May 28, 2005
By Alexander Cockburn
As an ongoing public display the accelerating mental collapse of Alan Dershowitz continues to afford us modest delight, and particular pleasure since he cites co-editor Cockburn as one of the contributory causes of his distress.
Dershowitz has been much agitated in recent years by the charge, leveled by Normal Finkelstein that he, Dershowitz, is a plagiarist. CounterPunchers will find my discussion of the issue on this site back in the fall of 2003, at http://www.counterpunch.org/.
At the time there was blast and counterblast both here and in The Nation, where the letters page featured the bleats of Dershowitz and my definitive rebuttal. Since that time Dershowitz has been in an extreme state of agitation at the prospect of Finkelstein’s analysis of his borrowings from the work of Joan Peters being published in book form, first scheduled for publication by The New Press, and latterly by the University of California Press.
There hasn’t been such a commotion since the British Customs tried to keep Lady Chatterley’s Lover out of England. A book that otherwise might have been a relatively modest blip on the national radar screen has been elevated by Dershowitz’s frantic squawks to the status of a major cultural event. In his efforts at prior restraint Dershowitz even appealed to Austria’s pride, the governor of California, who presumably has more pressing problems on his mind (such as his pell-mell schuss towards single-digit public approval in California) than an impending publication of the University of California.
The last refuge of any cornered mountebank is to invoke “The Plot Against Me”, and in a curious inversion of some anti-Semitic tract, Dershowitz has now traced all his problems to an all-powerful troika, consisting of Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and me.
Dershowitz’s thesis is that like some Archon of the Galaxies Chomsky croaks from his lair in the heart of darkness, “Destroy Him”. The compliant Finkelstein goes to work, and the result of his researches is then publicized by Yours Truly, with devastating effect upon Dershowitz. His life is ruined! A pleasant life formerly devoted to apologias for Israel’s barbarous treatment of Palestinians has now been cruelly subverted by the all-powerful Troika. The professor who once impressed young women in Harvard Yard with technical discussions of how best, (under judicial warrant, of course) to push scalpels under the fingernails of terror suspects now fills the air with threats of libel. Like some latter day Ancient Mariner, stopping one in three, Dershowitz posts interminable dissections of “The Plot Against Me” on the internet, dissections which could fairly be accused of partiality towards the male sex, since I recall that even before my own discussion of the Dershowitz-Peters conjunction in late 2003, the affair received detailed scrutiny on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now.
(To address only Dershowitz’s discussion of my own role, malicious inaccuracies abound. He claims falsely I was fired from the Village Voice. Though invited to return by the Voice’s then editor I had no desire to return to a publication panicked into an unfair suspension and quit. It was a sound choice and a happy day. The Nation offered me a column and a national audience. In scarce more than a decade CounterPunch had set sail!)
For our part, CounterPunch is taking the high road. Not for us the course of malice and paranoia adopted by the demented Dershowitz, who ever more closely resembles an illustration to the limericks of Edward Lear. This fall we will be publishing The Case Against Israel, by Michael Neumann. Then let constructive debate commence! On the one hand Dershowitz’s shoddy, compromised apologia for a morally bankrupt state; on the other, Neumann’s conclusive, scholarly and immaculate presentation, brilliant in its logic, unchallengeable in its carefully assembled facts.