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Alan Dershowitz, Plagiarist?

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Let’s start with a passage from Alan Dershowitz’s latest book, The Case for Israel, now slithering into the upper tier of Amazon’s sales charts. On page 213 we meet Dershowitz, occupant of the Felix Frankfurter chair at Harvard Law School, happily walloping a French prof called Faurisson, charged by the FF prof from Harvard U as being a fraud and a holocaust denier: “There was no extensive historical research. Instead there was the fraudulent manufacturing of false antihistory. It was the kind of deception for which professors are rightly fired–not because their views are controversial, but because they are violating the most basic canons of historical scholarship..”

You want an example of Dershowitz’s canons of scholarship, base rather than basic?

On pages 233-4, he writes, “In September 1970, King Hussein of Jordan killed and injured more Palestinians in one month than Israel has during three years of responding to the suicide bombing intifada.” The corresponding endnote reads: “Estimates vary as to the number of Palestinians killed during “Black September,” with some estimates as high as 4,000.” His two cited sources for this claim? a Sony movie, One Day in September, and a chronology for a high school course outline on the Middle East conflict.

If Justice Frankfurter had fuelled decisions with this kind of scholarship he’d have been citing Marvel Comics as useful repositories of case law and precedent. If, in writings off the bench, he’d used the sort of research procedures displayed elsewhere in Dershowitz’s Case for Israel he’d probably have been forced off the Supreme Court for ethical considerations of a sort that I imagine Harvard’s president, Lawrence Summers, will soon be pondering in the case of Prof. Dershowitz.

Let me now usher into the narrative an important member of our cast in this drama: “From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab­Jewish Conflict Over Palestine”, a 60l- page book by Joan Peters, published in l984. Peter’s polemical work strove to buttress the old Zionist thesis that the land of Israel had been “a land without people, awaiting a people without land”. There was no substantial Palestinian presence, Peters claimed, before the Jewish return. Initially given an ecstatic reception by publications such the New York Times the book was soon discredited as a charnel house of disingenuous polemic. The coup de grace was administered by Professor Yehoshua Porath in the New York Review of Books for January 16 and March 27, 1986.

Though neither Peter’s nor her book appear in the index to The Case for Israel, they do get a mention in note 3l of chapter 2, where Dershowitz cites the work of a 19th century French geographer called Cuinct, and adds, “See Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial (Chicago, JKAP Publications, 1984). Peters’s conclusions and data have been challenged. See Said and Hitchens, p. 33. I do not in any way rely on them in this book. “Them” clearly refers to Peters’ conclusions and data.

This brazen declaration is preceded in chapters one and two by wholesale, unacknowledged looting of Peters’ research. I have before me a devastating comparative archive of these plagiarisms, compiled by Norman Finkelstein, author of “The Holocaust Industry: The Exploitation of Jewish Suffering” and “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict”. Here are but four instances, out of no less than 20 thus far discovered in the first two chapters alone.

“In the sixteenth century,” Dershowitz remarks on the seventeenth page of his book, “according to British reports, “as many as 15,000 Jews” lived in Safad, which was a “center of rabbinical learning.” Source cited by Dershowitz: Palestine Royal Commission Report, pp. 11-12. Turn now to page 178 of Ms. Peters’ book, published nineteen years earlier: “Safad at that time, according to the British investigation by Lord Peel’s committee, “contained as many as 15,000 Jews in the 16th century,” and was “a centre of Rabbinical learning.” Source cited by Ms Peters: Palestine Royal Commission Report, pp. 11-12. Originality displayed by Dershowitz: downgrading Rabbinical to a lower case r.

Same page of Dershowitz: “[A]ccording to the British consul in Jerusalem, the Muslims of Jerusalem “scarcely exceed[ed] one quarter of the whole population.” Source cited: James Finn to Earl of Clarendon, January 1, 1858.

Peters (page 197): “In 1858 Consul Finn reported the “Mohammedans of Jerusalem” were “scarcely exceeding one-quarter of the whole population.” Source cited: James Finn to Earl of Clarendon, January 1, 1858.

Dershowitz (page 18): “In 1834, Jewish homes in Jerusalem “were sacked and their women violated.” Source cited: Jacob de Haas, History of Palestine (New York: 1934), p. 393.

Peters (page 183): [I]n 1834, [] “Forty thousand fellahin rushed on JerusalemThe Jews were the worst sufferers, their homes were sacked and their women violated.” Source cited: Jacob de Haas, History of Palestine (New York: 1934), p. 393.

Dershowitz (page 20): “Nor could the Jew seek redress, as the report observed: ‘Like the miserable dog without an owner he is kicked by one because he crosses his path, and cuffed by another because he cries out–to seek redress he is afraid, lest it bring worse upon him; he thinks it better to endure than to live in the expectation of his complaint being revenged upon him.’ Source cited: Wm. T. Young to Viscount Palmerston, May 25,1839.

Peters (page 187): [T]he life for Jews described in 1839 by British Counsel Young: “[] Like the miserable dog without an owner he is kicked by one because he crosses his path, and cuffed by another because he cries out–to seek redress he is afraid, lest it bring worse upon him; he thinks it better to endure than to live in the expectation of his complaint being revenged upon him.” Source cited: Wm. T. Young to Viscount Palmerston, May 25, 1839.

Dershowitz ( page 26): “A Christian historian has reported that several villages throughout Palestine “are populated wholly by settlers from other portions of the Turkish Empire within the nineteenth century. There are villages of Bosnians, Druzes, Circassians and Egyptians.” Source cited: James Parkes, Whose Land? (1971), p. 212.

Peters (page 156): “In some cases villages [in Palestine] are populated wholly by settlers from other portions of the Turkish Empire within the nineteenth century. There are villages of Bosnians, Druzes, Circassians and Egyptians,” one historian has reported. Source cited: James Parkes, Whose Land?, (1971) p. 212.

Dershowitz (page 26): “Four years later, it was reported that “depopulation is even now advancing.” Source cited: J.B. Forsyth, A Few Months in the East (Quebec: 1861), p. 188.

Peters (page 159): “In the 1860s, it was reported that “depopulation is even now advancing.” Source cited: J.B. Forsyth, A Few Months in the East (Quebec: 1861), p. 188.

Dershowitz (page 27): J.L. Burkhardt [sic] reported that as early as in the second decade of the nineteenth century, “Few individualsdie in the same village in which they were born. Families are continually moving from one place to anotherin a few years they fly to some other place, where they have heard that their brethren are better treated.” Source cited: John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (New York: 1983), p. 299.

Peters (163): “John Lewis Burckhardt graphically described the migratory patterns he found in the early 1800s: “[] Few individualsdie in the same village in which they were born. Families are continually moving from one place to another [] in a few years [] they fly to some other place, where they have heard that their brethren are better treated.” (p. 163) Source cited: John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London: 1882), p. 299.

For those, on the monkeys-writing-Shakespeare analogy, who may speculate that Dershowitz somehow replicated Peters’s researches unknowingly, I should add that in two very long passages, one from a letter from Wm. T. Young to Col. Patrick Campbell (May 25, 1839), and the other from Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, Dershowitz reproduces the quotes with ellipses in exactly the same place as Peters.

Dershowitz (page 18):

The British consul, William Young, in a report to the British Foreign Office [] painted a vivid and chilling picture of the life of the Jews in Jerusalem in 1839: “I think it is my duty to inform you that there has been a Proclamation issued this week by the Government in the Jewish quarter–that no Jew is to be permitted to pray in his own house under pain of being severely punished–such as want to pray are to go into the Synagogue.. There has also been a punishment inflicted on a Jew and Jewess–most revolting to human nature, which I think it is my duty to relate. In the early part of this week, a House was entered in the Jewish Quarter, and a robbery was committed–the House was in quarantine–and the guardian was a Jew–he was taken before the Governor–he denied having any knowledge of the thief or the circumstances. In order to compel him to confess, he was laid down and beaten, and afterwards imprisoned. The following day he was again brought before the Governor, when he still declared his innocence. He was then burned with a hot iron over his face, and various parts of the body–and beaten on the lower parts of his body to the extent that the flesh hung in pieces from him The following day the poor creature died. He was a young Jew of Salonica about 28 years of age–who had been here but a very short time, he had only the week before been applying to enter my service. A young man–a Jew–having a French passport was also suspected–he fled–his character was known to be an indifferent one–his mother, an aged woman, was taken under suspicion of concealing her son–she was tied up and beaten in the most brutal way. I must say I am sorry and am surprised that the Governor could have acted so savage a part–for certainly what I have seen of him, I should have thought him superior to such wanton inhumanity–but it was a Jew–without friends or protection–it serves well to show, that it is not without reason that the poor Jew, even in the nineteenth century, lives from day to day in terror of his life.” Source cited: Wm. T. Young to Colonel Patrick Campbell, May 25, 1839.

Peters (page 184):

In May 1839, for instance, the complaints registered with the British Foreign Office by Consul Young in Jerusalem were appalling. In one day, in one report: “I think it is my duty to inform you that there has been a Proclamation issued this week by the Government in the Jewish quarter–that no Jew is to be permitted to pray in his own house under pain of being severely punished–such as want to pray are to go into the Synagogue. There has also been a punishment inflicted on a Jew and Jewess–most revolting to human nature, which I think it is my duty to relate–In the early part of this week, a House was entered in the Jewish Quarter, and a robbery was committed–the House was in quarantine–and the guardian was a Jew–he was taken before the Governor–he denied having any knowledge of the thief or the circumstances. In order to compell him to confess, he was laid down and beaten, and afterwards imprisoned. The following day he was again brought before the Governor, when he still declared his innocence. He was then burned with a hot iron over his face, and various parts of the body–and beaten on the lower parts of his body to that extent that the flesh hung in pieces from him. The following day the poor creature died. He was a young Jew of Salonica about 28 years of age–who had been here but a very short time, he had only the week before been applying to enter my service. A young man–a Jew–having a French passport was also suspected–he fled–his character was known to be an indifferent one–his mother, an aged woman, was taken under suspicion of concealing her son–she was tied up and beaten in the most brutal way. I must say I am sorry and am surprised that the Governor could have acted so savage a part–for certainly what I have seen of him, I should have thought him superior to such wanton inhumanity–but it was a Jew–without friends or protection–it serves well to show, that it is not without reason that the poor Jew, even in the nineteenth century, lives from day to day in terror of his life.” Source cited: Wm. T. Young to Colonel Patrick Campbell, May 25, 1839.

Dershowitz (pages 23-4)

Mark Twain, who visited Palestine in 1867, offered this description: “Stirring scenes . . . occur in the valley [Jezreel] no more. There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent–not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. . . . Come to Galilee for that . . . these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines, and fade and faint into vague perspective; that melancholy ruin of Capernaum: this stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under its six funereal palms. . . . We reached Tabor safely. . . .We never saw a human being on the whole route. Nazareth is forlorn. . . . Jericho the accursed lies in a moldering ruin today, even as Joshua’s miracle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliations, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Savior’s presence, the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang, ‘Peace on earth, good will to men,’ is untenanted by any living creature. . . . Bethsaida and Chorzin have vanished from the earth, and the ‘desert places’ round about them, where thousands of men once listened to the Savior’s voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.” Source cited: Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (New York: 1996), pp. 349, 366, 375, 441-442.

Peters (pages 159-60)

Mark Twain [] visited the Holy Land in 1867. In one location after another, Twain registered gloom at his findings: “Stirring scenes . . . occur in the valley [Jezreel] no more. There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent–not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. [] Come to Galilee for that . . . these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines, and fade and faint into vague perspective; that melancholy ruin of Capernaum: this stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under its six funereal palms. . . . We reached Tabor safely. . . .We never saw a human being on the whole route. Nazareth is forlorn. . . . Jericho the accursed lies in a moldering ruin today, even as Joshua’s miracle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliations, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Savior’s presence, the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang, ‘Peace on earth, good will to men,’ is untenanted by any living creature. . . . Bethsaida and Chorzin have vanished from the earth, and the ‘desert places’ round about them, where thousands of men once listened to the Savior’s voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.” Source cited: Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (London: 1881), pp. 349, 366, 375, 441-442.

No, I’m afraid it’s beyond doubt, and any jury would remain unpersuaded by charges of prosecutorial malfeasance from Dershowitz’s defending counsel: he plagiarized Peters , while simultanously claiming he hadn’t used her for any historical material. One fraud ripping off another, the former at last giving the latter justifiable grounds for arguing maltreatment.

Amidst this orgy of plagiarism, Dershowitz understandably gets confused about sources . Claiming to be inspired by George Orwell, in her book Peters coined the term “turnspeak” to signal an inversion of reality. Dershowitz is apparently so nervous of citing Peters in any way that he credits the term “turnspeak” to Orwell, accusing critics of Israel of “deliberately using George Orwell’s ‘turnspeak'”.

Over to you President Summers, or will the man so happy to dress down Prof Cornel West be more timid when it comes to confronting the occupant of the Felix Frankfurter chair?

 

 

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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