August 21, 2006
By Noam Chomsky
Alan Dershowitz’s regular little performances are eminently ignorable, including the one reproduced below. But since I’ve been asked several times for comments on this one, a few follow.
Dershowitz’s opens by writing that “Chomsky is circulating a letter which he got two naïve Nobel Prize winners–the playwright Harold Pinter and the poet José Saramago–to sign.” The rest goes on with “Chomsky claims,” etc., and ends with a warning to those who “sign a Chomsky letter without checking its contents. If they don’t, it tells us how little they value truth.”
Let’s take it apart, piece by piece.
As Dershowitz knows, the letter was written and circulated by John Berger, who approached the “two naïve Nobel Prize winners,” as well as me and several others. In the normal fashion, some of us had suggestions about the text, and then helped him to circulate it.
By Dershowitz standards, this fabrication is very minor, but it is of some interest nonetheless. Dershowitz readers will be aware that whenever his sensitive antennae pick up a phrase that might be critical of Israeli government policies, if my name is even remotely associated, it quickly becomes the “hard left gang of Israel bashers” led by the evil demon Chomsky. Why the consistent fabrications over the past 36 years – which, of course, merit no response? Dershowitz and I know very well, but others may be intrigued, so I might as well make the reason public for the first time. His pathetic behavior traces back to what was probably our first contact. In April 1973, Dershowitz wrote a scurrilous attack in the Boston Globe against Israel’s leading human rights activist, Dr. Israel Shahak, the chairman of Israel’s League for Human and Civil Rights, in which he even went so far as to support a government effort to destroy the League by methods so outrageous that they were at once declared illegal by the Israeli courts. I responded, correcting his slanders and fabrications – that is, every single substantive statement. He then tried to lie his way out of it, even descending to falsification of Israeli court records. I responded again, citing the actual court records and responding to his new lies and deceit.
The incident demonstrated conclusively that Dershowitz is not only a remarkable liar and slanderer, but also an extreme opponent of elementary civil rights. That is crystal clear from the correspondence, reproduced below. Dershowitz flew into a fury over the exposure, and ever since has produced a series of hysterical tirades and lies concerning some entity in his fantasy world named “Chomsky,” who lives on “planet Chomsky.” That is his standard style when he is exposed, reaching truly grotesque levels in his efforts to discredit Norman Finkelstein (and even his mother, probably a new low in depravity) after Finkelstein’s meticulous documentation of Dershowitz’s astonishing lies in his vulgar apologetics for Israeli crimes (Beyond Chutzpah).
Dershowitz’s tirade about Berger’s letter opens by referring to the first two sentences, which read: “The latest chapter of the conflict between Israel and Palestine began when Israeli forces abducted two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from Gaza. An incident scarcely reported anywhere, except in the Turkish press.” Here Dershowitz reveals his amazing discovery that statements in brief letters of protest are not technical monographs, and are necessarily incomplete and imprecise. His counterparts in Teheran, if they sink low enough, would make exactly the same complaints about statements protesting repression of dissidents and other state crimes. The quoted statement in Berger’s letter is, in fact, accurate as far as it goes, more than sufficiently so for a brief letter protesting atrocities. And Dershowitz doubtless discovered from his Google search that full details are readily available on the internet, on this very website and on Znet, where he found the following footnote to my account of this incident:
Jonathan Cook, “The British Media and the Invasion of Gaza,” Medialens (UK), June 30, 2006, http://www.medialens.org/alerts/06/060630_kidnapped_by_israel.php; Josh Brannon, “IDF Commandos Enter Gaza, Capture Two Hamas Terrorists,” Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2006; Ken Ellingwood, “2 Palestinians Held in Israel’s First Arrest Raid in Gaza Since Pullout,” Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2006, p. A20. Apart from the Los Angeles Times, there were only a few marginal words in the Baltimore Sun (June 25) and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (June 25). Moreover, no mainstream media source chose to refer to this event when discussing Shalit’s capture. The only serious coverage I know of in the English-language press appeared in the Turkish Daily News (June 25). (Database search by David Peterson.)
The opening sentences in Berger’s letter are indeed curtailed, in the normal fashion of all protest letters. Though accurate as far as they go, they leave it to the reader to understand the crucial significance of the kidnapping of the two Gaza civilians, the Muamar brothers, on June 24, over and above the fact that it is yet another crime of Dershowitz’s favored state. The point is obvious, but since it may require a moment’s attention, Dershowitz evidently assumed that it would provide an opening for yet another exercise in deceit. So let me spell it out, apologizing to the reader for stating the obvious.
The obvious point is that the kidnapping of the two Gaza civilians was well-known, but scarcely and dismissively reported, apart from the Turkish press, which had the one serious news report (June 25). In the US media there was no comment nor follow-up, in sharp contrast to the capture of Cpl. Gilad Shalit the following day. While Shalit’s name is known to any newspaper reader, the Muamar brothers, as Berger’s letter correctly states, are unknown – though their names can be discovered by those who undertake research projects (or read the dissident media). A Google search for “Shalit” and “Muamar” (with several possible spellings) will quickly make brilliantly clear the difference in reaction to the events of June 24 and June 25.
In fact such a search was carried out, by David Peterson, using the several possible spellings for “Muamar.” The ratio of mentions of Shalit and Muamar is not far from 100 to 1. Of course that is a vast underestimate of the actual ratio, because the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers was mentioned casually and dismissively, with no comment or follow-up, while the capture of Shalit elicited immense outrage and support for the sharp and brutal Israeli escalation of atrocities. And as Peterson also found, the ratio rises very sharply if we extend the search period beyond the first week, because the capture of Shalit continued to arouse great attention, indignation, and support for the murderous Israeli retaliation, while the Muamar brothers received a few dismissive mentions in news reports the next day, and then virtually disappeared.
Evidently, kidnapping of civilians is a far more serious crime than capture of a soldier. Those who do not understand the terminology used might turn to military historian Caleb Carr, who discusses Israel’s escalated attacks on Gaza `to rescue what Israel claimed was a “kidnapped” soldier — an assertion that was absurd because a uniformed, front-line noncommissioned officer can no more be “kidnapped” by the enemy than an innocent, unarmed child can “die in battle”.’ (Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2006).
The great significance of these incidents on successive days can hardly be overemphasized: they reveal that the show of outrage over the Shalit kidnapping, and the support for Israel’s sharp acceleration of atrocities in Gaza in response, was cynical fraud. That is even more dramatically true in Dershowitz’s case, in the light of his desperate efforts to blow smoke to obscure the very clear and critically significant facts. Furthermore, as Gideon Levy accurately wrote in Ha’aretz – as Dershowitz surely discovered in his Google search — the IDF kidnapping of civilians the day before the capture of Cpl. Shalit strips away any “legitimate basis for the IDF’s operation” — and, we may add, any legitimate basis for support for these operations.
Dershowitz’s interesting effort to lie his way out of this by citing a few of the references to the Muamar kidnapping reveals again his remarkable contempt for his readers. Evidently, the more he finds that the facts were reported, the more he shoots himself in the foot, demonstrating that kidnapping of civilians is considered insignificant when carried out by “our side,” and thus eliminating any moral legitimacy for the Israeli escalation of crimes and any support for it, even any tolerance of these crimes. The point is so trivially obvious that Dershowitz cannot possibly fail to understand it, but evidently he hopes that his usual techniques of bluster and tirade will somehow obscure this further illustration of the depths to which he will sink in his apologetics and personal jihads.
Putting aside irrelevant wire service and BBC reports, Dershowitz omits the sources he found in what I had written, but adds the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Boston Globe. The June 25 CT did indeed devote 27 words to the kidnapping of the two Gaza civilians, and the WP the same day devoted 87 words to it, in the closing two paragraphs of an AP report devoted to the same day’s Palestinian raid on the IDF base where Gilad Shalit was captured — thus demonstrating Dershowitz’s cynicism even more fully, as noted, as would also be the case if something did appear in the BG. No one has been able to find a report there, though they did have an editorial on these events which demonstrates again the fraudulence of the show of outrage over the Shalit kidnapping and the utter illegitimacy of the Israeli response and the support for it. As is standard, the editorial omits the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers by the IDF, and opens as follows, under the headline “MIDEAST HELD HOSTAGE”: “The attack Sunday [June 25] on military targets inside Israel, which led to an Israeli soldier being taken hostage, was not merely an arbitrary reflex within a cycle of vengeance. It was ordered by someone with command responsibility in Hamas, who could not be indifferent to the timing of his action or to its political and military consequences. Because the hostage-taking operation has brought Palestinians and Israelis alike to the brink of a new round of foreseeable disasters, it is crucial that all concerned parties focus their remedial efforts on the right address”: Hamas, not the US-backed IDF, which committed a far worse crime the preceding day. Once again, the BG reaction demonstrates very clearly that Dershowitz is not just a cynical fraud, but is so to an unusual extreme.
Dershowitz insists on disgracing himself even further by writing that “the two arrested individuals were alleged Hamas militants, a fact that Chomsky conveniently omits.” Since it was not relevant to Berger’s letter, he rightly omitted it. But Dershowitz “conveniently omits” that he knows very well the response to his shocking comment. Even in the unlikely event that he could not have figured it out for himself, his Google search surely discovered my interview in Yediot Ahronot (Ynet; the full version is on this site), with the following response to those who might sink to Dershowitz’s level: `Apologists for state crimes claim that the kidnapping of the Gaza civilians is justified by IDF claims that they are “Hamas militants” or were planning crimes. By their logic, they should therefore be lauding the capture of Gilad Shalit, a soldier in an army that was (uncontroversially) shelling and bombing Gaza. These performances are truly disgraceful.’
Again, the point is so trivial that Dershowitz could certainly have figured it out for himself even if he had not found it with his Google search, and “conveniently omitted” it.
Dershowitz adds triumphantly: “Nor was the arrest of these Hamas terrorists the origin of the crisis, as Chomsky asserts”; rather, it was the July 12 capture of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. Let’s take the trouble again to decode the lies and absurdities packed into this sentence. The silliest one is the reference to July 12. The Berger letter did not even mention Lebanon: it was strictly limited to Palestine. And, exactly as the Globe editors and everyone else reported, and as Dershowitz of course knows, the upsurge in violence in Palestine followed the capture of Shalit on June 25.
As Dershowitz also doubtless understands, if Berger’s letter had been extended to the events in Lebanon several weeks latter, it could have pointed out that the reaction to the July 12 capture of Israeli soldiers was also cynical fraud, as demonstrated not only by the (null) reaction to the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers, but also by the (null) reaction to the regular Israeli practice for many years of kidnapping Lebanese, many held in prisons, including secret prisons like Israel’s prison/torture chamber Camp 1391, exposed three years ago (in Israel and Europe), then apparently forgotten. No one ever suggested that this regular practice, or vastly worse US-backed Israeli crimes in Lebanon, would justify invasion of Israel, murder of hundreds of Israelis, and destruction of much of the country. There should be no need to elaborate.
However, since the Berger letter kept to earlier events, Dershowitz’s silly claim is revealed again to be more contempt for his readers.
Turning to another transparent lie, the Berger letter pointedly denied that the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers was the origin of the crisis, contrary to what Dershowitz claims. The crucial point made in the opening sentence of the letter, as Dershowitz surely understands, was that the kidnapping of the two Gaza civilians, though known, was considered insignificant and elicited no criticism or reaction. It was the capture of an Israeli soldier the next day that led to the US-backed Israeli escalation of its attack on Gaza (with Palestinian casualties more than quadrupling from June to July, with over 170 killed, according to UN sources). And we may also add a minor bit of Dershowitz deceit: it is only for strict party liners that unsupported IDF charges about “Hamas terrorists” instantly rise to the level of revealed truths – though as noted, it would be irrelevant even if for once the charges were shown to be true in some credible tribunal.
Among the articles that appeared the day after the June 24 kidnapping of the Muamar brothers was one of Dershowitz’s classics, in the Jerusalem Post, June 25, under the headline “Palestinian terrorists want Israel to kill Palestinian civilians.” “It may be difficult for some decent people to believe,” Dershowitz instructs us, “that Palestinian terrorists are actually trying to increase the number of casualties among their own civilians but the evidence is overwhelming.” It may indeed be difficult “for some decent people to believe” that Dershowitz actually exists, and is not simply invented by anti-Semites who want to ridicule supporters of Israel, “but the evidence is overwhelming” that he really does exist.
By “terrorists,” Dershowitz means anyone designated by the US and Israel as terrorists, whatever the facts. That apparently includes all of those who committed the crime of voting the wrong way in a free election in Palestine, and in addition, virtually the entire population of Lebanon, as Dershowitz explained in another classic, which also might lead some to wonder whether he even exists:
The rest is too depraved to require comment. Perhaps the author of the letter that evoked Dershowitz’s intriguing performance, or the other signers, might want to respond. I have documented the actual facts he distorts so extensively in print that there is no need for me to do so, and the the general record of deceit that Dershowitz recycles has been thoroughly refuted by Norman Finkelstein, again eliminating any need to respond.
If There Were A Nobel Prize For Lies…
By Alan Dershowitz
Noam Chomsky and his hard left gang of Israel bashers are at it again. This time it is about the current crisis in the Middle East, which they blame entirely on Israel.
Chomsky is circulating a letter which he got two naïve Nobel Prize winners–the playwright Harold Pinter and the poet José Saramago–to sign.
It is vintage Chomsky, beginning with its first sentences: “The latest chapter of the conflict between Israel and Palestine began when Israeli forces abducted two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from Gaza. An incident scarcely reported anywhere, except in the Turkish pres.” Chomsky typically cites obscure news reports in languages no one can read. This time it’s “the Turkish Press.” The problem with Chomsky’s assertion is that a five minute Google News check reveals that the incident he points to was widely reported by the English language press, including The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, BBC, Reuters, and the Associated Press. (Lie number one).
This is what the associated press reported: “On Saturday, Israeli commandos seized two Palestinians suspected of being Hamas militants in the army’s first arrest raid in the Gaza Strip since Israel’s withdrawal nearly a year ago. An Israeli army spokesman said the two men, arrested at a house near Rafah in southern Gaza, were in the ‘final states of planning a large-scale terror attack’ in coming days. The army did not provide details on the nature of the alleged plot. Hamas denied that the men, who were identified by neighbors as brothers, are members.” Quite a different account than the one provided by Chomsky et al. (Lie number two). Chomsky has said in interviews that “we don’t even know their names,” referring to the arrested militants. But a quick check of newspapers reveals that their names are Osama and Mostafa Muamar, whose father is Ali Muamar, a notorious Hamas leader. According to press reports “local Hamas activists said the pair was … known to be members of Hamas.” (Lie Number three).
Nor was the arrest of these Hamas terrorists the origin of the crisis, as Chomsky asserts. Even Kofi Annan acknowledged that “Hezbollah’s provocative attack on July 12 was the trigger of this particular crisis”; that Hezbollah is “deliberate[ly] targeting…Israeli population centers with hundreds of indiscriminate weapons”; and that Israel has the “right to defend itself under Article 51 of the U.N. chater.” But on Planet Chomsky, Annan and the U.N. are dupes of Israel who suppress the real story that only the Turkish press has the courage and honesty to report. (Lie number four). By the way, even the Turkish Daily News–which simply reprinted a widely distributed international Reuters story, datelined June 25, Gaza–reported that the two arrested individuals were alleged Hamas militants, a fact that Chomsky conveniently omits. (Lie number five).
The lies continue. Chomsky claims that Israeli missiles target areas “where the disinherited and crowded poor live, waiting for what was once called justice.” He never mentions that it is Hezbollah and Hamas that select those civilian areas from which they fire their anti-personnel rockets, precisely in order to put Israel to the choice of allowing the missiles to rain down on its own civilians or to try to destroy the rocket launchers by smart bombs designed to minimize civilian casualties. (Lie number six).
Finally, the BIG LIE: “[Israel’s] aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation. This has to be said loud and clear for the practice, only half declared and often covert, is advancing fast these days, and, in our opinion, it must be unceasingly and eternally recognized for what it is and resisted.” Again Chomsky ignores the historically indisputable facts that Israel (and the international community) offered the Palestinians a state in 1938, in 1948 and in 2001. The Palestinians responded with terrorism in each instance. The vast majority of Israelis and the Israeli government favor the two-state solution. It is Hamas and Hezbollah whose “aim is nothing less than the liquidation” of Israel. Just ask them. Just read their charter. Just look what they’re doing. But not on Planet Chomsky, where everything is the mirror image of reality, and where “facts” are made up, ignored and distorted to serve a predetermined ideological end. (Lie number seven).
Now look at the one truth in the Chomsky letter, the call for Israel’s aims to be “resisted.” This will surely be read by Hamas and Hezbollah as support for its terrorism against Israel and those who support its existence. I doubt that all who have signed the Chomsky letters were aware that they are disseminating provable falsehoods. The list of signatories, in addition to Chomsky, Pinter and Saramago, now includes Tariq Ali, John Berger, Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Giuliana Sgrena and Howard Zinn. But now that they are aware of the lies contained in the letter, let’s see if they remove their names. If they do, some of them may come to realize how dangerous to their integrity and reputation it is to sign a Chomsky letter without checking its contents. If they don’t, it tells us how little they value truth.