FRANK MENETREZ vs. ALAN DERSHOWITZ
- View SourcePlagiarism, Cover Up and Misrepresentations:
The Case Against Alan Dershowitz
By FRANK J. MENETREZ
In June 2007, DePaul University denied tenure to Norman Finkelstein,
an assistant professor of political science. The decision ignited a
firestorm of protest from DePaul students and faculty, as well as from
faculty across the country and abroad. Finkelstein's department had
voted 9-3 in favor of tenure, and a college-level committee
unanimously joined that recommendation, 5-0. But the University Board
on Promotion and Tenure (UBPT) voted 4-3 against tenure, and DePaul's
president claimed to "find no compelling reasons to overturn the
The tenure denial was a great victory for Harvard Law School's
Professor Alan Dershowitz, who had been campaigning vigorously against
Finkelstein at least since the fall of 2006. The feud between
Dershowitz and Finkelstein began when Finkelstein claimed that
Dershowitz's book The Case for Israel (2003) was partially plagiarized
and wholly false. Finkelstein eventually published his critique as
part of a book of his own, entitled Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of
Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (2005). Dershowitz responded to
Finkelstein's charges in his book The Case for Peace (2005).
In September 2006, as Finkelstein's tenure review got underway,
Dershowitz sent a 7-page, single-spaced letter, plus 14 single-spaced
pages of supporting materials, to the former chairman of Finkelstein's
department, arguing that Finkelstein's "purported scholarship"
consists of nothing but "ugly and false assertions" and "preposterous
and discredited ad hominem attack[s]." Dershowitz sent a similar but
even larger packet of materials-totaling over 60 pages-to a large but
unknown number of members of DePaul's faculty and administration,
including every professor at the law school.
Those basic facts about the dispute are now fairly well known. What is
not so well known is that there is compelling evidence that Dershowitz
himself committed academic misconduct both before and in the course of
his intervention in Finkelstein's tenure case. I present that evidence
below, along with some reflections on its ramifications for both
DePaul and Harvard. In the end, this is not merely a story about two
professors who dislike each other. It is a scandal implicating the
leading institution of higher learning in the United States.
In Beyond Chutzpah, Finkelstein argued that Dershowitz plagiarized a
book called From Time Immemorial, by Joan Peters, by lifting several
quotations and citations of primary sources directly from Peters' book
without acknowledging that he found them there. (Beyond Chutzpah, p.
230) Dershowitz categorically denied the charge. He claimed that
although he was led to some primary sources by seeing them cited in
Peters' book, he always tried to check them before citing them. If he
could not find a primary source himself, he cited Peters. If he was
able to check the primary source, he cited it directly, without
mentioning Peters. He argued that his failure to cite Peters in such
circumstances is proper. (See The Case for Peace, p. 182)
Finkelstein's principal response was that Dershowitz's quotations and
citations of primary sources (where Dershowitz did not cite Peters)
contain obvious errors that Dershowitz would not have made if he had
checked the primary sources himself, and that Dershowitz's errors are
identical to Peters' errors concerning the same primary sources.
(Beyond Chutzpah, pp. 230-231) Finkelstein inferred that Dershowitz
copied the quotations and citations from Peters rather than checking
the primary sources himself.
I have examined the texts relevant to one of the quotations implicated
in Finkelstein's argument, and I see no reasonable alternative to the
conclusion that Finkelstein is correct. The quotation is from Mark
Twain's The Innocents Abroad. (See Beyond Chutzpah, p. 231) It appears
on pages 23-24 of The Case for Israel and pages 159-160 of From Time
Immemorial. Dershowitz's version of the quotation omits two of the
sentences that Peters' version includes. Dershowitz also omits Peters'
italics and adds a few errors that Peters did not make. Apart from
those discrepancies, Peters' and Dershowitz's versions of the
quotation are identical, character for character.
I have checked Peters' and Dershowitz's versions of the quotation
against the 1996 Oxford University Press edition of The Innocents
Abroad, which is the edition Dershowitz cited. Peters' version
contains many errors, and Dershowitz's version reproduces every one of
them. The errors are:
1. Line 1: The original Twain (p. 485) says "this valley[.]" Both
Peters and Dershowitz change "this" to "the" but fail to signal that
they have altered the original.
2. Line 4: In the original Twain (p. 485), there are commas before
and after the word "hereabouts[.]" Both Peters and Dershowitz omit the
commas but fail to signal the omission (e.g., by using empty brackets).
3. Line 5: In the original Twain (p. 508), the words "Come to
Galilee for that" form an entire sentence, ending with a period. Both
Peters and Dershowitz follow the word "that" with an ellipsis that is
not preceded by a concluding period, but they fail to signal the
omission of the period (e.g., by using empty brackets). This cannot be
attributed to a stylistic choice to omit the concluding period when a
complete sentence is followed by an ellipsis, because on several
occasions (e.g., lines 9, 10, and 11) both Peters and Dershowitz
include concluding periods followed by ellipses.
4. Line 8: In the original Twain (p. 508), the word "Capernaum" is
followed by a semicolon. Both Peters and Dershowitz follow it with a
colon but fail to signal that they have altered the original.
5. Line 9: The original Twain (p. 508) says "six funereal plumes
of palms[.]" Both Peters and Dershowitz say "six funereal palms[,]"
omitting the words "plumes of" but failing to signal the omission.
6. Line 9: In the original Twain (p. 508), the word "palms" is
followed by a semicolon and thus does not conclude the sentence. Both
Peters and Dershowitz omit the semicolon and the remainder of the
sentence but place the ellipsis after the concluding period instead of
7. Line 9: In the original Twain (pp. 508, 520), the sentence
containing the phrase "six funereal plumes of palms" and the sentence
beginning "We reached Tabor" are separated by 12 pages and numerous
intervening paragraphs. Both Peters and Dershowitz separate those
sentences by a single ellipsis and no paragraph break, thus
representing that the sentences are part of a single paragraph. This
cannot be attributed to a stylistic choice to omit all paragraph
structure from the quote, because Peters and Dershowitz did not omit
all paragraph structure-they include a paragraph break at lines 10 to 11.
8. Line 10: In the original Twain (p. 520), the words "We reached
Tabor safely" are followed by a comma and thus are not an entire
sentence. Both Peters and Dershowitz omit the comma and the remainder
of the sentence but place the ellipsis after the concluding period
instead of before it.
9. Line 10: In the original Twain (p. 520), the words "We never
saw a human being on the whole route" are followed by a comma and thus
are not an entire sentence. Both Peters and Dershowitz omit the comma
and the remainder of the sentence but follow the word "route" with a
period and no ellipsis, either before or after the period.
10. Lines 10-11: In the original Twain (pp. 520, 607), the
sentence containing the phrase "never saw a human being on the whole
route" and the sentence beginning "Nazareth is forlorn" are separated
by 87 pages and numerous intervening paragraphs, and "Nazareth is
forlorn" occurs in the middle of a paragraph, not at the beginning.
Both Peters and Dershowitz separate those sentences with a single
paragraph break and no ellipses, representing them as the end and
beginning of consecutive paragraphs.
11. Line 11: In the original Twain (p. 607), the words "Nazareth
is forlorn" are followed by a semicolon. Both Peters and Dershowitz
change the semicolon to a period but fail to signal that they have
altered the original.
12. Line 11: In the original Twain (p. 607), the word "accursed"
is followed by a comma. Both Peters and Dershowitz omit the comma but
fail to signal the omission.
13. Line 11: In the original Twain (p. 607), the word "ruin" is
followed by a comma. Both Peters and Dershowitz omit the comma but
fail to signal the omission.
14. Line 12: The original Twain (p. 607) says "to-day," but both
Peters and Dershowitz omit the hyphen. (In the original Twain, the
hyphen is not merely breaking the word at the end of a line of text;
the word appears in the middle of a line.)
15. Line 15: The original Twain (p. 607) says "Saviour's[.]" Both
Peters and Dershowitz omit the letter "u" but fail to signal the omission.
16. Lines 16-17: In the original Twain (p. 607), no punctuation
follows the word "sang[,]" and there are no quotation marks around the
phrase "Peace on earth, good will to men[.]" Both Peters and
Dershowitz follow "sang" with a comma and place quotation marks before
"Peace" and after "men" but fail to signal that they have altered the
17. Line 17: In the original Twain (p. 607), the words "living
creature" are followed by a comma and thus do not end the sentence in
which they appear. Both Peters and Dershowitz omit the comma and the
remainder of the sentence but place the ellipsis after the concluding
period instead of before it.
18. Line 18: The original Twain (p. 608) says "Chorazin[.]" Both
Peters and Dershowitz omit the letter "a," spelling the word
"Chorzin[,]" but fail to signal the omission.
19. Line 19: In the original Twain (p. 608), no punctuation
follows the word "them[.]" Both Peters and Dershowitz erroneously
follow "them" with a comma but fail to signal that they have altered
20. Line 20: The original Twain (p. 608) says "Saviour's[.]" Both
Peters and Dershowitz omit the letter "u" but fail to signal the omission.
Line numbers refer to the lines of the Twain quote as it appears on
pages 23-24 of The Case for Israel (2003 hardback edition), numbering
the lines of the quote consecutively and without interruption from
line 1 on page 23 to line 21 on page 24. It is possible that errors 6,
8, and 17 are the result of typesetting conventions that Peters' and
Dershowitz's publishers may have followed. To my knowledge, none of
the other identical errors can be so explained.
In addition, both Peters and Dershowitz (in the original hardback
edition of The Case for Israel) cited the same pages of Twain (i.e.,
pages 349, 366, 375, and 441-442) as their source for the quotation.
(The Case for Israel (2003 hardback edition), p. 246, n. 5; From Time
Immemorial, p. 485, nn. 131, 133, 134) But those page citations are
incorrect, both for the 1881 London edition of Twain, which Peters
cited, and for the 1996 Oxford edition, which Dershowitz cited. In
fact, none of the quoted text appears on any of the cited pages in
either edition of The Innocents Abroad. In the 2004 paperback edition
of The Case for Israel, Dershowitz corrected this error by citing the
proper pages of the 1996 Oxford edition (i.e., pages 485, 508, 520,
and 607-608), but he made no changes in the text of the quotation.
(The Case for Israel (2004 paperback edition), pp. 23-24, 246, n. 5)
The cumulative weight of these identical errors strikes me as
considerable. I do not see how Dershowitz could, purely by
coincidence, have precisely reproduced all of Peters' errors if he was
working from the original Twain. Rather, the only reasonable inference
seems to be that he copied the quotation from Peters. But Dershowitz
does not cite Peters as his source for the quotation. He cites only Twain.
Dershowitz has never, to my knowledge, responded to Finkelstein's
argument concerning the identical errors in The Case for Israel and
From Time Immemorial. With respect to the Twain quote, for example, he
has said only that it cannot be seriously suggested that he did not
find the quote on his own, because he claims that he can prove he has
been quoting The Innocents Abroad in debates since the 1970s, long
before Peters' book was published. (See The Case for Peace, pp. 182,
232, n. 106) (The only "proof" Dershowitz has ever identified is his
appearance in a televised debate on PBS' The Advocates in 1970. I
obtained a transcript of the debate and found that Dershowitz never
quoted a word of, or even mentioned, Twain. I also asked Dershowitz if
he had any other "proof" besides his appearance on The Advocates, but
he refused to respond.)
Regardless of how long Dershowitz has been quoting Twain, however, I
see no way of avoiding the inference that Dershowitz copied The Case
for Israel's Twain quotation directly from From Time Immemorial, not
from the original source. I likewise see no way of avoiding the
inference that, having copied the quotation from Peters, Dershowitz
never checked it against the original source, because he failed to
correct a single one of Peters' 20 errors (including the omission of
87 pages of text without an ellipsis). Moreover, Dershowitz himself,
rather than a research assistant, must have personally copied the
quotation from Peters, because Dershowitz has insisted, in both his
September 2006 letter to the former chairman of Finkelstein's
department and elsewhere, that he wrote every word of the text of The
Case for Israel by hand. (See The Case for Peace, p. 181)
Dershowitz knew about Finkelstein's identical errors argument long
before he wrote his September 2006 letter. Finkelstein first raised
the issue in an exchange with Dershowitz that was published in The
Harvard Crimson on October 3, 2003. Alexander Cockburn, expressly
relying upon Finkelstein, raised the issue again in an exchange with
Dershowitz that was published on October 27, 2003, in The Nation
magazine. Dershowitz responded to Cockburn in The Nation's December
15, 2003, issue, but he never addressed the identical errors argument.
Dershowitz did, however, correct some of the errors Finkelstein had
pointed out, including the page citations for the Twain quote, in the
paperback edition of The Case for Israel, which was published in
August 2004. (See The Case for Israel (2003 hardback edition) pp. 20,
245, n. 16; The Case for Israel (2004 paperback edition) pp. 20, 246,
n. 16) Finkelstein also included the identical errors argument in
Beyond Chutzpah (see, e.g., pp. 230-231), which was published in
August 2005. And the materials Dershowitz distributed to DePaul's
faculty and administration made clear that he had carefully
scrutinized Beyond Chutzpah in its entirety. For all of these reasons,
there seems to be no room for doubt that Dershowitz knew about
Finkelstein's identical errors argument for years before he sent his
letter to DePaul in September 2006.
As I noted in the previous section, however, Dershowitz has never
responded to the argument. In fact, to my knowledge, he has never
acknowledged that Finkelstein made such an argument. Instead,
Dershowitz has sought to portray the entire plagiarism controversy as
a dispute about citation style. In The Case for Peace, he contended
that Finkelstein's charge of plagiarism was merely that Dershowitz
should have cited Peters for every source that he first encountered in
Peters' book, rather than citing her for only those sources he did not
independently check himself. (See p. 182 ["This became the charge of
plagiarism-that I cited some quotations to their original sources
rather than all of them to the secondary source in which I first came
across them."]) Dershowitz took a similar approach in his September
2006 letter, stating with respect to the plagiarism controversy that
"much of it turns on the definition of plagiarism: whether it is
proper to find a quotation in one source, check it against the
original source, and cite to the original, rather than the secondary,
Dershowitz's characterizations of the dispute are demonstrably
incorrect. The identical errors argument, which lies at the heart of
Finkelstein's case, shows that the plagiarism charge is not a
technical matter about citation style or about the definition of
plagiarism. Rather, it is factual dispute about whether Dershowitz
copied primary source material directly from Peters without citing
Peters and without checking the primary source himself. Again,
Dershowitz has known this since the fall of 2003. It thus appears that
Dershowitz's strategy from the start has been to pretend that this
factual dispute does not exist and to hope that no one will notice.
Dershowitz claims that he personally asked Harvard to investigate
Finkelstein's plagiarism charges. (The Case for Peace, p. 233, n. 113)
Dershowitz has also stated unequivocally that Harvard did investigate
and reject the charges in their entirety. In his letter to the former
chair of Finkelstein's department, Dershowitz wrote that he "was
completely cleared of that charge [i.e., plagiarism] by an independent
Harvard University investigation." (See also The Case for Peace, pp.
183 ["Finkelstein was furious that Harvard cleared me of his entirely
false and politically motivated charges of plagiarism."], 184, 233, n.
113) In Beyond Chutzpah, Finkelstein likewise reported that the
director of Harvard Law School's office of communications informed him
that Harvard "looked into the charges against Dershowitz and 'found
that no plagiarism had occurred.'" (p. 254)
Neither Dershowitz nor Harvard, however, has identified the specific
issues or arguments that Harvard allegedly investigated and rejected.
In particular, neither of them has ever said whether Harvard
investigated the identical errors issue.
In order to obtain a definitive answer to that question, I emailed
Harvard Law School's associate dean for academic affairs, Catherine
Claypoole, with a copy to Dershowitz. After describing the background,
I asked, "When Harvard looked into the plagiarism charges against
Professor Dershowitz, did Harvard investigate the issue of allegedly
identical errors in From Time Immemorial and The Case for Israel?" A
staff assistant forwarded my message to the law school's
While I was waiting to hear from the administration, I began receiving
heated and not entirely coherent responses from Dershowitz. The most
noteworthy feature of Dershowitz's replies is that despite repeated
opportunities to answer my question about whether Harvard had
investigated the identical errors issue, he never did. He did not even
say that he believed they had investigated it. Rather, he stuck to his
previous pattern of refusing to acknowledge that the issue even
existed, and he repeated his claim that he had been quoting some of
the relevant primary sources long before Peters' book was published.
Ten days after emailing Dean Claypoole, I still had heard nothing from
the communications office, so I contacted its director, Mike Armini.
Less than one hour later, he sent me the following message: "Hello Mr.
Menetrez. I don't have anything more to add other than what I said a
couple of years ago. The accusations made by Professor Finkelstein
were investigated by Harvard University and it was determined that
plagiarism did not occur. This has been widely reported. We do not
plan to provide any further detail on this matter. Are you writing for
a specific publication?" In reply, I asked whether Armini was
declining to confirm or deny that Harvard investigated the identical
errors issue. He did not respond. I sent two more follow-up inquiries
but never heard from him again.
Having failed to obtain an answer from the law school's
administration, I wrote to Dershowitz and posed the same question I
had originally directed to the academic affairs office. In the course
of the long and peculiar correspondence that ensued, Dershowitz again
repeated his claim that he has been quoting Twain since the 1970s,
which is of course irrelevant to my question about the scope of
Harvard's investigation. He also echoed Armini's general claim that
Harvard investigated all of Finkelstein's allegations. But Dershowitz
kept to his longstanding pattern of refusing to acknowledge that
Finkelstein's allegations include the identical errors argument, so
his claim that Harvard investigated all of Finkelstein's allegations
is, in this context, meaningless.
Like Armini, Dershowitz never specifically confirmed that Harvard
investigated Finkelstein's identical errors argument. Nor did he even
claim that he believed, perhaps mistakenly, that Harvard investigated
it. Nor did he express surprise or disquiet at Armini's failure to
confirm that Harvard investigated the argument. And at certain points
he actually feigned ignorance of the entire matter, asking me for
specific examples of allegedly identical errors even after I had
referred him to the Finkelstein and Cockburn articles mentioned above,
which contain specific examples.
One of Dershowitz's messages did appear to yield one new piece of
potentially relevant information, but the appearance was quickly
dispelled. While still failing to acknowledge that the identical
errors argument had ever been made by Finkelstein, Dershowitz did
nonetheless refer to the argument at one point: He claimed that he had
brought the argument to the attention of Harvard's administration some
time before I emailed Dean Claypoole in August 2007. He did not,
however, say exactly when he did it. In response, I asked him to
identify any members of the administration whom he had told about the
argument before Harvard conducted its investigation. He refused.
Incidentally, Dershowitz could easily have alerted Harvard's
administration to the plagiarism charges without telling them about
the identical errors argument, because when Finkelstein (in a
September 24, 2003, debate with Dershowitz on the radio program
Democracy Now!) and Cockburn (in a column in the October 13, 2003,
issue of The Nation) first accused Dershowitz of plagiarism, neither
of them mentioned the identical errors argument. If Harvard's
investigators read only the debate transcript and Cockburn's column of
October 13, 2003, they would never have encountered the identical
errors issue at all. But again, Dershowitz knew about the issue no
later than December 2003, and probably as early as October 3, 2003.
Once my correspondence with Dershowitz was concluded, I forwarded all
of it to Harvard's administration, to give them an opportunity to
comment on it if they wished. I received no response.
The failure of both Harvard and Dershowitz to provide a straight
answer to my question about whether Harvard investigated Finkelstein's
identical errors argument, despite my persistent inquiries spanning
nearly one month, strongly suggests that Harvard did not investigate
the argument and that Dershowitz has known it all along. There is no
other plausible interpretation of their refusal to answer my question,
or of Dershowitz's continuing refusal to acknowledge that the argument
has been central to Finkelstein's charge of plagiarism ever since
Moreover, putting aside my email correspondence with Harvard and
Dershowitz, I believe the evidence concerning the Twain quote
independently establishes that Harvard did not know about the
identical errors argument before conducting its investigation, because
I take for granted that the Harvard administration is neither
hopelessly corrupt nor intellectually incompetent. If the
administration had known about the argument, they would have
investigated it, because they are not corrupt. If they had
investigated it, they would have found the same massive evidence that
I found, because they are not incompetent. And if they had found that
massive evidence, they would not have cleared Dershowitz, because they
are not corrupt.
Nor could Harvard have missed the fact that copying the Twain quote
from Peters without citing Peters would be a straightforward violation
of Harvard's own standards for student writing. (See Beyond Chutzpah,
p. 254) Harvard's pamphlet Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students
(1998) states: "QUOTING OR CITING A PASSAGE YOU FOUND QUOTED OR CITED
BY ANOTHER SCHOLAR: when you haven't actually read the original
source, cite the passage as 'quoted in' or 'cited in' that
scholar-both to credit that person for finding the quoted passage or
cited text, and to protect yourself in case he or she has misquoted or
misrepresented . . . ." (Section 2.1) No honest and competent
investigation by Harvard would have held Dershowitz to a lower
standard than Harvard sets for its freshmen.
Harvard Law School's guidelines for student writing do not expressly
address this specific issue, but the guidelines are at least as
demanding as those spelled out in Writing with Sources. The law school
guidelines provide that "[a]ll work submitted by a student for any
academic or non-academic exercise is expected to be the student's own
work. In the preparation of their work, students should always take
great care to distinguish their own ideas and knowledge from
information derived from sources." The guidelines go on to state that
"[t]he responsibility for learning the proper forms of citation lies
with the individual student. Quotations must be properly placed within
quotation marks and must be fully cited." Finally, under the
guidelines, "[s]tudents who submit work that is not their own without
clear attribution of all sources, even if inadvertently, will be
subject to disciplinary action."
If Harvard never investigated the identical errors issue and
Dershowitz has always known that, and if I am also right that
Finkelstein's charge concerning the Twain quote is sound, then
Dershowitz has committed academic misconduct on several levels.
First, he plagiarized the Twain quotation from Peters without citing
her, just as Finkelstein originally alleged.
Second, Dershowitz made repeated and public misrepresentations about
that misconduct, characterizing Finkelstein's plagiarism charges as
politically motivated and wholly lacking in merit. See, for example,
The Case for Peace: "[T]here was no plagiarism." (p. 182)
"Finkelstein's claim of plagiarism against me is laughable." (p. 182)
"Finkelstein, of course, knows that his politically motivated
accusations against me are complete fabrications . . . ." (p. 184)
Third, in his September 2006 letter to the former chairman of
Finkelstein's department, Dershowitz deliberately attempted to deceive
the DePaul faculty concerning the merits of Finkelstein's then-pending
tenure case by falsely claiming that Harvard had independently
investigated Finkelstein's plagiarism charges - which Dershowitz knew
included the identical errors issue - and "completely cleared" him. In
so doing, Dershowitz threw the full institutional weight of Harvard
University behind his efforts to cover up his own misconduct, which
Finkelstein had exposed.
At the end of the fourth paragraph of his September 2006 letter,
Dershowitz addressed Finkelstein's discussion of Dershowitz's proposal
that Israel should destroy entire Palestinian villages in response to
Palestinian terrorist attacks. In Beyond Chutzpah, Finkelstein wrote
advocates not only individual house demolitions but also "the
destruction of a small village which has been used as a base for
terrorist operations" after each Palestinian attack. "The response
will be automatic." Such massive destruction, he concludes, will
further the "noble causes" of reducing terrorism and promoting peace.
. . . It is hard to make out any difference between the policy
Dershowitz advocates and the Nazi destruction of Lidice [a Czech
village destroyed by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of
a Nazi officer], for which he expresses abhorrence-except that Jews,
not Germans, would be implementing it.
(Beyond Chutzah, pp. 175-176)
Finkelstein cited Dershowitz's March 11, 2002, column in the Jerusalem
Post as his source for the quotations concerning the "automatic"
destruction of entire villages. (Beyond Chutzpah, p. 175, n. 19) I
have checked the quotations myself, and they are accurate - Dershowitz
did propose the destruction of entire villages, just as Finkelstein
In his September 2006 letter, Dershowitz criticized Finkelstein for
his oft-maid [sic] claim, found on page 176 of Beyond Chutzpah,
that "It is hard to make out any difference between the policy
Dershowitz advocates and the Nazi destruction of Lidice, for which he
expresses abhorrence-except that Jews, not Germans, would be
implementing it." The trouble is that the policy and passage
Finkelstein quotes actually says, "[Israel] would then publicly
declare precisely how it will respond in the event of another
terrorist act, such as by destroying empty houses in a particular
village that has been used as a base for terrorists, and naming that
village in advance." In Finkelstein's world, "destroying empty houses"
in order to deter terrorism is the equivalent of genocide. (Emphasis
Dershowitz developed the same argument at greater length in the packet
of materials he sent to DePaul's faculty and administration.
Dershowitz's quotation concerning "destroying empty houses," however,
comes from his book Why Terrorism Works (2002) and does not appear in
his Jerusalem Post column. It is therefore not true that "the policy
and passage Finkelstein quotes actually says" what Dershowitz claims
it says. Finkelstein accurately quoted the policy and passage from the
Jerusalem Post column, which proposed the destruction of entire
villages and said nothing about destroying only empty houses.
Finkelstein cited the Jerusalem Post as his source for the quotation.
The language Finkelstein quoted does not appear in Why Terrorism
Works. It is consequently unmistakable that Finkelstein was quoting
(and comparing to Lidice) the Jerusalem Post proposal concerning the
destruction of entire villages, not the Why Terrorism Works proposal
concerning the destruction of only empty houses.
The problem here is not merely that Dershowitz is wrong. Everyone
makes mistakes. What makes Dershowitz's charge appear to be an
instance of academic misconduct is that there appears to be no way
that Dershowitz could have honestly (but mistakenly) believed that
Finkelstein was quoting, and comparing to Lidice, the Why Terrorism
Works proposal concerning empty houses, rather than the Jerusalem Post
proposal concerning entire villages. Dershowitz purported to be
correcting the record concerning the "policy and passage Finkelstein
quotes[.]" Dershowitz therefore must have looked at Finkelstein's
citation to see what passage Finkelstein claimed (correctly) to be
quoting. And finding that Finkelstein claimed (correctly) to be
quoting the Jerusalem Post, Dershowitz quoted something from Why
Terrorism Works and claimed (falsely) that that's what the passage
Finkelstein quoted really said. That is not a mistake. It appears to
be a deliberate misrepresentation.
It also bears emphasis that this misrepresentation appears in the
fourth paragraph of Dershowitz's 4,000-word letter. Thus, even readers
who lacked the patience to read the whole letter, or who might be
inclined to dismiss Dershowitz as biased, would likely be misled. Any
reader who assumed that Dershowitz would not brazenly misrepresent the
contents of his own or Finkelstein's writings would be left thinking,
"Well, that is pretty bad-Finkelstein accused Dershowitz of proposing
the destruction of entire villages, when Dershowitz was talking about
only empty houses."
If this was not an honest mistake by Dershowitz, but rather a
deliberate misrepresentation, then it would seem to constitute
academic misconduct. It would be a deliberate attempt to deceive the
DePaul faculty concerning the merits of a pending tenure case.
THE DAMAGE DONE
It would be wrong to dismiss the dispute between Dershowitz and
Finkelstein as merely a personal squabble between two professors.
Rather, the affair should be of institutional concern for both DePaul
and Harvard. The institutional concern for DePaul is self-evident: The
injection of deliberately deceptive material into a pending tenure
case is an extremely serious matter because it has the potential to
undermine the integrity of the university's promotion decisions.
That concern is particularly acute in this case because it appears
that Dershowitz's deceptions not only had the potential to influence
Finkelstein's tenure review process but also that they did in fact
play a decisive role. Recall that Dershowitz did not just send a
7-page letter - together with 14 pages of supporting materials - to
the former chair of DePaul's political science department. He also
sent a similar but more extensive packet of materials to a large
proportion of DePaul's faculty and administration, including every
professor in the law school. And although DePaul's Faculty Governance
Council received assurances that "the integrity of the [tenure review]
process would be protected" from Dershowitz's interference, the
council's chairman, Gil Gott, states that, to his knowledge, "no
specific protections were introduced to remedy already-existing
problems, such as any lingering false impressions that Alan
Dershowitz's packet may have created in the minds of faculty members
or administrators who served on or influenced decision-making bodies
in the case." (Chronicle of Higher Education, June 12, 2007)
DePaul's president has claimed nonetheless that Finkelstein's tenure
review process "maintained its independence" from the lobbying efforts
of "outside interests." But there is good evidence that Dershowitz's
campaign did undermine the process, because the university's stated
basis for denying tenure to Finkelstein appears to be transparently
pretextual. According to the president, the UBPT voted against
Finkelstein because his "scholarship does not meet DePaul's tenure
standards." The UBPT based that judgment on its determination that
Finkelstein's writings might not "contribute to the public discourse
on sensitive societal issues" because of Finkelstein's alleged
"inflammatory style" and use of "personal attacks."
Here are some of the relevant facts: Finkelstein has published five
books, one of them co-authored. Four were published before DePaul
hired him as a tenure-track assistant professor. Some of those four
were reissued in expanded editions while he was at DePaul. His fifth
book, Beyond Chutzpah, was published while he was at DePaul, and it
was published by a more prestigious university press than any of his
previous works. Beyond Chutzpah does not differ materially in style or
the use of "personal attacks" from Finkelstein's previous books, and,
to my knowledge, not even Dershowitz has ever claimed that it does. If
anything, Beyond Chutzpah strikes me as more moderate in tone than its
Tenure-track faculty are given annual reviews evaluating their
performance in all areas relevant to eligibility for tenure.
Finkelstein's annual reviews at DePaul expressed nothing but
enthusiasm about his scholarship. Even the annual review dealing with
his manuscript for Beyond Chutzpah contained not a word of criticism
of Finkelstein's scholarship.
DePaul's stated grounds for denying Finkelstein tenure consequently
seem impossible to take seriously. The style of his first four books
cannot have disqualified him from receiving tenure, because they were
already in print when DePaul hired him into a tenure-track position.
Thus, those books must have made him a promising candidate for tenure,
not the reverse. If those books nonetheless contained flaws that
Finkelstein needed to avoid in his subsequent work in order to get
tenure, then his annual reviews would have said so. In fact, they said
nothing of the sort. And Beyond Chutzpah, which (1) was issued by a
more prestigious academic press than anything Finkelstein had
published before, (2) contained nothing new in terms of "inflammatory
style" or "personal attacks," and (3) received not a word of criticism
from his department in his annual review, can only have strengthened
his case for tenure.
I conclude that the president's claim - that Finkelstein's scholarship
does not meet DePaul's standards for tenure - cannot be true. And even
the UBPT conceded that "[b]y all accounts" Finkelstein is "an
excellent teacher, popular with his students and effective in the
classroom." It follows that there must be some other explanation for
why Finkelstein was denied tenure. Dershowitz's campaign seems the
most likely candidate.
All of these considerations serve to heighten the institutional
concerns for Harvard. First, both plagiarism and deliberate
misrepresentation of a professor's work, particularly in the context
of a pending tenure case, are matters of academic integrity, and
Harvard presumably takes such matters very seriously.
Second, because of Dershowitz's repeated but apparently false claim
that Harvard "completely cleared" him of Finkelstein's charges,
Harvard has been made an unwitting accomplice in Dershowitz's
wrongdoing. If my analysis is sound, then Dershowitz deliberately
deceived DePaul not only about the plagiarism itself but also about
the investigation that Harvard allegedly conducted. He used his
purported acquittal by Harvard to bolster his own false claim of
innocence, which in turn supported his claims that Finkelstein's
charges were "politically motivated" and "complete fabrications."
Now that Dershowitz's misrepresentations have been exposed, Harvard
cannot permit them to go uncorrected. If someone were revealed as
falsely claiming to be a Harvard professor, perhaps making speeches or
writing letters of recommendation in Harvard's name, Harvard would
never stand for it - the university would issue an official statement
setting the record straight. Dershowitz's deceptions are no less
serious. He has sought to sabotage Finkelstein's tenure case on the
basis of an official exoneration by Harvard that, on one of
Finkelstein's central allegations, apparently never took place.
I do not mean to be suggesting whether, or in what way, Harvard should
discipline Dershowitz for the misconduct I have described. How Harvard
addresses misbehavior by its faculty members is Harvard's business,
not mine. But this is not just between Harvard and Dershowitz, or
between Dershowitz and Finkelstein. Rather, Harvard has a moral
obligation to Finkelstein to acknowledge, at a bare minimum, that it
has never completely cleared Dershowitz of Finkelstein's plagiarism
charges, because it has never rejected Finkelstein's argument
concerning the identical errors in The Case for Israel and From Time
As of this writing, Dershowitz appears to have succeeded in protecting
his own career by destroying Finkelstein's. It is now probably too
late to remedy all of the harm that Dershowitz's conduct has caused,
both to the review of Finkelstein's tenure application and to public
perceptions of Finkelstein and his work. But some sort of
acknowledgement or apology by Harvard concerning Dershowitz's
wrongdoing might go some distance toward clearing the air and making
Frank J. Menetrez received his PhD in philosophy and JD from UCLA.
This article is a follow-up to his Dershowitz v. Finkelstein: Who's
Right and Who's Wrong? <www.counterpunch.org/menetrez04302007.html>,
which was published by CounterPunch in April 2007. A combined version
of the two articles will form the epilogue to the paperback edition of
Norman G. Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of
Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, forthcoming in 2008 from the
University of California Press.
He can be reached at frankmenetrez @ yahoo.com.
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