Dershowitz/Cockburn: The Nation Exchange

November 15, 2003

In News

Cambridge, Mass.

Alexander Cockburn realizes that, as one columnist characterized him,
"as an accuser, Joe McCarthy was more responsible." So he has invoked
a purported neutral academic expert to lend credence to his
preposterous plagiarism charge ["Beat the Devil," Oct. 13; "Letters,"
Oct. 27]. It turns out, however, that his "expert" is as biased,
irresponsible and wrong as he is. Sayres Rudy is not a "professor."
So far as I can determine, he has no PhD. He has no permanent
teaching job. He is an academic vagabond with little experience and
even less knowledge about academic disciplinary matters. He is also,
not coincidentally, an ideological soul mate of Cockburn on Israel,
having signed petitions that accuse Israel but not Palestinian
terrorist organizations of war crimes. I have read the disciplinary
and plagiarism codes that he cites and cannot find anything even
close to what Cockburn has falsely accused me of doing. More
important, Harvard Law School’s extremely demanding definition of
plagiarism makes it clear that what I did was entirely proper.
Moreover, I did it completely in the open. In the galley proofs that
were sent to hundreds of reviewers, I included an instruction to my
research assistant to cite several sources I came upon in Joan
Peters’s book. I also instructed my research staff to check these
sources against the original. The experts I consulted-real experts,
with vast experience and no ideological ax to grind-know of no case
in which a student or faculty member was ever disciplined for doing
what I did. I challenge Prof. Rudy to come up with a single case in
which he participated at the universities he mentions that resulted
in any kind of discipline for a student or professor who cited
original rather than secondary sources for a handful of quotations
(out of hundreds) that he or she originally found in a secondary
source with whose conclusions he disagrees, checked them against the
originals and then cited the originals. Although the names of
students are generally kept confidential, the charges are often made
public so that students can learn from the "common law." He will be
unable to do so, because what I did was absolutely proper and
routine. And he knows it. His claim that he can say "unequivocally"
that any student who did what I did would be disciplined for
plagiarism is a deliberate lie made out of whole cloth to serve his
ideological agenda. Like Cockburn, he doesn’t like the substance of
my book and so has joined forces with those seeking to deligitimize
it with false charges. This is a form of literary McCarthyism of
which he should be ashamed, even if Cockburn is shameless.

Alan Dershowitz

Cockburn Replies
New York City

First let me give the floor to Sayres Rudy: "Alan Dershowitz thinks
I’m too inexperienced to assess his plagiarism because I’m not a
professor but a vagabond. When I finish my dissertation this year, I
will have three advanced degrees: Johns Hopkins, SAIS (MA 1990),
Columbia (MA 1996; PhD 2004). How many does Dershowitz have? What he
calls vagabondage I call teaching. Since 1993 I’ve taught political
science at Columbia, Amherst and Mount Holyoke, and political
philosophy at Harvard (six years). I served on and chaired Davidson
College’s Honor Council (1983-86), whose hearings are confidential
and outcomes sealed. At Davidson as elsewhere, Dershowitz’s
technique-citing unchecked sources in any given footnote as his own
research findings when they’re in fact taken from uncited sources-is
an honor code violation: either plagiarism or, worse, stealing.
Dershowitz also implies that I’m politically motivated. I do deplore
inhumane and intellectually absurd apologias for political
domination. But whether in defense of Saudi, Palestinian Authority
or-as in this case-Zionist criminality, Dershowitz’s tactics
constitute plagiarism. If not, why would he use me as a red herring
rather than answer Alexander Cockburn’s (and Norman Finkelstein’s)
charges directly?"
On the plagiarism charges Dershowitz is dead in the water. We now
have the "smoking gun" proof that he copied Peters’s sources without
checking them. A correspondent has sent Finkelstein the advance
uncorrected proofs of D’s book. Many of the footnotes are not yet
filled in, and instructions are left for D’s research assistants on
how to complete the text. Here’s footnote 19 on p. 13: "Holly Beth:
cite sources on pp. 160, 485, 486, fns 141-145." Notice the wording:
D doesn’t say "check" sources on pp.__; he says "cite" sources on
pp.__. All the page references are to Peters’s book citations, which
correspond to those in D’s book. Holly Beth is one of his research
assistants, acknowledged in the final version of the text. Dershowitz
knows the smoking gun has surfaced, hence the hastily inserted
bluster on the matter in this latest letter.
McCarthy? In his ghastly book D claims that the International
Solidarity Movement are supporters of terrorism; that Rachel Corrie
"threw herself" in front of the oncoming Israeli bulldozer; that
female Palestinian suicide bombers were raped by "terrorist
operatives"; that an "independent investigation" proved that a
Palestinian killed during torture by Israel died from unrelated
causes; that Israel doesn’t currently torture Palestinian detainees;
that the Marines in Beirut 1983 were killed by "Palestinian
terrorists"; that no Palestinian was deliberately killed during
Operation Defensive Shield; and on and on. As Finkelstein remarks,
it’s simply not possible to address the "substance" of D’s "book,"
because the book lacks substance. It’s a flat-out fraud, from the
author’s name forward. Finkelstein promises to demonstrate this in a
forthcoming book, from the New Press, titled Letters to an Old
Shyster: How Professor Alan Dershowitz Concocted a Ludicrous Hoax and
Why Harvard University Should Expel Him for It. Dershowitz should be
kicked out of his Felix Frankfurter chair for being a plagiarist, and
then he should sue himself for incompetency of counsel.

Alexander Cockburn