Alan Dershowitz and the Politics of Desperation

From a piece I’ve just posted in the Huffington Post:

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern in Alan Dershowitz’s recent HuffPo columns.

On April 21 he smeared Jeremy Ben Ami and the pro-peace, pro-Israel lobbying group J Street, putting words in Ben Ami’s mouth and saying that J Street has “gone over to the dark side.”

On May 4 it was Rabbi Michael Lerner, a leading figure of the American Jewish left, and editor of Tikkun Magazine. Dershowitz accused Tikkun of “McCarthyism,” disregarded the recent attack on Lerner’s home, and characterized Lerner’s criticism of Israeli policy as “blood libel.”

In between the two, Dershowitz lambasted Judge Richard Goldstone, the highly regarded international jurist who prepared a UN report on Israel’s Gaza War. He labeled the report as “evil” and attacked me and a group of American rabbis for having the temerity to find merit in Goldstone’s work – we are “bigoted,” apparently, and “ignorant,” and are – yes – leveling a “blood libel” against the Israeli government. Most recently, Dershowitz hit a new low when he went on Israeli television and compared Judge Goldstone to Dr. Joseph Mengele.

When a Jew starts to accuse rabbis of blood libel; when an American shouts “McCarthyism” at an American magazine editor whose life is dedicated to dialogue; when a professional, highly experienced lawyer accuses a world-renown jurist of “evil,” equating him with the Nazi “Angel of Death,” and uses Star Wars terminology against a legitimate, widely-supported political lobbying group – well, it adds up, and it indicates one thing: Desperation.

Click here to read the entire article.

13 thoughts on “Alan Dershowitz and the Politics of Desperation

  1. I would say it’s a promising indicator of an opening in this conversation which has been closed for so long.

  2. Have you read Dershowitz’s 50-page evidential analysis of the Goldstone report? He’s not just throwing ad hominem attacks around, and implying that that is all Dershowitz does is, indeed, libel.

    1. I have read the Goldstone report and I have read Dershowitz’s response to it. I believe it is a stretch to call it an “evidential analysis.” And I would characterize it as an ad hominem attack, as he attempts to vilify the authors and discredit the report, as opposed to responding to its content.

      The Goldstone report dealt with a handful of very specific instances. Dersh’s response, like many of its detractors, does not even address these instances. Instead he relies on a logical tautology (“The IDF is the Most Moral Army in the World because it never commits war crimes, ergo the IDF could not have committed war crimes because it’s the MMAW.”) to prove that the report is flawed at the outset.
      He takes IDF statistics over those of B’Tselem, and many of his citations come from IDF spokespersons or one article by Ethan Bronner.

      If one doesn’t want to take the time to read his article in its entirety, a read-through of the endnotes should give you an idea of the scholarly integrity of the paper.

      1. That’s simply a false characterization of Dershowitz. He addresses the information he has access to, namely the Goldstone report. He couldn’t possibly respond to the specific instances as he isn’t in a position to do a full-scale investigation. He is, however, in a position to read the Goldstone report and see if the methodology is intellectually honest, which he did.

        He reference’s Bronner’s article a grand total of seven times (there are over 200 endnotes). These citations are explicitly intended to report various responses to the Goldstone report, and most of them come in the introduction. He’s not using the Bronner article for its statistics.

        I’d be interested for you to point out where in the article he uses your tautology because I don’t see it.

        Maybe the problem is that I said “evidential analysis.” Dershowitz calls it “evidentiary,” and that’s what I meant. He analyzes how the Mission used the data available to them and demonstrates a bias. He also says that the bias shouldn’t be surprising, as all four members of the Mission had made statements before their mission illustrating that they already knew what they would find.

      2. I was actually thinking of going through and breaking apart Dershowitz’s argument for you, but I decided it wasn’t appropriate to take over Brant’s blog to do so. Moreover, Goldstone himself has responded to all of the allegations already (http://www.brandeis.edu/now/2009/november/gazaforumcoverage.html), and much more eloquently than I could.

        You are correct in him not actually stating my presentation of the self-evident hypothesis, though he does relate official IDF talking points without question or editorializing. Ultimately, I still maintain that it is an opinion piece, he is certainly entitled to his opinion. But I don’t believe he is in any better position to analyze the report than you or me, or anyone with an internet connection. You find his argument convincing. I do not. (I encourage anyone following this dialogue to read his article and bibliography, and, of course, read the UN Fact Finding Mission’s report as well.)

        Ultimately, though, the whole thing is a distraction, an attempt to take the focus off the real issues at hand. The Goldstone Report, like an unpaid credit card bill, is not going to go away just because we choose to ignore it. I agree wholeheartedly when Brant says “It’s time for Jewish leaders in Israel, America, and around the world to grapple with the difficult truths of Israel’s occupation and its treatment of the Palestinian people.”
        We, as a community, need to decide how we will fix our problems, rather than attacking the messengers.

  3. Brant,

    Thought you might be interested in these two items:

    1. An Open Letter to Elie Wiesel in the letters section of the current issue of the New York Review of Books (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/may/27/open-letter-elie-wiesel/)

    2. Harold Bloom’s article in last Sunday’s NYT’s Sunday Book Review (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/books/review/Bloom-t.html?src=me&ref=books)

    I was disappointed in Bloom’s piece, ’cause I have a soft-spot for the old curmudgeon.

    Best,

    Colin

  4. Keep telling the truth. Don’t be intimidated by the “desperate”! We need your voice to defend OUR Jewish heritage, one centered on justice, honesty and compassion. Unfortunately, Mr. Dershowitz is not only desperate, but also well funded, by powerful interests within the American establishment. I do NOT mean just the “Jewish” establishment. Ultimately this is NOT about defending Israel, since it is obviously in Israel’s interests to settle NOW (by accepting the Saudi peace proposal, for instance) when it is (still) in a position of absolute military superiority. Dershowitz and other hysterics attacking the Human Rights criticism of Israeli policy are defending one vision of American Hegemony over MidEast oil, a strategy entirely willing to sacrifice the long-term interests of Israeli PEOPLE along with International Law, Peace, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, etc, etc. for greed. Blood (and every human value) for OIL.

    1. John Weber-
      I have never understood the slogan “No Blood for Oil”.
      Oil is absolutely vital to modern civilation. If the oil supply were cut off to the world, there would be a complete collapse of its transportation system and electricity, in addition to important manufacturing processes for things like plastics. Food production and tranportation would plummet, leading to mass famine, disease, civil disorder and the like.
      Japan went to war with the US, Britain and the Netherlands in 1941 because the US cut off their oil supply, so they decided they needed to conquer the Dutch East Indies (the Indonesia of today) to replace it.
      I can think of no better reason to go to war than to protect a nation’s oil supply and to keep them out of the hands of radical, irresponsible governments who would have the power to strangle those who use the oil.
      Also should radicals get control of countries like Saudi Arabia and other major oil producers, and instead of simply shutting down production, the decided to raise the price of oil to $500 per barrel, this would cause major ecenomic dislocation that, again, could cause serious problems in countries with weak economies, again, possibly leading to famine and disorder.

      So there is no better reason to go to war or to manipulate foreign policy than to ensure a safe, constant supply of oil at reasonable prices.

      1. Wow, hadnt expected to read such a passionate defence of Japanese aggression in WW2 on this blog. I’ve reread it a number of times, but if you’re being ironic you’ve certainly woosh-ed me.

        In case you’re serious; are you also ok attacking a country that’s cut off your access to other vital supplies; let’s say water, or perhaps significant tracts of arable land?

      2. Or how about food, or building supplies, or fuel, or medical supplies, or ordinary necessities such as toilet paper, sanitary napkins, writing paper, school supplies, books…?

  5. Mick- I suggest you open your mind a little. It is a fact that at the time the US imposed the oil embargo on Japan, following its occupation of French Indochina (controlled at the time by the Vichy regime) many informed Americans felt that this act would make war with the US inevitable. The Americans offered to end the embargo if Japan would IIRC withdraw from Indochina and work to scale down their war in China. Not unreasonable requests.

    1. YBD, I’m aware of what happened, and I’ll let the ad hominen pass, but I really dont get the point you’re making now, because your response is at odds with your opinion in your first post. Anyhow, ….

      Of course we’re prepared to shed blood for oil – usually “their” blood for access to “our” oil, which, due to what I can only assume many people believe was carelessness on God’s part, has ended up under “their” territory.

      I think the point is; not everyone’s happy with that attitude, because as a result the “mass famine, disease, civil disorder and the like” you fear happening to “modern civilisation” is in fact already happening around the world.

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