Thursday, January 18, 2007

“Dirty” Dershowitz vs. The Georgia Mauler

It may not be the fight of the century, or even of the month, but “Dirty” Alan Dershowitz would like for us to think it would be – thus distracting our attention from the merits of Jimmy Carter’s book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”.

As I previously blogged, Dershowitz, after being denied an invitation to debate Jimmy Carter at Brandeis University, boasted he would show up at President Carter’s speech on January 23 and debate him anyway – in spite of the Brandeis organizers’ vow to restrict attendance to Brandeis faculty, students, and trustees.

“Carter's original decision set off a furor on campus and sparked a petition of more than 100 students and faculty members, who said Carter should be invited to speak without debating Dershowitz. Others contended that inviting Carter to speak without a debate would violate the university's responsibility to promote free speech. The invitation to Carter also triggered questions about how open the predominantly Jewish campus is to views critical of Israel.” The Boston Globe.

As I was proofreading this post this morning prior to posting, it, yet more “breaking news” was revealed. The maniacally tenacious Dershowitz, having howled for days that he would be present at the Carter speech whether the Brandeis organizers wanted him there or not, got through to someone at Brandeis. Here’s the latest story, which neocon outlet Fox News couldn’t wait to tell:

“Carter recently accepted an invitation to speak on Tuesday at the nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college near Boston after having cancelled an earlier invitation. He will talk for about 15 minutes and then take questions from the audience for 45 minutes. . . . The university agreed late Tuesday to allow Dershowitz to issue a rebuttal following Carter’s speech. An ad-hoc group of students helped facilitate the agreement after the debate plans were scrapped. Dershowitz won’t be allowed in the gymnasium during Carter’s appearance because it is limited to university students, faculty and staff, but he will watch it from somewhere else on campus, said Brandeis spokesman Dennis Nealon. The Shapiro Gymnasium holds about 1,700 people. ‘Everybody feels this was a positive alternative,’ Nealon said of the deal to have Dershowitz speak after Carter. Dershowitz will ‘be doing much like they do at the State of the Union. He’ll be able to offer an analysis.’ "I’m debating him whether he’s there or not,” Dershowitz told “If his chair is empty, then that’s his decision,” he said.

“Everyone” feels this was a positive alternative? What about the organizers who didn’t want to invite Dershowitz? What about me? Why should an unsavory professional apologist for Israel and Zionism have anything to do with Carter’s appearance at Brandeis? And between what parties is this "deal" to have Dershowitz speak on Carter's evening? Does "free speech" require that every time a former president gives a speech at a university a debate or rebuttal is required in addition to the question and answer period? Do we detect fear of unfiltered truth rather a love of free speech?

Some of the things which make Dershowitz an undesirable participant in the Brandeis affair are given here. First, a >report from a man who interviewed Dershowitz.

“This advocacy Mephistopheles thrives on inventing unpopular, counter-intuitive, and even unjust exceptions to international law--a subject he normally does not teach. I came out of the interview with the clear impression that--setting aside the civil liberties concerns that inform his criminal defense rhetoric--Dershowitz concocts these exceptions not merely to embellish his ivory tower but to proactively defend, and sometimes shape, Israeli policies in occupied Palestine.

“For example, Dershowitz's contempt for the ICJ [International Court of Justice] has deepened ever since the Court decided to rule on the legality of Israel's separation wall.

“Dershowitz's exceptional defense of Israel is not confined to academic criticisms of the ICJ (or the International Red Cross or the United Nations). In the interview, Dershowitz, who opposes the death penalty, revealed that he had sat on the Israeli assassination committee that reviews evidence before terrorists are targeted and killed. This ‘due process’ hearing is designed to reduce the raw charge that state-sponsored assassinations are blatantly unlawful. The idea of a Harvard law professor sitting on an occupying state's assassination committee would be, to many in the legal academy, a trifle perplexing.

“What rattles his many critics the most, however, is the innovative exception Dershowitz draws for the Convention against Torture (1987). The Convention prohibits all forms of torture and provides for no exception.”

Dershowitz’ advocacy of legalized torture, as is usual with him, springs from his protective concern for Israel and ignores the important central point – that he is coming out in favor of torture, contrary to basic American principles and international law – and instead dwells on the minutiae of requiring a “torture warrant”, as if he were protecting rights rather than taking them away! He said, “[We could use] a torture warrant, which puts a heavy burden on the government to demonstrate by factual evidence the necessity to administer this horrible, horrible technique of torture. I would talk about nonlethal torture, say, a sterilized needle underneath the nail, which would violate the Geneva Accords, but you know, countries all over the world violate the Geneva Accords.”

Yes, particularly Dershowitz’ favorite (to use a gross understatement), Israel.

I would judge that having adopted the role of criminal defense attorney, most notoriously signing onto the O.J. Simpson defense team, Dershowitz has transplanted the philosophy, “I know he’s guilty but some lawyer has to defend him, and I’ll do my best to get him off,” to his obsessive compulsive defense of Israel. Knowing his client is guilty of just about every crime in the book, he resorts to basest obfuscation, trickery, misdirection of attention, irrelevant legal minutiae, insult and ad hominem attacks to make Israel look better.

It is like a burglar (“burglary: the act of breaking and entering a dwelling at night to commit a felony”), caught by police in the house he has entered, arguing over things like the exact second that he entered the house in relation to the precise astronomical moment when “night” began, the definition of “night”, and the exact value of the jewelry he has put into his pocket, whether his bag of stolen property was just part of a generous attempt to “help the owners tidy up the place”, and so forth. Dershowitz habitually uses such approaches to distract us from the obvious, blatant crime and direct attention to almost everything else – not even hesitating to slander the criminal’s victims.

Dershowitz is never shy about “bending the truth” in order to help Israel. In “Did Alan Dershowitz Borrow Shamelessly from a Discredited History Book?” by Norman G. Finkelstein, it is shown that Dershowitz knowingly copied passages from “the most notorious source of historical bias on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever published in the English language . . . Joan Peters's monumental hoax, From Time Immemorial.” Professor Finkelstein provides a lengthy chart of side-by-side quotations to document “Dershowitz's wholesale lifting of source material" from Peters's hoax.

“From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine” is a 1984 book that tries to justify Zionism by proving the constant presence of Jews in Palestine. One review explained: “Much of Mrs. Peters's book argues that at the same time that Jewish immigration to Palestine was rising, Arab immigration to the parts of Palestine where Jews had settled also increased. Therefore, in her view, the Arab claim that an indigenous Arab population was displaced by Jewish immigrants must be false, since many Arabs only arrived with the Jews." Peters concludes therefore that many of the refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war were not native Palestinians.

Not one critic now accepts her thesis as valid. “The New York Review of Books”: “Everyone familiar with the writing of the extreme [Zionist\ nationalists of Zeev Jabotinsky's Revisionist party (the forerunner of the Herut party) would immediately recognize the tired and discredited arguments in Mrs. Peters's book. I had mistakenly thought them long forgotten. It is a pity that they have been given new life."

Even a friendly reviewer, Daniel Pipes, wrote: “’From Time Immemorial’ quotes carelessly, uses statistics sloppily, and ignores inconvenient facts. Much of the book is irrelevant to Miss Peters's central thesis. The author's linguistic and scholarly abilities are open to question. Excessive use of quotation marks, eccentric footnotes, and a polemical, somewhat hysterical undertone mar the book. In short, ’From Time Immemorial’ stands out as an appallingly crafted book."

Noam Chomsky gives a very lively and entertaining description of the descent of “From Time Immemorial” from the expected initial applause to the infamy of being exposed as a fraud. I would love to quote Chomsky here, but most of my audience (if any) is probably already heading for the parking lot, and so I’ll provide this link .
Please read it if you have any interest in the subject.

Mrs. Peters’ sloppy fraud is typical of the “evidence” which Dershowitz uses extensively in his polemics, and there is no reason to believe that he is any more careful about choosing other supports for his arguments.

The Battle of Brandeis University continues.

1 comment:

Nabila Harb said...

I am delighted that you have taken the trouble to expose this despicable bully who abuses his 'academic' reputation in order to force-feed Zionist policies to Americans. Unfortunately, too little has been done to acquaint the general public with this man's hypocrisy. People are easily intimidated by some one like Alan Dershowitz.