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.”
Let me now usher into the narrative an important member of the cast: From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine, a 601-page book by Joan Peters, published in 1984. Peters’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.” Peters’s book was soon discredited as a charnel house of disingenuous polemic. The coup de grâce was administered by Professor Yehoshua Porath in The New York Review of Books for January 16 and March 27, 1986.
Though neither Peters nor her book appears in the index to The Case for Israel, they both get a mention in note 31 of chapter 2, where Dershowitz cites the work of a nineteenth-century French geographer called Cuinct [sic], 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’s conclusions and data.
This brazen declaration is preceded in chapters 1 and 2 by repeated, unacknowledged looting of Peters’s research. I have before me a devastating comparative archive of these plagiarisms, compiled by Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering and Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict. Here are but four from twenty thus far discovered in the first two chapters alone.
“In the sixteenth century,” the learned 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 Peters’s book, published nineteen years earlier: “Safed 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 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 (p. 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 (p. 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 (p. 187): “[T]he life for Jews described in 1839 by British Consul 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 (p. 27): “J.L. Burkhardt [sic] reported that as early as in the second decade of the nineteenth century, ‘Few individuals…die 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.'” Source cited: John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (New York: AMS Press, 1983), p. 299. Peters (p. 163): “John Lewis Burckhardt graphically described the migratory patterns he found in the early 1800s: ‘[…]Few individuals…die 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.'” Source cited: John Lewis Burckhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London: 1882), p. 299.
For those who, on the monkeys-writing-Shakespeare analogy, 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 The Innocents Abroad, Dershowitz reproduces the quotes with ellipses in exactly the same places as Peters.
Amid this orgy of plagiarism, Dershowitz understandably gets confused about sources. Claiming to be inspired by George Orwell, Peters in her book 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 Harvard president Lawrence 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? All you have to do is remind him of Dershowitz’s words about Prof. Faurisson.