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Rashid Khalidi - Plagiarist?

by Carlos

June 10, 2005 - Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. A number of blogs(1) are now reporting that he may be involved in an incidence of plagiarism. An article appeared on the website of the American Committee on Jerusalem under Khalidi's byline, entitled "Jerusalem: A Concise History"(2). It lifts practically verbatim several passages from an article by the late Kamil Jamil al-Asali published a decade ago.(3) Here is one example:


The oldest recorded name of the city, "Urusalem" is Amoritic. "Shalem" or "Salem" is the name of a Canaanite-Amorite god; "uru," means "founded by." 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. The Amorites had the same language as the Canaanites and were of the same Semitic stock. Many historians believe that they were an offshoot of the Canaanites, who came originally from the Arabian Peninsula. The Bible concurs that the Amorites are the original people of the land of Canaan.

Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem.
Thy birth and thy origin are of the land
of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite,
and thy mother a Hittite.
(Ezekiel, 16:1)

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.


Indeed, the oldest name of the city "Urusalem" is Amoritic. "Salem" or "Shalem" was the name of a Canaanite-Amorite god, while "uru" simply meant "founded by." 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. The Amorites, according to the Bible, are the original people of the land of Canaan. They had the same language as the Canaanites and were of the same Semitic stock. Many historians believe that the Amorites are an offshoot of the Canaanites who came originally from the Arabian Peninsula. In this regard it is apt to quote the Bible (Ezekiel: 16):
Thus say the Lord God to Jerusalem. Your Origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites, your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite.
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.

There are other examples, but this will suffice to show that Khalidi's article clearly copies from Asali's.

Now to consider the strangeness of it all:

If you now go to Khalidi's article, you will no longer find Khalidi's name attached to it. Instead of the name of an author, the article now states "Compiled by ACJ from a variety of sources." Yet Khalidi's name did appear on the article as its author for at least three and one-half years.(4) While the article's byline now states "a variety of sources," it does not mention which sources. Thus the reason for the change appears not to be a sudden interest in scholarly integrity - credit for the original source is still not given - but rather a desire to erase any association with Khalidi. Perhaps Khalidi or whoever ran the American Committee on Jerusalem got wind of the plagiarism charge and tried to cover it up.

But who did run the American Committee on Jerusalem while the article was posted under Khalidi's name? The answer is - Rashid Khalidi! An ACJ briefing during the period in which the article appeared under Khalidi's name lists Khalidi as ACJ President.(5) Khalidi bears full responsibility for the fact that a plagiarized article appeared under his name for a period of several years.

If Khalidi or the ACJ did in fact experience any remorse for this lapse of academic ethics, the proper act would have been to publish a retraction, naming the original source of the article. The fact that this was not done suggests that the intent was to hide the event rather than correct it.

The article itself is worth some comment. It is a tendentious exercise in historical fantasy with which Khalidi should have been ashamed to be associated in the first place. Its main idea is that the Palestinians of today are descendants of the ancient Canaanite tribes, who predated any Jewish presence in the Holy Land:

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.

These "Jebusites and Canaanites" supposedly adopted Islam when the Arabs conquered the region in the seventh century. Their descendants, and not the descendants of those Arabs, constitute today's Palestinians:

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 majority of the native Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim Arabs, are of a mixed race whose connection with the land reaches back into very early history. Conquerors and settlers who followed in the wake of military success and political control were only a small minority of the continuing historic population. This population of Palestinians are the historic people of the land.

This is a racially motivated argument, with no historical foundation, meant to delegitimize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. But if one considers the implications of this argument, its racism turns against itself. What is actually being claimed is that the Palestinians are not Arabs! The Arabs are a Semitic people. The Canaanites were descendants of Ham (Genesis 9:18). This should offend Palestinian Arabs - non-Arabs by this reckoning - who are traditionally proud of being the descendants of Abraham and Ishmael. Indeed, Palestinian Arabs have often liked to assert their claim to being more authentic Semites than Jews, whom many of them see as bastardized Europeans. George Saliba, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Science at Columbia University, once told a Jewish graduate student: "You have no claim to the land of Israel... no voice in this debate. You have green eyes, you're not a true Semite. I have brown eyes, I'm a true Semite."(6) Wouldn't he be surprised to discover from his esteemed colleague Professor Khalidi that Palestinians are actually not true Semites and even less Semitic than most Jews.

The attempt to attack a nation's right to exist on racial grounds is despicable. Whether or not he wishes to claim authorship, Khalidi should be ashamed to have such an article featured on a web site with which he is associated. The fact is that two peoples, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, are living side by side. Historical circumstances brought them there. The only sensible position is to grant the legitimacy of each, and to stop playing these racial games. Just as it makes no sense for Jews to deny the existence of a Palestinian people, so it makes no sense for Arabs to deny the presence and the history of the Jewish people in Israel. Yet the officially sanctioned Arab media are still full of race-based incitement against Jews. At the very least, American university professors should be held to a higher standard.


1. "Rashid Khalidi, Plagiarism, and Me," Boker Tov, Boulder!, June 8, 2005; "Rashid Khalidi: A Case of Plagiarism? Solomonia, June 8, 2005.

2. "Jerusalem: A Concise History," American Committee on Jerusalem.

3. K. J. Asali, "Jerusalem in History," Arab Studies Quarterly, vol. 16 no. 4, fall 1994.

4. Checking the article's URL at shows that from February 27, 2001 through at least October 23, 2004 the article appeared with Rashid Khalidi as the author.

5. Press Release: 'Prospects of a Shared Jerusalem'," American Committee on Jerusalem, April 5, 2001.

6. Douglas Feiden, "Hate 101: Climate of hate rocks Columbia University," New York Daily News, November 21, 2004.

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