Catholics have every right to expect that Catholic
colleges and universities are free from bigotry of any kind.
Unfortunately, a recent ugly incident by DePaul professor Norman G.
Finkelstein has betrayed that trust. To be specific, an online column
he wrote at
suggesting that Alan Dershowitz be assassinated, coupled with an
obscene depiction of the Harvard professor, is cause for alarm.
Finkelstein has every right to quarrel with
Dershowitz’s proud defense of Israel’s right to exist, but when he
compares him to a Nazi (this despicable charge is made twice), then
elementary standards of civility have been shattered. Similarly,
calling Dershowitz a “moral pervert” who “missed the climactic scene
of his little peep show” is the language used by street propagandists,
not academicians. Make no mistake about it, Finkelstein wrote this to
illustrate the vicious cartoon he commissioned: Dershowitz is depicted
masturbating in glee over dead Lebanese civilians. It doesn’t get much
lower than this.
There are plenty of arenas in and around Chicago where
those who want to rant can go to express themselves, but a university
is not such a venue: the university exists so that the truth may be
pursued. That is what a liberal arts education is expected to provide,
and it is nothing but a travesty when the rights afforded faculty
members are abused in the way Finkelstein has done. This is doubly
true when it happens on a Catholic campus.
has come for responsible Catholic leaders to hold up a stop sign to
this kind of ad hominem assault. Robust free speech should be
welcomed on campus, but if it is to have pedagogical value, it must
respect logic and standards of evidence. Character assassination of
the kind Finkelstein engages in does not meet that test. He has abused
his rights as a faculty member and he has defamed Catholic education.
William A. Donahue is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.