Book Review: Alan Dershowitz - "The Case Against Israel's Enemies"

Several months ago, the publisher of Alan Dershowitz’s new book, “The Case Against Israel’s Enemies” sent me a copy of the book to review. Although it’s taken me far too long to get to it, I have finally read the book…and I encourage you to read it as well. It took some courage to ask me to review Dershowitz, a guy who other than on this issue I generally disagree with. But on the issue of Israel’s enemies, not least its enemies within America, Dershowitz is right on target. In a continuation of their ongoing battle, Professor Dershowitz levels some of his fiercest criticism at former president Jimmy Carter, who is at best a naïve dupe and at worst a sell-out to Middle Eastern tyrants. Dershowitz shows Carter not simply to be philosophically in error, but also to be a bald-faced liar regarding his “facts” about the Israel-Palestinian issue. Carter wrote a book comparing the situation in Gaza and the West Bank to apartheid. Dershowitz explains not only how that highly inflammatory term is absolutely inapplicable, but how Carter (1) does not even define the term, (2) only uses the word three times in the text, so clearly chose it just to have a catchy title, and (3) only applies the term to Israel despite other situations around the world where it might be much more applicable, such as in Darfur. Basically, Dershowitz makes Carter look like a liar and an idiot, with Carter’s substantial assistance by his refusal to debate Dershowitz to support his own book’s outrageous claims. Carter has accepted money from Arab sheiks and Holocaust-denying “think tanks”. He goes out of his way to say that Palestinian missiles fired at random civilian targets in Israel do not qualify as terrorism. And Dershowitz makes an argument that Carter may have encouraged Yasser Arafat (whom Carter wrote about in pleasant, almost glowing terms) to torpedo the Camp David peace talks. At the end of the book, Dershowitz has an additional 20-page appendix (in small print) of errors in Jimmy Carter’s book. Another major target of Professor Dershowitz is the anti-semitic duo of Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer who made a name for themselves saying that the “Israel Lobby” controls American government and media. Dershowitz takes them apart and leave them a bloody mess…but of course people who believe things such as what Walt and Mearsheimer write aren’t susceptible to logic and facts. Later chapters in Dershowitz’s book explain the danger posed by Israel’s local and distant enemies, from far-left and far-right academics and media personalities, terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and the Islamic Republic of Iran and their seemingly insane president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While many of the arguments that Dershowitz makes have been seen elsewhere, they have rarely been seen so cogently and in one volume. One area of explanation which I found particularly useful and interest was his description of the involvement of the man who was essentially the founder of Palestinian Islamic extremism, Haj Amin al-Husseini, with Adolf Hitler. It’s a devastating response to the criticism that the Jews should be given land in Europe instead of in the Middle East because the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust. As Dershowitz puts it, “It is fair to conclude that the official leader of the Muslims in Palestine…was a full-fledged Nazi war criminal, and he was so declared and sought by Yugoslavia as a war criminal after the war.” Some of Dershowitz’s evidence: “Husseini’s significant contributions to the Holocaust were multifold: first, he pleaded with Hitler to exterminate European Jewry and advised the Nazis on how to do so; second, he visited Auschwitz with Eichmann and urged Eichmann and Himmler to accelerate the pace of the mass murder; third, he personally stopped 4,000 children, accompanied by 500 adults, from leaving Europe and had them sent to Auschwitz and gassed; fourth, he prevented another two thousand Jews from leaving Romania for Palestine and one thousand from leaving Hungary for Palestine who were subsequently sent to death camps; fifth, he organized the killing of Bosnian Jews by Muslims, who he recruited to the Waffen-SS Nazi-Bosnian division. He was also one of the few non-Germans who was made privy to the Nazi extermination while it was taking place… Husseini personally has the blood of more than twenty thousand Jewish children and adults on his hands.” I haven’t included a lot of quotes from the book in this brief review because the book is relatively short and I encourage you to read it yourselves. It is excellent intellectual ammunition against the liars and haters who oppose the very existence of Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy and one of America’s closest allies. Allow me to conclude with some of Alan Dershowitz’s conclusion: “Israel is the only country in the world that is accused by its enemies of practicing apartheid without racism; of perpetrating a Holocaust without gas chambers; of engaging in genocide without mass murder; of committing war crimes without targeting civilians; and of being the worst human rights violator in the world, while having one of the most responsive legal systems in the world. This is accusation by metaphor, prosecution by propaganda, trial by bigotry, guilt by hyperbole, and sentence by sloganeering.” Dershowitz has done us a great service by writing this book, and despite all the other areas in which one might disagree with a Harvard liberal, this book should be required reading for anyone reading, writing, or thinking about the past and the future of the Middle East.
  • American Patriot
    Comment from: American Patriot
    07/18/09 @ 08:12:09 am

    You're clearly not worthy of the Gadsden Flag that you display on your website. The government of the United States is a servile dog to Israel, sending it billions of dollars in welfare money every year, and spilling the blood of our men and women in uniform by making them fight Israel's war for it in Iraq. Not to mention the billions that this is going to cost us: all while the American economy tanks, and Americans are out of work and hurting. Our government puts subservience to Israel above its own people. And here you are, claiming to stand for liberty by supporting such high treason in our government by giving Dershowitz your unfettered praise. You are either really and Israeli citizen, or a treasonous snake who puts servility to Israel above the our nation and constitution. Maybe you should just move back to Tel Aviv where you belong.

  • Travis
    Comment from: Travis
    07/18/09 @ 09:28:13 pm

    Huh. Something tells me that if we were doing all the same things in aid to, say, the UK instead of Israel, American Patriot wouldn't have a problem with it. (Hint: we have given the same aid and more to the UK when it's needed our help.) And yeah, I know, I shouldn't just dismiss "American Patriot"(sic)'s comments as the usual antisemitic outgassings of yet another paleocon 'tard, but...gosh...he makes it so darned easy to do so. If he wanted a real debate on this, he ought to have taken a different tack, Ross. Insulting the host isn't going to score points.

  • Ben
    Comment from: Ben
    07/18/09 @ 10:34:08 pm

    (Hopping on the bandwagon after Travis...) Mr. (or Ms.) "American Patriot" -- did you actually read what Ross wrote in this essay? The review had nothing to say about American foreign policy, but focused on the book's theme comparing the relative morality of the state of Israel and its enemies. Is it "unpatriotic" to make moral judgments about foreign nations and actors? Can you not agree that Israel's enemies have behaved far worse than Israel has in their ongoing conflicts? What real, non-propaganda evidence could you offer to combat Dershowitz's case? Have you even read the book? Skimmed it? Touched the cover ... To suggest that Ross gives Dershowitz "unfettered praise" is a mischaracterization that further undermines your screed. Here's a prominent example from the last paragraph: "...despite all the other areas in which one might disagree with a Harvard liberal...." Finally, to call someone a "treasonous snake" on such flimsy argument and hiding behind a handle & an IP proxy does not cast you in good light. Remember what George Washington (who served quite notably alongside the Gadsden Flag and the Sons of Liberty) wrote in 1790 to the Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island: "The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens." What is your real agenda here? (In other words, I'm offering you opportunity to clear the air of what sure looks like the uninformed rant of an anti-Semite.)

  • Bart
    Comment from: Bart
    07/19/09 @ 01:32:16 pm

    I don't quite get how Ben's quote relates to the "American Patriot", and furthermore, I don't know what either of your agenda's are. But I have read this book, and am constantly astounded by just how much Dershowitz acts like Israel's lawyer rather than putting forth a balanced argument. As for money sent to Israel or the UK, plain and simple: we send far more money to Israel than we have ever done to the UK. If Americans are so keen on sending welfare abroad, irrespective of where it goes, let them pay for it themselves. Our government doesn't need to rob billions from us every year and send it overseas. Also, I'm certain Israel has acted better than its neighbors. But then again, why should this be of concern to America and American tax payer's money?

  • American Patriot
    Comment from: American Patriot
    07/19/09 @ 03:35:59 pm

    As expected. There you go playing the Anti-Semite card. Never once did I even mention the word "Jew", yet because I refuse to afford America's relationship with Israel the absolute 'worship' that you require me to, you deride me as an Anti-semite out of your own paranoia. That's exactly the way Dershowitz works. Ok, fine. I can live down the fact that you're so convinced that anything less of absolute worship of Israel constitutes Anti-semitism, and I probably can't change that. So, I'll leave it at that. By the way Ben, I went to your blog and I really like it. But I have a question for you. You are vociferously opposed to entitlement spending and the pork that Obama is building up, and I have no problem with that. But in spite of your stance on American spending, do you still support the unconditional welfare handouts to Israel that our government makes every year?

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/19/09 @ 06:03:27 pm

    The problem with your comments, "Patriot", is that I did not mention foreign aid in my article but you criticize me as some sort of lap dog for Israel because you don't like foreign aid to them. Furthermore, you say I offer Dershowitz "unfettered praise" even though I began and finished my book review by saying that I hardly ever agree with the guy. The book, and my review of it, discuss Jimmy Carter, Hamas, Walt & Mearscheimer, history of Palestinian involvement with the Nazis, etc. To argue that I or the US government is a servant of Israel and particularly to use such aggressive language in response to a book review certainly suggests anti-Semitism -- but I don't need that charge to shoot down your comments. Even if your premise were true -- which it isn't -- does that mean that Dershowitz and I are wrong to condemn Jimmy Carter for his lies and his support of terrorists, to condemn suicide bombers, to condemn people who truly were Nazi collaborators and not just called that for rhetorical effect? Israel is no doubt the largest recipient of US foreign aid. Again, I have offered no opinion on that and it was not mentioned in my book review. In general I am an opponent of foreign aid, esp. where we have no strategic interest. We clearly have strategic interest in Israel, but I would probably agree that the government gives them too much money. If they want/need more, people who care should donate directly. Indeed, I would donate directly if the government weren't already taking so much of my tax money to spread around the world. It's interesting, as Ben notes, that both you and "Bart" hide behind the SAME foreign proxy. Certainly not the type of behavior that one expects in this kind of discourse. It casts doubt on everything you say. As for the Gadsden Flag, I'm sure I've done more to try to advance the cause of liberty than you have. You don't even talk a good game. "Treasonous snake"??? You must be kidding. If you are indeed an "American Patriot", you are an embarrassment to those true patriots who have gone before us and to those of us who spend our time and money and effort now in a fight for liberty. If I might take you up on your own line of conversation, why don't you move back to Damascus where you really belong?

  • Ben
    Comment from: Ben
    07/22/09 @ 08:42:37 am

    To the two commenters hiding behind the proxies, why do you persist in changing the subject? I'll repeat the questions to focus your attention: "Is it "unpatriotic" to make moral judgments about foreign nations and actors? Can you not agree that Israel's enemies have behaved far worse than Israel has in their ongoing conflicts?" To ignore this question weakens your case. If you can't concede the all-too-clear point, fair-minded people aren't going to listen to your case for reducing foreign aid -- which as Ross also noted, was not the subject of his post. But to cast another illuminating question your way (without ignoring the first above): What is your position on foreign aid to nations other than Israel? Say, Egypt, for example?

  • Chris
    Comment from: Chris
    08/12/09 @ 09:32:14 am

    Ignorant people like American Patriot don't even understand what foreign aid is. You give foreign aid to a country not just because you want to help it, but also because it gives you something back. Israel might be the largest recipient of aid, but it gives us back military technology (they have a state of the art technology industry), intelligence, and it also BUYS our military equipment, giving American companies money. If you count what we get out of aid given to countries, Israel doesnt get the the most aid. Countries like Egypt get more and they don't even give us back much. Israel has been a pretty good ally when it comes to aid.