The Ball is in Dershowitz's Court

July 14, 2005

In News

[Editor’s Note: A reply by Finkelstein follows the article.]

by Alan Dershowitz

Remember Professor Rashid Khalidi? He is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University and director of its Middle East Institute. He is a big part of Columbia’s anti-Israel problem, having infamously said, among other hateful utterances, that “the tragedy of September 11 was a godsend” to “American Likudniks and their Israeli counterparts” because it “enabled them to draft the United States to help fight Israel’s enemies.”[1] Now a serious charge of plagiarism has been leveled against Khalidi. This gives rise to a challenge not only to Columbia, but also to his triumvirate of anti-Israel supporters who commonly use the nuclear charge of “plagiarism” against their ideological enemies.

For more than 20 years the terrible triumvirate of Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, and Alexander Cockburn have been falsely accusing pro-Israel writers of plagiarism and related academic offenses.[2] I have been the most recent target of the selective vitriol. They have accused me of plagiarism for quoting Mark Twain and other well-known figures­whose quotes appear in my book within quotation marks and properly cited to their original source. Their absurd accusation is that I should have cited these quotes not to their original source but rather to the secondary source in which ­they erroneously claim ­I first came across them. No one but anti-Israel zealots takes these biased charges seriously, as evidenced by the fact that not only was I cleared of all such charges by Harvard (after I brought them to the attention of the dean and president), but recently the dean awarded me a prize for “exceptional scholarship” for my current book Rights from Wrongs.

Now, a serious charge of real plagiarism has been leveled at one of the triumvirate’s favorite anti-Israel professors­ Rashid Khalidi. According to Solomonia, a website,[3] the offending article is an online essay entitled, “Jerusalem, A Concise History,” by Rashid Khalidi. Khalidi’s essay was copied from a nearly identical essay by K.J. Asali without attribution or quotation marks. For example, here is what Khalidi purported to author:

“The oldest recorded name of the city, ‘Urusalem’ is Amoritic. ‘Shalem’ or ‘Salem’ is the name of a Canaanite-Amorite god; ‘uru’, means ‘founded by.’ The names of the two oldest rulers of the city, Saz Anu and Yaqir Ammo, were identified by the American archaeologist W.F. Albright as Amoritic. The Amorites had the same language as the Canaanites and were of the same Semitic stock. Many historians believe that they were an offshoot of the Canaanites, who came originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The Bible concurs that the Amorites are the original people of the land of Canaan.

“Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem.
Thy birth and thy origin are of the land
of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite,
and thy mother a Hittite.
(Ezekiel, 16:1)

“In the second millenium BC, Jerusalem was inhabited by the Jebusites, a Canaanite tribe, and the culture of the city was Canaanite. The Jebusites built a fortress, ‘Zion’, in Jerusalem. Zion is a Canaanite word meaning ‘hill’ or ‘height.'”[4]

Here is the original by Asali from which Khalidi obviously copied without attribution:

“Indeed, the oldest name of the city ‘Urusalem’ is Amoritic. ‘Salem’ or ‘Shalem’ was the name of a Canaanite-Amorite god, while ‘uru’ simply meant ‘founded by.’ The names of the two oldest rulers of the city, Saz Anu and Yaqir Ammo, were identified by the American archaeologist W. F. Albright as Amoritic. The Amorites, according to the Bible, are the original people of the land of Canaan. They had the same language as the Canaanites and were of the same Semitic stock. Many historians believe that the Amorites are an offshoot of the Canaanites who came originally from the Arabian Peninsula. In this regard it is apt to quote the Bible (Ezekiel:1 6):

Thus say the Lord God to Jerusalem. Your Origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites, your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite.

“In the second millennium, Jerusalem was inhabited by the Jebusites. In the Bible the Jebusites are considered to be Canaanites. It was the Jebusites who first built the fortress Zion in the town. Zion is a Canaanite word which means ‘hill’ or ‘height.'”[5]

There are numerous additional instances of verbatim copying in the Khalidi essay.

When Khalidi was caught, he immediately took his name off the article and substituted the following attribution: “Compiled by ACJ [American Committee on Jerusalem, of which Khalidi was president] from a variety of sources.” But for the nearly four years before he was caught, Khalidi claimed authorship of the plagiarized essay.[6] No one can seriously deny that the Khalidi essay is copied from the Asali essay. Khalidi apparently defends the plagiarism as being “mistakenly attributed to me by the defunct website of a defunct organization,”[7] but he does not explain how such a mistake could have endured for so many years until it was caught and exposed by a journalist. Nor does he explain how he can deflect responsibility from himself by blaming an organization of which he was president!

Although this charge against an anti-Israel academic is far more serious than any leveled by the triumvirate against pro-Israel writers, I predict that Finkelstein will not examine it, Chomsky will not complain about it, and Cockburn will not publicize it. Nor will they demand sanctions against their ideological soul-mate, as they have against me and other pro-Israel writers. The same double standard that is directed against Israel by these selective condemners is also directed against pro-Israel academics.

So here is my challenge to the triumvirate: apply the same standards to Khalidi that you have to pro-Israel writers. Apply the same scrutiny to his anti-Israel writings that you routinely apply to pro-Israel writers. Demand the same sanctions against Khalidi that you have against pro-Israel writers. Or admit that you are guilty of hypocrisy and a double standard. I await your response, but I am not holding my breath.

And here is my challenge to Columbia: investigate the charges against Khalidi and make a determination based on the objective standards of proper citation and attribution. Then announce your findings to the public.

Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard. His latest book is The Case For Peace (Wiley Aug 2005).


[1] Rashid Khalidi, “Attack Iraq? The real reasons and the likely consequences of the next war,” In These Times, January 27, 2003, accessible at
[2] See Alan Dershowitz, “The Hazards of Making The Case for Israel,”, May 2005, accessible at
[3] See Solomonia, June 8, 2005, accessible at
[4] “Jerusalem, A Concise History,” accessible in its current form at
[5] K.J. Asali, “Jerusalem In History: Notes on the Origins of the City and Its Tradition of Tolerance,” Arab Studies Quarterly, vol. 16, no. 4, Fall 1994, accessible at (Endnotes omitted.)
[6] The article with the Khalidi byline can be accessed at , courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (
[7] Elizabeth O’Neill, “The Complaint Against Rashid Khalidi,” History News Network, June 17, 2005, accessible at

Finkelstein replies:

Khalidi has graciously acknowledged that he didn’t write the article in question. Dershowitz should now follow suit acknowledging that he didn’t write The Case for Israel. The award Dershowitz received from Harvard’s dean recalls the “victory” medals Saddam Hussein handed out in 1991.