Qimron Threatens to Sue García Martínez for Character Defamation
As part of its campaign in the 1980s and early 1990s to obtain release of the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls, the Biblical Archaeology Society (publisher of BAR) reprinted from a Polish journal an unauthorized copy of the then-secret Dead Sea Scroll text known as MMT as reconstructed by Harvard’s John Strugnell and Elisha Qimron (above, left) of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
In 1992 Qimron sued BAS for copyright violation in the Jerusalem District Court and won.a The Israel Supreme court affirmed. The lawsuit cost BAS approximately $100,000. In addition to Qimron’s recovery of about $48,000, BAS was required to pay its own attorney and, under the Israeli system, Qimron’s attorney as well, in addition to other litigation expenses.
Strugnell and Qimron subsequently published MMT in a volume known to scholars as DJD X (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, Volume X), mentioned in the following communication from Professor Qimron.
The copy of MMT that BAS reprinted was such a poor facsimile that the brackets enclosing the reconstructions could not, for the most part, be identified. Hence, it was impossible to tell precisely what part of the text was original and what part was reconstructed. The court denied BAS’s request to be permitted to examine the unpublished manuscript of Strugnell and Qimron’s book.
When DJD X was published with a full disclosure of the reconstruction (and after the lawsuit was long over), leading Dead Sea Scroll scholar Florentino García Martínez (above, right), whose edition with 035translation of the scrolls is a standard work in the field, reviewed DJD X in The Journal for the Study of Judaism. With access to the reconstructed text, García Martínez was able to compare the finished product with early photographs of the small fragments. His findings were devastating: Strugnell (who had not joined Qimron in the lawsuit) reconstructed almost the entire text himself, long before Qimron had ever become involved in the project!
BAR reported García Martínez’s findings and invited Qimron to respond.b He initially declined the invitation. Then in the fall of 2002 (after our November/December issue had been sent to the printer we received the following statement from Qimron:
An Honest Answer to a Baseless Accusation
In Journal for the Study of Judaism 32 (2001), pp. 71–89, García Martínez published a review article on DJD X. This article is not at all a scholarly review, but rather deals with mainly personal matters. He claims that the composite reconstructed text of MMT was not prepared by me as I maintained, but by Strugnell. This is in complete contradiction of evidence accepted by the Court and the final verdict which granted me the sole copyright over this composite text. The Court decision was based on testimony given by both Strugnell and myself.
I was astonished to read these false charges. I never belittled the part of Strugnell in our joint publication. Even when Strugnell suggested to me that the title page of DJD X should be changed to reflect my greater contribution in the joint publication, I refused because of my respect for him and my gratitude for his having invited me to work with him on this project. In a paper in Reading MMT (ed. J. Kampen) on the preparation of the composite reconstructed text, I will fully acknowledge the importance of Strugnell’s contribution towards the establishment of the individual manuscripts.
The long discussion of García Martínez adds nothing to my short description there except for the ridiculous conclusion that it was mainly Strugnell who prepared the composite text of MMT.
In that paper, I gave three examples of how I established the composite text. I could add many more such examples. Suffice it to say that even after combining the six manuscripts, only 22 out of 114 lines of sections B and C of the composite text were fully preserved. Therefore, the understanding of most of the work is dependent on the reconstruction. This in fact was fully recognized by the Court, which granted me copyright only on the reconstructed part of the composite text (not on the preserved text). The Court further recognized that my research, readings and reconstructions were obviously inseparable.
It is difficult to understand why García Martínez chose not to contact Strugnell or me before publishing his false charges. It must further be emphasized that these false charges were published in BAR even before the article of García Martínez first appeared. The fact that both García Martínez and Hershel Shanks publish false charges in their magazines is surely immoral. Since the former is the initiator of these charges, I fully expect that he will reconsider, withdraw his false charges and apologize in print for defaming my character. Needless to say, I reserve the right to utilize all legitimate means at my disposal to redress this wrong if García Martínez chooses to ignore this demand.
Qimron included with this communication a postscript. The background is this:
In 1999, the University of Edinburgh’s Faculty of Divinity and the Shepherd and Wedderburn Centre for Research into Intellectual Property and Technology, along with Cornell University Law School, sponsored a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland on intellectual property law and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The invited speakers included Strugnell, chief scroll editor Emanuel Tov of Hebrew University and BAR editor Hershel Shanks. When the volume of conference papers was published, the editor, Timothy Lim of the University of Edinburgh, noted that Qimron did not give a paper at the conference and also declined an invitation to submit a post-conference response to be published in the conference volume.
BAR’s short review of this volume (Reviews, BAR 28:04) also reported on Qimron’s refusal to contribute to the Edinburgh conference volume.
In the following “Postscript,” Qimron explains why he initially declined to respond to García Martínez’s charges, and why he refused to participate in the Edinburgh conference or contribute to the volume of conference papers.
The above response was prepared a year ago to be published in BAR. After consultations, I decided to avoid further controversy and save my time and energy (and that of the reader as well) for better purposes. I had hoped that the obviously false charges would soon disappear without causing me serious damage. They seemed to me as the final swan-song of those who were not content with the court decision. From the article of García Martínez one can immediately see that he does not seem to understand or appreciate the essence of a composite-reconstructed-text.
Recently, Hershel Shanks repeated these false charges together with additional misleading information (Reviews, BAR 28:04). Reviewing the proceedings of a conference on intellectual property at the University of Edinburgh, he cynically quoted from the introduction the claim that I rejected the invitation to contribute a post-conference paper “without giving a reason.” He neglected to inform his readers that I was not initially invited to present a paper at this conference, despite the fact that the organizers surely understood that the issues being discussed were no less important to me than to Hershel Shanks (who was among the first to be invited). Why should I contribute, as an “afterthought,” to a forum in which I was surely not welcome?
Now that these false charges have been repeated and my opponents continue to attempt to sully my reputation, I feel that I must publish this response in my defense.
As part of its campaign in the 1980s and early 1990s to obtain release of the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls, the Biblical Archaeology Society (publisher of BAR) reprinted from a Polish journal an unauthorized copy of the then-secret Dead Sea Scroll text known as MMT as reconstructed by Harvard’s John Strugnell and Elisha Qimron (above, left) of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. In 1992 Qimron sued BAS for copyright violation in the Jerusalem District Court and won.a The Israel Supreme court affirmed. The lawsuit cost BAS approximately $100,000. In addition to Qimron’s recovery of about $48,000, BAS was required […]
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