Jon Wiener’s screed [“Giving Chutzpah New Meaning,” July 11] is based on a misrepresentation of my correspondence. I wrote to the directors of the University of California Press (with a copy and cover note to the Governor) emphasizing that “I have no interest in censoring or suppressing [Norman] Finkelstein’s freedom of expression.” In a further letter, I made it clear that “I am not trying to get the Governor to prevent the publication of Finkelstein’s book.” The purpose of my letters was to encourage the UCP to give “serious consideration” to its decision to publish a defamatory lie (that I did not write The Case for Israel).
My letter was stimulated by an e-mail Finkelstein sent to the dean of Harvard Law School stating that he was “completing a manuscript for the University of California Press” that will “demonstrate that [Dershowitz] almost certainly didn’t write the book, and perhaps didn’t even read it prior to publication.” Finkelstein has gone even further, asserting that I didn’t write any of my books: “[Dershowitz] has come to the point where he’s had so many people write so many of his books…. it’s sort of like a Hallmark line for Nazis…. they churn them out so fast that he has now reached a point where he doesn’t even read them.” (This was after he compared me to Adolf Eichmann.)
Finkelstein knows that I wrote every word of the text of The Case for Israel by hand (I do not type, and I sent my handwritten manuscript to his publisher). He also knows that Harvard–after an investigation, which I sought–dismissed his absurd charges of plagiarism. Indeed, I was awarded a “dean’s prize” for “exceptional scholarship” for a subsequent book. Neither the First Amendment nor academic freedom protects knowing falsehoods, as the Supreme Court said in New York Times v. Sullivan and as Finkelstein knows, since he threatened to sue the Washington Post in 2002 for calling him a “Holocaust revisionist.”
The other purpose of my letter was to inform UCP what Professor Peter Novick, whose work stimulated Finkelstein’s book on the Holocaust, had said about Finkelstein’s reliability as a scholar: “As concerns particular assertions made by Finkelstein…the appropriate response is not (exhilarating) ‘debate’ but (tedious) examination of his footnotes. Such an examination reveals that many of those assertions are pure invention.[…] No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate, without taking the time to carefully compare his claims with the sources he cites.”