I once covered a speech by the late Edward Said at UC-Berkeley in which he claimed the ancient people of the Bible who predated the Jews were in fact today’s “Palestinians.” In other words, the Jewish claims to any part of the land of Israel based on the Bible or nationalism should be rejected: the Palestinians were there first.
A friend of mine in academia called me with a tip. “So there I was fishing around, an research historian in search of something, Googling for silly statements about national continuity between the ancient Philistines, the Jebusites, or Canaanites and modern Palestinian Arabs when I came upon this:
‘“According to a number of historians and scholars, many of the Arabs of Jerusalem today, indeed the majority of Palestinian Arabs, are descendants of the ancient Jebusites and Canaanites.
She continued, “The byline read Rashid Khalidi.”
For those unfamiliar with Khalidi, he is the recipient of the Edward Said Chair at Columbia University. Columbia has been in the news lately due to accusations its Middle Eat Studies department is patently anti-Israel and even unfair to Jewish students. A new film recently out titled “Columbia Unbecoming” has been circulating and reveals this academic bias with tales of Middle East faculty abuse against students who support Israel. Khalidi, for his part, once said that killing Israeli soldiers is justified during the peace process.
The article where my friend found the quotation was posted on the web page of the American Committee of Jerusalem. She wanted a better reference than a web page, so she Googled a particularly absurd phrase: “The simple fact is that the majority of the Arab people of Palestine are not descendants of those that arrived as part of the wave of Islamic-Arab conquest in the seventh century.”
The search produced a nearly identical sentence, but this one was from a 1994 article on the history of Jerusalem written by the late Kamil Jamil el Asali of the University of Jordan. The two articles share more than bad scholarship. They are alike; too alike.
Like possible plagiarism.
Entire sentences appear in both articles:
Asali: “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.”
Khalidi uses the same sources and quotations used by Asali.
Asali: In The Golden Bough, the British anthropologist Sir James Frazer (1854-1941) stressed that, "the Arabic-speaking peasants of Palestine are the progeny of the tribes which settled in the country before the Israelite invasion."
Kahalidi: In 1902, the British anthropologist Sir James Frazer wrote in his famous study The Golden Bough: "The Arabic-speaking peasants of Palestine are the progeny of the tribes which settled in the country before the Israelite invasion.".
Asali: It is well-known that the correct age of the city, according to historical accounts, is five thousand years. This estimation is given by the Israeli historian Zev Vilnay, among other sources, in his comprehensive work in Hebrew, The Encyclopedia for the Knowledge of the Land of Israel, in the chapter titled "Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel.''[l] The same age is given by the Israeli historians Ephraim and Menachem Tilmay at the end of their book, Jerusalem.
Khalidi: The Israeli historian Zev Vilnay, in his Encyclopedia for Knowledge of the Land of Israel, and Ephraim and Menachem Tilmay, in their book Jerusalem, agree that the age of the city is 5,000 years
Finally, Khalidi condenses Asali's analysis, lifting strings of phrases from Asali to make the same point:
Khalidi: 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." Jerusalem was also known as Jebus. Canaanite society flourished for two thousand years, and many aspects of Canaanite culture and religion were later borrowed by the Hebrews.
Asali: 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."
The second name of Jerusalem was "Jebus." The culture of Jebus was Canaanite, an ancient society which built many towns with well-built houses, in numerous city-states, in industry and commerce and in an alphabet and religion which flourished for two thousand years and were later borrowed by the primitive Hebrews.
True, the Khalidi article was not in a refereed journal. It was on a webpage. But it was the webpage of the American Committee on Jerusalem, an organization of which Khalidi was president when the article was published in 2001 and for some years before and afterwards. The president of an organization is certainly responsible for articles published by that organization under his byline. Even on a webpage.
My friend contacted the office of Austin Quigley, Dean of the Faculty of Columbia College and Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education with the suggestion that this information be given to Dean Quigley, the ordinary procedure in cases of plagiarism. Dean Quigley immediately referred my friend to Appendix E in the Faculty Handbook. The relevant section reads:
“In the event that the committee should find that an individual or individuals have made charges against a researcher for malicious reasons, or were otherwise not acting in good faith in making such charge, the dean will take appropriate action.”
Malicious reasons? Hmmm...a veiled threat to my friend as an academic for exposing this?
The dean’s reaction to my friend’s discovery is disturbing for a number of reasons:
Suppose a scholar not only believes in the right of Israel to exist – Khalidi denies the Jewish nation this right – but further believes, as many scholars do, that Khalidi’s work is replete with half-truths and the selective use of evidence to make a political case against the Jewish State? Even the deceased Jordanian academic the piece was plagiarized from taught at a university in a dictatorial society where propaganda is the norm regarding Israel.
Is it malicious that my friend might prefer that an opponent of the existence of Israel who has engaged in an unacademic practice take a fall? If it were his or her career on the line, would he or she take the risk of making a complaint that others might characterize as “maliciously motivated” when the Faculty Handbook directs the dean to “take appropriate action” in such an instance? Arab professors who frequently preach against Israel’s existence rail constantly that they are being defamed when teaching such questionable “history” at Columbia. Such carrying on discourages a hard look at what is going on at Columbia’s Middle East Studies department.
My friend sent both articles to a reporter at a major metropolitan daily before contacting me. The reporter first contacted a plagiarism expert, who called it a clear case of plagiarism. He then phoned Rashid Khalidi, who did not return the call.
And the reporter next contacted the American Committee on Jerusalem and told them he was doing a story on plagiarism in the Khalidi article, and asked for a comment. Big mistake. Miraculously, the Khalidi byline on the article disappeared. The American Committee for Jerusalem changed the byline to read, “Compiled by ACJ from a variety of sources.” That reporter’s editor dropped the story.
The Wayback Machine on the Web exists for such situations, however, and such unprofessionalism cannot be completely covered up. Entering the original URL into this time travel machine reveals that the article with the plagiarized material was posted with the byline “by Rashid Khalidi” on Feb. 27th 2001, and remained on the site under that byline for four years during much of which time Khalidi continued to serve as President of the American Committee for Jerusalem. My friend found it there on May 10, 2005.
To see for yourself go to: http://www.waybackmachine.org/ and input the address for the American Committee for Jerusalem website’s original layout: http://www.acj.org/resources/khalidi/c_history.htm.
Then e-mail Dean Quigley at Columbia University (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (212) 854-8296 and express your opinions about a university investigation. Columbia should have higher standards than the University of Jordan or any other bastions of anti-Israel propaganda; Columbia should not shelter distinguished chairs who do not even observe normal academic procedures against plagiarism.
 Faculty Handbook, Appendix E. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa/fhb/main.html