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DeNial At DePaul: The Thomas Klocek Affair

Catholic universities in the United States have in recent years shown a weakness for cultivating far-leftist anti-Semites and haters of America. Perhaps the best known has been Notre Dame, home of the extremist Kroc Institute, which attempted to sponsor Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss Arab with ties to Al Qaeda, for a three-year professorship. But in many ways, DePaul University is even worse.

DePaul is a large, if not particularly academically renowned, Catholic college in Chicago, nominally associated with “Congregation of the Mission,” more popularly known as the Vincentians. Until recently, the main cause of controversy surrounding DePaul was its insistence on employing the notorious pro-Palestinian left-winger Norman Finkelstein as an assistant professor in its political science department. But a few months ago, DePaul took a giant step in implementing leftist suppression of free speech on its campus.

The immediate target of DePaul’s campaign was Thomas Klocek, a part-time adjunct professor at the university’s so-called “School for New Learning.” (“New learning” evidently is not something DePaul confuses with “learning,” as the events there show.) Klocek’s crime? He was guilty of expressing support for Israel.

After 14 years of continuous employment at the Chicago-based college, Klocek was suspended with pay last September, and then stayed suspended – this time without pay – through the winter and spring quarters. Klocek is guilty of nothing more than expressing pro-Israel views in the face of extremist Palestinian propaganda on DePaul’s campus.

DePaul summarily dismissed Klocek from his duties after the school claimed he “insulted” and “demeaned” several Muslim students at a campus fair for extracurricular groups. Klocek had publicly expressed his belief that “strictly speaking, right now there is no such place as Palestine on the map. The Palestinian people were simply Arabs who lived in the West Bank and Gaza.” We seem to recall that Galileo was also persecuted by Church institutions for daring to tell the truth. (Klocek, by the way, is a Roman Catholic from a Polish-American family).

With no current income, and facing the possibility of losing the health insurance he desperately needs for a serious kidney condition, Klocek decided to go public with his fight. The story made major headlines after the Chicago Jewish News ran a large expose of DePaul’ persecution of Klocek.

The university contends that Klocek’s case “is not a case of academic freedom, but a situation of inappropriate behavior outside the classroom by a university employee,” in the words of the university spokesperson. This coming from an institution that has no problems with the behavior of the aforementioned Norman Finkelstein.

Klocek’s dismissal is alleged by the administration to be due the fact that, as he walked away from the students in question, he “thumbed his chin” at them. It’s a common Italian expression meaning, “I’m finished, I’m out of here.” But in a special letter to the student newspaper DePaulia, Dean Susanne Dumbleton first apologized for the incident and stated that the instructor was being dealt with in an appropriate manner. The dean then referred to Klocek’s attempt to impose his “erroneous views” on the students. This belied the claim by the university that Klocek’s case is about his supposed attitude, not the content of his statements.

In other words, support for Israel against Arab aggression and terrorism is “erroneous” and not to be tolerated on the DePaul campus.

Klocek tells us his side of the story:

“A Student Activities Fair was being held at DePaul on 9.15.04 at the Loop campus. It was open to all. When the incident began, I had not identified myself as a faculty member. I visited various booths and tables, among them ‘Students for Justice in Palestine(SJP).’ I gave them my e-mail address and asked for some of their literature. I then stood about reading this incendiary piece about Rachel Corrie and the Israeli bulldozing of Arab homes and properties. I stated that there is no such entity as Palestine on the current map and that U.S. newspapers only began using the term Palestinians some 25-30 years ago. One of the SJP members said that the Israeli treatment of ‘Palestinians’ is as bad as the way Hitler treated the Jews. I took vast umbrage with this scurrilous statement.

“At no time did I threaten any of the students physically or verbally, but the volume of the talking turned loud on both sides.

“Some few days later, the Dean, Susanne Dumbleton of the School for New Learning, called me in and had in her hand two letters from students. I never saw these but she appeared to read from them, outlining charges against me made by the student groups, among them that I was ‘disrespectful’ and that they were ‘hurt and crushed’ by my remarks. She stated that I was to be suspended from teaching until further notice. She also announced that the school would make a response to the school newspaper.

“It should be noted that Dean Dumbleton had previously met with both student groups and their faculty advisors without my being present, and, when I asked her why, she replied that I was too ‘passionate’ about the subject.”

Large numbers of bloggers and some DePaul faculty have come out in favor of Klocek and against his inquisitors. Perhaps more important, the Catholic Church as an institution is finally beginning to learn the details of the Klocek case, and several local authorities have indicated their sympathy.

DePaul’s sudden horror at the supposed “unprofessorial behavior” by Klocek is all because they claim he made an impolite hand gesture. Note how dramatically this stands in sharp contrast with the university’s record regarding Norman Finkelstein, arguably the most openly anti-Semitic Jew on the planet, certainly in American academia. DePaul recruited Finkelstein as an assistant professor in political science after Finkelstein was fired from two New York-area adjunct teaching jobs (at New York University and Hunter College). The Anti-Defamation League calls Finkelstein a “Holocaust denier” and accuses him of pursuing an anti-Semitic agenda.

Finkelstein refers to the Jews murdered by the Nazis as the “Six Million” – in quotation marks. “Indeed,” he’s written, “the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud.” And this: “‘If everyone who claims to be a survivor actually is one,’ my mother used to exclaim, ‘who did Hitler kill?’ “

Finkelstein is the star on virtually every Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi website. He has been denounced as a fraud and anti-Semite by Alan Dershowitz, by historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, by Dennis Prager, by Professor Omer Bartov from Brown University, by the World Jewish Congress, and by just about every other academic to comment on him, gentile or Jew.

Jonathan Freedland wrote in the British Guardian – a strongly pro-Palestinian newspaper – that Finkelstein was “closer to the people who created the Holocaust than to those who suffered it.” The New York Times compared Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry to the old czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

DePaul University President Fr. Dennis Holtschneider has been circulating a personal letter to anyone complaining about the firing of Klocek and the employment of Finkelstein. The letter states, in part, “Dr. Finkelstein was hired at the recommendation of the Political Science faculty after extensive reference checks and an evaluation of the quality of his teaching. The faculty were aware of his published works that have provoked disagreement from many quarters, but also recognized that mainstream publishers, publications and reviewers have taken his research seriously, if critically.”

The “mainstream” reviewers and publishers of whom Fr. Holtschneider speaks are almost without exception anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis. But DePaul University will defend someone like Finkelstein while terminating a professor who refuses to toe the Palestinian line.

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steven_plaut@yahoo.com.

About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.


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