Blogs > Cliopatria > Khalidi Accused ...

Jun 9, 2005 9:18 pm


Khalidi Accused ...



Just within the last 24 hours, accusations of plagiarism against Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University's Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies and Literature, have appeared on the net. The accusations seem first to have appeared yesterday in"Rashid Khalidi ... A Case of Plagiarism?" on Solomonia.com, a pseudonymous blog. It appears obvious from the blog post that a third party is using the blogger to surface the charges and evidence. They have subsequently been picked up in Lee Kaplan's"Rashid Khalidi: Plagiarist?" Front Page Rag, 9 June, which is urging readers to contact Austin Quigley, Dean of the Faculty at Columbia College. Undoubtedly, he is now being inundated with calls and e-mail.

I've not yet had time to evaluate the evidence that is offered. Simply because the charges have been picked up by Front Page Rag does not mean that they are false. On the other hand, Kaplan needs to learn that two secondary accounts' inclusion of the same quotation of a primary source does not constitute plagiarism. Above all, Professor Khalidi is innocent unless or until he is adjudged otherwise by his peers.
Update: After examining the evidence presented at Solomonia.com, I believe that: 1) the author of"Jerusalem: A Concise History" crossed the line of acceptable paraphrase from Kamil Jamil el Asali,"Jerusalem in History: Notes on the Origins of the City and Its Traditions of Tolerance," Arab Studies Quarterly, XVI (Fall 1994); and 2) the implicit evidence of a crude cover-up, as indicated by this ascription of authorship compared with the Wayback Machine's recovery of prior ascription, is additionally damaging.


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Ralph E. Luker - 6/11/2005

I do, too, Oscar. One style, in the past, was simply to cover up the ethical violations. Then, we set up means of examining charges in the AHA. Then, we abandoned them. The AHA might have self-insured against litigation claims, but it chose not to. That seems to me, in retrospect, a mistake.


Oscar Chamberlain - 6/11/2005

Ralph,

I'd be a lot more comfortable if I simply thought you were wrong. But I truly don't know. It may turn out that, on average, this sort of unfettered and uncontrolled publicity will be the best available way to deal with alledged problems. And certainly, it seems that most of the cases that have been publicized or debated over a prolonged period have had some substance to them.

I do wish for a better way, though.


Adam Kotsko - 6/10/2005

I chuckled when you clarified that the mere appearance of a statement in Front Page Rag does not render it false. That's more credit than Horowitz probably gives to partisan rags like U.S. News & World Report.


Alastair Mackay - 6/10/2005

For better or worse, Oscar may be shown to be correct, in one of these instances of 'trial-by-blog.' Some aggrieved party (left or right) will take note of some of the most inflammatory comments (right or left) that arise, identify defandants, become a plaintiff in a libel suit--and score a court victory. Even in some cases of genuinely scurrilous behavoir, it seems likely that the accused would be able to demonstrate innocence as far as particular alleged actions.

On the whole, the blog effect seems to be to shine a public light where, previously, facts were known only to a few. This seems to me like a healthy trend for a civil society. One I wish was accompanied by countervailing forces of a similar magnitude, pushing in the direction of moderation and restraint.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2005

Oscar, I appreciate this. In many ways, it is you at your best. But, with all due respect, I don't agree with you. Anyone making charges has to be well aware that they can be held accountable to liability charges. That's a pretty good restraining influence on most rational human beings. Have you urged restraint on Ward Churchill, who didn't mind taking an affirmative action position at UC based on fraudulent claims to an ethnic heritage that wasn't his, who has repeatedly published irresponsible stuff that has violated plagiarism and copyright rules, and who now shamelessly holds UC up to a Hobson's choice of buying him out now or living with him into the foreseeable future. What's the excuse for silence? When does silence become complaisance? You seem not embarrassed by the fact that we gave our highest book award to fraudulent work and our highest article award to an article that wouldn't bear close examination. Maybe we did so because those who passed out awards had nuanced judgment.


Oscar Chamberlain - 6/10/2005

More and more I am getting uncomfortable with investigation and trial by blog. There are legitimate arguments in favor of careful publicity of accusations--particularly given the numerous venues for careless or even malicious accusations on the web. I think the argument in favor is particularly strong when the details of the accusations and the evidence are all available.

However, just as people can be damned with faint but accurate praise, they can also be damned with partial, but accurate, truths.

In this case, these seems to be considerable evidence easily available that can be examined. I will leave it to others to work through it and decide how complete it is.

But, and here is the core of my discomfort, with the blogosphere, as with traditional news media, the advantage is always with the attacker. This is why the most effective defenses on the web are counter-attacks, and the nuanced judgement is lost all too easily.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2005

I take your point about stepping back. The risks of undue smearing are real. On the other hand, it's done in a notoriously litigious society, which is probably why the AHA withdrew in the first place. In fact, at relatively little cost to individual members, it might have insured itself against litigation costs. What was embarrassing in 2002 was that most of those who pressed accusations against us were _not_ within the profession and they made their cases in spite of the possibility of litigation. They knew that the best defense against damage suits was to be absolutely scrupulous about whatever accusations they made and to underplay the accusations rather than to overplay their hand.


Manan Ahmed - 6/10/2005

If the AHA has dropped the ball, why don't we use the internets to create a Academic Ethics Board - to which faculty members can acquire membership to [voluntarily] and which can have a decent board of PROFESSIONALS who can review cases and make pronouncements [non-binding yada yada]. Publishers could even pre-emptively get a book certified "100% Grade A" with a sticker on the cover! I am just saying, let's take a step back....


Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2005

I don't recommend that we "call the president of the University on his cell phone now," though clearly that is what Front Page Rag had in mind. What became pretty clear to me in 2002, however, is that our traditional vehicles of peer review have not been serving us very well. So badly that the AHA has abandoned all pretense of reviewing violations of professional ethics. In doing so, it threw us pell mell into the hands of those who would "call the president of the University on his cell phone now" because the employer is the only remaining venue with authority. One alternative is the net, where evidence can be laid out and we are able to reach our own conclusions. Even at that, our individual judgments will not have powerful consequences and individuals like Churchill are even demonstrating that employers can be hamstrung in delivering effective judgments. Buy out his tenure, the lawyer tells UC, and he'll think about retirement. Otherwise, this case goes to court and the U will pay the equivalent in lawyer's fees -- while paying Churchill his handsome salary to teach and he will ultimately retire in his own good time without ever having paid any significant penalty for his ethical misconduct on a number of fronts.


Manan Ahmed - 6/10/2005

er, "investigate withOUT condemning" would be closer to my intentions there.


Manan Ahmed - 6/10/2005

Ralph: I was referring more to these recent cases of "he said that!?" followed by lots of steam and vitriol and "call the President of the University on his cell phone now" and all that. There is more than a whiff of blog-driven madness to these cases.
Academy must police itself, I agree. But I ask: What is the proper venue to "investigate with condemning" within the academic world? I don't think the blogosphere is the correct answer.



Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2005

Manan, I agree with your first point and that's why my update said "the author of" rather than "Khalidi." On the scandal-mongering thing, I suppose my question for you is: how does an academic community monitor itself about these things if we refuse to discuss these things because they are distasteful? For years, I didn't think about them and then 2002 made clear that there were some substantial violations of professional ethics being committed by historians. Perhaps the scandals made less of an impression on you because the violations occurred primarily among historians of the United States. Once we had given our highest book award to a book that committed most of the violations that you can imagine, except plagiarism, and our highest article award to an article that wouldn't bear scrutiny, it seemed to me, we American historians, at least, could no longer afford _not_ to discuss these things. I take it that your point is that it is historians of the Left who are targeted and held accountable. Jon Wiener has argued that case, but I don't agree with him. Bellesiles described himself to me, at least, as a conservative. I don't acknowledge that Churchill is of the Left.


Manan Ahmed - 6/10/2005

This being the internets, we would first have to ascertain whether or not Khalidi actually wrote that. I do think the site should note why they changed the byline - whether it was a mistake in the first place...etc.
Also, this whole scandal-mongering is really leaving a bad taste in my academic mouth. WC, Massad, Shortell...the pattern is quite predictable, isn't it?


Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2005

How often have we heard it said that "It's the cover-up that gets you into trouble"?


John H. Lederer - 6/10/2005

"But it wasn't: it's an internet resource without peer-review or, presumably, publication credit attached. Is there anything that needs to be done, other than directing vibes of disopprobrium in Columbia's already embattled direction?"

Is the major concern that a plagiarist steals from the original author, or that the public is misled about authorship and thus the ethos to attach to the material?

Seems to me both are concerns in plagiarism, and in an article published in the form this was, ethos is the major concern.

Certainly the original posting seemed concerned with the ethos of the ones raising the charges.

Note the difference is not minor. If the problem is stealing another's professional credit, then peers may be the appropiate judges. If the problem is one of misleading the public (to whom the article was presumably directed) then the "reasonable person" would be the appropiate judge.

T


Robert KC Johnson - 6/10/2005

Agreed. The odd thing about this is his removing his name as the author, without explanation, after questions were raised.


Ralph E. Luker - 6/9/2005

I assume that your student's essays don't have peer review either, so I'm not sure that that makes any difference. But I can understand your question about this. If HNN can reproduce the words of a source without putting them in quotation marks or indentation, one might say that Khalidi at least mixed it up a bit.


Jonathan Dresner - 6/9/2005

OK, I've read the material, too and I agree with your conclusions (and "Solomon"'s) that this constitutes plagiarism. If it had come in as a student essay, it'd be grounds for failure, etc.

But it wasn't: it's an internet resource without peer-review or, presumably, publication credit attached. Is there anything that needs to be done, other than directing vibes of disopprobrium in Columbia's already embattled direction?