Norman Finkelstein in Vienna? – Open letter to the Rector of the University of Vienna

Regarding Lecture with Norman Finkelstein: Israel-Palestine, Roots of Conflict-Prospects for Peace
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SPME Faculty Forum Editor’s note: Thanks are due to Dr. Martha Birnbaum who translated this letter into English.

Even though the office of the Rector informed as a response to a Press Release by SPME Austria, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Austri a and the Action against Anti-Semitism in Austria that Finkelsteins lecture will not take place at the University it is still scheduled for May 27th at the University Campus in Vienna.

The open letter in German can be read here

Dr. Georg Winckler, Rector
University of Vienna

Open Letter

Vienna, May 7, 2009

Regarding: Lecture with Norman Finkelstein: Israel-Palestine, Roots of Conflict-Prospects for Peace

Dear Dr. Winckler,

It has come to our attention that a lecture featuring Norman Finkelstein is planned in Room C1 of the university campus (formerly the AKH). Finkelstein is to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; we can thus assume that he will once more espouse his crude and dangerous thesis, namely that “the Zionists” will use the Holocaust to silence any criticism of Israeli politics.][1]

Even if the issue were not an academic or scientific gathering, we are saddened and amazed that the University of Vienna would offer itself as a venue for so problematic a person as Finkelstein and his so blatantly one-sided propaganda.

Finkelstein with his book „The Holocaust Industry“, has contributed to the relativization of the Shoah and the spread of anti-Semitism, not least because he openly denies the uniqueness of the Nazi crimes against humanity. (It should also be noted that the book’s title is so provocative that the Neo-Nazi fabricators David Irving and Ernst Zuendel actually lay claim to having created that title.) This Holocaust denial falls on particularly fertile soil in Austria, which has long had difficulty accepting blame. The 50% of Austrians who believe that “the Jews exploit the Holocaust for their own purposes” feel justified by this fabrication. Just as large is the sympathy that Finkelstein has generated in extreme right-wing Nazi circles. “A Jew absolves the Germans!” brags the Neo-Nazi publication Nationalzeitung euphorically.[2]

Alfred Schobert, working with the Duisburg Institute for Linguistic and Social Research (DISS), has analyzed Finkelstein’s role in the discourse of the far-right[3]. His judgment about the significance of antizionist agitators for the promotion of anti-Semitism: “Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors, brings suffering to the living victims of the Nazis; he wishes to preserve the memory of the victims, yet he undermines this memory. Finkelstein sees himself as a leftwing radical who provides the extreme right with grist for the mill. This is the objective background for labeling Finkelstein a “Jewish David Irving”. [4]

The Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) writes: the fact that Finkelstein can mount attacks that would otherwise be identified as anti-Semitic makes him important for the far right. The revisionist historical falsifier David Irving in the early ‘90’s was ranting about the “Holocaust industry” but didn’t get much further. It was Finkelstein who was the first to gain a foothold for his screed in established media publications. Even though Finkelstein doesn’t exactly deny the Holocaust, there is a lot that binds him with his “darling” Irving. The “revisionist” National Journal says pretty much that on its home page when it remarks about these two so different fighters against the “Holocaust industry”: ‘Two Men – One Perception’. [5]

Accompanying this political difficulty is Finkelstein’s well-documented propensity toward personal attacks against scholars like Alan Dershowitz, Benny Morris and others who do not share his opinions.[6] This has led finally to his being denied an unlimited docent appointment, and he thus is falsely calling himself a university professor. Even the international scholars’ organization “Scholars for Peace in the Middle East” was recently slandered by Finkelstein as “Nazi-PHD’s”.[7]

The title of the presentation – „Israel-Palestine, Roots of Conflict – Prospects for Peace“ [8] and the insinuation that Israel uses “Nazi methods” with Palestinians [9] provoke the fear that this presentation of Finkelstein’s could be misused as a provocation for anti-Semitic acts.

Significantly this presentation is being courted by both right-wing and left-wing extremist factions. [10] But in view of Finkelstein’s importance for the fight against the memory of the Shoah and against Israel as a Jewish state, it follows that on May 27 Neo-Nazis will be marching in anticipation of listening to one of their idols.

We ask that the forgoing information be considered in connection with the invitation to this so-called “Jewish David Irving” to speak on the university premises.

For the Board of Directors of SPME Austria:
Dr. Ruth Contreras, HRätin i.R

For the Federation of Jewish Communities in Austria
Dr. Ariel Muzicant, President
Mag. Raimund Fastenbauer; General Secretary

For Action against Anti-Semitism in Austria:
Hon. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Neugebauer

Copy to Ms. Elke Weinlechner, ARätin, Space and Resource Management

[1] Norman G. Finkelstein: Die Holocaust- Industrie, Piper-Verlag, München 2002. siehe auch,0,0,HolocaustIndustrie.html

[2] Nationalzeitung 40/00, 29. September 2000


[4] Dietzsch, M.; Schobert, A. (Hg.): Ein „jüdischer David Irving“? Norman G. Finkelstein im Diskurs der Rechten- Erinnerungsabwehr und Antizionismus. Duisburg 2001, S. 6


[6] siehe u.a. Finkelstein, Norman G.; Antisemitismus als politische Waffe, Piper, München 2006 (engl. Original: „Beyond Cutzpah“)

[7] “NAZI PHDs FOR PEACE mourn death of ubermenschen”:


[9] ,

[10] , ,

Norman Finkelstein in Vienna? – Open letter to the Rector of the University of Vienna

Regarding Lecture with Norman Finkelstein: Israel-Palestine, Roots of Conflict-Prospects for Peace
  • 0