Liar, liar, Pants on fire

November 8, 2005

In News

[Editor’s note:] Finkelstein’s comment & the full English translation of Israeli article below.

To the editors:

The Crimson reports that, according to Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz,
I misrepresented him during a recent lecture at Harvard Law School on
the Israel-Palestine conflict (“At Talk, Finkelstein Calls Dershowitz Book a Fraud,” news, Nov. 4).

During the question and answer session, I noted Dershowitz’s hostile reaction to the
courageous actions of Israeli Air Force (IAF) dissenters and his scrambling to meet
with Israeli government officials.

According to a Nov. 18, 2003 article in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth, after
a group of reserve pilots in the IAF declared in a public letter their refusal to
participate in future political liquidations, Dershowitz objected to the pilots’
letter and was heading for Israel to persuade Israeli pilots of the legality and
morality of the targeted killing operations. In addition, seeking to meet with the
commanders of the IAF, he planned to discuss with them ways of dealing with the pilots’
letter. The newspaper detailed that Dershowitz was scheduled to meet, among others,
with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, top Foreign Ministry officials, and Israeli public
relations officials. Efforts were also made to schedule meetings with IAF Commander
Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz and other commanders in the IAF.


Chicago, Ill.

Nov. 4, 2005

The writer is a professor of political science at DePaul University.

Finkelstein comments:

During the Q&A at Harvard Law School, an Israeli student asked how my ideas “bring us closer to peace.” I replied that, in my view, telling the truth was a useful service, then stating: “There are a lot of wonderful people out there who are doing a lot of hard work – Israelis and Palestinians. And it’s a real tragedy that so much of what they’ve done and so much of what they’ve documented is simply not known. And I think it is a service to bring that to the attention of people. It’s certainly a bigger service – it’s certainly, in my view, it’s a bigger service – than when several reserve officers of the air force in Israel issue the public statement saying they will not engage in targeted assassinations anymore, and a member of your faculty rushed to Israel to counsel the government about how to suppress their statement” (transcribed from audiotape). In a letter to The Harvard Crimson published after my own, Dershowitz again denied this, calling it a “categorical and all
too characteristic lie,”
and claiming contrariwise that, “I went to Israel to participate in, and encourage, the open marketplace of ideas about a controversial practice” (8 November 2005). Below is the article from Yedioth Ahronot (18 November 2003, p. 11) to which I was referring. The Harvard Crimson independently confirmed this translation before publishing my original letter.

Simpson’s Attorney Advises: “Acquittal” of Israel

Yedioth Ahronot (18 November 2003, p. 11)
By Itamar Eichner and Tova Tzimuki

Israel soon is expected to receive help in its public relations war to justify its war on terror from unexpected quarters: Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz is a Harvard University professor of law, who also served as O.J. Simpson’s lawyer after the latter was charged with having brutally murdered his wife and her lover, but was acquitted.

Dershowitz, who is considered to be one of the top lawyers in the United States, will arrive in Israel in early December for a visit. In the course of this visit he will be prepared to make his legal expertise available to the government and the IDF to persuade the world that Israel is one of the most moral countries in the world in its war on terror. Dershowitz also wants to support the Israel Air Force pilots and to persuade them of the legality and morality of the targeted assassinations. Dershowitz is scheduled to meet, among others, with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, top Foreign Ministry officials, and with a forum of public relations officials. Efforts are also being made to schedule meetings with IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Dan Halutz and other Air Force commanders.

In a lecture he gave a few days ago in Boston, Dershowitz said he hoped in the course of his visit to meet with Israeli Air Force commanders and discuss with them ways of dealing with the reserve pilots’ letter. Dershowitz, who is opposed to the pilots’ letter, believes that the actions of Air Force pilots in the framework of the war on terror, including targeted assassinations, are both legal and moral, and defensible in terms of international law. He said that, with the help of lawyers, Israel must make it clear to the world that blame for the killing of civilians in the war on terrorism falls on the people who use those civilians as human shields and operate from civilian areas, not on those who act in self-defense.

In the attorney’s words, the United States was learning from Israel how to cope with terrorism: urban warfare and the demolition of houses. Dershowitz said that in certain respects Israel is even more moral and cautious than the United States in its conduct in war. Evidence of this is that Israel refrains from extensive bombing, Dershowitz said.

He said he could provide clear examples of how the Supreme Court in Israel imposed more stringent moral demands than the American justice system did.

Dershowitz, one of the most famous Jewish lawyers in the world, is considered to be a great friend of Israel and has published books in condemnation of terrorism and in support of Israel. He is considered to be a close friend of the President of the Israeli Supreme Court, Aharon Barak.

From the office of the IDF Spokesman it was reported last night that no meeting had yet been scheduled between Dershowitz and the Air Force

PDF version (print quality)
JPEG (700x1012px)