July 11, 2005

In News


The University of California Press will proceed with the publication of a controversial book that attacks supporters of Israel despite efforts by its chief target, the Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz, to block the book’s release. The press’s intentions were announced on Friday by its director, Lynne Withey.

The book, Norman G. Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, examines the evidence of human-rights groups, such as Amnesty International, and the writings of pro-Israel commentators to expose what the introduction terms “the vast proliferation of sheer fraud masquerading as serious scholarship” on Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.

Mr. Finkelstein, an assistant professor of political science at DePaul University, describes Mr. Dershowitz’s 2003 book, The Case for Israel (John Wiley & Sons), as “among the most spectacular academic frauds ever published on the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Beyond Chutzpah was poised to go to press late last month when lawyers for the University of California system halted publication to review again Mr. Finkelstein’s allegations, which include the charge that Mr. Dershowitz lifted large portions of The Case for Israel from Joan Peters’s 1984 From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine (Harper & Row). Mr. Finkelstein debunked Ms. Peters’s work in a previous book, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (Verso, 2000).

After 10 days of what Mr. Finkelstein described as “nonstop, round-the-clock negotiations with lawyers,” he agreed to several wording changes designed to forestall legal action by Mr. Dershowitz, a noted proponent of the First Amendment as well as one of Israel’s most prominent American supporters.

Ms. Withey said that the press hoped to meet the original publication date of August 28. Final changes will go to the printer today, and the presses should begin rolling in a couple of weeks. “We’re aiming to have bound books by the end of July,” she said.

The 11th-hour delay is far from the first hurdle that Beyond Chutzpah has had to clear on its road to publication. Under pressure from Mr. Dershowitz and his lawyers, the New York firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Mr. Finkelstein’s original publisher, the New Press, delayed publication in order to review the plagiarism accusations.

Mr. Finkelstein then took the project to the University of California Press and its history editor, Niels Hooper, whom he had worked with on The Holocaust Industry when Mr. Hooper was an editor at Verso. Mr. Dershowitz sent letters to the University of California and others, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who is an ex officio member of the university’s Board of Regents, protesting the press’s decision to publish Mr. Finkelstein’s book.

The depth of Mr. Dershowitz’s feeling can be gauged by a July 5 column he wrote for the online journal that carried the headline “Why Is the University of California Press Publishing Bigotry?” In the column, he invokes hate speech and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and attacks “this bigoted book by this anti-Semite” and Mr. Finkelstein’s “penchant for making up facts about people with whom he disagrees.”

Mr. Dershowitz has denied that he has sought to block the book’s publication, but in comments published in the Boston Globe on Saturday, he said, “I don’t think a university press should be publishing this kind of garbage.” He added that he had told the California press that “if you say I didn’t write the book or plagiarized it, I will own your company.”

Even before the latest delay, Beyond Chutzpah had been through several rounds of legal vetting. The University of California retained several outside lawyers, including American and British legal experts, to examine the manuscript along with its in-house counsel. Mr. Finkelstein said that the book had been through some 15 drafts in the past eight months.

The final changes to Beyond Chutzpah center on specific phrases concerning plagiarism and its definition. “There was a question about how to raise the issue of plagiarism without incurring very costly litigation,” Mr. Finkelstein said. “What they asked me to do, and what I agreed to do, was provide the Harvard definition of plagiarism and reiterate my own findings in the appendix and let readers judge for themselves.”

In the body of the book, the word “plagiarizes” has been replaced with such phrases as “lifts from” or “appropriates from without attribution,” according to Mr. Finkelstein. An appendix now refers readers to the definition of plagiarism laid out in Harvard University’s Writing With Sources: A Guide for Students. “We juxtapose the definition with the evidence and leave it to the reader to decide,” Mr. Finkelstein said.

The online edition of Harvard University’s student handbook notes that “students should always take great care to distinguish their own ideas and knowledge from information derived from sources.”

“The term ‘sources,'” the handbook says, “includes not only primary published and secondary material, but also information and opinions gained directly from other people.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Finkelstein read a reporter a paragraph inserted in the appendix during the final round of talks. The new wording asserts that Mr. Dershowitz “directly appropriates” a key idea from Ms. Peters without attribution and that he “repeatedly copied information” from her book, and invites the reader to judge based on the evidence submitted in Beyond Chutzpah.

Background article from The Chronicle:
Professor Copycat: a Special Report on Plagiarism (12/17/2004)