Dear Mr. Horowitz (1):
I am not a Zionist, nor am I anti-Semitic. I’m anti-terrorism, pro-freedom fighter; anti-neocon trickle down autonomy, pro-truth-justice-American-way rebellion and r/evolution. You might say I’m an anarchist, and that would be fine.
I’m a nobody writer struggling to make my way and earn some credibility among what few readers I have.
So you can imagine my excitement when, while compiling a list of writing credits for my resume by Googling myself, I discovered that I was referenced in a FrontPage Magazine article, “Buffalo’s Bullying Professor,” by Karen Welsh, dated June 14, 2005. The professor she is referring to is a friend of mine, James Holstun.
At first, I was thrilled because I thought Ms. Welsh must be dissing me for something I’d written. I was hopeful, believing I was finally on your radar.
That optimism, however, was quickly shattered.
Ms. Welsh writes:
[Prof. Holstun’s] reference to Norman Finkelstein is by no means accidental: To date, Holstun has made no attempt to hide his alignment with the anti-Semitic professor’s views. Indeed, in April of 2004, the GGMS, at Holstun’s instigation, invited Finkelstein to Buffalo to deliver a lecture. An article by writer Chuck Richardson called Finkelstein's lecture at Buffalo “reckless, and ruthless in his attacks,” capable of stirring up “anti-Semitism whose significance he otherwise discounts.” Perhaps for precisely that reason, Holstun, in an email that was reprinted on Finkelstein’s personal website, enthused that it was a “particularly welcome event,” gushing that “Finkelstein was superb.”
Mr. Horowitz, you may thank Ms. Welsh on my behalf for characterizing me as a “writer”. I work hard and pay my dues. However, I did not characterize Mr. Finkelstein’s 2004 visit to SUNY Buffalo this way. In fact, Ms. Welsh transfigured my words and sentiments into something quite alien to me. The article she’s referring to, “A call for ‘black love’: An outsider’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a dark, hot room in Buffalo,” was a review of Mr. Finkelstein’s lecture, “Israel and Palestine: Roots of Conflict, Prospects for Peace,” at SUNY Buffalo, sponsored by the University and Western New York Peace Center. I have pasted a copy of it below for your convenience. You will see that although I was critical of the speaker, Ms. Welsh did not choose any of those criticisms, which she could have correctly cited. Instead, she took this section, which I quote entirely, and raped it:
So you see, Ms. Welsh was actually quoting Mr. Bartov’s criticism of Mr. Finkelstein’s book, not my criticism of his lecture. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pleased to see my name thus digitized, being the vain political bastard that I am, but having my words misrepresented is quite troubling. You may slander my character, sir, but you may not bear false witness against my work. I sin everyday but project every ounce of honesty I have into my writing. I make mistakes, but I do my best to correct them.
My first question, Mr. Horowitz, is how something so obviously libelous to Prof. Holstun -- in my amateur opinion, the article’s malicious intent is to damage his career and person through obvious falsehoods and misrepresented, unsubstantiated “facts” (2) -- can occur in a trustworthy publication without further amendment? Surely, your readers want to believe the “facts” you’re presenting to them are accurate.
This article’s continuing existence on FrontPage shames you. Certainly, you are aware that libel is not protected under the First Amendment. If we were a truly litigious society, as some on the right claim, I imagine you’d be bankrupt.
And this leads to my second question: How do you get away with it? It doesn’t take much web research to discover that you, your friends and your worst enemies are bullies.
Call me naïve, but if it walks like a bully, smells like a bully, and rejoices in bullying, chances are it’s a bully - no matter how it’s labeled or what it prefers to call itself, right? You and those who hate you are in a profoundly ugly conflict that is jeopardizing life on the planet, life that each side believes God/$$$/instinct/genius/OPPORTUNITY has commanded and motivated it as an elite people to dominate the rest of us. (3)
I’ve written about Nazis in my hometown, and the virulently anti-black racism in its insular municipal government for my hometown newspaper (available upon request). Many of these folks hate you and all Jews the way you hate everyone who prefers a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I hate each side’s fundamental hatred and stupidity.
Question three: Am I misunderstanding you, and how so? Believe me, a few short years ago I would have never dreamed of having a pro-Palestinian attitude, but facts and history, as I understand them, have led me to this view. By instinct, I empathize with the victims in all conflicts. Using honesty and reason, I try to defend them. (4)
Question four: Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Israel, with America’s backing, much more powerful than its enemies? I mean, we all know Israel has a massive stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, that it’s hanging over the head of anyone who’d interfere with its right wing, Zionist operations in the occupied territories. This extreme military superiority has allowed Zionist Israel to engage in aggressive policing actions rather than outright warfare to maintain its transcendent position above the majority of human beings in the lands it occupies. The Israeli-American war on terror is particularly brutal because it goes after suspects where they live, rather than a battlefield. It’s a new kind of warfare with “precision strikes” against “evil enemy combatants” and no Geneva Conventions. The new modus operandi is bullying, torture and terror.
Questions five through nine: This kind of warfare requires Gestapo and Ba’athist techniques, doesn’t it? At what point will you realize American-Israeli brutality makes your side worse than its enemies? Who’s to be held in higher esteem by whom, Mr. Horowitz, the individual suicide bomber who kills 20, or the American-Israeli pilot who kills 20 and lives to kill 20 more tomorrow? I know, there’s more of “them” than “you,” Mr. Horowitz, so suicide missions are unthinkable, and thanks to American-Israeli military power completely unnecessary. Does standard of living dictate kill ratios and modes of murder? Does the zealous need for an actual Jewish majority in Israel necessitate the Zionist-Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homeland?
Question ten: How do you understand my questions so far?
In case you’re missing their drift, I’ll take a moment to explain. I’m concerned that my friend, Prof. Holstun, is about to be dragged through the mud like Mr. Finkelstein. As Ms. Welsh surely knows from having read my article, I’m quite aware that when The Holocaust Industry was published in 2000, Jewish organizations from all over the world vigorously tried to discredit Mr. Finkelstein’s scholarship (to no avail), influence publishers not to publish his books (failed), and favorable critics to ignore it (largely successful).
When Mr. Finkelstein published The Holocaust Industry, New York University was his employer. His contract soon expired, and he took a similar position with City University of New York. But that didn’t last long, either. In no time, this native New Yorker could not find work in the city he loves, and found himself feeling exiled to the hinterlands to reap his daily bread. Making matters worse, Mr. Finkelstein was defamed in France, ironically enough, for allegedly libeling the Anti-Defamation League and fomenting anti-Semitism.
Mr. Finkelstein is not a “self-hating Jew” nor anti-Semitic, which are not the same as being anti-Zionist. These terms are as different as apples, oranges and bananas. To state that the kind of persecution Jews faced during the Holocaust is not unique in human history in no way justifies what happened. Those who believe the murder of six million Jews can be diminished so easily have twisted agendas. Those who feel genocide has never occurred before in human history (at least not to such a highly cultured people, making their brutal decimation more tragic) are racist.
What bothers Mr. Finkelstein’s critics most, however, is the fact his parents survived the Holocaust. The usual arguments that someone like Mr. Finkelstein is a “self-hating Jew,” again, do not apply. These detractors seem incapable of ferreting out the differences between anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist positions. Good citizens critique their government’s policies without hating their neighbors. A Jewish-Israeli can be anti-Zionist minus the anti-Semitism. Ethics and logic, in fact, require it.
In a Counterpunch interview, Mr. Finkelstein spoke of how growing up Jewish did not mean growing up Zionist:
As a Jew I felt that I bore a certain amount of responsibility for the policies of Israel because Israel claimed to speak in the name of the Jewish people, and therefore they were using the history and suffering of the Jewish people as a means to justify its policies. However, my family were not Zionists, and therefore I see no special connection between the two.
These sentiments are easy for dissidents like me to understand. Just replace “Zionism” with nationalism/racism, and “Jew” and “Jewish” for one’s own ethnic nation -- whether it be American, Chinese or Sudanese. Any group of people that considers itself literally “chosen by God” (or whatever), feeling itself innately superior to others, has always waged war in whatever land it feels is “promised” to them by their personal deity. In the strictest moral sense, it is essential for good people to speak out against atrocities committed in their name, so as not to be recorded for posterity as criminals who occupied space that was not their own, or as allegedly innocent victims of terrorism.
I will let Prof. Holstun convey his positions on these subjects, since I’m incapable of improving on them. His eloquence and sensitivities speak for themselves. Instead, I present this anecdotal evidence as testimony not only of his kindness, but his talent and dedication to teaching.
There was a huge and embarrassing factual error in “A call for black love,” which Prof. Holstun tenderly corrected. The error went like this: “[T]he 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict -- known as the Six Day War -- in which Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia attacked Israel hoping to drive it into the Mediterranean Sea, but ended up losing the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the latter two being occupied and settled by Israelis to this day.”
The man Ms. Welsh calls “Buffalo’s Bullying Professor” wrote to me, gently letting me know of the mistake:
As even your linked entry notes, Israel struck first, claiming, as all aggressors always do, that their attack was “pre-emptive.” But Menachem Begin himself said in an address to Israel’s National Defense College: “In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai did not prove Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” Israel was also the aggressor in the 1956 War, the Lebanon War, and the 2002 invasion of the West Bank. In the Yom Kippur War, Egypt attempted to regain territory conquered and illegally held after the 1967 War. Finkelstein's Image and Reality is good on this question -- I recommend it.
I then did the only honorable thing, publishing Prof. Holstun’s letter in its entirety on my now defunct web site, admitting to my error, and making it clear for all the world to see. Prof. Holstun, being an anti-bully, never even suggested I make the corrections or tried to intimidate me in any way.
In fact, I’m a former student of his. He was always an example of tolerance. He disagreed with many of my positions, but was never pushy and chose instead to make his points by asking great questions and giving me things to read. He was the best kind of teacher: nurturing, provocative and stimulating. As hard as I have searched, I have found no students who have considered him a bully, and cannot verify Ms. Welsh’s assertions in this respect. All I have found is a pile of evidence that Prof. Holstun is a vehement anti-bully.
If the same thing happens to Prof. Holstun that has happened to Mr. Finkelstein, it would be a great loss to SUNY at Buffalo and the surrounding community. It would be especially tragic for his students.
In the spirit of fairness and accuracy, I ask that you repair Ms. Welsh’s malevolent diatribe against Prof. Holstun and dis-characterization of my work. (5) Criticism is fine. Just keep it honest and fair. Mr. Bartov’s criticism, quoted above, of Mr. Finkelstein’s book applies to Ms. Welsh’s article perfectly.
Which leads me to my eleventh and final question: Who is Karen Welsh and what are her credentials? I Googled her and found only this article for certain, and another Karen Welsh whose opinions make her someone with ostensibly different views. Strange that a writer with no prior web credits lands a gig on a site that claims 1.2 million repeat visitors for May 2005. It makes me wonder if “she” really exists.
Mr. Horowitz, I’m looking forward to your timely response to these questions and request. I’m confident we could get the facts straight with an honorable effort. Your silence will suggest, however, at least to me, that you are bullied by truthfulness and blasé about anything but your own manna from heaven, whatever that may be [sic].
Hope you and yours are doing well.
1) For those of you who don’t know, FrontPage is run by David Horowitz, in my view an apparently virulent, Zionist hate-monger. Click on his name and decide for yourself. Also notice the “GOPOSTAL” section of this site.
2) Particularly nefarious is a posting on FrontPage, dated June 14, 2005, 10:36:11 a.m., suggesting Holstun be kicked and beaten to death: “So he likes violence does he… then since it is he who has chosen the rules of the game oblige him by catching him alone and severely kick his ass some dark night and tell him why. Those who advocate terrorism and violence against innocents should be given no quarter and no possibility of a rematch.” This comment has been up for eight days now. What could possibly excuse this?
3) “OPPORTUNITY.” For those among us wonkish enough to read government documents, I suggest reading President Bush’s 2002 National Security Strategy. In particular, I want you to notice how many times the word “opportunity” is used. It recurs more often than terrorism. Be aware of this word, of who uses it and how. It reveals much of what’s really happening: “…the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe.”
4) The difference between truth and honesty is simple, at least for me. Honesty is what one believes to be true, and truth is always beyond that. Whether or not an absolute truth exists is beyond my purview, but I suspect, after reading a couple of layman’s books on quantum physics, Taoism and postmodernism, it doesn’t. However, I agree to disagree with others on these points because, when I get right down to it, this whole shebang is a leap of faith. Peace.
5) These are the most egregious falsehoods in Ms. Welsh’s story:
a. Ms. Welsh’s misattributing Mr. Bartov’s criticism of Mr. Finkelstein’s book as my take on Mr. Finkelstein’s lecture. She mischaracterizes my sympathies, and I take offense to that.
b. “Holstun attempts to emulate Finkelstein’s anti-Israel propaganda in his classes.” This could be an opinion if Ms. Welsh has observed Prof. Holstun teaching, but she hasn’t. Unfortunately, she presents this tidbit as fact, and in a demeaning way. Prof. Holstun “emulates” no one, to my knowledge, and he’s certainly not a propagandist. He doesn’t meet the requirements: “Propaganda, in a narrower use of the term, connotes deliberately false or misleading information that supports or furthers a political cause or the interests of those in power. The propagandist seeks to change the way people understand an issue or situation for the purpose of changing their actions and expectations in ways that are desirable to the interest group. Propaganda, in this sense, serves as a corollary to censorship in which the same purpose is achieved, not by filling people's minds with approved information, but by preventing people from being confronted with opposing points of view. What sets propaganda apart from other forms of advocacy is the willingness of the propagandist to change people's understanding through deception and confusion rather than persuasion and understanding. The leaders of an organization know the information to be one sided or untrue, but this may not be true for the rank and file members who help to disseminate the propaganda.” So, in my view, this is a defamatory statement that belittles Prof. Holstun’s teaching ability and could affect his livelihood.
c. Her attack continues: “Never at a loss for anti-Israel invective, Holstun chafes at criticism when it’s directed at him. When Ellen Goldstein, the community relations director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo, raised concerns about Holstun bringing Finkelstein to Buffalo, the professor bristled. The professor e-mailed another faculty member huffing that Goldstein was a ‘sneak’ who committed a ‘craven’ act after she made an inquiry into Finkelstein's visit. Goldstein, for her part, deftly rebutted Holstun's remarks: ‘We "craven" community "sneaks" have no intention of letting you browbeat or intimidate Jewish students,’ she said, ‘or subject them to harassment in the disguise of academic freedom.’” The malicious intent of this article is obvious because Holstun’s side of this dispute is readily available online, where one can see for one’s self that Prof. Holstun’s position is incompletely stated by Ms. Welsh, thus giving a false impression of his temperament as a human being.
d. “Whether Holstun’s students can similarly speak up in his class, however, is far from clear,” writes Ms. Welsh. “In letters dating back to 1997, the Revolutionary Marxist Collective at SUNY/Buffalo described the strong-arm techniques Holstun has used as both a teacher and mentor: Here is a “teacher” who presents himself as the essence of the pedagogy of support and yet his own text is nothing but naked violence,’ the collective wrote. ‘Holstun is relying on this violence, supported by his institutional power, to silence oppositional students.’” First of all, Ms. Welsh is implying the RMC folks were Holstun’s students when neither of them was. Second, I haven’t been able to verify that anyone has actually said “his own text is nothing but naked violence,” and if this is a fabrication it exposes you, in my neophyte opinion, to legal action, if anyone really has the time, money or cajones to bother.
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