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Norman Gary Finkelstein (born December 8, 1953) is an American political scientist, activist and author.
His primary fields of research are the Israeli--Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust, an interest motivated by the experiences of his parents who are Jewish Holocaust survivors.
He is a graduate of Binghamton University and received his Ph.D in Political Science from Princeton University.
He has held faculty positions at Brooklyn College, Rutgers University, Hunter College, New York University, and, most recently, DePaul University, where he was an assistant professor from 2001 to 2007.
In 2007, after a highly publicized row between Finkelstein and a notable opponent of his, Alan Dershowitz, Finkelstein's tenure bid at DePaul was denied.
Finkelstein was placed on administrative leave for the 2007--2008 academic year, and on September 5, 2007, he announced his resignation after coming to a settlement with the university on generally undisclosed terms.
An official statement from DePaul strongly defended the decision to deny Finkelstein tenure, stated that outside influence played no role in the decision, and praised Finkelstein "as a prolific scholar and outstanding teacher".
Personal background and education
Finkelstein has written of his Jewish parents' experiences during World War II.
His mother, Maryla Husyt Finkelstein, grew up in Warsaw, Poland, survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp, and two slave labor camps. Her first husband died in the war.
She considered the day of her liberation as the most horrible day of her life, as she realized that she was alone, her parents and siblings gone.
Norman's father, Zacharias Finkelstein, was a survivor of both the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Finkelstein's mother was an ardent pacifist. Both his parents died in 1995.
In his forthcoming memoir, Finkelstein recalls his strong youthful identification with the outrage that his mother, witness to the genocidal atrocities of World War II, felt at the carnage wrought by the United States in Vietnam.
One childhood friend recalls his mother's "emotional investment in left-wing humanitarian causes as bordering on hysteria."
He had 'internalized (her) indignation', a trait which he admits rendered him 'insufferable' when talking of the Vietnam War, and which imbued him with a 'holier-than-thou' attitude at the time which he now regrets.
But Finkelstein regards his absorption of his mother's outlook — the refusal to put aside a sense of moral outrage in order to get on with one's life — as a virtue.
Subsequently, his reading of Noam Chomsky played a seminal role in tailoring the passion bequeathed to him by his mother to the necessity of maintaining intellectual rigor in the pursuit of the truth.
He completed his undergraduate studies at Binghamton University in New York in 1974, after which he studied at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris.
He went on to earn his Master's degree in political science from Princeton University in 1980, and later his PhD in political studies, also from Princeton.
Finkelstein wrote his doctoral thesis on Zionism, and it was through this work that he first attracted controversy.
Before gaining academic employment, Finkelstein was a part-time social worker with teenage dropouts in New York.
He then taught successively at Rutgers University, New York University, Brooklyn College, and Hunter College and, until recently, taught at DePaul University in Chicago.
He left Hunter College in 2001 "after his teaching load and salary were reduced" by the college administration.
Beginning with his doctoral thesis at Princeton, Finkelstein's career has been marked by controversy.
A self-described "forensic scholar", he has written sharply critical academic reviews of several prominent writers and scholars whom he accuses of misrepresenting the documentary record in order to defend Israel's policies and practices.
His writings, noted for their support of the Palestinian cause, have dealt with politically charged topics such as Zionism, the demographic history of Palestine and his allegations of the existence of a "Holocaust Industry" that exploits the memory of the Holocaust to further Israeli and financial interests.
Citing linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky as an example, Finkelstein notes that it is "possible to unite exacting scholarly rigor with scathing moral outrage, and supporters and detractors alike have remarked on the polemical style of Finkelstein's work.
Its content has been praised by eminent historians such as Raul Hilberg and Avi Shlaim, as well as Chomsky
Finkelstein has described himself as "an old-fashioned communist," in the sense that he "see(s) no value whatsoever in states."