Sunday, January 19, 2014

Foolproof Full Prof

2013 ended on a high note for both me & Dr. Oded Lipschits:

  • I was ranked #60 of 15,078 men in America who competed in skyscraper staircase racing during 2013, & #12 of 1,617 men in my age division (50-59).
  • Despite being publicly accused of plagiarism by me & Professor Emeritus David Ussishkin, Dr. Lipschits received a promotion from Associate Professor to Full Professor.

We each overcame tremendous odds, didn't we?!?!

What are the chances of a donut-mongering, desk-ridden, over-50 engineer/programmer ending up in the Top 1% of what is arguably the most grueling single athletic competition?!

What are the chances of a major-university educator getting promoted after its president (Joseph Klafter), rector (Aron Shai), & dept. dean (Eyal Zisser) had been shown multiple violations of their own Code of Honor & Academic Integrity?! According to Rector Shai, "the promotion was approved with flying colors ... [by] about 30 professors [who] studied all aspects of the issue."

Can't help but wonder if one of the aspects they studied was the E-mail Full Prof. Lipschits sent to me in 2005 thanking me for the gratis copy of my book, assuring me he would make use of it. I wonder if someone from TAU's IT dept. was one of those "about 30" who could retrieve it from their server's archive... For that matter, I wonder if someone from TAU's Math dept. was among them. How hard would it have been to actually count the names of the specific professors who studied the issue rather than simply estimate them?

Anyway, in light of this gross display of incompetency over a tremendously simple matter, I believe it would be appropriate for Klafter, Shai, & Zisser to resign. If they don't, Tel Aviv University risks becoming known as Ichabod University as more people of integrity (students & faculty) learn about this affair. Right now the ability of TAU's administrative staff to enforce their Honor Code seems like a meat market advertising kosher pork.

[Note: Oddly enough, TAU does not maintain a static copy of their Ethics Code online, but embeds it in each semester's course booklet, which is removed/replaced each semester as if it were a worthless piece of garbage. For example, here's a static link to my alma mater's Academic Policies & Procedures, which defines "dishonesty" in no uncertain terms. So in order to preserve the one I referenced in my blog last year (now pointing to a defunct TAU link) lest anyone far off in the future think I hallucinated TAU ever having such a policy, I'm storing an illegal/unauthorized copy at for everyone's convenience.]

The year, however, did not end so well for Dr. Israel Finkelstein. You'll recall that in 2012 he published a special editorial note in TAU's peer-reviewed journal explaining that Lipschits merely made an "honest oversight" by not crediting my book & drawings, which are in the public domain. Fortunately, Lipschits figuratively threw his esteemed friend's reputation under the bus, & clarified the matter for the editorial staff of ZDPV (a peer-reviewed journal published in Germany). Rather than express an apology for making another honest oversight, he simply told the truth & took full credit for my drawings as being an original work of his own.

If that seems strange, it's not. It is the middle ground between light & shadow, between science & superstition, & it lies between the pit of man's fears & the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The TAU Zone!

You see, the tables have turned, for I recently received a meticulous comparison of an article written by Full Prof. Lipschits, as well as one written by another eminent professor (recently deceased), Helmer Ringgren. And it appears that Ringgren plagiarized Lipschits!

Lipschits in 2010 (L10): "Usually the verb is connected to the growth of plants, but also to the growth of hair. In one case the verb was used to symbolize the healing of the skin..."

Ringgren in 2003 (R03): "The verb is associated first of all with the life of plants. In a more general sense, smh refers to the growth of hair or of healing skin."

L10: "In two cases the verb in the Hiphil was connected to QRN ('horn'). In Ps 132:17 it seems that the horn is a symbol for the growing power and eternity of the king, while in Ezek 29:21 it symbolizes the growing power of Israel."

R03: "The hiphil twice takes the obj. QRN qeren, 'horn.' ... The horn symbolizes power, particularly that of the king... Ezekiel picks up this imagery and associates it with Israel, asserting that the people will receive new power."

L10: "In Jer 23:5; 33:15-16 and in Zech 3:8; 6:12-13 semah became a messianic title..."

R03: "In Jeremiah and Zechariah, semah has become a messianic title."

L10: "According to Jer 23:5, the Lord will raise up to David semah saddiq..."

R03: "According to Jer. 23:5, Yahweh will raise up for David a semah saddiq..."

L10: "In 33: 15-16 this oracle is reinterpreted and the name yhwh sidqenu is transferred to Jerusalem."

R03: "The oracle is reinterpreted in 33:15-16, though here the name 'Yahweh is our righteousness' is transferred to Jerusalem."

The full bibliographical citations are:

  • "'Here Is a Man Whose Name Is Semah' (Zechariah 6:10)" by Oded Lipschits (2010) in "The Historian and the Bible: Essays in Honour of Lester L. Grabbe", edited by Philip R. Davies & Diana V. Edelman; T & T Clark International, New York NY, pp. 124-136.
  • "'Samah' or 'Semah'" by Rinngren (2003 English translation) in "Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament: Volume XII (Pasah-Qum)", edited by G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI / Cambridge UK, pp. 409-413.

You may download a courtesy copy of a detailed comparison via (now permanently stored in the same folder as TAU's Code of Honor; & no, that's not ironic).

LMLKologists may not be familiar with Prof. Ringgren; however, they will recognize the author of this comparison, Dr. Benjamin Sass. He is the well-known co-author of the 1997 reference tome, "Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals" with the late Nahman Avigad. The section on "Hebrew jar-handle impressions" formed the first exhaustive, photographic listing of LMLK Personal seals.

It is such a shame to see the hard work performed by Full Prof. Lipschits on the name ($MH in Hebrew, "Branch" in English) engraved into this important jar-handle seal cited almost verbatim by Ringgren in his word-definition article; but as a Christian, I see no other way around this conclusion: Clearly Ringgren misused his gift of prophetic vision back in 2003 by utilizing what Full Prof. Lipschits wrote in 2010, some 7 years before it was even published.

Seeing this as the only sensible interpretation of the circumstances here in The TAU Zone, I'm reminded of the statement by TAU's Archaeology dept. regarding the use of a mechanical excavator at Tel Socoh by Dr. Yuval Goren, which was distributed online after Dr. Robert Deutsch had placed advertisements in BAR magazine to make the archeological world aware of what Goren did: macro-searching for the remains of an ancient LMLK workshop.

As only someone with prophetic vision would know in advance whether an area to be excavated with a large piece of machinery did not contain any delicate archeological data (such as the inscriptions on LMLK seals, possibly discarded with pottery slag), it will be interesting to see if any of the same faculty members will likewise defend Lipschits in a public statement as they did for Goren.

Maybe even Dr. Robert Cargill (who took the time to meticulously analyze Simcha Jacobovici's ossuary photos pixel by pixel) will use his amazingly detailed detective skills to see if there is "something quite foul coming from" Europe in order to defend his Azekah-excavation partner! Besides, which is a more egregious academic crime:

  • A TV/movie host misrepresenting an ossuary image in a public forum where there is no established Honor Code?
  • An antiquities dealer placing advertisements in a popular-audience magazine (where again there is no established Honor Code) showing excavations conducted via large-scale machinery?
  • Or, a university professor aiding & abetting dishonesty in a peer-reviewed academic publication with an agreed-upon Honor Code?

We'll have to wait & see. I don't have the same gift of prophetic vision that Ringgren had, nor that which those TAU faculty members must have. Speaking of prophets...

"Wherefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe to [TAU], to the pot whose scum is therein, and whose scum is not gone out of it!" (Ezekiel 24:6).

Here's a photo of yours truly this morning, posing with a "dear" friend. If such a device is IAA approved for excavations of LMLK workshop slag (possibly containing inscriptions a few millimeters long), I'm hoping my use of it here can serve as a reminder for the need to remove academic scum:

If any archeologists need to use similar machinery for their excavation, they should compare the rental costs of the equipment to the hourly wage of TAU faculty members, many of whom are experts at digging holes for themselves.

G.M. Grena


Peter said...

Dear George,

Many thanks for this well stated comparison on the late Professor Ringgren's ability to prophetically plagiarize waht Full Professor Lipschits would write a full (!) seven years later... Why can so many not see (or do they not want to see) what is happening out there at TAU?
Good work, many thanks. Best wishes
Peter van der Veen

Todd Bolen said...

George – congratulations on your amazing finish! You are advanced at an astonishing pace. (I think they got your age group wrong though!)

As far as plagiarism, a few thoughts. First, there should be a better way to deal with these matters than in shrill blogposts. I understand your frustration that the proper authorities seem to have ignored matters in the past. Second, administrators make mistakes but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be fired for each one. Third, the examples of plagiarism are less impressive in the original document than in your post (where you’ve necessarily condensed matters). Some of the “copying” may well just be research that discovers the same facts. Much of what is highlighted is very basic info that anyone working on the subject would know. Some may reflect too heavy of a reliance on one of his sources (a standard reference in the field), but that is not clear to me based on the work that is not included in Sass’s summary (to judge from the ellipses). It also is not clear from this if there are footnotes that reference Ringgren’s work. I think I would need to see more to judge if there is a real transgression here or not.

G.M. Grena said...

Thanks for the remarks from Drs. van der Veen & Bolen. I agree that there should be a better way to deal with these matters than in shrill blogposts. How about a Professor Emeritus sending a private letter to the university officials responsible for upholding said institution's Honor Code? To reiterate a point I've made before, my preferred method was subtly presented in 2010 on soon after Dr. Lipschits & his students plagiarized me. My subsequent posts herein are due to several factors, the primary one being the perpetrators' lack of repentance/acknowledgment after seeing my BibleInterp article; & the secondary one being from several other people (scholars / professors / archeologists / students) who asked me to speak out against this intellectual crime because there have been other, less-blatant instances of misconduct observed; but the one involving me is so obvious, that if I were to remain ambivalent or apathetic, it would passively endorse the other acts, & to a certain extent make me an accomplice to them. I've served jury duty where I've learned about the importance of circumstantial evidence. When the Ringgren issue is viewed in isolation, your skepticism is understandable; nonetheless, I didn't draft or agree to TAU's Honor Code, which states that TAU's staff "will not under any circumstance tolerate" the types of violations that have occurred. As for administrators not deserving to be fired for each mistake, I disagree; nonetheless, I have not called for anyone at TAU to be fired/terminated or expelled. I would prefer seeing TAU transform into an institution that upholds/teaches Christian principles. I believe a person of integrity would recognize the severity of his/her mistake in this situation, & resign. In OT times, it was a king's prerogative to "lift up the head" of a guilty person.

G.M. Grena said...

Todd, do you really believe that if there were "footnotes that reference Ringgren's work" that: 1) Sass & Ussishkin would not have noticed them prior to presenting the evidence to TAU's administrative staff, & 2) someone of the Cargill, West, Zias, Thompson, Lemche ilk would not have trumpeted it by now?

The silence from that crowd on this scandal proves all my aforementioned points. This actually shows they've learned from Vanderhooft's mistake, which is encouraging!

And while it may be common or acceptable for an undergraduate student to copy "a standard reference in the field" verbatim, do you really think it's appropriate for a PhD professor who has agreed to not submit material that in part is not entirely his own work without attributing it to the correct source?

G.M. Grena said...

Courtesy cross-reference link to comments on Wordpress version (including a link to download the full PDF, where Todd Bolen can see "if there are footnotes that reference Ringgren's work." Of course there ain't any, exactly what we'd expect if Ringgren was the culprit.