The Complaint Against Rashid Khalidi





Ms. O'Neill is an HNN intern.

Editor's Note: UPDATE 6-21-05 New information has come to light since we originally went to press with this story. It now turns out that there has been conflicting information on whether or not Professor Khalidi was the author of the article posted under his byline on the website of the American Committee for Jerusalem (which is now defunct, though the news part of the website remains active). The president of the successor organization, the American Task Force on Palestine, Ziad J. Asali, reportedly told the New York Sun newspaper that Professor Khalidi was the author of the article. But on June 20, 2005 the executive editor of the organization stated in an email to HNN that Professor Khalidi was not the author. Professor Khalidi himself says that he was not the author and he is no longer listed as the author. This is the email we were sent:

The byline to the 'Jerusalem, A Concise History' article was changed from 'By Rashid Khalidi' to 'Compiled by ACJ from a variety of sources' for the simple reason that at the time of its 2001 posting, an ACJ staffer had mistakenly attributed the article to Dr. Khalidi. Dr. Khalidi had only contributed to the article at the time and was mistakenly given full accreditation for it. Even though Dr. Khalidi was president of the board of directors of the ACJ at the time, he was not involved in any way in posting articles on, or making changes to the ACJ website, nor in supervising day-to-day activities of the ACJ. The mistake escaped unnoticed until it was brought to our attention in May 2005 as a result of the plagiarism contention. That was when the byline change was made to correct the error. In addition, the ACJ website itself has been inactive since early 2003 after the organization was dissolved. The only section of the website still active is the section that holds the news archive.

Executive Director
American Task Force on Palestine
815 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006
www.americantaskforce.org

Our original story:

An historian who remains anonymous has alleged in an email picked up by HNN (see below) that an online piece that for four years carried the byline of Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University and former President of the American Committee for Jerusalem, contained plagiarized material. The article, "Jerusalem, A Concise History," was posted on February 27, 2001 at the website of the American Committee for Jerusalem, an organization that has since become the American Task Force on Palestine. Key phrases and sentences in the article appear to have been taken from a 1994 article by the late Kamil Jamil el Asali of the University of Jordan.

Khalidi denies responsibility for the piece."I did not write the item in question, and have never claimed it as my own work. It was a compilation that was mistakenly attributed to me by the defunct website of a defunct organization," he wrote in an email.

The allegations are complicated by disputes over what constitutes plagiarism on the Internet and by ideological tensions over the article’s content, which deals with the origins of the Palestinian people. In an email sent to HNN, the anonymous historian says that a search for"silly statements about national continuity between the ancient Philistines, Jebusites, or Canaanites and modern Palestinian Arabs" led her to the article in question. Khalidi, for his part, sees the anonymous historian’s accusations as"part of a systematic, organized campaign of smears and harassment against faculty in the Middle East field." Columbia University recently completed an investigation into student complaints of anti-Israel bias against several faculty in the Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures department. Khalidi was not one of the professors under investigation.

Upon discovering the article, the anonymous historian " phoned a colleague on the Columbia faculty with the suggestion that she take it to Dean Quigley, the ordinary procedure in cases of plagiarism." But the colleague referred her to Appendix E of the Columbia University Faculty Handbook, which states,"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." This worried her. She reports that she felt intimidated.

The anonymous historian’s email conveys her reaction:"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. Such a scholar might prefer to see an opponent of the existence of Israel take a fall. Is that malicious?"

She turned next to what she referred to as a"a major metropolitan daily," which Khalidi identified as the New York Sun––and which he derided as "a paper which prints perhaps 5000 copies and sells practically none, and which cannot be called ‘major,’ by any sense of the word." He added,"I would doubt the judgement of any ‘historian’ who describes it as such." The reporter at the Sun began researching the story by contacting a plagiarism expert, who, says the anonymous historian, called the article"a clear case of plagiarism." He also attempted unsuccessfully to contact Khalidi and the American Committee for Jerusalem. Before he could do more, however, his editor called off the story because of questions about whether the article, as"merely an occasional piece on a web site," according to the anonymous historian, should have to follow the same standards as those that appear in printed journals or periodicals. Khalidi characterized the Sun’s decision not to run the story as a move made in a"rare fit of sanity," but he wrote that he shared their view that the online article fell into an area that did not necessarily follow the rules of printed works:"it was never ‘published’ in any real sense of the word," Khalidi wrote.

By the time the anonymous historian brought her allegations to another journalist, Khalidi’s byline had been removed from the ACJ website. In its place is a note reading,"Compiled by ACJ from a variety of sources." Lee Kaplan of Frontpagemag.com, who refers to the anonymous historian as"a friend," wrote a story on the allegations in which he suggested that the removal of the byline was a cover-up. Solomonia.com said such a change, which occurred without explanation, is" considered bad form on the internet" but made no further judgement.

That the plagiarism allegations have attracted attention at all concerns Khalidi. He wrote,"I am distressed that anyone is taking this canard seriously."

Statement by the Anonymous Emailer

Rashid Khalidi, Plagiarism, and Me

By Anonymous

I was fishing. Googling for silly statements about national continuity between the ancient Philistines, 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."

The byline read Rashid Khalidi. Whoa.

The article was posted on the web page of the American Committee of Jerusalem. I wanted a better reference than a web page, so I 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. [i] The two articles share more than bad scholarship. They are alike. Very alike. Like, plagiarism.

Entire sentences appear in both articles:

"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.

Kahalidi:

In 1902, the British anthropologist Sir James Frazer wrote in his book 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:

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."

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.

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.

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 web page. But it was the web page 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. [ii] The President of an organization is certainly responsible for articles published by that organization under his byline. Even on a web page.

I phoned a colleague on the Columbia faculty with the suggestion that she take it to Dean Quigley, the ordinary procedure in cases of plagiarism. She immediately pointed me 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." [iii]
Malicious reasons… Hmmm…

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. Such a scholar might prefer to see an opponent of the existence of Israel take a fall. Is that malicious? If it were your career on the line, would you 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?

Call me a coward.

I sent both articles to a reporter at a major metropolitan daily. The reporter first contacted a plagiarism expert, who called it a clear case of plagiarism. He then phoned Rashid Khalidi, who refused to return the call. And he contacted the American Committee on Jerusalem, told them he was doing a story on plagiarism in the Khalidi article, and asked for a comment. Then his editor killed the story, on the grounds that the plagiarized article was merely an occasional piece on a web site. Not in a printed periodical. Some of these print guys haven’t noticed yet that the world has changed.

I contacted a reporter at another paper, who told me that there was no Khalidi byline on the article. I went to the web page. Sure enough. The byline has disappeared. Someone at the ACJ changed the byline to read"Compiled by ACJ from a variety of sources." [iv]

For such situations does Wayback Machine exist. Entering the original URL[v] into this time travel machine[vi] reveals that the article with the plagiarized material was posted with the byline"by Rashid Khalidi" by 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 ACJ. I found it there on May 10, 2005.

Will somebody please tell Dean Quigley.


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More Comments:


Lisa Biden - 7/5/2005

Amen Mike.

While some professors like to play victim, they know they can retaliate against those who don't hold the correct views or who point out things like plagiarism by their favored colleagues. Seems to me Gitlin is out to Juan Cole this person (link her to a neocon or whatever).

I wonder, Gitlin, if you would be so quick to out an anonymous source if that person had damning evidence on a political pundit you did not favor. Let's say the person is at Fox news channel and is fear for his job (as undoubtedly an academic in certain fields would be for criticizing those of the left-wing), would you defend that person for choosing to be anonymous with said evidence?


Lisa Biden - 7/5/2005

Amen Mike.

While some professors like to play victim, they know they can retaliate against those who don't hold the correct views or who point out things like plagiarism by their favored colleagues. Seems to me Gitlin is out to Juan Cole this person (link her to a neocon or whatever).

I wonder, Gitlin, if you would be so quick to out an anonymous source if that person had damning evidence on a political pundit you did not favor. Let's say the person is at Fox news channel and is fear for his job (as undoubtedly an academic in certain fields would be for criticizing those of the left-wing), would you defend that person for choosing to be anonymous with said evidence?


Lisa Biden - 7/5/2005

Amen Mike.

While some professors like to play victim, they know they can retaliate against those who don't hold the correct views or who point out things like plagiarism by their favored colleagues. Seems to me Gitlin is out to Juan Cole this person (link her to a neocon or whatever).

I wonder, Gitlin, if you would be so quick to out an anonymous source if that person had damning evidence on a political pundit you did not favor. Let's say the person is at Fox news channel and is fear for his job (as undoubtedly an academic in certain fields would be for criticizing those of the left-wing), would you defend that person for choosing to be anonymous with said evidence?


Mike Nargizian - 6/22/2005

At Solomonia wey're not surprised that neither Mr. Gitlin nor the editor had any reply and Solomon is not surprised by the fevered search and destroy nature of Gitlin's initial reply. He seems more interested in the character or preferences of the person who discovered something that would glaringly stand out to a journalism college undergrad.

However, why should Gitlin or the editor here reply to the mere 'peons' who are not part of the 'inteligencia' or a "Columbia Professor".....

Solomon updated his entry and states Gitlin's fevered search and destroy reply is exactly the reason the anonymous source did and should stay anonymous. I personally don't care who the 'source' is. The fact that Gitlin didn't deal with even 1 morsel of the damming evidence says it all to me.


Mike Nargizian - 6/21/2005

Since when is HNN in the business of circulating scurrilous charges by "an historian who remains anonymous"?

The charge was circulated by Frontpage and Solomonia. Someone else, who implies his job would be in jeopardy due to the leftist stance of his superiors, found it.

It seems to me that the essence of scholarly responsibility is that writers are responsible for their work, including their criticism.


Which seems rather puzzling that you didn't mention or rigorously apply this 'standard' in regards to 'Dr.' Khalidi? An article with his name as author is on the internet of an organization he is president of for 4 years and then suddenly poof!his name dissappears......... An anonymous person finds this and points it out and the person who discovered it is the only one who deserves scrutiny. I seem to remember "Professor" Chomsky stating that even a racist (whoever he defines as such?) can make a valid point.

(Anyone who wishes to be viewed as a conservative, in particular, seems obliged to honor the conservative principle that character is decisive in every aspect of life. Skulking cowards, whatever their alibis, are persons of meager character.)

Who ever said the anonymous source was a "conservative"? Do you know something nooone else does or do you have ESP?

"An historian who remains anonymous" is self-evidently no historian at all.

I don't think anyone cares if the guy who found it is a "historian" or not.... the question here is the suspicious nature of Khalidi and his apparent cover up. One doesn't cancel or have anything to do with the other.

Such cowardice in the practice of accusation is all too typical of the sort of atmosphere that is whirling around the campuses now. We must scotch it resoundingly. No anonymous charges--period.

NO ANONYMOUS CHARGES!! you should start a movement. Meanwhile, I think addressing the credibility of the apparently very credible discovery is the point here.
I haven't heard 1 refutation that the
1) Article was written
2) Posted for 4 years with Khalidi as the author
3) That the site immediately changed the name and tried to cover their tracks.
4) After the way back machine caught them they then said that the reason was it was an undetected 4 year error? lol!

If an anonymous person, a martian or Bella Lagose from the grave discovered this is not the point. Last time I checked Noam Chomsky counts Holocaust Deniers as having 'credible opinions' sometimes.

If it were news every time an anonymous complainant claimed that some historian had committed a fraud or some other transgression,the HNN would devolve into a grudge-and-gossip service. I don't think you want this to happen.

AGAIN YOU DON'T ADDRESS EVEN 1 POINT OF THE CREDIBILITY OF THE CLAIMS AND COVER UP.... YOUR AVOIDANCE IS THE MOST GLARING THING HERE.

If inquiring minds want to know whether an anonymous charge of plagiarism has any merit, your readers also deserve to know who is circulating these charges and whether they might not have an interest in the truth of the matter.

With that being said can you answer a questionnaire on your biases so we can better assess your commentary here. A census questionnaire should do.

Good journalistic practice entails this higher-order curiosity about who is asking which questions about whom, and why. Here would be an occasion for journalism that would amount to more than stenography.

Ah........ so whom discovered this and why he discovered it... like what was he doing when he discovered it? Was he watching tv, sitting in his basement, was he a "Zzzzzzionist"?, does he support the Bush Admin or worse yet Israel? these are important things to know.... Kind of like if the person who witnessed a murder in Alabama 80 years ago was a black or a Communist? Then that might put what 'he saw' in a different 'context'? eh??????


Mike Nargizian - 6/21/2005

ddf


Todd Gitlin - 6/19/2005

If it were news every time an anonymous complainant claimed that some historian had committed a fraud or some other transgression,the HNN would devolve into a grudge-and-gossip service. I don't think you want this to happen.

If inquiring minds want to know whether an anonymous charge of plagiarism has any merit, your readers also deserve to know who is circulating these charges and whether they might not have an interest in the truth of the matter. Good journalistic practice entails this higher-order curiosity about who is asking which questions about whom, and why. Here would be an occasion for journalism that would amount to more than stenography.

As for the visibility of the charge, your newsletter brought it to *my* attention--which is visibility enough.

Todd Gitlin


HNN - 6/18/2005

It was news that Prof. Khalidi's name had been associated with an article that is now proven to have been plagiarized. The news story straightforwardly reported this. Khalidi denied being the author. We reported this, as is standard journalism practice. One person on the Internet in an article that received some attention expressed suspicions that Khalidi might indeed have been the author despite his disavowals. We felt it incumbent to report this and then provide Khalidi's response to the claim. This too is standard journalism.

We did not banner the article PLAGIARISM. That would have been sensationalistic. Nor did we feature it on our homepage, which also would have been sensationalistic. In short, we did not headline this as a major story. We posted it along with many others in a long list of news stories.

In our newsletter we summarized the story in this way:

"Rashid Khalidi: A scholar writing anonymously proved that a website article credited to Rashid Khalidi, the Columbia University professor of Middle East studies, plagiarized other writers' work. Khalidi says his name never should have been attached to the article; he didn't write it."

This seems to me to have been a model of restraint.

Why do the story at all? Because we received inquiries from readers who wanted to know the truth about allegations and whispers they were hearing. Good journalism demanded that we run down the facts and publish them whether the person who brought this to our attention chose to remain anonymous or not.

Rick Shenkman
Editor of HNN


Todd Gitlin - 6/18/2005

Since when is HNN in the business of circulating scurrilous charges by "an historian who remains anonymous"? It seems to me that the essence of scholarly responsibility is that writers are responsible for their work, including their criticism. (Anyone who wishes to be viewed as a conservative, in particular, seems obliged to honor the conservative principle that character is decisive in every aspect of life. Skulking cowards, whatever their alibis, are persons of meager character.) "An historian who remains anonymous" is self-evidently no historian at all.

Such cowardice in the practice of accusation is all too typical of the sort of atmosphere that is whirling around the campuses now. We must scotch it resoundingly. No anonymous charges--period.