avatar
Comments on Dershowitz


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: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-dershowitz/lebanon-is-not-a-victim_b_26715.html?view=print.

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…

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. 

—————–

The 1973 Correspondence

The HIPJ Weblog republished the 1973 Correspondence between Chomsky and Dershowitz. We republish it here with permission.

Dershowitz Through the Ages.

There has recently been a controversy on campus regarding allegations of plagiarism in Alan Dershowitz’s book The Case for Israel. If you are interested in that story there is fairly extensive coverage on Norman Finkelstein’s website. Finkelstein is known for exposing that the book From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters in 1980s was largely a hoax. Readers can look at the evidence and make up their own minds about that controversy.

However, in this entry I’d rather focus on another controversy involving Alan Dershowitz, that Noam Chomsky made reference to during his talk last week that HIPJ co-sponsored. This has to do with a series of letters that were sent to the Boston Globe in 1973 where Dershowitz made allegations about the Israeli civil rights leader Israel Shahak which Noam Chomsky responded to. Please forgive (and comment on) any typos, I am retyping this from a hard copy. Again, readers can make up their own minds.

Click here to see the text from 1973 letters in The Boston Globe.

Here is the first letter to the Boston Globe on April 29, 1973 by Alan Dershowitz:

SHAHAK, BEST PROOF OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH

On April 18, you published an interview in which Israel Shahak characterized Israel as a “racist” society. Your reporter described Dr. Shahak as “chairman of the Israel League for Human and Civil Rights.”

Shahak is not the chairman of that organization. In 1970, he was overwhelmingly defeated for re-election to that post. When he was chairman of the League, it was a tiny organization composed primarily of members of two Maoist organizations, Matzpen and Rakach (though Shahak himself belongs to neither). As soon as the membership was permitted to expand and include a broader political spectrum – over Shahak’s vehement protests – Shahak and his clique were ousted. I suspect that it was not your reporter’s fault that he characterized Shahak as current chairman of the League, since Shahak has continued to misinform the public about his status since his ouster.

Let no one believe that Shahak is a civil libertarian. He is the furthest thing from it. A civil libertarian defends the rights of those with whom he disagrees as vehemently as those with whom he agrees (consider, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union’s frequent defense of Nazis and right wingers). Shahak has never defended the rights with whom he disagrees politically; nor has he ever attacked the practices of those with whom he agrees politically. He is about as much of a civil libertarian as are Communists who defend only the rights of other Communists or Ku Klux Klanners who only defend the rights of other Klanners.

Shahak’s approach is well illustrated by the content of his interview. He calls Israel “racist” because it designates its residents by their religion. Most countries in the world, of course, do the same thing. Every Arab country draws distinctions between Moslems and non-Moslems. Indeed, even Lebanon, probably the most liberal of Arab countries, explicitly requires certain of its high officials to be Moslem and others to be Christian. (Jews – even Anti-Zionist Jews like Dr. Shahak – are excluded from attaining these offices.) Other Arab countries exclude all non-Moslems from office, and from other important privileges and rights. There are no such exclusions under Israeli law. A Moslem, a Druze, or a Christian could, theoretically, become Prime Minister of Israel; and many non-Jews do, in fact, hold high office nationally as well as locally. Most countries in the world – and every single Arab country – could learn a great deal from Israel’s handling of its minority population.

Of course, Israel is a Jewish country. In a world with numerous Moslem, Catholic and Protestant countries, why should there not be one country where Jewish values and culture predominate? As long as there is no discrimination against other minorities, Israel’s Jewishness is to be applauded not condemned.

The very best proof of Israel’s commitment to liberty is that it permits hate-mongers such as Shahak – and other Israeli-Arab critics of Israel – to travel throughout the world on Israeli passports spewing forth their venom. Can one think of any Arab country that would permit a Jewish critic publicly to attack its regime?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Professor of Law
Harvard.  

On May 17, 1973, The Boston Globe published this response, a letter from Noam Chomsky:

SHAHAK A MAN OF HONOR AND PRINCIPLE

In a letter April 29, Alan Dershowitz raised objections to the interview with Dr. Israer Shahak in The Globe April 18.

According to Dershowitz, Shahak was not telling the truth when he identified himself as chairman of the Israel League for Human and Civil Rights, since he was “overwhelmingly defeated for reelection to that post” in November, 1970. The facts, as far as I can determine them, are as follows.

In November 1972 (not 1970), the Youth Department of the Israel Labor Party distributed an internal memorandum requesting members to register “for the purpose of enabling our party to have a predominant influence in the League for Human Rights.” The Labor Party offered to cover the expenses of the membership dues, in this “national operation.” On Nov. 16, 1972 several hundred members of the Labor Party Youth Group had appeared at a general meeting of the League, insisted on being registered at once as members, voted out the leadership of this small civil rights organization, and proceeded to pass a resolution denouncing the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union. The Israeli Courts, quite properly, declared the events of the meeting null and void. While the litigation continues, the leadership of the League remains as before under Israeli law. It is these events to which Dershowitz refers when he writes that “as soon as the membership was permitted to expand include a broader political spectrum – over vehement protests – Shahak and his clique was ousted.”

The League has announced it remains open, as in the past, to all individuals concerned with civil rights, who may apply… on an individual basis. One might observe that, in contrast, the Labor Party excludes Arabs from membership.

Evidently, no open organization can withstand such tactics for long. If such methods were used to take over the American Civil Liberties Union in a “national operation” of some mass political organization, Dershowitz would be the first to protest. It is remarkable that he is willing to associate himself with such tactics when they are employed in an admitted effort to enable the largest political party in Israel “to have a predominant influence in the League for Human Rights.”

Dershowitz then proceeds to assert that Shahak is “about as much of a civil libertarian as are the Communists who defend only the rights of other Communists,” and he claims that “Shahak has never defended the rights of those with whom he disagrees politically.” The facts are quite different. Israel Shahak came to Israel from Poland, where he had been in a Nazi concentration camp. He is a distinguished scientist at the Hebrew University, a man steeped in the Jewish tradition, politically rather conservative, not a communist or a socialist. As anyone familiar with Israeli society would recognize at once, he is a member of the most privileged social group in the country, while to the right of the official views of the dominant Labor Party on many social and political issues. He has courageously defended the rights of the oppressed and underprivileged: Arabs, Oriental Jews, political dissidents, and others who differ from him markedly not only in political belief but also social status. He is a man of honor and principle who needs no lessons from Alan Dershowitz or anyone else on what it means to be a civil libertarian.

According to Dershowitz, Shahak calls Israel “racist” on the grounds that it “designates its residents by their religion” as most other countries do. This is nonsense. Shahak has accumulated and made public extensive documentation on legal and institutional discrimination and on discriminatory administrative and social practices. Rather than attending to this evidence, or seeking to refute it if is incorrect or misleading, Dershowitz has chosen to distort beyond recognition what Shahak has said and done to villify him as a “hate-monger” who “spews forth (his) venom” against Israel. His resort to such tactics and his refusal to consider the actual evidence that Shahak has presented speaks for itself, I am afraid.

NOAM CHOMSKY
Cambridge  

Here is Dershowitz’s reply on May 25, 1973 in The Boston Globe.

DERSHOWITZ REPLIES

I was not surprised at the belligerent tone of Noam Chomsky’s response (May 17) to my letter regarding Israel Shahak (April 29). Though Chomsky and I have been allies in numerous cases, I have seen over the years that Chomsky will stop at nothing in attacking those who support Israel or in defending those who attack it. As evidence of that, consider his statement that the Israeli courts declared the League for Human Rights election void and that “the leadership of the League remains as before under Israeli law”. That is totally false. The truth is that the Tel Aviv district Court, in an opinion by Judge Levenberg, ruled that the election was legal and that Shahak had been validly defeated. I challenge Chomsky to cite me any documentary evidence to the contrary!

Chomsky completely distorts the history leading up to the 1972 election. He neglects to mention that since its foundation in the 1930s, the league was always a broadly based civil liberties organization until Shahak’s clique took it over in 1970 and used it as an anti-zionist political tool. I see nothing wrong on the part of members of the Israeli labor movement to convert that organization back into one that truly stands for civil liberties. Nor would I object if large numbers of persons – who were committed to civil liberties – tried to change the American Civil Liberties Union by democratic means.

Chomsky disputes my statement that Shahak defends the civil liberties only of those with whom he agrees politically. I again challenge Chomsky to cite me instances where Shahak (or the League when it was under his domination) ever supported the rights of those who disagreed with the anti-zionist political views of the League. Why did the League – when it was under Shahak’s domination – refuse to condemn the execution of Jews in Iraq or the oppression of Jews in the Soviet Union? I’m afraid that both Shahak and Chomsky do need lessons on what it means to be a civil libertarian.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Professor of Law
Cambridge  

Here is Chomsky’s second reply on June 5, 1973 in the Boston Globe.

NOAM CHOMSKY
MIT
Cambridge

IN DEFENSE OF SHAHAK

In a further attempt to discredit the Israel League for Human Rights and its chairman, Israel Shahak, Alan Dershowitz asserts (May 25) that “the Tel Aviv District Court, in an opinion by Judge Lovenberg, ruled that the election (of Nov.16 1972) was legal and that Shahak had been validly defeated.” He challenges me to cite “any documentary evidence to the contrary.”

I quote from the opinion of Judge Lovenberg, Nov. 26, 1972: “The meeting called for Nov.16, 1972, in the opinion of the court, was not held properly, and no conclusions or actions are to be drawn from it.” On April 8, Judge Lovenberg reaffirmed that the results of the November meeting “were not recognized as binding by this Court.” In this opinion he refers to the “former committee” (that is, Shahak and his colleagues), which continues to function, as “those who now direct” the League. I have the Court documents in my posession, and will gladly show them to any interested person.

Dershowitz sees “nothing wrong with a desire on the part of members of the Israeli labor movement to convert” the League. Recall the uncontested facts. In an internal memorandum, the Labor Party urged members to join the League (with dues paid by the party) “for the purpose of enabling our party to have a predominant influence” in the League. There is no mention of any commitment to civil liberties. Rather, this is described as a “state duty.” It is remarkable that Dershowitz sees this as an effort to change the League “by democratic means.” Evidently, no open organization of dissent can survive such tactics on the part of the ruling party.

Dershowitz reiterates that Shahak is no civil libertarian, and finally produces his evidence: the Israeli League did not “condemn the execution of Jews in Iraq or the oppression of Jews in the Soviet Union.” By similar logic, we can prove that the ACLU is not committed to civil liberties, since it does not condemn the treatment of political prisoners in Indonesia or Kurds in Iraq. Plainly, the only valid criticism of the ACLU would be that it refuses on political grounds to defend civil liberties in the United States. Dershowitz cites not one relevant case to support his allegations against the League and its chairman. These charges are thus revealed to be mere slander, on a par with his continued assertion that Shahak was voted out of office in a legal election.

It is important that the central issue not be obscured. Dr. Sharak and the Israel League, acting with courage and honor, have produced substantial evidence on violations of human and civil rights by the Israeli government, avoiding no relevant instances to my knowledge. Apparently unable to refute the facts, Dershowitz has chosen to defame the man, in a manner which is as familiar at is deplorable.

Leave a comment