Sept 11 Journal

~ Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Tanweer Akram sent following letter to The Havard Crimson. It appears that the editors have decided not to publish it.
October 4, 2003
Editorial Board
The Harvard Crimson
14 Plymouth St.,
Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear Editor:

Alan Dershowitz’s Letter (“Professor Dershowtiz ‘Rest His Case,’” Harvard Crimson, October 3, 2003) is a pathetic performance coming from one of the most prominent lawyers in the United States. The wholesale lifting of quotations, from Joan Peters’ fraudulent book From Time Immemorial (1984) cannot be intellectually or morally justified (see for a table documenting this). It is simply not acceptable practice to use more than 20 exact quotes from another book, without making due acknowledgments.

Finkelstein’s example that Dershowitz had even resorted to replicating Peters’ invented phrase, “turnspeak,” is quite funny. I recall it was Orwell who wrote:

A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

[Orwell, “Politics and the English Language.” Full essay reproduced in:].

Indeed, a “reduced state of consciousness” characterizes many propagandists rationalizing Israel’s control of Palestinian territories.

Dershowitz proves nothing by engaging in an ad hominem attack on Professor Finkelstein and by labeling him and Alexander Cockburn as “fabricators.” In fact Finkelstein’s scholarly work has been praised among others by Christopher R. Browning, Raul Hilberg, Ian Kershaw, Arno Mayer, and William Quandt. His four books, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, The Rise and Fall of Palestine, A Nation on Trial, and The Holocaust Industry are major contributions, which were highly regarded by experts.

Finkelstein’s scholarship is guided by universal humanitarian values, as taught by his parents, both of whom lived through the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi concentrations camps. Whereas Dershowitz has rationalized collective punishment against Palestinian villagers and denied that Israel uses torture on Palestinians, Finkelstein has expressed solidarity with Palestinians living under illegal military occupation. Whatever the politics, one does expect that Harvard law professors shall abide by minimum standards of scholarship and give appropriate citations of source materials, demonstrate some judgment when basing their research on established hoaxes, and ensure that George Orwell’s elegant English is not disfigured.


Tanweer Akram

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