Should Alan Dershowitz refuse to take himself seriously?

on 17 Comments

As Alan Dershowitz forcefully inserts himself into the BDS debate, it is helpful to recall Dershowtiz’s own insight into who should and should not be accepted as a “serious” thinker on peace in the Middle East. In his 2005 volume The Case For Peace, Dershowitz offers a lengthy attack on the late great Tony Judt’s groundbreaking 2003 article in the New York Review of Books. (Think Clifford Irving criticizing Pablo Picasso). Dershowitz dismissed as a “nonstarter” Judt’s call for a single binational state of Jews and Palestinians. He then pronounced that history had proven Judt “completely wrong” less than a year after his article appeared. Dershowitz chided Judt for his lack of faith in the “peace process”:

[Judt] declared that “the Middle East peace process is finished” – not delayed or postponed but forever “finished.” He also believed that “the two state solution – the core of the Oslo process and the present ‘road map’ – is probably already doomed.” Not endangered but ‘doomed’! And he criticized those who, in the spirit of “a ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully recite . . . the Israeli cabinet line: It’s all Arafat’s fault. . . Well, it turned out the dummies were right and the professor was wrong. The peace process was not finished. All it needed to start up again was the death of Arafat, because its rejection was in fact “all Arafat’s fault.” Arafat’s untimely death (untimely, because if it had come a few years earlier the Camp David negotiations would almost certainly have produced peace and a Palestinian state) immediately changed the dynamics and restarted the peace process. Rarely has history provided such a natural experiment: while Arafat was alive the peace process remained stymied; as soon as Arafat dies the peace process continue. This alone should be more than enough to disqualify Judt from ever again being taken seriously about how to achieve peace in the Middle East.”

Now, more than six years after Dershowitz’s analysis, let’s revisit the issue. Dershowitz claimed that the “peace process” only needed the death of Arafat to proceed and progress toward eventual resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Judt claimed that the peace process was illusory and doomed to failure. Who was right and who was wrong? The 2005 resumption of peace talks was another inconsequential event in the never-ending series of starts and stops known as the “peace process.” Meanwhile, the Occupation wades through its fifth decade with no end in sight. Yet Dershowitz pinned high hopes on the opportunities presented by Arafat’s “untimely death,” and the ensuing fruitless umpteenth chapter of the peace talks that led to a predictable dead end.

Today, Judt looks like a visionary who accurately foresaw what many are only now coming to realize, that the “peace process” will never produce a viable two-state solution, and we had best prepare for the alternative. Dershowitz’s condemnation of Judt could not appear more foolish. If being wrong on this issue is “more than enough to disqualify someone from ever again being taken seriously,” Dershowitz’s own words consign him to the dustbin of history.

About David Samel

David Samel is an attorney in New York City.

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17 Responses

  1. Dan Crowther
    February 4, 2012, 9:40 am

    Well done Samel!

  2. atime forpeace
    February 4, 2012, 9:53 am

    Excellent approach to the Joke that is Dershowitz.

    What should Dershes Wiki say about his propagandistic pronouncements.

    Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf (Arabic: محمد سعيد الصحاف‎; born 1940) is a former Iraqi diplomat and politician. He came to wide prominence around the world during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, during which he was the Iraqi Information Minister under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, acting as the mouthpiece for the Baath Party and Saddam’s regime.
    He is best known for his grandiose and grossly unrealistic propaganda broadcasts prior to and during the war, extolling the invincibility of the Iraqi Army and the permanence of Saddam’s rule. His announcements were intended for an Iraqi domestic audience subject to Saddam’s cult of personality and total state censorship, and were met with widespread derision and amusement by Western nationals and others with access to up-to-date information from international media organizations.

  3. casaananda
    February 4, 2012, 9:56 am

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the what’s happening in the Middle East. Hell, I saw it back in 1970 and wrote about it, gingerly at first, until I went to Gaza in 75 and spent six weeks in a refugee camp.

  4. Chaos4700
    February 4, 2012, 10:15 am

    Why is the “untimely death” of people you declare war upon such a core concept of Zionist policy? First we had wondering jew touting the virtues of setting up bombs in Iranian streets, then these quotes from Dershowitz vis-a-vis Arafat. And let’s not forget the recent flap about the call for Israel to assassinate Obama by an American Jew!

  5. HarryLaw
    February 4, 2012, 10:45 am

    The peace process goes back further than Oslo, the raison d’etre has not, Israels intention to take land while negotiating. On leaving office in 1992 Prime Minister Yitshak Shamir, declared, ” I could have negotiated for 10 years and in that time we would have achieved [ another] half million settlers. Thanks to Pabelmont for finding this quote.

  6. lareineblanche
    February 4, 2012, 11:24 am

    Another thing which struck me about the Dersh as I watched his keynote speech barbarism in Pennsylvania was that he insisted on pronouncing “BDS”, incorrectly as “DBS” – every time – he couldn’t even bring himself to say it correctly (whether by design or subconsciously). Just in case this hasn’t already been pointed out by others, I haven’t read through all the commentary here yet…

    • Daniel Rich
      February 5, 2012, 12:19 am

      @ lareineblanche

      Could it be a Freudian slip, because Jerkowitz, dang, that ffing Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, I mean Dershowitz, is knee deep into BDSM?

      I wish I could find that clip in which he almost explodes defending Israel, but alas, so be it.

    • Pixel
      February 5, 2012, 12:24 pm


      That’s an amazing catch. I missed it entirely. People should never mumble at the good parts.

      My guess is that it was entirely intentional. Also, completely juvenile – as are all of his antics, hysteria, bullying, tantrums, etc.

      If you watch him with that in mind, everything he’s about becomes crystal clear …and predictable.

      There’s no direct correlation between chronological age and maturity. And, when people are scared they regress.

      • lareineblanche
        February 5, 2012, 7:35 pm

        Actually, now that I think of it, reversing some of the letters wouldn’t really change the meaning of the phrase, which contains the same words no matter what order you put them in, so it is a minor thing, really.

        At the same time, it may be a sign that BDS is having a real effect, as Dersh actually made the effort to go out of his way to denigrate it by showing a kind of disdain, as in : “I’m not even going to bother to spell this thing correctly, it’s so insignificant”.
        But I do believe it’s indicative of a far deeper problem, and that is a psychological mechanism to refuse to acknowledge certain realities which are difficult to cope with – certain facts which are unpleasant, a way of pretending they don’t exist. I’ve seen the same phenomenon regarding Rachel Corrie, where commenters would spell it as “Korrie”. It’s a detail, but it definitely indicates something.

  7. pabelmont
    February 4, 2012, 11:49 am

    Weeeel, the “peace processing” kept going, is still going today, and has resulted in (as I read recently) an actual possibly-in-good-faith Israeli proposal to make peace along the dark-brown line (not the green line of UNSC-242 but the line of the wall). So, “Not dead, not dead”.

    If you can call that a peace proposal, of course. But while “processing” is definitely and defiantly alive, “peace” has never been farther away.

    Which was the Dersh claiming would pick up after Arafat left the scene, “peace” or “processing”.

  8. atime forpeace
    February 4, 2012, 12:13 pm

    Dersh is an irritant and his intent is to irritate those whom he is trying to bully.

    The Dersh isn’t wearing threads.

  9. The Hasbara Buster
    February 4, 2012, 1:51 pm

    David, you caught the Dersh with his pants down once again. But can anything be done? We see a lot of refusal to see the emperor’s nakedness when it comes to this individual. We see a lot of suspension of disbelief when he manufactures, or disseminates, ludicrous stories of Israeli holiness and Arab wickedness. He’s a semiliterate writer, with hardly an academic paper to his credit, yet he’s acclaimed as a superstar scholar.

    I suggest that we start compiling a list of Dershowitz lies. It will do nothing to dent the prestige irrationally bestowed on him, but at least it will be useful for making his fans uncomfortable, and, who knows, for convincing the handful of people out there truly concerned with the truth.

    • David Samel
      February 5, 2012, 10:46 am

      Ibrahim, a list of Dersh’s lies would certainly be a multi-volume treatise. Nevada Ned says it may be unnecessary because of Beyond Chutzpah, but Finkelstein barely scratched the surface of dishonesty. He focused on some major themes, such as Joan Peters and the record of human rights violations, but the vast majority of Dersh’s dishonesty remains untapped. Open any of his books to any page, and you can count on finding one or more lies or misleading half-truths.

      As for his popularity, I have to grudgingly admit he has skills. He still fills auditoriums, as he did at Penn. He has a certain charisma and is very quick on his feet. Most importantly, he colorfully tells people what they want to hear. Look at the praise heaped on Peters book when it came out by eminent people, even historians. When people are hungry for talking points to support their positions, they blindly and uncritically accept BS. Too bad there is no “liar’s prison” – he’d be doing life at hard labor.

  10. pabelmont
    February 4, 2012, 7:35 pm

    In the Hitler years you had a single psychopath, a few psychopathic groupies, and a terrified populace doing what they were told to do, which (on the whole, as to a number of so-called non-Aryan populations such as Gypsy, Slav, Jewish, and also as to labor leaders, communists, and people adjudged to be mental cases) was rather psychopathic.

    Today you have an entire country trained by propaganda to be perpetually fearful and megalomaniacal so that — as an entire population — they cry fear, cry holocaust, cry immanent death and destruction for themselves (today its Iran, Gaza, Palestinians, hezbollah, hamas) but also declare themselves ready and able to defeat anyone determined (in this neatsy-keen way) to require defeating, murdering, pulverizing — and all the while these people behave as an entire people — not as people being subjected by fear of a psychopathic leader — psychopathically against the Palestinian people, but also claim to be a “chosen people” and a “religious people” and say their country is NECESSARY if the Jewish nation is not to disappear (no-one explains why that would be such a bad thing if it happens naturally by natural human choices such as inter-marriage).

    All of this rather troubles me, and not only because of my concern for the Palestinian people, but also from concern for those of the people of Israel who are au fond decent.

  11. Nevada Ned
    February 4, 2012, 11:10 pm

    Hasbara Buster:
    You propose compiling a list of lies by Dershowitz,. A good place to start is Norman Finkelstein’s book Beyond Chutzpah, which totally demolished Dershowitz’ pretensions to scholarship. Finkelstein did such a great job that the list you propose (of Dersh’s lies) may be unnecessary.

  12. Daniel Rich
    February 5, 2012, 12:12 am

    @ David Samel

    Q: Should Alan Dershowitz refuse to take himself seriously?

    R: Should we?

    Finkelstein vs. Dershowitz

    Thank you, David.

  13. talknic
    February 5, 2012, 4:11 pm

    How on earth Dersh keeps his position is a modern day miracle.

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