Revolution #100, September 9, 2007

The Case of Professor Norman Finkelstein—A Moment of Reckoning, A Time to Act

We received the following statement:

This is a moment of reckoning for students and faculty at DePaul, and for students and faculty around the country. It is a time to act.

Norman Finkelstein, professor of political science at DePaul University, was denied tenure this past June. He was effectively fired. For daring to challenge the core beliefs of Zionism, and the foundational myths and apartheid realities of Israel. For daring to imbue students with a spirit of searching out uncomfortable truths.

Norman Finkelstein has produced a remarkable and recognized body of scholarship ( The New York Times cited one of his recent works as a “notable book of the year”)--yet he has been stripped of his academic position. Norman Finkelstein was recommended for tenure by his faculty peers, and is known for the rapport he establishes with students—yet he has been banished from DePaul University.

And if the president of DePaul University and the powerful rightwing forces he is in bed with have their way, Norman Finkelstein will never teach again.

But Norman Finkelstein has thrown back the gauntlet: “I intend to go to my office on the first day of classes and, if my way is barred, to engage in civil disobedience. If arrested, I’ll go on a hunger strike. If released., I’ll do it all over again. I’ll fast in jail for as long as it takes” ( Chicago Tribune, August 28, 2007). Will we stand with him? We must.

Norman Finkelstein’s case is not an isolated one but a concentration point of something bigger that is happening in the universities and in society. A dangerous and highly coordinated move is afoot to shut down dissent and critical thinking in the universities.

The dismissal of Norman Finkelstein comes on the heels of the firing of Ward Churchill, the tenured professor of Native American and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. After 9/11, Churchill made provocative statements critical of the U.S. role in the world and came under unrelenting attack and scrutiny. These firings carry with them the implicit warning that certain curricula and discourses and dissent that go against established power and reigning narratives will be off-limits.

All this is part of a larger program to turn the universities into zones of unquestioned indoctrination—into institutions of intellectual servility in the service of expanding empire abroad and intensifying social control at home.

Think about what it says about the times when a university that prides itself on open-mindedness and diversity is now on the front lines of this attack. Norman Finkelstein is not bowing down. He is setting an example for all of us. And as you read this, there are some determined students and faculty at DePaul who are mobilizing to draw the line: we do not and will not accept this firing. Finkelstein’s case and DePaul must become a concentration point of resistance.

To faculty who care about injustice, who want the academy to contribute to the betterment of humanity, and who are concerned for the new generation of students—an enormous injustice is now at your doorstep. The ice-sheet is spreading over academia. It is a time to act.

To students who want their lives to mean something, who think about the way the world is and the way the world might be, who want education to open eyes and who want to open the eyes of others—you have a chance and a responsibility to step forward to turn back a dangerous course of events. It is time to act.

As communists, we stand for a whole new and liberating world; we know that it will take a revolution to get there; and we are building resistance as part of building a revolutionary movement.

Right now, what happens, or doesn’t happen, at DePaul and on other campuses in response to this firing will have tremendous consequences for DePaul, for the intellectual and political life of universities, and for the kind of society we are living in. It’s just that serious.

Norman Finkelstein must be restored to his position with full teaching privileges. He must be granted tenure. And DePaul University must issue an apology for its unconscionable actions.

Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Chicago Branch

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