Professor at DePaul University is rejected tenure

A political science professor at DePaul University who has accused some Jews of improperly using the Holocaust's legacy to get compensation payments has been denied tenure by a close vote after a drawn-out public fight.

Norman Finkelstein, whose work has sparked a long-running feud with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, said he was disappointed by the decision.

"They can deny me tenure, deny me the right to teach," the 53-year-old told the Chicago Sun-Times. "But they will never stop me from saying what I believe."

On his Web site Sunday, Finkelstein posted a letter from university president Dennis Holtschneider explaining why a faculty panel voted 4-3 to deny him tenure at the Catholic university.

The three-page note cites Finkelstein's "deliberately hurtful" scholarship along with his lack of involvement with the school and his tendency for public clashes with other scholars.

"In the opinion of those opposing tenure, your unprofessional personal attacks divert the conversation away from consideration of ideas, and polarize and simplify conversations that deserve layered and subtle consideration," Holtschneider wrote in a letter dated June 8.

Finkelstein wrote in his 2000 book "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering" that some Jews have used the Holocaust as an "extortion racket" to get compensation payments, and has referred to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as the "resident clown" of the "Holocaust circus."

His most recent book, "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History," is largely an attack on Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel." In it he argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a bully weapon to stifle criticism.

An e-mail message left Sunday for Finkelstein, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, was not returned. A telephone recording said his Brooklyn phone had been temporarily disconnected.

The debate over his tenure raised the ire of many in academic and religious circles.

In a statement issued by the university, Holtschneider noted the heated debate surrounding Finkelstein's tenure.

"Over the past several months, there has been considerable outside interest and public debate concerning this decision," he said. "This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case."

DePaul's political science department and personnel committee both voted to support Finkelstein's tenure application. But it was opposed by the dean of the school's liberal arts college as well as a university board charged with granting tenure and promotions, which acknowledged Finkelstein's popularity with students and effectiveness in the classroom.

The son of Holocaust survivors, Finkelstein earned his doctorate from Princeton in 1988. He published five books and taught political theory at DePaul since 2001, school officials said.

University spokeswoman Denise Mattson said Sunday that Finkelstein's teaching term expires next June, but he can elect to leave his post immediately.