From the Arab press on Beyond Chutzpah

March 7, 2006

In News

Editor’s note: more book reviews here.

By Jihad el Khazen

The most brazen of all retains me one more day, and again I say: they will drive me insane, quoting Fouad al Muhandis’ line in an old radio show.

This week, a book by the lawyer Alan Dershowitz, “Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways”, will come out in the United States. I will not read this work, because as we say in these lands “the title sums the content”.

I had read the title on an advertisement for the book, and I presumed then that this radical Likudnik author is trying to build up a new legal theory that justifies preemptive wars. Then I found an exposé of the book that confirmed my initial assumption, since it quotes the writer’s introduction of the book: “The shift from responding to past events to preventing future harms is part of one of the most significant but unnoticed trends in the world today.”

The problem is that it is radicals such as Dershowitz who define this “future harm” that calls for a preemptive war. We have had a taste of the “harm” attributed to Saddam Hussein’s regime. It turned out that neither did he possess weapons of mass destruction nor did he have dealings with Al Qaeda. Now, it is Iran’s turn, with its nuclear program, while each fib leads to a war that benefits Israel.

The book review appeared in the right-wing The Washington Times, and bore the incredulously insolent title: “All Praise Professor Dershowitz”. In the first paragraph of the presentation, Dershowitz was introduced as a so-called Liberal, although he is in fact a rightist, or at Ariel Sharon’s right in any case, and his new book is as extremist as he is.

As I stated earlier, I will not read this book and I call upon readers to do the same. The author has lost his academic credence after Norman Finkelstein destroyed his previous book “The Case for Israel”, when he commented on it in the pages 87 to 317 of his own book “Beyond Chutzpah”. Dershowitz had tried, and failed, to prevent the publication of Finkelstein’s work by pressuring the University of California and the University Press to abort the process. Later, he blatantly denied his efforts, as would be expected of him.

I have already spoken of Finkelstein’s book in general terms after its publication. However, I wish to discuss his critique of Dershowitz and the latter’s book once more today. I remind the reader that Finkelstein is the author of “The Holocaust Industry”, a book that exposed the exploitation of the Jewish victims of Nazism; he wrote a new book that exposes the insolence of Israel’s advocates.

Finkelstein quotes the following statement by Dershowitz: “Almost all criminal defendants- including most of my clients- are factually guilty of the crimes they have been charged with. The criminal lawyer’s job, for the most part, is to represent the guilty, and- if possible- to get them off”.

In “The Case for Israel”, Dershowitz sought to innocent Israel of confirmed crimes. Finkelstein countered Dershowitz’ claims, and exposed his apparent lies, prejudice, plagiarism and ignorance in a well-documented way.

Dershowitz also claimed that what incited him to defend Israel was that despite the danger to its existence it abided by the law and faced the biggest misunderstanding in world history.

Finkelstein disputed this claim by saying that Israel was denounced both internally and in outer circles, citing “B’tselem”, the Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations General Assembly with its specialized agencies, that all denounced Israel’s violations and crimes in the occupied territories.

Claiming to know more than all these agencies put together, Dershowitz continues manipulating numbers that do not lie. But Finkelstein is ever-vigilant. In short, Dershowitz uses the body count on both ends between the years 2000 and 2003, and applies a racist analysis to them. The numbers on record show that there were 2316 casualty among Palestinians, compared with 827 among Israelis. In other words, Israel bears guilt three times more than the Palestinians do. I know of other numbers of purely civilian victims, which are a lot worse. Dershowitz says however, that Palestinians have tried to kill thousands of other Palestinians, that some of those killed were targeted with Palestinian bullets for collaboration with the enemy and that Palestinians use pregnant women as human shields. His main point is that all Israeli killings are unintentional. Dershowitz resorted to this same insolence to recount the assassination of the resistant Salah Shehade. According to him, the Israeli army planned to kill him several times, but allegedly refrained because his family was present with him. However, the Israeli army did not decide to kill him while he was in a car, with one or two bodyguards. A fighter plane dropped a one-ton bomb over his apartment, killing him and 14 other Palestinians, including nine children.
Dershowitz is among the most insolent of all writers I came upon. In another spot, he says that occupation was beneficial to the Palestinians on the levels of life expectancy, healthcare and education.
However, Finkelstein retorts with reports from reputed academic figures who say that Israeli occupation has been even worse than colonialism because it works to expulse Palestinians from their land to seize it.

A Harvard University Professor, Dershowitz put all his knowledge at the service of Israel’s defense. Finkelstein nonetheless unveils his extremism, and proves in a confrontation that joined them both that Dershowitz ignores the subject of his own book, as if he did not write it, or relied on researchers’ findings without bothering to review them even.

I hope Finkelstein responds to Dershowitz’ new book, as I believe he would. According to the exposé I read, the author still deters excuses for the war on Iraq, and justifies any preemptive strike against Iran. War on terror means diminishing civil rights that Americans campaigned throughout two centuries to gain. This however, is of no importance to the likes of Dershowitz so long as war benefits Israel.

The new book was discussed in an expose in the right-wing The Washington Times, written by Tony Blankley. Blankley represented Dershowitz as a leftist liberal, when, being a pro-Israeli extremist who lies as he breathes to defend Israel, he has nothing to do with any liberal or leftist thought. This fact annuls his academic credence front, for by simply defending Israel means that it is factually as criminal as all the criminals he has previously defended while being certain of their guilt.