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DePaul University Cancels Class Taught By Professor Critical of Israel

DePaul University canceled the one remaining class taught by a controversial professor who has accused some Jews of improperly using the legacy of the Holocaust.

Norman Finkelstein, whose work led to a long-running public feud with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, says he may respond by committing civil disobedience when classes resume Sept. 5.

Finkelstein, 53, was denied tenure in June after six years on the DePaul faculty, but he was permitted to teach for the one year remaining on his contract.

On Friday, however, the university e-mailed students saying that Finkelstein's sole political science course had been canceled. By Monday, the books for the course had been pulled from the DePaul bookstore's shelves.

Finkelstein's most recent book, "Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History," is largely an attack on Dershowitz's "The Case for Israel." In it, Finkelstein argues that Israel uses the outcry over perceived anti-Semitism as a weapon to stifle criticism.

Dershowitz, who threatened to sue Finkelstein's publisher for libel, urged DePaul officials to reject Finkelstein's tenure bid in June.

The American Association of University Professors is preparing a letter to the university protesting Finkelstein's treatment as a serious violation of academic ethics, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

Finkelstein told the newspaper that he planned to wage his own campaign against the administration.

"I intend to go to my office on the first day of classes and, if my way is barred, to engage in civil disobedience," Finkelstein said. "If arrested, I'll go on a hunger strike. If released, I'll do it all over again. I'll fast in jail for as long as it takes."

After he was denied tenure, Finkelstein, a son of Holocaust survivors, posted a letter on his Web site explaining the school officials' reasons, including Finkelstein's "deliberately hurtful" scholarship along, lack of involvement with the school and tendency for public clashes with other scholars.

"In the opinion of those opposing tenure, your unprofessional personal attacks divert the conversation away from consideration of ideas, and polarize and simplify conversations that deserve layered and subtle consideration," school President Dennis Holtschneider wrote in a letter dated June 8. DePaul at the time verified the letter was authentic.

Denise Mattson, the university's associate vice president for public affairs, released a statement saying Finkelstein was on administrative leave with full pay for the academic year.

"Administrative leave relieves professors from their teaching responsibilities. He was informed of the reasons that precipitated this leave last spring," the statement said.