Plagiarism accusations

BY ALDER@LAW.HARVARD.EDU

PLEASE NOTE, THERE IS A LOT OF QUOTED MATERIAL IN THIS EMAIL, WHICH APPEARS TO BE LOST IN THE FORMATTING OF THIS BOX. I WOULD LIKE TO SUBMIT IT AS A WORD ATTACHMENT. PLS CALL US AT 6-2187 OR EMAIL US TO PROVIDE AN EMAIL ADDRESS WHERE WE MAY SEND IT.THANKS, JANE WAGNER FOR ALAN DERSHOWITZ

To the editor:

Kyle Hudson’s (04) letter to the editor is long on rage but shorts on facts. Hudson says “I believe Professor Dershowitz used the same gambit during his own attribution flap.” The reference to a “gambit” suggests that I used research assistants to write The Case for Israel and then blamed them for a problem of attribution. First, there was no problem of attribution. My biased accuser claimed that I cited the quotations in question to their original sources, rather than to their secondary sources. Yes I did, and that is the correct method of attribution. I have asked Harvard Law School’s distinguished librarian for an opinion on this issue and he has concluded as follows:

Should an author (1) who wants to use a quotation from another author (2) that he found while reading the work of a third author (3) cite to the original source (2) or to the work (3) that cited it?

It is common practice in both legal and non-legal citation to cite to the original source. [Sources Cited].

If a legal writer reads a passage from the Constitution or from a Restatement of the Law land wants to use that passage himself in a piece he is writing, he will not cite to the quoting work but to the original. Generally speaking, the legal reader is interested in the quality of the argument and the weight of the authority, not the trail of research undertaken by the author.

Are there exceptions? As explained by the Chicago Manual, when the original source is not available to the author, a respected transcription may be used. Furthermore, where the original source might be difficult for most readers to locate, a citation to a more accessible source – preferably additional to the original – might be a service to the reader. Situations can also arise in literary criticism where how one author uses the words of another is closely analyzed. In that case, clarity might require quoting the quoter rather than the original source. But the general rule is to cite the first source not the repeater.

I believe this was your instinct and I think you are certainly correct.

My accuser – – who has made similarly unfounded accusations against other pro-Israel writers, including Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel, and who compared me to Adolph Eichmann – – falsely accused me of plagiarism, despite the fact that I did not borrow a single sentence, phrase or idea from anyone else without using quotation marks and a proper citation. That is why James O. Freedman, the former president of Dartmouth, the University of Iowa, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, stated:

I do not understand the charge of plagiarism against Alan Dershowitz. There is no claim that Dershowitz used the words of others without attribution. When he uses the words of others, he quotes them properly and generally cites them to the original sources (Mark Twain, Palestine Royal Commission, etc.) [Finkelstein’s] complaint is that instead he should have cited them to the secondary source, in which Dershowitz may have come upon them. But as the Chicago Manual of Style emphasizes:

Importance of attribution. With all reuse of others’ materials, it is important to identify the original as the source. This not only bolsters the claims of fair use, it also helps avoid any accusation of plagiarism.

This is precisely what Dershowitz did. Moreover, many of the sources quoted both by Dershowitz and Peters are commonly quoted in discussions of this period of Palestinian history. Nor can it be said that Dershowitz used Peters’ ideas without attribution. He cites Peters seven times in the early chapter of his book, while making clear that he does not necessarily accept her conclusions. This is simply not plagiarism, under any reasonable definition of that word.

Moreover, I wrote every word of the text of The Case for Israel by hand (the hand-written manuscript is available in my office.) I blamed nothing on research assistants for two reasons: first, there was nothing warranting any blame; second, I wrote the book myself. It was wrong, therefore, for The Record to include me as part of the plagiarism problem. I was the victim of a false and politically motivated accusation of plagiarism.

Sincerely,Alan Dershowitz

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