Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why Norman Finkelstein would have tenure in Israel!

An interesting theory proposed by Neve Gordon in his article in the The Chronichle of Higher Education. Excerpts below:

Take a minute before you conclude that the pro-Israel lobby is the sole culprit behind the witch hunt directed against scholars who criticize Israeli military rule over Palestinians. Consider Norman Finkelstein. If he had been on the faculty of an Israeli university, rather than DePaul University, he probably would be an associate professor by now.

I say that because several years ago I came up for tenure at Ben Gurion University of the Negev under similarly contested circumstances. As in Finkelstein's case, when I was recommended for tenure the president was promptly inundated with letters from outsiders seeking to influence the process. Like Finkelstein's, my sin was criticizing Israel's policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. All the calls for my dismissal emanated from America — not from Israel. In one typical letter, the president of the Zionist Organization of America used ominous threats to urge the university to fire me. Yet, unlike in the Finkelstein case, ultimately intimidation failed.

Why, then, have such tactics succeeded in the United States? Why do Israeli scholars have more academic freedom than their American counterparts?

The answer is rooted in the fact that many American universities are being reconstructed as corporations whose major objective is to sell products, most obviously degrees to students. The corporatization of academic life means that faculty members are perceived as both producers and products. They are expected to come up with inventions and patents that can be sold to corporations, as well as with research funds and citations that have a pseudomarket value, since they help elevate the university's ranking. As saleable products, faculty members are valued according to a corporate calculus rather than an academic one. To put it bluntly: Finkelstein was considered a liability to the corporation; therefore he was sacked.

No comments: