Anatomy of a Smear

Over the last few weeks, as I have thought hard about how the Finkelstein and Larudee tenure denials went down the way they did, I repeatedly stumble upon a troubling, but perhaps plausible, scenario. Imagine the following phone conversation between the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz, and John Simon, the Chair of DePaul’s Board of Trustees:

Alan Dershowitz: “Is this Finkelstein tenure denial really going to go down without a hitch? There’s a lot riding on this.”

John Simon: “We’ll take care of it Alan. No need to worry. The players are in place. It’s a lock. You have my personal assurance.”

Alan Dershowitz: “Thanks, John.”

In May 2004, a mere one month before fifty Jenner and Block attorneys attended a Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Lawyer’s Division dinner in Chicago, where Alan Dershowitz delivered the keynote address on “The Case for Israel,” John Simon, a Jenner and Block partner, was elected Chair of DePaul’s Board of Trustees. In October 2004, he assumed the position of chair of the Board of Trustees after having served as a Trustee since 1990.

You read that correctly: one month before Dershowitz made the case for Israel in front of the Chicago JUF and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Lawyer’s Division, with fifty Jenner and Block attorneys in attendance, John Simon became chair of DePaul’s Board of Trustees. Three months after Dershowitz makes the case for Israel before fifty Jenner and Block attorneys and 2500 die-hard supporters of Israel at a JUF fundraiser, John Simon officially began his stint as chair of DePaul’s Board of Trustees. (See p. 28 and this video). Simon received the ORT Jurisprudence Award in 1999. A little digging allowed me to learn that:

ORT (was created in 1880 by Russian Jews who established new colonies and agricultural schools and model farms to help newly displaced Russian Jews adapt to an agricultural existence. Known as the ‘Obschestvo Remeslenovo i. Zemledelcheskovo Trouda,’ which translates into the ‘Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor,’ ORT has developed into an international non-governmental educator that has had schools and programs in 88 countries throughout the world and that helps to educate 300,000 students each year. Today, ORT is a world leader in technological and general education, teaching the skills necessary for success in today’s world. (See press release)

Was John Simon in attendance at Dershowitz’s talk before the Jewish United Fund and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Lawyer’s Division? Are Simon and Dershowitz acquaintances? Friends? Was John Simon elected chair of DePaul’s Board of Trustees to take care of Norman Finkelstein’s tenure case, as a favor to Alan Dershowitz? Who knows? The answers to these questions are merely speculative at this point, but they are certainly worth asking. You can email John Simon at and ask him for some answers to these questions.

“All of this is merely a coincidence,” you say, “Don’t be paranoid!” We all know an upstanding professional such as Alan Dershowitz would not try to tamper with Norman Finkelstein’s tenure case through DePaul’s Board of Trustees nearly two years before his good friend “Norm” was supposed to go up for tenure, right? Or would he?

Readers will remember that Finkelstein gave Dershowitz the drubbing of his life in September 24th, 2003 on Democracy Now!, where Finkelstein accused Dershowitz of concocting a hoax plagiarized from another hoax, a reference to the fact that Dershowitz, in writing his The Case for Israel, “borrowed” – perhaps illegitimately – secondary material from Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

We all know the dangers of positing conspiracy theories, but this one is really too good to pass up:

On the Jenner and Block website advertising Dershowitz’s June 2004 speech before the Chicago JUF, you’ll notice that the JUF/JF board of directors is headed by Chairman Lester J. Rosenberg and President Steven B. Nasatir. Well, the name Nasatir leapt out at me. As it turns out, one Lonnie Nasatir delivered the joyous news on 6/11/07 from the ADL office about the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest Regional Office’s stance on Finkelstein’s tenure denial. Are Lonnie and Steve Nasatir related? I’m thinking they might be.

Speaking on behalf of the Chicago ADL Office, Lonnie Nasatir insisted that one Claudette Marie Muhmammad, who had been appointed to Rod Blagojevich’s Task Force on Hate Crimes, be removed after it was revealed that Muhammad had connections to the Nation of Islam. Imagine what might have happened had a woman with the last name of “Epstein” been removed from Blagojevich’s task force for sending money to the Israeli Settler Movement or for proven connections to the Israeli Likud Party. The Heavens would surely have darkened. Add to all this that the Anti-Defamation League actually specializes in defaming U.S. critics of Israel, it’s a wonder that Nasatir wasn’t rung up on charges of “gross hypocrisy”.

Another internal player at DePaul, who undoubtedly watched the Finkelstein tenure proceeding with keen interest, is J.D. Bindenagel, Vice President for DePaul’s Community, Government, and International Affairs. Bindenagel was a Holocaust Compensation official in the State Department appointed in 1999 by President Clinton as U.S. Ambassador and Special Envoy for Holocaust issues, reaching “agreements on World War II-era forced labor, insurance, art, property restitution, and Holocaust education, research and remembrance.” In his The Holocaust Industry: On the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering Finkelstein deals critically with the likes of Bindenagel and Stuart Eizenstat, the author of Imperfect Justice and a key player in the Holocaust Industry racket. Here’s what Finkelstein had to say on Bindenagel:

Even Holocaust survivor organizations decry that the Holocaust industry inflated the number of survivors during negotiations only to deflate the number once it had the compensation monies earmarked for Holocaust survivors at hand: “Why during the negotiations were the numbers of actual Shoah survivors so vastly exaggerated and why were the negotiators so fearful that the press and the German and Swiss opponents might challenge their proclaimed survivors statistics?” The inflation now exceeds that of the Weimar years with the US State Department’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, J.D. Bindenagel, proclaiming that “in the postwar years many millions of Holocaust victims were caught behind the Iron Curtain.” (The Holocaust Industry, p. 238-39).

To see Bindenagel’s contributions to the Proceedings of the Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, go here. I’m sure this Vice President at DePaul would have loved to have had Finkelstein on the faculty permanently. I’m sure Finkelstein could have reminded Bindenagel on a regular basis the full dimensions of the Holocaust Industry’s “Double Shakedown” of Europe. “Hey Norm, let’s get a martini at 5 so we can recap the Holocaust Industry’s shakedown of Germany and a good bit of Eastern Europe.” Probably not – wasn’t going to happen.

Assuming DePaul’s administration made a commitment nearly three years ago to make sure that Finkelstein would be denied tenure, wouldn’t it have just been more honest and efficient for President Dennis Holtscheider to have sent Finkelstein a short note along these lines:

We don’t like the conclusions of your scholarship, which are supported by the leading scholars on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the Nazi Holocaust, because they aren’t conducive to perpetuating the propaganda system that DePaul University is dedicated to upholding under the banner of ‘Vincentian Personalism,’ so we’ll accuse you of advocacy, which suffuses all social-science scholarship.

This is truly defamation, Zionist-style. To hide behind the obvious bad-faith language of the tenure denial letter itself, which is effectively disposed of by Kim Petersen in his three-part essay on Bathos at DePaul/Academe, really requires chutzpah. But when it comes to justifying the unjustifiable and explaining the unexplainable, chutzpah is all you’ve got to lean on.

If there’s no place for Norman G. Finkelstein in American Academe, what does that mean? I’m afraid it means that American Academe isn’t ready for serious scholarship, especially when it impedes U.S. and Israeli war aims in the Middle East.

BILL WILLIAMS is an independent writer who lives in Toledo, Ohio. He can be reached at