Jewish Journal

Finkelstein welcomed to LA by Jewish Defense League

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 12, 2008 | 11:14 am

I just got done attending a lecture at Cal State Northridge by Norman Finkelstein, the author of “The Holocaust Industry” who resigned from DePaul University in September after being denied tenure and then last month praised Hezbollah as representing “hope.”

The first of three lectures this week, the topic was “Civility and Academic Freedom.” Not one I am particularly interested in, but, as is usually the case wherever he goes, Finkelstein’s invitation caused a bit of commotion—it serves as the lede for my story on StandWithUs that will run Thursday—and I wanted to see who showed up.

The crowd of just over 50 contained mostly faculty and students, many of whom were Jewish, but the real attraction was Shelley Rubin, head of the militant Jewish Defense League and widow of the late Irving Rubin, who was arrested for allegedly scheming to bomb an L.A.-area mosque and the office of Arab-American U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa.

Before the lecture began, I asked Finkelstein whether he has come to expect the protests of the Jewish communities in cities he visits.

“I don’t worry,” he said. “People have the right to say what they want to say.”

But when he walked to the lectern, Rubin, who was joined by a young religious man with a video camera and an elderly man with a fanny pack, pounced.

“You should be ashamed of yourself. You should really be ashamed of yourself,” she said. “Don’t call yourself a Jew. You’re a sick puppy.”

CSUN’s vice president and provost, Harry Hellenbrand, then introduced Finkelstein and explained the criticism he had received for inviting a man who has been called “America’s leading anti-Semite, the Grand Wizard of the KKK, the leader of the Hitler Youth and the new David Duke.”

Hellenbrand, a diminutive man wearing frayed khakis and a black blazer with a big white splotch on the lapel, defended his decision to invite Finkelstein, which he told me yesterday was done at the request of faculty who wanted to know about how controversial research could threaten academic employment, and he said that the university is a place for myriad perspectives to be shared.

Finkelstein thanked Hellenbrand for the glowing introduction, at which point Rubin shouted out: “Good one, Harry. The Nazi loves you.”

Other than that outburst, the hissing that followed many of Finkelstein’s remarks and the 30 minutes Rubin spent berating Hellenbrand in the hallway—screaming “I pray you make t’shuvah!”—the event was pretty quiet.

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