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Anti-Israel Bias Acknowledged

Charges that academia is biased against Israel are serious enough when they come from supporters of the Middle Eastern country. When they emanate from implacable foes of the Jewish state, you get the idea that the bias has reached epidemic proportions.

Norman Finkelstein [1], formerly of DePaul, has a long history of, to put it mildly, animus towards Israel. His supporters allege that this history got him fired at DePaul seven years ago.

Yet, recently, when John K. Wilson [2] interviewed him in his academe blog and asked him, “Do you think that defenders or critics of Israel are more likely to be silenced on college campuses?”  Finkelstein said, “I do not believe speaking in support of the Palestinians entails many risks nowadays. In fact, it’s much more hazardous to be ‘pro-Israel’ than ‘pro-Palestinian’ on most U.S. campuses.”

Ironically, this was essentially what one of Finkelstein’s bitter critics, Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz [3], stated in another interview with Wilson: “I believe that professors who take an overtly anti-Israel view have a better chance of getting appointed today than professors who strongly support Israel. Today, the hard left is far more active, and much more successful, in denying appointment to conservative scholars, than are right wingers in denying appointments to qualified leftists. In the past, the opposite was true. Neither situation is acceptable. The important point is to keep the marketplace of ideas open to all points of view and not to have political opinions influence appointment decisions—either way.”

Dershowitz’s expressed sentiments are admirable and in regrettably short supply in academe. As it happens, another professor was dismissed from DePaul at about the time that Finkelstein was asked to leave.

Thomas Klocek [4], an adjunct professor at DePaul University in Chicago, was fired for making pro-Israel statements to students from two campus groups—Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA)—at a student activities fair. As near as we can determine, there were two competing sets of claims of what happened at the fair, those of Klocek and those of the students.

The school’s administrators chose to believe the latter set of allegations. Yet, Klocek’s name never turns up in a search of either Wilson’s academe blog or of the website of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP [5]), of which Wilson is a member.

The AAUP protested Finkelstein’s dismissal but not, from any record we have been able to unearth, Klocek’s.

(Mal Kline will be debating John K. Wilson on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at the AAUP convention and at AIA’s author’s night [6].)

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia [7].

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org [8].

Mal Kline will be debating John K. Wilson on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at the AAUP convention and at AIA’s author’s night [6].