Weekend Read: Review of Two Books by Alan Dershowitz  thumbnail

Weekend Read: Review of Two Books by Alan Dershowitz 

By Marvin A. Treiger

Alan Dershowitz began composing War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism on October 8, the day after Hamas’ horrific attack. He set aside all his other projects to produce this tome in 32 days. Alan is extraordinarily well qualified for this task. He personally knows and has conferred with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Isaac Hertzog, as well as numerous high officials in the military and government from the principal political factions.

Before examining this just-published book, some comments are for his earlier more comprehensive volume: The Case For Israel (2002). Alan is an accomplished Constitutional lawyer and here he brilliantly structures his arguments as a legal brief replete with history, anecdotes, and extensive research all duly referenced. Each of the 32 chapters begins with 4 statements that begin by making the best case for the opposition in (1) The Accusation & (2) The Accusers. He then takes them apart in (3) The Reality & (4) The Proof. 

In order to grasp the scope of this earlier examination, the title of chapter 1 is “Is Israel a Colonial, Imperialist State?” The final 32nd chapter is “Why Do So Many Jews And Even Israelis Side With The Palestinians?” His evocative summary conclusion “Israel—The Jew Among Nations,” nails the scope of contemporary Jew hatred.

This book belongs on the shelf of any serious student of Israel and the Middle East.

His recent book begins with a succinct summary of a few arguments from the earlier book and quickly moves on to the massacre (pogrom) of October 7 and the war that has followed.

He also provides a necessary history of Hamas and the Gaza regime as it relates to the overall conflict in the region. He dives into the reaction from our elite Universities, the struggles in our streets and the rise and spread of Jew hatred – a  better term, in my view, than anti-semitism which has lost the appropriate emotional charge. And, anyway, Arabs are semites (members of any of the peoples who speak or spoke a Semitic language, including in particular the Jews and Arabs), are they not?

Dershowitz makes the case for total war against Hamas that must end in their complete elimination from power of any sort. He argues that the total defeat and unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan transformed them both into reliable friends and allies. Uncompromising power and strength rather than appeasement and weakness transformed defeated Germany and Japan into allies within a generation.  Prosperity was the other critical ingredient necessary for success and the Marshall Plan laid the groundwork for that.

In the Middle East there is the notion of “the strong horse and the weak horse,” making total victory indispensable for ongoing peace even more than in Europe. Prosperity will be a bigger problem due to the cultural backwardness of the region. We can only do so much without falling into our oft-failing projects of nation-building – so that part is up for grabs. 

Dershowitz’ recent book also includes useful supplementary material: a verbatim debate between Alan and Cornel West with Sean Hannity as moderator; it also contains the text of the original Hamas Charter (1988) where they declare “Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it just as it obliterated others before it.” The West’s imperial, colonial ambitions never even dreamt of such an apogee. Also included are the “amended” Hamas General Principles And Policies (2017) which were intended to soften public opinion from prior ferocious criticisms of the 1988 version.

The latter document asserts “Hamas believes that the Palestinian issue is the central cause of the Arab and Islamic Ummah (i.e., worldwide Muslim community-MT) and thus, their right to the “entire land”. Why? Because any land conquered by Islam cannot legitimately revert to any other authority. Ultimately, this would include southern Spain, etc., as well. It also explains why historically they didn’t bother to emphasize “nationalism” except to indicate regional entities. The Ummah defines Islamic rule so the concept of nationalism is in essence superfluous. That, at least, is the ideology of groups such as Hamas (a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) and ISIS.

Arab nationalism finally arose in the Holy Land late into the 1920s in response to the growth of the Jewish community and the subsequent inflow of Arabs seeking to find work, safety and prosperity. Remember that in 1850 the first census of the Ottoman Empire found that approximately 50% of Jerusalem residents were Jews.

Dershowitz, on most questions, is a moderate Democrat with strong classical liberal and Constitutional views, especially regarding free speech and the rule of law. He declares “I will remain a Democrat and vote for Biden while seeking to marginalize the radical anti-Israeli elements in that party.”

This feels counterintuitive to me. He appears on Fox more than on other stations on many issues. Insofar as conservatism has become the guardian of classical liberalism, he is a conservative. I even began to think he was staying with Democrats to not lose them as an audience for his views. But his views, expressed in the book regarding the Judicial turmoil in Israel prior to the pogrom, convinced me that at bottom he remains part of the old Democratic Party coalition that is fearful of the right.

The controversy surrounding the Israeli Supreme Court vs. Knesset (parliament) roiled Israel in the weeks before the pogrom. This is the weakest part of the book. He admits that this section was in part compiled out of previous essays he had written on these topics. Unfortunately, in editing, bald-faced contradictions have remained in place.

For example, he states (p.94) “Indeed, the reforms (of the Court-MT) would bring Israel closer to being a pure democracy governed by majority rule. But they would endanger minority rights, civil liberties, equal rights, due process, and the rule of law. That’s why I oppose them. Israel would be a better democracy with these principles kept intact than if they were compromised by a reduction in the power of the Supreme Court to enforce them.”

Yet a few pages later (p.110) after the Knesset ruled that the Supreme Court may not rule using the “unreasonable” argument to overrule legislation, he comes to agree with this reform. Likewise, (p.98) “It may also be appropriate to eliminate the current veto that judges have over Supreme Court appointments.” In other words, the Court now appoints its successors guaranteeing Judicial tyranny as the end game. This too is a big reform. Why not have elections for Judges bringing this issue directly back to the people further distributing power?

Dershowitz, as an old time liberal, fears what he calls right-wing extremist settlers and the Court tends to represent the old guard, socialist-leaning, original Ashkenazi cohort in a demographic that is shifting rightward due also to immigration and the high birth rates of Orthodox Jews. Muslims comprise 21% of the Israeli population yet Jews are not allowed to live in any nearby Arab lands. Can this be just?

The Knesset itself, as part of a compromise, should consider reforms that compel something greater than a majority to pass legislation when opposed by the Court thus checking the Knesset’s power, preventing majoritarian tyranny and compelling a greater consensus for the truly big issues.

This will, of course, make Israeli government somewhat less efficient. This is exactly the motivation underlying James Madison’s doctrine of the balance of powers. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as those with an inkling of knowledge of human nature know very well.

You will come to your own conclusions after reading this important book which is a powerful weapon in our effort to save a great ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. Hamas must be eradicated now and forever.

Thank you, Alan, for your indefatigable efforts to inform us all and rescue the Democrats from themselves.


Image credit: YouTube screenshot of the Dersh Show


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