Dershowitz Defends Book

Professor calls plagiarism accusation ‘funny’

E. MICHELLE Metallidis

Frankfurter Professor of Law ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ defended his book, The Case for Israel, against accusations of plagiarism at a promotional event at the Charles Hotel last night.

Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz brushed off a critic’s accusation that he committed plagiarism in his latest book, The Case for Israel, at a promotional event last night.

Dershowitz called DePaul Professor of Political Science Norman G. Finkelstein’s accusations “funny,” adding that he is “proud to be in the group of people that Finkelstein has attacked,” which he said includes noted author Elie Wiesel and historian Daniel Goldhagen.

Dershowitz told the crowd of about 200 that he only mentioned Finkelstein’s accusation “to show the absurd lengths that [Finkelstein and others] are going to delegitimate” him because of his political and ideological views.

Finkelstein has accused Dershowitz of “wholesale lifting of source material” from Joan Peters’ history of the settling of Palestine, From Time Immemorial. He points to instances in which Dershowitz cited only primary sources, when it appears he first found the information in Peters’ book.

Dershowitz has said he cited sources properly, attempting to check all primary sources and citing Peters when she was his only source.

In a response to former O.J. defense attorney Dershowitz entitled “The Glove Does Fit,” Finkelstein argues that the alleged citation problems are particularly serious because they obscure the extent to which Dershowitz relies on Peters’ book. Finkelstein describes From Time Immemorial as deeply flawed.

In the week since Finkelstein first confronted Dershowitz on the radio program “Democracy Now!,” his accusation has made its way into the pages of The Nation and through the halls of the law school.

Members of Justice for Palestine, a Harvard Law School (HLS) society advocating “for a just solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict,” said they are hoping to host a debate between Finkelstein and Dershowitz,

“[We want to] offer the parties to the plagiarism debate the chance to air their differences in front of an audience,” member Danya Reda wrote in a statement to The Crimson. While acknowledging that her group has clashed with Dershowitz in the past, Reda said that it wanted to allow the two to present their “complete arguments.”

Finkelstein said yesterday that he would accept the group’s offer.

Dershowitz said he had not received a formal invitation, but was open to the idea.

In the meantime, Dershowitz has been making efforts to defuse Finkelstein’s attack. He has circulated his response to the entire HLS faculty, as well as HLS Dean Elena Kagan and University President Lawrence H. Summers.

A Summers spokesperson deferred comment to HLS, and Kagan could not be reached.

But Dershowitz said the faculty members have rallied to his side.

“Many people on the faculty came to me and said, ‘If you are guilty of plagiarism, then so are we,’” Dershowitz said. “They all know that these attacks are politically motivated. Finkelstein doesn’t have the guts to debate me on the merits of the book, so instead he does this.”

“It is such a stupid, unfair, and ridiculous accusation, from biased accusers,” Beneficial Professor Charles Fried said. “Everyone does this, it is such a normal thing,” Fried added, referring to the sourcing practices that Finkelstein has complained about.

Dershowitz said at the book signing that as far as he is concerned, “the issue is over.”

“[Finkelstein] is going to try to make his reputation by increasing the volume of his accusations.”

—Staff writer Lauren A. E. Schuker can be reached at schuker@fas.harvard.edu.