. Stockholm. 9 (March 1990) 1. p. 41-69
        -Bayt Sahur in year II of the intifada. – A personal account,Journal of Palestine Studies. Berkeley/Cal. 19 (Winter 1990) 2/74.p. 62-74
        -Israel and Iraq. – A double standard, Journal of Palestine Studies. Berkeley/Cal. 20 (1991) 2/78. p. 43-56
        -Reflections on Palestinian attitudes during the Gulf war, Journal of Palestine Studies, 21 (1992) 3/83 , p. 54-70
        -Abba Eban with Footnotes, Journal of Palestine Studies, vol 32. (2003), p. 74-89
        -Prospects for Ending the Occupation, Antipode, 35 (2003) 5 , p. 839-845
        -The Camp David II negotiations. – how Dennis Ross proved the Palestinians aborted the peace process, Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 36 (2007), p. 39-53
        -Civility and Academic Life, The South Atlantic Quarterly, vol.108, no.4, pp.723-740, 2009

        He’s also been published in the New Left Review, the Middle East Report, and Monthly Review. These aren’t peer-reviewed, but they’re respected, serious, scholarly publications just the same.
        So the story here is more of the same; Dershowitz lying about his critics and then accusing them of doing exactly what he’s doing to them.

      3. Maximilian Forte

        Many thanks Tim, much appreciated. I myself had not even bothered to check because I thought it was such a non-issue, and that if a department was essentially firing someone of such prominence, over this, that it made them look even more stupid and dishonest.

        As for Dershowitz lying, slandering, and distorting: not at all surprising. That is his modus operandi, his signature on virtually everything he does and says concerning critics. That is now Harvard’s loss.

  4. jesseplotowsky

    Thank you Maximilian for your reply. I am going to address each of these points you have made.

    1) If Finkelstein was denied tenure because he did not publish-in reality means re-publish–articles in obscure journals rather than very widely received books, then the tenure commitee was staffed by asses.

    Response: As you have not indicated if you are an academic, and if you are you are not familiar with the tenurial process. What I understand from a colleague in Italy, they are subject to the same practices. I will preface this discussion that I come from a family of university academics, including myself. A close family member sits on the Tenure Committee Board at a prestigious research university. For the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and political sciences, yes peer reviewed journal articles are preferable over books. This is not to say books from university presses (that Norman has) do not count, but articles carry more weight. Humanities, less so, but even in History all your historians worth their salt have their fair share of peer reviewed articles in addition to books. You can say, paraphrasing you, “it is a sewer system”, lest we forget academia works similarly to a corporate business plays by certain rules (functional theory). If you enter it you have to play the game, however inhumanely despicable it is, or exit. Even Normie refers to the farcical combination of academic freedom and the tenure bid.

    Although Professor Chomsky has turned social activist in his later years, he was a linguistic theorist and I read his work in journal articles long before his activism. As for Said, he is in the humanities where books and date of published research are less considered a critical issue–the natural sciences and social sciences are much more concerned with the currency of the articles written.

    2) I also NEVER heard of anyone being fired for “arrogance” “hypocrisy” because if that were the norm, assuming we can agree on who is an arrogant hypocrite, then many university departments would be suddenly vacated.

    Response: Edit out hypocrisy as that rightly belongs more into my criticism of him as an activist. Again, it is about playing the game, you can rewrite the rules of tenure, but it is not acceptable to insult staff members, ones who do your clerical work for you. Until you obtain tenure, you have to have a big smile on your face, how hypocritical and disgusting it is, you ask even a friend of mine, who was a high school teacher labor organizer. He is antithetical to being a “brown nose”, but until he received his tenure he had to pass students who later he never would have but he needed the money. It doesn’t seem to me Norm was an independently wealthy man where he could act as an aristocrat. He reportedly called a staff member a “bitch”. Now, maybe she was conducting herself in a shrewish manner, but if he is genuinely concerned about tenure he has to hold his tongue. But even if you dispute that he ever used this chauvenist appelation towards a staff member, Norm does have a sexist way about him as I personally have read comments he has written to me about women. Your criticisms are much more respected if you are contained within deconstructing their ideological bias rather than supplementing them with ad hominem comments, albeit tempting about their gender. Again, if one is not interested one’s tenure bid, this is cool, but Norman, at the time was, so do not whine and complain later. He should have at least tried to repair any misunderstandings with the three members of his minority review in order to stave off Dershowitz’s vicious onslaught and collaboration with these dissenting peers. .

    As for the collegiality issue, this is code for groupthink and submitting to the standard piety. Again I refer you to the tenurial process. I had one friend, untenured professor that could not bear the
    hypocritical niceties of being a team player and serving on academic committees she opted out.
    “Offense if taken more than it is given, and attending to other people’s emotional states should not be Finkelstein’s homework”
    My response is why should a colleague or staff member have to put up with his snarly attitude either. By Norman’s own admission, he used to be a surly and insecure man. As my doctoral advisor told me once and I pass these words of wisdom on “we are all in the same life boat” meaning we have to respect each other whether at the time we feel inclined to. Evidently, Norm chose not to.

    “He makes his living off the misfortune of Palestinians”…should we ignore their misfortune altogehter, so as to not be accussed of “using it”.
    Yes, this is not an observation that I singularly invented. There have been criticisms on his website and ones he has implied in print. Initially, I wholeheartedly defended him against what I deemed as ostensibly trollish remarks, but have come to learn I was incorrect. This is where my issue of his hypocrisy comes into play. He states righteously that he does not earn any money off his beliefs contrary to what is posted about him on the Internet, but I know personally he does. Second, if you are genuine about a cause would you not first feature a media announcement of Gazan children in need than your own mug shot (his face) . Come on???? The height of narcissism, on his part. If you have been to Gaza and West Bank it is heartbreaking and these children need to be exposed in print rather than a high profile political scientist.
    Maxmillian, I regret that first hand I know about this person more than I want to know. Dealing with him professionally ,he treats fellow academics as well as myself, who are in solidarity with him, in a disdainful manner. If he is not granted center stage on a panel,he is not content. But in the instances when he is upstaged, he turns suddenly humble. I get the impression he makes incriminating commments based solely on subjectivity.

    My criticism of Finkelstein will not drive me to the other side and obsequiously defend Dershowitz, this is clearly against the integrity of my character. But on other hand, I cannot uphold a person who, in spite of his beliefs being congruent with my own, is disingenuous at his core.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks very much for your comments, allow me to clarify some points:

      As you have not indicated if you are an academic, and if you are you are not familiar with the tenurial process.

      I naturally do not hold it against anyone that they may not have the time to read every word on this blog, and the About the Blogger page, where I indicate that I am an academic, and I am tenured. The question of journal articles did not come up at either of the two Canadian universities where I have worked, and where I currently work the clearest preference of most of my colleagues is to publish books. There are excellent reasons for that, which I am afraid our American colleagues overlook, and we do not share their same tenure system.

      it is not acceptable to insult staff members

      Having said that, it is also not acceptable to allow people who may have a conflict of interest from playing any role in a tenure decision. Unless there had been a formal complaint, and it had been properly adjudicated, none of this should have been raised.

      I should add that I do respect the need to be polite and professional with colleagues, if one cannot be simply friendly. I say this as a person who many more times than just once has been on the receiving end of the kind of attitudes you described above. In fact, I can afford to be absolute: I have only been on the receiving end. Having said that, if I had felt really damaged by their behaviour, I would and could have lodged a formal complaint. I would have kept that entirely separate from any tenure or promotion, and would have excused myself from the review process anyway so as to avoid any charge of conflict of interest.

      Lastly, I really cannot complain or disagree about your personal views of Finkelstein, given that you have known him personally, and I have yet to be even in the same room as him. I certainly cannot say “No! You’re wrong!” My apologies for the harshness of my original reaction.

      PS: Our systems may differ in more ways than one of course. In Canada, scholars have academic freedom regardless of whether they have tenure or not. Academic freedom is usually written into collective agreements between faculty unions and the administration. Indeed, had either Finkelstein or Churchill been working in Canada, they would have fared far better: through a combination of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Collective Agreements, union protection, and tenure (Churchill’s case), it would be extremely difficult to put individuals through what these two have experienced.

  5. Colin Genders

    While I am not an academic and must bow to those who know Prof. Finkelstein personally with regard to his character, it changes nothing, in my view, as to why he was denied tenure in his last position. My understanding is that the faculty and student council of DePaul University strongly endorsed Finkelstein’s tenure and that he appears to have been turned down for purely political reasons. The American Jewish/Israeli lobby, having been stirred up by Dershowitz, who was so soundly humiliated by Finkelstein in their debate, represents vast amounts of potential contributions to American universities, DePaul appears to have caved in like wet cardboard.

  6. jesseplotowsky

    Hello, Maximilian,

    You bring up some good points I will address them later it has been a long day today. Yes there are abuses in the tenure process. I must have quickly skimmed over your about page. Sorry.

  7. phel

    Don’t feed the trolls, or plants, I should say in this case. I still want to know more about the people involved in this. Anyone?

  8. Chelsea Hayman

    Wow, excellent, I am going to have to check this out! Thank you for contributing this kind of very essential and important material to the field of anthropology. It is definitely necessary with the discourses that are going on today.

  9. bill meyer

    you might not be ware but Finklestein was featured heavily in the new doc, Defamation. I changed my impression of him drastically after seeing this film. I agree mostly with Plotowsky’s analysis, and I side wholeheartedly with the Palestinian struggle.
    The fact that “Normie” came of quite badly in the film, as the nemesis of the ADL President, I have to give weight to the editors ability to shape the viewers opinion.

  10. Colin Genders

    It seems a pity that points made by academics seem always to be hidden in a vast plethora of words, more semantics than statements. Thus causing the eyes of the uneducated, such as myself, to glaze over long before the gist of the matter becomes totally clear. Could it be that Professor Finkelstein rankles academia by his forthright pros his determination to call a spade a spade.

    Prof. Finkelstein states what the vast preponderance of the world’s countries, USA excepted of course, understand only to well; that Israel is a rogue state, that when originally formed immediately drove 800,000 Palestinian inhabitants from their land and their country. A rogue state that has started a war virtually every decade since the 50’s and is in continual contravention of International Law and UN Resolutions. A rogue state, with what is considered to be the fifth most powerful army in the world, which describes an attack upon a virtually unarmed ghetto, Gaza, as a war.

    Professor Finkelstein calls it as he sees it, and, being Jewish himself, can hardly be written off as an Anti-Semitic. One can barely imagine how thoroughly disconcerting this must be for the US Zionist/Israeli lobby, a lobby that apparently wields such incredible power and influence in the United States.

  11. Colin Genders

    Is it possible that a glimmer of light is finally filtering into the US Presidency? Has someone at last realized that, following the recent Israeli insult to Joe Biden, and to the President himself, that Israelis have no interest in any peace agreement that places any restrictions whatsoever on their total control over the lands they consider to be historically theirs by god’s grace.

    The US, having provided Israel with nuclear weapons and a seemingly endless supply of military hardware and financial aide, currently running at about $8,000,000 per day, while continually turning a blind eye to Israel’s blatant refusal to conform to International Law and United Nations Resolutions, have now had a stick poked it that blind eye by Israel. What will it take before the United States gets the message that its problems with the Muslim world begins with its unquestioning support of Israel and is exacerbated by its ludicrous past foreign policies toward countries such as Iran.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      “What will it take before the United States gets the message that its problems with the Muslim world begins with its unquestioning support of Israel and is exacerbated by its ludicrous past foreign policies toward countries such as Iran”

      I ask the same question. It seems to be an impossible lesson for them to learn. They would rather disgorge billions on futile attempts at airport security, than ask themselves these basic questions. They act as if there is nothing they can do about the hostility (that they engender) other than spend more on security and occupations. It is the mark of a very stupid people, and when you are that stupid, everything else will fall apart in due course.

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