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Beyond Chutzpah

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Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History is a book by Norman G. Finkelstein published by the University of California Press in August 2005. ISBN 0-520-24598-9.

Finkelstein on the Book

Finkelstein's doctoral dissertation was to dissassemble a book by Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial (1984), which claimed that Palestine had been largely empty in the early 20th century, and that both ethnicities were immigrants. Finkelstein declared it a fraud.

Two decades later, Finkelstein sees the record of the Israel-Palestine conflict as much less complex than it had been. The official Zionist "Exodus version", that Arab radio broadcasts had instructed the Palestinians to flee, has been largely swept away. The proof of this became available in the 1960s but had little impact. In the late 1980s, however, a steady stream of scholarly studies, mostly by Israelis, dispelled much of the Zionist mythology enveloping the origins of the conflict.[1] Scholarly debate now focuses on much narrower questions such as whether this ethnic cleansing was the intentional consequence of Zionist policy or the unintentional by-product of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

In this book he analyses "The Not-So-New "New Anti-Semitism"" from published sources. Finkelstein argues that the spectre of a "new anti-semitism" has been invented by supporters of Israel to brand any serious criticism of Israel's human rights abuses as anti-semitism. The aim, Finkelstein contends, is to silence criticism of Israeli policies and to provide a cover for that country's expansionistic and illegal policies in the Palestinian territories. In the second part he analyses Alan Dershowitz´s 2003 book The Case for Israel.

Dershowitz Lawsuit

In the book, Finkelstein extensively documented what he claimed was Dershowitz's falsification of Israel's human-rights record and his plagiarism of research from Joan Peters' book From Time Immemorial. In response, Dershowitz initiated a massive lawsuit, having his lawyers write letters to the University of California Press threatening an expensive lawsuit if they published the book. At one point, Dershowitz called on the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarznegger, to intervene on his behalf, to stop the book from being published, but the Governor refused. Eventually, Dershowitz backed off and the book was published by UC Press, albeit with some minor modifications as a result of the lawsuit. [2]


Baruch Kimmerling, Professor of Sociology, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote that it is "The most comprehensive, systematic, and well-documented work of its kind. It is one of the harshest--rational and nonemotional--texts about the daily practices of the occupation and colonization of the Palestinian territories by Israel, and it is an excellent demonstration of how and why the blind defenders of Israel, by basing their arguments on false facts and figures, actually bring more damage than gains to their cause."[3]

The University of California Press was awarded a prize for "sustained contributions to the promotion and defense of academic freedom in the Middle East and North Africa" by the Middle East Studies Association for publishing the book in the face of Dershowitz's threats.[4]


  1. "The New Historiography: Israel and Its Past," in Benny Morris, 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians (Oxford, 1990), PP. 1-34. Cited in BC p.3.
  3. Beyond Chutzpah
  4. Prize awarded for contributions to the defense of academic freedom. Middle Eastern Studies Association.

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