Ambition and orthodoxy (Kagan’s hero is also Dershowitz’s)

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Elena Kagan, the nominee to the Supreme Court, was dean of Harvard Law School in 2006 when she introduced Aharon Barak, chief judge of Israel’s High Court of Justice, during an award ceremony as “my judicial hero.” She explained (per the New York Times):

He is the judge or justice in my lifetime whom, I think, best represents and has best advanced the values of democracy and human rights, of the rule of law and of justice.

Turns out that Kagan (who testified today that "Israel means a lot to me") is not alone. In The Case for Israel (2003), Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz writes:

This book is respectfully dedicated to my dear friend of nearly forty years, Professor Aharon Barak, the president of Israel’s Supreme Court, whose judicial decisions make a better case for Israel and for the rule of law than any book could possibly do.

Who is Barak? In Beyond Chutzpah, Norman Finkelstein says that Aharon Barak was "a leading proponent" of guidelines allowing torture– making Israel the "only country in the world where torture was legally sanctioned," according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. He also gave a green light to administrative detentions, even as the judge conceded, “there is probably no State in the Western world that permits an administrative detention of someone who does not himself pose any danger to State security.”

And he approved the barrier wall that crosses through occupied territory, of which Finkelstein says: 

If all branches of Israeli government and society bear responsibility for this impending catastrophe [the end of the two-state solution], the share of the HCJ and especially its liberal chief justice, Aharon Barak, is relatively larger. Due to its moral authority the HCJ was in a unique position to sensitize the Israeli public. Beyond helping fend off external criticism of Israel’s annexationist policies, the HCJ chose to mute the collective Israeli conscience.

Of course Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul not long after he published that book. 

Martha Minow replaced Kagan as dean of Harvard Law School. In 2006, she co-authored an Op-Ed for the Boston Globe with an Israeli army lawyer; the piece is titled, "The Israeli model for detainee rights," and touts Israeli measures developed "during a long and difficult experience with terrorism."

P.S. Andrew Sullivan has recently asked whether there are any vocal anti-Zionists on any Op-Ed pages in the U.S. Good question; the answer is No. You can’t be.

Today I was reading Geoffrey Wawro’s book Quicksand when I came across this passage that resonates with the above examples.

"There was no Iraqi who was not in the [Baathist] party," an ex-factory manager in Baghdad told an American reporter in April 2003. He meant Iraqis who were "highly educated and technical." Among that cohort, "if you weren’t a Baathist, you wouldn’t be able to rise in the hierarchy."

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